Saturday, 9 September 2017


I mentioned back in May that I had been working on scarves for the Geelong Scarf Festival but that they had to stay under wraps for a while.  Once I sent the 3 scarves off, life got busy and I forgot about them until I went to the post office this morning and found a nice cheque from the Festival as all three had sold.  It seems as though my work appeals to the patrons of this Festival as I’ve sold  10 of the 11 scarves I’ve entered over the past 3 years.

I documented this year’s scarves as I made them but wanted to share some of the details here.  This year’s theme was ‘Galaxies’ and I’ve just heard that the theme for 2018 is ‘Life on the Land’, thank goodness they choose nice broad themes that can be interpreted many ways.

First up was a chenille number.  I’d had a skein of random dyed mock chenille for years and I could just see a brilliant milky way under a velvety black outback sky.  I planned the warp carefully as I only had one cone of the black chenille.  I wanted to space the contrast threads further out at the edges and more densely in the middle.  I calculated very carefully and ended up with 20 threads more than I had planned.  I threaded it according to my plan and realised that if you warp alternate dark and light threads – you get stripes, not stars.  I had to undo what I’d done and put the lease sticks back in.  That’s actually harder than you might think if there’s no-one round to help, but with heavy books on the treadles I managed to get the lease sticks back in and threaded it again, this time with an even number of dark threads between the light ones to give offset dots and some illusion of stars rather than the previously mentioned stripes. 

I was sure that the warp was 4.5 meters long, enough for 2 scarves 2 meters long and some loom waste.  I was a little surprised when I got to the end of the second scarf and still had a meter of warp left.  Maybe it stretched, although it was the right length when wet finished, or maybe the 4.5 meter guide string for the warping mill was actually a longer one in disguise.  I was pleased with the end result,

the colours worked eventually and it had that great rayon chenille silky hand.  I hope the purchaser is enjoying it.

For my next effort I decided to recycle some silk fabric from a window display at work.  At first glance it appeared to be an all over print and even as I seamed the edges together so it would hang well as a backdrop, I failed to notice that it was actually a border print.  Sitting at the front desk, contemplating  the join on the back of it one day, I realised that it was in fact a border print. 

I had to think about it for a while to get the best from the design but I cut the fabric in half crossways and started to cut narrow strips from the darker side with the overlocker, unthreaded and with no needles, using the mark I'd put on the machine last time I needed narrow strips.

 I threaded a needle with a length of hairy wool yarn

so that the strips of silk wouldn’t slide off too easily and threaded each strip on, in order, as I cut it and slipped each one off the other end of the piece of yarn as I needed to weave it being very careful to weave with them in the correct order. 

When I was about half way, I measured how much I had used, cut a similar length off the other piece of fabric and started cutting from the lighter side. I find that it's not too hard to cut the strips straight with the overlocker and this was what was left as I cut the last full strip.

I’m pleased to say that it worked so that the colour in my scarf was lighter in the middle and matched at the ends.  Up close it looked like some sort of digital code so it was named 'Messages from afar'

and I hope the purchaser is enjoying this one also.

On other fronts there has been good progress with the small shirts and I've turned the heel on the second of the Catalina socks so it's been a reasonably productive week


Saturday, 2 September 2017

A short break and a long post

I’ve been away so this post isn’t about textiles but about some highlights of my trip with a few textile references thrown in for good measure.

I flew to Los Angeles towards the end of July to visit family and to get away from the Melbourne winter for a couple of weeks. The flight was uneventful and while sleep eluded me, fortunately the Qantas entertainment selection was much better than the last flight 4 years ago.  I found ‘The secret history of knitting’ amongst the documentaries and couldn’t resist taking a photo of my sock next to the screen. 

In case anyone is worried about taking knitting on planes I had no problems.  I had short bamboo sock needles and even though security did x-ray my bag twice, I just stood there looking innocent and pretending that it was someone else’s bag, and it was fine.

One day we had an expedition to Catalina Island about an hour’s ferry ride away.  It was a perfect Summer’s day, not too hot and with a cool breeze.  There were plenty of people swimming

but I wasn’t tempted to join them.  I found the only yarn shop in Avalon, the only town, and managed to find some sock yarn I liked.  There wasn’t a huge choice, and I suspect that if I got all my yarn out from its many hiding places, I may well have more yarn than was on display.  The colours remind me of Catalina and the first sock is almost finished.

We went on an eco tour run by the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Our driver very sensibly asked us if we wanted to look at the views at the beginning of the tour or at the end because there was a good chance that if we went straight to the middle of the island we would see bison.  We chose bison over scenery and were rewarded with great views of the bison. 

Apparently years ago they were taken to Catalina for a movie and when it was finished they were left there.  They’ve adapted well and have become quite an attraction.  We were lucky that the day we were there,

they decided to graze along the edge of the road – we were so close we could smell them.

A couple of days later we went to Laguna for the Sawdust Art Festival and the Pageant of the Masters.  This is one of the times where it helps to be staying with a local as I suspect that the average tourist would never find it.  The Pageant of the Masters was started back in 1932 when a local farmer allowed a group of volunteers to re-enact paintings in his field.  It might sound odd but I’ve found the best way to explain it is that the finale is always Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’.  There’s a painted backdrop, a table with food and the cast members come out in costume and sit around the table.  It’s no longer in a field but now has its own newly renovated, purpose built open air theatre with orchestra pit and a full orchestra playing.  There was just one textile connection where they re-enacted a portrait of Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress, spinning.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that she was into textiles but gather the portrait was painted to give her a more domestic and wholesome image.  Of course, if you think about it, film and television are major industries for Los Angles and so there are plenty of people with just the right skills to run a festival like this.  It’s all done by 2 crews of volunteers who work the whole summer but taking part could well be an advantage to anyone starting out in film or television.

As you walk into the theatre area there’s a high end art and craft display with great work but no textiles and across the road is the Sawdust Art Festival a mid-range craft exhibition but again not a lot of textiles and I didn’t find any weaving at either show.  I bought a couple of stunning marbled silk scarves, thank you Cindy Stalnaker of Laguna Beach Silks, and after I spoke to Cindy, I suddenly knew why there were not a lot of textiles.  She told me that she was there from 10 am to 10 pm for 66 days, I’m sure she was counting them.  I guess it would be possible to work all the year for just one festival and then sell for 2 months straight but it could be a very big gamble.  It’s a pleasant rustic environment with a lot of wood chips on the paths, hence the name, but the booths are smallish and not completely enclosed. There’s barely enough room for a small floor loom and life would be very difficult if it rained, possible but not all that likely in Southern California. It’s a very long commitment, especially if nothing sells, but on the other hand if sales were very good, there would be no time to replenish stock unless you could weave all night, or maybe employ an assistant, preferably one called Rumplestiltskin.  In case anyone is tempted to take part, it’s restricted to Laguna residents but I’d recommend all the events in Laguna highly if you’re visiting the area in July or August.

Another expedition was to the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, near Pasadena.  We started with the Library where there was an original Gutenberg Bible from 1455 on display – between 150 and 180  were made, 48 still exist in whole or part.  There was a history of science exhibition, the sections on light and medicine really appealed.  I realised how well we had been taught optics as I recognised almost all the names on the original documents on display.

We then went into the Art Gallery where a couple of the standout exhibits are Gainsborough’s Blue Boy

and Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie. 

Both very well known to those of us who grew up in the 1950’s when school girls collected playing cards, known to all as ‘swap cards’. Swapping involved exchanging less desirable or poor quality cards for better ones.  Blue Boy and Pinkie were right up there amongst the most desirable.

I was also fascinated by this portrait of a young girl by Jean Baptiste Greuze, 1759,who had fallen asleep over her knitting. 

She’s not very old and that’s a pretty impressive sock she’s making.  I also liked this little cherub,

but can’t remember the artist.

It was fairly hot so we didn’t spend a lot of time in the gardens but we did lounge about on an open verandah where there was a great planter full of bromeliads.

We visited the Japanese garden for a while and then remembered that we had booked for high tea and were running late. We rushed up the hill to the tea house and collapsed in the door, a little red faced and flustered but still able to do justice to a very fancy high tea.

I managed some shopping, mostly shoes, clothes and underwear but also made it to Newton’s Yarn Country

where I found a few additions to the stash.

And then it was over and I was back in Melbourne, arriving on what turned out to be the coldest morning in twenty years, there was ice on the car window.

I’d started in a tee shirt but just kept adding layers so I was OK but some of my fellow travellers who’d come in tank tops and bare legs looked a bit surprised when they left the terminal.

Life has returned to normal and I’m off to the craft market in the morning, just one day fortunately, not 66.  I managed to get 3 of the Bumberet tea towels

finished, there were 2 more but they seem to have developed a couple of rust spots so more wet finishing is needed.  I did find some very good display stands at Michaels while I was away,

not too heavy and once the bases are screwed off very easy to pack, I wonder if the customers will like them or the goods on display
Here's hoping for a busy day at the market


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Sheep Show 2017

I’ve managed to find some time for a Sheep Show update before it’s too late.

Last Saturday I drove to Castlemaine to stay with an old family friend on Saturday night and next morning I drove to Bendigo in time to meet friends at the parade of hand crafted garments.  I decided to take photos with the phone instead of the camera but with hindsight I would have done better with the camera as it’s faster and it wouldn’t have flattened the phone battery as much

Here are a few highlights from the parade:

A felted jacket with a border of  coroboree frogs

A very smart man's jumper

A beautiful felted dress, apparently each section was felted separately

A dramatic cape

A two piece with felted lattice

A cape with the music of 'It's a small world', the 2017 theme

Ending up with my jacket, the judges seemed to like it as it won its class and was awarded best garment from commercial wool

Here are some better photos taken at home with the camera, it’s hard to capture the pleats at the back with the dark French navy but though this one is a bit over exposed, at least it’s easier to see the pleats at the back.

Here's my modest collection from the Sheep Show

– some merino/cashmere roving, a couple of cones from the bargain box, a ball of silver viscose and wool yarn, I’m sure it will be good for something and a knitted blank going from purple to teal, just my sort of colours.  As well there were a couple of balls of yarn from Biggan Design and a gift voucher from Glenora as part of the prize.  The best garment from commercial wool was sponsored by Bendigo Woollen Mills and I believe there’s a surprise from them on its way.

There’s always a bit of a gap between when the Sheep Show closes and the exhibits are available for collection so I had a little trip round Bendigo, bought some petrol, had some afternoon tea, went to the gallery, sat in the street listening to my audiobook waiting to go in and collect my jacket when the audiobook stopped for no good reason.  Despite having my car serviced a couple of days earlier so that I would not have any car problems on the trip, I found myself sitting in the dark and cold outside the showgrounds with a car that wouldn’t start, and an almost flat phone battery.  I was imagining the worst – major mechanical problems that would mean I had to stay overnight, but knowing that all the accommodation was booked out, maybe even sleeping in the car – when the automobile association man arrived told me that I had a flat battery, started the car in about 2 seconds and told me not to stop until I reached home, about 2 hours away – Whew!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Where did the warp go?

I really did mean to start on my project for the Sheep Show early this year – but, as usual, life intervened.

Months ago now, I found a Burda pattern

that somehow reminded me of the Nina Ricci Jacket and dress that my mother made somewhere around 1957. 

Maybe the reason it reminded me of the 1957 pattern was that it was also 1950s inspired.

I realised that if I planned the fabric to be cut weftwise rather than with the warp, I could place a panel of pattern precisely to the edge of the pleats at the shoulders at the back, make the front pattern panel meet at the shoulder and have plain sleeves and side panels,very likely to have a slimming effect.

I started to make a test jacket with a piece of fabric I found in the stash.  I could swear I’d never seen it before so maybe it made its way into the stash by osmosis.   I made enough of it to confirm the size and fit but must finish it when I’ve got more time as it definitely has potential.

I’d already found an 8 shaft draft, Snowflakes by Susan BH from Weavolution, that looked as though it would work both with a contrast weft 

and with the same warp and weft

so I did very careful calculations for the length, adding 20% and another half a meter for good measure.  I removed the draw loom shafts from my 8 shaft loom, wound a warp and started to weave a sample.  I cut it into 3 pieces, washed one by hand, one with a load of towels and left the third alone.  There seemed to be around 5 to 7% shrinkage giving a 38 mm repeat.  

I planned my weaving to the required number of repeats plus one extra for each panel and away I went.  First a front, then a sleeve and a facing and then the back, placing 11 repeats of the pattern carefully in the middle.  As I wove the next sleeve and facing the tie on rod started to appear

– clearly there was not enough warp left to weave the front panel.

What to do?   I’d read about tying a new warp to the old and this seemed like the best option as the treading was complicated and I’d already fixed most of the mis-threadings.  Then I made a fast trip to the local yarn shop, fortunately they had more of the yarn, and wound another shortish warp. 

I looked to the web for advice, Madelyn van der Hoogt  recommended weaving a plain weave heading, thanks Madelyn, so I did the best I could as there was no plain weave in the draft.

I realised that I needed to support the weight of the apron rods so that they didn't fall and pull all the ends from the heddles so I tied one to the castle and the other to the breast beam

and I used a ruler and a short lease stick to keep the cross in order and taped it all to the breast beam to keep it secure

while I tied the 719 knots.  Mostly the knots held but around 2% failed – note to self, learn to tie proper weaver’s knots or learn to get the length of the warp right in the first place.

When I took the cloth off the loom, the crucial centre back panel measured 17 inches, not 16 as I had planned and even after wet finishing what was clearly a machine washable yarn, it did not seem to have shrunk at all, certainly not 5 to 6% as the sample did.  I re-measured the pattern piece and realised that 16.5 was probably closer to what I needed and fortunately by the time it was dry next morning it was exactly 16.5.

Sewing went smoothly, helped by an extra half day off work, and it was finished one whole day before it had to be delivered.

And here are a couple of very hasty photos of it on me, just before I took it to the Guild for transport to Bendigo,  but hopefully I will have a picture of it on a tall slim model after my visit to the Sheep Show on Sunday.
I realised that the warp disappeared into poor calculations – If the front panel needed to be 11 motifs wide in total, why did I plan for 11 pattern repeats and 4 plain ones? 

Just one extra repeat to get the beat consistent would have been plenty.  I planned 5 panels – two fronts, two sleeves and facings and the back.  I think I added an extra repeat to each panel for good measure and that’s where the warp went.  It would have been so much easier to get it right in the first place, there’s probably a lesson there.

Since this post seems to be a lot about measurement and calculation, I should share that I saw over at Threads that today, July 14, is National Tape Measure Day.  I must have at least 6 in various places round the house/studio and in varying states of repair after fights with sharp implements.  When I need one, they all seem to be missing, maybe they’re at a party celebrating National Tape Measure Day or possibly even Bastille Day, that’s what I always thought July 14 celebrated.  However it seems that it’s the day in 1868 that Alvin J Fellows patented his new improved tape measure – who knew?

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Getting it right

Sorry for the silence but I have been working on scarves for the Geelong Scarf Festival and although they were sent off in good time, they have to stay under wraps for a bit longer.
I decided that my stock of tea towels was getting a bit low so decided to try some in Bumberet in 6/2 cotton.  I worked out that I wanted to do stripes of 27 ends, 15 in one colour and 12 in another.  This meant lots of colour changes while winding the warp but straightforward threading and weaving, or so I hoped.  I was working under some difficulty with a head cold but eventually got the warp wound and on to the loom.  There were of course, a couple of threading errors but recently I made a few reusable safety pin and string repair heddles

and these worked beautifully.  I wove the plain weave hem and I was congratulating myself on how well the repair heddles had worked when I launched into the pattern.  With a simple 6 end repeat in the threading of 2,3,2,1,4,1 it should be easy to get it right but, and I’m blaming the head cold here, I managed to insert an extra 2,3,2 or maybe miss a 1,4,1.  The error was just to the left of the centre (of course) and because of the colour stripes there was no easy fix apart from unthreading right back to the error and starting again.  I’m glad I did, the stripes look good, the shed is good, and the 6/2 is a bit thicker than the 8/2 I normally use, so I’m finally making good progress.

I guess the lesson is to check the threading constantly and especially after taking a break.

What else has been happening?  Each May, the traders’ association where I work have a sculpture festival.  We all give up part of our window display and it’s always a surprise when the sculpture arrives.  This year we have Dianne Thompson’s ‘Stars in your eyes’, not only appropriate for an optometry practice, but it’s a ‘winged sheep soaring over a lunar landscape with indigenous names for the stars’, so also very appropriate for someone who spins and weaves with wool.

The weather is getting cooler and I need to work on the loom in the cold garage if I am going to make something for the Sheep show.  In the meantime, the crepe myrtle in my garden is in full Autumn dress