Thursday, December 31, 2009

And More Pink

I picked up this dressing gown at an Op Shop years ago:It's been in the stash, waiting for a suitable project. Like a lot of my stash, it's had various incarnations in my mind, which have not eventuated in real life. Now I'm planning to combine it with the pink corduroys I posted yesterday. That should still leave enough scraps for a pink chenille teddy, which was my original intention.

Yesterday I got as far as digging it out of the box where I'd stored it and giving it a good wash. Now it's clean and dry and ready to go, but it's going to take a bit of determination to make the first cut. Uh oh! --the more I think about it, the more reluctant I am to take the scissors to it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pink, Pink, Pink!

I'm playing with the idea of a little girl's floor rug / quilt. I have some pink chenille as well as these corduroys: There are also some pink flannels looking for a home. I guess the different textures are part of the attraction. This pic was taken while I was asking myself whether the duller pink colour--at the top right--goes with the others. I think the answer is No!

The next question to answer is how hardy do I want this project to be? The corduroy will take a fair bit of punishment without complaining, whereas the flannel needs a bit more consideration. Then again distressed flannel does look pretty good. Hmmm . . . I'm not in a hurry so I'll just let those sit together until it becomes clearer.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Simple, cute--and it works! This was a Christmas gift from my friend D. I've used it every day since Christmas morning. It keeps my yarn clean and flowing smoothly. It stops the ball of yarn taking unplanned journeys across the room. And I'm anticipating the extra bonus of keeping my knitting out of the jaws of my yarn-eating cleaning robot.

I'm also hoping to use it to help wind off my smaller cones of yarn when making a warp, or skeins for dyeing. The larger cones are nice and stable, but the smaller ones have a bad habit of falling down unexpectedly. All in all a very clever little gadget!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Colour Surprise

I love to ckeck out colour combinations in nature. There is no reference to colour theory and I'm continually surprised by what I find. Here's one from the garden at the cafe I visited on Christmas eve: Bright pink, orange-yellow and white--who would have thought? But it works. I have no idea of the name of the flower, but I've noted the colours for future reference.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I flew up to visit good friends for Christmas. Due to an inevitable combination of circumstances I could only be there for three days: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. That could be recipe for a crazy few days. However, my friend Dee had the wisdom to schedule a few hours at a country garden cafe, Storeybrook Cottage. So on Christmas Eve, while the world went mad with shopping and preparations, we sat and sipped and nibbled and stitched and chatted.

The setting was beautiful, with lots of green gardens--they had rain recently--and quirky little touches like this:It was quiet and peaceful--just the thing for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Brew

It's Christmas already--since I'm heading off to Queensland for a few days today, the preparation time is practically over. I had grand plans for making things for my friends, but the reality has been rather more limited. What I did manage was a big batch of Christmas pot pourri. It's been fun watching people sniff appreciatively and try to work out the ingredients:
  • rose petals from my garden before the weeds took over
  • rosemary, also from my garden--it's the only plant that's really thriving at the moment
  • orange peel
  • lavender oil
  • cloves
  • cinnamon bark
  • green cardamom
  • star anise
  • oris root powder as a "fixative"

Sorry, the blog doesn't come with a smell widget, but try to imagine the scent in my sewing room where I've been assembling the sachets!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa's Sack

It's the time of year when we are regaled with stories and songs of an old man bearing a great sackful of treats for good little boys and girls. I don't claim to have been all that good this year, but this garbage bag full of goodness arrived at my house yesterday morning: It's a whole alpaca fleece from my friend R's farm. They did the shearing last weekend and she saved this one for me. I have yet to fully explore the contents. What I do know is that the fleece has been sorted: "rubbish", neck and saddle in separate bags. That's a great start. The "rubbish" can go on the compost heap and then I can clean and blend the saddle and neck fibre. Then comes the joy of spinning. I'm not even going to think about tackling it before Christmas, though. I have my own "santa sack" to fill before I head north for a few days with friends.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

Sunday afternoon: my friend R wanted to go to the Skate Park to try his new skateboard. L promised to meet us there--he was game to have a go on the old board. As for me, I got to sit in the sun and knit. When the boys had collected enough bruises for one afternoon we went off to Coburg to have something to eat. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dip Dye

Dip Dye seems to be all the range in fashion this season. With fabric the technique gives horizontal bands of colour. Used with yarn, it's another way of getting a variegated skein. I decided to have a go with a leftover bit of lace-weight yarn. It's been dangling in the dyepot for several days now. I've looped it over one of the handles to keep it in position. I heated up the pot a few days ago to set the colour, but then didn't get as far as rinsing it out. Now the colour has travelled a bit further, so today I'll cook it up again and see what I get. In case you're wondering about the pic: the autofocus on my camera has fixed on the reflection in the dyebath, so the skein itself is a bit fuzzy. Sorry about that, but hopefully you get the idea.

Here's a macro shot of the part of the skein that's not in the dyebath. You can see how the dye has been drawn up along some of the fibres. That's capillary action at work!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I had an unexpected visitor yesterday evening. It was R with a bagful of apricots from the tree in his garden. I happily accepted a bowlful: As you can see, they're not over-ripe. R suggested stewing them in the oven. That sounds like a plan, though I might use my slow cooker instead. I enjoyed the thought of R driving around the neighbourhood offering fruit to friends. There's a sense of community there.

Now this morning I'm thinking of the fruit in terms of colours. I can't say I selected the blue-rimmed bowl for artistic effect--it was just the first one that came to hand, but it works as a complementary-ish colour scheme. At least it would be complementary if the fruit were fully ripe, but what fascinates me is the gradations of colour in the fruit itself from quite a bright green through to a mellow orange. Hmmm, I wonder what I could do with that? Now that I've taken the photo, I don't have an excuse to delay dealing with the fruit. I know if I leave it in the bowl the colours will continue to develop in a fascinating way, I also know that I will lose my motivation and the rot will set in--literally! So, cutting up and stewing apricots is on the bonus "to do" list for this morning.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Waffle Weave

Kitchen towels are on the list of things to make this Christmas. So I bought a couple of metres of cotton waffle weave:
It's one of those clever textile things where form follows function. The outer edges of the little squares are the highest and the pattern sinks down towards the middle--in this case, the better to hold moisture, though the same effect in wool makes a lovely warm blanket, with these woven cells maximising the insulation. So it's functional as well as decorative. I'm adding a simple edging in quilting cotton to boost the decorative value. Come to think of it, that's functional too, since it strengthens the outer edge.

OK, time to stop thinking about it and get to cutting and stitching, there aren't many days left before Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nearly Finished--Really Finished

I finally finished the Bushfire blanket yesterday:I know, I said it was just about finished months ago. I don't even want to look how long ago that was, but somehow finishing is not my biggest strength and it took until this week for me to get back to the last couple of steps. I made the second fringe and worked in the loose ends. Then my friend M came to pick it up. She's found the right home for it to go to. I'm glad of that.

Apart from my usual slowness in actually finishing things off, the other delaying factor has been the big table. Well, not the table itself, but all the stuff that accumulates on the table. I wanted to have the whole table top clear so I could spread out the blanket and make sure all the fringes were even. Now I have a beautiful big clear table to work on. I'm hoping I can keep it like that for a while.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ready to Spin

Putting my new Suzie together turned out to be quite a manageable task. Here she is, all ready to go: As veteran of many Ikea assemblies, I could certainly appreciate the difference between a bunch of parts, collected in a box and this wheel. Majacraft promise that each wheel has been fully assembled and tested before shipping. Having put my Suzie together, I believe them. Everything lined up beautifully.

Now, what to spin . . . well there are various requirements for my Spinnning Certificate folio on the "must do" list. Trouble is the list isn't really written. I need to sort out what I've done and what I still need to do . . . Meanwhile, there's a bit of merino left over from the wool-silk baby skein. I might just use that as a warm up. The forecast for today is 39, so I don't think it will be much of a spinning day. Maybe I'll just gloat for a while.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Share My Excitement

I ordered a new spinning wheel last week. It's a Suzie Pro by Majacraft--my dream wheel. I hadn't expected it to arrive until later in the week, if that. So I nearly jumped out of my chair when I saw the Australia Post van pull up yesterday morning. Out came this box:I didn't have the mental energy to put the wheel together yesterday, but I couldn't resist at least unpacking the parts. Now today I have various tasks to do, including the fringe on the bushfire blanket which has been all but finished for months now. I think I'll intersperse those tasks with the various steps of assembling my wheel. I'm hoping that will get me gently through the day with a smile on my face.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Robot Realities

OK, so we've established the fact that housework and I are not the best of friends. When I planned my floor project earlier this year, I factored in some help with cleaning. The great big vacuum cleaner I had was not really suitable for hard surfaces. After a fair bit of research and soul searching I ended up with a roomba, vacuum cleaning robot. As I say, I did my homework, so I knew there were limitations. The biggest limitation being that, though it does a great job of cleaning hard surfaces, the robot will not tidy and clear the room prior to cleaning. That's my job.

Yesterday was my day for cleaning up the living room. This is where a lot of my spinning, knitting and weaving happens, so there's lots of stuff. I spent several hours sorting and putting away stuff before pressing the "clean" button on the robot. I was especially careful about fibre, since the little machine can get itself badly tangled. It does have a sensor for things like carpet fringes, but it's not up to dealing with a whole ball of wool. Here's the proof:I had some knitting on the armchair. I thought it was out of reach of the robot. I was wrong. While I was in the sewing room, the roomba grabbed, not one, but two balls of wool and the attached knitting needle and proceeded to criss-cross the room in its programmed cleaning pattern. Eventually the brushes were so tangled that it stopped. Then came the alert signal which brought me to investigate. The blue wool you can see disappearing at the lower right of the picture was cleverly festooned around two legs of my dining table. The robot voice said, "Please clean roomba's brushes". I thought that was a reasonable request. I rescued my knitting needle and unwound several metres of wool--which by then was well mixed with dust and dog hair. That went in the bin. Then I put the roomba back on the floor and pressed "clean" again. Off it went as if nothing had happened. I'm glad to say the rest of the task was uneventful. After cleaning the rest of the room, my little robot docked itself for recharging and made its little happy chiming noise to let me know the job was done. OK, so housework and I are still not the best of friends; and I'm more aware than I was of the limitations of my little robot cleaner, but the living room is looking better than it has in a long time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Basics

Young friends of mine are planning to set up a home together in the next year. Last week I got a phone call from J, "Are you making things this Christmas? . . . What about pot mits?" Sounds like fun! It looks as though the two of them will be sharing cooking tasks. So yesterday I got started on a big manly pot holder. I finished it off this morning. Two thicknesses of 8-ply wool in double crochet. My major complaint about commercial pot holders is that they contain so many synthetic materials that they melt if they come anywhere near a flame. Wool on the other hand is fire retardant. And this is chunky enough to double as a place to rest a hot pot. Now I've got kitchen towels and bath mats on the list as well. Oh, I love it when I get simple requests!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Team Effort

I've been overwhelmed by house mess lately. It seems as though the everyday tasks that you'd expect to be straightforward are huge. Feeling paralysed and doing nothing just results in more mess--believe me, I've tried it! The other extreme of doing a blitz to get things under control takes more energy and determination than I can find right now. There has to be another way. So I've been trying to isolate small projects amongst the general chaos. I'm not even really prioritising, just pretty much picking a random task and getting it done. One such task is clean bedding for my dogs. As much as I love them, I cringe at the realisation that my whole house smells like an old kennel.

Last week I bought a few metres of calico and made up these bean bag cushions. I bought a bag of "beans" to fill them. I must be getting wise in my old age, because instead of attempting to fill the cushions by myself, I rang a friend. As it turns out one of my weaving buddies was here as well when V came over yesterday afternoon, so the three of us tackled the cushion filling task. With three pairs of hands on the job, we got these bags filled with only one or two stray bits of styrofoam reaching the floor--yay team!! Now to close off the gaps and make pretty covers. My plan is to make two sets of covers so I can easily wash and change them frequently. I'll see how I go with that.

Unfortunately the afternoon didn't end so happily, when my friend R went to go home, she found her car had been smashed--so badly that she couldn't drive it home. There was no note and none of my neighbours had seen or heard anything. So she spent several hours calling her insurance company, a panel beater and a tow truck before I drove her home. So this morning I woke to the satisfaction of the bean bag cushions and the disappointment of some-one's carelessness and lack of consideration. I'll try to hang on to the former and let go of the other . . .

Friday, December 11, 2009

Incidental Learning

I taught a couple of beginner Quilting classes at the Neighbourhood House this year. My friend L was one of the students. Since then she's ventured out on her own and is nearly up to binding her "Bugs in Bottles" quilt. Now binding is one of those 3-dimensional tasks that take a bit of mental gymnastics, so when I dropped in to the office yesterday we took the opportunity for bit of revision.

I tore binding strips from bits of scrap paper to demonstrate:
The top strip shows the bias seam which is used to join lengths of binding as inconspicuously as possible. The folded strip of paper hanging over the top of my notes is a double fold binding. Calculating the width of fabric to cut for these is tricky--you can see my diagram for calculating it--the formula is (3 x binding width plus allowance for quilt thickness) x 2. After snapping this photo with my phone, I left L with the bits of paper to fiddle with. I'll be keen to see how she gets on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I've been knitting a few face washers as part of my Christmas preparations. They're made with bamboo yarn and the knitting is pretty basic: When I was a new knitter and I heard of people knitting face washers, and even dishcloths, I was incredulous--all that effort! Now I realise how much delight they give my friends and I guess my knitting is quicker and easier than it was a few years ago. I'm willing to make the effort and look foward to the basic pleasure they will give. Face washers that is--I still can't come at knitting dishcloths.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pretty Baby

A friend of mine is anticipating the birth of her first grandchild. She's asked me to spin up this merino-silk blend to make a special cardi. As you can see, it's just about natural, except for the hints of colour in the random dyed silk.
Since it came as tops, it's spinning up quickly and easily and getting me back into rhythm before I look at some of the spinning challenges I still need to tackle for my Spinning Class folio. And no, don't mention the word procrastination . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I've been knitting a bit with bamboo lately. The bamboo yarn comes wound on these cardboard tubes: So, I've had a steady trickle of cardboard tubes to dispose of . . .
  • the first couple went to amuse my friend A's bunny--she loves things she can chew: these she can chew and chase
  • the next few went to my friend L--she reckons they're just the thing to wrap itty bitty Christmas gifts
  • then several went to the Children's Centre at the Neighbourhood House--the kids can use them for constructing all sorts of wonderful things

Now I've got a few more. It's fun to think of the possiblilities.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Work of Art!

I spent a happy couple of hours sitting under a tree in Northcote with my friend M this weekend. It was definitely a slow food establishment. One crepe-making burner, one staff member and a limited range of coffee options, but the crepes were a work of art--worth waiting for in my opinion. And the presentation was lovely and loving:

This is the strawberry crepe we shared for dessert: fresh strawberries, chocolate sauce and cream. The venue has live music every night, so I'm guessing that Saturday afternoon is their slow time. They're gradually transforming the outside space from back-yard to "courtyard". I noticed some new garden beds since I was there last, but we still sat at a rickety table under a tree. Meanwhile my friends at Experimental Spinning were combining various fibres to make a chocolate themed batt, so I felt that I was participating in spirit, if not in person.

I've been doing a little bit of spinning and knitting each day and am starting to think about what next. Meanwhile, there's Christmas to work towards, with various bits of textiles to be incorporated into my gift-giving.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pottery Sale

Yesterday was a day for being social and gently thinking about Christmas shopping. I went to a pottery sale at Lynley Northcott's house. It was great to see her and her work in her home environment. And I will never again complain about the amount of stuff at my house--a potter's stuff is so much more bulky--and fragile. I'm glad I'm a textile artist. On the other hand, here's a pic of Lynley's kitchen floor:

The whole thing is one big mosaic. I love it! Great colours, it's inspiring and lively and functional and just Wow!

I bought a couple of little things and my friend M bought quite a few things. Then we went on to High St for Crepes and a sit in the shade. It was a good day.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Twist is what holds spun fibres together in a yarn. The finer the yarn, the more twist needed to keep it together. I've been back at my spinning wheel the past couple of days--it's been too long since I spent time regularly at the wheel. I'm working on a small amount of wool-silk blend. I'm aiming for something fine and strong enough to use for embroidery. Here's where I got to this morning:
If I can make yarn like that consistently today, I'll be a happy spinner. I may yet need a little more twist, since I'll lose some when I go to ply it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

White No More

Here's the silk ribbon I dyed this week: I mixed magenta with a variety of orange-reds and got this bright shade. I think I'll have to send it to D soon, since it's a perfect Christmas colour. I'm learning the differences between how this silk behaves in the dye pot compared to my wool. The colour is much more even than I expected, given the technique I used. I didn't mix the dyes at all, just put bits of colour directly into the pot. The differences in quantity take a bit of getting used to--the weight of all this silk is minimal compared to a skein of my wool. So the amount of dye I used was way too much and the rinsing took a long time and many changes of water. OK, as an experiment it has to be called a success since I've learned from it. As a final product it wants some adjusting.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Anyone for Tea?

Here's an unusual textile challenge--and rather more personal than what I usually post about. The background is that I'm well over my healthy weight range, and that hasn't changed for several years. One of the associated hassles is that my choice of suitable bras is pretty limited. I have a style which I've been wearing, and while I wouldn't call it a favourite, it works for me. Since my shape has hardly changed in the last year, I figured I could at least eliminate one of life's chores and buy more of the same. Now for the textile challenge . . . I can get the size and style I want, but only in white or purple. Neither colour looks good peeping out from the edge of a summer top, especially not when a lot of what I wear is basic black. Now what?

Well this is where the tea comes in:
I made up the strongest pot of tea you could imagine. Then I soaked my white bras in it. Now they are not white--they're a basic beige colour. That's a definite improvement. I've also bought a black textile ink to try on the purple ones. That's my next challenge.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


There's something particularly exciting about white: Here I have two widths of silk ribbon and a stranded silk yarn suitable for embroidery. Two of them I picked up at Beautiful Silks the other day, the third was already waiting for my attention. They're here for colour and testing. I get to do the dyeing and then my friend, D does the testing. She loves silk ribbon embroidery and I love colour. It's a good combination. So, here's the plan . . .
  • I need to find a way of securing each of these little packages of fibre so that they don't go berserk in the dyepot
  • They need a good soak to help the colour to penetrate properly
  • I need to find the right pot to dye them in, I think I can use the smaller of my two dyepots with as little water as possible
  • Meanwhile I'm desperately running around the colour wheel in my head--like the proverbial hamster--what colours shall I add?
  • I'm going to put the three different fibres in the same dyepot, then they'll easily work in together for whatever project D comes up with.
  • Rinsing and drying and then deciding whether to pop them in the mail, or have the pleasure of handing them over in person.

Right, I have a plan! As usual there's a small snag--yep, the kitchen sink. It's currently full of dirty dishes. Clear those and I'm on my way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Better Now!

"Venita on Cumberland", I love you! Coffee and cake; a comfy seat in the corner where I could relax and knit and even a big glass of fresh fruit juice to get me going for the day. Aaaaah! Now where was I? It's lunchtime already . . . never mind, the day's off to a good start.


I'm out of coffee! There is no coffee in the house in any shape, manner or form and I'm finding it hard to think of anything else. Physically I'm ok with it--I've hardly had any caffeine since I was sick last week and I've coped fine. Yesterday I ran out of real coffee and used decaff for my morning brew and that was fine too. I planned to top up my supplies at the supermarket on my way home, but forgot and then I just couldn't bring myself to go out again. I promised myself a stop at a local cafe on my way to the shops this morning. That's still the plan, but I'm dismayed at how much the lack of coffee is dominating my thinking. There are so many more important things in life; there are textile projects galore to think about, but no, my brain is fixed on what it can't have right now! I think I'm going to have to go with the reality of my fixation and make that cafe trip the priority for the morning. Then I'll think about my plans for the day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's That Time of Year

Finishing the work for my weaving folio feels a bit like coming up for air after a dive that was just a bit too long. I'm trying to clear my vision and breathe deeply. One thing I've noticed so far is that it's almost Christmas already. This window display greeted me on Rathdown St on the weekend:
The creator is from Gollings Florist. They do things I would never have imagined possible with flowers--botanical sculpture really.
Christmas of course means gifts, so I'd better put my thinking cap on and decided what I need to buy and what I'd like to make for the people in my life. Yesterday I got as far as nearly clearing my big table. That might not sound like much, but it's like a physical way of clearing my head. Alright, I admit, there's still a small pile of bits and pieces in one corner--I guess it's rather tidier than my head, OK!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

Here's the scene I found at the Guild when I dropped in my work yesterday morning: Gerlinde and Robyn had already been at work for a couple of hours, since several of the students had dropped in their folios during the week. The rest of us were meeting for brunch at 10.00 am, so there was a steady trickle of folios coming in. Since it was taking them an hour or two to get through each folio, they were in for a long and hard day's work.

Over brunch we talked about keeping contact next year. We're going to meet up every month or so. We all figure we've got a lot to learn, and meeting up, encouraging and challenging each other should help. There wasn't really an air of parting around the table at all. We'll be catching up in a few weeks time when we have our certificate day.

I'm already thinking about what I'd like to weave next! Will I start on another version of the double weave bag, just to prove to myself that I can get it right, or make myself a nice woollen shawl like the one that inspired me to join the Guild in the first place? Then there's the Le Clerc loom to sort out, not to speak of the house to tidy so I don't get too overwhelmed by all my textile projects mixed with dust and dog hair.

Today I'm supposed to be at the last class for my Spinning Certificate. I'm going to stay home. It's a revision class and I can't really take advantage of it without first sorting out the work I've done and have yet to do. That's a priority. Besides, I just don't have another day at the Guild in me after the last week. A day off is in order.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ready or Not

This is the last piece I had to weave to complete the practical component of my Weaving Class requirements: It looks rather silly to me, but sometimes you just have to do as you're told. We had to design a human figure by combining blocks from our Summer and Winter threading. The complication being that the blocks were already in place from threading the first design. So it was a case of making do. Now I know why the samplers I saw from the other students resembled a variety of robot or computer game figures. I figure this is a robotised frog-man of some sort:) rather appropriate given the craziness in Canberra at the moment. Maybe if sea levels rise as predicted, we'll all need a frog-man robot to go about our business . . .

Anyway, now I have a couple of hours to tidy up all my bits and pieces before I go in to the Guild to hand in my work and meet up with my fellow students for brunch.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Here's a close-up of the fastening I put together for the second bag: Believe it or not, I just happened to have that bead lying around. Actually it was part of a bookmark I'd made for myself which was on my bed-side table. The colours are a perfect match and the weight of the bead is enough to help the flap to stay down. The little loop adds an extra bit of security.

I did get to the Guild yesterday and I have one more exercise done on my Summer and Winter sampler and one to go. My day was sabotaged by a nasty tummy bug which kept me up all night. I never thought eating a slice of toast would feel like such an achievement! I've eaten the toast and had a rest and I'm starting to feel human again, if still rather wobbly. I've discovered that there is no option of handing work in late for this course--marking will be done tomorrow or not at all. That certainly simplifies my decision making, and I just don't have the energy to fuss, so I'll do what I can and hand it in.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Twisted Fringe Action

I decided to finish off the other bag I made on my double-weave warp. I didn't weave a lining for this one, so I've made a silk dupion lining and slip stitched it in place. Next step is to finish the bottom hem. I'm using my fringe twister. Perfect activity to undertake while sharing coffee with a friend. It's nearly done. Here's an action shot: Next I need to work out some sort of fastening. I only wove a couple of inches for the flap, so it doesn't want to stay in place without some help. I'm thinking a big bead with a corresponding loop on the body of the bag.

Now, today I need to be at the Guild to learn how to do the rest of my Summer and Winter sampler. Then tomorrow I'll just have to do as much as I can to tidy things up ready to hand in. I'm tempted to ask for more time and try to do better . . . I'll see how I feel about that later today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Summer and Winter

It seems the key to completing my long delayed Summer and Winter sampler was there all along . . . I just had to get started! Once I'd begun the threading it was easy enough to finish it. Once I'd dressed the loom it was easy enough to start weaving. And once I'd started weaving it was easy enough to complete the first exercise. Here it is on the loom:
There's at least one more exercise to do on this warp. That's the lesson I missed, so I've arranged to meet our tutor tomorrow morning at the Guild. I'll have Friday to get it done. I think I can manage that, now that I've started.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I just went to extract my new tools from their packaging--a significant task in its own right--and found this warning on the screwdriver: Next they're going to have to start issuing warnings about the potential hazards of ridiculous warnings!

Home Improvement Improvements

I fulfilled a promise to myself yesterday afternoon. I stopped at the hardware store and bought these: They are tools to make the installation of the next timber blind less of a stressful marathon--oh, and replacements for the bits and pieces I ruined in my determination to complete the job on Sunday. I can't think of a single textile application for any of them at this stage. On the other hand the less time and emotional energy I have to spend on home improvements, the more I have for textile adventures.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Home Improvement

Wow, look at me now!My friend A helped me to install this blind in my front window yesterday. I've been planning on timber venetians since I had the floor done. I've been paying off one for each of my windows and now I have them. Installation is the next challenge, and I decided it was a two-woman job. Just as well! I thought that lifting the blind into the brackets would require two pairs of hands. It did, but that was minor. Dealing with all the frustrations and complications of getting the brackets to go where they needed to be and stay there took all I had. I'm pretty sure I would have thrown something or burst into tears if I'd been on my own. As it was we took turns and tried to problem solve and eventually they were up.

I'm looking forward to having these blinds to cope with this summer's heat. Where I grew up, a hot day means opening the windows and trying to catch a nice breeze. Here in Melbourne the wind is hot. Shutting up the house is the way to go, but I don't like the feeling of being locked up. So I'm hoping the blinds will let me regulate just a bit of natural light in the room, while keeping out the worst of the heat. That's the plan. Meanwhile I'm off to the hardware store to see if I can get any attachments for me beloved cordless drill to make installing the next three blinds any easier.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now What?

Here's my next task: I need to tidy my notes for the Weaving Certificate Course and somehow transform them into a comprehensive--comprehensible--folio of the year's work. At least this year I bought a lecture pad at the start of the year. So I know that my hand-written notes are in the same order as our classes. The handouts are mainly shoved in with the corresponding class. I only missed one class and I've emailed our tutor about that one. It's the corresponding class for the Summer and Winter sampler that I still need to sort out.

Yesterday I bought a new insert binder. I'm trying to convince myself that this isn't going to be too bad . . . Probably I'll only be convinced once I get on and do it!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I spent most of the day yesterday working on my double weave bag project. Here it is, just about finished: I've made a twisted cord for the strap. I still need to attach that. I've also got the bag I made at the beginning of this warp to finish off. I didn't weave a lining for that one. It was when I was having troubles with the tension at the beginning of the warp. I think I'll line it with silk, with an iron-on interfacing for reinforcement. The tension doesn't look too bad now that it's off the loom . . . whatever!

Now for a reality check:
  • this bag is just about done;
  • I've been building up the folio for the bag as I go, so there's not much more needed for that, though I could fiddle with presentation for ever--note to self, "you don't have forever"!
  • The notes for the rest of the year's work are in a lecture pad and just need a bit of a tidy up. That's another task that could gobble up more time than it's really worth.
  • I've got all of the weaving for the Round Robin exercise done. I need to sort out the corresponding notes.
  • Then there's an unfinished project . . . well actually it's hardly started. That's the Summer and Winter sampler from the weeks around when my floor chaos was happening. Can I get it done in a week and still keep my sanity?

Friday, November 20, 2009


I finished weaving my double weave bag project yesterday. I still have all the finishing to do. First step is hemming the raw edges and I prefer to do that while it's still on the loom. Here's how it looks now that I've cut it off. At the moment I'm trying to get my head around all the things I'm disappointed about.--at the same time, trying to be nice to myself and remind myself how inexperienced I really am as a weaver, and how nice the bag will be despite the things I don't like about how I've made it.

My major learning is about beat--the tabby layer which will form the lining is not beaten firmly enough, so it's weak. I can solve that problem with some iron-on stabiliser. The tabby layer was the underside while I was weaving it. Using a mirror would have let me check on how it was going. I didn't use a mirror!

My frustration is also about tension. The tension was very uneven at the beginning and the end of my warp. I don't know why and so I don't know how to avoid the problem next time. I didn't have trouble with tension on either of my samples. I'll have to consult about that one. The process of weaving the two layers for the lining and flap of the bag: one in twill, the other in tabby made the tension troubles worse, especially because I didn't pack the tabby down firmly enough. The result was that the bottom layer kept getting looser relative to the top layer.

OK, writing that down helped. I'm not kicking myself as hard as I was when I sat down at the computer. Now, to tackle the challenges and make the bag look good. I think I'll make a page of learnings and questions to include with my folio.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Real Thing

The warp was on, the bobbins wound, and it was time to weave: But I found myself pacing around the loom with butterflies fluttering in my belly and I smile on my face. I couldn't believe what an occasion it felt to be finally weaving the bag after planning and sampling and calculating and planning and sampling and . . .

I did get down to it after a bit. I had some wierd tension troubles when I got started. So much so that I called the first six inches another sample and started again. Thankfully I'd allowed myself a bit of extra warp for sampling. Ah, sampling!

The body of the bag is woven. It was surprisingly quick once I got started. After breakfast I'm going to start on the next section which is the flap and lining. Since it's double weave, these will weave up at the same time. Then it will be time to finish it off and put the folio together. Hopefully that will be done by Friday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Words of Wisdom

"Fibre Facts for Spinners and Weavers" is one of the little treasures I picked up at the Textile Bazaar on Saturday. I've just been browsing it while enjoying my morning coffee. It's full of hints and tips contributed by members of the Wellington NZ Guild of Weavers and Spinners in the early eighties. Each hint is acknowledged with a name and the local group--that personal touch is a significant part of the appeal for me. The other major appeal is that so many of the hints are relevant and useful.

There are a few patterns in the back of the book: Believe it or not, the pattern on the right hand page is for slippers. I'm planning to explore that one. My experience of slipper patterns is that simple looking ones rarely fit well and more complex shapes are hard to understand without a diagram. So here's one for me to play with, diagram and all.

Now, I have been working on my weaving project. All the threading is done, checked and double checked and I'm ready to weave the heading. That will let me know if I've made any errors. Then the bag will start to take shape. I'm looking forward to that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Here's where I'm up to in my double-weave bag project:I've threaded about a third of the warp ends. It's fairly focussed work because of the pattern, so when I get tired and start to lose concentration, I just have to stop. There's no point pushing on only to have to go back and fix mistakes later.

I took this shot with my macro lens just before calling it a day yesterday. You can see the wire heddles. Each heddle has an eye through which I thread one warp end. When I've finished a repeat of 24 ends, I tie it off in a bundle. That keeps the threads safe until I need them for the next step and also helps me to keep track of where I'm up to.
Now, time for a coffee and then back to the threading. I hope to have it done today. Then I can start weaving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dip Dyed

My kitchen is still struggling with its identity crisis: dye workshop or food preparation area. Not surprisingly, the dye workshop is winning--I've been eating variations on a theme of toast. Oh well!The colours I've been cooking up are a pretty good compensation: This skein of bamboo-cotton yarn is dip dyed. It's been sitting with one end in the dye and one end hanging over the edge of the tub all night. You can see the colour creeping up towards the far end of the skein. Before I finish my breakfast, I'll have to decide whether I'm going to leave the white tip or let the dye travel all the way. What you can't see is that the other end of the skein is much greener than this end. I started with a green dye bath, then I trickled some of the teal colour over the middle of the skein before letting the colours continue to travel of their own accord. I can certainly vouch for the wicking properties of bamboo--it's really sucked up the colour.

Meanwhile in the lounge area, I've made the warp for my double weave bag project. Dyeing the cotton for that was the beginning of this burst of dyeing frenzy. The warp is ready to go on--all 456 ends of it! I spent a frustrating hour or two yesterday morning calculating the yarn requirements using the unfamiliar units we've been told to include in this write up. I was ready to put a hex on Tex (g per 1000m) until I finally found my mistake. We'd been told to weigh 10m of fibre and that's the figure I'd written down. Once I multiplied it by 100 to get the 1000 m measure it all worked out. Normally I do like maths, but yesterday morning I just wanted to get back to the fibre. My task for today is to put the warp on the loom and start threading. If I can manage a bit of multi-tracking, it would be nice to get some of the newly dyeing yarns rinsed and reclaim a bit of my kitchen, but that might not happen today.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Textile Treasures

I enjoyed a happy hour at the Guild's Textle Bazaar yesterday morning.

  • Happy because it's always a trash or treasure type experience with the hall full of books, yarns and equipment for sale.
  • Happy because several of my Weaving classmates were there, preparing to take the next step in our textile adventures
  • Happy because I had lunch with a friend to look forward to and an exciting array of creative tasks waiting for me at home.

Here's my loot:

  • a cone of lovely mercerised cotton--can you see the sheen? I've been using mercerised cotton for my double-weave bag and I'm really enjoying it.
  • Several books ranging in price from 50c all the way up to $2! The one on the right is by Mary Atwater--a classic. The one on the left promises to bring together my dressmaking skills with my hand-weaving--just what I need.
  • A couple of sweet little stick shuttles: lovely timbers and light and smooth in my hand.

I didn't make a lot of progress on my weaving when I got home. Somehow my happy morning took up all my available energy. I curled up for a nap in front of the fan. Then I wound off the cotton for my warp into balls, while chatting with my friend D on the phone. I did manage to skein up some other fibres and get them ready to dye up overnight, so I have those to rinse this morning. Now I need to do some maths before I make the warp for my double weave bag project. Maybe another coffee first, since I've already been awake far too long.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Testing, Testing

I took the double weave samples off the loom yesterday. Then I spent the morning trying out a couple of different ways of managing the seams needed to close off the bag.

Here are my results:
The sample on the left is a mini version of the whole bag. I've stitched the sides of the lining and bottom of the bag itself by machine. I hand stitched the edges of the flap together with an overhand stitch.

The top right sample shows the main seam which will attach the lining to the bag flap.

The bottom right sample is another way of finishing the bottom of the bag. The hem stitching isn't as neat as I would like because of the way I tackled it. I can do better hem stitching than that.

I found that hand-stitching with the same yarn I'd used for weaving gave me a better result than using the sewing machine.

I realised that beading the fringe would be tricky because there are going to be nearly 500 warp ends there! And even though the yarn is reasonably fine for weaving, it's definitely not what I would consider fine for beading. So either there would need to be an awful lot of nice little seed beads, or I'd need to use beads big enough to take several thicknesses of my warp yarn. Either way, it would be bottom-heavy, both visually and physically. I could still use some beads just decoratively. I won't make that decision until I've got the whole thing together.

So, my task for today is to make the warp for the real thing and start threading those 500 ends. I'm going to give myself a little more room to sample. I want to test the handle of the cloth if I use the silk yarn I've dyed up. I'd like to make the front of the flap with the silk weft.

I'm going to drop in to the Textile Bazaar at the Guild this morning. Hopefully I'll come home with just a little more fibre for weaving.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bountiful Beauty

The highlight of yesterday morning was a visit to Beautiful Silks with friends from the Experimental Spinning group. What can I say . . . rooms full of beautiful silks: yarns, embroidery fibres, fabrics, dyed and undyed. What's more the people there seemed to be both knowledgeable and passionate about their products. I came home with a tiny taste of stranded embroidery silk and ribbon; a catalogue of yarns and a lust for more.

From there we went just around the corner in Bruswick St Fitzroy to another treasure house. This time Jasper Coffee:
You can just imagine the smells that greeted us as we walked in. The front of the shop is full of coffees, teas, coffee pots, tea pots, cups of all shapes and sizes. And then there's a cafe and courtyard. We sat in the shade, sipped and munched and talked. The talk got quite heated a couple of times when we discussed the pros and cons of protecting Australia's local publishing industry. It was great to be in the sort of company where silk and the value of Australian writing were the topics of conversation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Warm Weather Work

My task for yesterday was to dye up the mercerised cotton weft for my double-weave bag. What better task for another hot, hot day!

I wound off 840 metres of perle cotton on my niddy noddy before it got too hot. That was six 20g balls from my crochet cotton stash. A few years ago, I went through a phase of doing very fine cotton crochet. These balls were leftover. Now they'll get a new life in my weaving. Winding yarn on the niddy noddy is surprisingly physical work when there's that much of it to do.

My next step was to soak the cotton in warm soapy water to get rid of any sizing or other additives. Meanwhile I mixed up the soda ash and dye stock solutions for my dyeing.

Here's the yarn with the dye added: I used my two primary blues and just a touch of lemon yellow mixed with the turquoise. There's a bit of dishwashing detergent in the dye solutions to help me paste them up, so the whole batch was a bit soapy--especially because I used as little water as I could get away with.

The beauty of dyeing cotton on a hot day! I just left the batch in the sink while I went out and about for the afternoon. Then it was time to rinse. By that time splashing around in a sink full of cold water was a welcome relief.

I left the yarn to soak in the sink overnight, just to be sure it was fully rinsed. Now it's ready to dry. Tomorrow I should be able to weave with it.