Sunday, December 29, 2013

Possibilities : Black, White and 1 Color

Here's how my mind works ... 
On the way "home" to my parents' house for Christmas, we drive through the Menomonee Nation (ie an Indian Reservation).  I fondly consider this ride, the fabled "over the river and through the wood, to grandmother's house we go."  I LOVE riding through the "Rez," because it's all trees.  My Cathedral with vaulted ceilings over the roadway.    The Menomonees are known the world over for their excellent forestry conservation practices.  They have a big lumber processing mill in Keshena,  WI, but they take such good care of the woods, you'd never know they were harvesting.   Clear-cutting is not something they do.   [It should be noted, there is one spot on the ride that looks like it was clear cut--very out of place for the rest of the Reservation ride.  A few years ago, there was a summer storm with such strong straight-line winds, that it broke everything off at a certain height--a big swatch through the woods essentially clear cut by Mother Nature herself.  It's starting to grow back now.]

The day we drove north was gray-gray-gray, and washed out.  With the fog, salt, and other schmutz on the window (no need to add texture to these!), the addition of the yellow road signs and the highway stripe were the only bits of color to these otherwise black and white images.  That caught my eye.  Chalk this up to an Everyday Inspiration.

After a year-and-a-half sabbatical from quilting, I'm finally starting to feel inspired again.  I'm really looking forward to Quilt Camp in March, thinking about possible projects to get ready.  Here's an idea ...

From the HeartStrings Project website.

A few days after our winter drive through the Reservation, I came across the Heartstrings website where they've been doing a black white and one color challenge.  I really like how these are turning out.  I don't think I'll do yellow, but it did serve as inspiration.   

Although the Heart Strings Black & White Project is over, it was announced here.  
See more black and white heart string quilts here and here and here and here

Winter Quilt : Gift from my Mom

Look what my mom gave me for Christmas.    ;-)   She knows me pretty well after all these years!  It's me in a quilt.   She even named it "Michele," because I love winter so much. 

The funny thing is, we went to the local quilt shop on Christmas Monday so I could use up the GC from last year.  And I saw another version on the wall--I didn't notice it until AFTER I had checked out.  I was seriously thinking about purchasing the pattern and materials to make it myself.  Now I'm chuckling thinking about what excuses they might have come up with to NOT sell it to me--knowing full well that Ma was giving me a completed version for Christmas.

I hung it outside my sewing room, so I can see it every morning when I get up and head downstairs for breakfast.  Thanks, Ma!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Building the Triangle Loom

The finished 7-foot Triangle Loom

When I looked at the price to purchase a triangle loom, my jaw hit the floor : $346 and up for walnut or oak.  My initial reaction was, "It's a couple of wooden rails and some nails.  Why does it cost so much?  We can make one ourselves ... "   Well, yes, we can, and we did.  It took some time and some elbow grease, but the cost of materials was only about $10 for 3 boxes of finish nails and a drill bit.   We used wood from Christian's stash : walnut and red oak.  Not even sure where he got this wood from anymore, but he decided this was a fine project to use the wood he'd been saving.

We used Wayne's instructions for building a Triangle Loom here.  Because he's a guy, it was presented in a way that made sense to my husband who was an integral part of this project.  There are some other good pages here and here.   In addition, the Triangle Loom Yahoo Group also had plans for building looms, but you have to be a member to see it.  Frankly, there are many other pages that better explain how to build one of these looms.  This is just some of my notes on the process, not an exact How to ...

The first thing we did was wash the nails.  Otherwise, there's a gray something-or-other that comes off on your hands when you handle the nails.  We used Dawn dish washing liquid and gave them a good scrub --initially without water.    Then rinsed with hot water; dried and polished with paste wax.   We needed at minimum 660 nails--that's a lot of nails!

  Preparing the wooden rails.  CL used his hand planes to smooth and finish the surfaces.
  Then I got to do the final sanding ...

 I love the wood shavings that come from a project like this.  Not only do they smell good, they look beautiful, too!

 After sanding, comes the paste-wax finish (I got to do that job, too).  You don't want your yarns to catch on any rough wood.

You can see how the paste wax brings out the natural beauty of the wood.   
In this picture, paste wax was applied to the top rail, but not yet to the bottom rail.  What a difference!

 While CL was working through how many nails we needed, and the spacing issues, he made a mini-triangle loom (about 2 inches) to test out some theories and feasibility and spacing of the nails.  We went with 3/8 inch along the top hypotenuse and about 1/4 inch along the sides.   

Test triangles woven in wool, cotton string, and acrylic homespun yarn.  Yup, we both decided this was a project worth pursuing ...  ;-)

 My husband worked out a template to mark where the nails needed to go.  

Next step : Marking and drilling all those holes : 660 holes to be exact.   You need to pre-drill the holes to avoid splitting the wood during the nailing process.  A drill press makes this job a hundred times easier.  I can't imagine trying to do this with a hand drill.   Fortunately, we have a drill press in the basement just waiting to be put into service for such a project.  We used painter's tape to mark where I needed to drill.  It also kept the wood from splintering when pulling out the drill. 

 Lot's of drilling--and lots of layers.  Our basement is not heated, and I needed to keep warm. 

 Holes drilled and done in all three rails. 

 Once the holes were drilled, we had to lay out the rails and mark the ends so they could be cut to fit together nicely.  I left this step to my oh-so-handy-and-helpful husband.  [Smile and wave, Sweetie!]

 Next step : Pounding in all those nails.   I had a wooden guide to help make sure I pounded down to the right depth.  This was very helpful.   Even better, when I realized I could do more than one nail at a time by holding the guide along the back of the line of nails. 

A few notes on this stage :
1)  The nails we bought were too long.  This concerned me, but my husband was sure it wouldn't be a problem.  He planned to use a grinder and grind all that excess off of the back side ...
2)  We left the blue painter's tape on because we thought we'd have to squeeze some glue on to help secure the nails.  The tape would protect the wood from any glue spillage.  In actuality, the glue didn't seem to do anything, or maybe not enough actually got into the holes ...  It wasn't holding the nails in place.  If we had known that ahead of time, we would have removed the painter's tape BEFORE pounding in the nails.  It was kind of a picky pain-staking process to remove it in tiny pieces after the fact.  Live and learn.  
3) Some of the nails seemed "loose."  Not sure if that's an irregularity in the manufacturing, or if if the drill was getting dull by this time.  Sometimes, I could find a different nail that was snug. Sometimes, not. 

 Pounding ... Pounding ... Pounding.
  Got the iPad there listening to Once Upon a Time poscasts to keep my mind occupied. 

Then it was back over to my husband for grinding off the nails that went through the back side (no pictures of this process.  I didn't want to see anyone get hurt.  Turns out the glue wasn't really holding the nails in place.  CL said they were spinning as he was grinding.  He wound up having to hold each one in place while he ground off the excess.   I guess this is why people pay for someone else to make these looms!  In the end, he but a line of electrical tape on the back side to smooth out the nails and the wood.  Doesn't bother me much--I'm not looking at or working from the back side. 

Once again, here's the finished loom hanging from my design wall. 

 I used 2 silk ties (left over from another project) to suspend the loom from the curtain rod.  This makes it more adjustable than simply nailing it to the wall (which wasn't really an option for my little room). 

That's it!  Done!  Now I can start weaving ...  Thanks for staying with me to the end of this post!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

For the Love of Color : Adventures in Dying Yarn

Hand-dyed Yarns from Saturday's Session at Lynda's Dye Kitchen 

Now that I have a Triangle Loom, I need to build my stash of yarns so I have stock to make my creations.  ;-)   My friend Lynda and I had a full day planned on Saturday.  First on the agenda was to visit the area yarn shops ...   All the money we saved on building the tri-loom ourselves, means I can spend more $$ on yarn! 

Iris's Fine Yarns in Appleton, WI
This shop is amazing!  It's really quite small, but the owner understands and has an appreciation for color.  She uses that to her advantage.  Her shop is a center for inspiration.  Lynda says she goes there when she needs "color comfort," (That's similar to eating comfort food, but without the calories.) After a while, there were so many people coming in that it was feeling a little crowded.    That's ok--that means there's enough support in the community to keep her in business.  She also has a nice collection of those expensive buttons that come in tubes--the kind you buy one button-at-a-time.  Good to make that discovery and know I don't have to go all the way to Milwaukee for buttons.    The also have a room filled with books--though most of them appear to be on knitting (Sorry--I spin, crochet, and weave, but I've never been able to learn knitting--never got past that stage of too tight tension.  And I'm okay with that.)

I've been oohing and ahh-ing this Noro Yarn on the internet.  But I wanted to see it and touch it before committing to spend that much money.  Iris had it there in her store.  I went home with 8 balls of  the Noro Kureyon wool yarn in moss purple.  It's the wool, not those yummy silks.  It's a little scratchier that I thought it might be, but oh, those colors!   A good place to start!   I love the way that artist dyes her yarns--the color combinations, and the spacing of the color changes.   Yummy!  All the money we saved on building the tri-loom ourselves, means I can spend more $$ on yarn!    I'll definitely be making regular pilgrimages to Iris's Yarn Shop!

Yarns by Design in Neenah, WI
Next, we went to Yarns by Design in Neenah.   A much bigger store, packed full of yarns and fibers.   Lots of choices, there, too.  A few years ago, when I got my little table loom, I took a class here to learn how to do the warp.  They also offer spinning classes.  With so many choices, I was feeling a little overwhelmed and didn't actually by anything there.   There are a lot of really nice yarns out there, but to buy enough to finish a 7-foot triangle shawl, I need to spend about $85 in yarn--that's just for wool.   It will be more once I get into mohair or silk fibers.  Sigh!

Back to Lynda's Dye Kitchen
After that, with our heads full of inspiration, we went back to Lynda's house.  Her basement is set up with a wonderful dye kitchen.   Although I've been dyeing fabric for years with Procion fiber reactive dyes, I knew that dying proteins like wool and silk is a little different process.   Lynda's been doing it for years, so I asked her to show me.  The biggest difference is that you have to use "acid dyes" and heat to set the color.  Don't let the word "acid" scare you.  It's more akin to dying Easter eggs with a little bit of vinegar added to the mix.   You can do it with Procion (using vinegar instead of soda ash), but Lynda convinced me that it's harder to wash out the excess Procion dye and you run the risk of felting your wool/fiber in the process.

We started with some Fisherman's Wool yarn.  Plain old "stock" yarn from Jo Ann's Fabrics.  It's reasonably priced for real wool yarn, and it takes the acid dye beautifully.  Lynda uses it in her weavings regularly.    We used her warping board to make some loose skeins of the yarn; tied them off.  If you use cotton string for this, it will be visible after dying as the cotton does NOT take up the acid dye.  That makes it easier to remove afterwards.

Photo from here.

Next we, set a large pot of water boiling on the stove--the kind for pickling and canning.  Get a set and use it only for dying.  Once you do, you can't go back to using it for food--for safety reasons.  Make it a set dedicated to color explorations!

Then we mixed up the dyes.  Lynda has basic primary colors (reds, blues, yellow, and black) from which we mix all other colors.  She first mixes up some concentrates of each color.  Then we play ...  With acid dyes, a little goes a long way.   At one of the shops, I had seen a yarn in varigations of maroon.  I showed it to Lynda explaining that I wanted to try dying something like that ...   So we started with red, added some black.  Lynda said that with Acid dyes, it's easier to tell what color you'll get right away (whereas with Procion, it ends up lighter by the time you wash it out).  She uses a shred of paper towel dipped in the dye pot to see if it's the color she wants.  If not, she adds a little more concentrate in the needed primary; black for shades; water for tints (pastels).  You could make it a pretty exacting science, but that's not how Lynda dyes.  She may start with an idea of what she's after, but she also enjoys the element of serendipity.

Once we have our colors mixed, it's time to grab a glass canning jar big enough to hold the hank of yarn.   Dump a slosh of vinegar in the bottom, then some of the yarn hank (leave some hanging out), then dump in one of your dye colors, stuff in some more yarn, add another dye color, stuff in some more yarn, add another dye color, top it off with water.  (This method is a lot like parfait dying--a method I use regularly for dying cotton with Procion (See Ann Johnston's book Color by Accident).  Add the cover, and set it in the pot of boiling water.  It takes about an hour of simmering to heat set the colors.

The amazing thing is that at the end of the process, the water should run clear.  All the dye is taken up by the yarn and leaves the water.  It reminds me that the dye/color is not the same as the water--which is kind of like a carrier for the whole process.  

Lynda uses the canning jar set-up because it simulates a double boiler.   If you boil the wool, you could felt it in the process.  This may be more important when working with loose fibers or fleece BEFORE it's spun into yarn.  You really need to be careful not to agitate it too much, or you will felt it.   The bubbles of boiling water provide enough agitation to felt it.   Something to be ware of ...

After an hour in the double boiler/canning pot, carefully remove the jars.  They will be hot, so be sure to wear insulated rubber gloves for this part of the process.  Open the jars and pour them out into a sink.  Don't agitate it much, or you could felt it.  Let the excess water run off.  Carefully pour a jar of *HOT* water over the lump of newly colored yarn to rinse out any excess color not taken up by the yarn.  [Edit : I had originally written cool water, but Lynda corrected me saying that using cool water is a sure way to felt the wool.  Any temperature change will shock the wool into felting. So use HOT water to rinse.]  Then transfer it to the washing machine--wait until you've got all your hanks in the washing machine; then run a spin cycle to wring out the excess water.  This works amazingly well!  Do NOT let it go through an entire wash cycle.  You just want to wring out the excess water.

Our results :

Right to Left : Sunset Oranges and Yellows, Browns and Blacks, Reds, Blues, Leftovers

 Here's a shot of the yarn hanks on the drying rack.  Nice work for an afternoon!
Here it's apparent that the cotton yarn didn't take the acid dye as you can see the white strings keeping the yarn hanks in order.  Those cotton strings were present all through the dye process, and they remain uncolored.

Lynda assures me that I'll be able to put enough yarn for 1 project into a 1/2-gallon canning jar so it looks like it's all from the same batch.  After the heat treatment, the yarn "rises" to the top, and what seemed like an overstuffed jar could actually fit a lot more yarn into it.  

I was so pleased with our results that I did a little happy dance right there in Lynda's dye kitchen.  These are as nice as anything we saw today in the specialty yarn shops.    I've got a new hobby!  I'll have to put in an order at Dharma for some acid dyes in primary colors, along with some stock specialty yarns.  So many possibilities!  The world is open wide ...

I recently bought this book as a reference for dying yarns and fleeces.   It goes through what I explained above, and much more, with lots of pictures.  

New Adventures : Triangle Looms and Continuous Line Weaving

I've been kind of quiet the last few weeks on this blog.  Some changes with the memory storage on my computer make digital photography cumbersome enough to avoid it altogether.   I've been missing the tactile sensuality of quilting and fiber arts.   I want to use my hands and have something to show for it ...   Not just pixels that can disappear into the ether at any moment.

To that end, my husband has been helping me build a 7-foot Triangle Loom for the last 2 months (or so).    We just finished it last weekend, and I started weaving on it this week.   Goodie!  In the photo above, you can see it hanging on my design wall (with a Chinese Coins quilt-in-progress behind the "empty" triangle loom).  Basically, it's a giant pin loom big enough to produce a triangle shawl piece of woven fabric big enough to wrap around a good-sized adult.  And yes, I do wear stuff like this around the house.  Winters in Wisconsin are cold, and even though we heat the house with wood, parts of the house not near the fire are cold.   It started a few years ago when my sister sent me a triangle shawl from Japan.  I started wearing it to bed, wrapped around my shoulders, amazed that it made such a difference in keeping me warm.  Then I realized I could make  more ...

I have a small table loom that I got a few years ago. I even took a class to learn how to handle the warping procedure, but even now, I still need help with the warping side of it.  The appeal of continuous line weaving on the triangle loom is that you use a single strand of yarn, and you warp it as you go.  The warp builds itself along with the weft.   It's pure genius!  But more about that later ...  I'll post a separate article about building it.   Once you get the hang of weaving this way, it's a nice meditation up and down, back and forth.  It keeps me moving, too--and out of the snacks.  

So far, I've put in about 3-hours of weaving, used up 1 skein of Homespun yarn, and started a second one.  The weave is building nicely!

The weave builds from the corners.  Here you can see it building with perspective down the loom.  This particular yarn is giving a nice subtle plaid in red and blue.  

The only thing is that it's so big, it's not very portable.  I may have to build a smaller one that I can travel with!

Happy Weaving!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Photo Heart Connection November 2013

One morning on the way into work, I spied this frosty leaf in the parking lot with early morning sun streaming in from the side.  I was grateful I had my camera along to capture the moment.

Lovely color.  Lovely texture. 
A Joy to behold.