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


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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A trio of towels

When we left off, I had finally – after some struggle – warped the loom for towels. And it was so pretty. Here you can see the thinner (8/2 cotton) green yarn I used for the hem area (to reduce bulk when folding it over to hem), as well as the first bit of white weft (in 8/4 cotton):IMG_3384 And let’s just take a moment to admire the custom paint job S1 did for my little Cricket:IMG_3385

I wove along rather happily. One happy outcome of acquiring the loom stand is that I can sit comfortably on the couch, with a big pillow behind my back, because the stand legs can slide under the couch a little bit. Excellent for Netflixing!

As I wove along toward the end of the warp, I noticed that the finished cloth was no longer centered on the front beam. Why? Well, when I got to the very end, it was painfully clear why:IMG_3402

You don’t have to be a weaver to see there’s something wrong here. Everything is supposed to be at 90 degrees in weaving, and this most certainly is not! I also had some trouble with uneven threads toward the end, because this is how some of them went over the back beam: IMG_3403Hmmm.

I just kept going – there didn’t seem to be any fix for it at that point. When I pulled the finished cloth off the loom, it was a long mess like this:IMG_5670

That purple yarn is waste yarn that separates each of the towels. You can really see the light green hem section in the picture above. I also found some mistakes (skipped threads) at this point, like these:IMG_5671

Yikes! There is actually a way to fix these, and it should be done before the fabric is wet finished. (At this point, the weaving is really more of a web than fabric. Even after being released from the tension of the loom, there are pretty big holes in it – like a screen.) Do you want to see a fix? See the white warp (vertical) thread near the middle that goes over several weft rows:IMG_5672You can fix that by cutting it:IMG_5673

And then weaving in another white thread (just using a tapestry needle) that bridges the gap. There will be doubled warp for an inch or so, but that’s no big deal:IMG_5674

Then I machine washed the whole thing in hot water and dried it on high. I was amazed to find out that the web really does turn into fabric!IMG_5682

The only problem is that they aren’t very big towels anymore. Before washing, the lengths of each towel were 22-23”. After washing, they were 19.25-19.75”. The finished width is only 12.125” (I forgot to measure width before washing).

I hemmed one of the six ends. Here is how it looks before hemming (I machine-stitched a zigzag over the edge because I was paranoid about it unraveling):IMG_5683

And here is the finished hem:IMG_5684

I used the same thinner (8/2) green thread to hem with… but you can see it shows through on the right side a little. I will wait to finish the other edges until I have some white 8/2 cotton.

I tried to keep some notes to help me have more success on my next project:

  • Check my apron strings – are they really all the same length?
  • It is very, very hard to wind on evenly. Would it be easier with the direct warp method?
  • Don’t use wool for waste yarn if washing before removing it (the Knit Picks cotton/acrylic blend is fine though)
  • If I took the time to work hem stitch at each end, I wouldn’t worry about securing edges with zigzag on the sewing machine
  • Don’t machine-wash with those long ends… they are a mess!

I am anxious to warp the loom again to see if I can do better.

Also, I still adore the colors I picked for these towels. I should be able to get another set just like them with no problem.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My kind of seashore

I have a FO to share that languished so many times along the way. Remember my field trip to Neighborhood Fiber Co. back in March? I bought the yarn to make the Seashore Cowl. IMG_2817If you glance at the pattern photo for Seashore Cowl, you’ll notice it is quite wide and worn pulled down over the shoulders, like a capelet. There is one photo of it worn bunched up like a cowl, but it is a LOT of cowl. As I started knitting and realize how very warm the mohair is, I questioned the likelihood of my wearing it – in either position. I also began to like it just as it was. I set it aside for a while to think, and when I came back to it, I bound off. It is done! IMG_5679We have been having a mini heat wave this week and the Real Feel was over 100 this afternoon, so there was no way I was putting this on for a photo. It is WARM.

The gray yarn is a merino/nylon/cashmere blend, and the green is mohair/silk. IMG_5678The resulting confection is sooooo light (it weighs only 37 grams) and of course I have tons of yarn left over. I think I will experiment with weaving it. I can use my little Swatch Maker Loom I got at MDSW and see how it looks. The green mohair may be frustratingly sticky to work with (I would use it as weft), but we shall see. You can see that one of the gray edges is scalloped (maybe that’s why the “seashore” reference?), but blocking that edge to exaggerate the points when it is a circle is really hard.

I think this cowl will be perfect for those days in late winter/early spring when you want it to be warm but it’s really not. This looks like spring, even though it’s toasty. IMG_5677

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

“You’ve got to be warped to weave.”

If you’ve heard of Syne Mitchell, you’ve probably heard her say “you’ve got to be warped to weave.” It was her signature signoff on the Weavecast podcast, which I listened to back in the day. (“Back in the day” = 2006-2010, when podcasts were new and all the cool kids were doing them.) I enjoyed listening to her talk about her craft, even though I didn’t understand half of the vocabulary she used. Sley the reed? Ends per inch? Choke ties? It was all just lovely mumbo jumbo to me then.

I’ve had my little Cricket loom for a couple of years now, and I’ve even made a few projects on it. Mostly scarves from stash yarn, but I also tried to make towels last summer. Remember my weird towels, which were either too long or too short?IMG_0493

After that project, I packed away the loom and the yarn before my worldly travels, and then my late summer got hijacked by an unruly appendix, and then the school year was off to the races. When Red Stone Glen released their 2016-17 schedule, I took a close look. I decided to sign up for a beginner class on the rigid heddle loom to get some solid instruction. If nothing else, I figured I could pick up a few tips. The first class that worked with my schedule was last week.

(If you don’t recognize the name Red Stone Glen, what you need to know is that after The Mannings closed, the anchor teachers – Tom Knisely and Sara Bixler – opened up a new teaching studio. It’s awesome, and it’s only about an hour’s drive from my house.)

I actually learned quite a lot in this class. We started by making a chain warp, which is what the floor loom weavers do (you can wind a really long warp with this technique). Rigid heddle looms like the Cricket come with instructions to use the direct warp method, which involves pacing back and forth between the loom and a peg that is mounted a measured distance away. Here is a direct warp just after it has been removed from a peg:IMG_0381

With the chain warp method, you get to use a warping board, which is a frame with lots of pegs on it. Here is my warp on the board:IMG_5500

Then you take it off and make a big crochet chain to move it around:IMG_5505

And then you do about a hundred tiny little things to get it onto the loom. These are the things that are hard to remember because you spend a very small amount of time doing them and you only do them once for a giant project. But I digress. At the end of the second day, I had a finished scarf. This is made from wool in three colors (two in the warp, and a third color for the weft throughout): IMG_5540

Pretty, yes?

Scarves are nice, but I really wanted to know about towels. I don’t know why, but I’ve become fixated on the idea of making a stack of beautiful handwoven towels this summer. It sounds so peaceful to me, and so useful. So far the muggles I have mentioned this to don’t get it at all, but I trust that you will, dear readers.

Here are a few samples we looked at in class. These 3 towels were all woven from the same warp. The top one and the middle one use the same color for weft, but the second one uses a boucle yarn instead of a smooth one. And the bottom one has a green boucle weft instead of that nice periwinkle color. Can you believe how different they look? Captivating!IMG_5524

I took the pattern and yarn I had purchased last year for my next towel project in for consultation. The pattern is Color-and-Weave Towels. My teacher, Sara, wasn’t super impressed, because the threads are doubled throughout, and what claims to be a 20 EPI project is really just 10 EPI. I’ll make them anyway, because I have the stuff. But first, I’m going to make a different batch of towels, the yarn for which I purchased last week. IMG_3379

After some intense moments on Saturday and Sunday, I managed to get the loom warped again and have started to weave. This warp should make 3 towels (we’ll see). Here are some things I have learned:

  • It makes no sense to weave towels out of mercerized cotton, which essentially has a waxy finish on it that makes it shiny (but non-absorbent). That’s what my weird rainbow towels are made from. Why would someone put a towel kit together using mercerized cotton?!?? Grrr.
  • Trying to beat the weft to get a certain PPI (picks per inch) doesn’t work so great for me. What works better is beating a consistent PPI. So instead of counting picks to keep on track, I will measure inches as I go.
  • The finest yarn I can weave on my loom is probably 8/4 cotton, woven at 12 EPI (ends per inch) using the 12-dent heddle (the smallest one).
  • But the yarn I want to weave is 8/2 cotton, which is woven at 20 EPI using two 10-dent heddles. And my loom can’t handle two heddles. Doh! Should have taken the class before getting a loom… if I had, I’d probably own a Kromski Harp instead.
  • Respectable towels are 15” wide, but you never get a 15” cloth off a 15” loom due to take-in. Plus, it’s really hard to use every single heddle all the way to the edge. Another reason I am bummed that I learned all this after getting a little loom.

Here we go:

IMG_3377I am a beginner again. S1 keeps reminding me of this and urging me to take a chill pill (in a kind way). She also suggested that I start a blog called “Oh My F-ing God” that consists solely of photos I take right after uttering that phrase. Apparently it leaked out of my mouth a few times during the warping process (oops).

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Some finished things

I have been knitting steadily during the avalanche of concerts, ceremonies, meetings, etc. that happen during May, but have had no time to post. I just realized that I’ve finished a few things this month and not even shared them!

First up – this is a simple scarf made from my handspun. IMG_3289

The pattern is “cartridge rib,” which I got from the trusty old Vogue Stitchionary volume 1. It is a simple, 2-row repeat that is very soothing to knit. The result is a corrugated fabric that I really like. The yarn is the skein of handspun Targhee I just finished last month. It always pleases me to spin a skein and then knit it right away. I thought I had oodles of yarn (424 yards), but the scarf is only 59.5” long. That’s a little on the short side. There is a rule of thumb that you want scarves to be as long as the wearer is tall, and this definitely isn’t one you can wrap around your neck again and again. But it’s good for tucking into the collar of a coat without having a lot of bulk down in the chest area. It was so fun to knit and I was able to take it everywhere (which is how it got done before I ever showed it to you).IMG_3215

I also managed to bang out a BSJ. This is another pattern that is pretty simple and portable, and I worked on it during a couple of school music concerts. I used a skein of hand-dyed sportweight yarn I got at MDSW earlier this month for this purpose. The baby is due in August and is a girl, and the mother’s favorite colors are blue and green. I know that if you knit something in the mother’s favorite colors, then the baby will wear it! This yarn was so entertaining to knit. I just love all the speckles, and there was absolutely no pooling: IMG_3232IMG_5552

I have purchased very simple buttons (which are machine-washable). Also, here’s a shot of the sweater as it looks when it comes off the needles. You do some origami-like folding, and then – surprise! – you have the iconic Baby Surprise Jacket.IMG_5555


I still have to sew those seams at the top of the sleeves and put the buttons on, and then this is ready to gift. Delightfully, I have tons of yarn left over. When I made some sportweight BSJs with Felici Sport several years ago, I used about 345 yards (105 g). The skeins at MDSW were labelled 385 yards (4 oz = 113 g)… so one skein should have been enough, but you can never be sure. Skeins can be over or under by as much as 10%. I bought two to be safe. But my finished sweater weighs 102 g and I have 26 g left, which means I used about 348 yards. I have 26 grams of yarn left from that first ball, plus another skein in reserve.

Finally, when I needed a really simple knit for one of the music concerts, I decided to cast on another Sockhead Slouch hat (that really simple hat made of fingering weight yarn). I used a very old ball of yarn from stash – I entered this into Ravelry in August, 2007, which is when I got my account. So it predated 2007 in real life. Apparently I started a toe-up sock at some point, but then ripped it out because I wasn’t happy with it.1295575690_0a66b9dfb1_o

I remember ordering this yarn online and being hugely disappointed when it arrived, because the colors were very, very different in the online photos than they were in person. In fact, I think the colors were a lot like what you see in the baby sweater – very soothing and beach-y. Instead, I got a much darker skein that was more autumnal in tone. AND… it was superwash merino, which was never going to become a pair of socks after a certain point in my knitting life. So I knit a Sockhead Slouch from it. A word of warning: I don’t think this style of hat looks good on anyone in my family. We tried it on 3 of us and this was our best option. I don’t know whose hat this is, but surely it will find its owner. Is it any of you? IMG_5546

I have some other things to show you, but I think 3 FOs (or practically F-ed Os) is enough for today. Hope you are all enjoying a long holiday weekend!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Brisk and breezy–MDSW ‘17

For the first time in many, many years, I did not go to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival on Saturday. The weather forecast predicted chilly temps (highs in the 50s) with 60% chance of rain on Saturday, so I decided to try Sunday instead. It was still chilly and windy today, but it only sprinkled a little bit – not enough to wish for an umbrella. This means I missed Dave (Gettysburg College ‘09), but I bumped into Anne (Gettysburg College ‘05 and fellow librarian):IMG_5441

Oops! I caught Anne with her eyes shut against the pollen (which is especially high this year). Going on Sunday also meant I caught Franklin Habit’s lecture about the history of knitting patterns:IMG_5465

In case you’re wondering, the reason “B” is for “purl” is that “B” meant “backstitch” which is the same as the purl stitch. (P was for knit, or “plain.”) Franklin was exactly like I expected him to be based on his writing – personable, knowledgeable, and funny. I loved that Julie, Alison, and I were able to catch this talk.IMG_5466

Another good thing about going on Sunday is that I was able to see a bit of the Sheep to Shawl contest. The team themes and costumes have evolved quite a bit since my last StS, when most participants were wearing old-timey clothing. This year, one team was The Blues Sisters:IMG_5426

And one had a Hairspray thing going!IMG_5432


I saw some beautiful things in the Skein & Garment competition, including this hooked project that I presume was made one square per day over the course of a year:IMG_5445


I thought the kids did an especially good job with their poster entries this year (and isn’t it interesting to see which breeds they think are cool?):IMG_5451

I wish I could have seen this entire poster, but the ribbon was taped to it – I tried to brush it away but it didn’t budge:IMG_5453

Now for some booth porn – here are some shots from Brooks Farm Yarns (Kris’s favorite) and Bartlettyarns (I’ve knit two sweaters from that yarn):IMG_5458


I watched a little bit of sheep judging – these are Corriedales:IMG_5464


But I know what you are all waiting for – what kind of stash enhancement did I achieve this year? I think I did pretty well. I really wanted to find some down breed fiber to spin to make more sock yarn (inspired by my Southdown socks earlier this year). I am going to embark on a historical knitting recreation this summer, and I didn’t think I would find appropriate sock yarn to buy – so why not just make what I need? I went shopping armed with a list of true Down and Down-like breeds. This confused most vendors who asked if they could help me find something. However, I did score at a couple of places. First, I got the last bump of Clun Forest roving at Solitude Wool. It is a happy, sunny yellow – which is fine with me!


I also got a 4 oz bump of Dorset roving at Solitude. They make a Dorset sock yarn, too, but it is very thick. They call it “hiking sock yarn” and I’ve worked with it before. It’s just not right for these special socks I’m going to be making.



But this is the big find for me – at Singleton Fiber Mill, they have a roving blend that is 90% Clun Forest, 5% Romney, and 5% Alpaca:IMG_5472

It is a little hard to see in this photo, but the roving has several colors in it (2 blues and a purple). That variation will give a dimensionality to the final yarn that I very much like. I got 5 oz of this to make sure I had enough. This was Singleton’s first year at MDSW, but I knew them a little from my 2015 trip to the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival – that’s where I got the fiber from which I made the “greenbow” yarn. It was so beautifully prepared and easy to spin. I was thrilled to find a Down fiber in their booth this year.

I got one more bump of fiber to spin – this organic Polwarth from Middle Brook Fiberworks. It is such a dreamy light gray. I want to make a 3-ply yarn that matches (in size) the gradient yarn I spun from the Into the Whirled Falkland batt last year. I have my eye on the Pania of the Reef pattern to use both yarns. IMG_5481

That’s it for fiber. I had my eye out for some sportweight yarn that would be suitable for a baby sweater (machine-washable and soft) and in the favorite colors of the mother (blue and green). I really like what I found:IMG_5483

This will become a Baby Surprise Jacket for a baby who is due in August!

I also got a bunch of consumable items, some of which are gifts. If you haven’t tried the maple cream yet, you really should:IMG_5468

I also got a couple of small tools. The tiny carder can be used to clean hand cards (or used as a tree ornament), and the mini-loom is for swatching without having to warp up the loom:IMG_5471

I made one final purchase with permission from home – a queen-size wool blanket. We have really enjoyed the wool blanket we brought home from Iceland, but it is not bed-sized. It’s really just a throw that is useful on the couch. I looked at these blankets last year and really liked them… this year I took the plunge. The wool is grown in Maryland; it is processed and woven in Canada. I love the cheery yellow color and think it will be perfect in the winter. IMG_5485



With that, I got my yearly bag of kettle corn and headed home. Another great year at the festival!IMG_5467