Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A long goodbye

Losing my father-in-law the day before Thanksgiving has been a slow-burn experience.  First, the stunned realization and the acceptance that had already been growing there--he was 98 at the time and had been moved to a care facility for the last year or so. The workers there really cared and it was good to know that someone noticed he was slipping away and was with him to hold his hand for those last moments.

To be honest, I've been sad about it for some time. Sad when we left the house my husband had grown up in knowing it would be sold in a month, knowing we would never be back, knowing it would never be quite the same.  The sadness started when my mother-in-law passed six years before. Elva was an avid naturalist and knew every bird and every plant in her neighborhood. We loved walking with her with a pair of binoculars up a road. Of course, we had to keep up with her.  She was hardy to nearly the end.

And for many years, so was my father-in-law. Ira had lived in his small north country town all of his life, and he had stories that stretched back to earlier years. Funny stories, touching stories, lots and lots of stories. He had been very active in his community--he was one of the charter members of the local volunteer fire department, was fire chief for many years, was a grand master at his Masonic Lodge, was a school board member,  attended Town Board meetings to voice his views when it was necessary. He was a respected member of his community.  I can see where my husband got his own interest in local politics.

In my thirty years of marriage, I knew both my in-laws as retired people. Early on, if they weren't off square dancing, they were playing mahjong or cross-country skiing or off in the woods on one of their many foraging expeditions. Elva and Ira knew where every sort of edible plant was. They were out "stalking the wild asparagus" and Elva's botanical skills were the basis of healthy eating and living.

I'm glad to have known them while they were still young.  We went cross-country skiing with them, took many long hikes and they taught us to play mahjong. We had many late nights up playing with them! We lived much closer back then and we would visit or stop in. For awhile, we took turns taking each other out to lunch--we would find an interesting town half-way and pick a restaurant. They visited us in Connecticut where we lived, but usually we would head north.  It was so peaceful in that little town that each visit was a respite from our busy lives.

Elva and Ira were an interesting couple--they traveled a lot and we had a chance to hear about their visits--crossing the Arctic Circle on a local steamer in Norway, taking an Audubon tour in Alaska or cruising on the Danube. They spent their 60th anniversary in Venice. They were young for most of the years I knew them, and it wasn't until the past decade that the years began to make their inevitable claim.

I will never forget our last Thanksgiving with Elva at the Cambridge Inn a few months before she died. She'd been failing, but that day she was her old self, smiling and gracious and happy.  It was a good memory of happier times.  After she left, Ira held up pretty well, but the years were crowding in on him. We went from sitting with him in the evening listening to his stories over a glass of Scotch served in a jelly jar with one ice cube, to watching him fall asleep in front of the Weather Channel.  We went from going out and about the mountains, taking walks and stopping for a nice lunch, to just a drive around the block.

Then the time came for a care facility, and Ted's sister found a beautiful one overlooking the Atlantic near her home in Maine. It had a nice homey feel, including a fireplace so he could sit in his wheel chair and doze, something he enjoyed. The place was clean and bright and he wasn't alone his last few moments.

It is the end of an era for my husband and I.  We miss both of them deeply.  We've been missing them during the long years of slipping away.  But we will always have them with us, and all the lessons we learned from them. For me they are lessons about loving the outdoors, staying fit and really living those elder years doing what you enjoy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Little suburb near the prairie

Improved studio area in portion of family room.

We were busy around the house this weekend and re-arranged some furniture--hard work for the middle aged.  We have a long family room so I managed to squeeze two looms--the 27" Fanny and the 30" 8 shaft Loomcraft into new spaces that will take advantage of the natural, southern-exposure light of the family room.  I really like the way this has turned out.  Now I just have to weave there.

But today we took a seven mile walk on an 1800 acre restored prairie not far from my home.  The vistas were gorgeous--there were long periods of no sign of civilization. Rolling hills and trees blocked development that has spread into the cornfields of Illinois.  We have restored prairie just a a few blocks from our home.

It's a good time to be grateful to the Universe for plopping us here in this particular suburb so close to so many really nice natural areas. In just a few blocks in the other direction, we reach a long swath of riparian habitat that has been saved and restored.  Riparian refers to along the river and these habitats are vital for the survival of lots of species and I've seen beaver and other critters down in the "woods" and an amazing number of migrating birds. And, of course, the Great Horned Owl. I love hearing it hoot at night near my house, thanks to lots of green space provided in planning neighborhoods.

I am thankful for green space. And I'm trying my best to create a non-toxic environment on my own small plot of suburb.  We've successfully grown some nice prairie flowers but next year I want to go one step further. I have a large area in the back yard to devote to milkweed, bee balm and other plants to help bees and butterflies survive the harsh conditions civilization has created.

I have a special love for the Monarch Butterfly who has suffered from our predation on their habitat.  It is only a small backyard, but I figure, every back yard helps. And the front yard too! That is where we've had the most success with prairie plants like blue false indigo, goldenrod, yellow and purple coneflower, aster and more.  I want to expand that too. It is super pretty in summer and a few more feet would be nice.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Carpal tunnel surgery

This is what my hand looked like about a month ago. It was two weeks after carpal tunnel release surgery and just before I had my stitches out. It looked worse before this.  Getting the stitches out was a giant relief because the tightness kept me from using my hand freely. Yes it hurt--not horribly but more annoyingly. In the long run, it was worth is though as my hand no longer goes numb. I've had trouble with carpal tunnel for years--decades in fact--perhaps dating back to my journalism days when I'd be up till all hours typing like a madwoman. Now my life, in contrast, is leisurely.

I have what one person told me was the "old-fashioned" kind of surgery, which means the type perfected in the last decade or so. Now they are using lasers and such, but I figured I should get what is tried and true. Now that the swelling is down and my palm is starting to look almost normal the difference is amazing.  No hand going numb at inconvenient times. I have lots of exercises to do (and I do them with both hands) and all kinds of stuff I need to do to get rid of the scar--vitamin E oil palm massages and this special kind of strip I wear over it at night that is supposed to get rid of the scar. You can get these at the drugstore.
Cormo dyed deep green was untouched for weeks.
The worst part of this was not being able to do anything fibery for several weeks. I did try to spin a bit toward the end, but it was awful. I had to wait for the stitches to be out. And then it took a bit to get my strength back up so the spinning went nicely.

 I did catch up on my reading and my friend Beth brought me her copy of the classic Keep Me Warm One Night Burnam & Burnam's out of print book about traditional weaving in Canada prior to the Industrial Revolution. It is a beautiful book and absolutely fascinating.  And then I'm working on my Master's so I did some reading for that too. Unfortunately it isn't a Masters in Fine Art because the university where I work doesn't have that, But I think Management and Organization Behavior can come in handy, especially when I have time to volunteer for weaving groups.

So this is why I've been missing from my blog for so long. Once I got use of my hand back, I've managed to do some spinning, but generally I had to play catch up--for one I had to write a paper for school. There hasn't been much going on with the looms either. I do have plans to move things around studio wise, but I'll save more of that for later.

The surgery really wasn't that bad. It was the stir crazy of not being able to use my hand that was the worst. It was the pain of unthinkingly picking something up with the bad hand that was unpleasant. The palm is still a bit sore, making yoga not so great, but all of that is going away, slowly but surely.  My major exercise has been walking, and in the past month I've managed to walk 140+ miles, which isn't bad. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fellowship of the Lard

Walking is my favorite exercise, so it is not a stretch that I'm attracted to anything that includes walking as part of the activity--like walking meditation. I had made a commitment to myself to incorporate walking meditation into my life. Plus I would get out in the fresh air, feel the wind on my face and those dried autumn leaves crunching under my feet.

Weaving and my other favored activities are indoor things--unless it is a beautiful day and I can bring a spinning wheel or knitting outside. But I love being outside rain, snow or shine--which is why the gym didn't work out for me--too noisy, too monotonous, too inside. So when I read Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh's description of walking meditation I thought this was a good fit for me. Walk and breath in nourishment or healing, let each step touch the earth and let anxiety slide out with every step--that kind of thing.

But what's all this about walking to Mordor? Isn't that the Lord of the Rings or something? Well, yes. On Wednesday I was trolling around Ravelry, the online community for the fiber obsessed, when I came upon this challenge to walk from Hobbiton to Mordor and back--a 6,893 mile round trip, which has the potential of taking me nearly four years if I average 5 miles per day--which is about what gives me the 10,000 steps for a healthy heart.

Ouch! Completely crazy right? But I'm such a geek, I went out that very day to purchase new batteries for my pedometers--a 2.6 mile walk to the drugstore and back. I put the battery in at the drug store and then off I went home to log into the group Anti-Lard Alliance and sign up for the challenge.  I wanted to know how far I was walking! I was already planning to add the two miles I know I walked the day before!

There is an excellent spread sheet created by group member MeganMME that details the entire journey so I can see where I am. Right now, I'm 10.5 miles away from Hobbiton--and the last good view of "home" was 1.5 miles behind me.

I'm a few weeks behind most of the Fellowship since the challenge started in September. But I have time to catch up. And I still don't know if treadling my loom will register on the pedometer as steps!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Straight to the dye pot

BFL/Wensleydale cross
Not much weaving was accomplished since my feat of lightening warping last weekend. The project is on hold for a bit as things get busy. I did manage to get to a fiber fair this weekend--my first in a long time--and despite Fiber in the Park being very small, I managed to find two fleeces. Shown above is a BFL Wensleydale cross grown by Kathy McClure, a talented dyer as well as excellent shepherd. She washes her sheep before she sheers them, which is why this fleece looks so absolutely gorgeous. It was also why I was able to bring it directly home and drop all 2.25 pounds in the dyepot.
Green fiber drying.
Now it is drying away--it dyed a bit unevenly but that will all be taken care of when I card.  It should give the yarn some depth.  I plan to knit a sweater from the resulting yarn. I also purchased a natural colored Romney fleece, but haven't had a chance to take photos.

Just so you know, life is getting busy and I won't be playing with fiber nor be blogging for the next several weeks. I will be getting back to it all soon though!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weekend Warper

A different way to warp
Warping can take me weeks--I'm a slow weaver. Not this time. It started over coffee Saturday morning when I did  the calculations.  After breakfast I started winding and had half of the warp on the loom before it was time to do some errands. The Fanny has a sectional warp beam, so I've been developing a hybrid warping method that takes advantage of the sectional beam without having to buy all the expensive equipment. Essentially, I warp five inches at a time right off the warping board. I have this heavy metal comb I use to help keep the threads straight. It is heavy, so it also provides nice even tension while I wind the warp onto the loom.

Cross-free warping
Warp gremlins are active in my home, and they love messing with my cross. Not only does my cross get flipped, but I've had twisting behind the cross. So I thought I would try cross free weaving by winding my warps in consecutive one inch bundles. Since this handspun yak scarf is just is just 9 dents per inch, and the warp only 8 feet long, this was the perfect project to experiment with.  So far so good, though next time I'm using duck tape to hold the one inch width of thread. This idea came from sectional warping--on the Leclerc video they show tape being used to keep the threads in order for threading.

Warp gremlins, by the way, is what I blame for my own lack of attention to what I am doing. All these processes are slow with plenty of time for my mind to wander. Despite my best efforts there are still a few mess-ups on this rather straightforward warp. Good thing I'm not a surgeon.
Weaving with handpun
 My favorite goose-eye treadling is being used for this scarf. Because the warp is under tension and stretched, despite it being 100% yak down, I am using a very light beat so I can get a nice even fabric with a good drape.  The weft, you may recognize, is the merino yak braid I purchased from Unwind Yarn Company back in February and spun up this summer. This has to be one of the fastest yarn to project conversions yet.  If I get this done in one week, I'll be breaking a personal record. But I doubt it. We will see next week.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Stash satisfaction--Stashafaction

My new wedding ring
Ten years ago, I would have told my husband not to waste money on jewelry. If he was going to spend a lot of money on me, I wanted more fiber equipment. With four looms, four spinning wheels and two carders, I no longer say this. I also have bins of fiber and plenty of workbench space. And so, I have moved on from the stage of active equipment acquisition, to the busy realm of using what I have.

My plain wedding band was so tight, it was getting painful  and I had an engagement ring I hadn't been able to wear for more than a decade.  When two cuts were needed to get the wedding ring off, I realized it was time for something a little different.  We decided to combine the two into one new ring. The two dark stones flanking my original diamond (tiny at the time as we were just starting out) are amethyst, which happen to be my favorite stone.  They aren't as sparkly and I think they anchor and show off the diamonds. Symbols are important, and what better symbol than one of enduring love?

For me, it is also a symbol of enduring stash and a new status in my fiber hobby--Stashafaction.   This newly coined word means stash satisfaction. That's when we pretty much have all the stash we will need for awhile.  Oh, we may pick up some fiber here and there, but that's about it.  We really don't need equipment or anything else.   We are Stashafied.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

When you don't have to be right

Freshly spun yak/merino blend
As I reread Thich Nhat Hanh's Mindfulness Survival Kit, it is like I am reading it for the first time.  It is hard to believe I only read it six months ago.  The way of thinking is very alien to my milieu--for instance what is referred to as "right view" isn't about being right, or even having views at all.

Back in my journalist days I had to come up with at least an opinion every week--commonly known as an editorial. I recall Jack Sanders, the executive editor of the newspaper group I worked for, telling us that we didn't have to be right, we just had to make a good case.  And when writing articles, I would basically gather and present disparate opinions on any given topic--in local news that would be the school budget or plans for a highway bypass.

So if any of you wonder why when you turn to any news channel/website/paper etc. you are deluged with strong, right seeming opinions, please keep in mind that these people are having these strong opinions for a living.  Yes, it is just a job.  You can ignore all of them if you want.  They know they don't have to be right, they just have to make a good case.

Carded Icelandic--some say it is best combed.
So practicing mindfulness has been no easy task.  Even in a pursuit as seemingly peaceful as spinning and weaving we have have views and opinions--which is wheel is better--which warping method is better.  There is a joke that if you get a half-dozen spinners together you get a dozen opinions on the best wheel.

So really we live in a cacophony of opinion.  Probably way too many opinions for our own good.  And so I will continue to reread the book on mindfulness and hope to at least still to a dull roar my own racing opinions and take a moment to breathe, enjoy the moment and simply be.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We will always have Paris...

Selfie in the Louvre
We can say that now, having been there.  Paris was awesome and we enjoyed wandering around and seeing what we could see.  We do "slow" tourism, so there was no rushing around in a human clump from site to site.  We were able to spend 8 hours in the Louvre, for instance, taking our time to look and enjoy.  It was a massive buffet of artistic inspiration and the venue as striking as the art.  Bleary from our long day, we almost couldn't find our way out--we were stuck in an inspirational loop that kept sending us down a hall full of Roman sculptures instead of out of the Pyramid exit.  That was the night we found the Lebanese restaurant, I think, and a really good bottle of wine.

Rain at Place de Colette metro stop
Paris in the rain is a thing, but we only got one afternoon of it and an excuse to sit in a cafe, drink wine and watch it.  This was a nice outdoor Cafe on the Place de Colette next to the Comedie Francaise.  It was made especially interesting because there were city offices where people could get married, so there were a number of people on Saturday strolling past us in their wedding finery to tie the knot.  And people with umbrellas. I wanted to get a shot of people walking every which way with umbrellas, like in that painting, but the wine was good and I was relaxed.

Joan of Arc
My three favorite things were the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cluny, the Monet Waterlilies at the Orangerie and Sacre Couer at Montmartre.  All three of these had a spiritual dimension.  The Unicorn tapestries were beautiful and well worth finding your way to the Cluny.  The Parthenon was pretty amazing too.  Okay, and the pastry, and the little art galleries on tiny pack streets, and the Seine, the Tuillerie and the alien exhibit at their MOMA.  We spent quite a bit of time sitting in various parks enjoying the sunshine, including the Tuillerie.  We had dinner at 8 at night and slept until 10.  I suppose I could go on and on.

Paris is in me now--maybe it was always there, a byproduct of French class and knowing the language.  I know that all I saw and did will inspire and resurface in my art.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's been a long time....

I opened my Etsy shop with these two pieces.
My blog has been uncharacteristically quiet for the past few months.  Summer has been keeping me busy with travel, time in the sunshine and crafting.  Today, I opened my Etsy Shop with a couple of pieces of amethyst jewelry.  I plan to add some weaving soon, but I really wanted to get this shop going and yesterday I went a little nuts at this beading store in Downers Grove.  I also have one of these bracelets, but don't worry, I have no intention of mass producing.  I like one-of-a-kind items.  Two-of-a-kind in this case.  I love making jewelry.

The bracelet and ear rings I'm selling are made with the same quality stones and findings as the one I made for myself--the part of the ear-ring that goes in your ear is gold-filled for instance.

I'm still pretty new at this--no light box, no jewelry boxes and no labels, yet. But I have plans for creating a more sophisticated store.  Right now, I just need a sale or two to get me off the ground, so I'll be pretty busy weaving, knitting and beading so I have things for my shop. This is exciting.  Opening a shop is something I've been thinking about for a long time and with my birthday coming up, I figured it was the time to do it!. It is called Craftstead Studio, in honor of this blog.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Floating fiber

Blue false indigo leaning fro the rain.
It was snowing puffs of white cottony fluff.  Really.  I've taken to going on lunchtime walks for fitness and there's been some type of tree that has been shedding tufts of fluff that floats through the air like spin-able snowflakes! The stuff is gorgeous.  I've caught a few and it is fine and silky--but fiber is short and seeds plentiful.  I don't see myself collecting this for spinning anytime soon.  The seeds are the point of the floating fluff spreading the species reach with the wind. I need to learn the name of that tree!

And for me it is a sign that I am on the right course health wise, because not only am I getting a good walk but I'm also enjoying the sounds of birds and the sights of fiber shedding trees, flowers, plantings and more.

I have come to hate the gym and the endless pumping away on the treadmill it's view of a cracked black parking lot backed with the golden glow of the backside of a fast food joint. All this to the beat of the awful, blaring music in the gym.  It is so loud that the trainers all shout over it creating a chaos of noise. Using ear buds isn't helpful because to drown out the din I would risk ruining my hearing.

And really, do they have to play Rap and assorted weird stuff on their playlist?  They use Pandora and they could certainly filter out the offensive stuff it they wanted too--maybe the manager should take a look at their graying demographic and edit the playlist so we don't have to listen to morons and f-bombs? Their answer to any complain is, of course earbuds

Personally, I don't want to be deaf in five years.  Of course, this may explain the loud music.  Perhaps the management has had blasting earbuds for too long.  I'm sure the manager's fab Snoop Dog can give them a suggestion as to where they can put their earbuds.

And it's not just the noise, the machines break down, the cleaning is questionable and there isn't enough room to exercise if you aren't working with a trainer.  One thing training for 12 months has taught me is that I have all the equipment I need to stay toned and tough right at home.  I have weights, I have bands, I can do squats and sit ups in my family loom.  I don't have to work around trainers and their clients.  My loom is a handy place to steady myself or hold my feet for a sit up. Why bother with a gym? So we are done with the place.

When it gets too cold or wet, the Big B where I work has plenty of stairs for me to climb. But mainly, I want to walk outside.  I can do sit ups and squats at home.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A bit of knitting

This scarf is being knit from scarf yarn.
Beautiful weather and a digression into knitting have kept me away from blogging.  We've had steady flow of some really lovely weekends, so I have been out riding my bike or relaxing on the lawn chair and maybe a bit of gardening.  Since the looms are inside, I thought I'd try a bit of knitting.

Shown above is a scarf I'm knitting for a charity event my sit and stitch is planning.  It is made out of sock yarn and I'm using a simple mock brioche stitch.  I haven't knit for awhile and it took me a bit just to master this stitch.  Amazing how rusty I could get so quickly.

356 yards of two ply handspun.
The beautiful weather has also been perfect for sitting outside with a spinning wheel, so I managed to get some of that done too.  I enjoy spinning so this is a great thing to do outside.  The yarn is some superwash merino and bamboo I dyed myself using both wool and cellulose dyes.  I like the  way it came out.

 I suppose I need a loom I can bring outside to weave on--something a portable like one of those little Harrisvilles or maybe a Leclerc compact.  But I don't suppose that will be happening right away as I have plenty of things to keep me busy both inside and outside.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Days of warp and irons

Finally, the handtowels are finished--hemmed, washed and ironed and ready for use in our master bathroom. It felt like a long process, but really it wasn't.  I like the way the hems came out.  This time I decided to weave an inch before each towel design started.  I used a straight twill treadling (1,2,3,4) for an inch and separated it with a strand.  Of course, the threading did not produce a straight twill hem, but it worked. This is best shown below.

One inch wove with same thread as warp to use in hem.
I was using a slightly finer warp--a 4/2 cotton with a 3/2 weft.  This made the hem just a bit less bulky.  For the most part I had success neatly rolling it over for the hem.  I like this hem better than using the actual design as I did in some towels earlier. Plus it leaves a line of white to start off the design. I used a contrasting color to delineate the beginning and ending of each hem and finished the sides with blanket stitch before carefully cutting along the line to separate the towels.  I then folded the hems over and used hem stitch.

I am really happy with the way these turned out.

I've begun weaving a gold and green Tencel scarf on the Loomcraft.  I am liking the way this came out but interestingly, I've discovered the first and eight treadle have the same tie up!  I still haven't checked to see if I made a mistake or if the instructions called for it. I'm not sure I want to know!
Scarf with possible tie up error.
So far the scarf looks pretty good with nice looking diamonds.  This is a simple threading of a V and an inverted V and I'm treadling the same way 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,7,6,5,4,3,2, and then,8, 7,6,5,4,3,2,1, 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 .  I need to miss the "1" on the next round because the tie up for 1 and 8 are the same!  I suppose I should take a look and see what the tie up should have been, but since it looks nice and I'm in no mood for unweaving, I will just continue what I'm doing.

That's all for this week. Now to just make sure the DH hangs up that hook for my handtowels.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Weekend Weaving

Roll of towels fresh off the loom.

There is nothing like a nice weekend to catch up on my weaving!  I managed to finish the hand towels I was weaving on the Fanny just in time for the stitch n' bittch retreat last Saturday. I cut them all off the loom brought them with me in the roll you see above.  Now that was a relaxing time.  It was great fun to see everyone, and people I don't get to see because they go to the daytime meeting.

Work cramps my style. Time spent at the Big "B" gets in the way of all kinds of fun I could be having either at home or at some get together somewhere.  Well darn.  I do like to keep a countdown until retirement, regardless of how silly it may seem.  I do look forward to the opportunity to socialize with other stitchers.

The towels hemmed but not wet finished.
The towels are all hemmed and waiting for a chance to be wet finished, which is weaver talk for washed and ironed.  Though weavers don't iron things the way normal people do, we give them a hard press.  Which means leaning into the iron as you press. You need to do this on a firm surface as ironing boards have been reported to collapse during the "hard press" process.

I don't own an ironing board, and won't have one in the house. Ironing is for dry-cleaners. Hard pressing is for weavers and I use my workbench.

Handpsun cotton yarn.
I also finished the cotton I'd been spinning since the beginning of April.  There isn't much of it but I think it will make a nice weft for a placemat or something.  My latest spinning project is a merino/bamboo blend I dyed a few years ago for the bamboo class I taught at the spinning guild.  I dyed the wool red and then the rayon blue using the two different dye methods appropriate for each fiber.
Fiber I dyed a couple of years ago.
The fiber is enjoyable to spin. I am making fine singles to ply into a fine two ply.  This is going really well.
I also have a lot going on in the world of weaving and I'm going to try new weave structures, including rep and overshot.  But more about that next week!

Friday, April 18, 2014

TGIF weaving

I have a long weekend away from the Big B where I work because it is an institution of higher learning that celebrates certain religious holidays with long weekends so students and faculty can catch up on their work before (ugh) finals.  So I get to weave, weave, weave and maybe tool around in the yard a bit.  We should be able to plant in a month and things do need to get ready.

Canadian Snowlflake handtowels.
I've made some headway on the Canadian Snowflake handtowels, but I would really like to finish them this weekend.  My stitch n' bitch is having a retreat next Saturday and they would be the perfect project to finish while sitting around sipping herbal tea and talking.

I've just started the teal color. Can I zoom through four more towels this weekend?  My weaving progress is usually fairly  slow, so we will have to see.  I am still forever fringing that shawl I wove and still don't have a finished object to show.  Such is life.

Warp for BGH overshot throw.
Meanwhile, I have this warp to beam for a 1000+ end overshot throw.  The warp is the lovely bamboo cotton blend I purchased from Yarn Barn's mill ends.  Thankfully, they had a spare cone so I didn't have to improvise a stripe in the warp.  Overshot is a whole new weave structure for me and I am looking forward to seeing what sort of lovely designs I can make.
Giant cone of 8/2 pink.
Every since I finished those washcloths, the DH has been lobbying for more of them.  I have this 1.5 pound cone of 8/2 pink and now I am thinking of a whole new weave structure: waffle weave.  Right now it is a research/math project as I try to figure out the proper sett and width.  Waffle collapses when taken off the loom, according to the books I've been looking at, so I need to make the warp quite a bit wider than my expected finished project.  This will be done on the Loomcraft Lulu as I want to start with four shaft waffle and then move up to six and possibly 8 shaft. I have some massive cones of 8/2 cotton I picked up as mill ends, and should make great washcloths.  And don't worry, it won't all be pink! I have plenty of colors to try in the weft to spice them up a bit.

But there's still the golden scarf sitting on the Loomcraft waiting to be woven.  Thank goodness for long weekends!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weaving nirvana

Canadian Snowflake hand towels.
I've been having the best time weaving.  The Canadian Snowflake towels warped onto the Fanny have been exceptionally fun to weave.  Part of it is the 18" width, which believe me is much easier to weave than the 50 inch width of the throw I was weaving.  Plus the Fanny is a lovely loom to weave on, quiet, easy to treadle and ever so dependable.  The colors are fun too.  I have one more towel to weave in red and then I go on to another color.  Which shall I choose?  I have quite a few cones of the unmercerized 3/2 cotton for warp, and I have choices to make.  I'm thinking a rich deep teal may go next.

Beauty shot of the Canadian Snowflake throw.
This is my "beauty shot" (you know, the one to post on Ravelry) for the Canadian Snowflake throw.  I really love the way it turned out, and it lives draped over the rocking chair or some other piece of furniture.  I want to use it to artfully drape over my favorite chair for when company comes. Thanks to Laura Fry for this wonderful Canadian Snowflake draft!

 My next throw will be my first venture into overshot.  I will use a design by Bertha Gray Hayes, that wonderful woman who lived for weaving while earning her living at the phone company during the mid-part of the last century.  Her life's work was saved by weavers from her guild who had preserved her hundreds of samples, designs and notes and published a book for all of us to enjoy.  But more about that as I weave.

Weft colors for BGH overshot throw
Right now, I'm stuck on the warp!  I do love mill ends, and two of the colors you see above were purchased that way.  There is a danger in mill ends in that once you run out, you've run out. Not shown is a lovely natural colored bamboo/cotton that I'm using as warp.  Sadly, I ran out of it Thursday night.  Gladly, the Yarn Barn had one cone left.  While I was at it, I also purchased a badly needed fringe twister.  I am really looking forward to getting started on this throw! Just waiting for the cone to appear on my doorstep.

Golden Tencel for a scarf.
In the meantime, I have a warp of golden Tencel to put on the Loomcraft.  Shown above are my Leclerc Threading Helpers in a brand new configuration I figured out to so they work on this loom.  I am really enjoying threading this project because this golden Tencel is so gorgeous.  I am using the same threading as for my shawl, but this time my treadling will produce big interlaced diamonds.
Pretty cotton won in the Tour de Fleece 2013.
Spinning is a staple in my studio, and right now I'm working on this colorful cotton and I'm really enjoying it! I usually don't enjoy spinning cotton.  Maybe it's because I'm letting it be thick and a bit slubed? Could be.  I want to use it as a weft for some placemats.  I have some nice thick cotton/linen yarn I can dye to go with this.  It should be fun and colorful!

So that is what's going on at the Craftstead Studios! I hope you are all being productive too.  Happy spinning and weaving! Feel free to post about your project in the comments. I'd love to know about them!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tencel shawl

IMG_0153 by Craftsteader
IMG_0153, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
This shawl was begun in February will be cut off the loom tomorrow. The project went quickly but it did have a few snags. I had a lot of breakage, possibly due to the dry air. I've purchased a humidifier and I hope my next project will fare better.
Tencel is very strong and hard to break, but apparently became brittle on the loom in the dryness. I will see how the next project fares.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Karakul spun!

IMG_0147 by Craftsteader
IMG_0147, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
I have reason to celebrate having finished spinning my supply of gray Karakul--two whole pounds--toward making super bulky rug wool. It's a good feeling to see produce something. I still have two other colors for my rug design.
I'm a bit tardy on blogging because yesterday I took an introduction of a style of yoga called Svaroopa. The purpose is to help muscles release and relax so it is extremely relaxing. It definitely NOT a workout, and when I was done there were places that were loose that I didn't even know could be loose. I'm definitely signing up for more classes!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Three little projects

IMG_0139 by Craftsteader
IMG_0139, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
The Canadian Snowflake throw is off my big loom Bella. Now I find myself with three projects going--one I'm weaving, one I'm threading, and one I'm just starting to plan. I just hope there isn't a big bad wolf of weaving!

Having all these projects going at once is pretty exciting. I love admiring the one that just came off the loom and it still needs finishing (so that make four projects, doens't it?)

I've started to weave a Tencel shawl and the fiber is so shiny it's a joy to weave. Next, I'm threading the Canadian Snowflake draft from Laura Fry to make some hand towels, and that is also something to look forward to as I love the design. Next? A colorful overshot throw on the big loom--but I have a long way to go. I just figured out the wpi of the warp this morning and need to decide on a sett and a draft! Shall I go with Bertha Gray Hayes or Marguerite Porter Davison?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cheer against endless winter

IMG_0136 by Craftsteader
IMG_0136, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
With a giant March snowstorm forecast of doom pending, what better way to spend the weekend then weaving? I just finished these bright and cheery curtains for the loom room upstairs, and have a big diffenbachia perched in front of it to provide some oxygen. Yep, the loom you see is Bella, my 60" Nylus II on which I am weaving the complicated Canadian Snowflake throw. I plan to finish the weaving this weekend.
Over my coffee this morning, I joined Pinterest in order to save nice looking drafts I've been finding online. This will give me a nice collection for future projects.
In the meantime, I have but to wait patiently for SNOWMAGADON to come. If my memory serves me correctly, snowstorms at the very beginning of March can be the worst. The only positive being warm weather follows and the snow melts into a big mess. It is a very good day to weave.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Keeping it straight

IMG_0096 by Craftsteader
IMG_0096, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
One of the challenges of treadling a complex weaving pattern is remembering exactly where I am in the pattern. I tried a number of different contraptions that included paper clips and index cards, but all this was too cumbersome for long term weaving.
Enter, the humble sticky-note. I place a sticky on each side of the portion of pattern I'm weaving. I chose the portions in 3 to 4 shot increments. The stickies can be advanced as I go. The glue on one sticky will last for several repeats of a long complicated pattern, so I would guess one pack of stickies will last through multiple weaving projects.
When I am called away from the weaving--usually the dog knocking on the back door to get in or the timer in the kitchen going off--I have the stickies butt edges at the exact line where I need to start again. This saves me having to remember, which I know I won't.
I love office supply stores, so, of course, I'm always amazed at how many cool items I can retask for weaving!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Purple comfort

IMG_0123 by Craftsteader
IMG_0123, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
I purchased this purple office chair for the Loomcraft this weekend. The adjustable range is perfect for bringing me between threading and weaving heights. It is nice and soft on the tush too and a great new incentive to sit and thread. I have the loom half warped with Tencel which is beautiful. I look forward to weaving this!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Olympic finish

Decorative table runners are ready for the next holiday season!
There is nothing quite like a week of sitting in front of the TV every evening to plow through a pile of unfinished objects.  I had lots of sewing and fringes to twist to get some of the items I've had lying around done.  Above are the runners I made on the 8 shaft Loomcraft I brought home last May.  They still need a hard press but at least the fringing and other sewing is done.
Another runner.
The first runner used dark green Tencel while the one you see folded used a slick shiny green rayon.  Both came out quite nice and will be nice after the press.  I kind of wish I had one of those professional presses, but I will have to fumble along with an old fashioned iron.
The runners puckered a bit after washing, and I think this is due to the giant design flaw in these seven shaft broken twill variation runners.  My design has floats 6 ends long--much too long for twill.  I went ahead an continued weaving despite the flaw and now I get to see the fruits of this weaving mistake.  They are still pretty, they just need to be handled as a delicate item.  For whatever reason, I didn't detect this problem in the draft at the time I made it on the computer--I can see it now! Next time, I will know better!
Washcloths woven on the Structo Artcraft.
I also finished up the washcloths I had on my table loom.  I'm not a big fan of table loom weaving, so my next set will be done on one of the  floor looms.  I really like the way they came out--they are excellent washcloths and I expect to make more in the future.

Weaving continues
 Despite the Olympics, I'm still getting plenty of time at my loom. I can usually weave a few inches between getting home from work and dinner, so I can make steady progress.  I'm also threading the Loomcraft again with a shawl and have plans for Canadian Snowflake hand towels, but more on that later!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Magic of sampling

These samples aren't much to look at, but I learned a lot.
Sampling has helped me feel more like a "real" weaver.  Winding that four inch warp and threading it onto my loom was a revelation for me--there is so much to learn from trying things out.  And so I move up the ladder of weaving from blundering along with newbie mistakes up to intermediate.  It's taken me five years to get here, but I have arrived.  It's time I tried something new, like overshot, and took on some new projects, like shawls and scarves.
I will be using this design in handtowels too!
I'm sampling for hand towels using that fabulous Canadian Snowflake pattern I'm making a throw with.  I will be using the snowflakes on the edge with the point twill as the main body.  I used the point twill for the sample.  I have 4/2 natural cotton for weft and 3/2 in colors for warp.  Naturally, I want to find the ideal sett for this combination.  So I tried a set of 18 and 16 dents per inch.  It is just a matter of re-sleighing the reed after weaving each sample.  I measured, washed, ironed, measured again, took careful notes on 5X7 cards and safety pinned the sample to the card.  I know have two nice setts to choose from for the perfect towel!

Pretty colors of Tencel
I have discovered Tencel!  It is so amazing and shiny!  I want it in a rainbow of colors, but I am holding myself back to put a dent in the colors I have already.  Yep, I've been shopping at the Yarn Barn again. I had a nice sized box of lovely Tencel shipped to me.  They have wonderful colors.  I've discovered that Camilla Valley Farm in Ontario has even more colors and it is easy for me to order from there.  I'll be calling for the color card.  Between the two suppliers, I should have a very colorful rainbow.  The colors shown above will be included in a shawl.  The red isn't Tencel, but a rayon mixed with glitter.  It looks AMAZING with the purple in the warp.  But more on that next week.  I have to get back to my studio!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gorgeous Angora!

IMG_0104 by Craftsteader
IMG_0104, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
Look what came in the mail today! I traded my barely touched Ply magazines for some angora from a young spinner and fiber producer. It is absolutely beautiful and of exceptional quality! Her business is called High Desert Fiberworks (just type it into your browser) just in case you are interested in angora. I think I will be sending an order in for more shortly. I already have a fleece in mind to blend it with.
Ply magazine, by the way, is an excellent publication. However, I've been spinning for 25 years and my interest has turned to weaving, so I figured it would be best to find them a new home.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Too thin for rug yarn

Too thin for rug yarn by Craftsteader
Too thin for rug yarn, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
Shown is a skein of Karakul rug yarn with a ball of Karakul unintentionally spun much to thin for this super bulky rug yarn.
The wheel was set up correctly--I had it the slowest (largest) whorl on the Matchless. The problem--I treadle too fast which lent itself to making a thinner yarn. I had to force myself to pay attention and spin slowly and make sure I was getting enough fiber into the yarn.
When I started this project, I was simultaneously spinning a very fine yarn on another wheel, so perhaps I thought what I was spinning was thick enough. This mistake, and waste of roving, has me thinking I might be better off concentrating on just one spinning project at a time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Day Weave-athon!

IMG_0069 by Craftsteader
IMG_0069, a photo by Craftsteader on Flickr.
Bitter cold air has me home from work today--I work in education and schools are closed! Thank you Arctic Vortex because I am weaving up my own weather system here. Yep, I still have some of that warp on the Fanny. I thought I'd try white this time to see how it looks! I have two inches left on this towel and I think I can squeeze one more towel out of this warp.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weaving a complicated design

A large shuttle helps me weave the wide width of this loom..
Looking over the Canadian Snowflake pattern sent to me by Laura Fry, I was a little daunted by the complexity and concerned about threading and weaving errors ruining the whole project.  As it turns out, complexity is a good thing in weaving because it forced me to slow down and put into place methods to keep me on track.

With a 73 repeat, I need to be extra careful with threading and treadling
My current project is done in a rayon boucle that is roughly the size of 5/2 cotton.  I threaded it a 20 dents per inch.  Since my project is a throw, I ended out with 1000 ends to make the 50 inch weaving width. With this in mind I was able to include 9 snowflake repeats with the point twill filler pattern done twice between each one.  The snowflake pattern itself take 73 ends each time and the point twill pattern has a repeat of 13.

To keep track during threading I copied the pattern onto some graph paper and used an index card and paperclip to move up the paper as I threaded each bit.  I used two cards, actually so I could blank out one three to four end bit of the pattern.  With 73 ends, I needed to divide the design in half to fit it on the graph paper.  I marked each side of the design so the page was folded in half.  It turned out to be a good method.
Yarn for a future throw. Yes, it is done, all 1000 yards!
I really love weaving this.  I already have ideas for some hand towels.  I'll be using 3/2 cotton which I plan to set at 15 ends per inch.  I would put the snowflake in the center of the pattern and the point twill on each side.  This will make lovely towels!  I look forward to starting it but I have to get the last couple of goose eye towels off the loom.  I must remember not to make such long warps!

Been under the weather this weekend, so I haven't been able to make much progress. Most of this was done earlier in the week.  Can't believe we are getting another arctic vortex tomorrow.