Friday, June 23, 2017

A tip for tying onto the front apron rod in weaving

I don't know where I picked this tip up, but I'd like to thank that person. Tonight I tied my warp onto the front apron rod of the loom, and I remembered the tip I had heard to swap the edge threads in the sections when I'm tying on. Like so:

Why? When you go to weave the header, look how quickly the warp arranges itself into place!!

Header woven, ready to go. And very little waste of warp. I love this trick.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Warping the loom for a baby wrap

I'm making progress on getting the loom all warped up for the next batch of baby wraps. I'm working a bit each day, so I make sure I can get these completed and out to their new owners before I take off for vacation/family reunion in July. As I'm working, I'm remembering how much I like working with this yarn. It is 10/2 mercerized Valley cotton from Webs, and is just lovely and shiny slipping through my hands.

So, first up is the calculation part. I remember back in high school deciding that I'd never use math again, so I didn't have to worry about it. Boy was I wrong. Weaving is really just visible math. You've got to figure out how many threads, of what colors, at what length to get the effect you want. So each project sees me with pencil, paper, and a calculator in hand.

Then it is time to measure out the threads. I create the gradation of color as I go along, by changing colors every 2-4 threads. That makes for a lot of cutting and tying knots. I've tried other methods, but ended up with nasty tangles when I tried to get the warp onto the loom. This takes me a bit of extra time, but I like the results better.
I'm putting on 21 yards of warp this time around. That gives me enough for 3 five meter baby wraps. One for my mama client, one for the new testing regulations, and one more sister wrap. My client gets first dibs on the sister, so we'll see whether or not it ends up on the open market or not.
There! The warp is all measured out, and the color changes 'programmed' in.
Next up, I work on getting the warp onto the loom. I'm warping front to back, so my first step is to sley the reed. Or, in other words, I hook the threads through the slotted piece of metal at the front of the loom. That spreads the threads to a nice even width. Also? I learned that sley and slay are from the same Old English root word slea, meaning 'to strike'. I'll use the reed, which used to be called the sley, to beat or strike the weft threads into place in the weaving process. Words are neat.
From there, the threads each get their own heddle, which will control when it raises and lowers in the weaving process. 760 threads, hooked one by one by one...
Once they're all through, the end of the warp gets tied onto the back apron rod of the loom.
There! Through the reed, through the heddles, and tied on. I love this part. This is where I get my first real glimpse to see how well the color blending worked out. I'm rather pleased by this one.
My client chose pretty colors, didn't she?

Today's job will be to wind all 21 yards back onto the back warp beam of the loom, to store it until it is ready to be woven. This is a fiddly bit, because it needs to be under perfectly even tension. More later, after I get that part done. But I'm making progress!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Finished purple ruanas, and the start of the next baby wrap

I know. I said I wasn't going to do baby wraps for awhile. But, I have a mother who has one of my wraps, and asked me so nicely to make another for her brand new baby. And well.... Here I go again! The yarn got in today, and I'm excited to get working. I'll put three wraps on this warp. One for my mama client, one to be sacrificed to the new testing regulations, and one more to be available to the public. She made some lovely color choices on this one, don't you think?

And in the meanwhile, the two purple ruanas that were spoken for are complete and ready to go to their new homes! The one on the left has the dark purple weft, and the one on the right has the light silver grey weft. It is amazing how much difference that makes to the overall look of the piece!

I have one more purple ruana to finish up today, and get listed for the Etsy shop. And then, it is baby wrap time! I want to get that project done start to finish in three weeks time, so I can get it shipped off before I take off for my vacation/family reunion on Lake of the Woods, Ontario. (Is it time yet??)

I've been going to this particular lake for vacations since I was a teething babe in arms. It is where I went on my honeymoon with my husband Eric. It has been the one constant in my life. And I want to go home...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Purple Ruanas: three different weft colors

So, the last post left off with the warp for the purple ruanas on the loom, and my weft test stripes done. I was trying to decide which colors to use for the weft. Well, two out of the three ruanas got claimed, and so those clients got to pick their weft colors. One chose silver (light grey), and the other choose a deep purple.

I decided I really liked the purples of the warp, so I chose black for the final weft color, in order to keep them as close to true as possible. I was tempted by a dark pink, but figured the black was a safer choice. Maybe next time I'll get a bit more adventurous.
And so, the weaving part is done! I've cut the fabric off of the loom, trimmed thread ends, zig-zag stitched the beginning and end in order to prevent raveling, and popped the fabric into the wash to wet finish.
I've got it on hot, with high agitation. This fluffs and shrinks and moves threads into their final position. The fabric comes out much softer to the touch, with a nicer drape. I love seeing the transition that this first wash and dry brings!

Now... I often put just a bit more warp onto the loom than I think I need, in case of mishaps. I wove that extra off with the black weft, and ended up with 21" of bonus fabric (pre-washing). I'm wondering what to do with this extra bit. I'm thinking that a handwoven yoga mat bag might be in order, with perhaps a matching inkle woven strap. But I'm not sure. What else would you do with that extra bit of fabric?

EDIT: After washing, the extra bit of fabric ended up 24 1/2" wide from selvedge to selvedge, and 18" long.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Warping the loom for the purple ruanas

I've been working this week on getting my purple warp onto the loom. I do a front-to-back method on this particular loom, just because it is more comfortable to sit on the floor with the back beam off to thread the heddles. So, in the above picture the warp has gone first through the reed to spread it to the proper width, and then each thread went through its individual heddle, which controls when it is raised and lowered.

Once through the heddles, I tied the warp onto the back apron rod.
And then? I set up my home made warping trapeze. I threw the warp chains up and over that top beam, and weighted them down where they dangled down. That gave me even tension when I wound the warp around the back warp beam. This warp went on slick as a whistle! I usually get more tangles and headaches, but not this time.
Around and around the back beam it went. I put one or two sticks on for each revolution, to keep the thread from burrowing down into previous layers as it built up. That would mess with the weaving tension, as some threads would end up shorter than others.
All wound on! I'm loving the way the colors are blending from light to dark.
Then I tied onto the front apron rod, and wove my first bit. I weave a test stripe of each weft color that I'm contemplating. That lets me (and my customers) see how the colors interact with each other in real life. And, by the time I'm done with these first several inches, any initial tension bobbles are evened out, and the threads have drawn in to their weaving width.

So, which color weft is your favorite? From the knots over, the options are a dark pink, dark blue, grey, purple, red, black, and light blue. I'm weaving three ruanas, and each one will get one solid color for the weft. Each one will have a different color.
The gentleman who commissioned this weaving looked them all over, and then asked if I had a silver instead. I have a light grey, so I wove one more test strip to show him. He gave his thumbs up. The lady who has put dibs on the second of the ruanas chose the purple for hers. So, unless someone speaks up to reserve the third garment, I get to choose the third weft color. I'm leaning toward the black, but I also like the dark blue, and the dark pink. Hmmmm..... What do you think??

And so you can visualize what I'm talking about, here's me modeling one of the previous batch of ruanas at the Grand Canyon last weekend.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Northern Arizona road trip Part 2: the elf cottage, condors, the Grand Canyon, and a night sky

My husband Eric & I went wandering around northern Arizona on Saturday. I started the story yesterday, talking about seeing a condor and its nest at the Navajo bridge.

So, after marveling at the condor and the view of the Colorado River, we headed westward along 89A, skirting the southern border of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Vermilion Cliffs is one of the national monuments that President Trump has put up on the chopping block to have its monument status reviewed, and I wanted to see what was at stake for myself. For the record, it was a gorgeous drive, and I wish we had been in a sturdier vehicle so we could take more of the interior roads. But, I digress.

So, soon after leaving the bridge, we came to Marble Canyon, and a strange little view. On a whim, we turned off into a dirt parking lot, and found the ruins of this strange little house.
There was an outbuilding too, also built right up against one of the huge boulders strewn about.
There were no signs posted saying to keep out, so I wandered right in. Eric took a picture of me taking a picture.

I felt like I was in a magic fort, squirreled away from the world. I could see setting my blankets on the ledges on my left, and curling up, protected from the elements.

I wandered around the main house, too. The roof was missing, save for some remaining beams, but there were still wood frames around the door and windows. The front window gazed out onto the road.

So, what was this place? There was a sign, up against another boulder, but I'm not sure that it is quite right. The original text is missing, and instead someone had scrawled:
"Point of Interest: Elves live in the house behind you. They consume soley pickles and weed. (The elves R us)"

Well....not exactly. Internet to the rescue. This was the home of the Ziegfeld Follies dancer Blanche Russell, back in the prohibition era. Her husband Bill was diagnosed with tuberculosis, so they decided to move to the southwest climate for heath reasons. On their way, their car broke down in this spot one night. When they woke up, Blanche loved the spot so much that they just bought the land, and built the house. They started selling food and such to travelers, and ended up running a restaurant and trading post for a decade. You can read more about the story here: and here:

I love the story about the elves, but I think I like the real one better.

Anyway, back to our own travels. After leaving Blanche's place, we drove to the western edge of the Vermilion cliffs, and up to the condor viewing station. This is where the endangered California Condors have been being released back into the wild. It was a gorgeous drive!

This road was dirt, but very well maintained, and our car handled it with no issues. When we came to the release site, there were in fact several condors to be seen soaring above the cliffs!
I'm presuming that, just like at the cliffs by the Navajo Bridge, the droppings on the cliff face indicate possible nesting sites. Knowing that we were down to under 30 birds total in the 80's, it was amazing to see the birds living wild and free here, and making their slow comeback.
Also? Condors are BIG. I hadn't appreciated just how big they were, until I measured my wingspan against theirs, at this sign posted at the viewing spot. Just wow.
When we were done with marveling at the condors, we drove through the Kaibab National Forest, and to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. There were meadows flanking the roadway, and they were filled with herds grazing. They were quite back from the road in the late afternoon sun, but when we drove back after dark they were right up at the road side. It made for some tricky driving, making sure to spot them before there was trouble, but we got through with nobody hurt.

At the Canyon, we got down to the reason that we had actually made the trip. I've been weaving ruanas for the Etsy shop, and I thought that it might be a fun idea to take some product photos, showing the garments as they'd be worn. Eric manned the camera for these shots, while I modeled.

And then, business done, we just enjoyed the views!

We watched the sun down, and then made our way back through the deer and back to Flagstaff.

Well, with one more stop. Just north of Flagstaff is the Wupatki National Monument, which we know from past trips is very, very dark at night. And so, we turned off the highway into the monument a little ways, just far enough to get away from the lights of the passing cars. And, I made my first stab at night sky photography:
Not bad for a first try!! I put the camera on a tripod, and set the focus by hand. I set it to f4.8 for 10 seconds, with the ISO cranked up to 12800. Next time, I'll do more reading ahead of time, and make sure I use the remote trigger on the camera. And there will be a next time. Because this shot really, really tickles me!

So, all in all, a most excellent adventure!