Category Archives: Spinning

Just a Little Post

I’ve been sick the past few weeks, which has had me mostly miserable on the couch with hands idle. I have been working on a few small things, like Dorset buttons and cotton spinning:

And I’m sampling laces for a reproduction Elizabethan hood:

Other than that, things have been as quiet craftwise as they ever are around here. But once I’m up and around again, there’s a laundry list of things to be done, so I am trying to enjoy the break while waiting for spring to arrive.

Country Living

And we’re back!

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Over the last two months, I have:

  • Hugged a chicken (live)
  • Stuffed a rabbit (knitted)
  • Made a Honiton lace pillow
  • Watched two baby doves hatch, grow, and fly away
  • Introduced guinea pigs to the wonders of fresh grass
  • Learned new recipes
  • Spent time with family
  • Knit things

I’ve been staying with family since the beginning of April while I recovered from surgery. Fortunately, my hands were unaffected, so here are a few highlights from the crafting front:

1. A second Henslowe, shown above.

2.The Christmas coverlets. Remember that big, mysterious project with the giant cone of yarn? Here’s what it turned into:

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Here’s one folded across the back of a chair. Each mini-coverlet is about 30″ x 40″.

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3. A rabbit.

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4. A snail.

4. A little bird.

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And, okay, I admit it– I took a fence shot of the Henslowe:

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More to come on both the finished-object and work-in-project fronts. Stay tuned!

Playing catch-up (and with bobbins)

Crafting has been rampant in these parts as of late, even if the same cannot be said of blogging. I started a two-month bobbin lace course at the end of January, and have spent many hours making tiny samples, learning stitches, and occasionally sprouting side projects to try out my budding skills.

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I have spent an equal number of hours drooling over lace bobbins. They’re the perfect combination and/or perfect storm of small, collectible, relatively affordable (unless you go in for gemstone inlay and elaborate turning), beautifully crafted, useful objects. You can find all sorts of bobbins designed for different aesthetic and functional purposes, and the history of the various types is very interseting. And if you actually make lace, you can justify having a large collection. My biggest project to date called for 19 pairs, but some laces call for hundreds.

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My significant other and I spent a weekend in Ottawa recently, and naturally, my lace homework had to come with us on the train. Some people bring laptops; others bring lace pillows. However, I discovered that it’s actually rather difficult to make lace with the correct tension while moving. My teacher was not tremendously impressed with the results.

On a completely unrelated note, this was the view from our hotel room: the Canadian Parliament. Amazing!

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Right now, I’m working on some trim, just for fun. It’s up to about twenty inches: we’ll see how long I can go. The Canadian Lacemaker Gazette runs a “five-meter club”, but I didn’t wind anything close to five meters on those bobbins. The weaver’s knot (a brilliant invention) may come to my rescue once again.

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Knitting is also making its semi-annual resurgence. In addition to trudging along on the several thousand projects I started last summer, I picked up a few new techniques (Continental!) and am working my way through the new Free-Sole Sock DVD. So far, excellent; I made a mini-sock and learned to knit backwards. I’ll be spending next month recovering from surgery, and hope to have enough mental capacity available to finish at least a few of the four socks, three mittens, two sweaters, and one shawl that I keep meaning to wrap up. There are also a couple of crochet projects yammering at me to finish them. Plus various modifications to existing items, such as a perfectly respectable hat that the recipient shunned as “not warm enough”. At least that can wait until next year. Hmph.

I imagine that weaving will have to take a short hiatus. I’ll be staying with family for a while after the surgery, and though it might be feasible to pack a simple loom or two, I probably wouldn’t use them (I will, after all, be convalescing). Spinning will be subject to similar constraints, though I might pop a spindle in the suitcase. You know, for emergencies.

Also squared away in advance of my departure: two giant bags containing four stinky fleeces. Since my S.O.’s threats of disposal were increasing in proportion to the sheepy smell, I spent the better part of a weekend scouring wool in the bathtub. (And then bleaching the bathtub so as to render it fit for human use.) These fleeces were free, which as fiber-prep folks will know, is a mixed blessing. In the end, I kept the two best fleeces and disposed of the other two, which were heavily matted and very dirty. The ones I kept are of an unidentified longwool: Lincoln or something close to it, but I didn’t have the chance to ask the shepherd since the fleeces were a surprise present (thank you!). Anyway, I now have one white fleece and one black-brown fleece. No plans for them yet, but maybe I’ll make a two-toned fleece rug this summer, à la Anne Field.

Now, there is fringe to be twisted and hems to be stitched. Or I could act like an adult and start my taxes. Thoughts?

It Folds!

Between twisting fringe, washing fleece, learning to crochet, digging through dormant works-in-progress, winding warps, and planning new projects, this past month has been a busy one. A few days ago, I made a happy discovery while idly browsing Etsy*: the manufacturer of my baby loom! It’s a toy loom from Brio, and at least one other adult weaver has succumbed to its charms. I wasn’t able to identify it before because one supporting beam, which would have been marked Brio, is missing. It seems that later versions of this loom used a rigid heddle, but mine is definitely an older model.

In fact, it brings back hazy memories of a toy loom I had as a child. Maybe it’s the same one.

Once I knew its manufacturer, I could find a PDF version of the instruction manual. To my astonishment…

…it folds! When I saw it in the weaving shop, I tried to collapse it for transportation, but when nothing moved, I assumed the loom wasn’t made for it. Actually, it was just that the screws on which the braces rest had rusted, and just needed to be loosened slightly.

Now it can come with me wherever I go. Or, at least, places that my Fanny couldn’t. So, with an upcoming weekend trip in mind, I warped it up again. Using a finer yarn than last time meant tying another 40 string heddles and using two ends per dent, but as a bonus, this made the log cabin threading a piece of cake. The yarn is Lion Brand 1878, which is a new one for me: a review on Amazon compared it to Harrisville Shetland for half the price, and so far it’s very nice, though I did find one knot and one weak spot in the eighty meters I wound for this mini-project.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Meanwhile, the laboratory kitchen was taking on a suspiciously sheepy smell, so I could justify spending time happily washing fleece in lieu of dishes. Below, a smidgeon of California Red and Targhee from the Spinning Loft:

Fresh fleece is so delicious and squishy that I’ve contemplated using it as a pillow. Or just sticking my face in it.

The Targhee has a good bit of VM, so I’ll be spending some time picking by hand while plotting to build a box picker. I think I’m going to card the stuff and spin it before dyeing, but I did toss some commercial BFL roving into the dyepot. Having done all the samples for my gamp at once, now I’m focusing on one dyestuff at a time.

In addition to deepening my knowledge of natural dyes, it’s much easier to coordinate.

Since it’s been a while since my last post, and the holiday season looms, there’s plenty else in the works: a hairpin lace shawl, a crocheted hat, a knitted sweater, and a 600-end Mystery Warp, all to be revealed in due time. But for today, I’ll leave it at that. Hope you’re having a nice November!

*A too-frequent pastime. Help!

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.

A Lesson in Values

Alas, the blue mitten is no more. I picked it up again this week and came face to face with a dismal truth: the colors just weren’t going to fly. The colorwork bird was completely indistinguishable.

I wouldn’t fly either if I were that muddy.

Dismayed perusal of other blogs and various media led me to the conclusion that I should have used different colors in the first place. Other possible fixes– say, swapping the main yarn and the variegated yarn– wouldn’t solve the real problem: there just isn’t any contrast in hue or value between most of the colors (while the lime green contrasted rather too enthusiastically).

This time around, I’m trying the variegated handspun on a white background, although I admit that I didn’t rip out the sad blue mitten until I was well into the new version. It’s something to do with potential: I couldn’t bring myself to take apart the old mitten until I was more invested in it being a ball of string than an object, even a flawed one. (Does that make sense? Are you the same way?) At any rate, here’s how the colors look together:

As of this writing, I’m nearly at the end of the thumb gusset, and am pleased to report encouraging results thus far.

Despite my frustrations in the knitting realm, I seem to keep coming up with new reasons to knit. A few days ago I finished the last spinning project that was started during the Tour de Fleece, a hefty skein of 3-ply that’s really a knitting yarn. What would you do with a couple of hundred yards of strongly marled (say not barberpole!), worsted-weight merino?

Spun out of some nifty fiber from Paper and Yarn. Actually, I’ve noticed that it looks really nice sitting next to the rewound blue yarn from the ex-mitten. Hmm…


Otherwise, spinning has slowed down to a more manageable pace. I rearranged the living room furniture last weekend so that I have a Weaving Corner and a Spinning Corner, but since my supported spindle came in the mail a couple of days ago, I’ve spent rather more time in the Couch Corner.

Cherry spindle from Gripping Yarn. Cute and speedy!

I have a chained warp sitting on the loom bench, just waiting to be beamed and threaded. I’ll tackle that as soon as I can, since this month may be the calm before the fluffy storm: I’m hoping to go to three of the fall fiber festivals this year, and to join the local weaving guild as soon as mysterious renovations to their location are completed, and embark on myriad small projects. If all goes well, some of them might actually get done.