Monday, March 26, 2007

Spy Cams and Spinning

My husband had a surprise for me. He knows that I miss our home in Washington (pictured above) when we are in California so he decided to bring Washington to me whenever I wanted. Last week Dan repeatedly went to and from the computer store. When we loaded up the pickup truck, he placed a several, large mysterious boxes in the back seat. Since Dan enjoys ham radio and police scanners as a hobby, I didn't think too much of it. Unbeknownst to me, while I was at The Weaver's School, he was outside our house in the rain mounting cameras and crawling around in the attic stringing cable. On Wednesday night, Dan borrowed my laptop computer. Then, on Thursday morning, while I was in the middle of the ferry crossing between Mukilteo and Clinton, he telephoned me on my cell phone and told me to get onto the Internet. Thoroughly mystified, I dutifully plugged in the air card, connected to the Internet and followed his instructions. And suddenly, this popped onto my computer screen....

It's our yard. Eight color cameras are aimed at various points. I can see our side yard, the front yard, the woods in front of the house, our caretaker's house, the garage, the garden shed and the front door. Dan informed me that several of the cameras have "night vision" so I can see the critters that walk through our yard at night. So now, even when I am in California, I can visit our house any time I like.
Now that I completed The Weaver's School, I decided to paint our fences on Saturday. The forecast was for clear skies and a crisp temperature. Anticipating a dry day, I arose early on Saturday morning to, you guessed it......rain. And not the light drizzly stuff either, this was a full fledged downpour. When it became clear that the rain had absolutely no intention of letting up any time soon, I decided to head over to the Allyn Knit Shop and join their Saturday knitting session. I added 10 more rows to my vest, then headed home.
It was still raining so I decided to set up my spinning wheel by the front window and work on some sock yarn. Saturday is normally the day I try to set aside as my spinning day. Unfortunately, I don't always get to spin as much as I would like because of the demands of my family, my home and my profession.
I have two spinning wheels -- A Schacht Matchless double treadle and a Schacht-Reeves 30" Saxony. Both wheels are wonderfully balanced and a dream to spin on. The Matchless is in Washington and the Saxony is in California so I have access to a spinning wheel where ever I am.
The Matchless is also equipped with a "Woolee Winder" . The WooLee Winder is a custom flyer designed by Robert Lee. It has no hooks on the flyer arm, instead it uses two eyelets. One is stationary and the other moves automatically as the yarn winds onto the bobbin. This moving action winds the yarn onto the bobbin over its entire length evenly in much the same way as a deep sea fishing reel. This allows the spinner to keep spinning without having to stop and move the yarn up or down the hooks. My Woolee Winder was a birthday present to me from my sons two years ago and I enjoy spinning with it.
I had previously knitted my father a pair of boot socks from a Merino-Alpaca blend I had carded on my drum carder, then spun as a fairly thick single. The Alpaca was a variety of grays and blacks with some white mixed in, the merino was white. Although the socks do not match exactly in pattern, the socks are warm and soft. I had my father try on the first one at Christmas and he said that it was warm and cozy.
My new fiber was sent to me by a friend in Washington State. This top is a merino/icelandic blend that she purchased from a local breeder. It is a blend of reds, whites, blacks and greys. I am spinning it fairly thin as I do want ply it x2. I wanted a fairly thick yarn that I could felt into a pair of slippers/booties.

I spent the afternoon sipping hot chocolate, stoking the fireplace and watching the rain. Oh yes, I was able to spin three bobbins full of yarn and plied two of them. I laid a strand of two ply across the remaining bobbin for the picture. As you can see, the resulting yarn is maroon with grey highlights. I think it will make a lovely pair of felted slippers/booties. I can hardly wait to finish the yarn and start knitting.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

All Good Things Must Come To An End....

All to soon Friday arrived. It was hard to believe the week had gone by so quickly. Patty Huffer was busy working on a sewing machine when I arrived. We chatted briefly. Afterward, I went into the loom room to work on my sample.
At 10:00 a.m., Madelyn called us into the classroom and started the day with a discussion of fibers. She covered characteristics of different fibers -- wool, acrylics, bamboo, silk and exotic fiber. Next she showed us how to calculate amount of fiber by its weight. She answered questions about different weaving techniques, including rep weaving, tapestry, rigid heddle and drawlooms. She also briefly introduced available gadgets such as scales, fringe twisters, swifts, ball winders, bobbin winders, and a host of other goodies which, as Madelyn put it, adds up to the "Ka-ching" factor.
While Madelyn was talking to the class, Patty was busy at the looms, cutting off the week's samples and washing them. Once they had been washed, Patty carried them into the classroom and hung them on a drying rack.

It was fun to come into the room as the various samples were placed on the rack. Here Carol is examining the double weave fabric after it has been shrunk in the wash (on purpose, of course).

Maggie examined the color blocks. After the samples were dried, they were cut apart. Each student received the samples they had woven.

Jane surprised us all with an absolutely delicious gingerbread cake she had made. As if that wasn't enough, she topped it off with fresh whipped cream with crushed ginger mixed in. While we are all busy gaining ten pounds eating the cake, Madelyn bound all of our handouts and notes together in one handy binder. Huck was on hand supervising as always.
As the day drew to a close, we gathered one last time for a group photo. What a wonderful week we had together!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wrapping (Warping?) Up Loose Ends

"March -- comes in like a lion, out like a lamb."
Boy, they weren't kidding. March, 2007 in the Pacific Northwest began with 6-12" of snow across the North Sound on March 1st. The next 20 days alternated with heavy rain and strong winds. Trees toppled, power outages abounded and flood warning were issued. This Thursday morning dawned to grey skies, and cold, driving winds as yet another low pressure area swept across Puget Sound. But neither rain, nor, sleet nor dark of night could keep our intrepid weavers from their posts.

By now, the class was now ready to warp the practice loom. Our random color choices had been previously alternated between warm colors and cool colors as we had wound our warp. After tying the cross and removing it from the board, Madelyn placed a reed on the table and we each took a turn sleying the reed with the warp with our color.
The sleyed reed was transferred to the loom. Madelyn explained that we were now going to thread the heddles via a draft. A quick lesson from Madelyn revealed that the hieroglyphics (runes?) at the beginning of all weaving patterns is actually the order for threading, tie-up and treadling.We watched as Madelyn divided the heddles and demonstrated the use of a sley hook. (I discovered weaving sometimes brings back memories of a Bruce Springstein concert I attended in my wilder days --- I have to resist the urge to jump up and yell "Speak English, please! I want to understand your message". There are soooo many new terms to learn.) As my tired brain tried to grasp the "simplicity" of the pattern, I thanked my lucky stars I was born in the 20th century. If I had to rely on my skills at warping a loom to clothe my family, they would be running around naked.
We were instructed to tread the heddles with our color. I quickly discovered that this seemingly innocuous activity requires a strong lighting source and good eyesight. Patience also is a plus. The warp threads seemed to develop a mind of their own when it came my turn to thread. The first two threads cleverly switched places when I was concentrating on threading the first heddle. As I untangled these errant fibers, two other warp threads quickly wrapped themselves around each other in a tangle reminiscent of a Gordian Knot. The next three threads seemed to behave themselves but then I ran out of heddles the right side of shaft #2 and had to slide extras over from left side. When I got to the end of my color, I should have been on shaft #2. But my last color was shaft #3 (&#?/%)! I slid the heddles one by one looking for an explanation--- and found it in the eighth heddle. The ninth thread had sneaked into the heddle with the eighth thread. I pulled #8, #9, #10 , #11, and #12 back out and tried again, trying to ignore that voice in the back of my head reminding me that the towel pattern I wanted to weave as the first project after I returned home called for 132 warp ends! If I had this much trouble with 12.......... All told, it took me 15 minutes to thread 12 warp threads. I sincerely hope it gets easier with practice.
Madelyn demonstrates front to back warping in class. The threads are stretched at the front of the loom to help separate them and keep them tight.........
.......then are tied up and the back beam and wound a few turns. Madelyn uses very smooth, sanded sticks to keep the threads from having much contact on the back beam. (Given that wool is prone to felting when given half a chance, this is a prudent step.)
Once the end of the warp reaches the front beam of the loom, the warp thread are divided into small groups and tried onto the front. An even tension across all the ties is the key to success. The treadles were tried up according to the pattern and a random pre-filled bobbin was placed in the shuttle.
Now, the truly amazing result. There was no (none, nada, zip!) planning as to color choices, positioning of the colors on the warp, weft colors, etc. This was practice. And yet, when the twill pattern began to emerge from the warp, it was beautiful.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Power Weaving

By Wednesday morning, I had accepted that the Port Townsend/Keystone ferry route was not going to be a viable option if I wanted to get to class before lunch, so I substituted the two ferry crossing route in its place. This meant I had to leave the house one hour earlier each day....but wonder of wonders, I pulled into Madelyn's driveway right on time.
Because of my hip replacement effects my ability to treadle for any length of time, particularly when I have to lift multiple shafts, Madelyn assigned me to a 32 shaft Louet Megado (pronounced "Me-gah-do). However, if one prices the loom (they run more than $10,000), the more correct pronunciation is "Mega-dough". Price aside, the loom was exciting to use. A computer controls the pattern and lifts the shafts in the order that has been inputted into the program. The treadle is a large, power assisted pedal that can be pushed down with ease. This allowed me to weave without having to take a break every ten minutes to give my hip a rest. Without this assistance, I would not have the ability to use a large floor loom for very long.

Suzie Liles was an invaluable teacher as I learned the program. She explained the computer program, helped me set up a pattern, and let me weave. Madelyn uses temples which help slow the breaking of the floating selvages ----although I managed to break, not one, but BOTH edges within 15 minutes.

Temples do their job very effectively but must be treated with respect. You see, temples have tines which are wicked sharp! In fact, the tines are nearly as sharp as felting needles.
I chose a twill pattern. The loom was pre-warped with black 10/2 cotton warp. I had fun choosing different weft colors and seeing how they inter played with the warp. I also realized that my obsessive nature demanded straight selvage edges.
The rest of the class was also having a great time with their weaving samples.

This is Margaret.......

....and Torrey. She is explaining the method to weave a color block pattern to Mary.......

........Shirley is working on a color gamp sample......

......while Audra works on a houndstooth pattern .......

.....and Madelyn discusses how to weave a black and white double weave pattern to Marilyn.....

.....while Huck continues to supervise it all.

Once again, the time went by quickly and it was time to head for the ferry. I headed out and decided to check and see if the Keystone/Port Townsend ferry was running. I was delighted to see it pull into port on schedule. A quick crossing and I headed home for the day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ferry Tales - Round Two

Determined to make up for lost time, I decided to arrive early on Tuesday morning and practice some weaving before the lecture began at 10:00 a.m. Arising at 4:00 a.m., I once again made the trek to Port Townsend. The day was blustery and cold but happily the 6:30 a.m. ferry was on time. I drove on board, and settled back into my car seat for the crossing. But as Keystone glided into view, the ferry powered down and stopped 200 feet from shore. The wave size had been steadily increasing as we crossed Puget Sound and now the ferry was tossing and bobbing. Crew members came onto the deck and watched and talked. After more talking, the ferry suddenly powered back up and headed back in the direction of Port Townsend. In disbelief, I listened as the loudspeaker announced that the wind and tide conditions prevented landing and we would try again at 11:15!
Going online (thank goodness for Verizon air cards), I calculated the route to Kingston. When the ferry once again landed at Port Townsend, I drove off and headed to Kingston. I caught the 9:00 a.m. ferry and headed to Lynnwood, where I once again called Madelyn. She got me going in the right direction and I located the Mukilteo ferry in time for the 10:00 a.m. crossing. Off the ferry in Clinton, I was greeted by the charming hand carved sign and a 30 minute drive. I arrived in time to begin learning who to warp front to back.

Everyone in class chose a color and practiced wrapping the warp. Once completed, we all went to various looms and began weaving samples. Madelyn uses a wonderful technique for teaching. Looms are pre-warped and set up to weave various samples. Pre-woven samples are available at each of the looms as inspiration and examples.
Each student chooses a unique color of yarn from the rest of the class. At the beginning and end of each student's sample, that color is introduced in plain weave. In this manner, each student can identify their weaving sample when they are cut apart and distributed at the end of the class.

The samples are beautiful and inspiring. This is an example of an "Overshot" design.

This is an example of a "Block" weave pattern.

This is a black and white silk double weave.

The afternoon slipped by surprising fast, each woman concentrating on their chosen samples. Huck wandered among the weavers, supplying endless energy and comic relief. At the end of the day, it was gratifying to be able to look at my sample and see real progress -- the selvages were becoming straighter, the pattern more firm, and the design emerging from the void. All too soon, it was time to head for the ferry and the commute home.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Ferry Tales

I had carefully planned my commute to The Weaver's School. Get up at 6:00 a.m., drive to Port Townsend, catch the 8:00 a.m. ferry boat to Keystone on Whidbey Island, disembark at 8:30 a.m., then drive the 10 miles to Coupeville in plenty of time for the start of the first day of class at 10:00 a.m. It seemed so simple.......that is, until I pulled into the Ferry terminal at 7:15 a.m. on Monday morning.
The cheerful transit worker took my preprinted ferry pass and informed me that the tides and winds were too extreme for the boat to land at Keystone, so therefore, all crossings were cancelled until 11:15 a.m. The next nearest ferry would require me to backtrack 40 miles to Kingston, catch a ferry to Edmonds, drive 20 miles to Mukilteo, catch a ferry to Clinton (on Whidbey Island), then drive 28 miles to Coupeville. All told---about a three hour trip. I decided to wait for the 11:15 boat. I called Madelyn van der Hoogt and let her know my predicament. She reassured me that I would not miss anything critical. I then settled down to wait. Fortunately, I had grabbed the Sublime Vest as I left the house so I had a project to work on while I waited. Stitch by stitch, row by row, the three and one-half hours passed. I made it to the armhole decrease. I was halfway done with the back when a welcome sight came into view. The ferry had arrived!

Thirty minutes later I drove up the ramp onto Whidbey Island. It is a beautiful setting, reminiscent of a New England coastal town. The Weaver’s School is located in Coupeville, a short 15 minute drive from the Keystone landing.

I was greeted by ten women who had come together this week to learn the basic craft of weaving, two assistant teachers, Suzie Liles and Patty Huffer, and Madelyn van der Hoogt. Madelyn is a vivacious, energetic woman, with quick wit and an infectious laugh. Also on hand to keep order in the class was Huck, six pounds of mischievous Maltese. Huck took great delight in the class and supervised each weaver personally throughout the duration of the week.

The actual school takes up ground level floor of Madelyn’s spacious home. It consists of a classroom/library, a large room housing 20+ looms, including at least 16 Schacht Baby Wolfs, a Louet Medado (computerized loom), 3 drawlooms, a variety of table looms, shelves of yarn, and warping devices, an adjacent antechamber which yet more looms, a kitchenette and rest room facilities. It is clean and inviting.

After lunch, Madelyn began an explanation of fibers used in weaving. As she discussed warn colors vs. cool colors, cottons vs. wool, natural fiber’s vs. synthetic, weights and plies, my keen mind immediately grasped the significance her statements. Why, weaving would require more stash! What a perfect explanation (excuse!?) to go shopping for yarn. I needed it for weaving! This was going to be fun.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

On The Road Again

We were supposed to leave for Washington State at daybreak on Friday morning....the operative words here being "supposed to". At 2:00 a.m. the telephone rang and my husband, Dan, was out the door to interview a burglary suspect. Dan is a detective with our county sheriff's department. It is interesting and necessary work but at times, can wreck havoc with our schedules. He finally got home at 11:30 on Friday morning. He had not packed and was now exhausted and needed some sleep. We decided to leave Friday afternoon. Then, shortly after 1:30 p.m., the phone rang again. This time, it was my office with a small crisis that had to be handled before we left. I returned home at 5:30 p.m. And we still had to pack the truck!
At midnight, Dan and I finally climbed into the cab of our pickup and we were off! Since Dan dislikes driving at night with the passenger side map light on (he says it causes a reflection on the windshield), I decided the only thing to do was to settle in and try to get some sleep.
At sunrise, I awoke to see Mount Shasta looming in the distance. It was covered in snow and was absolutely breathtaking as the sunlight began to turn the southeast face of the mountain a delicate pink. Mount Shasta was also a welcome sight for me in another sense. We were now one-fourth of the way through our trek.
As the sun rose and began to light up the surrounding hillsides, I decided that I would work on the "Sublime" Vest. I pulled it out of the knitting bag and started on the second pattern repeat. I also started looking for the homemade Road Sculptures that periodically appear Interstate 5. For example:

There is this sculpture of a mooing cow just above Weed, California.

This Dragon Sculpture outside of Yreka, California.

And these three just outside of Winlock, Washington.

There are some more cow sculptures on Highway 101 just outside of Shelton, Washington but it was raining so hard by the time we passed them, it was impossible to take a picture. Maybe I'll head down to Shelton next weekend and try again.
In between taking pictures, I was able to add another 20 rows to the Sublime vest. I like the pattern and the yarn is shows good definition in when knitted in pattern. The fabric is soft. The only problem I have noted is that the yarn does have a tendency to split if I don't pay attention so I was glad that I chose not to knit this in semi-darkness as we drove. Here is what it looks like so far.
Tomorrow is the first day at the Weaver's School. I intend to take lots of pictures and copious notes.