A Guitar Strap is Born

Wow, the new year has been busy!  I’ve started school, and I’m surprised by how much time it consumes, so my blogs will slow to every other week.  I don’t have a lot of time to devote to projects, so I have less to write about.  I plan to continue, because without my projects, life would hold less interest for me.  I have however, found the time to complete a project I was working on.  The hardware finally arrived to transform one of the bands I wove into a guitar strap.  Severe weather slowed their journey across the country.  The guitar strap hardware is made by Annie Machale aka ASpinnerWeaver; good craftsmanship went into their manufacture.  I would try to make these myself, as I do many other things, but she truly does a nice job.  

Woven band, hardware, needle & thread.

Woven band, hardware, needle & thread.

Since I’ve decided to cut this band, I want to treat those areas to prevent raveling.  I used fusible interfacing and cut narrow strips – just long enough to cover the width of the band, and just wide enough to leave a narrow strip on each side of the cut.  This also makes me feel like saving all those bits and pieces of leftover interfacing is practical 😉   I fused it to the under/wrong side of the band using a pressing cloth and my iron set to high.  Of course we have to always keep in mind the requirements and limitations of the material we’re working with, but this cotton can take it.  Since I’ve adopted the practice of keeping samples, both for reference and demonstration in workshops, I cut off a 30″ sample.   I’ve started with a nice long band – the maximum length on my Inkle Loom (2.5 yards).  This is far more band than is needed.  The interfacing makes sewing the cut end easier as the warp ends will stay nice and tight through the process, and the cut end of the sample will stand up to a lot of handing.  This particular band is woven with size 3 DMC Perle Cotton, but I want to minimize any bulk where it’s sewn.  I’ve chosen to use size 5 DMC Cotton (smaller in diameter) in the same color to sew and secure the band to the hardware.  

Securing to bar of slider. Thread passes through sheds.

Securing to bar of slider. Thread passes through sheds.

I’ve been sewing for 30 years now, and I’ve always had a dislike for raw ends, with Bouclè as a possible exception.  So when I sew this band, I’m certain to first fold the edge under, leaving a clean finished look.  I “dry” fit the band to the hardware first to remind myself where to sew first and which way the band should be facing.  It sounds unnecessary, but it takes less time than sewing a seam, picking it out, then sewing it again the right way.  First I wrapped the band around the center bar of the slider, folded down the cut end and sewed the folded end of the band to itself, trapping the bar in the loop.  Then the band goes through the rectangle ring of one of the hardware ends, then it laces through the slider.  The band is finished by going through the rectangle ring of the last hardware end and secured the same way as it was to the slider bar.  I sewed this with a blunt tip needle because I don’t want to pierce the warps; I passed the needle between the warps and also through the shed, in effect, weaving it secure.  I began sewing at the selvage by first passing the threaded needle through the shed and out where I want to weave/sew, both securing and hiding the thread end.  I sewed the folded end to the band with a whip stitch on the selvage.  When I come to the actual join, I passed the needle first through the woven shed of the end for a couple warps, then through the woven shed of the band for a couple warps.  When I reach the other side I secure the folded edge and band the way I began it, but I make a return journey back across the band, sewing it twice.  I pass the thread through the shed to secure and hide the end, then cut it flush with the band.  This, I feel, secures the band and places less stress where the bands are “woven” together.  piercing the warps would cause “pull” on an individual warp distorting it over time.  All that’s left now is to hand it over to its new owner.

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Cheviot Yarn #3

After some illness and company over the holidays, I have the chance to spin a larger sample of the Cheviot top into yarn.  I’ve decided to make this yarn just a tad thinner than the second sample.  I really liked the second sample and will aim for the same amount of softness, only in a thinner diameter.  This Cheviot top is on the soft side to begin with, so as long as there isn’t too much twist, the yarn should retain a lot of its softness.  The spinning ratio I used for the second sample was a 9:1.  I’m spinning thinner singles, so I increased the ratio to 11:1 to have enough twist to prevent the singles from drafting apart when they’re removed from the bobbins.  

1 yard wool top for each bobbin

1 yard wool top for each bobbin

I start this yarn as I started the others – by pulling off equal portions of the top for each bobbin.  I’ve measured out one yard of top for each bobbin.  I think a yard should make enough yarn to work on a project, as the last yarn sample used only 18″ per single and it made 144 yards.  Since this yarn will be a little thinner and contain twice as much fiber, it should be plenty.  I realize that these bobbins will hold an enormous amount of fiber when it’s spun this fine.  I may still change the regular spinning maiden to the bulky/plying maiden and bobbin when I ply this yarn – it gives me a good excuse to try it out if nothing else.  When I made the control card for this yarn, the 3 ply ply-back samples feel soft, just what I’m looking for.  

Drafting a fine single

Drafting a fine single

It takes a little more effort to maintain an even single when I’m spinning a single this fine.  It’s very easy to allow the single to get “sewing thread thin” or thicken to my personal default thickness which is the thickness of my second sample – thin, but not thread thin.  I have the first single completed and I transferred it to another bobbin.  I’m about 2/3 finished with the second single – this will be a three-ply yarn, so one more single after this one.  I’ll collect ply-back samples from each bobbin and count the twists per inch for the ply and aim for the median number when I ply.  As a side note – I cannibalized parts from an old Babe spinning wheel, and used a sewing machine motor to make an electronic wheel.  I find that I prefer to treadle more than I realized, but have found a great use for the motor.  I’ve been using it to wind the singles onto spare bobbins.  I’ve found a product called “Bobbins Up” that are available from the Woolery for $5 U.S. each, they come with a plastic bobbin with a whorl for using with a tensioned lazy Kate, and a bit that can attach to a drill or power screwdriver.  I may have to buy a few of these, it would be easier than pulling the motor out and using a drive band around the motor and bobbin whorl.

Finnish stitch worked to and fro - stitch in progress

Finnish stitch worked to and fro – stitch in progress

I have the wheel adjusted so the take up is very light.  Although my other wheel is also set up for double drive, I had a lot of difficulty adjusting the take up this low.  I don’t recall ever achieving the take up this low in my old wheel and still having the yarn wind on.  To spin this fine, I would have difficulties with the wheel pulling too hard on my single.  When I’m not spinning, I’ve been reviewing some nålbinding stitches that I learned a few years ago.  Nålbinding is nice in that all I need is yarn, a needle, a thumb, and some creativity.  No patterns, just stitch until it fits.  No multiple needles, just one short blunt wooden, bone, or metal needle less than 3″ long.  I think my favorite nålbinding stitch is still the Mammen stitch, but I have a new-found appreciation for the Oslo stitch and the Finnish stitch.  The Oslo stitch moves along quickly and is less dense, kind of perfect for Florida winter items.  The Mammen Stitch is just like the Oslo stitch with an additional loop picked up in the back, creating a thicker, more dense fabric – a bit more sturdy too.  The Finnish stitch requires two loops on the thumb which I originally found a tad fiddly, and two loops behind the thumb, making this fabric both more dense and it gives a completely different surface texture and look.  I may work with more nålbinding samples to help me decide which one to use in a project.  It’s nice to have some samples lying around for reference, and fun to make too. 

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Cheviot Samples

Second sample yarn skein

Second sample yarn skein

Two pounds of Cheviot wool top came with my new wheel.  This gives me a lot of fiber to work with and acclimate to this wonderful new wheel.  I’ve decided to start with some sampling to knock the dust off my spinning skills and break the wheel in. After the first yarn sample I spun from the Cheviot wool top, I’m ready for another sample.  Normally I don’t care for sampling, I prefer to sit down and make something useful whether I’m spinning, weaving, or knitting.  The first sample felt more crisp than I like for a knitting/crochet yarn, but it has a good feel for tapestry weaving.  This second sample was a pleasure to spin and much closer to what I look for in a knitting/crochet yarn.  I think I’ve learned a lot, both about my wheel and my spinning style from these two samples.  I’ll need to figure out what to do with these finished samples.  I’m sure I’ll dye them, one definitely with black walnut hulls, and maybe for the other I’ll use some coreopsis flowers that I picked, dried, and saved.  I may use sample one for a small nålbinding project and sample two in some mittens.

Supply hand keeps singles separate.

Supply hand keeps singles separate.

The first sample was spun with a ratio of 11:1.  The yarn had more twist than I wanted.  Since I spin in a worsted style, my yarn tends to be on the firm and strong side to begin with, so I set my wheel to a lower ratio, 9:1.  As long as I draft the yarn to a similar thickness at the same speed, and my treadle cadence is consistent with my first sample, I’ll have less twist in my singles.  I began the second sample much as I did the first – by pulling off three equal portions of the Cheviot top, one for each bobbin, a bobbin for each ply.  Since I’m fairly certain I’ll be happier with this sample than the first, I take larger portions for a more useable length of yarn.  The singles spun nicely, I had to take a break in spinning as life tends to happen in spurts.  I made a control card for this sample as I did with the last.  I saved a sample of the single from the first two bobbins, a 2-ply ply-back sample from the first bobbin, and a 3-ply ply-back sample from all three bobbins.  The yarn on the control card had a softer feel.  I thought I may want a yarn that was softer even than this second sample, but I have to keep in mind the micron count of the Cheviot – it’s soft, but not that soft, so I’ll be happy with what I achieve.  I transferred each single to a spare bobbin, with them separated about 8 feet to help even out twist.  I allowed the yarn to rest on the bobbins and the twist to become somewhat dormant to keep it more manageable when I begin to ply. 

Compare 2 ply control sample to commercial

Compare 2 ply control sample to commercial

Using a strong light, magnification, and my control card, I counted the twists per inch in each of the three samples.  Each sample is at least 4 inches long, so I was able to take counts from several different places on each.  There’s a range of twists per inch, so I chose the median number (12) as my target “ply twists per inch”.  Once I have a treadle count to properly ply,  I can carry on and enjoy it.  The finished yarn nearly fills a bobbin, and I transferred my plied yarn to another bobbin, keeping these separated at a distance to help even out twist.  I ran my yarn through a yarn meter when I wound it into a skein to find my yardage.  I noticed that my yarn pulled in a clockwise direction, but not tightly.  I gave it a good hot soak until the water was cool to set the twist.  I used a light weight (7 oz.) hung from my yarn until it was dry.  The pre-soak measurements are 434′ or 144.666 yds/132.28 meters and weighs 1.35 oz./39 gr.  I wish I had more of this yarn.  Maybe I’ll spin a lot more of it, dye it, and make some mittens since “Winter is Coming”.  I have some EPIC yarn that is useful both for band-weaving and tapestry weaving.  It’s a 2-ply yarn and while I haven’t used it in a project yet, I think it has all the characteristics that I want for those two weaving disciplines.  Curious about how my yarn compares, I’ll use my control cards.  The 2-ply ply-back samples in my control cards are indispensable.  The first sample looks almost exactly like the EPIC yarn, I believe the only difference is the sample on the control card hasn’t had a soak which would allow the fiber to relax and fluff slightly.   While the first sample yarn is 3-ply, if I want to make a yarn that’s compatible with the EPIC yarn, I should be able to recreate the yarn in the first sample with only 2 plys.  This would be nice when I want to make special dye lots or colorways to work with the EPIC without buying a lot of white.

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Weaving Woes

Pretty on both sides

Pretty on both sides

My 3-Color Inkle Pick-Up band is done and off the loom.  While I enjoyed weaving this band, it did not come out as well as I had hoped.  The design is beautiful and even, but the width of the band varies considerably.  It was difficult for me to maintain a consistent width.  I plan to weave another band, this time with Omega Sinfonia, and I think the second band will work out better.  I have a different design in mind for it.  I will give it a try to see how it looks.  I think the practice I gained from the first project in this new technique will pay off as I weave this new band.  It always seems as though I make every project twice.  I haven’t wet-finished or blocked my band yet.  It may make it better – it may make it worse – perhaps it won’t change it at all.

See the narrowing at the heavier motif?

See the narrowing at the heavier motif?

One problem is that I had too many warps for the width I was trying to weave.  Consistently pulling my weft for extra draw-in creates its own challenges.  It’s ideal to let the band be the natural width it wants to be, then maintain straight sides, checking frequently to be sure things aren’t drifting.  There is such a difference between trying to weave a band exactly 2 inches wide, and allowing the weaving to find its natural width.  Sampling goes a long way.  I counted threads from a band I had woven several years ago.  I used this as a measure for what I needed.  However, I obviously have a different weaving style today.  Wrapping the yarn around a ruler, I got the same warp count.  In the future, I will need to do more sampling, or care less about the specific width of my project, and let it be what it wants to be.  

Finished band

Finished band

I notice the band narrows at the motifs which have the largest amount of warps picked out from their natural shed.   It narrows at every Motif requiring a fair amount of pick-up.  I attribute some of this to the fact that there are no warps dropped, only picked up.  The rest to not having the foresight to predict and account for it.  The motifs that have only one color picked up, don’t have this problem.  It would seem that there is a finite amount of “picking up” you can do before there is simply too many warps sitting on top of your band and not enough on the bottom.  This allows the band to narrow very easily, and the weft doesn’t need to be pulled with the same tension.  When I look at Annie’s band with the same design, I have to look very closely to see any narrowing at the same motif – mine is more obvious.  I think the fact that Annie as a lot more experience with keeping clean selvedges, went a long way to making a nice looking band.  It could be that she has so much experience that she changes tension without realizing it – an intuition of what the textile needs.  Maybe I just need to listen to my weaving more.

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In for a Spin

 

Ready to wind into a ball

Ready to wind into a ball

My new Schacht Matchless Spinning Wheel has arrived.  I was really excited about it.  I purchased this wheel from Bountiful because of her quick replies to email, her price was significantly less, and it came with 2 pounds of Cheviot wool.  2 POUNDS!!!  That’s enough to get the feel of the wheel, spin some sample skeins, and several projects.  I see mittens in my future.  I first spun a quick partial bobbin and chain plied it to get a feel for the wheel.  It didn’t take long.  This wheel makes next to no noise, treadles smoothly, and adjusting is easy.  The adjustment knob is secure, and you can feel that the mechanism is machined well and built to last.  The wheel is sure-footed, it doesn’t slide or tip.  It comes in Cherry, but the Maple and American Black Walnut looks great without adding a larger price tag.  I have the bulky/Plying flyer package to expand my capabilities and ply a decent amount of yarn on one bobbin.

3 lengths of top for 3 sample singles

3 lengths of top for 3 sample singles

For my real first sample skein I broke off three 18″ pieces of the Cheviot wool top.  I want to spin a 3 ply yarn, and starting with relatively equal amounts of fiber helps me spin about the same amount of each single for less waste.  I initially thought I had the whorl set for a 15.5:1 ratio, that is to say, for every revolution of the drive wheel, the flyer will spin 15.5 times.  This ratio in combination with how fast I draft the fiber and allow it to draw in will determine how much twist will be in the yarn.  It’s easier and makes more sense to keep my treadling cadence constant through all my spinning endeavors and change ratio’s when I need less/more twist in my yarn.  I realized later that my ratio was actually 11:1, slower than I thought.  While spinning my first bobbin I allowed a small section to ply back on itself, and another to ply back on itself for a three-ply test strand.  I made a control card for the single, 2 ply, and 3 ply with the information on it.  I can stop periodically and check if the yarn thickness and twist is consistent.

Control card (incorrect ratio noted)

Control card (incorrect ratio noted)

 

After spinning each bobbin I transferred the yarn single to a different bobbin in such a way to avoid adding or subtracting twist.  When transferring, I separated the two bobbins by the length of the room to help even out inconsistencies in twist.  Transferring the yarn in such a way allows me to continue working on one bobbin without changing, load the single on the bobbin more evenly for plying, and help even out twist.  I realized after my first bobbin that the yarn I was producing was going to be firm.  Instead of abandoning this yarn, I decide to continue and use this yarn for tapestry weaving or nålbinding as it seems a tad firm for knitting anything close to the skin.  I plied the yarn in the usual way by separating each single between my fingers and controlling twist and take up with the other.  I plied with the same ratio as I spun my singles (11:1)  I counted the ply twists per inch on my control card and in the yarn, and was quite surprised that I have a tendency to “under ply”.  I removed my plied yarn from the bobbin and tied into a skein.  I finished it with a soak in hot water, and hung it to dry.  

Compare ply twist per inch

Compare ply twist per inch (wrong ratio noted)

 

I want to spin another sample skein, but I want a yarn that’s softer than the first.  I realize the staple length of this Cheviot is around 7 inches, maybe too long for the ratio I used.  I like to spin at a more meditative speed, so I will slow my roll so to speak by using a lower ratio.  I’ll change the whorl on my wheel to the 9:1 and spin another sample.  Since I decided to get this wheel, I stopped spinning on my other one.  That spinning vacation was long enough to soften my skills.  These samples are a great way to sharpen my skills, get acquainted with my new wheel, and have a little fiber to dye with those great black walnuts hulls I got from my cousin.  I look forward to the little projects I get to use up my small skeins on, and the larger spinning projects that are still in bags in the closet waiting to be carded or combed and spun.  The first larger spinning project I spin will give me the opportunity to put the plying flyer and jumbo bobbin into use.  Versatility is this wheels strong point, it will be a long time before I get tired of this wheel.

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Playing With 3 Colors

The pattern moves on and a band is created

The pattern moves on and a band is created

During our visit home, my cousin played the guitar while he and his wife sang for us.  I knew he played the guitar and they both sing, but we’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy it ourselves.  Every time he picked up his guitar I noticed there was something wrong with his guitar strap – it wasn’t handwoven >gasp<.  How did I neglect this glaring detail?  I decided that I must correct this grave injustice and weave my cousin a guitar strap.  I love learning new techniques, new to me at least, so I mulled the project over in my mind wondering what colors, type of design, and if there was a technique that I had a burning desire to try.  I instantly thought of a technique to fit the bill that a weaving colleague was working on.  Annie MacHale aka A Spinner Weaver has written a tutorial on 3 Color Pick Up.  It’s an old technique that’s been used In Lithuania for weaving sashes.  Annie deciphered the technique by studying the pictures of woven sashes.

Warping the loom.  Threading diagram.

Warping the loom. Threading diagram.

Only a minority of Lithuanian sashes were woven using this technique, as only the rare weaver had the skills to weave them.  Well, Annie is such a weaver.  She figured it out and wrote a clear tutorial on it.  Annie mentions in the tutorial that you should first have a solid base in Inkle Pick-Up Weaving, and that 3 color Pick-Up is the next logical step in Inkle weaving.  After giving it a try, I have to agree.  I can’t go too in-depth on the “how to” because it’s more of an all or nothing technique.  A little information makes you beg for more, and I have no intention on rewriting her tutorial.  Once you’re comfortable with the Baltic or Basket-weave style of Inkle Pick-Up then it’s quite easy to wrap your head around the possibilities of 3 color pick up.  I knew that I needed 3 colors with a high contrast.  Annie has a neat way to check for contrast  Use your digital camera in black and white mode.  You don’t even have to take the picture. just look at the view finder, and you will see if your yarns contrast well.  Good advice well worth remembering.  His favorite color is Pink, when I think back to the last time I wove with pink, the answer is – never.  After looking though the bands that Annie wove for samples I was inspired to use black and white with the pink.  The only satisfactory pink that I could find was perle cotton, so I’ll use 3/2 perle cotton for the strap, and I may make another (for his other guitar) with Omega’s Sinfonia in a color that is rose, not quite pink, but not-not pink either.  The Sinfonia works a tad better for guitar straps, but the 3/2 perle cotton will do just fine too.

Check warp path for mistakes frequently

Check warp path for mistakes frequently

 

Since this is the first time I’m using this technique, I want to learn it before I start working on my own designs, so I’m using a pattern that Annie used in her samples.  The logic in this works for me.  If I have difficulties, then I know the problem lies with me, otherwise I would be left wondering if I was trying to work outside the limitations of the technique.  It keeps frustrations to a minimum.  The next band I weave, I’ll have a broader understanding and familiarity with the technique, and be able to create and take the design in my own direction.  This technique is wonderful for diagonal lines, and the third color gives your design more depth.  Since all the yarns are the same weight, warping is fairly simple.  Annie gives two different types of threading or warping diagrams.  One of them gives the design more symmetry, although there are times that wouldn’t be necessary and the other threading would be sufficient.  It’s worth mentioning a second time that it’s important to have a firm foundation in Inkle Pick-Up before giving this a try.  You’ll have less frustration and more success when the basics are second nature.

DSC03834

There are ups and downs with this technique.  The downs are few, thankfully.  If you’re confused and need assistance there aren’t a lot of people you can run to – Yet.  I’ve always known Annie to be very generous with her experience and advice, but I hate to bug her – especially when it’s something I should “just get”.  I like to take projects to the guild and have one of the more experienced weavers say, “here’s your problem”.  With that said, I’m well into the band and haven’t felt the need for help, and the tutorial was easy to follow.  There are color changes, quite a few.  I prefer to cut and tie at every color change, but there are enough color changes in this band that I only created a knot when I had to join same colors.  This warping technique has created minor tension problems for me in the past, but it wasn’t an issue this time. Graphing and recording the pattern has proven to be troublesome.  Annie hasn’t formulated a good method to graphing a pattern and my attempts failed too, but I tried to graph before I worked with it and may make another attempt.  If you can only work from a graph, you’ll need to learn to improvise.

I like the smaller single diamond best

I like the smaller single diamond best

The ups on this technique abound!  All the warps are the same weight, no doubling or using thicker pattern threads.  All threads in the design area are fair play.  Continuous warping works well.  If you’re accustomed to working from a graph, this is your chance to design on the fly.  It’s nice to not have to lug your pattern with you, and be able to pick up and weave according to what you see in front of you.  It’s very “design as you weave” friendly.  Mistakes show up quickly, so you seldom need to pull out more than a pick or two.  Diagonal lines work great!  No dropping or pushing down!  I’ve found that most people who are new to Inkle Pick-Up have more difficulty with the dropping and pushing down of design threads, but this isn’t an issue in 3 color Pick-Up.  The opposite side of the band looks nice too.  Visually, the band has a lot more dimension – the third color gives you an additional shape to work with and gives the background some life.  I could prattle on about it, but I’d rather weave.  If you’re comfortable with Inkle Pick-Up and want to give this a try, her tutorial is available through her Etsy shop.

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New Trouble in Old Town

A family emergency has popped up.  I simply don’t have the time or presence of mind to compose a blog this week.  Every thing will be fine in no time and I’ll get my knuckles back to the grindstone, or the keyboard as the case may be.  I have a new project that I nearly have warped.  I’m really excited about it; it takes pick-up bandweaving to the next level.  I also have a new toy sophisticated piece of equipment that I’m dying to share with you.  I just hope I can remember where I left off and where I was headed with when the dust settles. 

 

Vacation Fiber

Mom and me at Dollywood

Mom and me at Dollywood

The time has come for my Mother and I to travel North and visit family.  Of course, this means I’ll be a stones throw from the Ohio Valley Natural Fiber Mill.  While I pack, I mentally start my fiber shopping list.  I decided to make this my only focus on fiber for this vacation, aside from the few projects I take to keep my hands busy.  Mom wants to go to Dollywood, so we’re going to make this our stop on the way to Ohio.  We can spend two nights and a full day, just enough time to be out of the car and get a taste of the area.  On our way home we’ll stop by Helen, GA. for a brief respite from the car and enjoy of the Alpine style village.  I love the Cherokee National Forrest and the Chattahoochee River, the rest is icing on the cake.

Quilts on display at church in Dollywood

Quilts on display at church in Dollywood

The Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, TN. area is a lot busier than I anticipated.  While the surrounding area is breathtaking, the three conjoined towns are busy, crowded, and full of traffic.  This area is loaded with local craftsmen, and I could have spent a week driving around visiting shops and studios, but we didn’t have that kind of time.  The area is well-known for its pottery, but the last thing I need is another obsession hobby, especially one that includes mud and high temperatures.  We settled on visiting the craftsmen in Dollywood.  Low and behold, if there is only one spinner/weaver in the lot, of course I will find them.  She has a modest shack with a display of some of her work.  She is a Craftsman, not a vendor, her name is Rosie Dupuy, the owner of Applewood Handwovens, and she lives in Bethel, Mo.  We hit it off immediately, and visited as long as I thought my Mother’s patience would last.  I could have sat there all day talking to Rosie, and I hope she responds to my email.  Out of respect, I refrained from snapping pictures of her and her work, but there’s a handy link to her website.  Dollywood has a church on the premises which is beautiful in its simplicity, construction, woodwork, and display of faith themed quilts.  The quilts are breathtaking in person, unfortunately they are all protected by glass.  I snapped some photos of them, but the glare and reflection poorly affects the quality of the image.  The handy work used in the quilt’s construction is remarkable.

Hand dyed skeins of yarn at Fiber Optics

Hand dyed skeins of yarn at Fiber Optics

Ohio greeted us with crisp air and Autumn colors.  The foliage was in full splendor, the rolling hills of Southern Ohio are great this time of year.  My cousin and I went to lunch and we stopped off at a yarn store that’s new in town.  Fiber Optics has an array of premium yarns that are dyed on the premises in an array of colors, and displayed in such a way to inspire.  I wanted to touch all of them and buy one of each – but I controlled myself.  They dye all the protein based fiber (wool, mohair, angora, silk, etc) in the back room, and send out the cellulose based yarn (cotton, ramie, bamboo, etc) to be dyed to their specs.  They have a nice courtyard that looks like it would be great for workshops, spin ins, knitting groups and Sunday tea.  The most awesome part was the fact that she has in stock the spinning wheel that I have on my wish list, and she let me sit in front of a floor model and spin a little to see how I like it.  I loved it, it’s moving from my wish list to my “must have” list.  I noticed that she has the tablet weaving cards that I was going to buy from another source for an upcoming workshop that I’m giving.  I was going to be charged a ridiculous amount for shipping, and I was fortunate that she had exactly the right amount.  Since she’s a Schacht dealer, her shop is like a candy store to me, she also has Schacht’s Inkle looms in stock and I’ve wanted another of these so I can work on one project and keep a loom available for workshops.  I would have bought one, but with our car as full as it was, I didn’t want it rolling around in the back getting damaged.  So I’ll just have to order one or come across another on the fly.

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The Ohio Valley Natural Fiber Mill has changed hands.  The new owners have been nice and welcoming in our email correspondence.  They kept the same staff on, which is great because they’re friendly, patient, and helpful.  They are still working out some details with some vendors, so some of their equipment inventory is on the low side during my visit, but my pocketbook is grateful.  It’s located in Sardinia, Ohio, and it’s a good 30 minute drive from where we were staying.  It was worth it, their prices are reasonable, and products in good shape.  I scored a pound of black alpaca, a pound of fawn color alpaca, a pound of white kid mohair, 1/2 – pound of grey/silver kid mohair, a pound of Merino wool top, 1/4 – pound of premium angora, and an ounce of white Firestar (just in case I need some sparkle).  The area is very rural, and the Amish are close at hand in case you need to stop by for some wholesome supplies.  

Woven scarf from India

Woven scarf from India

We ended our trip in Helen, GA.  There are lots of shops there, and we hit most of them.  I found a handwoven reversible scarf, with peacocks and peacock feathers.  I doubt that it will get excessive use, but it feels wonderful, so I’ll enjoy it on the few occasions I get.  It feels soft and the colors are vibrant.  I’m not a big fringe lover, so the short fringes are great for me.  Now that I’m home, I have a chance to label the bags of fiber, work on the sock I started on the trip, and connect with my new fiber friends.  I finished two projects on my trip, the cowl I made for my cousin, and a sock to complete a pair.  I began a pair of crocheted earrings for Dia de los Muertos.  I made one, but realized it would be too big for earrings (at least for me).  I finished one and gave it to my cousin’s daughter for a school event they were doing for this tradition.  We nicknamed him Stitches, and I’m sure she’ll give him a good home, I didn’t bother putting the hardware on since he won’t be hanging off anyone’s ear.  He was fun to make, and I photographed the process which utilized an adjustable ring that closes the beginning ring nice and tight.  I think it’s the best way to crochet in the round when you don’t want an opening in the center.  Its worked in rounds with shaping in the jaw area, embroidered, then two are sewn together and stuffed.  It’s been a productive and busy two weeks, and I’m left with more still to do than I got accomplished – when it’s something you enjoy, it’s a perfect end.  

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Comfort Food – Tuna Casserole

From The Pantry

From The Pantry

I write this post with someone special in mind.  When I was visiting in Washington State, my brother asked me to make a tuna casserole.  We had this on occasion growing up and he wanted to revisit this taste from his past.  He let me know that his girlfriend didn’t like tuna casserole, and he didn’t want me to be offended if she ate something else.  She tried it, had seconds, and asked me to jot down the directions for her.  Michelle, here is your recipe – It’s super simple, and while it has evolved over the years to accommodate my mother’s change in taste, it’s essentially the same.  You will need: 

  • 1 – 16 oz box of Shell Pasta
  • 1 – Large can of Tuna (9 oz) 
  • 1 – Small can of Tuna (5 oz)
  • 1 – Large can Evaporated Milk (12 oz)
  • 1 – Large can Cream of Chicken or Mushroom Soup (22 oz)
  • 1 – Small can Cream of Chicken or Mushroom Soup (10 oz)
  • Herbs and Spices of choice.  We use parsley, garlic and onion powder, black pepper, dash of cayenne or Cajun season, and paprika)
  • Bread Crumbs (optional)

Decide if you want to bake your casserole.  When we were growing up, we didn’t bake it – we simply dished it out of the pot.  Now I bake it with a topping.

Preheat oven to 375 – 400°.

Cook pasta according to directions – done but still firm.  Drain pasta, rinse well, and leave in colander.  Return empty pot to stove, add soups and evaporated milk.  Stir and heat over medium low until it’s smooth and hot.  Add any seasonings to taste.  Add pasta to the soup and stir until all the pasta is covered.  Add drained tuna and stir gently.  Once it has warmed through, serve immediately or pour into a greased/sprayed casserole dish.  For a topping, I use bread crumbs, or a combination of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, then a quick blast of non-stick spray over the top.  I bake until it’s golden brown and bubbly, 15 – 20 minutes (watch it!).  Let it rest until the bubbles stop before digging in.  In our house this makes 6 servings, any one else, 8.  It’s best served with Peas – either on the side or mixed in.

Brown & Bubbly

Brown & Bubbly

A note on ingredients and changes.  Originally we used 2 small cans of soup and 2 small cans of tuna or 1 large can of tuna.  This was a great way to feed a family quick, easy, and inexpensively.   Over time, Mom decided she wanted an extra can of soup to make it creamier. We added an extra can of soup, and I added a small can of tuna to compensate.  The soup has enough salt, so I never add salt, it’s easy to add at the plate if desired.  If you want the tuna to be in larger pieces use the Solid White Albacore, if you want it smaller use the Chunk White or Chunk Light.  I use one large can of solid white, and one small can of chunk white.  I like to use the Cream of Chicken with Herbs, and I can add less seasoning.  I prefer to use Tuna packed in water.  A great side note about this dish: it’s easy to keep all the ingredients stocked in your pantry.  Those days you think there’s nothing in the house for dinner, and don’t want to go to the store – there’s always tuna casserole.  Guten Appetit!

A smaller version: 1 – 12 oz box pasta, 1 – large or 2 – small cans of soup, 1 – large or  2 – small cans tuna, 2 small cans (5 oz) milk or 1 soup can regular milk.

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Tapestry Pillow

The time has come to finally do something with the tapestries I wove from the DVDs.  I have four of them, and I initially decided to make pillows with them.  I have one 14 inch firm pillow form, so I have everything I need to get one together.  Instead of sewing a backing to each one with fabric, I decided to use two tapestries for each pillow.  This way they’re reversible, even though they all contain the same colors – more or less.  I recently discovered a neat way to weave a decorative tubular band, seam two pieces of fabric together, and apply the band to the project hiding the raw edge – all at the same time.  I discovered this on Laverne Waddington’s blog.  She has a great tutorial for this process.  I charted a simple pattern for the band that contains three of the colors I used in the tapestries.  

Weave tubular band, seam, & apply - 1 step

Weave tubular band, seam, & apply – 1 step

The pattern for the band is simple and straight forward.  I’ve decided to use the small heddle that I just received from Poland to create my sheds.  The pattern is created by the way it’s warped, and no further manipulation is required other than to change from one shed to the other.  This leaves my mind and hands free to other tasks, like sewing, and holding everything under correct tension.  I created a warp with nearly an extra yard just in case I had some “start overs”.  I knew that the very beginning of this would be fiddly and tricky – I was right.  The task of holding the tapestries in place, holding the band tensioned, piercing the fabric in the correct place, passing the weft, changing the sheds, beating properly requires practice.  When I wasn’t happy with my beginning results, I would cut my weft, pick it out, and start over.  After I had a good 6 inches completed I decided that I didn’t care for the way the band changed the hand of the tapestry.  It left the edge too firm and bulky.  I think this technique would be better suited to seaming something warp-faced like the backstrap woven pieces I saw them used on.  The tapestries are heavy, and it’s difficult to hold them up and straight and weave a third piece over them like this.  I will try this technique on something different – something smaller.  I cut my weft and picked it out, I’ll weave this band flat and find a different purpose for it.

End seams with purl cotton

End seams with purl cotton

I’m left with completing these seams in the normal manner – with a needle and thread.  I tried several different combinations of stitches and threads, rejecting and picking out until I found the best way.  There are two types of sides to these tapestries.  The selvages on each side, which has the warps traveling parallel and the weft running at a right angle, and the ends which have a hem and the weft traveling parallel with the warp at a right angle.  I used Upholstery thread, of course I had only white, but it peeks out only a few times here and there.  I used black purl cotton on the ends as the hems are both black.  I used a mattress stitch, or something closely akin to the mattress stitch.  On the ends with the hem, I passed the needle under several warps on one piece then under several warps on the joining piece.  The needle’s path continued to travel forward, rather than back and forth.  I found that a back and forth path caused puckering, and a diagonal path caused the pieces to shift out of alignment.  On the selvages the needle traveled through the wefts in the same manner as it traveled through the warps on the ends.  I added a step to the stitch on the selvages because I wanted to include the side warp in this seam.  In this modified stitch, the needle passed through the last weft turns, then around the warp, into the joining fabric – going around its warp, brought to the inside of the seam and passing through a few weft turns.  

Finished pillow side A

Finished pillow side A

One tapestry was a tad longer than the other, but they have an equal width.  To ease the longer piece to the shorter, I took a diagonal stitch every now and then.  This would grab more cloth on one piece than the other – It’s not perfect, but It smoothed out well.  A few things I learned from this project is not to leave two projects joined – not unless they butt against each other and nothing needs to be folded back, or they can easily be separated.  A zipper would have been a nice addition, but luckily each side has its own length of thread, so I can pick out the seam on one side without compromising the other seams.  Weave a longer hem!!! The double warp I used on each side was a good idea (thank you, Nancy Harvey), it makes a strong base to have in a seam.  Don’t end a weft at the selvage – I’ve heard this from others, but I had to learn it myself.  The Navajo method for ending wefts in the shed is useful when there will be any padding on the back of the weaving.  Any bulk on the back of the weaving can easily show through when you have a pillow form pressing against it – even just the weft tails.  Now I have a narrow band to weave, there could be worse things.

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