Monday, April 30, 2007

Mitten Mania

I blame Marcy.

Travel knitting time is coming up fast and furious, and I started thinking about mittens.

Not that it is the first time mitten knitting has occurred to me:

mitten books1

mitten books3

mitten books4

and I recently bought Teri's new book:
mitten books2
[Aside: This book is a treasure trove of history, information and knitting patterns. Buy it! That's my philosophy. They might go out of print someday (heh).]

I've knit a few pair of mittens in the past. Colorful handspun silk/wool blend:

And two-end handspun twined knitting mittens (yikes! early knitting, probably around 1980, don't look closely):

I've been testing, trying out yarns, trying to see which yarn and which pattern (if any) I will try:
mitten yarns2
These are handspun wools, all three ply, about the same grist (about the same as in useable together, I haven't measured).

Or commercial sock yarn which once was white:
mitten yarn white

but is now dyed:
mitten yarns

I'm leaning toward knitting my new mittens from the top down, like in Anna Zilboorg's book. I won't have the very large gauntlets, they might be narrower.

I won't have time to spin up any new yarn for the first pair, but by the end of summer I'll have spun up some grey and wine-red for a second pair, probably Selbu-based. It's a fun fantasy to think of knitting them, or anything, and I think that's why I sometimes have 'startitis': the dream of the perfect project, whether they be mittens, a shawl, a sweater, a new silk ribbon or the most beautiful, soft knotted pile rug for the floor.

It's one more reason why I keep doing all of this: the dream of it all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pile It On

I'm home from Asilomar. Oh. My. It was a great conference, the best I've attended in quite a while. People seemed relaxed and happy, there was much visiting and busy-ness, and the weather was fabulous.

First the class report:
Asilomar Deanna

Deanna wins the prize for the most committed weaver. She was relentless, and got the first half of the project bag done. I wish I were a better picture-taker, and this was not so blurry, but I think you can see the project. She also had her own personal journal, which she made, bound in her own woven fabric. Fabulous? and also on the table I think a key indicator: iced coffee. Deanna had all the tricks!

Nancy is working on the other class-project pattern:
Asilomar Nancy

Luckily, this photo is in focus, and you can see more clearly the working setup when using this loom, an adaption of Archie Brennan's copper pipe tapestry loom, seen here. We make some minor adjustments to use the loom for pile rather than tapestry. It's a great little tool, and makes my classes possible.

This is Amy:
Asilomar Amy

She might not like this picture of herself but I loved it, and her project. She worked on her own design, a camel, and I think it is fabuloso. It will be even better once he gets a head, which he probably has by now. I've known Amy for about 25 years, and it is always a pleasure to see her, a great fun to spend this much time with her in class over the weekend.

Here is Brooke:
Asilomar Brooke

I love the colors in the sample set she picked: it is great fun for me to see all the different colorways come together. I expect Brooke will be doing handspun natural dyed projects in the future. She has a business working with local wools, naturally dyed, more here.

Last, and quite blurry, is Shelia:
Asilomar Shelia

(Me? not so good with the camera. But! I remembered to bring it! points?) We can pretend that Shelia was just weaving so fast, the camera could not catch the warp-speed (heh). Shelia brought her own handspun to do the sample and like Amy, her own design.

Friend Sue took in the extra-curricular activities offered by the conference: a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and a naturalist-guided boat trip up the Elkhorn Slough Nature Preserve. She saw an exhibit of Chihuly glass at the aquarium, a jellyfish special exhibit, and scads of wild life in Elkhorn slough: harbor seals (even babies, and nursing babies), otters (a raft of 30 or so with babies, and even one pair mating), herons, and all sorts of other wildlife which I have forgotten.

The conference organizers did a marvelous job of making everyone happy. There were lots of activities if the classes did not suit one, and many people came as spouses, partners and retreat participants just to go on the nature tours and spend some time at the beach. It was truly a retreat, and in a very wonderful place.

I do have a better, less blurry picture of Shelia here:
Asilomar, last night

She's on the left. I'm in the center, and Sue is on the right. Shelia joined us for an extra day after the conference. We had a nice relaxing dinner out, a fire and knitting before bedtime, more fire and knitting with our early-morning coffee, knitting on the beach, and then the trip ended with a long ride home.

Thanks to all of you who put together this conference. Please know how wonderful it was, and what a great time I had. Many kudos.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


spider web bag

There are so many things wrong with this bag, but fixing them will have to wait.

I'm off for Asilomar, and CNCH this weekend. This bag is one of my samples for the class, and a cautionary tale is as good, sometimes better, than a perfect project. Plus, this will be a cautionary tale with possible fixes, versus a cautionary tale that will never make it into the finished pile.

And there are those. I bring it all: samples of the good, the bad and the ugly.

I have attended classes where the instructor brought only the best, beautiful, seemingly unattainable finished work. It can be a little daunting. There are also those classes where the instructor brings nothing: no samples, no pictures, no work at all. I try to fall somewhere in between: here's the really fabulous stuff you too can learn to do, and oh, by the way, here's the dross: don't go here.

This bag is not exactly dross, but it' not done, as in I'm not satisfied. It's handspun wool/mohair, and I have just about worn off the pile fondling it while I finished it thus far, so it has some good points! But it needs work. Later.

For now, I'm off to the beach. There might be weather. I am bringing my teapot and knitting (and yes, wishing on a star. Downtime? That would be the 5 a.m knitting). See you next week :).

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Shawl Wrap Up

Blog title double-entendre :). Do I win today?

Thanks for all of your nice comments on the shawl last post. I thought I'd answer a few of them, but first, a final shot of the black silk shawl from this post, since I know the new owner received it:

black silk shawl

You can more clearly see the weave structure here, with the shiny silk against the matte silk (warp vs. weft) and a little bit of beading. The beads add some weight to the hem, a nice thing, I think. Notice the red tissue paper? Well, how could I help myself? All black??? It needed a bit of color.

Abby's up first with her comment:

So, do you think maybe the higher-twist single stretched under tension causing the more even look? Or do you have a theory as to what causes it to so barely show? I looked over the super-large version and honestly if you hadn't pointed it out I wouldn't have noticed. I bet it would show up more with a non-silk fiber and wet finishing, what do you think?

I think the singles needed more twist to maintain the spiral structure in the weaving. Next time, I might spin one S and one Z, the S single would get more twist in the S ply, and not get all floppy and soft as it slightly unspins in the plying. The S single should also be intentionally bigger than the Z single, so it would still have that spiral effect. It would also probably have been better to space the spiral yarn between stripes of balanced two ply, so it would stand out more clearly. But I think this time it still would've been one of those *only noticeable to the weaver* things: too subtle. More experimenting is in order, fun!

Next up Jackie:

Any quick tips on spinning silk? I just started spinning some silk and it is REALLY different from spinning what wool I have done.

I spin most silk *off the fold*. I pull a length of top , fold it over my index finger, and spin off the tip. I only spin top/sliver/whatever it's called, never hankies or noil: I want a smooth yarn that, um, looks like silk!

When I first learned to spin silk, several people told me to spin it off the end of the preparation, to get the smoothest possible yarn. I had trouble drafting that way, and Celia Quinn told me to try off the tip. It worked! I loved it, I could produce miles of fabulous yarns, that I use mostly for weaving. The drawbacks: people said I would be *folding the fiber*, making it shorter. Um. So what? We're spinning here, not reeling. The fibers are shorter anyway. Works for me.

Anne (I think this Anne, I can't really tell with blogger profiles: let me know if I'm wrong) said:

Are you okay with the higher-twisted silk not showing up except on close inspection? Sometimes I think the addition of something that makes people get closer engaged to a piece isn't a bad thing. Ya know - makes them take a second look at it.

Yes. I'm OK with the fabric. Sometimes I out-subtle myself, but the fabric is still fine. It works, it's pretty, it's maybe not as interesting as I planned/hoped, but hey, small issue. I might try to work out the kinks (ha ha) in another piece, but since I have the attention span of a gnat, and I might forget!

Birdsong echoed several of your comments on the colors:

What?! Not red? Just kidding; these colors are so luminous and work so well together.

I first mentioned the inspiration for dyeing these warp chains in this post, and yes, they are not my usual colors. Hmmm. I might just have to go out and buy some new clothes to go with this shawl! A bit of a slippery slope, that can be: will these colors be out there on sale this year? Sometimes it's good to be a dyer (and yes, I buy clothes in the 'wrong' colors, and bring them home and dye them).

Last, Sharon:

I'm always curious about application. Your cloth is drop dead gorgeous, but how will you use it? Is it a shawl or do you plan to sew with it, and if so, sew into what? I'm still at sea with silk - don't know how to apply it to use.

In this case, yes, it's a shawl. I make lots of scarves too, but I've also made up several simple kimono from my handspun silk fabric. There's very little cutting to the simple kimono shape, and very little sewing, no fancy shaping or tailoring, so I could a) handle the sewing and b) not have to cut away too much of the silk fabric.

But at some point handspun is just yarn, and fabric is just fabric. We make it, we use it and we move on. I am more careful with things that other people have made for me, than I am with my own stuff. After all, I can make it again, I may not be able to replace someone else's work.

I've learned stuff in the making, too, and I enjoy wearing and using the shawls, scarves, and jackets. I can't imagine my kids (two boys) will ever really want any of this stuff, so I use it up and wear it out. Now, I can inflict it on daughters-in-law (see black shawl above) and maybe my sister (sometimes. She is picky). But for the most part, it's just my clothes.

Our guild spinning meeting is today, so I'll be making more yarn. What a treat, eh? and what a nice cycle: spin, weave, spin more, knit or weave more, how did I ever get to be so lucky? :) Again, thanks for your comments, sometimes I sit and think and think about things you have said, I enjoy the exchange.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Silk Shawl

Here's the straight shot (well, somewhat, obviously there is unruly fringe going on):

Silk shawl April 2007

And the artful, drapey shot:

silk shawl2 April 2007

Details: Handspun 2-ply silk, sett at 40 epi, 24" in the reed, woven 76" long (plus fringe). Finished dimensions 23 1/2" x 72", plus fringe.

The interesting thing (to me): I spun the silk on two different wheels, with differing ratios, giving one single a tighter twist. The 2-ply looked like a spiral yarn, which I thought would show up more in the woven goods. It does show up, on close inspection, just not as much as I anticipated. I thought there might be some surface variation in the fabric, and it's, well, as smooth as silk.

Here's the macro close-up (click for Really Big):

silk close up

See? Hmmm. We move on.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Color Play

Here's a new weaving in progress:
atropos detail

At first, I designed it in red, dark grey, light grey and black:
atropos yarns 1

But I thought it might be too stark and cold a series of colors, so I took some yarns to the SSK, and asked for advice. These are the colors they liked:

atropos yarns2

Much warmer, eh? A problem though is there are three colors of the same value, and the design needs two light values, and two darks. I thought I could strand yarns together to get the correct values:

atropos yarns3

The red would be stranded with orange, the gold with a really pale gold, the green with a brown, and the light brown by itself. I think this would have worked, but we'll never know.

I just couldn't pull that particular color trigger, and went to my previous cold (albeit somewhat warmed up) palette. In the sample you see, the red is stranded with orange (a bit warmer) and the medium grey is stranded with lavender (a bit more color), the black is stranded with dark blue, which is probably only noticeable in person. I'm a fan of a few surprises when you see something in real life, as opposed to photos, so that's OK.

But now the women at the SSK are just going to slap me: I so disregarded their advice. Will they ever be willing to weigh in again? Time will tell. Meanwhile, I weave on.