Thursday, December 23, 2010


This is, hands down, the most beautiful weaving there is: Swans Island Blankets.

It's like the Elizabeth Zimmerman of weaving. And even cute, sheepy pictures. And yarn, dyed with natural dyes.
Now, I'm trying to come up with my own version. I've done a sample with Harrisville Designs Highland (the worsted weight, which comes unwashed on the cone and feels pretty serious) sett at 8 ends per inch. Did a little plain weave. A little twill. Wefts in the same yarn, and Cascade Eco, and Cascade Pastaza. This is the Pastaza (silky but definitely shed-prone, and I already have a yellow Lab to take care of that department on the blue couch and my black sweaters):
Everything is warm and cozy. And soft. Even the Harrisville.

I finished the cloth by felting it. But in the dryer, not the washer. I learned this method the other day at the knitting store and it is so much easier than reaching your hand into a very hot bath of water in the washing machine, dragging the heavy fabric to the surface, and then lowering it back in to agitate some more.

For the dryer method, I soaked the cloth in Eucalan and hot water for 30 minutes. Drained the water from the sink and rolled the cloth into a towel. Went down to the basement, threw it in a medium hot dryer with a pair of blue jeans and some tennis balls. Waited a while. Checked. Let it rumble around some more. In all, I think that it took about 20 minutes, with about 15-18% shrinkage in width and length.

And the cloth? Hudson Bay blanket-like.

I'm now forcing myself to do a second sample with the Shetland from Harrisville. More of a fingering weight and maybe closer to the look of the Swans Island blankets.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Speed Weaving

Yesterday I wove more and faster than ever before. I had a deadline: Sunday at 2 pm, when someone was coming over to buy my second loom. (Reminds me of my favorite line from Lord of the Rings, about having second breakfast.)

The warp is a 16/2 linen warp, threaded in stripes of natural and bleached linen. The pattern is Swiss Twill from Davison's Handweaver's Pattern Book. Version 1 was sett at 24 epi, which produces a very firm piece of cloth. I'm new to linen, so I believe it will soften up with use. Still, it seemed awfully dense. Here's a closeup of the selvedge:
Right-hand side, which is my less even selvedge. I followed advice from the teacher at a linen workshop that my guild hosted in November to sett the edges double through the heddle and the reed. I wasn't happy with the result, and in Version 2, went back to my usual method of threading the edges in a straight draw twill (1-2-3-4) and using a doubled floating selvedge (it comes through the reed but not the heddles).

Version 2, which was what I wove off yesterday into three napkins and a piece for a swatch (wish I could discipline myself to keep better weaving records - I end up with snippets of cloth in a drawer by the sewing machine) is sett at 18 epi, or ends per inch. The cloth looks closer to napkin weight. But I'll have a better idea once I wet finish it, aka throw it in the washing machine. It's a bit harsh for linen, but these are napkins, and I want them to stand  up to normal wear and tear. No handwashing of napkins in this house.
There's now a large, empty space with some fluff and lint on the floor, where the loom was. It's strange to see the space empty; I was accustomed to seeing it filled with a loom.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Komi Hat and Mittens

My finished Komi hat and mittens in Cascade Pastaza.

The mittens are Mitten 9 from Mostly Mittens (links in the last post for the yarn and books), with the top shaping from Ann Budd's first book of patterns. The hat is based on Budd's pattern for a basic hat, with a motif from the mittens used for the stranded colorwork.

Some of the specs - keeping in mind that I generally wear a size small in hats and a size 7 1/2 in gloves:

For the mittens, I cast on 32 st for the corrugated rib cuff, then increased to 40 stitches for the hand portion. The cuff was worked on a size 2 circular, Magic Loop method, and the hand on a size 3. (I knit very loosely; you might be able to get away with a larger needle size). My gauge was about 4.5-5 stitches/inch after wet blocking.

For the hat: I cast on 82 stitches for the K1P1 ribbing on a size 2, then worked the body of the hat on a size 3 without increasing stitches. I did a one-color rib so that the fit was snug; the corrugated ribbing is stiffer and has less bounce than the regular rib. I followed the schematics for Jared Flood's Turn a Square hat; I find that his method of decreasing gives you a really nice fit, without that round egg look that you get from some knitted hats.

Wet finishing makes a huge difference in this project. Beforehand, the stranded colorwork and stitches are tight; after soaking in a sink for half an hour, the fabric has a lot more give. If your size is good, don't do much but blot the water out and lay flat to dry. If, like me, you made something smaller than you'd like (I underestimated the amount of space the stranding takes up and made the hat a little too small), you can get in there with your hands and gently stretch the fabric after rolling it up in a towel to soak up some of the water. Then, lay flat to dry.

Here, you can see the contrast between the outside of the fabric and the inside:
As you carry the color that you are not working along the back side of the fabric, you get a nice, double-thick layer of wool. Between the stranding and perhaps the llama-wool combination of fibers in the Pastaza, the mittens and hat are keeping me warm even in cold, damp weather. I know that traditional colorwork is done at a miniscule gauge, but I prefer the feel of a nice, thick mitten in the winter.

My work, now, is not to lose any of the pieces.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Komi Hat

A Komi hat in Cascade Pastaza (half wool, half llama) to match my mittens. I'm using a piece of the motif from Mitten 9 in Mostly Mittens.

I'm not sure about how it will fit. I played back and forth with the size and finally settled on a cast on of 82 stitches for the ribbing and no increase for the body of the hat. According to Ann Budd's specs in her first pattern book, that's the size of a child's hat, but it still looks plenty large to me. And I know that it will grow when I block it (my mittens are wanting a liner to take up the extra room at the tip, after blocking. And because it is very, very cold today in Chicago. And only December....)

But I love the color and the feel - warm, cushy, stranded colorwork.

And yes, I messed up on the jogless stripe thing. Still warm.