Last year a friend acquired a large box of wool strips meant for rug braiding. I was the fortunate recipent of the majority of this wool, yet after trying my hand at rug braiding and deciding it wasn't for me, the wool spent the better part of a year taking us space in my attic. And I mean for that to sound as though it was an annoyance. When you live in a tiny house, every cubic foot of space counts, and this box was using up valuable real estate and had no foreseeable future. And then I went back to a project I designed for Schacht Spindle Company back in May of 2011 - a rag rug made with tied t-shirt strips. Why not recreate this in wool, but bigger and better because I learned a lesson or two the last time around?
So here I am, about a foot and a half into the rug, and I'm already excited to get it off of the loom. Stay tuned for pictures of the finish project!
Spinzilla is officially Spunzilla. The yardage is being tallied, and while I'm guessing Team Schacht Spindle won't come in first, it was a great week of spinning. I was a guest blogger for Schacht, goofy photo compliments of my four-year-old. I was reasonably productive, spinning 862 yards of two-ply wool. I finished up one fleece and began spinning another from the same flock. Their coloring is just a bit different, and I'm curious to see how they both take dye. Dye you ask? Dye wool that isn't white? Why not. I will keep you posted.
For some time now, I have been spinning up yarn from fleeces purchased in Maine and Massachusetts as part of my own little Fibershed initiative. The idea here is to support the local economy and be gentle on the earth, among other things. When Jane asked me to be a part of the Schacht Spindle Spinzilla team, I saw an opportunity to chip away at this project. Eventually it will turn into something larger, but for now I'm content to spin my yarn and dabble a bit in dyeing with plants foraged from my yard as well as around town. And now, back to my wheel!
I love itty bitty things. If I had space in our tiny house for frivolous things, there would most certainly be a dollhouse meticulously outfitted with tiny furniture, tiny carpets, tiny linens, tiny food, tiny artwork. My four year old is not so into the whole tiny movement, unless we're talking marbles. So when I had the chance to make a birthday gift for one of his friends who seems to be an appreciator of tiny things, I couldn't resist.
My weaving guild, NOBO Handweavers, hosted an ikat dyeing workshop a few weeks back. Our instructor was the talented Chelsae Murray. Chelsae guided us through the process of wrapping sections of warp to create areas that would resist dye. We used poly tape similar to this from Maiwa, and I found this video helpful as a reminder when I was tying my own warp at home in preparation for the workshop.
Let's clear something up - how to pronounce ikat. There seems to be a bit of debate as to how the -kat part is pronounced, rhymes with cat or sounds like a Kennedy - kaht, I'll put this into the toh-may-toh/toh-mah-toh basket, but the i should be prounounced like ee, not eye.
I had a 300 end, three yard warp of Valley Yarns 8/2 in white. This unmercerized cotton warp was intended to be used at a dyeing workshop I took at NEWS five years back, but it came home unused. Having survived the trip to and from NEWS as well as a later move from apartment to house, it wasn't in perfect shape. I did my best to stretch it back out on my warping board to align all of the threads, but as this was somewhat challenging, even with the warp well tied, I decided that I'd go ahead and wrap groups of threads as best I could and hope for the best. Mostly I was interested in learning the technique on a practice warp, so I wasn't terribly concerned if my end result didn't look traditional.
I have to say, I'm pretty darn happy with the results - not particularly traditional, but interesting nonetheless. And so now I add resist dyeing to the list of things I'd like to do more of when I have more time.
Slowly but surely I'm getting back into a bit of a creating rhythm. I've been thinking a lot about the example I set for my son. That it feels infinitely more satisfying to dry my hands on a handwoven towel or set my shoes by a handwoven mat than their storebought counterparts. That using the stuff between our ears to solve a problem builds confidence and makes us want to learn more. That sometimes the best solution is the simplest.
As someone who gravitates towards natural and more neutral colors, using color in my weaving has always been a fascinating challenge. I'm not sure that color is the issue so much as choosing the wrong color, which I seem to do well. After a recent ikat dyeing workshop where I went all out and dyed my warp bright orange because I had no plans for it whatsoever, I decided to take a stab at dyeing again. This time around, I wanted to use plants, specifically local plants that could be found in abundance and within the confines of our property. Simple and free.
I discovered that Schacht's Zoom Loom is an excellent swatch maker if you're looking for uniform swatches. My swatches were woven using Harrisville Shetland. It's finer than I would generally use on the Zoom Loom, but makes for very easy weaving as the sett is loose. I used bits of yarn to code each swatch so that I'd know what combination of mordants I used: no mordant, pre-mordant with alum only, post-mordant with iron, and both alum pre-mordant and iron post-mordant. Here you can see the results of my dye baths, from top row to bottom, using hairy vetch (what a terrible name for a lovely wildflower), lavender, and spearmint.
Apparently I am due to give myself a mid-year evaluation to see where I am relative to the goals I have set for myself for the year. I have a little under two months before the mid-year mark, so let's see where I am at. Using the good china. Check! Most recently it held the dinner that I served up for Jane Patrick and Barry Schacht. Go ahead and be jealous. They are absolutely wonderful people, and Jane is my weaving mentor. If you ever get a chance to meet them or take a class with Jane, do it. Talking with Jane really made me miss Boulder.
Weave more. Check! Well, this little exercise is really starting to make me feel like I've accomplished something! Of course I still have a lot more progress to make in this particular category, but I am doing my best in the time allotted. Currently on my 15" Flip is a tapestry. Yes, a tapestry. My first tapestry in fact. It's looking a bit like a drawing that I might have created in second grade, and it's slow going, but I am really enjoying the process, and I want to learn more. I am also in the process of planning to weave some fabric to sew a garment for the 2013 NEWS fashion show. Mark your calendars now. July 11 - 14, 2013 at Smith College. At a recent trustees meeting, we discussed the list of teachers, and all I can say is wow. Wow. Wow. I am about to cut a couple of patterns to get a sample that's just right before I go ahead and start weaving. I am usually not this calculating when I weave, but I want this to be extra special.
Learn to tat. Zero progress here. Time to get cracking! Plus I have some size 12 pearl cotton in a dozen gorgeous colors that I would love to use for this. Sort of along a similar vein, here is a link to a crocheted snowflake pattern from Aesthetic Nest that I hope to use to decorate the windows next winter.
I am also working on turning a full fleece into a fulled bedside rug for myself. I managed to wash the fleece last weekend, so we'll see if I can make any progress with fulling this weekend. One problem: vegetable matter. So many little bits, and I don't want to loose the definition of the locks.
And finally, Linda Cortright gave a wonderful lecture on Oman at our guild anniversary meeting last week. That woman amazes me. What a world she has seen. If you haven't checked out Wild Fibers Magazine, I would encourage you to do so. It is full of gorgeous and inspiring words and images, and Margaret Russell's rare breeds column is a must read.
I love finding inspiration at The Makers Project. Jennifer Causey photodocuments talented people who make things, and I particularly love "the Designers" and "the Builders".
I am really enjoying this series of videos. The Beekeeper is the latest installment, and makes me look forward to keeping bees again. Be sure to check out The Distiller and The Knife Maker too. Gritty.
Over the past few years, I haven't been one to make resolutions when January 1st rolls around. Between having a baby, renovating an antique home, and everything else that seems to have happened, I have been busy enough trying to keep myself focused on accomplishing pretty much anything. This year felt a bit different to me. The catastrophic issues with the house have been fixed, the child is finally sleeping through the night (if you call waking up at 5:30am sleeping through the night), and I can usually count on at least two hours during the day of 'me time' while he naps. It took me a while to figure out how to manage every waking minute of my life to a point where I can actually do something other than cleaning, laundry, baking or whatnot during that 'me time'. Thankfully the little guy at least seems to like to follow the vacuum cleaner around to experience the exhaust blowing in his face (HEPA filter!!). Of course he has also figured out how to retract the cord and turn the machine on and off, but I look at this drawn out process of cleaning the floors as one of the more peaceful times of the week. Thought bubble... I should probably be worried that the mashed pile of blueberry waffle that I saw under my desk earlier today is missing.
Focus! So this year felt a bit different to me. My main issue seems to be motivating myself to use the me time wisely. That general softening of the brain that occurs when you are sleep deprived for over a year and a half can really affect one's choice of activity. Now that I am starting to chip away at the sleep deficit, I seem to have energy to do more than scour Perez Hilton for the latest in celebrity gossip. Enter Pinterest! At least it's a bit more inspiring, right? The other day I did a search on linen hoping to find some weaving inspriation. Several minutes later I was so engrossed in photos of yards of this glorious material that I even thought I was smelling linen. Turns out the water evaporated from the pot I had simmering on top of the stove, and my bamboo steamer was starting to burn! At least I had perfectly steamed carrots for the little guy.
Wasn't this supposed to be about resolutions for the new year? Okay. First one has to do with focus. Clearly my start on that has been less than successful. Next. Use the good china. I was staring at the china cabinet the other day admiring the set of dishes I inherited from my grandparents, when I realized that I had really only used the sugar bowl and a few of the tea cups and saucers. So I resolved to make at least one dinner a week feel a little more civilized by serving it up on the good china. Of course a little more civilized should probably be more like actually eating dinner while sitting at the table rather than wolfing it down as I'm in a full sprint trying to intercept the kiddo before he drops the cable remote into the toilet. Yes. We installed a toilet lock earlier this week.
Next. Weave more. This is going to be an easy one since my weaving hours have been woefully slim over the past two years. I am already on a roll with my first doubleweave project underway and all sorts of other creations queueing up in my mind.
And finally, learn to tat or at least try to learnt to tat. I am envisioning lovely handwoven linens trimmed with tatting. I have acquired three books and a dvd, and once I track down a tatting shuttle, I will sit down and give this a go. Stay tuned to see if I can get the old brain firing on enough cylinders to make this happen.
In six moths I will plan a mid-year review with myself to see if I am on track. Time to evaluate the budget and plan for a performance bonus! In the meantime, feel free to check out my latest free project, a Shaker-inspired carpet, for Schacht Spindle Company.