Thursday, 24 July 2014

A weekend in the country

I got away from work early on Saturday and made good time to Bendigo where the first thing I saw was one of their historic trams, decorated for the occasion by yarn bombers with particularly nice crocheted bunting.  No pictures unfortunately as I was driving and the traffic needed my full attention. There was just enough time to visit the factory shop at Bendigo Woollen Mills before they closed.  They do a good job with mail order but it’s not like being able to touch the yarns and of course, sometimes there are bargains.

It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining even though it was cold. 

The wattles are just starting to bloom, a sure sign that Spring is just around the corner.

I spent Saturday night with a family friend who despite advancing years is still managing on 4 acres.

Next morning I got to the Sheep Show at the showgrounds just in time for the woolcraft parade, here are just a couple of examples of the very creative garments on display
After the parade I worked my way around the vendors to see what was on offer.  I had a couple of gift vouchers I’d won as prizes at earlier shows.  I remembered to bring them from home but then left them in the car so I made my choices first and then went back to the car park, fortunately not too far away, to get them and do more shopping to add to the yarn from the mill.  It was a modest pile, some yarn, a couple of rovings and another temple so now I can cover every width from about 400 mm to the full width of the loom.

There were sheep,
and sheep dog trials

And of course there was the woolcraft display where I found that both of my entries had been placed second in their classes.

By early afternoon, I’d seen everything I needed to see at the sheep show and went downtown to see the newly opened exhibition at the gallery – all sorts of underwear dating from around 1600 to the present and yes Queen Victoria’s knickers were there as well.  After that I went back and collected my jacket and scarf and headed for home, about 2 hours away


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Preparing for the Sheep Show 2014 – it’s that time of year again

One of  the most important events for the local spinning and weaving community, to say nothing of the farmers and the wool industry,  is the annual Australian Sheep and Wool Show, held in Bendigo towards the end of July each year.
It’s like  an agricultural show or a county fair but just concentrates on everything to do with sheep, and a few alpacas and other fibre animals included for good measure.  For everyone involved in creating textiles there are competitions, and opportunities to top up the stash from the vendors and to actually touch equipment from interstate suppliers.  For the producers there are fleece and meat competitions, ram sales and displays of all sorts of farm equipment – I wonder what a lot of it does.

It’s held at the Prince of Wales Showgrounds in Bendigo, guaranteed to be freezing cold in the middle of winter.  Preparation for a visit starts with important decisions about warm and very comfortable footwear as well as the number of layers.  Actually preparation should start well before this when the Woolcraft competition schedule arrives in the mail.  There’s the will I/won’t I enter debate and if the answer is ‘yes’, then which classes.  I had several metres of hand woven fabric just asking to be made into a garment so ‘Handwoven garment’ was definitely a possibility.  Entries were due about the same time as the bad cold I had recently, the one where I wasn’t even interested in lifting a shuttle.  I assumed that eventually I’d be lifting a shuttle again, added ‘Handwoven article’ to the entry form and sent it off.

I had an idea for a double weave scarf but couldn’t quite work out the details, so I settled for 8 shaft Summer and Winter.  I had plenty of black 2/22 wool for the warp and tabby weft and fancied a dyed weft with long repeats.  I’ve seen the blanks for dyeing knitted on knitting machines, but as I don’t have access to a knitting machine, decided it should work with a mechanical knitting nancy which I do have.  I did the maths, worked out that I would need around 50 gm of yarn made into 30 metres of knitted cord and started knitting.  It gets quite twisted in long lengths so I ended up knitting on the upstairs landing and letting the cord fall into the stairwell to untwist.  Then I set up the laundry for dyeing, and dyed the knitted cord.  Each section of colour wove about 3 inches of the scarf and the pattern repeats were about 4 inches, I even managed to get both ends of the scarf to match.  The changes of colour weren’t quite as gradual as I had planned but it still worked well.
  I’m providing a home for a friend’s slightly larger but not full sized knitting machine while she moves house, I’m hoping that it will make better blanks.

For the ‘garment’ I used the green fabric from an earlier post, something that had languished on the loom for months.  

I fancied something with a Japanese flavour and settled on a hanten with a kimono collar, drafted the pattern with Garment Designer.  At the start I wasn’t quite sure how I would finish the edges but it all fell into place with a wide mitred band around the fronts and lower edge and a matching edge on the sleeves.  I attached the lining around the back neck and along the inside of the front bands and used the kimono collar to cover the raw edges.  The fabric was a little bit fragile for tailoring as I found out when I joined the first 2 seams together and then tried, unsuccessfully to serge the edges.  After that I serged first and then joined the seams without any further dramas. 

I was pretty happy with the end result but there was no time for proper photography, just a quick press and I delivered it to a friend who was able to deliver it to Bendigo.

As  well as the Sheep Show I’m spending Saturday night with an old family friend who lives nearby and if there’s time on Sunday I’ll try to get to the exhibition which is opening on Saturday at the Bendigo Art Gallery – Undressed: 350 years of underwear in fashion, including I believe a pair of Queen Victoria’s knickers.  It should be an interesting weekend.

Friday, 4 July 2014

A little maintenance

I started writing this post a few weeks ago, but life – in the form of a really nasty head cold – intervened and it was all I could do to get to work and home again.  I knew I’d been under the weather when I realised that I hadn’t lifted a shuttle in weeks.

Last post I wrote that my loom needed new cords and then for good measure my sewing machine and serger both needed new globes.  I suspect my 1975 Elna which has made everything from underwear to tents is only on its third globe.  It’s not that it hasn’t been used, it’s been used most weeks and has never missed a beat.  I think it’s because changing the globe is such a challenge that it trains me to turn the light off as soon as I’ve finished sewing.  I managed to get the old globe out with some difficulty and then managed to buy a close – 15 watt – but not exact – 25 watt – replacement.

Getting the new globe in wasn’t going well as it’s a very restricted space and even my small hands were not small enough.  Of course it took me a while to admit defeat and consult the book and I had forgotten the important step of putting a screwdriver in the hole on the top of the machine to push the whole lamp housing down.  Once I did that and after several more attempts, the globe eventually clicked into place.  It will take quite a while to forget how hard it was and by then I will have been re-trained to turn the light off when not needed.  Fortunately the Bernina serger has a screw in globe and went in without any drama.

The 4 shaft loom now has new cords and a rub down with furniture oil.  Getting the cords around the pulleys, 4 for each shaft, is a pain although this time I used venetian blind cord and it was much easier than the heavy cord I was replacing.  I sealed the ends of the new cord on the gas jet on the stove and they were firm enough on the ends and still flexible on the rest of the cord that I could work them round the pulleys.  Last time with the heavier cord I had to thread the curved upholstery needle with some strong yarn and sew it to the cord, thread the needle and the attached yarn round the pulley and then guide the cord through the rest of the pulleys.  It took ages and a few days after I finished we had very heavy rain, so heavy that the drains blocked, water went into the ceiling and the plaster sheets started to come down.  That was bad enough but the wet insulation all over the newly refurbished loom just added insult to injury.

Here it is with new cords and a good rub down with furniture oil, I do hope there are no storms on the way.  It was made here in Melbourne in the 1970s but it looks surprisingly like the Dorset loom, the predecessor of the Schacht's Baby Wolf, on Weavolution.  I can’t say it’s a copy but I do wonder if there was a common ancestor somewhere.

I decided to put just one last warp on the loom before I replaced the cords.  I had a bag of mixed yarns, one of those treasures from a workshop, a guild meeting or live in course where someone had cleaned out their studio and made up bags of leftovers to be sold for a worthy cause such as guild funds or scholarships to help textile students attend the event.  All the yarns were in shades of pale aqua and I knew I would have plenty in similar colours at home to add to the mix.  There was enough for warp for 4 scarves and weft for one, some of the recycled wool and silk from the wardrobe clear out was the next weft and I bought a couple of balls of knitting yarn for the other  two.  

As I wove them they reminded me a lot of the glaciers I’d seen on the West coast of New Zealand on a trip years ago.  So here are my 4 plain weave glacier scarves, whipped up from a mystery bag of leftover yarns, a few yarns from the stash and a couple of balls of knitting yarn, and all posing in front of the village of miniature china houses at the back of the kitchen bench.

Below, from left to right the wefts were mohair from the mystery bag, sage green knitting yarn, blue recycled 60/40 wool silk and pale aqua baby acrylic and wool.
Time to get ready for the Hawthorn Craft Market on Sunday, at least we’re inside, it’s no fun being outside in the middle of a Melbourne winter.