Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Weaving Like a Scot

It's time for the 2011 San Antonio Highland Games!  This year I decided to make a sash in the MacLean of Duart dress tartan.  It'll be a birthday gift for my mom.  Shhhh!  Don't tell her!

MacLean Sash Detail
The MacLean tartan is one of the most complicated I've ever woven.  There are 7 colors in it, which depletes my stock of shuttles!  I'm forced to use the handmade shuttle that's so pretty, but doesn't work very well.  If I had time and money, I'd probably run over to Yarnorama in Paige, TX and pick up a Bluster Bay bullnose shuttle.  Heck, I might just do it anyway!

The large sections of red (24 shots) and green (16 shots) are a pleasure to weave.  The beautiful blue areas centered in the green section are... something of a pain.  Six of the seven colors come together there, usually only two shots per color.  Working the ends in and clipping the tails takes quite a bit of time.  On the other hand, I'm in no rush to finish this, so time is on my side!

Warping was interesting this time.  With all the color changes and potential for mistakes, I chose to warp in five groups.  The three red sections and two green sections were measured separately and sleyed into the reed just after being taken off the warping board.  No problems there!  Well, not until I discovered that I had miscounted the very first red section and had 12 more threads than I needed.  I said  few choice words and measured / sleyed the rest of the groups.  At the last red group I contemplated moving the 12-too-many warp threads from one group to the other.  Madelyn van der Hoogt will probably send lightning to strike me, but I carefully untied the choke tie on the first group, removed the 12 threads, moved them to the other side of the work, added them into the last group and retied everybody's choke tie.  And it worked!  That was a happy dance right there!

And then things got interesting.  I used the pull-back-on-groups-of-warp-threads method to tension the warp as I was beaming it on... and had at least two warp threads break.  One was close enough to the beginning of the beaming that I unrolled the warp and replaced the thread.  The second was closer to the end of the work, so I just repaired it as I would any other broken warp thread.  But then, as I was tying onto the front rod, all four tails on one group broke off at the knot!  Rats!!  I think I was using the tension I needed for the cotton towels, forgetting that the bamboo is much lighter weight and more delicate.  Gentle, gentle!  Still and all, I now enjoy the warping process much more.

MacLean Tartan on the Loom
But once I got it all tied on and tensioned properly, the actual weaving went very well.  Slow, but well.  I do love this tartan.  I'm hoping that demonstrating it won't result in many mistakes.  I still cringe when I see the spot in last year's Bluebonnet tartan shawl where I missed two groups of colors in the weft.  Sigh.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weaving Like a Viking

While getting ready to weave Linda's Shawl, I noticed another project in the same magazine (Handwoven, September / October 2009 issue).  It was for a set of six kitchen towels woven in unmercerized cotton in an unusual broken twill design.  Apparently, the draft was developed from a piece of 10th century Viking cloth. It's pretty and six towels?  That could fill the gift stash for a while, especially if I used a neutral warp and did three sets of two towels in different weft colors.  So I ordered the yarn and planned to warp it on the loom after I finished Linda's Shawl.

Between the time I decided to do this project and the time I actually started measuring the warp, I came across Madelyn van der Hoogt's video on Warping Your Loom. Warping the loom is right up there with visiting the dentist in my book.  I love it after I'm done, but I'm not fond of the process.  I've been debating getting this video since it came out, and I finally decided to give it a go.  I got the download version - possibly not the best idea as it's a l-o-n-g download and you don't have any menu or chapter select options.  But it's as close to instant gratification as a long download can be.  I watched the first part of the first DVD.

Holy cow!  I have SO been doing things wrong all these years.  My excuse is that I'm self-taught.  So I decided to watch the video through again and use her methods.  I admit, I approached it with a little trepedation, but I stuck with it and in the end?  A perfectly wound and tensioned warp and no tense me!  Warping has never gone so smoothly.  But that wasn't the only surprise.

Viking Towels on the Loom

As I sat down to throw the first shots, I did things as tentatively as I always do.  Open the shed, unwind some thread from the bobbin, throw the shuttle, catch the shuttle (this will become inportant later), fiddle with the selvedges, beat and change sheds in one smooth motion.  Using the first few inches to get used to how much to beat, I discovered that this pattern needs quite a bit of force to pack the weft.  That's not unusual - that's why they call it a beater.  However, something compelled me to try to see how smoothly and quickly I could actually weave. This is a tight weave that can take some abuse.  So I did.  And, lo and behold, it turns out that I don't need to be tentative at all.  I can see where a different shuttle design might be a good idea, but my shuttles work and I have them!  This project is just flying along, which delights me!

Oh, the thing about catching the shuttle?  It happened this afternoon.  I was weaving along when I threw the shuttle with my left hand and, thinking about something else no doubt, forgot to get my right hand up in time to catch it.  The poor shuttle came flying out of the shed, past the loom and hit the wall.  Fortunately, nothing seems any the worse for wear, but I obviously need to be paying more attention!
Viking Weave Detail
It's such a pretty pattern and seems simple...  until you think about the looms available to 10th century Vikings.  How they had the patience to do this kind of design when they had to pick up individual threads to do it, I don't know.  Of course, they probably weren't thinking about what might be developed in the future.

Linda's Shawl
Linda's Finished Shawl
It's done!  Linda's Shawl is off the loom, the fringe is finished, the ends are worked back in and the whole thing has been wet-finished.  It could probably use anothe ironing, but it's done.  It's very different from the same shawl woven in bamboo - much softer and more textural.  I'm pretty happy with it.  The selvedges aren't what I'd like and there are one or two mistakes, but it's so pretty, hopefully nobody will notice the defects.  I ordered enough Malabrigo Lace yarn in a dusty rose to make another shawl just like this one.  Although I may change up the pattern just a bit.  Such fun!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Keeping Calm and Weaving On

Linda's Shawl on the Loom
I love my cats.  I really do.  Their terminal cuteness has saved their little rear ends more often than I can say.  Ming, the Siamese, doesn't get into much, but is insistent about getting us up in the morning.  At the moment, we don't have to be up at any particular time, but he has taken it as a personal mission to have us out of bed by 8.  There is no level to which he will not stoop in his efforts to get us out of bed.  When forced to it, he'll resort to what my husband calls the "B&B Run."  I'll let you, Gentle Reader, figure out the meaning, but suffice it to say that having a 12-pound cat run over your private parts will wake you up in the morning!  Calliope, other than having disappeared for almost three interminable days, doesn't get into too terribly much.  Unless, of course, you count digging up African Violets, stealing rocks out of the Lucky Bamboo to use as Cat Hockey Pucks, pulling up the carpet and generally being demanding.  Then there's Myst.  She's the littlest.  She's cute and sweet.  She has the most winsome face and shy little mannerisms.  My son took one look at her and reminded me that it's always the quiet ones you have to watch out for.  How right he was!

Happily Tying On
I got Linda's Shawl warped onto the loom last night.  At one point, I thought I was going to scream and throw things across the room.  Then I realized that I'd been working on it for too long and needed to take a break. After making pizza and feeding the family, I came back to it and poof!  It all went on beautifully.  I tied on to the front apron rod and ran through the sheds.  Oops!  One pair of crossed threads.  Easy-peasy to fix.  I tied back on, checked the tension and threw the first shots to spread the warp... and discovered two more threading mistakes.  Okay, no sweat.  I fixed those and did one last tension adjustment.  And we're off for real!  About 8 inches of weaving later, I admitted to myself that the right selvege just wasn't right.  I can't imagine how I could have been so consistently loose, but it was bugging me.  I went to bed.

This morning, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as my father would say, I sat bravely down at the loom and pulled out all eight inches.  Surprisingly, it came out easily and re-wove perfectly.  I absolutely adore this shawl.

Okay, so what's with the cats?  Well, after lunch, I decided to deal with the latest round of medical bills from my daughter's surgery and all the insane regulations restricting the use of HSA's.  This is enough to put me in a cranky mood right there.  Uber-governmental regulation has cost myself and my husband our jobs as well as pretty much destroyed the company for which we worked and the bank to which the company was attached.  Then to add insult to injury, insane governmental regulation has made it so using OUR money to pay for our daughter's surgical expenses is time-consuming and fraught with... let's just say stupidity and leave it at that.  You, Gentle Reader, will not be surprised that I wasn't in the best of all possible moods after dealing with the latest round.  And then I heard it.  Noises from the loom.  Except that I didn't know it was from the loom.  The cats love to play in paper.  Why, I couldn't tell you, but they do.  They're especially fond of paper I use as warp separator.  If I leave any on the floor, it gets used as a cat toy and pretty much shredded and destroyed.  I'm getting better about picking it up.  But I knew there was one sheet that needed to be put away.  I assumed Myst was in that sheet.

Wrong!  She had discovered the paper hanging from the warp beam, unrolling as the warp was advanced.  When I got in there, I found the paper shredded and a small grey and white kitten on top of the back beam and the warp with a guilty look on her face... and a broken warp thread.  I won't say there was cat spit on the broken thread, but I won't say there wasn't.  Little rat!

So I hauled out the hooks, the T-pins, and a length of yarn left over from the warping.  It wasn't all that big a deal to repair.  And then... I caught her on the loom again!  She hopped down when she saw me coming and batted innocently at the paper.  So then, my friends, I did an awful thing.  I sat at the loom and began to weave.  When I got to the treadling where three of the four harnesses are in the air...  I let all three of them drop with a BANG!!  She shot out from under the loom like a bullet.

That'll teach her!

For probably the length of time it takes her to get in her afternoon snooze.  I anticipate a running battle.

But it's still a gorgeous shawl!

Shawl Detail

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weaving and More Weaving

What a precious time this is! I'm taking this time to get projects on the looms, to finally come to grips with all the stages of weaving. I've never liked warping. It's daunting.  All those threads going more or less helter-skelter.  George built me a warping mill for the stand he built for my rigid heddle looms. It's WONDERFUL!  It spins back and forth.  I can measure out the warp with much less effort and much faster than I can on the warping board.  I've disassembled the warping board.  I won't sell it just yet, but the day may come.  The tensioning device he built me for warping is a dream.  It lets me work with the warp threads much more easily than ever before so I feel myself relaxing more.

Linda's Shawl

My dear friend, Linda Permann, saw the bamboo shawl and asked if I could make one for her out of some Malabrigo Lace yarn she had in her stash.  How could I refuse??  I got the warp measured out a couple of days ago on my spiffy warping mill.  George cleaned and waxed the 36" Schacht Standard loom.  I want to weave more on that loom. I've had it the longest of any of my looms - 25 years or so - but I haven't woven much on it.  I can't imagine why I haven't used it more.  It's the most comfortable of them all, I think.  Anyway, that's where Linda's Shawl is going.  I'm enchanted with the yarn.  Anything Malabrigo is soft and wonderful in the hand. The subtle tonal variations of the yarn are beautiful.  I'm hoping they'll be visible in the weaving.  If you look carefully, you can see it in the detail photo:

Second Mitered Scarf

I really like this project.  I admit I had my doubts about these yarns when I got them warped on and started weaving.  I'm over my doubts now.  The long slow color changes in the Mini Mochi are gorgeous.  And the subtle sparkle of the Starry (on the right) is gorgeous, too.  I admit the colors are muted, but I like muted colors.  Warping this baby was a nightmare.  I chose not to wait for the Warp Tensioning Device.  I should have.  I don't know why this would have been so much more difficult than the last scarf I warped on, but it was.  I think I was just tense yesterday and that didn't help.

Off to Austin now!  We're going to see Cirque du Soleil's Dralion and we have killer seats!  We all adore Cirque du Soleil and I think Dralion is either my first or second favorite of their shows.  Woot!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Windy Hill

They told us that the Hill is always windy.  Maximum winds of 31 mph gusting to 44 mph is... well... a bit brisk.  Weaving in 31 mph winds is interesting.  Spinning in 31 mph winds is an adventure.  Drop spinning in 31 mph winds is an entirely new experience.  The lulls when the wind dropped to below 15 mph felt blessedly still.  Sadly, they were few and far between.  The St Francis Upon the Hill Renaissance Faire was fun this year!!

So what's with the weather??  The week before the fair was mild, sunny and truly spring-like. Saturday dawned grey, windy, cold and rainy.  Fortunately, there wasn't much rain and what there was cleared out by the opening.  However, we had to wait until the last possible minute to set up the loom and spinning wheel.

I'll say this for wrestling an 8-harness loom to an outdoor event.  Short of a hurricane or tornado, the thing isn't going anywhere.  The same could not be said for anything else!  We foolishly choose to take one of the antique spinning wheels.  The poor thing was knocked down by the wind twice before we figured out how to orient it (edge-on into the wind presenting the least profile possible).  Anything not anchored down simply blew away.  I figure the downwind neighbors had a small sheep's worth of wool by closing.  Bits of roving were constantly taking flight.

Having said all this, it was a good fair from our point of view.  We were constantly busy.  Cassandra had trouble with the drop spindles in the wind, so she switched to demonstrating the weaving most of the time.  I spelled her with weaving, but mostly worked the spinning wheel.  George, the brave, kept up his drop spinning school.

We had a few scares.  The harnesses on the loom wouldn't fall completely down as they were supposed to.  We think this was because the loom was on slightly uneven ground, which might have introduced some torque into the frame.  (Note to self:  Always put the loom on the most even ground possible.)  The driveband on the spinning wheel broke necessitating a quick repair. (Note to self:  Always take a spare driveband!)  Then the mother-of-all got misaligned with the wheel causing the driveband to throw.  Once we made a few quick adjustments, spinning on the wheel worked rather well.  I had to tear off small pieces of roving and frequently join, though, as long lengths of roving would quickly become windblown and matted.  George's drop spinning school was more of a challenge than usual.  With a lightweight spindle, the tussle between gravity and the wind was a draw.  The spindles would drop... at a 45-degree angle.  That and the wind kept them from spinning for very long.  (I don't think there's a note-to-self here.)

In spite of it all, we almost finished the pinwheel scarf.  I finished it up today and it's setting on the loom.  I'll wet-finish it tomorrow.  The more I look at it, the greater the temptation becomes to make it into a bodice or vest.  I managed to get quite a bit of pale pink bamboo spun.  If I have enough, it's destined to become an Atwater-Bronson shawl.  It'll be a scarf if I don't have enough.

The huge shawl is Wonderful!!  It's so big and warm and worth every minute of agony I went through making it.  Cassandra and I took turns wrapping up in it.  I did get one scare as somehow it got hooked on the spinning wheel flyer.  I don't think it suffered any permanent damage, though.

It's wonderful doing a fair at a church - especially St. Francis Episcopal Church.  Again this year, we were stationed by the labyrinth.  At the end of the fair last year, I took the time to walk it.  Cassandra wanted to walk it this year.

Walking the Labyrinth

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More ATC's

I'm taking the ATC's from last month to the swap tonight.  I tweaked them a little.  The Valentine's ATC had a cupid added to make it fit the theme - Punches.  After I made them (and panicked about the kittens) I tried to use a punch to punch a heart and embellishment through the entire ATC.  That SO did not work!  The punches aren't very strong and when I do an ATC, I do it to last for life.  Much too thick for a punch to get through.  So I thought about negative space - or positive space, in this case.  Usually punches are used to make holes.  I took the cupid shape that I punched out of pink paper and glued it to the finished card.  It's kind of cute!
Finished Valentine's (Punch) ATC

I made the second one to fit the theme Inspired By an Image.  The image was a scrapbook page crafted from one of 7 Gypsies recent collections.  I actually own some of the papers from the collection, but I didn't use them.  Something about the bird and the colors hit me and I used Gecko Galz papers and ephemera to make the card.  It reminded me of the Victor Hugo quote that I used in one of the posts below:
Be like the bird
that, pausing in her flight
awhile on boughs too slight,
feels them give way beneath her and yet sings
knowing that she hath wings
Isn't it funny that I came up with this design about two weeks before I really needed it.  We're still working through the "what happens next" questions, and through it all, I'm trying to remember that I do have wings.
Be Like The Bird