Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bowerbird Weaves

I could choose to start off with an apology about how long it's been since I've updated, but as I can't even bring myself to check and see when that last post was published, let's just skip that part.

I decided to start blogging again, or at least give it attempt, because I have something new and exciting in my crafting life, and I thought it would be a fun and interesting exercise to document my learning process.  The new and exciting thing is a loom:

A little while ago the little voice in the back of my head that was no doubt planted there close to a decade ago by Syne Mitchell, and her weaverly wisdom and enthusiasm, started getting louder.  At first I thought to myself that there isn't space in this house to put a "real" loom.  Then I started thinking about table looms.  Then I created some search notifications on Craiglist, just in case anyone local to me was selling a loom for a price I could afford.  A couple of weeks ago I saw an ad for the loom that now sits in my basement.  It was tempting, but I didn't think I was ready, didn't think I had the space, and didn't think I could justify the expense.  Then I made a list of languishing crafting tools I could sell.  Then I measured our basement.  Then I hemmed and hawed a whole lot.  Then I bought the loom.  A beautiful Harrisville Designs 36" 4 shaft, 6 treadle floor loom, delivered by a lovely local couple who had been hauling it around for demonstrations before they decided they didn't need a 36" loom for demonstrations. 

I was a little hesitant to buy "only" a 4 shaft loom, because I feared that I would have shaft envy if I didn't buy an 8 shaft loom.  You know me (or maybe not), and how I love to delve into the technical details of my hobbies.  But the lovely people in the Warped Weavers group on Ravelry helped me realize that I can do so much with a 4 shaft loom, and if I ever feel I need to upgrade, I can do that.  I am very excited about the 36" width, because it gives me so many options of things to make. 

I asked lots and lots of questions in the Warped Weavers group, and then started reading Deborah Chandler's Learning to Weave, which is extremely detailed and clear, and gives me a lot of confidence that I can do this.  The unknown can be scarier than the complicated known.  This book is from the local library, and was signed by Ms. Chandler, herself!

How cool is that!

I am not very far in, but am pacing myself so as to not get too overwhelmed.  I have read as far as front-to-back warping, which is the method I plan to try for now.  The instructions are 30 pages.  

THIRTY pages.  But these are the kinds of instructions you just wish you had for every complicated thing you've ever had to do.  The length does not obfuscate, but is exactly what's needed to make every detail as clear as possible.  I'm so excited to try this out, after my warping board and yarn arrive. 

I do have some prep to do in the meantime.  I need to put on a new brake cord, which I think should be easy enough, though I'm not sure exactly how long it should be, or how much the exact length matters.  I have the old, frayed one for reference, anyway. 

One thing I've learned about weavers from the research I've been doing is that they love hardware stores and homemade tools and solutions.  Of course, getting a length of rope from the hardware store to make a brake cord (or a lifetime supply of brake cords, as seems to be the case here) does not seem that revolutionary.  That's where you go for rope, right?  But I really liked the idea to get cheap Venetian blinds to cut apart and use for warp separators.  Especially after I saw the price.  While I know that one day I might want real wooden sticks for this purpose, those seem to cost $1.50 - $2 per slat, and you need a lot of them.  These blinds from Home Depot cost $2.97.  That is not a typo.  They cost lest than the nylon rope I bought for the brake.  I just need to cut them off and I'm ready to go!

I think that's all on weaving for now.  I hope that I'll be able to warp next week, and will try to get some photos for another blog post about that.  I am starting off by doing the beginner exercises in Deborah Chandler's book, but have already bought a draft (that's the weaving version of a pattern) for some beautiful cotton dishtowels.  This is going to be so much fun.

Oh, and I still knit and spin.  Here's (a pretty terrible, pre-finishing) photo of some yarn I just made!  It's merino blended with mohair, and I think it would make a great weaving weft. 

Yes, I am starting to look at all my yarn with renewed interest.  I don't know that all of it is suitable for weaving, and I don't have an enormous yarn collection.  But there are some things here and there that may make it onto that loom. 


Sunday, November 13, 2011


I couldn't resist knitting some toys for Milo. My favorite is Celestine Sox, by Norah Gaughan, knit out of Knitpicks Chroma. It is a deceptively simple knit, and great for babies. I put a cage and bell cat toy in the middle, for some jingle.


Celestine Sox

and after:


I also knit Elijah, by Ysolda Teague. I confess that I omitted his eyes because I just couldn't figure out how to embroider them properly on a stuffed piece. Let's just make believe I decided to leave them out to allow for more scope of the imagination when Milo plats with him!

Eyeless Elijah

Not a toy, but also adorable, is Pepita by Martina Behm, knit out of Wollmeise 100% merino in the Sonne colorway.


in orange

I love this jumper, and wish I could make more for him in larger sizes. But that won't happen, given that this took close to 600 yards of fingering weight yarn. I did two modifications to the pattern. I left out the feet and extended the ribbing, in part because I didn't have enough yarn, and in part because it extends the wearability of the garment as he grows taller. I highly recommend this knit for babies. Consider this instead of a blanket, if you want to make a unique gift.

Unrelated to baby knitting, I recently received a review copy of Clara Parkes' book The Knitter's Book Of Socks. Even though I did receive it for free from the publisher, it was a book I knew I would have bought for myself, and I'd like to think that my positive review is not colored by this.

Like her other "Knitter's Book Of..." books, this is a complete gem. It's such a pleasure to have a hefty hardcover, jacketed book in my hands. I regret that I can't do a full run-down of the contents, as I've read it in stolen moments between tending to the baby, and am now trapped under a sleeping baby, out of reach of the book. I did find it as comprehensive and information packed as her other books. My only complaint is that, from experience, I disagree with her claim that socks should have negative ease in length. (I agree about width.) In fact, because negative ease in width pulls the fabric shorter, I have to knit my socks longer than my foot, not shorter, to achieve a proper fit when worn. Otherwise they're just too short. I'm truly curious what other people think of this. How long do you knit your socks in relation to your feet, and does it work?

I think the patterns in this book are even better than in her other two books. There is a range of styles and techniques, and almost every pattern was immediately aesthetically appealing to me. In fact, I am tempted to try to knit my way through the book. It's something I've been wanting to do with a book for a while, and this is probable the one I'll choose. And I plan to try to be as faithful to the patterns as possible, because I want to go outside of my comfort zone, learn new things, and give a second or third try to techniques that I might have tried and dismissed earlier. My knitting time is severely limited, so what might have once been a manageable yearlong project will take much longer, and will not even start immediately. And I want to knit through some stash before buying yarn for this. But does anyone want to join me? Think of it as the loosest knitalong possible. Heck, even choose a different book for your knit-through! I just like the idea of this type of challenge.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

look, ma, one hand!

Thank you for all the lovely comments about my lovely boy. He is sleeping in my arms right now, so I thought I'd go through my Flickr photos to find some things to put into a catch-up blog post. One handed typing, so please excuse any brevity in my writing. (Or perhaps that will come as a relief?)

I spun some golden deliciousness. 60/30/10 merino/bamboo/nylon, from Hello Yarn. I used to think that I didn't like bamboo blends, but when prepped well (as is all of Adrian's fiber), it turns out that I love it.
Handspun Golden Panda
Handspun Golden Panda

Little mittens that he never wore. Whoops. Too small now. (And he's become a hand sucker, anyway.)
Norwegian Newborn Mittens

Milk Infant Top
Milk Infant Top

BSJ from blanket leftovers:
Handspun BSJ
Handspun BSJ
Handspun BSJ

new baby things

Preview of what I'll share next post:

Celestine Sox

I apologize for not giving full project details for everything in this post, but it's a bit overwhelming to try to do one handed. More information is available on my Ravelry projects page.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


He was only 6 days overdue. This blog post is... well, do we really need to count the days? (Weeks? MONTHS?) Here's a tiny bit of catch-up:


nursing gymnastics

Cosset mosaic



Miles Sebastian (you can call him Milo) was born on July 22, 2011. That makes him 11 weeks old. It's fun to look at the older photos of him here, and see how tiny and mushy he was. Now he's a whopping 12 pounds (started out just under 8), full of personality, smiles, and coos.

Knitting and spinning are going very slowly around here, though I have a few projects that are just about done, and am making good progress on some longies. I even have plan to cast on for something for me -- imagine!

I will continue to blog. I have gotten good at typing with one hand, but posts will probably not be frequent. I'm still here. +1


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Work In Progress

But let's start off with the big finished one! It's a log cabin style blanket, based on the Mason Dixon pattern Joseph's Blankie Of Many Colors. I spun the yarn last summer, from two Spunky Eclectic samplers, resulting in about 2 oz. each of 20 different colors. I used 17 of the 20 colors in this blanket, and didn't run out of any of them. I swatched with one of the more "average" skeins, drew a diagram of the entire blanket, and extrapolated from the swatch how much of each color I'd need for the blanket. Thank you, math, for saving the day! Also, thank you luck. When you're dealing with handspun, the math can only take you so far. I'm very pleased that things worked out. I have leftovers of everything, and have already completed a smaller project with about half of them, leaving enough aside for any future darning needs.

Baby's Handspun Rainbow Log Cabin Blanket

Baby's Handspun Rainbow Log Cabin Blanket

Baby's Handspun Rainbow Log Cabin Blanket

Baby's Handspun Rainbow Log Cabin Blanket

Wileycomma has asked about a photo of the back. I'll see if I can get one of those next weekend.

For this blanket I used the more traditional technique of binding off every color, and then picking up stitches for the next color when it was time to knit on that side of the blanket again. It creates a little ditch between the colors, which I actually like quite a lot. But I think it would be interesting to knit a blanket without binding off, but instead by just knitting an extra row (half ridge), and leaving those stitches on a holder until it's time to knit them again. I'd like to see the contrast in the overall look and drape of the blanket. But it will be a while before I get to knitting a second one of these.

I would have finished that blanket sooner, but like most crafters, I got a little distracted from the big project. It was hard not to be. Some of the pieces are done:

Baby Sweater Mosaic For Blog
(a preview -- more details in upcoming blog posts)

The Work In Progress, namesake of this blog post? He won't be here until July (knock on wood) to receive all his woolly gifts. He's waiting as patiently as he can.

Lots of baby knits to come. :-D

Sunday, March 06, 2011

... taps the microphone

Hello? Anyone there? Sorry for all the sneezing, but I'm clearing the dust off this thing, and it's really thick by now.

Apologies, schmapologies. I am here, I am blogging, and here is some stuff I knit. (Embarrassingly long ago.)

It's a sweater from complete scratch! You've seen the blog posts about my cormo fleece, and the scouring, dying, combing, and spinning. (And if you haven't, just look back through a few posts. The advantage of infrequent posting is that what you want to find can't be too far away!) It's the B-Side Cardigan, designed by Laura Chau. I don't think I really changed anything. It's a great sweater, and was very nice to knit in my handspun.

Handspun B-Side Cardigan

Handspun B-Side Cardigan

Handspun B-Side Cardigan

That's not the only handspun sweater I knit. And hey, it's the Laura Chau post, because this sweater was also designed by her! It's the lovely Carter Cardigan, out of oatmeal merino. I didn't scour or process it myself, but it is from a beautifully processed fleece, spun from pin drafted roving.

Handspun Carter Cardigan

Handspun Carter Cardigan

Handspun Carter Cardigan

Thinking about it, I don't think I changed much about this one, either. I probably should have made the sleeves a little shorter, because they ended up a little long even with the cuffs folded up. But I don't mind, because it's very comfortable and cozy.

What else has happened since August? Oh yeah, we had Halloween! Alex and I were Yip Yip Monsters. It was a joint craft project, though most of the kudos should go to Alex. He had the creative inspiration and did most of the sewing.

Yiiiiiiiiip Yip Yip Yip Yip Yip!

Another crafting highlight were my Squirrel Sampler Mittens, designed by Adrian Bizilia. I used Harrisville Shetland for the outer, and Knit Picks Shadow (tonals) for the surprise purple lining. I love the combo.



There's a lot more, but I'll save that for another post. And I'll try to write that one before the snow melts, okay?

snowy back porch

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spinning Along

I don't often do spin and knitalongs. I usually like to do what I want, when I want, and at my own pace. But this summer things worked out such that my plans coincided nicely with spinalong plans, or were just fuzzy enough that I could fit what I wanted to do into the scope of organized group efforts. It feels really nice to occasionally break away from being a completely independent crafter, and to participate in a group challenge.

My big, huge, I-Can't-Believe-I-Spun-The-Whole-Thing challenge was for the Tour De Fleece, earlier this summer. My personal goal was to spin up half the fiber I bought for a blanket project. I got 20% of it done before the challenge started, and ended up finishing the remaining 80% during the Tour. Whoa! I still can't quite fathom how I managed that. The time limit and group sharing was definitely a motivator to push myself and keep on going.

I can't believe I spun the whole thing.

It started out as two Spunky Eclectic Almost Solid samplers, in the wool blend.

I can't believe I spun the whole thing.

I had 2 oz. each of 20 different colors. I spun and plied each color into its own little 2-ply skein of yarn.

I can't believe I spun the whole thing.

To make things more streamlined, I worked in groups of four colors. I spun four colors onto one bobbin, and the same four colors, in the same order, onto a second bobbin. That allowed me to spin and ply without having to change bobbins after every ounce.

I can't believe I spun the whole thing.

I found the wool blend very easy to spin, and it yielded a lofty yarn, even when spun worsted from combed top. It was a little neppy, but nothing too bad, and I was able to pick out the occasional nep as I went. Overall, I think it's a very nice fiber for the price, and was a good choice for this project.

I can't believe I spun the whole thing.

The final stats on the yarn:

20 ~2 oz. 2-ply skeins

total length: 2920 yards
total weight: 1132 grams (40 oz, or 2.5 pounds)
yards per pound: 1155

average skein length: 146 yd.
average skein weight: 56.6 g. (2 oz.)

12-13 wraps per inch, for the most part

I can't believe I spun the whole thing.

It's going to be a beautiful log cabin blanket. I haven't cast on, yet, but I'm really looking forward to it.

My other spin-along projects are for the Four Ounce Challenge being put on by Adrian (Hello Yarn), David (Southern Cross Fibre), and Amy (Spunky Eclectic). The challenge is to spin, and then knit, crochet, or weave a project from 4 oz. of their yarn. Bonus points if you create an original design and publish the pattern. My own personal theme for this challenge is rolags and woolen spinning.

4 oz. challenge rolags

That's Hello Yarn's 5 Plum Pie colorway. I've spun up the colors separately, into very lofty two ply yarns.

Four.  Ounce.  Challenge.

I had hoped to use it for colorwork, but being woolen (and me being out of practice spinning woolen!), the yarns are too uneven for that to work well. So I will go with something simpler. I am still really happy with my original design idea, and just ordered some Malabrigo worsted for it. The Malabrigo hat won't be eligible for the spinalong contest, but that's okay. Anything that inspires a new design is fine by me!

My other project for this contest has also had its troubles.

The fun part was turning this:

4 ounce challenge, part two

into this:

4 ounce challenge, part two
(just a sampling of the rolags)

Unfortunately, in my haste to start spinning, I didn't properly sample, and am ending up with a yarn that is much thinner than I intended. I wanted to go for fingering weight singles for a lace shawl or scarf. I'm ending up with a much thinner yarn, and I don't think I'll have time to knit that up by the contest deadline. I'm considering chain plying it to maintain the colors. Chain plying is not idea for woolen spun yarns because they tend to be less even than worsted spun yarns. While a traditional three (or other) ply will help even out uneven singles, chain plying only serves to enhance the unevenness. But I may try it anyway, and see what I get. If nothing else, it's a learning experience.

Making rolags from combed top is very easy and a lot of fun. When you work from a multicolored top, you get beautifully heathered rolags that turn into a beautifully heathered yarn. I am quite tempted to buy a sweater's worth of multicolor top from one of my favorite dyers, and spin it up using this technique. I think that it does dull some of the contrasts and transitions, which could be nice for a multicolor sweater. Another project for the long, long wishlist.