Archive for the ‘Weaving’ Category

Sparkly woven scarf

A few weeks ago, my shower, which had been playing up for a while, and dripping all the time, finally gave up the ghost (it refused to turn off, which was a little disconcerting just before I had to leave for work, not to mention being all wet etc – I eventually remembered that there was an isolating valve under the bath, so I got dressed, found it, and ran out the door). The upshot was that I had to order a new one, and my parents came over at very short notice so that Dad could fit it for me (it’s very useful having a handy father!)

This of course meant that I was running round desperately tiding up, and in the process I stumbled across a bag which turned out to contain my spoils from Wonderwool, still not unpacked. Oops. But amongst them were these – apologies for the dreadful photo, it’s cropped from the one I took of everything I bought.


A twist of mixed sparkly pink fibres, and a skein of laceweight silk, both from Oliver Twists. Finding them inspired me to get my loom out again, as the plan for them was to make a scarf, with the pinks running lengthways. I undid the pink twist with some trepidation, and found that it was in fact 8m in length, with about 30 different yarns/threads. I cut it into four 2m-ish lengths, and started warping the loom. Which wasn’t easy – I had to choose pairs of yarns, then knot them twice, once at each side of the back beam, to keep them from slipping round. I had four groups of yarns, and did each set separately, but it was completely random within that. Some of the finer threads, especially the sparkly ones, I warped alongside a length of the silk I was using for the weft.


It took over three hours in total, not least because once I’d tied all the warp threads on, I had to deal with this tangle on the floor in front of the loom, but eventually it was all sorted and tied on.


There were a variety of yarns, some with slubs, some ribbon yarns, some silk-like (but I think they’re rayon or similar), and lots with sparkle. It’s very hard to photograph sparkle, this was my best attempt at it!


The start of the weaving. I didn’t use waste thread at the beginning, the silk was slippy enough to tidy it up once I took it off the loom.


And all done! It’s not a very long scarf, I lost at bit at the beginning when for some reason one warp thread was shorter than all the others, and I had to trim a few inches off, but it’s a nice length for a summer scarf to wear with my denim jacket. And it drapes beautifully.


It’s a bit more weft-faced than I’d hoped for (ie the cream silk weft dominates the coloured warp) but it’s quite subtle. And you can see the colours in the fringe.


Coincidently, just after I’d finished this, I went down to Wingham WoolWork with my friend Nadine, for a demonstration day by Ashford. There was weaving, spinning and drum-carding on offer, but I concentrated on weaving and I picked up loads of really useful tips – I just hope I still remember them by the time I get my loom out again. I’m busy watching tennis at the moment, and that’s not really a thing you can do whilst weaving.


Of course, I now want a funky eight-shaft loom like the one at the front of this photo, so I can make pretty things like this –


But they’re over £500, which I just don’t have to spend at the moment, and I’ve nowhere to put it anyway. I’ll just have to concentrate on getting the most out of my rigid heddle. I did learn how to use a pick up stick, and how to warp for doubleweave, so that’s a start…

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Weaving once more

Long time readers may remember that back in July last year I spun up a gorgeous skein of dyed baby camel and silk (from Freyalyn) plied with undyed cashmere and silk.


And that at in October I started weaving a scarf with it, using some commercial BFL/alpaca as the warp.


I didn’t feel the love for the project, largely because the warp behaved very oddly, bunching up in places randomly, and feeling quite harsh under tension. At one point I contemplated undoing it, but when I took the tension off the fabric it felt much better, so I persevered. Well, actually I dumped it in the conservatory for the winter and tried to forget about it, but I didn’t actually rip it out.


But the sunny weather this weekend make me want to do outside crafts, and I tend to think of weaving as something to do in the garden, largely because there’s more space out there, and I plodded away at it until at last it was finished.

I braided the ends using my hair braider, and then gave it a bath, which had a somewhat scary outcome – it went very ripply and uneven, and I thought I’d ruined it. But a good seeing to with the iron sorted it out, and now it’s a thing of softness and beauty, with a very interesting texture.


I took it to the park at lunchtime and did some arty shots against the backdrop of St Mary’s Abbey. I may have attracted some strange looks, but I ignored them!


You can see how drapy it is here.


The texture is quite strange, you can see it best with the light behind it.


I have no idea why it’s done this! It could be that the warp wasn’t evenly stretched, or just that it wasn’t really strong enough (one thread at the edge did break eventually, but I was pretty much at the end of the warp anyway, so I just took it as a sign to stop…) I think the slight thick-and-thinness of the handspun weft probably had something to do with it. It’s very interesting to look at!


All in all, I’m very pleased I carried on with it! It’s a beautiful soft, drapy scarf for spring, with subtle colours (probably because only 25% of it is actually dyed fibre). It’s 13.5” wide and about 62” long excluding the fringe, so it’s long enough to do a few different things with. It weighs about 170g, and there’s some of the handspun left – I haven’t weighed it though, it’s still on the loom shuttle. Maybe I’ll do a smaller project with it next. Oh, and I still need to trim the ends of the tassels neatly, I meant to do it before taking photos but I forgot!


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I was co-erced into going out for drinks after work last night, which was okay, although I don’t cope with large groups of people in pubs very well, I tend to switch off whilst conversations go on around me. But I’d completely forgotten that there was even a plan to go out, so I’d driven to the park and ride as usual, and ended up having to get the bus home. Now I’m waiting for my kind neighbour to give me a lift to go and retrieve it, so I thought I’d do a quick update whilst I wait.


There has been some knitting, I started this shawl on Saturday, it’s Morgain, by Stephanie Bold, which I started after seeing this lovely one by GingerLucy pop up in my friends’ feed. I’d been looking for a project for the merino/cashmere/silk fibre I spun a while ago, and this semi-circular shawl seemed perfect. The middle bit’s easy, just increases in stocking stitch, but the transition and the first few charts aren’t really intuitive, it doesn’t really line up with anything on the previous row to check you’re not going wrong, so there’s lots of counting going on. But I think things should get easier soon – I’ll keep you posted.


I delivered all the baby things I’ve been knitting last weekend, including the modified garter stitch cardigan – which was similar to the baby surprise jacket in that it looked very odd before I attached the top edges together (using a three needle bind off).


It became very cute after that!


I knocked up a quick hat to go with it, the colours are a bit off as I took it at night on my parents’ carpet, but I’ve adjusted them as best I can – it’s the same as the cardigan, really. I love the little leaf on the top!

And that’s baby knitting done for the time being, thank goodness – as long as there’s one imminent, I feel I have to knit as much as possible, now I can get back to my own things. Which include spinning – I was supposed to go down to Wingham on Tuesday with my friend Nadine, but they had to cancel as the roof of the greenhouse they use for lessons was leaking, so we’ve rearranged for Monday instead. But it gave me the urge to do some spinning anyway, and I finished off the superwash BFL fibre I started at spinning group the week before.


This was the Yarn Yard’s Woolfest 2009 special colourway, and it was lovely to spin.


The bobbins on the right were split into three lengthways, the one on the left was split into six to give shorter runs of colour (it’s bigger than the others because there’s some undyed BFL underneath it, one day I’ll finish that project!)


I plied it up on Wednesday night, whilst waiting for my iPhone to upgrade to IOS 5 (shiny!) – this shows the striping.


And I’m very pleased with the final yarn – it’s the thinnest three ply I’ve managed, there’s about 300m/100g, and it’s fingering weight. It should make lovely socks sometime in the near future :)


Being in a spinning mood, I fished about in my extensive stash of fibre, and found 200g of Falkland, also from the Yarn Yard, which I’ve started spinning much thicker. There’s a bit too much twist going in (I really should be using a lower ratio, but I was trying to spin it quickly) so I’ll try and take it out when I ply. It’s looking good though, and it only took me an hour to spin 50g (the sock yarn took about four hours to spin 50g, by comparison).


The stole I’m weaving with handspun has come on a bit, but for some reason I can’t seem to get down to it. I think it might be the yarn I’m using for the warp, it’s not ideal, and keeps bunching up when I beat the weft down, no matter how much tension I put on it. I does look okay though, so perhaps I’ll get on with it this weekend.


And a couple of gratuitous cat photos to finish – they’ve both taken to my quilt on the sofa, usually one gets it and the other paces round waiting her turn, but a few nights ago Min gave up waiting and squashed on too. Mollie promptly washed her face – well, what else are mums for?


And just to prove exactly how soppy Moll is, this is one of her favourite positions.


Her tummy is so soft!

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I seem to be in a flitting mood, doing bits of different projects and not actually finishing any of them. No matter, soon I’ll have lots of finished things all at once. Hopefully.


Before I went to Alnwick I treated myself to two balls of the lovely new lace yarn from Rowan, it’s 80% baby suri alpaca, and 20% fine merino wool, and feels beautiful. I looked around for a suitably easy pattern to do with in on holiday, and settled on the Melon Shawl from Victorian Lace Today.

But on our way to Alnwick, we stopped off at Ring-a-Rosie in Whitley Bay (after a brief problem when I didn’t know that they’d moved, but a quick look on the iPhone found their new location). The shop is beautiful, very nicely laid out. For some unaccountable reason it didn’t occur to me to take photos (blame the toothache) but there are photos on Ravelry. We were both irresistibly drawn to the display of Rowan’s new Fine Tweed yarn, which comes in a beautiful range of colours. I don’t have any concrete plans for it, but I bought ten balls to play with at some point.


That was going to be my only purchase, but at the last minute I spotted the Kidsilk Haze display, with the Jelly shade, which is the colour the Melon Shawl is knitted in in VLT, and I suddenly just had to have it, it really is a stunning colour (although a bit Marmite-like, people seem to either love it or hate it. Lucy I’m looking at you…)


So I started the stole whilst we were away, and got on with it when I got back, and the centre section is nearly done now. Of course that’s the easy bit, next there’s a knitted on border, which promises to be very tedious. It’s in a bag at the moment.


Another project I’ve been picking up at odd moments is the scarf I’m making for my mum’s Christmas present. I’m using the new Galaxy yarn from King Cole which has sequins in it – it’s like bling in a ball.



I’m using the Vine Lace pattern I’ve used many times before, largely because trying to do anything more complicated in black yarn seemed like asking for trouble. I did have a bit of a blip early on which involved tinking back about six rows, but since then it’s been going okay. So far.


It’s a singles yarn, 70% acrylic and 30% wool, so I’m not sure how it’d stand up in a garment, but it should be okay in a scarf. Oh, and mum loved the ruffle scarf I made her for her birthday, so I’ve high hopes for this one.


My cousin’s baby arrived on Wednesday, a girl called Willow, and I decided that before I sent off the things I’d made, I’d just run up another quick cardigan for her. So I chose to do one in garter stitch using DK yarn (Rowan Wool Cotton, part of the Great Kemps Haul). I have no idea what I was thinking, it’s taking ages. I’m using a Debbie Bliss pattern which is free on the Prima website, but I’ve altered it to do it in one piece, and also haven’t done the fuller skirt (mainly because I misread the pattern, but also because I don’t have enough yarn). I’ve also had to ditch the turn backs on the sleeves due to yarn issues, but I think it’ll look okay.


I’m going to pick up stitches across the bottom of the sleeves for the back, and do a three needle bind off at the top, so no sewing up to do.

In other news, I’ve been spinning. This lovely merino and tencel fibre from the Yarn Yard –


became these singles –


and then became about 560m of gorgeous yarn



I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but it’s very pretty :)

I’ve also been weaving, albeit a little half-heartedly.


The colours aren’t showing up very well on this photos, but in reality it has subtle stripes – it’s the yarn I spun last, with one ply of baby camel and silk, and one of cashmere and silk for the weft, and the warp is commercial bfl and alpaca.


Every so often I sit down and do a bit more, so it is getting there, but the warp isn’t perfect – it’s a bit too hairy and does odd things when I beat the weft down, so I’m not completely feeling the love. I very nearly cut it off and reclaimed the weft last week, but it felt better when I released the tension from the loom, so I’m plodding on with it. I’m planning to sit in the garden with it this afternoon if the sun keeps shining (who’d have thought we’d have such beautiful weather in October? I have lots to do inside, but it’s having to wait whilst I made the most of the sun.)


About ten years ago, just after I moved in here, I planted some borage seeds. For a few years afterwards it self-seeded, but I’ve not seen it for a while until this year, when it’s popped up again. Not sure whether the weather’s involved, but it was a nice surprise to see it again!

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I’ve spent most of the last week knitting squares for my blanket, but I won’t bore you with them just now – I’m thinking of setting up a separate page on here for them, so I can record them without cluttering up the blog. But that’s a job for another day.

At the weekend I decided I’d had enough of squares for the time being, and plucked up the courage to weave using the handspun warp I set up a few weeks ago.


You might remember that I was worried that the yarn would disintegrate once I started beating the weft with the heddle. I decided to try using spray starch to strengthen it, but then had to wait until a suitable occasion to do it outside, as I didn’t really want starch on my carpet. I duly sprayed the first section, but all that happened was that the yarn stuck together in the shed and I had to separate it before each pass of the shuttle. So I lived dangerously and tried it without the starch, and it was absolutely fine. Phew.


Previously I’ve had trouble with my selvedges when weaving, but more by accident than design I worked out what I was doing wrong this time – the trouble was that I was weaving too far up before winding on, and getting close to the heddle, so the angle of the weft before beating was getting smaller, which pulled the fabric in at that point. This time I concentrated on making sure it was the same angle each time, and wound on every couple of inches, and it was fine.


I pinched the yarn at the opposite edge, pulled it tight at that angle, then let it relax before beating. The fact that it was handspun with a lot of bounce probably helped.

So after couple of hours on Saturday, and a few more on Sunday, to the accompaniment of Emelia Fox reading Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, I had this.


I did have enough weft for another inch or so, but I couldn’t fit any more on the warp, despite moving the heddle blocks to the rear position. I cut it off, and spent an hour or so making 50 fringe twists with my useful hair braider, and gave it a bit of handfulling in hot and then cold water (I wasn’t trusting it to the washing machine!), and then it looked like this.


To say I’m pleased with it would be a massive understatement – I keep looking at it and not quite believing that I made it. Especially when you consider that it started life like this –



100g each of merino and BFL, dyed by Fiona at Grace and Jacob.

Which then turned into these –


450m of merino (used for the weft) and 515m of BFL (warp). It’s like alchemy, it really is.


The twisted fringe was a little tedious, but I love it. There’s two strands in each twist, with five ends in each strand. 25 twists per end mean that I had 250 ends in total, and I used a 12.5 dent heddle. The weft was about 14epi, so it was nearly a balanced weave. It looked quite open before I washed it, but afterwards it’s closed up beautifully. The stole measures 56” x 17”, not including the fringe.


And look at those edges! They’re just so much better than anything I’ve managed before, I’m really pleased with them :)


And I love the subtle plaid effect the handspun yarn gives.


The camera chopped the top of my head off on this one, but it gives a reasonable idea of how lovely and drapy the fabric is.

It’s on Ravelry here.

So, that was the sublime, now to the ridiculous. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I finally fell for that frilly yarn that’s everywhere at the moment. It’s not for me, I hasten to add, but it’s my Mum’s birthday next month, and I think she’ll like it. Well, I hope she will. It’s not the Can Can that’s very popular, but a new version from Coates, called Frilly.


The ball band promises full instructions on the website, but they are possibly the worst instructions I’ve ever seen, so I winged it a bit, and it seemed to work.


I basically knitted into the third eyelet along on the second row down every time, which is a bit tedious, but it goes fairly quickly once you get into it – I only used six stitches per row, and there’s only 29m on the ball!


So after an evening’s knitting I had this, which I do actually think is quite pretty in a mad sort of way – it doesn’t look quite so much like a shower scrub as the Can Can version, and it feels okay, quite light and cottony. There’s a glitter in the edge, which jazzes it up too. Now I’m wondering whether my sister-in-law would like one for Christmas… But maybe I won’t knit it just yet!

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Spinning a yarn

I am still here, and I have been busy, I just haven’t done anything that’s seemed worth writing about for a while. I was inspired by talk of the Tour de Fleece (which I don’t join, that’s a sure fire way for me immediately not to want to do something) to get my unspun fibre out and have a rummage through and check that it was all in my Ravelry stash.


And it’s just as well I did, I found ten lots that hadn’t made it on there – the photo is only part of the stash, there were 51 lots when I’d finished adding it all! And that’s not counting the various bags of coloured merino, merino/silk blends, and undyed fibres of different sorts that live under the bed.

So I was inspired to do some spinning. Perversely the first thing I did was to spin a small but beautiful bag of fibre which came as a freebie when I ordered from Picperfic’s Etsy shop a while ago. There was only about 10g, but it was merino and silk and sparkle in lovely shades of pinks and yellows.


I experimented with seeing how thin I could get it. I was a bit thwarted by the small lumps in the fibre, which gave it texture – I could have pulled them out, but I was too lazy.

I don’t seem to have taken any photos of it on the bobbin, but I plied it with a similar amount of tussah silk, which isn’t my favourite thing to spin, but looks lovely.


And came out with 20g/125m of heavy laceweight yarn. I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with it, but it’s very pretty.


Next I pulled out this amazingly coloured baby camel and silk, bought from Freyalyn at Woolfest last year – it looks as though it’s been dyed by a sunset. There’s 50g here, so again I decided to ply it with an undyed ply. I split it into four lengthways, and spun it as thin as I could manage. It’s not the fastest thing to spin, you have to be careful when drafting it or it pulls away from you and breaks, so it took me a while.


Next I pulled out a bag which I thought contained 50g of undyed baby camel and silk, and started on that. It was even harder to spin, but I thought that perhaps the dye had made the first lot easier. Until I found the bag with the other 50g in it (I’d split them a while ago with the idea of spinning them onto two separate bobbins and plying them together) and realising that it was my precious cashmere and silk. Oops. I ended up spinning this from the fold, when I tried doing it from the end of the fibre I ended up pulling the silk out and leaving the cashmere behind. It does work that way, but it’s slow as you have to keep stopping to pull more lengths off the fibre.


You’ll spot from the grass that quite a lot of this spinning has taken place in the garden, which has been very pleasant, although there have been a couple of occasions when I’ve had to flee inside from sudden rainstorms. Usually whilst plying, so there’s the maximum amount of yarn stretched across the garden to contend with, naturally. Which is why the next photo is inside the conservatory…


The plied yarn on the bobbin gives an idea how it’ll stripe when knitted up.


And a gratuitous ‘yarn on the niddy noddy’ shot, with added sleeping cat.


I plied it fairly tightly, but it was only a little bit twisted back on itself when I took it off the niddy noddy.


And once I’d washed it it behaved perfectly. There’s 104g and about 600m, and it’s very soft! As it should be, being a mix of baby camel, cashmere and silk. As usual I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but perhaps I’ll get a sudden inspiration one day.


In other news, I’ve pulled the loom out and warped it up. With the yarn I spun a couple of weeks ago (see it cut at the front, that was a scary moment!) Even more scary was the way it stuck together when I pulled the heddle up, now I’m scared stiff that it’s going to get all rubbed up and break as soon as I started beating the weft, so it’s sat in the middle of the living room until I work up the courage to have a go at it. It’s pretty much ruined for anything else now, so I might as well, but, ooh, scary!

On the knitting front, I’ve finished the garter stitch cardigan and the baby blanket I was making, they’re both blocking now, so hopefully there will be photos tomorrow. If I’ve got time in between packing for Knit Nation – I’m getting the train down on Thursday straight after work, so I have to have everything packed by tomorrow night. Eek! I have sorted out the knitting I’m taking and found my Ravelry badge though, so that’s two of the most important things sorted ;)

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Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

I’ve been looking over my knitting projects from the last year on Ravelry, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I seem to have reached a point in my knitting where I’m not really pushing myself, just coasting along making things that are well within my comfort zone. I don’t really have a problem with this, although it might be fun to try something new this year – perhaps a complicated cabled jumper, from the new Alice Starmore book, or a fairisle project. Speaking of which, that’s probably the only new thing I did try this year, knitting-wise, when I made these two tams.



What else could I challenge myself with? Perhaps a big circular lace shawl, or some lace entrelac? To be honest, the main thing that stops me doing the more challenging patterns is not that I don’t think I can do them, but that I think they’ll take too long and I’ll get bored and shove them in a cupboard. I may have a track record of doing this. Just possibly.

The new skill I have learnt this year is only partially relevant to KCBW, but I’m going to include it anyway. I’ve learnt to weave. Only very basically, using a rigid heddle loom and direct warping, but it’s something I couldn’t do this time last year.


My edges are still a bit ragged, but I’m getting there. Although it’s so long since I’ve done any that I’ll probably have to learn all over again. Roll on summer when I can set the loom up in the garden.

Another thing I’ve done more of this year is sewing – I’m not sure I’ve learnt anything, but I’ve polished up my skills at doing fairly basic sewing, and made a few little bags and things.



I even brought the two skills together with this woven bag.


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