I joined the local Handweavers’ Guild this year to get some help understanding why my loom was giving me so much trouble. One member was especially kind and helped me identify things I was doing that were getting in the way, so I bravely launched into a complicated project with my fingers crossed. It was a little hairy at the beginning, but once I got going it went well!
Here is a placemat I made with a technique called “overshot” that can create intricate geometric patterns. To me, it was like magic. Sure, I made mistakes as always, but I’m pretty proud of how well it went. The one problem I ran into did not show up till I was all done. Apparently, I was not consistent in my technique because the first placemat was 21 inches, the second 22, and the last two were a whopping 23 inches! It had never occurred to me that the length would be variable. I guess it is logical but I’d just assumed that if you follow the pattern, you’ll get what you expect as a result. I guess when we use them I’ll be able to set out large plates, dessert bowls, and lots of special silverware and glasses. Everything will fit on these massive place settings!
I am now excited to start another of the projects for which I’d bought yarn a few months ago before the gardening chores took over my life. I feel confident that I can at least handle the loom, so that my inexperience will be my only major obstacle.
Another thing I was wishing for was to get started spinning and handling the sheep’s wool that was sheared back in April. I have it all cleaned and carded in nice soft batts in the closet. I took one batt and spun it up into 220 yards of 2-ply yarn. Then I decided to experiment with dying it in multiple shades. I found that you need to get the water down to a pH of about 4 in order for the dye to bond well with the fiber. I used vinegar for that and tested it with my husband’s wine-making test strips. Then I had to slowly bring up the water temperature with the wool in it because sudden temperature changes will shock wool and felt it up (or so they tell me.)
Next, I wanted to have the skein come out with a shifting color. I mixed the first color and soaked the wool till it had absorbed the dye. Then, I hung the skein from above and dangled the ends in the pot while I added a new color. This seemed to work pretty well. I washed it up really well afterwards to get the excess dye out and also because the wool was almost waxy with lanolin when I spun it and I needed to get that out to soften the fibers. When I went to hang it to dry, I untied too many of the ties and it got badly tangled, forcing me to spend an hour straightening it all out. I hope won’t make that mistake again, but it wasn’t the first time!
In the end, here is my first skein of variegated yarn. Now I have to decide if it is practical to dye all this yarn after it has been spun or whether I should do it in the batt form first and then spin it. So many things to learn!