Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Little More Shetland :)

I'm still knitting, so there's still room for more yarn! And here it is, recently given to me by Cathy and Tina.

The one from Cathy is black Shetland lamb fleece. It is sooo soft and sweet. The little guy's (girl's?) name is Truffles, and being black, it's hard to get a good photo or scan of it. It's full of baby waves and curls, the tips being just a teeny bit lighter than the body of the lock. From the tips (which look like they've never been cut) and the texture (which is extremely fine), I'm guessing it's a first shear.

This fawn roving is from one of Tina's own Shetlands. It is beautifully soft and with a lovely light luster. From pulling out a few fibers, they appear to be three to four inches in length. I'm intrigued because compared to my other light fawn sample, this one is a little different, so it will definitely be featured in my Shetland Sampler Cardigan.

And then there's this glowing green......

... also from Tina. I only pulled out several locks to photograph, but there is actually quite a range of greens in it: from almost blue to pale cool to mostly neon. I'm not sure how she got the fantastic color, but I can tell you that it is exceptionally silky with a gorgeous luster.

So, since my wheel is still empty while I experiment processing the Polwarth I'm going to get it spinning some of these samples!

© 2008 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rats! A Knitting Boo Boo.

I've been knitting happily along on my Shetland Sampler Cardigan, when I looked back and saw this 

I looked to see if I had somehow dropped a stitch somewhere, but couldn't find it. The rest of the pattern looks just fine.

So what would you do? Frog 3,252 stitches, or individually pull out 20 stitches, one at a time like a ladder, correct it, and then crochet the stitches back in place???

You can see which one I chose to do. :p

© 2008 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Monday, March 24, 2008

Steeking So Far

By Leigh

I've finally made enough progress on my Shetland Sampler Cardigan to post a photo.

First several inches.
I have to admit that I had one false start; there was a problem with gauge. It seems that my back-and-forth gauge is not the same as my in-the-round gauge. In an email conversation with Peg Arnoldussen, I have learned that my style of knitting is most likely the culprit. I knit continental style, holding the yarn in left hand. Evidently, this often results in a tension difference between knit and purl stitches. I've been aware of this for a long time, but never realized what the problem was!

The COWYAK is knitted in yellow (I changed colors when I made my second start), and the natural Shetland color sequence is somewhat random; trying to plan where to use my 15 Shetland yarn colors of varying amounts is more than my poor brain can handle. I felt that I was doing good just to calculate how much I need for the ribbing! What I am doing, is using the colors for which I have the most yards for the larger color sections. Hopefully by the time I get to the end I will have had enough of everything!

Steek from the backside.And the steek? So far I love it! Of course, I haven't had to do anything scary with it yet, but I like knitting it in.

It is placed where the opening of the cardigan will be. All yarns are added and cut off there. Since the steeks will be secured with machine sewing, I won't have any ends to weave in! For that reason, I am leaving my yarn ends fairly short. I'm not sure how practical this is, but to me it means less waste, and that is important with handspun. I find that I have to snug some of them up when I start a new round, but so far the whole thing seems to be holding together fairly well.

I'm a slow knitter so I don't suppose progress will be very rapid. However, I really enjoy stranded knitting, and this project actually isn't too rumply, which is encouraging. My goal is to finish it by next winter; Good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise.

Related Posts:
A Shetland COWYAK - Casting on with waste yarn.
Shetland Sleeve Update - A look at checkerboard steeks in progress.
Wound Neck Steeks
Sewing & Cutting the Steeks
Shetland Sampler Cardigan Complete!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Multiple Tabby Sampler Off the Loom

My first multiple tabby sampler is off the loom. I've even got it washed and dried. As promised, here is the draft, albeit in an abbreviated form.

My 1st multiple tabby draft
My warp yarn was 8/2 unmercerized cotton.
Each 20 end threading block is one inch wide, so the sett is 20 epi.
I used a different warp color for each block, rotating through the colors of the rainbow.

The tie-up is standard.

The treadling changed after each 20 picks.
My aim was 20 ppi, though I was kinda inconsistent with this.
My weft yarn was also 8/2 unmercerized cotton.
I used a different color weft for each sample.

Purple weft

Blue weft

Green weft

Yellow weft

Orange weft

Red Weft

Marie asked about the inspiration for these, and I actually got it while I was weaving the M's & O's dishtowels. While using different color wefts with the red warp, I thought that I would like to weave my next project in a color gamp. (For a good definition of gamp, click here.) Once I decided on the multiple tabby weave I changed my mind however, because I realized that the skips wouldn't create an even blending of color. So I decided to do a series of samplers, each with a different color weft. As you can see, the weft color does have a dominating effect on the overall fabric. I like that however with this weave.

Actually, these were never intended to be samplers in the traditional sense. Sharon calls them "samples with usable results," like all my dishtowels! For a color series, however, I thought for my samples with usable results, I'd make napkins. Their size after washing and drying is 15 by 17 inches. As napkins they would be a little smaller after hemming. I've never made napkins before, so I'm not sure what a good size should be. But I'm willing to give it a try.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Next Spinning Project - Polwarth

By Leigh

Now that I've started knitting with my handspun Shetland, I need to get another project on my spinning wheel. About a year ago my friend Heather from Canada, sent me a lovely Polwarth fleece. (That post, complete with photos of my cats' snoopervision, is right here.) That fleece has remained on my mind through several other spinning projects, but the time has finally come to get it out and spin it.

When Heather first sent me the fleece, she told me that she had gotten it because it was too tender for commercial processing. However, she had still found it to suitable for handspinning, especially as it is a lovely fleece.

The details:
  • Staple length, 4 to 5 inches
  • Staples tender about midway in length
  • Staple shape, rectangular
  • Color is a fairly consistent brown as you see in the photo
  • Tips, some sunbleached
  • Crimp, ranging from 5 to 10 crimps per inch
  • Luster is low
  • Hand is fairly soft
Tenderness is a weakness in the fiber which causes random breakage. If you take a close look at the staple on the left in the above photo, between the 2 & 1/2 and 3 & 1/2 inch tape measure marks, you may be able to see a band of slightly lighter brown. When these banded staples are gripped at either end and firmly snapped, a crackling or popping can be heard rather than the "ping" of a healthy staple. With enough force, the fibers of a tender staple can be broken at the area of tenderness.

I've got about three and a quarter washed pounds of this fleece and have looked it over pretty closely. Interestingly, only part of the fleece appears to be tender; there are some very sound locks in it as well. This puzzles me, because from what I've read about the causes of tenderness (poor nutrition, stress, parasites) it would seem that the entire fleece should be consistently tender, which it doesn't seem to be the case here. Even so, it is long enough to still be spinnable, even with breaking.

The biggest challenge will be in deciding how to process this fleece. It is likely that it will break during carding. Even so, the fiber will still be long enough to spin. A potential problem would be really short bits breaking off, which would later become pills in the yarn and anything I made with it. So I think I will experiment with processing before deciding how to deal with it.

And before I forget, while I was researching tenderness, I came across several useful fleece evaluation resources I'd like to pass along:
Now, I'm off to see what I can do with that fleece.

Related Posts:
Polwarth - Experimenting With Preparations
Polwarth - Experimenting With Blends
What's On My Wheel? Pol-paca

Friday, March 14, 2008

Multiple Tabby Sampling

By Leigh

This is the first multiple tabby sampling that's on the loom....

Rainbow warped multiple tabby weave.
I took the three tabby units,

3 different tabby threading blocks.and simply threaded them one after the other. I repeated each unit five times so that each threading block has 20 warp ends. With multiple tabby threading, only one block weaves plain weave at a time. The plain weave block shifts in a diagonal fashion when the treadling is changed. I think you can make this out in the above photo if you look closely. I'll give the details of this draft in my next weaving post.

Close-up of the skipped warp threads.Of course, I can't help but compare this to M's & O's. The most obvious thing is the number of warp ends skipped when the blocks are weaving the pattern (instead of plain weave.) The close-up on the left shows that in the multiple tabby system, two warp ends are skipped at a time. In M's and O's, three warp ends are skipped.

Those skips in some way remind me of Summer & Winter, though not a lot. I will be curious to see what this looks like once it's off the loom and washed.

© 14 march 2008 at

Related Posts:
Multiple Tabby Weaves
Multiple Tabby Sampler Off the Loom

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Multiple Tabby Weaves

By Leigh

Any time I start a new weave structure or technique, I always look to see what books are available on it. When I started my M's & O's dishtowels, I did exactly that. What I found, was Multiple Tabby Weaves, a monograph based on Dr. William Bateman's weaving manuscript.

"Multiple Tabby Weaves" by Dr. William Bateman.I really like finding monographs as well as most of the older weaving publications. A lot of the more recent weaving publications seem to be basically project books, which I'm not real keen on. I prefer books which discuss and explore a particular structure, leaving it up to the weaver to develop their own projects.

Multiple Tabby Weaves is edited by Virginia I. Harvey, and was published in 1981 by Shuttle-Craft Guild as monograph #35. While it isn't specifically about M's & O's, M's & O's is one of its examples of a multiple tabby weave.

According to Dr. Bateman, a multiple tabby weave is any draft which contains two or more tabby weave threadings.

I should probably note here, that Dr. Bateman uses "tabby" synonymously with "plain weave." However, last month there was an interesting discussion on WeaveTech about these terms, which seem to be evolving for modern weavers. Today, "plain weave" is more often interpreted to mean the simple over-one, under-one weave structure. "Tabby" on the other hand, refers to the single shots of plain weave which are thrown in between pattern wefts, such as in overshot. A lot of older publications however, use the two terms interchangeably, as is the case in Dr. Bateman's manuscript.

On four shafts, Dr. Bateman used three different threadings to create a plain (tabby) weave:

3 different tabby threading blocks.
  • For block A, plain weave is created by lifting shaft 1 - 3 alternately with 2 - 4.
  • For block B, plain weave is created by alternating shafts 1 - 2 with 3 - 4.
  • For block C, shafts 1 - 4 and 2 - 3 alternate to create a plain weave or tabby.
In other words, each of these threading drafts results in every other warp end being lifted (or lowered.) By using combinations of these three blocks in a single draft, Dr. Bateman created a wide variety of "multiple tabby" fabrics.

M's & O's can be classified as a multiple tabby weave which uses extended blocks.

M's &' O's threading blocks.It repeats the first two and last two threads of the plain weave on either side of the four thread block. You can see it better in the illustration above than I can probably explain it.

As you've probably guessed by now, I'm going to experiment with some multiple tabby weaves next and in fact have the loom dressed and ready to go. I should have some samples to show next time.

Related Posts:
M's & O's: The Basics
Multiple Tabby Weave Sampling
Multiple Tabby Weave With a Heavier Weft
Expanding Multiple Tabby Weave Blocks

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Shetland COWYAK

By Leigh

Those of you who are members of Ravelry may already know what a COWYAK is. I'm not a member, but I learned about this while searching TECHknitting for cast-ons.

Even though I worked through the formula to calculate how much of each color yarn I'd need, I'm still a little paranoid about possibly running out of one of them (remember my Rare Breed Sweater near disaster?). To keep my stress level down, I've decided to go ahead and knit the body of the sweater and the sleeves first, and then add the cuffs, neck, and button bands last. In thinking about this, I decided that a provisional cast-on was probably what I wanted. Not remembering the "how-to's" of this technique, I clicked on over to TECHknitting and browsed through the subject index. That's where I discovered COWYAK.

"Cast On Waste Yarn And Knit." What could be easier! Perfect for an all-thumbs knitter like me, as it doesn't require any fancy maneuvering of needles and yarn. After casting on with waste yarn, a couple of rows are knitted with it and then the regular yarn is started. When it's time to add the ribbing, the waste yarn is removed, leaving loops to be picked up by another needle. The ribbing is then knit down from the picked up loops.

Here you have it....

... my attempt anyway. You can also see the beginning of the checkerboard steek that I learned from Essential Techniques For Serious Knitters.

For full COWYAK instructions, as well as who gets the credit for this clever term, click here.

Related Posts:
Starting The Bottom Ribbing - COWYAK pick-up
Spinning & Knitting Update - info on above mentioned book
Steeking So Far - progress!
What I Learned From My Swatch
Shetland Sampler Cardigan Complete!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Spinning & Knitting Update

By Leigh

I haven't blogged about spinning or knitting lately, because there really hasn't been much to write about since my last spinning and knitting post. But today I have two things to report:

1) Sunday, I finished spinning the last of the Shetland ...........

Basket of Shetland handspun.
2) While contemplating the Fair Isle cardigan I plan to knit with it, I googled "Norwegian sweater patterns." Though I still have Fair Isle on my mind, I've been intrigued with Norwegian steeks every since I read this post on Alison's blog.

I have never knitted anything with steeks. It's been the sort of thing I have deliberately avoided. The idea of cutting into one's knitting is bad enough, but even worse, is the thought of having to weave in all those ends! Norwegian steeks however, use a different technique.

Essential Techniques For Serious Knitters by Peg Arnoldussen.Thanks to my Google search, I found this little book, Essential Techniques For Serious Knitters, by Peg Arnoldussen. What a treasure this little volume is; it immediately took up permanent residence in my knitting basket.

This publication is actually a compilation of three earlier booklets by Peg, and more. I bought it for the section entitled "Scandinavian Cut Tube Sweaters," which explains the "how-to's" of Norwegian steeks: planning, placement, machine sewing, bands & plackets, and more.

Other sections in the booklet include: Cable Cast-On; French Hems; Seaming Techniques; Intarsia in the Round; Invisible Bind Offs, Cast-Ons, and Short Rows; Jogless Stripes in the Round; Kitchener Stitch; Knitting on Bands; Design Equations; Knitting Tips, and more.

Now that the spinning is done, my next step will be to finish measuring my yarns and to start planning where to use the colors. Then I can actually begin knitting! I'm very happy with the idea of knitting this in the round, but still a little nervous about the idea of the steeks. However, one can't walk on water if one doesn't get out of the boat, so here goes!

Related Posts:
Fiber Gallery Handspun Yarns - Shetland
Shetland Fair Isle Guzzintas
Sewing & Cutting The Steeks
Shetland Sampler Cardigan Complete!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hemming Handwoven Fabrics

By Leigh

I want to thank everyone who responded to last Sunday's post, How Do You Hem Your Handwovens. I received both encouragement as well as good ideas. As promised, here is what I learned from you all. I've tried to organize everything in a logical manner, and have tried to paraphrase as best I could. Hopefully, this will help it all "sink in." If anything needs further clarification, please let me know!

I was able to organize your information with two basic categories, "still on the loom" and "once off the loom."

Preparation for hemming starts in the planning for a piece. While it is on the loom, the fabric needs to be prepared for the type of hem desired.

To make a less bulky hem, quite a few of you, such as Annie, recommended a finer weft for the hem folds. Beryl reminded me that a finer weft for the hem will keep the plain weave section from weaving wider than the body of the towel. Marie uses an inch or two of sewing thread for the weft for the hem. I have to admit that I have actually tried this, but used a polyester thread on a piece woven in cotton. Unfortunately, these didn't shrink the same, so I wasn't happy with the result. I am making a note to purchase some cotton sewing thread! Christine weaves plain weave with a lighter weight yarn of the same fiber content. For example, 10/2s for the hems if the project weft is 5/2s. I really like this idea as it means I can give myself permission to buy more yarn! (To have a supply of lighter weight, you see. :)

Alice weaves about and inch of a solid colored tabby for the hem, and Kristin has a clever idea for making a neat, straight fold line for the hem. She shoots in a couple of picks of a thicker white yarn, leaving the ends stick out of the fabric selvedges. These are pulled out when the hem is ready to be turned, making a nice fold line.

Kathy hemstitches everything while it's on the loom. On her utility pieces, she then weaves a section of plain weave. Once the piece is off the loom, she then has the flexibility of deciding whether she wants to leave it fringed, or sew a hem after all. Marie always hemstitches for wool. If she doesn't want fringe, then she adds a short plain weave section for the hem, using in a lighter weight wool weft. Isabelle also hemstitches towels, using a technique her mother taught her. She references Weaver's Craft Magazine. If you have a copy of issue 17, check it for information on hemstitching. (Thanks to Valerie, I have several back issues of Weaver's Craft, but not that particular one.) Isabelle also weaves in a thick mop cotton to separate her towels. Once off the loom, she uses a zipper foot to sew one row of stitches on either side of th emop cotton, before removing it and cutting between the towels.

Bonnie, on the other hand, has a more free spirited approach. She warps for 2 to 4 towels at a time and then makes color changes in the weft as the mood strikes her. Measuring for cutting only comes after the towels are off the loom, warp ends are knotted, and the entire length given a hot wash and dry. One advantage I can see to this is that it would be easy to ensure that all the towels are the same length. (Some of you may recall how I finally worked out measuring weaving length with a twill tape.) I often fret over length, so this method would definitely solve that.

Bonnie also told me that her elderly aunt enjoys handwork, so they work together when it comes to the sewing part. Bonnie bastes or pins the hems, and her aunt does the handsewing. It's a happy cooperation for both of them!

Many others of you, such as Bspinner, also handsew hems. Textillian packs his weft in securely enough to be able to cut and fold over the waste weft (a shot or two of a different color) for the first fold of the hem. This is folded again, and he then runs his stitches about every 4 or 5 warp ends, depending on the sett. He also finishes the edges of the hem with a few overcast stitches. I really like this idea as it encases the raw edges. I'm going to have to start doing this too.

For machine sewing, Marie uses a zig zag stitch like I do before cutting the towels apart. Then she uses a straight stitch for the actual hemming. Annie suggests that the straight stitch is preferable, as the fabric can stretch with zig zag. She also hems by hand, but bastes first, instead of using pins.

Laritza and quite a few others use a serger for hemming. Catherine sometimes leaves the serged edge as the hem, or presses the serged edge over and hems by hand. Sayward also like serging for a simple hem, but also likes hemstitching and fringing for fancier pieces.

Last but not least is washing them! It's pretty scary to put one's precious handwoven fabric in water for the first time, but wow, what a wonderful difference wet finishing makes.

Annie recommends a hot wash for both cotton and linen. This increases their absorbency, which is what towels are made for! She prefers wind drying to machine drying. Marie puts them through a full hot water cycle and then drys them in a hot dryer after sewing.

Hopefully, I've covered all the comments and suggestions. More are welcome! This is by no means comprehensive.

Susan and CreativeTextiles (aka Deep End of the Loom), I was very interested in both of your comments. Please let me know how you get on with this!

And Kristi, about that possibility of being turned into a weaver one of these days, jump on in, the water's fine! ;)

Related Posts:
How Do You Hem Your Handwovens?