Knitting addiction

As I sit in the car with my family (mom, dad, and Ben) on our way to PF Chang’s in Nashville for mom’s birthday dinner, I have realized that I have become addicted to knitting. You know the phrase absence makes the heart grow fonder? Well here I am without my knitting and I’ve never wanted to knit more!

I love the feeling of my fingers staying busy while my mind focuses on something else. I love to look down in my lap every now and then and see the progress of the piece I’m working on (generally a hat). I love the quiet sound of the metal needles clicking against each other as I make the next loop. It feels as though I’m missing a friend on this lovely spontaneous road trip we’re on. I didn’t realize til now how much nervous energy I release by keeping my hands busy. (in case you don’t know, I have a lot of nervous energy) it’s strange to be without my constant companion of idleness. I’m sure the moment I get home I shall run to my knitting bag and.begin a new project so I can make up for lost time.
~JoAnna

A little tip I picked up

A few years ago, I was reading a blog by a lovely weaver. Sadly, I don’t think the site works anymore or I’d post the link…Anyway, she posted about a workshop that she attended and one of the “jewels” she got from it was a technique for beaming a warp easily with one person.

As a weaver, you are constantly trying to figure out how the heck to do everything by yourself. You’re a one-man (woman…whatevs. I’m not super politically correct about these things) studio. You work pretty much solo. Warping a loom can sometimes be daunting.

So the instructor of this workshop did something very simple to make the tension more even while beaming a warp. A brilliant and simple thing that I can’t believe I never thought of before. When you have finished sleying, threading and tying to the back apron (I’m a confirmed front-to-back warp-er…), you remove your lease sticks (GASP!!) and toss the warp tails over the back of your loom. Then, you stand at the back of your loom and hold the warp tails on tension with one and crank the beam with the other hand. Here’s a few pictures to help explain.

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On a Macomber loom, if you’re facing the back of the loom, the brake is on the left side. So my right hand is holding the warp tails, my left is cranking the back beam and my left foot is controlling the brake pedal. I have found that the warp winds MUCH more smoothly than how I learned to wind in school.

I should note that I have not been able to duplicate this technique on a LeClerc loom. The brake pedal can’t really be depressed from the back of a LeClerc loom. I have not tried it on my mom’s Schacht Mighty Wolf, but it works great on my two Macombers and on my mom’s small Dorset loom. Try it the next time you warp. It might make your life a lot easier!

I tried it because I kept breaking ends if I left the lease sticks in and also because it was taking me 20-60 minutes to simply BEAM the warp! This way takes me about 5-10 minutes. For a 10 yard warp. (I never really do anything shorter than 10 yards) I have been doing this for several years now and it makes warping the loom SO much less intimidating! It’s also a big time saver which is great when you’re a production weaver. Efficiency is absolutely the key to production weaving!
~JoAnna

Dye Day Traditions

First of all, if you don’t know, every week I dye skeins of yarn on Saturday afternoon. Dye Day in itself has become a bit of a weekly tradition. I’m a big fan of traditions, routines, schedules and things that happen weekly. I’ve been called robotic and extremely logical, so clearly I am left-brained…The funny thing is, I always just assumed that meant you couldn’t be creative at all. It seems that assumption isn’t true in my life because I would consider myself to be both logical and creative. I think my creativity stems from my logical side…Who knew, huh?

Anyway, back to my weekly traditions. On the weekends, Ben and I usually go hang with my parents. This is always lots of fun and my parents are sweet and wonderful and completely spoil us! Part of my reasoning for Dye Day being on Saturday afternoons is because my studio is not fully set up yet. Our water system is still not finished, exactly, here on the farm. We use a rain water collection system for most of our water needs. This works GREAT when it rains! The water is fresh, clean and good for you because it has healthy minerals in it. However, it doesn’t work so well when it doesn’t rain…We don’t have enough water storage at this point and so we have to water-conscious. If you’re not familiar with the dye process, it uses A LOT of water. (Well…rinsing does…) So in an effort to conserve water usage on the farm, I rinse out when we’re at my parents house over the weekends. I am extremely blessed to have a mother who is also a fellow craftsperson and lets me rinse out at her house and use her water. I couldn’t dye anything if it wasn’t for her generosity.

I also began a brand new Dye Day tradition just last week! I use one spatula to mix all my dyes up and just rinse and dry it between mixings. I have a small cup of rinse water that is usually quite colored by the end of my dyeing sessions. Last week, I had an extra skein leftover after I had dyed my usual 9 skeins. I didn’t really want to mix up another batch of dye so instead, I wet the skein like normal and poured the rinse cup on as my dye. I really had no idea what it would look like but one of the things I love about dye work is that if you don’t like something, you can always over-dye it.

When I rinsed everything out last week, I came to my rinse cup skein and it actually turned out to be this LOVELY light gray color! A color that I probably could not have achieved if I’d been TRYING to get it. Well…Now I’m hooked. So I decided that every week when I’m done dyeing, I’ll throw one more skein in and dye it with my rinse cup. This week looks like it’ll be a reddish of some kind but kind of a pastel red. Ohhh I can’t wait! I should also mention that another of my favorite parts of dyeing is how it can be completely serendipitous and surprising. I like to have some idea of what the color will look like in my mind and then be completely surprised and pleased by the results. (Not always pleased, but like I said before, over-dyeing!)  I try not to allow myself to have expectations of how a color will turn out. You can do everything exactly the same and sometimes, the color just doesn’t look the same. ‘Tis the nature of chemistry, I suppose. 🙂
~JoAnna

Studio days are my favorite

I got to work in the studio for most of the day. Minus lunch and a few other things. However, when it gets dark, I have to stop working because as of right now, I don’t have any lights in my studio besides windows. While this sounds medieval, it actually works out well for me. Usually by the time it’s getting dark out, I’ve worked enough for my back to get tired and really should probably stop anyway. Not having interior lighting in my studio prevents me from working after dark and thus protects my back. 🙂

This week I began making two new inventory items that I am pretty excited about! I started making infinity scarves. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are just a loop of fabric that you drape around your neck. I began with what I call double loop infinity scarves. They are long enough to wrap comfortably around your neck twice. Well then I had the thought, “What if you don’t want that much cloth but still want that pop of color?” I grabbed some scrap fabric I had and made what I call a single loop infinity scarf.

The double loop infinity is approximately 72″ long and the single loop is approximately 30″ long. (Before sewing into a loop) I like both looks a lot. It also adds two more price points to my inventory which is great! I need some variety!

Today I’ve been working on a set of four collapse weave infinity scarves. For those of you who are unfamiliar with collapse weave, it’s a very simple concept: you use wool in your warp with silk or cotton or some other non-felting fiber and alternate stripes of fiber type. Then when you wet finish your cloth, the wool shrinks and the other fiber doesn’t. It creates these lovely ripples in the cloth.

One of the dilemmas I’ve had with collapse weave in the past is I wasn’t sure how to deal with the fringe. If you don’t twist it, it looks messy and frayed. But if you do twist it, you get strange shrinkage because parts of the fringe shrink and parts don’t. I think making infinity scarves with collapse weave fabric might be the perfect solution. 🙂 I can’t wait to get my cloth off the loom and start working with it!
~JoAnna

Daydreams

I’m daydreaming a bit this morning. As you may know, we have sheep. We don’t have a lot of them right now. Just 7. Currently, I do all the shearing myself and I don’t do anything special to protect their wool coats.

I was daydreaming about how lovely it would be to be able to send off nicely sheared fleeces to a fiber processing place and have it sent back to me as beautiful, spun yarn.

Okay. Don’t get me wrong, I love hand spinning. It’s calming, meditative and relaxing. But it’s not something I can see myself really doing on a regular basis. And definitely not for production weaving. It just isn’t cost effective. Also, my back muscles only have a certain amount of stamina each day. And most of those get used for milking, farm chores and weaving. Can’t really throw something else in there.

However, I still love the idea of using wool from my own sheep to make yarn which then gets woven into different things to sell. I would love for my fleece to be sent back in clean cones of yarn! I could then dye the yarn and turn it into something lovely.

Alas, I don’t have enough sheep yet. I may try to contact someone next year about getting them sheared. It was a bit of a trial this year. None of them would hold still and I have no idea how to hold them so that they relax. I may contact the ag. department at the college in town and see if they know of anyone who would shear for me. And if I could save the wool, even better!

My Tunis sheep really do have lovely wool. My ram, especially. I only saved two small ziplock bags of wool from this year’s shearing. But I’m not good enough at shearing to make the wool worth saving yet.

Like I said, a bit of daydreaming for me this morning. 🙂 I think I have a bit of a hankering to weave with some wool. May have to do something about that. 🙂
~JoAnna