Monday, January 31, 2011

Almost done with the Estrella project, and teaching spinning

The Estrella project came off the loom tonight! 13 hours of throwing the shuttle back and forth, 47.5 total hours into the project so far, and I got to take scissors to the warp! Coming off the loom the fabric is 25" wide and 10 yards long. Tomorrow I wash it, to full the fibers together and shrink it width wise by about another 4 inches. Almost done!!

Also, I taught someone to spin yesterday. I was out at SCA practice with my wheel and a box of roving, and this lady was very very interested and envious. I happened to have a spare drop spindle in the roving box, so I got her starting learning to draft with the park & draft method. By the end of the practice she had it down, and was about ready to start with the drop part of drop spindling. I gave her a large handful of the roving and sent her off for the week with instructions to feel free to ruin it all. If she wanted, next week she could throw me a $5 and keep the spindle, otherwise she could give it back and try something else. You should have seen her grin, having the time of her life!

Come to think of it, I should make up a batch of inexpensive spindles, and make up kits to have with me. The more people I can hook on spinning, the more people I have to play with!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Estrella project: actually weaving now!

After a month and a half of spinning and warping, I'm finally doing what looks like weaving. Yes, I'm sitting at the loom and throwing the shuttle back and forth. Yay!

I wound the bobbins with my hand spun yarn. The dark blue/purple was hand dyed in an indigo pot a few years ago at the Griffin Dyeworks fiber retreat. The lighter blue/teal color came that way as a mill end roving from the Sheep Shed Studio.

Then the moment of truth. I wove a header, to spread the warp out evenly, and to see if I had messed up in the threading pattern when I put the warp on the loom. Luckily, there were no errors to be found. And the singles wool yarn is springy enough that any tension issues evened themselves out quite quickly.


I've got about a yard woven up. I've got 11 yards worth of warp on the loom, though a yard of that is loom waste. So that gives to go still. Better get off the keyboard and back to work.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A link to a video on warping the warp weighted loom

I've been studying the warp weighted loom over the last year, with an eye toward trying it myself. I picked up Marta Hoffman's book "The Warp Weighted Loom", and read through it, which gave me most of what I needed. My husband was in the middle of building me one when he got in an accident and got laid up for a few months. Now that he's almost back on his feet, he figures he can finish it up sometime soon.

Also, earlier this month I went to a friend's place in Las Vegas, because he said he had something that might be a loom in the rafters of his garage. Lo and behold, it was most of a warp weighted loom. It is missing the cross piece on the bottom, and the side pieces for holding the heddle rod, but it showed me how to make the loom weights, and gave me a long shuttle for a warp sword.

And today, somebody posted a link to a series of videos that show how to warp this type of loom. The vocals aren't in English, so I can't understand a word she is saying. But I don't need to. The visuals are clear enough that, coupled with the information I've gleaned from the books, I should be able to muddle my way through.

So, sometime in my future, a warp weighted loom project awaits. Not quite yet--I'm getting ready to weave on my floor loom today. But soon!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Progress on warping up the Estrella weaving project

I made some good progress today on warping up the loom for my Estrella weaving project. I got the reed sleyed the other day, so this morning I sat inside my loom and put each thread through a heddle. The heddles are hung on one of 4 shafts. I raise the shafts by use of a foot treadle, either solo or in combination with the other shafts. So I get the patterns in my fabric by way of what shaft I attach each thread to, and in what order I raise the shafts.

After each thread was fed through the reed and then through the heddles, I tied the threads on to the back apron rod.

Then I started cranking. The apron rod went down and around the back warp beam, and the warp followed merrily along. I put slats of wood (old window blinds) in between the layers of warp as they wind around, to keep individual threads from burrowing down through the layers and creating odd tension problems.

When I got the warp all wound around the back beam, hopefully under even tension, I trotted back around to the front and tied the other end on to the front apron rod.

There! 34 1/2 hours into this project (counting spinning the yarn), and I am almost ready to start throwing the weft shuttle back and forth. I just need to make sure the shafts are chained to the correct treadles, weave a header, and wind up some bobbins.

There is a moment here, when the loom is warped and ready to go, before you throw that first weft shot. Order has been created from chaos. The loom almost hums, holding it's breath, a symbol of perfect possibilities.

And then you throw that first shuttle pick, and you find all the places where you've screwed up the process. But for now, I'm just going to admire the sweet sweet potential.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wooly Wednesday

Yesterday was "Wooly Wednesday". What is that, you ask? The beginning of a hopefully regular gathering of fiber folk here on the west side of Phoenix. We met in my friend Leticia's back yard for a time of creativity, show & tell, and general chatting. It was a marvelous time!

When I got there at lunch time, Leticia and Sorcha had been hard at work since 9ish that morning. Sorcha had some wool that had been dyed several years ago, that had gotten matted and felted in the dying process. The two of them were running the matted stuff through the drum carder, blending colors as they went. They came out with some absolutely lovely bats of very spinnable fiber.

I went out into the 70-some degree sunshine, and set up my spinning wheel. It was gorgeous out. I took off my sweatshirt and sat out in my short sleeves. My wheel was set up near Ceara and Isabelle, who were working on their knitting projects. In the picture here, Ceara had taken a break to talk on the phone, when one of the back yard chickens decided to hop up and see what she was working on. Yes, Leticia has a handful of very tame chickens that roam freely around the back yard, providing eggs and endless entertainment.

Here the girls are inspecting a freshly laid egg, while Clio (the pup) keeps a close eye on all happenings. The whole bunch of them are pretty shameless if there is food anywhere involved in the activities. Yes, I'm an urban girl. I didn't realize that chickens could beg with the best of them.

This? This is not food. Chickens, do not eat this. These are bars of soap that Leticia made recently, that are still curing. They did however smell good enough to eat. Lavender, lemon, honey...yum!

Leticia also has a lovely garden tucked into her yard. The plants in the picture on the left here include woad (left) and weld (in the pathway, right). The roots in the picture on the right are from a madder plant.

Woad, weld and madder? Those are dye plants. Woad gives blue, weld gives yellow, and madder gives red/orange. The black in the hood below came from commercially dyed yarn, but all of the other colors came from combinations of these three plants. I look forward to later Wooly Wednesdays, when we will hopefully get to help her harvest and dye with her crop of plants.

In and among the oohing and ahhing, I did manage to get most of a bobbin full of yarn spun up. I want to spin several skeins of plain white, with an eye to playing in the dye pots at a later date.

And to top the day off, after I got home I had time to finish sleying the reed for my Estrella weaving project. One step closer to throwing the shuttle back and forth! By the time I get around to the part that folks actually recognize as weaving, this project will be almost complete.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Estrella weaving project: The Warp is Measured!

I finished measuring out the warp for the Estrella project today. I thought I had plenty enough of the hand spun white wool, but I ended up just squeaking out enough warp. I think I initially measured my yardage under higher tension, and before wet finishing the yarn. Anyway, there was just enough for the project, with a few remnants left over to provide a cushion in case I need to mend any broken warp threads.

To measure the warp, I put the skeins on my rotating umbrella swift...

...and feed the yarn from there onto my horizontal, rotating warping mill. I put a guide thread of a different color on first, and then just follow the path back and forth, around and around. Even though this makes for under a half hour to measure each (11 yard long) warp chain, I actually spread the process out over several days. Last time I measured out a long warp and pushed it time wise, I ended up giving myself tennis elbow. That knocked me out of weaving for half a year. Better to take things easy, than risk a repetitive motion injury.

Here's the finished warp chains, temporarily wound around the front beam of my loom. From here, I'll put each thread through the openings in the reed there in front. The reed will evenly spread out the threads. It has 6 openings per inch. Since I want my threads to be set at 12 threads per inch, I'll put two threads through each opening.

But, that is a project for tomorrow. It is one in the morning here, and I think that ought to make it time to go to sleep. Even if I do want to keep going...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cooking and Creating Love

A follow up to yesterday's posting ( My daughter finished her shawl. Is it not wonderful? I am so proud of her. I really enjoy teaching the fiber arts, and love seeing the next person in line light up and make the process their own. Particularly when it is my own kin. My mother is a wonderful knitter, and my dad was awesome with a torch and metal. Though I don't follow either of those arts, I did learn to really value creativity and handwork from them. I am extraordinarily tickled to see my own daughter taking up those family traits. Down through the generations it goes!

My own project yesterday is not as impressive...

...but quite tasty. And the value of creating good food for my family came straight down from my folks too. Boy, can my folks cook! Among other things, I remember the dehydrator going as a kid, making wonderful fruit leather out of local harvests. There was a year my folks picked up a bushel basket full of slightly bruised peaches from the orchard, and mushed them up for the dryer. I still remember the house smelling wonderful! As I recall, the resulting peach roll-ups didn't last long at all. Yummy.

My family shows its love by feeding each other, and creating beautiful (and useful!) artwork for each other. And that? Is not a bad thing at all. From mother to daughter...and on again to the next. All good.

Measuring warp, dried apples, and teaching my daughter to weave

It was a day spent doing this and that, but all in all a peaceful, creative time. I'm starting to work on prepping food for my upcoming Estrella trip in February, and apples were on sale for 88 cents/lb. That meant making up a batch of dried apple chips in the dehydrator. My daughter snapped a picture of me using my apple slicer/peeler/corer gadget. It makes this task go so much quicker!

My spaniels were delighted that I was slicing and peeling their apples for them. Of course, they were getting some of the peel as a treat. I think they were not quite clear on the idea of peeled apples, but they had a grand time. The apples slices went in the dehydrator, and the rest of the peel and the cores went out in the compost bin.

Since my daughter snapped a picture of me, I figured it was only fair to get one of her. We went yarn shopping together the other day, and she picked out a color combination that she wanted to make into a shawl. I showed her yesterday how to weave on the triangle loom, and she took to it like a pro! I just now took a break from typing to show her how to add the fringe. Yes, she's been doing little else but weaving today, and having a marvelous time doing it. She's trying to get the shawl finished before she goes back up to college on Saturday. I think she'll make it with no problem.

When I wasn't teaching, or cooking, or taking down the Christmas tree (yes, that is going slowly this year), I was rearranging my studio to make room for my weaving project. I've finished up spinning the yarn, made my calculations, and early this evening I started measuring out my warp. The hand spun skeins go on the umbrella swift to keep them under control and to easily feed onto the warping mill. I love having the right tool for the job! I'm making 7 warp chains, each containing 48 threads, each 11 yards long. I'll set them on the loom at 12 threads per inch, so the fabric will start out 28" wide before shrinkage. I'm aiming toward a finished fabric of 21" wide, 8 yards long.

And then, I also took time off this evening to go out to dinner with my sweetie. We wandered the mall afterward. I took this picture as we exited the mall at closing time. I really like carrying a pocket camera around--it lets me capture just little things, like the way the green tree trunks curved in front of the lights. Beautiful.

And now, I should head off to bed. I have more warp measuring on tap for tomorrow, and we'll need to get my daughter packed up and ready to go for the semester. But I can sleep knowing it was a full and productive day, full of quiet creative moments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A step up from refrigerator drawings

I popped over to visit my folks this afternoon, to help them clear a few more things out of their garage, and in the process try some of Mom's new corn chowder recipe. (By the way Mom? YUMMY!) While I was there, I noticed just how much of my work that they had displayed around their house. Which really flatters me, because they have some really wonderful art pieces scattered tastefully around their home, and it feels good to be in such company. It also struck me that more than an item or two makes for a blog entry, so I ran around taking pictures.

In the front hallway, they have one of my few abstract paintings displayed. I did this one when I was pregnant with my first child. I loved it...but the oil fumes made me so sick that I didn't pick up paints again for years. Oil paint and pregnancy didn't mix for me.

This is my Mom's dining room table, with the table runner that I wove for her a few years ago. She pulls it out after Christmas time. Mom changes her table decorations for the seasons, and it always looks lovely.

When I was rummaging around her kitchen drawers, I came across two different sets of napkins that I wove for them. The white ones in front there? Used to be green to match the table runner. Yes, they've gotten well used and loved over the years. Yay! That is what hand wovens are for! Hmm...maybe it is time to make another set...

I don't remember why I stopped into the den, but the throw that Mom knit with my hand spun yarn is in there. Dad says there are naps that lurk in that throw. The yarn is made from wool/mohair mill end roving from the Sheep Shed Studio.

Mom & Dad also have one of my gourds displayed in the den. Mom had given me some costume jewelry components that she didn't use anymore. I took one of the pendants, turned it into the focal piece for the gourd, and gave it back to her. Not surprisingly, she liked the color choices in the finished work.

So...I suppose this is a step up from displaying grade school drawings on the refrigerator? Anyway, thanks Mom & Dad. I appreciate the subtle vote of confidence.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Estrella project planning: so many ideas, so little time!

This is a crazy time of year for me. Estrella War ( is in about a month, and I all of a sudden go into PLANNING OVERLOAD.

So lets see...I want to:

-Weave 8 yards of fabric from my hand spun yarn, and write the documentation for the project.

-Sew 3 complete outfits for my husband, consisting of 3 pants, 3 shirts, and 1 doublet.

-Sew an over and under tunic for myself, to round out a week's worth of costumes for myself. Or maybe two each.

-Sew 3 dog coats.

-Do food prep: sekanjabin, dried fruit, fruit leather, oat cakes, kid chow, beef jerky, frozen stew, a few other frozen meals.

-Spin up some white yarn for the dye pot demonstrations.

-Crank out a few more pairs of wool socks.

And in the meantime, I need to keep adding things to my Etsy shop. I've got a batch of hand spun yarn and a passport holder to take pictures of and list. And I just sold 2 more sets of juggling balls, so I should make up another batch of those. And for good measure, I was shopping with my daughter today and found the yarn that I use for the triloom shawls on sale. I couldn't resist, so now I have a few more shawls in the line up waiting for my time.

That will be a purple/blue one, a teal/cream, and an orange/red/yellow one. I suspect those will get pushed back until after Estrella, unless someone speaks up about wanting one of them sooner.

Oh, and on top of all that, I really want to play with a new toy! Last week I popped up to Las Vegas, to see what a friend had lurking in the rafters of his garage. It turned out to be most of a Viking warp weighted loom.

It is missing the side arms to hold the heddle bar, and the cross piece at the bottom needs to be screwed back into place. But I should be able to make the pieces I need, so I can experiment with this style of weaving too. Again though, this project will probably get pushed back until after Estrella. Because I'm going to be up to my eyeballs in other projects until then.

So many ideas, not nearly enough time! Stay tuned for progress pictures.