Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Phoenix heat, socks, silk, and night photography

Yes, it is blasted hot in Phoenix this time of year. The car reading does in fact say 121F. Though I took that a few days ago. Right now it is 'only' 108F.
So what have I been doing? Trying to stay in my nice air conditioned studio during the day. I've got a couple of clients that I've been working with. The first sent me a picture of the inside of a sea shell, and asked if I could make a silk boho-kimono inspired by those colors. It took two tries, but I'm pleased with the result. She was too!
I have another client who requested a sock-of-the-month for a year. I've been having fun with that, too. I've got June & July taken care of. But, I've found that many of the sock yarns that were my go-to choices have been discontinues. Today, that got me out of resting mode, and I ordered a sample of Web's Franklin sock yarn. It is undyed, which means that I'll be able to play in the dye pots and make my own sock creations. Well, if the yarn works well in my machine, wears well, and feels good to the touch. Which is why I went with the sample, rather than the full 4 lb cone of yarn. I'm hoping it will work out, but willing to experiment with a couple of sources until I find a yarn that I really like, that is still affordable to use for sale.
So, I work in the studio by day. And, try to leave going outside for my walks and other activities to the night time, when hopefully the temperatures have dipped below triple digits. That means I've been experimenting more with night photography. I'll keep working on that, but I'm enjoying some of the results I've been getting.
Next up? A road trip to get out of the heat. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Weaving on a vintage Weave It pin loom

What a difference wet finishing makes!

I've been trying to think of another hand work project that is more or less portable. So much of what I do these days relies on my studio set up, but I like to keep my hands busy when I'm out and about too.

So this week I dug out my vintage 'Weave-it' pin loom, and experimented with the tail ends of  yarn that are left after my sock making forays. In this case I'm using Deborah Norville 'Serenity' sock yarn, which is a merino/bamboo/nylon mix. On the left is a square in progress on the 4" loom. In the middle is a square right after it is taken off of the loom. The fabric is 'sleazy' at this point. Yes, that is a weaving term, meaning kind of loosely woven and gauzy and full of holes. But the square on the right is what happens after I wash a square on hot with high agitation in the washing machine, and toss it in the dryer. It has shrunk from a 4" to a 3" square, and become a soft and stable fabric. Now, that I can work with!

I'll make a bunch of squares, and then decide how I'm going to join them together. I'm thinking patchwork looking blankets for starters. And I've seen some cute Christmas ornament ideas. But for now, I'm enjoying just weaving for the sake of weaving, and learning a new skill. Not everything needs to be high tech. Sometimes, the simple tools are still lots of fun.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Flagstaff Fiber Festival, and escaping the heat

I had a great time this afternoon, wandering around the Flagstaff, AZ Fiber Festival with my sweetie. We went a couple of years ago, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the event had about doubled in size from then. There were all sorts of vendors, selling everything from roving to handspun yarn to finished objects of art.

I enjoyed seeing some of the native arts from the area represented as well.

And then there were the critters. Most of them were sporting their lovely coats, showing what our fiber looked like on the hoof.

A few of them got to get their coats sheared off though. They looked much happier once they were cooler! And they were surprisingly calm during the procedure. The shearer was quite skilled and quick.

When we were done at the festival, my sweetie and I drove further up the mountain to the Snowbowl ski resort. It is pretty lovely in the summer time. And much cooler! Phoenix was about 115F today. Flagstaff was in the 90's. And up here in the pines and aspens, it was down in the low 80's. I'll take it.

All in all, quite a lovely way to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

May socks, and my studio floof

What with the studio re-flooring after our flood, I just today finished up May's sock-of-the-month offerings. But I got it done! This month, the colorway was 'Surf', from the Deborah Norville Serenity sock yarn collection. It is 50% merino wool, 25% rayon bamboo, and 25% nylon. I like the way this yarn feels and wears, and it slides through my old cranky machine like butter. Except I don't want to wear butter on my feet, and I do want to wear these socks. 

Here's the finished socks, shown on my nice new studio floor. I'm super pleased with both. Now, to figure out what next month's colorway is going to be.
Maybe I'll get my new Studio Floof to help me decide. The stray that moved in a week or so ago seems to be making herself right at home, no? She still wanders in and out (after all, she has a whole neighborhood to run), but as it heats up here in Phoenix she seems to be enjoying the comfort of my computer chair more and more often.

Friday, May 6, 2016

12 shaft cotton hand towels from the dobby loom: Done!

I'm calling this project done! These are the cotton hand towels that I made to experiment with using all 12 shafts on my dobby loom. I got the pattern from this blog: http://weeverwoman.blogspot.ca/2011/07/i-havent-fallen-off-planet-i-had-week.html. I treadled it tromp as writ, to make this lovely almost Renaissance looking pattern. I used 8/2 UKI unmercerized cotton for the warp, and 10/2 Valley mercerized cotton for the weft, which gives a nice subtle contrast in sheen between the light and dark yarns.

Each towel is a different color, so everybody in the family can have one that is uniquely their own. Also? It gave me a chance to try the different color combinations for future reference. I can't actually decide which version I like the best. Not pictured are two rusty brown ones, that I already gave to my mother for her birthday. Now I just have to convince her to actually use them! I can always get more yarn and make more if she wears them out. She'll use the woven napkins I gave her, but the thought of using hand woven as towels set her aback. But I've been using earlier versions of my woven towels for a couple of years now as bathroom hand towels, and I love them.

I will probably use this pattern again. However, next time I'll remember to use floating selvedges. There are some floats on the edges that I'm afraid might catch and pull and make loops. But overall, I'm really pleased. They washed up to a just slightly rough texture that will be great for their intended purpose. I also have about a yard and a half of the blue left over, that I'm going to use as yardage for some future sewing project. A messenger bag? The front of a vest? I'm not sure yet. I'm putting it away for when inspiration strikes. (You have any ideas? I'd love to hear them.)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sock knitting with Patons Kroy Socks FX on an antique sock knitting machine

My daughter & I were in JoAnn's the other day, and spotted some sock knitting yarn that I hadn't tried in my antique  Creelman Brothers sock knitting machine. The beast is about 100 years old at this point, and is quite picky about what yarn it likes to work with.

My go-to yarn for socks has been the Serenity sock weight yarn from the Deborah Norville collection. My machine loves it, and it makes lovely soft socks. But I spotted some Patons Kroy Socks FX yarn, and my daughter fell in love with one of the color combinations. We made a deal: she'd buy the yarn, and I'd use it to test in my machine. If it turned out, she'd get the socks. If not, I'd ball up the yarn, and she'd get the yarn to use in her crochet work.

So, off we went. I first noticed that the Patons yarn was thicker than the Serenity stuff. In the same 50 gram size ball, there were only 166 yards, vs. the 230 in the Serenity. I was going to have to be careful. I make the socks from the cuff down, and I was afraid of running out of yarn  before I finished the toe if I did my usual calf high socks. So I decided to change the pattern to come just above the ankle.

Onto the machine it went. I had to put it on and rip it out a couple of times while I tinkered with the settings on the machine. As it was a thicker yarn, I had to loosen up the tension, and add more weight down below. Even so, the yarn jumped off the needles a couple of times when I was just starting to turn the heels and toes. Luckily, I've gotten good at repairing a run, when I catch it early enough.

I followed my pattern for size 10 women's socks, that I had worked out for the Serenity yarn. It turns out, when your yarn is bigger, and when you have a looser tension, the same number of rows in the foot makes for a longer foot. When I was done sewing the toe closed, the sock measured 10 1/2" long in the foot. That is a half inch longer than what I was aiming for. Also? The yarn, which is a wool/nylon mix, was not as nice to the touch as the wool/bamboo/nylon mix I was used to. Hmmmm....

Well, I decided to throw the finished socks into the wash, and see what the water would do to them. I washed them in warm water with a load of regular clothes, and then tossed them in the dryer on medium heat. And hoped for the best.

It totally worked! The socks shrunk and fluffed a bit in the wet finishing process, and ended up just at 10" long in the foot. And, the fluffing made them softer to the touch. My daughter squealed when she saw them, and tried them right on. She oooh and ahhed about how soft and comfortable they were. And we both absolutely love the gorgeous color changes.

The color repeat is long enough that I couldn't do my usual trick of starting each sock in the same spot in the repeat in order to get matching socks. So, when I make socks with this brand of yarn, the socks will be similar, but the color repeats will be in different spots. Michelle didn't care a bit! I think she likes them better that way.

Overall? Two thumbs up. The yarn is a bit trickier to work with on the machine, but those colors are well worth the hassle. If you were using traditional knitting needles, the extra bit of thickness wouldn't be so much of an issue. And, from here on out I'll wash them in cold on a delicate cycle, and lay them flat to dry. That should avoid any more shrinkage.

Now, I need to make myself a pair!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Socks and Hiking in the White Tanks

Well, the day has come. My eyes are getting old enough that I gave in, and decided to use a magnifying glass for sewing closed the toes on the socks that I make. It sure makes it easier to see the teeny tiny stitches, so I don't drop any by mistake when I'm doing the finishing work.

I was working on finishing up this pair of socks for one of my Sock-a-Month clients, when my husband got home from work and suggested that we take a bit of time to enjoy a hike in the White Tanks, west of Phoenix. I'm game!

We tried the South Trail tonight, since we hadn't been on it yet. It is a relatively easy mile to where it joins up with another trail, though it is a gradual up hill the whole way. My calves were feeling the work on the way in. We set a timer for 45 minutes, so we would have enough time to get turned around and back to the car before we lost the light.

We don't just do serious hikes though. I'm always on the look out for a good picture. And Eric is a very good sport. "Hey dear! Go force push that saguaro!!" I giggled, he giggled, and an epic shot was born.

We also spotted this little fellow. The lizards are hard to see sometimes, with their perfect camouflage coloration against the rocks. And they usually skitter away before I can get close. This one actually stayed still enough that I could use my telephoto lens from a distance to capture his portrait. "Can she see me? I'm very still. I'm a rock. Don't eat me. Rock."

We did get back to the car, just as we were losing the light. The sunset was beautiful. In just a month, I'm suspecting it will be too hot in the desert for hiking. But for right now, it is wonderful.

And yes, I finished up the socks when I got home, and put the listing up in the Etsy shop. So I'm feeling all accomplished this evening! Good day.