Sunday, July 23, 2017

Color-and-Weave Towels

towels

They’re all done! I made these using Liz Gipson’s Color-and-Weave Towels pattern on my 15” Cricket rigid heddle loom (10-dent heddle). The yarn is 8/2 cotton from The Woolery in colors Nil Green and Aqua Marine.

Before washing, they were 14.5” wide and the length varied from 21.875 to 22.375”. After washing, they are 13.125” wide and the length varies from 19.125 to 20.125”. If I hadn’t messed up the warping pattern, they would be just an eensy bit wider… but not much. Do you see where I made the mistake? They are actually TWO mistakes near each other:IMG_6459

You can also see a couple of floats in that photo. I was so anxious to wash them after taking them off the loom that I forgot to check for those – OOPS! That was the first towel I made, and I didn’t notice any skips or floats on the subsequent ones. I guess I got my head in the game.

One of the cool things about this pattern is that it has four different patterns for the stripe of the towel that uses two colors. Above is #1, which used a teal/green/green pattern. #2 is similar – it’s a teal/teal/green pattern:IMG_6461 #3 is teal/green x4/teal/green x2:IMG_6464

And #4 is a simple alteration of teal/green:IMG_6467

I love this little detail that makes a “family” of towels. I definitely need to work more on changing colors at the edge. The instructions seem clear on paper, yet in practice I struggle. That will come. This is a particularly bad edge:IMG_6465

But my hems… I think they are quite beautiful. I defy you to see where I took the stitches:IMG_6468

I am definitely becoming more comfortable with all the little steps in weaving. I’m not sure what my next project will be. Maybe weaving with handspun? I also have ideas for using the cotton yarns that are left over from my projects so far. One though: I’d like to try mixing a single thread of 8/4 and doubled threads of 8/2 in the same project. I’d also like to use doubled threads of 8/2 in each slot/hole, but use two different colors in the same slot/hole.

But for now… the wheel calls.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Thinking long term

It’s about time for a check-in on the I Love Leftovers project, a blanket I’m making with leftover sock yarn:crop

I started this project back in October of 2015. I have made a lot of socks since I started knitting in 2002. While I don’t consider leftover yarn to really be part of the stash, it kind of is… especially when the leftover balls are multiplied by the number of socks I’ve made. My inspiration project is this blanket made of mitered squares. It uses the color purple to unify it, but I went with the rainbow approach since I wanted to use as many of my leftovers as possible.IMG_6452

I am knitting the edge of each square in black to create a windowpane effect in the final project, and I’ll also add a black border. Right now I have 121 squares. If I filled in this rectangle with 9 more, the project measures about 46”x62”. Of course, that doesn’t account for blocking or the border, which will make it bigger. It also doesn’t account for seaming, which would reduce size if I use mattress stitch or increase size if I use a crochet bind (I think Steven did this for one of his blankets?). I’ll have to fiddle around and see what I like later.IMG_6445

Initially I was thinking about 200 squares. I still have plenty of leftovers to use, so I’ll just keep going. IMG_6448

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I’m so square

I have been cranking out some sock yarn squares lately. My theory is that when my brain is occupied with something newer or more complicated (like weaving those towels), my knitting reverts to a more comfortable zone. I could make these squares in my sleep.

First up, I got 4 squares from the Crazy Zauberball left over from a pair of socks I knit for myself earlier this year. I really love these:IMG_6425

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The Zauberball entertained me so much that I dug around until I found the leftover ball from a pair I knit for Pam many years ago, in 2011:IMG_4201

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And when I finished with those, I went to the good, grey, Danish yarn I just made a pair from last month: IMG_6443

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One of these days, I’ll pull out all the squares to count and photograph them. I think I last did this in February of this year, and I’ve made a lot of squares since then. It’s kind of a project to do that, though. Maybe this week, when the kids are at camp!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Towels in progress

I decided to go for the Color-and-Weave Towels next. These are worked with the 10-dent heddle with double strands of 8/2 cotton. They use the entire width of my 15” Cricket, which reminded me that I have trouble tying onto the edge of the apron rod. As I puzzled over how to keep the threads from slipping off the edge of the rod as I pulled the warp through, I remembered a trick I saw in a video using rubber bands. Bingo! That made warping 100x easier – see the pink band on the left and the blue one on the right:IMG_6403IMG_6402 I used the direct warp method again this time, even though the warp was pretty long (4 yards). It was a lot of walking…IMG_6404

The next step is winding on, which always gives me agita. I haven’t yet figured out how to keep the paper straight, so sooner or later I end up with too much paper on one edge (which begins to crumple up) and too little on the other (unacceptable, because you have to keep each layer of warp separated by something). When you don’t have unused heddles at the edges, this is especially difficult. I ended up using different pieces for the left and right sides of this warp. (Got a tip? I’m all ears.) Eventually I got it wound on and threaded the holes:IMG_6405

That’s when I realized I had made two mistakes in the warping (and why you see a couple empty slots on the left)! I could have pulled it back at this point and fixed it, but I didn’t want to face winding on with the paper again. I’m going to live with that imperfection on this batch.

Next I made these nifty little guides:IMG_6408

This long warp will make 4 towels, each with a different pattern on part of one end (the rest is plain weave). I cut this into strips and pinned a strip to the work as I went. This way, I didn’t have to keep getting out my measuring tape and tracking my progress on another piece of paper. I like this technique. Here it is in action:IMG_6409

When I reach the end of each towel, I need to leave about 2” of waste yarn before starting the next one. I found a 2” plastic ruler that works perfectly for this purpose. Here you can see it inserted – I took it out right after this to finish working the hem stitch on this end (that’s what makes all those little knots you see):IMG_6417

I am currently working on Towel #3. I’m getting the hang of things, mostly. One thing I’m NOT happy with yet is how my edges look when I’m using two colors in the weft. I need to do some more reading about that, and/or ask my weaving friends (tips? all ears). IMG_6418

The color differences you see in these photos are just due to day/night and lamp/no lamp.

Towels are happening.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Weaving revival

IMG_6037Having almost finished my set of cotton dish towels before leaving on vacation, I found that weaving was on my mind. Then I visited Halcyon Yarn in Bath, Maine, and got an inspirational boost. If you’re ever in the area, you must go! It is heaven for knitters, spinners, and weavers. When you walk in the front door, you are greeted by a display of samples:IMG_6034 Of course, I zoomed in on the dishtowel right away:IMG_6035

Pretty pretty pretty. I picked up some nice things at Halcyon, including some yarn for knitting a gift scarf (I didn’t have anything appropriate in stash). I also got two skeins of yarn for weaving a scarf. I was so intrigued by the Noro Taiyo, which is a funky gradient made of 40% cotton, 30% silk, 15% wool, and 15% polyamid. After consulting with the shop employee, I decided to use it as weft and pair it with Cascade 200 Superwash for warp:IMG_6338

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I also got a magazine at Halcyon, which I proceeded to read cover to cover over the next few days. As you can see, I had lots of thoughts and ideas while reading it! IMG_6400

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I got home and immediately warped the loom for the scarf. I used my 8-dent reed and the direct warping method. I think the direct warp allowed me to keep the threads very organized, and everything wound on smoothly:IMG_6349

Dealing with the weft is a little tricky with a gradient yarn. If you wind some yarn off the ball onto the stick shuttle and weave it, then when you do the next section they will not match up. You have to rewind the yarn backwards. This is totally a pain, but also totally worth it. I also (thanks to a tip by my weaving teacher in May) took the time to wind my Noro into a center pull ball before doing anything else – this allowed me to know that there was a KNOT in the skein that interrupts the gradient! Fortunately, it was very near one end of the ball, so I could just ignore that bit:IMG_6350

Once I got this on the loom, it wove really quickly. I actually warped and did all the weaving in one day. The next day, I just had to hemstitch the end and make the fringe. I used my new, nifty fringe winder to do this:

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Just for fun, I alternated between fringes that were 2x2x2 and 1x1x1. Then I threw it in the washing machine with some towels to wet finish it. Right after that, I started cleaning up, and I noticed that the Noro ball band says NOT to wash this yarn! I flew down to the basement and fished my scarf out. It got some wet finishing, but not the full treatment. Here is the finished scarf:IMG_6382

The Noro color changes are so beguiling. IMG_6398

And the fringes are cute! IMG_6399

After two days at home, we had to get in the car again to deliver Boy 1 to camp. I pulled out my cotton towels to finish the hems, as I had acquired the 8/2 cotton in WHITE that I decided I needed for this. I hemmed the second edge of the first towel, and then compared it to my first hem. I worked a regular old whip stitch in green for the first hem (top of photo), and what I guess is called “slip stitch” (according to this blog post) in white on the second hem (bottom of photo). I never knew what that was called… it was just something my mom taught me years ago. Slip stitch in white totally wins, so I ripped out the green and redid that one. Now I have 3 towels ready to go, even if they’re smaller than I would like. IMG_6388

And for the next set of towels, I will use white weft in the hem area now that I have the skinnier yarn (hem in 8/2, main area in 8/4).

I would like to warp the loom again before the holiday weekend is over. I know the next project will be towels again… I just have to decide whether to tackle another set similar to the ones I just did, or to try the Color-and-Weave Towels by Liz Gibson (I have yarn and pattern ready to go).

The urge to spin is battling the urge to weave. There was a new issue of PLY Magazine waiting for me when I got home, and I’m reading it now. Even though the entire issue is devoted to bobbin-led wheels and my wheel is NOT bobbin-led, it still makes me want to spin!

I’m also thinking about using handspun in my weaving……….

I could retire today and be plenty busy!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Grey is the New Vanilla is the New Black

One weeknight last month, I found myself without easy knitting (having left my bag of sock yarn squares at the office). I cast on a new sock and started 2x2 rib. The great thing about socks is that you don’t even have to commit to a pattern at this point – you can just start something that you know will fit you. I grabbed a couple balls of good, grey yarn that I purchased in Iceland a couple of summers ago (it is Danish yarn, though). I only have one pair of grey handknit socks and they were in heavy rotation last winter, so making another pair seemed like a good idea.IMG_8305

Have you seen the Vanilla is the New Black pattern? It is a fairly basic sock, but with a different heel. There is no heel flap and no picking up of stitches, but it is knit top-down. The heel is the star of the sock. I decided to try it. The only place one has to pay close attention is while knitting the heel (which, after lots of stockinette, was a welcome change). Luckily, I hit Heel #1 while on the road:IMG_5701

I find that knitting with charts is no problem in the car, as long as one has a roll of washi tape. It is strong enough to hold, but not strong enough to leave residue on the dash. It also comes off paper pretty easily.

On the front, this is a plain vanilla sock:IMG_6371 crop

But the back!IMG_6367

Also note that there is no visible line of gusset decreases on the side of the foot near the ankle bone – instead, they are tucked under the heel:IMG_6370

I think this is a very handsome sock, and I’ll be making it again. I have always preferred the fit of a sock with a heel flap rather than a short-row heel, as it’s deeper… and this one feels very similar.IMG_6372

One final detail… an instructor once told me that yarn manufacturers can have +/- 10% of the weight specified on the ball band and still be legal. In this case, my two balls were quite a bit different. The socks are identical (I checked, in a panic!) but one of my leftover balls is 14 grams, while the other is only 8. IMG_6374

Those will be going straight into my I Love Leftovers blanket.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A little loom, a puffy skein

I knew I didn’t have time to warp the Cricket again this week, but I wanted to play with weaving a little more… so I broke out my new Swatch Maker loom (12 epi) that I got at MDSW this year. This is a little loom designed for testing out how woven fabric looks without using a lot of yarn. Plus, it’s fun to use. I used the leftover yarn from my Seashore Cowl: IMG_5678

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The little loom is a cinch to warp. The instructions that came with it told me to wrap the yarn around and around (so that you would see a full warp on the back side, too), but I didn’t… because I’d already seen a video on the Purl & Loop website about how to weave a swatch with no fringe. I thought that looked pretty cool, so I warped it that way (which uses even less yarn). See? IMG_3449

Also note that this little tool is made in Houston, Texas, USA, my old hometown!

The instructions suggested using a dpn to hold open one of the two sheds. This way, I only have to pick up the stitches (over-under-over-under) with the needle on every other row. And you use a kitchen fork to beat the weft. I was skeptical, but it’s the perfect tool for that. IMG_3450

I am finding this little thing highly entertaining. It comes in a cute little bag so you can take it along to where you may go, too. Keep an eye out for me weaving in public.

In other fiber news, I finished a small spinning project. This is the 90/5/5 Clun Forest/Romney/Alpaca roving that I got from Singleton Fiber Mill at MDSW this year: IMG_3352

I intended it to become sock yarn, so I spun it as fine as I could (aiming for a 3-ply yarn). BUT… spinning roving fine is not as easy as spinning top fine. I experimented a bit and did the best I could to spin it worsted-style, smoothing down the fluffy fiber as much as possible during spinning. Here is the bobbin full of singles:IMG_3415

Then I divided it into 3 based on weight: IMG_3425

And here is the finished yarn:IMG_3427

I think the color is just dreamy. The roving colorway is called “Celestial” and it’s clearly a blend of two blues and a purple… but once it’s spun you don’t see different colors. You just see blue with a lot of depth. Color is so captivating!

While the color is beautiful, I’m not sure that this is really sock yarn. Here is a penny and a little bit of Miss Babs Yummy 2-Ply Toes for comparison:IMG_3429

The twist isn’t as tight, it’s a bit fatter, and it’s not as smooth. I could increase the twist by running it through the wheel again (and I might), but I don’t think this will be ideal for the recreation of the WWI sock I had in mind. Nevertheless, I enjoyed making this yarn.