Thursday, 19 August 2021

I’m back – and with a cure for ‘dog on the loom’

As we live through these very strange times, the urge to blog and the urge to weave seems to have deserted me for quite a while.  Maybe it’s just what was happening in my life – once we came out of lock down at the end of October last year, work was very busy and then I had a family member staying with me for a few days each week until March.

I wrote last time about the dog on the loom and I have to report that there has been no weaving action there at all

There actually has been some weaving happening – I finished the tea towels based on Stubenitsky. With a natural cotton warp, I’d used the darkest yarns in the stash to give the best contrast.  I ended up with a rather dark and dull pile of tea towels, the nicest thing I could say about them was they looked as though they’d been woven during a pandemic.

I decided that the next warp needed to be brighter so I pulled out the brighter cones of cotton and designed my version of #728 from Carol Strickler’s book.  Apart from hemming them on the wrong side, they turned out well and now even the hems are fixed.

And the ‘dog on the loom’? – still waiting for inspiration.

Then I remembered that I’d entered a piece in the Complex Weavers exhibition in Canberra, postponed from last year.  I finally found my notes and realised that I was going to attempt something on my 4 unit drawloom.  I needed lots more of the long eyed and long heddles.  I tied all the heddles,

changed the shafts, set everything up for the drawloom, made the warp, threaded it through both sets of heddles and realised that I had almost zero shed and that the side I could see was the wrong side.
  I knew that there would be many many mistakes with such a small shed and that it was time for Plan B.  Plan B was much the same design but done in Summer and Winter.  So I took all the extra heddles off the loom and put the normal ones back and, as I couldn’t find the original email with the dates, emailed the organiser.  Turned out that I had just over a week before my entry was due but somehow It was done in time, with I think about 3 minutes to spare.  

Here’s the wrap. The theme of the exhibition was Cartography of Cloth and I had been spinning a wool and silk braid from Moseley Park in shades of coral and magenta with some black and white as well.  It reminded me of the various colours of red wine from Merlot to Shiraz and my entry became Map of the Vineyard.  I used Zephyr as the warp, a fine wool yarn for the tabby weft and the handspun, plied with plum reeled silk, as the pattern weft. If you look carefully, you might see the gate into the vineyard at the bottom, the long rows of vines and the roses at the ends of the ends of the rows to indicate the grape varieties. 

Although we have few cases of COVID 19 in Victoria, our health officials want to keep it that way and as soon as a few cases appear we’re back in lockdown, usually just for a couple of weeks.  I think at the moment we’re in our fourth for 2021 and it’s just been extended by another 2 weeks

We went into lockdown at the end of May but it still looked as though the Sheep Show would go ahead. I wanted to make a jacket for the ‘Hand woven garment’ section but I still had enough warp left on the loom from the Complex Weavers piece, for another wrap. The Zephyr wool and silk warp was far too expensive to just cut off.  As I had a bit more time because of lock down, and enough of the handspun for another wrap, I decided that I would use the left over warp for another entry.  I played around with the weaving software, thinking I would be able to come up with something that looked like tiles.  As I experimented, the tiles elongated and turned into stylised eyes.  It just happened that the theme this year was ‘Vision’, I should know a bit about that. And just like that, the design was done and I even had a title – ‘The night has a thousand eyes’.

In the right light it does look like eyes peering out of the darkness but to be honest I think I can only find 472 eyes.

Once that was done, I still had enough time to weave fabric for the jacket and the facings.  I used 2/28 wool from Geelong Dyeing, a colour and weave draft from Robyn Spady’s Heddlecraft July/August 2020 for the main fabric and Strickler #43 for the facings. The pattern was
Vogue pattern 1648 by Júlio César, a simple jacket suitable for handwoven fabric.

Once I finished weaving the fabric out in the cold garage, I told my 8 shaft loom that I would see it again in the Spring and went inside where it was much warmer

I rolled my yardage onto a cardboard roll,

 it almost looked store bought, and got on with the tailoring. 

I decided that it was time to try bound buttonholes in hand woven fabric. I used plenty of iron on interfacing and Fray Check and they turned out quite well. 

I’m not sorry though that I only need to do bound buttonholes occasionally

I delivered my entries to the Guild, they were taken to Bendigo, judged and put on display – and a few minutes after that we went into lockdown again and the entire show was cancelled.  I felt so sorry for all the people who run the Sheep Show every year. They were so close to going ahead but I heard that there were traders who took all their goodies out of their vans, set up their displays and then had to just pack them away and go home. Of course they weren't the only ones, everyone involved from the food vendors who had to throw out all the food they had, to the sheep breeders some of whom ended up stranded in Victoria along with their sheep and sheep dogs, missed out on the excitement, fun and income they get there each year.  Let's hope we can have a real Sheep Show in 2022

And the dog on the loom? Even though it was now the only loom with a warp on it, I still wasn’t inspired

We were in lockdown for the last couple of weeks of July, I got back to work for a couple of days, had my second COVID vaccination and found that night I had lost my appetite.  It wasn’t fixed by a good sleep and my stomach became sore.  I was a bit concerned about myself, went to the doctor and was promptly diagnosed with appendicitis and found myself on the way to the emergency department followed by surgery the next day.  

It all happened so fast I still have a surprised look on my face. I have been assured that I am too old to have appendicitis, apparently 15 to 30 is the peak age, and that the timing relative to the injection was just an unfortunate co-incidence.  Everything went smoothly and I was home in a couple of days with a long list of dos and don’ts.  My surgeon’s nurse rang after a couple of days to check on me and to reinforce what I was meant to be doing.  Nothing strenuous or any heavy lifting for the first couple of weeks, then more exercise, perhaps an exercise bike.  That’s certainly not going to happen but it did occur to me that the effort involved with an exercise bike was probably similar to weaving on my small loom. I asked her the question and once I had explained what weaving was – she told me that I shouldn’t weave for at least 2 weeks. It was however a good opportunity to re-hem the tea towels. It made no difference to the drying qualities but I felt better once they were done.

I can’t tell you how interesting that dog on the loom became once I was told not to weave.  I’ve examined it from all angles, have decided that I will finish the first piece with the hand spun yarn.  I read somewhere that rather than having needles disappear into the middle of the pincushion, it’s better to have a separate needle cushion with loops to secure the needles on the surface so I’m planning to weave a small strip to make into ‘needle cushions’.  Then I think I will re-thread the remainder to a different overshot design and use it for a table runner.

So there you have it, a rather drastic cure for dog on the loom

Must go, my 2 weeks of not weaving finishes today and I’ve got a dog on the loom that needs some attention


Thursday, 3 September 2020

Coping with the new normal

I notice with some embarassment that my last post was 3 months ago and I can only blame the uncertainty of the times, the fact that I've just not had the motivation to weave and also the reports I've read on other blogs about the challenges with the updated Blogger

So what have I been doing?

Feverishly checking coronavirus news updates, especially as the numbers started to rise in Victoria to the point where we are now in Stage 4 lock down, basically confined to our homes except for essential shopping, medical care, exercise (1 hour per day) and caring for others. We have to stay within 5 km/3 miles of home and if we do go out, mask wearing is mandatory.  So the first thing I did was make another 31 masks for me and for family and friends. 

I think I'm up to about 55 in total and I haven't had to buy anything.  They don't take much fabric and I can't see any discernable size reduction in the stash

I finished the shawl I had started in the last post.  It turned out well even though it was just plain weave. I've had no opportunity to wear it as we're not allowed to go anywhere

I've also been doing some spinning, starting with some rose fibre roving.


Once it was spun I realised that it would work with some rose/cotton yarn and decided to go with an overshot pattern.  I started using it as a single but wasn't happy with the way it looked. 

I knew full well that the hand spun pattern yarn wasn't really thick enough but rather than fix it, I found other projects.  Maybe I was waiting for the yarn to spontaneously become thicker but strangely nothing happened.  Eventually common sense prevailed , I undid the first few inches, and Navaho plied the pattern weft.  It's working well now although I'm not quite sure whether it will end up as a scarf or a runner, probably depends on how it ends up once it's finished. 

There's enough warp for 2 but probably not enough of the handspun weft so the second one will have to be different

I had a braid of indigo dyed sock blend - superwash wool with nylon. There were some undyed areas and I wanted to blend the blue and the white. I spun it finely with the intention of making a 3 ply sock yarn. The colours blended nicely and it ended up finer and softer than I expected, probably a bit too fine and soft to wear well as a sock and too nice to be hidden inside a shoe. I moved on to Plan B which was a scarf or cowl. I found Lyn Dell's's Corona Cowl on Ravelry.  The cowl was based on a Barbara Walker lace called 'Corona', from the days when it still had its original meaning of 'crown'. Once I read Lyn's description - poking pointy sticks into something called Corona - I was hooked and very happy with the final result. 

As I expected it was too soft and pretty to hide in a shoe.  There was enough left over to make another and I used a pattern from an old Mon Tricot book - must have been old, I only paid $4.95 for it.

Work has been on and off depending on the restrictions.  We were almost back to normal in June but as the numbers stated to rise and more restrictions were added business fell away again.  We are classed as essential under Stage 4 but only for emergencies such as a sore painful eye, loss of vision or broken glasses and while wearing a face mask and shield.  As well as that we have to constantly sanitise everything. I've had to buy 'hospital strength' disinfectant and have a suspicion that there's been a bit of price gouging going on. It's a challenge working around the protective equipment and trying to see through the foggy glasses as well as equipment that's equally foggy.  Every day brings a new challenge but we're still seeing people with problems and just have to manage as well as we can

Towards the end of the first lockdown I was beginning to get fitter, walking longer distances and exploring parts of the local walking trails I hadn't seen before. Then I developed a sore knee - my physio thinks it's the result of too much walking.  I'm doing the exercises and gradually getting back to walking.  While it's officially still winter, there are definite signs of spring.  The wattles are coming out,

it makes up in the vast numbers of the tiny flowers.  

The smaller coot chick is now a strapping adolescent and the larger one almost indistiguishable from the adults, so my earlier concerns about them making it through the winter were unfounded.  I was down at the pond looking for the coots recently when something else swam past. It looked like a small animal, perhaps an otter, to me and also to a man who was watching as well. His partner was sure it was a duck.  We don't have otters in Australia and I couldn't believe that it could be a platypus so close to the city.  Once I got home I did a little homework and realised that it was probably a Rakali or native water rat, sometimes called the Australian otter.  I'd never seen one in the wild but now I'm looking for it every time I visit the pond.

Clearly life doesn't stop for the coots I've been watching.  I noticed the other day that one of them was busy building a nest of reeds in the middle of the pond, must be time to lay more eggs.  While I had been worried about the last lot of chicks making it through the winter, the coots must know what they are doing if they are building their nest in the middle of the pond where they would be safe from most predators.

While I'm on the subject of birds, one of the attractions a couple of hours from Melbourne is the nightly penguin parade where the little penguins come ashore every night.  With the lock down, no visitors are allowed so they're now live streaming it every night.  Obviously it's better if you can go there but it's much warmer watching from the comfort of home and they are very cute.  I love the way a few will come out of the water, look to see how many others there are and if it's not a penguin's idea of a quorum, they go back into the water until a few more are ready to walk up the beach.  

See it here:

Not sure what all the fuss was abut with the new Blogger, it didn't seem too bad to me apart from spaces but then I like to be fussy about layout

Til next time



Sunday, 10 May 2020

At Last

I have finally finished my mystery shawl. 

Once I’d started it again, I kept the stripes much the same until I ran out of the lighter colour and knitted off the stitches with the simple border from the Gracie shawl in Myrna Stahman’s book

I thought about making an emergency trip to Bunnings for essential goods – stainless steel rods for blocking – but remembered that I’d read somewhere that whipper snipper line worked as well.  There was some in the garage and it worked just fine. 

A few days after I finished it, someone posted a shawl they’d made from the Dragonfly Wings pattern on Ravelry and something clicked. I checked the original pattern and I think that is indeed where I started. The garter stitch tab rang a bell and I think I decided to put the garter stitch rows where the colour changed and then just broke off the yarn to keep the colour stripes even.  Mystery solved even if the finished shawl looks nothing like Dragonfly Wings!

At last there’s finally some action on the weaving front. I’ve been finding simple knitting very relaxing in these uncertain times and wondered if the same applied to weaving.  I’ve had no desire to work on the complicated tea towels on the big loom.  There was just enough of the plain colour of the shawl yarn left to make a warp and I found a skein of handspun that co-ordinated well

so I wound the warp this afternoon and will get it on the small loom for a simple plain weave shawl tomorrow.

That’s all of the yarn used and a knitted shawl and a hopefully a woven one to show for it with almost none left over

I’ve managed to walk most days making sure I check on the baby coots while I’m out.  They are growing.  Here they are 2 days ago

and again today.

It’s not easy taking photos when the sun is out so sorry the adult’s tail is missing,  but enjoy the ripples on the water.

I commented earlier that after heavy rain there were rapids on the creek but I had never seen people who thought it was suitable for white water rafting until yesterday when I was very surprised to see this. I'm sure it's not safe and while there are lots of signs forbidding various activities, I don't think that white water rafting is specifically forbidden

I was moved to make a loaf of bread this week. 

I haven’t made bread for many years so was pretty pleased with this result and it tastes great

I have finished shredding all the old meeting papers, found a few things there that were probably better shredded than sent to the tip whole.  All I have to do now is clean up

That's all for today


Sunday, 26 April 2020

What do you call a baby coot?

Life in isolation just rolls on and I still don't seem to be achieving nearly as much as I thought I would.

I have been trying to walk every day and have managed to get out most days even though the walking tracks are very busy.

I have been visiting the water birds regularly - they're just at the end of my street and over the bridge.  I've discovered that they are not Dusky Moorhens which have red beaks but Eurasian Coots with white beaks.  I couldn't decide whether their young were chicks or ducklings but apparently they are known as Cooties - who knew? 

There are 2 adults and 2 cooties - not sure if they are a family or 2 single mothers - but they are making good progress and getting bigger. 

Probably just as well so late in the season.

I have finished the cardigan I started at least 4 years ago, and the wool was even older as I had started to knit a different jumper before I pulled it out and started this one.  It had a nice bath in eucalyptus wool wash, both the stain and the smell from its time in the gutter are gone.

Caramel from Ravelry if you need the details.

I got out the mystery shawl and despite a lot of tidying, the pattern didn't re-appear.  I looked at it carefully and worked out from what I had already done, what the pattern might be.  I've started again, it might not be exactly what I was doing at the beginning but it will be pretty close. 

The only problem now is how to stop.  I wonder how much I should knit and how to finish it off.  I'm thinking that I'll just knit off the edge stitches with a garter stitch band to match the band along to other edge.

I've noticed that there's a lot more action on the blog list than normal.  That's probably not a surprise as we've all got more spare time than usual.  I've been grateful for some of the ideas and surprised by how similar some things are.

I read Kate Davies at needled who shared her Oatcake recipe and I had to make some.  They taste just fine but next time, and there will be a next time, I'll follow the directions more carefully and toast the seeds before I add them.

Peg over at Weaving a Gem of a Life has been out writing on the sidewalk/pavement/footpath with chalk.  Not just in the US, this is what I found on the path leading the the cooties the other day.

Callie  at Bonny Claith has been having trouble with her electrical appliances but I can assure her it's not just in Scotland.  A few weeks ago I was rudely awoken by my burglar alarm going off for no apparent reason, about an hour after I went to sleep.  Fortunately my electrician was able to solve the problem over the phone.  A few days later the picture on my TV disappeared, the sound was just fine and it took me quite a while to get it back to normal.  Today the control panel for the heater has gone blank so there's no heating and it is getting cold enough to need it.

I'm now on to the third of the tea towels, I've managed to do just 2 repeats.  There might be a bit more weaving this week because there is a heater out in the garage and it might well be warmer out in the garage than in the house. 

I think I've worked out why I'm doing so little weaving with a bit of help from Daryl Lancaster at Daryl's Blog.  She was talking about how she works best under pressure and I suddenly realised that at present I'm under absolutely no weaving pressure at all.  Markets are cancelled for the forseeable future, so no need to make heaps of stock. The Sheep Show is also cancelled until 2021.  No opportunity to replenish the stash there this year and no need to start working on some thing for the competitions.  The local Complex Weavers were planning an exhibition for the middle of the year, also postponed til 2021, so no deadlines there either.  

I have been working on tidying up my study - I started to do it about 12 months ago but stalled.  I have started working on a mountain of shredding  and have made good progress on filing heaps of weaving notes.  I can't say I keep perfect notes but there is usually a draft, a tie up and sometimes even a project sheet.  I have almost got it to the point where I can refer to the notes from last project if I decide to make something similar.

It's definitely Autumn.  The Mushrooms in the park are doing well

and my Sasanqua camellias went from this

to this in just a few days

Then the Japanese anemones joined in as well

That's about it for now.  I need to get an early start in the morning, hopefully I will be able to find someone who can sort out my heating


Friday, 17 April 2020

I wonder what day it is

EDIT: There is an issue with Blogger, which is causing photos to be replaced with a minus sign in a circle.  I have just replaced them but wonder if they will stay

Despite my best intentions to blog more often, over a week has passed with no post and not much progress on other projects either.  I blame it on the general feeling of being unsettled, something that is affecting most of us at the moment.

I have been walking almost every day.  Today I saw two moorhens with chicks.

It's well into Autumn here, probably too late for chicks so small but I was amused when one of the adults dived for a tasty morsel for the chick's lunch - it was the middle of the day - offered it to the chick, who probably like many other young local residents, gave it the 'I'm not eating that for lunch' look, made me laugh.

Here's a few more of the local water birds,                                                        

Pacific Black ducks on the left, a Dusky Moorhen like the ones with the chicks in the middle with a rather splendid Purple Swamphen behind it and a couple of Wood ducks on the right.

Just to prove it's Autumn, there are acorns on the Pin Oaks                                

and on the English Oaks                                                                                  

as well a a few sunny paper daisies.                                                                 

I wonder what the story is behind this poor lost zebra, resting on a post.

When I went past a few days later, it was gone, hopefully re-united with its proper owner.

It's amazing how busy it is on the walking/bike path.  I think many of the locals are in training for the Tour de France (don't they know it's been cancelled), more a Tour de Fleece person myself.  I had to wait for 8 cyclists and a dog to pass when I wanted to cross the path, so I've been going along the gravel paths where it's quieter and safer.

I have done a lot of knitting.  My jacket is almost finished, just a couple inches left on the second sleeve, then a bath to get rid of the gutter stain and smell and blocking.  I was a bit anxious about getting the right size needles for the sleeve, knitted in the round.  About the same time as I bought the bathers and the headband mentioned in a previous post, I knitted this magnificent Scandinavian jumper from a Villawool pattern - that was really great yarn.

It was an interesting construction - it was knitted in the round from the bottom, all the way to the shoulders.  After that the shoulders were grafted, the armholes were steeked and the sleeves knitted in the round. At this  point there was no going back. Once I had opened up the armholes I was finally able to try it on and found to my dismay that it was far too tight - I thought it was because I knitted more tightly doing plain in the round than regular stocking stitch or maybe it was the colourwork.  Whatever the cause, I finished it and gave it to a smaller friend.  It was of course a lesson I never forgot, but in the end, I found a set of needles the same size as I had used for the rest of the cardigan.  The only other ones in the stash were much larger or much smaller so I just went with what I had and the sleeves were just fine, pictures next time.

I have been doing some sewing. I made a set of masks for my family in Los Angeles. 

I posted them before Easter but there has been no update on the tracking website, maybe they are still at the local post office.  I do hope there are still cargo planes flying to the US.

I made a few more for the window display at work.  Even though we don't have to wear masks, a lot of people are, and I wanted the window models to fit in.

I've been in to work a couple of times but it's been very quiet so I've been trying to get some admin tasks sorted.  I ran into trouble when I had to verify my ID for a government document and found that for the 4 verification sources they suggested, my name was slightly different on each one.  The worst was my birth certificate, where in answer to the question 'name and whether present or not', I found that my name was 'Helen, not present'. Imagine not realising that my surname was 'not present' for all this time.  No wonder the powers that be are having trouble working out just who I am.  They are ringing back, I wonder how long that would take.

I have just about finished with the damage from the hailstorm back in January, seems like years ago.  I had the painter here yesterday and this morning. It all looks much better.  Just after he'd gone next door to work on my neighbour's painting, I heard footsteps on my roof and thought he'd come back but it was the tiler come to replace the 20 to 30 tiles broken in the storm.  There's only a little paperwork to finalise the insurance claim and it will all be complete.

I wish I could tell you that the tea towels are off the loom.  They're not.  I have finished the blue one and have done just one repeat of the next which is grey.  I hope I'll be able to report more progress next time