Friday, May 27, 2011

Silk Hankies

I discovered some silk hankies at The Fiber Event this year and decided that it was time to learn to play with this amazing form of silk.

The hankies are roughly the size of a hankerchief--10"x10" and consist of many layers of silk cocoons that have been stretched on a frame.

Each gossamer layer of silk can be separated from the rest of the hankies, stretched and used as an unspun yarn or be spun.

To start, I peel off one layer of silk hanky, poke a hole in the center and then start to stretch the hole to make it larger.

Soon, I have a large circle of silk. These fiber can be pulled pretty fine. I pulled mine a little more than what I show in the photo.

After attenuating the fibers to the desired thickness, I break the circle open and wind the fibers into little nests that are ready to use for knitting or spinning.

I love the way the colors blend as the hankies are stretched!

May Quilt Block

Here's May's quilt block for my three Christmas quilts. All three are identical this time.

Dye Discharge

I saw some beautiful scarves last week that had been woven from a warp dipped in bleach. It lead to some experiments here at home to see if I could do some dye discharge with a cone of cotton yarn.

And the results are in.

Bleach, followed with a peroxide bath to neutralize the process, works great at removing the "mint" green dye from this yarn.

From left to right across the page the samples are:
(1) soaked in water --this was my standard. Soaking it in water let me know that the dye didn't bleed.

(2) soaked in a 50/50 bleach/water solution.
(3) soaked in a 75/25 bleach/water solution.
(4) soaked in a cream of tartar solution. This idea came up at our guild meeting. I used 1 tsp of cream of tartar in 120 mL of water.
(5) soaked in 3% hydrogen peroxide.

The only changes to the color were seen in the samples that were in the bleach. There was no perceptible difference in effectiveness between the two bleach solutions.

A note about neutralizing: While searching for information on dye discharging, I came across Paula Burch's site "All About Hand Dyeing". She has lots of great information there, including a bit about neutralizing bleach. From what Paula presents, bleach does not stop chewing on the textile with a water rinse. It needs something to stop the reaction. Hence the neutralizing dip in the hydrogen peroxide. I haven't done enough with bleach and textiles to know how critical it is to do this step. But, I don't want my textiles falling apart on me either!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Color and Beads

Working with Laura Bryant's "A Fiber Artist's Guide to Color" I need to work on sorting colors by weight. I tried this recently with sewing thread. Here is another take using perler beads. (What can you say when your little one wants you to play with her? You say "yes" and make the play an exercise with color! :)

To the left is my finished sorting. The heavy colors are on the left; the light colors on the right.

I must admit that I used the camera as a crutch for this exercise. I took black & white photos of my work at various stages, looking through the lens of the camera to see which bead colors were registering closer to black and therefore "heavier".

Here is the purple board with only black beads on it. There are some very dark beads on the lid/bead tray, but they are not black. I think they are mostly dark brown, grey, and dark purple.

Here is the purple board with lots of beads on it. At one point I discovered that I had too many "heavy" colors on the board and took out three rows of beads and scooted the lighter colors to the left. I don't remember if that was before or after this photo.

This arrangement of colors was just for play. The colors are still in a heavy (left edge) to light (right edge) order, but I have grouped them so that the beads of each hue are together. I like the colors all mixed together, as in my first photo, better.

I'm still not sure where I will take this color work. I'm unsure of how it translates to weaving. --It's nice to have more to learn! :)


My family got me some videos for Mother's Day. I've been contemplating purchasing Laura Bryant's video for some time now. It was easy to put it on the list of things I wanted for Mother's Day.

The Deb Menz video came out just a short time before Mother's Day. It was a complete and utter "drool! I'd like that!" entry on my list.

And now, they are both in my library.

I watched some of Laura Bryant's video for the second time today. She spends a lot of time explain how to group yarns by color "weight". This is similar to value with grey scale, but a little more involved. The trick is that I'm still trying to grasp how to use the weight-grouped yarns most effectively. Laura talks about this in the video, I just haven't gotten the key points clear in my head yet. One of the challenges seems to be whether the goal is a color effect or a structure effect. The two things require different uses of the yarns. (I think I need to go watch the video again!)

Color Works for Spinners is by Deb Menz and I loved it! I have had a copy of her book Color in Spinning for a few years and enjoy it. This video is like a live action addendum to the book. Deb is fun to listen to, she is encouraging, and she blends fiber to create amazing colors. It has been very hard to not drag out the drum carder! I want to blend colors! I want to make pretty batts!

I'm enjoying my new videos!

Handwoven Baby Blanket

A friend is expecting a baby any day now. I took some yardage that I had woven last year and sewed it into a blanket.

My fears of making mistakes with my handwoven fabric resurfaced. It took me a few days to decide that I really could piece my handwovens together!

There were a few new-to-me tricks--mostly flat felled seams--so I'll show you some pictures of the process.

First off, this is how I marked, sewed, and cut my yardage. The chalk line was the finished size of the piece. I sewed a small zig-zag stitch on each side of the chalk line, then cut the piece.

The flat felled seams are a way of enclosing the raw edges. With right sides together, I sewed a ~5/8" seam. I trimmed the white side of the seam allowance to ~1/4", turned the brown side of the seam allowance under 1/4", then folded the brown (folded) edge over the white (trimmed) edge.

From the back side (where I could see the folded seam allowance) I stitched the folded edge of the brown seam allowance. No more raw edges!

Just a note: I was uncomfortable using a new technique on my handwoven fabrics, so I made a mini blanket to test things out. I piece the nine sections into three strips of three, then connected the strips of three to make the nine square blanket. I discovered that the flat felled seams the the strips of three needed to be offset or else they got too bulky to turn. Check out the direction of the flat felled seams where the white square and the black square meet. The are folded opposite directions.

Also, I didn't like the way my binding worked. I tried to use the "fold it in half, sew to blanket, fold over and handsew to the other side of blanket" technique. (Can you tell I'm not really a sew-er? I'm just a wanna-be!) The binding (same fabric as the solid brown corner squares) was not wide enough to do that easily. It was feeling stiff like piping and was a bear to handle. I got brave. I turned on all my lights and made use of a sunny morning and ripped out the binding seam! It was a bit of a challenge. My brown thread matched the brown fabric really well! But, I succeeded and only needed the magnifying glass a few times. The final binding was machine sewn on one side, folded over, seam allowance tucked up and attached by hand.

The hand of the blanket is wonderful. It's just right for a simple summer cover for a new little one!

Rep Weave Sampler

My rep weave sampler has been off the loom and wet finished. Here is a collection of photos from the piece.

This section of the piece has a bumpy white yarn octupled (is that a word? Eight strands used together). Unfortunately, the bumps poke through the warp yarns. I've been calling this segment "patriotic"--red, white, & blue.

I wound the warp from multiple balls of knitting yarn and I didn't stop to check the dye lots. Can you see the dark-light-dark-light stripes of blue? I am used to using large cones of yarn for my weaving. I forgot that smaller balls of yarn have dye lots. I hope this will help me remember to check next time!

This is a similar pattern to the first photo. The red side is up (as opposed to the blue in the first photo). The thick weft in this section is four strands of the dark blue warp yarn. The thin weft in all of the piece is a fine (20/2 ish) dark blue mystery yarn.

For a first piece in a new structure, this one worked just fine, even with all its challenges!

Silk Spinning

It all started with a trip to visit family in Bloomington. Of course, it's not wise to go on a trip without checking to see if there will be fiber shops in the vicinity! Yarns Unlimited had fibers dyed by Robin Edmundson in both silk and cotton. This is the silk roving I purchased. The colors are brilliant. The fiber was so soft.

The colors spun up beautifully! I don't usually spin silk--cotton & Romney wool are my staples--but it was easy to adjust to my spinning to work with the silk. When I first learned to spin, tussah silk was recommended as having more tooth than other silks and being easier to spin. I didn't notice this silk as being particularly slippery. I don't know what variety of silk it is, but it was great to spin!

Here's the final three-ply yarn. I used the "Navajo"/chain plying method to keep the colors as distinct as possible.

Now the hard part: how am I going to use this pretty yarn?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Rep Warp Challenges

This poor photograph is of the page in my notebook that was the start of my errors in my first ever bit of rep weaving. I was planning on doing a simple 4-shaft sampler by Rosalie Neilson. I calculated the number of ends necessary and then the warp yardage required for a three yard warp.

Then I turned the page, did some more work, and that night returned to wind my warp.

Unfortunately, I used the "warp yardage required" number and wound 3x the number of ends I needed! Arrgh! It only goes to show you that late at night is NOT a good time for me to work! Arrgh!

On the positive side, making mistakes like this is good. I spent more time in weaving texts and online to figure out how rep works, and now I'm weaving a pretty piece that I wouldn't have tried otherwise!

This is a rep pattern from Strickler (#309) with a modification to the borders. My heavy weft is an 8-ply yarn that I wound together from a yarn in my stash. It's an odd, boucle-esq yarn and some of the loops poke up through the warp. I'm pretending that it's ok and am calling the piece "red, white, & blue". My next sample on this warp will be with smooth yarns.

And just so I don't forget: There were challenges getting this warp wound on the back beam. The warp advanced so slowly through the lease sticks! At first I thought it was due to the high density of threads since this is a rep warp (24 epi....the yarn measured 14 wpi).

However, that wasn't the case. Check out the angle of the lease sticks relative to each other. I tied the lease sticks to the loom by wrapping the tie around both sticks. The right side of the sticks are close together and slightly pinching the warp threads. I'm calling it the "chopsticks effect". Deep sigh. I have learned another thing to avoid!