Wednesday, May 31, 2006

b2f Warping Progress

I haven't gotten any further than this.

Progress is slow as you can see, especially since I’ve been busy with other things. I did discover that I don’t have enough heddles for this warp and had to order more. Hopefully they will arrive soon so that I can continue without delay.

I’ve also received some very helpful comments in regards to my problem, i.e. the warp bunching on the warp beam. I’m relieved to know that it isn’t my raddle, nor necessarily me. Also that there are things I can try next time. So, many thanks to Valerie, and Jackie.

Next ...... Warp Sleyed

Related Posts:
f2b Versus b2f - Beginning of this series
b2f Log Cabin Weaving - finished fabric from this series

Ethel Photo Challenge

Just for fun I’ve entered one of Ethel’s weekly photo challenges. When I saw her topic, “Under the Pink,” this old pic came to mind and I couldn’t resist entering:

Rascal under (or should I say in) the pink.Click on pic to biggify

Handspinners will recognize the picker in the background. (It isn’t mine, I borrowed it from the Blue Ridge Spinners.) A picker is a rather wicked, medieval torture looking device which serves to open up a sheep's fleece. It can be done by hand as well, and is then referred to as "teasing." The purpose of this step is to separate all the individual fibers, making it easier to control the spinning of yarn.

I had dyed an entire fleece pink and was using the picker to prepare it for color blending on my drum carder. As fiber was flying everywhere and floating down in fluffy pink clouds, Rascal made a little nest for himself as you can see.

He never can resist burrowing into a pile of clean fiber. He particularly likes napping on neatly stacked batts fresh off the drum carder.

After extracting cat, blending, spinning, and weaving, this pile of pink fluff eventually became this poncho:

Handsome young man modeling my handspun, handwoven poncho.This was the first time I wove with my handspun, using it as weft with a commercial wool warp. It pleased the recipient (my husband, who is not the model in the above photo) and it pleased me to have a successful first go weaving my own yarn.

Related Posts:
Better Than Catnip
Kitty Crib
Got Fleece?
Yarn Guard

Monday, May 29, 2006

Dyed Silk Noil/Alpaca Yarn

Clean silk noils, ready to use.

The second sample of silk noil in my pack was labeled “Clean Noil.”

Close-up shot of teased fiber.

I decided to dye this. At first I tried the exhaust dyestock from the Easter egg dyes, but though the water was bright with color, the blue in particular refused to impart any of it to the fiber. So I sprinkled each batch with dye powder and this is what I ended up with:

Dyed noils.

I had first thought to spin it as is, but the fiber length was less than ¼ inch, so I blended it with handfuls of alpaca fleece.

The yarn:

Alpaca/silk noil blend yarn.

2-ply measures 10 WPI after washing and abusing. Unfortunately the green noils look washed out in these images. The yarn spoke to me of knitting, so here is a swatch, front (left) and back which I also liked (right). So reverse stockinette is a possibility.

Knitted swatch, front and back.

The hand is a bit harsher than I like, but I’m musing the possibilities. I don’t mind this kind of yarn for outer wear. And since I still have 2 large handfuls of the dyed noil to do something with, I guess I’ll reach a decision eventually.

Related Posts:
Mulberry Silk Noil - handcarding & spinning
Spinning Tussah Silk Noil - scouring & spinning
Silk Fiber Fusion - using dyed silk noils

Saturday, May 27, 2006

b2f Part 2

By Leigh

I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated the supportive and encouraging comments I received on my last post. It’s especially interesting to read when and why weavers choose one method of warping over another. This is helpful information!

Ok, this is where I left off with my b2f warping a few days ago. ( I know, I know, this is actually a thinly veiled attempt to pass off another disgustingly cute kitty picture.) :-)

Rascal keeping an eye on the photographer.

In doing my research I realized that there is no one single way to warp b2f. I chose Chandler’s instructions, and occasionally refer to Osterkamp. For the most part things have gone pretty well so far.

Some things have been familiar to me:
  • Working with only one cross (the threading lease)
  • Beaming the warp through the front instead of the back

Some things have been new:
  • Using a counting thread while measuring the warp. I really liked this however. It seemed easier to count and keep track of groups of 12s rather than counting to 864.
  • Using a raddle
  • Placing packing sticks to separate the layers of apron cords as I wound them on. I didn't used to use anything to separate the layers of warp until I got to the the knots which tied onto the back apron rod.
  • Putting lease sticks through the cross and hanging them from the back of the 4th shaft. I found this awkward at first, and the sticks seemed to be in my way. But I am adjusting and really like not having to reach all the way through from the back of the loom to the reed, to try and find the next ends to thread. (A lot of fun with my bifocals!)
  • Sitting at the front of my loom to thread the heddles. As mentioned above it's easier with the warp closer to me. Plus, I found that my empty beater makes a convenient little shelf for my book, scissors, and threading hook.

I paid particular attention to tensioning, utilizing several methods:
  • Weighting the warp with a heavy box on the floor as I wound on.
  • Bracing my knee against the loom and pulled each group of ends as hard as I could
  • Giving the group an additional jerk before moving on to the next group.

The thing that was my biggest concern however was the way the warp wound onto the warp beam. Instead of a neatly behaved warp in a solid layer, I had “clumps” of ends with spaces between the raddle spaces, as you can see:

This is not how I wanted my warp to look as it wound on.

I understand now that the “valleys” between these groups create uneven spots and hence potential differences in tension across the width of the warp. The only things I can think of are to try and keep the warp spread out in the raddle better (next time). Or perhaps my raddle spaces are too far apart(?) They are ½ inch and I am using 16/2s cotton sett at 24 epi.

So here’s were I am at the moment. You can see the warp ends spread across the lease sticks and hanging about heddle eye height behind the 4th shaft:

Warp ends spread across the lease sticks and hanging about heddle eye height behind the 4th shaft.

Progress will probably be a bit slow, as I've only begun to thread the heddles. But I am motivated, so hopefully it won’t be too long before I can see how well I’ve done and start weaving.

Next, b2f Warping Progress

Related Posts:
f2b Versus b2f - Beginning of this series
b2f, Warp Sleyed
b2f Log Cabin Weaving - finished fabric from this series
Evaluating My b2f Warp
B2F Warping - Still Tweaking
B2F Vs. F2B - Why I Switched

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mulberry Silk Noil

Mulbery silk noil, grade A.
On the spinning front, I’ve started working with silk noil. We received three different types in our silk packs. I liked the grade A mulberry noil best, and so decided to work with it first.

Close-up of teased mulberry noil.Noil is considered a waste product from the silk industry. The fibers are actually the short threads the caterpillar first spins to anchor itself for the process of cocoon spinning. The noils are little bits of broken cocoon, pupae shell, and any other odds and ends leftover from the cocoon spinning process. 

There are quite a few possibilities of what I can do with my silk noil. Some I want to dye, some I plan to blend, and I would also like to try my hand at silk fusion paper making. But the mulberry noil I decided to spin on its own.
Basket of handcarded noil rolags.
The ½ to 1 inch fibers were easily and quickly carded into rolags on my cotton hand carders. I spun it long draw with lots of twist. You can see from my control card how textured it is. I’m not sure how well I like those little pieces of cocoon and whatnot in the yarn. I picked the biggest ones out, but there were too many to get them all.

Close-up of control card.
Here are the particulars:

* Weight, 28 grams
* Fiber length was ½ to 1 inch
* Abundant bits & noils
* Spinning ratio 10:1
* Spun woolen method
* Singles, 20 WPI
* 2-ply, 16 WPI
* Yardage, >89

The challenges:

* Dealing with all the noily bits took a little getting used to. The fiber alone tends to spin out sewing thread fine, while the noils create relatively giant slubs. I had to take care during spinning to maintain the integrity of the yarn.

* Treadling and drafting speed. I had to experiment a bit with this and finally settled on a fairly slow speed to both treadle and draft. This enable me to get the twist I needed but still control the noily parts of the fiber.

* Too much whiteness! I wanted to spin it as-is since I’ve never worked with silk noil before, but my eyes really long for color in the process. I will dye some next and so spin it with some color.

And of course, the yarn:

Handspun mulberry silk noil yarn.
Related Posts:
Dyed Silk Noil/Alpaca Yarn - blending acid dyed noil & alpaca
Spinning Tussah Silk Noil - scouring & spinning
Silk Fiber Fusion - using dyed silk noils

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

f2b versus b2f

The chained warp for my next log cabin project.By Leigh

Fiber folks are normally a congenial lot: friendly, helpful, generous, easy going. But there are a few controversies which sometimes seem to have a definite Jekyll and Hyde effect on us.

One of them is the Scotch tension vs. double drive debate. I resigned my participation from this one a long time ago, having set up my Ashford Traddy with Scotch tension and my Kromski Minstrel in double drive.

The other debate seems to be over which is the best way to warp one’s loom: front to back, or back to front. So far I’ve merely been a bystander. I learned f2b and except for one dismal attempt to learn b2f four years ago, have remained a f2b warper.

Until now. I’m not sure whether it was the lure of “more even tension,” or the appeal to my professional studentism. Or perhaps it was the twinges of guilt I felt when my husband would ask “Whatever happened to the thing I made for your loom,” referring to my raddle. So when fellow Online Guild member and former f2b warper Diana suggested it as another possible self study, it sounded good to me. And with 5 plus yards to put on the loom, now seemed like the perfect time to give this method another try.

So I’ve done my homework. In addition to Deb Chandler’s Learning to Weave, I’ve dug out Peggy Osterkamp’s Warping Your Loom & Tying on New Warps, checked out the OLG’s online resources, downloaded a how-to pdf file from Interweave Press, and took a close look at the contraption on Charleen’s Fiberblog.

I ended up choosing the Chandler method, mostly because it seemed most similar to what I’m already used to. I also have Osterkamp handy and am referring to it frequently. Here is my progress so far:

Beginning to wind on my warp.

One of the things I’m realizing is that though I had previously thought I was doing a good job tensioning my warp, I really wasn’t. Some warps wove off beautifully, and some didn’t. But I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was. (This is one of the unfortunate consequences of being largely self-taught.) In going back over the material now, I’m understanding things that I didn’t grasp before. I’m not sure if it’s like that for everyone, but I find that my brain can only process so much information before I have to put it to use. After that I can go back over the same information and pick up more details, which in turn I put into practice, and so on. Each time I go back over the material, I experientially understand more and more of it. Head knowledge is good, but experience transforms it into reality!

So I’m paying more attention to details I hadn’t noticed before, while still giving myself room to make mistakes and continue to learn. Hopefully this will be a lesson well learned, but the proof will be in the weaving of course.

Always willing to help.Next........b2f Part 2

Related Posts:
b2f Log Cabin Weaving - finished fabric from this series

Monday, May 22, 2006

Dyed Silk TW Yarn

Here is my little basket of throwster's waste rolags:

Rolags from the dyed silk throwster's waste.

I really hadn’t planned to get a photo with the cat in it, but darn if he didn’t just come, plop himself down, and pose charmingly as soon as I got the camera out. This is Rascal BTW. He knows better than to look at the camera because of the flash.

Here’s the yarn:

Dyed silk throwster's waste yarn.

My control yarns and the particulars:

A single and a 2-ply sample for checking my spinning.* Weight, 17 grams
* Fiber length, 1 - 3 inches
* Spinning ratio 10:1
* Spun woolen method
* Singles, 26 WPI
* 2 ply, 16 WPI
* Yardage, > 45

I used to use a counting stick to keep my spinning consistent, but later switched to a control card. I find it easy to compare the size of the singles and check the twist all in one stop. I do count treadles, but I like to let the yarn ply back on itself every now and then just to make sure I’m still happy with it.

The challenges:

* Actually none during spinning. During carding however, I found the stuff to be very fine and flyaway. I used to rub my angora bunnies down with dryer sheets to keep this under control during grooming, or hold handfuls of angora fiber in a dryer sheet for spinning. I couldn’t figure out a way to use a dryer sheet during carding however, so I just lived with it. It behaved quite nicely during spinning.

* The color - odd how color affects us, but I really had to live with it awhile before I decided I was beginning to like it. I honestly considered Mary’s suggestion, about plying it with something more neutral, but decided to be daring and ply it on itself.

Next, I think I’ll see what I can do with my three packs of silk noils.

Related Posts:
Silk Throwster's Waste - about & how to spin
Dyeing & Carding Throwster's Waste - tutorials

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Birthday Socks & Birthday Card

The dyed TW yarn is spun and plied but still on the bobbin. I hope to have that ready to show by tomorrow or the next day. However, since I’m a mulit-project person, here is what I do have to show. A pair of birthday socks for my stepmom:

Bulky cuff-down socks.

I hope she likes them. Her request was for a neutral color, definitely not anything wild. While the colors in these are neutral, they’re not exactly super conservative.

I had just moved here when I went looking for yarn for them. At the time I didn’t know where the LYS is, but I did find a Hobby Lobby. Their only sock yarns were pretty colorful, but I did spot this acrylic sport weight knitting yarn, which I liked. It’s knit up into a quick, cottony, comfy sock, not too wild but definitely unique. I’m not sure how well acrylic wears for socks, but according to Fiona Morris, the key to good wear is in the knitting more than in the yarn. The pattern is Lucy Neatby’s "Simply Splendid Socks" from Cool Socks Warm Feet.

And here is the birthday card I made for her:

Birthday card featuring an inset of one of my handwoven samples.

I like these DIY trifold cards. They come with a little plastic pocket, perfect for slipping in a sample of weaving, handcrafted paper, knitting, or whatever. I weave a lot of sample strips for design boards, so these are perfect for this purpose.

Now all that’s left is getting this posted in the mail. Am I taking a risk showing off a birthday gift before it’s been given? Fortunately my stepmom doesn’t use computers!

© 2006 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Related Posts:
Gallery Photos: Greeting Cards
Gallery Photos: Socks
Making Christmas Cards - tutorial on making greeting cards
Q & A: Trifold Aperture Card Blanks

Friday, May 19, 2006

Dyeing & Carding Throwster’s Waste

My dyeing project didn’t turn out the way I had originally hoped. I wanted to blend several colors and had a number of ideas on how to do that. But, having made two long distance moves in 6 months and still not being able to find all my dyes and supplies proved to be a detriment. So I ended up choosing the simplest possible method: Easter egg dyes.

I chose four colors because four pint canning jars was all I could find. The 4-in-1 pot method worked well for the small amounts I wanted to dye.

Easy Easter egg dye dyeing.

After it dried, I cut the long strands into smaller pieces. I just took a guess as to how long to make them and cut off 1 to 2 inch size pieces. After working with them however, I would recommend 2 inches to be a good size.

Cutting the throwster's waste into more manageable pieces.

Next came carding. I used my cotton hand carders. When I first charged the card it looked like this:

Cotton carder loaded with dyed throwster's waste.

After about a bazillion passes, it begins to look like this:

It takes awhile, but the fibers eventually break down.

You can see the silk strands beginning to break down.

And the rolags look like this:

I wonder how this stuff will spin up.

I suppose I could have carded them until all the strands were completely broken down, but I wanted to leave at least some of them visible in the yarn for both visual and tactile texture.

I still have quite a bit left to card so it may take me awhile to finish it all.

While I’m doing that, I can contemplate whether or not I really like this color. Being a soft, muted color sort of person who occasionally goes in for jewel tones, this is a little too bubblegumish for my taste. However, I’ll reserve judgment until the yarn is spun, because after all, I can always overdye it! :)

To see the yarn this made, click here.

Related Posts:
Silk Throwster's Waste - about, & how to spin
Dyed Silk TW Yarn - how the dyed waste spun up

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Silk Throwster’s Waste

By the handful.
This is intriguing stuff, is it not?

Just a few strands.
It is throwster’s waste, leftover from commercial silk processing. The technical jargon for reeling silk from cocoons is “throwing,” where the silk fibers from many cocoons are reeled together with twist added to prepare them for weaving. However, there is some waste to that process, and this is it!

I had a total of about 29 grams of throwster’s waste in my silk pack, so I decided to try a couple of things with it. It was already degummed, so I could start experimenting with it right away.

First, I wanted to try and spin some of it by the handful, like I do curly kid mohair yarn. The result wasn’t very curly of course, more like a bulky eyelash type yarn, especially after it was plied back on itself.

How I drafted the stuff.The particulars:
* Weight, about 10 grams
* Fiber length, several inches to several feet
* Spinning ratio 8.5:1
* Spinning technique, see photo at left
* Singles, 22 WPI
* 2 ply, 10 WPI
* Yardage, >13

TW yarn sample number 1.The challenges:
* The length of the fibers - after every couple of yards or so the fibers would begin to tangle on themselves. This didn't make it impossible to spin this way, just slow. Next time I would cut it into more manageable pieces.
* Keeping the yarn consistent. This would resolve itself with practice. I would have liked to have plied the single with silk thread, but had several “bare” spots that I didn’t like.

The rest of my throwster’s waste will find it’s way into the dyepot in preparation for a different yarn.

Related Posts:
Dyeing & Carding Throwster's Waste - Tutorials
Dyed Silk TW Yarn - How the dyed TW spun up

Monday, May 15, 2006

Log Cabin Necktie

Log Cabin Necktie.Over the weekend I finished the first of my log cabin projects, a necktie for my husband. This is the fabric you saw on the loom in my “Log Cabin Project” entry for May 5th. I wove the fabric with 16/2s cotton, sett at 30 epi in order to get a fairly firm fabric for a necktie. I used McCall’s pattern 9469.

This is the first time I’ve sewn with my handwoven, and I had to deal with several concerns. My first was that I couldn’t weave fabric wide enough to cut the tie on the bias, as the pattern called for. My second concern was building up the nerve to put the scissors to it!

Regarding the fabric width, I decided to press on and cut out the pieces lengthwise. I know this goes against conventional sewing wisdom, but in weighing out the possibility of no tie versus a tie not cut on the bias, I went with making the tie the best I could.

Detail of tie fabric.Regarding working up the nerve to cut into my handwoven fabric for the first time, well I relied on the support of several of my weaving friends! I was relieved to discover that it didn’t immediately unravel, but with careful handling behaved nicely until I could stabilize the edges with a straight stitch around the pieces.

The only other thing I decided not to do in regards to the pattern instructions, was to sew right sides together and turn through a small opening left in the seam. I didn't want to put any extra pull or wear on my fabric, so I simply folded the edges and hand sewed the seam.

Dan was pleased to be presented with a tie made to his specifications in a pattern and colors he likes, and I’m just happy that it turned out so well!

Related Posts:

Friday, May 12, 2006

Homemade Silk Caps

The next step was to try making my own silk caps.

Cut silk moth cocoons.
To get started I had to make a choice. I could either use the cocoons a la natural and remove the little dead wormies myself, or I could use the cut cocoons. I decided to use the cut cocoons.

First they had to be degummed. The recipe from Jane, the workshop’s tutor, called for 50% soap flakes and 25% washing soda per weight of silk. I couldn’t find soap flakes, so I substituted Ivory dishwashing liquid, as described in A Silk Worker's Notebook by Cheryl Kolander.

Degumming pot.
Looks yummy, doesn’t it? I let them simmer for over an hour and then rinsed them in cool water.

Starting the layers.
My inverted pyrex bowl is covered with plastic wrap. What looks like a soggy cotton ball is actually a wet cocoon. They are worked one at a time, stretching them over the bowl, which serves as a mold. (To see an enlarged version of any of these pix, simply click on them.)

Stretching them over the mold isn't as hard as it looks.
It is an amazing process, actually. Some of the cocoons stretched into beautiful ethereal layers, pulling nicely over the surface of the bowl. Some wouldn’t cooperate at all! I had about a dozen cocoons which ended up torn to shreds.

Building the layers until all the cocoons are used up.
Eventually I started to get the hang of it. I wasn’t able to get all of the cocoons stretched completely over the bowl, but most of them found their places as some semblance of a layer. I used about 60 cocoons in this cap.

My first ever homemade silk cap.
After it dried I gently took it off the bowl. The plastic wrap made it easy to remove. All that’s left now is to spin it!

If you find all this of interest, then you might want to visit It will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about silk moths, plus some things to do with silk and silk moth cocoons.

Related Posts:
Silk Caps & What to do With Them

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Silk Caps & What To Do With Them

Being silly.
Well, surely not that.

I found the caps (or bells) to be a very different preparation from the silk brick, which is combed. The caps are made directly from cocoons, which are stretched over a mold. One cocoon after another is layered on top of the others, creating a multi-layer silk cap.

Separating layers.
I tried separating the layers in two different ways. First by finding the edge of one layer as shown here and pulling it off. I also tried to separate layers by pulling them apart from the top of the cap. I was less successful with the second method.

Making it spin ready.
Then I started a hole in the center of the layer.

And started to stretch it out into a ring.

More predrafting
And stretched.

Silk birds nest
And finally wound it into a neat little birds nest.
This preparation spins up into a wonderfully textured yarn.

Yarn from silk caps.
The particulars:
* Total weight 16 gms
* WPI vary
* Yardage, >44
* Spinning ratio 12:1
* Spun worsted
* Plied back on itself
* Contained lots of neps

The challenge:
* The length of the fibers! I’m not sure what that was exactly, but I’ve read that cocoon fibers can be a mile or more in length. I found that I needed to keep a very long drafting triangle and held my hands 12 to 18 inches apart during drafting. I learned to pre-draft to close to the size I wanted to spin, so that very little drafting during spinning was necessary.

Painted silk caps.
After I finished the caps in my silk goody package, I rooted around in my stash for some painted caps I was given a long time ago.

Yarn from painted silk caps.
The Particulars:
* Total weight 16 gms
* WPI vary
* Yardage, >51
* Spinning ratio 12:1
* Spun worsted
* Plied back on itself

The Challenges:
* I’d have to say none as I’d had plenty of practice on the first set of caps. I did find that the dye made the fibers a little stiffer to work with, but this was not a problem.

Related Posts:
Homemade Silk Caps - how to
Knitting With Silk Hankies - Do-able with caps too
My Flickr photos - All my silk photos