Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Weaving Around Christmastime

 It's Christmastime!

This big (oh, dear.  It's true.  A five yard warp can be very big for me!) project finally got cut off the avl!  I switched to a different weft near the end and got a visible pattern: 

The fabric was sewn, cut apart (two blue sections, one yellow-ish), washed and put into use! The invisible pattern in the blue on blue section becomes visible when the sun shines through the window where it is being used as a curtain!

And look what I got to play with!  It's Anne Dixon's Inkle Pattern Directory book.  At the left is my little inkle loom warped in 5/2 cotton and a rayon.  The pattern is one of the early ones in the book.  My goal is to weave a new belt strap.  I'm not sure that this is going to be stiff enough to work, but I'll weave it up and give it a test run.  I'm looking forward to trying the Baltic patterns in the book!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

AVL Test Warp #2 "Open Work Weave"

 I am slowly working on a second test warp with my new-to-me AVL 16 shaft production dobby loom.  The piece is from a work by Mary Meigs Atwater entitled "An Open-Work Weave" and is a huck lace variant.

It seems like there is a huge list of things I am learning with this warp.  Thing #1 is that the cloth storage beam system works.  Instead of having yards of cloth build up on the front apron beam, the cloth feeds through multiple rollers to a storage beam at the back of the loom.  The big trick for me is to remember to unlock the counter weight for the system.

Mechanical Dobby head with pattern bars.
Thing #2.  Mindlessly treadling through the set of dobby bars is, well, wonderfully mindless.  It was so easy!  Unfortunately, I don't have enough bars to do the checkerboard pattern I really want (each pick needs a bar with pegs).  So, I've had to employ a trick I read from another weaver--weave two steps forward and three back.

The woven pattern is four repeats of pattern A followed by a few shots of plain weave, then four repeats of pattern B.  I had enough bars to peg pattern A, the plain weave, and pattern B.  I wove that.  It was my wonderfully mindless weaving.  To get the checkerboard design, I weave the six picks of pattern A, reverse the dobby mechanism and treadle through the bars (without throwing the shuttle) to get back to the start of pattern A.  Then I re-reverse the dobby mechanism (back to the original direction) and weave the six picks of pattern A again.  Rinse and repeat two more times.  It has not been easy weaving.  Hmm.  That's not right.   The weaving has been straight forward, it's keeping track of where I am that has been hard.  Throw into the mix the fact that I cannot see the pattern well--though I've learned to feel it like Braille--and it's been challenging!  The other night I was able to sit down and weave a full bobbin of weft.  It felt like a great accomplishment!  (And, yes, my children were in bed and the house was mostly quiet!)

 Thing #3.  Some things take care of themselves.  The yarn I am using for this project is not a favorite.  I chose it because I am (in theory) making fabric for a bag for my pvc niddy noddy and wanted something durable that could handle a bit of water in case I put things away wet.  It is a polyester or other synthetic yarn.  It's a single, and, it turns out, likes to catch on itself.

So, every time I advance the warp it pulls the harnesses/shafts in use forward.  I've been able to wait to advance the warp until the end of the pattern repeat sections.  That means that the first few picks that I weave are plain weave, which makes it easier to separate the warp threads and go on with the weaving.  I'm hoping that this is a yarn choice problem and not a more generic warp advancement issue.

Thing #4.  Five yards is a long warp for me! (How embarrassing!)  I feel like I've been weaving this piece forever!  I either need to weave more (hmm.  That might be a possibility now that we're done with construction!) or I need to use shorter warps.  I'm still learning the waste allowances for this loom, and since I was testing the cloth storage beam system, I probably couldn't have used a much shorter warp this time.  Next time, I'll know to either pick a structure that I can peg completely or use a shorter warp!

And, just because they make me laugh, here is thing #5:  blocks.  My legs are just too short to work comfortably with the treadle/bench height of this loom.  So, I added blocks to the treadles (like blocks on the peddles of a tricycle!).  These are just leftover pieces of construction 2x4's covered in shelf liner or rug underlayment (it's a wide open mesh covered with soft foam-like plastic), and attached to the treadles with plastic zip-ties.  They work great!

Happy Weaving!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Needle Felting--Fibers and Fairies

 I made some boxes from cardstock and filled them with wool fibers for felting.  They have gone to the shop where I teach (Grandma's Room/Needles & Knots in Crawfordsville, IN) for sale.  These are the first boxes I've made like this.  They were really fun and really easy! 

Start with the finished dimensions of the box.  This little one is about 2" square.  Add twice the desired height (1 1/2" x2=3").  Cut out a square that is the sum of these two--twice the height plus the base of the box (2"+3"=5").  Score the cardstock 1 1/2" from each edge to mark the height of the box.  Cut a wedge out of each corner so it is easier to fold, then fold, tape and viola!  You just made a box!  I punched out the window in each lid prior to taping them. 

And these are my latest needle felted fairies.  They are made over wire armature in a style outlined in the book Beginner's Guide to Needle Felting by Susanna Wallis.  The larger fairy lives at our house.  The smaller one was given as a birthday present to a friend of my youngest daughter (the one who requested, "Please, Mommy, will you make me one of these?" as she pointed to the picture of the dolls in Wallis' book!).

The dolls are made of Romney wool, natural and hand-dyed, plus a bit of unknown breed wool (the browns for the hair), and a little bit of angelia fiber to make the wings on the little fairy sparkle.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My First Needle Felted Hat

Where to start?  I got the final push to needle felt a hat when I found a website that had a "do-it-yourself" multi-felting needle holder.  My modification on what I saw and read was to put two needles through the holes in a button.  Viola!  Instant multi-needle holder!  The photo shows the needles with two buttons.  I ended up adding a third to keep the needles straighter, but it works great!  (And even better, it was free!  I have tons of buttons!--These lavender ones were a gift from my friend Jenny in Michigan many years ago!)

So, the multi-needle holder isn't the only thing I made for this hat.  I also created a foam hat form.  The cheapest I found these online was $15 from Living Felt...but I was having a hard time shelling out even that much money when I wasn't sure how I would like the process--or which size form to get!  So I made my own.  I found a tall plastic container and covered it with two layers of 1/2" foam (leftover from another project a year or more ago).  I made sure the circumference of the form was close to the desired circumference of the hat.

I had previously needle felted six 1/2 ounce batts of wool into a single unit.  I wrapped the needle felted wool around the hat form, trimmed it to size and created the top of the hat.  After a bit of felting, I took the wool off, turned the hat inside out, and felted more on the other side.  I did that a few times.

The last felting step was a wet one--I actually wet felted the needle-felted wool hat (I'm not fond of wet felting.  It seems to take forever!)  I felted the hat over another plastic container--again, one that was the right dimensions for the finished hat, and then let the hat dry. --No one in my family seemed too attached to the hat at this point.


But, after the hat was dry, I had my daughter try it on (technically the hat is for her.  I may borrow it from time to time!) and tested the length...way too long.  I turned up the brim, added some trim, and viola!  A needle-felted hat!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

More Needle Felting

 It all started when I hung up my collection of needle felted ornaments and my oldest daughter said, "They are so cute!".  I suggested that she could make some...  So she found a cat image online and printed it out and needle felted it.  It only took an hour and a half start to finish!  Isn't it cute!

While the cat was being made my youngest (who is almost seven) requested a Dalmatian puppy for her baby doll.  I had her fish out our copy of 102 Dalmatians and set to work.  By the time the cat was finished, a little puppy had appeared on the scene!  The baby doll (and daughter) were pleased!

 We had a beautiful morning with sun on the cornfield recently.  The photo doesn't do the real colors justice, but I took it as a reminder of the different colors of brown turning to gold and then blending with the colors in the sky.  It was really pretty!

And, a friend purchased a bunch of sweaters, yarn, and unfinished sweaters from a yard sale that a friend of hers was having.  I went shopping at my friend's and came home with a big bag of yarns and two unfinished sweaters to unravel.  This one is a mercerized cotton in a cabled yarn.  I'm hopping to weave this into simple cloth (probably plain weave) just to see how the cabled yarn looks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Needle Felting

Two or three years ago I broke down and purchased a set of needle felting needles.  I had observed people needle felting at fiber fairs and thought I ought to at least try it.  Well, I didn't try it then.  I was concerned that I would leave the sharp needles lying around where my children's little fingers or faces or feet would find them. 

Fast forward to a week or two ago and I found myself preparing to do a demonstration on ... needle felting.  I got out my needles, made a foam pad to work on, and started stabbing.  --That's all needle felting really is--stabbing the fiber with the barbed needle to make it felt together.  And I discovered that it was fun, and somewhat therapeutic (very reminiscent of coloring with crayons--simple & soothing).

So, here's a sampling of what I've been making:

 There's a cow near the top, a heart, a mitten, a tree, a ghost, a dolphin, some test circles, and a three dimensional marble with a tail.
 Here's a shot of the construction of my foam work pad.  I put a square of cardboard on the bottom, a dense blue (closed cell) foam next, and then taped a double layer of 1/2" soft foam on top.  The foam that I have typically seen in use by other needle felters is ~2" thick and can be purchased online, but this has worked really well for a starter pad and it was made entirely from materials on hand.
 In my internet reading, I learned that it was possible to needle felt onto denim.  I intentionally chose to felt over the seam on this piece of denim.  It turns out that the multiple layers of fabric at the seam are difficult to felt into--not impossible, just challenging!

I rolled the fiber for each flower petal around a pencil before I laid it on the denim and started stabbing it with the needle.  The yellow yarn was added around the petals after the red was on and the fine wisps of yarn were needle felted into the center last.

 Cookie cutters are often used as templates for needle felting, but I read online that a paper template could be used as well.  Yep, I tried it...and it works!  It's a lot cheaper than purchasing and storing cookie cutters!

I've had trouble achieving the level of detail in my felted pieces as I can cut in my paper, though.  My Christmas tree cut out had three "triangles" to make it look like layers of branches.  My felted tree is just a single bumpy triangle!  Apparently it takes more stabbing in the corners to get the finer details to show up.

My next project is three dimensional felt.  I tried two ways of making felted balls.  The ball on the right was made from fibers wrapped into a small ball and then needle felted.  As the ball felted, more layers of fibers were added and more needle felting done to make it a somewhat solid ball.  The ball on the left was made from just wrapping the wool fibers into a tight ball and sticking it into a nylon stocking.  Both balls were then wet felted in the sink and then dried in the drier.  The needle felted ball is more dense than the one that was just wound and not felted.  I'll see how they behave as I add more needle felted designs to them.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Updates...Construction Progress and Russian Spindle Spinning

 Just a few updates in this post.  We are making progress in our remodeling project.  Most of the drywall is up and we are starting to mud.  The electrical outlets are live and we have lights in the new rooms!  In some ways we have begun the slow slog to the end, and as my husband notes, we just "put up one more sheet of drywall, do one more layer of mud..." and eventually we'll discover that we will have finished the project!

In the mean time, the kids have discovered the stack of cardboard boxes and have been having a blast making forts and castles!

My first skein of yarn from the Russian spindle is finished--not only am I finished spinning the fiber (alpaca in this case), but I've washed and dried the skein of yarn.  It is beautiful--soft and drapey--and I can't wait to spin some more!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Handwoven 2012 Garment Challenge Prize

 Look what arrived on my doorstep today!  Merino roving, fingering weight wool, a wool/bison, and a wool/alpaca yarn.  Wow!

The box was a prize that I won from the 2012 Handwoven Garment Challenge.  I wove the fabric and my husband sewed a vest that won the "tailored garment" category.  And winning came with a prize thanks to Mountain Meadow Wool.

And the yarns and fibers are gorgeous!  The yarns have all been taken out of their bags and petted.  The merino roving has been squished and a tiny bit spun.  Now I have to figure out what to make with all this wonderful fiber goodness!

And, just because I didn't post many photos of this along the way, here's the official print from Handwoven magazine (Sept/Oct 2012).  That's the vest in the center.

Thank you to Handwoven Magazine for hosting the contest and for all their help getting things ready for print.  And thank you to Mountain Meadow Wool for contributing such luscious yarns for a prize!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

House Update (and Applesauce)

 This is the view of the addition from the back of the house.  I had to step into the cornfield a row or two so it could fit in the viewfinder!

Check out the siding, the gutters, and the rain barrels!

Here's a view of some of the gardens at the back of the house.  All of these are just transplants that have been moved (yet again!) to what we hope will be their official homes!
This is the back step.  (Pretty, isn't it!)
 There's progress inside too!  These are some bathroom walls that are now installed so the plumber can come and put in the plumbing vents and lines.  --I'm missing a photo of the electrical wiring and new walls in the shop space, but it is progressing nicely too!  In fact, I swept out one side of the garage!  Hooray!
 Ferns on the back wall of the house.  The hose bib is in place, but not connected to a water supply yet.

 We bought some new plants for this east facing wall--three gooseberry plants.  I'm embarrassed to say I've never even tasted a gooseberry, but apparently they are cousins to currants.  
This is the west side of the addition/garage.  The transplants are back in place and have been mulched.

And, last, but not least, it is applesauce season.  The ida reds were brought in and were expensive this year, but they are big and beautiful! 

(I have to add a disclaimer here.  I help with the applesauce, but for all the rest of the work shown in this post I am just the consultant.  Martin has done all the transplanting, and mulching, and wall building, and wiring...  I think he's amazing!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

16 Shaft Test Sample

This is the test warp for my new AVL 16 shaft loom.  Sett at10 epi, the yarns are mohair/acrylic blends that I used for Elena's cloak fabric a few years ago.  I have 8 ends in each color stripe.  The draft is a plain weave/2-2 twill that I modified from something I saw on Handweaving.net. 

I am learning to treadle without mistakes.  It is a bit of a challenge.  The pattern is only 16 bars (which is so small compared to my friend's 90 bar pattern!), but I have occasionally discovered errors in the patterning.  I'm not 100% sure what is happening.  Part may be not depressing the left, "release" treadle completely.  Part may be other factors that are causing the shafts to catch strangely.  I caught the mistake twice and fixed it while weaving the 6-10" above.

Check out the fabric at the sides of the weaving.  I went to a Weaving Indiana meeting on Saturday and mentioned the purchase of my loom.  After the meeting I got to talking with one of my friends, who also has recently acquired a 16 shaft AVL production dobby loom (her's is 60" wide).  It was fun to swap stories and tips.  Putting the fabric strips on the sandpaper beam was Mary Alice's suggestion.  It is a wonderful way to save my arms from getting scratched! 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Fiber Call Out!

In connection with "Grandma's Room", a teaching location here in town, I am helping with a Fiber Call Out for Montgomery County.  Knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers, hookers, dyers of all levels (even wanna-be's!) are welcome to join us.  We will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 11th at Grandma's Room in Crawfordsville, IN at 6:30pm.  Hope to see you there!

Our demonstration for the evening is "Handling Wool".  We'll be playing with wool--looking at characteristics such as fiber length and crimp--and making hand felted balls to take home.  The wools in the photo, from right to left, are Cormo (pink), Shetland (copper), and unknown (dark brown).  Guess which one hand felts the best?  Yep!  The unknown wool.  I don't know it's breed.  I can take some guesses.  I can tell you what it's not...  But it rolled into beautiful felted balls with almost no work!  I can't wait to take it to the group on Tuesday!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Construction Season

 Construction has started on the addition to our home.  The crawl space has been dug, the footers poured, and the block work done.  The corresponding cement pad for the garage expansion has been poured.  So far, we are all still alive (me from tearing out my hair and stressing over the project; my husband from doing his part of the work)!  The roof trusses arrived today.  Here's to projects!

While all that is going on outside, I got a new construction project for inside:

Yep.  It's a new loom.  It's definitely not a table loom, but it is a 16 harness loom!  Good thing we're building that addition out back!  This is an AVL production dobby, 48" wide, 16H.  I'm almost finished getting it put together.  What should my first warp be???  Probably something in 10/2 cotton since I'm comfortable with that yarn.  Towels?  Yardage?  I wonder what the waste is going to be on this loom!  I'm excited!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Special Russian Spindles

I volunteer at the local art gallery.  One of the wood turners there was watching me spin and we got to talking.  I mentioned that I was interested in Russian spindles and he offered to turn some for me.

He turned the prototype at the end of the spring. (It's at the left in the upper photo.) I tweaked the sketch some and took it back to him.  He has since had a stroke, but he still turned out four new spindles for me to try.  I've sanded them to get a point at both ends.  My husband showed me how to use a brillo pad as the final round of "sandpaper" to make an almost polished piece.  Each spindle has been wiped with mineral oil.  They spin beautifully!  My favorites are on the outer two edges of the photo--the long, yellow-ish one on the left and the rosy-er wood on the right. Both of these are denser woods and spin longer than the others.

Here's an overview of the sanding I did to finish these:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grape Juice and Jelly

Our neighbor brought these over!  We were so excited!  It didn't take long to rinse the grapes, pick them off the stems and get them on the stove. 

Once cooked, we passed the grapes through a food mill (it spits juice out one side and seeds out an end--great for processing apples, tomatoes, etc.  Here's a link to one similar to ours.) and then strained the juice through my jelly bags. The bags are hanging from our level.  It was the only thing long enough to reach from counter to counter and I needed something strong and sturdy!

After that, it was time to make jelly.  Yum!  Home made grape jelly is delicious!  We got two batches of jelly and a pitcher of juice from this batch of grapes. 

And then we had a knock on the door last night--a second box of grapes, even bigger than the first!  The kids were headed to bed, but Martin & I got the second box of grapes started right away!  Now we have another batch of jelly and some canned juice to put on the shelves!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Tree Removal Process

We are preparing for some work to be done on our house. The first step in the processes was the removal of two large maple trees--one on each side of the back yard.  I must have spent three or four hours outside watching and photographing the work.  Like so many forms of skilled labor, the tree removal was an art form.  From the man up in the air cutting the limbs, holding them so they would fall close to the trees, to the coordinated effort of the four-man ground crew protecting windows, removing limbs, and keeping the workspace clean.  It was amazing.

Here is the process in a nutshell:

The cherry picker squeezed in between the house and the tree that needed to come down.

After two hours, the foliage was gone and the trunk was all that was standing.
The stump grinder came a few days later.

And now, we are in the middle of cutting the wood, splitting it and stacking it for winter.