Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's all in how you look at it....

Sometimes the product you get is all about the technique that you use.

All of the work and time in weaving goes into warping the loom. It takes no time at all to make the piece, once everything is set up. I had an extra yard or so of warp left after my practice piece, and I didn't want to waste it. So, we got a skein of Manos silk-merino (one of only two yarns in the shop that looked like it would match the warp!), and I set to work.

Two hours produced this:

See those selvedges? Muuuch better! No necking at all on this piece; I think I've got the tension thing now. My width only varied by about 1/8 inch across the entire length. That kind of makes me want to do a happy dance.

The finished piece is about 30 inches long, which makes it too short for a scarf, but it will be good for something else, I'm sure. A bureau scarf? (I don't tend to use those, but you never know...) For now, it's just sitting by my knitting chair being pretty.

See how even the texture came out?

The Manos is a heavier yarn than the Trekking that I used in the sample. That makes this a weft-dominant piece, where the warp yarn barely shows up at all. It makes a thick, bumpy texture that I like a lot. The yarn was really packed in there tightly, so it didn't shrink much in length during wet finishing (the weaving equivalent of blocking, which is actually a lot closer to felting than it is like blocking). The width shrunk by about half an inch, but that's not much at all.

I like the way the short color repeats in the yarn make single stripes:

As I wove, I kept wondering how this yarn would have looked knit up. So, I saved a little bit at the end:

And knit a swatch (turned out to be exactly'd think I planned it or something):

And it's amazing what a difference the technique makes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Learning by doing

I'm afraid that the posts are likely to be few and far between for the next few weeks. We're trying to move my defense date up by 2 months so that I can be done before my advisor moves across the country in early June (instead of late August as he originally planned). This means that my thesis must be finished in the next month, and I have a postdoc fellowship application due on April 1 as well. Between that and planning for next quarter's teaching, there hasn't been a lot of time for crafting lately. I'm hoping that there will be more balance in this next week, but it's hard to find these days.

I've decided that I have a simple choice: post frequently about how I have no time and nothing is coming off the needles, or post less frequently and tell you something that's actually interesting. I think I'd want to read the latter, and so that's also what I'm going to post.

Fortunately, I have at least one project in back-log to post about. I have a few other things to talk about, too, but I have a couple more steps to take before showing them to you. Next week (or sooner), I hope.

The best way to learn to knit is to just sit down and try it, so I assumed that the same goes for weaving. It's amazing what one simple practice piece can teach you. Branden helped me warp the loom a few weeks ago, and I've spent a few hours since then playing with some leftover yarn from the stash to figure out what I am supposed to be doing. Did I mention that weaving goes fast? I can easily make a foot of material in an hour, once the warping is done. Very good for the instant gratification side of crafting.

I started out with a few simple twills, just playing with different orders for moving through my shaft sequence:

The pattern is very satisfying for something so simple, though the edges (selvedge) left something to be desired. So, I focused on making the selvedge a little neater, by working on my tension:

Better, but the increased tension made the fabric pull in a little. You can see how the fabric width varies (by up to an 1 1/8 inches!) here:

I also discovered why you're supposed to warp a few selvedge threads in basic weave; that way there are no long warp threads carried along the sides of your piece, and it makes a more stable edge. Here, I have "floats" carried along the edge, and so my selvedge is uneven.

I also discovered what they mean by a "stable" fabric: I didn't beat the individual threads into place firmly enough while weaving, and so this twill pattern is easily disrupted by passing your hand over it. The threads aren't packed in quite firmly enough, so they can shift around and leave gaps in the material. You can see a tiny bit of the gapping in the bottom of this picture:

(It can be much worse than that, too, but I didn't take a picture of it.)

I think this is also partly because I didn't use the right sett for my warp; I didn't put enough threads per inch of width, and so the warp threads aren't very good at holding the weaving threads (the weft) in place.

Even if they are too loose, the twills have a great, embossed look:

A (more tightly packed) plain weave texture is more stable, and has much better selvedges, since there are no long floats along the sides:

I ran out of yarn at this point, but I had some warp left over, so I picked up a new skein of yarn and made a "real" piece yesterday afternoon. As I said, there are a couple more things that I want to do with that project, so I will save that post for another day.

Until then, here's a dose of springtime that's just popped up this week:

Have you noticed that the sun is also back? I'm so glad it's (almost) spring!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Notes on Madrona

Well, I was a very bad blogger and completely forgot to bring out the camera yesterday (sorry, Ellen!). I may have said before that I'm not much of a crowds person, and so I have a tendency to just forget important things like pictures in busy settings. I was so distracted by the yarn, and the knitters, and the knitted garments that I just forgot to stop and document. Maybe I should bring Branden next time. He's a much better documenter; I tend to save things to my mind's eye instead.

Cat's class was a lot of fun. She's a very funny, creative person, and it was great to be able to meet her. There were many beginning knitters in the class, so we didn't get to as many advanced topics as I'd hoped, but we talked a little about incorporating stitch patterns and general sock design. She has some fun new things coming out in her next book, too. People that push the envelope are just interesting to be around.

Sivia Harding was on hand in the class to help with questions, so I snagged her for a few minutes during a lull and asked about shaping lace. I've been dying to see a class or a book on this for quite a while now, and it sounds like she's working on both! I can't wait for them to be available!

I headed over to the market during lunch break, and ran into Syne Mitchell of Weavezine and Weavecast. She was doing a weaving demo, and let me throw a few picks on her loom, as well as giving me some good pointers on technique.

There were knitters everywhere. It was easy to tell, because the knitted garments were the kind that only knitters wear. Intricate lace, fine gauge cables, incredible colorwork. I saw at least 3 Bohus sweaters, and 2 Kaunis, as well as a few Starmore patterns. And lace. A lot of lace. It was everywhere, and it was beautiful.

The market was mid-sized, with probably 20 or so vendors. Blue Moon Fiber Arts was there, and it was so nice to run my hands through their open skeins. And oh, the colors! I have to avoid their website in order to resist stash enhancement, and it was even harder in person. I had up to three sweaters planned throughout the course of the day, just from their booth. And then I considered how many sweaters I have in queque, and picked up some Socks that Rock in Tlingit instead:

Another vendor (I forget who) had dyed Tencel for spinning. It was a beautiful gun metal grey, and the fiber is so shiny that it looked like liquid metal. Beautiful.

Skacel was there, with all their addi lace needles on display, and some really beautiful yarns. They also had beautiful spindles, and I took care to avoid getting too close, lest I take one home with me.

One vendor had a really nice selection of glass needles. I was tempted, but I passed. They were beautiful, but I think I'd be afraid to use them. One of the women in my class had a set of KnitPicks harmony needles, and I think I'm going to get a set of their dpns. I've been thinking about it for quite a while now, but I prefer to see something in person before buying. They're beautiful needles, and so smooth! I'm looking forward to trying a pair.

Kakishibui was selling scarves dyed with Kakishibui, extracted from a Japanese citrus, I believe. It's a cool dye, because it changes color with time and light exposure, darkening and shifting throughout the garment lifetime. It's a pretty ochre color, with a range that stretches from pale yellow all the way into the darker browns.

I also found my new favorite sweater yarns. Both Black Water Abbey Yarns and Philosopher's Wool sold really nice, hard wools. I love merino, but when I want a sweater that will wear like iron for a lifetime, these are the wools that I will buy. It's difficult to find hard wools in yarn shops; I guess they're not all that popular. But these knit up beautifully, and they are good solid yarns that will last forever. And, to someone that likes to wear sweaters for 8 or more years, that's a property you can't pass up. Marilyn (Abbey yarns) will send you a full color card for free, too, so you can get a feel for the yarns and plan your design before buying. I talked to Eugene and Ann (the philosophers of Philosopher's Wools) for over an hour during the market, and we also sat together at dinner. They are truly delightful people, and I will be happy to buy from them anytime. It's nice to know that you're supporting a business that is fair to the farmers, too.

I fell in love with Tencel at Just our Yarn. They had absolutely beautiful lace, made from a cobwebby tencel yarn. It shines beautifully, and looks wonderful with seed beads. I've been wanting to try some beading, so I bought a skein (1000 yards!).

Elsbeth Lavold gave a talk during dinner, on her exploration of Viking symbols in knitting. She has done some incredible work, both cultural and knit-related. I should have taken notes so that I could remember every last detail, but I didn't think of it until afterwards. She is another wonderful person, and a really inspiring designer.

Elsbeth has an exhibit over in the Ballard Nordic Heritage Museum, which I must go and check out (we drive past it to go to the Farmer's Market every week). They have a Nordic Knitting conference in March that I am thinking about attending, but we'll have to see how the writing is going at that point. It might be another good carrot. (I might turn into a rabbit at this rate, if I'm not careful!)

Dinner was also really nice; it was kind of strange to see people like Stephanie Pearl McPhee just sitting at a table chatting, and to have such a concentration of great teachers and crafters in one room together. I would have liked to stay later, but it was a long drive home, and I was pretty worn out. Next time I might consider getting a hotel room, and doing two days rather than one.

In all, it was a fun day, and I'm glad I went. I suppose now the question is whether I'll make it back for next time!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Is it the weekend?

The one good thing about crazy busy weeks is that the weekend arrives before you really expect it. And this weekend is especially exciting, as tomorrow is Madrona day. (Well, actually, Madrona's been going since Thursday, but we'll pretend like I haven't missed anything by having work to keep me from going.)

So, it seems likely that there will be some actual fiber content soon!

I managed to find a moment when Branden and I were both in the house tonight, and measured the sweater progress. It's not as much as I thought. To be honest, it's never as much as I expect at this stage in his sweaters. We are officially into the endless middle stage, where it takes an infinite number of rows to make half an inch. Sometimes I wonder if it's possible to get negative rows per inch.

It just seems wrong that 16 inches is not enough to start splitting for the sleeves. I thought I was close at 12. Humph.

I almost said "too bad I don't have more papers to grade." I think I might need to get my sanity checked.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Me? Kreativ?

Oh my.

I was thinking that I didn't really know what to say, but that's just silly. There's only one thing to say and that's "thank you!!" to Ellen and Jan of Twinset for awarding me. It still surprises me sometimes that people read my ramblings, so getting an award from a blog that I consistently enjoy and learn from is really an honor.

Next, I suppose, are the rules, should you choose to follow them. All award winners will:

1. Copy the award to your site (check)

2. Link to the person from whom you received the award (of course!)

3. Nominate 7 other bloggers (only seven??)

4. Link to the award recipients on your blog (I think I can handle that...)

5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate (commenting too? This is asking a lot of a habitual lurker.)

Hmm. And now comes the really hard part. How on earth do you pick just seven blogs?

Fortunately, Twinset and Knitting Linguist are already awarded. (You should go check them out, and make sure to comment on Jocelyn's knitting research ideas).

The first award must go to Anne Hanson of Knitspot (I'm surprised, but I don't see any evidence that she's gotten this award yet, or at least not recently). If you've been here any length of time, you know that I don't knit from patterns. Designing is an important part of my process, and I can't give it up to knit from a pattern. I haven't knit many of her patterns, but I go to Anne's site for the sheer pleasure of seeing yarn turn into poetry in her hands. I have not yet found another designer that can make beauty as consistently as Anne does. (And if you knit from patterns, you want to try hers!)

The award for sheer technical prowess and unwavering geekiness must go to the Tsarina.

For consistent laughs and a daily story (I don't know how she does it), we have Sheepish Annie. She knits, too. But only dishcloths. With sleeves.

For a whole spectrum of ideas and beautiful photographs, Lolly.

For inspiring more than one "aha" moment in my journey toward spinning a respectable yarn, Abby's Yarns.

For best process blog I've read lately, Grumperina. (It's amazing what some people will do for a mitten!)

And for general fun and knitting-related adventures, Cattywampus.

And I think I am out of awards. But there are so many blogs left! Perhaps this will inspire me to update my sidebar with the blogs I currently read, rather than the ones I read a long time ago. Happy clicking!

ETA: There's no need to pass along the chain letter, unless you want to. So, don't feel obligated!

Looming deadlines

I have a lot of deadlines looming in the not-so-distant future, and a few that are now (thankfully) in the not-so-distant past (as in, I finished grading midterms this afternoon).

The one good thing about grading is that I have to read every paper once through before I can really start to mark it up. It's best to have something to keep my hands busy during that first read, in order to restrain the commenting hand. That meant that I got to knit through the first reading of each of the 72 papers, and that has added up to something like progress on Branden's sweater. I am now 12.5 inches in, which might count as the only knitting progress that's happened since the last post, many eons ago (ok, 11 days, but it feels like eons, doesn't it?).

I think I've officially entered the "shows pronounced antisocial tendencies" stage of thesis writing...or maybe it's the "mutters to herself in a corner" stage; they're a little hard to distinguish sometimes.

But, now that the grading insanity is finished, I will be turning my attention back to the other spectres looming in the future, but I am hopeful that this will involve at least some amount of crafting. My doctor ordered me to de-stress (ha!!), so it counts as medically necessary, right?

To that end, I got something new to play with:

(Obviously, this was only because the doctor ordered it)

I seem to be suffering from a mild case of distractedness in my crafting lately; like a great dying, only in reverse. What is that called? I'm sure there's a biological name for it. Increased speciation? Maybe that's it. I'm not an unfocused dilettante. No, no. I am simply promoting craft biodiversity.

Or maybe I've been diversifying my crafting portfolio a bit lately. Seems wise, doesn't it? One can't have too many fall-backs in uncertain economic times. (Wise or insane; your pick).

Actually, I've wanted a loom for a long time. It was a tough choice between a loom and a spinning wheel two years ago, but I went with the spinning wheel. I was planning to wait and buy a loom after we moved (somehow portable is not the first word that comes to mind here), but one came up in the area, for a very reasonable price, and from someone that I am at least acquainted with through the blogosphere. It seemed too good to pass up a chance to get a loom and enable someone else at the same time, and buying used is always something I'd rather do when I know the seller, however distantly.

And so Branden and I took an unexpected drive/ferry ride out to the Peninsula a couple of weekends ago, and brought the new baby home. We then spent an evening figuring out how to warp it, and I've been playing with weaving in my spare minutes.
I'll show you that later, when I can take a decent picture.

First observations: threading a loom is not as hard as you think it will be, and boy is weaving fast! Once that warp is set up, you can make 4 inches in 20 minutes, no problem (and that's at raw beginner stage). Compared to knitting, it's light speed.

And you know, I could use some light speediness right now.