Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bad ply day

Plied yarn should be a thing of beauty. The yarn should be like a string of pearls, lustrous, round and intriguing to knit. It doesn’t turn out like this all the time. Like styling hair, there are days the ply turns out limp, uneven and uninteresting: a bad ply day. Just such a yarn is shown below.
Can this yarn be saved? Yes. I unply and then reply the yarn. This is a simple procedure. I run the yarn through again in the opposite direction to unply it so I am pretty much winding two strands onto my bobbin. Then I take the bobbin off the wheel and reply it. Naturally, I do the replying on a good ply day. Below is a picture of the unplied yarn.
For me, the main ingredient to producing a good ply is to not feel rushed. To take my time to make sure I keep the twist full and even so I can get the kind of yarn I love to knit, or weave. It is as simple as that.
So don’t be satisfied with a plied yarn that doesn’t inspire you. Take the time to do it right—to unply and reply so you have it what you want. Some people may counsel to skip the step of unplying, and just run it through the wheel again. But if you really want a nice yarn, the unply step is worth the effort. This is after all a hobby, and therefore fun, so it is worth the time to eschew shortcuts and craft something beautiful.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mistakes: A novice's tutor

A mistake repeated is a new design, my friend and weaving mentor Beth likes to say. This is especially true in weaving where a slip in one’s concentration can cause all kinds of interesting problems in your cloth. Below you can see what is going on with the dishtowels I’m weaving, which have become a defacto sampler.
Despite the greatest of care and much double checking, I made two warping errors. One is missing a dent in the reed, and the second was in the threading. The missing dent is the most bothersome because it gives the weaving a gap toothed look on the loom, though I suppose this might at least partly disappear once it is free from being held in tension. The threading error happened in a kind of nice spot design wise, so I pretend it is my “signature stripe” or something to that effect.
The fun part was when I decided to re-tie my treadles to a walking tie-up, which puts a tabby (plain weave) at each end of the six peddle arrangement on my four harness loom. I was using a classic rosepath treadling from Marguerite Davison’s book which produced tiny little triangles.
I must have been daydreaming when I started weaving one day because I treadled one of the tabby’s adding two pics to the design. So, I became a weaving designer, or better an unventer, because here I have this satisfying little weave that is a mix of small and big diamonds. I think I will weave the central area of the towel before going back to what I was doing at the start—weaving a couple of rows of diamonds and then one row using overshot technique. This will be fun.
My friend Beth says that in earlier times, apprentice weavers were given samplers to work on. As a novice this is where I should be too. I want to not only learn to weave, but master the craft—to understand how and why things happen. My “mistakes” are providing this knowledge. I’m glad I made the decision to move forward with weaving and not redo the threading and sleighing.
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Coming Clean

Inspired by a friend in my Ravelry based knitting group Down along the Ridge, I am posting all my stash on Ravelry. I know I was going to talk about weaving discoveries today, but seeing Lorna post all her umpteen skeins of sock yarn on her stash page, I feel I should make an effort towards coming clean about all the fleece and yarn I have.

The first step to true destashing is to get a handle on just how much is there. I'm doing this in a public way in the friendly, fiber minded world of Ravelry. It also is a great way to get organized and to manage my ideas. I can log into my Ravelry notebook and see what I have to work with.

If you are a Raveler, you can visit my page and see the ongoing effort. So far I've cataloged fleece and yarn in my downstairs workshop. I still need to work on the upstairs closet but it is a start! I've spent several hours organizing the closet, found two big bags to throw out or give await. This has allowed me to fit three more large fiber buckets into the closet. I'm sure that once I get going with the upstairs closet, even more buckets will disappear.
I'm posting random pictures of representative stash. From the top is Flax roving and yarn, Wensleydale rug yarn, and finally Shetland in two natural colors. Thanks for visiting my blog. Please stop by next week!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A good start

Having made public the embarrasing state of my fiber stash, it feels good to follow this up with some pictures of progress being made. Below is the first of my purple Shetland yarn: a DK weight (11 WPI). This is 211 yards worth representing 6.85 ounces of fiber. Not bad for the first week. I plan to be piling up skeins on my Ravelry project page over the next month.

I'm also knitting my first sweater, a Fair Isle yoke, and below is the first sleeve and half of the body. I cast on Jan. 1 and have been knitting along. I did frog the body midweek when I realized I was making a much bigger sweater than I could ever wear. I joined that Ravelry group where you knit 12 sweaters in a year. I'm not sure if I can do 12, especially since I knit from hanspun, but I can try.

Last, I managed to fill one bobbin toward a three ply rug yarn for that rug project which seems to have been at a standstill for months. The thing missing is the yarn, so this does represent a little bit of progress. I'm aiming for a super bulky three ply at 5 WPI.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please stop by again! Next week: Warp Gremlins Strike!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Taming the Abominable Stash-Monster

The New Year is here: a blank canvas of days, weeks, months to fill with good intentions and plans for self-improvement. Unfortunately, there is nothing blank about my stash closets. They are crammed full of fleece.
The only blank look is when the closet doors are closed—if you can get to the doors. There are plastic stash buckets stacked two deep and four high in front of the downstairs workshop and my upstairs studio in nearly blocked because I’m running out of room for all the bags of carded fleece!
What have I done?
This is absolutely ridiculous!

So I embark on a destashing journe. This year, I will make a dent in my stash and I won’t buy more fleece than I’ve spun. In fact, I will limit myself to three fleeces! No, really. Honest! Plus, since I’m a member of Ravelry’s Spin Your Stash, I won’t be buying anything until after the first day of spring.

I’m also a member of the 5K Stash down, where we all try to spin/knit 5 K (about 5,500 yards worth) of stash. Since I have sooo much, I want to do 5K each of spinning and knitting.

Here are my plans via the “pentathlon” theme of my website . To accomplish the goals I will need to card/dye/spin and knit or weave lots and lots of fleece. The overall goal is to be able to fit all my stash in the closets.
I will keep in short and spare you gruesome details like the yarn I spun in 2000 and have yet to knit, or the flax roving from the 90’s.
1. Knitting: at least six sweaters, including Kinsale, Bebenhausen Windows , and Aran of my own design and Mrs. Laidlaw’s pattern, all from handspun. Naturally, there will be assorted small articles: socks, hats etc.
2. Spinning: fleece for sweaters and assorted items. Many pounds for rug weaving.
3. Carding: 99% of the spinning stuff will be hand carded from fleece. I will probably blend my finer fleeces the Cormos and Romeldales with alpaca, silk, bamboo or tencel—all of which inhabit my stash closets.
4. Dyeing: as needed for projects.
5. Weaving: Two long floor runners, towels, placemats and festive Christmas gift towels.
That stash is going down! I will beat the abominable stash monster oozing and overflowing from my closets. Though I won’t ever go back to the long lost days when my stash filled only one closet, I will look forward to rooms free of plastic buckets.
Besides the 5K Stash Down and Spin Your Stash, I plan to join every Ravelry opportunity to use stash: Ravelympics, the Tour de Fleece and any other challenge that will push me to tame the abominable stash monster. To keep me on track with sweaters, I further joined Intswemodo 2010. I don’t know if I can knit twelve with all the weaving, but I sure can try. In fact, if you hear of anymore stash busting groups, let me know!