Monday, September 30, 2013

Green Fiesta Towel Progress-- and Some Spinning

I just started the sixth towel in the Green Fiesta Towel warp. You can just see the orange separator yarn and plain weave hems (end of fifth towel and beginning of sixth towel) under the front beam.

Sixth Towel Started

Mitchell asked why there was so much wrapped around (the cloth beam), and what I was going to do with it. I tried to tell him that was the towels...

I also got a wild notion and did some spinning this weekend. It is all I have spun in September. I just had one bump of Southern Cross Fibre club, "Marine Predator" on Blue Faced Leicester.

Marine Predator Singles

I've spun the whole four ounces into singles and plan to N-ply. That won't happen until next weekend, at least...

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Green Towel Weaving

I'm trucking along on my green towels. Here is a picture of the first one, taken from under the front beam.

Fabric started

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Green Towels Threaded

I finished threading the Green Fiesta Towels, and I'm tied onto the back beam (apron rod of the back beam).

Green Warp Threaded

The little white leaders are an idea I found in Tom Knisely's video, "The Loom Owner's Companion." The leaders reduce loom waste, firstly by reducing the thread that goes around the apron rod (about two+ inches on my loom). Secondly, the leaders allow the end of warp to get closer to the heddles than the apron rod can go, in this case, another two+ inches. The apron rod is extended all the way in the photo above, and the warp knots are about even with the eighth shaft. Since I only used four shafts in this threading, I could have made my leaders a bit longer, and reduced waste a bit more, though I'm not sure it's a good idea to have the knots right up at the heddles...

I cut my leaders 15" long, which is what Mr. Knisely advised. At first, I tried to scrimp by cutting shorter, but they were too short to actually work the loops (shown below). Because the "platic canvas cord" I purchased was only $1.99 for a 27 yard skein, there really isn't much of a point in being overly frugal about it. In fact, if I were to do it over, I would cut them about four inches longer, so I could experiment with running the knots closer to the fourth shaft of heddles at the end of warp (if I needed to eek out another inch or two to finish a pattern).

Starting with 15" lengths, tie the two ends together in overhand knots as regularly as you can, to keep all the leaders the same. Wrap the leader around the apron rod, and pass the loop end through the knotted end.

Leaders 1

Fold the looped end back on itself, creating the beginning of a Lark's head (aka cow hitch) knot.

Leaders 2

Stick your threaded-and-neatly-knotted warp bundle through the loop, and then snug it down.

Leaders 3

I used a half inch worth of warp ends in each knotted bundle. I think it is personal preference, and also convenience of threading. In my threading, I had repeats of multiples of four and eight ends which always created groups of 24. I threaded in groups of twelve ends, then tied them before threading the next group. I could have done twenty-four, but I find my threading less stressful if I do them in rather small groups, check them in reverse order, and tie. That way, errors don't cause very much re-work. I also like to tie the bundles fairly small because the knot itself creates "crossing" in the warp threads which is hard to eliminate at the knot and which I found difficult to eliminate when rolling onto the back beam. If you look at the blue warp here, you can see that there are some irregularities in the warp threads coming off the back beam. I attribute those to threads that were twisted coming out of the knots and which didn't un-twist when beaming. I could have fiddled them into order at the beginning of the winding-on, but I didn't. So, this time, I tried harder to tie smaller knots and keep the threads "flat" going into the knot.

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ocean Warps and An Interlude

I wound my warp for the Ocean Towel Swap.

ocean warp chains

You may be able to discern in the photo that there are two (at least two) colors in each section. That's because the loop of warp has two directions (of course). Even "aligned" in color repeat, the warp isn't wound clockwise or counterclockwise all the time... it goes from one end peg and then back the other direction. (This isn't a surprise... I saw this coming... Really!) So, I plan to sley alternating colors into groups, nine threads at a time. The "wave" draft is 18 threads per repeat, so this will give the waves one color on the leading edge and another color on the trailing edge.

I say "at least two" colors in each section because the color repeat did vary a bit. It got longer as I went. That's better than shorter, I suppose... I think the yarn must have been wound in a "stacking" fashion when it was dyed, with the loop a bit longer as it stacked. Anyway, I adjusted it a bit at the end peg (winding a few wraps around the last peg sometimes, to take out a smidge of length), but it will have a "diagonal" aspect in the color, even assuming I can get it warped without mis-aligning the threads any more than they already are.

Unfortunately, my white 8/2 weft is back-ordered, and still not shipped. I decided I might get "locked out" of weaving for a while if I warped the Ocean Towels, so I decided to go ahead and do another project first. I wound the green warp for the next towel in the Fiesta Towel booklet. It is quite similar to the Blue Fiesta Towels, a point twill with 360 ends, in 5/2 cotton. So I *do* have more white cotton, as you'll notice as I get going on this project, but it is 5/2, not the 8/2 I need for the Ocean towels!

Green Warp Chains

I got it sleyed last night.

Green Warp Sleyed

It is sleyed in a 12-dent reed (12 slots per inch), and the sett is 18. Therefore, it alternates 1-2-1-2, or one thread per slot alternating with two threads per slot. The white string around the reed lets me keep track of the "two threads per slot." When there are two, the first one goes below the thread and the second above the thread. The white string gets removed after threading. I know it doesn't really matter (you can just poke two in a slot), but that's how Kay taught me to do it in lessons, and it appeals to my sense of order. Or, you can call me Type A, if you will. :)

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ocean Towel Swap - Warp Yarn

I received the warp yarn for my Ocean Towel Swap (see weaving draft in previous post). It is Webs 8/2 unmercerized cotton in the colorway "Lake Combo."

lake combo variegated

I lined up a color repeat and measured the length. I will make the warp a multiple of the 58" repeat. At four repeats, I should be able to squeak out seven towels.

lake combo variegated-repeat

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fiesta Towels Finished!

I finished up my first project on my new Mighty Wolf loom, a repeat of my lessons project. After all, I had enough yarn... waste not, want not!

Fiesta Towels - Second Set Finished

My next project is a towel swap arranged through a group on Ravelry... We are all doing "ocean" themed towels. I ordered some blue variegated cotton yarn for the warp, and I plan to do an undulating twill that will look like waves, using white weft.

undulating weave draft

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Yesterday, we made our annual visit to the Latzer Homestead. (Here is last year's visit.) That means our anniversary is coming up in a few days... nine years.

Mitchell enjoyed the animals and the corn box, as he always seems to do.

Latzer 1

Latzer 2b

Latzer 2

I also had a chance to talk to some folks from the Artisan Guild of Southern Illinois who were spinning and weaving. Go figure!

We were there for the tractor parade. Some of the miniatures were fun!

Latzer 3

Latzer 4

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Project Updates

I've been tooling away on various projects, including finishing a pair of socks. The simple socks are plain stockinette using a "Harry Potter" colorway from Opal. These are toe up with the "gusset heel" from "Socks From The Toe Up" by Wendy Johnson.

Harry sock - finished

I've also started another sweater using some handspun I made during TdF, Hello Yarn "Blossom" on Finn. I have one pound, so this one will probably get short sleeves. It is over the same pattern as my last sweater.

Wicked Blossom - Yoke

I'm also making progress on my first project on the Mighty Wolf, more Fiesta Towels like I made in lessons. Here is a shot from underneath the front beam, showing cloth rolled onto the cloth beam. The orange stripe is the break where I will cut apart two towels.

Fiesta Towels - Cloth Beam

And here is a shot from above the front beam, with the temple in place.

Fiesta Towels - Fell

In case you can't tell, the black area in front is a utility tray (the "Wolf Trap.")

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Spinning Merino-Bamboo Blends

A few of months back, I was asked to put together an article on spinning bamboo. It appears it will not be used for its originally intended purpose, so I’m posting it here… even though it may look a little out of sequence with some of my other posts.

What is bamboo? My first thought upon undertaking an article about spinning Merino-Bamboo blends was, “What is this stuff?” Of course, I know what bamboo is. It’s a plant that pandas eat, of course, just like eucalyptus is a plant that koalas eat. I know these things. However, my experience with bamboo products would imply that harvested bamboo is not something one would wear, but somewhat stiff and perhaps suitable for making furniture or picture frames… more like wood, in fact. The picture in my mind does not have a soft fluffy payload provided by a pod on the end of the plant, the way cotton does. So, how do they make bamboo into fiber?

A quick Internet search turned up a vast amount of material. (1) (2) (3) Basically, bamboo is mashed and processed and squeezed out into filaments, which it occurs to me is a bit like making sausage. Processing the filaments extremely fine creates a soft, almost silky, fiber. The product carries various monikers, including “Rayon,” “Rayon Viscose,” “Bamboo Viscose,” “Viscose from Bamboo,” or, more simply, “Bamboo Fiber.”

Much debate exists regarding the environmental impact of Bamboo Viscose production, including the sustainability of cutting the bamboo plants as well as the chemicals used in processing and their by-products. For every article I found advocating for bamboo, I found another detractor. I also noted comparisons to the processing of cotton as well as superwash wool, two spinning fibers whose production has both similarities and differences to bamboo processing. I enjoyed an article in the Dolce Handknits blog regarding superwash wool. Her point about the smell of new shoes puts it in perspective. I have not eschewed sneakers, yet, either. Each fiber artist can only make these decisions for him- or herself.

The more commonly available bamboo blends for spinning are “Panda,” a blend of Merino / Bamboo / Nylon, 60 / 30 / 10 (listed as “percent, respectively”), and Merino / Bamboo which may be either 60 / 40 or 70 / 30 Merino / Bamboo, sometimes sold as “Meriboo." Certainly, 100% bamboo can be spun as well, as Amy Singer reviewed in Knitty.

In selecting bamboo blends to spin, the first thing I noticed was the somewhat muted color. The bamboo does not absorb the dye quite the way that wool does, so a wool/bamboo blend has lighter filaments running through it. One of the fibers I selected was Panda by Fat Cat Knits in the colorway “Wizard Island.” The Fat Cat Knits web site shows each colorway on different fibers, which is a quick way to see the “muted” difference of using the same color on a bamboo blend.

Figure 1 - FatCatKnits - Panda - Wizard Island

The “Wizard Island” colorway provides two repeats of a long gradient, starting at purple on one end, blending through blue, yellow, and green in the middle of the braid, and then blending back through the same color changes to return to purple on the other end. I divided the fiber in half at the green point, leaving me with two pieces the same length, each with the same color progression. My plan was to spin each piece in one long length, and then chain-ply (also known as Navajo Plying), to maintain the color progression. By having two pieces the same, I could make two matching socks. To prep the fiber, I pre-drafted along the length, coiling up pieces short enough to manage, and placing them in a row, one half-braid per basket.

Figure 2 - Wizard Island Fiber Prep

I began spinning worsted, and I found the slipping of the fibers to be a bit inconsistent, requiring a little more attention than some wools to keep them in line. While it was a bit “fiddly,” it was not unmanageable. I enjoyed the spin more, though, once I switched to a woolen spin. I took the pre-drafted fibers in pieces, tearing off one chunk at a time, in color order, and spinning from the fold. In general, I found the spin to be not significantly different than spinning with a wool / silk blend. The chain-plying resulted in two skeins of approximately 140 yards each, 18-20 wpi, ready to make socks.

Figure 3 - Wizard Island Skeins

The gradient may not be readily apparent in the skeined yarn, but it becomes quite obvious when the yarn is caked into center-pull balls.

Figure 4 - Wizard Island Cakes

In making socks, I cast on at the toe with Judy’s Magic Cast On and then used my favorite sock recipe, David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook to start my sock. I say “to start” because I like to use the recipe to get stitch count from an arbitrary gauge, but I usually replace the heel when I am using yarn thicker than fingering. The recipe provides a heel-flap heel, and I find that it becomes too bulky in heavier yarns. I like to use the “gusset heel” from “Socks From the Toe Up” by Wendy D Johnson of Wendy Knits. The gusset heel looks a bit like a short row heel, but I find it much simpler. Simple is good!

FatCatKnits - Wizard Island Socks - 4

FatCatKnits - Wizard Island Socks - 2

FatCatKnits - Wizard Island Socks - 1

The nylon content of the Panda lends itself well to use in socks, helping provide strength and avoid wearing them through. I reached my desired sock height well before using up all the yarn, so the darkest green does not appear in the socks.

I also wanted to try a Meriboo blend, and I selected a 60 / 40 blend from Knitty and Color in the colorway “Aqua Blue.” The “muted” way the bamboo fiber takes up dye lends itself very well to semi-solid colorways, providing an extra depth to the color variation.

Figure 5 - Knitty and Color - 60-40 Mer-Bam - Aqua Blue

I prepped for a woolen spin, making faux-lags directly from the braid.

Figure 6 - Aqua Blue - fauxlags

I spun two bobbins and plied them together for a simple-two ply yarn, yielding approximately 300 yards, 16 wpi.

Figure 7 - Aqua Blue - spun

I used the “Aqua Blue” yarn as weft in a scarf, weaving it with some leftover sock yarn. I warped rather close together, using a double heddle, two 10 epi heddles, to achieve 20 epi.

Figure 8 - Bamboo Warp

The resulting warp-faced weave hides most of the sock yarn, letting the bamboo yarn colors dominate. The long runs in the yarn, lengthwise in the scarf, really allow the color variation in the bamboo handspun to show off.

Figure 9 - Bamboo Scarf

I enjoyed spinning the bamboo. The results are a bit firmer than 100% wool, just as I have found with silk blends. With or without the added nylon, the Bamboo provides a bit of a reinforcing element, especially nice for socks, and has sheen similar to silk.

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay

Loom Sprite

I finished warping the loom last night and started weaving this morning. When I got some light in the room, I decided to take a couple shots of the assembled and warped loom, and there was a little sprite that decided there ought to be a model in the shots.

Loom 1

Loom 2

Loom 3

Sometimes I can't get him to sit still for the camera...

Happy Knitting,
Lisa kay

Wicked Troll - Done!

I finished the Wicked Troll handspun sweater, adding long sleeves with eight pairs of decreases along the whole length, ending with two inches of k1p1 rib and tubular bind off. (I'm a real convert to tubular cast on a bind off. It just looks so tidy!)

Wicked Troll - Done 1

Wicked Troll - Done 3

Happy Knitting,
Lisa Kay