Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Donated Shawl with Donated Yarn

I belong to a group whose mission is to made shawls to give to people who might need the comforting warmth of a wrap.  Most of the women knit shawls or lap robes to give to others but since it took me about a year to knit my first shawl, I decided to stick to weaving them.  My friend Dee donated a bag of red yarn to the group and I volunteered to transform it into a shawl.

The pile included mixed fiber content yarns and some without any indication of the fiber contents.  Many either had or seemed to have wool in them but others may have had cotton or synthetic content as well.  So for the warp, I decided to pick two of the different yarns and alternate these for a while and then switch to two other sets of yarn.  This way there wouldn't be any place with a big section of one type of fiber content and another with a very different fiber content.  The warp was sett at 6 epi and threaded to a straight draw on 8 shafts. 

For the weft, I chose a black alpaca (70) wool (30) blend that was a similar weight to the red yarns.  To keep it easy (I wove this at the group's retreat last weekend on my Baby Wolf portable loom) I just wove this as a 3-2-1-1-1 twill with straight treadling. 

The result was very striking and very soft.  I left the fringe with just hem stitching.  I think someone will be happy to receive it.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Annual Samples

As a member of the Complex Weavers Study Group 24 Plus or Minus, every year I weave samples to share with the other members of the group.  Every year I wait until the very last moment.  This is not really planned or a good thing.  I usually manage to pull together a design that I like and that weaves up well. 

This year, I had about three weeks before the deadline to mail the samples out and I hadn't started anything.  The good news is that I did get my samples finished on time.   The other good news is that I really liked the result.

The design is a 24 shaft twill pattern threaded as a 24-shaft point and an 11-shaft point. (It was intended to be a 12-shaft point but by the time I figured that out it, I decided to go ahead with the 11-shaft point.)  The threading is something I dreamed up using Fiberworks PCW weaving software while I played around with the "magic box" - the area on the draft that defines which shafts are used for each treadle.  I didn't spend very much time but I got a fairly nice pattern that looked good in the design area of the software program and didn't have too many floats.  I think the longest float was maybe 5 threads. 

I decided to use 20/2 cotton yarn so that the samples didn't have to be too big for the whole motif to appear in one square area.  It probably doesn't show up too well in the picture but I used a light blue for the wrap (UKI Mineral) and a dark green for the weft (UKI Dark Green). 

I didn't have as many problems as usual for a fairly rushed job but there were some tensioning problems, one broken warp thread and the dobby's usual habit of lifting extra shafts.  The picture below shows the very beginning with the broken thread (fortunately only one during the entire process) and the two large places where either I or the dobby was doing something not intended.

Fortunately I was able to weave enough cloth to easily have the required number of samples.  I really loved the result.  I think that I would love to use the pattern for something other than samples.  I'm not sure what yarn I would use, but I think this would be a lovely scarf.

Below is a detailed look at the finished cloth.  The different sized points makes this really interesting.  I was also pleased with the evenness of the beat I was able to achieve, although this was challenging, especially in the beginning.  The wet finishing helped even this out as well. 

I'm hoping that I do find a reason to weave this into something functional AND that for next year's samples I start earlier.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Morphing from Christmas to After Christmas

I had great plans to weave a bunch of hand towels with little Christmas trees for the holidays.  Of course, life got crazy and it didn't happen before Christmas.  OK, I can weave them this year for next year...  at least that was the plan.
These towels are woven with 10/2 unmercerized cotton yarn set at 24 epi and threaded in a rosepath design on 8 shafts.  (The colored weft for the trees is DMC perle cotton size 5.)  This time I also threaded the selvedges in plain weave.  Because it is generally easier, I used my 24-shaft AVL loom even though I would have woven this (without the plain weave borders) on just 8 shafts.  The first towel started fine but there was a communication error between my laptop and the dobby controller.  So instead of a 30+ thread pattern, it was something like 20 threads.  This has happened before.  I really haven't figured out what was going on but it could be that there was a "treadle" that didn't have any lifts plugged in and when  the weaving got to a point where the treadles beyond the empty one were used, the dobby thought the pattern was finished - and told the computer as well.  
I did fix this by recreating the design (I use Fiberworks PCW software) and wove a couple more tree towels.  There were several problems:  1) My tension across the width of the warp was uneven causing smiling problems at the selvedges;  2) the plain weave selvedges, although sleyed the same 24 epi probably should have been sleyed further apart to prevent crowding at the edges - the unmercerized yarn is pretty sticky and I had to manually put the weft threads in place at the edges and 3) finally, I didn't really like this tree pattern.
Trees that didn't work
New Tree design
Finished Trees
Given this, I thought about what I could do with the warp - other than just cutting it off.  Since it was threaded to a rosepath design, I though about using that for a border.   I really like a pattern published by Betty A. Berta in her book 8H Rosepath Patterns (Self-published 1995). The one I chose to use is #25 (top left-hand corner.  It generally produces round figures.  I found a 10/2 yellow unmercerized cotton and wove a towel in plain weave with this rosepath design as a border. 

Plain weave with rosepath border
The result was OK but not exciting.  Also the rosepath design pulled in more than the plain weave and if I really didn't pay attention, this could cause problems.  The yellow was probably too subtle or not subtle enough.   
So, I decided again not to cut off the warp but to weave the whole towel with rosepath with a rosepath border.  This went relatively well except for the sticky unmercerized yarn and the plain weave borders.  The simplest solution was to cut those warp threads off and just weave rosepath selvedge to selvedge.  This worked relatively well.  I found a purple variegated 10/2 cotton yarn that added some interest to the design and was probably mercerized and thus a little smoother to work with. 

Rosepath with colored border
The result was pretty good.  The other problem I had was that I had committed myself to weaving 24 shaft samples for a Complex Weaver's Study Group and time was running out to meet that deadline. 

Rosepath border detail
At this point and with time really running out, I decided to weave the entire towel in the rosepath with the purple variegated yarn.

Variegated Towel detail
In retrospect, it was a fun exercise.  I am still hoping to design a better Christmas tree that I can weave to completion without the computer having issues.  I'm glad that I actually wove the entire warp (10 towels in all) and didn't have to just get rid of it. 
Selection of towels woven on the same warp
Now on to the samples...


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Last of the Calendar Towels

After only 2+ years, I have worked through all of the pictures from the 2010 Calendar that caught my attention as a color inspiration.  I honestly didn't think it would take so long, but life and other weaving projects intervened.  I figured that I have woven around 140 of these towels.  Ten towels were woven for each month (except August's) and several were woven a second time.

The last month was May.  This posed a bit of a challenge, mainly because of all of the bright green and yellow color in the picture.  Lots of primary brightness. 

I was able to find colors in the flowers that weren't as bright - browns, melon and red colors.  In addition to the bright Kelly green there were darker greens in the background. 

These towels, like the others were woven with 10/2 perle cotton sett at 24 epi.  The threading was an 8 point twill and woven with a 3-2-1-1-1 8-shaft pattern.  One towel in each weft color was treadled as threaded, i.e., treadled as an 8-point twill, resulting in regular diamonds.  The second towel in each color was treadled as something else, e.g., irregular point twill, M's & W's, extended point twill, etc.

It has been a great experience and I've learned a lot about how to use color effectively.  I'm sure there will be more colorful towels in the future.

green weft
brown weft

red weft
melon weft
yellow weft

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Fair Entry That Didn't Make It

I was ambitious when I thought about what to enter in the County Fair this year.  I entered 5 items but only 4 were finished by the deadline.  I almost had a good reason.

The last piece was a shawl that I did finish after the Fair was over.  I found some interesting yarn that I had to have.  It had several different textures: chenille, a sleek nylon cord, a couple of different slubby yarns, etc.  I thought it would be fantastic. 

Of course I didn't think about the fact that these were just different yarns tied together.  As I was winding the warp, I quickly found that the yarns were tied with BIG knots that couldn't be left in the warp.  The length of each type of yarn was only long enough for 4 warp threads, with almost another whole (but not quite) warp thread length left.  So there was lots of waste. 

I didn't have enough yarn for the warp I had planned, so I supplemented it with Tahki Cotton Classic in a very close shade of light blue.  I set the warp at 8 epi. I might have sett it at 6 epi. if I had had a six-dent reed.  I wove it in plain weave.  I found that some of the larger slubs in one of the yarn textures was almost too big to fit through the 8 dent reed and they hung up a little in the heddle eyes.  Fortunately there was only one broken thread due to the slubs and that was at the very beginning.  The weaving was slower than it might ordinarily - due to these fat slubs.

Here is a picture of the shawl on the loom.  The color isn't quite as dramatic as in the picture, although there was color differences between the different yarn types.

The shawl did turn out very nicely.  I twisted the fringe with a hair twister since with the different kinds of yarn, the fringe looked pretty messy.  The twisted fringe was a bit heavy, but it looks nice.

It didn't make it to the Fair, but it was a learning experience.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Monochromatic Towels

The second to last picture in my project to capture calendar colors in towels is November.  It is all blues from icy white blue to greenish blue. 

These were threaded in an M & W twill pattern and treadled using the same 3-2-1-1-1 twill sequence as the others.  I thought I was winding on enough warp for 12 towels however, as I was weaving towels 13-15, I realized I must have made a mistake in the original measurement.  Fortunately they turned out looking really nice. 

I haven't included detailed pictures of all of the colors since the values were generally close.  Here is a selection of the more dramatic results.  The weft colors are dark green, crab (light yellow green), light silver and medium silver. 

In the course of this exploration into color, I've found that the greys and silvers have been a great addition to the other colors in the pallet. 

I bought a set of gray 10/2 cotton from Lunatic Fringe a while back.  I'm interested in doing some towels in gradations of gray some day.

I have one more picture to use as inspiration.  It's pretty exciting to think about being finished with this project, but it will be a challenging set of colors to work with. 

Then I'm not sure what will be next...


Monday, July 29, 2013

Finished in a Day

Procrastination is one of the things I seem to do the best.  As County Fair time rolls around, I spend a little time thinking of the different things I'd like  to enter.  I love the fact that we have a very nice, air conditioned room to display woven and handspun entries.  Unfortunately when I thought about what I wanted to enter, there were two things that weren't yet made. No problem, I thought - I have plenty of time.  Well time is running out. 

So I got myself together and wove a scarf yesterday.  It's not quite finished - I still have to decide what to do with the fringe and then finish the fringe - but it's close. 

The scarf is entered in a category that requires the pieces to be inspired by some aspect of our County.  I chose to use yarn colors that reminded me of the Manzanita.  We have lots of this plant on our property.  It has a beautiful dark bark and in the spring, tiny pink flowers.  But I decided to concentrate on the leaf colors.

The yarn is a blend of merino wool, llama, silk and linen.  I used two colors - the darker green for the warp and the lighter for the weft. 

The structure was a point twill with uneven sides (i.e., 16 threads on the up side and 24 threads on the down side).  The yarn was sett at 12 epi. 

Because of the variation in the yarns colors and the irregular point twill, the scarf looks more complicated that it is.  Not bad for about a days work.