October 31, 2012

Have woven a bit of linen cloth

I have no photo to show, but I've woven my first ever eight inches of linen cloth.  The Ms and Os look pleasant to me. I find it's fairly easy to keep track of which treadle combination is next.

A rope on one of the heddles became detached, popping off the pulley, and I was able to put it back.  The detached heddle caused me to make mistakes in the cloth.  I failed to correct all of the affected picks and worked on, then had to take out at least fifteen minutes of work as a result.  Worth the bother, though.  If I'd left the floating threads they would have caught and snagged on things.

October 27, 2012

one hundred seventieth through seventy-second skeins

Here's the partial braid of Gales Art BFL in proud peacock, spun up and arranged the way I want to use it in a språng piece.

My one hundred sixty-ninth skein is not pictured, it is another bulky low-twist skein of Heinz 57 wool. I didn't want to bore you with it.

October 25, 2012

Uzbekistan Changes its Forced Labour Policy on Cotton...Somewhat

Ibrat Safo and William Kremer, "Doctors and Nurses forced to pick cotton," BBC World Service, October 15, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19931639.

According to the article there is an international boycott of Uzbek cotton harvested with forced child labour, labour done under government direction, and to address this, now the government of Uzbekistan mandates forced adult labour.  

It's unclear from the article why mechanical harvesters stopped being used in Uzbekistan after 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union.  The article cites government promotion of hand-picked cotton as a superior product with less chaff compared to mechanically-harvested cotton.  However, Cuba went through its Special Period* at the same time, adjusting to the sudden loss of the Soviet-subsidized oil and imported machinery on which Cuba's agriculture depended.  I wonder about the possibility that Uzbekistan's policy of hand-labour may have been a defensive move to keep the cash crop going and not a strategic tack to improve their product.  But that's speculation.  And if true it still wouldn't make forced labour necessary or good.

There are other interesting aspects in the article, such as people paying to have someone else pick their quota, reporters prohibited from interviewing harvesters in the country, the interruption of medical services during harvest, interruption of schooling for older teens and college students, and the high proportion of Uzbek cotton in world exports (ten percent).

I buy cotton clothing from two companies.  One is a member of the Organic Trade Association, whose standards "require that operators not use forced or involuntary labor," page 47.  The other company has a social responsibility commitment to not source cotton from Uzbekistan knowingly until that country stops using forced child labour to pick cotton.  I'd be happier if it said something about all forced labour.

*The Special Period is described briefly in a CBC article here, in the side bar under the heading 1991.

October 24, 2012


My husband took me to Rhinebeck on Saturday.  It was great.  

This is the line of people waiting for ticket sales to start and the gate to open.  Many people around us, maybe half, were wearing handknit sweaters and shawls.  I find that really impressive.  There were even a few handknit toques and mittens worn in line, probably made especially to wear at the festival.  Too bad the weather was too nice.  I spent most of the day in short sleeves so I was glad I had my handspun, hand-dyed, handknit miniature sweater.  Its cuteness worked to break the ice with strangers.  I wore the little sweater pinned to my shirt behind my Ravelry username pin.

There were some unusual spinning wheels.

I took few photographs, as I was occupied with shopping, looking at displays, talking with people, and eating festival food.  Maple sugar candy floss is deadly stuff.

I saw a couple of women holding bundles of flax and I asked them about the flax processing workshop they'd taken.

At Looking Glass Wool I got a pound of Coopworth lambswool roving in an intense natural dark colour.  Almost wish I'd bought two pounds.  Got the last quarter pound bag of white Costwold lambswool roving at Solitude Wool.  Tried the HansenCrafts minispinner quill attachment.

I'm glad I got to see the second-largest sheep and wool festival in the States.  I don't know if you can relate but I felt irresponsible for wanting to drive all that distance and incur unnecessary expense.  I got over it.  I mean, Rhinebeck is cool.  I reminded myself that the common experience of travelling to a market of merchant booths is something that goes way back in human culture at least to medieval Europe.  Merchants swipe credit cards on iPads now and it's fried dough not gingerbread cakes, but still.  

October 23, 2012

Feels Like Slow Going, This Warping

Sleyed the ends through the reed and tied the ends to the apron bar.  Next week at my weaving class, if all is well, I will start weaving my first Ms and Os tea towel.  

It's true, warping a loom takes a long time.

October 20, 2012

Through The Eye of a Needle


Above is a Positive TV interview of John-Paul Flintoff, author of Through the Eye of a Needle: The true story of a man who went searching for meaning – and ended up making his Y-fronts.  Y-fronts must be British slang for underpants.

I read the book.  I agree with Flintoff that it's really important what we believe, who or what we put our trust and hope in, and what we do as a consequence.  I am with him on wanting to address the possible consequences of Peak Oil and climate change, and I agree, in light of that, that it's good to grapple personally with the making of clothes.  (You might remember in the first post of this blog, I said Peak Oil's the reason why I learned to spin yarn.)

As a Christian who takes seriously the whole "Hear O Israel: the Lord thy God is One God and thou shalt love the Lord your God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might," I disagree with a fair bit of the religious advice people gave him as well as a number of his own conclusions on religion and still I stand by his freedom of conscience.  He started out, from his description, as a non-religious person with little experience in forms of worship or spiritual practices.  I respect him for re-examining that part of his life and looking for reasons to change his beliefs and actions.

For anyone who likes thinking about thinking, and likes reading reports of someone interacting with people, famous and not, you'll find this book diverting.

There were some things in regard to the making clothes part that pained me, all things that touch on my hobbyhorses.  For example, he didn't consult with a handspinner until at least five-sixths of the way into the narrative.

The woman who taught Flintoff to spin summed up drop spindles as "cheaper, but less efficient – and you get tired arms."  From the description, "it looked like a knitting needle shoved through a very thick wooden dish," I would guess that the drop spindle he saw wasn't the nicest.

I don't remember linen being mentioned in the book, an oversight considering flax's suitability to the English climate and its status historically as one of the four major world fibres.  Flintoff, as you can tell by the video above, is enamoured with the idea of gleaning nettles for cloth.

Flintoff uses crochet to make his underpants, first in nettle and then in Blue Face Leicester wool.  I would quibble first with the cloth-making technique, since knit cloth and even woven cloth would give better coverage, and I'd quibble with his choice of material.  But again I admire his determination to take on the task and his work to acquire the needed skills.

For me, the best line in the book was a realization Flintoff came to after he posted a video to a website asking for help making his shirts fit as well as one he'd had custom made.  "It gradually dawned on me, after sending that film to ThreadBangers, that in my world it's easier to make a film than to clothe oneself – an essential second only to eating."

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
-I Timothy 6:8 NIV

October 19, 2012

There's a Festival Going on Without Me

The Cowichan Fleece and Fibre Fair is on in Duncan, B.C. tomorrow.  I've never been.  I wish I could go.

October 17, 2012

Salt and Lemon

I may, possibly, have met up with friends for a knit and natter at a sandwich shop.

I may have shown them my skeins dyed with goldenrod, madder, and indigo.

A fine sprinkle of powdery excess indigo may have fallen off onto the table.

I may have swiped at the dye with a damp napkin instead of brushing the bits with a dry napkin, and we may have scrubbed the stained table ruefully with the contents of more than a few salt packets and several lemon wedges.  Maybe.

October 16, 2012

Threading the Loom for Ms and Os

While at weaving class, I started threading the loom's four harnesses for an Ms and Os pattern.

I am able to hold four threads in the left hand, poke the sleying hook through each heddle eye in turn, and in one go draw the threads' tails through, but am rather awkward at it.

The Ms and Os pattern is okay to thread, I can go by the principle that the heddle that's further away always goes to the right of the heddle that's closer to me.

October 15, 2012

Goldenrod, Madder, Indigo

Went to a natural dye workshop that had pots of goldenrod for yellow, madder for red, and indigo for blue.

My dyed handspun skeins from left to right:
humbug (white and brown) Blue Face Leicester wool dyed with madder and over-dyed with indigo
Heinz 57 wool dyed with goldenrod
Heinz 57 wool dyed with indigo
Heinz 57 wool dyed with madder
Hampshire wool dyed with goldenrod and over-dyed with indigo
Heinz 57 wool dyed with indigo

I like the indigo shade the best.

Oh, the Heinz 57 wool ones are taken from my one hundred, sixty-eighth and sixty-ninth skeins.

October 13, 2012

Handspun Cloth Men Like

I showed the chocolate cake scarf to a couple of men of my acquaintance that have worked with textiles.

"I like that pattern," said one, "that appeals to me."

"You could wear that all winter," said the other, in the sort of manner that means a person could generally, not just me specifically.  He got a pained look on his face when he heard I planned to retire it now in the first week of cold weather: "But you could wear it."

This got me thinking about what men generally like in textiles and how it doesn't mesh with the broad current trends in handspun yarn and cloth toward soft colours, elaborate patterns, and delicate fibres done in styles identifiable as feminine.  Knitted lace shawls, for example.

I wonder what the reaction at a fibre festival would be to a display of well-made sober, stout handspun, handwoven and handknit men's clothes.

October 12, 2012

"Thus Passes the Glory of the World" and the Chocolate Cake Scarf

I spun and wove a wool scarf the colour of chocolate cake.

Wore it to a fibre festival.

Chopped it into bits a few days later to make samples for a weavers guild newsletter that will have a pattern draft and a good word for breed-specific wool yarn.

Friends objected.  "The handspun is too nice," they said.  Me, I am fine with a transitory scarf.  Amuses me to think of it like a meteor shooting across the sky and burning out.  Plus, weavers look forward to getting mail.

Now that I've used it, I know Ashford Corriedale is slightly itchy worn against the neck.  I spun the entire half pound bag of wool and wove with only several yards of yarn to spare.  Nice to have tried it out and be done with it, ready to move on to another type of wool or go back to my favourite BFL.

I wore the scarf while window shopping at the local yarn shop, hoping the owner would notice and say something about the effort I'd put into making the thing or my choice of wool and pattern.  She didn't.  Ah, well.  I could take it as a compliment, an indication that the scarf didn't announce itself as handmade.  More likely, at the moment she talked to me it was less important for her to to scout for handmade woollens and more important to look at my face to see if I needed assistance before turning back to the customer that was with her.

October 11, 2012

Impromptu Strap

Here's my woven belt repurposed as a strap.  I carried a moderately heavy tub of supplies up to my spot at the fiber festival so I could demonstrate how to use a drop spindle, as well as eat lunch, show people books, and so on.

I tied my card-woven belt onto the handles and used it for a strap, thereby changing the tub from an awkward unwieldy thing into something manageable.  Took much less energy to carry and it balanced out the portable folding chair and språng frame slung over my other shoulder.

October 10, 2012


While I was demonstrating the drop spindle at the festival, I met a woman who called her boy by name, Cassius.

"Cassius, like in Julius Caesar?"


I said the only long quote of the bard's I ever memorized: "'Let me have men about me that are fat/Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep at nights:/Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,/He thinks too much, such men are dangerous.'  'Fear him not, Caesar, he's not dangerous;/He's a noble Roman and well given.'  'Yet I fear him not!  But if my name were given to fear/I know not the man I should so soon avoid/as that spare Cassius.'"

"Do you hear that, sweetie?  That's the quote about your name, in Shakespeare!"

Looking at the copy of Shakespeare in front of me, I wasn't word perfect and possibly I learned from a different version too.

The demonstration tent was a very good thing.  Without it at my back and without an official nametag, I know I would have just looked like a strange person spinning yarn in a field, and wouldn't have had delightful conversations like this.

Didn't take much for the demonstrators to interest on-lookers, actually; there was quite a crowd around a weaver winding bobbins.

October 09, 2012

Draw Down

I watched my weaving teacher make a draw down of the weaving pattern I'm going to do, and I understood enough that I think I could do one.  A draw down is where you draw on grid paper a representation of woven cloth, shading a square where the weft goes over the warp and leaving it blank where it goes under.  Hope I got that correct.

October 08, 2012

Fall Fiber Festival

I filled volunteer spots and visited with friends at the recent festival, so I don't have any heroic shopping stories for you nor any photos.

Demonstrating the drop spindle at the entrance of the display and demo tent was the best.  Lots of adults and quite a lot of children came up and watched, and some tried their hands.  A high percentage of folks asked questions that showed they intend to take up handspinning or have some understanding already and want to apply it.  I don't get that as much when doing a demonstration at a farmers' market or a museum.

When I came to the end of the time period I'd promised to do, I considered switching to working on språng, or shopping, or staying put.  As I was dithering, handspinners on the other side of the tent entrance sent people my way, telling them to ask me to get them spinning yarn with a drop spindle.  And I realized I was where I really wanted to be, and I stayed longer.  

I shared the little pop-up shade tent with a knitter and a handspinner with a wheel.  It worked out very well: I could talk to the crowd for a stretch in a good carrying voice and then the other handspinner would speak and I'd have a chance to fall silent, give my voice a break, and look picturesquely absorbed in the motion of my spindle.  

Got the chance to tell another blacksmith that flax hackles might be worth looking into.  Gave someone a starter spindle to take home.

The event organizers have my appreciation.

October 06, 2012

SVFF dye photos

Some more photos from the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, showing natural dyes.

Indigo plus goldenrod (?) makes green.

Samples at Brush Creek Wool Works.

The red is pokeberry, by Solitude Wool.

October 05, 2012

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival Photos

Fibre-giving bunny at Aker, LLC.

If I understood them correctly, Plyed and Dyed (above) are one of those rare vendors who sell wearable handspun, handknit items made from locally-sourced materials.

Glen Springs Farm llama yarn.

My first look at a Harlequin sheep.

A squirrel cage swift between Schacht spinning wheels, a Sidekick (left) and a Matchless at River's Edge Fiber Arts.

A electric-powered HansenCrafts minispinner at the Appalachian Angora Rabbit Club booth.

A Kromski Symphony spinning wheel.

The Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers were demonstrating four-shaft weaving, inkle weaving, and handspinning.  The inkle loom was set up for children to try.  I told them that at another festival four years ago when I was deciding whether to learn to spin yarn, their guild had been helpful to me and I'd appreciated it very much.  They were one of many in the autumn of 2008 who talked to me about what it was like to do handspinning, and they let me try using a wheel.

Workshops, programs, and classes are good but I really see value in the facilitation of informal opportunities for the curious public to see and chat with handspinners and weavers.  And opportunities for handspinners to see and chat each other up, for that matter.  I love the handspinners guild I belong to, as well as the group I visit when on holiday visiting family in Canada, because they allow hours and hours in their meetings for rich unstructured, undirected conversation and observation.

The fleece table late on the second day of the festival.

Naturally-coloured Leicester Longwool fleece from Stillpoint Farm.  This is the sort of glossy longwool I think is pretty.  It's very different from the finewool lock structure below, the breed of which I've forgotten.

I made two purchases.  I got some shiny English Leicester Longwool roving from Cranberry Creek Fibers in white and natural grey, and I plan to do some colourwork in språng with them.  I snagged the second-to-last bar of Peacechick soap from The Spanish Peacock.  It was great to see the SP booth's display so depleted, there were only a half dozen or so spindles unsold at closing time.  Mike and T.J. King told me about rapid and repeated bouts of decimation of their stock by customers the day before.

October 04, 2012

one hundred, sixty-fourth through sixty-seventh skeins

Natural dark Corriedale wool from Ashford, almost half a pound.  The skein of handspun on the right was spun counterclockwise.

October 03, 2012

It Était une Bergère

Heard the children's song, "Il était une Bergère," which translates, "there was a shepherdess."  The shepherdess makes cheese from sheep's milk, and she warns the cat off.  The tune is charming but the plot, well, the plot is very French.  Didn't end well for Puss at all.

Leclerc Bergere loom

October 02, 2012


I hear you can dye yarn with marigold flowers.  These aren't mine so I'm not going to put it to the test.