The sun has been shining for the past couple of days. In a way it's been lovely, I've actually been able to dry some fibre outside for the first time this year. However, it's also revealing the state of the house after several months of winter...
When you rely on wood as your source of heat you're continually bringing the outside in to your house, add in all the fibre from the business and all my personal crafting and the floor is awash with mini tumbleweeds... When you only ever see the floor in half daylight you tend not to notice them, but when sunlight blazes in through the windows... ooh boy. We won't even mention that the windows themselves are now revealed to be utterly filthy.
No point in getting too concerned though, there's at least 2 more month of proper winter living, and everything will only get covered in dust again if I clean it now.
Instead there was a compromise, a quick whizz round with the hoover to pick up the worst of the grime, and a tidy up of all the stuff that gets scattered around the place.
Basket of fibre being a case in point... I swear it's breeding in there. I've definitely spun and knitted up more than I've purchased in the last year, yet somehow it still takes up the same amount of space if not more. Of course, in my head, the braids of fibre that I dye myself and end up keeping don't really count. Spares from the fibre clubs are the worst culprits. They're club colourways, and while I've never said that club colours are exclusive to the club, I always feel guilty about selling the spares... so instead I keep them, particularly if it's a colour or base fibre I'm in love with.
However, a bit of forceful stuffing in to boxes, and things are no longer looking quite so untidy. I just about managed to avoid getting distracted by the other contents of the boxes as well. It doesn't help that every project I'm working on right now is tending towards the epic scale. All started months ago, and all so close to being finished, but not quite there.
Case in point, I started this cardigan before Christmas. It's Kate Davies Northmavine Hoody, in handspun Hannui, some hand dyed, but mostly in natural colours. It's a beautiful pattern, but is in fingering yarn on 2.5mm needles, which means it's not exactly a speedy project!
The sleeve has had me stalling for weeks now, it doesn't help that there are 5 balls of yarn to wrangle, and you're changing colour 6 times in the space of 10 rows. However, I just got a present that should make yarn wrangling easier.
My very own posh project bag made by Mum. The fabric is one I've long adored, but it's eyewateringly expensive, and we've been trying to find it as fabric by the metre instead of pre-made in to cushions for years. I also got a matching homemade cushion, but there are leftovers of the fabric, so I think Mum is making more bags like this one.
The smaller 100g balls fit in to the outside pockets so I can use them as centre pull balls without having to constantly untangle the yarn rolling around on the floor. The big 200g ball of grey fits in the inside yarn pocket, and the cardigan body now fits in the bottom of the bag, instead of being shoved under the chair waiting for me to finish the arms.
Another big project is combing a Merino/Wensleydale fleece, again, it's so nearly done, but combing is such hard physical work that I don't feel like doing it after a big day dyeing. It's coming up beautifully though so I can't wait to spin it.
Of course, first I need to finish yet another big spinning project. An entire fleece destined for a Blank Canvas jumper. This got put in to time out this autumn as I'd failed to get the first couple of bobbins to match the sample. Closer examination, and the passing of several months, makes me think I wasn't as far out as I thought, and it will probably be close enough. Only 2 more large batts to go to get this one done... Though there's already another spinning project on my Hansen mini spinner, and of course, that's equally large...
The current weaving project is the most epic of the lot. I've been weaving this since the summer. So far there are 2 lengths done, and only one short piece left to go. In total it will be enough for a floor length pinafore dress, which is a huge amount of fabric to weave on a rigid heddle, there's 7m so far.
The next piece will be much smaller as I'm nearly finished with the coloured yarn I'm using. In fact, the quickest way to get this finished is to get the final warp on the loom, so enough talking about it, and time to get it done, I'm off to do battle with the warping peg!
The loom has been busy over the past couple of weeks.
As many of you know I weave quite a bit, but I'd definitely not class myself as a weaver. I know just enough to realise how little I know! All my weaving is on rigid heddle looms. They're a fabulous piece of kit, they produce lovely fabric very quickly, and are capable of some quite complex weave patterns, as well as plain weave.
I started out on a 10 inch Schacht Cricket loom, then upgraded to a Krmoski Harp 24 inch which I hated (poor quality ratchets for tension, and it never felt sturdy enough). Last year at Wonderwool I treated myself to a Schacht Flip, again in 24 inch. It's wide enough to weave comfortably at, and produces fabric of a reasonable width to make clothing without too many seams.
This was the first thing off the loom. Every year our guild holds a Christmas challenge. We all get 100g of the same fibre, and sent away to make something from it. At our Christmas meeting we share the results.
This year we used some Alpaca Supreme from John Arbon. I dyed it, then spun it as singles, planning to use it for an attempt at Collapse Weave. I like to use the guild challenge as an opportunity to try out something new, and this is a technique I'd not done before. It's by no means perfect, but I know where I went wrong for my next attempt. Mostly that I need far more twist in my singles as the scarf hardly collapsed down at all. You're meant to get a fabric that is very pleated, mine just has a slightly rumpled look!
Straight off the loom it looked like this. So did collapse, but nowhere near as much as it should have done.
This project was done much more quickly, just 1 evening in fact.
It's something I've wanted to try for a while following on from a discussion on Ravelry, wondering what would happen if you wove with unspun silk hankies.
I don't actually like spinning with hankies that much as I find them tough on my hands, doing the pre-drafting is fine, but I then find it hard to draft any further for diameter control whilst spinning. As a result I've been after an alternative use of them for a while. I also dislike the stop start nature of having to pause to pull out more hankies, I tend to get in to a zone when spinning.
I was slightly concerned the fabric wouldn't be very hard wearing due to the lack of twist, but the long staple of the silk, and using a finely set warp seems to have prevented that from happening.
It's made a beautiful fabric.
The warp was some grey laceweight on a cone I bought cheaply a while ago, put on doubled in a 12dpi heddle. I then pulled off the hankies one by one, pulled them out in to strips just like I'd do if I was spinning them. The instructions here work well. After that I just wound the strip of hanky round my hand, and used my fingers to push the strip of fibre through the shed. Winding it on to a shuttle didn't really work because it's such a short strip of fibre. When I got to the end of the length, I pulled out another hanky, overlapped them slightly and carried on. I did full (felt) the fabric slightly once I cut it off the loom by using alternate dunks in hot and then cold water.
50g gave me enough fabric to make 2 large cushion fronts.
My little (well not so little really) brother has just moved in to his own house. He's finally got a place of his own instead of having a room in a shared house.
I thought I should make him and his girlfriend a present, but I am short on free time at the moment, so a knitted blanket was out!
However, at Woolfest this year I had seen some very nice woven placemats, where instead of using yarn as the weft (the strand that goes across the width of the cloth), the weaver had used thin sticks.
Mine are a decidedly more rustic version, but do have their own charm.
The sticks came from the lane behind our house. The trees we cut down 2 years ago, that had formeerly been a hedge, are now growing shoots from the base. Stripped of leaves, and left to dry they worked perfectly.
They'll certanly insulate the table from anything hot, and worst case scenario, everything in them is natural so should they find their way to the compest heap they'll slowly break down and leave no trace.
I had a length of warp left, because I didn't meassure and do sums, so that was just woven using some more linen to make a table runner to match the mats.
I have been on a real weaving kick for the last few months, while my knitting activity has slowed dramatically I am turning lots of my yarn stash in to lengths of cloth. In reality it just changes where I store them, but it makes me feel better about buying more fluff!
However, in the last week I have actually turned some of the lengths of cloth in to actual items.
This was a piece of cloth I wove over the Christmas period. It was from a Smorgasbox by the lovely ladies at Nunoco. I loved the combination of colours but couldn't work out how to use them in a knitting project. Instead they went on the loom as a warp, and I used a plain brown as the weft. Originally I thought I might use it for a skirt, but it's a bit bright for me, and I also underestimated the felting power of merino. This halved in size when I fulled it...
There was a bit of fabric leftover so I turned it in to a case for my kindle. I made it up as I went along, so as a result you don't want to look too closely at the finishing! However, there's a layer of plastic between the outer and the liner so it should protect the screen nicely.
This bit of weaving was more recent. I'd turned some of the yarn (my Manx Loaghtan, Plums and Blackberries from the BoB club in October 2012, and Strata on Shetland from Manda crafts) in to a smaller set of cushions as a present for my friend Katharine. I'd still got some yarn left so I put a random warp on the loom using odds and ends of cones from other projects, and then just alternated the 2 yarns. This cushion is for Mum as it matches her red sofa very nicely.
I have something a bit more experimental planned for my next weaving project... we shall see how it turns out!
This finished project matches quite nicely how my week is going! In less than an hour I'm off to Welshpool to catch the train to London, where I'll be taking part in filming Etsy's first ever UK TV advert. Very exciting, however, in the manner of all things media dahling, it's all been a bit last minute. I only found out that it was all going ahead on Saturday evening. Cue some frantic dyeing to keep the Luxe club on schedule, and much general last minute organisation...
The offset v on my finsihed Sugar Maple matches my feelings rather accurately. It was made using the handspun from this year's Ravellenic Games. A Sludgy Rainbow prototype, on 3 different colours of BFL. I spun each colour seperately, then navajo plyed the singles to keep the colours clear. I also spun a few trasition skeins with short bursts of each base colour, but I could have done with making the white to oatmeal one a bit longer, as the colour transition is a bit too abrupt for my taste.
Of course, with triumph, also comes disaster. Though only on a very minor scale.
This bit of weaving looked lovely when it came off the loom. I wanted it for cushions, and it was very open so I'd always planned to full it slightly to firm up the fabric. Multiple trips through the washing machine had simply made it get very clean, and then on the final slightly more aggressive programme it transformed in to this... More horse blanket than piece of cloth. I think it's still salvagable though. Lesson learned, stop being lazy about finishing my weaving in the washing machine and do it by hand instead.
Finally, a quick chick update, and it's not good news. Unfortunately the white one was snatched by a rat a couple of days ago, and the chocolate one died this morning with some sort of chest infection. A few of the others are sneezing and panting slightly as well, so things are not looking great... Mum has promised to keep a close eye on them while I'm away.
First off a disclaimer...
I like to make my Christmas present, I am well aware that makes me slightly crazy, and if you choose not to make your presents that does not mean I think any less of you as a person, in fact if anything I admire your sanity and strength of character.
That being said, the present making has started.
I hate knitting scarves, it takes forever, is boring, and leaves me wanting to poke my own eyes out with the needles. Why they're a beginner project I'll never know...
Weaving them however, now that's fun. In 2 evenings (probably around 3 hours each night), I can warp, and weave a full size scarf using fingering weight yarn. Perfect Christmas crafting. If you don't have a loom I can thoroughly recomend that a simple rigid heddle should be top of your Christmas list. It's great for using up odds and ends in one project in a way that doesn't look like you're using oddments. The next scarf that's on the loom currently has a warp using the leftover stripy yarn from this cardigan, and this hat, add in some of the mountains of mystery soft white wool I spun during last years Tour de Fleece and this years and it's another scarf.
Just to spice it up a bit there will be other presents going on. At Stitch Solihull at the end of October I sat down with a spool of wire, purchased from the handy garden centre where the shop is located, and made some corespun wire yarn.
Just so you know, this stuff is addictive, and leaves you feeling immensely proud of yourself. It's soft and fluffy, and you can bend it in to shapes... like pipe cleaners for grown ups!
However, I don't do yarns that look pretty for the sake of looking pretty, so I fiddled about with it trying to decide how I could use it to make something.
I tried knitting, but it was fiddly, and wasn't flowing, but when you pick up a crochet hook....
No pattern, just chain a few stitches then single crochet in a spiral adding increases when seemed like a good idea. And what's even better, you can change it's shape, don't want a flat bowl, and instead want something more vase like, just give the wore a squish and a pull and Bob's your uncle.
I'd still got half a skein left, so went and did a bit of a until around Ravelry to see what anyone else had done with this sort of yarn and came across a woven bracelet. After a quick hunt for a tutorial I came up with this.
It's light as a feather, and warm feeling in a way that metal never is.
And because spinning this stuff is addictive, there are a few skeins (though that's the wrong word as you can't skein this stuff) in the shop. I've also pinned a few different bracelet tutorials on to one of my Pinterest boards. Next up I'm going to try doing the same technique with silk... if it works it will be beautiful.