Thursday, 31 December 2009

Handwoven scarf, from the wool to finish

(Click on the photo to view at a larger size.)

Having decided red is a good colour for a scarf for my Mother, I went to Wingham wools and bought a collection of dyed merino tops. The rich shade they call "cherry red" became my starting point and reference for selecting the other shades.

I picked out a couple of reds darker than the cherry, then a pink, to balance the pink I chose pale and deep purples, and then the vibrant shocking pink seemed to add a highlight tone to set the others off, and having a touch of bluish tone it seemed to bridge the gap between reds and purples.

I didn't plan this carefully beforehand, I just had fun in the colour shed at Winghams, picking things up, comparing with the other colours and assembling a collection that seemed right.

I took 60g of cherry red, and then smaller amounts of the other colours, splitting each colour in half so each singles yarns would have the same proportions of the colours. For spinning, I pre-drafted two colours at a time, usually but not always cherry red plus one other.

Here's the start of the first bobbin (on a Timbertops spinning wheel).

... and this is what the full bobbin looked like -

Bobbin two went on a different lazy kate for plying, and I used my Ashford Traveller with a new jumbo bobbin and jumbo sliding hook flyer, which took the full length (nearly 200g) of plied yarn.
Looking at the picture above, on the left side of the lazy kate, you can see an odd dangling black thread, untidily tied in s bow. This is fine black elastic which I am using as a brake to prevent bobbin over-run (the situation where the bobbin spins freely unwinding yarn faster than it can be plied). It works. Any lazy kate can have a brake with this simple method. If you look again at the bobbin on the Timbertops built-in lazy kate, you will see I used the same there too.

Part way through plying -

I got the yarn spun, skeined, washed and hung up to dry. This is when I discovered that large skeins off jumbo bobbins take longer to dry! Whilst waiting (it took about 24 hours) I started to think about what to use for weft, and a weave pattern.

Originally I was going to use a different weft, I thought maybe a touch of orange with the cherry, or a deep red and cherry colour. I spun short samples and held them up against the skein, none were quite right. Then I looked at the great 200g skein and thought, well, there's enough yarn there already, and I know that the colours match.

After tea one evening, I sat down with my wool sample blanket and looked at the different patterns it offered. I wanted to be a little more adventurous this time, the scarves I wove early in 2009 used diagonal 2-2 twill and a simple wavy twill, but there are so many possibilities in weaving, what else might work? How about... square E20, 4 by 4 Broken Twill threading and a 2-2 twill and plain weave shaft lift pattern. This would enable the warp to be dominate in stripes, but the colours in the weft to show in between.

To determine the sett, I used this wooden square, wrapped threads around one way then thread a weft through with a needle, trying out plain weave and 2-2 twill.

The sett for the twill was working out at 12 epi, but tight. I decided to weave at 10 epi to get a looser structure that had enough flexibility that it could shrink when wet-finishing and still have a good handle and drape. I must say, I thought this would be o.k., but as I didn't have time to weave and wash a sample I wash a little nervous until the finished scarf came out of the washing water and looked right when it was hung-up to dry.

Just before we get to the scarf, here's the rich colour of the warp as I was setting up the loom.

...and the tiny amount of warp waste after I'd tied tassels both ends of the scarf, no more than 20cm total...

and the scarf!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Season's Greetings

The shortest day and longest night are past, the snow lies deep around us and this part of the world looks like the picture of a Christmas card. It is beautiful and peaceful.

The days of December have been slipping by fast, in part because of an ambitious present, a special something for my Mother's Christmas day birthday. It's a handwoven scarf from handspun wool, my first ever weaving project with all handspun yarn. To my great relief, it has turned out well. However, all she'll get on her birthday is e-mailed pictures as I missed the last post date: I only finished it this afternoon (and it's Christmas Eve). I think you'll understand there has to be an embargo on photos of this project until the special present is in my Mother's hands.

When the library re-opens after holidays next week I'm going to have photos for you of the scarf project, of the new prototype bobbin on my antique spinning wheel (it works! it spins beautifully!) and some pretty snow scenes.

Best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Antique Spinning Wheel (part 2)

I thought you might enjoy some photos showing how beautiful the wood of my antique spinning wheel is after applying beeswax polish using 0000 grade wire wool and then polishing with a soft cloth.

(The red bow is a cotton cord made with a lucet, just a temporary tie until I get a leather shoe lace.)

I can't do more with this wheel until I have the flyer back and a prototype bobbin to test, that's o.k., I've plenty of other things to attend to.

In the meantime, maybe some of you would like to know about sources of information about old spinning wheels?

I don't have a subscription for The Spinning Wheel Sleuth newsletter, (who want subscriptions paid in US funds from a US bank account) but I do like to look at the web site.

I do have a lovely book by David A. Pennington and Michael B. Taylor, Spinning Wheels and Accessories, published 2004 by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. (224 pages.) This is mostly a book of pictures for people interested in collectable antique spinning wheels, but includes descriptions of the wheels and wheel makers. This is an American book, but there are spinning wheels that travelled to the States from Europe and Scandinavia, so many different traditions are included. I love this book, I don't have many "coffee table" type books, this is I have shelf room for because the lovely pictures are organised into useful chapters and there is a little narrative for each picture.

Spinning Wheels: Spinners and Spinning by Patricia Baines, published by Batsford, first in 1977, reprinted 1979 is a history from the British perspective. (You may recall I also have Patricia Baines' book on handspinning and weaving linen.) Much research in museums and libraries went into the preparation of this book. It starts off with a chapter on "Fibres and their preparation" and then subsequent chapters go through the development of spinning wheels. I like the inclusion of a useful and well written chapter on spinning technique, so once you know the history and traditions of spinning you can get started for yourself.

Spinning and Spinning Wheels by Eliza Leadbeater is a booklet from Shire Publications Ltd.,1979. All the photos are black and white, but very clear and some lovely wheels pictured. Re-reading it I notice several beauties are members of "Author's Collection". I wonder where this collection is today? It is another history, starting with spindles, then the great wheel, and logically moving on to consider the development of the flyer before introducing wheels with flyers. There's a list of "Places to Visit" in the UK at the end, and a short but useful bibliography, which includes the classic I list next -

Spinning Wheels (The John Horner Collection) complied by G.B. Thompson, Director, Ulster Folk Museum, published first in 1964 and re-printed several times. This black-and-white booklet has beautiful line drawings and description of a "all the specimens in the collection" of spinning wheels put together by John Horner who was a member of a family firm in the textile trade and collected wheels on his travels as an adviser on machinery and presented to the museum in 1907-8. I'd love to get my hands on a copy of John Horner's book "The Linen Trade of Europe during the Spinning Wheel Period", but that is rare and expensive.

Also fairly rare, but I have managed to find in a 1977 re-print copy, is the magazine Ciba Review of 1939, "The Spinning Wheel", a collection of scholarly essays by W. Born which gives more space than the other books to very early spinning history and looks at how the earliest spinning wheel was developed in India and migrated east and west.

For 20th century spinning wheels, I like Spinning and weaving with Wool, by Paula Simmons, first printed in 1977, my book is the 4th re-print from 1982. She is an knowledgeable but very opinionated spinner (spinners reading this book may not always agree with Paula!) which makes an interesting read, but my favourite chapter is nearly all pictures, no. 5, "Available Spinning Wheels", 36 different ones pictured and briefly described.

Also, the website New Zealand Spinning Wheels. Many wheels from New Zealand have travelled out around the world, so wherever you are you may have come across some of the wheels for which this website gives pictures and histories.

Now it is time I stopped blogging for this evening, and got back to the CD and book I have from the library for learning German, because I when I have learnt German to read my bandweaving books, I also want to be able to read Sigrid Vogt's book on the history of European Spinning Wheels, Geschichte und Bedeutung des Spinnrads in Europa, which you can see on her website here.