Friday, February 16, 2018

And More Progress...

The weather is still too cold for painting warps; the Procion MX dyes for cotton want to be in the 70-90-degree (F) range while the colors set, and the studio isn't usually kept at that temperature all the time. Also, it doesn't have an ideal setup for messy activities. Usually, I use a table outdoors, but near-freezing nights and 50-degree days make that less than ideal.

In any case, I've begun winding the bouts of warp. It has been a while since I used the warping mill, and it took a few  times around the winding path to remember the hand movements to get the threads in the right order at the crosses. There is a thread-by-thread cross at the "front" of the warp (at the top of the mill)), and a 2-by-2 cross at the "back" of the warp (the lower right in the photo below. I'm winding a bout for each pattern area of the design. The grey-green stripes went first, then undyed chains that will get painted later. There's still a pale grey to be dyed and wound into its own bout.

Here's the warping mill with a bout of yarn wound onto it:

...and a pile of chained bouts waiting for the next step in the process:

The yellow tags indicate the number of threads in each chain, according to the design.

Kelsey, the way the mill works is this: You measure a length of strong cord the length of the planned warp (7 yards, in this case, which includes the inevitable waste) with loops at each end to go around a peg, and then wind it onto the mill such that the cord is taut. The cross-pieces with the protruding pegs can be moved if necessary. I keep a basket of pre-measured cords: 8,  5, 3, and 1 yards, and one half-yard. By looping them end to end, I can make almost any length warp bout (in 18-inch increments) that is feasible with this warping mill, which can accommodate up to about 20 yards (if it's fine thread). Then, as you wind the warp bout, you follow the path of the guide cord. Presto, a group of threads the same length.

Thursday, February 08, 2018


In my last post, I didn't include any photos to show the difference between "natural" cotton yarn and oxy-whitened cotton yarn, so here goes:

Keep in mind that the skeined yarn in the pot is wet, which usually means it is darker than if it were dry. In any case, it is clearly a paler color than the light beige yarn on the cone.

This whitening made it possible to dye the lighter of the colors in the photo below. These skeins will be weft (Kelsey, the weft yarns are the cross-wise yarns, as opposed to the length-wise yarns called "warp" that are wound under tension onto the loom). The light green and the very pale silver-grey were dyed on whitened yarn; the darker colors were dyed before the oxyclean experiment. Those darker skeins had to get a more concentrated dye to combat the yellowing influence of the natural cotton.

The colors that I paint onto parts of the design will mainly include light grey-green, light blue, pale grey, darker charcoal grey, and a few areas of darker blue and fuchsia and blue-violet where those two meet and blend. I probably won't get to the warp painting for a few days; other obligations are taking priority.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Oxyclean to the Rescue!

Over the past week, I have been arguing with my dyepot and its contents, in an effort to get the pale neutrals that Kelsey would like for her baby blanket. The problem is that I started with natural cotton: that is, both unbleached and undyed. In its natural state, cotton is NOT white. To end up with pale grey on beige yarn is nigh unto impossible. No matter what I tried, it turned to various shades of brown, the one color Kelsey was very vocal about not wanting on the blanket.

After googling for a bit, and reading about several methods of making cotton white(er), I decided to try Oxyclean. The problem with Clorox or other forms of bleach, is that it is imperative to neutralize the yarn after bleaching, or the bleach continues to work and will eventually damage the yarn. Plus, the amount of hydrogen peroxide I would need to neutralize that quantity of yarn was intimidating.

The best non-chorine-based recommendation I found was Oxyclean. "Soak the cotton in it overnight, or as long as it takes to get as white as you want." I duly dissolved several scoops of Oxyclean in warm water a giant stainless steel dyepot, and added the skeins of yarn that I wanted to whiten. The next day, I was shouting with delight, "It works!"

Then, as I rinsed and dried those skeins, I made a hilarious discovery. I always label skeins with a strip of waterproof adhesive tape fastened to one of the skein ties, with a brief description written in black permanent marker of what that skein's purpose is. When I realized that Oxyclean considers the marker to be a stain that must be removed, I couldn't stop laughing. Each skein was labeled with a nice bit of tape with all writing cleaned off. I had to wait for the skeins to dry, then weigh them to find out who they were.

In the next dye run, though, I was able to get a lovely pale grey from my dyepot. Hooray!

Why did I never discover this method until now?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Next Project

My niece, Kelsey, is expecting a baby in April, so I'm planning a run of baby blankets. Since she's not a weaver, I thought she might enjoy learning where baby blankets come from 😉

For that reason, I'm including more information than usual, so a non-weaver mom-to-be will understand what I'm talking about.

As soon as I heard the news, I ordered some yarn from R&M Yarns, located in Tennesee: Natural (undyed) unmercerized 8/2 cotton on a huge, 3.7-pound mill cone. I have nothing but good to say for this yarn company -- price, quality, and service are very good. The yarn is ring-spun, and now that I've wound off all but 10 ounces of the yarn, skeined it, and scoured it, I can vouch for the consistently good quality. Here's what's left on the cone:

Kelsey, you might wonder why I would bother to scour (as in, wash very thoroughly) brand new yarn. Here's why:

Even though the yarn on the cone looks clean, the mill adds oils to the fiber during the spinning process, and also cotton fibers have a waxy coating that has to be removed - that coating keeps the fiber from accepting dye evenly, and removing it by including soda ash when scouring, the cloth will be softer and much better for baby. The liquid in the pot after scouring really is that yucky!

The yarn is much more attractive once it's scoured and rinsed:

Because any yarn I put on the loom has to be long enough to account for almost 24 inches of waste at the end of the warp, I never weave a project consisting of just one piece (unless it's yardage). A baby blanket is usually in the neighborhood of 40-46 inches long, so if I were to weave just one, adding nearly half of that length and then wasting it isn't economical. So the project is planned to make 4 blankets, woven one after another - so the waste less painful. Especially with yarn that I'm going to hand-dye. Part of the design will be solid color, and part will be painted with the colors you requested.

The "extra" blankets will go into the annual Central Coast Weavers guild sale in November.

This is what 4 blankets-worth of yarn looks like (49 ounces), after scouring but before the dyeing begins:

Each of the skeins was measured for a specific part of the design, whether lengthwise threads or crosswise threads, solid or variegated. I'll email some color samples before I start the dye process, to make sure they will coordinate with your nursery decor.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Wool Boucle Finishing Report

All four of the shawls are now wet finished and pressed and measured. Here's a table showing the shrinkage results:

As I suspected, the shrinkage was least in the plainweave shawl. When the threads have less room to move, they have less chance to shrink. Otherwise, because the boucle was used as weft, and the nylon strand around which the wool strand looped wasn't very shrinky, the structure didn't have much effect on the shrinkage rate. The warp yarns are all worsted spun, and less apt to shrink than woolen spun; plus many of them are treated to resist shrinkage.

In general, I like the versions woven in broken twill and a crepe with shorter floats best, so that's probably what I'll use in the upcoming boucle pieces. I have a teal green yarn, and a rust red yarn from the same supplier (Textura Trading, no longer in business). The yarn was originally spun by Baruffa, one of the top Italian mills. There are cones of coordinating plain 2-ply yarn in the stash to use as warp for both boucles.

Even after finishing, the cloth is very open and sheer. The boucle causes lots of distortion in the cloth, an effect I like. As I recall, each shawl weighs just under 6 ounces.

Be sure to click the thumbnail to see the larger image.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sneak Peek

Here's a quick look at a jacquard project that's my focus this week.

The warp (as always) is black, and the wefts are pale lavendar, pale blue, mid blue, and black. I wanted the lines separating the color areas to stand out more, so in those areas it's mostly black weft on black warp showing. The black weft covers up most of the light-colored pixels that show through in those narrow dividing lines.

More later...

In other news, two of the blue boucle shawls have been wet-finished and pressed. They attended the Central Coast Weavers Guild meeting as show & tell, and were duly admired. The last two on that warp will have to wait a few days before I can finish them.

Weave on!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Wow! Things Happen Fast Around Here!

The Resident Engineer is fast! The new disk drive came a day early (on a Sunday, thank you Amazon!), and the "dead" system disk cooperated and allowed DH to copy it to the new disk, a full backup has been made, and I'm back in touch with Windows and all my files and applications. Hooray!

The warp and the dobby loom also cooperated, and the last wool boucle piece has been woven and the warp cut off the loom. Here it is, four featherweight shawls heaped on the ironing board:

Tomorrow, I'll do any mending required, and begin gently wet finishing and pressing the shawls. I'll be interested to see whether the difference in weave structures makes a significant difference in post-wet-finishing size.