A touch of the blues

Spinning, weaving, knitting: all seem tinged with blue right now:

The weaving is the warp I started for the Houghton Hall Alpacas event – finally off the loom!  I have some finishing work to do on this, but I think I will have a pair of place mats and a table runner when I am done.  I was finally motivated to finish weaving this warp as I have a great urge to put something else on this loom.  More on that anon, however.

The spinning is a second batch of fibre for the shipwreck shawl.  If you remember, I was spinning a marled yarn (one blue single, one dark grey) for this shawl, but realised I wasn’t going to have enough yardage.  I dyed an extra braid of each (the grey was my fibre anyway; the blue wasn’t), and I’m now working my way through the second batch of blue.  I’m not sure I’m getting the same thickness as the original – one reason I generally stick to a spinning project all the way through before starting something else – but I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end…

And the knitting…  Well, I’m quite excited about this.  You almost can’t see it in the photograph, but waay over there on the left is the start of a grand experiment.  It’s a cuff- for a glove.  I’ve wanted to knit myself some gloves that actually *fit* for ages now, and it suddenly occurred to me that the handspun Twilight yarn from earlier in the year would be perfect for this.  I’m loving the fabric I’m getting – cushy, woolly, smooth stockinette – and can’t seem to put this project down at all.  In fact, it may have progressed as far as the thumb by now…  Want a better picture? (No thumb, though) – OK!

Know what this means?

Know what this means?

Yup!  The weaving is off the loom!  And I’m very pleased with it.  This is the right side, the side we’ve all been able to see so far:

And this is the ‘wrong’ side:

The pattern is essentially the same, colours reversed.  But it also looks subtly different, because the areas that are shaded with weft floats on one side are warp floats on the other.

I’ve tied off the remaining warp into bundles on the loom, so it can’t pull back out.  If I like the way this looks after wet-finishing, I can tie new warp onto the old, and weave off some more without spending two days threading up again.

Speaking of saving time: signups for the Wheel of the Year clubs end in a week!  I can’t believe sign-up time has gone so fast.  It seems like I only announced it last week…

WIP Wednesday

Away from my blog for almost a week?!  Unbelievable.  You’d be forgiven, indeed, for thinking that I haven’t been doing much…  But you’d be wrong!

I have now completed ten repeats on my big weaving project:

(Weaving tends to look pretty same-y at this point in the game.  You can only ever see the bit that’s between the front beam and the current working edge, you see, so you’ll have to take my word for it that there’s been progress – and be satisfied with a close-up for now!

And I have 12 of these plump little puppies sitting around, waiting for wet finishing:

(That’s about 500g of yarn, 1855m in total.)  I have 6 and a bit batts left to spin, which could theoretically be done in a week – but which probably won’t be.  I’m waiting for the yarn to be all spun up before I wet finish it, so that they all get basically the same treatment.

Myrtle is coming along, too!  She now has (or is, I should say) a pair of sleeves!

I am planning to do a provisional cast-on for the body pieces, which always takes me a while (and we’ve had company, too).  In addition, I plan to add in some ribbing for waist shaping, and to move the start of the moss stitch yoke down the body a bit, so I need to figure out what’s happening where before I really get going.

Probably the real reason I have stalled on the knitting, though, is that I have been working hard on these:

I’m now up to the start of the thumb gusset on the second mitt!  That means I’ve figured out how to make it, and am now checking the pattern by working the second one.  With any luck, I’ll be able to make this available to all you crochet enthusiasts before too much longer – just in time for autumn chilliness.

If we ever get any, that is.



Well, it’s October tomorow, and yet we in England have been sitting in a heatwave for the last few days.  Lazy lunches, sunhats, ‘too-hot-to-do-anything’ afternoons and barbecue dinners.  I think it has everyone flummoxed, though few people are complaining.  (It’s the best summer weather we’ve had since April, which was also warm).

I have a tomato plant that I didn’t actually cultivate; it just popped up a while back in one of the veg beds.  I wasn’t going to grow tomatoes this year; we had such bad blight last year that I thought I’d give it a rest, but I find it quite difficult to kill a healthy plant, so this one has been allowed to remain on sufferance – as long as it stays healthy!

It started late, so I’d expected it to maybe produce a few stems of green tomatoes, which I could either chutnify or ripen indoors.  Instead, it is now loaded with small, green fruit, and I’m starting to think a few might actually begin the ripening process on the plant itself.

We also have a houseguest for a few days; J’s Mum is visiting, so the amazing weather gives us a chance to do all sorts of summery things that we normally wouldn’t have a chance of contemplating at this time of the year.  Yesterday was a day for relaxing though: some shopping in the morning, and just chilling out in the afternoon.  I made a couple of cheesecakes, and in the afternoon got weaving on a project that has been in the getting ready phase for a month now:

I’m really delighted with the way it’s coming on.  This is an 8 shaft pattern, by far the most complex threading I’ve ever attempted, and there was only one error.  I was worried the warp wasn’t up to it at one stage, but I think we’re doing OK now.

Today: the beach?

All about the Alpacas

I’ve been a bit absent from the blog for the last week or so; it’s all the fault of the alpacas.

Last Monday, I was selling and demonstrating weaving at Houghton Hall Alpacas.  I’d intended to get two looms set up: the rigid heddle loom with a ‘give it a go’ project, and my Klik with an 8 shaft project.  I ran out of time, though, so the Klik spent the event sitting elegantly, with a warp chain draped over it, so people could see how a multi-shaft table loom differs from a rigid heddle loom.

I ended up putting a plain cotton warp on the RH, and taking along lots of miscellaneous blue and white scraps.  I wove a firm header (using the same cotton, doubled), and then went for random blue and/or white stripes in the weft:

The idea was that weft-faced would be graphic, not difficult to weave, and easy to get decent selvedges on.  A few people had a go, but most were convinced they could never do anything ‘so complicated’, and were scared of ‘messing it up’.  Those who did give it a try seemed more than pleased with the experience, though!

It was a relatively small event, from a fibre point of view; apart from myself, there were two spinners (demonstrating rather than selling), and Purl Alpaca Designs:

As always, their stand looked wonderful.  I think they were previewing their new designs for Autumn, and had done a lot of work telling their fans about the event: a lot of die-hard fans had come to see them, some from quite a distance!

Even a small event takes a lot of time and energy to set up, though, and I had difficulties for this one.  We were told, two days in advance, that we needed to bring our own tables and chairs.  Since I was already planning to bring two looms on stands, my stock, shelving, books and samples (oh, and I drive a Polo!), it just wasn’t possible to fit much in.  I took my sewing table, which is effectively a large bench, and built a low display area out of straw bales.  Looking at the photo of my area, I can see now that it was too ‘spread out’ from the point of view of people coming into the building: something to remember for next time:

Sales were low, but I met some wonderful people, and we had some wonderful chatting time, all day long!  (Oh, but it was cold!  August Bank Holiday it might have been, but we were working in a wind tunnel, and it’s been feeling autumnal here, lately…)

The real attraction of the place, though, was the alpacas.  Lots and lots of wonderful animals were for sale, and I couldn’t resist taking a few minutes for some snaps (even though I’d left the good camera at home – no room for it in the car!)

Alpacas are, of course, desperately cute, and they hum!  Which is also cute, but one of these little black beauties did not shut up all day.  Even a cute noise gets a bit wearing after the fourth hour or so, I can assure you.

Fresh off the loom

I got down to some serious weaving last weekend.

The warp that I photographed for this post finally got some serious attention, and I managed to weave off the whole scarf in two days.  The push was partly in honour of doing Something Different for the long weekend, and also because I really want this scarf finished by June 16th (more on that later).

These photos show the scarf straight off the loom.  In some of them, you can see a softly corrugated effect, which is due to the weave structure I used.  I used the cord weave treadling on a straight draw, taken directly from the top left quadrant on Cally’s (old) blog.

The corrugation occurs because some warp threads spend most of their time on one face of the fabric, whereas others spend most time on the other.  When I wet finish the scarf, it’s possible that the effect will become more pronounced.  Unfortunately I have to finish twisting the fringe before I to see what happens – and that’s a lot of fringe!

A warp, in pictures

I spent most of yesterday attempting to get a new warp on the Klik. I got most of the way there before being interrupted by the news that the company I work for is being ‘acquired’, and having to spend the rest of my day off on a conference call (and going for a beer, but I digress). I’ve got a fair bit to share about this warp, but for now, I think I’ll just share a few pictures:

Bugger.  (At this point, all the threads should be lifted.)

What I wove for Christmas

Blog stalwarts may remember the scarf I started to weave over a year ago.  The plan had been to weave both of my brothers a scarf each for Christmas (2009) – and I failed miserably.  It seems that the last time I mentioned the Maze scarf was at the beginning of May, when I finally got the thing off the loom and wet finished.  No photos appear to have been taken of the finished thing in all its glory, ever.

This year, I managed to complete the second scarf, in time for New Year if not Christmas itself.  (This is OK, because I didn’t visit family or do gift giving until the New Year.  Therefore, not late):

The scarf, all in one shot

This is an advancing twill pattern from the Handweaver’s Directory of 4-shaft patterns; the same book as I used for the previous scarf.  Again, the warp is an acrylic machine knitting yarn, and the weft is something 100% synthetic which approximates a brushed mohair.  As last year, I feel there’s no point weaving stuff for my brothers that requires special handling/laundering.

Close-up of the weave structure

Fortunately, I managed to avoid the drama of the previous scarf, getting the warp onto the loom with only one or two threading errors and no swearing.  And the weaving itself was a dream.

I learned hemstitching for this project – you can just about see it in the lower left hand corner of the first photograph – and love the effect.  I used the directions from Peg’s Talking about Weaving blog, here, and found them very easy to follow.

I do have one top tip for hemstitching: use a curved needle!

95) A minor diversion/obsession

I currently can’t stop playing with this spindle and the Abby batt that is in progress upon it:

It’s the Summer 2010 Abby/Bosworth combo special.  The batt is 50% merino, 25% tussah silk and 25% baby camel down (and 110% marvellous).  The colourway is ‘mauve it on over’.  The spindle is a Bosworth mini in sumac, on a 9″ walnut shaft (perfect for thigh rolling), and since they were supplied together, I’ve always meant to spin them together.  Since I acquired them, in a little personal splurge moment during the summer, things haven’t really progressed between a little test spin, and an occasional fondling.

On Saturday, though, I fell for a skein of a friend’s hand-dyed, organic merino laceweight:

(Isn’t it lovely?!  She is planning to start selling on Etsy – I’ll let you know when she’s all set up.)

Anyway, are you seeing my problem yet?  That handpainted yarn is looking a lot like warp.  And the handspun is looking a lot like weft.  The colours are close enough to complement, different enough to contrast.  In my mind’s eye I’m seeing stripes of 1/2 and 2/1 twill, which, with handspun singles weft, might just give me some collapse.  The quantities *should* be about perfect for a scarf.

It’ll take me no time at all to finish spinning up the singles and get it woven off, right?!

105) Weaving in a Winter Wonderland

We've had more snow than we know what to do with here in Cambridgeshire.  Admittedly, more than a couple of inches tends to bring the entire country grinding (or sliding) to a halt, but this is what my car looked like at 11am on Friday:


What's more, it hasn't all melted away yet, which is truly incredible.

Apart from a few necessary shopping excursions (dog food, salt), and the obligatory walkies (Kita loves the snow, but actually had a nasty fall attempting to corner on ice; Woody's just dippy in all weathers), I've been using the opportunity to dig in at home and make a return to my multi-shaft table loom, via some of the random stash I acquired recently.  In fact, in a burst of wild optimism and enthusiasm on Sunday morning, I asked J, "So, how many scarves d'you think I can weave in a day, then?"  Oh, hubris.

Sunday I spent attempting to get a warp on the darned thing.  I'd forgotten how much more complicated it is than warping a rigid heddle loom, and in my arrogance, didn't refer to The Book until too late.  In addition, after doing all the sums (twice!!) I suddenly realised I was halfway through winding a six yard warp instead of a six foot one, and had to begin again.  When I did refer to the instructions, I started with the wrong set.  Eventually, I got it on the loom, then quit for the day and went for wine and cheese courtesy of Geodyne.

When I got back, I started weaving and realised that the sett was way too loose for the pattern I'd chosen, and it looked like ass.  I tried a couple of different wefts, and it still looked like ass, so I went to bed in a sulk.

Monday, I spent most of the day avoiding the loom and giving it evil stares whilst I wrapped presents, made a desultory attempt at packing and cooked a solstice dinner.  I did decide that the only thing to do was to resley more densely (i.e. bring the warp threads closer together), and actually unwove all my experiments from the night before so as not to waste my precious warp.  Only when I finished unweaving did it occur to me that I should have taken fail-photos for the blog.  To fail is to learn, they say.  Well.

I wove a fair bit, then decided the draft in the book wasn't giving me the pattern advertised. (Umm, it's at the bottom of page 71in the Handweaver's Directory; I liked the pattern well enough, but it didn't have the very cool travelling element that I loved in the sample).  I unwove that, too, and still forgot to take photos.  I figured the correct 'treadling' sequence out, and proceeded for a while:


Cool, huh?  Then I spotted an error made whilst re-sleying:


That loose stripe pretty much down the middle of the frame is where the warp threads were left too far apart.  You can see the wider spacing at the top of the shot, in fact.

Even over a very small area, you can see the difference it makes to the pattern; it loses all crispness, and looks very sloppy.  If the whole warp is too widely spaced, the pattern is almost completely lost.  I went to bed in a sulk.

Today, I cut off what I'd woven so far, fixed the sleying error and started over.  I'd completed a full pattern repeat before noticing that, actually, I was no longer weaving the pattern I'd originally intended:


Spot the difference?  Anyway, I've decided it's still good.  No more unweaving, no more cutting off; I'll keep it this way.  But by now my back was sore, and I had to stop weaving.  So, three days; no scarf.  I'm glad I'm not relying on production weaving for Christmas presents this year.

Speaking of which, I'm leaving the frozen South to travel to the frozen North tomorrow; Internet access may be limited.  So have a wondrous festive season, whatever you celebrate, and I'll be back sometime before the New Year…

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