Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Better than Diamonds

My husband has always despaired that I am not an easy girl for whom to buy gifts. He has tried in vain for years to interest me in fine jewelry... I'm not a clothes-horse... I wear comfortable shoes.

When I told him about THIS beauty's availability, he pounced on the opportunity to give me a birthday present that I would cherish and remember for years:

(Gypsy-kitty for scale.) She's a Macomber type B "Ad-A-Harness" jack loom, 32" weaving width, 10 harnesses, 14 treadles. Guild-friend Cheryl was selling it for a friend in New England, who was asking 1/3 of the new price. I don't know too many particulars - it doesn't come with any documentation or manual, though it does have a serial number on a side plaque. I plan to write the company and see if they have some info on its birth-year and materials. The construction is good solid hardwood and cast-iron, with stainless steel heddles and back-hinged treadles. I haven't a clue how to use her, but we'll have plenty of time to get acquainted. I borrowed Deb Chandler's video, "Beginning Four Harness Weaving" and the warping process seems less scary after watching it. I'm so very excited - this loom is the equivalent of my Schacht Matchless, as it is versatile enough to go from the very simple to the very complex.

It needs new reeds (the reeds were rusted and seem beyond rescue - Cheryl lent me a 12 dent reed until my new ones that we've ordered come in) and a good rubdown, but otherwise it's ready for years and years of weaving adventure. Don't you agree that my husband has outdone himself this time?

Speaking of Cheryl, she is a master weaver and a wonderful teacher, in addition to being a great guild-friend. She surprised me with this gift, which she said she wove to give me as an inspiration and goal for the future:

I have worn it constantly since she gave it to me on Saturday. It is so soft, and the drape is divine. The warp is rayon boucle, and the weft is tencel.

Lest anyone be concerned about the dear rigid heddle being neglected, I warped it last night with some cotton (Sugar & Cream) and began weaving a dishtowel. I was trying for a balanced weave, which is difficult for me, since I want to beat everything down to a very compact fabric (which then gives me a too-compact fabric!) - I think I got close:

Oops. That's not a dishtowel. That's my loom kitty, Fizzgig. He is the guardian of all things ME, and is protective of the looms and my yarns & fibers. He lies at my feet while I weave and watches intently, without interference. He does not fetch, however.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hummingbird Focus

Sometimes I feel like my mind is a hummingbird, flitting its attention from blossom to blossom. It makes following a project from beginning to completion a little difficult... but it does combat boredom! Also, I have had the Flu this week, and have concentrated on healing and comfort. Here is a recap of textile pursuits since last I posted:

Weaving... I warped, wove, and completed another project in January. This one reminds me of fall gourds, with oranges and greens. I used Moda Dea 'Cache' novelty yarn as the weft, and Knitpicks 'Palette' wool as the warp. It feels a bit rough, like upholstery, not soft as I would like for a scarf to be. 54" long, 8" wide. There was virtually no draw-in this time, and the selvedges were much more even. I enjoyed the color changes in the weft yarn as I wove it. I switched to a new 10" cherry shuttle I bought at Roc Day - the shorter shuttle makes a big difference in shot return time. This will become a fall table runner.

Next up: a cotton warp, intended to be my first dishtowel attempt.

Spinning... Cheryl from Guild gave me some samples of Finn from her friend in Pennsylvania, a little more than .5 oz each of undyed and dyed. I spun it up woolen, with no real plan but to sample it, and plied it together as it came. It's quite soft, and I hope to get some more when the shearing is done in the spring.

Also I spun 4 oz of merino from Abbysyarns in 'Bluebell' - very soft 2-ply, ready for socks.

And a double-subscription batch (8 oz) of icelandic wool from Spunky Eclectic's fiber club in 'Snow Squall' - scratchy but warm, it will become stripes in outerwear of some sort, perhaps a vest.
Finally, on the wheel now, 4 oz. of a merino/bamboo blend from Spunky Eclectic in 'Walking on the Sun' - half done.
Knitting... I completed a scarf in January, knitted from handspun wool, using Jackie E-S' pattern 'Morning Surf'. I liked this pattern very much, and will use it again. The scarf is 60"x6". I like the color changes, and the windowpane effect.
In progress: a Forest Canopy shawl, knit using my first handspun from the Schacht wheel, spun back in May 2007. Yay for using up stash! This is spun from Crown Mountain Farms corriedale pencil roving, 2-ply, 12 wpi. It will be soft and warm. And bright!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My Firstborn Weave

My first weaving project came off the loom last night - I finished tying the fringe at 11:30 pm.

This was so much fun! Of course, it has a multitude of beginner mistakes - the selvedges are wonky, the striping is uneven, and I beat the heck out of the weft, so it's not a balanced weave - but I love it anyway.

It’s getting a bath, and will assume a prominent place on the wall in the living room, where all will be expected to oooh and aaah (I might have to post a placard with instructions).

I think I'll stash-dive and find some softer wool (this was Briggs & Little Durasport, and is scratchy) to weave a scarf. Already I am eager to warp the loom again.