Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Cost of Inexperience

Looking at the calendar, I think Georgina asked me if I would weave her a baby blanket shortly after she found out she was pregnant. She knew I had an exhibit at the start of the year, and she told me the baby was due in June. But way back, we had agreed the blanket wasn't going to be white or pastel, and she picked out a purple variegated merino to be the main focus. I knew it would make a great warp, so I set out looking for a good weft yarn; I needed something in purple, and somewhere around 110/2 in size, preferable no mohair, and not boucle.

I was dismayed about the closing of Diane Martin's Cotton Wool Company in Auckland, doubly so because I didn't know about it until January; though her wool was coarser than what I was looking for, I love her colors and sheen. Her yarns were definite candidates if I could mix them wight more merino. I had merino and other yarns, but I was not about to expose a newborn baby to amateur dye jobs. I needed some purple yarns.

Then in April or May, I found a thick but delicious merino/cashmere knitting yarn; most importantly, the color was perfect. I had to rethink the design, as now I had a skinny warp and a very thick weft; I settled on a simple 2/1/1/2 Dornick twill to show off the weft. Then I had to figure out the double-width weave, which took several attempts. (It took me one go to figure out the double-width version of a downloaded 7-ender 18 months ago. %$#@??)

The weaving took about an hour, and I was pleased I went with a simpler draft, until I took it off the loom and started fringing; I was mortified with the weight of the blanket, and the thought of my friend's baby being crushed by a baby blanket! I fringed, wet-finished, and pressed it; it looked luscious enough, but was still heavy and the cloth did not full as much as I wanted. So it sat on our couch and I looked at it begrudgingly for a few days.

I must have expected something like this; I had enough warp to weave another, so I wove an alternate; I used the same merino in the warp for the weft, and wove it in a diamond pattern. This of course washed up beautifully; it's softer and airier, and fulled nicely. I was relieved I had two options for Georgina.

Her wee baby girl was born in July, and I left the two blankets with Georgina; I figured if she waited that long, she can test drive both. Ben's secretly hoping she'll go with the merino/merino, so he can have the thick one.

It's the second time I did this. I was asked to weave a man's scarf as a gift, and casually I mentioned I could try alpaca, because I had just seen beautiful grays and a yellow on a sample card perfect for this project, and so an alpaca scarf was commissioned. Except I had never woven with alpaca, and didn't know how unforgiving the fiber is. After ordering the alpaca yarn, carefully planning, and even more carefully weaving a scarf, I came up with a hidious piece of... something that can't even be used to wipe up spilled milk. On that occasion, I quickly put on a cashmere warp in similar colors, and sold the cashmere version for the price of the alpaca. Luckily, it was a big hit, and for me, satisfying, but the process made me realize I'm still a certifiable amateur.

Look, it's 3:00; I can close the gallery now. I lugged my own PC today so I can clean the hard drive, but I spent the whole time posting instead. I'll post some pics of the baby blanket candidates when I go home tonight. Thank you for keeping me company today.

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