Tuesday 24 March 2009

Having fun with sock yarns!

This is my second scarf woven with Noro Nureyon Sock yarn for warp and Trekking sock yarn in the weft. Set at 15 epi, woven on my Leclerc Voyageur loom. I'm really delighted with this scarf, it looks amazing with my favourite red jumper (seen in this badly lit photo).

I wore it to work and the reactions were very interesting. A couple of people were unreservedly amazed and impressed. A couple of others said although it looks superb they couldn't wear such a scarf because they don't like the feel of wool and think it scratchy. I could get around that by weaving similar colours in silk.

I think I should say a bit more about design. Before I started weaving the first of these scarves I spent a long time studying they many superb patterns in my Janet Phillip's sample blanket. I'm really looking forward to using some of the 500 patterns in my weaving. However, I realised that a simple diagonal twill was going to give better feel and drape to a fairly thick wool yarn.

The colour choice for this pink/orange scarf was inspired by Cally's work with similar hot colours. I'd never have thought of putting these kind of shades together if I hadn't seen how well they work for Cally and also got my colour sampler to refer to. I think the more one looks at things and works with different colour ideas the more an understanding builds up. Playing with colours is important, literally playing - like Cally's colouring book, or just sitting with the different coloured yarns in your stash and arranging them differently. So much that we dismiss as child's play is about building understanding of how things work.

Just a reminder of the yarns I used, note that the orange Trekking yarn has shade variations that give the scarf bands of different intensity in the weft (see above).

Next I picked up my green yarns, and I changed reed from a 15 dent to an 8 dent threaded at 16 epi. The slightly denser warp makes little difference, but the reed threaded 2 ends per dent was kinder to the warp. The 15 epi reed had rubbed against the warp yarns more and caused a little wear during the weaving.

This scarf had perfect looking selvedges on the loom -

which I attribute:
(a) to weighting the selvedge yarns behind the loom (they were not beamed with the warp, just looped up and weighted with a lead weight from the fishing shop, 4oz) and
(b) to a cute little Glimakra temple, see below.

However, when I took the scarf off the loom the selvedges looked a bit less perfect, in fact, a bit wavy. I was a bit surprised by this, I'd carefully moved the temple about every half inch woven. However, it doesn't detract at all from the scarf, maybe it is just a reminder that it this is handwoven.

This is a close up of the fabric. I like the effect of the intermittent short pink/purple and light green sections in the Trekking sock yarn used as weft, the effect is slightly like a tartan cloth.
p.s. the pictures of my scarves in this and my last-but-one post can be enlarged if you click on a photo.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Books and sources on natural dyeing

I was going to load up pictures of my weaving today, but when I got down to the library today, for some unknown reason their computer won't link to blogger, so no photos today. Instead, Deborah has asked for some tips on getting a dye garden started, good books etc. These are my book recommendations for learning about plants you might use and growing them: Dye Plants and Dyeing, by John & Margaret Cannon, published by A&C Black in association with the The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2003 edition, ISBN 9780713663747, £14.99. This book focuses on plants (rather than dyeing techniques) and includes some scientific and historical information. Each double page gives a full page painting of the plant and information about using it to dye. However, it is not about planting & growing the plants so you'll want another book for that. A Dyer's Garden, from plant to pot - growing dyes for natural fibres. By Rita Buchanan, pub. Interweave Press, ISBN 1-883010-07-1, £9.99 Only a small book, but full of useful information and the title describes it well. A Dyer's Manual, by Jill Goodwin, 2nd edition 2003, pub. by Ashmans Publications, ISBN 0-9544401-0-2, £14.95

A lovely book in which an expert in using natural dyes passes on a lifetime's experience of growing and using dye plants. Includes a useful and extensive lists of plants and the colours they give. Website for this book: Ashmans Publications There are many other books I like about natural dyes, but these are the best for someone in the UK who wants to grow plants in their garden to use in dyeing. Then there are the websites and blogs: Teresinha's website on growing and using woad. Teresinha on growing and using other dye plants both these web sites are absolutely excellent, very highly recommended. Yes she does sell dyestuffs, but she also has superb information on growing your own. Yes she is a friend of mine - but I don't think I'm biased, she knows her stuff and is generous with information. Author of several books on natural dyes, only not recommended as they are not about growing plants, Jenny Dean has a lovely and informative blog. Do take a look. Another of my friends whose blog I'd like to recommend, Helen Melvin. Do especially take a look at this superb post about mordants for natural dyes - what they are, when, how and why to use them. Click here for the archive list from this blog of everything I have written about natural dyes.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Weaving with sock yarns

A couple of weeks ago I wearily escaped from the work on Friday afternoon just before the shops were closing, and there across the street was the wool shop. I could walk past and go and find my car.. or I could walk in the shop. Hmm. I walked in and bought some sock yarn because I liked the colours. They are Noro Kureyon and Sirdar Town & Country.

I just looked at the combination of yarns and thought "point twill weave scarf" - yeah!

This was woven over the weekend on my new Leclerc Voyageur loom.

I found it easy to warp and weave. I used the 1/4" raddle I made for my floor loom and a couple of home-made lease sticks to get the warp on neatly.

This next photo is one I took to show something that's very different about the table loom, compared to my Toika countermarch floor loom. When the shafts are at rest, they actually pull down on the warp threads.

Half the shed is already there, before any shafts are raised, here's another photo with a shaft raised, ready to put the shuttle through:

Its a neat little loom and a neat shed, but I have found I need to wind on about every 1 1/2 woven. I don't mind this, as I kind wind on without having to walk around the loom, but all the same I've got a pivoting beater on order so that I'll be able weave a bit further from the shafts.

The Kureyon yarn kept twisting around itself, I wondered if this would cause a problem, but the finished scarf shows no evidence of unbalanced yarn, although the fringes twist gently.

Most of the scarf is woven with shaft lift 1-2-3-4, it's a 1/3 twill. The threading includes straight sections and points. I tried some diamond sections, but don't think they worked well. the face of the scarf is o.k., but on the back it's made a bumpy texture.

Here's a section of the face of the scarf with no diamonds:

What the photos don't show is how lovely it feels, smooth and soft. Being sock yarns I know it's practical to put this in the washing machine on a 30 degrees wool-wash setting. I washed it by hand when it was finished, and then pressed it.

I think these photos should have been the other way around, this one is showing the front of a pattern section.

I am very happy with my new scarf, and so last Friday afternoon I went back to the wool shop - wearing it. The lady in the shop greeted me and asked how I'd got on with the socks - so I had to confess that I'd made something else - I took my scarf off and handed it to her. I watched her face as she suddenly saw that this scarf was those same yarns, she broke into a sudden big smile of amazement. The owner was there and she called him over, they loved it. What fun it is to surprise people like this - I should explain that weaving is an extremely unusual hobby in the UK.

It just so happened that they'd been to their annual trade show recently, and taken advantage of an offer to buy 50 different balls of sock wool (normally sold in packs of ten balls all the same). They tipped several bags out onto the counter and helped me with the following selections:

The last is possibly my favourite, not sure, I like the browns as well - oh actually I like them all, but I chose to use these next. And this weekend, another warp on the loom, another twill weave. Having learnt from the previous scarf I choose to use a balanced 2/2 twill so there is no face/back to this scarf, and I wanted long points as I looked at the orange weft yarn and thought of flames.

Here it is on the loom this morning, with spring sunshine coming in the window to pick out those rich colours.
And what is this? Another loom?
I'd better explain what I'm up to. I am intending to weave some rugs on the floor loom, linen warp and carpet wool weft. However, I'm not sure whether to sett the warp at 4 ends per inch or 5. I wove a sampler a couple of years ago at 4 and it drew in more than I thought it should, so think I might use 5 (I do have both 4 & 5 epi reeds). I decided the easiest way to test would be to use a tapestry loom and see how the weft settles into the warp. The cross piece is a tension bar - the warp warps around this and then it is separately lashed to the frame, the lashing to the frame can be loosened to compensate for warp take up. This avoids the tapestry piece being narrower at the top than the bottom. At least, that's how I expect it to work, not done this before!

p.s. the weave pictures in this post can be enlarged if you double click on them.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Tuesday notes

I've been strongly tempted several times in the past month to write about my day job and explain what is going on. But I think it's better not to blog at all than to mix work and pleasure!

I've got some photos taken now of the first weaving project on my new Voyageur loom, but I can't upload photos from home and couldn't get a library computer booked until Saturday a.m. I've been having fun and am looking forward to blogging about it at the weekend - watch this space.

I have also been:
  • knitting a pair of socks,
  • putting together a sock knitting kit for my sister so she can learn,
  • not buying books - well only the sock knitting book I chose for my sister and one bought with some present money left from Christmas and 3 bargains from a local 2nd hand book fair - believe me there's many more I didn't buy, yet,
  • reading several books,
  • reading everyone else's blogs - there seem to me more interesting weaving blogs all the time now, I love it!
  • spinning - I've got Lincoln Longwool on one spinning wheel, flax on another, finished a small skein of Manx Loghton last week,
  • re-arranging my weaving yarn stash and planning ways to use it,
  • started to remove debris and weeds from my dye plant patch and plan this year's new planting.

That's all for now folks!