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One Problem at a Time

Today is the last day of February. And a few months ago I said – to myself and my blog – that I needed to weave/craft my 2021 Christmas cards in February. But I wasn’t inspired to do so. Nothing struck my fancy. Then late Friday I got the idea. I knew what I would weave for the cards. I found the draft I needed, decided on the fiber, and calculated the amounts needed for warp & weft.

The draft I settled on is a 4-shaft weave. I haven’t done 4-shaft weaving in a long time, but this draft is perfect. (I’m not sharing anything about it here so that everyone who gets my cards will be surprised.) So that solved the first problem.

Then, of course, came the next problem. It only makes sense to warp up my little counterbalance loom for this project so that I can keep weaving towels on my Macomber. Not only has the little loom sat unused for many months, but it’s become a stationary holding zone for stuff.

counterbalance loom covered

Completed weaving, ties for use on my warping mill, a basket made from paper bags, and more…it’s all been ‘stored’ on the loom. Where will I put all that stuff in order to use the loom? I am firmly in the if-you-have-to-move-it-you-have-to-put-it-‘away’ camp, but where is ‘away?’ That’s why that stuff is on the loom! Sigh.

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Unrelated to weaving, despite what I said in my recent post, I decided I really had to make another batch of sourdough bagels for my freezer. After all, I’d given away many of the first batch. And I’d gone shopping and bought some Everything Bagel seasoning. And my daughter gave me the helpful hint of setting the boiled bagels on a cooling rack to dry for just a few minutes before putting on the parchment to bake.

2nd batch of sourdough bagels

Look – they all have holes! I enlarged those holes before I boiled in an attempt to keep them. This batch has the same great texture. And nothing stuck to the parchment. Unfortunately, that Everything Bagel seasoning is VERY salty. And I love salt, so you know it’s salty! Can you see me shaking my head?

New topic – I finished knitting my gansey motif socks. I’m happy with them, although I do hope the pointy-ness of the right toe settles out in the wash.

hand knit gansey socks

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Closing with a sneak peek. Here’s a batch of towels fresh off the loom, with the ends secured on my sewing machine and ready for the washer, dryer, pressing, and hemming. They’ll go up in my Etsy shop when they’re done.

sneak peek of peeps towels

Gee whiz

Don’t you hate it when you don’t take your own advice? How many times have I said – to myself and to others – either the color or the weave structure/pattern can be the star. They can’t both be the star. They’ll just fight with each other when they try. But look what I did.

Hand painted Tencel scarf on loom from above

I have this lovely Tencel I handpainted back in October, and I loved the way it looked as I was beaming it, and then I picked a weave structure that’s WAY too complex! Fortunately when I lean back on my stool and take the shot you can see that pattern, so I don’t totally hate it, but I’m just shaking my head at myself. DOH!

HP Tencel scarf on loom from an angle

Other news: I made some sourdough bagels.
sourdough bagels, shaped

They have exactly the right texture for bagels, but look – they lost their holes.

sourdough bagels, baked

That’s not a big deal, but look at this!
parchment stuck to sourdough bagel

I’ve never had parchment stick to anything I baked before. It must be because the bagels have to be boiled before they are baked. I guess I shouldn’t have put them back on parchment, but the recipe didn’t tell me that. I know I made regular yeasted bagels before and simply don’t remember about when/where I used parchment. Oh well.

The question I ask myself is this: were the sourdough bagels better texture or taste than the regular yeasted bagels? I honestly don’t have a clue. I baked the regular bagels a long time ago. And I’m not making another batch of either right now.

Last note for the day…I am SO PROUD of my son-in-law! He’s signed up to be part of the clinical trial for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I consider this to be a great service to humanity. Way to go!

Quick catch up

I know it’s been a while and I wanted to do a catch up post, but it’s got to be quick because I’ve too many things on my must-do-today list. Let’s start with this.

poem from my dog

I don’t know who Larry is, and Jack doesn’t look anything like this (he’s a little mixed breed Lhasa), but he ABSOLUTELY agrees with the sentiment!

One of my must-dos is to give Jack a haircut. He got a bath yesterday in preparation. I used to take him to the groomer, but stopped doing that even before the pandemic hit. Jack really hates the groomer – or being groomed, and although he usually looks quite, um, silly after I cut his hair with scissors, it makes both of us feel better, so I do it.

I continue to have fun with sourdough. I’m definitely getting better at the process, and feel like I can now consistently turn out a beautiful loaf.

loaf of sourdough bread

I made this one yesterday, and other than eating a heel (always my favorite part of any loaf), I sliced the rest of it and put it in my freezer. A slice or two in the morning is just right.

I also made a batch of sugar scrub. It’s the time of year that oranges are plentiful in the store, so I grated some orange rind and put that, along with some orange oil and cinnamon oil in the standard sugar scrub recipe. I could eat this with a spoon!

orange-cinnamon sugar scrub

Yesterday I started on a project that will take many days to complete. I took my 36 towels in stock, removed their tags, put each through my steam press (thanks again for the trade, Kathy!), and photographed. A lot. 121 shots, to be exact. Photographs in groups and solo. Close up and showing the whole towel. Photos with props to make them more enticing. Then I had to put the tags back on, so organization throughout the process was important.

5 Spring at Home towels

Then I did the work – MANY minutes, probably more than 120 – of uploading three batches onto my Etsy page. I’ll do another batch or two today – I think to have any hopes of coming up in searches it’s important to post regularly. That ‘truth’ was years ago and things may have changed dramatically since then. I was inspired by another weaver in our Guild who wove and sold more than 800 towels in 2020! Obviously all online! Just to do that math for you, that means she wove, finished, photographed, and sold an average of 15 towels per week, every week! All with hand and foot power! She’s doing a Zoom presentation for us later this month to share how she did that.

The towels were actually easy, compared to scarves and shawls. At least the photography was. I used a bit of my lovely hardwood floor for the background. It’s important to have multiple shots of every item. And I have no solid white/cream wall in my house to use as a background for wearables. Laying my mannequin on the floor? That won’t work; the drape would be all wrong. So I’ll have to try to figure out something that doesn’t cause me to have to do a ton of editing in Photoshop. (1) I’m not good at it and (2) it takes a long time, adding HOURS to the whole process.

I’ve been cogitating on this puzzle for well over a month, and haven’t come up with any creative solutions yet. So I’ll get the towels up. One step at a time. Put one foot in front of the other, at least figuratively.

I took a 3-day online weaving workshop from Denise Kovnat. I’ve taken a few from her before and always learn stuff, but this one? Over the top in terms of learning for me! This was One Warp, Many Structures. And yes, I learned stuff about that. But I also learned a lot about how to make Fiberworks, my weaving software, do a lot of heavy lifting for me. And about color. And finally understood what network drafting is and how to do it. I think I wove 20 samples for that class. And changed tie ups at least 6 times. And resleyed twice. And rethreaded once. So lots of work, and SO worth it!

When I got that off the loom I finally beamed a warp I painted back in October onto the loom. I’m loving the colors, but don’t have a photo to share yet.

And last night I spent roughly 3 hours online, but again, totally worth it – I have an appointment to get a COVID vaccine – March 2!

And today, in just over an hour, I teach my first online class in making a yarn button. I’m offering the same class twice, 8 people per class since we’ll be making the button together – in our own homes, of course. Both classes filled.

7 yarn buttons

I know I’ve made more than a dozen samples for this class, as well as all the other prep. But I’ve got to run now and do the final preparation. Make sure all the technology is working, lighting, etc. As they say in Britain, ta ta!

And then weeks passed

Honestly, I have absolutely no idea where the time goes. Suddenly two and a half weeks have passed since I last posted. How does this happen? What am I doing with my time? Sometimes I don’t even know, but each day goes by. So it’s time to share some odds and ends of what I have been doing.

FINALLY, after MONTHS, I got the blues-greens handpainted warp off the loom These are not intended to be beauty shots…it takes me a long time to set those up, take them, edit out the junk in the background, and adjust the lighting so the colors are relatively close to real life. I knew if I took the time to do that, it’d be another week before I got to the post. So I just sort of snapped images.

This is a shawl. I added some narrow stripes of the very dark purple that’s in the weft. It adds a bit of interest. And here you can see the difference in the two sides of the fabric. A nice thing about shawls is that I don’t have to decide which is the ‘right’ side since I’m not hemming or seaming anything.

handpainted blues & greens shawl

The rest of the warp is just yardage at this point. About 3.25 yards. I intended to sew it into a garment, but I may try to just market it as yardage. Easy peasy…if it sells.

handpainted blues & greens yardage

On the knitting front, after I finished all my gift knitting, it was time to pick up the needles for more socks for me. After all, socks wear out, and I’ve learned that I am absolutely no good at darning them. Since I pretty much always have socks on my needles, I’ve become much more comfortable with tossing them out when they get holes. (Ok, truth be told I have a small collection of holey socks…shouldn’t they make good rags or something?)

I had 2 skeins of the sock yarn, purple plied with blue. Love the colors.

purple and blue sock yarn

I like to do different things, so I searched Ravelry and downloaded a free pattern with some lacey ribs. Knit a few inches and it just didn’t move me. Back to Ravelry, and this time I picked another free pattern with a combination of cables and purl bumps. I knit all the way up through half of the gusset, and realized that those cables were making it too tight; I would not like the way it fit if I continued. I’d have to make it wider/add stitches, or go up a size in needles, which I didn’t have. So I pulled it all out. Ergo the sloppy skein you see.

Back to Ravelry once again. Decided I wanted to make a gansey sampler, but nothing moved me. (Don’t know about ganseys? Here’s a nice article that compares ganseys and Aran knitting in sweaters, which is their traditional form.) So I came to my computer and played in Excel to create a sampler of my own.

gansey sampler planning

Then I realized that the nice blue & purple yarn would not be the best to show off the stitches, so I pulled out some plain undyed yarn and set to work. I’ve already had to make some adjustments to my plan, but here are the first 4 motifs. I put my hand inside because it’s much easier to see the stitches that way.

first 4 gansey motifs on my sock

Meanwhile, I tested out my button making class on my friends, made the necessary changes, and scheduled it with the Weaving & Fiber Arts Center. You can find it here, twice, in an attempt to accommodate different schedules. As we moved forward, the Management Team at the Center decided we needed to buy a document camera and make it available to our teachers to encourage more online teaching. So I ordered that, and then had to figure out how to use it myself, and draft procedures for teachers. I still have to get it to the Center and make sure it works with the laptop that’s there.

Finally, I’m registered to take an online class via the Jacksonville, FL weaver’s guild. A Rochester woman and Center teacher is teaching the online class, entitled One Warp, Many Structures. Our warps will go through shadow weave, doubleweave, echo, rep, and more, so choosing 2 quite different colors for the warp was essential. I chose a rust/brick and a lavender. Here’s the measured and chained warp. I love the way it looks, and the sheen on the mercerized cotton adds to its beauty. I plan to beam it and start threading today.

wound and chained warp in brick and lavender

So I’ve not been sitting around and eating bon-bons, but sometimes it feels like that.

Back at it

Once the holidays were over, the decorations taken down and stored until next year, the baking frozen (ok, mostly eaten), I focused on doing the year-end inventory. This is always a chore I really dread, although it’s never a bad as I think it will be. That’s because I’m nowhere near as careful or exacting as I might be. Here’s my process.

Print out the inventory of both raw materials and finished items from last year as my starting point. I do actually take all of the finished items out of bins, count them, and organize them as I replace them in the bins. But for the raw materials? I look into my many bins of yarn and sort of guess. I mentally add up how many partial cones I have and sort of combine them to make full cones, and then tally the total. For a business my size (minuscule, really) I believe it’s good enough. In now-almost-ancient parlance, ‘good enough for government work’. And since I only do this to file my taxes and thereby report to the government, I decided a few years ago that it is good enough for me.

So what came next? I had to re-knit that cabled hat for my daughter, as the yarn I’d used previously, 90% acrylic and 10% alpaca, itched her. So I have the hat now and have worn it several times with no itchiness. She went to the local craft store and bought some variegated 100% acrylic yarn and I went to town. I dropped it off to her yesterday morning, sans pompom since she makes WAY better pompoms than I do. By afternoon she sent me this photo. Happily it doesn’t itch her.

A's 2nd cabled knit hat

Yesterday I realized I could actually get back to my loom. I haven’t been able to sit in front of it since….drum roll…the first week of November! Two whole months! The warp, of course waited patiently for me; what choice did it have?

weaving my blues & greens warp

I only got about 15″ woven yesterday when I’d had enough. I just wasn’t into it. Today I got about 45″ woven when it was time to walk the dog.

Leaving the house, I saw that I’d received the sweatshirt I ordered for the little grandson. Today is actually his 5th birthday, but I hadn’t ordered it in time to get it, dye it, dry it, and get to him today. Still, I’ll be seeing him tomorrow, so that will have to do.

For a long time his favorite color was “lello” – yellow to those of you not familiar with interpreting little-kid-speak. But for a while now when you ask him what his favorite color is he’ll say “all colors” – meaning rainbow. So I dyed a sweatshirt for him, and a mask to match. The dye job wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind, but sweatshirt looked pretty good hanging up. I was as careful as possible when removing that hanger, but one of the sleeves swiped the body leaving blotchy dye on it. Sigh. 🙁

Ro's dyed sweatshirt

Ro's dyed mask

I need to move quickly on this as I have to babysit him at noon tomorrow. So I decided to steam it to set the color as best as I can. It’s batching overnight now, and I’ll rinse it as soon as I get up tomorrow morning. Then I have to get it into the washer and dryer so I can take it to him.

On Friday my older grandson, age 9, had a Zoom guitar recital. He did great! I snapped a shot of the Zoom screen (and blurred his face ‘cuz I want to respect his privacy and not be send his image all over the internet for time immemorial). Looks good, eh?

Ru's recital

Oh yeah, I also spent a god-awful amount of hours sitting on my butt figuring out how to share screen with both my desktop and my phone, mounted on a holder borrowed from my daughter, working up 8 samples and a handout, all so I can volunteer to teach an online class on how to make a covered yarn button for the Weaving Center. I still have to organize a slide show to use during the presentation. Two friends have agreed to be my test subjects this Friday afternoon so I have a deadline.

covered yarn button