Archive for March, 2008

I’m making a model of a warp weighted loom for an upcoming talk. It’s hardly pretty, what with my carpentry skills and all, but it’s functional. This is the loom of classical antiquity and the Viking era. I recall a comment in an archaeology book how at many sites you can’t go more than a few meters without finding a loom weight. (Mine are bags of gravel.) One of the interesting things about vertical looms is that several weavers can work at one wide loom, passing bundles of weft along as they go. This can be found in fragments that have crossed wefts, jumping from shed to shed throughout the fabric.

I have a few more adjustments to make it really usable, my intention is to have it for demos and let people try it out. It’s portable (sorta) and not easily damaged. I can’t weave much because I can’t hold my arms up for more than a few minutes, but I can show people what to do with it.

Here’s a picture of mine. Much more information can be found from my friend Carolyn Priest-Dorman on her Warp-Weight Loom page.

vertical warp weighted loom

I’m typically not prone to chasing after something just because it’s new, but I’m getting bored with the current project. I don’t hate it, I’m not about to declare it a UFO and hide it in the closet, it’s just not particularly thrilling. I’m sure it’s because I don’t know what I want to do with the yarn once I get it done. I’m almost finished with the second bobbin of three, combed dark brown Merino lamb. It’s tiny yarn, so there’s a lot of it.

I’ve been debating overdying it to get black, maybe brown is part of the problem. Originally it was going to be socks/stockings/legwarmers but now that I live in a real apartment and not a pit I’m forgetting why I wanted it. And remembering how much I find knitting tedious. I’ve determined that I have enough spare bobbins to safely start another 3-ply yarn. But I’m not sure what I would do with the new project yarn either, which could lead to all manner of trouble. The new blended batts aren’t enough alone to weave something. But when was the last time I finished a knitting project? I like the results, enough that I can make it through a hat once in a while, but that’s about where it ends. Maybe I just need to cultivate a knitting swap buddy.

The finished fiber is about 170g, enough for a small project. I made two color layered batts because I wanted a high contrast blend that would survive being spun fine and plied and not be totally a solid color by the time I was done. I have no idea what I will do with the yarn, so I went with a somewhat less adventurous color. One of my other possible choices was magenta.

The fleece has been sitting around for years, it came from South Australia and is some sort of Corriedale cross. I sorted out the rest by color and length but this stuff was shorter. I don’t even know where all the silk came from, other than several years of spinning workshops. For now it’s going back into the fiber closet because I still have some Merino to finish spinning.

Started with this pile of fleece (plus a little of plain white)

random natural color fleece bits

and this collection of workshop samples

silk top odds and ends

a little blue dye and a lot of carding later:

blue and brown wool and silk batts

I spent most of the day with the drum carder. Last week I pulled out several small bags of fleece to blend together and this morning decided I didn’t have enough. So out comes the collection of workshop samples and other odds and ends and between all the different kinds of silk I have enough to do something. Gold tussah, bleached tussah, bombyx multiple sources and a few wool/silk blends. I left some of the larger amounts for another project and took all the bits and stuck them in some blue dye.

While the color was steam-setting (three hours!) I started preparing the base fiber. I set aside the lightest color wool to blend with the silk. The wool was all combed out in the staple with a dog brush and then carded, the wool blend took three passes and the silk five (because it was all clumped together after being dyed.) Now the gray-brown and blue batts are ready, tomorrow I just have to do the final layered blend of the two.

There is probably about 200g of fiber, enough for socks and a hat or a large scarf. I’m thinking I’ll do 3-ply sock yarn and then see what I feel like making. The yarn should come out a tweedy blue-gray. I’ll have pictures later.

While I was going through the closet, I pulled out a bag of brown Bluefaced Leicester top. It’s nice fiber, but the prep is less than spectacular. I knew this when I bought it and it was certainly a nice price, but the little bits of tangled fiber mixed in are a bother. I’ve taken it out several times to try to find a project for it, without coming up with something I could get excited about. And the nuisance of picking out the neps isn’t really the problem.

Modern handspinners love them some BFL. It’s hugely popular among novices: fast to spin, easy to find and not hideously expensive. I got it originally to practice short forward draft (I normally do short backward draft for worsted) so it’s ok if the yarn doesn’t come out perfect. But it’s not the fine wool that I normally work with and I can’t decide what to do with it. I’ve tried a bunch of different samples in different techniques and still nothing jumps out as “gotta do this!” I know that brown is part of the problem for me, but I thought it would be interesting to play with.

pile of random bfl samples

It drafts well with long draw either from the fold or directly from the end of the top, in 3-ply it makes a fuzzy knitting yarn. I can’t think of anything I’d want to knit except maybe another hat. Hats make nice gifts. I’d have to think about who I might give a handspun, hand knitted hat to who doesn’t have one already, can be trusted to take care of it and would actually wear it. Fuzzy yarn is warm, but prone to felting.

The next sample was sock yarn, a couple different ways. Directly from the top a 3-ply worsted was ok but uninspiring and picking out the lumps a nuisance. I combed some to see how annoying it would be to remove the bits and the results were only so-so. There is a huge range of fiber lengths so combing makes a top that is half the fiber length at the shorter end. This makes it draft differently in the different sections. And planking, re-combing and all that is way too much work for an eh fiber. There is also still the question of who would I be giving these brown socks to, provided I were able to actually finish both of them.

Then were various weaving yarns. As a single, with enough twist for warp, it was a little harsh. It might be interesting garment fabric. 2-ply was just boring. I tried carding, both to see if it would open up the lumps and if it would make a more interesting yarn, and it accomplished neither.

Once again I set it aside for another day. I’ve gone through probably 50g trying to find something I like, so it’s good I’ve got a bag full of it.

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