Friday, February 25, 2011

25 February: Spring in the air

A bit of sunshine works wonders!  Shoots are shooting and buds are budding, and the crocuses under the apple tree are flowering -

There are a couple of primulas. the first lungworts, and the viburnum bodnantense dawn all in flower too, and the miniature daffodils are nearly ready to open.  Each year spring seems more exciting. Probably my age.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

23 February: Experimental weaving

A half-term visit from my primary school age great-nieces, who are interested in crafts.  Katy tried my spinning wheel, and produced some very creditable first-attempt art yarn.

Then an improvised warp was arranged on an embroidery frame, and she set about weaving -

Julia selected colours from some of my handspun, and another warp was quickly improvised on a soft-back book -

Their concentration and patience was amazing, and both finished small pieces.  This is Katy's finished hairband, made with her own first handspun -

She may have a spinning wheel on her Christmas wish list!

Friday, February 18, 2011

18 February: New toy

As well as the "string" connected with spinning, knitting, weaving, and so on, I have another string to my bow, literally, as I do archery as well as all the fibre stuff.

I really only started to encourage my Dear Husband to take up a new interest in retirement, but of course the bug has bitten me as much as him, and we are both trying hard to improve. He replaced his first recurve bow a little while ago, but it was only recently that I felt the need to have a better bow.

My new riser arrived this afternoon, from Italy via a company in the Midlands - it's beautiful. I'll try it out this evening, and make any adjustments needed. I'm very much hoping I'll shoot more accurately with it, as well as more stylishly.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

12 February: Twining

Happy birthdays to DD today and DDiL yesterday!

Meanwhile, the weaving theme continues. I was browsing through 'Byways in Hand-weaving' by Mary Meigs Atwater again, trying to make some sense of her instructions for weaving narrow bands; but it's all written with the assumption that you are a proper weaver, and have a loom with shafts and treadles (whatever they are), so it's mostly just incomprehensible to me. But the illustrations are excellent.

Anyway, there's a section on 'Twined Weaving', and this is done with a free-hanging warp. This intrigued me, so a sample was started. The actual weaving is very easy, but keeping the piece an even width is tricky; and after a short while it became difficult to hold. While wondering how to fasten it differently, I spotted my peg loom.

A second sample was started on the peg loom - again it's very easy to twine 2 strands round the pegs, but the effect is much coarser. And what a lot of yarn goes into anything on a peg loom!

Here are the results -


The smaller piece is done on a linen warp with rug yarn and a bit of handspun, the larger peg loom piece has rug yarn for warp, and again rug yarn and a bit of handspun for weft.

Monday, February 07, 2011

7 February: Semi-rigid heddle

An e-mail brought some details of a forthcoming Guild workshop that I hope to attend, weaving narrow bands on a backstrap loom with rigid heddle.

I made a backstrap loom from some sticks, bits of string and rubber bands a while ago, but got in a tangle trying to put an organised striped warp onto it, and put it aside in favour of my inkle loom, which is so easy to warp.

The information for the workshop suggests that you can bring your own rigid heddle, or borrow one for the day from the tutor. No specification for the heddle, how many slot and holes, nor the size of those slots and holes, though a band with 5 pattern threads was mentioned.

Now I have rigid heddles for my Kromski Harp loom, but they are 32" long - a bit unwieldy for use with a backstrap set-up. I began to wonder if I could improvise something with card, and went looking for stout card. There was some with my old patchwork stuff, to make templates, but with it were some pieces of plastic template material. One of those lightbulb moments!

I traced slots and holes from one of my large rigid heddles onto a piece of plastic, and a couple of hours with a craft knife and a cutting board, and I had a small heddle; 8" by 5", with 15 slots and 14 holes.

I warped it with some handspun in the same way I do tablets for weaving - involves long threads trailing all over the floor - and knotted the ends of the threads together as for tablet weaving. Here it is, not actually in action, but in a lull in the action -

(Photographed with flash.) The slots and holes are really too widely spaced, and the plastic is too bendy, but as an experiment it seems a success. Now I need a better way to deal with the length of warp behind the heddle, and perhaps somewhere better to hitch it than the door-handle. Oh, and a more rigid heddle.

Friday, February 04, 2011

4 February: Hemp

A recent fibre order included some hemp; I like to try something different now and then.

It had been in my workroom for a while before I opened the plastic bag it was sealed in.  And reeled back from the smell!  Pig manure?  Cow slurry?  It was definitely something farmyard-y.  (My apologies to readers of a delicate nature.)

So the bag was returned to the corner for another while, in the hope that the smell would dissipate.  It did a little, so today it was examined more closely.  First impression was "straw", but I took a handful and started up the wheel.  It spun like straw.  Threw that bit away and browsed the interweb.

The stuff people were spinning in videos doesn't look much like what I have, and there was a definite mention of a short staple - mine is about as long as the whole bunch.  But never say die. I put some through the drum carder. And again.

It certainly looked more spinnable, so I divided it in two and spun it. Much better, it actually drafted and I can see how it could be spun quite finely with a bit more practice. Here it is after washing - the water was a dreadful colour.

Hey look - I spun string!!

But why does it smell so bad? Perhaps to stop anyone thinking of smoking it?  It needs to be cleaner and sweeter smelling.  Should it be soaked in boiling water for a while?  Or just boiled?  Or will my garden be the only one with hand-spun string?