Friday, December 31, 2010

Guess I'm not a big girl, or . . .

So I sat down and spun up the silk Roberta gave me.  It was only 1 oz. but I took my time and tried to do it right.  Especially since I decided to be a "big" girl and use the wheel, not the drop.  There are a few places the twist is not a tight as it should be, the few thin spots, but all in all - not a bad job.  I debated whether to 2 ply  or chain ply (Navajo ply is not PC mind you) it.  I decided to chain ply from the bobbin.

I should have put it in a ball first.

So there I was, DVD in the machine and I'm happily plying away when, snap!  my thread breaks.  I carefully stop the wheel, lay the chain out over the hooks so I can come back and pick up where I left off, and looked at my bobbin.  I can't find the end.  I know what color to look for (it was in the reds) but I can't find it.  I remembered someone told me how using scotch tape can "lift" the end of the silk.  It didn't work.  I have carefully followed many threads around and around but I don't know it I'm going in the right direction.

And still no end in sight.

Next step - just break it somewhere and try to wind it into a ball.  And it was looking so pretty too.

Happy New Year - I'm going to go play with my loom for a while.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's just worm spit!!

One of my favorite fiber is silk.  Silk in any form: top, sliver, cap.  Dyed, or natural.  I love the way it spins, the luster, the feel.  But I usually spin it on a drop.  With a drop I have more control and I'm always afraid that if the thread breaks and gets sucked up on the bobbin and Ican't find the end, then what do I do?  OK there are some tricks you can use to try and find the end, but what if they don't work?  Nevertheless, I decided it was time to move up to "big girl" status and use the wheel.  So in went "Casino Royale" (with Daniel Craig - heart be still) and I sat down and relaxed.

The silk I decided to play with is 100% Bombyx Combed Top that Roberta brought me back when she was at SOAR.  She got it from Royale Hare and the color is Pacific Garnet - HEY!!  Royale Hare - Casino Royale.  And January is my birth month - the stone is Garnet!!!  This silk was meant for me to have!!!

The pictures don't show the vibrant colors from dark red to purple to teal blue.  Now, what to do with it when I'm finished.

Another skein Roberta got me was a wool / silk blend from  It is 95% Merino and 5% silk.  The color is called Bonsai Pine (I love greens).

I'm also a bit of a magpie and the skein was loosely wrapped in gold and green eyelash yarn.  I love it!! and of course I had to save the sparkly yarn - for some other project down the road.  I'm thinking of some kind of designer yarn for this batch.  Maybe find a dark green silk to ply in it.  Guess I'll have to experiment (oh hurt me.  Make me play with colors, textures and fibers!) By the way - I spun this while watching Lord of the Rings - Return of the King.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My wheel went to SOAR and all I got . . .

SOAR or Spin-Off Autumn Retreat happened the end of October and my friend Roberta was going.  But she needed a wheel that could travel, so I offered the use of my Joy.

My wheel learned a lot and I hope I can learn from it.  And she even came home with prezzies!!!  Roberta got me a couple of ounces of this really nice green and white wool / silk blend.  It spins up nicely.  After spinning up about half of it, I switched over to the silk sliver - brightly colored in red, blues and purples.  I love silk and usually spin it on a drop, but I thought I'd give the wheel a try (since she's been to school and all).  I'll try to remember to take some pictures this weekend.

On Black Friday, I had some people over for dyeing. It was a little chilly but there was about 9 of us.  We had a good time.  We focused on commercial dyeing techniques.  One is called "dust" dyeing.  You take powered dye (in this case Cushing dyes), place it and an equal amount of corn starch in a salt shaker.  blend well.  To use, in a large chaffing pan over medium heat (to start) add enough water to float your fiber (yarn of roving).  you then shake the dye on to the fiber.  Not just 1 colors, but 3, 4, 8 different colors and watch them blend.  Add a good dash of vinegar and the heat should be hot but not boiling.  You don't mix the fiber around, but you make sure all the dye gets in the water, so you end up with a yarn or roving that has wonderful color.  It's not spaced dyed, more of a blended colors.  The fun part is depending on the color you use, you might muddy the colors, some of the dyes are made of 2 colors that "break" at different temps, so instead of getting a green, you get shades of blues and yellows instead.  I need to play more with this method.

Yarns floating in dyes



The second technique we did was painting the roving or yarns.  Using Jacquard Acid Dye, you paint the fiber and then wrap it well in plastic wrap and then use steaming or microwaving the fiber to set the colors.  I did some cotton rug warp that most of the colors washed out.  I may not have nuked it long enough.

Debbie left a lot of white on this skien

I was digging through my stash "O stuff for this party and found a lot of thin yarns (silk and / or cotton) and I think I'll ply it and then dye it to see what I end up with.  Maybe I"ll use it then.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Designer Yarns or How to cover your mistakes

For some time now I've wanted to try designer yarns.  And I've been lucky that Spin-Off magazine has run some "How to . . . "s for designer yarns.  That and the book "Spinning designer yarns".  A few years back I found a really nice color fiber named "Copper King", or "Copper Mine" (don't have it handy at the moment) and wanted to spin it up with beads (gold glass beads would look really cool).  So I spun up 1 4oz bag and then set it aside for a while (OK - I got married, then we bougtht the house, and other things happened).  Well, after 3 years, I've finally got everything together and started spinning up the 2nd 4oz bag, using the beads as a diz (of sorts), then plyed the 2 strands together.

Things I've learn with this skien:
1.  I spin thinner than the bead oriface.  I don't really need to add the beads on as I'm spinning.  I could get away with loading the beads on as I'm plying.

2.  It didn't matter where I "placed" the beads.  I rearranged them as I plied.  Mainly because as I released the tension and loaded the yarn onto the bobbin, the beads would get caught on the hooks and pile up, so I had to move them around later.

3.  Leave a few yards of unadorned yarn and the beginning and the end of the skiens.  That way, if the yarn is used in knitting or crohet, there is an amount of yarn to get the project going.

I'm going to finish the project and try it again with larger beads /stone chips and maybe with a little more contrast in the colors.  You can barely see the gold beads in my skien.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Latest bag

OK - so I've been a bum.  And busy.  I've been spinning up a storm to get enough skiens to do some dyeing, which I was able.  But I wanted to FINALLY post a picture of the last bag I made.

So here is a picture of Bjo's bag - woven from her natural dyed yarns:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Old Yarns

So let me continue the story.  I can tell it now that the event is over. 

John and Bjo (of Griffin Dyeworks) holds a fiber retreat once a year here in So. Cal.  This year they had to go out of state due to family business and left Roberta, Debbie and I to run it.  On top of that, they pointed to a bunch of boxes and said they were for the retreat.  So the three of us went through the boxes and there were a bunch of yarns that had been dyed with natural colors.  And we couldn't just let them sit there, never to see the light of day.  So we took them and decided to make Bjo a viking bag out of them.

When we gave it to her, she was, of course, surprised and thrilled.  I will have to post a picture of the finished bag later.  Now my stash of hand spun wool is completed depleted and I need to get spinning more.  There is a camping event coming up the second weekend of October (Great Western War - SCA, Kingdom of Caid) and Bjo will be there and she will have dye pots going.  Let's see how many skeins I can get finished.

Roberta has gone to a couple of Mountain Men events and said they would go crazy over handwoven belts and sashes.  Especially if you use natural dyes, so I've been Googling Native American colors and the plants that need to be used.  Now I have to find those plants around here.  There are many washes and back canyons I could go to, but it's not safe to go by myself.  About a month ago I could have gathered elder berries, but the rattlesnake danger was high and my beloved preferred I not go until we get better clothes and boots.  I still need to gather the leaves and bark, so maybe when it cools down (its still in the 90's)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grades of wool

Well I finally did it!  I've finally got the "studio" up and going - sort of.  OK so it is somewhat organized.  And the small loom doesn't have stuff draping all over it.  And most of the weaving / spinning / basket / paper / rubberstamp stuff is in one area (mostly).  GriffinCliffe Designs is now open!!!! Maybe.

So a few months ago a friend handed me a bag of wool yarn (colored) and said "make somethingout of this".  OK - When do you want it by?   Mid Sept was the answer - which is sort of this weekend!!  So last night, while watching "Stardust" for the umpteenth time, I broke out the warping board, the yarn and commeced warping off my threads.  All the yarn is this HUGE rough wool rug yarn, just like the stuff I began weaving with.  It was cheap, 100% wool and long lasting (I still have some pillows I made 20+ years ago).  The only bad part was, one color had bugs (you know - the "sand") and another color, someone had used to much alum as a mordent and the wool was rotten.

After I got over my panic of the "sand" I came up with enough stuff to weave another one of the bags.  I figured I'd use the small floor loom to welcome it back home after being foster out for the last 10 years or so.  Like I said - the yarn is THICK!  I used a 6 dent reed and everything is nice and close. 

So Sunday evening I was able to warp the threads (only 90 so it wasn't that difficult) and I threaded the reed.  This morning I got up and took everything out the the garage - I mean the studio and dressed the loom.  Now this loom was my first. I got it from a Braille school in Oragne County for a small donation some 20+ years ago.  It's been a great loom - only 20 inches wide, simple 4 harness, and no brake.  I've tied a rope around the cloth beam to act as a brake.  It servces the purpose.

I got the loomed dressed and had my foundation woven in by lunch.  The the problem.  I really should have gone with a black of even a grey as the weft, But I know I don't have much of either, so I went with white.  I think a darker weft would have enhanced the natural dyed yarns, but what can you do.  And as I still need to weave the strap for it, I wasn't going to have time to spin up a balck weft.

I finshed weaving about 4PM and finsihed my day watching a movie with the husband.  You've got to relax nd snuggle occasionally.

More pictures later in the week

OH!!! About the grade of wool!!!  I have been weaving with a variety of wools for the past 10 years and had forgotten how rough rug wool is.  In fact, I think its rougher then the black welsh mountain fleece I have to spin up.  And what yarns are left over are currently sitting in teh freezer.  I better tell the hubby about them.

What's black and white and red all over?

I spent three days last week up in Seattle so I pushed to get the viking bag woven and off the loom. When I got home I washed the material and the strap so it would full a little (or shrink) and here's what I got.

It's funny how all three colors had shrunk at different levels. Guess I'll have to give the material a good steam pressing before I sew it up.

I'm deciding I'm not a big fan of ridged heddle looms. They're great for travelling with and teaching on, but I don't get a tight tension on it and then there are the bruises on the belly where the loom rests, I'm going to use the floor and table looms as much as possible.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Three Color Weft

So it's been three days since I've worked on the rigid heddle loom project.  Saturday was shot as we spent the day out in a park with friends in Monrovia in the heat.  We left the park about 3:30PM, went home to quick, cool showers and about 5:30 headed for the Hollywood Bowl where we met other friends and listened to the LA Philharmonic's Tchaikovsky Spectacular (with fireworks).  It was a LLLLOOOONNNNNGGGG night.  The next morning I drove back to Monrovia to set up what is called a Fiber Playday.  This is where myself and two other ladies (who started it) set up a table or two and have weaving and spinning stuff about in case someone would like to learn or try their hand at the fiber side of life.  Got home about 3PM from there and meant to lay down for an hour or so.  It was the "or so".  The weather here has hit over 100 degrees.  I decide to play on the computer instead of weave.

So here we are, Tuesday night and I've got the bag going again.  Now I've woven with random stripes quite often.  In fact I like doing random stripes of color and one color weft, but I decided to do a three color weft.<sigh>. 9PM, I look at my stripes and instead of going white, red, black, white, red, black; I went white, red, black, white, black.  Penelope time again.

But I decided to take a picture of what I've done so far.

Now the inkle band for the strap I really like how it turned out.  It was basically a 5, 3, 1, 1, 3, 5 warpping though after the 5th warp of the one color, I warpped one thread of the second color and then warpped one thread of the first color and then 5 of the second color.  Confusing right?  OK - here:  A,A,A,A,A,B,A,B,B,B,B,B,C,B,C,C,C,C,C,A,A,A,B,B,B,C,C,C,A,B,C,C,B,A,C,C,C,B,B,B,A,A,A,C,C,C,C,C,B,C,B,B,B,B,B,A,B,A,A,A,A,A,

Understand now?  It's fiber geek talk!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Penelope Factor

So let me tell you a story:

I have this old ridged heddle loom, well it really belongs to a friend, but I've been using and teaching off it
for about 2 - 3 years now, and the back beam and cloth beam have been badly warped from use (and tight tension).  Well, last May at the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat (shameful plug there), Woody, one of the  men there offered to repair it by making new beams. So at the Fiber Frolic (also sponsored by Griffin Dyeworks) earlier this month, he replaced the beams. Now, did I finish weaving on the project I had on the loom? NO! I didn't make the time and figured, I'd just retie the warp on the new beams.

I didn't realize just how badly the old beams were warpped. And because of the warpping, not all the threads went where they were suppose to when I changed sheds. Thus the Penelope Factor was born.

OK - for those of you who weren't into the Greek Classics;

In Homer's Odyssey, Penelope is the faithful wife of Odysseus, who keeps her suitors at bay in his long absence and is eventually rejoined with him. She waits twenty years for the final return of her husband, during which she has a hard time snubbing marriage proposals from 108 odious suitors. On Odysseus's return, disguised as an old beggar, he finds that Penelope has remained faithful. She has devised tricks to delay her suitors, one of which is to pretend to be weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus's elderly father Laertes and claiming that she will choose a suitor when she has finished. Every night for three years, she undoes part of the shroud, until some unfaithful maidens discover her secret and reveal it to the suitors

So I spent about 2 hours (over 2 evenings) taking out the weaving and re-warpping the loom. I had hope to finish the piece and deliver it to the new owner, but she will have to wait and few more weeks.