Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 29 – Craft scenes

I'm still not used to having a space that's dedicated to crafting. Sitting down at my desk to sew still seems really novel; it's best in the morning, when the light streams in.

Took a class in paper-template patchwork. Very interesting; lots of potential.

I've been thinking big thoughts about levels of skill, experience and experimentation, tools and materials, how we signal that we belong in a community, how those communities form and shift and change. I've got pages of scribbled notes all over my desk, but I'm having trouble getting the thoughts to coalesce.

Meanwhile, my mind has turned to sewing, as sure a sign as any that spring is on its way. 

I pulled out some springy skeins to inspire me. They last longer and require less upkeep than tulips.

Spring cleaned my knitting notions box. Doing that always makes me think of Amélie.

Needed a bit of whimsy in my knitting, so I'm making a sheep. Didn't encourage the month to go out like a lamb, though; I woke up to another 20 cm of snow on the ground this morning.

Took my table runner off the loom. Should have ironed it pre-photography, obviously. Pleased with my progress. Next up, a Noro scarf.

Took a look at the classics on my bookshelf.

What have you been up to?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19: Weaving update

So, I thought it might be interesting to show you my weaving so far. These swatches are not masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination, but there's something satisfying about the first finished objects in any craft, even if they are practically the dictionary definition of raggle-taggle. (Not that that's stopping me from using them as coasters!)

Basic info:
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label (DK weight) in Sand and Grape
Heddle: 8-dent (supplied in the Cricket kit; generally intended for use with worsted-weight yarns)
Warp ends: 4 Sand / 10 Grape / 10 Sand / 10 Grape / 4 Sand

Swatch #1:
Beating too hard after every pick meant that this was a very tight weave and didn't really show off the plaid at all. It was late when I started; I was sitting on the floor with the loom at an odd angle; I had a really intense mystery show on in the back ground. I think those things might all have contributed to this. 

If you look at the edges you can see how loopy the weft is, and how uneven the edges are. This is my widest swatch, at 4.5". I didn't leave long enough ends, so finishing with knots was a challenge. BUT: it's fabric!

Swatch #2:
This is the one that I'm most pleased with, actually. The fringe leaves a bit to be desired, but for a first time out with hemstitching, I'm pretty pleased. (I used this tutorial.) I wasn't beating so hard, so you actually get a sense of the plaid. And my edges are much more even. This measures 4.25" across.

Swatch #3:
I don't know if I'd give this full "third time's a charm" status, but I definitely felt a better sense of flow with this. Still working on tension issues, but generally more consistent across the board. Measures 4" across and about 12" long (shown folded in half). Thought about using it to sew up a little pouch...might still do that. Maybe.

Things I learned:
Unlike in knitting, where you wash your finished object in cold water, in weaving you wash in hot water with a harsher soap, because you actually want to encourage the threads to "full out" – blooming and even felting a bit. (Side note: The first time I saw "full out" in reference to weaving I thought it was a typo for "fill out." It wasn't until I made the connection to fulling – treating knitting fabric with hot water, soap and agitation – that I figured it out.) This helps fill in what can be a very open weave. This makes me think that maybe superwash wool isn't the best choice for weaving, as it's been treated so that it's less likely to full.

Also, loom waste: it's significant! People talk about weaving as a way to work through your stash quickly, and they aren't exaggerating. If you're used to eking out every last inch of yarn from your skein for just-one-more knit stitch, intentionally leaving long ends when warping feels odd – but not as odd as trimming them at the end feels. One look at those skew-whiff knots on Swatch #1 was enough to convince me that the waste is worth it. I can definitely see this as a way to work through some of my sock yarn stash and I'm already thinking about Christmas scarves for 2015.

Weaving in ends is going to take some practice. I'm finding it hard to make them look...intentional.

Finally, I need a resource book. I found a copy of Weaving for Beginners at the library, but it's focussed more toward table and floor looms; the chapter on rigid heddle looms is rather perfunctory. Any recommendations?

Things I want:
- 10- and 12-dent heddles 
- a shuttle with a bobbin
- a good rigid heddle resource book 

What's next:
Having gone quick-and-dirty for my first outing with the Cricket, I decided I was up for something a little more challenging, so on the weekend I used the yarn that came with the kit to warp up a 60" warp for a table runner. It's a very Easter-y purple and green worsted (a brand I'm not familiar with); I'm using Rowan Fine Yarn Worsted from my stash for the weft. So far so good:

I'm still trying to work on tension, especially on the sides, and on weaving in my ends neatly. I'm trying not to worry too much about colour-fastness and the fulling process – I'll cross that bridge if I come to it. I'm not sure, but I suspect this project might be the weaving equivalent of a beginner's garter-stitch scarf.

I'll let you know how it turns out. Any questions? Suggestions for resources? Tips and tricks? Let me know!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 7: Adventures

Oh hi.

It's still winter here. There is still a six-inch thick coating of ice on all the sidewalks. The snowbanks are still taller than I am. It's still cold.

But I'm sitting in a quiet house right now and I can hear the snow melting off the roof. Somewhere nearby a red-winged blackbird sings. If you look carefully out of the corner of your eye as you speed by on the highway, you can see that the branches of the maple trees are reddening. Two nights ago it was the sap moon. Spring is coming.

Last weekend I drove out to Gaspereau Valley Fibres. It's a yarn store on a working sheep farm in the Annapolis Valley, not far from Wolfville. Every knitter I've met here talks about it reverently, so with a car and some free time on my hands I made the trek.

The store is in an old barn that's been fitted out with shelves and tables and a woodstove, and it's chock-a-block with (mostly local) yarn, plus knitting, weaving, felting and rug-hooking supplies. There's a store cat, and a sign on the door warning about store-cat-eating eagles. A bit different from the urban yarn stores that I'm used to. Definitely worth the drive.

I was in search of two things: a skein of Koigu for a baby layette for a girl I work with (if you want the quickest, easiest, cutest baby gift, one skien of KPPPM is enough to make these booties and this wee hat) and a loom.

Yep, a loom.

I took a weaving class a couple years ago and that sated my curiosity for a while. But then a couple of weeks ago I saw Shireenn's colour-shifting scarf. It's beautiful – a far cry from what I'd made with my scraps of Cascade 220. Inspired, I headed to GVF because I knew they had rigid heddle looms in stock.

I came home with a 15" Cricket loom and a new hobby.

It only took about 45 minutes to put together, including the time it took to find the screwdriver. Warping took about half an hour.

I'm using TFA yellow label left over from my African flower blanket. I think it's important to use nice things – even if you're just learning, even if the results might be a bit wonky.

I have to remind myself that sometimes the doing is the thing, and to give myself a break if it's not perfect on the first go. Nothing's ever perfect on the first go. 

Sometimes people see me knitting and say they tried to learn to knit and gave up because they couldn't do it, usually after one crooked potholder. As though I haven't made my fair share of hats riddled with unintentional yarnovers or wibbly-wobbly scarves. It drives me crazy. I don't believe in making ugly things on purpose, but I do believe in giving yourself room to make mistakes as you learn.

I'm trying to keep that in mind as I weave.

(Don't be fooled: I'm still a little vain. This is my second attempt. The first one was pretty – you guessed it – wibbly-wobbly.)

Perfect? No. Fun? Yes. I've got a lot to learn, but I don't mind. Maybe I'll be a bit better by the time spring rolls around.