Friday, 11 January 2019

Taking Stock

The start of a new year is always a good time to take stock. Here’s the tea towel stock,

what little of it there is.  In 2018, I made around 36 tea towels and have just 2 left after selling most of them and gifting the rest.  The total is probably more than that as there were several left from earlier years at the end of 2017.  
I even checked the numbers from 2017 and 2016 and found that I made 23 in 2017 and 18 in 2016.  I know there’s a message there, quite simply, make more tea towels.  They sell easily and my friends who are on the Christmas tea towel list, have started to ask, hopefully, if there will be tea towels this year.

I have 5 or 6 left on the broken twill blocks warp, the pale pink one looks particularly nice

and as the weather hasn’t been too hot, it’s very pleasant weaving in the garage with the door open.

I decided I wanted to weave some more Bumberet tea towels but in more neutral colours.  I even found the black and white setting on the software so that I could compare value.
Here’s what I started with 

Here’s the black and white version

And here’s the warp

I used the values to make a plan for the main colours – black, light grey, taupe, dark grey and white, and back to black again – and, as Bumberet needs groups of 9 ends, warped 2 of the main colour and one, randomly chosen, accent colour. After a few repeats, I added the terracotta/pink because I felt it worked.  Hopefully by the next post I will be able to show whether it worked – or didn’t

I also made around 17 scarves and probably sold or gifted much the same number. Here's just 2 of them

I made a coat for the Sheep Show

and managed to wear it a couple of times before the weather got too hot but it will be great for next Winter.

I am still working on the white runners, I suspect there are a couple of mistakes in the one I’m doing at the moment and hope there is still enough warp to start again.

Next week, I’m off to the Guild Summer School to do a workshop in Weaving Iridescence. Here’s the warp,

I’ve followed all the rules, but only time will tell if I achieve real iridescence
In my spare time I’m back at work though not working too hard as everyone seems to have gone to their beach houses for the Summer, and trying to convert the jungle that is currently where my back garden should be, back into garden


Sunday, 30 December 2018

Back in action

Finally Christmas is over and I’m having a few days off.  As happens every year I have delusions about how much I can accomplish in a few days but this year I didn’t put too much on the list and have already crossed off quite a few items and have reached the one that says ‘blog’.

Things were a bit quiet around here on the weaving front for quite a few weeks.  The plaid towels sat on the indoor 4 shaft loom, almost finished, for far too long and it was too cold to weave out in the garage.

The weather finally  improved, except for rather more rain than usual at this time of year and both looms are now back in action.

First up was a scarf in an 8 shaft spot twill from some yarn I had spun.  It was a wool/silk mix in shades of grey, plied with a fine grey silk and then overdyed in blue and turquoise.

I wanted to wear it to a function in Canberra to celebrate the centenary of the Optometrists’ Association. I did manage to get the scarf, and the matching dress finished in time and was happy with it.

It was a great celebration, especially the after party where it seemed that the more people drank, the more exaggerated the stories of dealing with the bureaucrats became.  They even made a fuss of me for being the first female president of the association, perhaps more than when I doing the job.

I took an extra couple of days off and planned to have a short holiday.  The first day was great, visited my favourite Canberra gallery – Beaver Galleries – visited the Canberra Spinners and Weavers Guild and in the afternoon went to the War Memorial. One of the main reasons was to replace the poppy next to my great uncle’s name on the memorial wall.  I wrote earlier that he had been part of the inspiration for my Red Crosses and Poppies coat, a new poppy was the least I could do for him. There are lots of poppies on the lower part of the wall but if your name is near the top, it’s only relatives who make the effort to get poppies that high.  There was a staff member on duty who very kindly fetched the steps – and then told me that I was climbing them. 

I wonder what occupational health and safety rule says that it’s not safe for the staff to climb the steps but it’s OK for visitors, perhaps 40 years older, to do it. At least she took some good pictures.

By the end of the first day in Canberra I knew I was getting a cold – and almost 4 weeks later, it’s still not gone completely.  It was a really nasty one and made the Christmas preparations seem like a lot of hard work.

The next project was a white on white table runner for a Christmas gift in 20/2 cotton – not surprisingly it was a slow project and hard to work on for long periods.  It was almost finished in time and while I had taken a photo of the beginning so that I could make the other end the same, unfortunately I had the photo upside down and managed to make a runner with non matching ends.  I guess I could call it a very large sampler and I did actually take it to the intended recipient to make sure it would fit the coffee table.  There was plenty of warp and I’ve already done a couple of repeats of the pattern, only 15 to go.

I warped the 8 shaft loom with tea towels for gifts and for the next market.  I’d planned for broken twill blocks, white with grey stripes and warp in different colours.  The variegated blue was a bit close in colour to the grey

so it was followed by black, red and terracotta. 

Since then I’ve done a couple more black ones, a taupe one, a mint one and an aqua one. 

There are still a few more on the warp, not sure how much warp I’ve wasted with all the cutting off.

One of the things that absorbed my spare time was a car accident probably just after my last post.  My car was 18 years old but not giving me any major dramas and suited my needs – transport to and from work, transport to the craft market and occasional country trips, very well.  I was driving to work one morning when someone parked by the side of the road opened his door without looking and very neatly trimmed off my side mirror. 

There was a dent in the door and a scratch on the glass but it was driveable and fortunately no-one was hurt.  Too many phone calls later after the other driver finally remembered the correct name of their insurer and their registration number, their insurer decided that my car was a total write off so my old car went off on the back of a car carrier

and I’m now driving around in a new red Honda Jazz,

just perfect for driving to work and with so much room in the back that the first time I packed it for a market I had to consult my market list to see what I’d forgotten.  As it turned out everything was already packed and there was room to spare so it all turned out well in the end.

Somewhere in the middle of all that was the Hawthorn Makers Market December Market.  We did quite well which was great as we've not done well at the Christmas Market in the past, perhaps things really have settled down well at our new (old) venue

In my spare time I did all the usual Christmas baking, here's a small sample of it

Tomorrow, I’m off to the country to visit a couple of friends and to give the new car a long trip, time to start packing


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

They’ve come for the towels!

I've written in previous posts I had been inspired by the rainbow lorikeets in my garden

to make some plaid towels and that I’d made the warp just before I started working on my coat for the sheep show.

Finally the loom was empty and it was time for the warp to fly off the footstool

and onto the loom.  Threading for a 2/2 twill was easy and a slightly looser sett  - 20 epi – for the thicker yarn and 24 epi for the 8/2 performed very well.

In no time weaving was under way

and a few days before the September market, I made the sensible decision to weave in a couple of sticks and cut off the finished towels.  This gave me enough time to hem and wet finish them properly. 

They were even completely dry by the day of the market, not slightly damp this time.

I gave them pride of place at the front of the stall

and sold three of the six as well as a scarf, so a good day at the market.  I’ve finished the last 2 towels so will have enough for the next market on October  7.

Unfortunately one of the towels had a mistake in the plaid, maybe someone from another clan came in and wove some while I wasn’t watching.  Even though the drying qualities were not affected at all, I didn’t want to sell it so hung it on the oven door and started to use it.

I was washing some dishes a couple of days ago and heard a commotion outside the window.  The rainbow lorikeets who haven’t been round much in the cold weather were back .  There were 8 on the fence involved in some sort of pecking order game to sit on the highest part of the fence and they all kept changing position and moving further up the fence.

My instant reaction was ‘they’ve come for the towels’ but even though I waved the towel at them, they weren’t at all interested.  I think they just wanted me to run out and put more water in the bird bath and as they were the source of my inspiration,

it was the least I could do for them

That's it for now


Friday, 3 August 2018


Three posts in a week – that must be a record for me.

With the Bendigo Sheep Show over for another year it’s time to tidy up, make a plan and get on with it.  The first thing I did was to tie the warp back on to the small loom and, as I straightened up after dropping the fishing weights on the floating selvedges, I felt my back go.  Fortunately, my physio could fit me in the next day and strapped it back together, not sure if the effect is real or psychological like giving a band aid to a small child who’s not bleeding, but fortunately it’s all back to normal.

I decided to finish the trial jacket I started for my entry for the sheep show last year – it just needs the facing and the lining attached so not a lot of work there – so I had a look in the mystery cupboard under the stairs and found the bag with the pieces, but I got distracted and there hasn't been any progress yet.

While I was looking in the cupboard I found another bag of weaving UFOs and as there is a market this Sunday and not enough time to start anything new, I decided to investigate.  There was a black and red scarf, just the thing to go with the new coat and with the sort of long floats that mean that it’s all mine because selling or gifting it to someone is just not an option.

The next thing I found was an almost complete advancing twill scarf with a handspun weft – all the fringe on one end and about 2/3 on the other end were done.  It just needed the rest of the fringe done, a few repairs and a wet finish.  At least there will be something new for the market.

I looked a little further and found an acid green alpaca scarf which had been beaten too firmly so that it was more like a table runner than a scarf.  The alpaca yarn was too good to discard so I took it apart and used it with the warp on the small loom, beating gently this time. 

It should be done by the weekend as long as I don’t have any more of the surprises I got when I released both rachets on the loom at the same time.  The remainder of the warp unrolled itself off the back beam almost instantly, then fell off the rod as well.  I managed to restore order, the tension is a bit tight on one side but should hold OK for the last few inches. Some fringe, a quick wet finish, hope it will dry overnight and there should be 2 news scarves for tomorrow. 

Then, after the market on Sunday I can move on the tea towel warp, inspired by the lorikeets in the garden.


Sunday, 29 July 2018

Red crosses and poppies

Here, as promised last post, is the story of my entry for the 2018 Australian Sheep and Wool Show, hand woven garment.

The Woolcraft theme for 2018 was ‘Homefront’ presumably in celebration of the end of the First World War. This got me thinking about what my female relatives would have been doing at the time.  My great aunts, with whom I share the textile gene, would have been mourning the loss of their younger brother at Pozieres, and, at the same time, and along with my grandmother, his fiancée, worrying about their older brother, my grandfather, who had been wounded at Bullecourt and ended up in hospital in England.

Here are my grandfather and his twin sister at the back, with their younger brother and sister in front, taken at a guess, around 1891/92, with the brothers below when they were in the army some time after 1915

I rather fancied making a coat, using my favourite Vogue Yves St Laurent coat pattern from 1979 again, but in a different colour from the 2 previous versions. 

It’s a great pattern for hand woven fabric as there are not many pieces and I’ve adapted it to remove the fullness at the top of the sleeve and added a lining. I settled on red and black and wanted a bold pattern.

Then there was the question of weave structure.  I had made a couple of scarves in summer and winter and liked the firm fabric it produced, probably better for sewing into a garment than for a scarf.  I got out my favourite summer and winter references - in no particular order - The Best Of Weaver's Summer plus Winter, Tien Chu's article in Handwoven May/June 2014 and the the recent March/April 2018 issue of Heddlecraft.

I started playing with the weaving software.  I knew that I’d done a skeleton tie up on the Toika loom before and that I still had one treadle that was jammed.  Using a design which required every treadle and shaft wasn’t the best idea.  I tried a profile draft that needed 7 shafts to give 5 pattern blocks and as I was playing with the design, red crosses popped into view, a couple more clicks and I had stylised poppies on the other side of the fabric as well.  It could all be done with 7 shafts and 9 treadles, it was a bold pattern, and I could use one side for the main part of the coat and the reverse for the bands. I had poppies for my aunts who were mourning their brother and for my grandmother who was a florist and red crosses for the medical services looking after my grandfather. Design done!

I had a red yarn in the stash, actually from Sylvia Mason's stash, that was just fine for weft but not enough for a warp as well, so, as I wrote last time, made a couple of trips to Yarn Barn to make sure I had enough yarn and there would be no need to tie on extra warp. 

The weft yarns were a bit thinner than the warp and the first row of motifs in the sample was a bit flattened. That's the top row in the picture below. I added an extra repeat to each block for the second row, wet finished it, and I was ready to go

Some 52 motifs later

the tie on rod had come up over the back beam

and I'm always surprised how little loom waste there is on the Toika loom

I cut it off, told the Toika loom I'd see it again when the weather warmed up and ran back to the warm part of the house.

I had 5.2 m of fabric, more than I really needed fortunately as I had woven most of it wrong side up and there were a lot of skipped threads and other things to be mended.

I wet finished it in the washing machine and it was time to make the first cut.  I like to roll it on to a cardboard tube as it makes it easier to handle and I can almost convince myself it’s store bought - and how many meters would you like madam? - so that cutting into it isn’t such a drama

I still managed to waste a lot of time getting ready to cut – made the lining, made the seam binding, measured it more than twice, several times.

Eventually it could wait no longer so I started cutting and I had it mostly finished within a couple of days and at the Guild, the pick up point for entries, at least an hour before the deadline. 

Here it is on parade, it's not the rosy red it appears here but much more like the true red in the picture above.  I'm not planning to wear it with bare legs as the model did, I'd have preferred it to be worn with some dramatic high heeled black boots - or perhaps red ones

The judges must have liked it as it won its section but I have to confess that there were only two entries in the section. There were not  a lot of weaving entries apart from the scarf /article section and it would be great to have more entries.

The theme for 2019 has been announced - Season - I'd better start planning


Friday, 27 July 2018

Sheep Show 2018 – and an unexpected ending

Last Sunday I made my annual trip to the 141st Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo run by the Australian Sheep Breeders Association. My plans changed this year as I was unable to stay with the friend who lives nearby and was in hospital and Norma who normally joins us was in Darwin.

I knew it would be a long and cold day, but had no idea how long it would be and how much I would appreciate the hand knitted socks and thermals I wore. I got up bright and early, like a small child with a treat in store, left home before 7.30 am and made it to Bendigo, about 2 hours away in good time to do a little shopping before I met Virginia at the parade where we settled down with coffee in hand to enjoy some of the very creative garments in the Woolcraft display.
Here’s a small selection of the paraded entries, some felted, some knitted and some woven, unfortunately I was too busy taking photos to record all the very creative makers

And here's a preview of my coat on parade, I'll write about it in detail next post.

After the parade we started to look at some of the temptations on offer but decided that we needed lunch before we started shopping.  We went to the showgrounds dining room  - mostly lamb dishes on offer and tossed up between roast lamb and lamb pot pie.  The roast lamb won and cleared our plates apart from the pumpkin skin and corn cobs

After lunch we visited some sheep, looked at looms, spent some money, gathered information for future projects and generally had a good time.

When I’d seen and bought as much as I needed, I went to the Bendigo Woollen Mills for some basic black yarn and then had some afternoon tea and waited until it was time to collect my coat.

The Woolcraft volunteers had everything ready and I was on the road just before the official collection time.  It all went well for about 40 minutes when the cars ahead of me stopped  - and there we sat for about 2 hours in the middle of nowhere on a cold winter night.  

There had been an accident about 10 cars ahead, just over a small rise so we really couldn’t see what was happening.  Some drivers walked up to see what was happening and reported back to the rest of us.  Apparently a hazardous goods tanker had driven into the back of a B double cattle truck and then a sedan drove into the back of the tanker.  While it had the potential to be a ghastly accident, it really wasn’t.  The hazardous goods tanker was empty, one cow died, the driver of the tanker broke his arm and the driver of the sedan had leg injuries which were not life threatening.  

The emergency services came out in force – Police, Fire Brigade, MICA ambulance, State Emergency Service, probably about 20 vehicles in all.  Most of the traffic following us had been diverted down an alternate route but the emergency services eventually managed to clear a single lane so we could get past the tanker and the cattle truck and go home.  I finally arrived home at 10.00 pm, about 2 hours later than I planned although it could have been a lot later as the road did not re-open completely until about 3 am.

Despite being a bit tired, there were no real dramas but I did have 2 hours to sit and think about being prepared for the unexpected.  I was really glad that I’d dressed warmly to walk around outside on a cold day.  While we were waiting, I did see someone walk past in shorts but I was more concerned about staying warm. I was very glad I had put on a wool cardigan for the drive home, that my car has sheepskin seat covers and that I had a rug on the back seat.  I also had my favourite vintage 1990 English trenchcoat that I’d worn during the day, my coat from the competition as well as a woollen scarf. 

I had water but as there were no facilities to be seen, not even a convenient tree, I held back on the water.  I’d have liked something to eat but with plenty of food during the day including the large plate of roast lamb and vegetables, I wasn’t going to starve.

I had a charged back up battery for my phone so I was able to keep that charged.  I did wish that I’d taken my knitting and a light source so that I could have done something useful while I was waiting.

And to finish, here’s a picture of my haul for the day.

I was really quite restrained and some of the yarns and some of the fibre were part of the prize for my coat.  I did get a new ball winder, using the prize voucher from Glenora from last year – thanks Christine – but as the old one, purchased second hand at the guild when I started spinning in the mid 1970s, was on its last legs, I didn’t think I was being overly extravagant.