Friday, October 24, 2014

Quietly Waiting

So this is part two of the baby blanket project! In my last post (September 30th: Starting Early for a Late Finish)* weaving was under way and it was a fairly slow weave. You might want to back up and read that first. We'll wait for you...

{*just switched to Mac's new Yosemite OS and it doesn't allow for cut and paste of URL's! They don't show up in the menu bar.    At least, I haven't found out how yet....)

 If there wasn't a bobbin change, colour change or yarn change, then it was time to move the temple. That happened every inch or so! It was rather busy for a simple design. After a while you do develop a routine and it quickly adds up.

I decided to cut off the first blanket as one of the 8/4 doubled cotton dividers was pretty darn tight on the loom.  I retied on and got things under way again and there was no further difficulties with cranky cotton.

The cloth beam filled up nicely... a bonus with chunky yarns!   I wove the second planned blanket and took a serious look at what was left for warp. I decided to forge on and see if I could get a small little blanket for a car seat or ?   It meant no samples for my records but that's okay at a time like this.

The bonus third blanket was woven in plain weave only and no extra colour other than the beige cotton weft. It was only 7 inches shorter than the other two full crib sized blankets!  I must have been very generous with my calculations on warp length!

I used every inch I could squeak out.... see below!

That's the back of my warp and the ruler is right up against the heddles on the sixth shaft with only an inch and a half to spare!

Once off the loom I carefully serged the edges with the threads set closer together to protect the cut edge better. The little tufts still came through! Then I sewed a straight stitch through the serged stitch!  I also ran a straight stitch a quarter of an inch in from the selvedges to ensure that the weft changes stayed put through the numerous washings to come.

Once those steps were done, I soaked them in warm sudsy water and then a gentle cycle. Then tossed them into the dryer!  I wanted all shrinkage done and over with before the final finishing treatment:
Satin binding...

I found these little clips a couple of years ago in the quilters section at the local fabric store and they sure are handy. I was able to position and use them to hold the slippery satin in place.   I was able to replace them with long straight pins for the final trip to the sewing machine.

This is my Huskystar 207 sewing machine. It doesn't have a great deal of fancy stitches and is rather basic. It has all metal gears and can handle thicker fabric and it certainly worked well with this thick cotton.  I'm not much of a sewer and just keep to really basic things. One thing I discovered with this project is even a straight-line is beyond my capabilities!  Its really embarrassing ...

Not sure what happened with the lighting in this shot but you can see that sewing is under way and I'm using a stitched zig zag and took it slowly.

Here's the binding after sewing.... and below is after a pressing!  I decided to go with a beige binding as the purples and green bindings would be too much 'in your face' with the bold colours.  It might be nice to use bolder colours for babies but I went with what felt right for me.

I had tried machine sewing one end closed and butting it up against the fabric but it would always shift and  never sit just right no matter how many clips and pins I used. So I opted for leaving the ends open and then doing a fold and press near the end and folding the ends like an envelope and pressing and  pinning.  Later after zig zagging, I would hand sew the ends closed with very tiny stitches that actually nearly disappeared into the satin weave.

There were two blankets woven with the windows and lace. The final dimensions are 29 inches by 60 inches and 29 inches by 53 inches on the second.  The larger one is for the new baby.  The dimensions on the loom was 34 inches in the reed and woven to 64 inches and  58 inches on the second.  That's a lot of take up and shrinkage!  I had pre-washed the warp yarn to try and prevent some of the inevitable.   It was funny trying to dunk the skeins under water as they floated like marshmallows and later, even being spun out in the washing machine, they still took 4 days to dry!

I tried different lighting effects to show the lace.

This grouping shows the bonus blanket that I wove in plain weave. It turned out rather nice too! It measured 29 inches by 53 inches too.  A friend has bought this one for her cuddly lap throw for TV viewing the chilly winter nights to come. 

The bear is Spike and he's mine. He's handmade by a friend from German mohair. Eileen made hundreds, all by hand and one by one when she was business. 

 All the blankets had tags added, but for one of them I wish it said "made with love by Nana"

Medically speaking.....
While I'm scheduled for a new knee, I'm also in need of a new hip too. Next week I'll know if which joint is best to do first and we'll go with that. The hip is complaining louder but we'll have to see what the x-rays show and the surgeon recommends.   I have medical appointments lined up all through out November  for just about everything you can possibly think of from a root canal this Tuesday to a mammogram and everything in between! 

I'd much rather be weaving....

I do have another project in mind but its in mid-wind on the warping board.  All natural silks and 36 epi.   Meanwhile, my loom is Naked!

Thanks for your patience as its going long between posts now. Weaving and spending time in my studio is what is keeping me sane right now and so I'll be weaving when ever I can. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Salad Bar

Isn't he handsome with his new antlers?  Bruce was sitting at his desk when he heard banging on the house. Something told him to take a camera with him and the picture above was the first he snapped. The buck was hitting the house with his antlers.

But not the last shot as this fellow decided that Bruce was not a threat and went back to eating fallen peaches off our tree that's against the house.

Then he added some last remaining flowers to the plate.   So this is why we don't have fancy gardens here. This buck and his doe.... and fawn all nibble on everything here. Even stuff that the garden shops swore up and down are deer proof.   Ya right....

Then he made his way to where the wife and kid are. Note the cedars, artfully shaped by the deer of course.   This buck has been living on our property for three or four years now after his mother was hit by a car.  

We seem to have a bumper crop of pears this year!  Bruce picked these and we are enjoying their aroma in the kitchen while we wait for them to soften up a bit.

The old gala apple tree has just a few apples this year and they are developing a nice red blush with the cooler nights.   Fortunately the apples and pears are all above the height for the deer!  (bears are another story...)

Bruce also spotted a muskrat swimming up the creek today and he watched it for a time doing some 'personal grooming' at the creekside.  I'm sorry I missed seeing that one!

It seems that the local wildlife know this is a safe place to visit... and I like that.


I have been given a date of December 18th  for my knee replacement surgery!   A week before Christmas....   
I'm so glad I started on the baby blankets now and not later....

Back soon with a progress report on that project soon.   (I did mention I'm weaving really slow now right?)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Starting Early for a Late Finish

Shortly after I started weaving back in 1996 I found a big stash of soft Monte Cristo cotton at my local yarn store. I bought some skeins and again in my future visits, I would add another skein or two.  I wasn't sure what I would weave with it but had some thoughts of trying my hand at the  boutonne  technique. Roll the clock ahead to 2014  and I still have a bin with eleven skeins of this soft plushy cotton.  (I'm still going to try weaving boutonne style!)

Its been a yarn stash waiting for a project and that day has finally arrived. I'll be the first to say that in the intervening years my yarn selections tended to the finer end of the scale, so this is like 'rope' to me now. Its lovely soft cuddly 'rope' and perfect for a baby blanket. (Henry's Attic sells it to retailers)

Yes, I'm going to be a Nana again in the spring! 

I have lots of time and I also don't. I'm looking at a total knee replacement and recovery period sometime this winter and then throw Christmas into the mix and .... well, time is short!   I'd rather not be trying to make something that *special* with a recovering knee as I don't know the healing time frame.   So I'm starting on it now.

I looked at all my drafts, then my samples .... then I googled Monte Cristo and determined setts. Its thick and fluffy and I was beginning to think that plain weave was all there was to choose from. Then I found a baby blanket project by weaver Sally Orgren that was perfect. Sally is an amazing weaver and its worth checking out her projects at the link.  The blanket is a combination of plain weave,  five thread huck and window panes.  So I changed the colours of the window pane outline and modified the huck lace to add a second style of lace blocks.  Its a six shaft, eight treadle draft. Sally also had it set for direct tie up and I changed that too.  Then it occurred to me that I would be weaving it on my Louet Spring 90...and it would be the full width!

So first order of business was to wind all the skeins into balls..... and that took some time as you can imagine... I would stand and wind the warp for a bit, then sit and wind a cake on my rest break.

I used a Woolhouse ball winder for making the larger cakes. Doesn't get used much around here so I even had to dust it. I normally use the smaller Royal brand for the finer yarns.

Wound the warp using four full skeins of cotton (plus five ends of a new cake) and got it set up on the loom for beaming. I had pre washed four skeins in advance to help reduce shrinkage. It was like trying to duck marshmallows under water! They also took four full days to dry! The colour brightened up to a soft cream.

Bruce helped me wind on the warp and it took a while for a few reasons. Its thick, its full width, its thick, and its stretchy!  Below you can see the bow in the lease sticks.  The stretchiness of the cotton made it akward. Do I pull the stretch out now or endlessly deal with it later?  I felt like a newbie all over again. I opted for being consistent and we took our time.

Finally we got it all done. It was a slow process with the cotton binding in the raddle. The 8/4 cotton (doubled) was also behaving weirdly too. It was acting slippery. I'd never thought I'd say that about 8/4 cotton!

Before I could thread, I had to tie back all the extra heddles out of the way. I think you'll understand my subtle message when I say I used PINK cotton ties.   I don't know anything concrete but its a suggestion!

As you can see from the pictures above and below, I used just about every dent except for these seven! I used a ten dent reed and sleyed one per dent. Lots of wriggle room there.

Normally I like to lace on but somehow that felt like I would be playing with the warp like a bungee jump and I opted to tie on. The 8/4 was tied separately as I didn't want them 'quarrelling'.

I must say that I loved the look of the warp from the back. All straight and orderly. It also shows just how full the loom is! My widest warp on it to date.

I ended my day by winding several pirns and loading up the bench with my tools for the next day's start!

So yesterday I tightened and closed the knots and then laid in 4 shots of scrap 8/2 cotton to bring the groupings closer together. Then I placed two thin warping sticks and then  threw four more shots of cotton.  As you can see from the close-up below, it really works to get things neatly braced up and ready to go. This cotton is soft and spongy and if you ever needed a "two stick start", its on a project like this!

I wove approximately five inches and then started with the coloured divider.   Then weave ten shots of plain weave and then weave block A lace, ten shots of plain weave. Repeat and do block B lace in the centre of the next window.  Its hard to see the lace as its cream on cream. Actually, I don't really expect it to behave like my recent lace projects at all and form tight groupings. The Monte Cristo is too fat and fluffy to allow crisp definition. It will be more of a central grouping of texture to break up the plain weave, with a touch of colour. The ends will have beige satin binding to secure the edges.

In the picture above and below there is lace in the centres but the flash brightens the warp too much.... I turned the flash off and you can just make out the lace below.  As I said, this will be more texture than anything!   I started to wonder if I should just treadle plain weave for the entire length but Bruce says it looks better than these pictures show.  

So that's where I finished.  It will be a slow weave as I'm using a temple against the inevitable draw in, moving it frequently and I'm using a larger 15"  Schacht EDS shuttle and having to give it a real good throw to cross the warp. I may switch to a heavier AVL and see if that helps!  

There is warp enough for two blankets so this will take awhile!  Good thing I started early then huh?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shuttle Diplomacy

That's a Bluster Bay send delivery shuttle with a honex tensioner.   Curly black walnut wood.  I decided recently that I did not like the Bluster Bay shuttles with the cup hooks. Simply too much fiddle faddle for me. Drop the yarn through the slot and adjust the tension once and get going!  Much more my style.    So I sold off two of the 'cup hook' models and bought this one.  I used it for the entire new project and so have a good feel for the shuttle now. Its lighter than the twelve inch Schacht EDS and so was fine for a narrow warp.  It uses tapered cardboard pirns (which I think come from Louet) and you have to learn to build the end up, not have it collapse and then do the inch worm winding across. Takes a bit of getting used to but my weft was tencel and so slippery. (That's where the tensioning device on my AVL winder really came in handy!)

The shuttle worked nicely but my one pet peeve was how the shuttle felt to my hands when catching and throwing. I  throw and catch palm up and so the thumbs use the bottom end of the rounded area where the pirn sits to throw and catch. That edge is smooth but still what I would call a 'sharp' edge or angle.  The Schacht has a softly rounded depression that the thumb slips into.   Its a small detail like that that makes all the difference in the world to the operator, especially when you consider the thousands of throws you make in a project. So the honex tensioner is a big improvement.... shuttle design needs a tweak.    The exotic woods are beautiful and its well made otherwise.

So what's that on the loom I can hear you ask ?     Well, I had a cone of 8/2 variegated tencel called "Sapphire Blue Combo" from Webs and I decided to give it a try.  Very pretty colour way and any thoughts I had of trying to get colours to pool disappeared when I saw the short increments of the repeat. To work it out would take more patience than I possess right now and so I decided to embrace the 'heather' look of  flecked colours.  (what the heck eh? :)    I decided to use a bolder weft colour of eggplant  after seeing how navy blue simply disappeared and I wasn't happy with other colour choices pulled from the warp.    I used a sett of 24 epi with my snowflake twill.   The 'X's" would not be so squat if I had resleyed to 28 epi, but it was okay and I went ahead with my sample.    {Resleying to 28 epi would have increased the angle of the edge threads and breakage.... the tencel was softer spun than the normal tencel and it was not something I wanted to deal with.  Choose your battles!  :)  }

After my sample was all woven up,  I looked to my notes to see how much length I allocated for fringe ..... and there was none!   I had calculated for two scarves seventy four inches  each, twelve inches samples, then my take up allowance for the woven areas......then I had added in my loom waste of twenty inches  and then  forgot to add in the fringes!   My sample was only six inches and then I reduced the over all woven length of the scarves and I hoped the rest would come out of the loom waste!

I left six inches for fringe allowance at the start and end of both scarves and at the end I got finished scarves of  seventy inches plus four inch fringe and a second scarf of seventy three inches plus four inch fringes.

Phew!    I had to laugh at myself as I had never in 20 years of weaving ever left the fringes  out before so it seems you are never too old to learn new tricks.  I had to play "mental gymnastics" with the warp length and fudged myself up an answer!

Here are the beauty shots:

I had planned to do more blog posting but simply put, I have been ill with walking pneumonia and so my energy has been a day by day thing.  That flu/ cold bug we had in August evolved into another situation entirely and I can't seem to shake it.  The cough just goes on and on! That's the problem with a compromised immune system when you have SLE lupus.   Until I finally get rid of the bug, my surgical date will be 'on hold' unfortunately and that will have a trickle down effect on Life. 

I am enjoying the cooler temperatures and watching the wildlife around the house. The squirrels are busy in the trees again, and the deer don't even move out of the way of our car when we're using the driveway anymore. 

This little critter still has spots on its haunches and Mum is showing them the 'all you can eat smorg" at this nice house with the friendly people!   Don't forget the yummy hydrangea in the front of the house. There's still one bloom left...

Then we came home the other day (driving past the deer that barely moved) to find this fellow on guard duty at the front door.   He didn't move for us either!    :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fruits of Our Labours

.... and then, just like that, its September and summer is (almost) done. Happy Labour Day !

I would love to tell you that I have been out having fun and playing, but no.  The cold we both caught in early August was no cold and it became apparent that it was the flu and I spent an uncomfortable three weeks where days blended one into another.  I literally did not leave the house for three weeks and when I did, I felt like I had been beamed in from another planet. I had gone for groceries and left a still sick Bruce at home as he was about three to five days behind me. I rallied and started to feel a bit better and even spent time weaving, but a nasty cough reappeared and has stayed with me.   A chest x-ray later and it seems I have walking pneumonia now. So more rest and so on....    I would hate to still have this when they finally call me for my knee replacement operation as I would have to pass and wait again!  I'm one of those people with a compromised immune system so getting well is a longer go for me compared to other healthy folks.

So when I was feeling a bit better, I did get the third instalment of the runners loaded and underway. This time in a deep rich red called cerise. I wove a batch of these last year (draft there at the older post) and they sold quickly for Christmas and I thought I would try them again.   So to review:  the yarn is 9/2 French linen from Brassards in Quebec, sett 24 epi, and an eight shaft diamond huck lace.  I love this pattern as it gives an all over lace effect and is stable due to even placements of plain weave through out.   The linen weaves up beautifully, and is very satisfying to hemstitch as it stays tight and neat.    Yes, it does lint a bit and I had to vacuum off the loom after each runner.   I also ran the weft yarn through a damp cloth as I wound the pirns to help reduce the lint and  tame its wiry 'behaviour'.

I love the linen,  and the huck lace but I'm so done with it now and ready to move on!

I also have a new gadget in the studio:

I found trying to hard press the other linen runners literally gave me  'arm ache', so Bruce said to order a press and he'd pay for it.  What a sweetheart! Some research and price comparisons and we got this one on line. Lynnette has one and had lots of good things to say about it and she has no regrets on buying hers. I would tend to agree and wish I had done it a lot sooner!

After the runners came off the loom, I serged them apart and prepped them for hemming. Once my straight pins were in place I gave them a quick touch in the steam press and  spent a couple of evenings hand sewing the hems neatly.  There is something so nice about plying a needle and thread.

I filled the laundry tub with warm soapy water and left them to soak for half an hour and when I came back, this is what I found.

I gave them a good squeezing out to shift threads and get the excess dye out and rinsed very well. There was still some pink in the last water so I will mark these on the tag as 'hand wash separately' for sure!  I don't recall my last batch of the red runners being quite so bad for fugitive dye.

I rolled them into spare old towels to absorb the water and later before I was done for the day, I smoothed them out to dry overnight on towels on the ironing board. I gently shaped them and tugged them to the straight edges and corners I want to see in the final runner.   I also neatly nipped off any weft yarn tails as well.

The next morning I set up the press on top of the ironing board. I have to work out a better spot for it and that may be upstairs and work on the big kitchen counter. For now this set up  will work as I knew I wanted to give them  a final press with the hand iron afterwards.

I hope you can see this okay (maybe click to enlarge?) but I had positioned and pressed the end hem and approx six to eight inches. There is a line between the newly flattened linen and the bumpy textured cloth on the right hand side. That's one press for about five seconds, using  spritz of water on the cloth first and additional steam. I rolled up my metaphorical sleeves and got busy pressing the runners end for end and both sides.

I'm still new to the machine so in time I will learn all the tricks to do a better faster job. I tried rolling the runner and tucking in behind the pivot but there was too much material. I thought I could just unroll a section at a time. Nope!  Then I realized there would be a crease line regardless and so just did the easy pull through as shown above.   The press did a beautiful job of flattening the cloth but there was little to no shine.  

I tacked on my "made by..." label and then fired up the hand iron.   I didn't have to give that heavy downward pressure this time but simply smooth and bring out the shine. What a treat!

So here are the beauty shots:

So what's next? I have some ideas and I thought this might look good as warp.... its a variegated tencel called Sapphire Combo.