Category Archives: Creative Process
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.
(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.
Back in the game
I am pleased to report that last weekend’s band weaving workshop was a success!
This is the setup I asked my students to use. It’s not my favourite weaving arrangement (I prefer using my floor inkle or a backstrap), but it worked very well for demonstrating the technique.
One of the guild members gave me a book of Lithuanian sash designs in exchange for her heddle, so that will keep me busy on this front for a while (say, several centuries). Stay tuned.
In other news, here’s the belated Christmas roundup! I planned to stick to a few small knitted gifts after the woven insanity of last year, and didn’t break my resolution too badly.
First, a griffin hat for my mother:
I used this kit but substituted griffins for the birds. Why griffins? My mother’s dog is named Gryphon, and if you’re interested, she keeps a blog of his sledding, hiking, and canoeing exploits. Also featured in the blog, of course, is…
…Griff’s partner in crime, Edgar! My dad is something of a medievalist (at least, he likes Brother Cadfael) and I thought he might enjoy a little Bayeux Tapestry featuring his dog. This also gave me an opportunity to practice the Bayeux stitch in pleasantly authentic wool on linen. (I did fix the gap in Edgar’s harness, but didn’t take a picture after that.)
Other gift projects included finishing a sweater for my grandmother (pictures to follow), concocting an amigurimi gastropod for my boyfriend (pictures possibly to follow), and whipping up a hat on commission for a friend (picture follows).
Once all that was done, I made a little something for myself: EXTERMINITTENS!
And then, some socks. This week I made a sock knitting kit out of ah Altoids tin and wool felt to contain my stitch markers, measuring tape, tapestry needles, repair hook, 4″ DPNs, and snips. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I’m still quite proud of it.
Happy New Year to you all. Thanks for following the blog!
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?
It might even be done in time for Christmas.
And we’re back!
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:
Here’s one folded across the back of a chair. Each mini-coverlet is about 30″ x 40″.
3. A rabbit.
4. A snail.
4. A little bird.
And, okay, I admit it– I took a fence shot of the Henslowe:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
– 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?
– A crocheted hat.
– 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!
On the other side of the gifting coin, I now have my very own sewing machine! (Thanks, Mom!)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.*
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:
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!
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:
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.