Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lake Superior Lap Rug

The weaving for my Lake Superior lap rug is complete and I love how it looks. I’m really looking forward to getting it off the loom and doing the wet finishing.

The inspiration for this project came from our trip to Upper Michigan last summer. We visited Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Mackinac Island, Traverse City and Sault Ste. Marie. We did two lighthouse cruises and while out on Lake Superior I took some beautiful photos of the water.

Those water photos were my inspiration. Since my abilities to dye yarn pretty much suck, I sent my favorite Lake Superior water photo to Lisa Souza and said “what do you think?” A few weeks later, she sent me this close up photo. The colorway that she created was just perfect for the look I wanted to create. The woman is just amazing! She told me that in her experimenting she also created two skeins that had some darker blue colors in them. So for the warp, I used those two skeins. The three skeins I used are pictured on the left. My favorite Lake Superior colorway is the one on her website. I want to use it again -- maybe scarves -- I have lots of friends who love blues!

For my weave structure I picked a regular 3:2:1:2 twill because I wanted to capture some of ripple movement of the water. The warp was 416 ends at 12 epi. I divided the warp skeins into 4 balls of yarn and wound the warp four threads at a time so that I could get a shimmery feel to the warp yarn colors. The warp length was 78 inches, with a planned final length of the lap rug at 48 inches. I used a floating selvage with two threads on each side.

This sock yarn doesn’t have any nylon in it, but it was still a little stretchy. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been when I was winding the warp and I think I stretched it somewhat on the warping board. Because of this, my shoestring problems described below and the fact it was sock yarn, it was a little tricky getting the tension on the front apron correct.

I have been tying on with shoestrings lately and I had to buy more for this project. My local dollar store was out and after going to a half dozen stores looking for flat shoestrings, I ended up at Wal-Mart. The shoestrings I got from there turned out to be very stretchy. So between the stretchiness of the sock yarn and the shoestrings, many bad words were heard in my studio!

But once I got the tension squared away, the weaving went quickly (most of the time). There was one morning when I had to “step away from the loom”! I just wasn’t getting a clean shed and the shuttle kept catching. However, after a nap, I went back the loom and didn’t have any problems.

I kept a copy of the photo by the loom and used it as a guide. I had some of the slightly darker warp yarn leftover (that should have been a clue about the winding of the warp as my calculations said I should have very little left). So in sections of the blanket I used two shuttles, alternating the colors on each pick. This let me have shots of dark blue colors – just like in the photo.

This was the first time that I used my temple. It was great! I liked it so much, I am thinking about getting a smaller one for my scarves.

So what did I learn from this project:
1) Think about what I’m doing when I wind the warp,
2) How to use a temple
3) And I improved my shuttle throwing!

Now I just need to finish winding the next warp so that I can tie it on. I’m going to tie on from the back of the loom this time (first time for this) so I can’t cut the lap rug off the loom until I finish tying on the new warp.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

National Flax Museum in Kortrijk, Belgium

While spending the past several days sleying the reed on my loom and threading heddles to make a small blanket, I’ve been listening to Syne Mitchell’s Weavecast. Today I listened to an old episode about Tapestry weaving – which reminded me of Belgium – which reminded of my favorite place to buy Belgium chocolate -- Kortrijk. (One way or another, my travels include chocolate and fiber destinations!)

But Kortrijk is also the home of the National Flax Museum for Belgium. We visited there for the first time in 2001. It’s a small museum located a few kilometers from the town centre and train station. We took the train to Kortrijk and once we arrived we just asked around the train station until we found someone who pointed us to the correct bus. It was a very short bus ride to the museum. We were using a Belgium railpass that also included buses so we didn't have to worry about tickets or the fare. The day we visited was in May, the grass was a bold, bright green and the fruit trees were in bloom.

The museum is housed at a 19th century farmstead that was once used for flax production. For centuries Kortrijk was an important center for the production of linen as the waters of the River Lys were apparently well suited for retting and bleaching flax. The museum walks you through the entire process, from growing the flax to flax preparation and spinning flax and then weaving linen. Part of the museum is set up to show the spinning of flax and the weaving of linen as it was when it was a cottage industry. You can see how the wheels and looms were included in their everyday lives.

If you are a spinner, you will be thrilled to see the collection of antique spinning wheels, reels, warping mills and more. In one area of the museum, there is a loft completely filled with antique wheels. I tried to take photos in the loft but there was a tour going on and the guide didn’t want photos taken at the same time. You can follow this link to see the photos I took. These were taken before I had a good digital and not my best work!

Also as part of the facility is the Linen Museum, complete with a gift shop (my favorite part of any museum). There were beautiful linen products for sale and I did buy some lovely linen kitchen towels. There was a lot to select from and it was hard to decide. Linen towels are wonderful for drying good glassware as they don't leave any lint.

You can arrange for a guided tour of the museum, but that's not necessary as the museum is very well done with excellent signage on all the displays. There is a museum guide booklet that you can buy -- it walks you through every aspect of the museum and the flax to linen process.

If you decide to include the museum in a future visit to the area, please call ahead to make sure it is open. I believe it closes during the winter months plus I wasn’t able to find a working website for it.

Flax and Linen Museum
Etienne Sabbelaan, Kortrijk 8500 - Belgium
Phone: +32 (0)5 621 0138

Once we left the museum, we headed into Kortrijk's town centre to find some lunch and instead we found the BEST EVER chocolate shop -- Kortrijks Chocoladehuis at Leiestraat 35 8500 Kortrijk. This is a family owned business and the chocolate is better than any chocolate I have ever eaten (and I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate). We had been staying in Brussels previously and pigging out on Neuhaus Chocolate. The chocolate at Kortrijks Chocoladehuis was significantly better and more affordable! You can buy many different types of filled chocolates plus bars of rich, dark chocolate. We have been back to Kortrijk since our trip in 2001 – to buy chocolate.

Right next to the chocolate shop is a fabulous shop selling linens (tablecloths, napkins, etc.). It was a wonderful place to visit – but I saved my money for chocolate. Both the owners of this shop and the chocolate shop speak excellent English.
So if your travels take you to Belgium -- go to Kortrijk for the chocolate and the linen! You won't be disappointed. PS Flat Stanley likes chocolate too!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Four Scarves Finished

All four scarves for the family of redheads are finished! And I still have enough yarn to complete one or two more. I'm really happy with the way they turned out -- very soft. The scarves for the redheaded parents turned out to be extra long since I was just tying on to the old warp and didn't adjust the loom waste in my calculation when I put the new warps on the loom. As I said before, the wefts are all the same yarn and the warps in three of them with Harrisville Shetland and in the scarf on the top right, the weft and the warp is the same yarn from Lisa Souza.

I found an auto reed hook on the Yahoo's WeavingList Sales and it arrived yesterday. Using an instruction video on Linda's Fiber Weblog, it was easy to get the hang of it. For me, it works better on my newer reed that has thinner teeth because it catches easier on the reed's tooth as it moves. Of course, the reed I am using right now is the one with heavier teeth. I like it because you can grip is like a wooden spoon and there is less stress on my hands and fingers. The other thing I like about it is that it automatically (with a little help) moves from dent to dent so that I don't miss a dent.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Four Scarf Project

I’m on the downhill side of a four scarf weaving project. Three are completed and one is on the loom with about 30% finished. These hadnwoven scarves for Christmas presents for a family of redheads. I used Lisa Souza’s Joseph’s Coat colorway for the weft in all of them and in one I used it for both the warp and the weft. For the other three, I used Harrisville Shetland in the warp – in red and navy blue.

The first scarf nearly turned me off forever of Harrisville Shetland because as the yarn came off the cone it wanted to twist, twist, twist onto itself and in the cross it twisted. I didn’t mind the stickiness of it, but twisting was so bad I nearly pitched the stuff. In desperation I call my local weaving shop and asked them about it. They told me that if the cone had been sitting on the shelf in a warehouse for a while that it would twist like that and that washing it would help.

For the next in this series I used another color of Harrisville Shetland and had no problems – no twisting. Then for the final scarf I used both Harrisville colors in the warp and once again, no twisting from either cone. I think I must have gotten through the section that wanted to twist and twist some more. And I didn’t have to wash it before warping.

One thing that I’ve really loved about this project was that I only had to do the full warp on process for the first scarf (did I mention that yarn also twisted in the heddles?). After the first scarf I just tied-on to the previous warp and pulled the new warp through. When I cut off the warp, I like to use little alligator clips to hold the warp end in front of the reed. The clips hold well and are faster than tying the warp ends into groups (and untying the knots later).

The other challenge I had was with the scarf using Lisa Souza’s yarn in both the warp and weft. The yarn is one that she doesn’t sell anymore, but I’ve used in the past for felting projects. (It felts wonderfully.) I had some other colorways of in my stash and used them earlier in the year for other scarf projects and the sacrves were soft and cushy so I asked if she had any left and if she would dye some for me – which she did. But when I washed my finished scarf, I forgot how wonderfully this yarn felts and how fast it felts. Even though I washed in cold water for just 4 minutes (on the pre-wash cycle), the fringe felted to itself. So I spent quite a bit of time and used a lot of “No More Tangles” picking the fringe apart. I’ve had problems with the fringe felting in the past – but never to this degree. I wish I knew what the trick was to keep this from happening.
I'm looking forward to finishing these scarves because I'm really excited to start the project that's on my warping board!