Monday, April 28, 2008

Here's the re-do sample weaving I did for the Sheep to Shawl. This is the pattern I thought I wanted when I did some sampling a couple months ago, so this time I decided to weave a shawl in this pattern instead of a little sample.

The yarn is merino DK from Knitpicks, dyed by me, warp set at 8 epi, weft beaten to 8 ppi. The pattern is one I came up with on WinWeave.

Unfortunately, I thought I dyed three skeins for the weft, but I only did two. I had to stop weaving earlier than I would have liked, and the shawl is a bit short. It was 24.75" in the reed, fresh off the loom it measured 22" x 66", and after wet finishing it measures 19" x 58".

It's a lovely soft, thick fabric, though, and since it's heavier than I like for a shawl and too short anyway, it may be transformed into a pillow.

However. After I finished weaving the shawl, I decided to fiddle with the tieup in WinWeave, and came up with this pattern.

Subtly different. I wove off the rest of the warp with this tieup, and like it better than the original. This is what the Fair shawl will be.

And just to show you what a difference wet finishing makes, here's a before and after. I cut the sample in half, zigzagged the cut edges and fell lines, and threw one in the washing machine with the shawl.

The left half is straight off the loom. It's a bit loose and feels somewhat floppy. Soft, but not terrible stable. The right hand half is after one minute of agitation in a soapy wash and one minute agitation in the rinse. The weave locks together, the yarn poufs, and it's a super soft, stable fabric.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The problem with getting behind on things I want to blog about is that I get so far behind, and then I become paralyzed and feel like I can't blog anything until I blog that thing I wanted to blog about, so no blogging gets done at all. Blog blog blog, what a funny word.

I have weaving, spinning, and dyeing that I want to show off, Emma's first school play, several blog-worthy rants while at the gym, thoughts on laundry and lawnmowing and Earth Day (Every Day), my "garden" this year, and other things I can't think of at the moment. Probably I won't get to everything, even in multiple posts.

Let's start with spinning and dyeing, shall we? I am participating in the Sheep-to-Shawl event at the San Juan County Fair again this year. I just love that fair, all my spinning friends are there, and it's just a really meaningful event to me. I am traveling from La Grande, Oregon to Friday Harbor, Washington for the express purpose of going to the Fair and Sheep-to-Shawl. Well, and to pick up Shaun, who is spending six weeks doing research at the Friday Harbor Labs this summer, ending right around Fair-time. But I was going to the Fair, regardless of whether Shaun was spending the summer doing research there. The timing of his research stay just worked out really well. Unfortunately, Emma and I probably won't be able to spend the summer at the Labs again this year. It's expensive for one thing, to live there and still pay rent here. I am also hoping to be working again this summer, though I haven't heard anything yet.

Anyway. Sheep-to-Shawl. I got to design the shawl this year, and will be weaving it at the Fair! I played around with colors and patterns a bit over the winter, and did a couple little samples. Which I promptly lost. Seriously, I have no idea where they went. I looked everywhere. So, in the interest of being able to actually communicate the design to the other members of the S2S team, I had to do them over. That's what I spent a couple days last week doing.

I wanted the warp and weft to contrast, with the warp dyed and the weft natural white. Both will be a blend of 70% dyed Romney/Border Leicester wool and 30% undyed alpaca. I dyed a small batch of wool (all I have on hand that's not dyed is Rambouillet x Cormo, but this is only a color sample so that's OK) on Wednesday, and combed and spun it Thursday, blending the alpaca in with the combs.

Yum. I did this by weighing out 30% of the wool weight in alpaca, then splitting both into rough thirds before combing. I didn't try to get the color perfectly even between comb loads, since I wanted a somewhat marled yarn.

While the finished yarn is lovely, it wasn't quite the color I was going for. I wanted a mossy green, and this is a little too blue. So I dyed up another handful of wool on Friday and tried again.

Now, let me preface this by saying I have had a really hard time with my dyes this week. Nothing set properly the first time through, the dye colors broke unexpectedly, and nothing came out the way I wanted. It was quite frustrating. I wonder if the town has been fiddling with the water treatment plant?

This is the green wool I finally ended up with. The first dyebath (the perfect mossy green, I thought) broke and produced wool that was brown, teal, bright sky blue, and a little green. Hideous. The brown was OK and parts of the green, but the blue had to go. So I overdyed it with the barest smidge of yellow, and that evened it out enough that I thought it would work. As you can see, there's still some blue and that chartreuse green is way brighter than I wanted, but at that point I was fed up and just wanted to SPIN ALREADY.

I added the white alpaca and combed it three times, and what do you know?

The perfect mossy green.

This is pretty much exactly what I was aiming for.

I was completely skeptical until the second time through the combs, when the color started to blend. Fiber work never ceases to amaze me. I guess I should have somewhat expected this, based on the clown wig purple I blended a while ago, but still...

(I love my combs, by the way.)

Surprisingly, the Rambouillet x Cormo was pretty much the same staple length as the alpaca, which worked out well for the combing. I though it was much shorter at first, since after the washing (three years ago in Friday Harbor) and dyeing, each lock was a bit shriveled. They opened up and stretched out well, played nice with the alpaca, and made a lovely yarn.

So, so, so soft. And BOINGY!! I must make more of this yarn.

In other dyeing news, I did up some more laceweight for my shop.

1. Frosted Plum, 2. Seaglass, 3. Parsley, 4. Bayberry

These were part of the frustrating dye experience last week. The yarn that I ended up calling "Frosted Plum", in particular, was supposed to be dark red, pink, and rich brown. It looked great after I painted it and wrapped it for steaming. During the heating, though, it somehow became green, blue, yellow, teal, purple, and maroon. It looked like a vomitous rainbow. I really should have taken before and after pictures, because it would have been really funny if I wasn't so upset at ruining all that lovely yarn. However, I knew that overdyeing solves a lot of mistakes, and violently threw plunked the yarn into a kettle of purply-black dye. You see the results. One of my favorite skeins to date.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I got out the wool combs again today, to try out some alpaca I washed yesterday. This fiber is some that I bought off eBay last November, for a ridiculously low price-- $3.00 for 2 pounds of raw fiber, if I remember correctly. I was somewhat skeptical of what the quality would be, given the price, but couldn't pass up the pretty picture. It looked nice, and I figured that even if it turned out to be poor quality, I was only out three bucks.

I was pleased with it when I got the box, but then got sidetracked and put it away until now. I was even more pleased after I washed 6 ounces yesterday. I was going to wash more, but we were stuffing the mesh bags outside (because of all the dust in the fiber) and were chased inside by a sudden violent hailstorm!

It was very dusty, but washed up bright white with one soapy soak and one rinse. It's quite soft, the staple length is about 4", and there isn't too much VM. After three passes through the combs, it's lovely.

The only minor problem I have found is the amount of guard hair in parts of it, and even that isn't too big of a deal. I was initially going to leave it in, because it's quite pretty (for guard hair). It's bright white and very shiny and sparkly, but it's just a bit too coarse and detracts from the silky softness of the rest of the fiber.

So, I'm picking it out as I go. I pulled out most of it as I was packing the mesh bags for washing, then got the rest as I loaded the combs. It's fairly easy, since the guard hairs are longer than the rest, as well as shinier and not crimped.

I did 10 combfuls today, half the washed fiber, and tomorrow I hope to finish the rest.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Some more dyeing since Friday:

Clockwise from the top left, these are Tropical Seas, Spring Trees, Denim, and Blueberries 'n' Cream.

I had fun with Sky Blue, Sapphire, Yellow Sun, and Black this time (all Jacquard dyes). Sky Blue and Yellow Sun make some amazing greens together!

All will be in my Etsy shop, though I've only gotten the Blueberries 'n' Cream and Spring Trees up so far.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The mystery unveiled:

Not that big of a mystery, really, I just didn't want to show it before it was received. This is a set of four placemats, made for my sister and her husband, as a wedding/Christmas present. Yes, they were married last September, and Christmas is in December. Wanna make something of it?

The warp is a thick 4/4 linen, unbleached and fairly rustic, and the weft is 4/4 unmercerized cotton. The weave pattern is the same one I used to make my placemats, a draft I designed myself, though I'm sure it's not original.

I really like the way this pattern weaves up. It's easy to thread and treadle. These placemats are set at 13 epi, the weft is beaten (hard) to 10 ppi, and the resulting fabric is quite thick and sturdy.

I purposely made this a tight weave, because the warp is a somewhat hairy linen and the weft is a cotton that tends to fuzz easily if it's not contained firmly. By making it tight, everything is controlled and stays looking nice.

I wove a 1" hem on each end using #5 pearl cotton, intending to turn it under twice and stitch a hem. When I actually got it off the loom, though, this presented a problem. The warp yarn is so thick and stiff, a twice-folded hem would not have been acceptable; too thick and bulky. I didn't want a fringe though, not with this yarn, and I didn't have enough space between mats anyway. So I zigzagged the ends, sewed a piece of grosgrain ribbon to the right side, folded to the back, and stitched it down.

This way the hem is less bulky, the raw edges are still covered, and the mat lies flat. All right and tight. I like it even better than what I originally planned. Plus, how lucky was I to find ribbon the exact color of the warp yarn?!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Remember the suri alpaca that Caroline sent me a few months ago? The batch I combed and spun into a silky, drapey laceweight yarn?

Here's the picture that I posted in January, before I ran it through my wheel again to tighten the ply twist a bit.

And here's what I did to it last night:

This is not the true color. In real life it is both darker and richer, a deep, saturated wine red. Claret. My camera wanted it it be fuchsia, so I had to fiddle in Photoshop and this is as close as I could get. This is frustrating, but you'll just have to take my word for it, it is gorgeous.

I used Jacquard dyes, Fire Red and Black, and that combination over the fawn yarn was perfect. It took forever for the dyebath to exhaust because the color is so saturated, but when I rinsed the yarn, it didn't lose any dye.

It is exactly what I wanted, exactly what I pictured in my mind while I was spinning. This will be weft in a scarf, with a contrasting warp, in some sort of twill. Yummy.