Monday, April 26, 2010

Resignation of the (Russian) Soul

I've been AWOL for a few weeks, reading and weaving and working on yoga stuff. Recently, a knitting teacher pointed out to me that I could either spend hours looking at Ravelry and yarn websites and such, or I could do something craft-ish. I've taken that to heart and have been trying to get through a few projects before I leave for my next yoga training (3 hats, one scarf done - at least one scarf and a hat to go, and maybe some felted potholders for someone who doesn't wear hats.)

My favorite new quote is from Elif Bautman's The Possessed, a wonderfully funny and smart book about Russian literature, grad school, grant finagling, dwarves, Tolstoy (I also read Anna Karenina early on and still love its first lines the most of any book), ice houses, and the strange, socially maladjusted, intensely competitive dinners that Bautman finds herself attending throughout the book. Nothing like academics to kill a conversation. (Still, the best book on academia is Kinglsey Amis' Lucky Jim. Especially the phone calls, which are almost as good as the phone calls in Muriel Spark's Memento Mori.)

Anyway, I love this phrase and have appended the word Russian into it - it has a better flow that way. I've been using it all weekend, especially when things are going haywire. Best is to look slightly downcast, speak in a calm tone that is half acceptance, half embitteredness, and intone, ah, resignation of the  Russian soul...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Trees Themselves are Bathed in Song

The first lines of Peter Ackroy'ds retelling of The Canterbury Tales:

When the soft sweet showers of April reach the roots of all things, refreshing the parched earth, nourishing every sapling and every seedling, then humankind rises up in joy and expectation.The west wind blows away the stench of the city, and the crops flourish in the fields beyond the walls. After the waste of winter it is delightful to hear birdsong once more in the streets. The trees themselves are bathed in song.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Hand-dyed Twill Scarf on 4 Harnesses

In progress:
The finished scarf:


The final effect was close to what I was striving for: beautiful color, movement from shade to shade across the width and pattern structure of the twill blocks, as well as movement of color across the length of the scarf. Even with my 4-harness loom, there's some good color-and-weave structure happening. (With more harnesses, and thus more options, you can more clearly delineate the twill structure being accented by the color change.)

I believe that the color owes a lot to the fact that I wound two and three-inch wide warp chains, then dyed two or three together, handpainting on similar lengths and colors at the same time. This meant that I both had repeating colors - stripes, if you will, across the width and length AND contrast between sections bumping up against each other. This is a very labor intensive process. Not only did I have to wind off several small warps. Then I had to dye them in batches, and then, the most challenging part - wind all these warps, some a bit snaggled from the dye and wash process, onto the loom.

The result is glorious. But I'd recommend starting small - with an 8" warp of 2 and 3" chains - and maybe one color of dye at various dilutions of the stock solution.

For the edges, I duplicated the finish on a hand-dyed silk shawl that a friend brought back for me from Chennai. I hemstitched the warp groups, then knotted at the base of the hemstitching, moved down about a quarter of an inch and did a second row of knots - this group using half of each previous bundle, and then a third and final row, another quarter of an inch below, again knotting the original ends together. The groups are 3 ends for the heavier warp thread and six ends for the finer warp, which I alternated in groups of two and three inches across the width of the warp. (More on this in the Details below.)
I love the colors of the piece: soft peaches, bright fuchsia, mustard yellows, reds, golden yellows, and bright orange. I used a base of stock solutions of Procion MX lemon yellow or fuchsia. Then I played, mixing various amounts of the two together, and occasionally adding a drop of black to change the tone of the color. I did a lot of washing and rinsing after the dyeing, including using Synthrapol in the last wash. But to be honest, the scarf ran again when I finished it by handwashing, and I imagine that it will continue to run. It's very difficult to get cellulose dyes completely out of the fiber, and I probably used a heavier hand with the sponge brush when I was dyeing the warp than I needed to. Probably not a good idea to get caught in the rain with this scarf.

Here are the Details:
Warp: 8/2 rayon slub millend, 3/2 linen-rayon millend (Novitex)
Weft: Rovings Polworth silk-wool, natural soft brown color
EPI (ends per inch): 24/12
PPI (picks per inch): 12
Warp length: 125"
Shrinkage: 10% in width and 15% in length
What I would do differently the next time: the sett is a little loose - I can see this getting snagged, warp or weft pulling - the next time, I'd do either a closer sett or more picks per inch to make the cloth more stable; also, next time, dye some extra threads so that when warp ends break, I have something to use for repairs (this time I had to make do with a not matching thread, and ended up pulling it out because it looked worse than a small gap in the cloth)