Progress and problems

I sewed the masks for my grandsons in a sort of assembly line fashion. Cut out all the masks. Then, starting with the masks for the 5th grader, did step 1 on all masks, then step 2 on all masks, and so on through all steps. Repeat with the masks for the kindergartener.

32 masks sewn

After this photo was taken I threaded the elastic in all 32 masks. I won’t tie the knots until I’m with the boys to make sure I get the length right. I also found two more fabrics that the 5th grader approved so each boy has 18 new masks.

Then it was time to weave some rayon chenille for that gallery. I planned to weave 2 scarves and 2 shawls. I wanted to try a diversified plain weave for the scarves, as I’ve not done that before. That involved using a combination of Tencel and rayon chenille in both warp and weft.

I wound the warp and really liked the way it looked after it was chained.

fire everywhere warp

But AAAARRRGGGHHH!!!! The instant it left the warping mill I started kicking myself. I’d forgotten to tie the cross. In fact, I’d not put in a single choke tie! This is bad enough with any warp, but rayon chenille is notoriously ‘sticky’, with threads jumping onto and twisting into their neighbors until back under tension on the loom.

I tried to finger thread my way through the cross and put the lease sticks in. As soon as I tried to spread it in the raddle it was clear that I’d done a horrible job of choosing the threads for the cross.

On to Plan B. That was to cut the ends of the warp threads and roughly re-thread the lease sticks in what I sort of thought was the order. I did that, but as soon as I started winding on the back beam it was clear that once again I hadn’t chosen the threads well and there were so many tangles that I couldn’t wind the warp.

Now, it was time to walk away for a bit. Plan C emerged while I had dinner with a friend. Untie those knots I’d made in Plan B. Pull everything out of the lease sticks. Go a few feet back from the end and do that thing you’re not supposed to do – comb the warp. I took a bundle of threads that I estimated to be a few inches wide and gently and carefully combed down to the end of the warp. Once I got there I simply divided that in half and put it in the lease sticks, through the raddle, and tied another knot. I worked my way across the width of the warp.

It was far from perfect, but I was able to get the warp beamed. I figured I’d invested enough time already that it was worth threading and see if I could weave. I’d had to cut length on both ends so knew I wouldn’t get 2 scarves from the warp, but was hoping I could get one.

I started weaving and things were going reasonably well. Although I had sort of forgotten how much longer it takes for a two-shuttle weave than using a single shuttle.

fires everywhere scarves on the loom

Of course, the more I wove and advanced the warp, the more the tangles behind the heddles were apparent. After I got one scarf woven I decided it was time to cut that dog off the loom and ‘waste’ the rest of the warp. Far better than continuing to waste my time. After hemming and wet finishing, the scarf is nice and soft. I won’t be in a hurry to do a diversified plain weave again, though.

fire everywhere scarf wet finished

And I am positive I won’t forget to do choke ties for a while.

More creating

I have no idea how a whole month has gone by without me posting. It’s not been for lack of doing things, some with photographs, some not.

Let’s start with the not. I’ve used my Macomber pretty exclusively for a long time. Knowing that for the past (?)three(?) years the only thing I’d used my counterbalance loom for was holding fabric, I decided it was time to move it on. I thought about the best way to do that, and decided that I was going to gift it to a new weaver. I worked with one of the instructors from our Weaving & Fiber Arts Center and quickly had a taker. She and her husband picked it up a few weeks ago, and it happily fit in their van. I am thrilled with all the space created in my studio, and have used it for sewing, weaving, exercising, and card playing so far. It’s such a pleasant space, I’m sure I’ll continue to enjoy it. And the new owner will hopefully enjoy the loom. She lives nearby, and I’ve encouraged her to call me if she needs help with it, so I’m betting I get to see it. 🙂

Next up, I did do a third round of geode dyeing, this time the final Tshirts for my grandson for his birthday. I used rubber bands for some of the ties, till I ran out of rubber bands of an appropriate size, then re-using the artificial sinew with a slightly different strategy. I’m happy with them.

3rd geode Ts, front

3rd geode Ts, back

Still, when my daughter asked (jokingly, I’m sure) if I was willing to make them for all of my grandson’s friends who admired them, for a fee, of course, I immediately replied, “NO!” I learned a lot, but this was not worth my time and effort to make them to sell.

Sticking with my grands for a moment, we assume that they will both be wearing masks all day at school. So they picked out a bunch of fabrics, and today I cut out 3D masks, their favorite style. 14 for the 10-year old, 18 for the 5-year old.

30 masks cut out

I’m taking bets – which child will lose more masks more quickly, the 5th grader or the kindergartener?

Back to dyeing, Rebecca over at ChemKnits has LOTS of great YouTube tutorials about dyeing sock yarn and other wool-based yarns. She uses a WIDE variety of things to provide the color on her yarns: acid dyes, fiber reactive dyes, food dyes, Skittles, and many more unusual items. She makes everything accessible and fun. So I dyed another sock blank with my fiber reactive dyes, this time hand painting it.

my handpainted sock blank

Again, I learned things, this time mostly about how much dye I needed (way less than I mixed up) and the difference needed between dark and light values of the same color (more than 50% difference). I’m really liking the chartreuse a lot, but wish there’d been more visual difference between the blue and the purple, and between the values, especially of those last 2 colors.

Still, I’m enjoying the process both of dyeing and of knitting with this yarn, and expect I’ll have to buy more sock blanks to dye. 🙂

knitting with my hand painted sock blank

On the weaving front, Elizabeth Tritthart did some amazingly beautiful pickup using vintage embroidery patterns. She inspired me. And since I’m not pressing to produce for selling, now is the time for me to try different things.

We are rapidly approaching the Weavers’ Guild’s 75th anniversary – the diamond anniversary. Some Guild members are planning for a great exhibition in honor of this event, one part of which will feature diamonds in weaving. So I decided to do some pickup. I threaded my rigid heddle, an appropriate and easily moveable loom for this. Then I did some sampling, trying various yarns, weights, and designs.

sampling pickup, 1

sampling pickup, 2

I decided I liked the relatively simple diamond-shaped designs, so did some really careful planning that had to include how my finished work would be displayed, since the back of these pieces have really long and ugly floats. I got my act together and slowly wove 4 sections and bought a frame to display them. I absolutely used the carpenter’s rule: measure twice and cut once. I sewed a machine stitch, using both straight and zigzag stitches to secure the ends. Then cut the 4 pieces out. D*%#! I only measured the first piece, red to orange and counted the rows on that! Clearly my gauge isn’t identical on all 4 pieces. Only the first one is appropriately sized for the frame. The others are all too stitched and cut too small. They will have to be re-woven. But here you get the concept anyway.

pickup designs cut out wrong

And fortunately I have plenty of time to re-weave, as the exhibit isn’t until the spring of 2022. So first I will sew all those masks, then I have to get some rayon chenille woven for a gallery that sells a bit of my work. Maybe the rigid heddle will come back out after that; maybe I’ll need more time to get back to it. The good news is that I used readily available embroidery thread for the pickup, so at least that won’t be a problem.

Making things

For Mother’s Day my sweet daughter bought 2 kits to make moss pictures, with the plan for us to do this activity together. It took a week or so to find an evening that would work for her, and then after the boys were in bed she came to my house and we had a good time creating.

The mosses in our kits were the same; the embellishments were a bit different. And we arranged our mosses a bit differently as well. Here’s mine.

my moss wall art

And my daughter’s.
A's moss wall art

This was a lot of fun, and could even be done via Zoom or Skype with people who are geographically distant with just a little advance planning.


Last month I told you I’d purchased some patterns for garments designed to be sewn from handwoven fabric. Well, like everything else in the world, this didn’t move quite as smoothly as I’d hoped from beginning to end. Through no fault of Sarah Howard‘s, I want to quickly add. She could not have been more helpful or generous in answering all of my questions.

Of course, every weaving project starts with planning. I decided to use a mix of cottons – a bunch of 5/2, some 8/2, and some 10/2. This, of course, made my project more complex than it would have been if I’d used all the same size yarn. But (a) I’m committed to using up my stash, and (b) this gave me the various colors of yarn I wanted. So I wound the warp.

yarn chained for cotton pants

As I prepared to put it on the loom, I decided that the 10/2 was far too thin to use without supplementation. So I measured out a bunch of medium blue 5/2 to pair with it. This was easy enough to intersperse where I needed it since I hadn’t yet beamed the warp.

Then I threaded the heddles and reed. Hmmm…I still had too much 10/2 that doesn’t have a thicker partner. So I pulled that half of the warp out of the reed and changed it to a much closer sett. But now, not only was I still not happy, but my warp was too narrow. Since I couldn’t be positive of the amount of draw-in and shrinkage, I needed the warp to be a solid 20″ – probably wider – at the reed.

So next I measured out a dozen ends of 10/2, hung it over the back beam, and partnered it with the existing 10/2 ends so they’d each be doubled through the heddles. Once again threaded the reed, decided I was happy with it, and started weaving.

All was going well…although I knew from my calculations that it would be very close for me to have enough weft yarn. If I’d planned what I would use for weft more clearly from the beginning of the plan, that wouldn’t have been an issue; some of the warp ends were that yarn I later decided to use for weft. It would have been a relatively simple matter to choose a different warp yarn to replace some of those ends.

This is a plain weave, so the weaving was simple. I just had to keep adjusting all those weighted ends as the warp advanced.

Finally, the warp was all woven. It was about 8″ shorter than I wanted it to be, but since I’m significantly shorter than Sarah, I didn’t think that would be a problem. Each leg would be cut 2″ shorter than her pattern, which would probably (hopefully) be fine for my crops. Or maybe my fabric wouldn’t shrink as much as I’d allowed for. (Fingers crossed.)

Cut off the warp, secured the ends with a run through the sewing machine and then into the washer and dryer.

Meanwhile, I made a muslin of the pattern using and old & stained sheet I had just for this purpose. (Trust me – I hate making muslins as much as I hate sampling. But my experience assured me that this was necessary if I wanted to be happy with the pants when they were done.)

It came close to fitting, but wasn’t just right, so I made some modifications to the pattern, cutting the adjusted pattern out of tissue paper. I purchased some fun cotton fabric to make a pair of pants I could wear out of it before I cut into my handwoven fabric.

fun commercial fabric for crops

I purposely cut them shorter than the pattern expected since I knew I’d need to do that with my handwoven. These pictures were taken prior to hemming, and I cut off another 2″ before hemming. I was happy with these, although I could see that the pattern needed a few more minor modifications.

fun fabric crops, front view

fun fabric crops, side view

I know some people wouldn’t like the patch pockets, but they’re just fine with me. And MUCH easier than side seam pockets. And who wants pants without pockets? Not me!

The next step was to use more tissue paper. I had only one each pants front and pants back pattern piece, and since these pants are cut out in a single layer, I wanted two of each to make my life easier.

Then a good thing happened. It was my turn to host and Open Studio at the Weaving Center. Two-and-a-half hours at a place with six-foot tables. That would make things much easier – my kitchen table is just over three feet wide, and with that leaf up it takes up most of my kitchen.

So I brought my fabric, tissue paper, iron, and other supplies to the Center with me. I made the needed mod to the 2nd pattern piece, adjusted my modified original, laid out and cut the fabric, and then ironed on the woven interfacing along all the cut edges to secure it. Came home and zigzagged all the cut edges for another measure of security and started sewing.

NOTE: I’m not happy with the photos being so grainy. But here’s the thing…by the time I take the images in my mirror and crop them to show you just the pants, this is what happens. I don’t want to go through taking them, cropping them, and inserting them again. That’s why I chose to show you the crops with the fun fabric above at a smaller size. But I didn’t want to do that with this pair. Maybe next time I need to take a photo like this I can do better. Maybe.

my handwoven crops, side view

I finished the hemming today. I am really happy with these pants, and can’t wait to wear them to a Guild meeting for Show & Tell. 🙂 Unfortunately, I fear that by the time the Guild meets in person again, it’ll be too cold for crops. 🙁

my handwoven crops, front view

I learned a bit about stripe placement and would have laid out the colors on my warp a bit differently, but that’ll be for the next time. Assuming I can remember that long. 😉

my handwoven crops, another side view

I know I gained a lot of confidence with these, and will definitely weave more fabric to use the other patterns I purchased from Sarah. I have something else I have to do first…no hints, as it may be a total bust.

Garden beauties

Before we get to the garden beauties I’ll show you the results of my second attempt at geode dyeing. Much better than the first, but it certainly says more space-like than geode-like to me. Here’s the front…

geode attempt #2, front

…and the back.

geode attempt #2, back

It’s clear to me that I simply cannot pull the sinew tight enough to create the undyed portions that you need for geode. But this is good enough that I will try again with rubber bands and see how that works. Last attempt. Although the birthday boy’s mom tells me he would like the dyeing above, even though it’s not a geode. If only that T didn’t have a logo on the front left, I’d include this in his gift; I doubt I’ll wear it. Maybe I’ll offer it to him after his birthday and see if he has any interest.

Ok, on to the garden. You saw my beautiful climbing hydrangea at it’s height in my last post. For several days, while sitting outside under it, I noticed a female robin in the yard, gathering worms and flying up onto my garage roof. I was surprised at how close she would get to me, and figured she must have a nest nearby. Um, yeah! Right in the hydrangea I was sitting under! No wonder she would get closer to me than usual!

robin nest in climbing hydrangea

Next to put on a great show after the climbing hydrangea is my lovely Japanese dogwood. I had one back at my old house, but it was more bush-type than tree-type, and I much prefer this form. As with my crabapple, I am amazed that this tree was planted just 5 years ago.

The flowers are beautiful now, and in a few weeks as the flowers die, the fruit at the center of each will turn bright red for a second show. The squirrels love those fruits!

beautiful Japanese dogwood

While the dogwood is flowering, the oakleaf hydrangea added it’s white flowers to my yard. Another gorgeous shrub, if I do say so myself.

beautiful oakleaf hydrangea

In my last post I whined about my peony not being fragrant. In my daily walks I stopped and smelled lots of peonies in people’s front yards. Interestingly, only about half of them had decent fragrance. And some had clearly been there for many years, so I guess that’s not a new thing.

But for me, fragrance is important. So I’ve been planting. Not much to see yet on 2 of the newbies – a Harlequin honeysuckle and a Fragrant Cloud honeysuckle. I had the Harlequin at my old house and loved the aroma. Their variegated leaves added to the garden color as well. I’m not familiar with Fragrant Cloud, but trust the woman I bought it from that it’ll be great. I planted Harlequin on a trellis next to my garage door where a clematis has struggled for 3 years and is clearly not going to make it. The clematis on the other side of the garage door does just fine. Go figure. The Fragrant Cloud honeysuckle got planted along my fence to offer more privacy there in coming years.

Then on Monday I was at a local garden center looking for some specific plants for my son. I passed by their rose section and stooped and smelled lots of plants. Most had no fragrance, but one made me stop and admire both the smell and the color. It’s a True Bloom True Gratitude rose. I had to buy it, along with the plants for my son.

When I got home and read the tag more closely, it said this was a climber and would be 6′ tall and 3-4′ wide. Great, I thought, on the fence you go! Of course, I didn’t have an open space that could take it, so had to make one. I started digging out the grass yesterday but didn’t get it completed.

While walking on the sidewalk outside my yard on my regular morning walk, the smell of that rose reached me and thrilled me. So I HAD to go back and buy another! That meant I had to extend the new garden bed much more than initially planned, digging out a lot more grass. Today I finished the digging and planted the 2 roses and a few annual vincas.

In truth, if I’d bought 3-4 more garden blocks I would have made the bed a bit longer and planted the rose on the left a bit farther down. But I doubt I’ll move it now that it’s in the ground. It will all be fine. In future years the roses and clematis will sort of intertwine. If I need to train the clematis to grow more to the right or prune the rose on the left a bit, I can do that.

One more thing before I post the photo…as usual I didn’t think to take a before shot. But if you look closely at the photo of the oakleaf hydrangea, you can see that its bed curves up. It goes to the fence ends right there. Or at least it used to. I removed and repositioned a few of those blocks, then placed the new ones along the length. They’re not identical, but it’s okay.

extended garden bed with roses

I have done a bit of weaving, but haven’t taken any shots, so you’ll have to wait till next time for that.

Trees, plants, and rocks

So no weaving to show, but…read to the end and you’ll find out where I’m at with that. Meanwhile, more about nature – real and attempted recreations.

The oak trees in my neighborhood were HEAVY with pollen this year. Yellow sidewalks were the norm. Then I thought that issue was over, only to have oak droppings (aka male pollen structures) SO thick that I literally could have shoveled them. Of course they were light and easy to pick up by hand, but SO much of it!

oak male pollen structures

In my last post I shared a photo of some steps that had been painted. Here’s another way someone adorned their front steps, this time with potted plants. Isn’t that beautiful? Far more costly and short-lived than the painting, but so lovely!

beautiful steps with plants

In my garden…last year I planted a pink peony. I was pleased to see that I’d actually get flowers this year. And it is beautiful. BUT….

pink peony

And this is a big but…this peony has virtually no fragrance! WHAT?!?! Since when have they been developing peonies with no fragrance? And WHY? I have 2 rose bushes that came with the house, and they produce lovely looking roses, but no fragrance. And now a peony with no fragrance? That’s NUTS!!! I’ve even considered pulling out those roses and replacing them with roses that smell like roses, but never even considered the possibility that peonies wouldn’t smell!


Now for the attempted nature recreation. My daughter informed me that her son is enthralled with geode-dyed Tshirts, and she thought he’d like to make one with me for a project. I looked at some YouTube videos on them, and was clear that this was most definitely not a project he would enjoy doing. So perhaps I’d make him a geode T for his birthday? Sure, I said, why not?

Hah! Why not, indeed! I knew I’d have to do some testing before I ready to do a T for the boy. So I tied up a few face masks, a piece of fabric, and an old blouse from my closet. Unlike most dyeing, the fabric has to dry completely before applying the dye.

tied fabric for testing geode dyeing

Then I applied the dye – which was NOT easy – and the ice. I was not at all confident that the dye I’d put directly onto the fabric was where it needed to be, so I applied more dye on top of the ice.

attempted geode dyeing, iced

Wait overnight for the ice to melt. I could clearly see that I’d used WAY too much dye. Wait 24 hours for the dye to set. Untie, rinse, hang to dry. Epic fail. While the fabric looks sort of like a typical tie dye, the masks and blouse were ugly and awful.

results of geode dyeing attempt #1

Of course, I’m not one to give up so easily. I did learn things in that attempt. One being that it’s important to use sinew to tie, not string, another being to use less dye powder, a third that a blouse is nothing like a Tshirt in terms of fabric softness or thickness. And I watched another YouTube video by a different person with a few helpful hints.

So today I tied up a Tshirt of mine for geode attempt #2.

geode dyeing attempt #2, tied and drying

It’s drying now. Tomorrow I’ll buy another bag of ice and dye it. Then Saturday it’ll sit for a day. Sunday I’ll untie it and rinse it and see how it looks. Depending on these results, I’ll decide if I need another trial, if I can go directly to dyeing a shirt for the child, or if I’m done with this whole thing.


So. Weaving. Although it is true that I certainly don’t need any more clothes, I remain intrigued about weaving and then sewing garments. I bit the bullet and ordered some patterns from Sarah Howard at GetWeaving. Sarah specializes in making sewing patterns for handwoven fabric. Her patterns are generally simple and use narrow widths of plain weave fabrics, focusing more on color and texture than weave structure. And she’s been remarkably helpful and responsive to my emails.

That excited me. So I’m planning a cotton warp for lightweight crop pants. Yay! Time will tell, of course, how this will all work. I never claimed to be a seamstress. But at least I’m happy to be planning again, and using up some of my lightweight, mercerized cotton stash.