A Year of Projects: 2016, Week 1

I have not yet written crafting goals for 2016.  November and December were pretty crazy around here!  First was my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday on Thanksgiving Day.  Then there was the Weavers of Orlando Annual Sale, followed the next weekend by the Holiday Party.  Then we had Christmas festivities with my family.  On December 28, I flew to Indiana to play matron of honor for Stacy’s wedding on January 2.  Chris flew up on December 31 so we got to spend New Year’s Eve together.  We just flew home this afternoon, to a cooler and wetter Florida than I left last Monday.  Stacy’s reception was held in a building at the same fairgrounds that hosts The Fiber Event.  It was so strange to be in that building without seeing rows of lovely fiber, yarn, and tools for sale!

This past week has been busy as the wedding preparations including baking 680 cookies and a 5-tier wedding cake!  Stacy, her mother, her aunt, her sister-in-law, and I baked the cookies last Wednesday.  Fortunately, we had the use of Stacy’s parents’ church kitchen, which had a commercial oven that could fit 150 cookies at once.  We baked all 680 cookies in only 3.5 hours!

Here I am putting the last batch in the oven!
Here I am putting the last batch in the oven!

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After baking cookies, we started on the cakes.  I was the lead decorator and giver of orders, as I have been decorating cakes since I was 12!  I made the cakes and the lemon curd.  Stacy made the chocolate ganache and all the buttercream and mixed lemon buttercream and raspberry buttercream.

I may have used this cookbook once or twice.
I may have used this cookbook once or twice.

Her mother and aunt cut out fondant Christmas trees and painted them with powdered food coloring.  I showed Stacy’s sister-in-law how to pipe miniature Christmas trees and she cranked out 250 of them, while Stacy’s mother went behind her putting the little stars on top of each tree.

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The army of trees.

Stacy’s brother cut the dowel rods that help support each tier (using a pipe cutter borrowed from a cousin) and her father cut and sharpened the dowel rod that goes from the top to bottom through all the tiers.  When it came time to stack all the cakes, Chris helped me line up my edges correctly.  At every step of the way, Stacy and I discussed colors and placement of pieces.  This is the first time I’ve made a cake in such a collaborative fashion.  It was so much fun, and I love the result!

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Now that the wedding is over and I’m home, it’s time to look ahead and lay out my goals for 2016.

Taking Stock

Before I start making ambitious plans for myself, I wanted to look back at 2015, to see what I finished and what remains unfinished.  I’m working on a slide show of all the projects I finished this year, and I will publish that later this week.  Today, I’m making a list of all my WIPs.  It’s a scary list, even though it only includes projects I’ve actually started, not everything in my mental queue!

Knitting WIPs

Projects started in 2015

  • TKGA Master Knitter, Level 1
    • This week I will start working on addressing my gauge issue
  • Splash Socks (started in April 2015)
  • Tier Scarf (started in June 2015)
  • Miranda Shawl (started in July 2015)
  • Bubbles Baby Blanket (started in July 2015)
  • Morrigan Shawl (started in August 2015)
  • Begonia Swirl Shawl Redux (started in August 2015)
  • Finishing
    • I still have all the sweaters I got from S.  They need to be seamed and blocked.  I believe there’s 10 or 11 projects right there!

Projects started prior to 2015

  • Dishcloth Advent Calendar
    • I need to knit or crochet 18 each of 25 different patterns.  This is a list of the knitted dishcloths I’ve finished.
    • 18 leaves
    • 18 tribble scrubbies
    • 18 waffle stitch
    • 4 brick pattern
    • 16 illusion heart
    • 4 random designs (1 each of 4 different patterns)
  • Traveling Scarf
  • Evenstar
  • Baby Blue Monster

Crochet WIPs

  • Granny Square Blanket (started in 2014)
  • Skulls and Roses Scarves (started in October 2015)
  • Dishcloth Advent Calendar
    • I need to knit or crochet 18 each of 25 different patterns.  This is a list of the crochet dishcloths I’ve finished.
    • 18 hyperbolic
    • 9 ladderstitch
    • 4 or 5 diagonal (corner to corner)

Spinning WIPs

  • Camel Down / Silk Blend (started in September 2015)
  • Three Feet of Sheep (started in August 2015)
  • One pound of BFL (started in November 2015)

Weaving WIPs

Since the only loom I’ve been using is my rigid heddle, I only have one weaving project in process!  I started this scarf on December 5, 2015 while at the Weavers of Orlando Annual Sale, so that I could demo weave.  I talked to many people throughout the days of the sale and did a fair bit of weaving.  I haven’t had time to work on it since.

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In addition to this project, I now have the storage unit full of weaving things to sort.  This includes minor repairs to one loom (the 36″ Harrisville) and probably a complete refinish of a second loom (the 48″ Macomber).  I’m hoping to the the storage unit cleaned out by mid-February, though the refinishing job will most likely take longer than that.

Dyeing

Dyeing doesn’t really have WIPs as something is either dyed or it isn’t.  But this is a list of dyeing projects I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t.

  • Dye Maple Leaf Shawls (pending since December 2014)
  • Dye Triangles (pending since August 2014)
  • water source / pH experiment (pending since early 2015)

I’m not sure if this is actually all my WIPs.  It’s everything I could find laying about or listed in my Ravelry project pages, but I’m sure I missed more.

A Year of Projects: Week 51

I haven’t updated my progress since week 29, back in July!  Since we’re coming to the end of the year, it’s time to review my goals and start thinking about goals for next year.  Anything that’s crossed through in the list is something I did not get to at all.  If I did any work on a goal, even if it isn’t finished, I kept it on the list and made notes about its status.  In early January, I will publish a slide show with pictures of every project I finished this year and a list of goals for next year.  While I didn’t finish everything I hoped to finish this year, I am happy with what I accomplished.  I learned a great deal, especially about crochet, and I’m looking forward to learning more in 2016!

Review of 2015 Goals

Knitting

  • Knit myself a sweater  Moved to 2016.  In July, my friend Stacy got engaged and I’ve been working on projects for her wedding instead of knitting a sweater!
  • Improve my finishing techniques
  • Finish MHK Level 1 
    • First 3 swatches finished by June 24, 2015
    • Swatch #14 finished July 11, 2015
    • Swatches 1-12 knit on size 7 needles, finished by July 19, 2015
    • I did actually finish the swatches by the dates listed here.  I went to Masters’ Day at the TKGA Conference and learned that I had guttering issues I need to work out before finishing my swatches.  I haven’t gotten back to my swatches yet.
  • Dishcloth Advent Calendar
    • Tribbles, finished January 18, 2015
    • Leaves, finished March 30, 2015 but never blogged
    • Waffle Stitch, finished November 18, 2015 but never blogged
    • Heart Illusion Dishcloths (in progress; need to knit two more dishcloths and weave in ends on two finished dishcloths)
    • While I made progress on the Dishcloth Advent Calendar project, it is not complete and will be rolled over into 2016
  • Charity Knits
    • Mock Rib Scarf, finished January 18, 2015
    • Emergency Scarf, finished June 1, 2015
    • A Tisket, A Tasket Scarf, finished September 28, 2015
    • Traveling Scarf, finished September 28, 2015
    • On Location Scarf, finished November 25, 2015
  • Do some test knits
  • Finish or frog all UFOs
    • Traveling Scarf
      • This is different than the Traveling Scarf listed above under Charity Knits.  This one is still in progress!
    • Bigger on the Inside Hat, frogged December 2015
    • Evenstar
    • Quinn Bag, finished July 2015
    • Baby Blue Monster
  • Socks
  • Other Projects
  • Design at least one project from scratch
    • Super Secret Shawl, finished June 1, 2015
    • Traveling Scarf, also listed under Charity Knits above, published free pattern on blog and Ravelry, November 2015

Crochet

  • Learn to read crochet patterns
  • Learn all the basic crochet stitches.
  • Make at least one non-granny square crochet project
    • Five crocheted skulls & roses scarves, three finished by October 31, 2015; two still pending assembly
    • Hyperbolic Dishcloths, finished October 3, 2015
  • Dishcloth Advent Calendar
    • Diagonal Crochet Dishcloths (in progress)
    • Hyperbolic Crochet, finished October 3, 2015

Spinning

  • Breed Specific Spinning
    • Cormo, finished September 2015
    • BFL (in progress)
  • Learn to spin on a drop spindle, goal moved to 2016

Weaving

  • Continue playing with color and weave drafts
    • Ravenclaw Houndstooth Scarf, finished January 19, 2015
    • Solid Warp, alternating picks, one of which matches warp, finished December 4, 2015
  • Learn pick up stick drafts
  • Learn Inkle Weaving
    • Completed first inkle band as part of the “All the Crafts” Hat, September 30, 2015
  • Learn Kumihimo braiding
  • Explore Twill weaves on the floor loom
  • Make items for the Guild Sale
  • Other

Dyeing

  • Finish dyeing the MAPLE LEAF Shawls
  • pH / water source experiment
  • Return to dye triangles project

Name that Tool

It’s a busy time of year, what with Christmas coming up and my friend Stacy getting married on January 2.  I have a long list of things to do, and a growing panic that I won’t get everything done.  I don’t really have time to sort through all the weaving things I bought last weekend, but I have not been able to entirely ignore the siren call of my new storage unit.  I’ve gone twice, for about 1/2 hour each time.

I started cleaning the dust off the Macomber loom.  I looked through 2 boxes of books and selected a few to bring home now (more on this in another post over the weekend).  I sorted through a basket full of miscellaneous tools, most of which were shuttles of various types and sizes.

In the basket of miscellaneous tools, I found four variations on a tool, but I don’t know what it is.  At first I thought that they were pieces to be assembled into something else; now I think they are their own thing.  But I don’t know what that thing is.  Can you name that tool in three pictures?

Here they are in the closed position.  The right-hand metal band on each piece slides down so that the middle piece can be folded out.

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Here’s what they look like in the open position.  When the middle piece is folded out, you can see that it has holes drilled all along it.  I’m not sure if the eye hooks come out so that you can move that middle piece so it will be a different length.  I was afraid I would break the tool if I tried to remove the eye hook, so didn’t play with it at all.

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On the back side, the tools have sharp pointy teeth at each end.  It was these teeth that made me think that these were parts of a larger object.  I thought they were fasteners to connect two pieces of wood.

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The only reason I’m thinking each might be an individual tool is because so far I haven’t found any other parts that seem to attach to these.  The four items are all different sizes and different brands, so they do not attach to each other.  I do have two or three bundles of long pieces of wood that I haven’t yet unbundled.  The cursory glance I gave those bundles when we were loading and unloading the van led me to believe that they are full of warp sticks and lease sticks, but it’s possible that I might find pieces that belong with these four mystery pieces.  Since I don’t know what the four mystery pieces actually are, I might not recognize other pieces that belong with them!

So, interwebs, what say you?  Can you help a newbie weaver out?  What are these things?

OLAD

OLAD = Obsessive Loom Acquisition Disorder.  Weavers on Ravelry often joke about the way weavers tend to acquire a herd of looms.  When they get a new loom, they say things like, “OLAD strikes again!”  I don’t like the term, but it’s probably fair to say that it applied to me this past week.  It all started when I wandered onto Craigslist looking at loom ads because I want a loom small enough to fold up and fit in the back seat of my car so that I can take workshops and classes at my local guild.  I came across this ad:

These are all in storage currently. Mom has retired from weaving. There is a 10×12 Macomber 48″, a 36″ Harrisville, and a mystery loom in a wardrobe box that was purchased but not opened or used.  There are many additional items and instructional books and magazines concerning the craft. There is also a number of bags containing spools of various types and colors of thread used for weaving.  The plan is to get it all gone at once to someone interested in weaving as a life style. I will consider a reasonable offer, but the asking price has been reduced to $1,500.00  Thank you for your consideration.

I wasn’t looking for any other non-portable looms.  I haven’t even used the floor loom I already have — it’s been sitting in my dining room since February, looking forlorn!  I don’t have space in my house for 3 more looms either.  But if I wanted a brand new Macomber, the same style mentioned would cost almost $6000.  A new Harrisville of that size is $2500 or so.  I could keep two of the four (counting the one I have) looms and sell the other two, perhaps recouping most or all the cost of the entire storage unit.

So I e-mailed the seller.  How long have the looms been in storage?  Are they operational?  Answers: 5 years.  Yes, I think so, though an ex-friend cut the cords on the Harrisville.

I asked my husband what he thought.  “Whatever you want to do,” he said.  “But you probably don’t want to bring them straight in the house.  They might need cleaning and we don’t have space.”

And so I went ahead.  I asked about sizes of things so I could figure out the right size truck to rent.  I arranged for a 9′ Uhaul cargo van and a climate controlled storage unit.  I asked a friend to make the 2 hour trip to Tampa and back with me to help me retrieve the looms.  And yesterday, I set out on the epic adventure.

It started a little bumpy.  My friend arrived at the UHaul just after I did, but she was clearly sick.  I told her to go home and rest and called my father.  A couple of days before, he’d volunteered to go with me, but I’d already asked my friend.  He said he could still go, and I’m so glad he came!  He’s an excellent packer and I don’t think we would have fit everything in the truck if he wasn’t there!  The Uhaul was out of keys to the exterior building of the door where my unit is.  The manager ran to Lowe’s to get keys made while another employee worked through all the paperwork with me and showed me the unit.  I still had to wait an additional 10 minutes for the manager to get back; I wasn’t sure I’d be back before they closed for the day and I needed to be sure we could get into the unit.  Of course, I sat in the Uhaul van and crocheted while I waited.

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After that, it was smooth sailing.  I picked up my father and we drove down to Tampa.  We arrived at the unit at pretty much the same time as the seller.  The condition and quantity of items was just as described:

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In fact, there was another loom in there that the seller didn’t know about.  See those pieces on the left hand side, just under the pipes?  That’s another loom.  It’s a 4-shaft, 4-treadle counterbalance loom with about a 30″ weaving width.  I think all the pieces are there, but it looks like it has some damage to the wood and I’m not sure if it will be salvageable.  The bags you see in the picture are mostly full of yarn.  Some of the boxes hold yarn, but most of them are weaving and spinning magazines and books.  I’ve only taken a quick look through them, but there’s only one or two books that I already own and several out-of-print books that were on my wish list.  You can’t see the tapestry loom, the basket full of various types of shuttles, the 3 warping boards, an umbrella swift, and few miscellaneous pieces of equipment whose function remains a mystery to me.

We packed everything into the van and headed back home.  My husband met us at our storage unit and helped us unpack.  As we put things into the new storage unit, I decided to throw out some of the rug yarn (those big bags of white stuff in the back of the picture above).  The bags were fragile.  They split — or may have been chewed by rodents.  I didn’t want to take a chance, so it went straight to the trash.

Now I have a storage unit of my own.

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be cleaning and sorting.  I’m sure more will be thrown away.  Some things will come home with me.  Some will be sold or donated or gifted.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Weaving Shaker Rugs by Mary Elva Congleton Erf

Weaving Shaker Rugs: Traditional Techniques to Create Beautiful Reproduction Rugs and Tapes by Mary Elva Congleton Erf (affiliate link)

Erf is an accomplished weaver who has studied Shaker textiles for at least 30 years and has woven many reproduction rugs (and other textiles) which appear in Shaker museums.  Her introduction describes the history of Shaker textile production, provides background on the Shaker Millenial Laws which governed all aspects of Shaker life including the colors used in textiles created in the Shaker villages, and tells how she discovered a familial connection to one of the Shaker communities.

In the introduction, Erf mentions that Shakers used rugs created using a variety of techniques.  However, all the rugs in the second half of the book are “weft-plied rugs.”  This term is never explicitly defined in the book, and I was confused until I got to the end of the introductory material, where she describes the general steps of recreating the rugs.  It means that the Shakers took three (or, more rarely, four) strands of finished carpet wool yarn and plied them together on a spinning wheel, using the newly created chunky yarn as the weft in the rugs.  The three strands were each a different color, creating a barber pole look in the new yarn.  Sometimes the new yarn was plied with a Z twist (spun in a clockwise direction) and sometimes it was plied with an S twist (spun in a counterclockwise direction).  Often, one rug contains both Z twist and S twist yarns.  The Shakers placed Z and S twist yarns next to each other in the weaving, which creates chevron patterns.  Wool fabric strips were used as weft to separate patterned sections of the plied wool weft.  The book focuses on the weft-plied rugs because this style is known to be created by the Shakers themselves not commercially made, the technique is unique, and several examples of original weft-plied rugs still exist.

The second part of the book describes the process of reproducing approximately 20 specific rugs which are part of museum collections.  This section of the book is organized by Shaker community; the rugs represented in the book come from five different communities in the eastern United States.  For each rug, the author starts with a page analyzing the details of the original rug, including the dimensions of the rug, the type of yarn and fabric used for warp and weft, the twist direction of the weft yarns, and any other distinguishing characteristics.  She also includes at least one picture of the original rug.  This analysis is followed by the details of how to reproduce that rug, including which yarns and fabrics she used and which Cushing acid dyes she used to make colors that match those in the original rug.  Many of the rugs are finished with handwoven bias tape; the book also includes analysis of the tapes and instructions on weaving them.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading this book.  I loved seeing pictures of the original rugs and the many marginal boxes containing quotes from the dyeing and weaving journals kept by the Shakers.  I did find the book to be rather repetitive, but a good deal of that repetitiveness reflects an expectation that people won’t read the book all the way through.  For example, in the introduction, at the end of every description on how to create a reproduction rug, and in the Glossary, Erf explains that the finished rugs will need to be pressed with a heavy iron and that she has a dry cleaner in her town who will do this for her.  Even if you’re skipping around in the book, you aren’t going to miss this potentially important information!  Some of the repetitiveness is not so easily forgiven.  The introduction is particularly disjointed.  I think of the introduction in this type of book as one long essay.  In this book, each heading within the introduction is like its own essay, with much repetition of information under other headings, particularly of the Millenial Law quote prescribing certain color schemes, but allowing that “other kinds now in use may be worn out.”

I’m always on the hunt for fiber arts books that are more than just patterns or drafts.  I love books of essays or history and detailed techniques.  Weaving Shaker Rugs has all of this, as well as detailed instructions for making the Shaker-style rugs.  Since following the instructions requires flipping back and forth between the general instructions in the introduction, the pages for the specific rug you’re attempting to reproduce, the glossary, and cross-references in Peter Collingwood’s out-of-print book The Techniques of Rug Weaving, I expect it will be challenging for anyone, especially a new weaver like me, to actually create a Shaker rug using this book.  While the projects are more involved than I’m ready to take on as a fledgling weaver, I did learn a lot about the Shakers and rug weaving.  I enjoyed reading the book from cover to cover and will keep it on my shelf for when I’m ready to tackle a Shaker-style rug!