Archive for April, 2007

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.

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.

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.

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