This is my blog to share my adventures, misadventures, exploration, and experimentation with fibre- and as it turns out, with life as well. There is some of both. One thing leads to another. Collecting, spinning, weaving, dying, learning, building a web of relationships. Here we are: welcome.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More spinning fun

Well, I had some fun today.  Some frustration, too, though even at the time I kind of wish someone had been here with a video camera to catch the action. It is the kind of thing that could go viral on YouTube.  Instead, I'll have to make do with words, which at least will let me lie about the worst parts (which, if viewed, would also be the funniest).  I'll try to be honest. 

I ran out of spools. I have four, and had only one empty. You ALWAYS should leave one empty.  There are ways around it, but it's easier to just always have at least one empty so if you start a new fibre or kind of yarn, it's by itself.

Remember those spools of BFL singles I was so proud of?  Not perfect and not completely consistent, but usable. I decided to ply them, since they were pretty skinny and I couldn't see winding them off.  I plyed from the bobbins, using the Lazy Kate, feeling like a real spinner. The plying went pretty well, once I got the tension right, and figured out how to use my hands to keep the twist fairly consistant.

It came out okay, if a little twistier than I'd like. But not bad for the first skein I plyed on the wheel.  (The black is a piece of yarn I used to tie the two ends together.) 

After washing to set the twist, I got around 200 yards of yarn if you ignore the occasional lump or skinny spot, or unbalanced ply. My expectations are still pretty low.  Besides, this yarn will work up real pretty in a scarf.

Well, now I had three empty spools, and the last one is the one that should have been videotaped. I think it was the second one I'd done (after the one I dyed as a single, and watched turn into a curly donut). I decided I didn't want any more curly donuts, and was pondering how to ply it. I'd wound my spindle yarn on balls to ply, but this time I decided to try something I'd been told about: using my ball winder to make a ball, and then pull on both the inside end and the outside ends to ply.

Oh, I wish I had pictures of this, but the fact is, I didn't dare move to get my camera.  My singles were still a little overspun, and as I began to ply, the ball collapsed into a curly mass that came out in already twined ladders on either side of me, then grabbing the other side and making globs.  I was trapped, wrapped on both sides by yarn singly-mindedly trying to do what it does best: tangle. 

I shut my eyes, relaxed all but the fingers holding what little control there was over the yarn, and breathed, emptying my mind as much as possible. It is hard to tell what might have happened had I not done that. 

Then, I courageously took my scissors, cut off what was in front of me, and carefully and mindfully separated the two ends.  Then I did what I should have done in the first place, the hard way: holding the curly ball between my legs, I slowly wound each end onto one of my little green balls a little at a time, gently turning the curly ball every few inches, until nothing was left of it.  Then I cut the yarn, put one ball on one side and the other on the other, removed the twisted mass on the bobbin, and started over again.  This time it went easily. 

But it is still on the bobbin because I don't want to deal with it right now. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chartreuse project, morphed

  Off the loom, I laid the weaving out on the floor so I got a good look at the whole thing.  At this point I was beginning to rethink the table topper idea: I kind of liked those red things hanging off the edges that would need trimming if it were a table topper. 

To bring out the texture, I filled my tub with very hot water, swirled in some detergent, and gently laid the chartreuse weaving in.  I could see the yarn drawing up even as it settled into the water beginning to form texture.  I pushed the weaving to and fro very carefully, watching to see how the yarns interacted. 

I was especially curious to see how the red pattern did against the other yarns: I was afraid that they might pull in so much that it would distort the pattern.  But the red held its own, and stood out just enough to add texture of its own.

After the weaving was thoroughly soaked and had developed a strong texture with no undue drawing in, I pushed the weaving to the far end of the tub.   Then I drained the hot water, and ran in cold water. Again I laid the weaving in and gently pushed it down and moved it back and forth enough to rinse it.  I repeated the rinse, then drained tub again.  After pressing as much water out as I could, I laid the weaving on a heavy towel, carefully folded it up, and stomped on it to express as much water as possible. 

Then I laid it out on top of the cardboard that covers my loom to dry. 

And thought some more about what it was to be. 

I had left long fringes to allow for cutting if they felted.  They did felt, but I liked them long.  I liked the way the ends of the red inlays looked hanging out.  I liked the way the red inlay off-circle looked upright and not covered by stuff. 

After it dried, I laid it on the table. Nope.  Then, just to see what it would look like, I threw it over  folding screen in the corner:

Yep.  Wall hanging. So, tomorrow I will go out and rummage through my stack of  odd sticks and branches (don't ask), and find one that I can use to hang this from.  I've decided to let the top fringe hang down, and lash the hemstiched top edge to the branch using the warp material. 

Tonight, I rest. No, first I eat.  Then I write. Then I rest. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

The charteuse project

A few weeks ago I decided to weave a scarf to donate to a fund-raising project. So I picked out some soft chartreuse felted 2ply warp from my stash (some yarn I picked up at a studio sale with no particular purpose in mind), and some gold for warp, and red for accent.  Warped up my loom for a scarf and wove a sample.

 I knew the yarns would shrink at different rates, something weavers often take advantage of to add texture.  Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn't.  The visual texture of the sample looked nice, but the gold turned into something bristly. Not a scarf, then. 

So, maybe make the warp wider , and weave a table topper.  I chose a different color weft, a green more subtle and slightly darker than the chartreuse, to make the chartreuse a little more subdued.  When I washed a sample of the new wef, it seemed that it  might be a bit more drapey when washed, but still give a sense of texture.  I kept the red for accent, but decided to lay it in rather than weave it in.  So here goes:

I drew a simple cartoon drawing of what I wanted to aim for,  The cartoon is a general guide for composition but not a pattern. I would lay the pattern in by eye as I went, and expected that the end result would vary and be somewhat asymmetrical. As it turned out, it was less asymmetrical than I'd anticipated! 

The dreaded shrinking shed

As I am approaching the end of the piece, I notice that the shed is beginning to get smaller. And smaller....

So I decide to weave this end with a similar size double red line and seven inches of plain weave, same as the other, though the design elements are asymmetrical and not centered.  Keeping my fingers crossed I cut it from the loom:

I have hemstitched both ends to stabelize the weaving, which at this point,unwashed,  looks something like canvas.  I left about 7 or 8 inches for fringe.  The finished fringe will not be that long,  but I wanted plenty to work with.  In my sample and preliminary tests, the warp ends felted well together and I am hoping that it will be stable enough for me to cut off the knots and leave a trim 2.5 inch fringe sans knots.

 Each of the fringes is just two warps, twisted singly, then twisted the other way by hand and knotted.  I never thought I'd want one of those fringe-twister doo-hickeys. But on this project, one sure would come in handy!  I'm trying to making meditation out of it! 

When the fringe is finished (give me a few days), then comes the suspenseful (and unnerving) part: washing to shrink and full the yarns.  Will I come out with a fascinating minimalist texture, or a confused mass of yarn that won't lie down flat?  Stay tuned....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mona the Magnificent

Off topic, but with some relevance, since Mona is my studio manager, as well as the household matriarch.

Yesterday evening was the 14th anniversary of the day I found Mona the Magnificent, in a wildlife refuge along the Yakima River in central Washington state. She was about 10 weeks old, and apparently the only survivor of a litter of kittens that had been dumped (why do people do this?).  I feel almost as if she called me: I was homebound after work, the sun was just below the hills, and for some reason, stopped to take pictures of the light along the edges of the hills and outcrops.  This is a painting I made from one of those photos:

Then I heard what at first I thought was a hawk- usually there are many, but they hadn't come home to roost yet-- the trees along the river were empty.  As I listened, the sound got closer, and for all the world sounded like a cat. 

Feeling a little foolish, I stood in the middle of the meadow and called "Here, kitty, kitty, here, kitty".  The sound stopped and I figured either that the wind was playing tricks with sound, or there was a cat and it was headed for the sound of my voice.  So, playing it safe, I kept calling. 

A few minutes later, a tail popped up out of the grass. It took nearly ten minutes of coaxing, but I finally managed to get this beautiful, skinny, cat into my jacket, where she clung as I drove, first to the pet store, and then home. 

The next day to the vet for shots and an examination.  A few months later, she traveled cross-country with me to New England, and has been my companion ever since.  By the time she was 6 months old, she weighed nine pounds. At one year she weighed 12 (ever been tackled by a 12 pound kitten?) and was still growing. 

Her weight as an adult has fluctuated between 18 and 22 pounds, depending on time of year, and there is a lot of hair on top of that.  She is truly magnificent: a Norwegian Forest Cat all the way through. 

Mona in her studio observation post yesterday:

Mona the Magnificent
(Not bad-looking for an old gal, eh?)