Monday, 25 June 2007

And the spinning...

Having a weekend to potter about the house meant that I not only got my weaving room sorted, it also meant that I finally got around to washing a whole pile of handspun fibre that had been waiting for a critical mass to form.

A whole pile of wet fibre on the kitchen sink...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A close-up of the structure of the troublesome suri alpaca I've been discussing for the last two years:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

...beautiful, isn't it?

And finally, my bathroom, smelling like a wet animal:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

From left to right: suri alpaca and dark brown alpaca plyed together to make a lovely multi-colour yarn, dark brown alpaca, the suri alpaca (finely spun), black welsh wool (thickly spun), grey welsh top wool, 21-micron Australian merino, spun as singles, and three skeins of the same merino, spun as a chunky wool. This is all part of the 2 kg of merino top I brought from Australia.

The Merino will probably end up being knitted into a sweater, if I ever decide to make my peace with knitting. The welsh tops will become part of the experimental rug I'll be making soon, and the alpaca is destined to eventually become part of the alpaca and wool hall runner project.

I know how to have fun, I tell you!

The 'seafoam' silk and rayon scarf

With the new loom happening, I decided to finally do something about the spun, hand-dyed silk cap. I decided that the complexity of the colour in the spun silk would overwhelm any pattern so decided that a plain weave on a puce rayon warp was the way to go. So I wound a 10 inch-wide, 2.5-metre warp, which would allow for a 1.8 metre scarf. Plain threaded at 15 epi with the warp at slightly fewer ppi, the plan was for a slightly open, delicate weave.

Packing the warp with newspaper gave differing tensions along the threads, which meant that the warp would shuffle a little as the warp was wound on. Normally this would be a problem, but it gave the effect I was looking for: a shifting weft pattern that resembles foam on a green-blue, tropical sea. I'm really pleased with the way it's turned out. Even more amazingly, considering I didn't bother measuring the length of the silk but put it on the shuttles straight from the bobbin, one silk cap was enough for an entire scarf!

The result is a sumptuous, delicate scarf that's going to be both cool for summer and warm for winter.

The scarf, off the loom, fringed and washed, but obviously not pressed yet:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And a close-up of the weave structure:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I'm really pleased with the way this has turned out. I'm seriously considering replicating this project in different colours, and using either silk or cashmere as a warp, and then trying to sell them. I'm starting to see the potential for filling a niche for nice, artisanal, fine silk and cashmere garments. I may this a hobby that pays yet.

In the meantime, the debugging continues. I have some dishcloths on the loom at the moment in 8/2 cotton, to prove that it can weave straight fabric (it can), and then I might make some 25-count linen for a cross-stitch project I need to remake (I had a lovely cross-stitch that H asked to keep when I moved here). That ought to happen in the next week or two, and then I'm going to make an expermental rug. I'm constantly amazed at just how much faster having foot pedals and a boat shuttle can make one's weaving, as opposed to having to flick swtiches on a table loom and unwind weft from a stick shuttle.

I've also just upgraded my loom (a 4-shaft, 70cm weaving width Glimakra Ideal). I've just bought an 8-shaft, 100 cm Glimakra Ideal. It's countermarch rather than counterbalance which will give better shed, and would be converted to a 16-shaft dobby loom if I want to in the future. The best part is, I bought it for just under 1/3 of what it's worth!

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Returning to the loom...

It's about time I posted in here.

Not much in the way of handcrafts was done last year, aside from the occasional touch of spinning. Work, travelling for work, and a social life all got in the way. But when I got back from Chile earlier in the year, the urge took me once more to get working with my hands. I rebuilt the loom I bought last year (an elderly Glimakra 4-shaft counterbalance), and set it up for weaving. It took a little renovation, so I did a throw-away sample in 6/2 cotton to balance it and work out the kinks:

You can see in this image, the different weaves and beats I tried with the pink and white cotton to see how the loom would react. By the time I'd woven a foot of the sample strip, I was happy that I'd sorted out any balancing issues with the counterbalance. It's possible to see the fabric become more even along the length of the sampler.

Then, because I was happy, I decided to experiment with the hand-spun, hand-dyed silk caps and some puce rayon, to see how they'd weave together. This is what you can see at the base of the sampler: first the silk cap, in mostly blues, then a blend of the silk and the rayon, then just the rayon itself.

Here's a close-up of the silk and the rayon:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I liked this enough that I warped the loom with the rayon last week. Warping with rayon is a royal pain because it's so floppy. I got around this by doing a sectional warp, only winding 8 warps at any time and threading each of those before winding the next section. That approach still resulted in lots of tangles, but it worked with a bit of patience. I've been weaving this week and I'm pleased at just how much faster you can weave with a floor loom as opposed to a table loom: you don't have to keep lifting your hands to lift shafts when the work is all done with your feet. That means you can keep the shuttle in your hand and concentrate on balance and tension. The scarf is already 2/3 done and will be finished this weekend. And then there will be photos.

The next project will be weaving a large section of linen cloth at 25 epi, so I can stitch a cross-stitch onto it. I'm thinking I may as well wind a long warp and use some of the rest to make tea towels as well.

The spinning has been going apace as well. I finally finished the (eventually not so)awful suri alpaca. It turned into a lovely fibre once I figured out the best way to card it. It just needed to be seriously carded, rather than just flicked with a flicker, the way most alpaca is happy. I've been spinning some of the 6 kg of alpaca I brought out from Australia at the moment - a lovely dark red-brown colour. I've also bought another 8 kg of local wool in raw fleeces to add to the alpaca in a wild project I've dreamed up - making up a whole pile of hand-spun fibre and then turning it into a navajo/peruvian-inspired hall runner - my loom is just the right width for that. I'm expecting that project to take a while though...

...I'm also seriously considering doing a weaving accreditation with the aim of doing a Master Weaver's certificate. Which would eventually mean buying a larger, more serious dobby loom.