Saturday, 13 January 2018

Is it January 14 already?

I had planned to write a year in review post to mark the start of a new year but time has flown – so briefly there were:
About 23 tea towels

5 scarves

And 7 meters of fabric for a jacket for the sheep show in July which won best handwoven garment in show

There was a bit of sewing - 3 small shirts and a silk jacket for me, a short trip to the US and in my spare time, I worked full time so not too bad an effort.

2018 is off to a good start.  The first task was to get all the treadles on the 8 shaft loom working again.  Treadles 1 and 4 refused to work and while it is possible to weave a straight draw 2,3,5,6,7,8,9,and 10, it is so much nicer to be able to use the treadles in order and to consider all the 8 shaft drafts, not just those needing 8 or fewer treadles.

My loom had been modified in the past so that tie ups are done using long cords secured with golf tees to a board, somewhat like to 20+ system.  As I pulled one of the cords on treadle 1, one day, it just kept coming because the knot securing it to the lam had come untied.  It was easier to fix than I expected and with the help of the curved upholstery needle and some dental floss I was able to pull it back to where it had come from and re-knot it.  The dental floss was well attached to the cord at this stage so I just cut off the loose bits and left the rest there.  In any case, it was a perfect match for the nylon cord.

Treadle 4 was a different problem.  Some of the cords had jammed and just wouldn’t move.  I thought that most likely, a pin from a broken warp repair had dropped into the mess of cords and was stopping them from moving.  I got as close as I could, and with the help of a good light decided that while there was fluff there, there were no pins. I pulled the cords in both directions and with the help of pliers got the stuck ones working.  So glad that I finally got this job off the ‘to do’ list.

I put on a new warp on the Toika – 20/2 cotton painted with splashes of blue to make a finer version of scarves I made in 2015.  It was all going so well, good shed, nicely tensioned warp but treadle 4, maybe not so sure about being put back to work, managed to spit out one of the golf tees so that one shaft didn’t lift.  By the time I had realised, I had done too much and decided that, given the very fine yarns, it would have to be a design element. 
Here it is with the design element

I’m now on to the second scarf on this warp and have finally got treadle 4 under control. Here it is the way it should be

I need to get quite a few things finished as this will be a busy year for the craft market, off to the street festival at the beginning of March and then back to its original home at the Hawthorn Town Hall, now known as the Hawthorn Arts Centre, with a new name for the market as well – the Hawthorn Makers Market.  This maker had better get back to her making


Sunday, 10 December 2017

It's back

My weaving mojo that is.  

I found the Bumberet tea towels in the last post a bit laborious, they were on the loom from June to the end of October for 7 tea towels and a breadcloth.  I know part of the problem was that there were a lot of colours in the warp and some of them were 4 strands of 20/2 cotton.  Not all the strands lined up precisely and there were quite a few joins in the warp – note to self: just don’t ever do it again.  So there were joins and loose threads and fishing weights hanging all over the place.  

Once they were off the loom, I put on the burgundy tencel warp I’d saved from the double harness project last year.  It was the first time I’d saved a warp and it gave me no problems at all.  It was so nice to have something without loose threads and fishing weights and the 2 scarves were finished in no time. I used a draft from VAV and did one with a turquoise weft and the other with multi coloured tencel in jewel.  Both turned out well although I’m happier with the turquoise.
than with the multicolour
as there’s a battle going on between pattern and colour – as usual colour is winning. Clearly it's not nearly as photogenic.

A couple of weeks ago it was Melbourne Cup day – a holiday for a horse race at just the right time of year to make Christmas cakes so that’s what I did.  They need to be cooked very slowly so once there were in the oven I turned my attention to the next warp which was to be more tea towels for Christmas presents and for the December market.  Despite my problems with the Bumberet tea towels I knew I wanted to explore it further so I planned a warp, all with yarns from the stash.  I did a couple of wrappings before I was happy with the colours – I wanted green but neither of the greens I had contrasted with the grey but the bright aqua was fine so I went with grey, aqua, rose and just a dash of maize yellow.  

I knew I had 2 cones of the rose and started with the smaller one but there wasn’t quite enough.  I found the second one, hoping that it would be close enough in colour.  It seemed fine so I checked the dye lot and they were exactly the same.  I know I bought one from Halcyon Yarns in 2007 or 8 and the other from Village Spinning and Weaving in Solvang several years later.  I don’t know if I was just really lucky or that UKI dye colours in very very large batches.

The Bumberet towels went really well – the colours worked together, there were only 2 threading errors and both easily fixed, the weaving was an easy 4 pick repeat and any errors were so obvious that they could be fixed without unweaving more than a couple of picks.  

There’s just one problem – they’re not the same as the previous Bumberet.  I knew from the earlier towels that Bumberet needed groups of 3 ends and I planned and wound my warp carefully, taking the 3 end groups into consideration.  I threaded it in groups of 3,4,3 and 2,1,2 and away I went.  First I used a grey weft, just a little lighter than the grey in the warp, then white, then turquoise, then rose.  The warp was behaving and the texture of the cloth was great but something told me that they were different from the previous ones.  Eventually I looked at the draft I’d used for the previous towels and what I’d threaded was point twill – 2,1,2,3,4,3 – not the Bumberet I’d used last time which was 2,3,2, 1,4,1.  This set me off on a search which turned up an article by Madelyn van der Hoogdt (it's at but Blogger won't let me provide a link and another by Alice Schlein that I will try to find next time I make it to the guild library.  I now know that there are quite a few variations in the Bumberet family and the one I’ve used this time makes very nice, slightly textured tea towels with no long floats – what could be better than that?

I finished 10 towels and a bread cloth easily in time for the market last week even though it was a challenge getting them washed and dried in the middle of a few very wet and humid days. I wasn’t too concerned when none of them sold, as other things sold and it means that I still have a nice selection of tea towels for Christmas gifts and I don’t have to make another batch in the next couple of weeks.  

It was the last market for the year and there had been a question about the plans for 2018.  We received the good news that the market is moving back to its original venue after an absence of about 5 years and will now be known as the Hawthorn Makers Market – even though we had moved to the next suburb, we kept the name of the previous location in Hawthorn and were using the somewhat unwieldy title of ‘Hawthorn Craft Market – in Camberwell’.  It will be good to move back home.

As I had enough tea towels, I made a warp for another batch of glasses cases instead. 

It’s simple plain weave, just the thing for a bit of relaxation in the middle of the silly season.


Thursday, 2 November 2017

Lots of sewing, not much weaving

As the title says there’s been quite a lot of sewing but not a lot of weaving round here

I’ve made 3 shirts for my cousin’s son in the US.  He’s very tall for his age and while he wants the cute shirts the other kids are wearing, they are just not long enough for him.  So I’ve come to the rescue with some custom made shirts.  We had a trip to Joann’s while I was visiting to choose fabric –thought he needed to know that shirts don’t come complete but start as flat fabric – and that it would be nice for him to select what he wanted.  He was watching the 2006 movie ‘Cars’ while I was there and that was the only thing he wanted on his shirt.  The fabric gods must have known I was coming, as I found the right fabric and there was just enough to make one small shirt.  I even found little red car buttons to match. 

The other 2 were Dr Seuss fabric

and another fabric with assorted superheroes

– I hope he likes them and that they fit.  I posted them a week ago but Australia Post are not co-operating and their tracking service tells me the parcel has not left Australia yet.  I wonder how many flights there are to the US every day, if not every week.

I had a family wedding over weekend.  It was on a farm and the dress code was ‘black tie and sensible shoes’.  I guessed that meant black tie from the waist up, and choose the shoes on the day depending on how wet it’s been.  A friend brought me a piece of silk brocade from China a few years ago and I’ve been keeping it for a special occasion.  I decided that this was the occasion and that there was almost enough fabric to make another ‘Rosa’ jacket – the one I made for the recent Sheep Show.
There really wasn’t quite enough fabric,

those big pleats on the shoulders take a lot of fabric.  I tried several ideas – contrast fabric under the pleats, perhaps for the sleeves – but eventually reason set in.  There was enough fabric for the body of the jacket except for a small wedge under the arms and enough left over to add the extra width.  I managed to find a remnant of silver silk dupion which was a good match and used it for the facings and as I’d made it before, even the sewing wasn’t too much of a trial. Here's a little more detail of the fabric and the covered and beaded button

The jacket was finished in good time, I knew what to wear under it – the top that fell off its hanger the other morning as I was getting dressed, almost shouting ‘Pick Me. Pick Me!’ and its matching pants. 

The day of the wedding was cold – very cold – but vanity overrode commonsense, and of course I wore the silk jacket.  I realised after observing one of the few comfortable guests, the man who wore his overcoat over his dinner suit all night, that there was nothing wrong with my plan to make the silk jacket as it can be very hot at this time of the year.  My mistake was in the reasoning that I’d made the silk jacket and it fitted better with the dress code so I should wear it.  I could have worn the nice warm woollen one and still looked much the same if not quite as dressy.  Apart from that it was a lovely wedding, the bride looked beautiful and a good, if slightly chilly time was had by all.

There hasn’t been a lot of progress on the weaving front.  I had noticed that my right arm was sore when I was weaving and immediately jumped to the conclusion that ‘I’ve been weaving too much’.  When I thought about it for a while, I realised that while I was weaving the fabric for the jacket for the Sheep Show, I was definitely doing a lot of weaving but had no problems at all and  after I finished it, I went away and haven’t done a lot since I’ve been back.  Whatever the cause, I suspect lifting the top off the shredder at work as we had a major clean up, it’s unlikely to be too much weaving, although I haven’t woven a lot because it hurts a bit when I do and I’ve been careful to take lots of breaks.

The Bumberet tea towels are finally finished, in time for the Hawthorn Craft Market on Sunday.  I did 3 with black weft,

2 light grey

one red

and then started to wonder ‘what if?’.  The 6/2 cotton in the warp and weft was a bit thick but the hem area where I’d used 20/2 cotton doubled felt pretty good so the next one was plain weave in 20/2 doubled with a Bumberet border at each end

and the remainder, big enough for a breadcloth, was done on the Bumberet threading but with a point treadling which has produced rows of small flowers and a nice texture which might be very good for drying. Carefully folded and looking good here in its photo, unfortunately it won't be going anywhere near the market on Sunday because there are quite a few mistakes and I think it has be be one for me.

All this has given me another case of ‘What if?’ and I suspect there might be a batch of tea towels in the future with coloured stripes of little flowers on a black background.

I realised that the Bumberet warp has been a bit of a dog on the loom and I’m glad to have finished it.  I wove off the last of it last night and woke up early enough this morning to get a new warp wound on and ready to thread when I get home tonight.  

And finally to prove that it's Spring in Melbourne, here's my clematis flowering on the back deck


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