Monday, March 29, 2010

Blogger Problems

I've got this really great post lined up for you with lots of photos of getting my loom set up and weaving - but there's a problem with Blogger and it won't load any photos at the moment.

Just as soon as Blogger is fixed I'll get this post up.


First Steps in Weaving

This post is rather picture heavy, so be warned.

As you may have read I bought a loom last year, put it together with the help of the Evilpixie and discovered it wasn't at all what I thought I was buying. It was listed as being probably an Ashford loom but it turned out to be a countermarche loom from Frank Herring. This made it a much more complicated bit of kit than I was prepared for and I'd been putting off using the loom as the thought of it made me nervous.

However, there was no point in having it if all we were going to do was drape coats over it, so I rescued it from it tempoarary starus as coat-rack and got it warped up last week.

First I had to put new Texsolv heddles on the replace the old string ones that were on the loom when I got it.

Then I wound the warp - this was 8/2 worsted wool from Fibrecrafts, half of which I dyed in a nice bright turquoise for contrast. I have been following the instructions in "Learning to Weave" by Deborah Chandler. I'd have to say the book is pretty brilliant and explains everything in easy to understand steps that even I can follow.

This is the cross (that stops the yarn from getting all tangled and helps when you come to put the warp on the loom).

Here it is ready to warp up.

Sleying the reed (threading the yarn through the reed which is at the front of the loom and which you use to keep the woven cloth nice and even and at the correct tension)

Threading the heddles (these move up and down, making the yarn move to create the pattern when you weave)

Tying up the treadles (these foot pedals are tied onto the shafts containing heddles above and move them up and down as you press them)

And finally some actual weaving, actually woven by me.

There are some problems with this sample - the tension was wrong on the right hand set of warp threads, meaning that the selvedge on that side was a bit wobbly, also there turned out to be a knot in one of the warp threads and it snapped so there is a little blip in the middle of the sample where that one warp thread is missing. Yes, I could have replaced it but it was just a sample. Also, despite the fact that I checked every 4 ends as I threaded them (as suggested by the book) I still managed to get one end in the wrong heddle, so it didn't rise and fall in the right place and I had to manually pick it up every other row. Finally it seems that my shafts (that hold the heddles) weren't level so the shed (that's the space between the yarns that you pass the shuttle through) was quite tight at one side. I've fixed that now and the shed is much better.

I continued with the sample from here as the book suggested and did several sets of rows with different tightness, and then wove some twill patterns.

I'm really happy with the sample (despite the odd error) and I've really learned a lot about how the loom works, how important even tension is, and how I need to check the threading more than once (possibly more than twice). Plus now I've tweeked the loom a little and the action is better.

More weaving fun next week when I try to weave something real - ie not a sample, and hopefully with a use at the end of it. I'm planning a scarf to start with. Expect swearing!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Finally a book update...

I'm a bit behind with my book blogging so I'd better do a quick catch-up.

Way back in January I read A Game of Sorrows by Shona MacLean which is the sequel to The Redemption of Alexander Seaton. I have to say I was a little disappointed in this one. The previous book had been very atmospheric and had a great sense of place, which I felt was lacking slightly in this second book. It was still a good read, just not as good as the first in my opinion (such as it is).

Next up was The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths. This is the second in her series about Ruth Galloway a forensic archaeologist working in East Anglia. I loved this. Ruth is a really great character and the book is such an easy read, it simply flew along. Highly recommended!

I started Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly and normally I love Connelly's stuff, and this one is a Harry Bosch too, which I usually prefer to the stand-alones. However I seem to have got stalled with it. I'm stuck with Harry mid-air on his way to Hong Kong and can't seem to summon the enthusiasm to pick it up again. Most odd.

I had better luck with Justice Hall by Laurie R. King. It's one of her Mary Russell books and you probably know how I love those. I'm reading them all out of order as I find them (almost all are out of print in the UK at the moment, though I think I read somewhere that they would be republished to coincide with the publication of the next one later this year. I hope so. These are just too good to remain out of print.

While I was on a Sherlock Holmes theme I read Prayer of the Night Shepherd by Phil Rickman, one of the Merrily Watkins series, this one about whether or not Conan Doyle got the idea for the Hound of the Baskervilles while in Ledwardine rather than in Devon. This is the second of these I've read and I'm quite liking them. Of course, again I have been reading them all out of order, reading so far just the first and this one which I think is the fifth. I did like the first one, and this one has seen me through a short bout of insomnia so it must have been OK. (Certainly not one for hurling into the backseat, Jill!) I shall try again with one of the earlier ones, as I do like the characters, just not too sure about all the religious stuff (heathen that I am).

I only finished the Rickman this morning so I'm currently between books. I know I got a proof from the lovely Karen at Eurocrime last week, so that should be next, but I can't remember what it was, or where I've put it. (Found it - it's the new R. N. Morris, A Razor Wrapped in Silk, another Porfiry Petrovich mystery - all those Russian names!)

Oops, forgot one. I also read Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell, which is pretty much what you expect from Mr Cornwell. It has an interesting character who is a bit player in a major battle or historical event, he has a bit of love interest and some backstory, the plot is fast and the historical detail just hits the spot - just enough fascinating stuff without boring the pants off you. You know what you're getting with almost any Bernard Cornwell book and this did exactly what it said on the tin, which is fine by me. Long-term readers will know that almost all the English history I know has been gleaned from the pages of Mr Cornwell's books. (Scottish schools were none too hot on the teaching of English history when I went to school - this may have all changed now but all I ever learned was about Mary Queen of Scots.)

I think that's it for now. Next post will be (hopefully) on my progress with my loom. Yesterday I started to put the new Texsolv heddles on and today I hope to finish that and start to warp it up. There may be some swearing....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Old Dog in New Tricks Shocker

I am feeling inordinately proud of myself this morning. The above little scrap of knitting has involved the learning of several new things - firstly it requires the magic loop method of kntting, something I've never quite got the hang of until now; secondly I had to learn a new cast-on method, which is the Magic Cast On (I love this and can think of lots of ways it could be used); finally there are, in that tiny example two completely new increase stitches I've never heard of before, never mind tried.

This is of course the Skew sock from Knitty. What a fantastic design. Go marvel at it. Then come back and see how I get on - will I master it or will it make my head explode?

Friday, March 12, 2010

More Dyeing Action

I've been hitting the dyepots again this week, experimenting with various combinations of colours and techniques.

These rovings (from the top left) are a randomly dyed, hand-painted superwash merino roving using a combination of blues, yellows, reds and green, set in the microwave; a kettle-dyed superwash merino roving in oranges and browns; the bottom two are matched hand-painted sockstuff (merino and nylon) roving which graduates from red right through the rainbow to violet. I love the effect you can get from these in socks or in a shawl. There's also a number of ways you can spin them for differing effects. I never seem to get tired of these.

I haven't just done roving though. The top is a kettle-dyed sock yarn in beautifully rich tones of burgundy. This is exactly the sort of semi-solid yarn I was looking for the other week for the socks I started from the Sock Innovation book. (I had a few gauge issues and frogged them, though I'll restart them this week hopefully). The bottom two are vaguely matching skeins of sock yarn (these will be fraternal rather than identical socks) in reds and purples.

Spinning Fleece

The spinning of fleece is not something that I do a whole lot of. I tend to like my fibre all clean and processed and preferably in a pretty colour (or two).

But, my spinning group will be at Middleton Hall on Easter Monday and decided we would spin the wool for and make a peg loom rug to demonstrate spinning and peg weaving. Sadly I shall not be there as I'm working but to get the weavers off to a good start we needed to pre-spin some fleece for them.

So last week at the meeting I was handed a bunch of fleece to spin. Now it had been processed, so it had been washed and carded (this was done by a professional processor) but it was still full of bits of vegetable matter and I did keep having to stop and pick out bits of grass and moss and other unidentified things as I was spinning. The idea was to spin it as thick as possible. I'm not sure I succeeded there. My default yarn (ie what I naturally spin if I'm not thinking about it) is something like a sport weight or lightweight double knitting. Recently I've been trying to spin thinner stuff - not quite laceweight yet, but certainly similar to a commercial 4 ply or fingering weight. It's been a long time since I spun anything chunky.

Add Image Anyway here's my feeble attempt. It's thicker in some places than others and it's still full of little bits of leaf and moss. It's not washed yet though, hopefully it will look better once it's been washed.

Did I learn anything? Yes, I did. I learned that I was right - I do prefer the clean and pretty stuff over fleece anyday ( and this wasn't even raw fleece - this had been partly processed already). But I also learned that I could spin chunky if I wanted to.

Bonus - I now have nice soft hands from all that lanolin.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Little Dyeing

My good friend Maggi came over one day last week and we did some dyeing together which was lots of fun.

(making a mess in the kitchen)

( some sock yarn ready to go in the microwave)

(some of the end results)

(sock yarn all skeined up and ready to go)

(more sock yarn and some loopy mohair)

As you can see we had lots of fun doing this and made some lovely coloured yarns. I've been doing a little bit more today so there will be more yarns tomorrow when they are dry and skeined. There's also some roving which I haven't photographed yet so you'll see that tomorrow too.

In the meantime have a happy World Book Day!