Saturday, May 28, 2016

Making My Knitting Christmas Angel

I had a hard time figuring out what to do for my project for the twenty fifth anniversary of the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners Guild.  The theme is glitz and the guild provided 20 grams of yarn.  Mum and I talked about ideas and we both wanted to do something different.  Mum came up with spool knitted necklace and I came up with doing a Christmas Tree Topper Angel.
The idea came about because a lady from my old guild in the Okanagan makes Christmas angels by crochet but I can’t crochet so I had to come up with a different way.

Plan A – The idea was to weave a body on a paper yarn cone, that I covered in plastic wrap using weaving wool.  After weaving the body I was going to Modge Podge the body and then slip it off the paper cone.  I placed some nails around the bottom and top to hold the thread.  Well, the nails were too short and the threads didn’t hold.  So I scraped the idea.
On to Plan B.  This one worked so here are the instructions.  I painted to the paper yarn cone silver.
I covered the body with the glitz yarn using a looping technique with a latch hook.
Push the latch hook up the centre of the cone.  Grabbing the thread in the hook and then pull it through the cone.
This creates a loop that you pass the ball of yarn through.  Then you snug up the loop tight to the cone.
You do this all the way around the cone.  I had to stop when I couldn’t fit the latch hook through the centre hole anymore.  So, if your cone has a small opening at the top you may want to enlarge it so you can get better coverage on the body.
The next step; I wanted to add more sparkle to the body and I also wanted to cover up the holes that I had made from Plan A!
I needle wove a band of silver thread along the bottom of the body of the angel.  Just in case you wanted to know it was a 2/6 reclining twill.  And I did eleven bands around the base.
I then used Modge Podge, which is basically white glue, on the inside of the cone.  It holds the outside threads in place and also protects the threads from the eventual Christmas tree branches.
For the head I wrapped a one inch Styrofoam in the same thread as the body.  It just looks like a ball of yarn!
For the wings I auditioned a couple of shapes cut out from a piece of paper.
Then I used the winning wing design to make a template, it is a little hard to see because I used a pencil when I traced it.  Then, I used galvanized wire from the gardening section of the dollar store to bend into wings and the halo.  Doesn't the wings look like a tooth?!
I used the same looping method from the body of the angel to cover the wings and the halo.  It took a surprisingly long time but it was something that can be done in front of the TV.
The wings needed to have more shine to them so I used silver thread.  I placed the silver thread on a sewing bobbin to keep things tidy and used the looping method from the body of the angel.  The wings were attached using hot glue to the body.  In the picture you can see the curve that was added to the wings so that they laid flat on the curved body of the angel.  The wings were attached in two places and had some hot glue showing so to cover the spots I placed two large rhinestones on top of the hot glue.  Sorry I don’t have a picture.
A last minute addition was to add arms and some knitting.  The arms were done the same way as the wings and the halo.  The knitting needles are toothpicks that I painted silver and added a bead to the end.  I can’t knit so Mum did the knitting for me, thanks Mum!  Again I don't have any progress photos, sorry.

To attach the last elements was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle.  The halo has a long stem that fit into the top of the cone and had a curve in it to go around the head.  The arms balanced on top of the cone with a dab of hot glue.  Then the head was attached on top of everything with a bit more hot glue.  Unfortunately some of the hot glue was showing around the neck area.  So the solution was to take some of the glitz thread and twizzle it making a round cord.  Then the cord was added with just a dab of Modge Podge around the neck to hold a bow; then the ends were encouraged to cascade down the body.  
She is quite cute and I am looking forward to having her on my Christmas tree this year!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Four Shaft Ladder Ribbon Scarf

After I finished the Three Shaft Theo Moorman scarf I was left with scads ~ well a full ball and a bit ~of the ladder ribbon yarn that I had used as inlay.

This yarn is Bernat Matrix and the colour is called Natural Network.  I had used a similar yarn once before as warp with good results so I thought it would be a great use for it.
I pulled 94 ends and sett them at 12 ends per inch ~ 1 per dent in a 12 dent reed.  I wanted this scarf to wear with a black blazer and since I’m really, really short; I pulled only 80 inches for warp length.
I knew that the end result I wanted was a loosely flowing scarf that had the ladder colours popping through randomly and an undulating twill appearance; so I threaded the loom in a straightforward 2/2 twill, and treadled it the same straight twill. 
I made sure that I beat extremely lightly to allow the 2/8 tencel weft to slip and deflect over the colour spots in the ladder yarn.

While I was weaving the scarf I beat to maintain the 45 degreeish angle and aimed for 12 to 13 picks per inch.  To achieve this I beat on the closed shed after changing pattern shafts.  I basically laid each thread softly in place.
When I took the scarf off the loom it looked like the weft had pretty well covered the warp, but after washing I got MAGIC!  It really moved around and gave the ladders lots of play room.
The Tencel weft slipped around and started to look more like the undulating twill I had hoped for.  The ribbon popped out here and there and it looks great.
The best part of it all is that I didn’t have to twist the fringes…..ladder yarn doesn’t fray.
A great stash buster for me too!

The garden shot for today is Cotinus Coggygria 'Golden Sprite' (Golden Smoke tree), amazingly the new leaves come out almost burgundy in colour.  I coppiced this shrub in late winter to encourage lots of leaves and few flowers.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Milk Kefir

 This has nothing to do with what I'm weaving and everything to do with what I'm eating!  I have recently been looking at making soft cheese at home and while I was doing my research I learned about milk kefir.  A search on Craigslist was all it took to start this journey.

Milk kefir may be one of the strangest things.  It is probiotic milk that you may have seen in your local supermarket.  But you can easily make it at home.

It starts with small cream colour lumps called milk kefir grains.

Place about 2 tablespoons of them in a glass jar with 2 cups of milk.  Lightly cover the jar with a piece of plastic.  And let sit on the counter for 24 hours.
After 24 hours the milk has slightly thickened to the texture of thick cream.  Pour the milk kefir through a plastic strainer to separate the kefir grains from the milk.  Use plastic as the kefir reacts with metal.  Then it is time to make a smoothie!

This smoothie is 2 cups milk kefir, ½ cup frozen peaches, ½ cup frozen blueberries and 2 tablespoons maple syrup.  Yummy!

The milk kefir grains can also be used in full fat cream and the end product is crème fraiche.  The milk kefir can also be used to make cheese, but I'll talk about that another time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Guild 25th Anniversary

Last year Ngaire and I joined the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners Guild which is about 72 kilometers away.  It is a beautiful ocean side drive down Island from where we live in Comox, and well worth it, it is a wonderfully active guild!
This May the Guild celebrates its 25th anniversary and so a challenge went out ~ make something for the May meeting using ‘silver glitz’.
Those who took up the challenge were provided with 20 grams of silver glitz plied with fine white cotton. I wanted to make something completely outside of my comfort zone.   I decided to try my hand at spool knitting; something I haven’t done since I was a child.  My plan was to make a piece of jewellery of some kind.  I was still vague about what at this stage!
I didn’t have a spool knitter, so Michael made me this one using dowel and nails ~ lovely and rustic, just like I remembered ... and the best part is that it worked like a charm!
As soon as I started I came across three major problems.  The first was that the silver yarn provided by the guild was too white ~ so I switched to this silver from my stash.
The second problem was that the silver yarn by itself was too thin, so I added a thread of silver Tencel for shine and bulk ~ luckily I had just a wee bit left after weaving this 12 Shaft Advancing Twill Scarf.
The third problem was that the spool knitted cord collapsed onto itself and was far to floppy and skinny.  So I bought a meter of silver cord and pushed it into the center of the cord to add bulk.
Once the meter of cord was knitted up I had to find something to make ~ this is when ‘google’ did its magic and I found these printable instructions for making a Bumble Bee Knot.
Since I had set off without a plan; I now had to find a way to finish the ends of the scarf.  I immediately ruled out tassels and found myself searching for jewellery findings that would fit the ends of the cord.  Ngaire found this in the mark down bin at Fabricland and it’s perfect!
This is my finished necklace, just in time for the celebration!

Final Garden Shot is a double flower yellow Japanese Rose (Kerria Japonica 'Pleniflora).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Diversified Plain Weave

After the Piano Scarves were finished I had fifty three inches of warp left on the loom.  It wasn’t enough to do anything with but I had an idea.
I pulled two chenille threads off the old warp and knotted them together and placed them on the warping board; I did this for all the other warp threads, ending up with half as many warp threads.  The other threads on the warping board are thin 2/20 Tencel in white.
To put some tension on the warp I put a small binder clips on the bottom of the threads to stop them from sagging on the warping board.  It worked surprisingly well.
At this point the warp is now half sized.  But I had a little bit of white chenille on the bobbin and some on the cone left.  So I pulled the rest of the warp normally.
It is my first time doing Diversified Plain Weave there is one thick thread to every two thin threads.  The thin threads are woven in plain weave and they are the back bone of the weave structure.  The thick thread is the pattern thread and is tied down by the thin threads.
I set up the treadles a little differently this time.  I place the two plain weave treadles right in the middle and the pattern treadles on the outsides.  Sorry for the tilted picture!
I created my own Diversified Plain Weave pattern, it used all twelve shafts.  It is a pretty diamond motif.  But for some reason my loom didn’t like weaving the pattern.  The treadles were very heavy but I had the treadles evenly balanced six shafts going up and six shafts going down.  Also my loom made some loud wooden snapping sounds.  It was like some of the shafts were crossing and sticking together.  I have no idea what was wrong.
But I like my loom more then I liked the pattern!  So I stopped weaving the pattern.  I unwoven what was there and I started all over again.  I went to back to the Handwoven article (May/June 2013) that I was using as a reference and used the draft.  It is large circles on eight shafts.
Diversified Plain Weave is a two shuttle weave.  Again one thick thread and two thin threads are used.  It was quite easy to get into the rhythm of using two shuttles.
The finished Diversified Plain Weave scarf has joined its friends the Piano scarves waiting to be hemmed and washed!
The Final Shot.  The Snowbirds Air Demonstration Team are back for the Spring Training session at the Comox Air Force Base.  They are here for two weeks and they practice twice a day.  You can go to the appropriately named Air Force Beach and watch the air show and listen to the commentary.  Next week the CF -18 Hornet demo team arrives and it is very loud!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Piano Scarves – Again

When Mum and I cleaned out the stash in January, we found some black and white chenille, which I only use for one thing – Piano Scarves!  There was only a little bit of white left; just enough for two scarves.
The warp is white chenille with a band of black on one side.  The draft is just a four shaft plain weave.  All the patterning comes from the clasped weft technique.
I use a large 15 inch boat shuttle made by Little Man Howell to hold the chenille.  It holds enough chenille on it for more than half of a scarf, about forty inches.  It is just amazing.
The scarves wove up quite fast this time.  But I caught the ‘flu and I have been sick for a couple of weeks.  So the scarves have been sitting in a pile waiting for me to hem them.  I’ll get to them soon, promise!
Whenever I do these scarves I always run out of warp.  I have had to add extenders onto the warp a couple of times.  So this time I added extra warp - just 18 inches - but enough I hoped.  Well somehow I ended up with 53 inches of warp left over!
Not enough to do anything with – or is it ?!  Find out in the next blog post.

Final Garden Shot is the first leaves and catkins on the weeping variegated willow.  So pretty!