A Box Full of Promise

This came in the mail this week.

Big bax

It’s 47 pounds of organic merino sock yarn, and represents all the yarn  my students will be using in the classes I’m teaching this summer.

Normally my process of preparing for a class involves running around like a crazy person a day or two before the class and buying yarn at my local yarn shop to dye.  Past years have seen me drying yarn in the hotel bathroom with a blowdryer, or using the shoe-dryer attachment of my washing machine.

This year, I decided to get my act together.  (I am forty now, after all.)  So I placed an order with Henry’s Attic, where I have a wholesale account.

The UPS driver didn’t believe it could be yarn, because it was too heavy.

I didn’t think the box seemed big enough to hold a whole season’s worth of yarn.  But like a Tardis, it seems to be bigger on the inside.  (Adorable child added for scale.)

Yarn and Kai

Guess I’d better get busy with the skeining and dyeing, eh?

Shearing Day 2010

Yep, it’s time again for gratuitous sheep photos.  The shearer came to shear my sheep last weekend.

Shearing Sheep

The man in blue is Eifion, who comes over from Wales each year to visit family, and in the process wanders around and shears some sheep.  I believe the helper holding the power cord is his American brother-in-law.

Since Eifion worked for years in New Zealand, where flocks are counted in terms of tens of thousands, I think he’s amused by me and my three sheep.

The first time he came out, I wasn’t able to be there, so I left a check pinned to the barn door and a very detailed instruction sheet with information about the sheep including the vet’s phone number, the emergency vet’s number, my cell phone number, etc.  Kinda like you’d leave for a babysitter.

I think he ate out on that story for years.

This is Mousa, my “lead” sheep.  She’s physically the smallest, but also the most hard-headed and smartest.  She’s the biggest pain and yet…I like her best.  (Don’t tell the others.)

Mousa, sans wool

She decided that she didn’t mind shearing at all, as long as she wasn’t the one being sheared, and actually walked up to supervise while the others got sheared.

Three bags full of Shetland wool are now awaiting warmer weather to be washed and combed.

That’s a Lot of Warp

Last night I had one of those bouts of insomnia that hit me every once in a while, so I stayed up until 3am and…finally finished winding up the last of the blanket yarn!  Huzzah!

I put all the warp chains together and they completely filled a laundry hamper.

That's a LOT of warp chains

It’s fun to see all the colors together.  Because it took me a while to finish winding all the warp chains, all the donated yarns made it in.  (Even the stragglers that I haven’t gotten into the photo gallery yet.)

There’s some pretty cool yarn in there: Zabet’s (of The AntiCraft) first spindle-spun yarn; my first handspun on a wheel; Brenda Dayne’s (of Cast-On) spindle-spun yarn; recycled yarn from Sage of Quirky Nomads; handspun from Amelia of The Bellwether (on a spindle, no doubt); yarn from Greece, Australia, New Zealand, England, the Netherlands, Canada, and the US; yarn from weavers, non-weavers, and aspiring weavers; yarn from old projects; yarn from people’s flock and fiber animals…too many stories to mention (though I’ve saved them all in a big green notebook.)

After I’d wound the warp chains, there were scraps of yarn left over.  I’d chosen to wind 13-yard bouts, so many of the scraps were 9-12 yards, and were way too special to throw away.  So I tied the cut ends together and wound them into balls.

Crazy balls of yarn

I’m not completely sure what to do with these.  Auction or sell them off for Doctors Without Borders?  Would anyone (but me) be interested in something as wild as this? (Personally, I think they’d knit up into a wonderful crazy-quilt shawl.)

Videoshoot at TCTV

On Wednesday, I did a videoshoot at TCTV.  I’d played around a bit with video, using home video cameras to tape techniques for WeaveZine, and having Kate come to my house to interview me.

Being at a television station, on a set with lights, multiple cameras, and a control booth, was a whole nother thing.

Loom on camera

The day started early, with hair and makeup by Fierce Locks, a business run by my friend, Dreadful Jonquil.  She specializes in funky hair styles and dread extensions, but was also up to the challenge of helping bring out my “inner Rachel Ray.”

When you put on makeup for the stage or television, you have to put it on heavy and dark in order to counteract the washing-out effect of stage lights.  So at the end—especially considering that I rarely wear makeup—I felt very “Kabuki Syne.”

The first time I heard the words, “Going black.  Cue talent, going live in 5…4…3…2…1” and saw three cameras looking at me like this:

On Camera in 3...2...1

I swear, everything I ever knew fell right out of my head.  You could have asked me my name, and I’d have been hard pressed to answer: “I’m not sure, starts with an ‘S’ I think…”

I actually got fussed at by a director.  Which at the time was disheartening, but now makes me laugh.  It’s so far out of what I’d considered possible for my life.

What made things challenging, and the reason for the fussing, no doubt, was that I’d imagined that the shoot would be done in segments, with plenty of time to breath between, and easy, short re-does if needed.  The director had other plans, though, and  wanted a seamless narrative.  So instead of showing one step of warping, and then having a break, I had to demonstrate the whole thing in one go, with no breathers and no re-does.


But there was no other option, so I soldiered through.  And really, once I got to playing with the weaving toys, I settled down quite a bit, and forgot the cameras.

After it was “in the can”, the director and camera guys said nice things about my performance, and were gobsmacked when I confessed I’d never done anything like this before.  (Maybe they’d have fussed less if they’d known I was such a noob?)

Even better, they came and had a look at the looms, telling stories about weaving and learning knots in boy scouts.  (Weavers, I tell ya, we’re everywhere.)
Kabuki SyneBetween sets, Kate took a picture of me.  Even after a stressful day of traveling and shooting, the hair and makeup had held up pretty well.

We had a bit of time left at the end, so Kate had me run through warping a rigid-heddle loom, which—since I now knew what to expect—went much more smoothly.

The plan is for these warping videos to run on TCTV as a Talking Threads Media production and to be embedded as snippets in some how-to content for WeaveZine I’m working on.

So stay tuned!

All Wound Up

At the launch party, we started the process of winding warp bouts for the 40th blanket project.  To make sure that all the warps would end up the same length—since we were using a variety of warping boards at Weaving Works—I first wound a set of “measuring strings” in a non-stretchy yarn on the warping board I’d brought from home and then handed them off to folks.

Diagonal WarpIt was sometimes a challenge to find a path that would fit the string on the warping board’s path.  I love the solution that Marilyn came up with, very creative!One of the fun thing about having multiple warp-winders winding warps from the same pile of yarn was that each warp subtly showed the personality of the winder.  One was more jewel-toned, another more fiesta, another pastel, but because we were all drawing from the same pile of yarn, they coordinated.

The end results are something that will either strike you as richly colored, with lots of intriguing surprises (my reaction) or will make you advocate for selling two blankets as a fundraiser for MSF/DWB (Eric’s reaction.)

Put in a pile, the warp chains are pretty wild.  But I think the right weft will help draw all these colors together (another bit of the magic of weaving.)

warp chains

When I got home, there was a lot of yarn left to warp.  Which suited me just fine.  I love winding warp bouts.  (I used to hate it, because asking me to count up to ten without losing my place well…let’s just say it’s not the best plan for accuracy.  So I developed techniques so the warp would keep track of the counting, and I could just wind.)

I kept finding myself staying up late at night, winding warp, saying to myself, “Just one more bout…”  What made it so compelling is that I had a pile of yarn, in colors picked by people from all over the globe (US, Canada, Greece Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, etc.) and many of them picked colors that aren’t in my standard color palette.  And because I was trying to balance the warp in many ways (thick vs. thin, smooth vs. bumpy, elastic vs. inelastic) color was often secondary to why I would pick up a given yarn.

So I found myself making all kinds of color discoveries that I would normally never come across in a warp chain.  For example:

  • I love putting purple next to red.  Somewhere in my youth I was warned against this; told this color combination was very “bordello” and that the colors would clash.  But I can’t help it, I love the way they look together.
  • You can have value accents as well as color accents.  I’ve known for a while (and you can hear Kaffe Fasset talk about it) that putting one incongruous color or “zinger” into a warp (such as lime green in a red/orange warp) can really make it come alive.  I’d never thought of white as a zinger color.  But if you drop it into the middle of a dark, jewel-toned, section of warp, its value contrast makes it act as a zinger, despite the lack of hue.
  • Blue and beige look rather good together.  (I know, there are entire sectors of fashion based on this principal, but somehow it’d escaped me.)
  • Blending multiple shades of the same color (eg: red) made a much richer look than one single shade.  (I already knew this one, still it was fun to play with and re-confirm, over and over.)
Big pile of warp chainsAs I warped, I kept finding yarns to add to the pile: my very first handspun, surely that had a place in this blanket, and the handspun given to me by people I’d taught to spin, yarn I’d spun out of wolf fiber donated by a wolf I’d known and liked, and yarn gifted to me by my first weaving teacher, etc.

So I am almost done winding warp for the blanket, and I confess that I’ll be a bit sad when this part of the task is over.

P.S. As I was writing this, I was delighted to find someone winding a warp even wilder than mine.  Check out this picture from Lynne Bruning’s photostream.