Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Yarn Spun and Plied

I've been working on this fleece literally for years!  But I wanted to finish off these spools so I can start a new batch with the fiber I purchased this past week : Black and Blue Merino

Monday, September 26, 2016

Baa Baa Black Sheep Have You any Wool?


Fall is the perfect time for carding wool -- Outside, so the bits of grass and hay and other debris left in the raw washed wool can fall outside.

 This is the carding machine.  Basically the point is to comb the wool fleece, and to get all the fibers going in the same direction.  Also helps to fluff things up, and make it easier to spin.  This carding machine makes the work go a whole lot faster than using the hand combs (basically these are kind of like dog brushes -- That's what the carding cloth is like : Lots of metal needles that combs the wool.

You lay the raw washed wool in the feeder tray and turn the crank.  It pulls the fibers onto the rollers.  The small roller sorts out the shorter fibers -- the ones you may not want to keep, while letting the longer staples through to the bigger roller.  After a while, the big roller fills up, and you can peel off the fluffy newly combed batt :

I worked at it for about 3 hours -- great exercise for upper-body strength, and have a box of newly carded wool ready for spinning.

Detail of one of the newly carded batts.
Like soft clouds!

All that work, and I still have 2/3 of that fleece to process.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival 2016

Two weeks ago, I attended the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson, WI.  I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, and I was overwhelmed by all the yarns and fibers ...  Wow! So many colors and textures and possibilities!

At the show I only purchased a couple of things :
1) a ball of Polworth fiber for spinning into yarn.  This was so soft, it felt like Merino--but heavier.  I'd never heard of Polworth before.  Turns out, it is a derivative of Merino wool.  Nice stuff!
2) a threading hook for my spinning wheel with a nice wooden handle
3) a couple of stick shuttles for weaving

Here's what I saw on display :
*  Beautiful Rag Rugs
*  Wonderful cloak / shawl pins with a little bling very reasonably priced -- I wished I had purchased one, but didn't get back to that stand.
*  Beautiful handspun yarn in blues with silver.  $45 a skein.  Expensive, and I didn't have a project in mind for it when I saw it -- but I did the next day, back at home, and too far away to go back and get it.  Rats!

I was looking for Patty Reedy of  Rainbow Fleece Farm -- according to the show catalog, they were indeed there, but I didn't see them.  When I first started spinning nearly 20 years ago, I got some of her fiber.  It has a sparkle and a sheen (luster) I haven't seen in other fleece.   Really!  I'm wondering what her Fiber looks like now after 20 more years of breeding and genetics.  At that time, she told me she was a Fiber Arts person, and realized she needed to breed sheep in order to get the fiber she wanted.  Amen!

A few stands were actually selling bags of raw fleece -- I was tempted, but I knew I had 2-3 bags at home -- washed and waiting to be carded.    I see a carding day in my near future ...

Susan's Fiber Shop was also there.  Her stand was hopping, as usual!  I bought my Louet S90 Spinning Wheel from her almost 20 years ago.  And it still works like a charm!  I'm so glad I bought a good wheel, not a fixer-upper at a rummage sale.  If it had given me trouble, I would not have kept spinning.  This particular wheel was discontinued, but I just found out it's making a limited edition comeback!  So you could get one if you really wanted it -- and were willing to pay the price.

I bought the new threading hook and stick shuttles at Mielke's Fiber Arts --- So I stuck with the vendors I was familiar with.

I did keep the catalog as a future reference.  Lots of good information within -- and one worth keeping.

They offered lots of classes, too.  Now I wish I would have signed up to attend some of them ...
How to hand-spin your own fancy yarn, for one.   There's always next year!

Flirting with a Kessenich Loom

I've decided I'm finally in the market for a bona fide floor loom.  The real thing.  My friend Lynda just happens to have a sturdy little 4-harness Kessenich floor loom that she's willing to let me trial to see if I like it, can live with it / work with it / have room for it / ENJOY working on it.  It looks similar to the one in the photo above.  It was made right here in Wisconsin, though I think the company has since relocated to Michigan.  

I remember living in Madison at Summit Coop, and the house around the corner, down the hill (It wasn't called Summit for nothing!) always had an open house craft show around Thanksgiving.  That was the only time neighbors could come in and see her magnificent loom -- given a room all to itself.  Since then, I've been fascinated with the prospect of weaving, and yes, giving an entire room of the house over to ART and Creativity.

About 10 years ago, someone gave me a little table loom that I've taken lessons on, and learned to use.  I think I'm finally comfortable with it.  I've made peace with the warping process, and LOVE LOVE LOVE the back-and-forth motion of weaving.  The meditation of weaving.  I don't even care so much what I make on it.  I'm looking at this as an investment in my health in terms of stress relief. 

On Saturday, Lynda and I started the process of warping it.  It went quicker with the two of us working together at it, but still took all afternoon to warp just 1/2 of it.  In the photo, I'm passing the warp threads to Lynda who is pulling them through the reed and the heddles.   I can't imagine doing this alone --  I may have to engage Lynda as my personal engineer every time I need assistance with the warping.  It will be a good excuse to have her come over for dinner.

We still have to finish the job of warping it, but that will have to wait a few more weeks ...  I am itching to get started!

Some of the specifics before I forget :
We used a sturdy burgundy warp suitable for weaving rugs.
I decided I wanted the warp to be 8 yards (That way, it's short enough for a trial period, and if I keep it, I'll get practice warping it again in the near future--which I will need to get comfortable doing.).   About 1 yard will be "loom waste"  not actually part of any woven item. 

I wanted to start out weaving the widest possible width we could do on this loom, so we calculated for about 28 inches on this 30-inch loom.  Actual cloth may be narrower.

Lynda did the math, and I think calculated that the warp strings was 8 somethings-per-inch, which means we used a reed with a wider gauge.  I think we put one on with a 6-gauge.

On the warping board, we set up for 8 yards back and forth --  112 times, which is only 1/2 of what we need.  The warping board couldn't hold much more than that.  We'll have to do the other half on another day ...

She said she tends to warp this loom front to back, so that's what we started to do ...  securing "the cross" and then one-by-one feeding the warp strings through the reed with a sley hook.  We started in the middle of the reed, and worked left with the following pattern : 1-1-2, meaning, 1-slot 1 string; 1 slot-1 string; 1 slot 2 strings, on other words, fitting 4 strings into 3 slots all across the reed.   We continued all the way across to the left with this pattern. 

Then through the heddles with a heddle hook, we worked in sets of 4 strings.  We took 1 heddle from each harness consecutively, and fed the strings through one at a time.  
Set 1 :
The 1st string went through the first heddle of the 1st harness;
The 2nd string went through the first heddle of the 2nd harness;
The 3rd string went through the first heddle of the 3rd harness;
The 4th string went through the first heddle of the 4th harness. 

It went pretty fast with the two of us working together.  I suspect it will be harder and slower if I try it alone ...   I was surprised my back wasn't hurting more when we finished that half of the warping process.  I think it helped that she had a stool at just the right height for working on this loom.

Lynda assures me that we'll be able to move it once it's warped.  Now I need to find a suitable place for it at home.  Possibilities?
     *  On the porch -- by the time it gets here, we will only have a few weeks left of fall.
      * No room in the living room (although my husband says we can get rid of the couch).  Ha!
      * Upstairs in the guest room?  May be difficult getting it up there (this loom has an oak frame), but that may be the most practical place for it--if I really want to use it this winter.
      * I guess another possibility is to leave it at Lynda's house and I just go there to use it on weekends.

It will also need a space with good lighting -- esp. for warping.

Lynda thinks I will soon outgrow this 4-harness loom, and will want additional harnesses (ie 8 harnesses).  I keep saying that it will take a while for my little brain to wrap (warp) itself around the idea of 4 harnesses and treadles, and it may be years before I need or want 8 harnesses.  This particular loom is not expandable to 8 harnesses (though you can get ones that are expandable). 

Excited about new possibilities!

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Spring Chives

Spring Chives

Very little added processing on this image--another one where textures didn't seem to work well.  
I just liked the purples and the greens, and the blurred, spilled pot in the background.    Pleasing composotion.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Water Lilies at Dunvegan Castle Gardens - Isle of Skye Scotland

These water lilies were absolutely gorgeous and blooming while we were visiting Skye.  I think I had every one of these water lily varieties in my own pond at one time or another.  They seemed like old friends coming out to greet us!

This GIANT anemone also caught my eye.

 Thistles and Sea Holly.

Incredible Astilbe gardens there, too!

 And 2 waterfalls.

 My Travel Buddy and meal splitter : Janice B.

Setting the place : Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Again, this camera just did not do the skies there any justice.

View from near the Castle, looking out over the Loch.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Glen Elg Scenic View in Western Scotland

These gorgeous landscapes in Scotland!  
These pictures do not do those gorgeous skies any kind of justice.
Magnificent and ever changing -- not washed out as seen here.

Fireweed along the scenic view.  

 Glen Elg area, Western Scotland.

Lovely fig and goat cheese salad (artfully presented) for lunch at the Glenelg Inn, with a "manly" Victorian pink lemonade to drink.

This is what else was on the menu that day.

 It's these little hidden gems that make having a guide so worth while!
We never would have found this place otherwise.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Warping the Picture Frame Loom and Weaving

Here is the Picture Frame Loom all warped up with 100 meters of Noro wool yarn.  I really like the long color changes, and wondered what ti would look like woven into cloth.
The Noro Wool is not strong enough to use on the tri-loom as there's too much tension, and it breaks -- ask me how I know.  Needless to say, I had to find another project for this pretty yarn. 

 It really is Noro, even though they put the price tag right over the label.

Here's the ball of yarn ready to be wound onto the foam core dog-bone bobbin I fashioned myself.  Another nod to recycled / up-cycled goods for this project.
You need something big enough to carry the yarn, but thin enough to get through the opening between the tension bars. 

Yarn wound onto the foam core bobbin.  

The empty frame before warping.
We start by tieing the end of the yarn onto the lower tension bar behind the frame loom.  Then you feed the yarn down and around the lower edge of the frame, then up and over the top, down the back and around the upper tension bar; then back up over the top, and down the front, around the lower edge and around the lower tension bar.  Repeat all the way across the loom.

I have some 1/4-inch graph paper glued onto the lower bar to help keep the spacing of the weft strings even. 

Here is is with the warp all done.  I did this in about 1 hour with 100 meters of Noro, or 1 ball of yarn.  

Detail of the weft strings with color changes.

The frame loom on the stand is designed to spin to make the back side easily accessible.  You can spin it so that the backside is reachable from the front.
Here's another shot of the tension bars : You can see it's completely open between the bars.  You can also crank down to tighten the tension, or loosen it and roll the woven cloth and warp down to work on some of the strings running down the backside--which is a nice feature of the warping / tension bars. 

View from the backside, with the tension / warping bars.  

Moving onto Heddles :

This is a heddle jig.  My next task was to tie a bunch of these strings (heddles).  The jig helps keep them uniform -- the same length and with the knots in the same places.
These will be looped onto a heddle bar that can be used to pull certain strings up and out of the way so the weaving yarn can pass through the shed.

A completed Heddle.

Here, the heddle bar has been installed.  See the white rod with all the strings hanging off of it.  
This bar can be pulled up and set onto the wooden heddle bar blocks, so that it holds the shed open to pass the weaving shuttle and yarn through to weave the cloth.  

The other flat stick you see higher up is a shed stick, used to hold a different set of strings open while you weave.

The shed stick and the heddle stick are used to open alternating shed spaces for weaving. 

Here the shed stick is turned up to open the space between the warp strings.   

Here's another view of the open shed created by the turned up shed stick.

Here the shed stick is down, with the shed closed.

Another view in between of the sheds.

Here the heddles are being used to pull up a different set of warp strings for an alternate shed space.

Here is the shuttle loaded with another skein of the Noro yarn.

Here's a view of the shuttle passing through the shed space opened by the shed stick.

The first bit of weaving on my new loom.
The colors are emerging!

I am a little concerned about the bowing of the cloth.  On the rug looms, they use metal rods at the sides to keep them even.  I'm considering how I can add that feature (or something like it) to this design.

Read about the building of this loom.