Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yarn, Yarn, More Yarn -- and a Sea Anemone

New items in my Etsy shop: handspun and hand-dyed silk/merino, handspun and hand-dyed mohair, hand-dyed rayon chenille -- and a crocheted basket that clearly resembles a sea anemone. What's more, this is not just any sea anemone -- it's telia felina, a transgendered creature that was decried by Baptist clergy in Hunstville, Alabama, a couple of years ago as "base and depraved."

I couldn't be more proud!

My basket

The infamous telia felina

Yarn: handspun, hand-dyed silk/merino

Yarn: handspun, hand-dyed mohair

And more yarn: hand-dyed rayon chenille

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fair Isle Sweater in Cornflower Blue: Taking the Mystique out of Steeks

The latest listing in my Etsy shop: a handknitted cardigan in hand-dyed colors of cornflower blue, golds, and reds. I followed a pattern from Woolen Collectibles in Kalispell, Montana, "Shaftsbury Sweater." The wool is a sport weight 2-ply yarn that I dyed in a range of golds and reds, along with the cornflower blue that serves as the ground color.

It took maybe 100 hours to knit, because of the complicated pattern. I ran into some problems with the sleeves, which were too small when I followed the pattern, so I adjusted the stitches to make them roomier.

The result, I think, is an heirloom sweater, knit on #2 circular needles. When I got down to the cuffs of the sleeves, I switched to double-pointed needles. My favorite are the square double-pointed needles from Kollage Yarns, because the square shape somehow keeps the stitches from slipping off (the way they do with regular round double-pointed needles).

One more note: knitting this sweater took the mystique out of steeks for me, once and for all. The instructions tell you simply to create a series of stripes to mark where you're going to stitch with your sewing machine and where you're going to cut. Easy enough! When you're knitting a complicated Fair Isle design like this one, you really need to knit in the round.

I love the brass buttons, which reflect the flower pattern of the sweater.

By the way, here's the link to the pattern:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

More on Turned Taqueté Towels

After a phone call to my weaving guru, Joyce Robards, I now know more about taqueté. It's actually Summer and Winter without tabby, but with a pattern weft alternating with a tie-down weft. That means it's usually a two-shuttle weave. The beauty of this pattern is that it's turned, and I'm weaving with just one shuttle, alternating between a pattern pic and a tie-down pic. Here's a closeup. 

For the most part, all you can see are the pattern warps (the long floats on the surface of the fabric). If you look very carefully -- or if you can double-click on this photo to enlarge it -- you might be able to see the tie-down wefts hiding among the pattern warps....

It's a complex structure, calling for lots of counting on my part. I have notes taped onto my loom to outline my treadling order: my left foot taps out the "bass line," alternating between treadles 1 and 2, while my right foot plays the melody on treadles 3 through 8.

The original design by Mary Berent takes up the entire page. Very complicated and not to be attempted when the weaver is sleepy or has had a glass of wine or two.... You see the pink paper clip? That's the middle of my towels, where I reverse the pattern. No way I can count beyond that with any accuracy. Not without a computerized loom!

Joyce tells me that taqueté was often used for elegant fabrics, similar to a Jacquard weave, because it shows off the colors and pattern so beautifully. I have a plan to tie onto this warp, using it as a dummy warp, with some leftover hand-dyed 20/2 silk in purple, fuschia, green, and gold. More adventures!

Once again, here's a link to the Berent pattern on "Weaving Today."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Turned Taqueté Towels

Finally, after weaving two towels, sleying the reed a second time, and weaving another towel with a treadling error, I am weaving a "Turned Taqueté Towel" that I can blog about! The pattern is complicated, but it's actually starting to make sense.

I don't know much about taqueté (a French term with an accent on the last "e"), but I can tell you that it's normally a weft-faced weave. In this case, the weave structure is turned sideways (weft becomes warp), so it's a warp-faced weave. I'm weaving with one shuttle (thankfully): one pic is a pattern weft and one is the tie-down weft. The warp is Cottolin from the Swedish company Borgs Vävgarner, which is half cotton, half linen, and the weft is 20/2 mercerized cotton.

The pattern is a free download from Handwoven magazine. Here's the link, if you'd like to know more:

Join Me for a 'Thread Talk' on October 5

 Above is my most recent post on Facebook, promoting a 10-minute "Thread Talk" I'll be giving during Spinning and Weaving Week...