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Finishing the hand spun/hand woven scarf

Finishing the hand spun/hand woven scarf

In the fall I wove a scarf using my ‘precious’ handspun yarn.  It’s time to stop thinking of this commodity in such terms.  There is bound to be loom wastage when using any yarn and handspun can’t be saved, so best to get over that reality and start enjoying the enormous gratification to be had in weaving my own yarn.

The excitement didn’t wane even as the finishing process started.  Finishing can be an extremely tedious time, but I really enjoyed it this time.

A metal needle slides the knot into position

Once the warp is woven it’s time to cut it off the back beam.  I did this very carefully and knotted each group of four threads as I went along.  Using a large metal tapestry needle lets me slide the knot into position easily.  I didn’t hemstitch the scarf, nor did I use a fringe maker.  These are two perfectly satisfactory methods of finishing but I chose not to use them, maybe on a later project.  I also left a lot of fringe length to help in the finishing process for later evening up.

Starting the fringe finish on the loom - back edge of the scarf

Here the back beam fringe is all done, now I have to unwind the fabric and start on the front of the material, which is still attached to the front of the loom.

These knots are usually easy to undo, but if they get a bit cranky the metal needle comes in handy for prying them apart.  Again, I just knot them in groups of four as I move along the front of the loom.  Once that is all done, the fabric is inspected for unwoven threads that are hanging loose.  My apologies for not taking pictures of these, but I was running out of hands.  These usually are along the selvage edges and I trim them off or weave them in using my trusty metal needle.  It’s a bodkin so works perfectly for that task.

The plaid of the two different burgundy shows clearly

Once everything is where it should be, the fabric is given a wash in very hot water and mild soap, rinsed and hung to dry.  I was very pleased with how the colours played out to give a subtle change in the plaid.  I hope to be able to replicate this somehow in the future, just have to figure out how I did it in the first place.

Align the knots of the fringe and cut both sides of the fringe

The final step is to even out the fringes; they need to be the same length on both sides.  I find it easiest to pin the fabric together and just cut them at the same time.

Once the fringe is trimmed the two sides are pinned together and the fringe length is verified

Sometimes they need just a little more trimming, just noticed there is a stray bit in the picture, just like a bad haircut.

The final product is going to be used for display purposes at the next Sale and Exhibition.  I am very pleased with the final result.  It will not be for sale.  I did show it to a fellow weaver for a hard critique and I meant it.  I wanted to hear the “hard stuff”.  She was kind enough to tell me the truth.  There are a few techniques that I need to work on before selling my scarves.  I need to open up my work so it drapes better.  I need to get better at math!!!  This ended up very short.  It was a wonderful width, but it did shrink in length and would only work as a dress scarf.  And finally, I need to practice hemstitching.  That said, the colours are great, my use of yarn is superlative, the fringe is perfect and the simplicity of the design is perfect to set off the fibre.  Ta-da, I’ll take that.

 

My story in 1000 stitches (or so)

My story in 1000 stitches (or so)

Hello, Felting and Fiber friends.

It’s me again, a beginner felter, a novice in knitting and crocheting

(have I told you the story of my then-boyfriend’s knitted scarf? the one that kept getting longer and longer the more he used it, and his mother, an accomplished knitter and crocheter who knits a new woolly jumper for my kids each Christmas, kept undoing the last bit of the scarf and fixing it? well, he is my husband now, it goes to show that even disastrous knitting is useful…)

no skills in weaving, BUT I used to do quite a bit of embroidery, and that’s how I began my adventure in textiles, so I better tell you a bit about it.

I started with cross-stitch as a little girl (maybe 10-11-years-old) at my local Parish: an ex-teacher of Feminine Skills at schools (yes, she was that old that the subject existed with that name when she used to teach) had accepted to run a class of basic embroidery stitches for little girls at the Parish, with the aim of having a few of them join the Parish group of embroiderers who would sell their works for charity once or twice per year at the Church. She was a spinster, with loads of nephews and nieces to dote on, and she was prim and welcoming: we addressed her as Miss, Signorina in Italian, ate the cookies that she brought as treat, and loved her. My mum accepted to send me only if I promised not to lose my time and sight on finicky embroidery, and at the beginning it seemed that we were making quite small designs, such as cross-stitch butterflies for cards, or a grass stitch embroidery on a cotton bag that was supposed to hold bread.

I have kind of disappointed my mum during the following years: the idea of painting with thread caught my fantasy, and I started spending more and more time (sometimes secretly) embroidering, especially cross-stitch. Miss and the group of local embroiderers were an oddity like myself, all guiltily enjoying together an outmoded craft while chatting away a few hours. My schoolmates were half in awe of my skill and half disbelieving that I could spend so much time on that.

In time I cross-stitched a lot of things, cushion covers, cards, bathroom towels, tablecloths of various sizes (never the big ones, though) and place mats and runners, babies’ bibs, alphabet samplers and Christmas decorations… I loved the fact that you could achieve marvelous paint effects just with thread and a wise design. I also liked the idea of following a pattern, and the repetitiveness of the cross-stitching itself, that helped me calm down in difficult times and made me happier.

I used to have a subscription to two main Italian magazines that were my inspiration:

  1. one is the monthly “Le idee di Susanna”, skewed towards cross-stitch, but with loads of practical crafting ideas around it, and also a bit of knitting, crochet and sewing thrown in to entice you to more. See it here if you are curious.
  2. the other was a magazine about any kind of embroidery, especially the free stitch types of hand embroidery, it makes you dream about the highest skills of the ancient embroiderers and the top modern ones, and had been published since 1929. its past issues of the Sixties and Seventies were more practical, with knitting and useful sewing, and are still traded online by crafters. Unfortunately, it has gone downhill very quickly around the 2010 after being sold to a new publisher, and I can’t seem to find any recent issue, so I guess it is not active anymore. Such a pity, but I guess I could sell my old issues for a good price in a few years! See some of its cover images here.

Most of what I embroidered and made in those years was sold for charity or gifted to friends and family, and there weren’t mobiles to take a quick photo, so I do not have much left of them. Not because I am particularly generous, you know, it was just safer not have all those proofs of my not-studying lying around the house… Anyway, I did not need twenty baby bibs, but they were all so cute that it was hard to resist when my nephews were arriving… Oh, well, some of the bibs actually came back to me when my kids were coming in turn, so.

Here are just a couple of bathroom towels that I cross-stitched for myself when I started getting serious with my then-boyfriend (way after the longest-scarf-of-all-times): I have the photos only because those were on linen, and thus light enough to come with me when we moved from Italy to England. I loved cross-stitching on linen or cotton-linen blends: slower, but the final effect is so neat and lovely!

(I apologise in advance for the fact that none of the things are properly ironed or pressed: those are all things that I fished out of drawers as they were, and I can not face the iron at the moment, please forgive me!)

A set of white towels embroidered with a blue cross stitch pattern of flowers
Cross-stitch embroidered towels with a blue pattern.
Detail of blue cross stitch flowers on a white linen towel
Detail of the blue cross-stitch pattern: it repeats itself three times to achieve the right length.
Back of a white towel showing a neat cross stitch blue floral pattern
I always like a neat cross-stitch back.
A set of white linen towels embroidered with a pink roses cross stitch pattern
Pink roses cross-stitch towels.
Detail of a pink roses cross stitch pattern on white linen towels
Detail of the pattern: you can see that the rose is the unit repeated to achieve the right length.
Pink rose cross stitch pattern towels on a heating rack in a bathroom
I noticed some humidity stains on the towels (that’s how much we use them!), so those are now getting their duty time in our bathroom!

We have some more cross-stitched towels in storage boxes in Italy, to gather dust there, along with a few other embroidered things. Here are cross-stitched place mats that I embroidered on an ecru linen-cotton blend fabric, that we use as breakfast place mats. I embroidered the edges with the simplest point-a-jour: I am not really a fan of making point-a-jour, but I like having my edges neat and hate hand-sewing even more!

A set of two ecru place mats with a floral cross stitch pattern and their matching napkins
Cross-stitch place mats and napkins for our breakfast.
Detail of cross stitch embroidered place mat and napkin with a floral pattern
Detail of the place mat and napkin
Detail of a jour bordering of embroidered place mat
A view of the a-jour that borders the whole mat and napkin
Back of cross stitched place mat with floral pattern
I always check my backs!

During my University years I started improving my free-stitch embroidery skills, and could not resist a forage into the variety of embroidery stitches that I was seeing on my magazines. Firstly, just learning about patterns and stitches, I soon started to use elements from books and magazines and adapting them to my needs and taste to create new things. Lately, I created a couple of things completely to my own designs. Here again I am afraid that I do not have much to show, because most of my creations were gifted to special persons or are in storage boxes in Italy at the moment. One day we will get all our stuff out of storage, who knows.

I only have three examples of my free hand-embroidery to show you: two of them, bathroom towels and a small tablecloth for teatime, I have brought with me to England, and the third is a small curtain that I have embroidered and hand-sewed for one of my best friends, and she graciously sent me the photos during the Christmas holidays.

So, here we go.

The bathroom towels are of the finest linen and I wanted a refined effect. It took me ages to complete the complex point-a-jour of the border, but it gave me plenty of food of thought for other embroidery projects (more on that later on). The embroidery itself is white on white: my initials framed by flowers and leaves for the main towel, and a smaller version of the initials for the small towel. I am afraid that I do not know the names for the stitches in English and I am kind of hazy about the Italian names as well right now: we are talking about nigh on twenty years ago, and even then I tended to focus on doing more than on names. The design of the embroidery was taken from a book or magazine that I had, and I modified it only a bit to simplify the framing elements, if I remember correctly.

Hand embroidered towels with my initials white on white
Towels embroidered with my initials, white on white.
Embroidery of initials C and P, white on white, with flowers embroidered left and right of the initials
Here is the embroidery: I hope you like it.
One bigger and three smaller embroidered flowers white on white on the left of the initials, with swirls and leaves and dots
The flowers on the left of the initials.
Three small embroidered daises with two bigger and several smaller leaves, and swirls, white on white
The flowers and leaves on the right of the initials.
Detail of a double a jour bordering on fine white linen,  a knot groups strands at regular intervals in the center of the drawn thread part of the hem.
This bordering took me ages: just tell me if it was worthwhile!
Neat back of embroidered initials towel white on white.
My fascination with neat backs goes on: I am quite happy with this one, what do you think?

As to the teatime tablecloth, we use it as breakfast table tablecloth: I like my breakfast as you may guess! and I really need something fresh and lovely for it to work, as I am not a morning person and waking up to ugliness would be too much. This is finest cotton, very lightweight and almost see-through. I designed it completely, and I wanted it quite simple and colourful. I started by edging the border: at the beginning, it was a lot of fun changing colours randomly every little while, but it was a long way to the end, I can assure you.

Embroidered teatime white fine cotton tablecloth with a hem embroidered in different violets and greens and small groups of embroidered flowers scattered on the tablecloth.
My favourite breakfast tablecloth: violets on a snowy white fabric.
Multicolured embroidered hem in different greens and violets and white.
I changed threads randomly to achieve a multicoloured look for the border.

The violets were quick to embroider, I remember, just a stem of grass-stitches and the violets themselves done with different violets or white (also mixed together) in lazy daisy stitches (is this the right name? I think so, I felt very lazy for sure, I wanted to finish it quickly). The leaves I outlined with grass-stitch and chose to cover only half with satin/full stitches in different greens. I like how it feels a very easygoing and modern type of tablecloth, in the end.

Embroidered violets 1 are white and pale violet, with pale green and medium green leaves
Which of the violets do you like most? Number 1
Embroidered violets 2 are medium and pale violet, with medium and pale green leaves
Number 2
Embroidered violets 3 are white and pale violet and a mix of the two, with dark and pale green leaves
Number 3
Embroidered violets 4 are dark and pale violet with pale and dark green leaves
or Number 4?
Neat back of embroidered violet on white fine cotton
I am satisfied with the backs as well.

And, lastly, the curtain that I made for my friend. Well, that was my first curtain, so I just could not reassure my friend of the final results: she was a bit doubtful, and also more than a bit afraid of my mum’s disapproval of me “wasting my time in useless old stuff”, I am guessing.

I presented her with my idea of design for it in a secret meeting at my place: she was going to live in a terraced house and I adapted her a terraced houses outline, taking inspiration from one of the magazines, that had a very intriguing design. In my mind the idea was already taking shape drawing from my experiences with variants of point-a-jour , openwork and different embroidery stitches, but she had to take a leap of faith and trust in my skills.

We went together to the market to buy the fabric, and she sensibly opted for a mixed synthetic and cotton: after all, she would have to wash it, not I! It took my around 2-3 months to finish it and present it to her: I remember that I was so excited when she lastly saw the finished curtain!

A white curtain with an embroidered outline of terraced houses, one different from the other, white on white
My terraced-houses curtain. Courtesy of Alessia Fabris: 18-years-old and still going strong!
Details of three of the terraced houses embroidered on my curtain with different embroidery stitches and thread work and openwork
All the houses are different! Courtesy of Alessia Fabris

I wanted all the houses to be very different one from the other: each of them has a different door and various windows made using different types of stitches. I made the windows all openwork, and used this as a way to practice different openwork effects. I hand sewed it completely, as I did not have a sewing machine.

I asked my friend to take photos of some details to her taste, and she sent me these:

Detail of an embroidered door on a terraced houses curtain, embroidered with a counted stitch pattern
Detail of one of the doors. Courtesy of Alessia Fabris
Details of embroidered and openwork front door on my terraced houses curtain
This door has a couple of windows on top. Courtesy of Alessia Fabris
Four openwork windows and an embroidered door on hand embroidered terraced houses curtain
I am amazed that those openwork windows are still looking fine after 18 years of washing cycles! Courtesy of Alessia Fabris
One of the embroidered houses on my embroidered terraced houses curtain
The same house seen a bit farther away. Courtesy of Alessia Fabris

My friend reported neighbours and passersby asking for information on her unique curtain that they could see from the outside, during the first years that she lived there. I want to think that it helped her make friends there faster.

I then went on to make two free hand embroidery curtains for myself before my daughter was born: both white on white, a small one designed by me, all butterflies of different sizes and was actually a sampler of stitches and openwork. The other one quite big, an adaptation of an idea and design from a magazine, was embroidered on all the borders (apart from the upper one) with a continuous repetitive swirling pattern, all in one single easy type of stitch, chain stitch. I finished it with my belly growing and going in the way of embroidering and sewing, but I got it done, and had the help of my first sewing machine to finish it faster. Still, it took me a couple of months to finish it (I was not working, and paused most of my attendance to my second degree at University due to not being able to move.), and none too soon: my daughter was born shortly after the last stitches.

As to point-a-jour, openwork and needle lace, they made me sweat swear and tense, but I love the look of them once it is finished, so my big unfinished project of embroidery is a linen towel set with a maybe 8-in-height border (20 cm) of openwork-needle lace. I got through maybe half of it on the first towel. I guess that it must be in one of the storage boxes in Italy, although I could swear that I brought it to England when we moved, still hoping that in time I would be able to go on..that was around nine years ago! Embroidering takes too much time for my current life style!

I hope that I gave you some ideas of embroideries to try!

See you next time for a bit of felting!

 

Playing With Fiber – A New Beginning

Playing With Fiber – A New Beginning

It’s 2023 and I am preparing for all sorts of fun this year! In June, I will turn 65, so I am busy learning about all my Medicare options. I guess, that will be a new beginning, but that’s not the one I am happiest about. What I am rejoicing in, the most, is my new business name and the dreams I have for the future.

Playing With Fiber Logo
Our logo

Playing With Fiber, is what I plan to do, for the rest of my days on the planet! Playing is the keyword, it gives me permission to try new things, and not place such restrictions on myself. Most of all, it will fit into the life Brian and I, are finally planning to live. It’s taken a lifetime to identify “what I really want,” and suddenly it is right in front of me. Brian and I were recently at a coffee shop, discussing upcoming travel plans, and he suggested we take photos during our quiet moments, and turn them into fiber memories. Like a bolt of lightning it hit me! This is our time, our plan, and our future…the business will work with us, wherever we are.

I’m excited to say, this blog post will be the very first post, on my new website. In our new business strategy, I will write about what I am doing, and offer specially curated custom kits. If a reader is interested in something special, they can reach out to me, and we will do our best to make a kit with supplies that work for them.

This blog post is about … blending yarns to make what you want to see. As my website implies, I am always fiddling with my fibers. I look at a single skein of dyed yarn as a flat canvas on which to build. Most of my favorite knitting projects are knit with a combination of yarns.

Playing With Fibers presents a seamless poncho knit top-down with leftover luxury and specialty yarns. Sections are approximately 1 inch in depth and color changes happen as yarn runs out.
Poncho style shawl, I knit for myself, using all sorts of leftover yarns and specialty fibers. Pattern: The Reunion Shawl by Jen Guintoli

In close ups you see the number of yarns I mixed together to get the blends I wanted to see. That sort of play, makes every project fun for me, and makes it uniquely satisfying. This project is from 2017.

Now, let’s fast forward, recent projects I have been playing around with. I made some educated discoveries along the way. Instead of throwing anything together, color wise, I have started to realize the transformative effects of additional yarns, colors, and fibers.

This hand dyed DK skein of 70% Baby Alpaca/20% Silk/10% Cashmere, is sitting on top of a cowl, knitted with another skein of the same batch.

This is a lovely DK weight yarn I dyed. I wish I dyed 2 skeins this way, but instead I dyed 5 of them. Now, that I have this cowl knitted, and no one seems to be interested in buying all it’s brightness, I have 2 entire skeins languishing. I saw a pattern for these quick slippers, and thought I could use some cozy slippers. I grabbed a small ball of leftover yarn and began pulling color options, to tone it down a bit. Nothing I had laying around seemed to work. In a moment of craziness, I threw some brighter colors at it, and surprisingly that was what it needed. I’m going to enjoy wearing these punches of color on my feet.

Playing With Fiber slipper made with 4 different hand dyed yarns
My very colorful Cloud Slippers. A free pattern by Adrienne Sullivan

My next example addresses working with beautiful hand dyed fingering weight yarn, when you no longer enjoy projects on small needles, that take forever. That’s where I find myself at this moment in life. I have a solution that works for me…knit luxurious fingerless mitts.

Playing With Fiber knitted these fingerless mitts. Shown with the two yarns combined together.
Maine Morning Mitts by Clara Parkes, is a free pattern available on Ravelry. My favorite, go-to pattern for fingerless mitts. Make a pair in 2 evenings.

http://www.mountaintopfarms.net is where I purchased this lovely angora blend yarn. You can see the yummy halo in the photos. This yarn gives all the warmth you can possibly want, and they knit up really quick on US-7 double points.

My last blended fiber project, is a sweet little shawl made with a special skein of silk and bamboo, I purchased at a destash sale. It was only $5. I thought about throwing it away a hundred times. But, every single time something stopped me. It was simply meant to be!

The shawl that almost wasn’t.
The perfect little skein, combined with a strand of KidSilk lace weight yarn, edged with a picot beaded bind-off. I am smitten and can’t wait to wear it.

I encourage you to play, with those favorite skeins, you have laying about. Dare to try something different! You may surprise yourself.

Capi Puszcz

2023 First Quarter Challenges

2023 First Quarter Challenges

Our best wishes to you all for a happy, creative new year!  And what better way to kick-start your creativity in 2023 than taking a challenge or two 🙂

The first challenge for this quarter is from a post by Caterina on the Felting and Fiber Forum after she had made some arm-warmers.

Quote: “Couldn’t we have a Quarter Challenge on felt things that are purpose made to address a need that we can’t find a way to address with store-bought stuff?
For instance, another thing that I would like to make is a sight-glasses holder with a belt, so that I can always have my other pair of glasses with me, but not dangling from my neck as I would have them with a store-bought glasses-holder, because I am forever banging them on some counter or getting them in a heated pan or dunking in the sink while I wash dishes with the normal necklace – type of holder. I keep saying that I need to make me one that will suit my life, but I have not gone round to it yet!” Unquote.

So could you make something, that you can’t buy in a shop, to make your life easier?

The second challenge is Jan’s idea and it will be carried through all four quarters of this year.

For this quarter’s challenge, find a tree that you like and depict it as it awakens in spring with buds/new leaves/blossom – it can be realistic or representational.

We would all like to see photos of challenge pieces and if you are unable to upload photos directly onto The Felting and Fiber Forum ‘studio challenges’ thread, then please use the link below.

https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/community-photo-submissions/

Thanks for All of our Community Entries

Thanks for All of our Community Entries

It’s that time of the year when I look back over the last year and think, “Whoa where did the time go and what have I gotten done this year?” While I was thinking about writing a round up post of what I had created this year, I remembered our new Community Gallery page. I thought it would be great to feature work from our readers and authors who have submitted photos for our community page. Anyone is welcome to submit a photo and tell us about their work. We will be creating a new page for each year from now on. So I thought if you hadn’t taken a look, you would like to see what others have created this year. If you want to read about how the pieces were made or get further information, you can find it here on our 2022 Challenges Gallery page. Just scroll down to see all the entries.

Cindy M. showed us her wonderful interpretation of a cactus. She also wrote a guest post about the process here.

Marie E.S. submitted her beautiful needle felted and stitched creation based on a moss covered stone in her garden.

Melissa O showed us her interpretation of paint chips on cement which morphed into a fabulous wall hanging.

Capi submitted her entry for the 2nd Quarter challenge with a felted stick. Which one is real? Read more about it here.

This wonderful felt vessel was created by Donna B. using multiple photos as inspiration.

These lovely felt flowers were on of Ann B’s submissions for the third quarter challenge. Visit the gallery page to see all of her submissions.

These flowers were inspired from a quilting technique of yo-yo flowers which were cleverly felted by Mireille G M.

This flowered felt hat was created by Penny E and submitted for the third quarter challenge. The flowers are appliqued with machine stitching which adds a wonderful texture to the surface.

Cindy M. submitted another take on cactus for her third quarter entry. She also created a second version of this piece seen here.

This felt piece was created with real lavender plants and wet felted by Helene D. and was perfect for the third quarter challenge.

Donna B. made program booklet covers for a local woman’s group and submitted these delightful entries for the third quarter challenge.

Karen L. created this vessel from bits from her stash and submitted it for the 4th quarter challenge. She created it for an exhibition “Making Waves” and looks just like a tide pool.

Ann B’s entry for the 4th quarter challenge were these fantastic crowns she created for a Panto in 2020. Ann also contributed more entries for the 4th quarter which you can see here.

These fab holiday trees were created by Susan W. who was inspired by Helene’s post from the prior year where she showed how to make these trees.

Caterina P. shared her colorful necklace/neck warmer that she made from items in her stash. She has found it quite warm to wear during the colder months.

This adorable gnome was created and shared by Jessika O. He brings a smile to my face and is perfect for the holidays.

I would like to extend my gratitude to all of our readers and everyone who submitted photos this year. I hope that all of you will consider submitting photos of your work and participating in our quarterly challenges. We love to see what you are creating.

Have a Happy New Year and here’s wishing you a creative 2023!

 

 

Exploring Natural Dyes

Exploring Natural Dyes

In my October blog post, I wrote about getting ready to start an online Natural Dye course through Maiwa. https://maiwa.com/. The photo of materials hanging on my clothesline was the first step of scouring and mordanting the fabrics that I was going to use.

Fabrics drying on a clothesline

Most of the dyes we used came right out of the jar, all ready for the dye pot. However, we did learn to make an extract from the cochineal bugs.

First you have to crush the little guys using either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. I had given my coffee grinder away several years ago so I had to do it manually.

Then you add 1 ½”water to them and boil them for a minute, drain off the water into a glass jar, put the bugs back into the pan and repeat that process 5 or 6 times until the water turns pink. Then the water that was drained off goes into your dye pot.

Here is the cochineal dye pot with my white and grey colored wool yarns. At this point each skein is about 34 grams each.

After being dyed  in the cochineal pot, we then divided each skein into 3rds so we could shift the color on 2 of the yarns. In this photo the grey yarn is on the right and the white yarn is on the left.

The top yarn in this photo is after the yarn was shifted with indigo, the middle is straight out of the cochineal dye bath and the bottom yarn is after it was shifted with iron. Grey yarn on the left, white yarn on the right. Aren’t they just yummy colors??

Cochineal wool yarns

This next photo shows the results after dyeing with Marigold. More yummy colors. Same layout, indigo shift, straight Marigold bath, then the iron shift. Grey yarn on the left, white yarn on the right.

And these are from the banana indigo vat that Maiwa taught us to make. Maiwa teaches an in-depth Indigo course that I might be tempted to take one day in the future because the banana vat kind of stumped me. It was very hard to keep it balanced. Sometimes I would see the magic happen and sometimes it was a struggle to get there. It’s all quite scientific and chemistry was never my thing!

These yarns had two indigo dips. White yarn on top and grey on the bottom.

After over 50 hours or more of fairly constant stirring of the pot, one hour for each bath, I came away with some wonderful fabrics that I’ll be able to use for my stitching or my art quilts.

The following are laid out with the Indigo shift on top, original color in the middle and iron shift on the bottom.

Cotton

Wool

Linen (brown and white linen)

Silk

More silk (just cuz it’s so pretty!)

Hemp

I saved most of the exhaust baths and made these scrumptious pieces…and then I dipped them all into a weakened indigo vat for about 2 or 3 minutes. You can see the shifted fabrics hanging out of some of these on the right edge (1-2 inches peaking out). Subtle changes. But oh so many colors!

It was an amazing journey. I didn’t know that there are so many ways to shift the colors, whether you use over dyes, indigo, iron, different tannins and mordants. It’s endless and so much fun. But a lot of stirring…I did manage to get quite a bit of reading done while I stirred!

Once I finished the Maiwa course, I switched to Procion dyes so I could make some color gradations for my Gail Harker Level 3 Stitch color schemes. Quite a difference from the subtle natural colors! Lovely as well, though, in a different way.

Hope you’ve enjoyed all the color! Now I need to get busy and make something out of all these samples!

Best wishes to all of you and may 2023 be a wonderful year for you! Happy creating!
Tesi

Customs, Challenges and Creativity

Customs, Challenges and Creativity

Happy holidays everyone!  I hope you are all getting some well deserved R & R following the hectic run up to the holiday season.

Customs:

Here in Ireland, today (December 26th) is known as St Stephen’s day but in certain rural areas, traditionally it is Wren day,  a festival day when Mummers  take to the streets in their disguises.  In my area, the Mummers perform their play every St. Stephen’s day in pubs and clubs in the county.  This tradition originated within three local families and numbers participating have increased down through the years.

The costumes are generally a mix of rags together with woven straw.  The head pieces can be very intricate and beautiful.  Here is an example of a mummer’s headpiece. (Photo: Courtesy Museum of Ireland)

 

I checked the mumming origins for this time of year and it appears to be an ancient European tradition.  If you would like to find out more it is worth checking out these links https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wren_Day  or, local to my area https://nationalinventoryich.chg.gov.ie/mummers-of-fingal/#:~:text=Mumming%20is%20a%20masking%20or,found%20in%20European%20carnival%20tradition.

Challenges

Project No: 1:

I want to extend a big thank you to Lyn and Annie whose current challenge has spurred me on to complete three unfinished projects in time for this post.  The first project is a crochet throw.  I have made a number of these, principally for family, and feedback is that they are really cosy.  So I thought it was time to make one for myself.  The problem was, that because it had no timeline for finish, it stayed on the hook!  So when I saw the challenge, the timeline materialized and I got it finished before the year end.  Happy days!

Please forgive the angle of the photograph, I was up on the ladder trying to get it!

The throw comprises of one very large granny square made with six large balls of fibre.  It fits on top of a kind sized bed and I think it will be staying there for the current cold spell!  Its making is pretty mindless and once I get into rhythm it can be made watching foreign crime series (complete with subtitles).  My favourite at the moment which has just finished is the French series Astrid.

Project No: 2:

My next  project was planted in my consciousness following a blog post by Ann in November 2021. Here is the link to her post https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2021/11/15/an-international-project-by-line-defour/ .  This international project, which was titled “Fate, Destiny and Self-determination” intrigued me but it took me a while for the seeds to bear fruit.  I contacted the Artist/Co-ordinator, Line Dufour,  last September and she confirmed that she was still accepting pieces for the on-going exhibition.  She did mention any piece should not be a regular geometric shape (square, rectangle, circle etc).

So I got to work on my piece.  I started off by making a piece of pre-felt over a rectangular resist.  Then I started randomly stitching and gathering the prefelt, my idea here was to lose total control over the shape of the piece and let the random stitches determine this.  Finally I felted it up.  The final shape was anything but regular.  I hated it because while the shape was ‘interesting’ the colour was boring and it would be lost against a white backdrop.  So it sat there, and it waited patiently for Lyn and Annie to spur me into action with the challenge. It was time to start hand-stitching!

I decided that I wanted the piece to reflect my Irish origins and what it means to be Irish in contemporary society.  To paraphrase the actor Michael Caine,  not many people know this but Ireland is one of the largest countries in Europe when our seabed territory is taken into account.  People perceive Ireland as being that little quaint island off the west of Europe but our marine territory is ten times the size of the land mass and I decided to reflect this in the piece (bottom section).  Secondly, Ireland is renowned for its agriculture and food production which it exports worldwide; this is represented by the abstract depiction of a tree to the left of the piece.  Then, there are its people, their tolerance and acceptance; the central section celebrates the fact that in 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same sex marriage by popular vote. (I could have included many other aspects of what it means to be Irish but it is a small piece at 12cm x 13cm.)  I purposely left a section to the right of the piece empty – this represents the future, the unknown.  I will post (mail) this off to Line in the New Year.

 

Project No: 3:

I love rummaging in haberdashery departments when I am away on holidays (I also love fabric stores but that is another story!).  It is a real treat because it can be a challenge to find interesting ‘stuff’ locally.  I came across a small square weaving loom when I was in Paris a few years ago and it has been sitting at the back of my cupboard since then.  2022 was to be the year when I rediscovered it and started the project.  All the yarns were from my stash and and I rescued the boucle from my late mother in law’s house when we were clearing it.  The small piece of weaving has been waiting for me to get my act together and finish it off.  So, no time like the present challenge to make that happen!  The finished piece measures 9cm x 9cm.  I think I might just frame it.  Has anyone any other suggestions?

 

 

Creativity

Before I sign off for 2022 I would like to share with you some of my friends’ beautiful handmade items which they have gifted to me for my tree over the years.  I cherish them not only because they are beautiful items but because they were made with love – nothing will ever come close to handmade, especially when made by gifted friends.

Here is my friend Annelien’s work.  Annelien, who is from The Netherlands, and I first met during a week long textile recycling workshop in Finland back in 2013 and we have been firm friends since then (we have even managed to meet up in person twice since then).  (Apologies, I think the felted Angel is blurred.)

 

Next, Sara’s work.  Sara started crocheting a little while ago and recently gifted me one of her angels.  I love her! (actually I love both of them!)

Next up is Kate.  Kate loves working in glass and gifted me the trees many years ago (I have taken a photo of three of them).  More recently, she made me the little houses.  They are so delicate and pretty.

 

 

Thanks for reading this post and for reading and commenting on my various posts throughout the year!

Wishing you good health, happiness and peace during 2023.  Not forgetting a whole lot of creative spurs and fun!

 

 

 

 

Weaving a Cowl for a Christmas present

Weaving a Cowl for a Christmas present

Hello!  I am Carlene and a new poster here on the Felting and Fiber Studio blog.  I live in Carp which is part of Ottawa Canada. I am a member of the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild; the same guild that Jan Scott, Ann McElroy and Bernadette Quade belong to.

I am interested in a number of fiber arts including: crochet, knitting, spinning, felting and weaving.  I will admit that spinning is my biggest passion and where I spend most of my time.  I have been dabbling in weaving for a bit, using rigid heddle looms and taking some classes at the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild.

In June 2022 I managed to purchase a used Saori CH50 loom and since then my weaving has really taken off.  I love the Saori philosophy and how well designed the loom is.  Saori weaving is a free form style of weaving developed in Japan.  You can learn more about the history of Saori online from Saori Global.

Here is my Saori loom.  It is a cute little 2 harness loom with a small footprint similar to a card table.  The official specs are as follows: Width: 69cm (26″), Depth: 61cm (24″), Height: 98cm (38″), Weight: 15.7kg (34.5lb), Weaving Width: 60cm (23″).

One of the neat innovations of the Saori looms is using a square back beam that allows you to slide a pre-wound warp onto the loom and speed up the warping process.  You can buy pre-wound warps in a number of different thread counts (50, 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300 threads), lengths (3m, 6m, 12m and 30m) and fibre types (cotton, wool, or mixed fibers such as wool, cashmere, silk).  The most affordable warps are plain black warps in either wool or cotton.  This is a 100 end cotton warp that I recently put on my loom.  The warp threads are taped to the square tube, then wound on under light tension with spacers inserted occasionally.  At the end of the warp the ends are again taped down.

After putting the warp onto the back beam, I lifted the reed and beater out of the loom and set it aside.  Then I untaped the warp threads from the roll and lifted them up over the back beam, over the middle castle of the loom and taped the threads to the loom shelf using green painters tape.

 

Next I did some quick counting and inserted some chip clips as markers.  I wanted to thread from the middle outwards so that I could easily position the warp threads in the middle of the reed and the heddles on the shaft.  After counting out the threads I carefully snipped a single thread from the tape, then threaded it through the inserted eye heddle on the rear shaft.  I repeated this process with the the next thread and then threaded it through the inserted eye heddle on the front shaft.  I then skipped a heddle in each shaft and then repeated this process to thread the next thread, all the way across the loom.

In this next picture you can see all the black warp threads have been inserted through the heddles.  I have used chip clips to keep the threads neat and tidy.  There is a spare empty heddle between each of the threads.

I decided to add some supplementary warp threads to experiment with adding a bit of colour to my warp.  I bought these Kumihimo bobbins to try.  I wound cotton thread in various colours onto the bobbins.

Then I positioned the bobbins at the back of the loom and slowly threaded them into some of the empty heddles between warp threads.  The placement of these threads was somewhat random.  After adding in the supplementary warp threads I was ready to thread the reed.  So I put the beater bar and reed back into the loom.

I used my threading hook to thread the reed and I did groups of 4 threads, then one empty space in the reed, then the next set of 4 threads.  Chip clips were again used to keep the threads tidy.

After completing the threading it was time to tie onto the front beam and then start weaving.  The warp threads are knotted onto the front beam.  The blue yarn you see is a bit of scrap yarn at the beginning of the project to help space out the warp threads.  The weft threads (the back and forth weaving threads) is some self striping wool/acrylic sock yarn (Kroy Socks Stripes in the colour Burnished Sierra).  When you look at the back of the loom the Kumihimo bobbins with the supplementary warp threads are hanging off the back.

I wove a piece that was about 64″ on the loom.  After taking it off the loom the piece measured 60.5″ x 20.5″.  After washing the dimensions will shift again and there will be a bit more shrinkage.

After removing the blue waste yarn I trimmed the warp ends, knotted them together, then twisted the fringe.  The result is a cowl for my Christmas gift pile.  I still have one last step to do though.  The fabric still needs to be washed to set the cloth and after washing it’ll need a quick press with the iron to make it look beautiful again.  I have a stack of Christmas weaving waiting for washing and ironing.  Luckily there is still a bit of time before Christmas to get it all done.

I got the stack weaving washed and realized that I had forgotten the step of sewing on labels.  So today I sat down with the pile and sewed on tags.  I have these nice vegan leather tags that I purchased off ETSY from FractalFocusStudios and I carefully sewed one on each item.

 

After putting the tag on I did a quick try on.  Love it!  My stack of scarves and cowls are now sitting in the pile of Christmas gifts.  Soon they will all be adopted by new owners.

 

Fleece Preparation System

Fleece Preparation System

Many moons ago, when I was an avid spinner (before I had properly discovered felt) I had read various articles in magazines and journals about the preparation of raw fleece for spinning. I had obtained a very fine fleece (I can’t now remember what it was though) and wanted to be careful how it was readied for spinning so that I didn’t mange to felt the fibres in the process. So I set about making myself a system for the preparation of locks of fibre ready to spin. Unfortunately, the photographs I took of the system were actually of a later episode of washing a lousy Jacob fleece, so they may not look quite as you’d expect them to, but they will show you the process. Though I did manage to find a a few of the original locks so I can show you those. They are not quite as pristine as when they were first processed however so they aren’t as nice as they used to be. In addition, the light must have been wrong, because the background card on which they are displayed was a dark green, not the blue appearing in the photo!)

Locks

I obtained three large plastic crates and one smaller one which would fit inside any of these.  I made holes in the bottom and around the sides of the smaller crate with (so far as I can remember) a soldering iron, so that water would drain out of it easily.   Then I cut up an old net curtain into pieces the size of the base of the small crate.

Crates

I persuaded my husband to make me a couple of drying frames.  These were  wooden frames covered in chicken wire, and with removable legs long enough to keep the frame above the grass on our lawn.

On a fine day I assembled the “kit” on our patio ready to start.  This comprised the drying frames and a couple of old complete net curtains (which would stop the washed fibres falling through the netting); two buckets; a bottle of Fairy washing up liquid; rubber gloves; the three crates and bits of net curtain and my fleece (in the picture my pillowcase full of the Jacob fleece and the audio book I’d listen to while working).

The kit

I started with the “religious” (holey) crate, putting a piece of net in the bottom to stop fibres following the water out, then I pulled locks off the fleece.  I teased each of them out gently, (though in the pictures it’s just handfuls of Jacob locks) laid them out on the net, making sure that they did not cover each other.  When the bottom piece of net was covered, I laid another piece of net on top and carried on making layers of net and locks until the crate was full, finishing with a layer of net.

Layering the Locks

Next I filled one of the larger crates with rain water and dunked the religious crate inside it.  All the fibres wanted to float until I had managed to get them wet but I managed to get them to stay in the crate.

Religious Crate Full and in First Soak

I left them there for a couple of hours, then I gently lifted the inner crate out of the water and stood it on top of one of the larger crates so that the water would drain into it.  When most of the rainwater had drained away, I put the small crate with the wet locks into another of the larger crates, filled with clean water and Fairy Liquid – of a similar temperature to avoid shocking the locks. 

Soapy Wash Water

Once again I left it to soak and then lifted it out and drained it of soapy water as before (having emptied out the dirty rain water into watering cans to use on the garden.) Then put it into the other large crate, which had been filled with clean water.  I gently lifted the inner crate up and down a couple of times to rinse the locks, and then I took it right out and left it on top of an empty crate to drain. 

Once a good deal of the water had drained out of the locks, they needed to be fully dried.  I covered one of the drying racks with a fresh net curtain and laid out the locks on top of this.  A second layer of net curtain was added and the second drying rack was laid on top and secured with G cramps.  If I remember rightly it was actually a fairly breezy day so I stood the frames up rather than laying them down on the lawn so that the air could penetrate more easily. 

Washed Locks Being Laid Out to Dry
9 All Laid Out and Drying

The final result was lots of small fine locks all of which retained their lovely crimp.  They looked so scrumptious that I couldn’t bear the thought of spinning them up and loosing that, so I laid them out in lines across a piece of fabric and stitched them down at the cut end so that they showed all their glory.  I used this to make a padded waistcoat, they were the top of the sandwich of some cotton curtain lining (washed to remove the dressing) and some white wool fibres (I’m not sure what really, but possibly merino) nuno felted to some cotton scrim (thereby hangs another tale!)

Unfortunately it looked awful when I tried it on so it never got worn.  In the end I put the lot in the washing machine to felt and it will finally be worn as a bustle in this year’s panto – yet another tale! (tail?)

Why did I call the Jacob fleece lousy?  Have a look at this picture of the washed fleece – or at least some of it.  It must have been a really course fleece, possibly a ram’s. Whoever off loaded it on me really saw me coming!

10 Washed and Dried Jacob

I came home early from a very ­unenjoyable Guild  meeting in a filthy mood and decided I would make a large piece of Jacob felt so I could take my temper out on the fulling. Ha!  It. Would. Not. Felt – no matter how much “welly” I gave it. A lot of stamping on it and cursing later, it had just begun to felt but I could not get it any further (it’s a wonder it didn’t turn blue!)   I was exhausted and in no better mood when I gave it up.  The resulting heap of joined up fibres ended up in the cat’s bed – she loved it – and bits of it have been stolen back and used as the core of various needle felted things.  I’ve just about used it all up now – getting on for 10 years later.

Here’s a final picture of the Jacob fleece drying after it’s tour through the washing system, and you can see that my trusty assistant at least thought it was worth it.

11 Drying Fleece with Assistant
Fibre and Friends

Fibre and Friends

It’s been a while since I published anything, as I have been going through quite a difficult time.  But I was determined to finish the year with a blog, so this one is a bit of an amalgamation!  Way back in April, I was lucky enough to be invited on a day trip to Wonderwool 2022 by my friend Debbie.  I hadn’t even heard of Wonderwool when she invited me, but when she told me all about it, I couldn’t wait to go!!

For those of you (like me) who have not heard of Wonderwool, it is an annual wool and natural fibre festival that is held in The Royal Welsh Showground, Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, Powys, Wales.  It was first held in 2006, ‘to promote the market for Welsh wool and add value to product for small wool & fibre producers in Wales’.  The festival has grown over the years, and ‘covers everything from the start to the end of the creative process’.  There are exhibits of sheep, raw and hand dyed fibres, yarn, embellishments, equipment, dyes, books and also finished textile art, craft, clothing and home furnishings.   Basically, it’s a felt and fibre artist’s dream come true, where like-minded people can find almost anything they need, and it instills a feeling of excitement, much like a child in a toy shop (at least that’s how I felt!) Because of the covid pandemic, it hadn’t run for a year or two, but this year was to be the first event since the pandemic, so there was great anticipation of the resuming of this popular event.

 

Around the same time, I had been looking for a carding machine, as I wanted to start making my own wool batts to spin.  Just before my friend invited me to Wonderwool, I had found a lovely Pat Green Carder for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and I had decided to purchase it.  However, the lady selling it (Mary Rogers) lived in Birmingham, England, so I was trying to work out when I could make the drive up to Birmingham to collect it.  As it happened, Mary told me that she was planning to go to Wonderwool, and could bring the carder with her!  Fantastic, I thought… this is definitely meant to be!!  Don’t you just love it when things just fall into place?!

 

Having made all the arrangements, Debbie and I took the drive up to Builth Wells for the day, and boy, was I totally inspired!  When we walked into Wonderwool, I can honestly say my eyes must have lit up!  I really did feel like a child in a sweet shop!!  There was stall after stall of beautiful fibre, yarn, and all things sheep (not to mention other types of fibre, including alpaca, angora to name a few)!!  What struck me first, was the wonderful array of colour.  There were exhibitions of different fibre craft, demonstrations of spinning and weaving, with exhibitors from all over the UK.  We also had the chance to talk to a range of like-minded people, who were happy to share their tips and techniques with us.  Wow, what a wonderful time we had!

 

One of the exhibitors we spent time talking to, was a lady by the name of Edna Gibson, who explained that she had spent time living in Japan being taught the wonderful art of Kumihimo, an umbrella term for several kinds of Japanese braidmaking that were unknown outside Japan until about 30 years ago.  Edna told us that she was instrumental in introducing Kumihimo to the UK.   The term Kumihimo is a composite of two words, ‘kumi’ meaning coming together or group, and ‘himo’ meaning string, cord, rope or braid.  Whilst most of us will have  heard of Samurai,  I didn’t realise that the Samurai armour plates are laced together with cords, traditionally Kumihimo braids, which are also tied around ‘obis’, the sashes used on kimonos.  Edna explained that she was taught Kumihimo by a very skilled Japanese person, and brought her knowledge back to the UK.  The looms used for Kumihimo are known as ‘dai’ or ‘stands’, and are usually made from either wood or bamboo.  All the dai are set up with carefully measured threads (as many as 80 strands of fine silk are wound on each bobbin or ‘tama’).  The weighted bobbins are lifted and moved in specific repeated sequences  to produce each type of braid. Traditionally, silk was used to make braids but today, braiders also use artificial silk or rayon.

  This is my friend Debbie, with the lovely and very knowledgeable Edna.

This shows the two types of dai used.  Apologies for the poor quality of this photo, but it was taken from one of the information boards Edna had put up…

  The top photo shows braiding on a ‘Marudai’ and the bottom photo shows braiding on a ‘Takadai’.

Edna’s braiding…

 

As you can imagine, it was hard not to go on a full-out spending spree at Wonderwool!! There were so many beautiful fibres on offer, not to mention everything else!! I haven’t crocheted for many years, but was inspired by a beautiful pattern, by Janie Crow called ‘Mystical Lanterns’.  I ended up purchasing both the pattern and the yarn!  It’s a work in progress, but I’m enjoying the process!

These show some of the exhibits on show at Wonderwool.  Hopefully, my scarf will turn out as lovely.

 

There were so many exhibits and stalls, too many to include here, but this will give you a flavour of a few of the exhibits on show…

  To be honest, I was so busy choosing fibre to purchase, I didn’t take any photographs of the actual stalls!!

 

At the end of the day, I met up with Mary and her friend, to collect my drum carder.  It was lovely to share a coffee and a chat with her, and she was able to share the history of the carder with me.  We parted the day friends who share a passion for fibre, and agreed we would definitely meet up again at next year’s Wonderwool!  We shared a ‘selfie’ before we left…

 

As I mentioned, I haven’t posted for a while, due to going through a very difficult period in my life, which resulted in me not having the energy or inclination to do any fibre craft whatsoever, so I had not actually even tried out my new carder until quite recently.  But when I felt able to resume my spinning, I found it really helped me in a very mindful way.  I particularly found that spinning brought me a sense of calm and peacefulness, with positivity and joy.

 

My first project was back in October, hence the autumnal colours!  I put together a collection of merino fibre of different colours, with one part of bamboo in a dark shade.  I weighed the fibre first, as I wanted to make two batts of fibre that I could spin ready to weave with.

 

Having never used a drum carder before, this was all experimental but in the end, I was really pleased with how it turned out…

I didn’t want to blend the fibre too much, as I wanted to have the different colours come through when I spun it.  Also, I’d heard about people ending up with ‘mud’, so that was something else I wanted to avoid.  Having blended my fibre to reflect my need, I then proceeded to spin it….

This shows the difference when using a flash (on the left) verses no flash (right).

Once I had filled my bobbin completely, I proceeded to wind it into a ball, so I could ply it from both ends of the yarn.

This is the finished yarn, once it was soaked to set the twist, thwacked and dried…

  I’m quite pleased with the results.  I also feel that my spinning has improved a bit since I posted on her last time!  I’m looking forward to weaving with this yarn over the Christmas holiday period.  Hopefully I will be able to show you the end product in my next blog!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2023, from Lisa and Alex 🙂

 

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