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Current Weaving

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In my last post, I mentioned that I was seeking out unfinished projects and creating a list so that I could focus on getting some of my works in progress to be finished projects.  I think I've rounded up all the weaving projects, so I'm starting with those.

I've got three projects in my weaving queue:

  • The big purple blanket(s) project (top left): the fabric is woven, but the ends need woven in and the fabric needs to be washed, cut in half and seamed appropriately into two blankets
  • The "Piping Hot" pillow project (top right): the main fabric for the pillows is woven, but I still need to create the piping, find pillow forms of the right size and put the project together
  • Log Cabin Handtowels for my powder room (center, on loom): this is a straightforward project to weave as long as I can and then separate into towels of reasonable size to be used in my powder room. 
The hand towels will most likely be the first project completed - the weaving is easy and fast given that I'm using worsted weight cotton. 

I'm still torn about the big purple blankets.  After weaving this huge length of cloth, I love the look of it when it is all laid out.  Some of the pooling creates infinity-sign like motifs that I like that will be severed in half if I make two blankets.  That said, it's really too long to be of practical use at that width.   The real issue here with finishing is just that I am lazy and not excited about dealing with the ends.

The pillows have been lingering for a while now because after weaving the fabric I have to also weave the piping and then sew things up.  I don't mind the sewing, but I admit that I don't always like my sewing skills, so I've been procrastinating.

My goal is to get to the point where I've only got one weaving project at any given time.  I have multiple looms... but not enough space to really keep them both set up and active.  Since I've got that great yarn from Habu, and there was a neat double weave scarf project with embroidery thread in the most recent Handwoven that I want to tackle, I'm feeling motivated than in the past to wrap these up so that I can tackle one of those.

The Weaving Sample Continues

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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.

Pillow Talk

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Here is what I did with some of my recycled Banff Manos yarn: it became the warp for the "Piping Hot Pillows" in Liz Gipson's Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom.  It's meant to be a simple project where you experiment with varigated yarns in different combinations as warp and weft.  Because I wanted to maximize my yarn, I decided to make both pillows using the Manos (in the colorway Thistle) as my warp.  Choosing a weft yarn was more challenging as I had lots of skeins that were the right weight and would have made an interesting counterpoint to the Manos.  In the end, I decided that I wanted to find a striping yarn (i.e. Kureyon or Silk Garden) that complemented the Manos so that I could get more color into the project without having to work very hard. 

20090414_BothPillows.jpgThe weft yarn that I ended up choosing was a single skein of Big Kureyon that has been languishing in my stash.  Originally I think I purchased it to become a felted cat bed, but I could never get myself excited about knitting up Kureyon for my cats, so it sat there in it's center pull ball, looking sad whenever I saw it. As it turns out, it was just waiting for this prioject.  I had just the perfect amount of yarn to make the two 17 inch pillows.  And I think the striping worked out amazingly well.  The pillows aren't completely matchy-matchy in stripe sequence, but the striping isn't visually discordant, either. 

On each end of each pillow there is an inch of hem that I wove using a bit of Lavold Silky Wool.  This piece won't end up visible, which is almost a shame because it had such an interesting texture agains the Manos.  Just goes to show that even things that you don't think will really work sometimes turn out to be really good combinations and that you shouldn't automatically dismiss anything when you are playing with color.

20090414_PillowHemStitch.jpgEach end of the pillow weft  is secured using a hem stitch, which took me a few minutes to get the hang of, but once I did was kind of fun and made a lovely edge.  I left that tiny gap to give myself a place to cut, but the way it turned out is so nice looking it makes me want to use it in an actual garment somday. 

20090414_OnePillow.jpgI liked this view of a single pillow because it showed off not only the colors of the Kureyon (and how they played agains the dark Manos warp but also the variagation of the manos in the weft as well.  I think it has an interesting water colory effect... or like someone washed or wore away ares of color in the fabric.

The pattern suggests fulling before sewing and finishing and sealing in the pillow.  I am not sure I will full all that much, but I definitely will finish the fabric by giving it a good wash -- it's not really as soft as I might like for pillows.  But before I get to that I need to make the "piping" that's the hot part of these pillows -- from what I can see in the pattern, it looks a bit like the weaving equivalent of i-cord. I figure if I'm going to do any fulling, I should probably do both the pillow fabric and the piping together. 

For anyone who might be considering this project, after you get your loom warped up the weaving is over pretty quickly -- it doesn't take very long to weave 16" of pillow fabric when there are only 6 picks per inch.   It's an interesting way to experiment with variagated yarn and simple color combinations in plainweave -- and could be a nice way to use up a couple of solo aran weight skeins that you don't really know what to do with!

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Not all my retrospectives are going to hape happy endings -- at least not for the sweater.  Today I'm going to share the story of my Banff.  Banff was one of the "it" sweaters for winter 2003-2004.  Published in Knitty, it seemed like just everyone whose blog I read was making this sweater.  I was more easily lured onto the bandwagon back then and knew a lot less about my own sweater preferences, needs and necessities and got seduced by both the pattern and the idea of knitting it in Manos del Uruguay

Less than a year later, this sweater had gone from a darling to a drag, and ended up on my "rip list".  Yet nothing happened until yesterday, mostly because of laziness and because it's just kind of hard for production knitter me to rip out something I spent hours on. 

Why was my Banff (click the link to see my gallery and my less that flattering look in this sweater) such a failure for me when it was such a hit for so many people? 

  1. The yarn and the sweater were not a good match in the gauge stated.  Manos is a singles yarn spun thick and thin, but mostly loose and soft.  Knit at the gauge the project called for, it made a nice fabric, but without a firm gauge, this yarn fuzzes and pills like crazy if it is so much as rubbed against anything -- like, say, one's office desk when one is working on the computer.  This sweater looked shabby after the second wearing. 
  2. Oversized is good on some folks, but I am now convinced that it is not a good look on me.  Especially when combined with the proportions of this sweater.  The pattern is stated to have 12 to 16 inches of ease on an average person.   That's a lot of ease for a sweater that length-wise is geared more towards what I would consider "petite" sizing (at least in the US market).  Put them together... too wide and too short for me.  Not a flattering look.  And, at the time, I was one of those optimistic knitters who just trusted the pattern and rolled with it.  I think the folks who were successful with this pattern were smart enough to adjust it to both lengthen it out and narrow it up a little bit.
  3. I love turtleneck collars, but wool (no matter how soft) and turtleneck and I do not go together.  I just start itching like crazy (I'm not wool-allergic, but I can't tolerate much around my neck area that isn't completely smooth -- so far only cotton and silk seem to work for me).  So this sweater always had to be worn over a cotton turtleneck -- which only emphasized the bulkiness issues.
This is one of those projects that taught me (long in retrospect) that I needed to evaluate pattern sizing and schematics carefully and not be drawn into knitting projects just 'cause everyone else thought they were cool -- unless I had the moxie to modify them to suit my needs*.  And, although there are exceptions to this rule, most of the time, sweaters in bulkier weight yarns just don't work very well for me. 

Clearly, though, I was content to let this sweater sit in a drawer for quite sometime.  What got me to pull it out and recycle it today?  The Piping Hot Pillows in Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom by Liz Gipson.  They are simple plain weave pillows with a woven piping edge.  And they are woven using two colors of Manos del Uruguay.

Now, I have some Manos in the stash, even in contrasting colors that look good together, but probably not enough for more than one pillow -- and I was thinking that having two or three of these pillows to decorate my bed or couch with would really be nice.  And there was only one way I could get my hands on 2-3 pillows' worth of yarn without exercising my credit card:  recycling Banff.  The Piping Hot Pillows look to be woven at a density that won't irritate the fuzzing issues further, and, even better, they are fulled before being assembled, which should also help keep the yarn from getting really abused looking should the pillows actually get used.    I will miss not having multiple colorways in the pillows, but I think that the variations that derive from the kettle dyeing of this yarn will help to create a little more depth in the fabric.

So I got out my ball winder and my swift (if there are any two tools that are more valuable to someone who likes to work with fiber, I don't know what they are!), picked apart Banff's seams and reclaimed 7 skeins of "Thistle" Manos by winding directly from the sweater onto my ballwinder to create center pull balls.

20090315_BallsofBanff.jpgWith a little help from my swift (attach the center pull tail and then rotate manually), I turned these into hanks.

20090315_HanksOfBanff.jpgUsed yarn is always an interesting creature to me... so sproingy.  I choke tied (with a figure eight tie) each of the hanks before taking them for a warm swim in my bath tub with a little Eucalan.  Pleasantly enough, there was no observable bleeding into the water -- a good thing for a item that's likely going to be against skin and clothing.

The yarn is now hanging to dry after it's relaxing and kink-removing bath.  Next stop: weighing and warping.

* I'd like to take a moment to emphasize that I am not dissing this sweater, it's designer or it's design.  It just wasn't the design for me. 

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