Saturday, December 2, 2017

Weaving up a storm

I have been weaving and weaving and weaving. I had this pile of Harris Tweed Textiles Shetland jumperweight that I had bought on years ago. They were getting out of the yarn business and it was cheap. Lovely yarn. I have no regrets about buying it. I used it to make the color gamp scarf in the summer and fell in love with the handle of the fabric that it created.

This was the color gamp scarf, in case you missed it then.

So I decided to use the rest of the yarn to make scarves for the men in my family. Unfortunately, I only see my son at Thanksgiving and I knew I was going to see my brother then. Christmas can be iffy due to the weather. I wove two more scarves with the yarn. One using clasped weft and the other was just stripes.

That yarn is just beautiful. It blooms and creates a gorgeous fabric. So all those three have gone to their new homes.

I love weaving on the floor loom. I warped up some towels following a pattern blindly. My only deviations from the instructions in the book had to do with color and fiber content. I used my own color combination and a cotton-linen yarn instead of a cotton yarn.

The process was a learning experience. First, I had never woven with such thin yarn. I had lots of warp threads to wind. That process went very smoothly. Then I had to warp the loom. Part way through winding the warp threads on the back beam, the right hand side jumped out of the spacers (raddle) than they were threaded through and ended up in a big bunch on the back beam. Oy veh! I thought about it overnight and decided to try and fix it because that bunching would mean the threads would go through the metal heddles at a sharp angle, causing a lot of abrasion and maybe breaking threads. So my husband and I slowly wound the warp off the loom, I redistributed the threads on the back beam as best as I could and we wound it back on. It wasn't ideal because there were a lot of crossed threads, but it was the best I could do. Fortunately, while there was a bit of abrasion (I have rust dust bunnies under the loom), the threads held together and I didn't see any wear on them.  I have to be a lot more careful next time.

They are off the loom but not finished. I need to hem them before finishing. But I have more weaving to do so I am holding off finishing them now.

The mystery in this project is that I ended up with 3 towels in stead of two. I ran out of the rust colored yarn after the first two towels (the project called for 8 oz of that color and I had exactly 8 oz). I wove the third towel with the mauve contrast yarn. This project was from Anne Field's Learn to Weave book.

I heard about a selvedge treatment described in Anne Dixon's Handweaver's Pattern Directory. It was on a Ravelry forum and I thought I'd try it. I really love the way this selvedge looks. It is really solid and like a commercially woven selvedge.

Anyway, while I was weaving these towels. I decided to weave silk scarves for family in India. We are going there in Jan. That is why I am not hemming and finishing the towels yet. They probably won't be going to India and I want to get those gifts completed first.

First I wove another Shetland scarf. I finished that today. I need to wet finish it tomorrow. I put stripes into the warp and used a solid for the weft.

Better photos after it is finished.

I spent some time today planning the silk scarves. These are the colors of silk that I bought from Colourmart over the summer.

The idea behind buying them was to use them to learn various weave structures. I've decided that my first structure is twill. The scarf I made was in a 2/2 twill and the towels also were in a twill called M&O. For these scarves, I've picked a twill called M&W because the threading on the loom is like an M and a W.

My plan is to warp for two scarves in stripes and weave with a third color. The two scarves will have the same warp threading but I will treadle the weaving in a different pattern and that will create a completely different design in the fabric. This way I save on warping time and still end up with unique though fraternal scarves.

I start winding the warp for the first 2 scarves tomorrow.

In between all this, I did get some knitting done. I knitted a wrap when I was traveling in New Mexico at the beginning of Sept.

The pattern is I want that Wrap from Ravelry. I found the perfect buttons at the LYS. The yarn is handspun from a door prize I won at a fiber retreat in 2012. It has a bit of sparkle in it so I wanted dressy buttons.

I also made progress on the two at a time socks. No photos of the progress but I am half way up the leg now.

More on weaving next time. After these scarves are done, I hope to get back to spinning. I haven't spun since the Tour de Fleece in July!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Navajo Weaving class at Rhinebeck and Navajo rugs

The other full day class I took at Rhinebeck was on Navajo weaving. I have always been fascinated by rugs but not to the extent of learning how to knot them. The process of rug hooking doesn't interest me but weaving rugs does. I don't think I will become a rug weaver but making the occasional rug is definitely in the cards.

I had heard good things about the Navajo weaving class that was offered last year at Rhinebeck. So when it was on the list of workshops for this year, I signed up. It sold out pretty quickly but the teacher was willing to add another day so more people were able to take it. She vends at the festival so can only teach on Thursday and Friday.

The teacher is a member of the Navajo Nation and her whole family weaves. She showed us an example of her niece's weaving when she was a child as well as an adult. As a 5-year old, she made a striped rug. These rugs are all made from vertical and horizontal lines - which is all the patterning we learned in class. One can also make diagonals but a one-day class isn't sufficient to teach that also.

This one has some diagonal lines on it.

We started off with warped looms but we had to add the side warps to the loom. These are single strands of wool that hide the un-dyed warp on the sides. They are used to eventually make the tassels at the ends of the rugs. Once we did that, we created our two sheds. One shed is created by looping thread around a dowel and every other warp strand. The second shed is picked up with the beater behind the dowel shed.

Here you can see the loom set up with the two sheds. The dowel shed is kept up at the top except when used in weaving. Here you can see the second shed being created behind it. You can also see the edge of the rug in brown at the bottom.

We got 8 oz of yarn in any combination of colors we wanted. I picked relatively traditional colors - black, tan, natural and a red.

Once we had all this set up we started weaving. You weave with lengths of yarn and add on as needed. First we did an edging stripe in the same color as the edge yarn. Then we learned how to add another color. It is very similar to other weaving except that one is manipulating everything with one's fingers vs. using a shuttle. Adding in another color is how you do horizontal stripes.

After we had woven a stripe or two, we learned how to do vertical stripes. This is like tapestry weaving where you interlace the two colors every other weft pick (or row).

Since she demonstrated everything so quickly, I took videos of each step so I could refer back to them when I finish my rug.

This is the current state of my rug. You can see the black edging warp. I am making a cross like figure and adding in more colors as I widen the arms. I am not going to try and make it symmetrical as that requires not only measurement but accurate beating to make sure the same number of weft threads end up in the top as at the bottom.

The weft is beaten in with a tapestry beater. She lent us these tools for the class. I will use the metal hair pick I used when making my jeans rug along with a pickup stick to beat into a straight line periodically. One weaves this in sections and one can build up one side and then the other to compensate. However, at this time, I decided to stick to doing both at the same time due to my lack of experience in making them match!

As the rug get higher and higher and there is less room, one starts using narrower pickup sticks and then eventually a knitting needle or dowel to make the sheds. The dowel shed will have to come out also. One keeps packing the weft down as much as possible and eventually when there is no space left, one is done.

The finishing is simple, undo the twine that holds the rug to the loom on both top and bottom. Then take the ends of the edging warp and knot them together.

They can then be braided or twisted like a fringe.

I am designing on the go like the Navajo women do. Right now I have only vague ideas of how the rug will look.

I spoke to a young Navajo man at the Painted Desert Inn in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. His grandmother was weaving but she had gone out for a break and didn't return while we were there. He said that in his family, men don't weave. So he didn't show us how to do it. But he demonstrated how the wool is carded and spun using regular wool cards and Navajo spindles. His spinning wasn't that good either because he said he was just learning. It is a tightly spun woolen singles yarn which is dyed using natural dyes like cochineal, various woods (he gave us Navajo names so I don't know what they were), and plants. His grandmother had a rug on a larger frame than the one I am showing above but it was very similar.

He said that traditionally the warp was on two branches or dowels top and bottom. No sides. The top was attached to a tree branch where the women were tending their sheep. The bottom was pegged into the ground to tension the warp. When the sheep needed to move on, the loom was detached, rolled up and carried to the next spot. The entire process of carding and spinning and weaving was designed for a nomadic life, following the sheep.

The New Mexico State Capitol is an art gallery. It is free to come in and look at the hundreds of painting, mixed media art, weaving and sculpture that are featured in the corridors. It is weird to walk in among people who work there but that is the way it is designed to be viewed. I took photos of a number of the art pieces and have included the traditional Native American weavings here. Some are Navajo and others are by other tribes.

More on the state capitol when I talk about that trip. I also have photos from the Painted Desert Inn discussion but those are in the camera and I need to sort through them.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dyeing cotton naturally workshop at Rhinebeck

I took a cotton dyeing class with Jane Woodhouse on the Thursday before Rhinebeck. I had done no natural dyeing except for indigo so I was very excited to get into this class. Jane's classes fill up fast.

When we arrived, we were divided into teams. Each team had two people and I lucked out in that I had a very efficient and complementary partner. The class involves making sample skeins from many different natural dyes - from the lovely purples of logwood to the browns of pomegranate. Each team was given a dye. Most of the dyes were powders but the osage orange was a liquid. We got madder root which interested me but my partner didn't like the color. She loves bright colors and was hoping for logwood or cochineal. Oh well.

We had to make 6 sample skeins with the dye. The first set of three was to dye skeins that had been mordanted with alum acetate. This is a bit different from the alum sulphate that is readily available for pickling and other uses. The skeins had been scoured and mordanted before class. The second set of three skeins was to dye skeins that also had been mordanted with a tannin. There are many tannins and they all leave the fiber a brown color. Tannins are a dye and a mordant. Pomegranate, for example, is both a dye and a mordant.

We briefly soaked the skeins in water because they were getting a little dry. They need to be damp to dye properly. We had to weigh out the dye stuff, mix it in a little very hot water, and then add a specific amount of warm water and the fiber to the dye solution. We mixed everything up in mason jars and then set our first set of dye pots simmering in a water bath. Another very important task was to label each jar with a number that identified it on a master list of the samples. Otherwise the end of the day would have been chaotic!

After the dye pots had been heated to 180F and held there for 30 mins. we carefully lifted them out and set them on the grass to cool. We were in a tent and it was warm so we expanded out into the area surrounding the tent. You can see the thermometer in the dye jar above. The jars were simmered in a water bath in canning kettles. These photos show the sets of three.

Once our first set of three was in the water bath, we did the same thing for the second set of three samples. The reason for the sets of three was that each dye stuff was going to yield a sample of its natural color, then one modified with iron (ferrous sulphate) and one that would be over-dyed with indigo.


Here we are adding the ferrous sulphate and stirring. Iron dulls the color but sometimes that is what you want. Once the jars had cooled somewhat, we removed the skeins, rinsed them and hung them up to dry. Fortunately, there is a nice fence next to the tent which Jane uses every year as a drying rack. I've admired the skeins in past years.

Our tannin mordanted skeins went in next into the water bath. Then we did a couple of things in parallel. Jane had built an indigo dye pot but it needed to be refreshed and checked so she went off to do that. The rest of us started on the third set of samples. 

The third set had to do with dyeing with stock solutions. Unlike synthetic dyes, natural dyestuffs do not have a fixed amount to yield a 1% stock solution. The dye manufacturer will provide a guide on each jar based on its strength. Jane had given us some combinations to make to create other colors that weren't possible with one single dye. We created the stock solutions, which didn't use all the dyes that we had used earlier. They used a subset. Then we carefully measured out the correct amounts of the stock solution for each color using syringes. These were added to mason jars (again labeled with the number of the formula) and then we put one each of the two mordanted skeins. One was the alum only and the other was the tannin+alum.

Once these were simmering in the water bath, we started dyeing our earlier samples in the indigo dye bath. It was interesting to see that the tannin samples barely picked up the indigo. Tannins are acid and indigo likes an alkaline environment to dye fiber.

One result of doing this in a single day class was that we didn't get the full depth of color. Almost all dyes take a while to absorb as the dye bath cools down and we should have really left the skeins in overnight to get the maximum color. Similarly, indigo does best with multiple dips with drying and oxidizing time between dips. We did a couple of dips for some of the samples but most got just one dip in the indigo. 

Once our skeins were mostly dry, we cut them into pieces and labeled them with the number. This is where my partner and I collaborated brilliantly. We got ours done and then helped other teams who were slower. By this time, the class was tired and the whole process of creating the individual samples and labeling them and finally picking up a set of them created some frustration and flouncing.

These were the tables with the samples laid out. We each had to pick up one piece from each skein. I decided to wait till everyone was done as there was a huge crush around the table. As a result, it was almost dark by the time we were done and I am missing 1 or 2 samples. 

When I got home, I just laid out the samples to finish drying as some of them were still damp. A couple of weeks later I got some cardstock and punched holes in it, and wrote down all the numbers of the dyes and combinations we created. I then attached each skein to its number on the card.

I have 3 sheets of card that look like this. But at least everything is organized and I can look up any sample and its constituent formula easily.

All in all a really educational day. I realized that natural dyes are not that different from synthetic dyes except that there is no guarantee on the exact color. The mineral content of your water makes a difference as well as the strength of the dye stuff. We used manufactured dye powders/liquids in this class and at least there, the manufacturer has tested the strength and given us an indicator as to that. When one dyes with natural substances from one's garden or kitchen, there is even more variability in the color. 

I collected marigold and black eyed susan blooms from the garden this summer and they are in the freezer along with some pomegranate skins. I also have some dye plants called pernilla that we weeded out of the dye garden at the fairgrounds. It grows everywhere and we pulled it out from where it didn't belong. I plan to simmer them and use them to dye wool this winter. It should be an interesting experiment. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rhinebeck 2017

Updated to add two more photos of the dyeing class.

It has been really busy around here and that is why there hasn't been any blogging. We were out in Europe for 2 weeks and I came back right before Rhinebeck. This year Rhinebeck expanded out into 4.5 days because I helped with workshop setup also. Usually I just help pack up on Sunday.

It ended up being quite tiring because I was there to help with class check-in at 7:30 (Thurs/Fri) and 8:30 (Sat/Sun). I thought I'd get home early on Thurs after class but class ran late. On Friday, I volunteered at the fleece judging as a scribe so it was late. I usually try to leave either early or late on Sat and Sun to avoid the traffic. So most days were long. It is a 45 min drive for me one-way. But it is so much fun that I don't care.

I took 3 classes this year. On Thursday I took 'Dyeing Cotton Naturally' with Jane Woodhouse. Jane is a great teacher. It was a long day as we made many, many samples. First we dyed natural colored cotton which had been mordanted with alum acetate. Then we dyed cotton that had been mordanted with alum and a tannin. Lastly we made stock solutions and did color blends.

Each of the first two sets twas done 3 ways: the dye as is, with an iron modifier and with an indigo over-dye.

The challenging part was labeling and dividing up the skeins so we each had a sample of each yarn. I finally got around to organizing my samples! I now need a big envelope to store them.

On Friday, I took a Navajo Rug Weaving class. We got small pre-warped looms and 8 oz of yarn to weave with. It took a while for her to explain the basics. She taught us how to weave vertical and horizontal stripes. Diagonals were not included in the curriculum for this one day class. It was fun and I need to get back to it. The teacher was Marilou Schultz who is a member of the Navajo Nation.

The last class I took was on Sunday. It was a 1 hour 'Made in the Moment' with Leslie Wind. That was a lot of fun! I made a pin and 2 cable needles. Plus, because we were the last class of the weekend, we each got some samples from her.

The top pin is the one I made. The other two are her samples.

The cable needles I made. The left one is called 'Hurrah!' and the right one is 'Angel'. 

Someone gave me 2 bags of unlabeled undyed fiber and another person gave me a bag of Into the Whirled fiber. The only fiber I bought was odds and ends that Briar Rose had dyed. She is getting out of the fiber business and just dyed these to use up the ends. I bought a featherweight Bosworth spindle. I haven't photographed any of my acquisitions yet so that will be in the next post.

Right after Rhinebeck, I had to focus on an educational forum I was helping organize and canvassing for the election. So the fiber content has been minimal BUT, I was able to warp and weave a scarf on my Baby Wolf loom. That was exciting. I am already planning the next project on it as well as what I'm going to do on my rigid heddle loom.

Scarf on the loom above and finally finished below. It is a variegated weft with an almost solid gray warp. Both yarns are cheap 'sock' yarns I bought in China. They are quite soft but not very durable for socks.

I also started a pair of Two-At-A-Time (TAAT) socks while I was traveling. I have finished them up to the heels. They are for a guild demo so I am going to stop there till the guild meeting. This way I can show back and forth knitting on the two socks as well as how to knit on them in-the-round.

I finished the wrap I worked on when I was on the first trip and also a little infinity scarf/cowl from a skein of the most luscious yarn I have ever touched. It is called Road to China. I don't seem to have a photo of the wrap. I'll take it and post next time.

Rhinebeck was very warm this year. But it was cold in the am so I wore a sweater or shawl every day and then ended up taking them off around 10 am. They went back on right before I left at 6 or 7 pm.  I did get a chance to finally wear my Grapevine sweater.

In order to catch up and write about both the travel and the fiber activity, I am hoping to do 2 posts a week for the rest of the year.