Monday, November 9, 2015

Alpaca Shawl

I live in an area with a lot of alpaca ranches.  Well maybe these days, there are lots of alpaca ranches in a lot of places.  In any event, it's nice to weave with this fiber.
I had some wool/alpaca/angora blend in a few different shades of gray so I decided to use all that I had for warp for a shawl.  It was a good thing I had decided to commit it all since I needed every inch.  With the different shades, I came up with a plan to move from the dark yarn through the medium grays to a natural color.  It turned out to be semi-systematic with only one section that was too much of the same shade for a bit too many warp threads.   

The warp was threaded as a point twill on 8 shafts.  The thread order was 1->8, 1->8, 7->1, 8->1.  So kind of like a double 8 shaft point.  The sett was 12 epi. 

The weft was a medium gray alpaca yarn I bought at Carol's estate yarn sale several years ago.  It was a nice medium color that worked well with the variation of shade in the warp. 

The tie-up is my standard 2-2-1-1-1-1 that I'm using for my towels.  To be honest, I have to say I used is since it was already on the loom I wanted to use and it is a pain to change the tie-up.  And since I knew there were more towels in my future, I left it. This was treadled as a double point - treadles 1->8, 1->8, 7-> 1, 8->1. 

I love making things that don't require doing something to the fringe in order to finish the piece.  Unfortunately, this shawl needed to have the fringe "finished".  I used my hair curler to twist the fringe.  This takes almost as long as the weaving but worth the effort.  This was the first time I finished the fringe before wet finishing the shawl.

To wet finish this shawl, I did take it for a wash in my front loader washing machine with cool water and a handwash setting.  With trepidation, I put it in the dryer on the very low setting for about 8 minutes.  Fortunately it turned out great.

This is my third shawl made with mostly alpaca yarn.  I think I'm starting to feel comfortable with this fiber.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Springy Towels

I'm back to weaving quite a bit again and finished with some towels with colors requested by a friend of mine.  I already had this picture when she asked me for the colors.  So it made it easy. 

I was originally going to include a light yellow but opted for the blue, based on her color request.  These towels are woven with 10/2 perle cotton sett at 26 epi.  I had been weaving with a sett of 24 epi for several years but it seemed like the result was a little more flimsy.  I tried to do some research to see if the yards per pound had changed for 10/2 cotton, but wasn't able to find anything.  But increasing to 26 epi seems to have helped.  It is a little less straightforward to sley in the reed since the pattern is 2-2-2-1, using a 15 dent reed.

I threaded these towels using an M & W pattern.  The tie up was the 1-1-1-1-2-3 twill I have been using.  One towel in each weft color was woven as an 8-point twill.  The second towel in that color was woven in other patterns, like M & W or random points. 

It turns out I sold half of these towels before I got any pictures.  The ones left all look sort of the same.  This set of colors were probably the closest in value of all of the color combinations I've done.  I like the combinations but thing a little higher contrast of value would improve them.

Light green weft

Lilac weft

Blue weft

The purples are a bit purple, but nice, I think.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Babies, Babies, Babies

It doesn't look like it but I have been busy weaving some this year.  After finished a run of towels for my daughter, I started on baby blankets.  Lately for some reason, people are asking for them.  I did one set of three blue ones and started on a set of three pink ones. 

I use whatever cotton yarn I have - lots of it is from knitting stores - and kind of design as I go.  I do have a general striping sequence that uses Fibonacci numbers to determine the width of the stripes in inches.  I also wind two different yarns at a time.  My original idea of doing this (started over 20 years ago) was reminiscent of log cabin - one dark and one light thread paired together.  Nowadays, I may use a light and a medium color or a light and a lighter color. 

The warp is threaded in a straight draw on 8 shafts.  The blankets are usually woven in plain weave but I have woven them as a twill.  These blue ones are all plain weave.  The sett is 10 epi.

Because I use a lot of variegated yarns, I get a lot if interesting effects and color transitions.  The weft makes a difference too.  I like to use variegated or textured yarns in the weft.  In the picture above however, the weft was a light blue yarn that was one color and a fairly smooth yarn.  I use synthetic yarns for the weft - usually an acrylic or acrylic blend.

Here is the blanket above after it's off the loom and washed.

Blanket 1

Blanket 1 detail

Blanket 2

The weft of this blanket was variegated with a fairly short color repeat.  You can see the narrow bands of color formed by the weft. 
The last blanket was woven with a darker yarn.  This blanket is intended to be a lap robe rather than a baby blanket.  The yarn is a chunky acrylic in blues and greens.  I was afraid the darker weft would overshadow the delicate warp colors but it has helped bring those colors out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Towels For Heather

As a gift for my daughter, in celebration of a remodeled kitchen, I wove towels inspired by a picture she found on  The picture is produce baskets with multicolored cherries.  The colors below were the ones I was supposed to use, but I couldn't not add the yellow from the picture, so there is very little in the warp - but it's there.

These are woven with 10/2 perle cotton; 24 epi; threaded as a point twill; and woven with a 3-2-1-1-1 twill.  The wefts used were the blues, flaxon (off-white), orange and yellow, woven in various point twills.

These turned out looking fun.  Heather only got a couple - the rest were sold, so I need to weave some more.  Maybe with more yellow this time.

orange weft

blue weft

flaxon weft

yellow weft


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Postcard Towels

I realized it has been quite a while since I last posted.  I have been busy weaving, just not taking many pictures.  I've woven this set of towels three times.  I really love the colors and the way they look together.  Many of my friends have agreed - hence the three warps.  This is a postcard I got in San Francisco.  It is very Art Deco and the colors are very bright. 
Original Inspiration
Color Choices
These towels were woven using 10/2 perle cotton sett at 24 epi.  For at least two of the three warps, I threaded them in an "M & W" twill pattern. All were woven using the 3-2-1-1-1 twill.   

I thought I had added pictures of how I use paper towel rolls and Ziploc(R) bags to bring the warp to the loom in a previous post, but I couldn't find it when trying to describe this process to a friend.  So here is a short explanation and a couple of pictures. 
Ready to dress the loom
Winding warp on tubes


I know that many people will chain the warp, but I have found that it tangles the warp.  Even though this is mercerized cotton, it still can be a bit sticky.  Basically, I wind the warp around the empty paper towel tube - in this case after about three inches.  The rolls are then placed in the Ziploc(R) two-gallon bag with most of the seal closed but the warp coming out of the top. I dress the loom back to front, so the warp ends are brought to the back of the loom and slid onto the stick attached to the warp beam.   As the warp is wound around the warp beam, it "unrolls" from within the bags.  It's not absolutely perfect and there are some tangles, but it works fairly well. 

The towels were woven in what ever pattern called to me at the moment - straight diamond; M & W; irregular point; etc.   

I think the towel woven with the melon and burnt orange wefts are my favorites.  But the hummingbird - smoky purple looks really nice as well.  The yellow and blue wefts make very vibrant cloth, but I think they all turned out very well.

Teal weft

Melon weft

Hummingbird weft

Burnt orange weft

Yellow weft


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Handspun Scarf

I am not a spinner and haven't woven with handspun yarn, but the Fair is coming up and we're all trying to increase the number of entries in the Wool Division.  There was a plea from our guild president for members to enter their handspun skeins and items made from handspun.  I piped up and said I didn't have any handspun yarn.  She fixed me up.

Mardi spun the merino yarn on the right.  It's a nice mauve/purple color (the picture is a little red on my monitor).  It was a nice weight and strong enough to use a warp.  I debated what to use as weft and decided on a navy alpaca yarn from my stash.  An original suggestion was black, which might have looked OK but the navy wasn't quite as severe and brought out the purple in the handspun.  

I picked a extended point twill on 8-shafts and a 2-2-1-1-1-1 treadling for the scarf.  The warp was sett at 6 epi.  (Although as with the Alpaca shawl I wove for the Fair, this was sett too loosely.)  I washed the scarf in my front load washer in cool water on a gentle cycle.  I did put it in the dryer on low for a little while. 

I like the way the colors work together and the mauve appears through the navy.  The hand is very nice and I like how the alpaca softens the piece a bit.  I twisted the fringe with my hair twister.

It was a great experience to work with Mardi's handspun yarn.  It was well spun and a lovely color.  I'm hoping the Fair judges will like the scarf too. 


Nevada County Inspired

There is a category in the "Wool Division" at the Nevada County Fair that is called "Nevada County Inspired".  (The Wool Division is for hand woven piece, skeins of handspun yarn, felted items or items knitted or crocheted with handspun.) Entries for this category are woven pieces or knitted etc. with handspun and the idea of the piece is something about the county.  For the last couple of years, I've woven pieces that use colors inspired by the area.  This year, I decided to use local alpaca yarn and have that be my inspiration.  The yarn I wanted to use was purchased when we were at a garage sale several years ago.  The people who were having the sale also had an alpaca ranch.  They had their animals' fleece spun for a sales tax break on the feed.  For a while one of the owners said they just gave the yarn away.  Well, she didn't give it to me free but as I remember, it wasn't a bad price. 

The alpaca yarn I bought from her were the dark and medium colored skeins above.  I decided that I might not have enough of the medium color for the warp, so I added another local alpaca yarn, the natural color on the left, that I purchased from a guild member. 

I wanted to have a nice flowing design but that didn't have too many floats.  I chose an M & W pattern on 8 shafts.  (Not as flowing as I would have liked, but it is a pleasing pattern.) The warp was the natural and medium yarns alternated and sett at 8 epi. 

I was pretty pleased with how it wove but I realized that I probably should have sett it a little closer.  Even at 10 epi, it wouldn't have seemed so loose.  In the picture below, you can see how the weft threads were moving around some - especially at the front beam.

So, after I cut it off the loom, I decided to use the washer and dryer to help "snuggle up" the threads.  This worked to a point.  I washed the shawl in my front load washing machine with warm water on a gentle cycle.  When I took it out, it still looked a little loose.  So, I decided to try a little time in the dryer.  I dried it on low for a few minutes and pulled it out.  It looked much better. It probably fulled a little more than I really wanted but it was an alpaca shawl after all and should be nice for a chilly day.  

I have been putting the fringe of the scarves I've been weaving in a sock to protect from tangling during the washing process.  I did that with this piece and that's where the Oops moment happened.  One end had cotton muslin strips woven in to separate the warp.  The other end did not.  (I was so ready to have the shawl off the loom...)  Well, the end without the cotton filler got tangled and started to felt.  Also where I had tied the sock to keep it on, it was especially fuzzy. 

I didn't have anything to lose, so I carefully combed out the fringe on both ends and twisted it using my hair twister.  (This 'braider" has two prongs that twist the yarn one direction and than the opposite direction together.)  It sort of worked. 

End without cotton strips
End with cotton strips
I have another week before this has to be turned in to the Fair so I am going to try to see if I can trim off the fuzz.  If it works, great, if not, it was certainly a lesson in working with alpaca. 
The shawl itself is very nice and I'm happy with it. 

Shawl detail
I have more alpaca yarn from these skeins so I am sure I will be weaving either a scarf or shawl with it.  when I do, I will definitely sett it more closely, perhaps even at 12 epi.  I haven't worked a lot with animal fibers and need to do more so that I can get better.  My first thought during the repair work was that cotton is a much nicer fiber to work with.