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3

I’m almost done weaving my mermaid scarf. Pablo really likes the participatory weaving made available by the fact that I weave with the loom on the floor or leave it resting vertically against my floor loom or treadle sewing machine.

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The rag rug is the first of two rag rugs I wove a couple of years ago. Both are in my upstairs bathroom. I wove this rug using 25 years worth of purple and blue sewing fabric scraps, a mixture of lightweight and medium weight cottons and rayons. I save all of my fabric scraps. The warp is blue 8/4 cotton rug warp.

I found the machine knitted fair isle cotton socks for only 99 cents this week at a thrift store. Actually, I also bought a second pair that is similar, but has more turquoise than purple. Are these Lisa socks or what??? The fact that they match the rug so well is a clue.

After weaving the rag rugs I went on to weave the rep weave rag kimono sakiori jacket. The jacket post provides details on how I prepare rag strips for weaving using bias tape makers.

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8

Studio Three, a wonderful weaving, spinning and knitting shop in Prescott, Arizona, one of two such shops in Prescott. I haven’t been to a weaving/spinning supply store in several years. Flagstaff’s local yarn store is mostly for knitters and sells no weaving yarn on cones. Walking around in Studio Three was heaven! I highly recommend stopping there if you’re passing by Rt. 89A on I-40 or otherwise traveling in the area. More to come on the other Prescott yarn store and my yarn and spinning fiber purchases.

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4

Boynton Canyon. Another beautiful hike in the red rocks a few miles west of the Sedona/Oak Creek area in northern Arizona. The trail winds along a cliff ledge through the canyon, provided breathtaking vistas. The only thing marring this canyon is the sudden appearance of a golf resort on the floor of the canyon. The buildings and lush green golf course look like a mirage because the area seems so remote.

Sedona is just below the base of the Mogollon Rim, an escarpment  forming the boundary between the Colorado Plateau to the north, where my city of Flagstaff is located, and the Basin and Range province to the south. The many canyons along the Rim are formed by erosion into the Plateau. The red rocks of the Sedona area are eroded from a sedimentary lens of iron-rich (hematite, or rust) sandstone called the Schnebly Hill formation after Schnebly Hill Road. Schnebly Hill sandstone was deposited as sand dunes near the shore of a shallow inland sea during the Permian Era 270–275 million years ago. For millions of years, the sea expanded and retreated in what is now the Southwest and Midwest USA. Limestone layers in the Schnebly Hill formation formed during incursions of the sea over the dunes.

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7

A rainbow-colored Fair Isle knitted cowl by a Flagstaff fiber artist

Flagstaff fiber artist Louise Hall is a master Fair Isle knitter. She brought a handknitted wool cowl she recently finished to the October Flagstaff fiber arts gathering at my house and modeled it for us. She used two self striping yarns to knit the cowl, a rainbow-striped yarn and a muted sage green yarn, both from Knit Picks.

Louise also won the Best of Show ribbon at this year’s Coconino County Fair for a Fair Isle shawl. She brought the shawl, tam and fingerless mitts to the gathering. Janice tried on the shawl and decided she loved it (who wouldn’t).

The two designs are Louise’s. She has plans to sell her knitting patterns through her Etsy store.

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3

My new mermaid scarf in progress. It’s my first weaving project on my new Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom. I find using this loom much easier to use than using my 8-dent rigid heddle reed with a homemade backstrap loom to make my rainbow eyelash yarn scarf.

The weave structure is overshot: The warp yarn is UKI jade 3/2 cotton. The 12-dent rigid heddle controls the tabby weft sheds of UKI jade 10/2 cotton yarn. The thicker pattern weft is rainbow ombre sock yarn, the same yarn I used for my sea anemone headband. The tabby picks allow for longer pattern weft floats without compromising the stability of the fabric; that’s the advantage of  overshot. The pattern picks are technically a freeform twill.

When I played around in my weaving software program, I discovered that to weave a pattern this complex on a shaft loom, I would need more than 30 shafts. I decided then to buy a rigid heddle loom and use pick up sticks — the ancient way of creating complex designs. I am basing my freeform patterns on simple sketches as I go along, as seen on the clipboard. Using the pick up stick for the pattern weft means that the weaving is slower than using a shaft loom.

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3

The weather has been beautiful this week. It has been warm enough for me to sit on my balcony and spin cotton for my lavender huipil. The cats love spring, too, although they seem more interested in the birds suddenly flitting about everywhere than the temperature. You can see the stinging nettles coming up in the large pot behind me.

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I’ve had questions on exactly how I am making my freeform overshot mermaid scarf from people who belong to the Facebook Rigid Heddle Weaving group such as, “do you use your pickup stick (in the Netherlands we call it pattern stick) in front of the heddle of at the back of it? And do you use the stick in a closed shed?”

How I am weaving freeform overshot on my Flip rigid heddle loom:

  1. With the heddle in the neutral (closed shed) position, use the pick up stick (also called a pattern stick) to make the shed for an overshot pattern row. Slide the pattern yarn (in this case rainbow sock yarn) through the shed and use the heddle to beat gently.
  2. Place the heddle in the down position and pass through the tabby yarn (here, UKI 10/2 jade cotton).
  3. Place the heddle back in the neutral/closed position. Use the pick up stick to make another pattern row, slide the shuttle through the shed and beat.
  4. Place the heddle in the “up” position and pass through the tabby yarn shuttle.
  5. Repeat.

The last photo shows a close up of the fabric (turned on its side). You can see the thinner tabby yarn picks in between each pattern yarn pick.

I also had a very kind comment from a FB weaver, “Dear Lisa, I shared your work in the group Hevelgrieten, which is a Dutch Group for RHweavers. A rigid heddle in dutch is a ’hevelriet’ and a determined girl is called a ’griet’ and more than one = grieten. So combined you get the name ’Hevelgrieten’. I hope you do not mind, it is such an inspiring work!”

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5

I finished plying nearly 2 lbs of handspun wool yarn for my sister. It’s a beautiful heathery gray-brown green with ivory flecks like ocean surf.

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3

My four ply yarn is finished (check out all three links to previous posts on this yarn). Finally. It took almost a month to finish spinning the singles and five days or so to ply.The yarn ended up on the heavy side of worsted weight/light side of chunky, although because I spun it worsted style (notice the two different uses of the word “worsted”: one for knitters and one for spinners), it visually looks like a finer worsted weight yarn.

After plying 1,600 yards with one singles from each of the four colorways (“Chapel of Love” Merino and ruby Merino top on the left bobbin photo and Mountain Colors “Lupine” in the right photo; the other two colorways were purple/violet/blue variations) I became bored. I decided to ply the rest into different color mixtures. The yarn on the left is what the 1,600 yards looks like. The next 775 yards are the middle grape color. The final 136 yards was the Mountain Colors “Lupine” plied with one strand of olive green Merino top left over from a couple of years ago (I never get rid of left over singles from plying). “Lupine” has olive green and forest green in it, so the resulting yarn is quite harmonious.

I like all three color combos. I like to make socks with different-colored cuffs, legs, heels, feet and toes, so these yarns will work very well for that purpose. The blue-green yarn would look lovely in a pair of sturdy fingerless mitts. I hope to knit a sweater mostly in the more reddish-purple yarn, which actually looks like eggplant purple when viewed from a few yards away, which is great because the main “neutral” color in my wardrobe is eggplant purple. I plan to use a kimono sweater pattern, so the kimono collar could be done in the grape colorway.

I did not weight the skeins as they dried, which is why the yarn looks a bit kinky. I find that a little kinkiness doesn’t affect my knitting, and the kinkiness disappears after an item is knitted, washed and blocked. Worsted spun items do not pill. I have Merino socks that are in large part knit from the olive green yarn I mentioned above. The socks are two years old. I am wearing them right now. I wear them a lot. They are my everyday house sock slippers. They have no pilling, yet remain super soft against my skin (I sewed soles on them because worsted-spun Merino is still not especially resistant to direct abrasion).

Adding up all the skeins = approximately 2,500 yards of yarn, which means I spun more than 10,000 yards of singles (the singles are arranged in spirals in the plied yarn, which makes the plied yarn shorter in length than the each of the singles). 10,000 yards is more than 5.5 miles of very fine, highly-twisted yarn!!! No wonder it took me more than six months to finish.

I left a little of the ruby colorway unplied. I have 4 oz of unspun ruby top left. I’ve decided to spin it at a later date and then ply it with the left over singles to make a ruby/garnet/magenta yarn. But not now. I’m tired.

My next spinning project will involve thick, softly-twisted semi-woolen-spun Merino singles for weaving cloth that is to be fulled (partially felted after weaving)—a huge difference in spinning styles.

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6

A Sámi rigid heddle from Sweden & Sámi narrow band weaving designs

I bought this really cool rigid heddle called the Sunna heddle. It has special pattern yarn slots that make it super easy to weave narrow patterned bands using a Baltic-style threading. I bought it from the online Sámi (Laplander) store located in Sweden called STOORSTÅLKA.

“We are STOORSTÅLKA. We do design by Sámis, for Sámi people, and equally cool souls.”

The linked page above shows you multiple sizes of these heddles. There are also links to a YouTube video of band weaving expert Susan J. Foulkes weaving with a Sunna heddle. The company named the heddle design after her. Sunna is the Sámi name for Susan. There’s also a downloadable PDF introduction to the heddles. My 17-pattern slot heddle cost about $40 including shipping, and it arrived quickly. The narrower ones are cheaper.

I think my first project is going to be weaving trim for the neck opening on my red heart huipil. I’m looking through my pattern books and files now for ideas. The second photo shows Baltic style weaving in my copy of Interweave Press’ The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory. The third photo shows Baltic-style bands from a Sámi Textile (Sámisk tekstiler) Flickr page. The fourth photo shows more such Lithuanian bands from the Folk Costume & Embroidery blog. The last two photos show the covers of Foulkes books on Sámi weaving patterns. I’ll probably end up buying the eBook versions of these books.

STOORSTÅLKA also sells other Sámi products, from wool yarn to music CDs. It’s a cool store. Check it out.

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My finished handspun, handwoven purple blouse

It took a little more than a year to complete, but my most complex handmade clothing project yet is finally done and I feel a great relief!

I spun the weft singles yarn on an Indian book charkha spinning wheel. I spun more than 2,100 yards (1.2 miles / almost 2 k) of fine cotton singles yarn to weave as the weft.

The 3.67 yard-long 20/2 cotton warp was sett at 36 epi with 882 warp ends. The eight shaft advancing twill weave structure (a “snowflake” twill, as seen in the last picture) made sewing difficult, as the fabric behaved more like a knit fabric than a woven fabric, but with long floats and difficult-to-sew raw edges.

I never use fusible interfacing with my handwoven fabrics; I want to do it the old-fashioned way, before the availability of petroleum products made sewing handspun, handwoven fabric easier (I’m like that, don’t try to argue with me ;) ). I created a loose-fitting, naturally draping tunic without darts or other fitted features, except for curving in the side stitches on my treadle sewing machine.

My favorite comment on one of my Facebook weaving groups is, “Fantastic job — that is a beautiful blouse!  (And when the apocalypse comes, everyone will want you on THEIR team!)“

Now I really need to finish my red heart huipil, which is 100% hand sewn.

You can see one of my new Sanibel Island sea shell jars next to my head.

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I finished one magenta fingerless mitt. The lower photos show the finger and thumb cuffs on #2 and #1 needles, respectively. I went down a needle size for both sections to knit the ribbing. The Magic Loop technique can be used to knit anything, including very small circles such as the thumb cuff or the closures on the tops of hats.

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My magenta shawl wins a first place blue ribbon at the Coconino County Fair

Judges comments: “Fabulous work and use of color and fiber finish. Excellent execution of pattern. Design is outstanding. Spinning and weaving excellent. Gorgeous.”

I included an information sheet explaining how two of the warp yarns were handspun and dyed in cochineal by me, as well as how the weft is unraveled thrift store sweater yarn. I figured the judges would notice the Philippine edges and four strand braided fringe on their own.

Compared to the numerous categories in the knitting and crochet sections, there are a paltry number of weaving sections: clothing (any), personal accessories, and home accessories. Because my red ruana and kimono vest were entered in the personal accessories and clothing categories, I entered the shawl in home accessories, hoping that it’s cozy thickness made it passable as a “lap blanket.” Apparently, it worked. I complained last year that there were too few weaving and handspun categories. I think the entire needle and fiber arts division needs a category makeover.

See posts about earlier stages of this project here, here and here.

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5

Dyed cotton sliver for spinning into weft yarn

After I received my package of dyed combed cotton sliver from Latvia, I pulled out cotton weaving yarns from my stash to see what yarns go best with each color of sliver. I have weaving project ideas for each color, enough to keep me busy spinning and weaving for more than a year:

First photo: This is the deep red sliver I will spin as the weft yarn for my red huipil I am currently warping with the 20/2 Garnet cotton yarn pictured. The weft will be spun on my book charkha.

Second photo: I purchased the mint-colored sliver more than a month ago. As previously mentioned, my plan is to tie on the pictured mix of pastel-colored 20/2 yarns to the red huipil warp when I am finished weaving that fabric. I will use a different treadling pattern to make butterflies motifs in place of the hearts.

Third photo: One idea for the royal blue sliver is to spin it into a 2-ply yarn and use it with the pictured thicker cotton yarns in violet, blue, turquoise and aquamarine hues to weave a flowing water-themed shawl using a networked twill pattern; networked twills are especially good for creating curving, rounded and wavy patterns. More information is coming soon; I will start spinning the yarn soon on my upright charkha because it will take a while to accumulate enough singles for plying.

Fourth photo: Another idea for the royal blue sliver is to use it as weft with this cone of blue and green tencel. The mint sliver would also work well with the tencel.

Fifth photo: I am planning on tying on some of the yarn from my last cone of 20/2 UKI lavender yarn to the purple blouse warp. Instead of spinning the deep purple cotton sliver I’ll spin the lavender sliver and use a different treadling pattern to create a “rose” pattern instead of a “star” pattern.

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6

My finished cotton and tencel simple spring scarf woven on my Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom. We’ve had a couple of cold snaps, including snow this past weekend (more than five inches of snow in May at 7,000 feet, just as the trees are leafing out and flowering), so I decided to focus on finishing the scarf.

The warp is hand painted 3/2 cotton from fatbottompurls. I love the color mixture and texture provided by the bouclé yarn combined with the 8/2 tencel as the weft yarns. I think the scarf coordinates perfectly with the lavender huipil on the floor loom. I only needed to use one bobbin/one ball of the Tahki Pansy bouclé. I have enough left (two balls) to use sparingly in my flowing water shawl. Come to think of it, the bouclé might look great as a randomly-spaced warp yarn; using a bouclé as warp on a shaft loom can be troublesome because the bumpy spots can catch on the heddle eyes, but the bouclé loops in this yarn are soft and most likely would not be too problematic.

Rather than use a hemming stitch, I followed Nancy Arthur Hoskins’s advice in an Interweave Press Weaving Today column called, “Why Not Knot?“ She says, “Why use the traditional hemming stitch when there is a secure, attractive, and versatile alternative—the knotting stitch? My first woven sample, my largest tapestries, my most delicate silk shawls, and my linen lace weaves have all been finished with an embroidery stitch, called a coral knot or twisted chain stitch, adapted for working on warp ends. This stitch ties a knot on each warp end or set of warp ends below or above the woven web with the weft yarn or a substitute yarn.” I used a 20/2 Lunatic Fringe yarn from my tubular spectrum collection in a plum color. I like how it’s practically invisible yet highly secure.

I twisted 11 cm fringe by hand using sets of two warp ends tied together with the knotting stitch. I added a 6/0 aquamarine glass bead to every other fringe end.

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2

Reviving a sick sourdough starter

The top photo is courtesy of my mother, who photographed her sourdough starter. She prefers to bake infrequently and make and freeze several loaves of bread at a time. This means that her starter sits in her refrigerator for weeks between uses. She has been supplementing her starter with commercial baker’s yeast. Healthy sourdough starter (like my starter, bottom photo) does not need additions of commercial yeast to work properly. In my opinion, it would be better for her starter if she baked more frequently.

Adapted from Wild Bread: Handbaked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen:

Like a houseplant or a pet, a sourdough culture is alive. It needs to be fed and sheltered, rested and exercised to stay healthy. However, caring for a sourdough culture is far easier than caring for a plant or an animal. When properly cared for, a sourdough culture can live for centuries and be multiplied ad infinitum.

A healthy starter can live for as long as four or more months in the refrigerator between uses—the operative word being healthy. An alive but sickly starter will be dormant when taken out of the refrigerator. Many of the yeast and bacteria will have died. It will have a thick layer of alcoholic hooch on the surface (this is where the word hooch comes from BTW).

To revive a dormant starter you’ll need to feed, water and aerate it multiple times over a period of several days (details are in my book).

  • “Sweetening” a starter works if the starter is runny and has an overpowering sour smell, which means it is too acidic. The runniness is caused by the presence of extra alcohol, as well as acidic degradation of the gluten.
  • If the “sweetening” process does not work to restore the culture to a healthy, bubbly condition, you can try “washing” it as a last-ditch effort to save the culture.

You’ll know if a starter has died because spoilage microbes will turn the jar into a Petri dish exhibiting clusters of colorful bacteria and molds.

Don’t forget that it’s a good idea to dry and freeze emergency backup starter.

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3

My friend Lauren destashed a bunch of spinning fiber and gave some of it to me. I received mostly natural wool rovings for my second hand fiber stash, much of which I will spin for my sister, who likes natural wool colors, and some naturally white wools, which I will dye. There was also cotton lint, flax and silk. And what did Pablo like best? The flax (middle photo)! I decided to rearrange my stash and put the rovings for my sister into one box, emptying some small boxes in the process. Pablo decided he could fit into one of the small boxes.