Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour de Fleece (de Flax?)

Today is the beginning of the Tour de France, which means it's also the start of the Tour de Fleece, during which participants try to spin every day of the tour.  I certainly won't be short of materials to spin!

On the challenge day (July 18 this year--the most challenging day for the cyclists) I will plan to spin flax.  (See my earlier post for explanation of why I've chosen that.)   That will give me some time to locate and procure some flax--beyond the sample that I have.

As I've been researching some history of flax spinning, I learned that in early years some of the flax might have been spun just by "rolling" lengths on the spinner's leg.  As I don't have enough in the sample to spin on the wheel, I decided to give the leg-rolling a try.  It works, but I wouldn't want to spin enough flax to make linen cloth this way!  (Pictured are a single and a 2-ply, rolled/spun on my leg.) It seems to be a pretty sturdy thread, so I'd feel reasonably comfortable using it as warp on some fabric.

So, I think my ultimate goal of the Tour de Fleece would be to spin enough to weave just a small piece of linen, on which I might do some hand embroidery--something to honor my foremothers.
In the meantime, however, I'll be finishing up with spinning some BFL, then dig in my stash and pull out something else.  Part of the adventure will be discovering all that fiber that I've stashed and forgotten that I have.  I think there's some camel in there somewhere....

Flax, though...

The quilter in me wants to learn how to spin cotton. (Did I mention that one of these days I'm going to try growing some cotton?  THAT could be an entire blog itself, trying to grow cotton in Iowa!)

I wrote earlier that I started to learn spinning because of quilting.  But I also wanted to honor my foremothers, who likely did some spinning.  My father's ancestors are all from Ireland, and my mother's all from Germany.   Neither brings cotton to mind, does it?

It seemed likely that my Irish ancestors would have spun flax into linen.  I didn't have much knowledge about spinning in Germany, however, so I went to do a bit of research.  (I'm a librarian; what can I say?)   And what did I find?

"The earliest known record of a flyer wheel appears in the form of a picture from southern Germany, dated from 1475-1480, and shows flax spinning."  (A history and evolution of quilting, by Lady Siobhan nic Dhuinnshleibhe;    Accessed 6-29-2012)

Yep.  Flax. Looks like I need to find more flax. (I have just a sample.)  

 I don't think I'll grow and process it for spinning, though--I've read about and seen that process and I'm not sure I have it in me! 
(An old-ish video from Canada briefly shows the process; videos on YouTube from the Hermitage in Pennsylvania give you a better, if longer, idea of the process.)

 But I have an even greater respect for ancestors and what they needed to go through to be clothed.  Amazing.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The start of it all

Originally, I began this journey to learn how to spin cotton.  I planned to go back to school for a Master's Degree in quilt history (from University of Nebraska) and for a thesis project thought it would be interesting to go through the making of a quilt from the VERY beginning--spinning the cotton thread, weaving the fabric (weaving has long fascinated me), and making a quilt with it.  All right, it was going to be a small quilt!  That plan is on hold, at least for now, but the journey is still on.

Thus far I have spun cotton only on supported spindles, and that is taking a lot of practice!  I learned, finally, that you really do just barely hold the cotton store--I knew it intellectually, but until I felt the difference when I finally let loose of my grip I didn't really KNOW it.   I've been watching cotton spinners on videos on DVD and YouTube, trying to absorb information about their process and rhythm.  I'm learning that finding the rhythm is very important; sometimes I'm in rhythm and sometimes I just am not.  At all.

I would like to try some cotton spinning on the wheel, and on a chakra.  But for now I am content to be in search of my spindle cotton rhythm.  I'm almost there, I think!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Collaborative Quilting

A longtime friend and I are collaborating on a series of quilts. (It will probably be two series but that's another story.)   He's a mapmaker and we want a quilt (or two or three or...) that is a fair representation of topo and drainage maps--and whatever other sort of map we decide we like. 

However, we (well, I think it's "we") also want to so at least a couple quilts that are more abstract or artistic renditions of maps.

As we were talking about earlier this week, taking a look at some maps and images, it was fun to ask each other questions about our part in it, how best to represent features and which ones we wanted to include in the quilts.   I found myself saying more than once, while I was asking questions  "I guess that's why you're a mapmaker and I'm a quilter!  Trust me, the more I am learning about mapmaking the more I'm knowing how much I DON'T know about mapmaking! 

Of course, being a quilter, I had to go fabric shopping and take him along to make sure I was getting correct color schemes.   Note that we are also working on a plan to make some geology-inspired quilts, too.

Did you recognize that as a rationalization for the all the fabric you see here, from our shopping?  I was afraid to add up the yardage.

I've started working on a sample/practice piece in the artistic/abstract vein, and that is where I'm learning how little I know about mapmaking, as I'm trying to draft some contour lines onto fabric. I understand the concept  of contour lines and what they represent but I confess that when faced with drawing them on a piece of patterned fabric, well, I have some questions for my mapmaking friend.

Stay tuned.   I, for one, as interested in how this is all going to turn out!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Plan B...or is it C??

Yes, I'll confess it, I'm now on Plan C--or it may be Plan D by now.  This is my fourth yarn for the Pax shawlette CAL, if you count my "practice" piece.   The bamboo was too slippery, and the beautiful hand-dyed, mint-colored yarn from Knitwit is too...slippery, too.  That's the only way to describe it; the stitches just slide around and it's difficult for me to find the proper posts and bars to pick up.  No doubt more experienced knitters wouldn't have trouble but I had been fighting it and getting more and more tense as I progressed so I finally threw in the towel.  This is supposed to be fun, right?

Now, it is absolutely not the beauty or quality of the yarn, just the quality of the knitter!!  I will be saving the yarns from Plans B and C for other projects.

So, I'm back to using the baby alpaca that i used on the interminable sweater that I recently finished knitting.  It's a little heavier weight and I could perhaps use a larger crochet hook with it, but I'm going to see how this works out.  It is SO much easier to crochet and I'm having fun with the pattern again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pax revisited

Feeling more comfortable with the Pax shawlette pattern after working on a practice piece, and some beautiful hand-dyed baby alpaca yarn arrived from Knitwit Originals, so I am embarking on another Pax.

This yarn is quite different from the "practice" yarn and it is taking some getting used to. (Read:  the inconsistencies in my knitting and the mistakes are much more noticeable.  This will keep me on my toes!)

I love the minty green color, and who can argue with baby alpaca?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Brewing/Steeping still...

I'm working on the art piece, bit by bit.  We haven't come to a common understanding of how we're going to converse, but I've not doubt the piece will have its say at some point!   At the moment I'm adding beads as the spirit moves me. 

I can see the piece in my head, of course, but the chances that it will end up looking that way are pretty slim.  I may need to pick up some spinning or knitting while waiting for the conversation to start.  I can be patient.  Maybe.  Sort of.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Somthing's brewing...

A new art quilt is in the works.  I'd tell you what I have in mind, but quilts always have a mind of their own, especially these artsy kinds of things.  And what I have in my head doesn't always work out as I planned, or I figure out a different--hopefully better--way to do things. (In case you didn't catch the subtle note of "well, that didn't work out so well, let's go to Plan B" in there--ask me how I know that things go that way!).

So, here's a hint--any ideas about what I'm doing?  No, they aren't ties.....although....hmmm.  That gets some ideas moving....
(I have moved further on this and I'll post some more photos as it progresses. )

Sigh.  When I couldn't sleep this morning (being of a certain age), I planned out another project or two.   I will sketch them out, along with my notes, fully aware that they're going to have the final say in how they go!  But with another project (or two, or three, or...) running around in my head, demanding attention, it takes more discipline for me to focus on a WIP.   Have I mentioned that I have the attention span of a 2 year old?

When did I lose control of my life?  ;-)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Back to the Spindle

I learned to spin on a spindle but was very glad to be able to switch to a wheel after a short time because I found the spindle cumbersome to use:  it didn't spin for very long, and trying to coordinate learning to draft while trying to figure out the "physics" of the spindle was frustrating.  I managed it, but I wasn't very happy with the results.

Recently I bought a Golding spindle.  I confess that I bought it mostly because it's beautiful but I was happily surprised when I actually tried it for spinning; it was well balanced and heavier than my beginning spindle, and I swear that it would spin forever if I let it go!  So, I'm back to doing some spinning on drop spindle.   It's taking me a little while to coordinate my hands and pinch at just the right point while I"m drafting, but it's a much more enjoyable process with this spindle--it's beautiful while it's working so well!

When I've spun enough that I want to wind off, because the balance changes, I am winding it onto my weaving shuttle bobbins.