Friday, April 29, 2016


The cloth warp, after a reprieve, (more later,) was threaded in Dornick since there were already enough color interest in both the warp and the weft. To employ more interesting threading would probably not have added interest. Plus I opted for simple treadling for speed. (The colors are much more saturated, in dark pink with parts of deep reds and lighter pinks.)

It was harder to decide the sett. I sleyed the sample at 16PPI instead of 18PPI, the reason being 26/2 warps at 18EPI using 26/2 wefts in the past created tight enough cloth; combined with much thicker wefts I worried the wet finish would stiffen the cloth too much. Sampling showed 16EPI was comfortably cushy but compacted enough a good sewer could cut/sew without too much problem. After nearly a fortnight of indecision, I decided to go with my gut feeling and went ahead with 16EPI. I also wove with the end-feed shuttle, as it was the fastest while sampling, and didn't seem too heavy for the spaced-out cashmere warp.

I discovered the darkest cashmere on the far right, (seen at the far left in the picture because I shot the colors from the back of the loom,) stretched more than others, crating that horrible fan shape at the right selvedge. I tried all the tricks in my book but I couldn't fix it, so after about 170cm I cut off the cloth, and started another piece, hoping a little loosening/tugging of the warp and a lot of hoping would fix the problem. I also switched to the smaller boat shuttle as this allowed me to manipulate the weft, (yikes!) more easily. I also wove much slower and beat deliberately, but while weaving I had similar problems. I got about 150cm of the second piece.

When I took the second piece off the loom, I was shocked how visible the difference in the beat was. Before wet-finishing either, the first piece feels like a stiffish wool that could go either way, (but I know the sample is deliciously cushy,) but the second feels like, oh, colorful/uplifting South American rugs sure to last for years but uncomfortable as a garment. Meanwhile, the right selvedge on the first piece looks slightly wavy, while on the second scallopped but not enough to for me to get so bent out of shape, because these are fabric meant for sewing, and the selvedge not intended to be used as a feature. I'm going to leave these for a while before wet-finishing, hoping the temperature/air/moisture might by some miracle make the two pieces more like each other. (See the manga-esque stars in my eyes?)

I'm so into fabric-making now, though; I'll revisit this sooner than I had imagined.

The above reprieve was caused by an occasional problem I've had with my hands. I don't use gloves when I wash dishes, and though I'm not sure if this is the cause, occasionally but for years I had big pieces of skin, (the size of the nail on my pinkie?) peel off of my left thumb, and then sometimes my left index finger; I usually used general-purpose ointments, which resulted in lukewarm results.

In the last little while, it spread to most of my fingers, and where the skin peeled off, the next layer throbbed with heat-sensitivity. About six weeks ago it got so bad the throbbing kept me awake, so I applied and used up my manuka honey cream, and moved on to Australian papaya cream; both worked to stop the peeling and settle the sensitivity but I had to apply them all the time and or the throbbing came back in half a day. I spoke to a pharmacist who said if the manuka et al are working to stick with them a while longer, but if I were too bothered had other reasons to see a doctor, ask, and I'll most probably be prescribed steroids. Yikes.

A week later, I had a GP appointment; my regular GP was busy so I had to see a new doctor, who dismissed natural remedies instantly and didn't tell me what this was or what caused it, but who promptly prescribed a watery "scalp solution", to be applied twice daily. Instantly the steroid gave me a horrible taste in my mouth but I was in a hurry to get back to work so I grinned and bore it for two days, when I noticed the peeling had returned. So I quit that and returned to the papaya cream, and the peeling and throbbing have gone. I'm not sure if four or five doses of the steroid worked or the manuka/papaya were on their way to healing, but it went away suddenly as if I had imagined the whole thing.

I also bought a pair of kitchen gloves which I try to remember to use, and I let dishes pile and and wash only once a day. I'm also trying all the eco-focused dish detergents I can get my hands on, and I use hand creams more often than before, but so far so good.

While my hands were peeling and catching yarns, I had to stop weaving, stop making the gray warp halfway through, (my big project I should have been working on as soon as I got back from Japan,) but that's now the warp is made.

On my way home from the GP, I got some needlepoint yarn, and for the first time in 26 years I've started a wee project. I've been thinking needlepoint and embroidery recently, the freedom to design as I work. While I do both pre-designed and spontaneous embroidery, I never plan needlepoint designs. Shortly after I went to the US for high school I learned to needlepoint from a woman who designed and painted canvases for a craft shop, so from the get go, needlepoint was something I, too, made up.
Three navies, three yellows and this curious clay color, intended perhaps for one side of a bag. Because I usually use only the bottom-left to top-right stitch, whatever I make "leans" so just now it's pinned to the ironing board like Gulliver in Lilliput. It had been a while, however, since I last came home, got the material out of the bag, and got working right away. The continuous thinking of where I'm going next was lovely. This first piece, the design decided where I'll go too early, so I want to do more fluid pieces. The spontaneity doesn't compare with my kind of weaving, but needlepoint is done on a grid, and this is slower than working with paint and paper, and re-doable. All in all I found needlepoint a perfect kind of leisurely, drawn-out exercise in contemplating colors and shapes. And how it makes me think in different directions, on the loom and with paper. (The working on the canvas itself took longer than I imagined because of my declining eyesight. Multifoculs just don't work well, eh.)

The bottom horizontal stripe is in the same navy as the bottom layer of "hills"; since it'd been so long since the last time, I wanted to remember how needlepoint worked. From memory, I used to use three strands of softer two-ply wool, while these DMC yarns, the only ones I have access to now, are denser and slightly too fat for the size of the canvas holes. With the softer/airier wool, I remember manipulating the finished stitches to more or less blend enough not to distract from the design, but with these, I didn't even try.
Meanwhile these got neglected too log, so maybe needlepoint only as a reward after fringing/finishing? But it's nice to have something I can do on the couch on winter evenings.

We had our 26th anniversary yesterday; today is my sister's 21st and next month is my brother's 16th; strange how they sound slightly less dramatic than 25/20/15.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Re/Considering Cloth to Sew

So the red warp. Meant for fabric for Mom to be made into a piece of clothing. (I had in mind a simple vest with possibly a stand collar. )
The colors were supposed to be symmetrical with the lightest red in the center, having five sections of five stripes of 18 ends each;  25 inches wide at 18EPI. The far right section looks weird because I managed with what yarns I had left after emptying two new cones, and mixed a thicker merino, close enough to one of the reds. I thought Mom can get around, or make use of, the anomaly while the designing the garment.

It's a full-length warp so had I been more careful, it would have been more reasonable to make a shorter/wider warp according to plan. If I have warp left after the fabric, which is very likely, I'll have to edit before moving on to non-fabric.

Because it's intended as fabric for Mom, who is fussy about fibers she dons, it had to be cashmere in the warp, so I used 100% in 26/2. This yarn creates a meaty yet airy fabric at 18EPI with 26/2 or 20/2 in the weft, but being cashmere it doesn't full much. Mom-spun wool weft is much thicker than 26/2 or 20/2.

The last time I attempted fabric-to-sew was 2002, when "superwash" hadn't entered my weaving vocabulary. Back then wool having scales was a given in my environment so as long as I got the sett/pick, floats and the wet-finish right, there wasn't much else to think about. But in this brave, new, easy-to-wash world, I find myself having to step back and try to remember the things I took for granted. Let me think.

1) Cashmere doesn't full much, the extra merino will, so one selvedge may scallop.
2) The weft is much thicker than usual cf. the size of the warp and the sett; sample 18EPI, as well as 16/15 but probably no sparser to avoid weft-dominance.
3) Cashmere is brittle so too sparse a sett and the shuttle will hit/break the warp and/or fall through the gap. Try all shuttles.
4) The pick needs experimenting; I don't want a stiff cloth but sturdy enough for cutting. Pay attention to how the weft fulls.
5) Draft: make the most of the warp color scheme but keep warp float to max 3?
6) Wet-finish with caution; don't want cardboard.

What else?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Yeah, Nah...

This is how Kiwi sports people used to start their interviews, unfailingly, as if everybody received media training from the same guy. Or girl. It's become the standard opener for Kiwis between 13 and 48, up to 58.

I had a slow week, followed by a very slow Easter break, (when we both read a lot and slept even more, even though we both silently aspired to garden some of the time.) The weather has been changeable and our old bodies can adjust only slowly. I understand everything Mom says about her being 85; we will never be as fit as we are today. Luckily, nothing is conspicuously wrong with either of us, except my weight, but the old bodies take forever to adjust/readjust, or just won't, and it is a gradual downward slope.

But then I had a productive few days and wove three pieces and made three warps in quick succession. Or, I unpicked heck of a lot, and still can't guesstimate how much yarn I've got. Or, I'm becoming even better at adapting to situations.
Two brown-ish cashmere warps were made from those little bits left on cones or wound into tiny balls to get rid of those cones. They are both short warps and although I'm not a brown, (nor green,) person, I like the look of both. These, I designed on my feet. The undyed is Mom-spun.
Because Mom currently has access to at least two people who can sew handwoven fabric into garments, I made a burgundy warp using Mom's cashmere to weave fabric using her handspun, (and possibly hand-dyed) wool for her. The cones looked new, so I just made up a color scheme and went my merry way until I ran out of not one but two colors suddenly, and another eventually. Luckily I had a very small cone of my best merino very similar to one of the reds, so I mixed that towards the end. I have no idea how the fabric will full, and the fabric is 80% the width of the plan, but I'm hoping it'll turn out almost-to-moderately OK to be cut and sewn by a capable person. (The colors are slightly darker and a little more saturated.)
And then weaving. I wove the second (left) and the third (right) pieces as planned, except the third pattern was impossible to see while weaving, showing me a glaring mistake about 80-120 picks later so I duly unpicked/rewove. The color scheme I planned for the this piece was supposed to give me roughly 178cm in length, but ended up short of 160cm so I added another repeat, finished it off, and started weaving up the warp-end fabric without cutting the piece off. Except... you know these things, don't you, no matter how you try to justify it. The first two pieces were around 180cm long and there were plenty of warp left. So, yes, the next morning I unpicked 200-odd picks of the fabric, and the plain weave at the start of the fabric, in between, and the end of the third piece, and added three more repeats. But it looks the most harmonious in the series. The second piece suffered because I forgot to wrap the cloth beam and the strings tying the apron to the stick on which the warps are tied with bubble wrap or at least a few thick sheets of paper as I normally do. Instead I had only one calendar page, so the irregular beating took on an apocalyptic uniqueness. (Of course I'm not posting the worst of it.) Much mending/giggling coming up.  
I also knew there was quite a lot of left, so instead of "using up" disparate wefts and make lots of tiny swatches, I started weaving as if I had enough for a fourth piece. This way, I could either get a nice fabric swatch or two, or make myself a neck tube, or get a proper piece. I looked at cashmere already on bobbins from the first three pieces, augmented/edited, and decided on "summer beach" colors, which morphed into "a riot of soft colors", but ended up more appropriately "post-storm beach debris". I got a full-length piece, but I'm ambivalent; as a consumer I like harmonious color schemes especially those close to each other on the color wheel; as a weaver I like them, and very saturated colors; and this piece is neither, as if I repeatedly and deliberately disrupted what could have been harmonious. Although... it looks less bad this morning.

All in all I worked against my initial intentions to try to make cool grown-up pieces with this warp. Ugh.

Never mind. What do I know about good taste. While I was away two of my favorite gray pieces were sold; "Celebration" (the second piece,) is the only one still waiting for its human and I was so sure that would leave the gallery first and by a long shot.
And then I have a couple of biggish pieces to go on the 16-shaft with more Mom-spun.