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Thursday, February 1, 2018

A brief history of me and knitting and weaving, and weaving today

I've been texting my friend about yarn recently, when we used to text about fabric and quilts and sewing. Now we talk about yarn. It's funny that we seem to have moved together on this.

I've been thinking about the ebb of interests. I was a knitter, a knitter first, and sometimes only, up until about six years ago, when I injured my hands knitting and had to stop. My grandmother taught me to knit when I was in elementary school, and would tell anyone when it came up, that I took to it immediately, and knit flawlessly from the start. I don't remember it that way, but I wanted to learn and that certainly helps one learn.

I forgot and had to relearn knitting twice more. Once in college, a friend started a knitting group, and I was all, that's a thing I know how to do! I made a hat, it was blue, and it was wayyyy too big. The second time, was around when I got married, a friend of mine visited, and taught me crochet, which I have learned a few times, but never have been comfortable with, and then I remembered the lure of yarn, and went back to knitting.

I was living in Urbana, Illinois then, and I joined the Champaign-Urbana Spinners and Weavers Guild, which had a study group for Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting. But I was all about the knitting, but after a while, I was in two knitting groups (one with the guild, and one with some younger people) and this was the time Ravelry fell into our lives, and everyone was knitting, and some of us took a spinning class, and I was hooked, and I was spinning and dyeing, and then I said, well, I'll never weave.

Then I bought a little used rigid heddle loom.

I knit and I spun, and I thought weaving was my calling in life, but it was such a time commitment, I really didn't spend so much time on it.

In the meantime, I had a baby. I made two baby quilts, and was all, why do people do this when there is spinning and knitting?

In the meantime, we moved to a larger house, and I was dyeing yarn and roving, and spinning, and doing a little weaving, and planning projects for a weaving book I was going to write.

In the meantime, I had another baby, and started dyeing and printing on clothing, because I had trouble finding things that my first child would wear, that I approved of as well. I dyed fabric too, and started a little quilt because what else could you do with it?

In the meantime, the loom had to be packed away, to make room for a doll house. Or a computer, who can remember?

In the meantime, I hurt my hands knitting, repetitive motion strains, and had to do something for a hobby, and spinning, which I could still manage made little sense when one could not knit. However, I had been sewing all my life as well, and a fellow mom I meet through my first child's preschool brought me to a sewing event hosted by Rae of Made by Rae and Karen of One Girl Circus. Where I met Brenda, the owner of Pink Castle Fabrics, and from where I fell into the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild, and quilts began to make sense to me and then it was The Thing.

Then five years later, six years? Several months ago, we moved to a larger house. My new sewing room was bigger, but had no storage, so we got shelves built in. It took months, and my sewing room was mostly packed during that time, although I had a machine on a small table and a tiny ironing board in the living room. But with all the moving, things that had been left in the basement had come out into the open. And tired of not being able to work on my whatever quilt it was at the time, I pulled out my loom, and it was all, oh wait, I love this. And I have room to have them stay out.

And now I think in yarn, again. I'm doing warp math again. I've made a few scarves. I bought a 4 harness loom off of craigslist, which had apparently been in someone's basement for 30 years, and bought new parts to get it running. I got it warped up, and it's been driving me crazy since, but I am almost done with that first project. And I thought, the weird thing is, I have never taken a weaving class. So, at the very end of 2017, I did. I went to Mechanicsburg, PA to take a class at Kite Tails Weaving Saori Art Studio, which is the closest Saori weaving studio to us in Southeast Michigan.

Here is the piece I made in the class.


Saori is, in a vast simplification of its philosophy, a more intuitive sort of weaving, which is what is more aesthically appealing to me than the traditional weaving. (Which is beautiful, but it is more a mentally taxing thing than I find enjoyable in a hobby.) I found out about it by going back to Ravelry and joining all the weaving boards, looking, of course, to pick up more yarn. It is mentioned with reverence and with horror and everything in between. If you want to see some examples, there is a group on Ravelry, there is one on Facebook I hear, but mostly, I search #saoriweaving on Instagram myself.

After I came home from the class, and spent some time in bed with a cold, and wove two scarves, I designed a funky warp to try out and wove it Saori style on my rigid heddle loom, using bits of metallic string with my more usual cotton yarn, and wove this piece, once it was washed some interesting things happened, because the cotton shrinks, but the string didn't.

Leaving all my knots showing.
Right now I'm working on finishing the piece on the 4 harness loom, so I can start something new there. I've a plan to warp the rigid heddle, too, but I haven't done it yet. Hopefully this weekend.

And concurrently I've started a new quilt, because there is not bad time to start a new quilt.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Current projects and thoughts on quilting as a hobby


Recently, I have been flipping between a few projects:

The oldest is a double wrench quilt that I have been working on since the summer, using Cotton + Steel S. S. Bluebird, mostly, but I admit I got tired of that endless sea of blue, and added some yellow prints, mostly also Cotton + Steel. It’s far too late, of course, to change, but I wish I had used a gold as the background from the beginning. I guess, technically, it is never really too late, but my interest in this project has dropped, so it is now only worked on as a break between projects, and survives in that it is laid out so that I can drag it to sew ins, and that if I have a moment, it is easy to pick up and work on. I definitely do not see myself ripping out 50 blocks to put in a different background fabric!

Doesn't the gold look awesome with the blue?

The next is the quilt I started at the class the A2MQG had with Amanda Jean of  crazy mom quilts. The pattern is Ring Me from No Scrap Left Behind. I pulled this out when I was sick of double wrenches. I had completed two blocks in the class and had many in pieces. I pieced many many more scrappy block borders, and brought the number of completed blocks up to 11. I also revised my layout to use only 42 blocks, rather than the 60 of the first plan! These involve a lot of piecing, trimming, and ironing, and repeating, and I need to be in a certain mood to work on it. I put it away last night, but hopefully not forever. Maybe it will come with me on the upcoming guild retreat.


I'm using this sweet print in three colorways from Momo's Just Wing It line as a center for my blocks.

I also have an Irish chain quilt in the works, in red, blue and yellow for a charity quilt. I’m feeling a little guilty because the blocks are really so close to being done! Certainly much closer than my other quilts are! I probably could have a top by the end of the weekend if I put my mind to it. But I just haven’t wanted to work on it.

I also have another Irish Chain, using all Heather Ross fabrics, which just needs to be quilted (well, and bound). I’m over halfway done with it, but I reached my limit on free motion about a week ago (or two weeks ago?), and moved back to piecing. My main problem with quilting is that it limits my ability to watch tv. While piecing requires less attention, so there is more opportunity to, cough, multitask. Also laying a quilt out on a table tends to attract the resident wildlife.

Quilting with a friend.

What I really want to do, though, is start new projects. I have three in mind. I may just toss over all my WIPs and move on. It’s hard to work on something that doesn’t really interest you, especially when interest is the only reason to work on a project, and it’s hard to keep a big project, like a quilt, interesting for as long as it takes to complete. But I’m not sure finishing uninteresting things is worth it. It’s a hobby, after all, not a how much you can get done competition. I'm not proposing abandoning them entirely, but letting them slide until the moment is right?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

There are threads and there are other threads

So, we moved to a new house a few months ago, and in our new larger bedroom there was some empty space, so I set up my loom, and set out all my weaving yarn, which had been packed away many, many years ago. Five?

I think they look pretty lovely, if crowded, on these shelves.


It's a pretty odd assortment of colors, I will admit. A few I bought on sale, probably the teal, brown, and navy, and a few from Paradise Fibers, which only has a few mill end (therefore cheaper) odd colors on hand at any time. (And by a few, I mean, 3-5...) I found there was a store near my parents that would sell you smaller amounts, but when I went looking recently I discovered that they'd closed in the meantime.

I decided pretty early on to purchase only the unmercerized cotton 8/2 type yarn, which is the main one for dishtowels, I gather, because I do not have unlimited space for an uncontrolled shopping spree. (I actually did make one set of dish towels once, for the record. Long ago.) Though I also have several skeins of 8/4 warp for making rag rugs, that totally does not count. 

I have also set up the loom, (I have a 30" ashford rigid heddle), and I am working on a scarf, trying to use some of that navy yarn. Though, it did not make much of a dent in the 3 lb? cone.

And I hope to get back to sewing, and maybe to posting, but with the move, well, my sewing room is not yet unpacked, so... so... sooooooo.....  so, I've been working on this scarf.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

simple lawn scarf


I've started a new job, where I am not working in a room that is a constant 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so I decided, fairly quickly, that I need some scarves for work.

The first two I made were two colors, so long rectangles sewn together, turned rightside out, and then pressed, with rayon and lawn. But here is how I have made two single color scarves from 1 yard of fabric (I used lawn for one and double gauze for the other.) This is cotton lawn is from Heather Ross's new collection, Sleeping Porch.

It's very easy and fast, even stopping to shoo away cats and take pictures for this tutorial, I had it done in an hour.

Step one: Iron your fabric, then fold it in quarters, so that the selvage edges line up. Trim off selvages and then cut it so that you have two 16 x 36" rectangles.


Step 2: Straighten up two edges, and sew your rectangles together, right sides together, at the 16" side.

Step 3: Pink the edges, and press the seam. I press to the side, but open would probably be better.


Step 4: Fold the whole thing in half, along the long side, and pin. I use two pins together to remind myself to leave an opening to turn it right-side out. I put the openning in the middle so I don't have to hunt for it. It needs to be about 5-6". Once you sew the seam, pink the edges, including the opening.


Step 5: Trim the ends, if you haven't done this already, so that they are square.


Step 6: Move the seam to the center of one side. Press the seam open, being careful not to press the sides. Press the seam allowance on the side of the hole open as well, using the seams on the side to guide you. Pin the ends closed and stitch them shut.


Step 7: Pink the seams on the ends. If you want sharp corners, you'll need to trim the corners. Turn the scarf inside out, making sure to poke out the corners.  


 Step 8: Close the hole. A whipstitch in a matching thread color would look best, but if you're me, you'll just think, well, it'll be right next to my neck when I am wearing it, so I'll just stitch close to the edge using the machine.


Step 9: Press and wear!

So, alternately, you can buy two yards of fabric and not have to have a center seam, and you would have enough fabric to make 2 identical scarves.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Monkey Wrench

After I have made a number of scrap quilts (not pictured) I have a hankering to make a single line quilt, and that line is S.S. Bluebird, the newest line from Cotton + Steel, whom I love. I apparently happened to be browsing Pink Castle moments after it was released, and managed to snag some yardage of the hotly sought after prints. I mean, I assume they were hotly sought after, because, obviously, everyone agrees with my tastes, right?

I am also currently more into simple traditional patterns (not pictured) than doing the whole MODERN quilt thing, so I was looking through one of these 'so you want to make a lot of quilts really quickly' books from the 90s, and found a quilt I really liked, twin sized, which is my thing, and is just 7.5" Double Wrench blocks set on point.

Double Wrench
I have done like ten minutes of research on this block on the internet and in the books I own. The block itself has many names (Monkey Wrench, and Churn Dash among them) but I will argue for Double Wrench as the correct name, because Double Wrench in the books anyway, does not refer to other blocks, whereas Churn Dash is used as a title 7 distinct blocks in The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns (and anyway I'm pretty sure we all think of Churn Dash as this), and Monkey Wrench has 8. Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns has 4 entries for each. You google any of the three names, and you'll come up with both the typical Churn Dash and the Double Wrench. And then some other things.

And anyway, what drives me and people like me crazy is that, of course, the names mean nothing! They were used and reused and assigned to blocks that don't even relate to each other. Much like one imagines the state of animal taxonomy was prior to Linneaus.

But here is my quick block analysis. The corner units are half square triangle squares, and the center square is half the size. For a Churn Dash, all the subunits are square, a nine patch layout where the center block is the same size as the outside hst units.

And here is some size information:
N.B. - the hst subunit size is the size of the subunit once the two triangles are sewn together, the finished size of the subunit in the quilt will be (as with the squares) 0.5" smaller.

for a 5" finished block (like the one above), use (4) 2.5" hst subunits and (9) 1.5" squares
for a 7.5" finished block, use 3.5" hst and 2" squares
for a 10" finished block, use 4.5" hst and 2.5" squares

Other sizes are possible, but would require more thought/math.