Saturday, October 24, 2009

Felting Workshop with Pamela MacGregor

What a reenergizing month this has been. I had been feeling kinda stale and uninspired, but a couple of great workshops have the creative juices flowing again. Today was spent learning to felt with Pamela MacGregor. Be sure to check out her website as she does some really amazing work. Linda Woodward hosted the workshop at Montgomery College in Conroe. Linda is a woman after my own heart and always seems to find some of the most interesting people to come share their knowledge with us. This was my first attempt at actual felting. Many people do not discriminate between fulling and felting. Agitating loosely knitted or woven fabric creates a similar dense fabric, but you can still see the structure of the stitches or threads. Felting is the process of matting, pressing, and condensing fibers to create a dense fabric. You have much more control over the shape, size, and density with felting. Our project today was to create a felted vessel. I had no idea just how much energy is involved in getting the fibers to mat together! We spent the morning laying out, wetting, and pressing the fibers on a form, then embellishing it with yarns, cloth, and pebbles to create a design.

Front before felting
Front of vessel before felting

Back before felting
Back of vessel before felting

After some yummy Chinese food for lunch, we came back fortified and ready to work. You can't imagine how much rubbing, scrubbing, and pounding it takes to get the process going! Mine could still use more work to get it a bit denser, but I'm ok with it as is and just have to add the beads to finish it off tomorrow. Not bad for a beginner! My only disappointment is that the little pebbles disappeared into the white felt.

Final front before embellishments
Front of almost finished vessel

Final back before embellishments
Back of vessel

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SEX in Colorado (Stash Enhancement eXcursion)

No knitting vacation is complete without exploring as many of the local yarn shops as possible. And for only having a couple of free days, we did pretty well! While we were at camp, the group made its way to Table Rock Llamas. This was probably our favorite shop of the week. The had a good assortment of the usual yarns, but also lots of handspun, hand dyed, rovings, books, spinning and weaving accessories. Since I was planning to spread my purchases around, I only came home with some dark brown/black handspun alpaca yarn for a warm hat and scarf, and 4 oz. of merino/possum roving. This is the kind of shop that you would love to have nearby. The staff is friendly and they have great classroom spaces. And yes, I know I could have spun the alpaca myself, but it was asking to come home with me.

We left camp on Thursday morning and after sightseeing and a short hike in Garden of the Gods, we hit the Colorado Springs yarn stores.
Our first stop was Needleworks by Holly Berry. Cute shop, friendly staff, good selection. We came out with needles to try Magic Loop, and a couple of patterns. Down the street, we found Green Valley Weavers. Not a huge selection of yarns, but great books. I found three weaving books that I had been looking at online, but hadn't ordered. They carry a lot of supplies for knitting, spinning, weaving, and dyeing. And once again, very friendly.

On Friday, we took the cog railway up Pikes Peak where it was 22 degrees at the top! Since we booked our trip so early, we had front row seats on the train with a great view all the way up. Once at the summit, we had to pose for the usual tourist shot in front of the sign. That's Roddie and I with our Knitter's Magazine so we could send the shot into the magazine for our 5 seconds of fame.
Pikes Peak Summit

Since our flight home didn't leave until 7pm Saturday, we had all day to shop our way back to the airport. We started in Boulder at Gypsy Wools. This is a wonderful little shop specializing in their own hand dyed yarns and fiber. The perfect place to find something special. We only had limited space left in our luggage, so I only bought some laceweight yarn for a shawl to do as a reminder of our trip.

And no trip to Boulder is complete without visiting Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins. They are one of the largest shops we visited, but we were kind of disappointed in the selection this time. Maybe we were just on shop overload, but they really didn't stand out except for size. The only thing I got was some merino roving for a workshop this next weekend since I didn't have time to shop at home. We did find a great brew pub next door that had some tasty nachos and interesting beer. The raspberry wheat was something I had never tried - pink and yum!

After fortifications, we were off to Denver. First stop was Knit Knack in Arvada. Cute shop in a quaint little shopping district. We found some unusual accessories, and they had their own coffee bar. Definitely a place to hang out and knit! From there we stopped at Recycled Lamb. This place was the surprise of the trip. Located in a not so pretty strip center, they had a great selection of knitting and weaving yarns. The staff was friendly and showed me a beautiful handpainted warp that I brought home to do a big scarf. There were groups of knitters in two areas and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
The colors are deceiving. In person, they aren't quite so vivid. And the tencel for the weft is not so orange.

By now, we're starting to watch the clock since we still have to turn in our rent car. But we move on to Shower of Flowers. This is a huge shop with a fantastic selection. Something about it seems a bit impersonal, but if you need one of the major brand name yarns, they probably have it in every colorway. And they had the best selection of buttons of any of the shops we visited. Our last stop was The Lamb Shoppe. This shop was in a nice older neighborhood, but it was a zoo inside. When we walked in, no one greeted us, there was a large very noisy group knitting at a large table. There were boxes and messy skeins of yarn everywhere. Don't be deceived by the picture on their website. It really had the potential of being a beautiful shop, but we just turned around and walked back out.

So that's it. Nine yarn shops, and only one dud in the bunch. Can hardly wait for the next trip!

CONK 2009

Just back from a great week in Colorado Springs for CONK 2009 (Colorado Knitting Camp). We had 3 days at The Hideaway with our instructor Susanna Hansson learning all about Rovaniemi mittens.
Mitten Examples
I had never heard of them, but am always up for a challenge. And challenging it was! We started off doing a sample in worsted weight yarn to get a feel for the patterning, then it was time to dive into our wristlet samples with fingering weight yarn on 000 double points! Susanna provided all the supplies and we were all able to make our own color choices for the wristlets. The big surprise was when virtually everyone disliked their choice after getting the first one started. That led to a 3 hour exercise in choosing colors and designing the color placement.

1st color choices
Roddie's sample is bottom left, mine is bottom middle.

After making my second choice, I spent about an hour coloring in the charts for the final mitten, only to decide that I still had one bad color in my palette. Once that was fixed it didn't take long to color in three more charts and choosing the best one.

My final mitten colors

Now I just need to make the time to finish designing my mittens. While at camp, I worked on completing the wristlets to see if my tension was going to change as I became more comfortable. So now wristlets are finished. My tension has stabilized. And I'm going to have to go down to 0000 needles! Yikes!

Sample wristlets
My wristlet samples. (the ends haven't been woven in or blocked yet on the right one)

Mitten Class
Our mitten class. That's Susanna between Roddie and me.

View from patio
Our view of Pikes Peak from the patio.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shopping with the Girls

Yesterday a bunch of us met up at Heritage Park in Katy for a small craft sale that they host in one of the historic houses on the first Saturday of the month. Our main reason for being there was to check out the yarn by Mama Llama. Catherine Kerth is a member of our local knitting guild and has come out with a beautiful line of hand dyed yarns. It was a tough decision, but I finally settled on two - Super Ewe in the "Bom Dia" and "Berkley" colorways.


Sharing the porch with Catherine was Marissa Vitolo who specialized in ceramics and fused glass. I picked up a lovely green pitcher and plate.

Inside the house, ARTeach sells items handmade by people participating in their program. ARTeach brings art-related programs and services to the underpriviledged including children at risk, troubled youth, special need children and adults, and the elderly. Lots of great gift ideas at very reasonable prices! Here I bought a really cute string of stuffed calico birds with beads.

After lunch, Roddie and I stopped at Serendipity hap'ez on the way out. If you happen to be out in Katy, they're having a great sale at the moment and we did our part to help them out.


All in all, a great way to spend a Saturday!

Three Little Pigs

Finished the baby gift just in time for the shower this week! I had been wanting to make this for years, but everyone kept having summer babies, or I didn't have enough notice to get it done. I don't do much fair isle knitting because it's such a pain weaving in all the ends, and since this was done in superwash, I had to be extra vigilant that everything was tied down. The pattern was written to be knitted in pieces, but I did it in the round which saved some finishing work, but sure got confusing at times. The other problem was finding one brand of yarn, suitable for baby wear, that also came in all the colors I needed. Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply fit the bill, but I still needed a dark pink. I bought an extra ball of cream, came up with an approximate color formula using a dye mixing program on the computer, mixed up a batch, and it worked the first time. Will wonders never cease! In retrospect I would have preferred it to be slightly lighter, but not enough to do another dye run. So without further adieu, here are the particulars and photos.

Pattern: #24 Fair-isle frog-suit from Pingouin booklet Autumn/Winter 95-96
Yarn: Debbie Bliss "Rialto 4ply"
Needles: US 2 and 3



Sunday, August 30, 2009

Advancing Twills Study

I finally finished the hems on my placemats from the Advancing Twills study. So proud was I, thinking to myself, "these don't look bad for a beginning weaver". Time for pictures. I start laying them out trying to figure out which one was which. Lo and behold, I did the treadling wrong on #3 and it turned out looking just like #2! ARRGGGH!! Don't ask me how I managed that, but I did. Oh well, it was a learning experience after all and I was wanting to make another set that were about 2" wider. Not that it's going to happen anytime soon, but I do have enough supplies to accomplish it. So without further adieu, here are photos of the finished project.










Spinning Flax on a Drop Spindle

Since we weren't able to start warping the big loom for our next weaving guild project, Clarice gave us a great demo on spinning flax. One of our members had received some free unidentified fiber when she bought her spinning wheel. Just in looking at it, I thought it was probably flax. So we did a burn test to really find out what it was. Clarice grabbed some water, a spindle, and showed us how to load the distaff (the thing that holds the fiber for you). She made it look much simpler than I have heard from others. It's not the nicest feeling stuff in your hands, so I'll probably stick to wool! Below is the slideshow that I couldn't get in this post.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My little cotton patch

I'm finally starting to get come cotton from my little backyard plot! And green is coming in first. It got rained on, so it's a little matted looking. I was hoping it would be all green, but the outside is definitely on the brownish side. Which makes me wonder if it's going to be colorfast, or if it's going to fade with time. I guess I'll take some samples and put on a window sill to see what happens. My two plants are covered with bolls, so I should get enough this summer to start spinning. The plan is to make a 3-ply yarn in green, brown, and white. I bought a charkha for cotton spinning, but I'm not proficient enough yet to take a chance on wasting any of the colored cotton. So I'll be doing all the spinning on the Lendrum with the very fast flyer. In my spare time. Ha-ha!!

Green Cotton

edited 8/30/2009 to add photo showing white and green cotton for contrast.
Green and white cotton

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Finished Baskets

After many distractions in July, I'm finally getting around to posting pics of the finished baskets. The wine basket is always a good gift, but I wasn't too sure how the big urn was going to turn out. Overall, I'm happy with it. But it was a pain working with so many pieces of such long pieces of small reed.



Now I'm looking forward to picking Riley up this weekend for a week-long visit. He's bringing his motorcycle, so I'm sure he and James will be spending a lot of time at the track with that and the carts. We don't really have a lot of stuff planned, so we'll just do whatever he wants. Isn't that they way it's supposed to work?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Weaving Weekend!

A long 3-day weekend, and no chores! Priceless! So yesterday I started the "Double Chief's Daughter Urn" from The Ultimate Basket Book by Lyn Siler. So far it's looking ok, but it sure is hard to work with all this thin reed! This may be gifted if it turns out symmetrical. It's is pretty difficult to control the shape. We'll see.

Double Chief's Daughter Basket

Double Chief's Daughter Basket

I've also finished rethreading and resleying the loom, and have started the first placemat again. The weaving definitly shows some beginner weaver errors, but the selvedges are nice and the threading is correct. By the time I get to the end of this 5-yard warp, my weaving should improve tremendously!

Advancing Twills - Part 2
This is the first placemat in progress.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The advancing twills saga continues...

I had the 20/2 linen for the weft in my stash, and ordered navy 10/2 cotton for the warp so that I can do this project on my loom at home. So by last Sunday I have the loom warped and ready to go. I sit down, start weaving, and a glaring threading error appears. In retrospect, I thought it was odd that I didn't have a couple of threads left over as I was warping (I threw in a couple extra in case I miscounted). But I marched blindly along without checking my work. You know the old adage, "measure twice, cut once". Well it applies to weaving too.

So there was nothing to do at this point but cut it off, pull everything out, and rethread and resley the loom. Six miserable hours later, I was back at the point I was at when the weekend started. But hey, I learned another hard lesson. And I've got a three day weekend coming up and plan to spend it weaving. I do really like the hand of the fabric and am looking forward to seeing all the patterns reveal themselves. There should be enough warp for 4 placemats and a table runner. But I may use the table runner yardage for a cushion on Gran's old rocker. Wish me luck, and hopefully it will be a productive weekend!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What doesn't kill me will make me stronger...

The Bay Area Spinners and Weavers are doing a study in advancing twills. I love twills, so this is the perfect project for me. They are providing all the looms and materials, so this should be a snap. Just follow the instructions. Right? Wrong!

When I arrived, I had to untie and retie the treadles on the small 8-shaft loom. That took about an hour, but I learned something new since my loom only has 4-shafts and you do all the combinations with your feet. Now it's time to start weaving. Yea! The weft is a beautiful slubby linen and I'm using an end feed shuttle. The first throw comes to a screeching halt. The little slubs are catching on the tensioner and making my selveges pull in like crazy. Arrggh! And the skinny treadles are hurting my feet. And since the sides are pulling in, I can't beat the weft in completely. What a mess! Then I notice a broken warp thread. Our instructor comes in to help and decides that the warp was sleyed too wide and is causing part of the problems. So she cuts off what I've struggled to do and I move over to the 4-shaft loom. After I go get something to eat and chill out for a while.

So I come back, fed and happy and ready to start again. This should be a snap. I'm weaving on a loom that's almost exactly like mine. So I'm going along and get almost to the end of the first pattern when I notice 3 broken warp threads on the right side. Our instructor fixes them and I continue. Two more throws then 3 more broken threads. Being the optimist that I am, I take this as my opportunity to learn to tie a weavers knot and repair broken warp threads. So we practice with a small rope until I get it down pat, and I move back to the loom. I tie a knot, and snap! It breaks again when I snug it down. So I try again, and again, and again... Now I'm getting frustrated again. I see the cone of warp thread sitting by the loom. I wind off a piece and pull. It snaps in two with hardly any force at all. Ah-ha! This loom is warped with weak thread. I give. Weaving gods - 2, Theresa - 0.

Although I didn't get any actual project finished, I did learn a lot today.
- Never assume that someone else has set up your work properly.
- Check tension frequently on loom and shuttle
- Always use good quality yarns for your warp since it has to hold up to strong tensioning and frequent abrasion.
- I can now tie up treadles on a 8-shaft loom.
- I tie a mean weaver's knot.
- I finally really understand how to read a pattern draft.

Since I have yarn here at home to do this study, I'm just going to warp my loom and do it here. I need the warping practice anyway...

Tencel Scarf Project

Just finished the prototype for the shawl I want to weave. When the Lone Star Loom Room closed it's storefront, I bought some 10/2 Tencel in a beautiful lilac. I had knitted with Tencel before and it has a wonderful drape, so I thought it would make a really nice scarf. And I was so right! Here are the specs and pictures:

Project: Scarf
Materials: Warp and Weft - 10/2 Tencel (Lilac)
Pattern: 2/2 horizontal herringbone twill (p.34 of Handweaver's Pattern Directory)
Dimensions on loom: 11 3/8" x 72"
Dimensions after finishing (not including fringe): 10" x 68"




I'm learning a lot with each project, mostly things not to do or things that could be done easier in a different manner. I'll be glad when all those things are burned into my brain and projects will move along faster. This was my first attempt at warping from back to front. I thought for a while that it was going to go in the trash, but thankfully, it straightened itself out. And James was home so I had an extra set of hands for tensioning. Overall, it was slow going because I'd read a little and do a little, check my work, and do some more. But the end product certainly justified the time. I wish you could feel through the screen. This stuff is soooo soft!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gimme a Little Grin.

It was a momentous Valentine's Day 2009. Not only did I get candy, flowers, and champagne, but also pics of Riley's first missing tooth. It had been loose for a while, but he wouldn't let anyone mess with it. Then while out running errands that day, he handed it over to mom from the back seat with the comment, "Here, hold this for me." So how he's working on getting a second one out. I can still remember my grandpa pulling all of our teeth. Although we did try the string on a doorknob, we never could get it to work. And I could never pull my own tooth! Thank goodness for grandpas.


Go Fish!

It's been a while since I posted, but here's one of the things I've finished lately. This was one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry in January, and when I saw it, I just knew that I had to make it for Riley and Tucker. For you non-knitters out there, Ravelry is like Facebook for knitters with 298,877 members! Anyway, the pattern is called "Fish Hat [Dead or Alive?]". I knitted these in acrylic so they'd be washable and stand up to the wear and tear that two boys could dish out. I call my version "Rainbow Trout".



And this is Riley modeling his hat.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Highland Triangle Square

Finally finished the endless baby blanket for a very good friend who finally got pregnant. I decided on Cheryl Oberle's "Highland Triangle" from the book Folk Shawls, but I wanted to make it into a square. Surprisingly for me, it was a simple task. Just do corners instead of ends. I'm very pleased with the result, but if I were to do it over again, I'd do two more repeats of the last edging on the corners. And it actually went pretty fast (3 months). Here are the stats, along with a couple of pictures.

Highland Triangle
Designer: Cheryl Oberle
Yarn: Snuggly DK
Quantity: 10 balls
Needles: US 6



There Goes the Neighborhood!

We live in one of those guard gated communities, so imagine my surprise to see this in the driveway three houses down! I'll bet they have a lot of fun driving around town!


We were packing up the car to go to DH's family Christmas celebration when we saw the big chicken. I have to admit that their family thing has turned into a lot of fun now that all the kids are grown, the gift exchange has been abandoned, and we just eat and play games all day. Although, I haven't figured out if it's the "Apples to Apples" game, or the fact that every one brings a sampling of beer and we have a tasting that lasts all afternoon that makes it such a good time. Probably a combination of the two. We really lucked out this year with the weather (all the fun happens outside). It was warm enough for shorts this year, and no rain! We need to do this more often. Below is a photo of all the brothers. Guess which one is mine. (Hint: My mom says he's never going to grow up.)