I’ve been mostly doing spinning and woodturning lately. I haven’t taken any photos of the yarn, but I have some of the bowls. Here’s a Camphor bowl/platter made from a gorgeous crotch piece of camphor. It was extremely aromatic to turn. I’ve got another piece (though not a crotch) to turn another day.

We recently joined the International Wood Collector’s Society. Those guys have awesome wood auctions. We picked up a whole bunch of wood for not very much money. I can’t wait to get to turning some of it.

I made a lovely shawl from a pattern in What Would Madame Defarge Knit a while back.  It’s from my very own handspun falkland wool dyed by Rachel at Dyeabolical yarns.

I had just finished listening to Dracula on Craftlit so I was tickled pink to wear this shawl on a trip to Budapest and get a picture of myself wearing it there.  For those who haven’t brushed up on Dracula lately, Wilhelmina travels to Budapest to meet up with Jonathan after he escapes from Dracula’s castle.

So here it is, the photo:

Thanks for the inspiration, Cooperative Press, to get me to share this photo.

While I work on my craft projects, I typically listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I love audiobooks, in particular.  I love reading, so being able to “read” while working on something else?  Perfection in multi-tasking.  They’re great.

Even better, I can download them from my local public library for free!  I transfer them over to my iphone and I’m set!  I also have an audible membership and download things I can’t get for free there.

Today I’m going to talk about dystopian teen fiction.   *****Possibly some vague spoilers ahead****  They’re fun.  Sometimes they’re thought provoking, sometimes they want to bang your head against the wall because teens do stupid things.  I’ve been devouring them lately since the library has a great collection.  Pretty much everyone I know has read the Hunger Games.  I thought the two books were great, then things got a little iffy at the end.  Overall a good series.

I’ve recently re-read the first three books of Lois Lowry’s “Givertrilogy quartet. I remembered the first book vaguely from reading it as a teen (probably 10th grade or so), but I’m really glad I reread it because the world of the Giver is recreated almost identically in the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie.  In my opinion, don’t bother with these books.  There’s a lot of mooning over boys.

I also read the first two books in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.  I do recommend these books.  They’re a lot of fun.  The author has created some really interesting cultures, and a chilling premise.  I’m looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.  I hope it doesn’t let me down like so many of these trilogies seem to.

Finally, the Maze Runner trilogy boy James Dashner.  This one was frustrating.  There was so much potential in the premise.  Evil governments, a nearly destroyed planet, a zombie virus.  So much fun to be had!  However, the story left too many gaping plot holes, so I still don’t know half of what was going on or why.  There’s also a lot of whining by the main character about not being able to trust his former best friend because she was forced to betray him by the evil government.  The books are pretty violent throughout.  I think kids would probably enjoy these books, but I was pretty irritated by never getting the big reveal you come to expect at the end.  Some very key points were not even revealed until the epilogue.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading.  I think I should probably take a break from dystopia and listen to something that might fit the description of literature.  Or I might pick a romance novel.  Who knows.

Work has been crazy so I haven’t been crafting much. I did make a small turned box for my mother-in-law, but I sent it off in the mail before I got any good photos. I also have been doing a little spinning but nothing much to show there.

I figured this would be a good time to list out all my WIPs that I need to get finished, along with a couple planned items for gift-giving season.

  • Simple gray hat out of sock wool (cast on 2 years ago) for my dad’s friend.  I made my dad one just like it, and his friend Bruce wanted one too.
  • Another hat for Dad.  I think he’s terrified of losing his only one because he loves that I made it really big and it doesn’t feel tight on his head.
  • A new hat for Brent.  He picked out a skein of “Jo rides a motorbike” sock yarn from Dyeabolical yarns at Strange Folk last weekend.  He deserves one because he’s kept his alpaca hat in good shape for years now, and it’s starting to look shabby.
  • My Acer Cardigan, started last fall in a lovely orange color.  I should get this done before fall is gone and I don’t want to wear orange anymore.
  • A brown corduroy skirt that I’m making with the couture techniques I learned from the couture dress class on Craftsy.  It will go nicely with that orange cardigan.
  • My couture dress from the same class above (would love to have this done by the end of Oct, but it’s looking highly unlikely).
  • A set of embroidered tea towels.  I think I have 4 days done.  3 more to go!
  • Block my wingspan shawl and take photos.
  • Turn some small hollow vessels to prepare for giving a demonstration on Oct 11.
  • Spin some of the lovely fiber I have been purchasing lately.  I have so much lovely fiber to pick from!

ETA: Arrrrgh!  I can’t find the half finished gray hat.  I definitely don’t want to have to reknit all of that.  I hope I find it soon!

My adventures in couture sewing continue!  I’m following along the lessons of the Craftsy class and have made a lot more changes to my dress muslin, and also made up a muslin for a skirt too.  For the dress, I’ve added a circle skirt instead of a straight skirt, and I changed the midriff panel to go along the straight of grain instead of the bias.  I also eliminated the front center seam in the midriff to reduce bulk.  I’m really happy with how it looks now, so it’s time to get going on the fashion fabrics!

Robin and I ordered a dozen or so swatches from Mood.  I have decided on a blue silk poplin with a silk charmeuse floral print lining.  It’s so lovely!  There will also be a plain white silk organza underlining because that’s just how couture rolls.

Since I only got those ordered today, in the meantime I’m working on a little skirt pattern.  Thanks to the Amazing Fit line at Simplicity, I found a simple skirt pattern that fit perfectly with no alterations needed.  I made up the muslin this weekend and got started on cutting out the fashion fabrics.  It’s an unlined pattern, so I added an underlining of floral cotton to accent chocolate brown corduroy.  I’m not done laying out the corduroy yet, but I’ll probably get to the basting this week.

The couture  process is making so much sense to me.  There’s nothing that’s done without a reason.  So even though there are a lot of steps and a lot of hand sewing, you understand why you’re doing things and it makes perfect sense.  I really love the process of making a muslin for fitting first.  I’ve never bothered with that, and clearly it is the right thing to do.

I also have never shopped for fashion fabric at a true fashion fabric store.  Joanns and Hancocks are great for cottons, but when you want something nicer, they have a bunch of polyester.  It’s actually not that expensive to get real silk!  You just have to order online.  I know I’ve spent over $100 on fabric for a sewing project before, but this time my $120 is getting me 3 layers of silk for a truly luxurious dress that I know is going to fit because I bothered to spend the $8 on muslin for a fitting shell.

If you can’t tell, this process has me all aflutter.  I love it when I’m learning new things.

The obsession of the moment is sewing.  A few months ago, I saw a class called “The Couture Dress” on Craftsy.  It was only $20 and I recognized the name of the teacher, Susan Khalje, from some articles I’ve read in Threads.  I know that I’d like to do some sewing with my handwoven fabrics, but I am very hesitant because nothing would be worse than spending hours upon hours weaving something, only to end up with a garment that doesn’t fit or that looks bad.

It took me a while to get around to watching more than the introduction video, and Robin decided to take the class too, and committed to coming over to work on things together.  She’s been over here a couple times now, and we’ve both made tremendous progress on our muslins.  This is where my muslin started.  Lots of baggy parts and puckers.

The bust was a bit too small, so I adjusted that, and then just had to take in the midriff section and fix whatever was going on with the shoulders.

With Robin’s assistance, I ended up adding two dead darts at the shoulder, just above the bust to remove excess fabric there.  I also got the back of the dress pinned up where it will help keep the dress on better, and the midriff taken in where it no longer bulged and gaped.

However, at that point, no matter how nice the dress looked when I was standing, it was terribly tight when sitting, and I don’t think very flattering.  It just doesn’t have a lot of shape for a body type like mine.  Last night I got some more muslin out and made up the circle skirt version of the pattern.

I think I’m getting closer to something that’s wearable and flattering for me.  I still am not in love with the midriff section.  I don’t want to eliminate it entirely because it just gives the dress a maternity look.  I do think I will cut it on the straight of grain and try again.  It’s currently a bias midriff, as the pattern called for.  It looks great in stripes and plaids where it adds some visual details there, but I am 99% sure I’m going to be making this in a solid color, so I don’t think it’s necessary.

I’m learning SO much about dressmaking techniques and about patterns.  One of the things I love is that as you learn the techniques, you don’t have to follow the pattern instructions–you just know what needs to be done!  I can’t wait to make more projects, and I also can’t wait for our swatches to come from Mood so we can pick our fashion fabrics and linings!

Oh, on these posts, feel free to tell me anything you think about the fit or the pattern.  I’m fully open to honest thoughts on what’s working and what’s not.

A friend of mine requested I make a set of table linens for her sister-in-law’s wedding gift.  She had just moved into a new house, and it took a terrible amount of espionage to come up with a color scheme we thought would work.  She had registered for some place mats, so we used that as a starting point and went for a combination of greens and purples.

Closeup of light green weft napkin

The napkins are 10/2 cotton, sett at 24 epi.  The finished measurement is 20″ square.

Closeup of purple weft napkin

I used a technique I read about in an old handwoven magazine, that suggested winding a warp with 6-8 colors alternating, then when threading, selecting randomly from each set of 6-8.  This method required a back to front loom dressing, which I’m really not set up to do.  So I just wound each color separately and warped front to back, alternating the 7 colors of the warp regularly (rather than randomly).  I think it turned out wonderfully.

Closeup of magenta weft napkin

It was something of a pain to warp the way I did, so I’d only recommend doing this back to front, but still, the results are great.  Every single color of weft thread that I used looked amazing, so I made the napkins in sets of two, and I even had enough warp left on the loom to make one extra as a breadwarmer.  Oh, can you tell by the photos that I love my bird napkin rings?

Closeup of black weft napkin

The table runner is also 10/2 cotton, striped randomly, but mirrored so it would be symmetrical.  I used a black 5/2 cotton for the weft to give it a little bit of weight.  Originally I thought I’d have a fringe, but I thought that the hemmed edge would continue to look nice and neat no matter how many times the set gets washed, so hemmed it was.

Closeup of table runner

I like the runner, but it’s not as fun as the napkins.  All together though, it makes for a very charming table setting.

Full table setting

Cutting the log into a blankI know this is supposed to be a knitting and weaving blog, but I have started doing a lot more stuff, so it’s going to be branching out into woodturning and spinning, and maybe even embroidery.  I started turning in 2010 so I could learn to make a spindle, and now I can make all sorts of nifty things out of wood.  Ironically, I don’t actually spend much time making spindles, even though that’s why i wanted to learn.

A couple weeks ago, I needed to make a bowl for the President’s Challenge for the August Show Me Woodturners meeting, so I rummaged through the wood collection on the back porch and pulled out a piece of black cherry wood.  Some nice tree trimmer had given the club president a bunch of logs, which he shared with us.  Free wood is great!

I cut the log down into a round blank on the band saw, then started the turning process.

After I got the blank turned into a reasonably bowl shaped item, I noticed a notch and crack along the rim where the pith had been very close to the cut edge of the blank.  I could have made the bowl shorter and turned away the crack, but instead, I went with it, and when I was done with the turning, I found a white sapphire that fit perfectly into the notch created by the crack.  It makes the rim of the bowl nice and sparkly.

I finished the bowl with Watco butcher block finish, then buffed with the Beall buffing system, using carnauba wax as the final top coat.  I glued the sapphire in with CA glue after finishing, but before buffing.  The bowl is about 6″ high and 6″ in diameter.

black cherry bowl with sapphire

I always want to get people to try weaving.  It’s a really fast way to use up yarn.  You get to build up a whole new type of yarn stash (have you seen my shelves full of cones?).  It’s jut plain fun, and it really isn’t all that much harder than making potholders with loops like you probaby did as a kid.

One of the biggest barriers to trying weaving is the perception that a lot of expensive special equipment is required.  It’s true that you can go crazy with your equipment and spend thousands of dollars on looms, but it’s not necessary.  A lot of projects are possible on smaller looms that you can either buy online for a reasonable price or make yourself.

There are vintage Weave-it and Weavette looms sometimes available on ebay or in second hand stores, but neither company is currently producing them.  I bought a similar loom (7″ square) from Hazel Rose Looms.  It works wonderfully and comes with a long crochet hook and a packing fork to slide the yarn into the right spot.

Sometimes purchasing a loom isn’t a good option, so it’s fortunate that there are many tutorials for building your own square frame loom at home!  Each of these methods requires different tools and techniques, so you can pick the one that works best for you.

Repurpose an old book to make a loom with this DIY Video courtesy of CraftSanity.

Fibermusings has tutorial for making a loom from an artist’s canvas stretcher.

Eloomination suggests using Foam core board and straight pins for a quick DIY loom.

Once you have your loom up and ready to go, you need a crochet hook to use as a shuttle.  A long one as used for Tunisian crochet is your best option.  You want it to be about 2″ longer than the width of your loom.  You’re also going to need something to push the yarn down to even it out between pins.  You can buy a packing fork for this, but I use a comb from the dollar store.  A hair pick or even a fork could be used for this step.

These little looms can be warped regularly (up and down) or on the bias (corner to corner).  For patterns with lace, you want the traditional style of warping, since it will allow you to use the lace pattern.

I decided I need to try spinning some different types of fibers and different preparations to see what I like and what I don’t like.  The combed merino top I had was lovely, but I also think rather difficult to spin.  It required a lot of pre-drafting to make sure I didn’t end up with something chunky.

I went to etsy and browsed around for some different fiber types, and found this listing for a sampler pack of different colors of Romney roving. In the picture there, I’ve spun the top right and bottom left colors. I still have the other two left to do.

Here they are!

Each skein is an ounce and has about 125 yards. They’re approximately fingering weight. I spun one ball of singles, then plied from a center pull ball. It worked perfectly on the first skein, but I had a couple snarls near the end on the second one. I should let the singles sit for at least a full 24 hours before plying next time.

And here’s a closeup. You can definitely see how the fiber has a halo to it. The yarn is soft, but not like the merino. I think I’ll use this yarn as a weft for some weaving.