Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sewing With Handwoven Wool

My Polka Drop fabric was woven some time ago, and now it’s time to move on with the sewing, not my strong suit by any means. I’m a competent seamstress, but not an intuitive one, so it's a real challenge for me.
I found two patterns that I liked a lot. The Butterick pattern is a reproduction of a 1952 pattern and I love, love, love it – but it didn’t have set in sleeves or a separate collar. The sleeves and the collar were attached to the back and the front, so they were huge pattern pieces. The Burda pattern had separate sleeves and collar pieces, so this was the basic pattern that I used.When I did my final fabric inspection I found a skip float that was about 12 inches in from the selvedge right across the whole width of the fabric! I had to use every square inch of my 30 inch wide fabric, so to make sure that I didn’t forget it, I marked it with red thread.With a lot of messing around I managed to get the error right at the end of the sleeve, so it would be on the inside hem - whewwwww.

I tried laying the pattern pieces every way I could think of on my doubled fabric, but I just barely had enough to handle the four major pieces. This didn’t leave a lot of fabric unused and what was left was in small pieces and I didn’t have enough left over for my collar!
There wasn't much left over at all, and what was left was oddly shaped and the collar pieces just wouldn't fit!I decided to purchase some navy velvet to use for the collar.
Not only would this allow me to customize the collar to make the coat unique but it would overcome any fabric scratchiness around the neck and face. Here is the jacket at the based stage and other than being too big for my model - it's looking good.I made a huge effort to line up the dots on the back of the jacket, isn’t Ngaire a great model in that perfect hand to the collar pose? Originally I'd hoped to have this swing jacket unlined, so that the reverseable fabric could be seen, but after cutting I knew this was not going to be. Now to sit down and attack the lining and collar!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Clasped Weft ~ Taming the Savage Beast

I think that I am using almost all the weird and wonderful shuttles that we have weaving these piano scarves. For the hem I am using black 2/20 Cotton/Tencel to reduce the bulk and I am using an end feed shuttle, although I just took a picture of the pirn because Mum is using both shuttles for her tea towel warp!
At the ends of the scarves I am doing a solid black section to represent the piano and to give a clear definition of the keyboard. I am using black chenille and I am using a LeClerc doubling shuttle because the rest of the scarf is done as clasped weft which is a double pick so the end of the scarf needs to be done doubled also to give the same weight and look to the scarf. I am not using floating selvedges so throwing the shuttle twice was not practical.
The other shuttle that I am using is the Howell’s Little Man because it has the longest bobbin, 8¼ inches. I can get all the white chenille that I need for one scarf on the bobbin. The shuttle is also great because the side slit is as long as the bobbin so there is no pulling on the yarn as it comes out. On some shuttles the opening is too short and the angle that the yarn is forced into stops any movement.
One of the great benefits to clasped weft is that the second weft is used when it is still on the cone, so my fourth shuttle is actually a cone sitting at my feet!
Disaster has struck, I have run out of warp and I still need to weave 20 inches. The warping bar is touching the heddles but if I can extend the warp I can finish the scarf. So with my Mum’s help we cut each warp thread and knot a purple thread 40 inches long to either side of the cut warp thread.
The view from the back is not so bad but the front is scary. To keep the back neat and tidy we pulled the warp forwards and it looked like a tangled mess.
It look a long time to finish because we had to be careful to make sure that the extender threads were the same length and that we were knotting at the same length also because it affects the warp tension. But I was able to finish the scarf although I had to shorten the scarf by 6”. By the end the knots were just touching the back of the reed!
Because the scarves are two different lengths I don’t feel that I can give them to the person that commissioned the scarves so I am planning on doing the scarves again; this time I'll be using 100% chenille.
The scarves look fantastic and overall I am happy with them. They are very striking and make for a very graphic punch when placed with the other scarves that we have for sale.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Clasped Weft ~ Music from the Loom

I received my first commission for scarves in November but I couldn’t blog about them earlier because they were destined to be Christmas presents. But I wrote the blog as I was doing it so here is the blog in the present tense because when I tried to put it into past tense it read really funny/bad.

The commission is for scarves that look like a piano keyboard, which is a really nifty idea. The idea is to use clasped weft because it would be the same on both sides, if I used double weave one side would look like a piano but the other side would have the colours reversed.

The warp is 2/20 Cotton/Tencel because I am hoping that the white warp will be hidden by the chenille that I am using for the weft. The picture below shows the warp and the clasping of the wefts.
I actually sampled, I had to because I wasn’t sure if the weft was going to cover the warp and I had to figure out the pattern, and I wanted to have the keys the correct size after washing. I don't have a piano, so I went to the internet and printed off a real keyboard. I copied it exactly, right down to the note/half note placement. I did two samples, the first I had black chenille as my floating selvedges because I was trying to hide the black chenille going up the side when I didn’t need it but it just looked messy on both sides, so I nixed that idea. The second sample was without the floating selvedges and it looks cleaner and I also changed the pattern a little. In the picture below is both samples, the first sample is the background and has been washed. The second sample had not been washed so I could get an idea of the shrinkage.
I developed the pattern on the warp because there isn’t a really good way to graph the keys. I used a picture of a keyboard and carefully wrote down the pattern. At the end I had the main pattern repeat having steps A through X, with a step having 5 to 8 picks. It is a long repeat and it takes me about an 1 hour to do, by the end I was a little faster but it was still slow going.
Here is a little peek of the scarf. It looks very neat!
The first scarf is finished, although still on the loom, and I am starting on the second. Watching a piano grow on my loom is a little surreal but fun! Stay tuned, the second installment will be soon!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Snoflake Twill ~ A Fresh Snowfall of a Scarf

With the Snowflake Twill Scarf off the loom, I faced a little problem. The warp had been hand painted so there was a lot of variation of colours in the fringe and I didn’t want to end up with a candy cane effect in the fringe. So my solution is to make a fringe with lots of thin twizzles. If I could go back and repaint the scarf I would make sure to paint the fringe area in one solid colour.The fringe looks really nice, the colours are clear and there is only a little candy caning but it only really can be seen close up. Because there are so many twizzles in the fringe and so many colours I don’t think that I am going to be beading this fringe. The scarf is a really interesting piece. The plum and navy splashes highlight different parts of the pattern which makes it truly attention grabbing. Weaving this scarf was a challenge because each snowflake has to be the same size. It was all about having the same beat every hour of every day of weaving which is really hard to do. I took a lot of measurements as I was going but I still had to do some unweaving! But the effort is really worth it; in both the scarf and my new awareness of my beat. The scarf has a lovely drape; it makes an almost liquid puddle. After washing that scarf was really stiff but after beating the scarf against the couch the gorgeous drape magically appears. I learned a lot about weaving with this scarf. I learned how to design a snowflake twill; it is almost as much fun watching the snowflakes appear on a computer screen as weaving one is! I also have a new awareness of my beat which I am going to be developing and improving this year, I hope!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Knitting and Stuff

I'm really look forward to a New Year and all the optimism that goes with it. All the opportunites to start fresh armed with all my weaving resolutions I can't go wrong...right?

I’m still on a stash busting frenzy….so while I was weaving my yardage I was also knitting a pocket scarf for Ngaire. This is to go with a sweet little black boiled wool jacket that due to the peplum doesn’t have pockets. I didn’t use a pattern for the construction of this scarf because I was using my own handspun merino and figuring out gauges can be difficult with the variations in handspun. I decided to knit both sides of this scarf at the same time to ensure that both sides would be the same length….nothing worse than running out with one side only half the length of the other! Nahhhh, I've never done that!I started with a pattern called ‘candle pattern’ in my knitting book for the pockets and when I had the pockets deep enough I changed to stocking stitch for the back of the pockets, so they would lay flat and not catch on rings. I love the way the top of the pocket frills out. When I had the back of the pockets completed, I changed back to ‘candle pattern’ for the front of the scarf. When it looked like I had just about used up my yarn, I switched to a 3x3 rib for about 6 inches on each side. This was to make the scarf thin enough to sit nicely under a collar. Now came the hard part …I tried to do ‘Kitchener stitch’ and sat down and followed an excellent Youtube tutorial only to find that I’d knitted one side right side up and the other upside down….I was following a tutorial for doing the toe of socks….duh, no wonder it didn’t work!I scrapped that idea and used my own finishing technique. I decided to graft the stitches together with a nice pink seed bead….cute eh? And just perfect to keep the scarf weighted at the nape of Ngaire's neck.

Now onto something weaving related. I usually weave with an end feed shuttle and pirns, so when I was winding these bobbins I followed the same procedure as when I wind a pirn.When I wind my pirns I start off with the first bit of the yarn tucked into the hole in the pirn and then wind away….when I put the pirn on the end feed shuttle I just keep the wee bit tucked inside and away I go. This did not work with my bobbins….I was weaving away happily and then I came to a grinding halt….seriously, stopped dead in my tracks!

Seems that the wee bit of yarn didn’t stay tucked in as it does with a pirn, it wound itself tightly around the bobbin shaft on the shuttle and refused to budge.Lesson learned….clip that wee bit of sticking out yarn off before beginning to weaveI find it quite amazing that this tiny bit of yarn could cause me so much grief!