Sunday, February 28, 2010

28 February: Another sort of skein

At about a quarter part one this afternoon, a large skein of geese, perhaps 50 or 60, flew high over our house, honking gently and heading North.

There is colour at the tips of the crocus buds, in our garden and in the municipal roadside plantings.

But it's snowing again.

Friday, February 26, 2010

26 February: A project from the backstrap loom

The piece of weaving on the backstrap loom in the previous picture is now part of a finished bag - a bag to store my backstrap loom.

The front and back were made separately, the front having a white tencel warp and a green ramie weft, and the back having a green tencel warp and a white ramie weft. The tencel is wonderfully silky, and the ramie is much softer than the linen used for my bow bag.

A pocket for the front (to keep rubber bands and bits of string in) is 2 pieces of a strip woven from bamboo yarns on an inkle loom and joined together. The button loop is plaited bamboo yarns, and the hanging strap is plaited ramie.

All the yarns are my own handspun. The button is one of hundreds from my button box.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

20 February: More low tech

This week I have been mostly playing at weaving with a backstrap loom.

Some sticks and rubber bands, plus a couple of bits of string, made an improvised loom, on which was woven a backstrap. Lots was learnt from mistakes - crossing warps is not a good idea, nor is using soft cotton (probably only dishcloth cotton, but plenty of it in my stash).

Anyway, in spite of all that, the backstrap was made, and then a sample strip gave the chance to try out some variations, like twining, twill weave, and pile.

The current project is to weave a bag to keep the bits of stick, string, and rubber bands in, tidy and together. Here is a picture of work in progress (obviously without a body in the way) -

The body sits on the stool, with the orange backstrap round the back of the hips, and the loops on the ends round the large stick. As the fabric is woven, it is wound round the near stick and held in place with a dowel and rubber bands.

I went to the local old-fashioned ironmongers to buy a broom-handle. The assistant corrected me - a broom is very large, for sweeping yards, what I wanted was a brush-handle, a smaller item for sweeping indoors. I stood corrected, and paid my pound for a 4 foot long, 1 inch diameter stick.

That makes the 2 sturdy end bits; lengths of dowel help keep the warp in place. The lovely tool with the weft wound onto it is a large netting/band shuttle from Michael Williams, fine woodworker.

The warp in the photo is handspun tencel, and the weft is handspun ramie, one of the skeins dyed last week.

Full instructions for making your own backstrap loom can be found on WeaveZine. Yours doesn't have to be orange.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

13 February: All hand-made

And here is the project that those dyed yarns weren't suitable for.

A bag for my longbow -

It is not the easiest object to photograph. This is the top end, showing the tie -

And here it is untied, with the bow -

The bag fabric was woven on my rigid heddle loom, with handspun linen warp and handspun wool/silk weft. Unsure how much take-up there would be, then shrinkage when fulled, I allowed plenty of length and width, weaving a piece 11" wide and about 8'3" long. After washing and pressing this became 9" wide by 7'10" long. The final bag is 4.5" wide and 7'6" long.

The tie is finger-woven from 8 strands of handspun (and home-dyed) BFL leftovers from previous knitting. Actually the weft is also leftovers, from a cardigan knitted last year. The warp took nearly 3 skeins of undyed linen, and the weft took nearly 2 big balls of yarn - much more than I realised would be needed.

This was the first project making a piece of fabric for a specific purpose; putting the warp onto the loom was very difficult, even with 2 of us working together; the weaving was simple and quicker than expected; and the final sewing up and finishing was much more straightforward than anticipated. I am very pleased with the result.

The bow's pretty brilliant too - hickory, lemonwood and purple heart, lightweight at 33 lbs at 28", made by a local bowyer.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

9 February: 6 of those 5-a-day

Textiles again! This time though, no wool, and no knitting.

With a specific project in mind, I spun some of my non-wool fibres; these had been bought at various times out of curiosity, some (tencel and soy) had been blended with wool and spun, some of the bamboo had been spun and plyed with cotton for knitting.

On the whole, I feel they negate the proper "feel" of wool, and don't care for these fibres in knitting. This project, however, is weaving.

Piles of spun skeins, all beautiful plain white, except the soy, which is a pleasant creamy brown. So out come the Procion dyes, and a morning is spent dyeing a half-dozen skeins. And the results -

The ramie (top left) and bamboo (bottom centre) are similar in texture, but the ramie is slightly shinier; on the negative side, the ramie fibres were very fine and fly-away, and loose ones irritated my eyes and skin. (None of the spun yarns are irritating, it was just those odd fibres that escape while spinning.)

The linen is hard, but very interesting. I found it tricky to spin, but more practice would produce finer and more even yarn. For my current ideas, though, the more "textured" yarn is fine.

The tencel is silky and shiny, and was easy to spin. Depending on how it weaves and wears, this could easily become a favourite.

In the naughty corner on the right are soy (above) and ingeo, or corn fibre (below). The soy is very slightly stained with the green, but the ingeo is as white as it started. All my fault, of course - as they originate from vegetable material, I thought them to be "vegetable fibres", but of course soy is better treated as a protein fibre and dyed with acid dyes, and ingeo apparently needs disperse dyes, which I don't intend to start getting into.

The soy has a lovely silky feel and look, and was easy to spin. The ingeo, while easy to spin, has a definite "plasticky" feel, mildly unpleasant. Unless it turns out to be brilliant in use, I think I may not return to that one.

Out of practice with using Procion dyes, these skeins all came out much too pale for the intended project! So Plan B has gone into action, and plain white handspun linen warp is being woven with some handspun yarn that is wool with some silk. Pictures of that later, perhaps.

Monday, February 01, 2010

1 February: Woodland walk

The hard frost last night meant that all the clarty bits of the path through the woods were frozen. In the trees we were sheltered from the wind, which was still chilly.

And there was sunshine! We had intended just a short walk for some air, but it was so pleasant we went further, so it was getting gloomy and cold by the time we got home. An unexpected chat with a man walking his dog delayed us more, and we needed our nice cup of tea when we got indoors.

In the garden earlier, when I was sweeping the remnants of yesterday's snow off the path, I noticed several bulbs pushing strong fat shoots above the ground.