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Decisions

I’ve been making decisions lately.

I’d originally planned to call my new shawl design Aurora’s Light, but I kept looking at it:
Knitted shawl - Christmas Lights
… and the Christmas Trees under the Christmas Star pattern just kept leaping out at me, and I finally decided that it couldn’t really be called anything else but Christmas Lights.

The pattern is currently being tested by a small band of enthusiastic testers over on Ravelry. There’s still scope for a couple more testers, so if you’d like to join in, see the discussion thread on the Brangian KAL group – the important info about the pattern is in the first post.

In an earlier post, I mentioned starting another sample of the shawl in lovely silk/merino from Knitabulous in a colourway called Tequila Sunrise – gorgeous pink and peach colours. However, having changed the name, I’m decided to put that one aside for a while, and I’ve started another one, this time for the medium size in a great Christmas green yarn from Saffron Dyeworks:

Christmas Lights Shawl progress

I’m planning to use the Tequila Sunrise yarn for a different pattern, perhaps a new one that may even start with the star, but go quite differently from there…. I’m still thinking about that. And there’s plenty of time, because I have to knit the green Christmas Lights first!

The other decision-making currently occupying my mind relates to the cleaning out and tidying I’m doing in our sunroom. When we designed the house, the plan was that one end of the sunroom would be my craft/office space. However, in between the start of building on the house, and moving in, I acquired a large, 12-shaft countermarche loom – which does fit at the end of the room, but takes up rather a lot of it! I also resigned from my full-time job the week that we moved, back in 2001, and although I’ve had other jobs out at the uni since then, I no longer have an office out there to store all my work-related things. Now I’m working from home, on another career, and it brings its own stack of paperwork, resources, and books. I’ve got bookshelves overflowing in the guest room, and a tiny desk tucked into a corner there, and a stack of paperwork, books, and fibre/yarn things in the sunroom, which is also home to assorted other bits of furniture and aspects of our life – amongst other things, the washing is frequently hanging up to dry there! And for the past year or so, I’ve been basically working at the dining table, moving my laptop when we have guests.

I’ve advertised the large loom for sale a number of times over the past few years, with no luck. I’ve also got a smaller 4-shaft counterbalance loom, and I’d planned to keep it until I could replace both with a smaller 8-shaft loom. Then the thought finally occurred to me the other day – why not keep the large loom, which will weave just about anything I’ll ever want to weave, and sell the smaller loom? If I also find new homes for the rocking chair, the treadmill, & assorted boxes, I could put a desk/table in their place, and shelves/cupboards on the other side of the big loom, rather than trying to work at a desk crammed in there.

Maybe it’s because Spring is in the air, or maybe its just the right time to do it, but I’ve begun the task of decluttering so that I can rearrange things, and although it doesn’t look like it just yet, I have made significant progress! The major ‘if’ of the decision about the looms, though, is that I have to make sure that I can work comfortably at the large loom. In all the years I’ve had it, I’ve only woven about 4 warps on it; when I was trying to sell it I wasn’t weaving on it, but I’m itching to weave again and I’ll wind a warp soon and test out that it will be okay as my only loom. But first I’m going to make apron cloths for the front beams and double back beams, as it doesn’t have any and I’ve always thought it need them. I bought calico for that today… and excavated the sewing machine!

Although there is one decent-sized cupboard in the room, it’s not quite large enough for all my stash and paraphenalia, so I’ve been looking at storage cupboards this week, and think I’ve found a suitable one to put down one end of the room. I just have to decide what else will go into the not-much space between the loom and the wall, and how I’ll configure that. Oh, and how I’ll afford it, as well!

And on top of all those decisions, there are a hundred small ones, as I sort through paperwork and other things. I’ve emptied a filing cabinet, although there’s a pile of files that need to be kept; tax paperwork, and family ephemera such as pictures drawn by my niece and nephew when they were little. I’ve emptied a cane chest, and put an assortment of things into a box to go to the Salvation Army… but there’s a jumper I started making for my nephew, when he was 3-ish – it’s almost finished, but he’s now 16! And a lovely fair-isle cardigan, started 11 yeas ago – for my now 19 year old niece. I’m not sure if I’ll finish them, or pass them on to a knitter with small kids to finish. I did put the almost-finished lacy baby jacket and pattern into the Salvos box – hopefully it will find its way to a knitter who likes baby things. I’ve managed to be firm with decisions about some spinning fibre; bits and pieces of fleece and natural roving are going into my compost bin or will become mulch in the garden. I’ve still got a box and a bag or three of lovely fibres, but the older, not-special fibres are going out.

There’s still a way to go until it’s all sorted, but I’m feeling good about progress, and looking forward to eventually having my own space again.

Racing the clock

When I was researching in the UK a few years ago for my Honours thesis (on 18th century British worsted textiles), I came across a newspaper article about a coat made entirely in one day, from raw fleece to finished product. I can’t at present find my notes, but I think that one was earlier than the similar event, described in the following article, which originally appeared in the Leeds Mercury, and was reprinted in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser in it’s first edition on January 7, 1843.( Courtesy of the National Library’s Historic Australian Newspapers site.)

MOST EXTRAORDINARY PERFORMANCE IN THE MANUFACTURE OF A COAT.- The somewhat surprising statement which we published on the 2nd instant, of a beautiful brown dress coat having been manu- factured and made in Leeds in the space of 19 hours, can scarcely equal the following as a feat of expedition, one we should think, unparalleled ín the history of coat-making. The late Sir John Trockmorton, Bart., a noble minded gentleman, and one ardently devoted to improvements in agriculture, with a view to encourage the growth of British wool, at five o’clock in the morning of the 25th June, 1811, presented two sheep to Mr. Coxeter, of Greenham Mills, Newbury, Berks, for the purpose of proving that a coat could be made of the wool before night. The sheep were immediately shorn, and the wool sorted, &c., it passed through the usual process of scouring, dyeing, scribbling, spinning (on the jenny,) weaving (by hand,) and a fine kersey cloth was manufactured before four o’clock in the afternoon. The cloth was then put into the hands of tailors, who completed the coat at twenty minutes past six, and Sir John had the pleasure and satisfaction of appearing in it at a public dinner at seven ? Some thousands of persons were present, who at the appearance of Sir John, rent the air with their acclamations. The said coat is now in possession of the nephew of Sir John late member for Berks. We have seen a large painting in the inn at Newbery, representing a view of Mr. Coxeter’s manufactory on the morning of the day, when this extraordinary performance took place at the above mills, also representing Sir John in his celebrated coat, and portraits of the most distinguished persons present at the dinner.-Leeds Mercury.

I suspect that this type of racing-against-the clock challenge was not entirely uncommon at the time, in the days of entrepreneurial gentleman clothiers and manufacturers, prior to the wide-spread introduction of steam-powered machinery. It’s quite an amazing feat though, when you consider all the process that had to take place, and only the spinning done by machine, everything else done by hand. I can only assume that it was a dry day, given that the processes included scouring, dyeing, and presumably at least some wet-finishing of the kersey cloth. I hope Sir John didn’t catch a cold over dinner, if his coat was still slightly damp 🙂

Knitting, weaving, dyeing…

I seem to have multiple WIPs happening at the moment.

There’s an Aeolian Shawl, in Handmaiden Sea Silk, on which I’m only 24 (long!) rows from the end. I’m really enjoying the pattern; it’s well-written, intuitive, and it looks stunning. I’m doing the version with the narrower border, as I’m not sure whether I’ll have enough yarn. I’ve stil got just under 50% of the yarn left, but the edging does consume a heap of yarn, so I’m keeping m fingers crossed (and I’ve order another skein, just in case – because who can have too much sea silk??)
Pattern: Aeolian shawl. Bead detail.
(The colour is actually not quite as bright, and there’s a bit more purple overall than in this little sample).

I’m enjoying the Aeolian so much, that I cast on a second one, so I could knit the shorter easier first section rows when I don’t have time or concentration for the first Aeolian’s long, beaded rows. I chose a KnitPicks alpaca and silk fine lace yarn from the stash, in beautiful turquoise colours. I’ve ordered beads for it, and they should be here tomorrow.
Pattern: Aeolian Shawl Yarn" Knitpicks Shimmer Alpaca/silk

The Harris Tweed socks are 70% done – just have to turn the heel and knit the foot of the second one. No updated photo of those, but there should be a FO post soon.

I also cast on two other pairs of socks yesterday, as part of the Ravelry Sock Knitters Anonymous October Challenge – which includes socks designed for men. Since the menfolk in my family could do with some more hand-knitted socks, I started the two pairs before the challenge deadline of October 31. Now I just need to finish them before November 30!

The weaving has been slowly progressing. Because the warp has been on the loom for so long, and it’s very fine, I’m having a few broken warp threads. Here’s the view of the back of the loom:
Replacement warp threads

Yes, that’s 6 film cannisters tensioning replacement threads – and there were two more earlier on that I’ve already woven back in. I’m running out of film cannisters to use!

Yesterday, I bought a small camping hotplate on special at Big W – and today I used it to dye some yarns. I didn’t get quite the colours I was aiming for; partly because of my very un-scientific approach to dyeing, and partly because I simply didn’t have the dye colours I wanted. But I’m still happy with the outcome:
Dyed skeins

The little stove worked very well. The gas cannisters were on special for $5 for 4, and I only used 1 and a half for close on three hours of ‘cooking’ – so I’ll be dyeing more regularly. But I’ll need to order some more dyes in the colours I want!

Look! Weaving!

You know that black warp that’s been on my loom for, oh, almost two years?? The one that I finally finished threading back in March?

Well, I couldn’t decide what to do with it. I tried a few colours, didn’t like them. I hmmed and ha’d about whether I was going to weave some trim for a jacket, whether the warp was too narrow, whether I had enough warp on for enough trim and a scarf…. and the warp sat idle for months, gathering dust. Things gathered around the loom… mostly stash that overflowed from the stash cupboard.

A couple of weekends ago, I did some major clearing out of the yarn/fibre/stuff stash cupboard, turfing out old fleeces that I’ll never spin, rearranging some things, putting the overflowing yarn into plastic boxes. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s better than it was. Last weekend, able to get to the loom again, I made my decision about the warp: weave two metres of plain black for trim for the jacket, then weave a scarf. If I have warp left over, I can weave a little more plain black.

So, I sat down at the loom last Sunday, and wove, off and on, for a couple of hours. I’ve woven some more during the week. This morning I sat down again, and by lunchtime had finished 2.2 metres of plain black – it’s sett at 28epi, and I’m probably weaving it slightly closer than that, so there’s a lo of shuttle throwing and beating in 2.2 metres!

Then it was time to decide on the scarf pattern. The warp is threaded in an advancing twill pattern, but I decided, after some experimentation, to weave it as overshot, with a plainweave black pick in between each pattern shot. I recently bought on eBay some 2/28 throwsters silk in a natural ecru colour, and after trying it on the warp, I decided I liked it. So, here’s the progress so far – including the mending of a broken warp thread!

And here’s a detail of the pattern:

I’m hoping to get this finished in time to take it to the Spinners and Weavers meeting next Saturday – so I can show them that I haven’t entirely forgotten how to weave!

FO – Shetland Triangle

I  finished this Shetland Triangle yesterday:

I used yarn that’s been in my stash for ages – a cone of Bendigo Woollen Mills 5ply Colonial that was left over from a weaving workshop a few years back. Some of the cone had been used, and as I didn’t have an empty plastic cone, I couldn’t determine the exact weight of what was left, although I guessed it was around 150 grams. As it turned out, it wasn’t quite enough –  I got as far as the end of row 13 of the 15-row edging, and had to cast off there – which I achieved, with only 2 metres of yarn to spare!

I beaded the last three pattern repeats, and the edging, with size 5.0 silver-lined beads:

I’m quite happy with the finished result, although the yarn is not quite as soft as I’d hoped after washing. This may be a Christmas gift.

As for other wips, I’m currently working on two pairs of socks – one is daylight-only knitting, the other I can knit at night. The daylight socks are the ones I’ve been working on for a while – just a very basic pair of stocking stitch socks in a dark blue-green Zitron Trekking yarn. I’m turning the heel on the second sock, so they won’t take too much longer to finish.

The other pair I started last night – a pair of Harris Tweed socks, in Bendigo Luxury 4ply in their ‘cork brown’ colour. The yarn s lovely to knit with, and the pattern suitable for knitting-while-writing – ie, relatively mindless, and easy to put down the moment the words strike! I bought three balls of the Luxury 4ply a few months back, and since each ball will make two pairs of socks, I’ll be knitting more socks frm this yarn!

I confess – I’ve also bought some yarn recently. Knitpicks was having a sale of lace yarn, and a few skeins found their way to me. Okay, quite a few skeins. Enough for seven shawls. Because I needed more stash to add to the stash I already have. Really.

And talking about stash, I also bought some weaving yarns from Webs. Even with the postage from the US (gulp – it was higher than the website quote), it still worked out to be a reasonable deal, compared to what the same amount of yarn would cost me to buy here – assuming I could find it amongst the few weaving yarn suppliers. So, I have some mercerised 10/2 cottons, some unmercerised 8/2 cottons, and some tencel to play with.

And yes – amazing though it may seem – I have actually been weaving. The black warp that has been on the loom for ages has finally progressed. After being totally indecisive for ages about what I was going to do with it, I made up my Libran mind. The first couple of metres are just plain black plain weave – trim for a jacket that I will make form some other handwoven fabric. The last couple of metres will be a scarf. I haven’t definitely decided which colour and yarn what I will put across the black warp, but it’s threaded in an advancing twill pattern and I will weave it in an overshot style. No photos yet, but there will be some soon.

Weaving – at last!

So, back in June, I thought I’d make some progress on the warp that had been draped over the loom for six months at that stage. That first day, I blogged that I’d gotten this far:

The next day, I trheaded 3 more inches – 5 of the total 8. And then, it sat. And sat. (Yes, and gathered some dust…)

On Thursday, I finished threading, sleying, tying it up, and got weaving…

However, I’m still not quite sure what I want to do! I’ve only done a few inches, sampling at this stage. The warp is 5 metres, and its threaded in a twill/advancing twill pattern. The original plan was to weave about half in plain weave, to have a contrasting fabric for collars/bands on a jacket made of fabric I wove years ago, and to weave the other half with a contrasting yarn in the pattern as a scarf.

This is the cloth I wove some years ago, with the jacket pattern I’m using for inspiration – however, I plan to a) make the bands and collar a bit narrower, and b) make the jacket a bit longer, and without the bottom band. The checked fabric will be the body of the jacket; what I’m weaving now will be the bands. I think.

The jacket fabric – on the right – has the fine black wool, intersected with a slightly thicker mauve yarn, which creates a gorgeous texture. The current weaving – on the left – has a sample of the twill pattern using the same mauve yarn, plain weave with the black yarn, and the advancing twill pattern, black on black (hardly visible). I think the twill pattern in the mauve will be too much – because the mauve is thicker yarn than the black, it overpowers it. I could try weaving it as overshot – with a black tabby thread between each mauve pick, which would ‘black’ it up a bit more, but I think it would still be too much. (The sample is only one pattern repeat; it would be repeated up the band).

So, I’m leaning towards the plain black as the contrast. Any thoughts?

Inkle cottons

I was in Canberra for a few days over Christmas, and visited Lincraft on Boxing Day, where they were having a 30% off sale. I mentioned in a previous post that it’s hard getting a good range of colours in 4ply cottons for inkle weaving – well, Lincraft had a good range! I chose the less expensive yarn, and, with 30% off, was able to splurge a little on 12 different shades:

Other than that, I was restrained at the Lincraft sale – the only other purchase was a ball of plain dark brown Sullivan’s sock yarn.

However, since my wrist is still quite painful, I am doing very little knitting at the moment. Having it x-rayed tomorrow, so I hope to find out what’s wrong – and what the treatment is!

Inkle bookmarks

I’m doing some weaving 🙂

I’ve been suffering from a lot of pain in my left wrist and arm lately, which has been getting worse instead of better. I don’t think it’s knitting that’s caused it, but I decided to take a break from the needles for a few days and see if that helps. However, I do like to have some fibre/yarn work to keep my fingers busy!

I’ve been thinking about making some more bookmarks for a little while, and the Sept/Oct issue of Handwoven had some inkle bands in it, in rich colour combinations, that I liked. Yesterday, a series of thunderstorms overhead had me turning off the computer and keeping the frightened dogs company in the living room for a while – a perfect opportunity to get out my inkle weight loss loom, my bag of cotton yarns, and the Handwoven article. Unfortunately, it’s a challenge getting a good range of colours here in 4ply cotton, so there was no way I could replicate any of the colour schemes in the article, even if I’d wanted to. But it did give me some inspiration, and the motivation to be more adventurous in colour combinations and patterns than I’ve been in the past. I’m quite happy with the results:

These weave up quickly, and I’ll be finished this warp this afternoon. Then it will ‘just’ be a matter of cutting them apart, and twisting the fringes – and possibly adding beads, if I can find ones that work.

This is not about knitting. Or Weaving.

Some of my blog readers know that, in between knitting, I write books. I’m giving away a copy of my recently published romantic suspense novel, As Darkness Falls, over on my writing blog.

So, if you like romantic suspense (set on the edge of the Australian outback), and want to enter for a chance to win, pop on over there, download the free chapter 1, answer 3 super easy questions, and maybe it will be your name that will be drawn out on October 13th!

(And I said this post wasn’t about knitting or weaving, but I’m thinking maybe I could weave some inkle bookmarks – one to go with the book prize, and maybe a couple of consolation prizes… Hmmm… will have to see what I have in the fine cotton yarn stash… no promises, but maybe 🙂 )

FO – Retro Rib Socks

Pattern: Retro Rib by Evelyn A Clark, from Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave. Yarn: The Knittery 4ply merino/cashmere; shade – waterlilies.

I love this yarn; it’s so warm and cosy. Although it’s officially spring today, we’ll still have plenty of cool days to wear these.

And speaking of yarn, this was the other lot of yarn I bought in San Francisco:

It’s from ArtFibers, and is 87% bamboo, and 13% silk. I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to be yet, but I think I might weave it, maybe in a point twill or similar, with a plain contrast silk.