New and Shiny: Overshot

Okay, so only a day or so after cut the Springtime Stripey cloth off the loom, I started measuring another warp. This time, I chose a weave structure I’ve been wanting to try for probably a year (overshot), and a yarn I’ve had for just that purpose.

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It’s so hard to get the lighting right – in person, it’s a golden sunshine color, and I do love it so!

I know, I know, I really need to hem the Rainbow towels and the Springtime towels. Right now, I’m busy convincing myself that I don’t have the right color thread, but I know that’s nonsense. Really, what’s going on is another case of crafturgency.

Because just LOOK:

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It’s summer sunshine and dandelions in cloth form!

I ended up running out of the yellow. I ran out of yellow. I can’t adequately express how upset I am at having run out of yellow. But I was trying to use it up because there was only a tiny bit left, and it’s the brand of yarn I’m no longer so keen on, and this is an experiment, and I still need to see what the shrinkage rates between the two brands of yarn in the same project are. And and and… I had chosen the orange warp because I wanted to use the yellow with it as the pattern weft, and while I thought they would be beautiful together, I had not thought the result would be quite this beautiful. This could be the most beautiful thing I’ve woven yet.

I did make a couple of mistakes in the pattern, but as I said, this is an experiment. The warp is super short (3 yards) and was meant to serve as an answer to some questions: do I like weaving this kind of pattern? Is it really as complicated as it looks? How will washing the cloth change it? Is this a feasible structure to weave to sell? Is this something I could use for other things? Is this fun?

It does, alas, take longer than weaving a twill, but the resulting cloth so far is completely worth it. It’s beautiful to the eye, and to the touch. I’m a sucker for color, but also for texture: my maple shuttle is so, so smooth it’s almost buttery, and I love to work with it; the cloth is nubbly in a pleasingly patterned way that reminds me of soft upholstery from my childhood. If this were woven with two different fibers, then the texture would be different still, and pleasing in different ways. (And that is also on the list for future iterations of overshot.)

Speaking of texture, practicing the cello has changed my sense of texture, which is oddly distressing and fills me with a certain sense of pride, too. I can no longer feel fine textural details with the fingertips on my left hand – things are all sort of muffled and in the background. I can’t pick up single threads with them anymore just by feel. On the other hand, the calluses I have acquired are signs of the now hundreds of hours I’ve spent working at learning to fulfill a childhood dream – I have many, many thousands of hours to go before I even get the possibility of making beautiful music, and I wonder what else will change. Part of excitement of learning is noticing the changes.

The color of this yellow/orange cloth fills me with joy every time I look at it. I had originally thought I’d cut it up and make little pincushions, or put squares on blank cards, but I might just keep it so I can look at it and be filled with joy. Perhaps a pillow. Of course, we’ll have to see what happens after wet finishing. Maybe I’ll just go buy another cone of yellow?

After the yellow weft yarn ran out, I reached for a couple of other experimental alternatives:

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I’m still not sure about the blue. Orange, yes, pink, maybe. Blue…eeeeehhh?

I do still have some orange weft yarn left, but only about as much as I had in the yellow. While it wowed me initially, it didn’t wow me enough to keep going, and I was keen to do some plain weave and then start another color. I reached for the blue because I bought it specifically to go with the orange warp yarn. I wanted colors that would make my eyes buzz – I’m not sure if it’s this particular lighting or if I misjudged this combination, but it’s not doing as much for me as the yellow yarn did, and my eyes are definitely not buzzing. But, in the spirit of learning the pattern, and how to weave this structure, I am persevering:

 

Okay, colors aside, ISN’T THAT THE COOLEST THING EVER? (I just know that one day I’ll look back on this and think, “What kind of idiot were you? That’s not cool at all – you were weaving the equivalent of first grade penmanship.” And the urge to delete this post will overcome me. But for now, this is absolutely magic.)

Now that I’ve woven it, I understand how the weave works, and that has opened up a whole new array of patterns. This one is woven with four shafts, and I have the option of adding eight more shafts on my loom (as soon as I figure out the slightly warped pieces). I have seen this weave structure in patterns for eight shafts, and they were even more magical. So, the question is, are there patterns for twelve shafts and OMG what on earth do they look like?? Will there be unicorns and rainbows?! Will all my dreams come true??!

Before I get into that, because I can see becoming suddenly consumed with a really extreme sense of crafturgency and losing sleep, a sense of time, and possibly missing getting to my day job if I go down that road right now, I need to experiment with more color and fiber. Traditionally, this structure was used in coverlets in early American weaving (I need to do more research on this so I don’t inadvertently lie to you, dear readers, so take the history explanation with an exceptionally large grain of salt). The warp/ground was cotton, usually natural, and the pattern weft was wool, which, when washed, fulled slightly so the pattern looked less pixely and more solid than the photos of the cotton versions above. I do have some nice fine wool, and perhaps I’ll throw some of that in here just to see what happens, but first, I’m determined to do a couple more rows of the pattern in the blue so I end up with something roughly towel-like. Maybe it’ll be useful as a towel? Anyone have any ideas if it’s not?

And now back to throwing the shuttle!

 

Experiments: success and failure

The month of November has been tumultuous. Some projects were ongoing, some were started and came to a screeching halt. As with all projects, and in my case, experiments, there were successes and failures.

I started and made a bit of headway on a weaving project.

Warp measured and wound. Currently, I have about 1/3 of the heddles threaded, but had to stop due to a very unexpected injury. And actually, I’m not at all sure if I’m happy with the pattern I’ve threading. It’s currently a bird’s eye twill, but something tells me I might be happier with a simple herringbone. I could do this with the current threading by just altering the treadling, but, oh, I’m waffling. Waffle, waffle. In any case, I can’t actually continue threading, so I’m just letting threading ideas waft around in my head for a bit. I have time.

The sucky part of not being able to act on this project right now is that I have nothing to sell, and no gifts made for winter gift-giving holidays. Argh.

I did attempt to do some spinning, but that didn’t work out so well either. There was a bit of a tangle.

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Argh. Argh, argh, argh.

I did eventually get this sorted, and spun the rest of the little wool nest, but had to stop.

Quite a few of my friends have birthdays in October, so around the end of the month, I attempted tempering chocolate for to make presents!

The chocolates on the left are solid. The chocolates on the right are squares of dipped squares of ganache. They look so good, don’t they?

Unfortunately, this was not well-tempered chocolate – a week later, I discovered it had bloomed. Which was super embarrassing because I’d already given some away. When chocolate blooms, it’s completely edible, but the texture is a bit different as some fats come the the surface and it looks ugly. Back to the drawing board. But not for a bit yet.

I did sell two dish towels! The last two green ones that I was thinking about keeping got snapped up.

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On the way to the post office!

About 20ish years ago, I planted some seeds from a lemon I bought at the grocery store. They took ages, and I nearly gave up, but eventually, after some weeks, they germinated. I only have one left, and that one grew and grew into a fine tree. It comes inside in the winter, and goes outside in the summer. About two years ago, I found a couple of blossoms on it, which was very unexpected. I’d read up on growing lemons from seed, and they often result in a tree that never blooms. This one did, but since the blossoms ended up growing at the end of the year, they’d fall off when the tree was brought in – there is no sunny place in the house, so it spends the winter under (mostly inadequate) lights and in a dry environment.

This year, it bloomed while outside when no one was looking, and the bees did their thing! I also have a couple of Key lime trees I grew from seed, and they bloom every year prolifically, so I imagine the lemon got help from the limes and the bees. Suddenly, there fruit on the lemon tree. Just one. And it stayed there. And it grew!

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A lemon-sized lemon! Organically grown in Western Massachusetts!

It fell off the tree a few days ago, so now it’s in the fridge while I decide what to do with it. Candy the peel? Dry the peel? Freeze the juice? Make lemonade? I suspect it’s not quite ripe, but close enough.

(For anyone wondering, the variety is likely a Lisbon. It’s one of the most widely grown commercial lemons and has truly mighty thorns.)

Of course, I want a greenhouse someday to grow my orchids, lemon tree and lime trees.

So. On to the injury. And my Sekrit Experiment.

On September 1, 2017, I started cello lessons. This has been a dream since I was about 9, but I’d never before been in a position where I could 1. afford it, 2. where I had space, and 3. where I wasn’t going to bother the neighbours. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake, but it occurred to me around August this year that I had all these conditions where I live now, and I might not by the spring when I have to move again. So, I thought I’d try it for three months to see if I really liked it.

I have never tried to play a stringed instrument before, and haven’t played any musical instruments regularly since I was about 18. I thought that part of my life was done. But I found a place to rent a cello and found a teacher. Three months. That was it. Then at least I could say I tried it.

What happened next was completely unexpected.

I set a goal of practicing one hour every day. Instead, I got lost in practicing and often went over one hour. On the weekends, it wasn’t unusual to practice for a couple of hours. Once I accidentally practiced for three hours – not all at once – but still. Oh, I’d set timers, and I’d blow right through them. The joy at working at this was (is) tremendous.

Was there progress? I think so. I can tell when I hit the right notes more often now. I hit that magical 100 hours of learning a new thing. I started learning a couple of very, very easy Baroque/Classical pieces.

I also acquired a shiny, new case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome/one hell of a repetitive stress injury in my bow hand due to a too tight hold on the bow and not taking enough breaks.

This means that for the last three weeks, I’ve been sleeping with a brace, I have appointments with an occupational therapist, I am typing and mousing mostly with my left hand at work, and I am completely unable to do any of my other hobbies. I carry heating pads with me. There are ice packs at home at at work. Bowing has come to nearly a screeching halt. There has been crying and sadness. There was a period last week where I was sure I’d have to just give it up because this kind of injury seems to not completely disappear in most other people. I steeled myself. Moar sad.

Which is ridiculous! It’s just a cello! I don’t need it more than food and shelter!

Sigh.

So, experiment successful. And a catastrophe. Right now, I’m hoping I will be able to wield a shovel when the snow comes. And then maybe weave again. And practice cello. I am plucking now instead of bowing, and setting a goal of bowing in two to three 5 minute chunks with 20-30 minutes rest for the next week, and will go from there. Maybe I can weave again in a month or so. And shovel snow.

 

Summer

This summer has not been terribly conducive to? helpful for? organized with respect to? making things. Frequently these days, the day starts at 3am, which is never my choice, and that level of Teh Tired sucks out motivation for anything other than staring at the wall wondering why I am staring at the wall. However, I have remembered to leave the knitting on the couch so that when I’m staring at the wall, my hands have something to do and Something gets Made. This is helpful because after a couple of hours, a significant amount of sock materializes that I don’t remember knitting, but hey, handmade socks! And it makes the wall staring seem less worrisome somehow.

I have been collecting pictures of bits of excitement from the last couple of weeks:

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A Polyphemus Moth. Yes, that’s my hand, and yes, he was huge. (I’m pretty sure it was a male, but I could be wrong.)

I was running my usual work errands and on my walk up the street nearly stepped on this guy. It was an unseasonably cold day at 60F (about 30 degrees colder than usual), and he was only too happy to crawl up onto my warm hand and grab on for all he was worth. I carried him across downtown to the library, which has a lovely woodland garden in the back. I put him under a tiny Japanese maple, and he fluttered up onto a branch, probably feeling a lot better since he was no longer in the open.

I finished off the weirdly purple/brown socks. Gosh, those are wonderful to wear. They’re Madelaine Tosh merino and so, so soft. But the yarn was weirdly dyed. These new blue/green socks are made from some of my favorite sock yarn: Berroco superwash. They wear like iron, and I have never had them give the slightest hint of felting if I put them in the washer and dryer. (I’ve stopped doing that as other brands were starting to felt.) I find the yarn is a teeny bit heavier than other brands of sock yarn, so knitting up with size 0 needles really gives you a dense, hard-wearing fabric, but still stretchy. I like my socks to not stretch out too much when I wear them, so I’m constantly adjusting my vanilla pattern. This time, I’ve added a wee gusset to my short row heel to allow for a bit more diagonal stretch from the heel to the top of the foot as I’ve reduced the number of stitches across the foot a bit. The gusset thing is totally made up, so we’ll see how it works out. I had wanted to figure out how to do a heel flap on a toe-up sock, but there was Wall Staring, so that was a non-starter. This was the best I could come up with. The real test is to finish them and wear them.

The colors are delightfully cool in the heat of the summer, and they remind me of all the colors of the Atlantic Ocean here in the north.

Only, have I mentioned? It’s been boiling hot and humid (read: deeply tropical) for a few days, then distinctly autumnal – the kind of weather that makes you crave roasted squash, woolly sweaters, and hot drinks with whiskey in them – then it’s boiling hot and humid again. I’m not really complaining. Usually it’s just boiling hot and humid. So, so humid. Everything gets damp, and five minutes after a morning shower, you feel you need another one. The cool weather is fiiiiine. Plus, I love roasted squash.

 

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I want to sew shoes….? Of course I want to sew shoes. Of course.

So, I want to make my own shoes. I can’t actually afford all the tools necessary to become my own cobbler (yet), but I do have all the necessary tools to sew cloth shoes. Having a body whose parts do not conform to a single standard size, I have to hunt for things to clothe said parts. Which means I am not one of those fortunate souls who can walk into a mall and buy cute summer shoes that fit. Also, the crap they sell in malls wears out in a season, and I’m so done with that (*stifling a rant on consumerism, marketing, and the environment*). The solution is obviously to make my own out of materials that are renewable, affordable, and will not persist in the environment for hundreds of years. And if I make it, I can likely repair it when needed. So. The above is a first stab at a pattern. It’s nearly there. The pins are holding tucks where I will likely put seams. The white on the inside is a temporary cardboard insole, which will be replaced with a linen/wool insole in the finished product.

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Thrums from the napkin project.

I have kept a lot of the thrums from the napkin project mostly because I am in love with the colors. There must be SOMETHING I can do with them.

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The napkins. Washed three times, dried three times, ironed to within an inch of their little lives.

There they are! They’re beautiful for the most part. I mean, the colors are gorgeous, and I love them. The selvedges are kind of crap and I’m pretty sure some of the colors shrunk at a different rate than others, which gave me weird ripples. Ironed, they’re fine. And they will absolutely work as napkins. So as soon as I can find a box to send them in, I will ship them north to their intended new home. (Box hunting may be on my after-work agenda today.)

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Another pair of trouser for my bud Jenny! (Hi, Jenny!)

I have a few more pairs of trousers to make for my friend. This pair is getting done slowly but surely! This is a close up of the waistband being attached. I’ll sew it together tonight, then serge, then topstitch, then fold, iron, etc etc.

 

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Yeah, so there’s this new-to-me loom. It’s hyooge. It’s Very Swedish. It has 12 shafts. Once I get some heddles, theoretically I will be able to weave all the things! Wider! And more accurately! With super complicated patterns!

Though the place I live in has lots of space for things like looms, there is only space for one assembled loom at a time. The Auld Loom has been disassembled and put upstairs to keep the fabric and wool bins company for now. I have spent the last three days putting this new (used) one together, which is not to say it’s super complicated, but rather it was (is being) assembled in short bursts. (Assemble, sit and stare at the wall for an hour or two, assemble, sit and stare. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.) The next step is to buy a lot of heddles for it, then put on a warp. All the instructions I found on countermarche looms tell me that once I put a warp on and tie up the treadles, all will become clear as to how this loom works. (Personally, I’m hoping for a tesseract-like action whereby I’ll be able to weave in several dimensions at once. I mean, did you see the pulleys and levers?)

 

 

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You just don’t see many of these guys anymore!

Depending on what street I park on, I sometimes get to walk past a house that’s got a large patch of purple cone flowers right in front. The woman who lives in that house is kind of my hero. She’s Polish, barely speaks English (but enough to be understood), stacks a giant pile of wood in a shed in the backyard all by herself in the fall, tends a vegetable garden that takes up the rest of the tiny yard, walks all over town to run errands and do shopping, and she’s very much past retirement age. I always tell her how beautiful her garden looks whenever I see her, and she seems glad to hear it. And hey, honeybees!

 

Life

Where to begin.

First, I am fine. Totally and completely fine. I complain about being tired and not having time to make things and there’s too much to do around the house blah blah blah, but actually, it’s all fine. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, enough money to pay my bills, and things to make other things out of. I have friends and family who I love and who love me back.

I wove a set of eight napkins for my friend Kathy (hi, Kathy!), but since they are not quite right (perhaps due to my lack of skill, the coarseness of this particular loom, or, the fact that different colors of this brand of yarn seem to shrink at different rates when wet finished), I am going to weave another set out of (probably) more reliable yarn on a different loom, thereby increasing the chances of solving the problems.*  I still need to hem them, so there will be more pictures soon. Here are the stripes:

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Stripey goodness! I do love this color pattern.

There have been a couple of family emergencies (no worries – everyone is okay, just very stressed out) and I’ve been trying to make sure I am in the place where I can do the most good and be the most helpful as often as possible.

I’ve started a new pair of socks, and those have been following me hither and yon. Recently, they came with me on a trip to visit a dear friend:

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Weirdly, they are both from the same ball, but one is definitely more purple than the other. They’ll be fiiiiiiiiine.

This dear friend is one from college. We met each other when I moved to Germany studying on exchange, and being the only other American on the dorm floor (okay, there was one other, but she mostly lived with her boyfriend on an army base…that’s a longer story), and both of us being lovers of books and language, we generally got along fabulously well. I was so afraid of making mistakes, and he kept prodding me on telling me I was doing fiiiiiiine, then he’d suggest a list of books I could read that might help. And then we’d sit at the kitchen table and read the American Heritage Dictionary and laugh so hard, we’d cry. I made many, many fond memories during my two years in Germany, and those are some of the dearest.

He’s very deeply extremely academically minded. And brilliant. And right now, he’s got cancer in a pretty bad way. So, I went to visit him and his partner because I can and they wanted me to and it was pretty damned awesome.

There were so many fine things: books, and much laughing, and eating bags of cherries because they’re in season, and tiramisu, and creme brulee, and tea, and a picnic in the afternoon, and talking about Europe, and woodworking, and knitting, and visiting the neighbor and her awesome dog Hank, and there were cats rolling around being silly and meowing their heads off pretty much all the time, and there was Monty Python. And I truly can’t wait to see them again!

 

I flew home, knitting my socks, thinking deep thoughts about life and death and what that means, and thinking about what’s important and what’s not.

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The making is important.

The spending of time with your family and friends omgrightnow is important. People, this is really important.

Staying in touch with friends is important.

Hugging those family and friends is important. Tell them you love them.

Eating the sandwich AND the cookie is important. Just eat the damned cookie. It’s delicious. And you only get to live once.

Sometimes, something comes up and you have to think hard about that last phrase. You look it squarely in the eye and see it for what it is. Eat the cookies, cherish other people, love with abandon, cry in public, laugh as much as you can, live.


 

This weekend, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for years and years: I took a class on basket weaving.

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This is going to be a shopping basket! It’s in the car now just in case I need to buy something on the way home. It may or may not get a cloth liner.

And we used the world’s cutest planes to accomplish this:IMG_3004

And this was waiting in front of the bakery when I came back to work last week:

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I have some cherries waiting at home for me. And a couple of really good audiobooks to go with the hemming of napkins. I might glance at my list of projects that need doing, but I’m not going to worry too much about that right now.

To my friends and family: I love you so much I can’t adequately express it. Every last one of you. Even if you don’t hear from me for a while, please know that I still cherish you and our friendship.

 

 

 


*I may have acquired another loom. Ahem.

Fringe learning

I didn’t quite get everything done this past weekend that I wanted. Something came up that required some worry and action, and that took time and energy away from the list of things I had planned. But. I did manage to get the Cheviot fleece just about finished up (the last batch is soaking), chores done, a crap-ton of yard work done, and, because I was feeling crappy and needed a mindless yet productive thing to do on Sunday, I got my shawl woven and off the loom.

It’s not perfect—I made an error about an inch before the end, but didn’t notice until after it was off because it was on the reverse side—but it’s lovely cloth and I got lots of practice squeezing the weft into place. I somehow didn’t plan out how I was going to finish the fringe, which I should have done before even putting the warp on, so the rest has been making stuff up on the fly.

Every time I weave a project that’s even slightly different from what I have been weaving, I learn something. This project was very different, so I learned a lot of stuff.

But it’s huge. In a three-yard-plus-long sort of way. It’s a shawl for a tall person with enough length to (I think) drape gracefully around arms and fall down to (possibly) my knees, but I haven’t tried it on yet, so that’s just speculation. The next step is to deal with the fringe so I can then full the cloth, then I’ll have a better idea of how it’s going to work/fall/drape. For the moment, all I can really say is that the fringe is a project unto itself. Thirty inches wide at 516 yarns across, two bundles of two to be twisted together and knotted.

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Section of finished twisted fringe.

So that’ll be going on for a while. In between, I hope to get to some trouser creation, which some of the unexpected and unwanted worry and excitement of the weekend took away from. Sigh. Twisting fringe is a good, quiet, non-thinking activity, though, and I feel like I could use some of that for a bit.

Some of you have asked what this spoon carving thing was all about, and you asked to see the tools. Behold!

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Left to right: hatchet, hook knife, whittling knife and sheath.

I have wanted to learn how to carve wood for literally decades. And when I saw the spoon guy’s tent at the Ashfield Fall Festival (every October in Ashfield, MA. There is a guy who sells spoons that he carves—he has hundreds of all shapes and sizes!) about 15 or so years ago, I decided that spoons would be a really good place for me to start. Now I have a place to carve, the wood to carve, and the tools to carve with. Though, I think I won’t have time to start a spoon for a few weeks yet, but you never know.

For now, fringe and trousers.

(And of course, it’s going to get into the 80’s and 90’s this week, so shawl wearing may have to wait until….October. Sigh.)

A shawl for me

I needed to take a break from spinning (so much fleece—all spinning, all the time), and while I do need to get to the napkins and more dishtowels, I thought I’d take the plunge and weave myself a shawl. The yarn had gone on sale, I had the pattern I wanted, and since I’ve been feeling kind of down lately, I thought maybe making something for myself might help.

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Gothic Cross for 4 shaft loom. Charcoal grey and smoke grey, Jaggerspun Heather 2/8. This shawl will have fringe, but I haven’t decided if it’s to be knotted or twisted yet.

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My work table. Tea drunk, already spent two hours at the loom. Time to get to work.

This project, as predicted, is going fast, and I hope to have created momentum to get the warp for the napkins on the loom by the weekend. Alas, the weekend is already filling up: trousers to make, leaves to rake, branches to pile up, wood to split, house to clean, laundry to do, a couple of things in the house to fix, trash to go to the dump, fleece to wash (nearly done!), and if I have time, I’ll try to comb and spin more wool.

I got my spoon carving tools in the mail last week (thank you, tax returns), but it’s been raining every time I get a chance to go outside, so that project will have to wait for a bit. At least I have the tools!

I can’t think of a title today

This weekend was spent trying to finish some projects, start some projects, and make progress on (the usual) projects. Plus, yanno, doing something about that shirt pattern.

A bike ride happened! Mostly I was testing out the Bike Shorts Problem (I have wider-than-averagely-spaced seat bones, which creates frustration with bike saddles and the padding in bike shorts). The experiment involved just taking out one element (padding) and yielded very successful results, so I feel I’m nearly ready to start riding my bike to work. When it’s not raining. Because that’s a different problem. Anyway, the pictures  above were taken from the old railroad bridge, now part of the bike path, and show our beloved river, the mighty Connecticut, in her spring phase, which is to say high.

I spent some hours cutting down small trees and piling brush, which helps with the yard work project and the shirt-fitting project. Looooooooook!! Remember the red trillium I posted a picture of last week? It bloomed! Behold:

I also noticed some wee seedlings had sprouted, so the patch should be a bit larger next spring.

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I, uh, might have bought a box of Joe Joe’s (Trader Joe’s answer to Oreos) and it was for Thursday evening knitting group but everyone liked the chocolate chip chocolate sandwich cookies better and barely touched the Joe Joe’s and so I had to take them home again.

Whaaaat? I had to. I really did. Honest! Poor lonely cookies….

Of course that meant afternoon tea and cookies (and maybe evening cookies, too). I can report that tea and cookies may be essential to combing wool successfully. Further experimentation is required.

Over the course of last week, I filled another bobbin of plied yarn and wound it off into hanks. Five in all, which surprised me as I didn’t think I’d end up with that much yarn. I didn’t have the time to wet finish the yarn until the weekend, and when it was dry, I laid it all out on the floor to admire it.

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In the end, I decided there must be something like 800-1000 yards here. This is only 4 hanks.

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It’s not perfect – there’s a lot of variation – but I think it’s better than the last batch, and still suitable for weaving with. 420’s fleece may end up just as spinning and weaving practice, but that’s okay. The experience is really, really valuable.

And then, last night, I thought since the yarn was dry, I should probably weave a sample. Because this whole project has ultimately been about weaving.

It’s a bit nerve wracking to think about all the hours spent washing, combing, and spinning wool, and then think about weaving a sample. There’s waste when you weave, so much waste, that you try hard to mitigate it by weaving as much as possible at once. Because the waste is found at either end of the finished cloth, the more cloth you weave, the less waste-to-useable-cloth you get. To weave a sample is to waste maybe half your warp, and even if it’s only a yard long, in this case, it’s a yard of hand spun yarn. I’ve tried to come up with something to do with the waste, but haven’t had any luck—I did save the waste bits. If any of you have any ideas, please let me know! (I’m saving the cotton to make paper with eventually.)

I started with the smallest hank, which ended up being about 75 yards or so, and chose 8 ends per inch just because I had to start somewhere and that seemed about right.

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Once I got going, this was really exciting!

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I really, honestly expected the snap a warp thread, but I didn’t! The edges aren’t very good, but I think with some more experience, they’ll improve.

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Fresh off the loom! Not washed yet, which is really where the magic happens. This was stiff and coarse—it even looks stiff and coarse, and not like soft wool cloth. The color is off in this picture, it wasn’t nearly as brown as it looks – evening shot under warm colored lights.

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I love this picture. Clockwise, starting from top left: washed fleece; two combed nests; one two-ply skein; the woven sample, washed and dried.

The really amazing thing is that I tried hard to full that cloth, and couldn’t. I mean, it did full a bit, but not as much as I expected it would. I agitated it in both hot and very cold water for maybe five minutes with soap (which got rid of the extra lanolin and final residual dirt, which you can still see in the skein (there is so much washing with this wool), but the level of fulling that I expected didn’t happen.

I count this as very good information! While I likely can’t have a very thick and fuzzy blanket from this particular wool (probably), I can have a drapey shawl, cloth for maybe a coat that won’t felt easily when washed, and very possibly socks. Obviously, more experimentation is necessary. And that will be absolutely delightful!

I also fixed a skirt for a friend (finished – sorry, no pics!), and finally (I hope) came up with a napkin plan, complete with stripes and ends per inch etc (started). Jenny’s trousers were supposed to have been started—I did get out the fabrics and look at them, fitting that project into the list of present projects. Those’ll have to get made very soon.

OH! I nearly forgot. I’ve been asked to be the weaver in a sheep to shawl team at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair! It’s one hell of an honor and I’m freaking out a bit. It’s possibly why I suddenly felt like I needed to weave some handspun. Practice, practice…because I hardly know what I’m doing. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with other Makers and seeing their skills, and participating in a super cool project!

Tonight, I’ll swing by Webs to buy some of my favorite wool yarn for more practice. Hopefully, I’ll have more pictures for you.

And, another thing I’m really looking forward to: spoon carving. Stay tuned!