Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Farewell loom...for now

My loom is in bits. Lots of lovely chunky wooden bits. My goodness it was dusty!

There's a very good reason for the "in-bitness" of the loom, because my weaving room has been turned into "packing central". I've accepted a job offer that was too good to refuse and will be making a major international move in a couple of weeks. When I finally land on my feet, it will be in Hobart, Australia.

So that's the last I'm going to see of my loom for the next 3-6 months. The next time it emerges, it will be an antipodean!

Friday, 29 October 2010

What became of the sheep

Oops, I've been having such a busy time I didn't post the end result of what became of the sheep!!!

Here's what happened:

I made a pseudo-boucle and knitted some of it into an ickle lamby.

The tail cracks me up.

The busy will remain for another month or so, because I'm working on cramming as many major life events as I possibly can into November, including just accepted a new job and resigned from my old one. More on that soon. In the meantime, there's actually been quite a bit of weaving and knitting going on....must take photos.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The sheep

There's still a sheep covering most of the spare floor space in my studio.

I washed it - I think - weekend before last, and what with having a lot of wet, rainy weather and a damp house I still keep finding damp spots in it. So on the floor it sits, and every day I check it and turn bits over in the hope they'll dry. But yesterday, I finally got on to the carding bit.

My drum carder is an Ashford, with a fine set of teeth. Perfect for this kind of wool. I've been pre-selecting the wool and choosing the softest, whitest parts of the fleece to card for the first batch. I run the wool twice through the carder. In the first pass, I break the fleece up into tiny locks with the staple intact and run them through it. It's important not to overload the carder or you end up with an uneven result. Then I doff the fleece and roll it into a rolag. You can see the metal doffer (like a lone metal poker) in the image below.
This gives me a long rectangle of carded fleece, which I break up again into thin pieces and run through the carder again. This breaks out a lot of uneveness in the fleece and gives me a nice smooth piece of fibre, with all of the individual hairs pointing in the same direction.

Four hours of this work resulted in this (pen for scale) :
12 nice, large rolags of fleece which have barely touched the whole fleece, but are enough to get me started. I'm pleased with how even this yarn is turning out. It's possible to get it quite fine, but I'm working towards a DK-weight 3-ply yarn (for strength, softness and longevity) so I'm not spinning as fine as I normally do.
I set to on the spinning in earnest last night, and hold hopes to have the first bobbin of yarn completed by the end of this weekend.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


I've had a bit of a fleece bonanza lately...although it's not like I need any more raw fleeces to add to my stash! I was at a steam fair a couple of weeks ago, and picked up a couple of alpaca fleeces from a couple who keep four alpaca as pets and had brought them along for the public to see. But they're going to have to go into the stash for the meantime, while I deal with the beauty above.

The fleece in the photo above came into my possession last week. I'll be spinning it, but it's not mine. It's from a sheep of unknown breed, and is one of several pet sheep that the owner keeps. The story goes that one of his neighbours had a daughter who would always ask to be taken to see his little boy, but what she really wanted to do was be taken to see the sheep. Many, many years later, his son and the neighbour's daughter have decided to marry. The sister of the bride is a friend-of-a-friend and asked me whether it would be possible to spin the fleece from one of the sheep in time to make something for them. How can you resist a story like that?

So: the first thing to do was clean and sort the fleece, and toss the lot in the bathtub with a pile of dishwashing detergent. I'm fortunate in that I have a huge old cast-iron bathtub, but even so the fleece filled it completely.
I can tell you, even a clean-looking fleece can hold a surprising amount of dirt! It took four rinses of water to get the water running relatively clear. The fleece then spent two days hanging around, wrapped in a sheet on top of the washing line, to dry. Compare. Before:
After (colour not true, this is beautifully white but it was a dark rainy morning when I took the photo):
It's a lovely soft fleece and I think I'm going to enjoy playing with it. I'm going to aim for a DKish weight, probably 3-ply yarn, and may play with it a bit as well. I'll post more about it as I go.

ps: I actually found a happy hour in which to WEAVE, a week or two ago! I'm hoping that free time to do so can become a bit of a habit again, after the reallyreallybusy period we've had this year eases a bit this week.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

It's been a long, long time since I've updated this blog, and that has a lot to do with my complete inactivity in the fibre realm. I loosened off the tension on my loom when I went to sea in January, and haven't done so much as tighten it yet, far less weave a single pick. That's largely because other things are going on in my life. I find myself with little time to slack off on a computer at work at present, and no inclination to look at one once I'm home. In addition, I've been doing all the spring jobs in the garden and working on renovating a flat. Busy!

I've not been totally inactive, however, as the photos below will show. I've still been knitting a little in the evenings, finding it something relatively brainless I can pick up for half-an-hour and put down again. I'm working on a project at the moment that I'm making up as I go along, but I also finally got around to seaming up the sweater I knitted over the xmess break last year. In the finest tradition of yarninmypocket, here's a bathroom-at-work shot:

I made this in some handspun alpaca, in a chocolate brown which unfortunately doesn't show the detail very well in a photo. This is a really simple knit, done mostly in garter stitch, with some increasing and decreasing for shape, and yarn-over-needle increases to make the pretty increases which create the cowl neckline and lacy effect up the sleeves. A close-up of the cowl neckline:

Although I knit this to guage, the small size was still a bit too big for me (just because I'm tiny, I think), so this hangs off my shoulders a little. But that makes it a lovely comfortable sweater which is perfect for those days when you want to hide the body. And the alpaca makes it lovely and snuggly, too.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Another first....

Today, for the very first time in my life, I knitted in public.

Our cruise is drawing to an end and I was unable to do my normal work while standing my survey watch. So, as I was tired, I fetched my knitting and worked on that while watching the data come in, to keep myself awake.

Yet another step towards turning into my mother!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Greetings from the middle of the ocean!

So what's it like working at sea? This time; mostly rubbish weather (in terms of low cloud and snow/rain), not much in the way of the internet, the odd big bouncy storm, being the only person working night shift and sleeping during the day (the opposite to my natural cycle but mostly a good thing in my book as I'm left alone to work), long working hours, no days off and indifferent food. But also: the odd stunner of a day, great data coming in, the excitement of seeing what we'll find next, peace and quiet to do the work I enjoy, a laugh with good mates, achieving things as part of a harmonious team, an ever-changing and interesting view out the window; chinstrap penguins, killer whales, icebergs and huge volcanoes: some of which make glacier-topped islands, some of which don't quite make the surface of the water despite being 3 km high. Some of which no-one knew existed until we came along. No-one could ever say I lead a normal life.

I love my job.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Unfortunately for me weaving does not consume the major part of my life. In my day job, I'm a scientist. My nom de net gives a hint as to which flavour. Today I'm running away to sea for a couple of months to do some work, so this blog will go very quiet.

But in the meantime, as I'm about four posts behind on things I'd like to talk about, have an almost completely contextless photo of the silk scarves I've managed to get out of the ugly warp so far. The draft for these is two contrasting broken twills, inspired by a scarf Janet Phillips put in her excellent book. The warp is 60/2 silk set at 50epi, and the weft on the left hand scarf is a pale blue-grey 60/2 silk. The weft for the right-hand scarf is variegated handspun silk cap, in blues and greens. Neither have been finished yet, and won't be now until the spring.

Take care, weave well.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Returning to musings on colour

Way back in March of last year, I made a post about colour, and wondered at the time whether it would be possible to redeeem a dyeing disaster (not of my making, I hasten to add) which had been visited upon a rather lovely skein of grey 60/2 silk. So once I'd finished weaving the handtowel for the bathroom (there will be photos in the future. I tried to take some yesterday but the light was too dark for navy-on-dark-blue), I warped up the loom with the silk. Here's a photo of the silk on a swift, to illustrate the dyeing job:

I turned this into a 9 metre long, 7-inch wide warp, with a couple of navy threads at the side for definition. Normally to beam sectionally I'd wind the yarn onto as many cones as I want ends per inch, but this is less workable when you're working at 50epi. Instead, I wound two warps, each with 50 ends and long enough to beam each one inch section one after the other. This is the warp, coming off the sectional back beam just before threading.

I'm sure some people would love the colours, but to me they're insipid. The combination of pale turquiose, fuschia, (ugh)pink and yellow do not fit my prejudices.

I've woven two scarves off from this already, in a broken twill. One with a pale blue/grey 60/2 silk warp, and the other with a variegated handspun silk cap warp in blues and greens. I was weaving a scarf a day towards the end of last week which is an accomplishment in fine silk. I'm pleased with the way each has behaved so far, but appear to have non photos of them yet! So I'll promise to post them soon and leave you instead with a comment on acid dyes.

One problem I've been finding with this warp is the odd breakage. These always occur in the regions where the turquoise is brightest. This is due to the chemistry of acid dyes, and the breakdown of protein fibres caused by acid dyes if not adequately rinsed (there is so much dye still in the turquoise parts of this silk my fingers turned blue while winding the warp).

So there are two morals here: if you're home-dyeing, either rinse your yarn really really well, or don't store it for many years before weaving it!

Fortunately there are not enough of these to cause a problem and when they do occur I use a method I think I learned from Sandra Rude. While I have a few spare warp threads hanging off the back beam ready for replacements and sometimes use these, I often tie a new warp thread to the broken thread, pull both threads through to the back together so that the knot is behind the back beam and the front of the new thread is hanging over the breast beam, and weight both ends of the thread. Then I weave on until I'm well past where the breakage occurred and pull the thread back through taut from the back beam, weight it at the front, and weave on. No-knot fabric with minimum fuss.

I'm back at work today after five weeks at home. That's been a bit of a shock to the system, and will severely cramp my weaving style I think. I've been getting used to my lovely routine of weaving in the mornings, garden in the afternoon!

Friday, 1 January 2010

A day in the life of the torture device

January 1, 2010. Because Meg dreamed up the idea and it's fun.