Category Archives: Historical

Northerly

One of the things about writing professionally is that you tend to run out of words by the end of the day. Even a blog write-up is a baffling prospect.

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Fortunately, I’m not weaving for a living!

For my birthday this year, I got a beautiful cherry inkle loom  from SpriggsCreations. It has all of the features I was looking for in a floor inkle loom: easily adjustable tension, sturdy pegs, and that horizontal bar that lets you sit closer to the loom than three-pronged looms like the Cendrel.

To go with the loom, I received a just-as-beautiful Sami shuttle from Ampstrike, which I have long wished for. It’s even better than I thought! Using the shuttle with a rigid heddle designed for supplementary-warp bands, picking out  patterns is almost as fast as treadling a floor loom.

Much more to come on this subject. I’ll be teaching a Baltic band weaving workshop at my guild in January. In the meantime, know that many band warps have been wound and woven: mostly wound, since I’m having so much fun trying out new things!

 

Speaking of new things, I’ve joined the SCA, resulting in a few reenactment goods mysteriously appearing around the house. I wove a silk cap and a wool shawl, and made a leather needle case and sheath as well as a few other goodies suitable for a Shetlandic Norse persona. The only thing I’m not making by hand is the jewelry, because… well, it’s another hobby, and I’m not allowed to start any more hobbies. (Leatherworking doesn’t count, because that’s basically sewing. Right?)

I’ve gotten friendly with several members of my local SCA group, and joined them for a fun workshop in silk painting. I’ve also been practicing the Bayeux embroidery stitch. The resulting projects are less historically accurate, but nonetheless entertaining:

In keeping with the Scandinavian angle that my crafting has taken of late, I dug out an embroidery kit that my mom found at a thrift shop for the grand sum of twenty-five cents. Isn’t it cute?

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It might even be done in time for Christmas.

Well, maybe.

Happy Flu Year!

PSA: Get your flu shot. In addition to its role as a major public health threat, the flu interferes dreadfully with one’s crafting goals. I’m just now getting around to rounding up photos of the Christmas gifts I made for people this year, of which the largest undertaking was the Giant Secret Weaving Project. As not all of the intended recipients have yet received their finished objects, I will have to remain mysterious about the intended purpose of the warp… but not so mysterious that I can’t give you a sneak preview.

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A number of smaller, less mysterious creations have also found new homes lately:

– A woven Kindle case. The fabric for this was woven on my little two-shaft Brio loom, if you recall, and I’m pleased with how well the cloth turned out. I did have to add interfacing– a dense sett being difficult to achieve through the loom’s wooden reed– but it’s a sturdy little case, despite my shoddy job of hand-stitching the seams.

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– A pair of scarves for my parents’ dogs. These still need to be modeled by the beasts, but since it’s taken me so long to assemble this post, I decided not to hold it up any longer. You can wait for cute puppy pictures, right?

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– A crocheted hat.

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– Tea towels. Another on-loom picture, since I wove these at my guild, so I need to wait for them to be cut off. The weft is naturally dyed cotton, since I only had undyed yarn, and my turn to weave came up unexpectedly, and there was no time to mordant, so… out came the cutch!

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It’s actually a very nice shade of brown, but the lighting in the loom room doesn’t do it justice.

On the other side of the gifting coin, I now have my very own sewing machine! (Thanks, Mom!)

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The strange gray object to the left? With the bobbins hanging from it? That is a harbinger of doom.

I whipped up a wool skirt to wear to work, upon which I managed to spill mustard sauce on its second wearing. Dilemma: take the whole thing for dry cleaning, or replace the unfortunate panel with leftover fabric?

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After such frustrations, and despite a long to-do list involving less portable crafts, tatting seemed like a good thing to spend the rest of my winter vacation on.

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And then, the tatting triggered some memories of things seen at fiber festivals… and I felt that itch… you know the one. The one that signals a new craft on the horizon.

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Bobbin lace!

Housecleaning is overrated, anyway.

Yarn, Plant Matter, and the Dangers of Fiber Festivals

You may think I’m kidding, but the fiber arts can lead you down a perilous road. Mostly due to the interesting diversions along the wayside.

See where this stuff gets you?

My friend chopsticknitter has already posted a batch of pictures from the Twist festival in her blog, so I’ll be brief in my review: it was lots of fun, and it has indirectly provided me with more potential blogging content than I know what to do with. In terms of fiber, I stocked up on Shetland, Cheviot, alpaca, and even a bit of bison. (For the sake of my dignity, this indecent haul will not be pictured.) My favorite, though, is the tiny sample of qiviut that is now occupying my supported spindle. This is shockingly beautiful stuff.

The skein in the background is the delicious Handmaiden Camelspin in Pewter, which is on its way to becoming a shawl for a real-life knit-along.

Of course, I have to mention our trip to the loom room. After the greedier other members of my group appropriated the most exotic looms, I found my way to a Fanny just like my own, but pre-warped and conveniently unattended.

Delighted weaving ensued.

We also passed a room that had clearly been occupied by a dyeing workshop, which would have been fun to take. I’ve always been fascinated by natural dyeing. After getting back from the festival, and having picked up all that springy Cheviot, I wound off a batch of ten-yard skeinlets for my schemlets.*

The results of my headfirst dive into the dyepot: lots of yarn and a mild headache.

To date, I’ve experimented with lac, madder, cutch, logwood, pomegranate, turmeric, chamomile, and some rather unsightly black beans. Aside from the lac, these are all plant dyes. (Lac dye comes from a bug-produced resin, making it less icky than dyeing with cochineal, which involves grinding up bugs. I might not mind, but my significant other is concerned that we might find dried insects scattered around the kitchen. He’s probably right.) Anyway, I think the sample skeins will be perfect for weaving a color gamp or two.

“But, tintinnael,” you may ask, “how will you weave any gamps? Isn’t your loom already occupied?”

Well, yes, it is:

This is the scarf that never ends. Please don’t ask how long it’s been on the loom.

But on Saturday, my mother happened to come across this dainty creature gathering dust in the corner of a weaving shop in Vermont. As soon as I saw it, it was love.

It’s a two-shaft counterbalance table loom, toy-sized but fully functional. I’ve seen similar looms on Etsy and eBay, but usually in worse condition for higher prices. (Worthy of note: this one was twenty bucks.) It came intact with a wooden reed and two functioning ratchet-and-pawl mechanisms on the front and back beams. The only things missing: heddles and heddle bars, i.e., string and sticks. So I spend an hour tying string heddles and hacked some dowels to size. To stabilize my makeshift shafts, I tied the lower bars to one another, going underneath the roller at the center of the loom. I’m not sure if this is the originally intended configuration, but it seems to work just fine. And to change the shed, all you have to do is flip the lever on the top of the loom.

Here are some close-up shots of the riggings:

Although it looks delicate, I am pleased to report that the little loom holds up to a good amount of tension. I wouldn’t use it to make floor rugs, but tiny tapestry samples are not out of the question. (Also, I’m careful to take the tension off the warp after every weaving session, a suggestion I read somewhere and have internalized to the point of neurosis. Fellow weavers, is this good practice?)

So, my next project seems likely to be a natural-dye gamp on this little charmer. See how one thing leads to another? There’s no hope for any of us fiber folk.

If you’ve made it this far into my rambling post, you may be interested to see my brand-new Twitter page, also linked from the sidebar to your right. I’m starting to get into the tweeting habit: if you’re there, let me know!

*I know. It doesn’t rhyme.

Mittens and Museums

First, the mittens!

My half-handspun Nightingale adaptation is now progressing nicely. I think the design is more succesful with this combination of yarns, at least on an aesthetic level, but I’m not sure the mittens will fit my monstrously large hands. I’m holding out hope for a bit of blocking magic.

Also on the Coffee Table of Crafting, a small piece of cross-stitch that I made from a kit picked up at the local Highland Games. Making something from a kit led to much rumination on the nature of creativity, and whether I was actually adding anything new to the world, and whether making a project from a kit is the same as using someone else’s pattern and following their yarn specifications, and whether there is any point to changing something just for the sake of changing it, and why it’s easier not to follow “recipes” in weaving (no shaping! …generally), and then– I decided not to worry about it. So here is my Wee Hieland Coo. (I kid you not, that was the name of the kit. This may have played a role in my purchasing decision.)

As it turned out, I did wind up placing my own personal stamp on the project. After a few days of carefully managing every last thread, I misplaced the whole glob of it just as I was finishing the cow’s head. Rather than wait until the weekend to go thread-hunting, I dug into my embroidery box for some close-enough floss. So, this is a blonder Hieland Coo than some– but according to Wikipedia, they come in all shades of orange to yellow! Of course, I found the missing floss immediately after completing the project. (It was stuck between the pages of my mitten pattern.)

Also on the coffee table, another knitting project has mysteriously appeared. I can’t figure out how this happens. I keep telling you, I’m not a knitter!

Socks. This yarn will become socks.

In loom-land, my warp is still…  well, with another half hour’s work, I should be up and weaving again.

Now, on to the museum. This is becoming something of a theme on the blog. Last weekend I went to this delightful little museum, which fills up the floor of an old stone church with beautiful stained glass, various artisanal works, and a few artifacts of interest to textile folks:

My significant other thought it was funny to see a glass case full of things that I use all the time. (He’s learning to identify the different tools and even to recognize quality!)

Sadly, there were some errors in the labelling, in both French and English. This cute little artifact was identified as a spindle, though it is, of course, a distaff. I am considering contacting the museum to let them know.

But the real treasure of the visit was from the gift shop:

Yes! A book all about the ceinture fléchée, complete with instructions for finger weaving a number of different traditional designs. I think this is becoming a mini research project of mine. They had a nice example on display, too:

I believe this dates from the early twentieth century, but I’m not certain. Next time I’ll take notes.

Already I’m eyeing my baskets of yarn bits and dreaming of inkle-loom adaptations. But it will have to wait for a bit: tomorrow it’s off to the races, by which I mean the Twist fiber festival, with friends chopsticknitter and starweaving.

And yes, the inkle loom is coming along for the ride.

Voyages in Lace

You know that the Almighty Fluff has taken over your life when, on a vacation, the first thing you do is scope out the local yarn shop.

Naturally, when I went to Quebec City for a few days, one of my first stops was this store. I treated myself to some delicious (and affordable!) alpaca, which also happened to match the tea set in my hotel room. I think this justifies the purchase.

This is not the yarn shop. I just liked the view.

I also spent lots of time touring the touristy historical district, and found all sorts of handwoven goods to admire: napkins, placemats, and so on, but also some interesting-looking objects that I assumed were scarves. But after seeing them at a number of shops and booths, I started to wonder: they were everywhere, and each one had a different maker’s tag. Clearly, this was some sort of cultural… thing… that I wasn’t getting. (You know what else I didn’t get? Photos. In retrospect, I wish I had, but I found one on ever-useful Wikipedia.)

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A bit of Google research has answered some questions as well as increased my curiosity. Apparently, what I saw were examples of the ceinture fléchée, a piece of folk costume with some historical significance. (Other useful keywords turned out to include Métis sash, Assomption sash, arrow sash, and voyageur sash.) Traditionally finger-woven (!), these seem to be commonly produced now on hand looms. Interestingly enough, one of the people (or the person?) responsible for re-popularizing the sashes in the early twentieth century seems to have been none other than the Edmond Massicote of my previous post. (In more recent years, this appears to be a responsibility of the terrifying Bonhomme Carnaval.)

Anyhow, I’m planning to do much more reading about these, so you can expect to hear more from me in future posts!

For the moment, back to the vacation. I found some other interesting craft-related goodies that I didn’t photograph: a spinning wheel faintly visible from the window of a closed antique shop, for one, that induced a number of hopeful visits until we finally managed to find the store open. It was a cute little Canadian wheel: unmarked, screw tension, all wood, looking to date from the early nineteenth century. Fun to visit, although I didn’t wind up taking it home with me. (This is not to say that part of my mind didn’t consider it. It would have fit on the train!)

My hotel also happened to have some especially endearing hosts in the breakfast room:

I wanted to share.

Now that I’m home, I’m itching to get back to the loom, but there’s just one more needly project in the works. In keeping with my goal to Enjoy Knitting, Dammit, trying out a knit-along seemed like the thing to do. Also, it’s a puzzle: you don’t find out what the shawl looks like until you finish it. I always liked a mystery.

There’s only one decision to be made:

Which do you like better?