Thursday, May 26, 2011

Inkle bands, silk painting, and hospital visits

It has been a bit of a crazy time here the past week. My husband ended up back in the hospital for a spell, to zap some various infections. So my focus has been a little scattered. However, I did manage to finish up the band I had on the inkle loom. If you recall, this was woven of leftover hand dyed sock yarn. I lined up the color repeats on the loom, so the band shifted from one color to the next with a nice feathering. The result is quite a bit different from the usual rigid patterns that you get with inkle weaving. I've got another band on the loom right now, but I wasn't really paying attention with that one and the width of the band varies. (I did much of it with me in the hospital.) I really need to practice even tension more, so I can get even selvedges without thinking about it. Anyway, here's how the first one turned out.

I've also managed to get 2 dozen silk scarves dyed over the past two weeks.

The last one is currently drying on the frame. I need to let them sit and cure at least 24 hours, so hopefully I can get to steam setting them on Friday. Then I'll let them sit and cure again over the weekend. I'll probably get to washing and ironing them on Monday. That means I can take pictures and list them for the Etsy shop ( over the course of next week.

Assuming nobody else ends up in the hospital.

Ahem. And nobody will end up in the hospital. Right? Right. Glad we cleared that up.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sock yarn on the inkle loom, and silk painting ties

I got in my next order of silk scarf blanks from Dharma Trading company the other day. Today I got around to pre-washing them. I now have two dozen bits of possibility hanging in my studio window, just waiting for me to pull out the colors. It is going to be a fun several weeks getting those painted up! I ordered some earth toned dyes this time, to expand the look of the scarves. We'll see how those work up.

I also picked up a couple of silk tie blanks. They can't be used with the Tinfix dyes I use for the scarves, since the ties are dry clean only and can't be steamed. But I had some older Dye-na-flow dyes that are heat set, so I decided to give those a try. It worked fairly well, but the Dye-na-flow didn't react very well to the watercolor technique of using coarse salt on the drying silk. I get some speckling, but not the cool organic shapes that I get on the scarves.

The Dye-na-flow needs to be ironed for about 3 minutes to heat set the dyes. That is 3 minutes per section. It took me about a half hour to completely iron the tie front and back.

However, the results look kind of cool. I think this needs some more experimentation. Dharma has another brand of heat set silk paints called Setasilk. Those paints reportedly respond well to the salt technique. I think next time I make an order I'll get a batch of those, and another handful of ties to play with.

What do you think? My guys all said they would wear something like this. They would need to be priced between $35 and $40 to cover everything involved. Also, what size ties do you or your menfolk wear? 2"? 3"? 4"?

On another note, I got the sock yarn band off of my inkle loom. This is woven of Regia Galaxy sock yarn. I still need some work on the evenness of my selvedge edges, but that will come with more practice. I tossed it in the wash and then the dryer, and ironed it smooth afterward. I lost about a foot of length in the washing process. Overall, I'm happy with the way this turned out. I like the variegated effect.

However, I was curious...what would happen if I lined up the repeats for the color variegation? I found that with commercial sock yarns the repeats were really too long for my little inkle loom. I'll have to try that trick on my bigger floor loom later on. However, I did have some sock yarn that I hand dyed awhile ago. In fact, it was left over from this project: . The repeats were almost short enough to line up on the loom. I knotted the extra, and I was set to go.
Doesn't that look lovely?
I started weaving and, sure enough, the gradual variegation is coming through nicely in the weaving process. This particular sock yarn is a little stretchier than the Regia, but I'm able to compensate for that by holding on to the warp by the heddles while I tamp things down into place with the shuttle. I'm looking forward to seeing how this one turns out. I think it will be lovely.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poetry: Creative Process

This is really my favorite part of the whole thing...

Creative Process

An idea sparks
and whirls round and around in my head.
Cool! I wonder if...
Examine it. Poke at it.
Drag out the books and do the research.
Nope, that won't work.
But, maybe if I...
Pull it and stretch it
and read some more
until rough outlines take mind form.
Hmmm...that might do.
Dig for pencil and paper. Sketch.
Fiddle with color,
proportion, swapping out elements
until the image feels solid.
Oh! I see it! Yes.
Now, make calculations
and hammer out details.
Ok. First this, and this, and then I...

Time for the alchemy
of thought stream into matter.
The best of the work
is done, and only the action

Melissa McCollum

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Socks on my Creelman Brothers machine, and sock yarn on the inkle loom

I recently put in an order to Dharma Trading Company for some more silk scarf blanks, and some earth tone dyes. This time I also ordered two blank silk ties, to try painting them as well. I had such fun with the last set of scarves that I really want to keep going with them.

While I'm waiting for the order to come in though, I dusted off my Creelman Brothers circular sock knitting machine. I had a friend order a set of socks for her husband's birthday present. I snapped a picture of them in progress, about the time that I was ready to turn the heel. (That is why half of the needles are lifted up out of play.)

I'm happy with the way that they turned out. These are men's size 10 socks, out of Serenity sock weight yarn. It is 50% superwash merino wool, 25% bamboo, and 25% nylon, which makes for a snuggly soft but still strong sock. And they are machine washable, too.

I was pleased enough with how those turned out that I figured I'd make another pair out of the same yarn this evening. I wound up a different colorway, and got started.

The first sock turned out beautifully. The second one was perfect...up until I wasn't paying attention on the Last Two Rows. I screwed up, fixed the mistake, and then screwed up even bigger. So I ripped the whole sock back out into ball form, and set it aside until my head clears. I'll make that second sock tomorrow. Sometimes you just have to step AWAY from the machine.

I did figure out what to do with the partial skeins of yarn that are left over after I make the socks, though. I've been balling the tail ends back up and saving them. I've got a small basket full of small balls of sock yarns now. In fact, the basket is overflowing and ending up on the floor. So I got an idea, and put a batch of sock yarn on my inkle loom to see how it would work up. I usually use cotton crochet thread for my inkle bands, so this was a new experiment for me.

The yarn is a little grabby, so I need to be careful to get the sheds open well. But it is easy to keep tension, and the variegated sock yarn works up into a lovely band.

I think these will make lovely belts, especially for my historical recreation hobby. Maybe camera or guitar straps? Hmm...and I bet I could make stripes of different sock yarns to add to the patterning.

What would you use bands like this for?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Link to Coppergate book, and a gratuitous picture

This blog post is mostly to jot down a link so I can find it again in the future. A friend pointed out to me that the York Archaeological Trust had some free downloads available, including "Textile Production at 16-22 Coppergate" by Penelope Walton Rogers (1997). It is a wonderful scholarly resource for Medieval textile information. You can find the link here:

I bookmarked the page, and now I'm going to have to go buy a ream of paper because I want this one in tangible form, for when the download disappears again.

But just so this post isn't entirely full of text, here's a picture I took on my hike in the White Tanks this evening:

That is a barrel cactus in the foreground, a teddy bear cholla in the midground, and a saguaro in the background. Cactus are weird! Beautifully sculptural...but weird.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Silk Scarves

If you've been following along, you know that I've been making silk painted scarves recently. I finished up washing and ironing the dozen scarves early this week...and 4 of them are already sold. Man, that was fast! I haven't even got them listed in the shop yet. It is very very flattering to get such a response to my work. Everyone who sees them kind of oohs and ahhs, and then starts to pick their favorite. And then, once they pick their favorite, they are tempted to buy it from me. I'm charging $30 per scarf, and evidently that is well within impulse buy range.

These are the eight scarves that are left. The 3 other blue ones I did got snapped up first. Yes, people like blue! I'd make another order to Dharma Trading Company for more scarf blanks, but they are out of stock for a few weeks. Dang it. These are such fun to do, because I love playing with the color combinations, and seeing what organic shapes I get. And with this response, I could afford to make another order and play some more. Luckily, Dharma has a way to be notified when an out of stock item gets in, and I've put myself on that list.

My husband is taking these back in to work with him tomorrow, because one of the ladies who bought one is thinking of another. And then, I've got an SCA event (Medieval historical recreation--we're holding a coronation and then some tournaments) this weekend. I'll probably bring the scarves with me, just because. And then finally on Monday I should be able to list what is left in the Etsy shop.

I think I just created a new line of products for myself. Imagine me doing the happy artist dance over here!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Poetry: We Want a Simple Action Flick

In November, I did a poem a day challenge, which I really enjoyed. But I haven't written much since then. So now that the school year is drawing to a close I'm going to try adding a weekly poem into my rotation here. I'll label them as poetry in the title, so you can easily skip them as you choose. (Or, I suppose, look for just the poetry if that floats your boat too.) (Hey, it could happen!)


We Want a Simple Action Flick

...And then in the thrilling climactic scene
the Good Guys, in a heroic
blaze of muscles and deadly firepower
finally take the Bad Guy down
with a decisive one-two tap to the head.
Cut to scenes of jubilant crowds,
and then a brief denouement
of a shrouded body
tipped into a vast ocean.
Roll credits.
Movie over.


Life is not
made of Hollywood magic,
no matter how much we wish it were.
Good and Evil
aren't so easily scripted.
Meandering plot lines
get hopelessly entangled,
and instead of credits
all I see
are the words be continued...

Melissa McCollum

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What has been going in the studio this week

Just a bit of a round up of what I've been up to in the studio for the past week.

These juggling balls are my best sellers in the Etsy shop, and I was out of purple ones. So I made 4 more sets, and got them listed. These are made of wool roving that I wet felt around a golf ball core. The golf ball gives the balls a great heft for throwing and catching, and the wool felt coating is textured enough that the balls don't slip out of the hand as easily. Besides, they are fun to make.

I've had a couple of request recently for custom wool socks, so I fired up my antique sock knitting machine again. With it, I can make a pair of socks in just a few long as I don't make any mistakes. This pair took a little longer than that, because I was out of practice. I need to spend more time on the machine!

And Friday I steamed the silk painted scarves that I was working on all last week. The steaming process sets the dye. Now the scarves are hanging for a few days, and then I'll wash and iron them. These will be up in the shop hopefully this coming week. I've got a few more days of life drawing modeling for the semester, so studio time will have to work around that.

Next up is another pair of commissioned socks. After that? Hmmmm...still deciding. I'd eventually like to end up with a full page (24 items) in each category in my Etsy shop. I've only got that in the 'felt' category. I need 4 items in 'beadwork and jewelry', 9 more in 'hand woven', 14 in 'hand spun' yarn, 19 'gourds', 17 more pairs of 'socks', and 12 more 'silk painted scarves'. That is a whole lot of work ahead of me! The question is which category gets priority. Any ideas?