THAT Project

This is a project that has been doomed from the start. It should be simple – spin and weave SH9 from the Sutton Hoo ship burial. 45 epi in the warp and 30 ppi in the weft. Then weave a broken lozenge twill fabric.

The first indication this would not go well is the first fleece. After much research, I found shetland fleece which I washed and sent to be pick and carded at the mill. It cam back sticky. The mill used some spray to prevent flyaways and static. Personally, it is hard to get static from a sticky brick of wool. I had to rewash the roving twice to get rid of the adhesive, I mean, spray. The water turned black from all the gunk and it felt nasty after washing. But I was determined to move forward.

I tried to dye it red with madder. I have a very good, reliable, raspberry red recipe from madder that I use regularly. Silly me, I tried that recipe and got a felted, greenish pumpkin color. There were tears. I called my dyeing buddy and after a long discussion and experiments, it appeared that 1) the dye reacted with the remaining anti-static spray and felted the fiber and 2) the madder that came to the US that year was adulterated with brick dust or something, Subsequent dye attempts with fresh madder produced my regular red.

So, I search and find new fleece. 12 pounds and half had to be tossed due to fiber length and pooh. After washing and combing, the yield is about 3.5 pounds. Not nearly enough.

After more failures I am getting down to the wire. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving when I can spin for several days straight. And them the revolving door accident. My hand is caught between the frame the the rotating door. No spinning or weaving for four months.

Due to the time I have and a deadline approaching, I discover I have a great warp yarn in my stash. I put it on my loom, 864 threads, 12 yard warp. I thread the heddles and the reed and tie it on.

The warp sticks to itself. Throwing the shuttle is an agonizing slow process as I have to manually clear each shed. And there is no tension.

Now the tension on this loom has been a struggle since I moved the loom up into the larger studio. Looking at directions online, I discover I have the beam on BACKWARDS. I remove the beam, put it on correctly and put on a new brake system. And of course, the warp has to come off because it is going the wrong direction. Then I look again at the diagrams. And I have it on BACKWARDS since it was on correctly the first time.

I moved the beam back into position, replace the brake again it seems to work. I order new yarn and wind it on the warping wheel. I start winding it onto the loom. And of the 60 threads in the bout, 18 break. The next attempt, 10 break. I wind one thread at a time on the darn thing and finally get minimal breakage.

Now I am threading the heddles. I am up to 500 out of 840 threads. I watch over my shoulder for the next disaster.

Studio-temporarily clean

For those of you who with a home studio, I am sure you have a dance you do when guests come over. Especially if you are a messy/creative person. The stuff that is laying around the kitchen, living room and spare bedroom gets dumped into the studio. And there it stays. For weeks until you have time to start clearing stuff out, a little at a time until you create a path wide enough that you can work without the danger of coats and cats falling on your head.

Then another visitor comes over and the dance stats again.

For once I had visitors who wanted to see my studio and did not need to use the spare bedroom. That meant I had a reason to uncover the floor!

Here are pictures of my studio in its pristine state. Take a look now as it will only last until the next guest appears. Then I will have to find the spare bed.





Judith Says…

That’s how I preface any spinning question I get: “Judith MacKenzie says…” I have taken several workshops from Judith both spinning and weaving and she has been a treasure trove of information. Her stories are fascinating. She has traveled the world and given the spinning and weaving community so much. Her books and videos are the best instruction out there. I use her Mother MacKenzies Miracle Dyes for my shibori scarves.

I was shocked and saddened to learn that her fiber studio had burned to the ground on October 29th. She lost EVERYTHING: looms, wheels, textile samples, and all of the necessary things we use in our craft. The best description of what happened comes from here: What is worse is that she had a house fire 2 months ago as well.

There is a site to help give back to Judith: I am donating what I can including a shibori shawl for her auction. My husband, a chain maille artist, will be making spinning wheel hooks for the auction as well.

Judith gave of herself freely. We, spinners, weavers, dyers, knitters and all, should give back.

Time Travel

I am a time traveler.

It is 1400 BC in Egypt. I taste the flax as I spin it into linen yarn. My yarn is fine, the moisture from my mouth smoothing the fibers as I spin the yarn for the pharaoh’s shroud.

It is 1100 BC in China and I listen to the hiss of my silk cocoons as they bobble and unwind their filaments in my pot of water. The silk travels to my reel where I wind the strands together and I dream of the lustrous fabric that will appear under my hands at the loom.

It is 100 AD in southern Ohio. The mounds have yet to be built. I feel the sticky sap of the milkweed stalk as I peel the long fibers from the skin of the plant. The fibers are rough on my leg as I thigh spin and ply the white fibers hoping I have enough to twine a bag to hold food for winter.

It is 1100 AD in England and I smell the fresh fleece shorn from my lambs. The scent is an intoxicating blend of sweet hay and warm life. I wash the fleece and comb the best parts anticipating the feel as I draft the wool between my fingers onto the spindle.

It is 1700 in Colonial America. I see the yarn change from cream to green to blue as I dip the wool in and out of its indigo bath. I see patterns appear under my hands at the loom as I dance on the pedals to the music of my shuttle.

It is 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. I spin my flax, reel my silk, strip milkweed for its fiber, and prepare my wool for the spindle and the wheel. I dye my fibers in indigo and use plants for other colors. I weave fabrics on the loom of silk and wool in patterns from the near and distant past.

I am a time traveler and fiber is my time machine.

Copyright 2012 Joy Selby Cain