Feorlen's High Fiber Diet

A Semi-Occasional Rant on the Subject of Textiles

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Posted Sunday, 11-Nov-2007 08:59:10 PST.

Oh Look! A Blog Post!

Yes, yes, I've been seriously lax. It has a lot to do with that Real Job I got a while back. But things have settled in and I've started thinking about the website again. I've lately been only sewing regular clothes (now four sizes smaller, yay!) which I find mostly boring to talk about. I realize that it's still a fairly unusual activity these days, but as far as I'm concerned it's at about the level of blogging what I made for dinner. Yawn.

Stage One of the Great Website Re-Do is complete:

The new server arrived, and while there are a few details to straighten out with my order from the Apple Store (like they sent me the wrong damn operating system version?!) it's happily running on the internal network while I get it configured to my liking. (Thank you, Developer Seeding.) When this is done I'll have an actual normal blog. I'm sure re-implementing RSS would be an interesting intellectual exercise, but I'm over it. Wordpress, here we come.

Posted Sunday, 15-Apr-2007 21:59:56 PDT.

I took a workshop this weekend, with one of my favorite teachers. I think this is my third or fourth? I don't remember. There's another next weekend, too. If I were a better in-person teacher, I'd probably be teaching some of the things that are the topic of these workshops. Sometimes I go to watch how other people learn, sometimes to get a different perspective on a familiar subject, occasionally because I know little about the topic and want to learn and sometimes just for fun. This one was mostly just for fun, I'd say.

I pretty much assume I get very different things out of spinning workshops. Some people go to spin and learn how to spin from the instructor. I generally go to see how other people spin. I try a few things but I know my best learning comes from playing with an idea over an extended period of time. What I don't get at home is watching what things other people think up. I'm lousy at coming up with genuinely new ideas, but I can run with something once it's been introduced. I have a little pile of samples, some from the spindle and some from the wheel, and a collection of fiber to mess around with. I have new interesting tidbits from others, about fibers or fiber animals or textile techniques or whatnot, and not always only from the instructor. Sometimes I hear the same story several times over the years, but maybe there is some new detail this time around. I try to not trot out my own stories too often, lest they get dull.

I don't think I will ever be a great teacher, written not spoken word is my thing when it comes to communicating with more than one or two people at a time. What I really want is to have a conversation about the why of technique and not so much the how. For most things in spinning, the how I've got a good handle on (not all, mind you) and the key to better execution is understanding the why. Sometimes this can only come from a roundabout discussion with someone at a similar skill level. But this doesn't just casually happen, there usually isn't enough time even in a multi-day workshop unless it is very small. But over time, it comes in bits and pieces: new things tried and reported on, old ideas revisited and samples passed around.

This has been the best part of taking workshops many times with the same instructor.

Posted Sunday, 08-Apr-2007 21:13:39 PDT.

Now I have an indigo project on the loom, finally. I've been playing with indigo resist techniques for a while and last summer got around to dying enough cotton yarn for a real project. It started off baby pink, but one of the interesting things about indigo is it will generally pull the chemical dye out. So it's all shades of blue, lighter where I tightly tied the skeins in four places, darker where they were not. There is about 800g total, which should be enough for a vest.

I thought about combining it with another yarn, but I wanted to keep it all indigo. Plus using it with a solid color would make the white spots less visible. So I worked out how much warp and weft I could get based on the towels (similar yarn.) Winding from skein to balls was a bother, but I don't have two swifts and I was measuring two ends together. I set aside the ball that had a bunch of knots and, much to my amazement, only found one knot while measuring warp. To get as much as possible out of it, I knotted each bundle and tied on both front and back with cords. It's a pain, but it cuts my loom waste by about half. I did my calculations in yards because I already had the yards per pound number for this yarn, so this warp is 18 inches in the reed at 20 ends per inch for 7 yards. I estimated half again as much weft as warp as woven, and if I'm off I'll finish off with some similar solid blue yarn just to weave the full length. I could use any extra fabric for facings or something else where it won't show.

Having just taken a similarly-sized project off the loom, I didn't pay much attention to how my heddles were arranged but just started threading. Bad Idea. I got almost done and realized I needed about a dozen more heddles on the edge. I actually pulled out and swapped heddles for the shaft that needed the most, but after recovering from that mess I decided to cut some off and do the repair heddle trick for the rest. It trashes heddles, but I didn't want to untangle the mess again. I have more (as soon as I figure out where I put them.) I could have just threaded the remaining ends on some empty shafts, I've got twelve of the damn things, but that would mean more loom waste, plus lifting twice as many shafts with each pick for basically no good reason. I'll waste a couple heddles instead.

So on to the weaving. The skeins were tied in four places in a 1.5 m skein and my warp isn't very wide, so I was concerned that would start to make strange patterns in how the light spots aligned in my fabric. (Think bad 70s variegated knitting yarns.) To keep the pattern of light spots as random as possible, I'm weaving with two shuttles. Two picks each (so they don't get twisted around each other) in a plain 2/2 twill. The focus of this fabric is the dyed yarn, so I didn't want a complicated fabric to be a distraction. But for a garment I do want the drape of a twill. The advantage of weaving yardage for sewing is that the selvedges don't have to be perfect. Mine are pretty good normally, but this time I don't have to pay attention to how well I join on new weft. I'm just leaving it hang off the edge.

Two shuttles is slow, but I've got it arranged so that the first two sheds are the right shuttle and the last two sheds the left. I pick up the shuttle, weave two picks, and put it back where it came from. Feet and hands are always doing the same thing, in the same order, so when I forget it's more obvious something is wrong. It's not a big deal here, but it will do well to practice for later when I'm doing a real two color design.

Posted Sunday, 01-Apr-2007 21:11:58 PDT.

The towels came off the loom today, I got ten out of this warp and only just barely. That's enough for the planned gifts plus some for us. I need something at work so I can stop drying my lunch dishes with paper ones. This was also a trial for some other projects with this same batch of discount yarn. I want to do some clothes plus a lightweight throw or small blanket in addition to more towels. It's not quite what I want for the other projects but I think it's close enough. I need to do something with the yarn I've got before I go out buying any more. (Speaking of, I haven't looked at WEBS recently...)

I let The Boyfriend pull the fabric off the loom. As I got down to the end he was completely fascinated, to the point of burning his breakfast because he was watching the loom instead of the toaster oven.

Posted Sunday, 18-Mar-2007 20:56:31 PDT.

The towels are coming along, very nicely since I finally got some end-feed shuttles and a new bobbin winder. No more snagging bobbins for me! As soon as I remember to not overfill the pirns, anyway. The first couple were a little much. When it works, it works very well as there are no moving parts. But you do have to wind the pirns carefully so they unwind neatly.

This warp is in twill stripes, so it's one shuttle and almost no thought. My only concern is getting them the same length. I'm hemstitching the ends, a look I like very much for towels, but boy is it a pain. The hemstitching takes almost as much time as the weaving. But I don't have any matching finer yarn to do a nice hem. I did the first towel in a diamond twill, to give it a try, but it doesn't work very well with my stripe arrangement. I need something to keep in my desk at work, so it will be fine and with the same color weft you really have to pay attention to see that the design is a little odd. I am using contrasting color weft for the others and the stripes are much more obvious.

The loom is working well, although if I'm going to do anything wider on only four shafts I'm going to have to pull out the extra heddles or maybe even buy more. Yes, I could spread it out among the others but that makes threading more annoying and the tie-up more complicated. Most of what I want to do is still four shaft or at most some obvious variation thereof. (I'm thinking of a double-width twill blanket, which still would be only eight.)

Posted Sunday, 11-Mar-2007 21:49:52 PDT.

I got the towels warped this weekend and they look pretty good. I'm pleased I had no warping errors. I'm not so pleased that I had some design issues that needed to be resolved, mostly the result of starting with a partial sketch and an idea rather than a proper draft. But I checked the number and arrangement of the blocks in the reed before I started threading and caught what might have been a real mess (extra repeat in the middle.)

The other problem was threading one of the selvedges backwards, which just happened to result in it matching up exactly with the edge of the pattern design. (The selvedges are threaded on two additional shafts, so it wasn't obvious.) So instead of two ends together in my nice basketweave, it made three. Taking one out and making the pattern just slightly narrower was less distracting that three ends together, so I did that. What I didn't want to do was take out and re-thread 12 ends after I had already tied on and woven my header. Twelve doesn't sound like a lot out of well over 300, but it's still a big pain that I would rather avoid. One of the nice things about working with finer yarns and closer setts is you can take an end out here and there and it's usually not a big deal.

Posted Thursday, 08-Mar-2007 21:40:55 PST.

Finally back to textile stuff. I've been sewing new work clothes (not to mention working) but that's not very interesting to talk about here. But at last I've started measuring warp for the next set of mill-end cotton towels. I know, not very exciting. But I have to start somewhere.

The last go I wasn't happy with the sett, so this time I'll make it a little more open and that should soften up the fabric. I'm also going to do 2/2 twill throughout, so even if it isn't quite enough it should be fine. The biggest problem with the other one is that it curled at every block change, and from 1/3 to 3/1, that was a big deal. Now the blocks will all be 2/2.

Posted Friday, 08-Dec-2006 08:38:55 PST.

I have banished the evil baby yarn from my life. I shall only think uplifting thoughts of fine silk and handspun wool.

All of that to re-sley and it still looked horrible. The closer sett seemed to make no difference on how the weft packed in and I'm not going to sit there and slowly ease each and every pick of a six meter warp into place. I've cut handspun warps off the loom when they weren't behaving, I'm not going to let this one intimidate me into weaving it off.

Now I just have to decide what to do next. I think it will be more of the 8/2 cotton, but I can't warp it right now because I need to leave the loom folded until Holiday Party Season is over. I know better to leave something around where 35 guests can all go "oooh" and "ahhh" and stick fingers or drop cookies in it. Our friends are nice people, but that's just tempting fate. I could start measuring, however.

Last week I bought a bunch of silk fabric, so now I get to play with it. I wet out a piece of organza and sorta madly crinkle-pleated it into a bundle and dumped blue and purple dye all over it. I know I used far, far too much dye because organza weighs nothing, but it was what it took to get the fabric good and squishy damp. We'll see how it comes out after it sits for three hours in the steamer. The one downside of all this clearance silk dye I bought. If I get really ambitious, I'll stitch some gathering threads into it (by machine, thank you) and try some shibori the next time we do an indigo party somewhere.

Posted Sunday, 03-Dec-2006 08:25:25 PST.

Yesterday I did a spinning demo at the Swedish Christmas Festival in San Francisco. A couple of days ago a friend sent me an email about it, at the last minute the organizers contacted her about getting a couple of spinners to demonstrate traditional crafts. (When we got there, we found a weaver, knitter and wood carver as well.) I didn't want to go by myself, but at least one other person was going to be there. I didn't have anything particularly urgent yesterday, so I went.

It was a little amusing, here we were two people who were neither Swedes nor all that big on Christmas sitting down for a day at a holiday festival. It started off ominously when the display of toys behind us started playing sickly-sweet Christmas tunes. But they fed us sticky buns and smoked salmon sandwiches and we had a great time. As a culture, the Swedes kept many textile traditions alive when all across Europe people were abandoning them as fast as possible. Of the group who normally comes out for demos, we were probably two of the most appropriate as we both are traditional spinners and weavers and know a good bit about Scandinavian textile history.

My friend brought his antique wheel that he describes as having "come across the country the first time in a wagon and the second time in a UPS truck." He bought it off eBay from a family in Minnesota that has records going back to its manufacture in 1797 in what is now Norway. Dozens of people stopped by to say their mother or grandmother had one just like it. A very frail elderly woman told us how, as a girl of ten, she and her sisters spun in a demonstration for the King of Sweden. Seeing us clearly brought back a rush of memories and was one of the highlights of the day. Even me, there with my very Italian name on my little paper nametag, had someone stop by and say he was also a Longo. His family had come from Sicily to Argentina and now he was in the Bay Area. We are probably related somehow.

There were of course a lot of blonde heads wandering around, but this being San Francisco not as many as you might expect. A couple came by to chat with us, a tall burly man clearly of Scandinavian origin (in his amazing wool coat and 18th century style buckled shoes) and his Japanese wife. I can't imagine what he must have went through living in Japan, but they spent many years near her family home as well as the United States. A college student doing a paper for her folklore class talked to us about the history of handspinning, both ancient and modern. Most everyone that stopped by knew that we were spinning, as we talked about what we were doing and kept watch on tiny hands intent in exploring every little moving part.

I had no idea what to expect when we showed up, but I think we will be back again next year.

Posted Tuesday, 28-Nov-2006 08:00:56 PST.

This morning I just sat down and finished sleying the nasty acrylic warp. It really didn't take all that long, but I really didn't want to do it. It's been a while since I've had a weaving project I hated this much before I even get started. I think it will be better with the closer sett and will I end up with some functional fabric. I could just cut it all off and put on those holiday gift dish towels I've been meaning to get to but I don't hate it that much quite yet. This is the hard part, once I get to the point I can actually weave it will go quickly.

It doesn't help at all that I really don't know what I want to do with this when I'm done. The entire thing was practice in warping back to front (which I'm not likely to do again unless I have to.) I have this vague idea that it will be a small blanket of some kind but if I'm not wanting to finish warping it I'm surely going to find some reason to put off seaming three panels together to finish a blanket. There are so many other things that sound more interesting, like making the new work clothes I need or washing the dishes. Yes, washing the dishes is more interesting than re-sleying a warp I don't like. If it's still ugly when I start weaving, off to the trash can it goes and I'll start measuring some nice friendly 8/2 cotton.

Posted Sunday, 12-Nov-2006 13:47:00 PST.

I've been thinking about textiles, how about that? I started to re-sley the acrylic baby yarn on the loom because I wasn't happy with the fabric I was getting at 12 ends per inch. That's what I measured from the relaxed yarn, but as weft it insists on packing in way more than I want (like almost twice the number of weft picks as warp ends.) I'm going to change it to 16 and see if I like it any better then. If it's going to come out like cardboard then at least cardboard in both warp and weft directions is a more useful fabric. It's annoying to do however, one of those things that makes housework suddenly very interesting.

In the spinning department, I've been re-organizing the studio so I can bring the bicycle over finally. Yes, bicycle. A friend has an exercise bike with disembodied Ashford parts bolted to it that she would really, really like gone from her basement. It's rumored to work, and if I can get it going well enough I'll use it. Finally I could combine fiber and exercise at the same time. (A Woolee Winder is going to be high on the list for next equipment purchase. Spin for hours, never having to stop to change hooks!)

Note: I'll be doing an OS upgrade and some filesystem housekeeping for the webserver soon, so you may find the site off-line for a few hours sometime in the next week or so.

Posted Friday, 27-Oct-2006 20:24:19 PDT.

Back online, on a new server. New operating system even, as the most reasonably available machine was an old PowerMac G4. There is still some tweaking to do (SpinnySpinny is the only site up at the moment) but things are moving along.

In case some people need reminding, let me help: Do your backups, kids. They're good for you.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled textile content.

Posted Monday, 23-Oct-2006 23:34:04 PDT.

Well, wasn't that exciting.

After a successful server move this weekend, one of the drives failed. And so did the spare. So now we are running off the system disk, which was already nearly full. SpinnySpinny is back up, but tomorrow it looks like I'm going to Fry's. Expect some downtime while we get the replacement up and running.

Posted Monday, 23-Oct-2006 21:15:40 PDT.

I've been busy sewing this week. I feel like I shouldn't unduly bother you with such things, this being a blog about making textiles. But that's what has been going on, and it was sorely needed. I have four new pairs of pants, two dresses and a funny jacket from weird shiny fabric somebody dumped on me several years ago. Plus you can no longer see straight down the hallway and into the kitchen now that there is a proper curtain for the front door window. I've also hidden piles of random junk behind curtains for the built-in cabinet in the studio, made of batik fabric a friend gave me.

Posted Sunday, 08-Oct-2006 22:11:04 PDT.

I haven't thrown away the Coopworth yet, but I'm trying something different. I took some of the batt and combed it, and that gave something spinnable. The result still has some problems but most of the junk comes out and the yarn is strong enough for warp. It's tedious, so we'll see how long this lasts.

Today was hang out and do fiber at Casa Feorlen. Some friends came, we ate artichokes and chocolate, measured out a huge skein to dye self-striping sock yarn, made rope, wove little bands and warped the big loom. A friend of mine showed me how to warp back to front, a different way from how I usually do it and necessary for the bead leno gauze I want to experiment with. There was much confusion about this and that but eventually we got the warp beamed and I started threading. We'll see how it goes after I finish. She also brought over a fancy fine fiber drum carder and left it behind for me to experiment with.

It's a Pat Green Deb's Delicate Deluxe, and I've got some serious equipment lust going on. I do usually like the result of combing, but using a carder is so much faster. I haven't been able to experiment with the piles of Merino around here because the usual carder (borrowed from a different friend) can't do fine fiber. With this I actually managed to blend Merino and Suri alpaca and the alpaca even mostly stayed in one place. The fine wool cards quite nicely, there are some neps but at least it actually forms a batt. On the other one it will hardly stick to the drum. I've been thinking about what to do with the gift alpaca and blending it with wool is high on the list. When I get a few minutes I'll spin some of this blended batt and maybe I'll do that while I have the spiffy carder.

In the weaving department, the back to front test project is some acrylic baby yarn. Slightly less nasty than Red Heart but still something I won't be afraid to cut off if the experiment turns out to be a nightmare. It's not designed to be weaving yarn, so you have to plan carefully to make sure you get what you are expecting. Since it's so elastic, if the fabric looks good on the loom it will be like cardboard when you get it off and the warp relaxes. I'll have to experiment with the tension to be sure I don't beat it too firmly. I've had an offer for yet more baby yarn, as much as I hate acrylic knitting yarn I've been collecting sport weight or finer when I can find it cheap and/or free. It's always good for something, just as long as that something isn't knitting. It's great for trying out new patterns or as waste yarn.

Posted Tuesday, 03-Oct-2006 22:22:34 PDT.

This weekend I borrowed the drum carder, so I could do a few things. One of those things was the Coopworth, which even scoured twice was still greasy. I tried to pick out the second cuts and VM and all those other annoying bits. What I wasn't counting on was the tips to disintegrate in carding. So now I have carded batts with even more noils in them than before. And seemingly no less VM, despite cleaning up piles of it from the floor. Most of a day of carding produced six large batts.

I spun a section of one tonight. About ten minutes into it, with a lap full of junk I'd pulled out and a grungy-looking yarn on the bobbin, I skeined it off to wash. It didn't look any better.

My original idea was to spin half S and half Z and do a striped warp. Not only do I not like this yarn, I don't want to use it for warp either. It's full of slubs from all the broken tips and then there's still the VM. I'll wait until morning and see how the skein looks dry, but this is seriously turning into a "Life's too short" project. It's one thing to go through hours and hours of work wondering if the end result will turn out like you imagined. It's another entirely to do it for something you are certain is going to suck no matter what.

But I did finally get back to the Merino, I filled the last of the first bobbin. 132 grams. I could get a little more on there if I tried, but I'd have to stop and adjust it too much to be worth the bother. Now I just have to finish the other two.

Posted Thursday, 28-Sep-2006 22:42:56 PDT.

I cleaned up the kitchen enough to set up the sewing machine. It involved disassembling and hauling off to storage two large shelves that have been sitting in the middle of the floor since we moved in. One day they will be actually used, but the space for them has been "not ready" for months now. Sigh.

Sewing machine good. I haven't made any new clothes in about a year and all my pants have holes in them. Now I have two new pairs, a dress that only needs to be hemmed and a bunch of new utility rags from some old clothes. Those old flannel dresses I made years ago make great hankies. While I was at it, I made a baby play mat from flannel and a vinyl tablecloth remnant I found. I have no interest in babies of my own, but baby stuff is fast and easy to sew and uses up odds and ends of fabric. Your new parent friends love you for it, too.

Now that sewing is happening again, this means I want to get all the fabric in one place. There is still some in storage so I'm not done yet, but I have two new shelves in the textile closet and a whole pile of stuff that is now in there instead of elsewhere. It's so much easier to manage when things aren't all piled on the floor. I'm still using the bed as a cutting table, but now there's actually enough light to see what I'm doing. Amazing.

So, with all of this the thing that hasn't gotten done is measuring warp for the next set of towels. I wound a ball so I could measure two ends at once, but it's been sitting on top of the loom for weeks. I did at least do some fiber prep so I could get on with spinning more dark brown 3-ply. November is heading this way and I'm going to want those legwarmers when it starts raining.

Posted Monday, 25-Sep-2006 07:26:37 PDT.

With the machine-wash "Rambouillet" done, I came back home from the annual guild stash sale with yet more fleece. This time about a kilo of Coopworth, which is shiny and dense and looks a lot like mohair. It was one of the fleeces bought for a fiber study, so it was up for grabs in exchange for a donation to the guild. By the end of the meeting it was still sitting there, so I pulled out the $10 I had and tossed it in. I know why nobody wanted it, it is very greasy and caked with clay mud and who knows what else. But it was an interesting breed I haven't worked with (some people like it for beginners) so I figured it was worth ten bucks.

I knew I wanted to card this, so I didn't have to go through the long process of dividing the fleece into staples for washing. I just pulled off sections and put them in mesh bags. If only the others were so easy.

I did two scour-wash cycles, with a spin in the washer between. That front-loading washer really does get the water out, although in this case it's filthy mud and the washer needed a bath when I was done, but hardly worse than the last experiment. I opened up the wet locks to get it to dry and there was still caked mud. In theory, it will flake off during picking and carding and the remainder will wash out later. We'll see.

I didn't have enough mesh bags for all of it, so the last bit was put in after and soaked overnight. I scoured it this morning by my usual non-washer method and it looks like the soak didn't help much.

The other find from the meeting was four cones of 20/2 wool for weaving. It's in this dreary off-white color called "bone" that makes it look more dirty than anything else. Perfect for dying. Combined with the two huge cones of black I already have, I could get some interesting fabric.

Posted Sunday, 17-Sep-2006 11:16:54 PDT.

Almost a month ago I bought some fleece on eBay. I wasn't going to, but it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. It was advertised as Rambouillet, a Merino-type fleece. It looked pretty dirty in the picture but the scoured example was good and white. For $4 a pound plus shipping, it was priced about what I would expect for backyard sheep fleece. I send the check, the seller says he will ship when he gets it. Ok, fine.

Problem Number One: two weeks and no package, so I send an email. It is a holiday weekend, so I'm not concerned that I don't get an immediate reply. Until five days later when there is still no package and no response. Second email.

The next day I get a reply. Problem Number Two: the seller forgot to send the package. Oopsie! He remembered to cash the check, however — four days after it was sent.

Finally I get the package. Problem Number Three: this is supposed to be Rambouillet, a fine wool closely related to Merino. I expect it to have tons of grease and a tiny crimp. It's supposed to be a ram fleece, so I'm fully prepared for it to be stinky. What I get has far less grease than I expect. The crimp is vaguely like a fine wool, but not particularly so. And it's hardly "very white," as advertised, because most of the tips are stained yellow from dirt. At least it's not stinky. I hunt around for the very cleanest part to wash, and that does come out white, but most of the rest is caked in dirt and washes to yellow stained tips.

Problem Number Four: this is the springiest, most Down breed feeling Rambouillet I've ever seen. In fact, it's not all that fine, being somewhere near a mediocre Corriedale. (The seller did say 60s count, which is about right even if it's the very bottom of the range for the breed.) Even in the grease, which there isn't very much of, it doesn't have the blocky square-end staples I expect. I could see some of this in the seller's photo, but it's more than I expected and the whole fleece is the same way. It's actually quite tippy. I'm hardly expecting the best quality fiber from a cheap backyard fleece, but I at least expect it to match the description.

I notice that my washed samples have not even made the attempt to felt despite less-than-careful handling. I comb a bit of fiber and lay it out in a small batt for a felting sample. Following my normal felting procedure, it's quite stubborn in not felting and only eventually starts to hold together. It's still very springy. I wash another sample in my felting solution, making a point of swishing and squeezing the cut end, where wool fleece starts to felt first. After several rounds of rough handling, there is only the faintest suggestion of felting at the cut end. I pull out a lock of raw Merino from the closet and try the same thing: it starts to felt immediately.

If you handed me a sample of this without comment, my first suggestion would be that it was a Dorset crossed with a fine wool like a Merino or Rambouillet. Not a pure fine wool by any means. I could tell from the photo that it wasn't the nicest stuff, but it wasn't expensive either. It's fine for what I intend to use it for, although I'm not so thrilled about the dirty tips not washing out as promised. If the seller said it was a Rambouillet cross, I would have probably still bought it. But now I'm cranky about it because it clearly isn't.

I haven't left feedback for the seller yet but sent another email. I already don't expect to leave a glowing comment because of the shipping problem, but the question of breed on top of it makes me even less happy. I haven't bought fiber from eBay in a long time because I'd rather see it in person, but I thought this would be a good inexpensive fiber to experiment with. This is what you get when you deal with people you don't know.

Posted Thursday, 14-Sep-2006 14:45:00 PDT.

I was trying to fix the tension problem and managed to completely botch it, so I declared the towels done. It's just cheap cotton and I considered it basically a large sample anyway. I like the general weight of the fabric but I don't like how it curls between blocks. A little wrinkling is ok, I don't think towels should have to be ironed just to stay flat.

I've already started planning the next set, in a different twill structure and not quite as dense a fabric. It's a 2/2 twill rather than a 1/3, so both sides will have the same structure. That should solve the curl problem. With a slightly more open sett (first, because I think the yarn needs it and second because the 2/2 structure certainly does) I expect they will be much more what I'm after. I'm going to put on a nice long warp so I get enough.

Posted Sunday, 10-Sep-2006 22:08:35 PDT.

The towels are progressing, I'm not sure if I'll get two more out of this warp before I reach the end. It's starting to have tension problems, like some ends are slack and I keep catching them with the shuttle. It's not huge, but enough to be annoying. I'm not sure if it's something about the yarn or some lousy technique on my part. I had another end break, although fortunately this time it was on the very edge and it happend between towels. So it won't be a problem at all once I get everything finished. I'm not so thrilled with this 8/2 yarn. It's ok, it's not like I'm not going to use it for warp again, but it's not as strong as I'd like. I've used much finer mill ends as warp and didn't break a single end, so to have this stuff break is a pain.

Now sticking open when I release the treadles, that's annoying. I'm still having problems with that, sometimes two harnesses are stuck up at once. It's the lamms, the bar across the bottom the treadles are attached to, that is actually causing the problem. I may have to go at them with the file again. But I've solved the skating across the floor problem. The loom was slowly creeping backwards towards the wall, so I got some wood to put between the front and the baseboard. One of these days I'll properly finish it rather than just wrapping it in a scrap of cloth, but it works.

I went to the local weavers guild meeting yesterday, I already know several members so that was nice. I got a lot of helpful suggestions for online resources for design ideas and weaving design software. I downloaded a demo of one, the only one I could find that ran on OS X. It's hugely expensive so I can't afford to buy a copy, but I'll play with it for a while. I'm sure there's a temporary way around the time limit for now. All I really need is something that will generate cloth diagrams but it does all this fancy stuff I'll never use. I don't have a computer-controlled loom and I don't expect to have one for a long time. It will generate semi-random patterns from your design, but I quickly noticed that only some of them would actually weave stable fabric. Some had big blocks of no interlacement between warp and weft or huge floats, things that make for no fabric at all, not just poorly-made fabric. So it can do some interesting things and let you play with design ideas, but you still have to know what you are looking at.

Posted Friday, 08-Sep-2006 20:20:27 PDT.

The weaving continues, I was trying to get all the towels done before the guild meeting on Saturday but it's not going to happen. So I'm taking a break and doing a few other things. Including updating the website. So far, I've had one broken warp and one minor weaving error I didn't catch in time to fix. Overall, they look pretty good. I want to finish this set and wash them before I decide on the next project in this yarn. Although the fabric looks about right on the loom, you never can be sure until after you wash it.

In other news, the second batch of super-discount yarn from WEBS arrived. three cones of a blue-gray 12/2 cotton and two of black 20/2 wool. For three bucks a cone, it was an amazing deal. I tried to get some black 8/2 rayon to mess around with, but an hour after I ordered it I got an email saying it was sold out. The shipping was nearly twice the cost of the yarn. The 12/2 seems to be stronger than the stuff I've currently got on the loom, which is a little odd since it's all carded cotton. But that means it will make fine warp. And I've sure got enough of it. I've seen lots of samples woven for books in 20/2 wool, so I figured it would be worth a try. I've never used something this fine for warp and actually I've not woven a wool warp I didn't spin. I'm a little concerned about it sticking together, but I guess all I can do is give it a go. I'd have to get more in a different color or think of something that will look good in all black.

Posted Monday, 04-Sep-2006 13:34:32 PDT.

I have been up to my eyeballs in loom, quite literally at times as I've spent far too long sitting under it messing with stuff. But the first real project on the big loom is now ready to weave. It only took 47 thousand re-dos with the tie-ups to get the pattern correct. Some comments:

I didn't forget as much as I was afraid I had.
After five years without a floor loom (and longer since any serious project,) some skills are a bit rusty. (Kinda like the loom.) But I know what I'm doing and it mostly went the way I expected. I'm still working out the logistics of dealing with a huge loom. It's big, my arms are short and this has been something of a problem.

Twelve harnesses have so many more ways to mess up than four.
I managed to thread my pattern without errors, but I spent far, far too much time working out the tie-up. I had a eight harness two block twill to start with and I was extending it to three blocks on twelve. Working out how to connect those four other treadles to get the pattern I wanted was a big pain. I would have saved myself some time if I had written out my design in full first rather than relying on the one in the book plus some scribbled notes. But it only somewhat helped, because when I finally charted out the whole thing, I got it wrong anyway.

I'm going to have to sort out the technical difference between shaft and harness.
I use "harness," from the people I was around when I learned to weave. But many books and articles use "shaft" and I don't understand why. Aside from the occasional comment on the difference, the two words appear to be used interchangeably. This never bothered me before, but now I'm reading more in the search for ideas for all those extra harnesses, err, shafts. It's possible that understanding the difference may help me better design drafts. Or it could just be "one of those things."

Stupid errors are still just as stupid.
I didn't have any nice cord to tie up the apron rods, so I used what was lying around. It broke. It wasn't a complete disaster, but it was a pain. Replacing the cord on the other end of the warp is going to be even more of a pain.

Some things I thought would be a problem were.
I had never tried folding a loom with a warp on it. But after bumping my head on the back beam a dozen times trying to fix the tie-up, I folded it up instead. Yes, it works, to a limited extent. My warp tension did recover, but only after some fiddling with it. So as a general rule, I'd say don't do it in the middle of weaving something you care about. If you must, wait until you are ready to start the next towel.

Some things I thought would be a problem weren't.
At the moment, I have one boat shuttle with (what appear to me to be) teeny tiny bobbins. But it turns out you can seriously over-fill them and they still fit in the shuttle, so it isn't so much a problem as I thought. I want something larger for wider fabric, however. It's hard to hide where you started a new bobbin.

I still can't remember how to hemstitch without the diagram.
I copied two pages out of the borrowed copy of Learning to Weave. One was the reed substitution table, so I can figure out how to sley 40 epi in a 12 dent reed. The other was the hemstitch diagram.

The quill makes a much better bobbin winder than I expected.
That silly pointy thing I bought for the spinning wheel actually works quite well. It's nice to have a foot-controlled bobbin winder, this leaves you with both hands to deal with the yarn. The only problem is getting the bobbin to stay on the shaft. For these particular bobbins, a big hair elastic shoved in there works great.

This project is a bunch of hand towels from the 8/2 mill end cotton. The surprise pack of yarn included many colors I'm less than thrilled about, but most were not outright horrid. That means they are fine for gifts.

Posted Thursday, 31-Aug-2006 10:24:09 PDT.

Yesterday I finally wrote up something I've been toying with for a while, a hand sanitizer cozy. I did the first few in crochet with handspun, but now I've made up a pattern to knit in a standard size yarn. The basic bag is ready to design with colors or patterns of your choice. I even did a sample with two colors, something I normally avoid.

I'm now down to the "feeling better but still ought not push it" part of being sick. I have a new friend, a humidifier shaped like a frog, to spend my days with (because if I don't, I can't breathe.) This means a lot of knitting time, and I'm almost done with the baby hat. I'm really slow when I'm knitting from a chart, so I don't normally do much in the way of patterning. But baby stuff is small so it doesn't feel like I'll never get anything finished.

Posted Sunday, 27-Aug-2006 21:53:22 PDT.

I've been sick all week, so I've spent a good bit of time sitting around like a lump staring at the walls. Sometimes that's all you can do. If you feel bad enough, you don't even care.

I did start some more knitting, a baby hat of some yarn I've had stashed away for a few years waiting for a project. It's one of four skeins of ostensibly matching 3-ply, but this one I got distracted on and one of the singles is much larger than the others. So it doesn't match the rest, but it's fine for something on it's own. There is enough for a lace cap and maybe some booties or something. The pattern is an insanely simple four stitch yarn over lace, but at times it's been too complicated for my fuzzy brain to deal with. So I started winding shuttles, something so stupid that it's impossible to screw up.

The next piece on the loom is narrow, I actually prefer stick shuttles for that. They hold tons of yarn and are easy to handle. The boat shuttle would be faster for wider fabric, but for this I think it comes out about the same. What you lose in handling the shuttle is gained by not having to chase it down when you drop it for the 87th time or change the bobbin every ten minutes. If I'm going to throw something through the shed, I want it to be at least wider than my shuttle is long. Otherwise, I might as well pass it hand to hand. A while back I managed to acquire a Harrisville shuttlette, a short boat shuttle they suggest for narrow warps. I seem to recall the previous owner of my old floor loom gave it to me. I'm not terribly fond of boat shuttles in the first place, but oh how I hate this thing. All the bobbin-snagging madness of a standard boat shuttle with the added aerodynamic qualities of a brick. Just thinking of it reminds me I have to order that end-feed shuttle before I start the next project.

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