Friday, July 27, 2007

Martha Comes to Visit

If asked what I do, I usually say I am a weaver, but that is misleading.

Weaving, for many people, is choosing a goal (dishtowels, say, or a new jacket), picking a yarn off the shelf, deciding on a weave structure and how to sett the yarns, how long and wide the fabric needs to be, and then proceeding to set those parameters up and warp the loom.

syc yarns july 2007

But when I start a project, I usually start with dyeing. I often also start with spinning, and both of these aspects of what I do are more time consuming, and more engaging, than the weaving itself.

I want the color that I am imagining in front of my eyes. I weave to get the fabric off the loom, to handle it, to see if all the pieces have fallen into place.

I have learned my favorite weave structure (plain weave) well. Oddly, there are lots of ways to weave plain weave: balanced, warp faced, weft faced, warp dominant, weft dominant, fine warps and thin wefts of thick wefts, heavier warps with fine wefts or thick ones, or alternately fine and thick threads in either direction. I play with all of these factors, and yet it is still everyday plain weave.

I weave simple peasant cloth, which I have mentioned before, and which I consider a compliment. I define peasant cloth as good, sturdy well woven cloth, meant to last and hold up through wear and use. No delicate flowers for me.

I have been weaving for over 30 years, and am to the point in my weaving career that I am reasonably certain to achieve the fabric I plan. There are surprises, of course, which keeps the whole thing interesting. But the structure of the fabric is not what I think about.

It is tactile and visual pleasure, the spinning, dyeing and weaving off lengths of colorful fabric.

silk band yarns july 2007

Color elicits the first response from most everyone, good or bad. It is the first thing we see in looking at clothing, say, or dishtowels. Closer inspection, when we handle the cloth, gives us a feel for the hand of the fabric, smooth, supple, slippery, fuzzy, soft, harsh, whatever. And then last, if we have a weaver's perspective of cloth, we look at the structure of the cloth.

Many weavers spend the bulk of their weaving time planning the structure, thinking of ways to manipulate the threads in the warp and weft to create a fabric that has structural interest. Somehow, I missed that gene. I think it goes along with the counting gene, because sometimes I get that counting stuff all wrong too. But I am resourceful, I can adjust: with plain weave, a few extra threads here or few less there are not a crisis. Many weave structures require a specific set of threads, and the right number of threads, and that counting gene is necessary.

Madelyn van der Hoogt, weaving teacher and currently editor of Handwoven magazine, has long held that there are two types of weavers: the Structure-Pattern people, and the Color-Texture people. I, obviously, fall firmly into the latter camp. We all cross over to greater or lesser extent, and occasionally I have been known to weave off a piece of fabric with color and structure. Those fabrics are notable and rare though, and a cause for comment among people who know me.

It is similar in knitting: there are the color-stranders, the texture knitters, and the lace knitters. Texture knitters and lace knitters seem very similar to me: some create bumps and some create holes, but they are manipulating the needles and yarn in their dance of choice. There are probably intarsia knitters too, but I don't know any of them.

There is no right or wrong here. People fall into either (or some of both) camp of weavers and knitters. Some people have an attitude about all of this, and would like to make their camp the only camp, or the most important camp.

In weaving, many people feel the need to get bigger and more complex equipment just to become a real weaver. But small looms, simple equipment, and hand manipulated weaves have a pleasure and tactile joy some of the quasi-industrial looms do not. Hours spent in quiet spinning, lifting each thread step by step over and over in a pickup pattern, can be balm to sooth the restless soul.

I so enjoying spinning and dyeing my yarns. Much of the pleasure of all of this fabric stuff would be lost, for me, without those two aspects.

Martha? Flowers:

glads day 3

Sent by my son and his wife, from They are beautiful, and open more each day.

And the color delights me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Shawl Pin Redux

A quick post in response to comments:

Sharon and Marie, you guys are too funny. I did not put beads on a shawl pin: I made the pin, sliding the beads on as part of the process.

You too can make your own shawl pins: see here for complete directions. It's a long post, lots of pictures, and the safety-pin kind of shawl pins are at the bottom.

On the home front, dyeing away here. Or rather rinsing and rinsing some recalcitrant turquoise. My hands have that slightly cyanotic look to them, a sure sign that I have not been wearing gloves, whoops!

I should have a few good pictures by next week. In the meantime, have fun with the wire :).

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I knit this shawl a month ago, but it was to be a gift, so it remained unblogged, so to speak:

VLT shawl rust

Sorry for the slightly blurry photo, but, alas, the shawl is away now, and not available for re-takes.

It started life as the Large Rectangle with center diamond pattern (descriptive name, I would say) from Victorian Lace Today (page 20-21). I changed a few things: the pattern specifies stockinette for the center section, and I changed it to garter. Experience tells me that a knitted gift, if given to a non-knitter, and if it has not other identifying features (such as sleeves), will be worn backwards, inside out and upside down. So garter stitch, being no-sided, is more useful in this case.

I changed the border slightly: there was a holey bit in the pattern, which I replaced with straight garter stitch. Then the edging, which in the original is very nice, got replaced with the easy, already-memorized knit-on edging that I have used before, for no other reason than it was quicker, and time was of the essence.

Then the color:

VLT shawl black

got replaced with black. Well, it really is black, bad photo notwithstanding. The recipient (my sister) wanted something black. I had this nice alpaca yarn, alas in rust. The yarn was in nice center-pull skeins, and would have been a pain to re-skein and dye (lace weight). Plus, then I'd have to figure out how many of the eight skeins I had to re-skein and dye. So instead I knit it as is, colorwise, then dyed the shawl. Mo' betta.

I made a shawl pin:

VLT shawl pin

which happily shows up on the right color black this time. I also made a little case for it out of fabric. As a travel shawl, a fabric pouch is almost a necessity: pulling fine lace in and out of a tote bag would be a recipe for snag-disasters. The fabric pouch (alas, no photo) will make the bundled shawl into a nice pillow too, perfect for trains and planes when, yuck, who wants to use the *public pillows*.

I liked the pattern, and will probably do another version. I dyed a sample of the rust yarn red, which would make a nice shawl for me. I may also try a blanket, in a heavier yarn, with a wider center section. I love, love, love cuddling under a knitted blanket. This first version was knit on size 3 needles, and never got too big nor too heavy for a carry-around project.

Why the post title? I am working on some very fun weaving, which I thought I would have ready for a blog post this week, but alas, more sampling is required. I had this post in the blog-bank, and as more of you are knitters than weavers, I am sure you are just as happy!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hot Off the Needles

summer in kansas4

Lindsey had barely finished this when I ripped it out of her hands yesterday. In fact, I ran in the last two ends this morning, and gave the edging a quick pressing for the photo: I didn't actually allow her to finish it. But I thought you would like to see a picture, before this goes away for a while:

summer in kansas3

The shawl is knit of silk (20/2 I think, but I will have to confirm that), needles size ? (hmmm, will have to confirm that too). It is the Summer in Kansas pattern from Two Old Bags. The shawl is about 70" across the top edge, and at least 45" from nape to tip (are you just loving the accurate details here??). The yarn was two silk blanks dyed by Nancy, and we are going tomorrow to Nancy's birthday party, so the shawl will go with us. How festive, eh?

(There are Canadians in the neighborhood this week, building a log home. My husband is working with them. The eh? is contagious).

A few close up shots:

summer in kansas1

summer in kansas5

summer in Kansas7

Lindsey did some alterations to the pattern, adding an extra edging and a row of single crochet along the top:

summer in kansas6

This last photo seems to be the most accurate color reproduction, it is really deep, rich colors. Nancy used Lanaset dyes, mixed up to a 2% depth of shade, to paint the silk blanks.

Lindsey is loaning the shawl to Nancy for a while to use in her classes. Those of you who take a class will be able to see this in person, and maybe even dye your own yarn to make one up. We, however, will wait patiently for her shawl's return and until then at least we have pictures (sigh).

Edit: The yarn is size 20/2 silk, needles used were size #5. Lindsey adds: "I was totally lucky the colors changed when they did. Thanks for showing off my shawl. If it were up to me my work would go into the closet and compost without being seen."

Me again: well, I've seen some of Lindsey's work, and may have to snag a few more of her beautiful shawls to show off for her.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Trans-Sierra Spin-In

AH view

Take one sheep ranch in the Sierra Valley, mix in about 20 spinners from both the Western and Eastern slopes of the Sierra:

AH 1

AH 2

AH 3

and you get a day of spinning and conversation, fleece shopping, barn envy, the usual show and tell, pattern-sharing and catching up on the news. Sue, Dee and I drove up together, with much to talk about as always, so we had our own little hen party both coming and going. A few other guild members came from our side of the hill, joining some of the Carson Sierra Spinners, from NV.

The Harvey ranch is off the grid, and has been in Anna's family as high country pasture for several generations. She and her husband are the first to actually live on the property, so they are in the process of building, making permanent structures to weather the winters.

Anna's husband logged the trees from their ranch, milled them on site, and built that big barn in the background from the lumber. It is gorgeous, in barn-terms or house terms: I'd live in it, it was so beautiful and BIG.

Sharon organized us, we all showed up, brought chairs and lunch, and had at it. Sharon and Birdsong also have photos, Amy and Allison may soon too. I missed some of the later arrivals, and I won't even try for all of the names.

Linda's smile, though, sums it all up:

AH Linda

Ah, summer. Ah, spinning. Ah, friends. It does not get any better than this.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill

threading water3

Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill died on May 6, 2006 in Basra, Iraq. She was the first British woman soldier to die in combat in over 20 years. She was doing what she wanted to do: she was an RAF Flight Lieutenant. She was a wife, daughter and sister.

Her name will be added to The Mother's Day Project organized by Anne Landre. Female Coalition members who have lost their lives in the course of the Iraq war are being memorialized in thread and cloth.

I am not much of an embroiderer, nor do I usually join KALs, Secret Pal exchanges or the like. However, I felt compelled to join this project. Names were assigned to volunteer stitchers on a random basis, thus it is a coincidence that the woman whose name I embroidered has my name also, even my middle name, although we spell both differently.

threading water4

Sarah-Jayne was born in 1973, the year I graduated from college. She was 32 at the time of her death, just slightly older than my older son is now.

threading water1

Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill 1973-2006