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.


Wednesday, 13 June 2018


The theme for this year’s Geelong Scarf Festival was ‘Life on the Land’.

My first entry was My Grandmothers Meat Safe. 
Years ago there was a bad storm in my grandmother’s neighbourhood and my parents who were away at the time asked me to check on her.  I told them she would be fine as she was a resilient woman but went anyway.  As I expected she was just fine and told me that it wasn’t nearly as bad as the 1925 Balranald tornado.  

Apparently she could see the storm coming and gathered her young family into the house and started to wash the dishes in a bowl on the table. The storm hit and the chimney collapsed through the ceiling leaving her with a bowl of broken china, bricks and soot.  Then she said ’we never did find the meatsafe’.  Clearly it had been caught up in the storm and was never seen again, probably taking the meat for the evening meal with it.  This was before refrigeration when food was stored in a mesh sided cupboard often covered with wet cloth strips in an attempt to keep the food cool.  The mesh of the canvas weave in the scarf is for the mesh sided meat safe.

The second entry was a man’s scarf using eco dyed yarns from Charly at Ixchel in a Fibonacci inspired block twill.  The colours reminded me of burnt paddocks

The other entry was a fancy twill in fine cotton, hand dyed in blue, similar to a another scarf I'd made in thicker cotton that matured in the stash for a very long time

Although the official opening was last week and the scarf of the year was announced, there have been no further updates and I’d really like to see something of this year’s entries

We just had a long weekend and the next ‘under wraps’ project – for the Sheep Show this time – is under way.  It will be under wraps for a while, but I can say that I remembered with painful clarity the problems I had last year running out of warp.  I bought yarn on Tuesday and it was a little thicker than my original plan.  I redid the calculations, thought for a moment that it would probably be OK, remembered last year and made another trip to the yarn shop on a wet afternoon to buy some more.  I managed to make a wide warp of fine yarn, about 1000 ends, and get the draft planned.  It’s now wound on and I’m half way across with the threading, seemingly with no errors - I do hope there are enough heddles.  It’s a bit cold in the garage where the Toika loom lives but at the last market I had enough sense to buy a pair of fingerless gloves, they’re working a treat, thanks Monnie.

Colours changed to maintain anonymity but they also match the warp, even in real life.

There’s a bird bath outside my kitchen window and if I don’t keep it filled with water the birds gather on the fence outside until I run out and fill it up.  Nothing works faster on me than 2 rainbow lorikeets, one sitting on the fence and one on the rim looking pathetically into the empty bird bath. These ones are probably holding a meeting to see if they can get it filled

As I was admiring them one day

they turned into my next project – tartan tea towels in lorikeet colours.  I had most of the colours in the stash but needed the right green for their bodies.  None of the colours on my UKI or Brassard sample cards was right.  There was a colour on the Webs website that looked better, but I was worried that the yarn in the hand and the colour on the monitor might not be the same.  On my previously mentioned trip to the yarn shop there was a yarn, a combination probably of a slub and a 20/2 that looked just right.  I bought one cone but realised that I needed more so another good excuse for the second trip.  I’ve been to the ‘Tartan Designer’ site and while there should be a wrapping, yarns going over a peg on the warping mill are almost the same.

I just might have wound that warp instead of working on the Sheep Show project. I had worked out the colours by looking at the pictures and estimating 50% green, 50% other colours and more orange and blue than yellow, lime and rose.  The balance worked and when I saw my finished warp chains, I thought they might just get up and fly away. 

Back to the Sheep Show warp


Friday, 1 June 2018

Lessons from the stash

A couple of weeks ago I saw some yarn advertised by someone who was sorting out her stash and knew that I could use it.  I’d made some simple scarves using a yarn from Spotlight – Moda Vera Fiordaliso, a mix of wool, acrylic and viscose – now discontinued, and colours more like those in the picture of the scarf below

I kept one of the scarves and it’s one of my favourites so when I saw the yarn at a reasonable price, I decided to make some more of the scarves.  I had a look in the stash and found some fine black wool for the warp and the stripes.  I started to make the 10 m warp and that’s where the trouble started.  I hadn’t got 2 lengths on the warping mill but had had several breaks.  I looked more closely.  I hadn’t wound off short lengths from bobbins back on to the cone.  There was no sign of moth damage.  I was using yarn from 2 cones, one already doubled to get the weight I wanted for the warp.

I tested it for strength and even the doubled yarn broke with almost no pressure at all.  I’d read that yarn does get past its use by date, particularly black yarn because of the chemicals needed to get a good black.  The horrible truth dawned – I had about a kilogram/2 pounds of yarn, definitely past its use by date – and not even strong enough to be used as weft in something I hoped to sell.  I guess there’s a lesson there, yarn doesn’t just mature in the stash sometimes it ‘over matures’  I’m reminded of the labels on the yarn I used to get from Village Spinning and Weaving in Solvang CA, where they had re-purposed food labels which said something like ‘refrigerate after opening’

My other concern is that I think the yarn in question was left over from the coat I made as my final project in the certificate of hand weaving.  I really like it but probably only wear it about once each winter.  I’d better start wearing it a lot more.  Hopefully as it’s been wet finished, there aren’t as many chemicals in it and my favourite coat won’t collapse

All was not lost however and there was more black yarn in the stash so I made my warp and got it on the loom as soon as I finished the last scarf on the warp I’d used to make a scarf for the Geelong Scarf Festival and a couple extra.  I did mention ‘frog hair and yarn chicken’ a couple of posts ago.  Here’s what was left from the warp of one after I’d had two broken warps,

not that bad in 7 metres plus of frog hair yarn, or for that matter how old the yarn was.  My guess is that it was from the 1980s, another reason why the problems with the black yarn surprised me.  Photos of the scarf will have to wait til the festival opens in a couple of weeks.

We had another good market last month.  The new venue is settling down well.  Our stall has been in different parts of the market each time and in June we’ll probably move again, hopefully to a regular spot  in what might well be called ‘fashion corner’, just inside the main door. The other good news is that the stall holders who were somewhat isolated down in a basement area, remote from the rest of us in the main area, will be re-joining the main market from next month.

I can’t believe that it’s a month since the last market already and that I have only managed to produce 2 scarves, the one below, aptly named ‘Tiger Eye’

and another from the Fibonacci blocks series, this time with a weft of 2/20 tencel doubled to make a very classic scarf.

I've also been planning an entry for the Sheep Show and survived a major computer upgrade at work, maybe next month will be more productive


Friday, 4 May 2018

It’s almost Mother’s day

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost a month since the craft market returned to its old home under its new name – Hawthorn Makers Market.  It was a great day for a market – warm and sunny but not too hot - and plenty of people. There were of course a few teething troubles as we got our bearings in new surroundings but eventually we all found our places and were ready to start trading at 10. 

One of the major problems was with the café.  They just didn’t understand the 9.45 coffee rush where the stall holders have got everything in from the car and arranged to their satisfaction, and there’s a 15 minute opportunity to grab a coffee before the doors open officially.  I suspected that they also underestimated the number of people and the amount of food needed so we made sure we had lunch early.  Hopefully things will be a bit easier for everyone for the market on Sunday.

Wendy and I had a good day with a reasonable number of sales – tea towels this time but no scarves.  Here are a couple of happy stall holders,

thanks to Gerlinde who paid us a visit, for the photo, and another photo of our stall bathed in morning sunshine

Over the past few weeks I’ve finished and delivered my scarves for the Geelong Scarf Festival, but it’s a long wait until they open and even longer to see if they have sold

I’ve made a new shop fitting for our stall.  For the past couple of years we’ve had 3 cardboard boxes clipped together with a black jersey cover sitting on the back edge of the table to raise the display a little and provide discreet storage for phones, cords, stationery, scissors, bits and pieces and of course cups of coffee.  The cardboard boxes are bulky to carry and almost past their prime so I decided it was time for a change.  I already had 2 folding IKEA boxes, some cord and a toggle. I bought a piece of thin laminate and some firm black jersey fabric. I cut 2 narrow pieces from the laminate, just a little longer and wider than the 2 boxes, cut the jersey just a little smaller to make a firmly fitting cover, put a hem round the edge and inserted the cord and fastened it with the toggle.  I’ve now got something that still provides the discreet storage but is easy to cover because it’s flat with the boxes folded. 

Best of all it will probably save one trip to and from the car when setting up the stall.  I’d include a photo of the finished masterpiece but black boxes are hard to photograph so here it is ready to be transported, including the food container which was just the right size to fit between the 2 boxes and also to hold out ‘office supplies’.  It will probably save one trip in from the car and one another back to the car at the end of the day when every extra trip really counts

As it’s Mothers Day next week, I always like to have some potential gifts at the May market.  I’ve been playing with block twill and eventually found this cone of yarn on the bench, almost within arm’s reach.  The warp is fine black wool and the yarn on the cone was a fine slightly textured viscose.  I used the yarn double and finished it last night.  Off the loom it was a bit firm but after a wash, a press, a cold mangling on the stone benchtop and a few minutes in the spin dryer, it feels just the way it should. It's hard to capture the sheen in the picture of the scarf but it shows up nicely in the detail shot - by the way, the waves are from the drape, not from dodgy weaving

I almost hope it doesn’t sell as there’s not enough of the viscose yarn left to make another and as it was probably a mill end, I don’t think I’ll be able to get any more

There's time to finish a couple more bags before tomorrow, I'd better get on with it