Friday, February 29, 2008

Warp painting: a family affair

A few weeks ago I started getting the itch to weave. It came over me that what our house NEEDED more than anything RIGHT NOW was some cushions for a beautiful but uncomfortable rocking chair. And they needed to be made of handwoven fabric. And probably some handspun yarn, and I could dye it, and it could be a family project .....

Next thing you know, I had my family out on the back porch, painting warp chains. This is something I've never done before, and I've only painted yarn or roving a couple of times. So obviously it was a great thing to take on with a couple of little kids!

(we have all chosen our own "dye day" clothing)

Actually it worked out fine, despite a few hair raising moments. I wound the warp into several chains, then split them into two groups which were painted separately. I mixed up many little cups of different colors of dye, and we poured or spooned them on in different sections. I was hoping for vertical stripes from the two different sets of chains, and horizontal stripes from the dye. We used far too much dye, though, so most of the horizontal detail was lost.

You can see that the kids were very serious about their painting. Charlotte really only painted about 10" of warp but boy did she get it all! She must have used about a quart of dye!

My husband was also painting; he took all the pictures so he's not in any. I wish I had taken one of him; it was really nice to all work on a project together. It would have been nicer if it wasn't 40 degrees with constant wind gusts. In fact, it was chilly enough that the kids only made it through one set of warp chains. Then I sent them inside and did the second batch myself.

Next I wrapped the chains in plastic, trying to ignore the excess dye that was running out. THEN I realized that I hadn't spritzed with vinegar or added any acid to the dye cups, so I had to unwrap everything and spray. We had used up all the plastic wrap, so I would have to steam them in ziplocs. As long as everything was so screwed up, I decided I might as well wring out the skeins to get rid of excess dye. After all of this I was pretty sure the chains would come out uniform colors; I only hoped that the two sets of chains would be different colors, so I could at least get vertical stripes.

To my cautious relief, they looked pretty good after steaming, cooling and rinsing. The next day I dyed the weft (handspun shetland) and the edge warps a single coordinating color.

You can see the stripes better in the warp than in the web. There's a three inch stripe of solid red on each side, then stripes of warp chains A-B-AAA-B-A and more solid red to finish it off. It's much more subtle than I had planned but still very nice (I think).

I had hoped that the kids and I could weave this together, but the warp -- a millspun wool & mohair blend -- is too sticky. I'm raising each shaft separately and having no trouble, but I really couldn't get Charlotte to treadle that way, and she says it's no fun if she can't step on it! So the next project will have to be more kid-friendly.

The warp is 5 yards long and I've woven perhaps three of those without incident. Now I'm developing loose selvedge threads -- I guess I'll have to rig up some weights. My other concern is that this fabric might not be sturdy enough for cushions in which case I might be forced to make a garment out of it. With a silver lining, maybe.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fleece in a week, and other tall tales.

Hey -- I spun a whole fleece in a week! Am I a great spinner, or what?

Of course, it was the Icelandic lamb fleece last seen on my back porch last June:

It took me the intervening seven months to card it -- or rather, to get around to carding it. Actual carding only took a few days, spread out over about three months.

And I did really spin it in a week -- into 15 ounces of low twist, bulky two ply:

(That isn't a stripe. I separated out the darkest wool and spun it by itself. This is just all twisted together for storage; I couldn't be bothered to redo the hanks for a picture. Hey, it's Monday.)

But since less than a pound of bulky yarn in seven months doesn't sound very impressive, I'm going with fleece in a week!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Emperor's fleece

You may remember that yesterday I had found some substitute fleeces that I thought would do for my dyeing/blending project.

Today I took a closer look. Oh, dear:

This is a fleece that I bought in 2000. Not only did I buy it, but I imported it. I had it sent all the way across the ocean, I paid duty on it. In fact, I bought three. When I opened the package I was disappointed. I had been buying raised-in-America shetland fleeces for five or six years by then, and they were very nice.

These fleeces were not very nice. But I had paid, and shipped, and so forth, and I really had no recourse, so I packed the fleeces back in their bags, sealed them up, and put them away to think about Later.

Since then I've moved them twice, stacked them with the other fleeces, even inventoried them (without opening the bag), but I never really thought about them. So when I opened them up today to look at them, I was coming at them with an unbiased eye.

The emperor has no clothes!

This fleece is coarse, the staple is short, and about 1/2 the length of the staple is sunburned. Furthermore, take a look at the tips:

That's them, a couple of inches to the left of the rest of the staple. They just snap right off with a gentle tug. Imagine what professional carding machinery would do to them!

The second fleece was pretty much the same, with the addition of this:

Scurf. Also known as dandruff. And it doesn't wash out. I might be willing to deal with scurf in qiviut or cashmere, but I'd have to think about it. In this case there really wasn't much of a decision to make.

Here is the third fleece, displayed on the same horrible sheet-cum-dropcloth. It has a more primitive coat, with triangular staples. The staple length is longer, and while the tips are sun-bleached, they don't snap off.

It is clearly the nicest of the three, but then that's not saying much. I've thrown the other two away (thereby meeting my Getting Rid of Stuff quota for the week) but for the moment I'm keeping this one. My plan is to give it another hard look this evening or tomorrow. If it passes that, I'll dye some up, card a batt, and spin it.

If it doesn't, there are some other fleeces in the garage. I don't know how many, and I think maybe I ought to know, but there are certainly more than six and probably fewer than, oh, twenty. There are two more brown fleeces, but one has too much VM to be carded and the other is too pretty to overdye. There are two black fleeces, and -- shockingly -- only one grey, which is earmarked for another project. Oh, wait, there's another grey but I love it too much to overdye it. There are white fleeces in a range of fleece types (Shetland, Polypay, Polwarth, Corriedale, Rambouillet, Columbia, maybe some more) -- but it would certainly change the project to use white fleece.

Onwards and upwards, I guess.

Monday, February 04, 2008


I am making myself a fitted vest out of my screaming blue Ayany yarn, using guidelines from Barbara Walker's Knitting From the Top but adding bust darts to accommodate my superstructure. Sounds good, no?

As I knit, though, I remembered that I haven't actually made a garment for my torso since before my son was born, almost seven years ago. The relatively modest bust darts I used then and the really rather alarming bust darts I need now are vastly different; it's like learning the whole process over again.

Here's the vest just after the finish of the darts:

The markers show where my short rows start, both horizontally & vertically. Vertical placement is fine, but the horizontal placement is way off.

Here's how I think it should be fitting (note safety pin-created tucks near the shoulders). I should have started the darts almost two inches higher so that the short rows are centered across my bust. Instead I started them at the center point. It's all very obvious to me now which I guess means it wasn't all for naught. I think I can now create bust darts that really do fit my shape. Unfortunately that means ripping way back; even in this bulky yarn I've lost a day's knitting.

On the plus side, this will let me fix the armhole shaping which I had been trying to pretend was Just Fine.

In other news I have been unreasonably excited by some roving June describes here and have been ripping apart my garage searching for fleece to treat the same way. I knew just the fleeces -- two brownish gray Shetland fleeces that produce drab brownish gray yarn that would be just wonderful overdyed red and gold and brown. I spent quite a while looking for them last night until I remembered that I sold them. Seven years ago. (Yes, I have a Fleece Problem.) Poking around a little further, though, I found another brown Shetland fleece or two (I collected them for a while, trying to find the Perfect One) that will probably do. The plan was to sort, re-skirt, and pick them today, while it's 70 degrees, and then dye them the rest of the week, while it's 50. My daughter threw up at one in the morning, though (and at two, and four, and six) so plans for the day are somewhat sketchy. Wish me (and her) luck.