Sunday, May 24, 2020

When Things Go Wrong

sylvia's warp
They say that we learn from our mistakes and that experience is a great teacher.  What they don't say is that some of those mistakes lead to unpleasant experiences that are etched into our memories and that most of us would prefer to learn without the pain.
They also say that necessity is the mother of invention, that adversity builds charachter, and that the creative process should allow for serindipity.  They say a lot.
So, the subject of this blog is what to do when things go wrong.  If you are a knitter you might undo your knitting and start over.  If you are a weaver you might cut the yarn off the loom and trash it.  If your dye job doesn't work you can over dye the piece.  What follows are some "didn't quite work as I had planned it" stories.
back of loom

First look at the beautiful strip pattern in the warp above.  It consists of mix of cotton and linen yarns and was designed for a series of tea towels.  Now take a look at the second photo from the back of the loom.  The linen warp threads did not stretch but the cotton warp threads did.  The weaver was determined to create a set of tea towels no matter how many bottles of pennies that it took.  This is an example of true determination.

 Sylvia's cowl with button accent
Sometimes we end up with a shorter piece of weaving than we had planned on.  Maybe it was a miscalculation or possibly there was a problem with the weaving that meant we didn't have enough yarn.  So what do you do with a "short" scarf.  Well turn it into a fashionable cowl.  Add some buttons for accent and you'd never know it was planned that way from the start.

poncho from hand spun yarn

The poncho show on the left was knitted from hand spun wool.  It started as a gift of black fleece that was spin using a drop spindle.  The spinner, Jetty, soon realized that there would not be enough of the black yarn to make anything so she added coloured yarn from her stash and kept knitting until she had two long but narrow pieces.  To make it into a top she added the grey yarn as an accent and added ties to close the sides. 

back of vest

Linda's vest front
It is always traumatic when you cut into your hand woven yardage, especially when you have a limited amount.  Linda intended to use her woven yardage for the front of the vest but a cutting error forced her to improvise so we have this interesting blend of fabric on the front and an accent piece on the back.

rainbow wool rug

Gill was disappointed with the shape of this rug done in a soumak technique.  The weft material is hand dyed, hand spun wool that came with the counter balance loom she bought.
She changed her technique for the second rug.  If you look closely the rows resemble knitting.  The second rug is a perfect rectangle and makes a lovely floor covering.

Gill's rug

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Tips and Tricks

Angela's hand spun yarn
As part of our learning experiences our guild had planned to have a forum on tips and tricks.  Since we aren't able to meet in our studio space we are going to do some sharing via this blog.
Members have sent in some of their observations, their favourite solutions to common problems and of course warnings on things that can go wrong.
The tips cover various fibre arts interests.

Spinning:  Spin all your chosen fibre before deciding on the next stage (plying).  Often as you are spinning it, the fibre will "tell" you how it wants to be plyed, whether 2 or 3 play would be best or even whether to ply it with another fibre for the best colour or texture result.  (Maggie)
Jackie's record cards

Some spinners start with a specific project in mind and spin the yarn for that project.  Many spinners will just spin to see how the colours and fibres blend.  In that case the yarn sits on the shelf until the perfect project appears.  If the latter applies to you then you will appreciate this tip on record keeping.  For handy reference Jackie keeps a card file with a sample of the yarn plus information about the fibre, preparation, twist and ply, wraps per inch, the date and comments.  Sometimes the most valuable record is in the comments including "Love it" and "Don't ever do this again".

Once the weather warms up and sunshine is in the forecast then you might like to try your hand at "Solar Dyeing".  Here are some instructions from Sylvia.  Half fill a 1 gallon glass jar with water.  Add 1/2 cup of vinegar and put yarn or fibre into the liquid (don't over pack it).  Sprinkle powdered dye(s) on top of the wet yarn.  Without mixing close the top and leave the jar in a sunny spot preferably on stones or concrete that will radiate heat. (but where it won't get knocked over)  The dye will move through the fibre to the bottom of the jar.  Leave it all day in the sunshine.  The next day check the fibre.  If there are white spots add more dye and repeat the process.  This is an easy peasy way to create a lovely variegated piece of art.

Marie's  dye disaster
More on dyes.  They have a "best before date" just like food.  Some dyes are more stable than others in both their dry form and when in solution.  Always check the suppliers information about stability and always write the date you purchased the dye or the date you made up the stock on the container.  If the dye has deteriorated you may get colour in the dye bath but it won't stick to the yarn.
The scarf in the picture was painted with a 3 different dyes.  The dye that was used in the grey area was past its "best before date".

Every weaver weaves a rug at some point.  A good rug is more difficult to achieve than it appears.  A good rug is tightly woven, has even edges and lays flat on the floor.  Here are some tips on how to achieve a tight weave.  Lay in your weft, press the beater bar forward against the weft, change sheds and beat hard several times before laying in the next weft.  If your loom walks then face it towards a wall and put a piece of plywood between the loom and the wall so the plywood butts to the wall and the loom rests against it.  If your beater is light then add a metal bar to the backside of the beater bar.  If the weft still will not "beat in" then your denting is probably too tight. (Linda R)

To maintain the width use a temple.  There are metal temples made for rug weaving but they have teeth that dig into the cloth.  You can make a temple with a pair of alligator clamps attached to weights.  Check on line sources for "clip temples".  They are easier on the cloth and won't rip into your fingers and hands. (Linda R)

Weavers use a variety of gadgets to maintain the tension on floating selvedge threads or replacement threads.  Terry suggests using Bob-eez, a product designed to hold threads for beading.  The threads won't tangle and come off the bobbin smoothly while the bobbin is easy on the thread.  She adds an S hook for weight.  If you have a group of hanging threads they will tend to tangle.  To reduce tangling punch holes (one per thread) in a piece of cardboard and thread the yarn through the hole so that the cardboard is between the container with the yarn and the back of the loom.  The cardboard will keep the yarns separated.  (Jackie)

Here is one for the knitters.  Swatch, swatch, swatch!  This is even more important when you are using hand spun yarn.  You can learn about the feel, look and drape of the fabric that you want to create.  You can experiment with stitch patterns and discover which one best suits the yarn.  Block your swatches as you would a finished item.  A small investment in time can save you from making a bad decision. (Maggie)

 Fringes are important to the overall design of a piece and should be constructed with the same attention to detail as the body of the piece.  Before you start to twist, braid or knot the fringe you need to cut the fringe threads to the same length.  You'll need a hair pick, clear 2" packing tape, a permanent marker and a flat rigid ruler.  Lay one end of your cloth on a flat surface.  Using the hair pick comb the threads so they are straight and parallel to each other.  Roughly measure the length that you want, let's say 7".  Now place the clear tape across the fringe parallel to the hemstitched edge so that the width of the tape is roughly centred on 7".  Press the tape so the threads are stuck to it.  This will stop the scissors from shifting the threads as you cut.  Keeping your ruler parallel to the fringe threads, measure 7" from the hemstitched edge.  Mark the tape at this point.  Continue at intervals across the width of the cloth.  Now you have a cutting line marked on the tape.  Cut along the marked line and remove the tape.  The cut ends will stick to the tape for easy clean up. (Pat C)

We will finish with finishing!  If you are a knitter you'll know about blocking and why that is so important.  If you are a weaver you should have heard the phrase "it is not finished until it is (wet) finished".  Before selling or gifting an item you must wash or wet finish the item as you would expect the owner to do.  If it shrinks an excessive amount or if its characteristics change in an unexpected manner then it is better for you to find out then for a friend or customer to find out.  Rag or Jeans rugs are no exception to this rule.

Have Fun! Stay Sane!  Think of all the Christmas presents you've already made!