Honestly, I tried to cut back on handmade gifts this year.
Of course, that turned out to be boring. So when, in mid-December, my grandmother told me that she was hosting a family gift exchange…
I made these. Hooray! It’s not Christmas without a last-minute project.
Last year, I… well, I started a small fire that happened to melt my mother’s old advent wreath. So I took some wool scraps from the Dorr Mill store and appliquéd her a new one:
Hopefully, this wreath is less flammable.
We also had a solstice party. I made a Yule log.
The log appeared to be in an advanced state of decay, but taste tests were favorable. The meringue mushrooms received especially good reviews.
From my trusty bin of wool scraps, I whipped up some stockings for us and the pigs and tacked them to the wall:
It was a pretty sloppy effort, but the rodents in question were very excited to find parsley in their socks.
And last but not least, look what my significant other surprised me with: an antique reel!
From what we can tell, it probably dates to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, and was probably made in Quebec. Any opinions on the subject would be appreciated. Aside from two nails in what is an obvious repair job), the joinery is entirely wood pegs and mortise-and-tenon joints. The wood looks like pine.
Whatever its provenance, it’s in beautiful shape and makes a tidy skein. The reel now lives in our living room where I can admire it from my knitting chair.
I hope you all had a pleasant holiday, if you celebrate any, and that you have a happy 2015!
Some weave structures and yarns are difficult to manage on a fixed-tension tablet or inkle loom. The tablets like to sneak out of position while you’re weaving, and if you prefer to take the tension off the loom between weaving sessions (as I do), the weight of the cards can damage the threads.
To keep everything orderly, many tablet weavers clamp their weaving to a board (for example, the one pictured here). This isn’t a particularly comfortable way for me to work. Luckily, I had an epiphany:
This is my prototype weaving sling/hammock/thing. The dowels hold the fabric to its full width, and the elastic tying the dowels to the loom keeps the fabric at just the right tension to hold the cards steady when not in use.
So far, I’m very pleased with the results, but there are sure to be refinements in the future!
(I’ve been sitting on this post for ages, trying to take new photos with better lighting. Since it’s February, I’ve given up.)
My friends and I talk about yarn the same way normal people talk about food.
“I broke my diet again, but the MadTosh was too delicious to resist.”
“Eh, it’s little bland, but the texture is unbelievable!”
Perhaps not coincidentally, one of my more frequently used comparisons of weaving and knitting is as follows:
Knitting is like cooking. You’re always moving around, keeping track of five things at once, and it makes me immensely frustrated. (Note that this aspect of knitting is less true the more I practice. I’m getting better at the juggling act.)
Weaving, on the other hand, is like baking. All the hard work is at the beginning, and once everything is set up and running smoothly, it’s only a matter of time before you have a delicious finished good.
I suppose spinning is equivalent to making tea, all soothing and repetitive. And bobbin lace… is confectionery?
Sorry. I’ll quit torturing the metaphor. Here’s a guinea pig.
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.
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?
I’m still down with the knitting bug. (This bout is lasting a while.) I made myself a cowl this week out of the yarn rescued from that ill-fated blue mitten:
I grew up calling these “neckwarmers” and thinking of them as fairly hideous cold-weather necessities, but now I can see why they’re so popular in the knitting community. It took just a few days of here-and-there knitting time, and it’s a cozy, useful item. Meanwhile, the knit-along shawl is still knitting along.
This was supposed to be done by the end of September, but I’m, uh, reevaluating my goals.
Otherwise, small-loom weaving has been the norm around here lately. I need to squirrel away my yarn for the winter! Here’s the naturally dyed color gamp that I mentioned planning in my last post, woven on the resurrected table loom:
I also set up the inkle loom for some tablet weaving. This was the first kind of weaving I learned, so it brings back fond memories, and the potential weave structures boggle my mind all the more now. I’m using a threaded-in draft from the Candace Crockett book that leaves some of the holes empty, producing interesting results. Photos to come!
Not much of note in the dyeing and spinning departments, though I picked up some indigo powder at Vermont Sheep & Wool, and I’ll be experimenting with that as soon as I get my hands on some washing soda. I’ve also been fiddling with some of my dyed wool on the spindle. But there’s another new project I’m excited about: learning to make hairpin lace! I got a secondhand Jenkins lace loom and am trying to get my hands used to a crochet hook.
I haven’t done much crochet of any kind before, but there are also a few non-lace patterns I’ve got my eye on. One is for a crocheted guinea pig, because of my new furry friends:
It would be tough to spin their fur, but otherwise, these little guys make the perfect pets: they sit tamely on your lap and make endearing noises while you knit. What could be better on a chilly autumn evening?
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!
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:
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.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a seasonal sort of person. My life and memories thereof have always been clearly ordered by the different seasons of the year, or at least, the seasons as they occur in the rather pastoral little corner of the world where I grew up. I left home fairly young, but I think the place where you grow up is pretty well rooted in your psyche. The city where I live now does have all the seasons, and in abundance, but they come later and change more abruptly. It’s the delicious in-between times that I miss: the mists and the fog of early spring and late fall, the lime-green rainforest of new leaves and the bite of the cold morning air as you step outside.
The real transition to spring takes place here during the last week of April and the first week of May. As you might have gathered already, I get a bit sentimental this time of year: a degree of sadness tempered by an inevitable burst of energy.
Somehow, that energy has gone and manifested itself in the form of new craft projects.
Between a stockpile of silk for my spindle, a lengthy waiting list for my looms, and numerous needly things needing attention– on top of, you know, a job– one could almost suspect that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
No, I’m just irrationally frustrated by how slowly things are going. I’ve been spinning and weaving for less than a year, so looking at it in perspective, of course I can’t expect to be efficient or even reasonably proficient yet. That doesn’t seem to stop my brain from zipping ahead to the next project well before time or budget (especially budget) permit. There are so many things I want to do, especially when it comes to weaving. One of these days I want to really Get Serious and study weaving techniques methodically, but I’m a bit afraid to start– and as long as I keep coming up with new side projects, it’s not going to happen.
So, how to cope? Spring might seem like the time to try something new, but for all that, I’m thinking that it’s time to slow down and go back to some old projects: the tapestry on my studio desk is looking awfully sad and abandoned.
Have you ever felt in over your head with your own hobbies? It’s easy to talk about something like weaving as “just a hobby”, but these things have a way of entangling themselves with your self-image and your expectations of yourself. Not to mention your self-control. I’d be curious to know what strategies you have for managing it all.
At last, some finished projects! Enough, I think, to give you a quick update.
The Henslowe is complete. Hallelujah! It took almost exactly two skeins of Cascade Ultra Pima. Unfortunately, by “almost exactly two skeins”, I mean “two skeins plus three yards”.
I also cut the inkle band off the little loom:
It’s about a yard and a half long– what shall I do with it? I’m thinking it would make a nice summer belt once hemmed and finished.
On the big loom, I’m starting another overshot project. Overshot is really my loom’s (and my) comfort zone. I’ll have to sample for weft a bit more, though: the knobbly purple cotton yarn above isn’t quite bulky enough to get a squared pattern with the 8/4 cotton warp I’m using, no matter how lightly I beat. I think that since it’s actually an unbalanced two-ply, it’s not really as bulky as it looks. Some of the leftover Ultra Pima might be just the ticket, though.
(Also, bad tension. Bad, bad tension.)
In other news, I’m still fighting off the knitting bug, so I’ve cast on another project. This time I’ll be attempting Floating in a beautifully indulgent Tanis Silver Label, but I’m trying to go into the project with a different (healthier?) mindset than I did the last. I’ll consider it a learning experience and will live with any non-structural mistakes, but if the whole thing starts to fall to pieces, then I’ll rip it out and use the Tanis to weave some yardage. Or at least inchage.
I will say that my motivation is increased tenfold by the presence of a flock of little sheepy stitch markers.
(I am a sucker for stuff shaped like sheep.)
Next, I’m anxious to get back to my miniature treehouse. I’ve been gradually collecting materials for a nice long session of leaf-making, and I should be ready to start just in time for spring. Whether this turns into a successful project or, um, comic relief, rest assured that pictures are forthcoming!
Notes on weaving, historical costuming, and other eccentric pursuits.