Friday, September 29, 2006

Undulating Shadow Weave 2 - Hemstitching

By Leigh

Well, since I don't have three hands, I will have to wait until I can get someone to take some photos before I give a progress report on woolcombing my Leicester Longwool.

In the meantime, I have finished weaving my undulating shadow weave. As you may recall, my original plan was to use it for jacket front panels, but during the course of weaving I changed my mind and decided to make it a table runner.

Hemstitching the completed fell before removing it from the loom was no problem.

Hemstitching with a blunt bent point needle.I really like to use these blunt, bent point needles for hemstitching. They make it so easy to work the needle through taut fabric. I purchased them about five years ago at the Naked Sheep Yarn Shop in Black Mountain, NC.

The other end was a little more challenging to hemstitch since it was after the fact. Cheryl had suggested weighting the fabric, and I did give this some serious consideration.

One cat volunteered to help (the other was too busy taking a nap.)

Catzee claimed the fabric immediately.
From a distance, the color becomes quite softened. The effect is pretty much lost in the lighting and jpg optimization.

I pulled the fabric over the breast beam and tried to weight it on the floor to give it a little tautness. First I tried using a heavy book as a weight, then a heavy book plus a cast iron iron, and finally a heavy book plus cast iron iron plus cat. None of these proved to be very helpful.

A failed weighting system.I really couldn't get it taut enough with this system. In the end, I managed the hemstitching rather awkwardly with no weight and then cut the fabric off the loom. All that remains now is to weave in the ends (which are sticking out of the selvedges since I first intended it to be yardage), and then wash and press.

Posted 29 Sept. 2006 at

Related Posts:
Shadow Weave Profiles
Undulating Shadow Weave 1 - Weaving
Undulating Shadow Weave 3 - Finishing
Shadow Weave Samples 1 - Begins the series of samples

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Leicester Longwool 2 - Sorting & Washing

A valuable resource for the wool comber.Several years ago I traded M some angora rabbit fiber and cotton lint for Peter Teal's Hand Woolcombing and Spinning. But it wasn't until I started working on this Leicester Longwool fleece that I actually took a serious look at it. I have finally decided to take the plunge and try my hand at wool combing. Mr. Teal's book is well suited for the beginning wool comber as it is very practical and down to earth. So it is a good resource for me.

The first thing I did was take a close look at my fleece and attempt to sort it out. Since it had been previously washed, I wasn't able to lay it out like a raw fleece. However, my untrained eye was able to divide it into 2 general groups. One of the finest looking, and the other of the less fine. From the first pile, I began to sort it out according to staple length:

Samples of Leigh's Leicester Longwool sorted according to staple length.
These range from 6 inches on the left to 10 inches on the right. I chose the 8 inch pile to start with as I seem to have the most of that.

The fleece was given to me over a year ago and survived 2 long distance moves including being stored one summer on a hot un-air conditioned Florida porch. Because of this the grease was pretty tacky, so I decided to give it another wash.

Staples tied in little nylon mesh packets, ready to wash.
I used the little packet method Patsy Zawistoski recommends on her video, Spinning Wool – Basics and Beyond. I love this video because it has so much excellent information on it. I've watched it and my other spinning videos numerous times over the years, sometimes for specific information, and sometimes just to see if I can glean another tip to improve my spinning.

I folded small groups of staples into nylon netting and secured each with a string. This maintains the integrity of the lock structure, which is necessary for woolcombing.

The soaking wash.I used the hottest water I could from my tap and added a kettleful of boiling water, plus a few squirts of Dawn dishwashing liquid.

I only let them sit for about 10 minutes. Lanolin melts between 110 and 120 degrees F (43 to 49 degreed C), so the important thing is to not let the wash water cool below this temp. If it does, the grease will begin to solidify again, which negates why I'm washing it in the first place! [UPDATE: I have since learned that this information on washing out lanolin is not correct. For what I learned, click here.]

I used the same temperature for my rinse soaks, and added a glug of white vinegar to the second to the last rinse. (That was a scientific glug, not a household glug ;)

I then spread the staples out on a towel to dry. In the mean time, I'll review the combing process itself.

Related Posts:
Rare Breed Sweater - Leicester Longwool 1
Adventures in Woolcombing
Leicester Longwool 3 - Two Yarns

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rare Breed Sweater – Leicester Longwool 1

My Leicester Longwool is the last rare fleece I have to work on for my Rare Breed Sweater.

The fleece was given to my by my friend Betty in North Carolina, a handspinner who has bred and raised sheep for a long time. It came from Alex, her Leicester Longwool wether, a very handsome fellow.

When I first received the fleece, I fell in love with its luster and curls.

Lovely Leicester  Longwool fleece.The fleece had been heavily skirted and washed before I got it, so it is quite clean, except for a small anount of VM. It was still slightly greasy as well, retaining some of it's natural lanolin. There are no short bits or second cuts.

The full length of the staples (pulling out the waves and curls) ranges from 6 - 10 inches. The crimps and spiraling curls measure 2 per inch.

A sampling of Leicester Longwool locks. The tips are sound.

The fleece is very fine, soft, and silky to touch.

I did a little research on the breed at the Oklahoma State University Breeds of Livestock website. I learned that it is also known as English Leicester and is a very old breed. It was developed it the 1700s from the Old Leicester breed. George Washington first imported them from the UK to the US.

Fleeces generally weigh from 11 to 15 pounds and have a micron count of 32-38.

For more information on the breed, visit the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders' Association.

My plan is to remove the grease and comb it on my mini wool combs. My immediate goal is to spin enough of a sample for one sheep motif on my rare breed sweater. I reckon I'll decide how to use the rest of it after I'm spun some.

Related Posts:
Leicester Longwool 2 - Sorting & Washing
Adventures in Woolcombing
Leicester Longwool 3 - Two Yarns
Winter Knitting Project
Rare Breed Sweater Swatches
TA-DAH! Rare Breed Sweater Done!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Undulating Shadow Weave 1- Weaving

By Leigh

Weaving on the undulating shadow weave has been progressing nicely. It has a fairly long treadling sequence which has the potential to be confusing. But actually it's been easy to catch on to, and fun to weave. The colors I'm using are quite dark, but I hopefully the subtle pattern can be seen in this photo:

Undulating shadow weave in 8/2 and 16/2 cottons.
I'm especially happy that the warp tension is even and the fell is straight. I have struggled for years with tension problems, but it hasn't been until I started experimenting with warping back-to-front that I actually made progress in conquering them.

My first plan was to use this fabric for front panels for a jacket. However the more I weave, the more I see a table runner appearing before my eyes. I didn't hemstitch it at the beginning, but perhaps I can do this before the whole thing is cut completely off the loom(?)

My other news is that I have had a slight set back in accumulating more half gallon milk jugs to fill with water for warping weights. Since this warp, my goal has been to have more weights so that I can have smaller bouts as I beam the warp. With the help of my almost-no-longer-a-teenage son who still likes milk on his cereal, I've been able to save a few more. Then I saw this:

Catzee and her newest toy.Yes, she's trotting down the hall with it in her mouth. Here's a close-up of what she did to it:

The punctured milk jug, useless for my purposes.I can't fathom what is so attractive about it unless her super kitty smeller detected the faint odor of milk, which certainly must be rather sour by now. To me it just smells like plastic. Or maybe 5 months is an age when kittens teethe. I don't know. I just know that I'll have to find a safer place for the next ones.

Posted 20 Sept. 2006 at

Related Posts:
A Weaving Setback - What else Catzee did
Shadow Weave Profiles
Undulating Shadow Weave 2 - Hemstitching
Undulating Shadow Weave 3 - Finishing
Shadow Weave Samples 1 - Begins the series of samples

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shadow Weave Profiles

By Leigh

It has been said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. One of the challenges I had in preparing this warp, is that the shadow weave pattern was not written as a draft or even a profile, but rather a description in paragraph form. It is the undulating 4 shaft shadow weave found on page 80 of Margaret B. Windeknecht's Color-and-Weave II.

The description goes something like this:
Blocks A, B, & C are threaded 4 times for a total of 8 ends per block
Blocks D, A, & B are threaded 3 times for a total of 6 ends per block
Blocks C, D, & A are threaded twice, for a total of 4 ends per block
Blocks B, C, D, & A are threaded once, for a total of 2 ends per block
Blocks B, C, & D are threaded twice, for a total of 4 ends per block
Blocks A, B, & C are threaded 3 times for a total of 6 ends per block
Block D is threaded 4 times for a total of 8 ends

I couldn't follow this to thread my heddles, so I opened up WinWeave and tried to create a draft from these directions. I still got confused. Then I wondered if I tried to write it as a profile first, then perhaps it would make more sense to me. So I came up with this:

Undulating shadow weave profile.
For some reason this looked easier to follow than the text description. Each small blue square on the graph paper represents one unit, i.e. one dark and one light thread. The number of squares in each rectangle represent how many times that unit is repeated in that block.

This profile is read right to left, the blocks on the bottom being the A blocks, the next line up being the B blocks, etc. So the first A block on the right is 4 units (1 dark thread and 1 light thread for a total of 8 threads), the next block, B, is 4 units (8 threads), etc.

After that I had to figure out how to translate all that into a heddle threading pattern. This was a bit more challenging as the profiles Ms. Windeknecht uses are different from the profiles I had become familiar with in Marian Powell's 1000+ Patterns.

Ms. Powell uses adjacent shafts for threading the blocks, while Ms. Windeknecht uses opposite shafts as developed by Mary Meigs Atwater. So:
Block A - Atwater, shafts 1 & 3 - Powell, shafts 1 & 2
Block B - Atwater, shafts 2 & 4 - Powell, shafts 3 & 4
Block C - Atwater, shafts 3 & 1 - Powell, shafts 2 & 1
Block D - Atwater, shafts 4 & 2 - Powell, shafts 4 & 3

I wrote out the 2 shafts for each square of the profile using the Atwater system, and came up with this (these are the first 4 blocks with A, which uses shafts 1 and 3 on the right, all the way to D, using shafts 4 and 2 on the left):

Detail using the Atwater threading draft.A standard tie-up is used and it is to be treadled as drawn in. After I finally got it onto WinWeave, the draft and drawdown something like this:

Partial draft and drawdown for the undulating shadow weave.
Of course, this isn't the entire pattern. WinWeave wanted to print in out on 5 pages, which I decided not to do.

If anyone has actually read through this, congratulations! If anyone actually understands it, stand up and take a bow! I would love to ask for feedback as to whether or not it makes any sense, but I think that would be asking a bit much of my readers. So thank you for bearing with me. I think I understand it better for trying to explain it, though I don't know if I could do a repeat performance in a month or two.

Posted 18 Sept. 2006 at

Related Posts:
Profile Drafts
Undulating Shadow Weave 1 - Weaving
Undulating Shadow Weave 2 - Hemstitching
Undulating Shadow Weave 3 - Finishing
Shadow Weave Samples 1 - Begins the series of samples

Friday, September 15, 2006

Lace Knitting Success------NOT!

Leigh's <br />Samoyed lace scarf in progress.After knitting about 12 inches or so on my handspun Samoyed lace scarf, I was hoping to be able to report that I was finally getting the hang of it. Unfortunately, I can't.

I suppose that I can honestly say that I'm beginning to understand the pattern and see how the rows fit together. I have it somewhat memorized and mostly know what to do next. I only have to look at the instructions to see how the row starts off. After that I can knit with no problem.

Well, I take that back. I do have some problems. I'm still making occasional silly mistakes. I'd call them concentration mistakes because they usually occur when my mind has journeyed elsewhere. Somehow I end up at the end of a row and realize that the pattern is no longer working. But! At least I'm catching them before I have a real disaster on my hands.

It's a very old Shetland pattern called “Miniature Leaf.”

Shetland Miniature Leaf Pattern.
It requires a multiple of 6 stitches plus one extra stitch, and goes like this:

Row 1 - *k1, yo, k2tog, k1, k2tog, yo* Repeat to last stitch, k1.
Row 2 – purl
Row 3 - *k2, yo, k3tog, yo, k1* Repeat to last stitch, k1
Row 4 – purl
Row 5 - *k1, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, k2tog* Repeat to last stitch, k1
Row 6 – purl
Row 7 – k2tog, yo *k3, yo, k3tog, yo* Repeat to last 5 stitches, k3, yo, k2tog
Row 8 – purl

Of course this is the Americanized version. The UK version refers to yarn overs as yarn forwards.

The place I usually mess up is the knit-3-togethers. I tend to somehow drop one of the 3 stitches. I am knitting on US5 needles and I do tend to knit tightly which doesn't help, I know.

At one time I thought I would never be interested in knitting lace. In fact I vowed I'd never do it. I didn't think I had the patience. I lean towards yarns that spin and knit quickly. Hence I am always in awe of spinners of fine yarns and knitters of lace.

I've been enjoying this project however, in spite of all the frogging I've had to do. I'd like to think that I'm becoming a more patient person, but I doubt it. More likely I'm just finally becoming interested in the challenges of knitting lace. And this yarn just begged to be knit this way.

Progress, I think, will be very slow. I will continue to put the project down when it frustrates me, and pick it up again at a later date, when time has worked it's soothing magic on me. It's just nice to report that at least some progress is being made.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Shadow Weave - The Next Warp

This warp is ready to weave. I was happy with the way the weights and over-the-castle winding on technique worked. It beamed on without difficulty and I'm hoping that it will be my tightest and most evenly tensioned warp so far. Time will tell.

One thing which I definitely want to do next time, is add more weights. I used two half gallon milk jugs because two is all I have, the reason being that we don't use much milk. But, with DS living at home this semester, we will use more milk, so I foresee plenty of jugs for weights next time.

I have to admit that the particulars of beaming on this warp were not my only challenges. I had previously decided on the undulating shadow weave pattern on page 80 of Margaret Windeknecht's Color-and-Weave II, and there was the challenge of translating this into a draft (more on that later.)

handwoven shadow weave swatchDetermining the sett for my yarns was another challenge. I considered several types of yarns and was leaning toward chenille, but finally decided to use the yarns pictured on the left, from a previous sample session. I had the idea that they would make a nice jacket front to match a skirt I recently made from the background fabric in this picture.

My problem was that they were different size yarns: the green is a 16/2s cotton, and the black is 8/2s cotton. I wasn't sure how to decide what sett to use. For that first sample, I had somehow chosen a sett of 24 epi (don't ask me how I decided that. I'm sure I had a reason at the time but I didn't record it so I can't remember. On the other hand, at least I recorded something!)

I thought the fabric at 24 epi was a little stiffer than I wanted however. I mulled over the various formulae available for calculating a more appropriate sett, but wasn't too thrilled about doing any math. Then, I remembered my new Peggy Osterkamp book, Winding a Warp and Using a Paddle. It has an appendix loaded with sett charts, among other things. I took the average of the two setts and calculated 22 epi.

So that's what I have on the loom now. The header is woven and my bobbins are filled.

Warp for shadow weave jacket panels.
Hopefully all the challenges for this warp are behind me.

Next - Undulating Shadow Weave 1 - Weaving

Related Posts:
Shadow Weave: Doing the Triple S - my introduction
Shadow Weave Profiles- how to interpret
Shadow Weave Samples 1 - Begins the series of samples

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Galway Cross Fleece 2

I've finished my first skein of the Galway Cross fleece sample.

As Cheryl mentioned in the comments, she had previously soaked the fleece to clean it, so that no further scouring was required on my part. To prepare the staples for handcarding, I used my dog comb to open up both the tip and butt ends. I was able to remove quite a few short bits and neps this way.

Galway cross fleece being prepared for spinning.
For the first 50 grams of fiber, I removed 14 grams of waste and used 36 grams for spinning. Of course, a dog comb doesn't remove all the waste, but it took out quite a bit. This preparation handcarded into lovely rolags.

If I had an entire fleece to play with, I would have planned to make lots of sample yarns to experiment with yarn size and twist. Since I had a lesser amount and wanted to make the most of it, I decided to let the crimp determine the twists per inch. The fleece will have a natural tendency to follow its crimp, so this is a good starting point for experimenting with twist. There was some variation throughout my sample, but the the mean crimp was 8 per inch. Therefore I planned to spin my yarn with 8 twists per inch.

But..... how to do this. It would have been an easy calculation if I was spinning short draw. Then, all I would have required was a whorl with an 8:1 ratio. Drafting one inch per treadle would have put 8 twists in that inch of yarn. But I wanted to spin long draw. So I needed to know how many treadles for an 18 inch length of yarn. Of course, with an 8:1 twist ratio, simple math would tell me that I needed to treadle 18 times. Easy enough.

Kromski whorl.Next, I took a look at the possible twist ratios of my two wheels. The Ashford Traditional double drive offers ratios of 7.5, 10, or 14:1. Close, but not exact. My Kromski Minstrel offers 6.5, 8.5, 12, or 16:1. Again close. My choices then, were to either approximate the twist by using one of the whorls that came with my wheels, or to pull out Mabel Ross's The Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners, one of my favorite spinning books. Among her many handy charts (this one on page 53), was one that suited my Ashford 6.5:1 twist ratio.

The beauty of these charts is that the math is already done for me. All I had to do was to look at the left hand column for the twists per inch I wanted, and then look on that row under the "Longdraw Treadles per 18 in." column to find the information I needed. As you can see, I needed to treadle 24 times per 18 inch draft of fiber.

Sample card for the Galway cross yarn.When I did this and allowed the yarn to twist back upon itself, I was happy with the results.

The Particulars:
Fiber Weight, 36 grams
Fiber length, 3 inchs
Occasional neps
Spinning ratio 6.5:1
Spun woolen method
24 treadles per 18 inch draft
Singles, 32 WPI
2-ply, 18 WPI
Yardage, 74

I plied it according to the yarn on my sample card.

The yarn:

Galway cross yarn.It's a very elastic yarn with a nice hand and luster. When I finish spinning all of it, I will knit up a swatch. It would make wonderful socks. Or a vest or sweater. Then too, I'll be interested in what Cheryl eventually does with hers.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Non-Weaving Update

Ordinarily, I would like to have a weaving post about now. Since I usually have several different fiber projects going on at once (one for weaving, one for knitting, one for spinning, and whatever else I happen to be working on at the time) I find I can rotate topics and post every 2 - 3 days.

However, things aren't all that ordinary around our house these days. Due to non-technical difficulties, I have barely gotten my new warp threaded, let alone done any weaving.

For spinning, I have a nice little pile of Galway Cross rolags ready to spin.

Catzee snooping around in my rolag basket.
And for knitting, I've picked up my handspun samoyed lace scarf again. Thanks to the knitting expertise of my friends Lacy Mary and M, I've been able to pick up where I left off without difficulty.

I have to say that it's been hard to get much work done these days. There are two cats thundering up and down the hallway with great vigor and speed several times a day. Usually I have to wait until everyone is catnapping. Then I can proceed with some peace and quiet.

A more eventful report should follow in a day or two......I hope.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Galway Cross Fleece 1

Cheryl read about my Rare Breed Sweater spinning and kindly offered to send me a generous handful of Galway Cross fleece from Ireland. I was delighted with her offer and very grateful to receive it.

My initial impression of the sample was that it was a down type fleece. So I was surprised to read that the Galway breed is descended from Longwools in the UK. Actually, I didn't have much information on hand about Galway sheep; it isn't listed in Fournier and Fourniers'In Sheep's Clothing, nor in Anne Field's Spinning Wool: Beyond the Basics.. I did find it on the rare breeds list in Spin-Off's Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools, but only on the reference list of rare sheep breeds. And there is a photo of a Galway ewe on page 6. But evidently no one made a Galway entry for the Save the Sheep Project.

I'm a little surprised that it isn't used more by handspinners because at 50's/56's it is graded as a medium wool and so is suitable for handspinning. Perhaps it is just that rare.

Cheryl did mention that the breed is crossed to improve lambing and that it is used primarily as a meat breed in Ireland. The fleece is not considered to have much value, and in fact is used to insulate houses(!).

Here is what I can tell you about the fleece she sent.

The staples of my sample measure 2 – 3 inches in length.

Galway cross fleece sample.
They are quite clean with very little dirt or vegetable matter. There are some second cuts, but not too many.

The staples are rather rectangular in shape and quite uniform throughout the sample. They have a crimp of about 8/inch. There is not a lot of luster and the grease content is low.

There is very little discoloration of the tips, which are quite sound. In fact the full length of the locks are sound.

While it is not the softest fleece I've handled, it is certainly not the coarsest. It is quite springy and elastic.

As I mentioned, my first impression was “down fleece” so I immediately thought of warm cozy socks and autumn jackets. It is definitely a candidate for a woolen preparation and long draw spinning. I will use my trusty dog comb to open both tips and butts and handcard it into rolags. I think it will be lovely to spin.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Karakul 2

Yesterday I finished my Karakul samples. In addition to the first sample, I chose to spin sample skeins from two other parts of the fleece. Here's what I ended up with:

3 sample skeins from the same Karakul fleece.The one on the left is the first sample. I like the subtle variations in color. The sample on the right is lightest and the least coarse. It seemed to me that the colored fibers were the coarsest.

I prepared all of these with my drumcarder. I had some help with that......

Drum carding the inner Karakul coat.
.......and with the spinning as well.

Spinning with a little help from a friend.
For interested cat persons, info on the new kitty here.

I also separated the two coats for my last samples. My method for doing this described in Karakul 1. The inner coat is the one at the top of the following photo, the outer is on the bottom:

Yarn from  inner Karakul coat on top, outer on bottom.
I handcarded the inner coat into rolags which I spun long draw. However, the sample contained so many coarse brown fibers that it didn't spin into a soft yarn like the inner coats of the Navajo Churro, Hebridean, and Icelandic fleeces I've worked with.

I ran the outer coat though my drum carder and spun it short draw as I did the other Karakul samples. It is a smoother yarn than the inner coat yarn.

For my rare breed sweater I will probably choose the sample with the softest hand, the one on the right in the photo at the beginning of this post. The rest of them I will save until the time I decide to try my hand at rug weaving.

Related Posts:
Rare Breed Seater - Karakul 1
Winter Knitting Project
Rare Breed Sweater Swatches
TA-DAH! Rare Breed Sweater Done!