Life at the moment seems to fall in to 2 categories, those with too much time to fill, and those with no enough time. It could be argued that those with too much time to fill need to find themselves an all absorbing hobby (I could gently suggest they try spinning!). At present I am firmly in the category not enough time to fill.
I am fortunate in that I can carry on with my business pretty much as normal, a few potential issues got side-stepped by some forward planning I did at the beginning of March when I could see the storm clouds building. The good weather has also dragged me out in to the garden more than usual, with the feeling that I should appreciate the sun on my back and soil that isn't like a quagmire.
But at the end of March I ordered myself a new loom. I've woven on a rigid heddle loom for years now, and have always been very content with what I could produce. But with the dyeing of warps came the discovering a whole new skill, and a thought of "I'll take a look at some 4-shaft table looms at Wonderwool" turned in to a clicking of a button, and a new Erica 50cm 4 shaft loom was now mine.
I put the first warp on last Friday, rading the stash for something I had in a sensible quantity, and that I had no fixed plan for. Despite winding the warps for the shop for a few months now I made a right mess of winding this one!
The usual case of "it's only for me, and it doesn't have to be perfect" combined with more haste, less speed. Yes, winding it from skein to ball would have been a very sensible idea, and maybe picking a bouncy merino wasn't my best plan either. By the end of the warp the inconsistencies in tension were causing real difficulties, and thank heavens it was only a 2m warp to mess around with.
This was fresh off the loom... and it is a very dodgy looking piece of cloth!
Thankfully fulling is a great leveller... though also revealed another newbie mistake as the sett was far too dense for this thickness of yarn, despite what it looked like on the loom under tension. However, it's still usable, and will be chopped up to make a project bag.
At the very end I let myself mess around with the thing that I'm really looking forward to exploring most on the new loom.... twill!
I didn't bother changing the sett (density of the warp threads) for this, so it's not very technically correct, but I just wanted to experiment with how the process works so that I can do it better when I tie on a warp for this technique properly. I used some hand-spun skeins of Shetland for the weft, which pulled in dramatically when fulled the cloth (it's also possibly overfulled because I still need to get to know our new washing machine), that really hid a lot of the twill pattern.
Inspired by the feeling that I was flailing around in the dark to a certain extent I bought myself a subscription to the Jane Stafford online guild, which I can't remcomned highly enough. I now have a lighted candle to at least let me see where the door is, even though I am definitely not capable of walking through it!
After much video watching I've put on a colour and weave warp in 2/8 cotton to weave some tea towels. My warp still went a bit squiffy towards the end (more haste, less speed, think before rushing to a fix for a problem...), but is so much better, andproved that counting isn't my strong point. The warps I wind to dye are all in one colour, and set up in a way that are quick to count and check ( 3 cones of yarn, 150 ends, I count in groups of 30!). This warp has lots of changing groups of colours, and each section contains a different number of ends. So no, it's not an optical illusion, the 2nd group from the right is bigger than the others. I was already doing some fudging maths because my reed doesn't quite allow me to get the 18epi sett called for in the pattern instructions, and is only just wide enough, so that extra number of ends sent things really awry as I was threading the reed. However, I improvised, and the middle stripe, and the one to the left is threaded at 20epi, and it's only for tea towels, so all will be fine!
I'm doing this first towel just using 1 colour because never having woven on cotton as well it seemed to be a bit ambitious to immediately launch in to a true colour and weave of getting the weft to match the warp pattern. However, that will come next!
All of this rambling is just to say, take pleasure in getting things wrong, the mistakes teach you what not to do the next time. And then the satisfaction of getting it right is all the sweeter.
I heard the cuckoo in the valley this morning as I was letting the chickens out. Then as I was eating breakfast we spotted a Swallow. Now I'm just awaiting the arrival of the House Martins and it will start to feel like summer.
Mind you, I've seen the weather forecast for next week and I'm not getting to excited, my tender plants will be staying safely in the greenhouse for a while longer.
Slowly the hills are turning more green, but it always take a while here. One of the joys of looking at the hillsides at the moment is that you can spot all the apple trees that are part of the hedgerows. The Hawthorn has it's buds, but the May isn't quite ready to impress us yet. Last autumn we bought an ornamental Hawthorn that has red flowers so I am looking forward to seeing that.
I'm still working full time (in fact more full time than usual to keep you all supplied with materials!) but there have been a few bits and pieces I've finished off this month.
The warp I wound for the indirect warping on a rigid heddle loom tutorial has now been woven. At the beginning of lock down I bought myself a new loom as I fancied having a go at weaving more complex patterns with finer yarn, so a 4-shaft lout Erica is in the middle of being assembled.
I've also been quilting.... I bought the fabric for this on my last escape from Wales before the current time of great uncertainty. It was meant to be a present for my Aunty for her birthday in the autumn, but I decided she should have it sooner. The centre of each square uses an elephant print fabric because she loves them, and I then spent the day wanting mourn The Stitch Festival in London creating a palette of Fat Quarters, starting off with some amazing wax print fabrics in bold reds and blues. The back was a piece of eco-dyed fabric, using madder, onion skins turmeric(this isn't a true dye, but the backs of quilts don't get much light, and the fabric was mordanted properly so it might stick around for a while), and some leaves from the garden soaked in iron water.
I've also finished off this quilt, which is perfect Quarantine sewing because there is no precision or planning required.
It’s a completely improvised design, with bits of theory from both of Rayna Gillman’s books, and some bits and pieces I picked up at workshop I went on last December.
I’ve had a tea towel from Herdy that I’ve always loved too much to actually use, featuring a beautiful wood cut of the stages of wool processing. I cut that up in to panels, and then just sewed together scraps, some of them are from fabric I’ve printed myself or dyed, others leftovers from other projects.
The back is another piece of eco-dyed fabric, using some leftover cochineal from a skein of silk I dyed, and the madder from the previous quilt, and some birch bark. Then the cochineal and madder got thrown on to the quilt and bundled up for some more eco printing. I soaked the leaved in copper water this time, and there's a vague hint of their impression, but not as precise a print as I get with iron water.
I got the Procyon dyes out and dyed a bundle of fabric to go with my picture, one of them has already been used in the backing of the quilt above!
For May we're getting ambitious and packs of fabric and Procyon dyes have gone out in the post... we're going to have a go at doing a full workshop on colour mixing via Skype.
On the business front things are carrying on normal here. Our post is still being collected from the doorstep, though the delivery speed is erratic at the moment. Royal Mail are doing an excellent job, but sometimes things are taking longer than the amazingly quick speeds we've all become used to. I have good supplies of lots of fibres, including the supplies for the Time Travellers Club for the next 2 months. My suppliers in Italy are now dispatching orders again so there are regular supplies of Superfine Merino & Silk, Cotton and Ramie arriving. The Tour de France has been delayed until September... but the Tour de Fleece is going ahead in the traditional July time slot, and over in the Ravelry group we decided that we'd take part as normal, and we could always do the whole thing again in September if the race manages to happen. Please do come and join us.