Wednesday, March 14, 2018

More spinning, weavi, some knitting

I have been in a spinning mood. I am winding a warp for the floor loom but mostly I've been spinning.

I'll start with the knitting as it is easier. I finished the red fingerless mitts with some leftover yarn. They only needed the thumbs. The thumbs are fat because the yarn is thicker but when I wear them, they are OK.

I also started these flip-top fingerless mittens in India but they've been languishing. I really don't like knitting mittens. Anyway they are done. They match the practice scarf I did on the floor loom. The yarn for the mittens is the weft although I used a little of the warp when I ran out of yarn. You can see that in the top of the left mitten.

My spindle spun thick yarn is plied. I had to hand wind it onto the bobbin for the last few yards as it wouldn't wind on because the bobbin was so full. But I didn't want to make a skein for a few yards. So I persevered and managed to finish it. This is lac and cochineal dyed roving from Handspun by Stefania. I got it some years ago at Rhinebeck.

 I also finished the little Navajo rug. It looks crooked because I let the sides draw in too much so the fell line (where the weaving ends) got tilted. I filled it in with black but as a result, the rug looks crooked. I am pretty pleased with it.

I have also finished spinning an Onyx-to-Crimson gradient from Fiber Optic. But all you see is black on the bobbin so I will post pictures after it is plied.

I also plied and semi-finished a small cotton sample skein on the charkha. One is supposed to boil cotton in an alkaline bath to finish it. I didn't want to do that for a small skein so I will spin some more and finish it all. I just soaked this in a warm water bath. It is a bit thick and thin but seems to be yarn.

I spent some time pondering how to ply this. There is a built-in lazy kate on the Bosworth charkha but the angle from that to the spindle is a bit weird. Maybe I will use that another time when I have more confidence. I ended up winding a 2-ply plying 'ball' on a soft foam core left over from some yarn. I could have put this on my lazy kate but I decided to just let it roll around on the floor. It worked well although there is too much plying twist in the yarn.

That is what I've been up to. Next up is warping the floor loom and plying the gradient. Plus I am going to swatch for a sweater, and am spinning more cotton and spindling the purple cashmere/silk.  I will finish up the travel next week.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Spindle love

I was talking to someone about pulling out my spindles and I finally did on Friday. I took a Trindle to the spinning guild meeting and fell in love with spindling all over again.

On Saturday, I finished up the doubleweave sampler from last November's class. I'll post a picture of it when I pull it out again to sew the ends and finish it. I wove 1" tubes across the width alternating the colors. I am going to make it into a circular needle case.

But back to spindles. That session on Friday night made me continue to spin a bit every day. I also took out my tiny spindles because I won a tiny Bee Jenkins at their New Year's Bee drawings. It weighs 2 g and I have to show you a photo in context. You can see it here at their site.  I spun a little on it using the sample fiber that came with it to cushion it. It is a Pygora/merino blend and is absolutely gorgeous. Of course the little spindle backspins a lot so it is slow going to spin on it.

But I got the Kuchulu and my 3D printed Snyder Spindles Destiny Turkish and got back to spinning the cashmere/silk from Corgi Hill Farms that was my Tour de Fleece spinning from 2015. I was spinning it on a Nano Trindle and the cop is all messed up. That made me put it in time out. And I decided to spin it on the Turkish spindles instead.

First I struggled with getting a self-leader on the Destiny,. It has 4 arms and they were all flailing about as I tried to spin the leader. I generally do some variation on this method by Wanda Jenkins.

So I started spinning a leader on my Finch Turkish with some discarded yarn I found in the spindle box. I must have been teaching someone to spin because it was all thick and thin with varying amounts of twist. I spun it and plied it but I didn't like putting it on the Destiny. So I went back to my usual method and with a little patience managed to get it started. But I don't like spinning cashmere/silk on it. The wooden shaft has enough grab that it snags the yarn. But it is a lovely spindle and I should spin something on it.

There they are. The Kuchulu on the right and the Destiny on the left. Yes, that is a whole lotta purple.

And here is the thick yarn on my Trindle with the heaviest arms I own. This shaft is only set up for 3 arms but I could switch to another one which has 6 holes in the neoprene ball and get a heavier spin. But this is doing fine, in fact it is easier than the heavier spindles I was using. I am also winding the cops off as soon as I am done so they don't get all messed up. There is a big plying ball that is growing day by day as I wind off from the Forester and the 3D printed top whorl Snyder Spindle. I have a paper towel roll with more singles that I wound off my Bosworth before donating it to a new spinner. So each cop I spin on this one has a matching second ply coming off already spun yarn. That is all that is left of 8 oz so it should be ready for plying soon.

I am also making progress on the Onyx to Crimson gradient but it is very boring taking photos of it. It is at the point where the red is almost black, just before the all black. It is hard to even see on the bobbin. I had to resort to putting a spinning cloth on my lap so I could see what I was spinning.

The Navajo rug is almost done. Someone was getting rid of some unwanted straight needles at the guild meeting and I snagged 2 as shed sticks. Mine went from really fat to pretty skinny and these two fit nicely in between. But it is almost time to remove the two heddles and work on picking up every other strand. There is only 1" left on top and it is already difficult to get sheds. I might try one or two picks more with the heddles before I remove them. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


After Croatia, we sailed to the port of Kotor in Montenegro. Montenegro is a mountainous country with two main sources of revenue, both based on tourism. The first is skiing in the northern parts and the second is cruising in the southern part, along with hiking and other outdoor activities. The natives of Montenegro are among the world's tallest people, on average, apparently.

One interesting tidbit had to do with their memories of Yugoslavia. In Croatia, people seem generally happy with the current capitalist economy. In Yugoslavia, apparently the government handed out apartments to people in the right jobs. So many of the educated had their own apartments. Real estate is expensive in these places because the area is hilly and there is limited land for building. Those who had apartments are reasonably wealthy as a result. Others, who did not, are finding themselves locked out of the real estate market. Our guide in Croatia told us this matter-of-factly and said, in general, that Croatians are happier now. The Yugoslav government did not invest a lot in Croatia, I believe.

On the other hand, in Montenegro, our guide told us the same thing with respect to the real estate. But she was wistful for the old days and said that most Montenegro citizens preferred the Yugoslavian state. Now, of course, both of these are single data points but I thought the difference in perspective was interesting.

Anyway, Kotor was interesting to me because it was the first time we had to be ferried via lifeboat to the shore. The port is small, there were multiple cruise ships, and therefore we had no berth to dock. I love watching the minutiae of the ship operations. I always watched the undocking and docking if I could. This time we had a lifeboat just under our balcony and so I had a nice view of how they were lowered and then raised, before we left. The one under my balcony was the first one out and the last one in so I had ample time to hang out over the railing and watch.

Kotor is a tiny place, relatively speaking. This was our first view of the town. It is an old walled town. We had chosen to take a trip up into the mountains via a scenic Serpentine drive with 25 switchbacks and then a visit to the house of the only king of Montenegro. We planned to explore the town on our own when we got back.

As we climbed higher and higher into the mountains, the views got better and better. This is the bay of Kotor from various heights. These were all taken from a bus so there are some reflections.

After the drive, we had lunch at a little inn in a village. We were now higher up in the mountains and it was definitely a little on the cool side.

Roses at the inn.

We passed the house where he was born.

The royal palace is really a large house with many adjacent buildings - churches, tombs, etc. The interesting thing about it is that it is completely untouched since the kingdom ended peacefully after World War I. The king had many daughters and they were all married in to various royal families in Europe so he was well connected. The furnishings are really beautiful and the house is well preserved but photographs were not allowed.

I did take a photo of this dog who was having a lovely lazy day in the sun.

After the palace, we drove back to Kotor via a more modern highway. We still got some lovely views.

Here's an example of a switchback.

And a 'Where's Waldo' type of photo. Can you spot the fortress?

Once we got back, we didn't go to the ship. We headed into town. This is the entrance to the walled town. There is a lovely carving on the wall.

More carving on the gate.

The clock tower. Kotor is known for its cats and I saw a lot of them in town. But none of them would pose for their portraits.

It is a pretty little quaint town.  This building below is now a posh hotel, apparently. But it used to be a residence of the royal family. They were a Grand Duchy before they were a Kingdom.

Lovely architecture.

There are a number of churches in town.

With icons and beautiful chandeliers.

After wandering through the town, we headed back to the ship.

From the lifeboat, closer in above and then as we got further away.

Finally, I ran out during dinner to catch this beauty of a sunset.

The rest of our trip was in Greece. We went to Corfu, then to Olympia before disembarking in Piraeus and spending 4 days in Athens on our own. I may have to split some of those days into multiple posts as there is so much to see in Greece.

Monday, February 12, 2018

New fiber skills

I went to India for 3 weeks to mostly visit family although we did a couple of days of sightseeing also. More on the sightseeing later.

First of all, the scarves and towels I made were received very favorably. I was surprised to some extent because knitted gifts were received well by some but not with this level of enthusiasm. I think it is due to the fact that there is limited use for knitted items in hot Chennai.

I generally just visit when I go to India. I don't have a long shopping list any more. I used to, because everything was not available here. But now I can get most things here. I wanted to buy some stretchy sari blouses, a never-ending quest. I want colors I can wear with my classic Kanchipuram silk saris so I want the traditional colors. Well, they never have them. They have more 'exotic' colors. That is great when I want to match a new sari but not so great when I want ones that will go with a variety of the saris I already own. So each time I buy one or two that I think will match. This time I got a dark blue. I bought an orange to match a new sari and a few for my sister.

I also used to buy a Christmas gift for my hair stylist. She is more of a friend than a hair stylist as I have been going there for more than 30 years. But these days, I make her a gift so there is no need to buy. I buy a gift for her when I travel outside India but I've already bought her a lot of the things that I think are nice gifts from India.

This time I had cotton punis on my shopping list as a major item. I spent a whole morning googling and calling stores where I thought they would have them. No one in Chennai had them or even seemed to know what they were. Then a Ravelry friend from Kolkata told me she got them from a local seller who travels to Wardha in the state of Maharashtra to buy them. The Gandhi Sevagram Ashram there makes and sells them. But there is no online shop. However, she generously sent me some by courier. What a lovely gift!
They come in 100 g bundles wrapped in newspaper.

After my return, I started spinning cotton on my new-to-me Bosworth charkha. I bought this last summer from another Raveler.  She included some easy-to-spin colored cotton sliver so I started with that. That is my first new skill. It is interesting. I have thread that varies from very fine to not-so-fine and I need to decide what degree I want and then produce it consistently. I've spun 1 spindle full.

I also started working on the Navajo rug I started in the class at Rhinebeck. Navajo weaving is very different from tapestry weaving, which it resembles. The technique interlaces the weft threads every other row so the rug is nice and tightly woven. This took me a bit of time to master. Fortunately, I had video taped the instructor when she demonstrated key techniques. Going back and watching that, trying it out, watching again, watching other Navajo weavers weave, etc. finally made it click. I am doing pretty well given I am designing on the fly as the Navajos do. It means I have to backtrack some times and of course, I have to unweave when I make a mistake - for example, I didn't cover a warp thread for 2-3 rows and had to go back.

I have finished the design of the blocks and done a stripe to delineate it from the next design. I am not making this symmetric as I don't want to have to manage the height of each piece. The warp has to be completely woven and it is tightly packed in. I am just going to do another pattern on the other side and end with stripes.

There are two sheds. The top heddle is the dowel on the top that is threaded through every other warp thread. Then there is the pull heddle that is hanging below it. On every pick, you thread something through one of the two sheds and then that holds the shed open to do the weave. I was using a pick up stick but now that is too wide so I am using a fat knitting needle. I will go down to a smaller one in a bit and then eventually one has to remove both dowels and weave using a needle. I am beating with a metal hair pick, some dog combs, and occasionally I put the pickups stick in and press down with it to make sure I have a horizontal edge.

On the non-new skill area, I knitted a hat and undid and reknit it when I was in India. I wanted to make a pair of fingerless mitts to match but I ran out of yarn. I undid the hat and ripped out an inch worth of yarn and reknit the crown. But that still wasn't enough for the thumbs. I found some red yarn, slightly thicker, and I will finish the mitts with that.

Before I cut an inch off the length.

After the re-knitting.

I also started another pair of fingerless mitts. They are still in progress and I don't have a photo.

I plied the red yarn I spun before I left. This was the last of my Tour de Fleece projects from last year. I am very happy with the yarn. That is the bobbin of plied yarn on top. I am now spinning the gradient on the bottom. I will weave a shawl with the two together after spinning. I have 560 yds of the solid red - it was 8 oz of fiber. I have 8 oz of gradient. Right now I am thinking of the solid red for the warp and the gradient for the weft. I'll spin each gradient braid separately and ply them together.

As you remember, the solid red was actually spun by holding a cool red and a warm red together. I am quite pleased at the result. It has a lot of liveliness in color and the yarn is very bouncy. One braid was Polwarth/silk and the other was superwash merino/alpaca/nylon/Tussah. I was afraid about how it would react when I finished it. I was gentle and I will be gentle when I finish the weaving. I don't want differential shrinkage where the non-superwash wool shrinks and the rest doesn't. The gradients are merino/silk so will behave like the Polwarth/silk. Note to Self: read the fiber content before you put fibers together.

I also received some lovely cotton yarn for weaving from another Raveler friend in Chennai.

There are about 250 g of each color so 1 kg in total (2.2 lbs)

She and I went to Shuttles and Needles in Chennai, which is a fabulous store. They are dealers for Ashford and Saori and have looms set up to weave and spinning wheels and spindles as well as knitting supplies. I spun a little on one of the Ashford spindles when I was there and bought one with some fiber for my sister-in-law who was fascinated by both my weaving and my search for punis. Unfortunately, I only went there two days before I left so she had 1 day worth of teaching. Now we are trying it using WhatsApp.

I also boiled the marigold flowers I had been freezing over the summer. I simmered the flowers for 1 hour on day. Let it cool and then simmered again for another hour the next day. Strained out the flowers on the third day. I put a white skein into it and simmered for 30 mins and let the yarn cool in the dye pot overnight. There was still dye left so I added two more skeins to over dye them. I didn't mordant as the recommendation in Jenny Dean's Wild Color was to use alum sulfate on protein fibers and I only had alum acetate. I have the original edition.

I think the color would have been more intense if I had used a mordant. But I am happy with the results. There was more dye in the pot but I discarded it as I didn't have any other fiber that was ready to dye.
This was the pure white skein. The next two were overdyed and are slightly muted from the originals, which I thought were too bright.





And that is it. I am really enjoying all this. I have my next weave planned but will not start till the Navajo rug is done. It is going to use up a bunch of leftover yarns.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dubrovnik and Mostar

A quick note before the actual post: I actually started this in January before I left for India. My expectation was that I'd be able to write the rest of the posts on my trip there. However, I found that I really couldn't write very well on my iPad. The Blogger site wouldn't scroll on the iPad. So my apologies for the long silence. I expect to finish this series this week and go on to what I saw in India.

Our next stop was Dubrovnik. I really wanted to see Dubrovnik but one of the other tours available was to Bosnia-Herzegovina to see the Old Bridge at Mostar. The bridge is called the Stari Most and it was destroyed during the Balkan wars. However, it has been rebuilt and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I also wanted to see some of the countryside in the region. So we left the ship early on a 3 hour one-way trip to Mostar. Plus there were 3 cruise ships in port and I expected Dubrovnik to be completely packed with people during the day.

You can see one of the other ships in this photo.

We were berthed outside the main port under this beautiful bridge.

Isn't that gorgeous?

We boarded a little van because there were only a few of us going to Mostar.

We drove along Croatia's beautiful coast. It is studded with islands and there are both government and private ferries going back and forth. Many of them are uninhabited so people go there for the day. In the photo above you can see oyster beds (I think) in the water.

We stopped for a coffee and restroom break along the way. The view from the restaurant was lovely.

We got off the van on a street that looked pretty normal.

But right around the corner is a building that has not been rebuilt. Our guide said that some people who left during the war haven't come back. Or, if they have, they can't afford to rebuild so there are many buildings like this.

But a lot of other areas have been rebuilt and we walked through construction as well as rebuilt areas.

We walked first to a Turkish home that has been maintained in its original condition as a museum. This area was ruled by the Ottoman Turks for a long time and the root cause of the war was the religious differences between the Roman Catholics (Croats), the Serbian Orthodox Christians (Serbs) and the Muslims (Bosnians).

The patio of the Turkish house had a lovely fountain.

The kitchen is off to the left of this photo with the main house to the right. The kitchen was separate to keep heat away from the house as well cooking odors.

There is a lovely balcony above. Most of the living areas were on the upper floor.

That is the kitchen.

One of the downstairs rooms with carpets on the floor.

Out in the deck area, there was a loom.

And a skein winder (or maybe a charkha type spinning wheel) with some balls of yarn. We weren't allowed to touch anything and the guide wasn't very knowledgeable about fiber crafts so I didn't get a good look at the wheel to see whether it actually was a wheel or not.

A bedroom.

The living room had gorgeous views of the river.

Looking down at the patio from the deck. You can see the crowd. There were 4 or 5 groups there to see the house and only a few people could go upstairs as the rooms were small. So we had to wait in the patio and then go up, look around, and come back down a really narrow staircase without taking too much time. That allowed the next group to go up.

Some of the interior photos of the house.

Old photos on the walls.

A light fixture.

A beautifully carved door.

Some of the objects on the walls.

A lovely little table.

We then walked to a mosque and took a quick look inside. The view of the bridge is very good from this mosque.

A couple of views of the inside of the mosque.

Our first view of the famous Stari Most.

Looking down river from the mosque.

The other side of the river. There were some churches there. The river was apparently a delineation line between the Christians and the Muslims, which is why the bridge was destroyed. Our guide said that many families were ripped apart as so many had married into other religions. But during the war, it didn't matter. It was a chilling reminder of how much pain and death is caused by religion and history.

Looking up at the mosque.

A reflection of a mosque in the river.

Looking at our side of the river.

From the mosque, we walked through some crowded streets to the bridge. This the bridge. It was really crowded.

I walked across it and back.

Then we had some time to shop. I wasn't interested so I photographed cats, and buildings.

The town is very hilly.

A few more buildings.

We then went back to our van and started driving back to the ship. On the way we stopped at a small village where we climbed to the top of a tower. It was a good way to stretch one's legs. The tower was ruined but interesting because it had lovely views.

Views from the tower.

One view of the buildings at the base of the tower.

Up on the top!

Some photos on the way up.

Looking down on the other side.

We then drove back to the ship. The two of us decided to go into Dubrovnik because the ship wasn't sailing till 10 pm. The following are photos of the walled town of Dubrovnik after dark. People go into the old town for dinner so the streets are filled with people. But I have no idea what many of the buildings are.

This is one of the gates to the old town. There is a bridge leading up to it. The bus from our ship dropped us off at the entrance to the bridge. Once you cross the bridge, you have to down some stairs and then out into the old town.

Part of the wall surrounding the old town. Dubrovnik was under siege during the war and many people died defending it.

There are two fountains in Dubrovnik. This is the Big Onofrio's fountain which still works. The Wikipedia article linked earlier has a lot about the history and about the engineer who built the aqueducts and fountains.

The water spouts are beautifully carved.

The streets are lined with white marble and it had rained earlier. They were slippery but reflected the light beautifully.

Al fresco dining in some of the alleys and streets and plazas.

This is where I am ignorant. This is one of the churches but i don't remember which one. Google tells me it is St. Blaise's church.

The clock tower.

Next to it is this lovely building, which I believe is one of the palaces. There is a museum inside which had a memorial to the people who died defending Dubrovnik.

This is the Little Onofrio's fountain.

This is the facade of the Cathedral (thank you Google!)

We climbed up one of the walls, to the point where it was lit and populated. This is a view of the street below from a vantage point up there.

We spent about an hour wandering around Dubrovnik and then caught the bus back to the ship. Our fellow travelers told us that it had rained during the day, it was packed with tourists, and that our night visit was probably much more pleasant. However, we missed the guided tour. This is part of the world where the Game of Thrones is filmed so there are a LOT of tourists.

Our next stop is Montenegro.