Mending Sleaziness

I’ve been mending and burling the Birthday Blanket. This means painstakingly going over the fabric looking for flaws and fixing them. Most errors, like skips and floats, are easy to fix.

The one that’s been puzzling me is sleaziness.

Sleazy spot in the fabric

In places where there are two consecutive shots missing, it’s easy, simply needle-weave in two new shots of weft.

But what do you do when you only missed one shot? Needle-weaving in two shots of weft in a space only big enough for one would result in fabric that was too dense. Needle-weaving in one shot would mean doubling the thread in one pick and also stand out.

I puzzled over it last night and then went to bed.

This morning I woke up with an idea: split the two-ply weft into two single plies and needle weave both singles in separately.

splitting the plys

The first step is to needle-weave along one of the wefts, in the same shed. To make it easy to come back the other way, I made sure that the new thread was always on top of the existing weft.

needle-weaving in first singles

Then I came back the other way, weaving between the normal and the singles weft that are in the same shed. As you can see on the left, I’m getting good results. The fabric density with the two singles closely matches that of the rest of the cloth.

weaving in the second singles

Here’s a before-and-after shot of what the sleaziness in the cloth looks like, and the repair (pointed out by the needle ).

before and after, repairing sleaziness

If you look closely, you’ll see singles ends sticking out of the cloth. That’s a repair where the single ply broke while I was weaving it in. You could prevent this by adding twist to the singles after you un-ply them. In this case, I was working with a sticky wool, so I just fixed the error and continued on.

And that’s my new trick for repairing sleazy areas in cloth!

 

Weave on…

—Syne

Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival

My new book, Inventive Weaving, is scheduled to be published tomorrow, though I know that some folks who attended Rhinebeck or pre-ordered the book on Amazon have already gotten their hands on copies.

This upcoming weekend I’ll be promoting the book at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, in The Dalles, Oregon. It’s one I’ve never been to and I’m interested to explore it. There are some great teachers there. Friday afternoon, I’m taking the Knit Smart class taught by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Friday, from 4pm-7pm, I’ll be participating in a book signing with all the luminaries teaching at the festival.

Saturday, I’ll demo weaving overshot on a rigid heddle loom from 11:00-11:45, near the registration desk.

Linda Gettman, one of my former students, is teaching rigid-heddle classes at the festival . I’m so proud of her! If I teach someone to weave, and they go on to teach others, does that make me a weaving grandma?

And yes, today’s 30 minutes of novel writing are done!

Yarn for Class!

This past Thursday I had lunch with Astrid Bear.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Astrid, she’s witty, fun, friendly, and knows an astounding number of people from many different walks of life. You’d probably like her if you met her, she’s just that kind of person.

Astrid Bear

Among the many hats Astrid wears in life, she’s also an indie dyer, working under the name Damselfly Yarns.  Her claim-to-fame at last year’s Sock Summit was the infamously named featured colorway: “Clown Barf.” It was absolutely the right name for the color, and it sold out within the first few days of the conference.  She told me the name for her featured colorway for this year’s Sock Summit and I’m not giving away any spoilers, but I can tell you my reaction: “I don’t care what it looks like, I want it.” It was that funny.

The purpose that brought us together for lunch was my procurement of yarn for an upcoming class at the John C. Campbell school: May 29th – June 4th.  In the past I’ve always dyed yarn for my classes myself. My thinking was that I wanted beautiful hand-painted yarns for students to learn on, at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, this often meant I’d end up dyeing yarn frantically the week before class, and sometimes blow drying skeins late at night.

This year, I farmed out the work to Astrid. She got a big order, I got gorgeous high-quality yarn dyed to the specifications I needed for class, and students got lower materials fees than if I’d bought retail. A deal full of win all the way around. Here’s a teensy peek into the bag of warp, as a bit of a sneak preview. (You can see more of the colors on Astrid’s blog, but if you’re in the class, no calling “dibs” ;> )

yarn for class, warp

After work on Thursdays is my night to do derby practice with PFM (Potential Fresh Meat, a Seattle skating club.)

Rat's Nest

We practice at the Rat’s Nest, which is the practice rink of the Rat City Rollergirls. For a roller-derby fan, it’s a little like playing pick-up games of basketball on the practice court of the L.A. Lakers.  As we were clearing out, the RCRGs started gearing up for their practice and it was all I could do not to go all fan girl and start gushing and asking for autographs.

I restrained myself and watched a few minutes of their warm-up.  I loved their casual grace and athleticism on skates. It gives me something to strive for.

After my work-out I had sushi with Selah, which in addition to being alliterative, was a great way to end up the day.

Selah showed me a wedding dress that she’d just finished up. The bride was still there when I picked Selah up and she did wonderful twirls that we all enthused over. The gown’s  pattern? Selah’s own creation, and something very inventive and unique. The other piece Selah showed me is a jacket she sewed from Laura Fry’s handwoven fabric for Laura’s entry into the upcoming ANWG fashion show. That was from a commercial pattern, but had been fitted to Laura and was stunning.

Selah is sadly, blogless (I’m working on her about that) so you’ll just have to take my work for it that the work was lovely.

And as a follow-up to a previous post, Kai did indeed wear his shirt to school and do a show-and-tell segment about seeing his first roller derby bout. Apparently it went over well. I asked what he told the class about the game. He said: “Girls skate fast and hit each other!” He said it with glee, and has no concept that an all-girl game might be anything other than a completely valid sport. Have I told you how much I love this kid?

Kai's show-and-tell

The community league I practice with on Tuesdays is starting up a kid’s league. To Kai’s delight it welcomes boys as well as girls. I’ve got him signed up already.

I’m teaching at Sock Summit!

Guess what?  I’m teaching at Sock Summit in Portland!!!

If you don’t yet know about this event, it’s an entire weekend celebrating the hand-knit sock. It covers pretty much every way a sock can be created and is a complete ball of fun. I went in 2009 on the advice of Brenda Dayne and the encouragement of Astrid Bear and had an absolute blast.

(If you don’t already know, I knit a LOT of socks. They’re my go-to carry project when I need to take a little fiber-arts therapy to the doctor’s office, day-long meeting, etc.)

They posted the teacher’s list yesterday so I can finally talk about it. It’s been hard to keep mum while things were finalized. When I read through the list of who else is teaching, I paused. My name, in the same list as these luminaries of the fiber world? It was a moment blended of delight, humility, shock, and a wee bit of fear. The people on that list have set a high bar for excellence.

I’m teaching two classes, Twinkle Toes: eTextiles for Socks and Woven Socks.

See that last class? That’s the only weaving class at Sock Summit. I’m thrilled and delighted to be once again taking weaving where it’s never gone before. Because really, if you love one fiber art, isn’t it likely you’d love another? (1)

And then, when I thought the news couldn’t get any better, I read Cat Bordhi’s Facebook update.

Cat Bordhi on Facebook

How lovely is that?

Do you think one of these days I’ll get Cat weaving? Can you imagine what her brain-sparkly mind would do with yarn and a loom? I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking discontinuous warps and wefts going every which-a-way.

Today I’m having lunch with Astrid. She and I have plans to be roomies (along with two other fun women) at Sock Summit, I can’t wait to tell her the news!

 

(1) I’ll be representing weaving at Sock Summit, but by no means the only weaver there. A lot of knitters also weave, and vice versa. Some day it’d be fun to list all the knitting instructors I’ve met who weave, have woven in the past, or are learning to weave.

Bumps, Lumps, and Roller Derby

I’ve been discovering my inner sports fan. After a lifetime of my father dragging me to football games, and the utter shame of me attending not even one Seminole’s football game during my years at Florida State University, it’s amusing to have this hit now as a 41-year-old.

It’s roller derby.  Which if you’re not familiar with the sport, is a bit like football on skates,    with no ball. The rules are arcane, as with any sport, but the gist of it is each team has a jammer, which is the scoring player, who has to skate through a pack composed of blocking players, racking up a point for each player of the opposing team she passes.

roller derby

(The fact that I just had to cut out a sentence or two that went into further details and elaborations about the game’s rules shows just how far gone I am.)

Roller derby was popular in the 1970s until TV promoters took it in a ludicrous WWF direction. Modern roller derby is the re-imagining of the sport by women who watched roller derby as children and took the best parts of those days (women being strong, fierce, and playful) and made it a serious sport.

The feminist in me loves that when these women reinvented roller derby in their own image, they made it real. There’s amazing athleticism on the field: jammers who whip around the rink at top speed, blocks, whips, jumping over downed skaters.

Despite all that, derby is still playful. The women who skate  take on humorous assumed names. One of the Rat City Rollergirls is “Yoko O’no You Didn’t,” a call out to her Asian heritage and a sassy comment about how things sometimes go during the game. (There’s a complete list of all the registered names online.) And there’s fashion. Because modern roller derby is run “by the players, for the players” the gals often sew their own costumes and get creative with them.

I’ve been skating in derby practices, Bellevue Roller Derby and PFM, but I didn’t expect to actually enjoy watching the game. When I was a competitive fencer, after all, I never got into watching fencing bouts.

All I can say is that somewhere been the opening and the closing ceremonies, a latent “sports fan” gene got switched on.  I hooted and hollered when players on the field pulled amazing stunts. I rooted for the home team and groaned when they didn’t win. I did the wave, I shouted “City” in response to the other side of the arena’s “Rat” and heard an audience of 5000+ people speak as one.

With me at this event were my friend Selah and my son Kai. Selah brought a half-time show in her bag, samples of differential shrinkage cloth she’d woven in a recent class by Ruby Leslie.  They were amazing and soft, and full of textural interest. I’d love to take a workshop or class with Ruby some day if I can get the timing to work out.

Selah also found a bit of time to crochet during the bout. Me, I brought a sock-in-progress to knit on, but never took it out of the bag. (The knitting bag later filled up with T-shirts, patches, and a cow bell, so it was useful, non-the-less.)

Kai was a whole nother matter.  This was his first-ever sporting event and it’s a long six hours. I worried that he’d get bored at some point and that I’d have to walk him around and keep him entertained. When the game started, and he watched with a slack expression and I was sure I was in trouble.

kai and Syne watching the game

Quite the opposite. Apparently the “sports fan” gene is strong with this one. He was the one rushing us back from bathroom breaks and shopping trips at halftime so we wouldn’t miss any of the game.

He bought a “derby brats” (the junior derby league) button and a Rat City Rollergirl T-Shirt. When I looked at the T-shirt, with its saucy logo of a pretty gal with a fierce look and a black eye, and said “I’m not sure that’s appropriate for school.”  He replied, “Of course it is. It’ll be perfect for show-and-tell!” I belly-laughed so hard the other people in line stared. If you take your kid to roller derby, he gets to talk about it. Fair enough.

Kai got the autograph of a Denver Roller Doll. The visiting team was amazing, with great speed and power. I complemented her team and gently teased her that it’s because they had so much extra oxygen playing down in Seattle at sea level. She, like all the roller derby folk I’ve met, was big-hearted and gracious.

denver roller doll

As we walked out of the Key Arena, Kai said quietly, “That was amazing.” I said, “Do you want to go to the next game?” He looked at me as if I was a bit stupid and said, “Yeah. So I can track the scores. That last bout was 96 to 108.”

It was like watching genetic destiny in action.  His granddad will be so proud.

Kai enjoying the game

State of the Fiber-Arts Union

I’ve been through my first two weeks at my new job.  Starting a new job is always an adjustment.  There’ve been fun moments—my coworkers are a smart and lively bunch, and the technologies I’m working on are cutting edge—and challenging moments—there’s so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a firehose—and sad moments—I have less time with my husband and son, which really kills.  But helping support the family is important work, and if I have to have a job, I can’t imagine one I’d be better suited for (well, unless Handwoven was hiring.)

One thing that’s taken a hit the past two weeks has been time to work on fibery pursuits.  I was feeling somewhat bummed about that and decided to take a tour of works in progress.

My going-to-bed project for the past two weeks has been practicing lever knitting by working on an alternating-color scarf.  (The pattern is simple and has been all over the internet.  Essentially you alternate between two balls of color-changing yarn, knitting 2 rows of 1×1 rib with one ball before switching to the other.)  Lever knitting was something I learned at Madrona this year from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.  I decided to practice it right before bed because I knew doing so would let my brain chew over the new skill at night and help lock it into place.

lever knitting

If this doesn’t look like much scarf to have after two weeks, know this: the first night I think I did two rows.  It was glacial progress, retraining my fingers to new positions and ways of moving.  Many stitches were dropped and picked up.  The next night, another painfully slow two rows.  Then after a few nights, I was maybe getting four rows.  So it went for two weeks, steady but slow progress.  Then, yesterday, I whipped through about six inches while lounging in bed drinking tea.  (Then Kai woke up and started jumping on me.  I’ve not yet mastered the art of combat knitting, so I put the needles aside and cuddled and tickled instead.)  This morning another three inches of scarf jumped off the needles.  It’s kind of scary how fast the knitting is going right now.  I actually caught myself thinking: “On no!  This scarf is going to be over too soon!”  Which really threw me.  Is this project also making me a process knitter?

Right now, lever knitting is starting to feel so comfortable and fast that I’m actually scheming of knitting a sweater, one knit flat, with seaming….on straight aluminum needles!

To truly understand the weird irony of that statement you have to know that two weeks ago:

  • I hated straight needles, thought they were absolutely stupid and awkward.
  • Thought knitting was too slow to take seriously as anything more than useful finger twiddling.
  • Hated sweaters knit flat, because I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t just knit everything in the round, as nature intended.
  • Was scared stupid of knitting sweaters because every single one of the 2-1/2 I’ve knitting so far has been a failure.
  • Hated aluminum needles because the scraping sound of them rubbing together makes my teeth hurt.

That last was fixed by my splurging on a pair of US 8 needles from Signature Needle Arts.  I’d resisted them for years because of the hating of aluminum and the whole “straight needles are stupid” thing.  They are also dead expensive.  But, in the spirit of exploration and discovery, I ordered a pair.  They are, truly as lovely and well balanced as all the bloggers say they are.  I got the stiletto point and am enjoying the accuracy of a sharp pointy needle.  (Plus I love the name “stiletto” which invokes high heels and concealable daggers and reeks of mystery and intrigue.  Yeah, these are my dangerous and sexy, “stiletto” knitting needles: watch out, world!)

Enough rhapsodizing about straight-needle knitting, let’s see what else I’ve been working on lately…

This has been my bus-commute project.  A crocheted mobius scarf/neck warmer designed by my friend Selah.  I’d wanted to work on a mobius project ever since reading  Cat Bordhi’s Second Treasury of Magical Knitting, but it’s never arisen to the top of my work queue.  Selah figured out how to convert the mobius design to crochet, and generously shared the essential trick to make it work with me, and I’ve been using this as my carry-project.  Because it’s fascinating to watch the cloth grow from both sides, and because 14-inch straight needles would pose a hazard to other bus passengers on a crowded morning commute.

Crochet mobius scarf

These socks were my previous carry project before the mobius kicked them out of my to-go project bag.  They’re a fun twinkly yarn, and I’m considering embellishing them with LED sequins and a Sparkle to make glow-y fun socks.

Sparkly green socks

I wanted to get the 40th Blanket project done before Madrona, but with teaching two brand new classes, there was a lot of prepping and sampling to get done.  So threading this had to step aside to make sure that the students got their money’s worth.  (Teaching new classes is always a bit nerve-wracking, will there be enough material?  Too much?  I work hard to try to provide a balance for students at all skill levels.  I hope the students had a good time.)  So the birthday blanket project is still in progress, and I’m hoping to get it all done in time for the fall fund-raising season.  Because, at its heart, it’s a charity project.

40th blanket project ready for threading

I’ve also been working on a project on my rigid-heddle loom.  This is a fabric that I’m hoping will work for a garment that ties into a new passion of mine: roller derby.  That’s been a whole nother life-changer for me.  A couple of months ago I asked myself the question: “What could I do for exercise that would be excruciatingly fun?”  Because I know that if exercise isn’t fun, I just won’t do it.  The universe, as it often does when you ask the right question, came up with an answer for me.  More about this in a future blog post.

rigid heddle fabric

Oh, and last but not least.  I’ve been spinning.  This is Lorna’s Laces “Green with Envy” 100% superwash merino.

spinning singles on the bobbin

It’s appropriate that I end this post with spinning, as it was the fiber art that drew me in to so many other crafts.  When I was first employed in high-tech, working for Microsoft, spinning was my way to relax and ground myself after a stressful day.  So it’s no surprise that I’ve turned myself back to it right now, when I’m working hard each day to figure out bus schedules, and new technologies, and set up a build machine, and work through all the new names and teams.

Looking at the things I have on the go right now, I notice a couple of things:

  1. I’m getting a lot more fiber arts done in cracks and crannies of time than I’d imagined.  That’s a comfort.  I can have a job and a family…and my art, too.
  2. Most of the projects I’m working on right now are dead simple.  They’re projects to sooth the soul, not challenge the brain.  I’m happy with that.  It’s nice to know that no matter what’s going on in your life, there’s a way to fit fiber arts into it.  When things settle down at work (if they ever do) there’ll be challenging lace patterns and weave structures to spark my brain.  In the meantime, I’m happy with my comfort-food knitting, weaving, crochet, and spinning.

Madrona 2011: eTextiles, Core Spinning, Garments, Lever Knitting, oh my!

I got back from Madrona yesterday.  As always, it was a whirlwind.  This year I ended up teaching two entirely new classes, one with a co-teacher, which was another first for me.  I enjoy working up new material to teach, but it’s a lot more work because all the samples are new, the notes are new, the lecture is new.  It’s a whole frog-ball of new.

All day Thursday Selah Barling and I taught the “Garments from the Rigid-Heddle Loom” class.  In reality, Selah taught the class and I was support and occasional comic relief.  Towards the end, though, I jumped in and started making fitting tweaks and offering sartorial suggestions.

Selah and Syne co-teach

(She looks even prettier with her eyes open, but this was the only picture with the two of us wearing our class samples.)

This was Selah’s teaching debut in this format (a whole room full of students) and I am pleased to say that she was magnificent.  A born teacher.  The basic project was a vest of Selah’s design (that I helped translate into digital format and resize.)  Each student brought in fabric they’d woven before class, made a muslin (which Selah helped them custom-fit) and sewed up the vest.

Selah, teaching and muslins

What was great about the class was seeing how one basic pattern could look so different depending on the fabric and fit customization.  They were all beautiful in different ways.  Here are pictures of some of our well-garbed students.

Friday I got to take a core-spinning class with Jacey Boggs, which was a real treat.  Jacey is a lively and talented instructor.  Laura Fry was taking that class as well, so we sat together and had fun as a couple of weavers visiting the land of knitters and spinners.  I’d brought conductive thread and used that as my core spinning.  Ta-da!  My own handspun, conductive, wool-insulated yarn!  This totally solves the problem of how to overlap traces without having them short out.  And it’s so beautiful that I could hardly stop spinning it.

Another reason that I was in love with core spinning was that I splurged (after several years of scheming and preparation) and bought myself a HansenCrafts miniSpinner.  It is seriously lovely, smooth and quiet.  When I bought mine, Sarah Anderson was in the booth at the same time and when she saw me coming, snatched up the rosewood and maple spinner and clutched it to her chest proclaiming, “This one’s mine!”  (She and I roomed together at GGFI, so she knows my predilection for pretty fiber tools.)

Sarah Anderson

My guess is that when you have to fight the spinning instructors off to purchase a wheel, it’s a good one.  I bought the cherry model.  I looked at all the exotic woods, but I love cherry and how it ages so beautifully.  That and it’s the lightest miniSpinner.  Beth and Kevin Hansen were wonderfully helpful and after Kevin learned that I sometimes play around with microcontrollers (behold my geek fu!) gave me some insider info about the electronics.

Note: an electric wheel is great for learning how to spin art yarns: the orifice is big, and you don’t have to treadle, so you can just focus on what your hands are doing.

Saturday was my debut eTextile class, “eTextiles for Knitters and Weavers.”  I had wondered whether I had enough material for six hours, but by the end of class, students were telling me they would have loved it as a two-day class.  We covered electronic basics, sample circuits with LEDs, electroluminescent wire, and programable circuits using the Aniomagic schemer.  It was wacky mad-science fun.

This is the soldering demo.  Fortunately I did not set off any smoke alarms. (Suzanne, the organizer, really has no idea what I get up to in class, this is probably a good thing.)

soldering demo

Here are some of the absolutely fun things students made: a glowing mobius scarf, LED-enhanced buttons, and an exquisitely knitted hat enhanced with a schemer and programmable light boards.

Schemer hat

Saturday was also my birthday.  Selah and I went out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  I discovered that if you tell the waitress: “Es mi cumpleaños” this happens to you.

silly birthday hat

They also sing and provide a sugar-covered deep fried tortilla.  Fortunately I am the kind of person who loves wearing a goofy hat and being sung to (unlike my husband, who would have hidden under the table until they went away.)  After they left, Selah and I examined the stitching on the top of the sombrero, which was lovely.

stitching on the hat

Sunday I finally got to take the “Knitting for Speed and Efficiency” class with Stephanie.  It was grand fun.  Both because of Stephanie’s entertaining ways and because of the fun brain-stretchiness of learning something new: knitting.  This is me wearing a fair-isle knitting belt.  Wearing a plaid skirt and knitting with a belt and hugely long DPNs, I felt that somewhere my Scottish ancestors were doing high fives.

lever knitting

Day Job

2011 is already starting out as a year of big changes.  The biggest one is that, after 10 years of being a work-at-home mom, I’ve gotten a day job…and not just any day job, but one that matches what I’d described as my “best possible job” when I started looking.

I’d been plinking in resumes since just before the end of 2010, with no appreciable results.  Then after the first of the year, I ended up in two different interview loops, both for essentially the same position at rival companies.  Both extended me offers, and after a bit of negotiating back and forth, I landed at Amazon, where I’ll be a technical writer documenting Amazon Web Services.

(You might have to be a geek to understand why that excites me so.  Essentially, I’ll be getting paid to learn about a revolutionary new web technology that I want to learn anyway.)

My work on WeaveZine as a small-business web entrepreneur was, surprisingly to me, a bonus in interviews.  My guess is they were wading through reams of nearly identical technical writing samples and then hit mine, which included things like “Potholder Looms: Basics and Beyond” and thought “at least this candidate won’t be boring!”

So…instead of ending up in a dead-end, mommy-tracked, job as I’d feared, I’ll be walking into a great position.  It blows me away.  Eric says he never had any doubts, that I always underestimate myself.  I guess he was right!

So that’s great news for me.  What does it mean for the website?

It’s going back to its roots: a site run for fun, not profit.

The primary focus will be shifting to reflect that.  It’ll become my personal blog, with occasional podcast episodes.  I’d like to say that the podcast will come out on a monthly schedule, but since I’ve never done the podcast while working full time, all I can say is that there will be more episodes, done as time allows.

All the great WeaveZine and WeaveCast content that’s currently on the site will continue to be available as a permanent archive, and I’ll do my best to keep the URLs the same when I shift things around.

It may take a while for me to get to this, but I will be moving to a different server host, and re-branding the website so the new personal focus will be clear.

I’ve got some existing sponsorship and ad commitments, as those run out, the site will transition to ad-free and donation-free.

I may still sell the occasional pattern or kit in an online store or on Etsy, just for fun, but not in a “this has to support the server” way.

If you have questions or comments about what’s happening, please leave a comment below.

Many thanks for being the most important part of my website—the folks who enjoy it!

 

Syne with Pink Hair

Syne Mitchell

Programmer-Writer, Weaver, and Blogger

Beamed On

The warp is wound onto the plain beam of my AVL, and awaiting threading.

beamed on and ready to thread

The warp separator I ended up buying is six bamboo blinds from the hardware store, handily precut to 46-inch widths, 2 yards long.  I use pliers to remove the blind hardware and ta-da!  Perfect warp separator.  Infinitely reusable, works a treat, and you don’t have to figure out if it’s time to insert another stick yet.  (This was a tip gleaned from Laura Fry.)

bamboo blinds

Note: See those pliers?  Those are another hardware store find.  You know how Irwin Quick-Grips revolutionized the bar clamp?  Irwin has done it again for vise grips.  These are the 8-inch vise grips ,they adjust beautifully and stay put while you use them without slipping.  Not cheap, but the first vise grips I’ve ever had that actually work and don’t pinch my hand.  These are now part of my loom tool box.

Evelyn suggested that instead of buying warp separator, I simply wind the warp onto the sectional beam, no warp separator needed.  I appreciate suggestions, and gave it a thought, but decided to go with my original plan because the threads are so heterogenous in size and shape.  Some are slubby handspun and some are skinny, and some are boucles and some are smooth.  Also, the warp is spread pretty loosely in the raddle.  If it was a dense, homogenous warp, with smooth threads, I’d have totally given it a try.  But with this warp I wanted the safety net of knowing that there was no way threads from one layer of warp could sneak down past their fellows into the preceding layer.

It’s entirely possible Evelyn’s trick would have worked, I was after all completely skeptical of the wind-two-warp-threads-together-with-a-finger-between-and-they-won’t-tangle thing when Barbara Miller and Pam Howard told me about it.  And that works.  But like I said, this was too precious a project to risk.

Speaking of mitigating risk.  I have now moved from the we-don’t-need-no-stinking-muslins camp to the muslins-we-loves-them camp.  It took one eye-opening experience with my fiber-buddy Selah.  Remember the chenille and the pattern I had planned for it?    She took one look at the pattern and in the gentle way she has, encouraged me to mock it up in muslin first.  Here’s the muslin.

muslin test

Not my most flattering look.  Even looking past the pale, stiffness of the fabric, I realized immediately that it was a design that would look better on an apple-shaped figure, not an hourglass-shaped gal like me.

For comparison, here’s me in a custom-fit garment that Selah and I and will be teaching at Madrona.

kimono fabric vest

Note: This fabric was woven on a rigid-heddle loom, using the 2-3 yard scraps of yarn left over from winding the blanket warps.  (You send me precious yarn; I make sure none of it goes to waste!)

The take-away: handwoven cloth is worth test-driving a new pattern in muslin.  If I ever forget, I’ll just point myself at this blog post.

And the pattern?  I’ll be taking it and the muslin to Madrona.  Hopefully one of the students will be a good body-match for the design and I can gift them the pattern.

Since I’m responding to questions and comments today, Ruth asked me in email whether I was still maintaining my goal weight.  Thus far, yes.  I’m still wearing size 8 clothes and weighing in a scootch under 145, the goal weight I reached in August.  My friend and weight-loss inspiration, Bonnie, warned me that maintenance is in many ways harder than losing, because you still have to eat right and there are no little payoffs in progress along the way.  Tis true.  It’s something I have to think about at every meal, and likely will for the next 5-10 years, or perhaps even the rest of my life.

When the urge to fall off the wagon and into a pile of crusty bread hits me, however, I think about how much healthier I feel.  How much better a mom I am to Kai now that I can run around and chase him.  How laying off the sugar has largely cleared up my allergies.

The toughest part is when I want to reward myself with a little “good-good” for accomplishing something hard.  Right now, I give myself 5 minutes to spin up some hand-painted merino, or if I’m at the grocery store, some bath salts instead of Mint Milanos.

I’m a work in progress, always.