Friday, December 26, 2014


Do you ever feel like you're a novice swimmer jumping into the deep end when it comes to color?  Me too!  I'm on a new color journey (swim?). Here's where things stand:

The beginning.
I went shopping at my friend Robin Edmundson's etsy shop.  I love her colors for cotton roving and finally decided to buy a color I've been eyeing for months!  While looking around, I discovered she had yarn grab bags for sale as well and you chose them by color family:  "bright cool", "bright warm", "earthy cool", "earthy warm".  I don't know about you, but there are times when I want to choose every last color in a piece and other times when I just want someone to fill my bag with pretty crayons and let me play (without having to think about which crayons got put in the bag!).  So, I purchased a "bright warm" grab bag.

This is what I have left after winding a warp.  There are two fine cotton boucle yarns (~24wpi), one cotton with a binder (~24 wpi), a rayon boucle (~22 wpi), and a nylon ribbon.  They are lovely yarns!  I have woven with the fine cotton boucle before when I won one of Robin's give-aways a year ago.  The trick with this group of yarns was how to use them in my color-limited way and have them look fun, nice, and well, awesome ('cause the colors are beautiful!).

So here's what I found:  Celeste Pryde has an article in the March/April 2000 issue of Handwoven magazine where she discusses weaving a Bronson Lace "log cabin" with multiple colors.  She uses silks instead of cottons, but the color use is fascinating!  She winds mini-warp bundles--enough ends for one of her two lace blocks (24 ends in this case)--and each mini-warp has two contrasting yarns.  The contrast can be color, texture, value...or even no contrast!  For a 28" wide piece she wound ~17 of these mini-warps.

So, I'm going to try it.  I had already played around with some of my 10/2 cotton yarns, looking to find similar color combinations as this grab bag from Robin.  I pulled out all the yarns.  I made yarn pairs--most of them were contrasts of color and texture--and I wound 9 mini-warp bundles and hung them over a cupboard door.

Here they are.  I've been moving them around and taking photos of them.  I knew I wouldn't be able to remember which order I liked if I didn't document them somehow!  I pulled my husband into the project and he suggested one of these orders and I really like it.

 But, check out what happens when I grey scale these photos to look at the color values:
The color order in the top left is a gradual shift from a dark value to a light and back to dark.  None of the other value shifts are as smooth.  The middle two have a shift, but there is a more abrupt dark to light shift from the left moving to the right.  The upper left color order is currently hanging on the cupboard door.  I'll look at it again tomorrow and hopefully warp a loom!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ends Per Inch, Errors and Summer & Winter Surprise

Ever have a 'great idea' only to watch it fail at every turn?  After weaving the placemats for my friend I thought that I could use my cotton chenille to make wonderful baby blankets.  I included a bit of plain weave sampling at the end of the placemat warp, did some calculations and went to work.

There were, of course, limiting factors in my work.  To weave a wide blanket (I like 40" square baby blankets) I would need to use my AVL Production Dobby loom.  That was ok.  I'm not very fast at warping it, mostly due to lack of practice, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to practice!  Unfortunately, I only have one reed that reaches the width of the AVL.  It's a 10-dent reed and my test piece had been woven at 24 ends per inch (epi).  I could thread the 10-dent reed 2-2-3 for 23 epi or 2-3 for 25 epi.  I opted for the "easier" 2-3 threading.

Here's where things got sticky.  I made some denting errors. Some of them I was able to fix right away, but some would have required re-threading the entire reed. (Can you see where this is going?)  I wasn't willing to do that.  I had 1150 ends.  I didn't want to re-thread the reed.  So I didn't.  
Not good. Not good at all.  So I ended up with warp stripes randomly placed throughout my baby blankets.  They aren't even.  They weren't planned.  They aren't even the same type of error!  There are multiple spots where there are too many threads per dent and one spot where there are too few.  :(
Two blankets showing denting errors.

The other part of my trouble is my choice of ends per inch for the warp.  The placemat warp had been sett at 24 epi and was a relatively narrow warp.  The washed sample is lovely--soft and fuzzy  and the colors show up well.  My baby blanket warp was sett at 25 epi and was a wide warp --44".  Wide warps don't pack as tightly as narrow warps, neither do warps with extra ends per inch.  I was doomed!

Ok.  So it's not that bad.  Sure the cloth doesn't look like my sample and I really liked my sample.  Sure the cloth has irregularities in it, so I won't put it in the art gallery for sale.  But, if I hem them, I'll have two baby blankets or lap blankets to give to friends.  If I never show them my sample, they'll never know what they're missing.  Right?

While the baby blanket warp was on the avl I got to looking through some of my back issues of Handwoven Magazine.  I was looking for articles on using color, but came across a familiar graph and paused to look it over.  

 This wall hanging is a Mary Atwater piece and I remember seeing it in her book "Recipe Book: Patterns for Handweavers".  It is designed to be woven as Summer & Winter pickup.  The interesting thing is that the instructions provide two threadings and tie-ups.  One is the typical S&W threading with tie-downs on shafts 1 and 2.  The other is a straight twill threading !!!  Wow!  I didn't know that you could do Summer & Winter on a straight twill threading!  It turns out that you can!!!

I wove this little fish at the end of my baby blanket warp which was threaded straight twill on 12 shafts. I keep hoping that I'll like weaving pick-up, but I don't yet!  Still, the ability to do various weaves on a single threading is exciting!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

24 Hour Scarf Project

I had a little bit of yarn left over from the Alaska (Kenai) hat I knit.  I added an old skein of handspun--it was spun from the same fiber that I used for the color base for the top and bottom of the hat (dark brown & green sections) and it worked well as a fill-in yarn.

The piece was about 6.5" wide on the loom and sett at 8 ends per inch.  I tried a couple different wefts--first a tan, commercially spun alpaca, then a dark green with specks of red and gold handspun merino.  The dark green merino was a very fine lace weight yarn.  I ended up using it doubled--it was closer in size to the warp yarns that way--and wove away.  The project was on and off the loom in less than 24 hours!  After washing it, there was an extra 24 hours wait for it to dry.
Now the hat and scarf are a set and get worn regularly. :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dragon Skin (aka textured yarn and knitting)

It all started with a stop at my local yarn store.  Really, that's all it was--a stop to see what was new and what was pretty!  I came home with something only a bit unusual.  It was a length of wool roving dyed in beautiful fall colors.  There was no makers mark on the label, just the type of wool and the weight.   I thought I would look at it for a while and then put it it my stash.

But I didn't. My oldest came down with a bug that kept her home from school for two or three days.  What did I do while taking care of my sick one?  I began to spin.

This lovely merino roving was irregularly dyed.  There was no true repeat of colors.  The colors did not extend across the width of the roving.  It was very random!  I finally decided that the best way to show off these beautiful colors would be to spin the roving into a thick and thin yarn.  (This decision was heavily influenced by Sarah Anderson's book The Spinner's Book of Yarn Design, where she starts her students off by spinning thick and thin as an exercise for learning control over drafting....It's a cool trick!)  I split the roving lengthwise into strips and spun my colorful singles.  It was so much fun!  It was just spinning for the love of it! 

To keep the colors separate, I plied the thick and thin single with a thin single of black Polwarth yarn.  My friend Wendy Feller gave me this fleece and I am slowly combing through the wool.  It spins beautifully!
Here's the yarn in it's thick and thin glory!  The thick parts aren't 100% evenly spaced, but they are regular and I was pleased!

Deciding what to do with a thick and thin yarn came next.  I ended up using a Ravelry pattern "Baktus" as my starting point.  To make the piece more textured, I used stockinette stitch for the bulk of the work, but for the thick sections I purled making a pronounced bump in the fabric.  :)

Here's the scarf and a skein of yarn:

The headband is knit as a moebius strip.  I followed Cat Bordhi's cast on technique (see ) on a circular needle (us#5).  The piece grows from the center width-wise towards the edges.  It was a fun knit.  I had to shift from mostly knitting to mostly purling at the half-way point around the loop in order to keep the fabric all (mostly) stockinette.  The transition is just visible in the band.  My finger marks the transition point--to the right are purl stitches (the back of the stockinette fabric) to the left are knit stitches.
 By twisting the headband at the transition, the band appears to be all stockinette stitch.

Lastly, I made a pair of fingerless mitts to complete the set.  I didn't follow any one pattern to knit these.  They start with  k1 p1 ribbing at the wrists, then shift to stockinette stitch with an increase for the thumb.  After I knit enough to get to the base of the thumb, I bound off the stitches I had added in to make the hole for the thumb.  Then it was more stockinette stitch and a little bit more of k1p1 ribbing around the fingers and Ta-Da! they were done!

This seems like a lot to get from one bit of roving!  The dyed merino roving was 6 oz.  I didn't weigh how much Polwarth I used, but I'm guessing it was 3-4 oz, maybe even 5oz. For 9-12 oz of yarn, it seems more reasonable to have been able to make so much.  The best part is how much I enjoyed the making of each part!

PS.  My oldest daughter really likes dragons.  She has a few figurines, she draws them in her spare time...When I gave her the scarf and made the headband she was trying to come up with a name for them.  After a few false starts (including "sparkles"--blech!), she said "Dragon skin" and the name has stuck.  The pieces are bumpy, yet smooth and mottled, but coordinated.  And, because they are 100% wool and wool is self-extinguishing, they are partially fire proof-- definitely Dragon Skin!  :)