Monday, April 27, 2009

Preschool weaving.

Hey, I'm back! I spent half of my free time last week weaving with the kids at Charlotte's preschool and the other half playing Pet Society on Facebook. In fact, last night I sewed the final seam on this pillow WHILE playing Pet Society. I think this might explain why I am not as productive as some people ....

This was a very fun project. I warped up my two-harness table loom (seen here) with orange and yellow pearl cotton, and took in an assortment of yarns for weft. They included lots of novelty fringe & fuzzy yarns, some soft worsted wools, and some sport weight cotton left over from the Blue / Magenta vest.

It was interesting to see what the kids picked. Many liked the eyelash & furry yarns, and expressly commented on the changing colors. Others wanted a smooth yarn in a solid color. Some really liked the soft, soft, soft purple acrylic. Not one child chose the exact same fuzzy yarn in white.

I did this last year as well, though I see I never blogged about it. It was a wonderful experience for me and a lot of fun for the kids, too, as far as I can tell. Last year we wove a scarf-sized piece of fabric -- 6-8 inches wide is plenty for little hands -- and I turned it into the bag that goes home with a school puppet every night. This year I thought we might make a pillow for their library corner.

Each weaver signed the back (some added drawings as well). The kids range in age from 3 to 5, and their manual skills vary pretty widely, too, but all of them were able to weave successfully. In fact, when I took the loom to a park playdate on Friday to finish up the warp, I wove with a not-quite-two year old, who was then able to explain the process to someone else ("turn this").

In general, 3 and some 4 year olds need a lot of assistance -- steady reminding about the next step; many 4 year olds can chug along fine with only the occasional reminder, and five year olds and older just need help changing yarns and advancing the warp. But that's a broad generalization. Helping the individual kids was just fascinating; they all approached it a little differently. Several had woven last year and remembered it well. Some kids wanted to weave for a few minutes and were then done with it; others came back every day for another turn.

Here Charlotte demonstrates the size of the finished pillow.

The color interactions really intrigue me. I like to use two different colors in the warp to help the kids know whether or not they have changed the shed, but it can make for a speckledy result. Here, though, the orange has receded in most places.

And all those fuzzy, furry, hairy novelty yarns are pretty tame in the final product. That bumpy blue yarn adds the only really contrasting note; without it I think the pillow would be kind of boring.

Off to school -- where I hope to get a picture of me with the weavers!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Back from Planet Viking!

Final tally: 9 garments in 11 days, plus one inkle belt woven, one batch of sculpy brooches made, four bead necklaces assembled. Other belts / trim / bottle holders were made in advance, some specifically for the fair but most not.

Pretty much everything I made for myself was a bit too big.

So was George's neckline, which is why I made him an undertunic as well. Unfortunately I have no pictures of that. Fortunately I am sure he will be happy to put it all back on again.

Love the eye roll!

Doesn't she look sweet? She wishes her dress was more swirly, but likes the swirl in the back of the apron dress. I think the difference between front and back is interesting but I think she would rather have it swirly all around.

Here you can see the gores in both Dean's tunic and her apron dress -- they were twirling.

What I learned: Lots! First of all, I have to abandon my image of myself as someone who "can't really sew." There's lots of room for improvement, but standing there surrounded by my family entirely dressed in clothes I made within the last couple of weeks really made an impact on me.

It was amazing to me how much confidence I gained in the course of this project. The first couple of garments took a long time -- partly because I was figuring out the patterns (see my post on Charlotte's dress) but also because I kept sewing things together wrong way out. I ripped a lot of seams. Partly that was because these fabrics look the same on both sides, but partly it was because I couldn't keep track of what I was doing. And I had to measure, and study, and draw cutting lines, and measure again. But by the end of the process I was proceeding much more confidently. In fact, I made George's pants and undertunic on Saturday, before we went to the second day of the fair. The tunic is made from scraps of Dean's pants (big scraps because I bought too much fabric), and I was able to bind the neck entirely by machine.

I learned or relearned a lot of sewing techniques, and put into practice many things which I have read about but not done before. I was very pleased to finally figure out machine blindstitched hems. Unfortunately my machine refused to disgorge the zigzag cam in favor of the blindstitching cam until after I had done almost all of my hems. It's working smoothly now -- I guess it took a couple of days for that drop of oil to soak in! As it turns out, you can fake a blindstitched hem with a zigzag, but it won't be nearly as invisible. It still looks better than a hem sewn on top, in my opinion.

Here are the two hems side by side.

On the inside you can see the difference: the blindstitch has four or five straight stitches before the one zigzag reaching over to the outer fabric. The zigzag worked okay, though, and there's no way I'm going to redo the hems. They are very, very long.

My "cloak" is just the handwoven yardage that I haven't yet turned into cushions for my rocking chair. I cut it in half & machine feather stitched the panels together. This is so cool! I just butted the pieces together, irregular selvages & all. In my test swatch, it was very easy to rip the seaming out without damage. I think if you did this before finishing it would be almost invisible afterwards. One of my many unfinished projects involves sewing five blanket panels together by hand; this really has me thinking!

Another technique that enchanted me was french seams. I used them on Charlotte's dress only; after that I abandoned finished seams in favor of finished garments. I hope I don't regret that after washing the clothes! But I am definitely going to experiment more with finished seams.

I also really liked the experience of working with rectangles of fabric. The apron dresses in particular are cut from one long rectangle, cut apart and reassembled without scraps. That is so cool! Of course, there are no sleeves or shoulders in them, which helps. But it was very interesting to compare the scraps from the tunics & underdresses (mostly small or large & square enough to be usable) with the scraps from the pajama style pants I made for the guys (curved, tapered, and often unusable). If I were spinning the yarn and weaving the cloth I'm pretty sure which style of pattern drafting I'd favor!

And I learned a lot about Vikings and about clothing & cloth usage by trying to make semi-authentic costumes instead of something that just looked "Viking-y." I was particularly interested in all the discussion I found online about aprons, apron dresses, and possible reconstructions. I owe a real debt to all the reenactors who have made garments, worn them, thought about them, and written up their experiences. Really this is one of the wonderful things about the internet. And how cool to be able to find detailed diagrams of Viking shirt seams?

Notes for next year: Start sooner! The garments themselves are of course essential, but what was really fun to make & to wear was all the accessories and details. I wish I'd had time to trim many more of the garments, and to make undertunics for all of us, and better cloaks (instead of blankets!) and pouches, etc., etc.

Dean wants an undertunic (so the weather will be warmer!) and trim on his tunic.
George wants a belt to match his sleeve trim, maybe another pouch. He would like to be in the costume contest next year; plan on this. His tunics will probably fit, his pants will probably be too short. Make real viking pants?
Charlotte wants to be a princess. Start Really Early!
If Charlotte's a princess, maybe I should match? I'd love to make a kirtle for myself ....

... but for now, it's laundry, bill paying, grocery shopping and cleaning -- all the stuff I've ignored since before our trip to Florida.

ETA: Thanks to Iris, whose Halloween costumes really inspired this whole project!