Sheep Fest is coming

Just a quick reminder that Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival is this weekend. We’ll be at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds on Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 10-4.

I’ve got lots to do to get ready for the show. I’m trying out some new display options in my booth to see if they’ll work well for the big show I’m doing in November. They still need some assembly before set-up on Friday.

There’s merchandise to tag and marketing photos to post in social media outlets.

I’ve got to repack my show bins from the outdoor show contents to the indoor show contents.

I’m bringing a couple of spinning wheels to sell (if I can get them into the car) so I’ve got some signs to make. [If you are interested in a Merlin Tree Hitchhiker or a Canadian tilt-tension production wheel, give me a shout.]

And while I’m doing all of that I’ll be weaving, knitting and dreaming about seeing sheep and alpacas. Yarn, yarn and more yarn. Maybe I’ll be tempted and buy some.

I’m in the pavilion (the big main building.) Hope to see you there!

Scaling up

I’ve been accepted to a show in November, Craft Vermont, and I need to significantly increase my scarf inventory before then. One way to do that is to wind warps for multiple scarves in one run instead of one at a time. I’ve done this many times before when I weave dishtowels but up until now have preferred to do my scarves one at a time.

This has made sense when I have a limited supply of the warp yarn, or I’m going to use a funky accent yarn. But when I am planning to use the same variegated yarn for the warp and vary the color of the weft yarn, it makes sense to add some efficiency to the process. On the up side, I only have to sley the reed and thread the heddles once. Likewise, tying on to the front and back rods. On the downside, I’m winding a longer warp (10 yards vs 3) for 3 scarves, and managing the length through the process of dressing the loom.

I also needed to know what length to weave. When I set up to weave a single scarf, I typically weave the full length of the warp (minus the waste) and whatever I’m allowing for fringe. I don’t have to measure as I go because I keep going until I can’t. But with a 3-scarf warp I had some figuring to do. I knew how long the scarves were once I got them off the loom, but I hadn’t been measuring the weaving under tension and there’s always a loss of length (the take-up) between on loom and off.

I spent a few hours last weekend with my weaving notebook (notes on all the past projects) and my warp requirements planning spreadsheet and tried to figure it all out. I’ll spare you all the gory details (email me if you really want to know more), but I finally had something I thought would work.

This week I wound a test warp, 10 yards, for three scarves.

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warp chain along with two of the three weft yarns

I can whip out a 1-scarf warp pretty quickly, so I hadn’t thought real hard about how much longer it was going to take to wind this one. Once it was finally ready for the loom the threading went as quickly as ever.

Then there was the winding on of the warp onto the warp beam. There were some issues. The first was a rookie mistake. I hadn’t used the loom since I unfolded it after the rug workshop so it wasn’t quite set up correctly. The rod that’s supposed to go up and over the back beam was instead snugged right up against the warp beam. As I was tying on I kept thinking that it didn’t look right, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. After tying on most of the warp bundles I realized the problem. I painstakingly untied about 9 double knots, moved the rod into place and started the knotting process over again. (If it had been the loom below, I could have removed the back beam, slid it under the threads and replaced it, but my Baby Wolf doesn’t have that capability.)

Here’s what it is supposed to look like (this is not a scarf!)

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Warp threads properly going over the back beam

Then it was time for the winding on. I warp from the front, so in this step I’m turning a crank and winding all of the warp threads through the reed and heddles from the front of the loom to the back and onto the beam that is covered with cardboard in the picture above. The cardboard (some use sticks or heavy paper) keeps the threads from sinking into the layers of threads that I’ve wound on and thus I maintain an even tension across the width of the warp.

As I wound on, I knew I needed to keep the tension even, but I was using a mishmash of cardboard rolls, some of which were more squished flat than others, and it turns out I didn’t get it as tight as I should have. This was revealed to me only as I was weaving. I’d weave a couple of inches and go to advance the warp and there would be a lot more slack to take up than usual.  I’ve since cut a new 10-yard length of fresh corrugated to use and armed with that and this experience I’m hoping the next run will go much better.

I’m not doing anything here that I haven’t done many times before, but just making the one change, warp length, added some complexities to work out. I do think that in the long run it took less time overall to make the three scarves than if I had made them singly, and as with any process I expect to become even more efficient with practice.

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One warp, Painted Desert, three wefts: Greyed Teal, Taupe and Mineral Green

These haven’t been finished yet, they lack washing and pressing. If they look OK after that, they’ll go into inventory.


And finally, a reminder that the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival is at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds on Saturday 10/1 and Sunday 10/2. Yarn, fiber, finished goods (I’m a vendor). Equipment, both for fiber processing and for animals. Sheep, alpacas, rabbits, and more. Loads of fun even if you aren’t a fiber person. Check out the website for a schedule of events including sheep herding demonstrations.

Coincidence

As I work away here in my studio I try to remember to snap pictures of my work as it progresses. I don’t just want to show you finished scarves and socks, I’d like to give you a glimpse behind the scenes to see how it all comes together.

A few days ago I was making socks and snapped this picture of winding the sock yarn onto a cone. [The yarn feeds best into the sock machine if I knit off a cone.]

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Hand-dyed merino wool, cashmere & nylon sock yarn

The next day I was working on my August newsletter (click to subscribe) and used this picture:

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Detail of a huck scarf: hand-dyed alpaca silk & tencel

Later on I finished the socks.

And that’s when I realized I was playing with the same color yarn. But what a difference the medium makes. First you have the slight difference in the color. This is due to a couple of factors. The yarns, alpaca/silk vs merino/cashmere/nylon ,will take the dye differently. And they were probably not dyed in the same batch. Even commercially dyed yarns can have some variations and these were done in small batches by hand.

Then we have weaving vs knitting. The arrangement of the threads is completely different and thus the colors will clump or disperse as they are affected by the length of the scarf or the number of stitches around the sock.

So here you have it: coordinating, compatible and yet quite different scarf and socks.

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Project prep

Today is a project prep day. I got some new colors of alpaca silk yarn from my dyer friend, Ellen who owns Ellen’s 1/2 Pint Farm. I wanted spring colors and these are just what I was looking for.

The yarn comes to me in big hanks.

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Spring Pansy, straight from the dyer.

I load it onto my swift and set my ball winder going to wind into a useable form factor.

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Spring Pansy in a ball

I also got these colors

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Mums in Bloom
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North Pansy

While these are being wound, I’ve been threading the loom for a scarf. This is Blazing Sunshine, another of Ellen’s yarns, and one of my favorite colorways of hers.

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Threading Blazing Sunshine

I’m hoping to have at least a couple of these scarves ready for Farmers Market on Saturday. After that, you’ll find them for sale in my online store.

New Scarves

I’ve been playing around with some new lightweight scarves for spring. They’re woven from a rayon/cotton boucle that’s got color changes and glossy slubs. For weft I’ve tried thin cotton and my oft-used tencel. Some combinations have worked out better than others and I have lots of options still to try. I’m still sometimes surprised at how different two yarns look when woven vs. in the cone, so a learning experience as well as some fun weaving.

I’ll be debuting the scarves at the Norwich Farmers Market on April 23rd. Here’s a preview:

 

 

What if: Color Exploration

I started with this alpaca silk yarn, hand-dyed by Ellen’s Half Pint Farm which contains purple and two shades of blue.

Hand dyed alpaca/silk yarn
Hand dyed alpaca/silk yarn

In the first scarf I used the alpaca silk as an accent against aquamarine tencel. The alpaca silk is so subtle in this scarf that you can barely see it unless you are up close to it.

Hand dyed alpaca/silk and tencel scarf
Hand dyed alpaca/silk and tencel scarf

Next I did the same accent pattern, but used baby blue tencel for the background yarn. The alpaca silk really stands out in this scarf.

Scarf detail front & back
Scarf detail front & back

This last scarf uses the alpaca silk for the full warp (the vertical strands) and navy tencel for the weft (the horizontal strands.) I love how different the two sides look in this scarf. On one you can really see the navy floating across. On the other the navy yarn is much less visible.

Hand dyed alpaca/silk and tencel scarf
Hand dyed alpaca/silk and tencel scarf

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All in a day’s work

Some days I’m head down, intensely working on one project. Other days I need to make progress on many fronts.

This is the gauge swatch for a scarf commission. With this I’ll learn about the pattern and figure out whether I chose the correct needle size. You wouldn’t think a two-row lace pattern, with complicated bits on only one of the rows would be difficult. I blame the early hour and not enough coffee for having to rip out the whole thing once and un-knit a few stitches more than once until I finally managed to start with and keep just the 16 stitches I was supposed to have (no, not 15, not 17, 16 if you please.) I won’t know if I’m right about the needle size until it is dry and off the blocking wires, so this project is on hold for now.

Gauge swatch blocking

This neckerchief was recently finished. It has been washed and is pinned out to dry. This is for the same client as the lace scarf.

Finished neckerchief blocking

Taking off the knitting hat and putting on the weaving hat, I have two looms set up with projects. This is a tencel scarf with a striped warp and a variegated weft that is very close in shades to the warp yarns. It’s just plainweave, set (spaced) loosely to make a sheer, drapey scarf.

Hemstitching a scarf edge
Scarf in progress

And finally dishtowels. You can see the end of towel #6, green stripes and the beginning of towel #7 (of 8 on this warp), blue stripes. The plain bits in the middle are the hems, with a cut line in a contrasting color separating the two hems.

Dishtowels

The tencel scarf and the dishtowels will be added to my shop inventory.

But, you know what I really want to do?  Just sit on the porch and knit.  Because we’ve got a show going on in the yard. We’ve lent part of our acreage to the farmer next door and this year we’re hosting pigs!  They are really funny and I just can’t stop watching them. (And don’t think I haven’t thought about moving a loom to the porch, but it’s a really small porch…)

Piglets
Piglets

Inspiration from the past

A few years ago I wove this log cabin scarf out of tencel in slate blue and red.

Log cabin scarf
Log cabin scarf

When I was done with the scarf I wove off the end of the warp using some bits of yarn I had on hand. I wasn’t making anything, just playing around to see what different yarns would do. One part of that playing resulted in this:

log cabin experiment
log cabin experiment

The weft yarn was a multi-colored sock yarn in shades of blue, pink and purple. I came across that swatch recently and decided to see if the idea would make a pretty scarf. I didn’t have any more of the sock yarn though, so I went hunting in my stash for something else.

For the warp I deviated slightly from the original and I’m using this silver and burgundy.  I’ve been looking at this combo on the shelf ever since I connected with some of my high school classmates on Facebook.  It’s, more or less, our school colors and while I had my fill of red & grey by the end of four years of high school, I can use it now without getting too twitchy.

Silver and maroon tencel
Silver and burgundy tencel

which I’ve threaded in a log cabin pattern (alternating one strand of each color and then periodically swapping the order so the same color strands are adjacent, then repeating the alternation.)

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Log cabin threading with color order change every 12 ends

For the weft I’ll use this multi-colored tencel in jewel tones of sapphire, magenta and black.

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Jewel tencel

I quite like how it is turning out.  The inspiration piece is fuzzier from the sock yarn.  I like the cleaner lines of this version.  Can you see how the repeated ends make it appear as if there are raised columns?

Mock log cabin
Mock log cabin

 

Meet the weaver

Do you ever get so deeply involved with something that you forget to step back and set some context?  I’ve been posting here for a while about weaving and knitting and I’m not sure I ever introduced myself!

My name is Jennifer and I’m a weaver. (Well, and a knitter, but that’s for another day.) I weave scarves which I sell in galleries, at my local farmers market and at artisan shows. I weave some other things occasionally (like that baby blanket that isn’t done yet), but mostly I make scarves. I love weaving scarves. I’m not about the speed of the thing, so I mostly make one at a time.  Each is a little self-contained art project. I grab some yarns off the shelf and play “What if?”. I don’t always love what I come up with, but usually somebody does.

I just had a finishing binge and here’s some of what will be going to the gallery soon.

I’m so in love with this scarf that I don’t want to sell it.

Tencel with locally hand-dyed alpaca silk accent

Another spring inspiration

Tencel with pastel multicolored fringed yarn accent

Subtle and elegant

Olive tencel warp with variegated tencel weft

A little more pizazz  

A diamond twill pattern: solid tencel warp, variegated weft

 

  I love the color changes in the accent yarn

Mauve tencel with locally hand-dyed alpaca silk accents

Next time: about the knitting

p.s.  It is officially “Spring according to Jennifer”. The red-winged blackbirds are back!

Life imitates art

Deep in the throes of frigid weather with feet of snow on the ground, I needed to weave a scarf that said Spring.  I don’t have a lot of yarn in a spring palette, but I found some orchid tencel and a fun cord yarn with pastel fringe.  As I was weaving the scarf I glanced up at a shelf in my studio and realized that I was weaving the colors of a piece of art I’d just acquired.

scarf with art piece

 

The art is from a local artist, Meg McLean, who does these fabulous paintings of sheep in various settings.  I’d been wanting one for a while and as soon as I saw this one with the flamingoes I got out my checkbook.

The scarf is huck lace in Orchid 8/2 tencel accented with a neat cord yarn with tiny fringe every couple inches.

Well, I’m ready for spring, even if the weather isn’t cooperating!

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