Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wrapping Up Loose Ends

In my last post I had warped the 2/20 hand painted silk that was sitting on pirns for yonks, and today I got the new scarf started and half woven. I didn’t use any of the wefts that I thought I would…I went basic and chose black because all of the other wefts hid the wonderful variegations in the silk.
I’ve chosen a pattern called ‘Twill Complication” and even though it’s on 4 shafts it’s a real looker and I wove half of the scarf today! This pattern is a delight to weave and I'm really getting a kick out of it.  I have plans to do it with some other silks because the pattern is very well behaved and allows the variegations to shine through and not be overwhelmed by the pattern.
Here is the draft for those of you that don’t have ‘A Handweavers Pattern Book’.

This last week has been a whirlwind of activity. I’m hoping to start the New Year with a clean slate and so I’ve decided to clean up some of my mistakes!

I pulled the failed shawl with black and brown handspun out of the drawer that I had stashed it in, you know ‘out of sight, out of mind’! I can’t bear to waste the yarn so I decided to deconstruct the shawl.
I started by unlacing the hemstitching on both ends and then pulled out each warp thread one by one.
This proved to be a much easier job than I had anticipated…for some reason the shawl didn’t full as much as I’d expected; this was a bane at the time, but a boon now as the warp threads just slid out. Can you spot the 'French Apple Tart' in the background?  It takes a lot of energy to pull apart a shawl and that is my reward! Although it’s hard to see I left just 2 warp threads in place to keep the weft in some kind of order while I made balls and this really helped hold it in place while I made the balls.
Here it is separated into its basic components just waiting for a better project that will turn the handspun into the show stopper it should be!

It's had to believe but we have been in our new house exactly one year today, so as a celebration I made one of our favourite appetizers to have with a bottle of 1996 Merlot.  This photo is before they have been cooked.
These are called Piedmont Roast Peppers and are amazingly easy to prepare and they are real showstoppers. Just cut as many peppers as you need in half and clear out all the seeds, but keep the stem intact. Then stuff it with a half of a fresh tomato and some garlic. Put a teaspoon of your very best olive oil into each one and then salt and pepper it. Bake at 375 F for about 40 minutes in a parchment paper lined pan and serve with a big hunk of crusty bread to soak up all the delicious juices…..soooooo good!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Week in the Middle and Nothing Complete

This has been one of those funny weeks, where I’m in the middle of everything and have nothing to show for the past few days.
I’m in the middle of twisting the fringes on my Drall scarves, which after pressing are stellar, if I do say so myself! Then the task of photographing them for the Etsy shop….ahhh never-ending.
I’m in the middle of the sleeves on Ngaires sweater and they seem to be dragging on forever, because I’m only doing about 20 rows in an evening…..sooooo slow!
And I’m in the middle of warping my loom with my next scarf. I’m using 2/20 silk that I hand dyed for another project. I had this silk wound on pirns for two years and thought that now was the time to free them up! I had enough on the pirns to make 173 ends 92 inches long ~ just enough for a 6 inch wide scarf sett at 28 ends per inch.
I’m still waffling about which weft yarn and colour to use….yup, still in the middle of making that decision too. The two balls in the photo are bombyx silk singles that I dyed for another project and the cones are tencel with the variegated silk (all that's left over from the warp) in front….just gonna have to weave a few picks of each before I can make the decision!
In the middle here too, these are the ‘geranium’ urns that we’ve tucked into the entranceway. I’ve anchored the little wire Christmas trees with bags of beach sand to keep them weighted so they don’t fly away in our rather gusty area of Vancouver Island and have just 3 tiny ornaments on each. The greenery was gleaned on our walks and really typifies the rain forest all around us.  We even had a bunch of small bulb white LED lights leftover to outline the door as Michael has switched over to those rather nostalgic multi-coloured big bulbs like we had in the '70s to do the roof line all around the house!  They make the house look so friendly!
I’ve been gearing up for Christmas baking; a rainy day is a good day to stay home and bake I think. Although we’ve only got the Christmas cakes done so far….I just loved the way this Pineapple Upside Down cake looks, it reminds me of 'Black-eyed Susan' flowers, so I thought I’d share a photo although the cake is loooong gone.
The plant of the week in my garden is the Lily of the Valley Shrub (Pieris japonica ‘Valley Rose’). This is an amazing shrub that looks great in every season. When I bought it last March the new leaves were hot pink and creamy white. Then they slowly turned green and now it’s setting the flowers which will bloom pearly white in a few months. There is a good reason why everyone has this in their garden here, it’s a real giver!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Free Form Drall Scarf

I’ve been thinking about how I make my weft plans, and have decided that I’m either way out to lunch with colour combos, or I’m a go with the flow kinda gal!

I had plans to make Blue Drall scarf number two into a light coloured scarf; I really wanted to show off the tropical blues….well that didn’t work out. So, flying by the seat of my pants yet again on weft colours! I tried to cross the warp with silver (made everything look dirty), cream (a whole bunch of blah), light green (killed the azure), light blue (washed it out), yellow (too clown) and none of them looked anything like my vision. So after pulling out all my weft choices its ……purple !
This scarf is the one with the purple weft and although it just came off the loom and hasn’t been washed, but it still looks good! It will definitely look more supple and have more sheen after wet finishing, twizzling and pressing.
Here is the one with the navy blue weft and I love, love, love it!
Hmmmm; side by side there really isn’t much difference and not what I had planned, but both of them are nice scarves nonetheless.
I’ve finished the body of Ngaires sweater and it turned out really well, I think this will be my new method of sweater construction from now on. I love the idea of not having to sew up side seams and I know everything is the same size…a real bonus!
I’ve just started the cuffs and I’m knitting them at the same time so I don’t end up with one arm longer than the other :). I wanted to knit them in the round too, but didn’t have the two sets of 4mm circular needles.

Today is an amazing sunny day after a few days of torrential rain and high winds so I popped out into the garden for my weekly photo shoot.
This is my very young Beautyberry Bush (Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’). The berries will become much bigger in the future and much more lilac ~ hopefully ~ if the deer stop nibbling!

Although there are many naysayers out there....I love Fruit Cake!  I started steeping the fruit last week in a mixture of brandy, sherry, port and liqueur.  I don't use that fake fruit, just raisins, prunes, apricots, dried cranberries and glace ginger.  It sat in the fridge and got a good shaking up daily.  So today I baked it and in a complete departure from the past ~ I used 8 mini loaf pans.  These are just large enough for a nibble for two with a chunk of aged white cheddar and a glass of Maderia....yummmmm
Looks pretty and smells fantastic!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Blue Drall

I’m moving along quite well with the Mediterranean blue Drall scarf. I’m at 60 inches and I’m still in love with this pattern! It’s so much fun to weave ~ you’ve gotta try it!
I try to make each motif area unique and I’m particularly pleased with this Fibonacci sequence you can see below.
There is enough warp left for one more scarf before I leave Drall behind for awhile. I’m tossing up weft ideas; I want the next scarf to be light coloured and to really highlight the azure blue, so it may be white, silver or pale green…..I can’t wait to get there and see what works best.

In the evenings while watching TV I’m knitting a sweater for Ngaire using my handspun wool. I got the wool when I was last in New Zealand and it’s a really lovely dusty pink and I spun it semi-worsted.
This is the pattern I’m using ~ I chose something really, really simple to show off the handspun and to make it a ‘no brainer’ knitting project for me.
Although the pattern has the fronts and back as separate pieces I’ve decided to knit them in one piece until I get to the raglan decreases. My plan gets a bit hazy then, but I’m thinking I can keep it all in one piece and knit each section with it’s own ball of yarn and then just knit the sleeves and collar separately……hmmmmm sounds good or a recipe for disaster, take your pick!
Every week I’ve shown something from my garden ~ this week it’s Fragrant Sweetbox (Sarcococca ruscifolia) that is just getting ready to flower.
This lovely evergreen shrub flowers in January and February and has the fragrance of vanilla. Can you see the berry? I can’t figure out who pollinated it last winter!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Done and Dusted!

This week has been both sunny and warm on Vancouver Island….well a few bouts of rain, but that’s what makes the leaves all shiny and clean, so I won’t complain! The Trumpeter Swans started arriving a couple of weeks ago and now I'm constantly delighted as they fly overhead in groups honking softly ~ so very beautifully white against the sky. And to top it all off I've had a really good weaving week! Ahhh life is good!

The forest green Drall scarf is finished, it is much prettier in real life than the photo shows ~ the various purples just glow against the dark green and when the light catches it, well stunning is the best word!
The iris purple Drall scarf is finished too and this one was soooooo hard to capture in the photos….I’ve really got to learn more about my camera! It really amazes me how just changing the weft can make such a difference. Where the green could be seen as a masculine scarf the iris purple is definitely feminine….best of both worlds!
I was a very busy bee and got all three of my table runners finished too….These turned out really well and I am always astounded how a good pressing makes all the difference.  These will listed in our Etsy shop this week, hopefully just in time to tempt the Christmas shoppers!
The new Drall warp is on the loom and I love, love, love the colours. I changed up the pattern a bit and extended the width of the colour stripes and moved the blocks around. I am still enjoying the ‘freeform weaving’, but this will be the last of it. Time to move on and try something new I think!
We found this amazing fungus in one of our sunny garden beds, what a pop of colour ~ Mother Nature has a wonderful design aesthetic lining up three different sizes of these ‘Orange Peel Fungus’ so beautifully don't you agree?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Having A Good Weaving Week!

I’ve got a new project on the loom, and it is such a pleasure to weave that I’m almost finished! I’m doing the happy dance on this one!

I put on a two scarf warp in 2/8 tencel; my colour inspiration came from this silk square that I’ve been wearing a lot lately with a red/violet sweater. Please excuse the awful photo, but night has fallen and you know what that does to photos!
The colours are forest green, turquoise, red/violet, red and purple with a bit of gold. I was trying to remember the last time I wove anything green and I honestly couldn’t, obviously it was about time. This is the warp that I came up with and you can see that I dropped the gold, turquoise and red.
This pattern is a 12 shaft Swedish Drall in forest green, purple, iris and red/violet.
With 12 shafts I’m able to get 3 different blocks. I chose to make the colour stripes different sizes and asymmetrical. To top it all off I’m doing ‘freeform’ weaving. The pattern is completely different on each side and of course I like the underneath side the best!
The weft for the first scarf is the same forest green as in the warp. I am not following a formal pattern; I’ve just made a few rules for myself to ensure that there is some continuity.

Rule #1 is that I don’t ever follow block 1 (1-2-3-4) by block 2 (5-6-7-8).
Rule #2 is that I always preface blocks 1 and 2 with at least 2 repeats of block 3 (9-10-11-12).  This is a really fun way to weave because you don't have to follow the pattern!
This is scarf number 2 and I’ve changed the weft from green to iris, which is a blue/purple which is also a colour stripe in the warp. I’ve switched up the weaving rules for this scarf too. I’m still using Rule #1 because it shows the motifs to their best advantage.
Rule #2 is also still in place but I weave at least 2 sequences of block 2 and block 3 sequentially before I do any of block 1. This sounds much more complicated than it is, believe me.
The selvedges on this scarf are beautiful and the weaving is so much fun that I’m planning another 2 scarves in Ming blue, Azure blue, Aquamarine, Straw and Navy for my next warp~ sounds like an exciting combination doesn’t it?
Our Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') in the front garden; which is actually a member of the lily family, has berries on it! I’m going to cut them off tomorrow and bury them along side the mother plant and hopefully they’ll grow by next spring!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Finishing Up

All three Snowflake Twill table runners are off the loom and the two longer ones are in need of a hem. I will be hemming them before I wash them as I’ve found that this is the best way to line everything up perfectly.

What's the difference between a table linen and any other length of textile? The answer in my mind is the border. When I plan a table runner or table square project I plan for a selvedge border that will compliment the centre motif and a hem that will mirror the selvedge border;  however I thread the selvedge is how I treadle the hem.  Which ever weave structure you use for your runner the border should also be woven in the same structure so that the take up is the same.  When you weave twill for example and then do a plain weave hem, the hem will be much wider than the twill fabric because the threads intersect more frequently in plain weave.
For this project I planned a selvedge border of 1 ½ inches in straight twill.  You can see 3 complete runs in the photo above; so to balance the selvedges I want a visible hem of 1 ½ inches.
First I machine zigzagged the edges before cutting the woven textile apart. I only do one run of stitching as I’ve found if you go over it a number of times it creates a noticeable lump in the hem, in this case ~ less is more.
On the two table runners that I was planning to hem I wove 4 ½ inches of straight run twill at each end.
I weave 3 times the length of the hem so that it can be turned over twice evenly. If it’s not evenly folded, a line will telegraph through the hem and leave a weird mark when you press the hem.
This is the right side of the runner and you can see that the selvedge and the hem are essentially the same width and there is a square of straight twill at the corner.
Here's runner # 1 ~It’s quite funny that this pattern is in the November/December 2012 issue of Handwoven on page 27 ~ I’m going with ‘great minds think alike’!  Just imagine how nice it will look after it's washed.
This is runner #2 and is treadled with Ngaires pattern. Both of the runners pressed and pinned and ready to hemstitch and the third was too short to hemstitch, so it’s got a twisted fringe. 
This is runner #3....I used a completely different weft and the Sesame Street tune of 'one of these things is not like the others' keeps running through my head!  The weft is a cotton and linen blend that has some lumps and bumps so there is a lot of texture and slight fuzzyness.  It's the same, but completely different!

Friday, October 19, 2012

One Wild Week

This was a very hectic week around here….and of course it was the weaving time that took the brunt of the time crunch. 
I did manage to get the first of the three table runners woven and I’m really happy with the result. This is the end of the runner with the 3 inches of border showing for the hem.
The black and ecru are a classic combination for a very good reason, it just looks great and I can’t wait to weave variation #2, the diamonds in two sizes that Ngaire developed and wove - shown below.  My runner will be longer, narrower, have no fringe and be in a different colour with an ecru border....the same, but different!
My excuse for not weaving is that; ( I feel like a kid and it’s the old ‘my dog ate my homework’ trick), my husband Michael got called on Tuesday and had knee surgery on Wednesday! We had just a few hours to: move the freezer, clean the garage, winterize the fig trees, put away the garden furniture and buy a TV and set it up in the master suite…..a very busy afternoon. The next morning we received a call and his 2 pm surgery was moved to 10 am, so we were doubly glad that we didn’t leave any of the tasks for another day!

His surgery went very well and he’s happily ensconced in his ‘big blue lazyboy chair’ while his favourite CBC radio program plays.  Yup, he's in the same situation as Susan at Thrums husband Bruce, right down to the same knee!

Oh, one more thing he got done on Tuesday was that he mounted my Leclerc Electric Bobbin winder which had been in storage since last October. We had been brainstorming like mad to think of the perfect spot for it and coming up blank, every spot was either in the way, not near an electric outlet, too high, too low...well you get the idea.  Then Michael wandered into the studio and spotted my Leclerc Holds All and it was one of those Eureka moments! It looks like it was made to fit there, and probably was, duhhhhh!
We have been having stunning weather around here and my geranium baskets are still looking pretty good, I'm going to leave them up until it's time to decorate for Halloween if they keep on blooming!
The white alyssum is still in bloom and the fragrance of honey is amazing as soon as you walk out the door, the front garden is looking pretty good and I am holding off on winterizing it too.
We pulled out the tomatoes last week, but we still have this great pot of chili peppers. The small ones are Thai hot peppers and the big ones are Spanish sweet peppers.
Amazingly they shared a pot and both did very well for not being in the ground.