Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Birthday...

Yep, it's that day again.  This one is a big one ending in 0.  It's the one where some of the junk phone calls on caller ID read "Safe Step Bathtubs" or "Medic Alert".  Shocking really, since I do not see myself as the target I pick up the call and tell them they have the wrong number.  Fear mongers...that's what they are.

Anyway...the virus and accompanying secondary infections are abating with the help of round two of antibiotics and lots of kefir with 10 active strains of probiotics.  Both recommended by the new doctor that I switched to the day after Christmas.  Based on the kefir recommendation alone, I like her a lot!

So here are the last finished objects for 2012:

Fire Engine Red prayer shawlette for my friend, Priscilla.
It is knit from Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo since wool was out of the question.
It's the third time I've knit that pattern.  Details are at the Ravelry link.

This Willow Cowl was knit for me from a Malabrigo sock yarn (another Ravlery Link).
It's okay, not great, mostly I'm not a fan of the yarn, despite the hype it gets online.
It does keep one warm, but I couldn't help but feel a bit like Mrs. Tishall on Doc Martin while wearing it:

Next up:  Spindling
This is a pile of spindle spun and plied cashmere from 2012.
Over the years I've collected a number of little baggies of cashmere which I've been spinning on various of my spindles.  
The latest skein is the one on the right side of the top of the pile in the photo above.

The current batch of cashmere is on this Jenkins Aegean spindle which I posted about here.
I've spun a lot with this spindle this year and really love it.

 No New Years Resolutions to share, just a big, long "To Do" list which I may or may not share later.

I do want to wish each of you a very happy New Year, filled with time and materials for all the fiber pursuits your heart desires.  


Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas....

Sorry the lights have been out here at the blog.  I have been dealing with the Annual Christmas Virus for most of the past two weeks.  I'll spare you the details other than the fact that I've been pretty much horizontal for most of those days.  There must be an epidemic because the area pharmacies are out of most of the choices in OTC cold/flu meds. 

On a brighter note....

For those who are still stopping in,  I wish you all the best of the holiday season and may your 2013 be filled with inspiration, motivation, and everything you need to create the fabric of your dreams.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Reading and books...

I'm normally a pretty active reader, but this is the time of year when I read a lot.  Thank goodness I live in the age of electricity, because these darkest days of the year would have been quite hard on my hankering to read if the only illumination were candles, oil lamps, and a fire in the hearth.

So here's what I've been reading:

First on the list are pilgrimage novels.  It's a genre that's been around since ancient times....Moses leading his people in the wilderness, The Odysssey, Canterbury get the drift.  Somehow I ended up reading two recent pilgrimage stories back to back.  They are two sides of the same coin, light and dark.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is the lighter side of that pilgrimage coin.  Joyce's writing reminds me of the late Barbara Pym.  There are a lot of English countryside and characters populating this story.  And though there is sadness, there is personal growth, growth in key relationships and enough sunshine to make one smile when remembering Harold and his story.

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore is the dark side of the coin.  This title was shortlisted for The Booker Prize, which is often a signal that the book is going to be dark.  Here's an excerpt from my review:  "This is one of those subtly ominous stories, where one senses darkness ahead even when the author is describing hot, sunny days. There is a lot of metaphor, mostly unlikable characters, and not much happiness in the story."
The whole review is here

If you're looking for historical works about dead presidents, this is your year.  Maybe it has something to do with the election year. 
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin provided Steven Spielberg with much of the inspiration for the current Lincoln movie.  This is an entirely different take on the Lincoln presidency than most previous works.  Through the story one gets to see how Lincoln exercised the principle of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President provides an interesting biography of James Garfield and the circumstances surrounding his assassination.  She does a great job of weaving together story lines that help the reader understand the era being covered.  And it's the first that I learned that Robert Todd Lincoln was present for the assassinations of his father, James Garfield, and William McKinley....Interesting if you're a geek for creepy facts like that.  I also highly recommend her previous presidential novel River of Doubt about Teddy Roosevelt.

Earlier this year I read God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Journey to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet.  I liked it so much that I borrowed  her doctoral thesis, Rooted in the Earth, Rooted in the Sky from the Michigan State University library.  So of course when Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen was published this fall it was on my must read list and I wasn't disappointed.  

Toni Morrison's newest book, Home, is a beautifully written story about a sister and brother growing up in Jim Crow south.  Frank Money is a Korean war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress.  His sister, Cee, has suffered trauma of her own.  Together they find home, and healing. 

The Orchardist is Amanda Coplin's first novel.  And though she is not the wordsmith that Toni Morrison is, she delivers beautifully developed characters that one comes to love.  The location is Washington state in the last half of the 19th century and early 20th century.  Talmadge is a solitary man who has experienced much loss and has developed an orchard of apricots, apples, and plums.  In his middle age two starving, pregnant, teenage girls appear at the edge of his world to steal fruit.  In tending to them as he does the orchard an unusual family is formed.  There is love, sadness, and redemption in this story of lives that have been broken by hard times and human cruelty.  I should add that I kept going to the cupboard for dried apricots while I read this you may want to stock up if you plan on reading this book.

Another first novel is The Language of Flowers by  Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  The story is about a young woman who ages out of the child foster care system in California.  The author has direct experience with this, which you can read about here.  The author knows her subject and is able to develop interesting characters and story arc from that knowledge. 

Every single one of the aforementioned books was a library book.   So you can imagine my dismay upon reading this article in yesterday's NYT:  A Dark and Itchy Night.

Maybe next I'll write a post on books that I own.....

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Home Dec.

I've been channeling my inner Martha Stewart by finally getting around to the home dec. sewing.  The supplies were purchased ages ago (remember when I painted the kitchen back in 2011?), but I just never seemed to get to it.  Over the past few weeks, here's what I've accomplished:

Soft Cornices:
two windows like this.

And one doorwall like this:
What took me so long to get around to this was figuring out a shape for the cornices that would coordinate the two different sizes, since they are all lined up on one wall.  A bit of time with a calculator and some graph paper followed by a lot of trips up and down a step stool with paper mock-ups resulted in this design. 

Once those were done it was time to work on the decorator touches for the living room and dining room (which are really one great big room).
 Throw pillows and footstool.
(Note the chair in upper left hand corner.)

Here it is in close up.  There are two parson's chairs like this in the dining room.

And a table runner to go with.

It feels good to have this done.  I doubt I will do much sewing with home dec. fabrics in the future.  All of these pieces required running them through the serger, which created a lot of nasty dust.  I started wearing a dust mask when using the serger on these fabrics, but I still had a pretty significant systemic reaction after extended sewing sessions.  Maybe it was the dust, the chemicals used to treat the fabrics, or a combination of the two, but I won't knowingly expose myself to that again.   I've never had that problem sewing garments with commercial or handwoven fabrics.  But then again, garment fabric is washed and pressed before sewing. You can't do that with the home dec. fabrics. 
Next on my list is vacuuming out the sewing machines and cleaning all the detritus from these projects out of the sewing room.   After that, some Christmas decorating.  Notice how none of the things in the above post go with traditional Christmas colors?  Ah well.....

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Sounds of Silence....

Just a little photo essay of what I've been up to during my blog silence:

A prayer shawl finished.

A shawl in linen.
Then done again in silk:
A closer look:
The pattern is Fragile Heart by Boo Knits.

Some sewing after completing a muslin.  The pattern is Loes Hinse Shawl Collared Jacket in wool for Wovember.

New gloves knitted in this pattern.

Spinning the North Ronaldsay wool from last year's trip to Scotland.

And weaving some turned taquete' in tencel and rayon. 

Only one political phone call exit poll.  Can you believe it?!  
Otherwise, I am enjoying the silence and my fiber-y pursuits.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Hanging by a thread.....

I think that before we go through another election cycle our home phone will be history.

Today, election day, when the voting from this household is already done, we have received 8 phone calls.  That makes the combined calls from yesterday and today 25 calls.  Most of them are from the Republicans.  I am not a republican.....I am a thinking person who reads broadly, pays attention, and often splits the ticket.

The creepiest calls by far have been the pre-recorded messages done by Clint Eastwood and Pat Boone.  Really?!  I wondered if they had to exhume Pat Boone to do the message, but I refused to stoop to googling that.  How old do they think I am?!

And Clint Eastwood.....I just sat the phone on a kitchen chair and walked out.  I'm told he likes to talk to empty chairs.

Caller ID used to be a great help, but somehow they have tricked the system and I get voicemails of busy signals and obnoxious noises if I don't pick up.

Sometimes (well really, most of the time) I pick up and hit "end call".  Then Thursday, while I was trying to cut out a pattern for a jacket in some very nice wool (it is Wovember after all....and yes, that does count as fiber content in this post.)  I took three such phone calls in succession before I could even put the phone down.

Exactly where is the borderline between campaigning and harassment?

This afternoon I had to leave the house after the 7th phone call.  I ran to the LYS and picked up the holiday issue of VK just so I could read the article by Barbara Kingsolver.  She has a new book out and I'm on the waiting list at the library.

When I walked in the door from that errand the phone was ringing.  Caller ID:  Private Name; Private Number.  at 4:20 PM. on election day.  Call number 8.

I'm hanging onto the edge by my fingernails for the next 3 hrs. 40 min...Unless they are stupid enough to run robo calls after the polls close.  Which is a distinct possibility.   They were dumb enough to publicly say, "Then we just flip the Etch-A-Sketch." (one among many offensive quotes from the past 6 months.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Few and Far between...

I'm referring to blog posts.  This year October is decision month in our household.  Not just the decision that many (I wish I could say most, but too many people don't vote) in the U.S. will be making on Nov. 6. (or earlier if your state allows..)

The Michigan elections are complicated this year by numerous ballot initiatives to amend the state constitution which have been written and sponsored by special interest groups.  (Yes we in Michigan are subject to a re-enactment of the story of the troll under the bridge)  And there are three state supreme court justice positions to be filled.  And a gazillion other state and local things.

Add to that:  In our household there are two pensions up for decisions this month.  And then open enrollment decisions for healthcare and other employment benefits x2 which are due right after the election (I recognize that's a "high class" problem in this economy).

So I've been doing a lot of reading, researching, and sorting the wheat from the chaff.  I'm always aware that things are not always as they seem  and that market research and pollsters design their messages to influence rather than inform. Then I knit and spin while digesting the information.

Maybe I'll be a better blogger in November....then again, maybe not.  I haven't had much to say.
But I'd like to pass these two open letters along:

What the Health of the Mother Means.

A Special Olympian writes an open letter to Ann Coulter 

Thank you, John and Suzanne, may we all take on the challenge to be "someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything we say"   You are both great examples.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


What happened to September?

I knitted a sea silk shawlette the color of that red tree in this photo to wear to a September wedding in NJ.  But before that I knitted the same pattern in pink linen.  Not the best idea I've ever had.  That pink shawlette just looks like a really big, oddly shaped dish cloth.

The wedding was an excuse for a road trip.  On the way there we stopped at The Mannings.  It's the first I've been there in about 28 years. So much cool weaving stuff.... Someday I'd like to go back and take a class.

After the wedding we headed up New England to view shipyards, mansions, and Cape Cod.  We ate seafood.  We walked and talked and took a boat ride or two.  Then we headed into central Massachusetts.
Stopped in at Vavstuga where I really should have called ahead before stopping in.  But Terry was gracious and gave me the tour and let me browse the shop.  Sigh....Someday I'd like to go back and take a class. 

On Terry's recommendation we had a late afternoon pub meal at The West End Pub.  The flower bridge was still in full bloom, but it was a pretty soggy day so no pictures.

On down the Connecticut River Valley in Massachesetts, where the fall color was beautiful.  Of course we stopped at Webs.  What fun to see the legendary yarn store that has been a great online presence for weavers and knitters.  Someday....(you can finish that sentence.)

From there we headed across the Berkshires, down the Hudson River a ways before crossing over the Catskills, then across lower New York state and across the Allegheny Mountains (sorry...I'm from Pennsylvania and that's the way we spell Allegheny.)  The fall color was beautiful the whole way along that trail.  But many of the small towns still show devastating damage from the floods after Hurricane Irene last year.
So here I am, back home with a lot of local color (all of the photo's in this post).  I have been getting a lot of things done.  In addition to the two shawlettes, I've finished a prayer shawl and I've been designing and sewing soft cornices for the kitchen (at last!)  Not much weaving happening.  But I have plans.....
You would too if you had just gotten this book:
Kelly Marshall's website seems to be down right now.  But there's a good article with photo's here.

Well perhaps I'll do better at blogging in October. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

At Last.....

The baby blanket is complete:
I wanted it to be larger than my 32" weaving width would allow, so I spent a lot of time thinking about how to achieve that.  At first I wasn't wild about the idea of seams, certainly not a seam down the middle.  And the idea of matching two panels was daunting.  Various types of edging were considered and discarded.  Finally I decided to take a sort of quilting approach and make the blanket bordered.  Finished dimensions are 51" x 36".

The solution:  I wove two panels and juxtaposed the patterns.  That way the wave pattern could be borders on both ends and both sides and the fish could swim in the center and on the corners.  Yay!! pattern matching required.  Above you see the two panels fresh off the loom.

Next was deciding how to seam the piece in a way that works for a baby blanket.  Hand stitching cotton just didn't seem like a durable option.  One of the early samples reminded me of denim so I started thinking about a double stitched flat fell seam....but how to deal with all of those fabric layers?

Because I had a lot of sample fabric woven, I had the luxury of spending time at the serger and sewing machine to try seaming options.  Here's what I ended up with:
The selvedge on the center panel is left open.  The side panels were serged.  Then I used a double needle on the sewing machine with top stitching thread in the needles to sew the two panels overlapped.  Here's what the back looks like:
It's not beautiful, but it is stable and soft, and the appearance in the face of the fabric is in keeping with the style of the fabric.  If you notice on the top photo, I played around with the sewing machines stitching options to create a monogram and birthdate.  Again, I was happy to have sampling fabric to work out the stitching.  However, I was too lazy to make a run to the fabric store for machine embroidery thread and just used regular sewing thread for the embroidering. 

One tip I learned while weaving the blanket:
Next to the two shuttle weaving, the thing that was slowing me down the most was taking care of the ends of the pattern thread when switching bobbins.  I like to bury one of the loose ends in the weaving, then carry the other end along the selvedge to cover it.  Wrapping the shuttle around that loose end was a pain and fiddling with it just made things sloppy. 

My solution:  I taped the new end to the edge thread toward the reed using a tiny piece (1/4" square at most) of painters tape.  Once I had woven an inch or so, I removed the tape and continued weaving.  In finishing, the only thing those ends required was a close trim.  The reed was an 8 dent reed and the selvedge thread was dented alone, so the trick may not work with a smaller reed and closer set.  But on this project it was the perfect solution.

That's it! 
Now I need to:
  • pack it up
  • send it off to the new baby
  • vacuum the lint out of the serger and sewing machine
  • vacuum all the threads off the floor in the loom and sewing rooms
  • wind a new warp for the next project!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

A Bevy of Books....

Still weaving on the baby blanket, still knitting on the mystery item, and no pictures because it is a dark and stormy morning, with rain coming down.  I'm not complaining, we need it.  But I want to tell you about some books that have recently entered my world.

First of all is A Crackle Weave Companion.  I learned about this book through an off-handed mention on one of the weaving lists.  I have Susan Wilson's recent book, Weave Classic Crackle and More and took her workshop that parallels the book last year and I highly recommend both.  However, Lucy  Brusic has taken a somewhat different approach to crackle weave.  For the past 40 years she has been working on exploring crackle through the works of Mary Snyder, Marguerite Davison, and Mary Atwater.  This book sticks with 4 shaft crackle and elucidates the work of these three weaving giants with beautiful color photography and clear conversational writing.  I highly recommend both books, but if you are new to weaving, love color interaction, and are sticking with 4 shaft weaves, take a look at Lucy's book. 

The second book to cross the threshold recently is The Weaver's Inkle Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon.  If you are already familiar with her book,  The Handweavers Pattern Directory, you are familiar with the thorough treatment which Anne gives her subjects.  I own most of the out of print classics on inkle weaving and Anne has managed a fresh approach to both the inkle loom and the weaving.  Not interested in weaving on an inkle loom?  Think of this book as warp faced pattern weaves that you could do on any loom with two shafts (rigid heddle perhaps?)  There are so many ideas included that I want to try.

The most recent addition arrived yesterday, so I'm just getting into it.  The title is Weaving Textiles That Shape Themselves by Ann Richards (not the former Texas governor!)  The book is a design book that suggests uses for high twist yarns and weave structures that maximize the design potential when using these yarns.  I first saw this book when a guild member ordered it through Amazon UK, and I dismissed it because I have Anne Field's Collapse Weave book.  Then at a later meeting someone else brought in a copy and I took a closer look.  Like the inkle weave and crackle weave books above, Ann Richards manages to come at the topic from a different perspective than Anne Field.  Both of them have interesting things to say and offer different types of inspiration.  This is one of those books that will be in high demand for years to come.  The design and technical information is classic.  I'm looking forward to spending many hours with this book.

And the last book is a non-weaving book:  another piece of fiction from Scotland  The White Lie by Andrea Gillies.  I've linked you to The Guardian review, because I don't think I can improve upon it and this post is too long.  That said, if you've read this far....Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Making stuff...

Sorry, no post - no pictures.  I've been busy making a few things that are not yet camera ready.

Notice that I did not say "crafting" things.....maybe it's because I just read this New Yorker article and thought you might like it too.

And here's something else that may interest some of you.

Discuss among yourselves.  I'll be back a bit later.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sample, sample, sample....

There are a lot of excuses for not sampling when weaving:
  • a limited amount of yarn.
  • the yarn is very expensive, it takes too much time.
  • and my all time favorite:  "I just don't feel like sampling."
I've been weaving since 1980 and it took several very disappointing projects for the value of samples to really sink in.   Now I love to play with sampling, asking "what if..." questions throughout the process and playing with variables to create the best project that I can.

Here are three samples, or swatches, of the fish and waves draft from the previous post.
(Full disclosure:  the idea for this fabric was generated by this discussion on Ravelry and Bonnie Inouye's 10 harness draft.  Thanks Bonnie!)  
The warp is a combination of 8/2 and 16/2 unmercerized cotton in two shades of blue.  I chose these two yarns because my previous samples are in diversified plain weave, so I have this thing going on in my head about thick and thin threads.  Also, my weaving group is studying tied weaves so this sample was going to be Summer & Winter on 12 shafts and I thought it would be interesting to make the S&W warp tie down threads be the thin threads.  The pattern weft is a softly spun 3/2 unmerc. cotton in natural.  The tie down weft is the same 16/2 cotton that is in the warp.  And the final reason for these yarn choices: they are in my stash, no new yarn purchase necessary!

The first advantage of weaving a sample is the opportunity to establish the rhythm of the weave.  You can tie the treadles in whatever order is easiest for you to remember the foot work.  And when using more than one shuttle, the sample process provides an opportunity to establish your shuttle order to produce the best selvedges.

Also, when designing your own draft, it gives you a chance to check that design.  During the weaving process, I tweaked the tie-up for the wave pattern, decided I didn't care for the fish and waves facing up and down, and discovered a threading error (which several of you kindly referred to as "winking").  And since looking at the finished sample for awhile, I've decided that the fish would look better if they were a true half drop rather than offset they way they are in these samples and have adjusted the treadling accordingly.

The next advantage of the sample is to determine the correct sett and beat to get the fabric that you want.

In the photo above all of the samples have been washed, run through the dryer and pressed with a steam iron.  The sample on the left is the first sample, sett at 24 epi. which is what I often use for 8/2 cotton towels.  The hand of that fabric is very much like denim.  It would make a good tote bag or something of similar durability.  So, I decided to open up the sett to 20 epi.

The center sample is sett at 20 epi.  It has a little bit more drape, something like a sturdy kitchen towel.  I was looking for something with a bit more drape and softness.  So I opened up the sett again, this time to 16 epi. which is the sample on the right.  Notice the increase in the scale of the motif at this sett.  The hand of the fabric is much softer, letting the character of the softly spun pattern yarn to come through. 

Perhaps the following photo's will give an idea of the differences in drape, even though the first sample is pretty short compared to the other two you can still get an idea of the stiffness of the fabric:

24 epi

20 epi
16 epi

Since I'm thinking about using this draft for a baby blanket, the 16 epi sample best fits that use.  But I'm not done with that 16 epi sample yet.

Because of the more open sett, I'm concerned about wear on the softly spun pattern weft where it turns at the selvedge.  So I can use this sample to swatch various types of edge treatments.  Here is a quick sample of blanket stitch along the selvedge.  I will also try some crochet, perhaps  crab stitch, along the edge.  But I have plenty of edge available to try out various things.

When you have a generously sized, washed sample the shrinkage rate and finished size of pattern repeats become a known factor and you can use that information in calculations for the design.  And if you plan to sew with woven fabric, a generous sample allows you to swatch seaming techniques, closures such as button loops or holes, and other design elements.

So if you ask me about a sett for a yarn, I'll tell you to look at the Master Yarn Chart or the recommended sett published by the yarn vendor, but I will also encourage you to buy extra yarn and sample, sample, sample.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

There's Something Fishy Goin' on 'Round Here...

I've tweaked the draft and here it is woven:
There is a threading error in this sample.  Look at the eye of the second from the right upside down fish.  One of the threads ended up on shaft 5 instead of shaft 4.  The warp is two shades of blue: one in 8/2 cotton and the other in 16/2 cotton.  The pattern weft is 3/2 cotton, natural.  The tie down weft is the 16/2 cotton.  All yarns are unmercerized.   Next step is to cut this off and wash a couple of times to determine shrinkage.  And fix the threading error before retying and finishing off the sample while I think of a use for the rest of the sample.

And these have been finished for a week or so:
It's too hot to do anything with them other than tuck them in the drawer for a couple of months.

Today is in the 90's again.  With the humidity the heat index is 107.  After the prolonged dry spell of the past couple weeks we've had serial thunderstorms since Monday.  We need the water, but it makes for very muggy days and nights with poor air quality.  It's come to the point that I have more "house-bound days" due to the weather in the summer than in the winter. 

Hope the rest of you are staying cool and comfortable.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just playing around....

with weaving software:

It's really too hot to do much else.

Don't you wish you were swimming with the fishes?  I've wound the warp to sample this....stay tuned for breaking developments.