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. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

More Towels with BH&G Color Inspiration

I've decided that in the question of whether, as a weaver, I am more interested in structure or color, I have landed firmly in the color camp.  For people looking at my posts and hoping for some inspiration when it comes to textile structure, I'm sure I am a disappointment.  Over the course thinking about towels to weave, I am really much more interested in figuring out new sets of colors to incorporate in towels, rather than developing newer or more intricate structures. 
I used to love to weave towels in either natural or white and play around with the structures.   But lately, I have been so much more excited by the possibilities of finding pleasing color combinations. So the latest set of towels is an exercise in colors.
These towel colors are derived from a second page from Better Homes & Gardens magazine.  The page showed paint colors selected because they inspired the designer to think of the country of India.
I liked these colors, in principle, but it was a bit of a leap to think about them in the same textile. Fortunately, I think it worked pretty well. 
These are woven using 10/2 perle cotton, sett at 24 epi and woven at around 20 ppi.  The warp is threaded in an M & W pattern on 8-shafts and variously woven using a 2-2-1-1-1 tie up.  Some were woven as drawn, some as an 8-shaft point and others with random point heights. 
Here are detailed pictures of representations of the five weft colors.  The reddish color is really a coral and not as brick-colored as it looks to me in the pictures.

I have to say that I never would have thought of weaving with these colors.  I find that I am much more likely to work with the tints of colors (white added to the basic hue) than with the shades (black added to the basic hue) as these are. 
I'm ready to start the search for other color inspirations that strike me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Towels After the Calendar

I found myself wanting to continue to make colorful towels but since I finished the challenge of using a calendar to help select colors for the towels - what next?   

A friend gave me two pages from a "Better Homes & Gardens" magazine in which the magazine had challenged a make-up artist and an interior designer to come up with make-up and paint colors, respectively, to match a theme.  The first page I used for inspiration was the make-up challenge:  use a peacock feather to bring together make-up ideas.   The resulting colors looked nice, so I checked out my 10/2 cotton yarn collection.

I have found during this challenge that I really like playing with the colors.  Structures are interesting but it is the color that both challenges and interests me.  So as I started to design the "structure" part of the towels, I just selected some that I've used before with these towels - M's & W's on 8 shafts. The warp was sett at 24 epi.  The loom was tied up to my {now} standard 3-2-1-1-1 twill tie-up.  

I used each color of the warp as weft twice, except for the light brown (oak) and the medium fuchsia, since I ran out of both of those colors.  I did get a towel using the fuchsia as weft but only one very short "towel" using the light brown. 

I wove one of each colored weft as a straight 8-point twill.  The second towel in each color was woven as some thing different - tromp as writ (M & W treadling), extended point twill (1 ->8, 1-> 8, 7 ->1, 8 -> 1), irregular point twill (using random point sizes), etc.   

As in with past towels, I think they turned out beautifully.  The colors look nice together.  Although again, I don't think I would have ever thought (or would want to) use these colors. 

Details of towels with different colored wefts:

The towels using the second page are almost finished, so more on those soon...

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...