In Praise of Threads

For me, creativity is taking a simple length of thread and creating something marvelous from it.  Or, if not something marvelous, then at least something useful!

Now, my attempts to manipulate thread can be as messy or as beautiful as my life.  It can be boring, exciting, calming, stimulating, even painful.  But sometimes the joy of playing with thread simply takes my breath away.

I decided to commemorate my progress by capturing pieces of threads in pictures for my journal.  Here I celebrate the entrance of 2017 by using thrums from the turned twill napkins just completed.  This picture will be added to throughout the month as more threads flow through my hands:  thrums from the weaving looms, folded samples from the spinning wheel, cut ends from the knitting needles.

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And so, in celebration of life and threads, I give you a glimpse of the threads I am playing with this week.

On my spinning wheel, it is back to basics with 100% Organic Polwarth wool, hand-dyed by local indie dyer Kinfolk Yarn and Fibre.  The colour combination of blue, purple and green has been named “Unsung”.  I’m spinning a nice, soft singles in worsted backward draw, just letting the colours come as they may, later to be combined in a two ply yarn.

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My looms are freshly dressed, and weaving will be happening.

I have three looms dressed in my weaving studio, with three projects in process.  One of my priorities this year is to shop from my existing inventory (OK my stash) as much as possible.  I have some “more expensive” yarns that have been on my shelf for a number of years, so what can I possible be saving them for?

On “Loomella”, my eight shaft Schacht baby wolf loom, I warped this fun blend of cotton and paper yarns from Habu textiles, in navy blue, apple green, and brown.  The textured yarn, is a linen and paper blend.  The yarns feel a little like raffia, and are very springy.  I thought plain weave with some supplemental yarn floats and an open, airy sett would be the best way to show the yarns off.  This is intended to be a scarf, but may turn into something else, depending on the drape of the finished product.

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On “Amy Ashford”, the eight-shaft Ashford table loom on a stand, I have a lovely double weave patterned cloth that I have wanted to make for a long time.  The pattern is from an old issue of Handwoven magazine.  I am nicknaming this piece “The Newspaper” which is the answer to the old riddle, “What is Black and White and Red all over?”

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And being wound onto  “The Queen”:   I raided my handspun stash to combine all the turquoise blue yarns into a mixed yardage for a jacket.  The boucle is a commercial yarn, but everything else is my own handspun.

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Finished!  This morning I finished hemming this set of nine napkins, made from organic cotton and woven in a turned twill pattern.

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As I am working this week I am enjoying the sun pouring through the windows of my studio and bright blue skies.  It is cold outside as the temperatures remain below freezing.  I am so grateful that I no longer have to commute into the city, and can work in my warm, cozy studio.  I appreciate the calmness and space of this week, after the rush and bustle of the holiday season.  The creative process, combined with a burning curiosity remains central to my being.  After enjoying a glorious day, I leave you with this picture taken from my studio window as the sun was setting last night.  Peace to all.

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I Never Felt More Like Spinning the Blues

So the 1950’s song by Guy Mitchell (I never felt more like singing the blues) was running through my brain as I was spinning this beautiful fibre: a luxury blend of 60& Merino wool, 20% Yak, and 20% silk, Hand painted by woolgatherings fibres.  www.woolgatheringsfibres.com

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I first split the roving in half lengthwise, then laid each half in a lazy S to determine the way it was dyed.

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I then split it where each piece “turned”, splitting at the lightest and darkest ends.

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I spun each half of the roving, using all the lightest fibres first, then the next colour, then the next, ending with the darkest colour.  Spinning was a fine short backward worsted draw.  The two bobbins were plyed together and the colours matched up nicely.

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Resulting in a beautiful gradient cake of gorgeousness.

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The cake is 484 yards of two ply luxury.   It’s going to make a very pretty shawl.

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My JST Napkins

Here are the napkins I created for the Jane Stafford Textiles napkin exchange, and a little story about how they came to be:

Annie and the Starfish

Annie was both nervous and excited.  Edward had asked her to accompany him on a walk on the beach on Sunday.  Edward, of the handsome face and strong arms, had asked her!  I’ll pack a picnic lunch, she thought, and I know, I’ll make some new napkins.

She planned a masculine window-pane plaid to reflect the colours of the rocks and grasses on the beach.  She planned and measured her warp.  “I’ll make fat window panes intersected by thin mullion lines echoing the colour of the adjacent pane.” She planned.  “The napkins will be sturdy and strong in classic plain weave.”  She sleyed and threaded and wound her warp tightly.  She wove a sample, carefully measuring to ensure the same number of weft picks as warp threads, following the warp order.  The sample was washed and pressed and hemmed.  “Ah”, she thought, “the take-up for warp and weft is not the same, and the sample is longer in the length than width.  She adjusted, reducing the number of picks in the fat panes by two to square the plaid.  Now it was perfect and she finished the napkins just in time.

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On the day of the picnic, she packed the hamper with fresh bread and cheese, fried chicken, tomatoes from the garden, cake and lemonade.  She added a blanket to sit on, and with great pride, packed the new napkins at the top of the basket.  She put on her best summer dress, picked up the hamper and her sun parasol (to prevent freckles and sunburn of course), and was ready to go.

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Edward carried the hamper and held her hand as they strolled along the beach.  Enjoying the warm summer breezes they walked and talked of little things.  They looked for pebbles and shells along the beach and stopped to investigate the tide pools.

“Oh look,” said Annie, “Starfish have been stranded here when the tide went out.  How rich and pretty their colours.”

“They are beautiful,” Edward agreed, looking at Annie, “and delicate.  But they need to be returned to the ocean to survive.”  Edward reached into the hamper and took out the napkins.  Cradling the starfish in the cloth he carried them back to the water and gently released them.  That is when Annie fell in love with Edward for his strength and compassion towards all living things.  And Edward fell in love with beautiful Annie, the maker of such fine and sturdy cloth.

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And that is how the starfish became part of these napkins forever.

 

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Napkins and Beaches

I returned home from holiday to find this in my mailbox:  Napkins from the Jane Stafford Textiles Ravelry group exchange.  I squealed with delight!

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Eight coordinated napkins based on the photo “Starfish on a Beach”, taken by our own Sandra. I love then all!  Thanks, Weavers.

I spent my holiday on the Oregon Coast beaches near Manzanita, and the Nehalem Bay campground.  A great place to spend time with children and grandchildren.  So relaxing.

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A Nice Wool Vest

Well, it has been a while since I made any clothing, or really done any real sewing.  This vest was inspired by the Peace Arch Weavers Guild 50th Anniversary celebration.  To celebrate we decided to have a fashion show.   To the loom and sewing machine I ran, and pulled this off in two short weeks.  The vest fits very well and I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of me wearing this.  I’ll try to get a better photo later.

The material is a Swedish Weaving wool,  purchased at a previous conference.  Sett at 12 epi in a simple dornick twill, I wove 4 yards of fabric.  The vest is lined with lightweight cotton lawn, and trimmed with commercial wool.  It all came together in two weeks, just in time for the fashion show.  The vest will be nice and warm for Fall walks in the park.

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A Diversified Way of Reducing Stash

One of my goals this year is to reduce my inventory of handspun yarns.  Really, my super stash exceeds its dedicated cupboard space. And I’m not sure buying more shelving is the way to go.

Luckily, my need to reduce stash coincided with a small group challenge to weave something in Diversified Plain weave.  I chose two plump skeins of handspun that went well together and were of approximately the same grist.

For the fat warp I chose a springy skein of brown Australian Moorit wool.  The fat weft is a variegated skein of Superwash merino/bamboo blend in brown with blue tones. I paired these with thin warp and weft of bambu 12 in ebony and sweet corn.

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I found the draft on the “Fibres of Being” blogspot. I adapted it to show squares of Diversified pain weave contained by frame of plain weave in the bambu. The result is subtle circles in low colour contrast, with great texture.

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Experiment in Linen

I wanted to try working with linen again.  The last time I wove with linen threads was at least ten years ago, and while I ended up with some pretty nice tea towels. I remember many people saying linen was a cantankerous fibre to work with.  But oh, such a beautiful fabric, with great lustre and feel.

I decided to work on a series of handwoven linen scarves.  I envision linen as a beautiful cool fabric for summer scarves.

For the first two scarves, I used Euroflax linen, in 14/2 lace weight from Louet. The cost is $25.00 per 100 gm cone, and I used one cone of natural, and one cone of caribou for two scarves.

For drama, I wound 4 inches of natural, and 4 inches of caribou, warp length 5 yards and sett at 12 ends per inch for a more open weave.

For the first scarf, I wove 12” in natural, 12” in one-inch wide stripes alternating colours, 24” in two rows natural, two rows caribou, 12” in alternating one inch wide stripes, then 12” in caribou.  Simple plain weave, beautiful results.

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For the second scarf I used a clasped weft technique, 12 inches where the natural thread was pulled past the centre line to give a clear natural block, with mixed colours on the caribou side, then the middle 60 inches where the threads were alternately pulled to the natural side, then the caribou side, and the final 12 inches where a clear caribou block was achieved.

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I had no problems at all working with the linen thread.

To finish, I washed in hot water in the machine, which made the scarves extremely wrinkled.  I hard pressed when damp to remove the wrinkles.  The fabric was very crisp.  I then threw the scarves in the dryer for 10 minutes with a fabric softener sheet, and the scarves came out with a soft hand.  For linen, repeated washing/pressing/drying will increase the softness over time.

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