Archive for May, 2012

First grade spinning demonstration!

I totally forgot to blog about this! This past Friday, May 18, I took Anansi to my daughter’s first grade class and did a spinning demo! What a blast that was, and I didn’t expect it to be! The kids all really enjoyed it. I brought in the Sibe fur yarn that I had spun and dyed with Aneira, and passed that around, and I let some of the kids take a turn at the wheel spinning a couple inches of yarn, until the yarn snapped and that was that. Even the boys were interested, and all of the kids said they wanted their own wheels. Maybe some of them will have parents willing to invest in a wheel, but I think that might not happen unless a child is really persistent in his or her interest. Even an inexpensive wheel is a lot of money to invest in if the child only uses it for a week and never touches it again, which is a distinct possibility with a six-year-old. Case in point, Aneira begged for both her Kumihimo disk and potholder loom. She hasn’t touched the disk since January, and is only sporadic in asking to play with her loom. The attention span just isn’t there yet.

Some of the girls told me that various relatives had spinning wheels, so those kids might get somewhere as far as getting their own wheels. It would be nice to be a catalyst to a new fiber-nut!

Toward the end of the demo, a couple of other teachers came in who were really interested, and they wanted to know where to get wheels and fiber, so I told them about the two local shops that carried them.

Oh! And when I gave out invitations to Aneira’s birthday party that afternoon, the aunt of one of the boys said that one day she sat parked behind me and lost track of time watching me weave on River, so now I might be teaching her to weave on a rigid heddle. How cool is that?!!


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I’m beginning to think that that’s what I love the most: the process of making something. Having a finished, useful object is nice too, and a bonus if I can get it, but what I really enjoy is the process and seeing something come together as a fabric. There’s a rhythm I get into with weaving. Lay in a shot, change sheds, beat, lay in a shot, change sheds, beat…if you’re quick enough, you can dance to it! Or do each step along with music!

With beading, it was all about the finished object. It was about design. And yes, it was and continues to be fun for me. But with weaving, knitting, crocheting, if I’m really unsure of what I want to do, I can just keep going until I have a scarf or a blanket or potholder or washcloth or towel. Or a bag. Bags are always good! You can never have too many bags.

Now I find myself wanting to try nalebinding. I’m discovering that I’m curious about almost all the fiber arts, or maybe it’s just an excuse to buy another wonderful wooden tool. Yes, my favorite Etsy store, Ampstrike, sells plum wood nalebinding needles. How did you know?

I think it is just as much about the tools as it is the process of making something. There’s something about the feel of well-crafted wood. It’s smooth and satiny feeling, and almost feels soft. If you’ve ever kept a tumbled worry stone in your pocket, you know what I’m talking about. Wood can feel the same way, if done right.

Maybe I’m overanalyzing things. Maybe I should just say that I love what I do and not try to figure out the “whithertos and whyfores” and just enjoy it!

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The finished Kool-Aid dyed Sibe fur!

Wow! It’s been awhile since I last wrote an entry! I apologize! I haven’t done too much in the way of fiber arts in the last two weeks, other than start another bobbin of Sibe fur on Anansi. The skein I dyed came out merely okay. I had too many areas the Kool-Aid color couldn’t get to, so I will have to buy some more and redo it, but I did find out that the fur will accept dyeing! So I posted a picture of it anyway.

The two items in the title are totally unrelated to each other. One refers to a video game, and the other is fiber-related.

Diablo 3 is what has kept me busy in recent days. Yes, it’s a computer game. I know, I know, but this game has been eagerly awaited for ten long years!!! I have played both of the previous entries, and never once gotten to finish either. Something always interfered, whether it was a computer crash or loss of the game disc itself, or the fact that the computer was upgraded and the game was not. It has always been one of my favorite games, a good, old-fashioned, button-mashing, hack-and-slash dungeon crawler. No complicated combos to remember, just plain old mouse clicking. I love this game.

As I said, it’s my favorite, and apparently a favorite of many other people as well, enough so that there was a midnight launch of the game a few days ago, which I attended to pick up the two collector’s editions my husband and I ordered so that we could play together. The first night was an unmitigated disaster, as the game servers were completely unprepared for the sheer number of players all trying to log on at the same time globally. We were all supposed to be able to play at midnight, Pacific time, but my hubby and I, at least, were unable to play until 2:30 in the morning, and then the servers crashed, further infuriating the hordes of players who were already infuriated at being unable to play at the promised time. When finally we were able to play, it was for hours. What can I say? I’m a huge kid. I put the game on both of my computers, so I can play on my Mac while supervising dinner, or downstairs on my PC after the kids are in bed.

The cockiness refers to Talyn. If you recall, I finally put him under warp a couple of weeks ago. Normally, with a loom I’ve never used, I warp with a yarn I don’t care about, generally one of the dozens of skeins of acrylic cluttering up my studio. It’s cheap, readily available, and I never use it for anything important. That’s my normal modus operandi. This time, however, I was too confident in my own abilities. This time, I warped with the considerably more expensive 5/2 mercerized cotton I’d been hanging onto.

Part of the reason for this massive glitch is the fact that I downloaded a drafting application for my iPad called iWeaveit. All I had to do was input the colors I was using for warp and weft, how many shafts I was using, set up the shafts and the treadling, and essentially hit enter. The program does the rest and shows you what the piece will look like according to the setup you give it.

It should have worked. It isn’t the program’s fault. I screwed the pooch on this one. I couldn’t understand why the shafts weren’t following the drawdown properly. I’d move a shaft and have threads in the shed, other threads dropping or rising when they should be doing the opposite…I couldn’t figure it out, and was blaming poor Talyn when I should have blamed my very own self.

I got sick of it today and decided to cut off the warp. Then I rethought the situation and decided I would try to save it. I hadn’t gotten very far, as the problems had begun pretty much immediately, so I untied the warp from the cloth beam, and proceeded to pull out the weft, which took me about an hour to do. It is now a very pretty butterfly, waiting to be used again, no harm, no foul.

Once the weft was out, I took a good hard look at the heddles and the reed. Lo and behold, there are errors in both. Am I surprised? No, not really. They are fortunately easy-to-fix errors, but they were major errors in terms of the design I was trying to weave. So I will need to pull  a few strings out and re-thread them, but that is a job for tomorrow. For today, Bryony is in a “whine and scream about everything and nothing” kind of mood, and Aneira is trying to “help”, which, inevitably, makes the situation worse and Bryony’s screaming louder. As I am out of patience with both my children, aided by the throbbing headache I now have, this carries over into everything else, so I think it would be wise not to tackle Talyn tonight! Tonight, after I cook dinner, I will be planting both my children in their beds early, or at least in their rooms, and I will spend some gloriously mindless time playing more Diablo 3!

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Mixed Berry Kool Aid dye bath

I’m impatient. I know this. I have to do everything now, now, now! I try to be patient, honestly I do, but if I don’t have anything else immediately in mind to do, well, it doesn’t work out so well.

Case in point: last night, I finally finished spinning a bobbin-worth of Thor fur. What I should have done is let the yarn rest for a few days on the bobbin, then ply and dye it. What I actually did was Dine ply it, leave it on the bobbin overnight, then skeined it this afternoon, and it is now in the process of being dyed. See what I mean? Impatient.

This is not perfect yarn, although it’s closer than anything I’ve done before. I think that’s my justification for my impatience. There are several breaks in the yarn that occurred during plying, and I just tied the yarn back together and kept going. At that point, it became an experiment rather than something I would actually use, which, I guess, explains my impatience. If it had been near-perfect in my eyes, I might have had an easier time doing everything in its proper time frame.

I’ve been wanting to try Kool Aid dyeing since I heard of the process a few weeks ago. There is always Kool Aid in my house, and no, it is not the children who drink it most of the time. A horrible admission to make, I agree, but my kids mostly drink milk, water, or real juice. Junk is reserved for the adults. However, I am attempting a lifestyle change, so I haven’t bought any Kool Aid recently, and I’ve been drinking more water and making real iced-tea with actual teabags. It’s a work-in-progress. Admitting that I am no longer seventeen and can’t eat what I want when I want it anymore is difficult.

Actually, let me be honest here: I hate it. Naturally, every single thing I like to eat is on the “avoid” list, even quite a few things that I thought were healthy!

But I digress. At one of the guild meetings this month, the program was about natural dyeing, which begged the question: will dog hair accept dye? No one had an answer. No one had tried. The general assumption was that the answer was “probably”, as it is an animal fiber, but no one knew for sure.

Adding dyeing to my repertoire was never my intention. I love the process of spinning, and I really hadn’t thought much beyond that, other than certain knowledge that I did not want to use chemical dyes in my cooking utensils or, really, anywhere in my kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of my house, and there are always kids and/or animals in it. Chemicals are not an option. Enter Kool Aid dyeing. Not over-involved, which is wonderful, and safe, since we drink it anyway, and a staple in my house. There were a few packets left of new flavors we had tried and hated, so those became my dye. I’m also considering trying other things as dye, such as curry, turmeric, saffron…well, maybe not the saffron, as it costs a fortune, but you get the point.

The thing about Sibe fur is that while on the dog, the fur is either distinctly white or distinctly black. Once off the dog, however, not so much. Once carded, what you have is storm-grey, which is beautiful in its own right, but you only want to see so much of that color. So

Would you believe this was grey two hours ago?

it was time to try dyeing.

Aneira is ecstatic, as I recruited her to help me with this. Not that I needed help for such a small amount of yarn, but it was a way to spend some time together, and something she could do. With chemical dyes, I wouldn’t have had her anywhere near the project!

So far, the dye is taking well, but the yarn smells like wet dog again. so there is definitely another wash in the offing! Not good!! Hubby is not thrilled with that, and I have to admit, neither am I, and I hope it goes away, or spinning from Thor’s fur is useless!

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One dog. Three hours. Not finished. The shoebox is for size comparison.

Yes, the fur harvest has begun! I mentioned that Thor had a bath, but I don’t think I said that his staples are out, which is why he was able to have said bath! He is quite disgusted with me right now, and feeling very put-upon. I was required to post a status on Facebook reflecting his ire and telling all his fur-friends how horrible a mom I am for subjecting him to the indignity of a bath and groom. The picture you see is after a three hour session with the rake. I have plenty of material to spin right now! And undoubtedly, Thor will be generous enough to give me more when I need it!

Three hours is an average session with Thor, meaning it’s all either one of us can stand! He hates being groomed, and after three hours sitting on the floor, I can barely move, and it takes me a minute or two to get up again. But he looks beautiful, despite the big bald spot where he was shaved for his staples, and I have no doubt that he is cooler now!

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Siberian Husky fur, and the presenter, Bandit

Today has been one of those days. You know the ones, where absolutely nothing goes right. It started last night. There was a thread on Ravelry talking about Navajo plying, and I got the bright idea to give it a shot.

Before I go any further, I have to say this and explain it: I will not refer to this as Navajo plying after this. The people of this nation do not call themselves Navajo, they call themselves Dine (dee-NAY). That is what they prefer, so that is what I will use.

So, I got this bright idea to try Dine plying, which involves using a single spun on the wheel, and plying it into 3-ply yarn. Regular plying involves two (or more) spools of singles on a lazy kate and spinning them together in the opposite direction to the way they were originally spun to get a plied yarn. Dine plying, according to the videos I watched on the subject, is one spool of a single on a lazy kate, and it’s plied by chaining that single, kind of like a crochet chain. It’s the only way I can think of to explain the process, and probably doesn’t do a great job, but there are videos on Youtube that show how to do it.

I understand it in theory, but in practice, well, it was a lot more difficult for me than regular plying. I don’t know how much it had to do with the fact that this was not perfect yarn to begin with, but it did not go well. I mangled it twice last night, to the extent that hubby finally dragged me away from Anansi, who I was snarling at by that point. This morning, the process continued, with another mangling to start the day, two breaks due to overspinning because I didn’t realize that the bobbin wasn’t taking up the yarn, and that was due to the brake band snapping in two. More growling ensued, and the hemp brake band was replaced with a strand of 3/2 mercerized cotton.

Before I could continue, I needed to brew coffee for hubby that he could take with him to school. He had a final this morning, and his anxiety about it kept him up most of the night, so the coffee was a necessity. We have one of those fancy coffee makers that dispenses the coffee like fountain drinks in restaurants, and lately it has been leaking from the dispenser. Generally, you can just sit the cup on the grate below the dispenser, and the leak has gotten so that you can fill the cup without ever pushing the dispenser button.

This morning, the stupid coffee maker decided to leak from somewhere else, so no coffee made it into the cup, but my countertop got covered. This elicited still more growling, and a mad dash to the Dunkin Donuts for a large coffee.

After that, I managed to finish the plying job without any more incidents. It is not beautiful, but it is done. And now that my roving is used up, I only had Sibe fur left, so I carded all of it into batts and started spinning them. Amazingly, I did a little better on gauge consistency (yay, me!). It’s still not perfect, but it’s a lot closer! I would actually call it a halfway decent chiengora! I spun all of what I had left, because Thor got a bath yesterday, and I’ll be grooming him tonight (read: fur harvest). I would have done it last night, but woolly-coated Siberians do not dry in a timely manner, unless you have one that will sit still for a dryer. Thor was bathed at 11 a. m. He was still very damp at 7 p. m., unlike his fur-siblings, who were dry by 1 p. m.

Lunchtime rolled around, and I proceeded to drop an egg, which naturally shattered on the floor, and which Bandit generously cleaned up for me. This was followed by my dropping a knife, which narrowly missed my foot,  and that was followed an hour or so later by my dropping my iPhone on the cement on the way to picking up Aneira from school, where she had Field Day today. Fortunately, it didn’t break the phone!

All of this was compounded by a headache that I can not seem to shake today. I’m ready to go hide under the covers and try again tomorrow!

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Talyn, finally under warp!

Yesterday, I put Talyn under warp for the first time. It took me a solid eleven hours to get it done, and we’re talking about a warp I had made a few months ago for something else that didn’t pan out. Scary, isn’t it? I just can’t seem to get the hang of warping. It just eludes me over and over again. What did I do? I managed to tangle it again. I don’t get it either.

Let me just say, though, that sleying the reed was an actual joy, and so was threading the heddles. I kid you not. Y0u see, Talyn’s beater is just as removable as the shafts! There are six posts, three on each side, spaced equally, for putting the beater in different spots. The beater can be up close to the cloth beam, which is where I had it for sleying, or it can be in the middle or close to the heddles. Just lift it out and place it where you want it. Nice touch!

The heddles, I love! Northwest used insert eye heddles, which have a large, round eye for threading. I can actually turn the threading hook in the eye, something I can’t do with Zoe’s heddles, which are of the twisted wire variety.

Warping Talyn was a completely different experience than warping Zoe, despite the fact that they’re both table looms. Talyn is a touch smaller and a good bit lighter than Zoe. His heddles also move much more freely than Zoe’s do, which I suspect is due more to Zoe’s advanced age than anything else. It might be time to replace all of Zoe’s heddles, and take a good look at her shafts and reed as well.

Small shed!

Weaving was also completely different between the two. Talyn is going to take some getting used to. A lot of getting used to. His shed is very small, for one thing. A regular boat shuttle is not going through there. Northwest included a quill shuttle with the order, and it’s much smaller than a boat shuttle is, height-wise.

Another big difference is in the treadles. On Zoe, when you push down on a lever and don’t touch any of the others, they automatically snap up. For example, you push down any two levers, and you have two shafts up, and two shafts down.Push three levers, you have one up and three down. Not so with Talyn. Each treadle works independently, so when you are done with the shaft, you have to physically put that shaft back in place if you aren’t using it again. Otherwise, you pull down the treadles for the shafts you are working with, and the ones you previously used are still down, and will stay there until you move them. Having grown so used to Zoe, I can’t help but feel that’s odd.

So there are definite differences between the two. This is not a bad thing. Wasn’t I just saying that differences put the spice in life?

Talyn, on the left, and Zoe!

Did I forget to mention that Talyn is finally off the floor, and Zoe is off the dresser? Yes, I finally bought a folding table at Lowe’s that looked pretty sturdy, and holds both of them easily. It’s actually kind of funny to see them sitting side by side; you can really see the difference in sizes! Talyn is dwarfed by Zoe!

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