Tag Archives: plying

Branching out

We had a gray, cold weekend here, but I’m not complaining: that’s the perfect weather to justify spending time in the studio. Accordingly, there’s some progress on which to update you today.

First of all, I started the treehouse project! At least, I started the tree.

Cold gray weather is not, however, the best for craft photography.

It’s already taken on a bit of a haphazard air. My original plan was to build a wire armature and sculpt around it with air-hardening modeling clay, but the only wire I had around was too fine a gauge and (to be perfectly honest) I couldn’t remember where I’d put the clay. So, Friday night I decided to do a test run in papier-mâché. I built an armature from the aforementioned fine wire, slapped on some soggy newspaper, and was pleasantly surprised with the stability of the resulting structure.

Of course, the next day I located the modeling clay. Since I found that it had only dried out a little since the last time I used it, I decided to coat the tree with a thin layer of clay to simulate a barky texture before painting. Had I thought through the matter properly, this would probably have been an ideal time to add smaller branches to the boughs, or at least to carve out some supports for the eventual treehouse structure. Oh, well. Making it up as you go is half the fun.

In other project news, I’ve decided to try branching out– somewhat less literally– in my spinning. As I’m told is normal for new spinners, my yarn has been getting finer and finer, not by any conscious decision on my part but thanks to the development of muscle memory. While fine yarns are nice to have around, especially for weaving, I’ve been frustrated by my lack of control over the process. I’ve also wanted to learn more about the ergonomics of spinning.

With this in mind, I started reading Respect the Spindle over the weekend. This was cheating a bit—the book was technically assigned to next month’s craft budget*, but the copy I had ordered arrived at my local yarn shop earlier than expected. Much of the material is familiar, but it’s always helpful to see it presented in a new way, and I’ve already picked up some handy tips. With book in hand, I produced a tiny skeinlet of bulky (well, bulkier) yarn. I also used the Navajo plying technique to keep the colors from getting muddled, something I’d learned about but not mastered in my spinning class.

The pencil is for scale. I did not use it to spin.

I also dove into some sugru that showed up in the mailbox last week. As a first experiment, I put it to use as grips for my felting needles. Hopefully this will make needle felting more attractive (and preclude the need to spend money on an unaesthetic and junky-looking pink plastic needle holder). I have so many pieces of fluff left over from spinning– it would be a shame to waste it.

Finally, on the loom, I turned the infamous experimental warp into a doubleweave sample, my first attempt. I’ve only woven a few picks so far—which means about half an inch!—but it is, in fact, two layers of cloth.

Incidentally, the green single you see above is from Brown Sheep. My new goal is to emulate it on the spindle!

So, after a few weeks of slow progress and false starts, the projects are starting to pile up again. Between the fiber arts and the miniature-making, I should be busy enough for weeks of happy crafting. What’s on your spring to-do list, fellow crafters?

*My system for normal months– in which I am not adding to my lap harp collection– is to divide funds more or less evenly between supplies (like yarn, fiber, and glue), tools (like shuttles, spindles, and scissors), and instructional materials (mostly books and the occasional video). Since I started reading this book early, I’ll have to hold off on new reading material until May. That’s where cheating gets you.

Ply, ply away

An especially fibery day today. Most significantly, the Troublesome Scarf is finished!20120212-222649.jpg

Of course, given the history of this scarf, fate decreed one final challenge. Specifically, a dark smudge that appears at regular intervals down the center line of the cloth. Because my loom is old (dating from perhaps the 60s), my initial suspicion was that I hadn’t adequately cleaned the reed or one of the heddles. However, I think the culprit may have been the hooks connecting the heddle bars to the frames:

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As you can see, these are somewhat corroded. I’ll clean them before my next project goes on the loom, but most of the smudging came out with careful washing. Even with my admittedly pronounced perfectionistic streak, I think the scarf looks fine, and deem it wearable in the workplace.

I also had my second spinning class. I’m finding that taking a class prompts me to do things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise; today I made my first three-ply yarn. Afterwards, I succumbed to the allure of some braids of (to use the technical term) fluff. I am weak, but they are beautiful.

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So, when I got home, I took to the spindle and spun a few yards of two-ply using one of the new techniques I’d just learned.

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Feeling confident, I proceeded to carry on spinning and created…

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…this.

Yech.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other projects brewing. For one, I’ve been itching to try tambour embroidery with cloth that’s still on the loom. I’m still in the early stages of planning this project, and I want to have a back-up plan for the warp in case the idea doesn’t pan out, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

I’ve also got a rug warp wound and ready to be put on the loom. What I don’t have: weft. I’m thinking of tying together all of the thrums and scraps of yarn left from my various other projects, wrapping them on my ski shuttle, and seeing what happens.

Yep, the crafting has definitely taken a textile turn of late. There’s plenty else on the to-do list, though, and maybe one of these years I’ll get to it all.

The days are getting longer

However, since I normally only get to my crafts late in the evening, the sun has yet to shine on many of my projects. Working so late poses some obvious challenges: fatigue is not the ideal state of mind for some of the more technically demanding aspects (also known as “fiddly bits”) of making well-crafted objects. Once in a while, it’s nice to step back from the challenges and work on something repetitive.

Last night I spent my crafting hours, not concocting some interesting new creation, but working on the projects that stack up on the coffee table waiting for me to get to them. I don’t mind. Many of the hobbies I enjoy are based on lots of little steps, rather than a single process repeated; it gives me a delicious sense of productivity when I complete even the tiniest of crafty chores.

These little balls of yarn are ready to be plied in my spinning class this weekend.

Weaving is the perfect example. For the project you see below, it took me approximately forever to get through all of the steps necessary to wind the warp, get it on the loom, weave samples, troubleshoot problems, and begin weaving without disastrous consequences.

Can you spot the problem?

By contrast, I tend to tire quickly of more continuous crafts like knitting. Not only is it relatively slow (at least, my knitting is), I can’t relax until it’s finished and error-free. When I weave, simply seeing the pattern unfold before me is soothing– as is knowing I can cut it out if there’s a mistake. The stress is all in the early stages: once a project is on the loom and everything is working correctly, I can just go and go. In the case of the Troublesome Scarf, even after all of the mistakes I made, all of a sudden everything clicked into place…

…and I was able to weave the rest of the scarf in an evening. Whereupon it made its way to the coffee table and sat waiting for me, along with the spindleful of yarn and a number of other patient projects. When I got home late yesterday, tired and irritable, they caught my eye– so I spent the dark winter evening enjoying the small tasks of winding balls of yarn and twisting fringe.

And when I saw my nearly finished scarf on the table this morning, I took a photo with the first light of the day.

(I should probably have moved the scissors first.)