Monday, March 16, 2020

(Fiber) love in the time of Coronavirus

It is a frightening time. We are all being asked to isolate for the good of us all and news headlines are popping up minute by minute with terrifying new updates. Those of us who work with fiber have some fantastic resources at hand and we can use these to combat the stress of the global Covid-19 crisis, fill some of the hours and boredom that might come with the need to practice social distancing and isolate, and give us some pure joy on days when we need it.

One thing I have needed desperately as the news changes and unfolds day to day is comfort knitting which I can pay little attention to, but will be pleasant to hand and relaxing. I chose to begin a new top down raglan sleeve sweater in handspun Corriedale cross yarn. Two ply. This is from a fleece I got last spring from Strawberry Ridge Farm and which I had processed into roving at Rach-Al-Paca fiber mill. It was a complete joy to spin (and i have several lbs of roving left, which is a wonderful thing) and It makes a wonderful yarn to touch. Sturdy yet pleasant against my skin and wonderful to knit with. This has been my go to at night when we watch the news or episodes of Poirot, something to keep my hands occupied and it also lets me enjoy the feel of the yarn.


Sometimes we need to focus, to take our minds off of worry and fear and this is where a project that takes all your attention can be useful. A friend of mine is making a new reed to use when she weaves with her backstrap loom. This takes incredible precision and attention and I admire her skill so much. I am spinning singles for weaving. This makes me pay much closer attention to what I am doing as I want a smooth even yarn and so need to pay extra attention to my drafting. My standard default yarn is mostly spun with much less attention but for weft I want to make sure my yarn is as good as I can make it. This attention grounds me and that helps so much to focus my mind on what I am doing, leaving no thinking space for worry. When I am spinning this yarn I am focused on the fiber source, the drafting, the grist, the feel of the wool as it passes through my hands. It is an active meditation. I am spinning Border Leicester from a fleece I purchased from Kate Larson several years ago. I dyed the fleece with various natural dyes and will use it as singles for warp.

For pure joy I have a plan to dig into my stash and pull out the treasures I have been hoarding like Smaug and his stash of gold. The braids of fiber whose colors make my heart sing, the blends that feel like air against my fingers. Right now I am not sure what I will grab first, it could be the box of silk I have been hoarding,  or the indie braids that are so pretty to look at, or perhaps some of the special camel or cashmere blends I have tucked away. If there ever was a time to break something out that we have been saving 'For that special day' or 'Just in Case' this is it.'

For those of use who are able, this can be the time to support our fiber small business and teachers by purchasing that pattern we have looked and looked at, or place an order for that hemp or alpaca or fleece that has always looked intriguing. With festivals being canceled we can use our privilege to both add spice to our fiber life and support those whose livelihoods are so endangered.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

September Stashdown

I like alliteration and for September I have a goal to use up some of my stash and make a concerted effort to move some along from raw fiber to prepared fiber, from prepared fiber to yarn, or yarn to finished object.
As August wound down, I found myself looking through bins of yarn and especially drawn to my bin of yarn which holds my natural dye experiments.
I had a great deal of hog island two ply yarn, spun for knitting, which I had been dyeing over the past three years. It was inspiring me to try and make a fair isle vest and so at the end of August I sat down with colored pencils, a book of peerie and border charts, and some graph paper trying to figure out what I could make with the colors I had.
I ended up with this

Once I had the chart, I knitted a gauge swatch and then took that to the Knitters Handy Book of Patterns to plug it into the V neck vest pattern. I have knit this pattern before and enjoy wearing it. Since I am doing fair isle colorwork I want to knit in the round and will just steek the armholes and vee neck rather than knit flat.
I was too excited to wait until September to begin and so cast on immediately. I began August with two repeats of the chart completed and will definitely finish in September.


In the rest of September I plan to spin up some recently dyed Polwarth/Silk roving, spin up the tunis fleece I dyed last month, and get some cotton spun.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Weaving Lessons Learned

I am thrilled to bits that I DID succeed in weaving cloth from my handspun hemp singles. It was a huge goal of mine to weave more than a sample of singles cloth, and I am so glad I did it! I did learn lessons (as always) and learn more about what I like in handwoven handspun cloth. But. I did it!

I wove this at 24 epi in a straight twill. It was easiest for me to do this with my loom as the tie up is done by rods, adjusted by bolts, which have rusted shut. The plainweave treadles do not open a very wide shed and the twill treadles do. I had a very hard time getting a clear shed with plainweave and an easy time with the twill and so I chose twill. Unfortunately, after finishing the fabric I far prefer the plainweave, which my mentor told me I would. I also had troubles with some ends repeatedly breaking. As I wound the warp onto the back beam (I have a sectional beam and so wind on 2 inch wide bouts on the section before threading heddles and then sleying the reed) some threads twisted and I was not as careful as I should have been. Some ends snapped repeatedly as they were pulled against the heddles and the reed. I need to be more careful about how I wind on my warps.
I also learned, I want to replace the tie up rods and the heddles with texsolv, to reduce the noise.

I had planned to make a new bath sheet from this fabric. To sew three panels together. The twill fabric is a bit too thick for my bath sheet preferences though. I will sit on the roll and try and decide what to do with 7 yards of hemp cloth. Some might go into a spindle bag. I am envisioning embroidering in the negative spaces between the stripes.

I loved having a piece on the loom and immediately wound a warp and dressed the loom with handspun Romeldale/CVM for a scarf for this coming winter. I was extremely careful in winding on the warp bouts and it was an absolute joy to weave. I cannot wait to wear it, though I do need to find my fringe twister now.


I also got on a dyeing kick a couple of weeks ago, and dyed polworth silk roving and Border Leicester Fleece with indigo, dyers chamomile, madder, and walnut. (Walnut not pictured). It will be a joy to have this colorful fibre to play with this winter.




Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Waking up after the winter

This winter was a time for me to hibernate, I did no blogging I know, but I did spin a great deal, and weave. I wove lap blankets for the moms as a christmas present, spun the yarn for a hap on spindles and knit it up, enjoyed carding up my various bits and bobs of roving left over from classes and projects into a fun blend and spun that up, and now I am working on spinning the yarn for a new shirt. I am spinning hemp singles which I plan to weave up, and possible dye in an indigo vat.



Sunday, November 4, 2018

Getting Back into the Habit of Blogging

I was just in a conversation with friends, mourning the demise of the blogging community which was so vibrant and active in the late nineties and early two thousands. Hypocritically, of course, as I do not update my own blog. Whilst I do love looking at all the pretty photos on Instagram, I miss the discussions and mini essays that were the glory of the fiber blogging world. I miss seeing the in-depth exploration of a topic or a technique, and also just the better insight into what was going on in my friends' studios.
So. It has been a busy year. Today I am going to discuss my biggest accomplishment.
I finished the cotton cloth, and made a shirt from it:


I learned many things on this project. Biggest of all is the importance of planning rather than estimating. I estimated that I had enough yarn to finish my shirt warp in the pattern I began, however I ran out of the white cotton halfway through. I had a little bit left to spin up and I did that, but I still had over two yards of warp left to weave and no weft to weave it with. In order to finish I started using whatever cotton sliver I had to hand to spin up, and ended up making several different patterns as I finished the warp, green and brown stripes, tan stripes, brown stripes. I ended up with enough cloth to make the shirt but not enough to be able to make it according to my initial plan.

I chose, after much coaching and encouragement from weaving friends, to look on this as serendipity and embrace the different patterns to put them together into one shirt.

This was my first time making a garment. I sat on the cloth, paralyzed by indecision and intimidated by the process of dealing with sizing up the pattern. I needed to add several inches to the width of the garment. Luckilly I had a friend staying with me while he taught locally and he walked me through the process and helped me make a muslin to check the fit of the adjusted pattern piece. Once that was done I spent the better part of a day laying out the pattern pieces on the cloth and trying to decide what the most attractive arrangement of the various cloth patterns would be. In the end I am very pleased and I feel that the shirt is better for having the mix of patterns than for being all in tattersall like I had initially planned. My mistake turned into serendipity.

Sewing the shirt together went quickly and I, as you can tell, and super pleased with the result. It had been my goal since I was eight or nine to make a shirt from scratch--all the way from spinning the yarn through weaving through sewing it. It was a lot of work, all together I spent more than 150 hours on it, but it was completely worth it and I am already planning a series of handspun, handwoven shirts and other garments to make.

The biggest thing about this shirt is that it would not have been made without the encouragement, the cheerleading, the teaching, the hand holding, the explanations, the suggestions and the consolation of my friends in the fiber community. In the end, not only do I have a garment that I love to wear because of my own accomplishment, it also feels like I am wrapping myself in the whole group of friends and teachers that have been so instrumental in my fiber journey.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Slogging Along

I began the year with a new project; to spin, weave, and sew a shirt from cotton to wear at Convergence 2018. Ambitious, but achievable, this is going to push me out of comfort zones, and allow me to finally accomplish a lifelong dream of making a shirt from scratch.
I am spinning Sally Fox's naturally colored cotton in green and brown and white. I purchased a pound of each from her years ago before I realized quite how much a lb of cotton will spin up.
As you can see, gorgeous colors of cotton and they will end up woven into a Tattersall plaid of  narrow lines of brown and green on white. I am excited for this. I have the pattern (my friend Sara recommended it).
 It is so much fun to spin and dream and think of the fabric I will be making and the next one and the next one. This fun, however, does not stick around and now I am at the point where the spinning is a slog. I still have about 2500 yards left to spin (of two ply) to reach the 8000 yards estimate I will need. The problem is, I am tired of spinning cotton and I am tired of spinning for this project. I know I will LOVE making and wearing a garment from scratch. I know the weaving will be fun because I always love seeing cloth build up on the loom. I know I am improving my cotton spinning, and spinning in general, because of the the time I am putting into this. All of those things are wonderful, but in the end, it has become work, a chore, a slog, to get through the spinning.

I think this is a good thing, however. Sometimes working through a project is not always fun, but putting in the time and the effort and pushing through when it gets difficult is what makes a project valuable. It will take me at least 100 hours to spin and ply the yarn for this shirt, and that surprised me. Even though, intellectually, I knew that it takes a great deal of time to make a garment I was surprised by what it FEELS like to put in that time. It makes me think of our ancestors who, until that last three centuries or so, would have had to make everything from cloth that was handspun. What a tremendous amount of time and effort went into every scrap of cloth and no wonder it was valuable, stored and displayed as wealth, carefully mended and patched and cut down and refitted and recycled and used until literally it fell apart or rotted. It is a valuable reminder to me, in this world of disposable fashion and cheap clothing, to step back and remind myself that while there may not be as many hours of work in a garment, there is still the work of people who are most likely being exploited, the resources that went into processing the fiber and dyeing it and transporting around the world the various parts that make up a garment. Textiles are so easy to take for granted, but the slog reminds me that they take work and resources.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Year end, year beginning.

It was an eventful 2017 and so far an eventful 2018. 
After my fall natural dyeing blitz I wove a scarf which as become my favorite piece of clothing 

I knit Mitts, of handspun naturally dyed wool, but need to knit more as these were both given away.







Had a fantastic trip to Germany where I got to see my great Aunt who taught me to knit socks.




And ended the year with a Flax spinning marathon (I love spinning flax!) 

2018 is not off to the GREATEST start as I wanted to weave with my linen singles, but did not size them enough.
Ending with a sad instance of Scissors on warp.



 I will try to rescue this warp, but in the meantime have been enjoying Luxury, spinning Abstract Fiber Yak/Silk in Alfalfa and another green on my matchless.