Sunday, March 31, 2019

Always - always check the numbers

Today is a bit of a weaving update, but not as much has been done as I hoped. I am weaving - the first project on the Loman loom since adding a Texsolve tie up. I began by thinking about what I wanted to make, and then to see if I had enough of any one or two cotton 8/2 thread to complete the project. I didn't so ordered some more- not a lot but a few more colours.

I didn't grab a photo of the newer ones - but here they are amonst  my modest stash of weaving yarns. Mostly 8/2 cotton, some 10/2 and some 12/2, I am planning to experiment and see what I like best.  I have a preference for Blues and Greys and I am trying to combat that with some yellow and greens. These are called 'tubes' - at least in America, something which amuses me. At $30= per 'tube' it take a little 'investment' to build a coherent colour palette - and a weaving project can wipe out 2-3 of these in one go.
 So .. playing safe, although not as safe as a white or cream warp I decided the warp would be a light to dark gradient - still fairly safe but one that allows me to play with lots of different colours  in the weft - this is planning for a batch of tea towels.
I am beginning to feel comfortable using the Ashford warping mill - finding that sweet spot with just enough push to make it rotate enough to wind the yarn from top to bottom - or bottom to top in one smooth motion.  The guide thread was a strong bright orange and I loved the way it popped against the black thread. I think I will be back to the yarn suppliers looking for a tube of that orange. 

At that point I discovered I am a beginner, this is probably only my 6th weaving project. I began to 'sley the reed' (gotta love the weaving terminology) - and realised that I had a warp for only half the width I needed. I had downloaded a warp/weft calculation spreadsheet and trusted it - a quick manual check of the calculations revealed one of the formulates wasn't working. I don't blame the sheet - it was excel and I opened it in Apple Pages and may have accidentally broken it while working out how numbers worked. End result one half of the warp I need - I have updated the calculations and will make the  other half the warp and then work them onto the loom. 

And Frank slept through the entire thing... 
na Stella

Saturday, March 23, 2019

... FO and on to weaving maybe

I have a finished object, a sweater! One that took a year of knitting off and on and in truth should have 3.7 sleeves. In practice it has only one sleeve - but I have knit nearly four sleeves. I am also working out what to weave - which means making sure I have enough yarn to actually make what I plan.
 This is the Possum Merino Alpaca sweater just before washing, all 649grams of it. I don't like 'sleezy' fabric, loose, open and likely to distort and sag and generally not last. So I tend to knit to a firmer gauge - not bullet proof but firm.  This is for older cub -now at least 6ft with long arms - who now flats away from home. He requested a warm brown sweater and here it is. The yarn is lovely - Outlaw yarn Bohemia Gothic - the Gothic means black merino and the possum has a black fuzz - while the alpaca is soft and drapy and silky. Project notes here.

The pattern is of my own making, my favorite saddle shoulder structure. Starting with a neck band, some short rows to shape the back higher and the front lower, working shoulder straps and then a little bit of over the shoulder increase shaping before working sleeve increases. Increased to shape the underarm both on the body and the sleeve and then worked body, then sleeves in the round.
 At this point the sleeves went as planned but after convincing a tall Thursday night knitter to try this on (He did but on the condition he didn't have to twirl) I ripped back a sleeve and began the decreases to narrow it much earlier. I made notes and followed these for the second sleeve - but seems I made notes before I ripped back so in following them I completed the second sleeve too wide and too long. Both sleeves were frogged and reknit smaller. Bean Pole Boy has long arms - but not that long.  I continued the underarm 'welt' of a column of 2x2 knit bordered by columns of purls - under each sleeve and down the top of the shoulder and down the sleeve, I also worked this down the side of the body. Stretchy bind off (Jenny's) made sure the hem was not too tight on both the body and the sleeves.
 With the sweater off the needles, its been a year, I bought the yarn at Unwind 2018 and began it in July, I thought I would 'whip up a warp' for the loom. I have a few ideas I want to explore in weaving. I measured out and made some calculations and began to make half a warp for 8 tea/dish towels. I didnt give too much thought to how much thread was needed - but as the cone began to thin - I did do some further calculations. I've discovered I don't understand much about how much yarn is required for weaving - and that I needed to order more. So I've also tracked down two suppliers in NZ one of 8/2 and 12/2 cotton and two or more of 10/2 cotton. These are the sizes I have already invested in and have some off - so it makes sense to source more. The 10/2 is finer and so more threads are needed for a warp - this is 315 threads - half of what I need.
I have finished the half warp - and put it aside all neatly labeled - awaiting an email that will tell me if I can get more of the same colour. If not I will have to make a plan - for stripes or a half and half design. I then did some more calculations for what amount I would require for 8/2 cotton dish clothes - and worked out I needed to buy my cones of weaving yarn in batches of 3-5x250 grams at least If I want to weave tea towels in warps of more than 4 at a time. I ordered 5 cones of yarn Saturday (all different colours/shades) and then Sunday discovered I would need to order a double set of those at least - so 5 more or less the same are on the way to me today. Monday I hope to receive an email that I can order more of the same color as my half warp and so can work to my original plan. Nothing like learning as you go is there? That means I have no major garment project 'on the needles' so have plans to begin something tonight ---

Na Stella

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Updating and preparations

It is a dark day in New Zealand, instead of celebrations as my home town hosted 40+ emerging Fashion Designers for the 20th anniversary iD Dunedin Emerging Fashion Design competition - the country grieved 50 dead, and many more injured. I wont go into details but Friday someone with hate - took a gun and killed innocents at worship in a Mosque in Christchurch. Friday with contenstants from over 30 countries and hundreds of tickets sold, the iD emerging show went on, and repeated on Saturday - but with much less celebration and much more security than ever before. Things here in New Zealand are changed, they are different, if you are able to help please do, the family and communities will have immediate needs and ongoing needs, I have taken stock of what I can do without this month and donated - I will probably top this up again, there will be so much more to take care of in the community.

Sunday was understandably quiet, I worked on my loom, replacing the nylon cords and knots with Texsolv and pegs. I hope it will be easier to adjust, in short better. I used a soldering iron to simultaneously cut and seal the cuts in the Texsolv. One just has to watch out of accidents of a thermal nature, like when the soldering iron begins to roll away - and is grabbed by naked fingers. One burnt index finger - which will heal.
This is midway through the restring, under the treadles I am going with a modified Vestuga tie up system, instead of straight knitting needles I am using the metal shaft spacer bars - of which I have 8.

I had to do a little adjusting as I worked, seems that even with a regular increment system like Texsolv the shafts didn't quite hang even. I had read some where you could get smaller adjustments by running double Texsolv - as adjusting one hole would halve the amount things shifted. I didn't want to go that far (at this point I wasn't sure how much I would have left over), but I did realize I could 'pad' the loops with pegs or even folded paper to make micro adjustments. This is something I will have to remember - it might be washers between the peg and the bars will provide micro adjustments if needed. You may notice my very special threading tool,  an extra long hair pin - the sole remainder from smallest cubs Ballet days - it is perfect for threading this stuff through holes - I may even need to buy my Loom a whole packet for itself.

I love the little Texsolve Pegs, so neat, so tidy so EAST TO MOVE AND ADJUST!.

So here is my wee Loman Loom,  a compact loom, and in some ways only a minor step away from a table loom - with some of the same shortcomings All connected and waiting for a warp. The next stage is to make a decision - it will be Tea Towels - but the four shaft pattern or even a three shaft one is yet to be decided.

And in other news ... the Tall Ones sweater is nearing done, only one sleeve to go. and I am being monogamous on this till it is done. I have so many other things I want to begin - and I know if I do then this will languish and languish for a long long time. I suffer from Brown Second Sleeve Syndrome - but will push through. 

Take care
be safe, 

Friday, March 08, 2019


Coming home after a long time away, unlock the door, put down the luggage, and see familiar things. The place is a bit dusty, quiet in the way that places that have not been inhabited are. Things are both familiar and foreign, at once known but from before, like a familiar memory. Returning to this blog feels a bit like that. Mid 2017 my father passed away, after a very short and intense battle with cancer - it affected me in ways I am only now realizing. I knit through his treatment, a cowl for Bear and a jersey for me - I've knit quite a bit since but something seems different.
Off piste Decennium Reworked

Decennium by Vintage Purls in Skeinz Silver Lining

Tirilunge Newborneonsie by Shja
Since then my knitting has been slow and mindful, using up soft and lovely yarns to make things that are useful, that are easy, that use my mind but not too much.

In 2018 I kept knitting, I also dabbled in botanical water colour and spent time drawing and painting. Those new things gave me a clear focus, things I had to find out, to learn, goals to achieve.  But at night - there was always knitting. Something to keep my hands busy.

Vintage Purls has a lovely hat pattern, Decennium, which allows for exploration of colours. I had a a mix of Skeins Silver Lining yarns, a light fingering (or three-ply), and I made three hats. Each one worked in a different way, switching backgrounds, playing with combinations and even monochrome. The last, a fourth based on the pattern but knit in an invented colour work repeat,  was designed to use up the last of the darker blue and grey shades of yarn. This soft play provided a neutral space for my head. This went along side long overdue renovations of our home, extensive to the point we moved out for 3 months, put our lives in storage and were nomads for a significant part of 2018. There is something both liberating  and unsettling about having to choose a few things to keep close, and more unsettling about returning home to change, and to re-establish a way of living. We tore down walls, we moved doors, we changed exits, and we then had to learn to work in the new spaces together. It took longer and cost more than we anticipated - even though we knew it would. The changes are good and for the better, our house was original 1939 so long overdue for an upgrade, but the changes were still major and disruptive. Shortly after we moved home, eldest cub went flatting, so now we are three, that also is a change, exciting to see him 'successfully adulating', and yet a sense of loss - setting the table for three reminds me daily he is no longer here.

Recently I knit a lovely soft baby thing, for a long time knit friend who is having a baby. I used Silk Alpaca yarn, from Tria Fata Fibre Arts, bought a long time ago when we used to knit together in Dunedin. I know its not the most practical but it is luxury and soft and not everything has to be the most sensible. Something luxurious reminds us that we have choices and we can use the 'best china' or 'wear the best dress' or 'use the nicest yarn', we don't have to wait.

I took time to get my loom up and working, something simple so I could focus on the loom and not on the making.
I made six cotton tea towels/dish towels, and this provided  space to evaluate my loom. I had bought a new stainless steel reed and spools of 8-2 and 12-2 cotton in April 2017 - just as Dad was diagnosed. My intention at the time was to spend the next holiday setting up my loom and weaving - but the next two holidays were spent care-giving and then dealing with Dads death. There was a sense of the unfinished every time I passed the loom or moved the tub of cotton thread so I could reach a book, a clear memory of why I had not made use of the new reed and the new cotton yarn. This past summer things got moved around in our house, there is more room and the loom finally found a place in my week - I warped, adjusted, I wove, I invested in new Texsolv to make the tie up more regular and easy to modify and I finished the cloth - finally things are settling into place.

It is a little bit like the sun is out, or the clouds have lifted or there is a spark of interest. Before I knew I liked these things, knitting, and drawing and painting and weaving so I did them- but I didn't seem to feel the same sense of excitement as I once had. The haze has lifted and I feel calmer, able to do things that I enjoy instead of things I think I enjoy. These past few months I have shifted my stash, and matched yarns to patterns and made plans ---- and this marks my return to the world of Blogging. There are things to share.
na Stella