28 February, 2011

Localwear Article

Jeff Bickart's 2008 article, "Localwear: 'Clothing' the Human Experience" in the journal Vermont Commons is an account of how and why Bickart set out on a project of sourcing and making clothing from his immediate region.
Part 1 http://www.vtcommons.org/journal/2008/05/localwear-clothing-human-experience-jeff-bickart-part-1
Part 2 http://www.vtcommons.org/journal/2008/07/jeff-bickart-localwear-clothing-human-experience

I like the level of detail he packs in to the piece.  The specifics lend credibility and give the reader a sense of the scope of the endeavour.  Bickart had to revise his projections and give himself considerably more time to get to where he was capable of even partially clothing himself with local garments.

26 February, 2011

ninety-fifth and ninety-sixth skeins

Here are the ninety-fifth and ninety-sixth skeins I've spun, in lapis BFL from Gale's Art.  One skein is 48 grams and 156 yards, the other is 55 grams and 170 yards.

I am worried this yarn is not thick enough to match what is already knit into the lapis scarf in progress.  I was careless about checking the gauge of my singles since I assumed 40 wpi was as thin as I could spin.  Never assume.

25 February, 2011

Red Herrings

Speaking of Dorothy Sayers, in the March 1990 issue of SpinOff, there's an excerpt from Sayer's 1930 novel The Five Red Herrings to show that she understood the technical aspects of handspinning.

I have a copy on order from the library.

24 February, 2011

Technical Incompetence

The hook and my temporary repair job with tape from last June are beginning to fail.  I hope they hold out until I finish plying.  This is the only spindle I have this length, this large of a hook, this weight.  It's useful.  I prefer to spin singles with a spindle that's just as long but half the weight; however, when plying the yarn is thicker and I need the larger hook.

If you're wondering, the bone nalbinding needle at left is holding my place so I can pick up the strands in order and not snarl them while plying.

I agree with novelist and theologian Dorothy Sayers' assertion in her article, Why Work, that "God is not served by technical incompetence."  I really ought to either get a bottle of wood glue and try to fix the hook properly or commission an experienced craftsman to replace the whole drop spindle.

23 February, 2011

Embossed Exchange Motif

This is cool.  This is the start of Marilyn Porter's Take It or Leaf It cowl pattern.  The pattern repeat is an embossed exchange motif, which I've been wanting to do since I read about them in September.  I took the photo in the morning sun to emphasize just how embossed the surface looks.  It is embossed because the knit stitches sit higher than the purled stitches, and the decrease stitches sit even higher than that.  It is an exchange motif because the increases and decreases are placed so that one leaf widens while the adjacent leaf narrows.  In this pattern, the leaf appears to become overlapped instead of narrowing.

I am using my five strand yarn on the theory that if five strand yarn makes knitted cables stand out, it should make embossed exchange motifs stand out too.

I've kept some five strand yarn to knit into cables.  I'll get to it.  Later.

Unfortunately, in the sk2p decrease all five of the strands look bad in the passed over loop, as if they have separated into individual strands.  Perhaps spinning this yarn structure in a different type of wool would give me more cohesion there.

I found the k3tog decrease to be very awkward.  I use a small crochet hook to pull the yarn through three loops knitwise instead.

I made a mistake in the pattern, tinked four rounds or so, reknit, and discovered another mistake.  I'm taking a little break before I address the cowl again.

22 February, 2011


Have you seen a puni before?  Here is a cluster of them packaged in newspaper.  Cotton fibre, rolled into a cylinder shape and compacted, suitable for spinning into yarn on a charkha.  I saw two charkhas in use recently.

19 February, 2011

fourth cowl

Didn't have to spin more yarn for this project after all.  I finished up the cowl with leftovers from the second pair of mitts I made.  I am sorry I didn't use the entire ball of the Long Time No Sea colour in the mittens, which I cuffed and tipped in ecru to avoid running out of the main colour.  Didn't realize I could have gotten that much fabric out of the remainder of the ball.  The sea green goes well enough with the dark green, though it's not my sort of colour and I will tuck that part under out of sight when wearing the cowl.

The knit ribbing at the edge holds the cowl over my chin very well.  Haven't worn the cowl outside yet to try it out.  The weather has warmed up and I've missed my chance.

18 February, 2011

Wool's Effects on Carbon Dioxide and Formaldehyde

The website for Thermafleece, a wool-based building insulation manufacturer in Cumbria, states
In the UK alone, 36 million sheep produce around 70 million kg of wool, locking up nearly 140 million kg of CO2 from the atmosphere.  That's the equivalent to the CO2 emissions from nearly 35,000 family cars....The complex protein structure of the wool fibre enables it to absorb and safely fix many airborne substances that can be harmful in the indoor environment, including formaldehyde, which is released from many fabricated materials in the home.

The site features photographs of rugged sheep sporting naturally-coloured wool out on green rolling fields.

17 February, 2011

The Other Project on The Needles

The other thing currently on my needles doesn't look like much.  It's a cowl, knit in the round and tipped with the leftover green yarn from my mittens and earwarmer band.  I am almost to the end of my yarn and wondering if I should make more.  Apart from the chilly chin and throat I got on a walk the other day that provided a lot of motivation, the whole reason for this cowl is to use up yarn I have on hand and move on to spinning other yarns, not to make more of the same.

This yarn is made of two strands plied together, and I've turned more to making three strand yarn because it is supposed to drape better when knit.

16 February, 2011

The Dyed Wool is Here and It's Intense

My order of dyed wool arrived in the mail from Gale's Art and the colours are intense.

Left to right: undyed naturally dark Blue Face Leicester, rose red dyed on a base of natural dark BFL, rose red dyed on ecru BFL, and lapis.

Just to repeat, the middle three are all dyed with the same dye but one looks dark because the wool came from black sheep.

Love the black sheep effect.

(I disclose whenever I receive an unsolicited gift from a business so you can know if I've benefitted in any way that might influence my opinion.  Gale enclosed a complimentary art batt with this order.)

15 February, 2011

A Bonny Bit of Blue

I have lapis BFL on order too along with the rose red I mentioned yesterday, though I have enough lapis in my stash already to spin more yarn for this K1P1 scarf in progress.  (I am almost at the end of my lapis handspun here; time to weigh out more wool and put it in project bags.)  The additional lapis wool is to make a matching watch cap.

I've worked on this scarf while out and around people, while waiting or gabbing, as well as at home.

14 February, 2011

Rose Red

Happy Valentine's Day!

I have BFL top, dyed rose red, on order and arriving soon in the mail.  I am looking forward to seeing the stuff.

12 February, 2011

The Cobbler's Children

I understand this, even though I think it's deplorable:
Benjamin Franklin toured a textile factory in Norwich and observed a cruel and bitter irony.  He was amazed to see that the English clothmakers were themselves "half-naked or in tatters." The factory owner pointed proudly to his inventory and said, "those cloths are for Italy, those for Germany, the ones over here for the American islands, and those for the continent."  Franklin replied, "Have you none for the factory workers of Norwich?"
David Hackett Fischer, The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History
but I do not understand this:
Even though conditions today are very different in many respects, there is still a faint reflection of this background to the production of grener [blankets] in the areas where they are still woven.  They are not woven for the weaver's own use; it is extremely rare to find a single grene in those homes in Manndalen where they are still made.  Their commercial value is too great for anyone to feel that they can afford to keep a grene for themselves.
Marta Hofmann, The Warp-weighted Loom
I would think that at least a self-employed weaver would have gotten to use some cloth.

11 February, 2011

ninety-third and ninety-fourth skeins

First skein is 2 1/2 ounces and 106 yards, second skein is 2 ounces and 84 yards.  Five strands plied together.  Ecru Blue Face Leicester wool, spun as about 40 wpi single strands.  Final diameter of the yarn ranges from 10-14 wpi, which is what I hoped for.  The yarn is very round, as you can see in the closeup.  Lost half an ounce to waste when plying since one bobbin ran out before the others.

I ran each strand through a hole in the perforated plastic top of a spice jar lid.  Plying these would have been impossible otherwise; the strands kept catching each other.

10 February, 2011

Warp-weighted Loom as a Prop in King Lear

I watched a different film production of King Lear, this time with Dame Diana Rigg in it as Regan.  Of note is the scene where Regan is newly widowed and cross-examining her sister's servant about Edmund.  (If you go looking for it, this scene comes right before the scene where Edgar tricks his blind dad into thinking he has fallen off one of Dover's cliffs.) In the background behind Rigg there is a warp-weighted loom as a prop, with not quite a yard of cloth woven on it.

The loom is free-standing, not propped up against a wall, which is not what I expected from reading Marta Hoffmann's The Warp-weighted Loom.  The looms on ancient Greek vases look as though they are free-standing and upright.  I'm not sure how the shed would work without the loom being on a tilt.  Wish I had one to experiment with.

The warp-weighted loom is a clever choice for a prop in King Lear, a play about a king back in the mists of history, since this type of loom dropped out of use and became an archaic item as foot treadle looms came in.

09 February, 2011

Twenty-first Century Linen Processing

Be Linen Movie by Benoit Millot.  If you love to look at gorgeous shots of linen from plant to fabric with all the modern machinery and skill in between; if you enjoy listening to French and Italian; if you don't mind the suggestion that hybridizing (or "combining"–genetic modification?) new strains of high-tech fibre flax would be even better, nor mind being told twice that European flax is superior, this is your movie.

I think it's interesting that the farmer says that the best retting takes place in humid growing conditions on fields near the ocean.  Also that the processor looks for a blue sheen in the processed flax to know that it is fine flax.

That reminds me, nothing to do with the movie, but with French idoms: in French when you want to say "let's get back to the subject," you say, "let's return to our sheep" or "retournons à nos moutons."  Very droll.

08 February, 2011

Thirteenth Century Fabric Milling

Aren't you glad you're not making cloth back then?
In the late thirteenth century, manorial lords aggressively expanded their economic privileges.  At St. Albans, just north of London, the Abbey constructed its own grist and fulling mills, and forbade the inhabitants to take their grain and cloth anywhere else or even to process them in their homes.  The result was an insurrection in 1274.
David Hackett Fischer, The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History

05 February, 2011

Five-Strand Yarn is a Go

I have plied five strands together.  Wow!  Not done plying the whole five ounces of singles yet.

04 February, 2011

The Difference Between Needle Size 3 and 4

I knit some K1P1 rib fabric with size 3 needles and some with size 4 needles.  The difference is subtle to the eye but evident when I handle the fabric.  Size 4 needles produce a softer fabric for this handspun.  Size 4 it is.  For a scarf, there is no problem reducing the number of stitches accordingly.

03 February, 2011

The Age Of Homespun

I read The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth.  With a title like that, you can imagine the content is rather weighty and academic.  There's a great deal about the people who lived in the New England area from the late 1600s to early 1800s, how they got along (or didn't–a lot about how they didn't) and what they produced and traded.

When I was a teenager, I heard general stories about teen girls in the old days who used to fill their hope chests with linens and towels they made.  The Age of Handspun gives specifics drawn from original records and objects.

There are some practical tidbits.  In the eighth chapter, I was rewarded with the information that flax should not be retted in July or August because, so they said, strong sunlight hits drops of water and scorches the fibre, and because "in hot weather fermentation produced a dark stain."

I was surprised to learn that in the late 1700s, Ireland harvested its flax before it was ripe and imported new seed each year from the United States.  I would have thought that they would have pulled most early to make fine linen but left some plants to mature and give them seed to save.  The Irish outsourced and off-shored their flax seeds.  I can't find where it is now, but I am pretty sure the author states somewhere that the War of 1812 cut off the supply.

I learned that duffle is a type of cloth, not just a style of coat.  The children's book character Paddington Bear wears a duffle coat and I wore one as a child.

The copy I read was purchased by the guild from the estate of an elderly, accomplished handspinner who favoured the walking wheel.  There is one margin note in the entire 500 page book, an exclamation point next to this passage in the second chapter: "Using one hand to give the wheel an occasional turn, the spinner drew out her fiber with the other.  As the thread lengthened, she stepped backward inch by inch until she had gone as far as her arm could reach."  I've used a walking wheel; not that I'm any expert but I stepped back in normal-sized steps and drew my arm back smoothly, and I can't imagine backing up inch by inch.  I think the margin note means the book's late owner strongly disagreed with this technical description of inching backward.

An overarching motif of the author's is that our perspectives and biases not only drive what we do (make certain textiles) but what we select, keep, display, and emphasize (collect for museums).  I agree.  I know that my projects reflect my belief that making handspun is desirable, beneficial, and relevant today.

02 February, 2011

third ear warmer band

This ear warmer band marks the first time I've used the Kitchener stitch.  I kitchenered ninety stitches together.  That's a lot of grafting.

If you were wondering how it all came out after I rejected those long skinny tubes of stockinette that simply didn't seem right, I wound up knitting crosswise instead.  By folding the fabric to make a double-thickness and then grafting the fabric into a seamless piece, I got around stockinette's tendancy to curl.  By increasing the needle size I got a flexible fabric that can be compacted and stowed in a coat pocket until I need to warm my ears.  It's incredible that I knitted this same yarn into mitts using sharp little size 1s and 1 1/2s, yet this band took size 5s and looks fine.

Perhaps I should have gone for a slightly firmer fabric with size 4 needles.  Went for a walk with the band over my ears.  Wasn't sufficient, but certainly much better than nothing.  The weather was 3 Celsius and overcast with 14 kilometer an hour winds, so bitingly chilly that I wished I'd knitted a ski mask an inch thick.

01 February, 2011

The Look of Stockinette and Rib

Same yarn knit in a tube of stockinette and a flat piece of 2x2 rib.

Can't say I like the look or feel of the ribs any better for my earwarmer band.  On to plan C.