Spin Span Spun

Ashford traveler spinning wheel

So I’m polishing my wheel.  It’s not what you think. Haven’t used either of my spinning wheels in quite some time. And well, frankly I miss the rhythmic pull of the yarn and watching a cloud of soft fiber softly twist and wind onto the bobbin. And finally  being rewarded with a luscious colorful skein of handspun yarn that can be used in my weaving.

Some of my handspun skeins of yarn

I have been spinning nearly as long as I have been weaving which I started in 1980. But I have not spent as much time at the wheel as I have had at the loom. So I have some catching up to do. The lovely handspun art yarns that I have seen on etsy recently has inspired me to start spinning again and create something beautiful. Just go to etsy and search for “Art Yarn”.  Some very talented spinners there.

Then there is Pluckyfluff. Pluckyfluff if you don’t already know is the Queen of handspun art yarn.  This is the very talented and creative Lexi Boeger from California who travels the world to share her skills and expertise with other handspinners and fiber lovers who want to create luscious and unusual art yarns. She has written two books:

Handspun Revolution is sadly out of print!

Intertwined, the book is a piece of art by itself

And she is coming to Memphis! And I am one of the lucky ones who will be sitting at her feet, absorbing all of her wisdom and hopefully creating something beautiful. I am especially interested in spinning with non-traditional materials. I look forward to using my small collection of art wire and spinning that as the core around which I will wrap colorful locks of mohair and odds and ends of ribbons, lace and bits of bamboo yarn leftover from my weaving projects. Maybe I can finally figure out how to weave a 3-D project on my floor loom with yarn that will hold a stiff shape on its own.

Reclaimed fabric is another non-traditional fiber I plan to use in my spinning.  If you have read some of my older posts, then you know that I like to use fabric from clothes that I have recycled into strips and incorporated into my weaving projects.  This is something that many of my weaving students like to do.  I can’t wait to use “rag” strips and twist them around metallic yarn, handmade paper, ribbon, felted bits and other reclaimed material. Fabulous! Art yarn indeed!

So I am polishing my wheel, polishing my dormant spinning skills and gathering some of my stash of hand dyed fiber.  Fiber that has been sitting around for awhile and waiting for this day.  Yippeee!

Hand dyed mohair locks, purple and orange

Hand dyed mohair locks, green and magenta

Advertisements

Kreativ Blogger

A couple of weeks ago  Bety from Deep End of the Loom nominated me to be recognized as a “Kreativ Blogger”.  It was quite flattering and an honor to know that there are talented fiber artists out there who are reading my blog and may even be getting something out of it!  I truly appreciate that! And I especially appreciate Bety’s acknowledgment of my efforts.

The Kreativ Blogger nomination is an excellent way to share one’s passions with the online community and in turn learn from others.  The origin of this award and it’s logo was designed by Norwegian blogger Hulda who created it in May 2008  from fabric scraps:

Kreative Blogger

Once a blogger has been nominated for this honor, there are 7 criteria that the honoree needs to follow in order to pass this award on to others

1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link the person who nominated you.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that no one would really know.
5. Nominate seven ‘Kreativ Bloggers’.
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

Now for the seven things about me.  Those of you who have been followers of my writings, rantings, and whatnot, know that I am a fanatic when it comes to music of all kinds.  So in the “kreativ” spirit of this award, I am posting seven  links to seven songs that I think will reveal a few things about me that most of you won’t already know.

1. “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys.

It’s not what you think.  I’ve lived in two countries and fourteen cities.

2.  “Ragmamarag” by Robbie Robertson and the Band

I am a mama, and occasionally I complain.

3.  “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley

I’ve been told I’m paranoid.  And being in Memphis, I had to include one by Elvis.

4.  “Twisted” by Joni Mitchell

Just listen to the lyrics….

5.  “Your Mind is on Vacation and Your  Mouth is Working Overtime” by Mose Allison

Because I’ve been told I talk too much and what I say may or may not be about nothing.

6.  “Red Red Wine” by UB 40

I also enjoy good food and good wine.

7.  “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley

Because life is too short….

That was the easy part.  Now for the hard part.  There are many, many more blogs that I would like to add to this list of seven.  But as I am limited to only seven, here are my nominees in no particular order for “Kreativ Blogger”.

Woven Thoughts – also spinning, and dyeing,in fact anything fiber:  http://www.saralamb.blogspot.com

Mulberries and Dew-ethics, sustainability, weaving, and a love of the handcrafted: http://taliweinberg.wordpress.com

Meridian Jacobs – life on the farm and at the loom:  http://meridianjacobs.wordpress.com

Book Girl-random musings on my bookish (and occasionally other) passions:  http://ashevillebookgirl.blogspot.com

My Handbound Books-bookbinding blog:  http://myhandboundbooks.blogspot.com

Getting Purly With It-adventures and yarn lustings of a passionate knitter:  http://gettingpurlywithit.wordpress.com

Buy-A-Thread-adventures in the skein trade:  http://buyathread.wordpress.com

Congratulations to all the nominees.  May we continue to be honored by your words, photographs and creativity.

Spinning Without Sweating

My friend Bill is passionate about spinning.  I share his enthusiasm when he talks about the rush he gets when he spins, how he tries to maintain the same wheel speed for an hour, how much he sweats.  Wait.  He sweats?  Bill spins on a Tunturi in a gym.  I spin on an Ashford at home.  Both excellent pieces of equipment I might add.

Ashford and Louet exercise equipment

Ashford and Louet - exercise equipment?

While weaving is my vocation, spinning is my avocation.  I taught myself to spin over 20 years ago, and try to spin whenever I have the chance.  Spinning is for meditating.  I tried to learn meditation and yoga on numerous occasions, but I just cannot sit still for any length of time.  My mind tends to wander and a movie starts showing on the insides of my eyelids.  Though I admire and even love some people who are able to meditate and do yoga, it just isn’t my schtick. Besides, the grandparents of my generation were always touting “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop!”  Well, devil be gone while my fingers draft the fibers as they twist and the yarn winds onto the bobbin.  Right before my very eyes! Other spinners will agree what a rush it is to see this.

Mostly I have spun merino, alpaca, mohair and some silk.  Blending fibers is also very satisfying.  I like to experiment with fibers and colors , sometimes even adding sparkle, so I’ll be surprised with the finished yarn.  It’s a little like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

skeins of my handspun yarn

Skeins of my handspun yarn

I’m delighted to see a resurgence in spinning.  It’s not seen as a dying art any more where it is only done by ancient and scary looking women dressed in colonial garb at historic sites and re-enactments.   Many have discovered the same passion as I have found primarily because of its meditative qualities.  The regular rhythm of the treadle and wheel moving together also has a calming effect.   And the spinner  gets the benefit of creating beautiful and functional yarn.    In January of 2006, the venerable New York Times ran this article describing  spinning’s revival as a hot and trendy activity that people from all generations come together to do.   So is spinning the new knitting?

Let me remind you too of Mahatma Gandhi.  He said “For me, nothing in the political world is more important than the spinning wheel.” (Hochberg, Spin Span Spun, 1979)   He would spin half an hour each day and believed that with everyone spinning yarn, this would create a “spiritual revolution” that will eventually remove violence from the world.

Wool fiber, drop spindle, handspun yarn:  the tools for world peace

Wool fiber, drop spindle, handspun yarn: the tools for world peace

Back to my own spinning projects.  I still have several bags of alpaca that need to be spun and lots of beautiful hand dyed mohair locks that I purchased some time ago from Apple Leef Farm.  Working with these fibers and a spinning wheel will bring  many hours of calm and meditation.  And hopefully peace.  I won’t need a bike, and I won’t need a yoga mat.

Dyed mohair locks from Apple Leef Farm

Dyed mohair locks from Apple Leef Farm

I just have to find time to do it.  Pity I don’t weave with wool.  Wool scarves make me sweat.

Weaving for Knitters

Memphis is a haven for knitters.  For a small city, there are numerous opportunities for knitters to buy yarn, fiber, learn to knit, volunteer to knit, or just gossip and knit.  There are 4 yarn shops:  Yarn to GoYarniverseStash, and  Rainbow Fibres (which is technically in Germantown). Not to mention craft shops such as Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Hancock’s Fabrics, and the soon to open Jo-Ann Fabrics.  All these shops offer classes, and there are also local guilds offering knitting opportunities.  Memphis knitters also have quite a presence on Ravelry.  Then the volunteer opportunities to knit are endless.  Just to name a few:  MIFA lovecaps and The Mother Bear Project.

But surprisingly, one thing that Memphis knitters don’t seem to do a lot of is weave!  The beautiful knitting yarns that are offered locally can also be used to weave beautiful items such as scarves, shawls, jackets, skirts, and purses. And that seems to be a well kept secret here in Memphis. Here are some scarves that I wove with knitting yarns.

Handwoven scarf

Handwoven scarf

handwoven scarf

handwoven scarf

The blue scarf was woven with a weft of Lion Brand “Moonlight Mohair”, a blend of mohair/acrylic/cotton, and polyester metallic.  It is machine washable.  The pink scarf was woven with a weft of Paton’s “Lacette”, a blend of nylon, acrylic and mohair.  The warp for each of these scarves was a fine silk and wool blend weaving yarn.  Both of these scarves are available at my etsy shop, MemphisWeaver.

Okay, so what am I getting at?  Well, I will be teaching a weaving class using knitting yarns at the Memphis Botanic Garden. It will be held Saturday, February 7 and will last all day from 10 AM to 4 PM.  We will be weaving scarves, and so the name of the class is Weave a Scarf for your Valentine! Just think, you’ll be able to learn to weave, work with beautiful knitting yarns, and have a warm and lovely scarf to give to the one you love (or you can keep it for yourself!)

Here is the loom we will be using in class.

Schacht rigid heddle loom

Schacht rigid heddle loom

This is a 20 inch wide rigid heddle loom made by Schacht.  Students will learn how to “dress” the loom, that is how to set it up with a warp of smooth sportweight knitting yarn.  This we will thread through the holes and slots of the rigid heddle, wind it on the back beam and then tie onto  the front.  This will take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Then we’ll have a lunch break, and I must add that the Botanic Garden’s cafe, Fratelli’s makes the most fabulous sandwiches and soup.  Or you can bring your own lunch too! The rest of the afternoon will be spent weaving the scarf,  cutting it off of the loom and knotting the fringes.

Here is a sampling of some of the yarns you can choose to weave with at the class.

Knitting yarn than can be used for weaving

Knitting yarn than can be used for weaving

Generally the smooth yarns are used in the warp, and the textured yarns are used in the weft, that is the yarn that is woven through the warp using a shuttle.  Knitters, please bring yarn from your stash that you would like to use for your project.  If you are a spinner, then, by all means, bring your handspun and we’ll see if it can work for either warp or weft.  I will have yarn available as well and will only charge $3 a ball.  It takes about 3 balls to weave a scarf measuring 7″ X 65″.

We will spend some time discussing looms as well, as there always are students in the beginning classes that fall in love with weaving, and need to go right out to purchase a loom.  A book that has some inspirational projects that use knitting yarns for weaving is the Ashford Book of Weaving for Knitters by Rowena Hart.

The Ashford Book of Weaving for Knitters

The Ashford Book of Weaving for Knitters

I will be bringing this book for students to look through as well as many other books with projects for the rigid heddle looms.

So knitters in Memphis and everywhere, put down your needles just for a few hours and pick up a shuttle instead.  If you love yarn and the feel of fiber, as all knitters do, then learning to weave on a rigid heddle loom is an easy and affordable way to get started.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Today is my birthday, so it’s as good a time as ever to start this thing.  To give you  some background:  I started kindergarten during the Eisenhower administration (who’s that, you say!), I live in Memphis, and I am a professional weaver and weaving instructor.  First thought as I woke up this morning was trying to remember the name of a tune that kept playing in my head.  I finally realized that it was Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade. So it really is  the beginning of the end.  My husband’s first words to me today were “Well you’re still alive!” and I responded by telling him that I had to check today’s obituaries first to see if this was some kind of cruel hoax of an afterlife.  Well, at least I’m not dependent on a laxative yet, and I have all but three of my original teeth.

So as a birthday gift to myself and to share with you, here is a slide show of my current weaving project — a bamboo kimono woven in an 8 harness shadow weave adapted from Marian Powell’s 1000 (+) Patterns in 4, 6 and 8 Harness Shadow Weaves. Warp and weft are  Bambu 7 available from Woodland Woolworks. The kimono will be part of an exhibit scheduled for February 2009 at the Shainberg Gallery of the Memphis Jewish Community Center.

winding a warp of 5 1/2 yards of 312 ends bamboo yarn on a warping reel

#1 winding a warp of 5 1/2 yards of 312 ends bamboo yarn on a warping reel

Detail of warp chain after completion of winding on warping reel.  Note use of "pony poppers" as choke ties.

#2 Detail of warp chain after it is taken off the warping reel. Note use of "pony poppers" as choke ties.

Warp is wrapped around breast beam in preparation of sleying dents. Loom is dressed from front to back in this case.

#3 Wound warp is wrapped around breast beam in preparation of sleying dents. Loom is dressed from front to back in this case.

Winding order of ends are preserved in a cross to maintain the correct order of threads.

#4 Winding order of ends are preserved in a cross to maintain the correct order of threads before sleying.

Each thread or end was "sleyed" into a dent of the reed.  Hook used for sleying is displayed on top of beater.

#5 Each thread or end was "sleyed" into a dent of the reed. Hook used for sleying is displayed on top of beater.

Each thread is then threaded through the individual eyes of the "heddles" from the back of the loom.  The small end of the sley hook is used for this threading process.

#6 Each thread is then threaded through the individual eyes of the "heddles" from the back of the loom. The small end of the sley hook is used for this threading process.

Ends of the warp are tied to the apron bar at the back of the loom.

#7 Ends of the warp are tied to the apron bar at the back of the loom.

Warp is wound onto the back beam using a roll of wallpaper between layers to maintain tension.

#8 Warp is wound onto the back beam using a roll of wallpaper between layers to maintain tension.

After the entire warp is wound onto the back beam, the front of the warp hangs loosely from the reed at the front of the loom

#9 After the entire warp is wound onto the back beam, the front of the warp hangs loosely from the reed at the front of the loom

Front ends of the warp are cut and tied onto the front apron bar.

#10 Front ends of the warp are cut and tied onto the front apron bar.

Foot treadles are tied up to the correct sequence of harnesses which hold the heddles.  There are 8 harnesses and 10 treadles on this loom.

#11 Foot treadles are tied up to the correct sequence of harnesses which hold the heddles. There are 8 harnesses and 10 treadles on this loom.

A header of "junk yarn" is woven to even out the warp threads and prepare for weaving.

#12 A header of "junk yarn" is woven to even out the warp threads and prepare for weaving.

Using two shuttles of alternating colors, the weaving has begun to show the design of the shadow weave pattern.

#13 Using two shuttles of alternating colors, the weaving has begun to show the design of the shadow weave pattern.

The kimono pattern is based on one in Anita Mayer’s   book, Clothing from the Hands that Weave. At a later point in the weaving, I will weave a collar in a different pattern alongside the body of the kimono fabric.  I will post the continuation of this project and some other projects I am working on.  So please do check back.  In the meantime, Happy Birthday to all of us who have made it this far!