Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weaving ABCs

Last Saturday I went to my first weaving class.  There were four of us, so it was a nice cozy class, with ages ranging from 13 to retired.

Since I'd already muddled through my first and second weaving projects the first few things she'd taught us, I'd already figured out.  But I did learn a few useful things - how to do a weaver's knot, how to wind the yarn onto the shuttle to get the maximum amount of yarn with the minimal amount of bulk, how to direct warp onto the loop by tying the yarn directly onto the apron rods, and what the correct tension should be.

Now, the tension - that's one of those things I never would have figured out just by reading books and watching you-tube videos.  After I'd tightened up my loom, the instructor came by and gave it another couple of turns.  I was really shocked at how tight it was supposed to be!

She also showed us a different technique for how the weft yarn should lay between the warps before beating.  The video's I'd seen showed a 30 degree angle, but she had us do a semi-circle.  Both methods essentially just make sure you have enough extra weft yarn to go over and under each warp yarn without having to stretch.  Hmm... hard to describe... but you can kinda see it in this picture.

I also learned that when I'm not weaving, or when I'm transporting my loom, I should stick the shuttle between the yarns, and set the reed in the neutral position.  Seems pretty basic, but it wasn't something I'd thought of.

Overall it was a good class.  No mind-blowing discoveries, but several little tips and tricks I'm not sure I would have picked up on my own.  It was nice to have someone there double checking what I was doing and letting me know I was on the right track.  Now I need to finish the weaving part and bring it back in two weeks for the second part of the class - how to finish the project & remove it from the loom.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Playing with colors: Yellow

Here is the final quilt in my playing with colors series.  I liked the structure I used in the red quilt, but I wanted to try something a little different.  I also wanted to do a better job of blending the colors, unlike the total randomness of the blue quilt.

I divided out the colors into dark, medium, and light groups.  Then sewed together strips that blended from dark to light, and alternated which direction each strip went as I sewed it up.  I was thinking 'rays of sunshine' although generally those rays only go in one direction. 

The blending on this quilt is much better than on the blue quilt, and I like the way the difference in the level of contrast is  intentional rather than accidental. 

I went with minimal straight-line quilting on this one.  Yeah, that was partly laziness, but also because sometimes less is more.

I learned something really really significant on this quilt - the joys of a walking foot!  I was getting really frustrated by how even my straight lines were causing a lot of bunching and texture on the previous quilts.  In the past I've either tried to counter it by altering the direction I was sewing in every other row, or by just embracing the bunching with wavy lines.  But after my first line down the center of this quilt, I'd had it.  I really wanted it to just quilt flat!!!

So I went down to the fabric store and I picked up a $60 walking foot  (my whole machine cost less than $200 btw).   I set it up and sewed a bit on a practice scrap.  OMG!  Within about 10 stitches I was impressed.  I could not believe how much of a difference it made! The fabric wasn't bunching up - it was being fed evenly through the foot, and the stitches were so neat and even!  Everyone always talks about this gadget or that, and I'm always skeptical.  I simply had no idea that it would be so much easier, and look so much nicer to quilt with a walking foot!

In the end, I'm very happy with my walking foot, and I'm beyond thrilled with this quilt.  Who knew I'd be such a fan of yellow, but it is just so bright and so cheery and so yummy, it put such a huge smile on my face when it was all done.  There will definitely need to be more yellow in future quilts!

So that's what I've been working on this spring, playing with colors and trying to learn something about contrast.  I've got a few more WIPs but probably not much to post for a while. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Playing with colors: Red

Here is the next quilt in my series playing with color and value. For this one I divided my fabrics into lights and darks, and further divided them into light lights & medium lights, and dark darks & medium darks. One stripe is alternating light light/medium light fabrics, and the next stripe alternates between dark dark and medium dark.

I used straight line quilting in the dark rows, and wavy lines in the lighter rows.  Kind of a darker reds = serious & steady,  lighter pinks = playful kind of thing.

I think this was a much more successful project than the blue quilt.  I do like the way I've given some organization to the colors, but still kept the individual strips somewhat random in size and distribution. 

So far, the lesson learned with these first two quilts is what happens when you randomly distribute high and low value colors (your eyes kind of bounce around the entire quilt), and what happens when you organize them (eye movement is more focused).  In these two examples, I definitely prefer the more organized approach.  But I do think this is something I want to keep playing with.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Playing with colors: Blue

For a while now, one of thing things I've wanted to do is work on a series of monochromatic quilts to kind of play with color and value, and basically as an excuse to buy lots and lots and lots of batik fabrics.

In between work and class and homework and occasionally cleaning house I've managed to put together three lap-sized quilts, each taking a slightly different approach towards color values.  All of them using stripes as the primary motif.  I'd already made my niece's quilt, and my big green quilt using this general technique... but I wanted to see what else I could do with it.

First up (or second if you count my green quilt) is blue.  I just used various length strips and alternated between dark and light blues.  The black lines were meant to give the quilt some visual structure and to bring down the overall color of the quilt into something a bit deeper.

I used straight-line quilting for the black strips, but wavy lines for the blue.  The intention was to evoke ocean waves.

Part of me thinks that this quilt was not especially successful.  It doesn't really evoke the ocean, and the variation between the colors is much too intense in places.

But on the other hand, the whole point of this series was to just kinda see what happened if I put the colors together this way or that way, and well, now I know.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Soy Silk Scarf

Here is my second woven project, a soy-silk scarf. 

Once again I used a yarn that was too thin for my heddle, and once again my edges are a bit loose and wonky.  But I'm definitely getting the hang of weaving.

I'm often frustrated by the quality of the things I make, and tend to take a long time to learn anything.  It has occurred to me more than once that I might actually benefit from actually taking a CLASS (or 12) to learn more about all the different crafts I do.  I am normally a complete nerd, and learn really well in a formal class setting.  But for some reason when it comes to my crafts I feel a powerful need to just 'figure it out' myself.  Even if figuring it out involves a huge waste of materials and being continually dissatisfied with the results.  But really, I know I would actually learn a few things if I took some classes

So when I was in the yarn shop the other day (chatting with the sales lady about my new adventures in weaving)  and I found out that they would be offering a 'learn to weave' class, I finally decided to bite the bullet and sign up.

I'm looking forward to seeing what tips and techniques I learn.  Hopefully this will mean that my future weaving projects will be far more impressive!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Hey look - I knit too!  And have actually finished something. =)

Here is Shedir from

I started this hat some time last year (maybe earlier)... so this has been a long-term WIP and it's nice to have it finished.

It actually ended up being a bit bigger than it should have been, but I washed it by hand and tossed it in the dryer for a bit so it shrunk.  Now it fits nicely, and I look forward to wearing it when it gets cool again.  Which might be next week the way this crazy weather has been going!