Monday, July 5, 2021

Weaving By The Seat Of My Pants Too!

This is the continuation of ‘Designing By The Seat Of My Pants’.  After pulling the warp I had so little warp yarn left it was scary.  I had just enough of each colour to fix one, and only one, broken end.

Because I pulled the warp in segments using up all of the pink, then all of the lilac, I had to pull the striped segment as a single bout.  My final design had a small increment of lilac moving into the green striped area so to help me remember I put a single end of waste yarn in the warp.

When I threaded the warp I dropped the waste yarn and moved over the lilac segment.  Not the best idea as far as getting perfect warp tension, but I was doing this on the fly (hmmm yet another airplane reference) and this was the easiest way to go.

Once the warp was all threaded and through the reed, it looked pretty good and I was able to get the tension even at the tie on stage.

I began weaving the tea towel with the lilac tow linen weft and it seems to be working out fine.  Now was the time to think about where to place the plaid section.  Do I put it in the centre?  Off centre? At the end?  My final decision was to start the plaid at 18 inches; this would make the lilac section larger than the pink section which was in keeping with how the warp looked.

I had taken the time to write out the stripe sequence to stick on my loom and I had written it out directly from the top of the PCW draft.

But I had started weaving the larger lilac portion first, so I had to weave it from the bottom up and this meant I needed to change it as I went along.  I suppose now is the time to tell you that I hadn’t noticed that I had two treadles tied up the same.  This was actually a seven shaft pattern!  As I was treadling I found that shaft one and shaft five were the same and so I had to modify my treadling to adjust for that. What a mess!

I was a little worried that the green and purple colours for the stripes were quite different in the warp and weft, but once I started the plaid, I liked it.  The grist of these linens were just slightly finer than the tow linen, but not enough to throw out the balance.  What is different however, is that they are much smoother than the very, furry tow linen.

Rather than stick exactly to the pattern I wove the green sections to equal the measurements of the warp, so a few picks here and there to make up the difference.  Thankfully this is twill, so easy to make this kind of adjustments.

I have just finished the first tea towel and I am not altogether thrilled with the selvedges.  On the lilac side I have had the floating selvedge shred twice.  There must be a burr in my reed causing the fray.  On the pink side of the tea towel the weft turns are a bit problematic.  I think the extra fuzzyness on the lilac side actually hides the turns. The selvedges are as snug as I could get them without actually pulling the warp in, so I live in hope that this slight imperfection will disappear in the wash.


The garden photo for today is Echinaca purpurea ‘Green Twister’ which is just opening up.  Amazingly this plant was planted last year and now it stands a good three feet high!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Striped Cottolin Tea Towels

I put on enough warp for four tea towels in stripes of lime, pink, orange, periwinkle, purple and turquoise 2/22 cottolin, a real Unicorn Party!

The weft choice for the first two tea towels was an easy pick, purple.  The purple is 2/8 cotton and it is a very close match to the purple cottolin that I used to separate the stripes.

As the warp is striped I didn’t add a plaid border to the tea towels, the stripes are plenty enough!  The weaving went very quickly and I soon had two tea towels wrapped around the cloth beam.

I wasn’t sure what colour I was going to do the last two tea towels, so I got out the bins full of 2/8 cotton and separated out all the possibilities.   I was hoping that one of the greens would work; but I think that the winner is going to come from the blue family.

I auditioned royal blue, navy blue, sage green and a dark aubergine purple.  The winner was definitely the royal blue.

The royal blue is such a pretty colour and it works really well with all the colours in the stripes.  It actually makes many of the colours seem more fresh.

The tea towels are off the loom and ready to be washed but it’s too hot here to run the drier and steam press so they are going to have to wait until it is cooler to be finished. 

The beginning of June was 10 degrees colder than normal but now two weeks later we are having a record breaking heat wave; the temperatures are 10 to 20 degrees warmer than usual.  We’ll probably hit 40 C today and with the high humidity, it feels so much hotter!

The garden seems to be coping with the heat for the most part; the purple flowers are Knautia macedonica 'Thunder and Lightning', Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Sun' is the sunny face in the foreground, Salvia greggii 'Amethyst Lips' and Nicotiana alta 'Lime Green' round out the rota.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Designing By The Seat Of My Pants

As I typed the title of this blog, I thought, hmmmmm, where does that saying come from?  Well, Mr. Goggle tells me that to ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ is a saying from the early days of aviation when pilots flew by their judgment rather than by instruments which had yet to be invented.

This saying really epitomizes my trial and error style of creating these tea towels.....here’s how the story progressed.

I wanted to use 1/8 tow linen, just because it’s pretty and I had enough to make nice colour block tea towels unlike any I had woven before.  My goal was pink on one side, lilac on the other separated by green outlined in purple.  The colours were chosen based on the tow linen I had.  I had no idea of the weft at this point.  Like I said, seat of my pants.

I planned to use the tow linen as the warp because it can be difficult to make nice selvedges with some types of linen and I thought to make my life easier by using some kind of cotton as the weft.

My original idea was to pull a warp of about 40 percent pink and 40 percent lilac with 10 percent other for the break in a vaguely St. George’s Cross pattern.

When I started to pull the tow linen and found that it was super fuzzy, way fuzzier than I expected and I knew immediately that it would have potential bridging problems.  There is nothing worse that a warp that will not lift due to fuzz sticking together; so out it came.  I would swap the cotton to the warp and use the linen as weft, changing on the fly!

Searching the stash I found 2/16 unmercerized cotton in similar colours, some a little darker and a wee bit different tones, but close enough and it looked like I had enough at first glance. 

I began pulling the cotton warp and ran out of 2/16 pink cotton at 172 ends......I was looking to have around the 240 mark.  So back to the computer and a rejig of the draft. 

My initial thought was to just increase the number of lilac ends that I needed and so I created this draft where the cross is moved off centre and the whole shebang was more asymmetrical but still pretty close to my plan and pretty nice looking.

Back to the warping board with the lilac cotton and surprise, surprise...I ran out of lilac at 272 ends, exactly 100 ends more than the pink cotton, but far short of what I needed at 308 ends. So another iteration which increases the green and still looks good, but not perfect.

Gotta love PCW and the ease of changing a draft!  I started to increase the amount of green in the centre cross and to fiddle with the purple breaks and this is my final draft and I’m pretty happy with it. I decided to move a lilac stripe into the green and it now looks vaguely plaid; and still pretty.

I suppose now would be a good time to plan just how I’m going to weave it.  The warp is 613 ends and set at 28-30 ends per inch gives me a width of between 20-21 inches.  I’m using a metric reed that is 14-15 dent and I will be setting 2 per dent; but I plan to weave the tea towel to 36 inches.   Drat! More math and more ‘designing by the seat of my pants’!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Juneuary Tea Towels

My loom has been empty for a while so what is that best thing to get back into weaving?  Tea towels!  I started the project by getting out the cottolin cones; there are lots of small amounts perfect for a striped warp. 

I separated out the cones into two possible colourways, a pink/red and a wild mix of colours which really appealed to me.  The colours are turquoise, orange, pink, periwinkle, lime and dark purple.

I did the math to find out how much yarn I had left on each cone.  For cottolin there is 3200 yards per pound, and I figured that each cardboard cone weighed 0.4 oz.  But I wanted to make sure that my math was right so I pulled the warp using the smallest cone which was the turquoise and counted the ends.  There were 2 more threads than the math predicted but better too many than not enough.  I went ahead and pulled the warp as I felt that my math was good enough to pull the warp with no problems.

And yes, there was enough yarn for the warp to my slight surprise; it is always worrying when the cones start getting empty.  The tea towels are going to be colourful!  I used the dark purple to separate and define the stripes of colour and to give the tea towels a more cohesive look.

I didn’t finish the cones so I’m already thinking about the next tea towel warp where I can use up the rest of the cottolin yarn.  I’m thinking ribbons of stripes with large stripes of lilac and lime. 

The greenhouse has undergone another transformation from seedling propagation to food production.  The greenhouse is full of tomatoes, cucumbers and hot peppers and we still managed to squeeze in some chairs!  The tomatoes are in 5 gallon pots and are being trained up heavy twine that is attached to the ceiling of the greenhouse.

There are already tomatoes!  The greenhouse tomatoes are already over 4 feet tall and the tomatoes that we planted outside to hedge our bets are only two feet.  But it has been a cool start to June, hence Juneuary.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

In the Garden

That’s where I’ve been for the last month!  Spring is a busy time for the garden, our garden beds are perennial flower beds so there is winter die back to tidy up, plants to split and move around and as always new plants to add.

This year the flower border that lines the back garden fence was in desperate need of an overhaul.  Whatever flower plan was there in the border had dissolved into an unruly mass of plants.

The best thing to do is to be brave and take everything out, well almost everything, the grapes and trumpet vine on the pergola stayed.  We leveled the garden beds, amended the soil by adding azomite, which adds trace minerals and heaps of Gaia Green.  We also made the beds a little larger too. 

The original plants were heeled into part of the veg patch just for short term storage.  We then looked up each plants needs and added them back to the border in the correct place.  Some of them were moved to another part of the garden and new plants from other areas of the garden moved into the prepared beds.    

The bones of the new border are in but we grew a lot of annuals that need to be added yet, like nicotiana, calendula and alyssum.  So it is still a work in progress but it is looking hopeful.

Here is a little peek into the greenhouse, the shelves are groaning under the weight of all the plants.  Some plants are ready to be planted out and some are ready to pot on.

The tomatoes are looking good, nice and sturdy.  They are the same size as the ones at the local nursery! The advantage of growing tomatoes from seed is the sheer variety of types out there, much better than the dozen or so varieties that our local nursery carries.  This year we are trying twelve new varieties and four oldies but goodies.

We have a new neighbour move in, a white crowned sparrow.  It has made a nest nearby and always seems to be in the back garden cruising for bugs.  When we first moved here, there wasn't even an ant, so finally getting bird life is a real miracle!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Greenhouse and Back Garden

This is the first year that we’ve had the greenhouse and it’s already much loved.  The benches have been added and the first of the seeds have been planted.  There’s still room for a bistro set which is a lovely place to have lunch.

We started some flower seeds and tomatoes in early March and now the tomatoes are just starting to come up.  It is always an exciting time going into the greenhouse and seeing what is up.

We watch Gardeners World with Monty Don, a TV show from Britain, which showed us a different way of starting seeds.  He uses half seed trays and once the seeds have their first true leaves he then pricks them out into larger pots.  We are trying this method this year, although we can’t buy half seed trays for love nor money so we’re using supermarket mushroom containers, as they are about the right size.  To maximize the use of the containers we use a piece of milk jugs to separate the container into two sections, the milk jug is made from food safe waxed paper.

Some other things that are in the greenhouse are some soft wood cuttings that were taken in the fall which have survived the winter and are starting to leaf out.  They are Weigela, a lovely flowering shrub, in the back and Enkianthus 'campanulatus', a wonderful flowering tree also a bee magnet, in the front.  They are a bit of an experiment and we have no idea how long they will take to become big enough to plant out, nor where they will be planted out to!

The garden is still in the winter clean up stage, as it has been a lot colder than in previous years but some things are starting to show.  In the back the Clematis is about 6 inches tall and the black pot is full of Crocosmia but the tips have been touched by frost.  In the front are some pansy’s, why do they always bloom away from you?!  This garden along the fence is going to get a makeover this year so it will soon look very different.

The 60+ heads of garlic are up and are a very promising start to spring.  We are already looking forward to making garlic scape pesto in early summer!

In the front garden the daffodils are showing their sunny faces and wonderful calling card for spring.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Spring Plaid Table Runners

The yellow, peach and pink plaid runners are off the loom.  They made a very satisfyingly large and heavy pile while I was taking them off the loom.

The runners were then washed and air dried.  I run them through the steam press for the first pressing before folding up the hems for hand hemming.  With the plaid pattern there were an amazing number of ends to clip!

The runners are now waiting to be hemmed, just need a sunny day because sitting in the sun and sewing is really lovely.   Now that it is early spring and the garden is calling to be cleaned up every time the sun shines, so a real conflict!

I did a small photo shot to show what the final runners look like.  The first table runner that I wove had a very long repeat; so long, in fact, that I couldn’t see the whole thing as I was weaving.  I was a little worried about it but the runner came out great.  I like the large scale of the plaid stripes.


The second runner has more stripes of plaid and it’s longer overall.  I have to remember when I photograph these runners for Etsy, to take my time to straighten the stripes.  They looked straight on the table but the camera really exaggerates even the smallest of the wiggles! 


I really enjoyed weaving these lovely runners and I’m already thinking about putting more plaid runners on the loom.

The garden photo is crocuses.  They were hidden under some leaves so they are a little bedraggled but they are very welcomed sign of spring in the garden.