May 2009 Archives

Weaving Sampler

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To begin with, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who left such kind comments about Ms. Z.  Just like her blue eyes, those sweet sentiments were very heart melting, and are warmly appreciated.

I also appreciated the thoughts and comments on the most recent issue of IK.  Here's hoping the fall is better for that magazine.  It's always been one of my favorite knitting mags, and it's a little sad for me to have been uninspired by it several issues running.

Today I wrapped up the last session in my first weaving class.  The general idea of the class was just not to think too hard and to play with color and simple weave structures using a plain twill threading on a 4 harness table loom.  Since it was just a sampler and not meant for display, I put together a brightly colored warp and just went wherever I felt like as far as color was concerned.

20080430_WeavingSampler.jpgMy warp was three yards long, but in the end, I stopped a little early, because, as it turns out, I am apparently as much of a product weaver as I am a product knitter and spinner.  After sampling a variety of weave structures and techniques, I was ready to get on to "a real project".  I played with a number of things in this project, but here are a few of the highlights.

20080430_WeavingBrokenTwill.jpgThis close up features rib weave on the bottom half (for those that are interested, it's a 1-3 sort of structure where either 1 harness or three harnesses are "up") and a broken twill pattern on the top half.  Rib weaves and their final look are very dependent on how hard you beat the fabric.  The harder you beat, the more prominent that vertical line becomes.    I really liked the twill structures and how they seem to almost float above the warp.  Twills were fun to see because they aren't something I know how to do yet on a rigid heddle loom (I believe they are possible on a rigid heddle with a properly applied pattern stick -- but given what I've tried already, it's a lot easier done on a multi-shaft loom).

20080430_WeavingInlay.jpgThis is inlay work.  The background weaving is just plain weave (i.e. what you think of as the standard "over under" every other thread pattern of weaving) with another thread laid in the shed when you put in your plain weave weft picks.  You could take out the inlaid yarn without any impact on the plain weave fabric as it isn't an essential part of the actual cloth.  It was fun to do with the big slubby yarn that I used.  Kind if a neat way to work patterns into a fabric without actually having to do tapestry weaving. 

20080430_WeavingLeno.jpgThis last image is "leno" -- you use a pick up stick to twist the warp threads so that you can run a weft shot through and use it to maintain the structure of the open work.  It's one of a series of ways that you can create "lace" in a woven fabric.  I found it a little fussy, but it could clearly be a nice detail in a table runner, curtains or the border for a garment.

While I liked trying all these textures and techniques, what really captured my attention was something that I tried on my sampler, but is really hard to make look interesting unless you have the fabric in your hands: double weave.  Double weave is a technique used to make two pieces of cloth on one warp.  The two cloths can be completely separate, joined at one side or joined on both sides to form a tube.  The whole woven tube thing got me thinking about how I'd always wanted to have a nice bolster pillow on my bed and that lead me to think about weaving a bolster pillow cover.  This would give me a chance to try out double weave for a larger project, as well as combine it with working in finer threads (10/2 cotton) and with a weave structure that fascinates me: waffle weave (which has a point twill threading, so I'll be able to play with some point twill structures on whatever warp I have left after I weave my bolster cover).  I'm also psyched that I'll get to play around with an 8 harness loom. 

I spent my last class planning for my next project and getting a sample warp ready so that I could determine whether what I was planning would actually fit around my bolster after washing (cotton shrinks, waffle weave condenses a bit, too, after washing).  I'm in the process of warping 480 tiny cotton warp threads onto my loom.  I've got about 1/4 of the reed sleyed.   I'm hoping that by the end of my next class, I'll finish that up and get my heddles threaded.  Careful warping is definitely a time consuming process!

But the bottom line is that I'm definitely enjoying weaving and I'm glad I took a chance and tried it out.  I can't wait to get started on my first "real" multi-shaft fabric project.

Lotus Sleeve

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20080503_LotusRuffle.jpgThe only problem with working a project on tiny needles, and being excited about the project and devoting much energy to it, is that it doesn't make for the most smashingly interesting blog discussion.  However, I am hoping that by being able to show continued progress in a relatively short period of time will be encouraging to anyone out there who is on the fence about this project because of the combination of small needles and crochet lace.  I'm now finished with the first sleeve and have started on the lace edging for the second sleeve.  I'd be farther along (maybe done with the edging for the second sleeve) if this weekend hadn't been more about gardening than about knitting, but early May is the time that those annuals need to go into pots if I hope to enjoy summer floral bounty later on.

The best thing about being done with the first sleeve is that there is only one major structural piece of the sweater left to go: the last sleeve.  Once the crochet lace is worked, the rest of it is pretty much smooth sailing and it will be time to block the sleeves and assemble the garment.

The sleeve is a small task compared to the final task after the assembly: crocheting the lace edging that goes all the way around the outer edge of the sweater.  In true Rowan style, they have you crochet the lace and then attach it to the garment.  Which isn't really that hard. But I'm considering actually just starting the lace on the body of the sweater and working it in the round to avoid both the seam that I would have to make to put both edges together -- and the possibility that it will be hard to ease an inelastic cotton lace piece around the garment.  Clearly I would have to do some figuring and work out the region of the pattern that has been adapted for flat crochet, and I'd have to work at making my numbers work out with the lace pattern and the distance around the garment.  But, Experienced Crocheters, am I missing something else that I should be considering?  Any advice, suggestions or general thoughts would be appreciated.

Last Socks of the Winter

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I always know when spring is really here, because it's usually right about the time that I get motivated to finish up a pair of socks, lingering from the winter.  And even though socks are easy to knit and I like to knit few things as much as I like to knit socks, it also usually marks a time when I stop thinking about wooly foot gear for a while in favor of warmer weather projects. 

20080505_SchaeferAnnSocks.jpgThe pattern for these socks is just my basic toe-up sock.  Wedge toe, short row heel, ribbed cuff.  Nothing special.  What will make these socks memorable for me is the dreadful pooling of the second sock (the one on the blocker).  It's literally half light blue on one side, half dark blue on the other.  While the first sock striped in a more or less appealing way.  Schaefer Anne sock yarn will go into my books as strange stuff, indeed. 

And in truth, I will probably never buy Anne again for knitting socks.  This yarn is splitty, splitty, splitty and needs to be knit on tiny tiny needles in order to make what I think will be a marginally durable fabric.  It would probably be better used in some garment of a simple lace persuasion, meant to be worn for less trying service than socks.  Hopefully it will surprise me -- I've had more than my fair share of bad estimations of sock yarns, and I'd be happy to have this pair be with me for much time to come.

20080505_SockModel.jpgA certain little someone grabbed the sock right after I shot the first picture.  And, for the first time ever, when I asked her to hold a knitted item while I took her picture, she did so!  Isn't she a lovely sock model? (I know, she looks a little tired... it was the end of a long day for her).  Perhaps the leftovers will have to become socks for her.  I never get tired of her saying "Mommy made it! Mommy made it!" or asking to wear her handknit garments.   


Circle of Squares

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20080507_CircleOfSquares.jpg
Now that those socks are finished, but Lotus still requires constant focus as I work through my second crochet lace cuff, I've gotten back to my 3-Ply Targhee Squares.  These squares are exceptionally well aligned with knitting in front of the TV -- I'm going to be really sorry when my current batch of yarn runs out and I have to wait for my next installment. 

In the meantime, I'm also getting started on a new weaving project -- and I'm learning why one should really appreciate handwoven fabrics made with fine threads!

P.S.  Thanks for the nice comments about Ms. Z.  She is beginning to get interested in the project I work on.  I hope someday she just won't want to re-work our home network topology with her dad -- but that she'll also want to do the occasional craft project with Mom.

P.P.S  Thanks also for those who shared the crochet hints -- I'm definitely going to try working Lotus large lace edging attached to the body of the sweater in the round!
Dear L,

When you have a little brother (I know, I know, "little" is no longer an accurate adjective), you often wonder what he is going to do when he gets older.  Will he stop being annoying?  Will he ever wear another color besides black?  What career path will he pick?  Will he find a good person to spend his life with?  In the case of my brother, he did eventually stop being annoying (I think he was around 20 at the time), he did stop wearing black (and even surprised me by being open to striped hand-knit socks), he became a chemical engineer (of course, the engineering part was never in doubt, but he left us on the edge of our seats with the chemical part.... how many times did he take a stab at organic chemistry?) and he most certainly found a very special person to spend his life with.  I know that anyone who knew and cared about my brother was happy when you agreed to share his life.

Knitter that I am, I've always wanted to knit something special just for you as my way of saying that I'm glad you're part of our family.  Yes, I know I knit you the dragon scale socks (in honor of your love of dragons), but I while I loved designing them for you, somehow they've never seemed like quite enough. I know that at one point we sat down and discussed felted handbags.  My brother reminds me of the fact that I still have not produced a bag on a yearly basis (he's definitely looking out for you!), and while I wish I could make good on the promise, the right inspiration just hasn't hit me.  And if I can't get inspired, I have almost zero chance of accomplishing a fibery project. 

But this year has been such a big year for you -- in November you brought my beautiful nephew into the world, and you've had to face more than your fair share of challenges in his almost 6 months with us.  I wish we were closer (Houston is so far away) so that we could be there more often to help, and that Ms. Z and Mr. C could get to know each other as they grow up.  In lieu of being there, I like to think that this is the time when a hand knitted gift could be a bond, a reminder that somewhere in Chicago, there are people thinking about you and your family.  And thus began the start of my inspiration.

I hope you won't be disappointed that it's not a felted bag. I still have not found the mojo for that project.  I have always thought that your love of dragons is very symbolic of your personality: strong, powerful, wise, protective of those you care about, and not afraid to breathe a little fire every now and again when you need to get something done.  It is these dragons that have been the source of my inspiration for something special for you.

20080510_DragonStart.jpgToday I started your Dragon of Happiness shawl.  The yarn is a delightful alpaca, silk blend (Alpaca with a Twist, Fino) that is soft and rich, the color is a deep raspberry burgundy (selected with a bit of consultation with my brother).  It will be knit on size 1 needles -- all 115,000+ stitches (there are 230 stitches on that needle in the picture and there are more than 500 rows).  When it is finished, it will probably be one of the magnum opi of my knitting career.

I have gone back and forth on whether I should keep it a surprise.  In the end, I decided that I could not.  I am sure some will think that I am going public just so that I can blog it (and there may be an ounce of truth in that), but the biggest reason is that by declaring my intentions publicly, I'm making a commitment to to you and the project.  I have no idea when it will be completed (it is a project that requires focus and not every day brings me the opportunity to apply myself that way).  I hope that you'll enjoy seeing it grow.  

Happy Mother's Day, Dragon Momma!

With much love,

Theresa

Test Warp

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Two weeks ago I put together my project design, measured out the warp for the sample and started sleying my reed.

When  I wrapped up my weaving class last week, I had started threading the heddles.

20080514_Loom1.jpg
By the end of my class tonight, I had all my heddles threaded and my warp tied on the back beam.

20080514_Loom2.jpgYou're probably wondering why this took me so long.  And why I consider it to be an accomplishment worth blogging about.

Well...

First let me talk about the design.  I love having pillows on my bed.  I have always wanted one of those really impractical bolster pillows, and after my experience with double weave in my sampler, a couple of those bee bees in my head knocked against each other and it occurred to me that I could make my own .  But I also wanted to try out some interesting texture for my next weaving project, play around with a cloth woven on shafts and weave with finer threads.  So I decided on a double weave tube of waffle weave using 10/2 (fine lace weight) .perle cotton -- which means about 28 warp ends per inch (which actually works out to 14 ends per inch because I'm working in double weave)

But, before I wove the the real project, I figured I'd better test some things out first.  First off, both waffle weave and cottons tend to shrink when washed, so I needed to figure out what the circumference of my tube would need to be to ensure that it would still fit around the pillow (I settled on a pillow that is 10" in diameter by about 3 ft long).  I also wanted to make sure that I understood the threading and treadling patterns. So this white warp is only a yard long.  I'll probably work about a foot of tube and then cut it off and wash it and try it out on my pillow. 

What made this such an accomplishment is that I needed this sample to have a 30-31" circumference... or about 420 warp ends.  And that's a little bit of work no matter how you slice it.  But next week, after I tie things onto the front beam, actual weaving will start -- and I'm going to play with boat shuttles -- so I'm looking forward to some fun things ahead.

And because I can't resist...

20080514_MothersDay.jpg... one of my favorite pictures from Mother's Day, taken by my Dad.  It features a sweet baby and one of my favorite pieces of knitwear.  We had a very nice weekend.  I hope everyone out there is looking forward to a nice weekend to come!



Test Warp

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Two weeks ago I put together my project design, measured out the warp for the sample and started sleying my reed.

When  I wrapped up my weaving class last week, I had started threading the heddles.

20080514_Loom1.jpg
By the end of my class tonight, I had all my heddles threaded and my warp tied on the back beam.

20080514_Loom2.jpgYou're probably wondering why this took me so long.  And why I consider it to be an accomplishment worth blogging about.

Well...

First let me talk about the design.  I love having pillows on my bed.  I have always wanted one of those really impractical bolster pillows, and after my experience with double weave in my sampler, a couple of those bee bees in my head knocked against each other and it occurred to me that I could make my own .  But I also wanted to try out some interesting texture for my next weaving project, play around with a cloth woven on shafts and weave with finer threads.  So I decided on a double weave tube of waffle weave using 10/2 (fine lace weight) .perle cotton -- which means about 28 warp ends per inch (which actually works out to 14 ends per inch because I'm working in double weave)

But, before I wove the the real project, I figured I'd better test some things out first.  First off, both waffle weave and cottons tend to shrink when washed, so I needed to figure out what the circumference of my tube would need to be to ensure that it would still fit around the pillow (I settled on a pillow that is 10" in diameter by about 3 ft long).  I also wanted to make sure that I understood the threading and treadling patterns. So this white warp is only a yard long.  I'll probably work about a foot of tube and then cut it off and wash it and try it out on my pillow. 

What made this such an accomplishment is that I needed this sample to have a 30-31" circumference... or about 420 warp ends.  And that's a little bit of work no matter how you slice it.  But next week, after I tie things onto the front beam, actual weaving will start -- and I'm going to play with boat shuttles -- so I'm looking forward to some fun things ahead.

And because I can't resist...

20080514_MothersDay.jpg... one of my favorite pictures from Mother's Day, taken by my Dad.  It features a sweet baby and one of my favorite pieces of knitwear.  We had a very nice weekend.  I hope everyone out there is looking forward to a nice weekend to come!



Where Am I?

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A few views from my hotel:

20090517_WhereAmI3.jpg
20090517_WhereAmI2.jpg

20090517_WhereAmI1.jpgI'm traveling on business to a scientific meeting/trade show.  I doubt there will be much time for the visiting of fibery locations, but I might be able to take in a couple of historic landmarks. Any idea where I am?

Home and Away Again

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Yes, indeed, I was in Philadelphia. It was a nice trip to a city much lovelier than I remembered.  I was staying at a hotel near the convention center and found so much within easy walking distance.  Except for those few pictures I took from the hotel, I didn't crack out my camera.  But I loved walking through the neighborhood areas around Loop and Rosie's Yarn Cellar and near Jim's where we went to get the required Philly Cheesesteak sandwich -- that last area reminded me of Wicker Park here in Chicago.  I think if I suddenly had to live in Philly, I could.  The only thing that seemed to be missing was the independent coffee shops.  I hope I get to go back sometime and explore some more.

The knitting was non-existent, even though I brought a couple of sock projects with me.  I just couldn't get myself to sit still for that long.  No matter, those projects will come with me on my 4 day weekend to Ann Arbor -- along with Lotus' second sleeve and the Dragon shawl (I just finished up the 26th row -- for anyone keeping score). 

Since I'm midway between unpacking and packing again for the weekend, I'm a little short on pictures.... but I hope these few random bits will entertain:

1) I have come to the conclusion that the bra is one of the most important garments in any ensemble.  A bad bra makes everything else I am wearing look bad (especially after the changes induced by having a baby).  A recent refitting found that my band size was too big and my cup size was too small (this surprised me more than anything... a real shame the expansion came with no extra structure).  I am now properly equipped with new undergarments and it's made a world of difference.  So I am going to encourage everyone to make sure they are properly fit!

2) I am an itchy mess these days... not sure whether it is some skin sensitivity (I'm latex sensitive and sensitive to many things in laundry detergents) or something else.  But I am fighting myself to keep myself from tearing more holes in my skin by scratching.  Just when I thought I might be done with doctors for a while, it looks like i need to find a dermatologist...sigh.
 
3) I'm having fun helping out a scientific cause at The Galaxy Zoo.  Long ago, before I wanted to be some kind of biologist, I wanted to be an astronomer.  You don't have to know anything about astronomy to help out, you just have to want to look at pictures of galaxies.  Kind of fun, and something you could easily do with a child!

4) I read about FoldIt in Wired magazine and now I want to play myself -- it's a game meant to help simulate protein folding.  Once again, you don't have to be a biochemist, you just have to like puzzles!

5) My peony plant is now approaching 4+ foot high and has huge clusters of buds.  Those buds are getting bigger and I am holding that it will hold off blooming until after Memorial Day so that I can see it open up.  I am inordinately proud of this plant, even though I have  had little to do with its success beyond buying it and planting it (and in our yard, that is often not a guarantee of anything more than being abused by squirrels and not getting enough sunlight).

6) Ms. Z is now 22 months old! And her latest victory includes figuring out how to open gate latches and other such barriers to exploration. Watch out world!

To all of you in the U.S., I wish you a most relaxing Memorial Day weekend (and hope you, like me, are getting a little extra time off), and to everyone else, a good weekend, as well!


The Weaving Sample Continues

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20090524_WeavingSample.jpg
Thursday night I finished warping my loom and got started on sampling for my double weave/waffle weave bolster cover project.  This sample definitely qualifies as a learning experience.  All along the way I had to re-evaluate what I had planned.  First I realized I needed to change my "treadling" to deal with the fact that for a project in the round, I essentially had one cloth right side up and one cloth upside down.  Then I realized that I hadn't threaded my heddles completely correctly (not a fatal mistake, especially for a sample, but an important reminder that if I am going to thread 420 heddles I need to think first and thread second).  Finally, I had to correct a couple of errors I made when I was writing out my treadling.  All of this made me extremely happy that I had decided to do a sample rather than just jump right into the main project.  In spite of all my issues I was finally able to make double weave waffle weave happen.  And I find double weave just as exciting now as I did when I worked on my first sampler. 

This project also marked my first use of boat shuttles.  Definitely a handy tool!   In my final project, I'll have three colors, so I'll be working with three different shuttles. 

Next class I'm going to continue with my sampler, working on the color change issues and making sure I have a "beat" that I like. I need to find the best way to handle color changes -- weaving in the round isn't hard, but dealing with the ends requires a bit more thought than it does for knitting. I also need to make sure I get my waffles to be nice and square. 

There are some other details I need to work out as well:  how to create eyelets that I can use to thread in cords that I wll use to tie the cover at both ends (I imagine it like a piece of candy, "twisted" closed on either side) and how I will finish the edges (probably hem stitch, but I'm thinking about other decorative edges as well).  All in all, this is turning out to be a more complicated project than I had expected, but I'm haviing a great time working through the process.

A peaceful and pleasant Memorial Day to everyone in the States.

Made in Pennsylvania

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I'm not a very good yarn store tourist these days.  While "a lot of stash" is a relative concept, I feel like I have gotten to a place where I don't need to accumulate at quite as rapid a rate (which is partly why there has been so little spinning in the past year, I think).  As a result, when I travel, I don't spend as much time seeking out yarn stores as I once did.  It's not that I don't enjoy the atmosphere of rooms full of yarn, it's that I have my own room full of yarn that fills up the psychic space that I used to put yarn store visits into.

But when I asked y'all to guess where I was, and so many people mentioned Loop and Rosie's Yarn Cellar (and then I realized that I had actually heard of those stores before) and I realized that I could walk to both of them from my hotel I decided that maybe I had a little space in my stash after all.  Besides, the stunning weather we had in Philly called out for a walk.  And if I hadn't taken a walk, I never would have had a chance to see some of the wonderful neighborhood around Rittenhouse Square.

However, I decided that I could only make yarn acquisitions if there was something special about the yarn that made it hard to find near my own home.  I thought that would limit my purchasing opportunities.  And it did, but it didn't keep me from bringing home some goodies  from Loop (I enjoyed Rosie's but didn't find anything that reached out and grabbed me).  The yarn on the left is a skein of Black Bunny Fibers Superwash Merino Classic in "Reptile" and the yarn on the right is a skein of Colorful Yarn Superwash Merino sock yarn in "Berry" (the color is just slightly more purple in person, really a stunning deep magenta).  Both yarns are hand dyed in Pennsylvania -- and the Colorful Yarn yarn is spun in Pennsylvania as well.  (The book is Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits -- which I can get anywhere, but thought it would be nice to support a yarn store with the purchase).

Nice mementos of a business trip!  Certainly beats all the post-it notes and pens that were my other options...

Braiding for a Bolster

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Over the holiday weekend, I didn't knit a stitch.  I did, however get crafty with some perle cotton.

20080527_AllTheBraids.jpgFor my first big weaving project, I need to have two cords to use to help tie the ends of the bolster closed.  This seemed like the perfect application for a Kumihimo braid.  I talked about Kumihimo a long time ago when Julie got me excited about the craft.  I bought some perle cotton, the braiding foam templates, the bobbins* and tried out a few simple things, but since I didn't really have anything that I needed a braid for, I put it all aside on a shelf. 

It's amazing how having a real project to plan for can remind me of things that I never quite got into, and then get me really excited about it.  We spent Friday through Monday in Ann Arbor, and I spent almost all my free time in the car and at my parents house "auditioning" braids. 

I have a very nice, basic book that describes a nice variety of basic braid structures and then describes how altering the colors and their order can fundamentally alter how you see the braid.  For instance, the second cord from the top and the 3rd cord from the bottom are made using the exact same braiding technique, and the exact same number of threads.  The only difference is the number of threads of each color (and, in this case, the braid closer to the top of the picture is using 5/2 perle cotton while the lower one is using 10/2 perle cotton). 

All the rest of the braids in the photo use different "weave structures"  -- and I use that phrase because when I was working on the braid on the bottom of the picture (the one with the red, white and blue diagonal stripes) I realized that I really was weaving.  And the bottom braid is really a warp faced weaving -- like something you might get off of an inkle loom.  After I had that realization, I realized that the basic idea behind all of these braids had it's roots in weaving, which made the idea of creating these braided cords even more perfect as accents for my woven bolster cover.

After all the auditioning, which braid do I think will be the winner?  Likely the second braid from the top.  You can't tell from the picture, but it is one of the few soft, almost stretchy braids in the bunch -- it's also very easy to make.  And I think it will be the right complement to the bolster cover. 

What I like about Kumihimo is that it is a form of weaving that is eminently portable, easy to get started in and requires almost no expensive equipment.  You can use any threads you like and it is not that hard to "sample" and develop your own ideas.  While I work on finishing up my waffle weave sample I'm going to try out a few of them with some elastic thread my weaving teacher let me borrow.  Since Kumihimo braids can easily be embellished with beads, I thought it might be fun to create some of my own hair ties.


* If you are looking for Kumihimo supplies, I can highly recommend BraidersHand

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