Saturday, January 24, 2009

Make hay while the sun shines

...or for the modern-day blogger, make photos while the sun shines.

I like to take my photos in strong, natural sunlight. That's why the background of most of my fiber projects is the picnic table in my back yard. But strong, natural sunlight has been a scarce occurrence around here lately. The cloudy, gloomy winter days have far outnumbered the clear, sunny ones. So even though I've finished a number of projects, the blog has been neglected because I couldn't get any good pictures.

This afternoon, the sun finally came out! I grabbed the camera, and an armload of projects, and ran outside. But as soon as I got set up, the sun vanished again.

I took everything back indoors, and as soon as I did, the sun came out again.

So back outdoors I went, where I managed to get a quick set of photos taken. I'll be so glad when spring comes, and the sun returns with it!

So ... let's see what we've got.

First, some weaving projects. When I put up my last post, my first woven scarf was still on the loom. Here it is, all finished.

The edges gradually got more even as I worked, slowly getting the knack of making a neat selvedge. I think it's fairly nice for a first project.

For my second project -- another scarf -- I got more adventurous and started experimenting with color patterns. This scarf is woven in two shades of Valley Yarns Stockbridge yarn, periwinkle and chocolate.

This houndstooth check was much easier than I would ever have guessed -- I just alternated two strands of periwinkle with two strands of chocolate in both the warp and the weft. Here's a closeup of the checks.

The next challenge was to try a new fiber and a looser weave. This lightweight little scarf follows directions in the book Weaving Made Easy. It's actually two scarves layered on top of one another.

One uses Kidsilk Haze in "heavenly" for both the warp and weft, while the other uses that same Kidsilk Haze for the warp with a weft of Kidsilk Night in "moonlight." The Kidsilk Night is a new yarn for me -- basicaly Kidsilk Haze with a little bit of sparkle in it. It's really beautiful.

And there's been knitting, too. I continue to work on the Kusha Kusha scarf that seems like it will never be done. Where did I ever get the idea that knitting with thread would be fun? Oh right -- it's because the result is so stunning. I've also finished the knitting portion of the Pillow of Sei Shonagon, and am working on the sewing part.

Some projects have even gotten finished. I found out over the holidays that my niece was going to have a baby, so of course I had to knit something tiny and adorable. I turned to one of my very favorite knitting books, Knitalong. You really should seek out this book if you haven't seen it before -- I find myself wanting to make nearly everything in it, and it's enjoyable reading as well. I finally had a reason to make the adorable Victorian Baby Bonnet.

This sweet little hat took only a couple of nights to make, and the lace pattern is very simple to follow. This one is knit in Rowan RYC silk cotton, in "cucumber," with the edging knit in "peat." Since the contrast color is used for only one row of edging, I had nearly a full ball of brown left. The obvious use for it was to make another hat, this one brown with green edging.

For now, I'm working on a pair of socks -- I'm the 8 millionth person to try out the "Monkey" pattern. Maybe I'll manage to get a photo on the next sunny day.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A new fiber arts adventure

The book Intertwined has a couple of interesting woven projects using handspun, non-traditional yarns -- a scarf and a vest. Ever since I first saw them, I've been intrigued by the idea of weaving with my handspun yarns. I was curious about the way that non-traditional yarns might look in a woven fabric, and it also seemed like a good way to make small amounts of handspun go farther than with knitting.

So my Christmas wish list this year included a 24-inch Kromski Harp Loom.

Of course, it didn't quite look like this when I found it under the tree -- it took about two hours to go from looking like a box of loom parts to looking like an actual loom. Even with the instructional video, I found it pretty confusing to assemble, but eventually managed to get all the parts in the right place.

I knew I was going to be in the neighborhood of Webs a few days later, so I decided to pick up some yarn there for my first couple of projects. Yarn choice was my first weaving challenge -- with knitting, I'm generally using one yarn at a time, so I'm not used to having to envision how two different yarns will look when worked together. After a full hour in the store, I finally settled on yarn for three scarves. I've got some robin's egg blue and chocolate brown baby alpaca, a pink/brown/cream variegated to mix with pink and brown solids. And for my first project, I picked out two skeins of Cascade heather, in colors 9451 Lake Chelan and 9452 Summer Sky.

It's not exactly an adventurous combination, but it does look pretty nice.

It took quite a while to get from the empty loom to a piece of relatively even weaving, though. There's quite a lot to figure out right up front.

One thing I wish I'd figured out sooner -- which is the front of the loom, and which is the back. I managed to warp the loom backwards and had to rewind the warp to sort it all out. I'm pretty sure I won't make that mistake again!

It took me at least a couple of hours to warp the loom for a scarf, although I'm sure it will be much quicker the next time around. I had almost all of the yarn measured out when I somehow let some of it pop off the warping board, and I had to start over again. It was a little scary holding all that carefully measured and wound yarn on my hand as I tried to figure out how to attach it to the loom, but it all went on pretty smoothly (except for the fact that I attached it the wrong way around, as noted above). My daughter helped, and we managed to get all the yarn on without tangling.

Finally, it was time to wind some weft yarn onto a shuttle and start making fabric. Those first several inches were quite a mess -- wavy rows, loopy selvedges, and uneven spacing between rows. Eventually, though, the edges became straighter and the selvedges became less loopy. Still not exactly professional looking, but much improved.

I've made about three feet of passable fabric so far, and I think this scarf may actually be wearable when it's done. I'm hoping that washing it will work some magic to even everything out, the way blocking does for knitting.

After I finish weaving the yarn I bought at Webs, it'll be time to try out some handspun.