Dyed silk yarn

Dyed skeins of silk hanging to dry.

I decided I wanted some special silk yarn to weave a couple of shawls.  I skeined off some undyed tussah style silk into 2 skeins approx. 9 and 11 oz. each.   The 11 oz. skein I soaked in  a tablespoon of citric acid crystals dissolved in approx. 2 qts. of water (stainless steel pan), then squeezed out the excess liquid.  I put less than a teaspoon of turqouise Jacquard acid dye into the pan and stirred and then put the soaked skein back in and with rubber gloves on, gently squeezed the dye all through – there wasn’t much liquid left in the pan. Then I dissolved about a teaspoon of purple Jacquard acid dye in a plastic cup of warm water and poured it in separate areas of the (now) aqua skein.  I squeezed the dye into the skein to get the colour through to the bottom.  Again, there was very little dyewater in the bottom of the pan, since it all soaked into the yarn.

I use a small microwave for dying (no food prep) – when I’m not heating the weaving studio with the woodstove.  I have a covered Pyrex-type casserole dish used only for this purpose as well.  I put the dyed skein into the dish, covered it and nuked it for a minute on high, then 3 minutes on medium. I let it rest in between.  I nuke it a few minutes at a time on medium until I can tell it’s just below 180 degrees (use a candy thermometer – naturally don’t use it for any food purposes after putting it in dye). Leave it in the microwave for another 20 minutes, or put it on a heat resistant surface, covered with towels to keep the heat in. Let it cool to room temp – carefully rinse it in plain water. To get most of the water out of the skein, I put it into my washing machine (top loader) and set it on delicate spin. When removing the skein, I have to be careful so the threads don’t get caught on the fins at the bottom of the machine, but this trick does remove a lot of excess water.

With the other skein I used light blue for the main colour, and the same purple for the accent, but I did more accents than with the aqua.  After the skeins were dry – I coned them off, and wove them on 22″ shawl warp.  The warp has silk, bamboo, cotton, and rayon yarns in various colours, textures, and weights. I do hemstitching at each end rather than knotting the fringe.  I wove 80″ and it came down to about 74″ after washing. 

Completed shawls with their cones of dyed silk on the weaving loom.

As you can see, I have enough of each colour to make another shawl, or some scarves.  I had so much fun doing this, that I proceeded to dye/paint some cotton/rayon, and then solid colour some bamboo.  I have more silk, and more bamboo skeined off – just have to find the time to dye them!!  For really good info on dying and whole lot of dyes and just really good “stuff” for fibre artists go to dharmatrading.com. I use this technique for dying small amounts (up to 2 yards) of 10 mm silk fabric that I use to line the pockets of my jackets.


Warping the loom

I have (or my husband has created) sectional beams on all my looms.  Makes the most sense for me, I always put on enough yarn for several of whatever I’m making. I have a small (20″) Harrisville 4 harness from which we’ve removed 2 of the harnesses/treadles. Since I’m doing plain weave, why confuse people with extra harnesses when I’m demonstrating. I can put this into my Caravan  plus all my show setup/merchandise. 

I  rarely change the weaving width or sett on my looms, so I also rarely have to rethread the heddles and reed. When finishing up a warp I don’t cut off the last weaving; I leave all the yarn threaded through to the warp beam, just disengage it by section.  This leaves me free to rewarp the loom.  I then tie each of the new warp threads in order to the old warp and when all yarns are tied on – advance the warp through the heddles and reed (very carefully – watch those knots!)  No mistakes on threading or sleying!!! Hooray.

Warping the loom

You can see the portable shelves Ed made from wire closet shelving.  These hold the cones of yarn, keep them separated, and line them up before they go through the sectional tensioner. You can see the knotted ends of the previous warp sections showing (but out of the way from the new warp) under the warp beam.

Tying the new warp ends to the old warp.

It’s very important to keep all threads under control! Masking tape is very useful. I sometimes enclose the warp with tape near where I’ll cut it to keep the cut ends from disappearing into the wound-on warp. Of course I always tape down the threads before cutting them.

Naturally if you are changing the draft, sett, or width of weaving this technique will not work.

Get Going

I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump the last few days waiting for some navy 8/2 cotton to put on the 36” loom to fill a number of orders.  Actually the problem is too many choices. I could finish the last scarf on the small loom – but then I’d have to rewarp and I really want to put on a full width (22”) for shawls – but I haven’t designed that warp yet. I could finish the last couple pieces on the 50” loom and then – guess what – rewarp that baby (I think I know the colours for that).

With weaving, the end means a new beginning  – and I know few weavers that really love the warping process – it’s the weaving that’s the fun part. With three active looms in the studio I try not to have them empty at the same time.

In an effort to bypass making a decision – I figured a half hour on the treadmill might put me in the mood.  Grabbed a book from our collection and got started.  2mph and I can walk and read easily. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck (you know, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath)

He’s going to travel and rediscover America in a truck camper – it’s 1960. As with all great writers, it’s a great read. I usually devour a good book – read it as fast as I can so I can own it and make it a part of me. But reading while treadmilling has made me slow down (not the walking just the reading – I lose my place).  So at the end of a half hour I’m only up to page 32 and he’s just gotten started. Enough walking, it’s only one mile, but my knees complain if I do too much more. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s walk and his journey.

I’d like to say I made some great creative stride forward after that bit of metabolic boost, but the truth is I didn’t get back to the studio the rest of the day. I found out my navy cotton will be delayed another week, so I’ll put a light teal on and experiment. The orders will have to wait.

 It did make me think about creative starts.  There’s no surefire way to move forward. Sometimes you hurry, or push yourself, and sometimes you slow down and think about other journeys.

Traditional scarves


Red infinity/mobius scarf

I’ve been weaving scarves for a long time, but for a long while only the mobius scarf that I sew together.

Oct 2008 my niece requested a traditional long scarf for her daughter (obviously my grandniece – but that word really makes me feel old!) so of course I obliged but grumbled to myself  “I don’t really like making long scarves and the small loom is a pain”.

Silk blend scarf

Can you guess what happened? I loved the whole process – and seriously started weaving the traditional scarves.  My customers approved and I’m making use of my 20″ Harrisville that I’d only been using for demos. I’ve been making silk/bamboo/rayon/cotton mixtures (7″ x 70″). My daughter asked for a super warm and wide scarf for Christmas ’09 so I used some of my new American grown alpaca and some wool and had fun making that.  I have plans for 100% American alpaca scarves in all natural colours – that will have to be this summer for the fall show season. More on those – later.

My supplies of rayon chenille yarn were seriously depleted – I use them for the weft on a cotton warp for the mobius scarves.  Got a new supply and had to try 100% rayon chenille on the traditional scarves – hadn’t done that before, never thought I wanted to (“every other weaver does it” – so of course I wouldn’t – dumb). Rayon chenille can be challenging (read that – pain in the …) but I solved a few problems and of course now I love making them.

group of rayon chenille scarves

So now the next step will be traditional shawls. I’ll keep you posted!

Time in, Time out

Home from the Sugarloaf show in Gaithersburg, MD. The Monday after a show always means planning too much to fit into the day. Would love to sleep in but have to/want to get my husband’s breakfast before work.  Then begin to design a new warp for some summer scarves – I know I can get a few finished before this weekend show in Timonium, MD. But before I can physically pull out 24 cones of yarn in varying shades, I remember I need to go out and pick salad greens before it gets too hot in the “greenhouse”.  Of course I walk through the garden and discover asparagus needs to be cut.  While I’m out there, why not dig some grass/weeds to give to the chickens – they deserve it. Back inside and the greens are in the fridge and it’s 10 o’clock.   Work on the loom, but time out to steam asparagus and make my lunch salad. yumm! By the end of the day I’ve actually woven half of a scarf, been into town (5 miles away) and back home (several times – had a meeting this evening). 

So when was I actually working? If I had to punch a time card shouldn’t I include the time while digging the weeds and I saw a beautiful combination of reds and golds and greens of the tulips and daffys and thought about what they would look like in a woven piece?  Or the textures of the mesclun greens as I was picking them, wondering what combination of yarn would look like that odd serrated kale, or the feathery chervil that seems to be taking over the bed?  Driving into town with the explosion of flowering trees – not so delicate pinks, feathery whites – where might that road lead me?

mesclun greens

So the day is over, I didn’t get that scarf finished that I started this afternoon.  What have I actually accomplished?  Time will tell.

New project!

As this is a show week – can’t say that I’ll be officially saying very much – but please stay tuned – I’ll be back!