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Monthly Archives: January 2016

January in Colour

It has been a busy couple of weeks chez moi. I’ve been spinning up a storm, knitting a fair bit, and planning future weaving projects. I’m not sure what has brought on this creative surge, but it is certainly welcome in the dark days of January. My little world is a colourful one at the moment.

The two spinning projects that I’ve been working on have each included experimental techniques, as far as I’m concerned anyway. The first is a singles yarn, unusual in my repertoire because this is only the third such yarn I’ve made in over six years of spinning. The first was a complete disaster, seeming to have enough twist to hold, but falling apart after skeining it up and wet finishing. Many, many little pieces of Gotland wool. So sad. I’d thought I had achieved a beautiful fuzzy laceweight yarn, but it was not to be. Nine or ten months later, I had another go at it, this time using Wensleydale wool top, reputed to be the ideal fibre for a singles yarn. Spun up beautifully, seemed stable….until I was knitting with it. Of course, it was a complex pattern and I was on a deadline as it was a pattern test for the designer. It was horrifying to watch some portions of my yarn disintegrate before my eyes several rows of knitting below my needles. Let’s just say there was some colourful language uttered. And a lot of spit splicing.

So why would I embark on another yarn of this type after two unsuccessful attempts? Stupidity, I guess, and more than a little stubbornness. The last try was almost five years ago and I’ve gained quite a lot of experience in the intervening time. Also, just look at this fibre:

IMG_0834The high proportion of silk and the intense dyes make it positively glow. It would, in my opinion, be muddied by plying. I wanted to retain the amazing dye painting and not risk having plies of more than one colour. While that is often my goal as I love barberpoled yarns, I couldn’t do it this time. Additionally, I thought that the gradient colourway was worth preserving. Figuring that a fingering weight would be the most versatile for my use, I dove in. It took me just over a week to spin this up and the experience was simply delightful. This was the most incredibly seductive blend of fibres that I’ve ever laid my hands on.

After a bit of trouble getting a sense of the correct amount of twist to insert for the diameter yarn I wanted, I was off to the races. Five ounces of fibre rapidly disappeared. Then came the tricky part. Most sources advise that this type of yarn be fulled, that is, slightly felted. It is soaked in hot water with soap, treated roughly, dunked into cold water and back into hot….generally everything one is told to never, ever do with wool. You have to stop this process at exactly the right time to ensure that your yarn has integrity without turning it into a messy pile of felt. More than a bit nerve wracking, I can assure you. Even as it was drying, I was not convinced that I hadn’t just ruined the entire thing. Once completely dry, however, I had a plump silky yarn with a glorious sheen. I’ve not yet decided what its eventual fate will be. In the meantime, I will just enjoy looking at it. And perhaps touching it.

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The other yarn I’ve been working on is the same weight and diameter, however it is composed of three separate plies. In order to make this, I had to spin three exceptionally fine singles and then spin them together, twisting in the opposite direction. However, I had to play and not do it “by the book”. I wanted to mix the colours up a bit, so I took out my hackle, which has not seen any action for several years.

As you can see, blending the colours in this fashion results in some optical blending, softening their intensity. When spun, you get very short colour runs. I only did this to the fibre in one ply of the three and it created quite an interesting colour play. I will be very interested to see how this knits up, as it is destined for a pair of socks.

There is another spinning project waiting in the wings. This will be a larger one, hopefully a sweater quantity. I have these rather bright braids of Falkland wool that I bought in a weak moment without the slightest idea as to what I would do with them. They really aren’t my thing as they stand, but toned down by combining with a natural brown Shetland, they may just be perfect.

A pair of colourwork socks are on the needles, another technique that I’m revisiting after a long absence. The last stranded knitting I did was very successful and I was hoping this would be as well. There isn’t as much contrast in the yarns as there should be; however, I am continuing with it simply because I like it. I’m also casting on for a lace shawl in the near future. With beads and a wintery sparkly yarn.

Today I took an inkle weaving workshop through the guild, which was a huge amount of fun. I’m hoping to make some guitar and yoga straps for the Etsy shop. I’m also beginning a series of towel projects on the floor loom and working on selecting a colour palette. I’ll show these in a future post.

So, what have you been up to during these first weeks of the new year?

I’m Still Here….I think

A chance conversation with a friend recently reminded me that I haven’t written in such a long time. She was telling me that she really enjoyed reading my blog and why wasn’t I still doing it? Well, I guess life just happened. 2015 was quite a year. At this end of it, my overall impression is that it was a horrible year, worse than 2014, full of stress and anguish, but that is not a fair assessment. Plenty of good things happened, but they have tended to be overshadowed by the difficult days.

Let me get it out in the open at the outset. My father had a bout of pneumonia in the late spring and the cough just wouldn’t go away. When he went to the doctor at my mother’s insistence, she sent him for a scan (CT scan? I’m not entirely sure.) and they discovered a mass on one lung and several others in different spots. He was losing weight, had no appetite and no energy. After further tests, a biopsy was done on his lung in mid-August. A week later, we were sitting in a room at the Cancer Centre of Eastern Ontario with a radiation oncologist who told us that Dad had stage IV lung cancer that had spread to several other parts of his body, and that radiation could only manage some of the symptoms. What she didn’t say was that his days were very limited. Less than two weeks later, on September 2nd, he passed away after a couple of days in hospital.

This has been an incredibly stressful time. Because my parents didn’t want to worry anyone, I was the only family member who knew for quite some time. And I suppose that is only because I coincidentally had been at their home a fair bit during July when he was having tests done. I went with them to the hospital for the biopsy and to his first meeting with the oncologist. I encouraged them to let family in on what was happening, but they were reluctant to do so. And it wasn’t my news to tell. This dragged on in the case of my father’s only brother – he finally was told only the day before my father died and only because my sisters and I insisted. Mom hadn’t yet accepted that he was ill.

So I have been spending quite a bit of time with my mother, assisting her in handling the myriad of details that one must handle when someone passes away. This has not been without its challenges, but I believe it has all been taken care of at this point. Mom will soon have to make decisions as to her living arrangements, as they were living in our home and we will be returning to it shortly. She is certainly not well-equipped to live alone in a rural setting and has health issues that would best be served in a larger community.

Before all this happened, I was happily learning more and more about weaving. I took a number of workshops through the guild and expanded my repertoire, intending on spending the summer weaving like a maniac and stocking an Etsy shop. Yeah. Didn’t happen. But that is my focus for this winter…just a small postponement. A dyeing class in June was a lot of fun and has given me plenty of ideas for future projects. My guild activity has increased exponentially over the course of the year, as I accepted the position of studio manager. This was a joint position at first, but has become a solo responsibility. As our guild has over 200 members and an active workshop and social schedule, it is keeping me very busy.

I also undertook in May and June to knit a stunning laceweight, beaded shawl for my soon-to-be daughter-in-law. The wedding was on July 3. Welcome to the family, Kevan! My son and his new wife have relocated to Ontario from Alberta, which means that we have been able to spend more time with them.

Another highlight of the year was travelling to Millersville, PA, to attend the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association’s weekend of workshops with several friends from the guild. We had an absolute blast and I learned an incredible amount studying with a renowned weaver, Inge Dam, from just north of Toronto. The class I took was incorporating a tablet woven band into woven fabric. Like this:

IMG_0549After wet-finishing the yardage, the holes close up and it simply becomes a integral part of the fabric. We also learned how to add a band to the edges of the fabric piece. I’m looking forward to playing with this technique to create some unique items.

Our youngest son has embarked on a creative career as well this year. He enrolled in a luthier course with Sergio DeJong, who studied under Larrivée. He turned our garage into a woodworking studio and has been fortunate enough to sell his first few guitars.

workingIn the process, I am learning far more about guitar construction and wood than I ever thought possible (or wanted to know). An offhand comment has led him to start using some of his wood bits to make small weaving tools, such as shuttles. They sold very well at fibre festivals in the late summer and fall. My planned Etsy shop has been opened and, so far, only contains his work. But not for long!

At present, I’m working on learning Fiberworks, a computer programme for weavers. It also drives my new-to-me loom. (Okay, so not that new. I’ve had it for a year already.) My first project, a scarf, was finished just before Christmas and is awaiting many hours of fringe twisting to finish it.

IMG_0750There are the usual bumps in the road, but it is coming along surprisingly well. I hope to spend many happy hours throwing a shuttle on this loom.

I hope that this coming year is a quiet one, filled with lots of creativity. May 2016 be a good one for all of us.