December 27, 2014

Started Knitting a Sleeve

By Christmas Eve, I had knitted the body of the Cullercoats sweater and started knitting a sleeve.  It's progress.

I don't know if I have firm fibre arts resolutions for 2015.

Assuming Cullercoats is not an absolute horror to finish, I'd like to knit another sweater, this time in plain stockinette.  Maybe a pullover in commercial linen yarn.  Or one in wool.

I need to wash the Gotland fleece.

We'll see how the rest of it goes.

December 20, 2014

Rose Bead Stitch Markers

Here's another look at the rose bead stitch markers I have made.

Funny things, beads made of rose petals.  They're rather nice.

December 13, 2014

Good-bye, Hampshire Wool

I gave away the Hampshire wool.  I'd washed some, combed some, dyed some, and spun a little but I never made any more progress than that.  I feel good about this move.

I also owned up to how much I dislike the yarn in my current språng project compared to the handspun in a couple of early språng pieces I did.  I could complete the project, show it off, and then shelve the finished object.  Or I could undo the piece and reuse the yarn.  Or I could skip any further effort entirely and scrap the project.  Decisions.

Let's say skip.  I have other projects to work on, and the piece did teach me some things so it wasn't a total waste.

November 29, 2014

A Brush with Cotton Towels

The other day instead of my handwoven linen Ms and Os bath towel, I had to use a cotton bath towel.  What a dismal experience.  I never want to go back to using a cotton towel.

The linen one was well worth the work and money.

This is one of the reasons to appreciate fibre arts, because the end product can be superior to mass produced common things in materials, structure, fit, or colour.

Now, to produce more fibre arts items and get more value.

November 22, 2014

Store-bought Hemp Yarn

I got some hemp knitting yarn from Hemp Traders delivered and straight away I wound a ball and knitted the start of a dish cloth.

I like knitting that particular dish cloth pattern because it's easy.  There's very little casting on and a lot of knitting with the occasional yarn over, or decreases after the halfway mark.  I can even knit it while watching subtitled videos.  The only thing I dislike about handknit dish cloths is the cotton yarn, so much so that I give all of mine away and never keep any.  This hemp yarn is a great improvement in my mind.  It has a crisp feel and a sheen, even in bumpy garter stitch.  I keep looking at it and feeling the cloth.  The yarn is skinny: I am using size 2 needles.

I'm glad I took a chance and ordered the yarn sight unseen.  I can knit dish cloths mindlessly and I can replace my ratty woven cotton ones.  I suppose it's the chatelaine in me, fussing about the state of the linen cupboard.  I've been putting off replacing the sad things because I didn't know where to get my usual brand, my old source failed me.  Now I can have hemp cloths and lots of them.  They should perform well, hemp is durable and doesn't moulder when damp.

I ordered a large quantity of white Romney roving from Qualicum Bay Fibre Works, wool that will be picked up and stored for me by a kindly family member until my next visit.  I have masses of unspun wool already.  This purchase is less about need that it is about my desire to support a mill that deals in local fibre on Vancouver Island.  I think it's important that an area keep the means of production.  The mill needs more sales to stay in business.

I have asked the mill to put my name in the queue for their spinning services.  At the proper time the roving will go back and be spun into yarn much like the stuff I'm knitting my Cullercoats sweater out of.  Ideally I would spin the wool myself but again, I have lots of other roving to keep my spindles busy.  Moreover, yarn from this mill gives a lot of what I look for in fibre.  It's not like buying mass-produced yarn from a craft store or yarn shop.  It's traceable to a region, undyed, and breed-specific, and it supports local producers and processors.

The hemp yarn is mass-produced and imported.  I am okay with that because it is good quality and I doubt it's possible to get anything comparable that's small batch and traceable.  The laws on cultivation in North America are restrictive.  I don't know about machinery to process and spin hemp, whether there are small-scale setups that bridge the gap between hand-processing and a factory line.

The Cullercoats sweater is coming along.  After getting stalled for a while near the top of the back, this past week I cast on the left front and knitted quite a lot of it.  Good thing I've made progress or I'd feel guilty about starting the hemp dish cloth.

I have a språng project on the loom that's about two or three hours from completion.  I hope I gauged the width correctly.  It's hard to tell.

November 08, 2014

Weld Dye and Over Dyeing

I went to a natural dye day and got to dip some wool in the weld pot.  We dipped yarn and wool into large pots heated over a fire.  I discovered that I really like the colour weld dye gives, a clear lemon yellow.  I plan to use it again sometime.

Besides weld, I dyed with indigo, woad which I like better than indigo, walnuts mordanted with iron for black-brown, madder overdyed with indigo for purple, weld overdyed with woad for green, and brazil wood.  The base wool was Blue Face Leicester, a pound divided into two ounce portions.

I would have liked to have dyed the Romney wool I brought back from Vancouver Island a while ago instead of the imported BFL but I didn't get the Romney ready in time.  I pulled it out and washed it all but a considerable amount of grease remained in the locks, and the grease would have resisted the dye.  I need to pick and tease the wool thoroughly to loosen the locks so the hot water and detergent will penetrate when I wash it again.

I want to dye with woad over weld again sometime for Lincoln green since I didn't get that consistent or strong a result.  It looks like mottled lemon and lime.  Someone else got a beautiful clear green.  I think she got such excellent results because she dipped earlier when the dyes were stronger, more concentrated and also because she dyed skeins.  My wool was scrunched up in a cotton bag and the woad did not contact all of the fibre.

Not only did I go to a natural dye day, I went to a synthetic dye day before that.  I got a good result by filling up two cups of dye with the same colour tinged with a little black, then dividing a cup into two cups and topping them off with different colours, then using the resulting three related colours to paint a skein.

You may remember that I am off synthetic dye.  I had not intended to dye anything but rather knit more of my sweater, but a friend persuaded me to dye a spare cotton skein she had.  It went home with her.

I was asked recently why I avoid synthetic dye in my fibre arts.  I explained how I was influenced by the Fibershed project.  Later while I was at home finding links to the founder Rebecca Burgess' interviews to pass along, I watched one of the videos on YouTube about the 150 mile wardrobe.  It was a good refresher.  I still find the clothing and the philosophy meaningful and inspirational.

October 11, 2014

More Acquisition

Another week, another fibre festival.  I bought a fleece.  This is unusual for me.  I have limits and my rule is to buy wool that is at least washed if not processed.  Not to mention I've run out of places to stow fibre in the wool room.  However, the colour and texture was so very much my taste that I found myself standing in front of the fleece warding off other shoppers with my presence as I made up my mind.  The fact that it is a local product is a bonus.

Gotland fleece
I know that once it is spun into yarn, it will lose the contrast of silver against grey and thereby lose its beauty.  I know that I should have been satisfied with a photograph and left the fleece where it was.  But right now I don't care.  It is mine and my wool room is graced by it.

I helped people learn to use a spindle to spin yarn, and sent four people home with drop spindles and wool.  A couple of them, I let them struggle for a while.  They were trying to draft fibre after they'd allowed the twist to run up into the wool and lock everything up.  I was sitting beside them, spinning a little yarn or knotting handspun bracelets for kids, available but not intruding.  Finally I said, may I, and reestablished them at the place where the fibre drafted freely, winding the felted stuff onto the shaft out of the way.

I liked the setup of the demo area this year.  I was seated on my own between a table and a tent pole, with one empty chair beside me.  It was like a little nook.

October 04, 2014


I haven't done much this past week, fibre-wise, except buy things.

Had the unexpected opportunity to buy the språng loom I borrowed before, so I took it.  May not be my taste in looks but it works and I don't have to take my chances trying to get a woodworker to understand what I want.  Plus I can fit it in the car and carry it with one hand, it was a good price, and språng looms are rare on the ground.

I got in the mail the most expensive textile I've ever bought, vintage Japanese hemp cloth dyed with indigo.  It cost about as much as a pair of pants, and is not large enough for making anything.  It is just for keeping and admiring.  The feel of it is crisp and intriguing.

Today there's a good prospect I'll be on the spot to help people try drop spindles.  I'm looking forward to it.

September 27, 2014

Foreign Parcel

I bought a copy of Fenny Nijman's Egyptisch Vlechten from the Netherlands.  It's a bit of a splurge, buying a book in Dutch, which I can't read, but it has pictures of finished objects and historical pieces in språng.

I tried making a pullover in språng.  The finished chest size came out at 76 inches unexpectedly, nothing like the small gauge swatch I made because it's harder to beat down a row on a wide warp and the rows are looser.  The piece looks better thrown across the back of a chair than it does on me.  At least I tried out false circular warp.

I made some stitch markers using fragrant beads I made from rose petals.  Here they are on my sweater.
rose petal beads

September 20, 2014

"Finish Him!"

My sweater is still very much an unfinished object and all urgency has gone from that project now that there is no deadline for it.  I have just done the armhole decreases on the back and that's all I have.

I am still using a kanban board to track the flow of work on my projects.  Each task is written on a card which I move left to right from the "ready column" to "in progress" to "done" by turns.  I'll get annoyed when a card is stationary too long, and do something about it.  The saying in kanban is, stop starting, start finishing.

I finished more Norwegian Sweet baby caps.  I assembled drop spindles that I painted with woad.  I posted YouTube videos that show someone processing dogbane and kudzu fibre, and someone spinning dogbane into yarn.  I pinned pictures of språng.  I dyed commercial yarn with tumeric and walnut.

Am glad I went to the kudzu fiber workshop.  Am probably cured of wanting to use kudzu.  Wasn't the smell of the composted vines, it was how little fibre came out of all that material.

I had another whack at the Tegle stocking språng pattern and still could not suss out the last few rows of the pattern repeat.  Oh, it's pretty though.

August 30, 2014

Once More, With Feeling

I finally got gauge on my sweater after a couple of false starts and a regrettable lapse into procrastination.  I have completed seven inches of the back and that's all, not counting all the knitting I did with too small and too large needles.

I am on the right track now for a handknit sweater in the correct size.  Sadly, I won't finish in time to enter it in the festival competition.  I'd like to aim to be done in time to wear the sweater at the festival but given my rate of progress I fear all I would have is the makings of a thick knitted waistcoat, if that.

August 23, 2014

Woad Oil Paint

Added woad powder to enamel paint and got a good colour.  The original glossiness turned flat from the powder.  My brushwork is sloppy.  It doesn't matter as it's a piece I'm assembling into a spindle to give away.  Next time I tint paint I will add less powder so the paint stays runny.  I did this in a hurry outside at dusk.

August 16, 2014

Hampshire Wool gets Dyed Indigo

Someone put on a dye day and I took the event as a spur to finishing up some fibre preparation.

I washed the remaining two pounds of Hampshire wool that had sat greasy in the stash for three years.

I dyed a pound and a half in the indigo vat, then took two ounces of that and over-dyed with walnut.  Here are thrice-dipped bags of fibre hanging to dry and oxidize:

The bags in the foreground are cotton and the other bags are polyester mesh.  Inside is the wool.  The zippers on the mesh bags were convenient for checking the shade of blue on the wool.

Also convenient was having someone else manage the indigo vat but someday I am going to have to learn to do it for myself.  Out of a feeling that I should do some re-skilling, I made my first ever madder dye bath on my own and dyed some more Hampshire.  It came out a red-orange colour.

indigo overdyed with walnut

July 26, 2014

A Close Deadline as a Strategy

Since I hope to enter the sweater in a competition a couple of months from now, I'm not going to post photos or write about my progress until afterward.

It is hard to tell if I have a chance of finishing on time.  Have heard that a sweater can take a month or as much as a year or more depending on whether it gets regular attention.  I do like a deadline and figure it is better to aim for a close one.  Even if I miss the cutoff, I will be closer to done then than if I pick a distant date like Christmas and slough off.

July 07, 2014

The Simple, Complicated, and Complex

The rate at which I do fibre arts projects, it can vary.

I'll stall and drop momentum until I can get help or get in that useful state where desire for the finished object exceeds the reluctance to face the technical problem.  It is usually a technical problem, like getting gauge or sourcing materials.

Simple and small or weird and complex with original stuff to figure out, somehow with those I'll move along at a good constant clip.  I've made quite a few babies happy this year with Norwegian Sweet Baby caps.  I tried weaving overshot and found it as easy as promised.  My experiments in the technique of språng were diverting.  Unfortunately they are the sort of projects that don't get me moving directly toward my goals.  If velocity matters, value matters too.  I want finished objects for me.  Actual wearable clothing, not accessories, for me, out of local traceable materials that are naturally coloured.  Anything else is practice.

What I want is complicated, by which I mean complicated to achieve.  It means a narrow choice of materials, long-term projects, and realization of a specific aesthetic and fit.

I have begun a sweater for me, in natural grey Romney commercial aran yarn from the Salt Spring Island Wool Co.  I picked Alice Starmore and Anne Matheson's Cullercoats, a cabled sweater pattern published in the early 80s.  The cables and border designs are attractive, the lines are dated.  I mentioned the pattern on this blog a few years ago, writing, "I don't know if I have the high level of understanding and stern degree of determination I would need in order to alter it to suit my taste."  

I've written the modifications, I've gotten gauge, and I've started a sleeve.

Norwegian Sweet Baby cap, swatch for sweater

SSI Wool Co.'s sheep pasture with Romneys