Moar Stripey Goodness

I swear, I have been making things. Okay, it’s been slow (tendonitis still recovering), and I’m busy now with The Great Cello Experiment. And this time of year drains away all my spoons so by the middle of March I’m wishing I could just stay in bed all day…

I digress.

Right after I finished that baby blanket, I moved on to another round of dishtowels. The same ones, it turns out, I did exactly one year ago. Except, in light of my Yarn Shrinkage Research, I decided I wanted them to be a bit wider once the cotton was done shrinking so they were a bit more useful. (I will write about the shrinkage thing in another post, but essentially, it takes 8-10 washings/dryings to get to the maximum shrinkage.) So, I added two inches, which meant adding 60 more yarns across. The resulting warp consists of 660 yarns across 22″.

I can hear all you non-weavers out there falling out of your chair and thudding to the ground. Yes, that’s 30 ends to the inch. If you’re wearing jeans right now, I can promise you that that cloth is 55-64 ends per inch. Which can absolutely be woven by hand using the tools I use right now, it just takes a little longer than weaving dishtowels because the yarns are thinner and there are more of them. Weaving is always a test in patience. Nothing about it is quick.

So, of course my plan was, two weekends ago, to get the warp measured, pre-sleyed, and beamed by the end of the weekend so I’d have mornings and evening to throw the shuttle. Did this work? It did not. Sigh. I decided during the course of winding the warp onto the back beam that the paper I was feeding in between the layers, though wrinkling at an increasingly alarming rate as it rolled on, would be fiiiine. That Monday morning at 3am, I awoke with the realization that this would change the yarn tension going on and then coming off the beam, and that I should unroll it and do it again. Ugh. But you know, you only have to do it right once.

So, I unwound 4 or so yards and spent the week’s mornings and evenings rewinding. In between, I read This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin, and I practiced scales and études.

The beginning:

The middle:

I left out pictures of the ReWinding, because that was slightly traumatic. There were some tangles due to uneven tension, both in myself and in the warp.

Someone asked me the other day why I put paper in between the layers on the beam. This is to prevent the top layers from cutting into the layers of yarn below them during and after the winding. Without the paper, the even tension when winding on would become very uneven very quickly. Some weavers use sticks to separate the warp layers, some use lengths of bamboo window shades. I have tried the sticks, but I prefer paper because it is easier to deal with and quieter coming off the beam.

And now, a random interlude.

At my day job, I’ve been trying to go for a walk during my lunch break because try as I might, I cannot burn calories throwing a 3 oz shuttle or leaning on a 3 oz bow. I visited a well-known spot in town:

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Emily’s headstone is well-revered.

It’s always entertaining to see what her fans deem worthy gifts. I’ll go burn some more calories today and check again. Stay tuned for an update in a later post.

And now, back to the post.

Right. So, with the warp now successfully on, I managed to thread all 660 heddles, sley the reed, lash the warp on, and start throwing the shuttle. Whew!

The first leg of The End:

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Purpley goodness!

Once again, you can see the color change due to weft color choice. Above is how I left things this morning – I finished up the second purple weft towel, and began the first green weft towel. The plan is to weave eight towels (nine, if I have enough warp, which I should have), two with each of the four colors: purple, green, yellow, turquoise, and then an additional yellow one. Probably.

People always ask me how long it takes to weave. Like, all the time. The answer is: it depends. On the project, on the yarn, on the pattern. Probably it takes longer than you think? For this particular project, to measure the warp, get it wound onto the back beam, get all the heddles threaded, get the reed sleyed, lash on the warp at the front, and then start throwing the shuttle – provided there are no mistakes – for me with this loom, it takes about 12-15 hours. I’ve timed myself throwing the shuttle for one towel, and including advancing the warp, backing up to fix mistakes, winding new quills, etc, it takes me 1.5-2 hours per towel. So, for this warp, I anticipate it taking an additional 14 hours this week until I can cut the cloth off the loom. (EDIT: with practice, once I get up to speed, it looks like I can weave a towel in 1.25 hours.)

(If you are a weaver, I would really like to know how long it would take you to complete a similar project!)

What I marvel at so often is that the clothes we wear today evolved from women’s work creating cloth, both by means of weaving and by means of knitting. The technology hasn’t really changed – the fundamental structure of cloth demands the same process to build it – it’s just faster now.

Once this project is done, I have some really lovely fine wool yarn I want to dye and weave. Still. Unless I decide to measure out a warp for upholstery.

 

 

 

 

Tarot of the North Atlantic

I had to share this with you all!

Lee Thomson – artist and dear, dear friend – has started a very small kickstarter to sell a really amazing tarot deck that she’s created. Each card was handmade and then photographed, and will be printed into a beautiful deck of cards that you can buy. I have seen the originals and the first set of proofs, and I can tell you that the cards are really gorgeous.

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The Magician – one of my favourites!

Click here to go to the Kickstarter page!

 

 

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

 

The Return

I’m finally, FINALLY back to weaving. I can hold a pencil and write with it. I have not yet tried knitting. Or spinning.

But so much has happened in the interim. Where to start.

Due to that hand/wrist tendonitis thing, I was forcibly introduced to the World of Left-handedness. Guys, the world is set up exclusively for right-handed people. It’s awful. Things with handles all have the marks and words on the side you see when you hold a thing in your right hand. If you can’t hold it in that hand, you either have to develop a left elbow that bends the other way, or spend time putting a thing down, turning it, turning it back, and picking it back up again. Lefties, I will never make fun of you again. I get it now!

I practiced cello with the bow in teeny, tiny chunks of time. I watched many DVDs in lieu of weaving/knitting/spinning/embroidering/insertActivityHere. I looked at my loom with the brilliant rainbow yarn not yet actually threaded through the heddles.

Then I drove away out of town for 10 days where I did not practice or make anything. And you know what happened? It got better. Not all the way, but definitely over the hump.

When I got back, I very carefully threaded a few heddles one day. Then, a couple of days later, threaded a few more. Wash, rinse, repeat, and voilà! Like the tortoise I’ve been, slow and steady got the job done. Pretty soon, I’d tied the warp on the front cloth beam, and was ready to throw the shuttle. Then I wove, and that took what felt like no time at all.

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Alas, I forgot to take in progress shots. This is right at The End.

I cut the new cloth off, and spread it out along the floor. I like doing that because 1. I live in a place currently where the floors will allow it (read: I can), and 2. because it gives me a sense of intense accomplishment: I made clooooth!!

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The difference in color from one towel to the next is entirely dependent on the weft’s color. I find this fascinating to no end.

 

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Look! A pile of cloth that I made! (Also, I believe I knit those socks when I was living in Germany 2+ decades ago.)

 

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Soooo pretty. I was sure these would not be beautiful when I was weaving them, but they really are.

I even found some color combinations that are obvious now that I see them in that last picture, but that I hadn’t really considered before. I love these. However, this Weaving Thing is also a business, so most of these will be up for sale as soon as I’m finished hemming.

And then, I had to put another project on the loom as soon as possible. I’d been invited to a baby shower for a woman who I still think of as a tiny, adorable child of four years sitting in my lap or playing in the leaves with me. She’s 28 now, nearly 29, and will be having a baby boy sometime around the first week in April. Of course I needed to weave her a baby blanket. (Probably I’ll make a bunch of other stuff too, but this I could do right away.)

Weaving draft was acquired! Yarn was purchased! Measuring was initiated! Progress was made! I had to get it all done in about 10 days. Totally doable. It’ll be fiiiiiiiine, I said. Just get the warp on in the weekend before the shower, then I’d have all week to throw the shuttle. Wash it the morning of the shower, hem, and done. Just in time.

So, you know when knitters say you should knit a swatch? And you don’t? And you spend a hundred hours knitting a gorgeous fisherman-knit sweater, you put the first sleeve on, and you try it on because OMG NEW AWESOME SWEATER, only to discover that it’s just not going to fit. Nope. Not even slightly. If only you had knit that swatch first so you’d get the right gauge, right?

Weavers have the same advice. It’s advice worth its weight in gold. And sometimes you don’t have to heed it, but you’d better for projects that are going to count. I did not weave a sample. I did not check my numbers. I relied on thinking I knew what I was doing, even when the warp yardage didn’t seem to be quite enough. 468 ends? That seems…not quite enough. Oh well, fatter yarn than what I’m used to, it’ll be fiiiiiine. This mistake was not wholly apparent until I had started throwing the shuttle that Sunday night.

This was measuring, beaming the warp, and threading the heddles. The first time.

 

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You’re supposed to be able to see through the yarns, but not this much.

I went to bed and thought about it for aaaages. The plan I came up with seemed complicated, but the simplest way: I was going to have to unweave what I had woven, untie everything from the front apron rod, remove the warp from the reed, remove the beater, pull the entire warp forward until it was no longer wound on the back beam, shove all the heddles over to make room, measure 117 additional ends, add that to the back apron rod, wind the warp back on, thread the additional heddles, put the beater back on, re-sley the whole reed at the right ends per inch, tie it all back on and then I could throw the shuttle. Which is exactly what I did. And it took me all week. That Friday night (you know, the night before the shower), I started throwing the shuttle. I got up at 4am the next morning, thinking (ha!) that I might have a chance of getting the cloth woven enough to cut if off so I’d at least have something to take to the shower – “see? I really am weaving you a Thing! It’s pretty! I’m almost done!”

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Now you can actually see the pattern, which you couldn’t really before.

Part of what I love about weaving and what I find perhaps the most astonishing is that each bit of yarn passes through my fingers. Every inch. Twice. Both warp and weft. I have to physically touch all of it while I’m weaving, and after it comes off the loom, I look it over for mistakes, fix them (there were two in this blanket that ran the length of it that I had to fix with a very tiny crochet hook – you can see one in the picture on the left above), wash and dry the cloth, trim errant weft ends sticking out, iron it, cut the cloth, fold and sew hems. And then it’s finished and can be packed up and sent to the recipient.

I’m very happy with this pattern – it came out exactly as I wanted it to, in just the right size and weight. It’s been lovingly handmade for being peed, pooped, and puked on, and then washed to within an inch of its life. I hope the baby likes it as I expect it will last for many years. It was finished yesterday morning. Washed and dried five times, hemmed, and is now wrapped up to be mailed tomorrow.

I have a couple of other project on the list to start, but have been dealing with some headache/middle ear/sinus/possible allergy or cold stuff, so sleeping is currently at the top of my list. But now that my hand/wrist is better, it occurs to me that it’s high time to not only get on with weaving (for I need to fund further weaving adventures and my cello lessons), but also with combing and spinning wool.

OH. And my winter scarf is pretty much dead, so I got some lovely very thin gauge wool yarn, which is currently white, so will need to be dyed. Which I anticipate being heaps of fun. Maybe I should weave some wool instead? I don’t know. Is anyone interested in buying handwoven wool scarves? I have enough for several. And oh, Webs was having a sale on their silk/alpaca yarn and I thought shawl and oh swoon….

Right. Must get busy.

Time, connections, love

January. Oh, January.

On January 22, 2018, my dear friend Michael Anderson passed away from colon cancer. He was 48.

We met each other in Tübingen, Germany, living in the same dorm in college. He’d been there for a couple of years before I arrived, and he showed me all the ins and outs and made me feel not quite so lost. As the two Americans on the floor in a sea of mostly Germans, we talked about home quite a bit – about our lives, about our hopes and dreams. I introduced him to the campiness that was Xena, Warrior Princess, which we’d race down to the TV room to watch once a week, snacks having been acquired just for the occasion, laughing uncontrollably through the whole show. In between, we’d find ourselves in the huge kitchen with his huge copy of the American Heritage dictionary, usually starting out in a serious pursuit of knowledge, and ending up laughing so hard tears would gush down our cheeks – there is some funny shit in the dictionary, yo!

After two years (two of the best years of my life), I went back home to the US. He stayed to finish his Magisterarbeit (Master’s degree). Then he got married to another American he got to know there. They both came back to the US for a bit, during which they celebrated their wedding with friends on this side of the Pond, and I went down to Brooklyn to celebrate, too. We went to the Guggenheim, which was delightful. We ate good food, and laughed a lot. It rained so hard one night, the subways were closed. We walked all over the place, enjoying each other’s company.

I went to Wales to do my Master’s degree, and while I was there, they were in York, so I took the train to visit. It was during the Jorvik Viking Festival. We watched the boat race, wandered through the faux Viking medieval village, took in the sights. Michael had stopped smoking, and his wife had gotten him to start exercising, which I knew he hated but knew was good for him. It was so good to see him then. A familiar face in another foreign country.

We lost touch for a long time after that. He was doing his thing, and I was doing mine. There were good times and bad in both our lives. A couple of years ago, I got a call from him: he had been diagnosed with cancer, he had to find a home for his dog. He’d gotten a divorce some time before. I didn’t know much more than that. He was clearly scared. The diagnosis was not good at all. There was a farm in New Hampshire where his dog would be happy, and he might come out to visit me, and he’d let me know when. But I didn’t hear back.

I emailed a few times, but never got a response. I did check up on him, though. He’d been teaching at Purdue, and there was a listing for him. I figured as long as the listing was there, he was still alive.

A year and some later, I got the word from his partner that he was in remission. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Then he contacted me again last year to tell me the cancer had come back, and it was terminal. I visited them in July. We talked sometimes on the phone, but mostly texted. He taught right up until this past December. I texted pictures, I told him little things about my day, I wanted as much as possible to stay in touch and distract him from his suffering. The semester ended, he went into hospice care. I missed seeing him one last time.

I am so glad I went out in July. I am so glad I took the time to send stupid little texts. I miss him so much, and I wish so much that I had tried harder to stay in touch. 48 is too young.

So, as I said in July, value the time you have with your friends and family. Love them, tell them you love them more often than you do. Try to remember than nothing is static and one day someone close to you and to whom you are close will no longer be there. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Share with them. Stuff is just stuff, dictators rise and fall, aging is unavoidable, but none of this really matters. It’s stuff and circumstances, and the in between is what matters. Life is so, so short. SO SHORT. For some people it’s shorter than it really ought to be.

 

 

 

Photos taken by Zsuzsanna Beard, his partner of seven beautiful years.

 

 

October is a Baroque month

Summer is finally over. (Whew!) I was sick for the entire month of September with a gross sinus thing that made my ears ring and my head ache. Two rounds of antibiotics later, my sinuses were finally mostly free of gunk. My Super Sekrit Project is slightly less secret, but is taking up a portion of every day (sorry, it’s still Sekrit here for now). So, making hasn’t really been happening.

The autumn brings yard work involving moving leaves around to designated areas. This past weekend also involved moving said leaves, hauling some brush, and stacking up some firewood. Of course, the moment I was done cleaning the driveway, the front yard, and the porch of leaves, a front came through and blew more down. Sigh. I’ll be doing more of that this coming weekend.

I did finish hemming the trousers for J with those chili pepper pockets, and I made a something else for my friend in Indiana:

The Baroque Wrench Roll! If it’s not Baroque, you don’t need to fix it! It’s quilted as well for ultimate wrench comfort.

If anything, it’s absolutely useful, and I really hope it makes my friend laugh. I’ve also given him instructions to open the box while listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.

So this happened on Saturday evening:

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Soda pop can camp stove. Almost.

One of my geeky friends (okay, that’s not much of a distinguishing word…all my friends are geeky…) decided to figure out how to build a camp stove out of a soda pop can, aluminum tape, and some denatured alcohol. This is the first try of this particular design variation, which nearly works. In fact, it’s impressive at the level it nearly works.

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This is how PhDs keep warm on those cold, cold nights.

And on the weekends, I’ve been going over to another friend’s house to help repair his pop-up trailer. The whole thing seems to have been sewn together with cotton thread, which has just rotted to bits. (Honestly, who would use cotton thread for something that you use outdoors??) I sewed together most of one end of the trailer so he and his family could go camping last weekend, but as soon as he set up this end, the seams let loose like a zip top bag. Oops. I was using doubled 80/3 linen line thread waxed heavily with beeswax previous to this, but this time, my friend produced a 25% cotton/75% polyester button thread he got from his mom, which we doubled and waxed heavily. I don’t know which will last longer, the cotton/poly or linen thread, but it should be a good experiment. In any case, the whole seam below needs redoing, so I’ll be over again next weekend to finish up the remaining four feet:

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It’s entirely possible that my stitching will outlast the trailer. Heh.

I am still in the middle of measuring a new warp in lovely bright colors for another batch of dishtowels (still!). I’m hoping the colors play well, but even if they don’t, it’ll be a learning experience, and I’ll have Moar Dishtowels. The red and white dishtowel I kept for myself from the last batch is still shrinking, five or six washes later. It’s amazing, and slightly irritating. I’m so interested to see which brand of cotton shrinks the most!

In other news, I went to this yesterday:
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It was great to hear and see a viola da gamba in real life! I had hoped the musicians would come out and speak with the audience after the performance, but alas, they did not. Or, I didn’t wait long enough? Maybe next time!

The plan for this week is to get those dishtowels at least started, and get another pair of trousers at least started! Though, really, this is the start of drier weather here in New England, and I should be thinking about combing and spinning wool. Perhaps it is time to set up the combs and the wheel and unpack the fleeces…

Chilis, cows, stars, and organization

Making is still slow, but it’s all good. I finished the red and white weaving project, and really need to get to the post office to mail the couple out for my friend in Indiana. Of course, a sinus infection turned up and made me feel like Teh Awfuls and I didn’t get that done, or a whole lot of other things for that matter. I’m better now!

I’ve also been working on J’s trousers. I found some really awesome fabric in my quilting stash for the pockets!

Nearly done with them. This particular denim was narrower than I wanted, and the length was not quite enough to cut the pieces when the cloth was folded, so I had to get creative when laying out the pattern pieces. In order to get the grain running the right way for all the pieces, the waistband was sacrificed – this only means that I’ll have to cut out smaller bits and sew them together, which I hate doing because so many seams, but oh well. It is what it is and the trousers need a waistband, right? I cut out a bunch of smaller pieces last night and sewed them together. It doesn’t look too bad, and I think the seams won’t be thick enough to chafe, but man. Next time I’ll be more careful to note the fabric width!

A couple of weeks ago, we had a partial solar eclipse in my neck of the woods. Pretty much nationwide, there was much cheering, travelling, and buying of those special glasses with which to view the eclipse. I am fortunate in that I work very close to a large university that has kind of a kick-ass astronomy department that is always trying to get the public interested in the universe. This meant that they had an event at the Sunwheel featuring a couple solar telescopes where the public could queue up to get a chance to look at the sun through them. I met up with some friends down there about 20 minutes before the maximum, and we watched it through various pinhole cameras and binoculars:

 

SCIENCE!

The lines for the telescopes were soooo loooong. We just stuck with our own indirect methods of viewing.

The best thing was that the place was packed. I mean, there were hundreds of people there, all members of the public. I love this area.

There were some spectacular photos of the eclipse on NASA’s website, lots not copyrighted. One in particular caught my eye, so I downloaded it and had it printed out:

 

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See that little ‘H’? That’s the International Space Station! The other spots are sun spots.

These were growing in a pot outside the frame/print shop!

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EEEEeeevil petunias!

I am continually amazed at the magic that happens with weaving. It still seems like magic! Making something out of nothing, although I know that’s not true – it’s really organizing things so well that the result can wipe up spills and dry off fine china. It also can combat nakedness and cold floors.

 

In other news, I’ve been trying to ride my bike in to work more often, which is to say, more than once this year. Mission accomplished! The bike path is built on an old railway that’s been out of commission for years and years, which means it’s fairly flat and there are no real hills. I like the lack of hills a lot, but I do have to tackle at least one on this commute. The trip is about 9 miles each way, and I get to ride through the most beautiful landscape. This is in Hadley:

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MOOOOOO! Seriously. Moo.

I can’t tell you how in love with this area I am. I have really enjoyed living in other areas of the world, but there’s something about here that makes me so happy and I count myself super lucky to be here where it’s so beautiful and so full of art and debate and conversation and museums and books and music and food.

Speaking of that, I am currently involved with a Sekrit Project of my own devising. There’s been A Thing that I’ve wanted to do for, oh, 35ish years, and I finally took the first step. This first step is very tall and very long. A hell of a learning curve, but strangely, it is fabulously fun. I haven’t told a lot of people because…I am afraid of being judged. I’m doing this thing, and part of it is not expensive at all, but part of it is, relative to my current finances, kind of expensive. Everything else in my life right now is just right for it, so I decided now was the time to take that First Step, because I don’t know if these Just Right Things will stay as they are. I am afraid that very likely everything will change in a few months and I’ll have to put the Sekrit Project on hold for a year or so, which would suck. I want so much to tell everyone, but can’t just yet.

But this Project, while OMG fun, is also eating into my Making time.

Anyway. The only other thing I’ll say about it is this:

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Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt!! I promise!

Okay. So this blog is about CRAFTURGENCY!, which I have been slacking on. Really slacking. There are SO MANY THINGS TO MAKE! On the list right now:

Moar dishtowels (brightly colored!)

Sweater vest (green!)

Button-down linen shirt

Scarf for myself made from the olive green alpaca I’ve had in my stash for the last two or three years (basically since my first weaving project)

Dishtowels first.

Slow craftiness

And it’s not the buzzword definition – I’m so busy with non-crafty stuff (and tired) that Teh Crafturgency! isn’t going at the speed or quantity one might otherwise expect from me. Alas.

Here’s some of what I have been doing.

I finished the pants – woo! and I managed to use all but about 8″ of the spool of matching thread for top stitching. They have been mailed to J. Behold my extreme luck:

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Whoa. Just, whoa.

This guy was in the backyard. There’s just so much wildlife back there!

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Froggie! He was so very beautiful, with gold eyes. And very quick. I couldn’t get any closer, so the resolution is dreadful.

I continue to be delighted by the bright colored flowers I find in downtown Amherst. The thistle is wild, the zinnia was planted by a landscaper. Aren’t they beautiful?

 

I went to the mineral, fossil, and gem show in Springfield this past weekend (largest on the east coast!) with my brother, his two daughters, and our friend M and his family. It was just too delightful for words! I got to see beautiful gemstones, uncut crystals, polished stones, pieces of petrified wood, pieces of mammoth tusk, all with my niecesWith my nieces!!! WOOHOO! Part of our adventure also included a trip to Michael’s for art supplies where we found some much needed things for art to happen at their house, and I found a bead reamer set. I had been thinking about buying a set of jeweler’s needle files, but have been feeling oddly cheap about it, so when I saw this reamer set for $5, I snapped it up. When I got home, I applied it to the shell I made into a diz to see if I could smooth out the holes a bit. I think it worked? I’ll have to test it later to see if the wool comes through with less of a struggle. I may end up with a jeweler’s file set anyway.

 

And FINALLY! I got 1100 heddles (thank you, Stephan and Judy!!), put on 800 of them – I’m going to use only 4 shafts for my first warp on this loom and will need a total of 600 heddles. 800 means 200 per shaft. Easy.

I fretted about what warp to measure next, and decided that I need to figure out the actual shrinkage (after many, many washes and trips through the dryer) between the two brands of cotton yarn I’ve been using because J tells me her bathmat has gotten irritatingly smaller (!!!!). AND, I realized I could get two functions out of these experimental warps. The red and white below (one brand) will become red and white dishtowels, a couple for Z in Indiana, and a couple for me. The next warp will be with the other brand of yarn: a couple for someone else, and a couple for me. Everything will be measured and photographed after every trip through the laundry. Then I will have completely useful and pretty presents AND experiment data.

 

Yeah, I’m a crafty nerd. If I win the lottery, I will both set up a massive maker space for my little area and go back to university. Cross your fingers!

Once I get the warp on the loom (and that will be an adventure in itself), I’ll have to figure out how to tie up the lamms. TWO sets of lamms. Upper and lower. I will admit, I’m nervous about the whole thing, which makes no sense. It’s not like I can mess it up. It can take a lot longer if I don’t think about the steps properly, but that’s the worst that can happen. Probably.

MWVariation

I think this will be the draft I’ll use. I mean, I did figure out where to put stripes so they fall symmetrically down the pattern, but since that’s the first time I’ve tried that, there’s a chance I messed it up. I didn’t draw a draft, and I didn’t use any computer software. I used… arithmetic.

I’m a bookkeeper (among other things). I can totally add and subtract. Uh-huh. Honestly.

 

Just, uh, wish me luck, okay? Please?