Exciting Times!

These past few months, my creative brain has been in overdrive. I credit some of that to hanging out with the multi-talented Shireen.  Spend a few evenings creating new things with her, and you start dreaming of what else you can accomplish.

In the past twelve months, just from a fibre standpoint, I have dyed some of my own yarn and fibre.  We started off with just experimenting with fabric dye, but since then I have played with acid dyes and have created some spin-able and knit-able pieces.  And I sincerely doubt I am done yet.

I have picked up spinning again and gotten surprisingly good at it, if my spinning teacher, Leslie is to be believed (and I believe she is).  In fact, she even thinks a couple of my skeins from Tour de Fleece should be entered in competition. Took a while for my ego to come down off that one, let me tell you!

I have gotten a loom and done a limited amount of weaving.  That is the activity that logistically is hardest to do just anywhere due to the need for a prop for the loom, so it tends to get ignored when I am deciding what craft to pursue in the evenings.

I have also self-published my first sock pattern.  Admittedly, it started out as a tool to help Shireen knit her own socks, but it was still a fun exercise and it encouraged me to keep going and create more designs.

All this is in addition to the (obviously decreased) knitting that I have been doing.  Since both of my parents have jumped on the “we love hand knit socks” bandwagon, and my husband has also decided that hand knit socks are something he was missing out on, socks have been practically the only things I have actually been working on.  In fact, I just finished my first pair for hubby and he loves them!  (More on that and my second pattern release soon!)

I have had several other patterns floating around in my head, based on somewhat of a theme; two of those have made it onto needles and one of those two is a bit behind schedule, but picking up again now.  I am enthused about that one for a number of reasons, none of which I can really talk about at the moment.

All that being said, changes are coming, and I won’t lie; I am pretty excited about them!

 

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In which prayers are said…

Prayers that soaking/blocking really is magic for weaving, just like it is for knitting.

I started my first laceweight weaving project Friday night.  Shireen came over for a visit and offered to help me warp up my loom with some Malabrigo Silkpaca in “Archangel” she gave me.  Since I always find warping to be the most intimidating part of weaving, I took her up on her offer.  We moved some furniture and warped up a nice long, if narrow scarf-like piece.  It’s amazing how fast 440 yards goes!

warp

Since she gave me two skeins of this lovely stuff, we decided I would weft with the other skein.  This meant I was free to practice without fear of making any sort of colour choices/mistakes.  So I wound the entirety of the second skein onto the bobbins for my boat shuttle (Shireen brought with her the prototype of an amazing machine that Tito made to help with that most boring of tasks) and got ready to go.

bobbins

 

I got started with my leader yarn, and for some reason that seemed to take a LOT of yarn.  The gaps didn’t seem to want to close at all.  Once I did get them closed up, I started with my boat shuttle and words cannot express how much more enjoyable using that shuttle is, compared to the basic stick ones that come with the loom.  I had a problem with the left side of my shed…however I tied it, it seemed sorta loose and wimpy and there are a few inadvertent floats as a result.

But the bigger issue I encountered was not being able to get the weft to stay put.  I’d beat it down, and it would bounce back up.  I assumed either I was doing something wrong, or the silk in the yarn was rendering it so slippery that the threads just weren’t sticking together.  I messaged Shireen to ask her what I was doing wrong and her response was not to think of it as beating it down but rather “think of it as placing it on a line that is an equal distance from the one below it.”  I tried that, but I admit that I still wasn’t too successful.  That being said, I am fairly sure that the method I used to attach the warp to the apron bar rendered the start of the piece somewhat uneven.  I have already decided that even if it means less loom waste, I won’t be trying that method again.

3

So by the end of the weaving time on the weekend, this was what I had.  It’s way uneven (there are all sorts of gaps and you can see where the weft threads are actually wavy over on the right) and the edges are pretty ratty looking.  But, it’s also my first laceweight piece and I am hoping I (and it) will get better as the piece progresses.

Besides, that s$%# will totally block out, right?

Canada Day Weekend FO: Weaving Edition

I decided to take Monday off work this week and give myself a four day weekend. I figured I’d relax a little, maybe do some crafting. I had some kettle dyeing I wanted to do and I was looking to clear my wheel in anticipation of the start of Tour de Fleece this weekend. I had also hoped to work on my OTN sock design.  (See where that whole relaxing plan went a bit off the rails?)

I had not really planned on weaving this weekend at all. I warped up my loom over a month ago, using my 7.5 dpi heddle and some worsted weight yarn, but had done precious little work on it, to be honest. The reason? I was using yarn I hated and had little use for, because I was “learning/practicing”.  I had a ball of Berroco Remix that was given to me as part of a much larger group of items, and I disliked it enough that I had even had it in my destash until that day.  So I went ahead and warped up the 216 yards (grossly underestimating how many warp threads I’d actually get from it – ergo the lopsided warping!) and once the leader had been woven in, I had really gotten no further.

project2-warp

 

I mentioned to Shireen on Monday that I had not touched my loom and that my disinterest in the yarn/project was the likely reason.  She encouraged me to go home and cut the whole thing off the loom, and toss it, echoing my friend Val’s advice, some time ago, that life was too short to spend time working with fibres you don’t like. (Val’s advice pertained to spinning fibre when I was learning to spin; the message was the same in both cases!)

So I dragged out the loom and got myself set up.  I had my hands on the Cascade 220 I had planned to use as weft and wound some onto the shuttle, all the while thinking, “I’ll just do a few passes to get myself used to it again.” Well, that didn’t work half as well as you might think. First, I hated to waste the yarn, even if it was yarn I didn’t like. Worse, I had forgotten just how terrible I was at weaving. This was only my second project and the edges were awful – to use Shireen’s expression, “they looked like the cats chewed on them”. And I could not bear to warp up the loom using something pretty, only to waste it. So I forged ahead and completed the piece. It really only was a few hours at that point.

project2-bowl

The thing that amazes me the most: soaking is to weaving as blocking is to knitting.  It’s quite surprising to see the threads fluff up and the gaps fill in…and to see so much of the unevenness disappear.

project2-table

I did discover one thing.  There is a reason that you overlap weft threads when ending one and starting a new one – if you don’t, you get holes/gaps in the fabric.  Oops.  Lesson learned.  Better to learn that on this piece than on something that I’ll be sad about having that sort of flaw.

Overall, it actually came out fine.  51.5″ long without the fringe by not quite 12″ wide.  I told Chase it might make a nice coffee table runner, or at least I now knew how to go about making one and about how much yarn I’d need.

Next onto the loom….a toss up between some Malabrigo sock, a skein of Tanis Fiber Arts laceweight and some Malabrigo Silkpaca lace in Archangel.

Feeling Rather Scattered

I just realized I had not done any blogging for nearly two weeks.  Bad blogger!  But I realized that a big part of it was due to not being entirely devoted to one thing…and as such, I didn’t have a specific subject to blog about.

I finished my very first weaving project.  (Where project = something about the size of a placemat!)  But hey, it’s something!

Image

First Weaving Project

I have warped up my loom again; this time, I have used some Berocco Remix – I am still mostly just practicing and using up worsted weight yarn.  I’ll be using some left over Cascades 220 and some Berocco I used to knit Chase a hat a few years ago for the weft.  I am looking forward to being able to use fingering and even laceweight yarns at some point.  I have a suspicion that some of the two colour stashes that I set aside for shawls may end up woven at some point.

I have been spinning a bit as well…a fractal spin of a blue/purple Friends in Fiber BFL/Silk blend.

The "fractal" half of a fractal spin!

The “fractured” half of a fractal spin!

The fractured half is nearly complete – seven of nine pieces spun.  Then I get to the half that’s still in one piece.  I am looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

I have been knitting a bit…a Hermione’s Everyday sock and a test knit sock for a friend.  And I am awaiting an email from a designer about another test knit I have committed to.  But I have also started designing.  This is a bit of a departure for me.  I have had my nose in stitch dictionaries for the past week or so, and have a surprising number of designs in my head, and even a theme for them, if they ever all get done.  The first one to make it onto needles is a pair of fingering weight socks, and I have a cowl and a DK weight sock waiting in the wings.  The whole experience is pretty fun, I have to admit.  Never thought this was something I’d ever try.

All other crafts have had to fall by the wayside…so much to do and so little time!  Now, I just need a severe case of “finish-itis” so that some of this stuff actually gets done!

A New Adventure

Last evening, Shireen offered to come over and help me get started warping my newly acquired loom.  Only fair when you consider that this is all her fault.  I kid, of course, but her enabling really is becoming quite legendary! 😉

She and Tito showed up, samosas and Indian sweets in hand, and the task of warping began with Game 7 of the Canadiens/Bruins series in the background.

I had watched an Ashford video yesterday on the subject so I did have some idea how the process worked, but having someone there who had done it a dozen times and totally knew what she was doing? Priceless!

She advised me to start off with a small worsted weight project to get my feet wet, and brought with her one of the skeins we hand dyed during our dye date last autumn.  We proceeded to set the loom up width-wise across my dining table and off we went.

Having a spare set of hands for this was awesome!

Having a spare set of hands for this part was awesome!

When we were done…this was what we had:

Warped Up and Ready To Go!

Warped Up and Ready To Go!

After weaving a few rows of “lead”, I started in earnest….just trying to get the motions down, and trying to keep the edges from looking like my dog had chewed them up!  I think that as this progresses, there will be a Zen-like relaxation that will come from this craft that will be similar to spinning (or, at least, similar to spinning when my newly spun yarn isn’t breaking due to fragility!)

I got this far before Shireen had one more lesson for me: hem stitching, which I am told will serve to keep the fringes in place later

Post Hem-Stitch weaving

Pre Hem-Stitch weaving

I actually really enjoyed the hem stitching, and after Shireen and Tito headed off for the night, I kept going just a little while longer.  I did find it gets addictive in the “just one more pass with the shuttle before I stop” sorta way.  In the cold light of day, I found I had woven quite a bit, considering how new I was at it.

Hem Stitched and all!

Hem Stitched and all!

I am sure it will take me a while before I am weaving scarves for 1000 yards of laceweight…but so far, so good!

 

World’s Craftiest Weekend

It’s always fun and relaxing to spend the majority of the weekend crafting, but those full weekends come along far less often than I might like.  Getting to spend half that weekend with like-minded friends?  That happens even less often again.

Saturday saw all sorts of fun things, including spinning, knitting, weaving and dyeing.

Weaving…where shall I start?  First off, I blame Shireen, The Enabler.  She has been posting some of the most beautiful FO shots since acquiring her 20″ Ashford Knitters Loom about a month ago, and she has been regaling me with tales of how quickly these lovely items are going from skeins to wearable items.  I have a rather substantial number of single skeins of sock yarn and Kim at indigodragonfly has also been telling me for a long time that a great way to use some of these up is to get a loom, but I wasn’t sure weaving would be my thing.

Then, Shireen brought the loom over on Saturday and let me weave some of her leader, so as not to spoil her actual project.  I have to say that while I am sure that producing really nice clean looking edges and such takes some practice, the motions of weaving in and of itself really is pretty easy and the little bit I did led me to believe it could almost be as “zen” an activity as spinning.  (Disclaimer: I may be somewhat delusional!)

She has enabled me into looking seriously at acquiring a loom…so much so that I got a line on a second hand one by posting on Ravelry to see if someone had one to destash.  I will know more next weekend.

Shireen showed up at my place like she was moving in…there was the aforementioned loom, and wonderful Indian food, and decadent chocolate birthday cake for Leslie, but she also brought with her an entire set up for dyeing yarn.  I had a skein of yarn that I got in a swap that I was very unhappy with and I decided to overdye it to see if I could improve it.  I won’t mention the dyer name because it’s irrelevant and seems kinda uncool.  As it was, it took me a while to reconcile myself to doing it as it feels rather like defacing someone else’s art, but I digress.

The photo made it look pretty nice, if not insanely bright.  It was at least enticing enough to make me want to claim it in a Ravelry swap.

Original Skein

Original Skein

What was not clear in this photo was that the yellow-y lime sections had navy blue “smudged” over them, almost like the navy bled and stuck to the lime, rendering it sort of “dirty looking”.  I figured that perhaps overdyeing the skein with some blue might render the lime colour a darker green and I was right.  I kettle dyed the skein in a Crock Pot, using Jacquard acid dyes in a mixture of Sapphire and Turquoise (I didn’t bother to measure as I knew it wasn’t a recipe I’d ever need again).  I let it simmer away until the entire dye bath was exhausted, and hung it to dry.  Sunday morning, this was the result.

The "After" Shot

The “After” Shot

I still don’t love it, per se…but I sure like it a whole lot better.  Perhaps I’ll knit socks out of it, and then if I don’t love the colourway knit up, I’ll overdye the socks to make them even more green.  We shall see.