Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Welcome Back"

We think of it as an extension of the Guild: Filous Patisserie, Lygon St, Carlton.

Just to make me feel as though the feeling might be mutual, the greeting I got this morning when I lined up for my customary coffee and chocolate muffin, was "Welcome Back". Wonderful words, those! A great way to prepare for a day of creative, but exacting work. Dropping in at Filous before class became part of my routine for the Weaving Certificate at the Guild last year.

The routine goes something like this:
  • breakfast of fruit, cereal and espresso at home some time between 7 & 8 am. Make that 2 espressos, it's Saturday, after all
  • pack for class: books, pencil case, writing paper, graph paper, loom, accessories, lunch box and other sundry items . . . I always throw in a handwork project at the last minute, just in case there are a few spare minutes in the day . . . did I happen to mention I'm a bit of an optimist?
  • plan to leave home some time around 9 am
  • pack the car with aforementioned stuff: it takes at least one more trip and several more attempts at fitting everything into the car than I anticipate, even after doing it 17 times last year
  • mental check on cash supplies as I drive off, resulting in side-trip to the auto-teller
  • 20 min drive towards the city--usually a tram or two to negotiate along the way
  • internal debate on the last section of Lygon St before reaching Carlton: "will I drive up the lane and drop off the loom, or just carry it across the road?" Today I decided to take advantage of the loading zone conveniently located at the door of the Guild rooms
  • turn left into "Shakespeare St". I guess it's more than a laneway, but only just
  • assess parking situation, while waving to various other students arriving at the same time
  • stop when safe--today I was lucky, I didn't have to manouvre around many other cars
  • quickly unload loom and (big) bag of stuff
  • drive away, while greeting more fellow students
  • cross Lygon St--negotiating traffic and trams--park in the all day free on Saturday parking area next to the Cemetery
  • lock and leave the car
  • cross Lygon St again--negotiating traffic and trams again, on foot this time

. . . it is at this point that Filous becons me! I have to walk past the door you can see in the pic above to get back to the Guild. I'm tired already! Class hasn't even started, and it's always theory first. I stop and join the queue. A smile and a greeting added to the coffee and chocolate muffin and I'm ready for a day of weaving. Five minutes to catch up with a few more of the weavers who have made the same decision makes me even readier. It's approaching 10 am and Gerlinde always starts on time. Ready, set. . . welcome back!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pattern for an Evening Bag

I'm a practical sort of a woman. So, when I decided to make a pretty silk evening bag as my personal "choc-orange challenge", I wanted to be sure that it would be big enough to hold life's necessities. I'll let you speculate and debate as to what life's necessities might be.

I'd already decided on a pouch with a drawstring as the basic design. So then I noticed this ice-cream bucket. I'd been using it to give skeins of hand-spun that lovely relaxing little soak they get when I've finished working with them. I thought to myself, "Surely 2-litres is enough for life's necessities!", and when I converted it to dark chocolate brown silk with a ruffled drawstring top, it didn't look too bulky. So, now you know, the capacity of that silk bag is just under 2 litres, and that's enough.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Loom

My table loom is an eight-shaft made by Eric Noble in South Australia. I think it deserves a post all of it's own, having served me faithfully through the past year. This one belongs to the Guild. I had it on loan for the Certificate course last year and I need to return it this week--hence my flurry of activity in finishing the project that's on it. I like it so much that I've bought one just like it.

Eric Noble is supposed to be retiring. I don't know his personal story, but like many craftsmen of his calibre, there doesn't seem to be a next generation ready to take over. So I wanted to make sure I got a loom made by him while he's still making them.

I wish I'd taken a photo of my loom when it arrived in the post. The packaging seemed to sum up this man's attitude to his work. He had built a cardboard box to just the right dimensions. Then he'd glued in blocks of styrofoam to protect any vulnerable places. The whole thing was tailor made to ensure everything arrived just right. And it was just right. I'm looking forward to many many hours enjoying his craftsmanship.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back to the Weaving

The weaving course at the Guild starts up again on Saturday, and I've finally got back to my weaving. It's the supplementary warp, Turned Monksbelt, project left over from the end of last year and I've been meaning to get to it right through the holidays. But it's been one of those things that I kept putting off.

As soon as I started weaving, I remembered why I like it so much! The rhythm of work is great, and it's such a definite activity. I need a place where I can legitimately beat in a controlled and creative way, and weaving is it. Just to add to my satisfaction, the work grew at a great rate. I can see myself finishing it in the next day or two.

Here it is on the loom. I've raised the shafts holding the supplementary warp so you can see it more clearly.
The fibre is a mercerised cotton. I have to acknowledge the source of the contrast yarn because it's such a fantastic name. It comes from Lunatic Fringe Yarns! How good is that!

And to round off the mental health associations, I'm off to an exhibition of textile art in the city this morning. It's called, "It Keeps Me Sane. . . women, craft, creativity, wellbeing". What more can I say?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Power Tools

I ended up using my power drill to make the twisted cord for the bag. I was working with short lengths and wanted lots of twist. So this worked better for me than mucking around on the spinning wheel. This is a cordless drill which has been retired from active duty in household maintenance and is seeing out it's days in semi-retirement with my textiles. I also use it to wind bobbins for my weaving.

More is More

I've been playing with possibilities for the twisted cord to finish off this evening bag. I think in this case more is more!

The cord on the far right is 16 of the singles progressively twisted together. I think that will do. It will have to do because I only spun up a small amount of the choc-orange singles and now they're all gone. The chocolates are all gone too, but that I can fix:)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Choc-orange Challenge

I've just finished the Summer Challenge for my 3D5S group. The meeting was last weekend, and I didn't get there, but I had this project in mind and it turned into a personal challenge, so here it is: Choc-orange silk evening bag, with hand-spun wool cord. The choc-orange chocolate, courtesy of Ernest Hillier, a local chocolatier, no longer exists. I ate it as my reward as soon as I'd taken the photo. I wanted to catch some of the richness and sweetness of this particular chocolate combination, along with the extra tang that the orange provides.

3D5S--3 dimensions, 5 senses--is an inspiration group. We organise outings to inspiring places and then respond to our experiences in our art work--mostly textile art, but anything really. The break-up outing last year was to a chocolate cafe, hence my inspiration for this piece.

The summer challenge each year is to make a 10cm by 10 cm something in response to one of our group outings or a summer holiday experience. The challenge is designed to be quite broad in it's scope and in previous years I've made samples or fairly rough prototypes. This year I decided to make a real thing. I'm happy with the way the orange and brown silk interact in the bag and I quite like the cord I've made, but I'm not sure that it's strong enough for the bag--visually not physically. So I think I'll keep playing with that aspect. What I've got at the moment is a 6-ply cord--singles spun and overplied, then navaho-plied back the other way. The part I navaho plied was just the last bit left on one bobbin, the rest I've made as a 4-ply, but that definitely was too fine. I'm going to try twisting the cord--doubling it--one more time just as it is. If that doesn't satisfy me, I'll ply in an orange thread and see what that does to it. I wonder if that means I can buy myself some more lovely chocolates to eat as I continue to explore the possibilities:)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Post Script to Feathered Star

I think I got the photo's of V's quilt block up almost before she had a chance to get home. She sent me an email to tell me that the reason she went looking for the purple fabric to go in the feathered star design, was because she'd seen the colour in the dots in the selvedge of the fabric. And she kindly sent me a photo of the dots. So here they are:
Most quilting fabrics have these colour dots in the selvedge--one for each of the colours included in the print. That makes it nice and handy to match colours, especially as in this case, when it's quite a complex design. No. 5 and No. 10. are the relevant ones here. Of course, you don't have to limit yourself to the colours in the feature fabric, but it makes a handy reference.

Morning Visitor

My friend, V, brought her latest project with her when she dropped in this morning. It's a feathered star design which will be the centre of a quilt:
When I'd finished admiring the neatness of her stitching--if you're a quilter, you'll want to know that she's using the foundation piecing method to get all those points precise--I started thinking about the colour scheme. Olive green and burgundy, fair enough, but the pale purple is unexpected. It works though! And here it is in the feature fabric:
I'm not quite sure how I'd classify it as a colour scheme--split complementary, I guess, since yellow-green is opposite purple-red on the colour wheel. The point is, it's a great colour choice and makes the feathered star very lightly feathery. I like it. And it reinforces a point I often make with beginner quilters, that you're always pretty safe if you use any of the colours you find in a feature fabric.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dinner Guests

Fish and chips for tea on the banks of the Yarra at Warrandyte--it was my reward for at least doing a little bit of clearing up at home today after a big week.

We had planned on sharing our chips with the ducks, but didn't expect any to be as bold as this one. I took this shot with my portrait lens. I actually had to change lenses while this duck helped itself from the pack of chips on our picnic rug!
This little guy actually took a chip from my hand. For years I've been going to Warrandyte hoping to catch a good shot of the ducks and usually ending up with a small figure against a muddy background. I love the combination of colours in their plumage, and even though this shot doesn't catch any of the more spectacular colours, it does catch the character of a little duck who know what she? he? wants--please excuse my ignorance of duck biology.

Armchair Project

I like to have at least one "armchair project" on the go all the time. Here's my current one:

It's going to be a sofa throw, if you want to be formal about it,--or a comfort blanket if you want to look at it a bit more emotionally. I started it a week ago and am planning to give it to a family affected by the bushfires. The yarn is mostly natural coloured alpaca. The blue contrast is a blend of wool and mohair. I love the way the different natural alpaca colours both blend and contrast with one another. The blue is for water, which we so desperately need, and it's also a bit of a signature from me, since this is one of my favourite colours.

What's makes a good "armchair project"?

  • It should be simple enough that I can pick it up for a few minutes and put it down again without having to worry too much about where I'm up to.
  • At the same time it should be interesting enough to hold my attention for quite a while if I just need a quiet sit.
  • If it's a nice soft texture, all the better, since I'm often sitting in that armchair to pull myself together or take a break from a heavy day.
  • Also an armchair project often turns out to be something big: in contrast to the "take along" projects that I carry around with me. Big also has the benefit that I don't have to keep thinking of a new project to replace one I've just finished.
  • These projects usually turn out to have some personal meaning as well. I find myself thinking while I sit and work on it. While my hands are busy, I think about what I'm making and why I'm making it; and where it will live when it moves on from its life with me.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ball Winder

Continuing my "occasional series, introducing vital pieces of equipment" . . . mmm that does sound a bit grander than, "looking at my stuff" . . . here is my ball winder: The little metal arm with the coiled eyelet swings out to guide the yarn. The end of the yarn is held in the slit at the top of the plastic cylinder. When I wind the handle, the bit that looks like a flying saucer spins around and wobbles from side to side. It wobbles in a predictable patttern because of the angle at which it is set . . . and the result is a ball of yarn that looks like this:

This is alpaca yarn--that's it's natural colour. I have a darker grey, a chocolate brown and a caramel--also natural colours, just as they came off the alpaca's back, only cleaner--to go with it. The point about the ball of yarn, though, is that I can pull the yarn out from the centre of the ball. So the ball doesn't bounce around while I'm working with it. Believe me, that is a good thing!

I commented earlier that the "ball winder" has a rather unimaginative name. Since then I've remembered, and started to research something called a "nostepinde". That's a fancy name for something that looks like a nicely shaped wooden stick. It's the predecessor of the ball winder. All the turning and wobbling from side to side is done by hand. I admired one at the Guild the other day and one of my fellow students commented that she does exactly the same winding pattern on a toilet roll and it works just fine! So, why would I bother even thinking about a nostepinde? Well, the ball winder is a bit bulky, whereas a nicely shaped wooden stick, aka nostepinde would fit nicely into my pencil case. And besides, I just love gizmos and gadgets and nicely shaped pieces of wood, so I'd rather have one of those in my pencil case than an empty toilet roll.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I had to buy a new printer yesterday. The old one is incompatible with the operating system on my new computer. That was disappointing, annoying, frustrating . . . especially because it took me a fair bit of fiddling to work out where the problem was. During that process I found myself looking into the workings of the printer several times, and just for the sake of a smile amidst the angst, here it is: Primary colours! All the subtleties of colour my printer can produce come from these little cartridges: black, cyan, magenta and yellow. Just those basic primary colours: red, blue, yellow--they haven't changed since primary school--and just to prove the point, when I nearly ran out of black ink, the computer asked me whether I would like to produce black by using the colour cartridges.

Here's one of the ways I prefer to think about colour--when I'm not doing battle with my "labour-saving technology":
I love colour, I love colour wheels, I love colour theory, I love to play with colours. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to the fun and exciting aspects of colour again now that I've tackled my technology challenges.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CD Drop Spindle

OK, so I've fallen in love with drop-spindling!

For several days now I've been trying to get this funny combination of high-tech and low-tech going for me:It's a home-made drop spindle based on a CD. I found various helpful articles and how-to's online, but they were all American, so even the ones which so helpfully gave part numbers and store names weren't that much help to me. Here's how I got on:
  • an old CD--easy!
  • a piece of dowel--easy enough. The only challenge was working out the right diameter. This one is 12.5 mm.
  • a small cup hook to hold the fibre while it's being spun--a bag full of them cost a few dollars at the hardware store.
  • a rubber grommet to hold the dowel in the middle of the CD--that turned out to be the challenge. I now know that it's a wiring grommet, that it's used to protect wiring when it passes through metal plates, like the fire-wall in a car and therefore it's available from car-type places and perhaps radio-electronics type places. The size I want is called 1/2 inch--that's the inside diameter. The outside diameter turns out to be 21/32 inch--whatever! I got two from an auto store, but I'm hoping to find a better supplier since I need a dozen or so for our group at the Guild to make one each.

I used a stanley knife to shape the end of the dowel and fiddled a bit with where to place the CD on the dowel and now it really works. That's satisfying.

I searched high and low through the hardware store for alternatives to the CD which might be easier to attach to a shaft, but had no luck there. Along the way I had several interesting conversations with bemused and helpful salespeople in a variety of stores and got to show off my drop-spindling skills, since demonstration turned out to be the best way to communicate what I was looking for.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shopping Report

Here's the loot from my shopping trip: I'm pleased with my purchases and I'm pleased with my restraint. The warehouse wasn't just a warehouse, but also a showroom and there were lots of clever and pretty doodads and gizmos. But they weren't on my list, so they didn't come home with me. Well, the only one that did come home with me was the cute little 4 1/2 in ruler and I was looking out for a handy little ruler, so I'm going to argue that it was on the list in invisible ink:)

As for the fabrics:
  • 1/2 m of chocolate brown silk at $5 per metre on clearance--chocolate brown silk was on my list believe it or not. It's for the summer challenge for the group I didn't attend last weekend, so I'm a bit behind on that one, but it was on my list
  • and 40cm of the purple geometric silk at $9.95 per metre--that wasn't on the list, but it was irresistably geometrically bright, so it had to come home with me.

Shopping Trip

I just got the go ahead for my Patchwork by Machine class at the local Neighbourhood House. Seven students have signed up and there are a couple still making up their minds. This is a first for our Neighbourhood House. We've had a "do your own thing" Quilters' Circle for several years now, but no beginner classes.

My aim in planning this class was to make it really easy for new people to get started, so they can enjoy the craft and potentially join a group. So I designed a simple 9-patch lap quilt which has been on display. I'm also going to be providing a class set of equipment so students don't have to spend a lot of money up front before they even get a chance to make anything.

Which brings me to my shopping trip! I need to buy a couple of cutting sets: rulers, mats and cutters. I'm about to open an account at a habedashery warehouse. That's a new thing for me. I've made a list so I won't be tempted to buy the place out on my first visit. At least, I will be tempted to buy the place out, but I'll have the list to restrain me.

This is the sort of thing I'm after:
It just so happens that one of my favourite discount fabric stores is in the same suburb as the warehouse--and in the last few years they've taken to buying in silk fabrics as well as the more usual variety of dress fabrics and quilting cottons. I'm planning to visit, but I will be selective. There, you have it in writing, "I will be restrained in my shopping".

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marle Colour Blend Close Ups

Here are a couple of close up shots of one of my Silver Princess skeins:
In the top pic you can see that the overall colour is grey-green-ish with redish tones. the bottom pic is closer again. This skein highlights one of my favourite aspects of Australian plant growth. The growing tips are often reddish and change to green as they mature. You can see how the green colour is built up from a variety of greens and grey-blues. I've included a couple of pink tones as well as the red.
The combination of opposite colours from the colour wheel--greens and reds--makes the overall impression greyer. The variety of close colours gives texture. Because I don't mix the colours at the preparation stage, but combine them while I'm actually spinning, they keep more of their own character. Otherwise I might end up with a more muddy colour blend. The colours will mix again when they are knitted or woven and the result will be more flecky--that's the characteristic look of a marle.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Silver Princess Blended Merino Skeins

Here's the kind of thing I have in mind when I say, "these are my Australian Colour selections for today":
These are Silver Princess colour blends I did last year. The Silver Princess is one of my favourite trees and I have a collection of photos I've taken of the tree itself and its flowers. I've made the photos up into a poster for my wall. Then I've used that as inspiration for some merino multi-marle colour blends. I choose a variety of related colours and mix the colours as I spin. This gives me a colour blend that is textured and vibrant. It's quite different from what I can achieve with my dyepot.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

True Love!

No roses, no chocolates--well, only the slab of old gold with raspberry, I've been nibbling on for the past several days--but if I need an excuse to buy a few hundred grams of something delicious, then Valentines Day is as good an excuse as any.
These are my Australian colour selections for today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Good News, Bad News, New Equipment.

I'll start at the end of the story: I have a new computer. The bad news part is that the laptop I've been using for the past several years broke down. I'd been struggling with it for a while, trying--with the help of some computer-minded friends--to work out what was going on . It finally showed its hand and broke down decisively four days after my warranty ran out!

So, you can add this little darling to the list of equipment which I can't do without. I can be happy about it as long as I don't think too much about my budget. I wouldn't be blogging without it. Nor would I be storing and processing my photos and I'm working towards launching my Etsy shop soon.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oh, So Soft; Oh, So Scientific!

My professional background is in medical science--among other things--that's a long story. Now as a textile artist, I love to experiment--and play. In the textile field, sampling is a great way of trying out ideas, techniques and materials. "Sample, sample, sample! is a textile art mantra, so I'm right at home there. I do sometimes drive my friends and collegues nuts, though, with my desire to change just one variable at a time, and label my results.

So, one of the things I'm looking forward to in this Spinning Certificate at the Guild, is the satisfaction of developing a folio full of labelled samples. Here is the first one: This is the worsted spinning sample from last week's class--knitted up, labelled and ready to go. And it was such a pleasure to work with beautiful soft wool, rather than some of the nasties I've encountered in the medical field.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Equipment

I started this Blog with a photo of my living room-studio. What can I say . . . there's a lot of stuff there. It's interesting to see how different people respond to it. I guess it's not necessarily what you'd expect when you knock on the door of an ordinary-looking suburban town house. I contend that all that stuff is useful stuff and I enjoy having it there, though it would be nice if the clean up-fairy would keep it all in order for me. I'm afraid there is no clean-up fairy. I'm not going to comment on the tooth fairy or Santa Claus.

So, talking about stuff. Here's one more piece of vital equipment:

This is a swift. It's the partner of the niddy noddies I introduced a while back. I use a niddy noddy to make a skein. I use a swift to hold a skein for me while I unwind it. Usually I unwind a skein to make a ball of yarn. And, yes, there is a special piece of equipment to help me wind a ball of yarn. Not so imaginatively named as the niddy noddy or the swift, though. It's simply called a ball winder.

A swift has two exciting features
  1. it holds the skein while I wind the ball of yarn. That sounds basic enough, but this is the alternative when I was away on holidays and didn't have a swift with me: . . . skein draped across the back of a chair--I didn't feel brave enough to commandeer two chairs in the coffee shop. I'm only half-way through winding and it's getting tangled already.
  2. The four arms are variable in length, so it will work for lots of different length skeins. It takes anything from my smallest to largest skein. That's handy, given the limitations on how much stuff I can reasonably store.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Papercraft or Paper-work?

I don't do a lot of papercraft, but I did help a friend redecorate her bedroom during the holidays and when she asked for a paper bouquet to match the doona cover I'd made for her, we came up with this:
On the other hand, there's this:
You guessed it, financial records. Finances are not my best craft! There is little room for creativity, at least, not if I want to stay on the right side of the law! And unlike the textiles I like to work with, this stuff isn't very flexible. So I have to clear my mind, clear my table and sort it out a step at a time: make a list and add it up. I can do it, but it's not fun . . . oh well . . .

Monday, February 9, 2009

Combing Wool for Worsted Spinning

The challenge and the satisfaction of the Spinning Course I'm doing at the Guild is that each session we concentrate--really concentrate--on just one technique. This weekend it was worsted spinning. That's spinning where the fibres are all lined up parallel to each other before being spun into a yarn. There are various ways of preparing the fibre, and all of them involve sharp objects. These are the worst:
English Wool Combs--they can do a bit of damage to your skin if you're not careful--so I treat them with respect. But they do marvelous things to fleece. This is how it looks when it comes off the combs:

It still has all it's crimp and character--you can see it came off a sheep recently--but it's lovely and even and airy and ready to go.

And here it is spun up into a small skein of worsted yarn:

This was a first sample, only about ten grams, to see how I went with it all. I'm happy that it's all working nicely, so now to do 20g for my folio.
Meanwhile I've begged a loan of the drop spindle for another month and it has become my constant companion. Thanks, Joy.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thoughts of Chocolate

Ummmm, yum! A blend of wool tops: "dark chocolate" and "nutmeg" from First Editions, spun together with just sprinkling of white. A friend who saw this skein sitting on my table while we were having coffee this morning suggested lamingtons--now that's nice and Australian!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Meet my Little Gem

Little Gem--I said she was well named! A , double treadle portable spinning wheel from Majacraft in New Zealand:Double treadle means that I'm working equally with both feet when I spin and I can sit nice and squarely in my chair. That's important when I want to spin for hours. And I do spin for hours and hours some days.

By portable, I mean, portable. I once rode my pushbike to the Guild with this wheel in my rear carry basket. Admittedly it wasn't a fantastic trip--the centre of gravity was too high on the bike--and the next day I went out and invested in a set of panniers to replace the bike basket. But definitely portable. It comes apart and folds flat into a handy carry bag. Here it is, packed and ready to go to school with me this morning,
And it's not a toy. I do all my spinning on this wheel. It's nice to have something that take up so little space in my unit and still allows me to do everything I want to do.

We're off to the Guild today, the little Gem and I. We have another full day of the Spinning Certificate today. The forecast is for 44 degree heat with gusty winds and the Guild lives in an old Scout Hall. I'm not expecting a comfortable day, but I am expecting to learn a lot.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Drop Spindling Progress

Here is my first skein made on the drop spindle. I plied it off yesterday--that's a story in itself! The drop spindle belongs to Joy at the Guild and I've had it on loan for a week, so by now, since I'm hooked, I'm working out how to get hold of one for myself. . . . by the way, the program that runs this blog insisted on placing this picture on it's side. I can't work out why, and after several attempts, I've decided to just leave it as is.

About the drop spindle: like most pieces of remarkably simple technology, it turns out that the drop spindle is more sophisticated than it looks. Yes, it's just a round lump of wood on a shaft with a hook on the end, but the proportions, the balance and weight distribution of that round lump of wood and the shape of the hook all affect the way it spins, and so affect the joy of spinning with it. It turns out this drop spindle I've been happily using is hand-turned by a skilled craftsman. There are various patterns for home-made drop spindles and I've been exploring the possibilities, but I don't expect to achieve the beautiful balance of this one.
The red and white lamp-work bead in the pic is part of my exploration of home-made drop spindle possibilities. I wondered whether I could add a shaft and hook to it and hey presto. Well, maybe, maybe not. Certainly it is round and nicely balanced, but the weight is all at the centre and I don't know how long it would keep spinning for me. So it might just have to go to a piece of jewelry after all.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Size Fits All . . . NOT!

I took my chocolate silk cotton double weave fabric with me to a meeting the other day. For no other reason than that it's gorgeous and I wanted to share it with friends who appreciate such things. After a flurry of hand-washing, it was suitably petted and admired:)
I've had another go at photographing it to catch the shine and the interlacing of layers in the weave, but I must confess, I really am in love with this fabric, and you may well get tired of it before I do, so I'll try not to overdo it.
As for "one size fits all", while I'm on confessions, I may as well admit that I am not even close to my ideal weight at the moment. And I'd like to think of something I make out of this fabric as a piece I treasure for years to come. I'm hoping not to have to deal with my current figure challenges for years to come. So, I've pretty much decided to make a wrap, or something like that. Then no matter what, I'll be able to enjoy it. Meanwhile, I am enjoying its life as an exotic pet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shawl Pins

I love variety in my work. I love to twist and embellish. These shawl pins are a good example of that. They are based on small eucalypt branches: a little more substantial than twigs as I need a nice solid core of hard wood. I carve them to shape, then embellish them with artists wire and freshwater pearls. They each have a base ring of clear plastic to keep them secure without detracting from their beauty.

This is how they look on display--because of their unique shapes, it's hard to get them to all "face the front and smile for the photo", but I think you get the idea.
Here are the pieces I've been working on recently:
I've whittled away at the basic shapes, now it's time to sand them smooth. Then comes the wire and pearls. The whittling and smoothing takes the longest time. Compared with that the wire wrapping is relatively quick, so I try to get a batch ready to go before I cover my big table with jewellry tools, pearls and semi-precious stones.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Toy

The first practical lesson in the Spinning Certificate course on Saturday was Drop Spindling. Spinning on a drop spindle is one of the most basic ways to spin. At first I was cursing, dropping the spindle and feeling incredibly uncoordinated. But after I while I got the hang of it and now it's starting to feel like fun. In fact, a drop spindle works on exactly the same principle as a child's toy top and it's has the same kind of fascination. At the same time I get to work with my favourite fibre in my hands. That sounds like a good deal.

Monday, February 2, 2009

On my Drying Rack

Here are the results of my "hot day, cold pad batch" dyeing efforts:
I only mixed up one colour. I had four skeins of off-white wool to dye. So I decided to go for different textures in blue and white.
  • The one on the far left has eight tight cotton ties to prevent the dye contacting the wool in just those spots. Then I soaked the whole skein in the blue dye
  • The next skein was folded in fourths and dipped in dye
  • The next one, second from the right, I laid flat on a piece of plastic. I then squirted lines of dye across the skein with an old sauce bottle.
  • The last skein was just folded on itself. Half was immersed in dye and I kept the other half out of the way.

The point of this technique--apart from the relief of "working" with water on a horribly hot day--is that the dye pretty much stays where I put it. So I can control where the colour goes on the skein.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

. . . and double Light

On my way home yesterday I stopped at Bloom Fabrics ( I'd been promising myself a look at this fabulous looking fabric store for years: desiring the beauty, but dreading the cost! So when I drove past yesterday and saw the sign, "Clearance, Last Day 31 January", I just had to stop. The shop was nearly empty, but the few bolts, dresses and laces left on display confirmed my drive-by impressions.

When I found this fabric I was gone:

Silk-cotton double weave, almost sheer. The upper layer is chocolate coloured silk and the under layer, a fawn cotton, both incredibly light weaves with the double weave interaction of layers producing this effect.

  • I had to buy it for its sheer beauty
  • I had to buy it for its silk lustre
  • I had to buy it for its tempting chocolate richness
  • I had to buy it for the play of light and shade across its fine surface
  • I had to buy it as a beautiful example of double-weave technique
  • . . . and did I mention I just had to buy it!

Four and a half metres were left on the bolt--enough to make something. So far I have turned it into a skirt, an overblouse and an embellished stole in my imagination. For now, I'm treating it as an exotic pet: admiring and stroking it and thinking about it a lot.

Light and Transparency

First day of the Guild Spinning Certificate yesterday. I took a few minutes to browse in the library at lunchtime and came across this:
Doramay Keasbey, "Sheer Delight--Handwoven Transparencies"; Stellar Publishing House, Pettaluma, California, 1990.

It's a sort of anthology of Handwoven Transparencies, with some technical information and a Workshop section as well. I've hardly even skimmed the book, but the basic technique seems to be a combination of a stable, sheer plain weave, with decorative inlays. I'm keen to have a closer look.