Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spinning the Massam Roving

I have been busily handcarding my Rambouillet fleece, but couldn't resist getting started on one of my fiber goodies. The hardest part was trying to decide which one to spin first. I finally chose the Massam. It is a lovely pewter color, plus I am thinking of painting some of the white rovings, so I figured this was a good place to start.

It is a British breed, also known as Marsham. It was developed by crossing Teeswater or Wensleydale rams with Swalebreed ewes, producing sheep with heavy longwool fleeces.

Massam roving in medium grey.The roving showed lovely subtle variations of medium gray fibers, beautifully prepared.

Sample for my control card.Fiber length - about 8 inches
Luster - low
Total weight - 100 grams
Scant VM, neps, and kemp
Spinning ratio - 8.5 to 1
Spun worsted
Singles - 26 WPI
2-ply - 15 WPI
Yardage - > 177 yards

It was not harsh to the hand while spinning, though I would not consider wearing it next to the skin. It is traditionally used to make outerwear garments, upholstery, rugs, and carpets. My sample was nice enough to consider something knitted. For this reason I used a lower twist angle to enhance the softness as much as possible to make it more suitable for a knitted yarn.

I was pleased that my Kromski bobbins nicely held the entire 100 grams.

100 gms on my Kromski Minstrel bobbin.
Massam handspun yarn. I don't have a project in mind for this yet. I think I'll wait until I get the other samples spun.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rare Breed Sweater - The Shetland Row

Is there such a thing as a knitting klutz club? If there is, then I'm a member. Or perhaps I have the distinction of being the founder. I've been busily knitting away on my Rare Breed Sweater, highly motivated to get it done. I'm on the right front now and have finally finished the first row, the Shetland sheep row. Not without problems however. First I discovered that I started the sheep legs on the wrong count, and then discovered I'd dropped a stitch about 20 rows back which threw the whole thing off. Talk about feeling like I'm spinning my wheels and getting nowhere!

Anyway, here it is, unblocked and rather rumply; photo taken while my helper was catnapping.

My friend Anne in Canada tells me there 11 main colors of Shetland sheep, with 32 variations. These all have Gaelic names to distinguish them. However, I had three colors to work with, enough to fill a row; two ewes and a ram (with the horns.)

My knitted ones started as commercial tops which were simply called black, moorit, and grey. The moorit came from Paradise Fibers. The black and grey came from Woodland Woolworks. At the time I ordered them, this was about all the color choice available via commercial retailers. Tina has since give me a link to the North American Shetland Sheep Association. I have this bookmarked as a future resource.

My Shetland tops were lovely to spin and lovely to knit. Perhaps someday in the distant future I can collect and spin all the colors. I would love to knit a Fair Isle vest or sweater with them. However, my project list is long, so don't expect this any time soon. :)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fiber Goody Bag

I didn't realize that I haven't posted since Sunday(!) Now that the Computer Design Workshop is getting ready to enter the official wrapping up stage (making way for an Online Guild Crochet Technique Workshop next month), I've been on a knitting spree, with Shetland sheepies on the needles for the right front of my Rare Breed Sweater.

But! If Christmas comes in January somewhere in the universe, then I'm there! Judy sent me a scrumptious fiber goody package. I am very excited because they are all from breeds I've never worked with before.

Starting at the top and working clockwise: Falkland (white), Black Welsh, Texel (white), Cheviot (light grey), Norwegian (white), and Massam (grey). These are tops which are beautifully prepared and just beg to jump right to the wheel.

Currently on the wheel is nothing, so how will I be able to resist? In preparation for the wheel, is the black Rambouillet, which fortunately survived Rascal's infatuation. It has been washed and is becoming luciously soft rolags.

I love having several projects going on at the same time. I firmly believe in taking frequent breaks to rest my eyes and change my position and posture. What better way to take a break than to switch to the next project! ;)

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Huck Towels 3

By Leigh

My huck dishtowels are off the loom, washed, and hemmed. They were woven from cotton 8/2; white warp and blue weft. The drafts were huck variations from Helene Bress's The Weaving Book. The washed fabric is nice and sturdy.

Unfortunately, except for the first two photos in this post, the colors are not true in the rest of the pictures. I found that the flash washed them out, but with dark rainy skies today, the natural light was poor.

In evaluating them, there are two things which I will do differently with the next batch: selvedge treatment and size.

With these towels, I didn't use a floating selvedge warp end. I'm not really sure why, except for some vague sense of wondering "what if." For the warp huck sample it didn't matter as the selvedges were threaded for plain weave. But as you can see for the sample at the left, the selvedges did their own thing. Even so, it made for an interesting bound edge with a scalloped effect. How well they hold up will be a matter for wash and wear to tell.

For the size, I allowed 20 percent for draw-in and shrinkage, aiming for a finished width of 15 inches. The actual width is 14 inches. This dismayed me at first, because no commercial dishtowel in the stores are this narrow. However, when I measured my own dishtowels, they are in fact narrower than 14 inches. Obviously the ones in the stores are not pre-shrunk.

When it came to length, I totally blew it and ended up with anything from 17.5 to 22 inches after shrinking. My current method is to measure each time I advance the warp and mark the spot, simply keeping a tally of inches. How in the world I go so many different lengths is beyond me. I blame it on too many distractions! However, next time I'm going to try Charleen's idea of using a knotted string.

So, my solution was to simply pronounce the shorter ones "placemats"! It is a mix and match bunch of place mats to be sure, but the sizes work.

Huck has been a good structure to weave with other things going on. It's easy to thread and quick to weave. And I like the way it looks too.

Related Posts:
Lace Sampler - Huck
Huck Towels 1
Huck Towels 2
Another Warp for Huck
Finishing Up the Huck (For Now)
Huck Dishtowels Finished
Leigh's Fiber Gallery: Dishtowels

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rare Breed Sweater - Left Front Finished

After three major unknit/reknit sessions, I finally finished the left front to my Rare Breed Sweater last night. I frogged and reknit the bottom row of sheep once, and the top 4 inches twice. Once because I counted wrong for the neck decreases, and once because I discovered that my seeding pattern was off by one stitch.

So here it is, with help.........

Catzee, who never wants to miss out on whatever I'm doing.and with help removed..........

Rare Breed Sweater, left front.The top row is (from left to right): Leicester Longwool, California Variegated Mutant, and Whiteface Woodland.

The bottom row is a family of Navajo-Churro sheep, showing off a nice variety of their lovely natual colors. The spacing between the adult on the right and the lamb looks better than it did at first. Even though it was the same measurement of 4 stitches as between the other sheep, the smaller lamb created a larger visual space.

And here it is, pinned to the back. It gives an idea of how the sheep motif is fitting together on the two pieces.

Front and back of sweater pinned together.
I still need to weave in a lot of ends and embroider the details: eyes, facial outlines, and a tail for that one seam-side sheep on the bottom. It is working out better than I'd hoped. I've had to do a lot of thinking and calculating to get the sheep to work out right. For awhile I wasn't too sure that would happen, but it is.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Huck Towels 2

By Leigh

With the workshop in full swing, I am spending more time at the computer than at the loom these days. That doesn't mean that progress isn't being made however.

Huck towel on the loom.  8/2 cotton, white warp & royal blue weft. So far I've woven 5 and 1/2 huck dish towels, each in a different variation of huck, and I'm enjoying every relaxing minute of it. All the drafts were taken from Helene Bress's The Weaving Book.

After my rough start, I had hoped the weaving would move along quickly. And it has for the most part, though I haven't been without problems.......

Unintentional weft loops at the selvedges!I couldn't live with these uninvited weft loops, so I unwove those several inches and tried again.

One thing I'm puzzling over is my selvedges. Not because the are especially unsightly, but because my originial idea of plain weave edges has gone by the wayside as I've experimented with different variations of huck. I reckon this is a limitation of having only 4 shafts to works with. I did not use floating selvedges and the result is that they are being bound by the weft. See what I mean.......

One huck variation.
Another huck variation.
I'm not sure how much of a problem this will end up being with dish towels. At the moment I've taken on a "wait and see" attitude. It will be in the using and the washing that I'll see how well they ultimately stand up.

In the mean time, I've happily weaving away as I have the time, and am looking forward to seeing how these look after they are washed.

Related Posts:
Lace Sampler - Huck
Huck Towels 1
Huck Towels 3
Another Warp for Huck
Finishing Up the Huck (For Now)
Huck Dishtowels Finished

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Better Than Catnip?

By Leigh

We fiber artists know that one of the best highs in the world is a gorgeous fresh fleece. But how many of you have cats that feel the same way?

I had forgotten about these photos until the other day. They were on the camera from when I photographed the Rambouillet fleece I hope to be working on soon.

Rascal, ordinarily, is very cool, calm, and collected. His personality tends to lean more toward sophistication than silliness. He can be amazingly tolerant of Catzee's shenanigans, but does have his limits. These photos are so out of character for him. I laugh every time I look at them.

Only raw fleece does this to him.

This is what we call his “googly-goo” look.

Obviously it doesn't have the same effect on Catzee. She was quite puzzled.......

...... but clearly entertained. I finally had to rescue the fleece before it was demolished. I put the fleece out of reach, and Rascal went and took a nap.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Electronic Inspiration

The Online Guild Computer Design Workshop has been so much fun! I am very impressed with the results.

Remember the markers? Who would have thought "patchwork quilt" unless one saw this:

Yup. That came from the marker picture.

So did this.......

........ by Jane Deane in the UK. I love both the woven effect of the strips as well as the design on them.

Or this lovely ikat-like image by Karen Madigan in Australia.......

Yes! This is still the markers! Karen has more examples of what she's done with the computer on her blog, and explained a bit about how she does them. Click on her name above to check it out.

Here is another photo workshop participants worked with:

Here's what Rosemary in Portual came up with.....

Needlepoint anyone? Or how about a cross stitch? Tapestry? Or maybe paint some knitting yarns?

Linda Wilson
in Canada turned it into this......

What a lovely painted warp that would make. But of course, that's one of her specialties. She has another really neat example on her blog as well.

And Petra in Germany created this......

..... from the same desert scene. I don't have a clue as to how I would interpret that in textiles, but I am drawn to it none the less. I will probably contemplate it for some time to come.

So it's been busy, but rewarding. I can't wait to find out what the next part of the workshop will bring.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Monday, January 08, 2007

Online Guild Workshop Update

My Computer Design Workshop for the Online Guild has gotten off to an enthusiastic start. As my friend Ann stated, computers are the one thing all OLG members have in common. Even though we all work in different fiber and textile media, we are all computer users, so everyone who wishes is able to participate.

It hasn't been without problems however. I have learned that one can't simply copy-and-paste some word processor documents into emails. Various formatting features are reinterpreted by both Yahoo and various email programs as weird little characters instead of what they're meant to be, i.e. bold text, italics, etc.

Then there's plain text versus html in emails. A link is a link is a link, right? Wrong! This turned into an exercise of discovering how many different ways one can access a website if the link won't work. Formatting is a problem in the plain text versus html arena too.

The goal of the workshop is to learn to take a selected image like this ......

And transform it into a source of inspiration for textile design. Perhaps something like this.....

The challenge has been trying to communicate this process without pictures or without actually being able to demonstrate it. Combine that with the various computer operating systems members use, plus their various levels of computer experience, not to mention the different photo editing programs, and I wonder what I've gotten myself into!!!

Fortunately, this is an exceptionally friendly, helpful, and encouraging group; both to me, as I struggle to explain things clearly, and to one another, with our various operating systems, questions, and software. One thing I especially admire about them is their eager willingness to learn.

That may sound odd, but in the past I have had membership in groups where one's level of personal knowledge almost seemed to be some sort of status symbol. This in turn, represented placement in an invisible pecking order. Those who deemed themselves somewhere near the top never seemed open to learning new things, especially from someone else deemed lower in the order. Eventually I felt that I didn't fit in and went my own way.

As with most things, I tried to walk away with something useful from that experience. Therefore, my hope for myself is that I may always be in the process of learning; that my sense of self esteem is never be based on how much I know, but on who I am. And that I never base who I am on skills or possessions, because those things can be lost through physical disability or the circumstances of life. Of course all this is easier said than done, but I'm working on it.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Friday, January 05, 2007

Huck Towels 1

By Leigh

After several days of feeling exceptionally unproductive, it feels so good to be weaving again.

After enjoying the Online Guild's Lace Weaves Workshop so much, I decided to start again at the beginning and spend some time on each lace structure, exploring to my hearts content. In addition to my workshop notes, I acquired 3 new books: Lace and Lacey Weaves by Mary E. Snyder, The Best of Weaver's Huck Lace, edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt, and The Key to Weaving by Mary E. Black. Plus I have Helene Bress's The Weaving Book, which has an entire chapter on huck, and this is where I wanted to start.

Today I was finally able to start weaving my first huck towel, and at the moment this is where it stands:

I put on 5 yards of white 8/2 cotton for the warp and am using the same weight in royal blue weft for the weft. My sett is 20 ends per inch.

The threading is simple and should have been no problem:

4 4 4 4 4 4
3 3 3 3
2 2 2 2 2 2
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

Etc., with plain weave selvedges.

However, I kept losing and misplacing warp ends, don't ask me how! First, I discovered two of them hanging loosely off the warp beam while I was in the middle of sleying. Fortunately I didn't have to rethread the whole thing, I just worked from where the mistakes were to the edges.

Then after I finally got the warp sleyed, I discovered that I had an odd number of ends. I should have had 360, but I counted and recounted only 359. I never did figure out where that missing one got too, it's probably wrapped around the warp beam somewhere. Since I never could find it, I measured off another 5+ yard thread, weighted it with a film canister filled with fishing weights, and tied it on.

Feeling confident that everything was under control, I knotted my warp bundles and started lashing them onto the front apron rod. I tensioned it and was ready to weave the header when I realized that one lone warp end wasn't behaving like the rest. It was popping up off the nice neat plane the rest of the warp made. A quick investigation revealed that somehow this one had missed the heddle altogether. OK. I figured I only had to untie up to that spot and shift everything over by one heddle. Fortunately that didn't take too long.

Now fast forward to where I gotten to before and start weaving the header. Drat, now I discover that 2 warp ends are crossed at the heddles. Hmm. What's the easiest way out of this one. I wasn't in the mood to unlash and untie anything again, so I cut them, pulled them out, uncrossed them, rethreaded, resleyed, and fastened them down with a T-pin.

All this has taken place over several days, as I always have to stop and study any given problem. I am slow to think it through.

One of the reasons I wanted to start with huck is because it is so relaxing to weave. The threading is quick and the weaving rhythm develops easily. I figured with the Computer Design Workshop in full swing, this would offer a creative, productive distraction which wouldn't require intense concentration. Well, hopefully that's where I am now. Relaxed. Creative. Productive. Time will tell.

Related Posts:
Lace Sampler - Huck
Huck Towels 2
Huck Towels 3
Another Warp for Huck
Finishing Up the Huck (For Now)
Huck Dishtowels Finished