there is coffee filter yarn.
The sun is shining.
And the narcissus--
are casting shadows on the wall.
Last night I cast off the last stitches
of my fourth Somewhat Slanted Sweater.
This morning I gave it a good bath.
Spinning, plying and knitting as I go?
Lots of time on the road?
Talk about a grime magnet.
And who is going to wash her hands
every time she picks up
spindles or needles?
Well, maybe you.
Alas, not me.
Anyway, it should be dry by tomorrow
so I can try it on all clean and blocked.
For some reason,
these somewhat slanted sweaters
fit quite differently before
esp the sleeves
which have a tendency
so there is not much point in taking photos
until it has finished this growth spurt.
Sleeve increase aside,
I'm amazed at how individual
each version is--
as individual, indeed,
as those that I've seen
made by other people.
For there have, by now,
been a fair few made
and I'm super excited
because the Somewhat Slanted pattern
and the Sarah-Dippity Skirt
now have their own Ravelry Pages.
so other versions can be linked.
Here, for instance, is Vicki's version.
I totally adore how she made an elegant wide neck
then added crochet cross straps
to keep the shoulders from sliding down.
Getting this Ravelry page up
is a thing I've been meaning to do for ages
and can't thank Vicki enough
for helping me make it happen--
and also the wonderful Ravelry team
for linking these two patterns
to patterns I've produced over the years
(for other publications).
Because Ravelry is a knitting site, however,
my two weaving PDFs can't go there
(at least as far as I know),
and it may be because of this
that instead of process photos
of the new sweater,
this blog post has been taken over
by a wool and paper conspiracy:
an indigo swirl
making its sinuous way
up walnut dyed wool warp
with the full support and consent
of a bunch of used coffee filter yarn.
It is a bit high-handed--
though as you may have noticed
my materials have no compunctions
about bossing me around,
and a four selvedge warp
can reduce me to a state
of worshipful acquiescence
who could resist being seduced
by such yarnish loveliness?
assuming the tapestry loom doesn't get bossy again,
I'll hopefully have a few photos
of the finished Somewhat Slanted Sweater
by next tuesday.
And if, in the meantime,
you too want to feel
the four selvedge magic,
(and are willing to take the risk of life take-overs)
Rebecca Mezoff and I
are having an unprecedented one day sale
on our online four selvedge warping class FRINGELESS.
The class will be 25% off on Monday, December 2nd, 2019.
The code is: AllFourSides
(fyi- Rebecca's other amazing classes are 15% off that day only
with the codeword: FyberMonday).
ps -- AND LOOK!
It's now Tuesday,
the sweater got dry,
and amidst all the things that I thought would keep me from blogging today
(why I wrote most of this yesterday),
I had time for a quick snap!
Mock Turtle Somewhat Slanted
+ a sliver of (one of my many) Sarah-Dippity skirts
= a warm and comfy outfit
for a busy day.
Do you ever find
at the end of a medium-big project
that your mind is particularly vulnerable
to the enticement other ideas?
Well, that's how it was for me anyway,
As I finished weaving
the Digestive Biscuit Tapestry last week,
the pile of multi-hued coffee filters
my friend Jodi had collected
in the process of making
her amazing watercolors--
a pile of luscious color
that I had carefully stored in a cupboard
to avoid just this problem--
would not stop calling to me.
the out-of-sight-out-of-mind strategy
is only temporarily effective.
Ignore them though I did
as I cut the tapestry from the loom,
no sooner had I set down the scissors,
than I put the tapestry aside to rest,
dismantled the loom,
and made a tiny indigo pot.
And why not?
The sun was shining,
the chickadees were chirping,
and I could take the drips outside
(wearing two sweaters and an apron),
to turn some of those
yellows (from rabbit brush),
pinks (from Cochineal),
and vaguely off-white ones (from coffee???)
into a range of greens, purples and blues.
It didn't take long
and was hugely satisfying--
for what's not to love about a stack
of naturally colored paper?
Then I thought --
surely would like
to rest a little longer--
which leaves me time
to cut a few of these into strips
and add some twist."
It was kind of like creating
my own box of crayons--
It was also,
a great way to avoid
the inevitable finish work
on this fringed tapestry
(my first in a couple of years
that was not warped
using the four selvedge technique).
As I twisted the linen warp ends
and sewed slits,
I wondered how long
I could I gaze upon
those freshly spun coffee filters...
For not only did I want to see
that amazing color
neatly tapped into
I also wanted to examine--
on a tactile level--
whatever it was that had led me
to make the mid-tapestry leap
from linen to wool
a few weeks ago.
Alas, this was not a large enough experiment
to come to any great conclusions,
so more experiments will hopefully ensue.
Here's, however, what I did note:
1. that weaving with wool
is familiar, forgiving,
and I LOVE it beyond words
(and in the midst of weaving words).
2. that I'm still super interested
in my ongoing cellulosic adventures--
in pursuing materials that come my way
and easy to weave
3. That weaving tapestries
in whatever material
is an amazing thing
to get to do.
You know how it goes.
Of course you do:
it's a NEW PROJECT
alive with the thrill
You do a bit of sampling--
(but not much).
you've worked with these materials before--
(on a much smaller scale).
You know what's what--
For sure they are
and related to everything
you've been talking about
for months and months.
The hand spun linen is lovely,
though you're not positive you love
working with two strands.
-tap, tap, tap--
The warp-weft relationship
could be a little... different.
-tap, tap, tap--
You'll get used to it.
-tap, tap, tap--
Who is ever sure of anything?
-tap, tap, tap--
This work could be
-tap, tap, tap--
it looks wonderful.
-tap, tap, tap--
that two strands
of white mill spun linen
is less pleasant
than the hand spun.
-tap, tap, tap--
And the half-assed attempt
to repeat the tape thing
you've done before?
-tap, tap, tap--
there is a lot
of empty warp
-tap, tap, tap--
You made a decision.
It'll be SO COOL.
It'll BE FINE.
It'll be fine?
Did you hear that?
It'll be fine
is the kiss of death.
Does that mean you have to rip it out?
-tap, tap, tap--
who wants to decide what to do
all over again?
It WILL be fine.
-tap, tap, tap--
You go away for a week.
Weave a little more.
Sure is nice sitting at a loom.
Never mind that.
Go for a run.
Take off your shoes.
Wade through some muddy puddles.
Oh my, does this feel good.
But I've woven so much.
And I LOVE how it looks.
And the waste.
--SNIP, SNIP SNIP--
It is always amazing to me
how sometimes the simplest shift in technique
can change my whole feeling about a process.
Weaving in the ends in tapestry was like that.
Also, using a plying stick.
And one of the coolest things I learned in August
was a new way to wind the cop
on a cross-armed spindle.
When I got my first cross-arm
(a 9 gram Jenkins kuchulu)
I learned what seems to be the canonical
over two under one, around and around
method of winding on (see photo above).
It worked beautifully (once I got the hang of it),
and with it I have filled uncountable spindles.
The idea of (or need for), a different approach
never crossed my mind.
Then in early August on a random Instagram Post
I glimpsed something rather different.
A woman was winding her cop
as though winding a ball by hand:
a few times around one pair of arms,
then on to the next pair, around a few times,
and on again to the next.
No biggie, really,
and yet, for me, huge.
The cop looks quite different
as it builds up around the shaft:
more of a square with the sides pushed in
than the neat little muffin I was used to.
It's not, however, the look of the thing
that matters to me,
but rather that this way of winding
somehow adds a layer of comfortable ease
to the whole business of spinning flax
and I now find myself picking up
my willow distaff,
almost as readily as wrist distaffs
loaded with wool.
And that is a fine thing.
A fine thing indeed,
since a truckload of milkweed stems
(potential compost from a native seed farm)
showed up at my house last week.
Once I get a better handle
on how to release the silky white fibers
hiding in that pile of stalks,
there is a good chance
that even more bast fiber spinning practice
is in my future.
But that is a story for another day.
Today, I just want to close
by saying thank you
for the lovely comments last week.
Your kind words and good wishes
mean more than I can say.
It has been said,
(generally by those who do not do it),
that making yarn by hand
must be incredibly relaxing --
perhaps 'almost' a meditation.
It has also been suggested,
once or twice,
or a hundred times,
(sometimes by the very people
who assume it to be meditative),
that making yarn
is clearly boring
in the extreme.
It is possible
that both of these statements
Me? I can't tell --
indeed, I have a feeling
that my perspective
might just be
a teensy bit skewed.
Making yarn is a thing I do--
perhaps the central thing--
day after day--
week after week--
year after year.
Even when I'm not writing about it--
(as I won't be for the month of August
since it is blog-cation time!)--
I'm generally adding twist to something or other:
a used coffee filter--
a dead leaf--
so all I can say for sure--
is that though it is my job
(or perhaps because it is my job),
I love it more than I can possibly say.
ps. these blog posts have more on coffee filter yarn
-Coffee Filter Yarn
-Indigo and Paper (includes links to people who really know what they are doing!)
-Somewhat Slanted-with coffee filters
pps. The store will remain open so you can download guides.
The Backstrap Dialogues Zine (paper version) will be available again in September
ppps Wishing you a lovely month wherever you are --
and whatever season it is there--
meditating or spinning or being bored
or perhaps all three at once.
See you in September!
Truth to tell,
I had hoped to have
a finished shirt today.
Alas, I should have known better.
The path from fiber forward
(or any path I follow for that matter),
rarely runs straight
and is almost never speedy--
which of course is often the point.
Indeed, learning how to spin flax
with some degree of comfort
seemed more than enough
when this all began,
and it wasn't until this past April
that I began to get serious about linsey woolsey,
so why should the sewing part go quickly?
But wait -- no!
I take that back.
I just typed "linsey-woolsey"
into the search box at the top of the blog page
and found that I wove some
back when I was first learning
to use a backstrap loom--
cloth I later used
in an entirely different
sort of experiment
in November 2016.
(that blog post written in hope, before the results were in).
Except, was that experiment entirely different?
Wasn't that attempt to combine
backstrap-woven linen/wool cloth
with some kind of imagery
part of the same endless quest
as the coptic-inspired tabby/tapestry
that keeps showing up in this project?
Well yes, I think it is--
even if I'm unlikely
to throw an actual painting
(whatever the ground material)
into a tub of water and swish it around
to soften it up before cutting,
as I have these swaths of linen and wool.
But I suppose one can be obsessed
with the juxtaposition of cloth and image
for decades and decades
and still ask a lot of different questions.
Right now, for instance
I want to know
how the combination
of linen and wool,
feels against my skin.
Historically, at least in the United States,
Linsey-woolsey has a bad reputation
and is often described
as rough inferior cloth--
the combination of linen and wool
highlighting the worst
both of the materials,
and of human power relationships.*
* Plantation Slave Weavers Remember: An Oral History by Mary Madison
is heartbreaking, humbling and un-put-downable (if that is a word)--
essential reading for me as a white woman, a human being and a weaver.
The end of the book includes valuable background
on the textiles that are spoken of in the text,
as well as extracts from
The Politics Of Textiles Used in African American Slave Clothing,
a paper by Eulanda A. Sanders given at a Textile Society of America Symposium.
Linsey-Woolsey was also woven
by early American Colonists
and used in myriad textiles,
from clothing to coverlets
as a way to stretch
scarce and precious wool--
though usually not as a first choice.
In addition, I've also recently learned that
the combination of wool and linen is Shatnez:
prohibited by Jewish law from being worn.
Yet fragments Coptic cloth of linen and wool
unearthed by archaeologist Albert Gayet
and exhibited at the Exposition Universelle de Paris 1900
may well have inspired
the wild and colorful paintings
of Henri Matisse and his fellow Fauves
at the turn of the last century.
It's intense, actually --
all this history and judgement,
all this power and hardship
all this misery and mystery
and pictorial delight
this specific combination of materials
to which I am connected,
consciously and unconsciously,
willingly and abashedly,
in ways both historic
and of the moment.
It's also fascinating.
And with all that I learn
and hope to keep learning,
with all the things I want to change
about the world we live in,
and all the ways I want to make all lives better
I am still
a weaver devoted to wool,
and a spinner in love with linen,
coming to this cloth
with spindle and shuttle
pins, needles, thread,
So here's what I know so far:
1. My chest is not quite as flat as I thought it was
2. Building with rectangles,
and basting before sewing
is a pretty great idea
when designing as you go--
or rather re-designing
for the third
(or maybe fourth)
3. The combination of a fine wool warp
and singles linen weft
(spindle spun and well scoured),
feels wonderful in my hands,
airy yet robust,
warm and cool and silky all at once,
and I very much look forward
to my future physical connection
with the weavers and wearers of this cloth
willing, and unwilling,
over the millennia.
with a shirt!
So i’m in new Hampshire,
knitting with coffee filters.
You know how it goes.
A gal is visiting family
and the conversations turns
to making yarn out of trash--
as it does--
and your enthusiastic mother
jumps up to fish a couple of
used filters from the compost bin,
rinses them off and sets them to dry
so that when you return from visiting a beloved cousin,
you can do a little spinning
and she--your lovely mum--
can take photos of the process.
These large round Chemex (sp?) filters
were new to me,
so of course
it was extra interesting.
(I’ve written blog posts about spinning coffee filters but for some reason I can’t specifically link them while writing this on the road and in the weebly app so alas, you’ll have search a little to find them if interseted).
Then it turned out that a few
of the many wonderful people
who have started Somewhat Slanted
weren’t familiar with beginning a row
with a YO (Yarn Over),
so yesterday I plied the yarn
and took some photos on the back steps
to (hopefully), make it more clear.
(Please forgive all out of focus moments
as I was using my big toe to click the button
while my hands were occupied).
So here goes:
Yarn Over Increase starting from a single stitch:
1. make a slip knot and put it on the left needle.
2. Bring the Yarn Over the right needle
(or, as my mother says, bring the Needle Under the yarn)
3. Insert needle into the slip knot/ loop as usual
4. Wrap yarn
5. Complete Stitch
— you now have two stitches
6. Switch hands and repeat steps 2 - 5:
Continue as per the
Somewhat Slanted Guide
until it is time to decrease,
by which time the YO thing
should be easy as pie.
The other issue that has come up with Somewhat Slanted
has to do with making color changes with the stripes.
This is not, alas, a thing I can do with coffee filter yarn
(surprisingly pleasant though it is to knit with),
as I only have one color just now.
Also, coffee filter yarn doesn’t felt,
and I used a Spit Splice (aka Felted Join)
which requires wool or a wool blend (not superwash).
I may eventually do some drawings about the splice
but hopefully the Interweave link above will work for you.
Or just Google Spit Splice
and you’ll find all kinds of info.
Though I haven’t yet done stripes with cotton,
I imagine it would work
to tie the two colors together at the edge leaving long tails,
knit along as though they were spliced
then later untie the knots and weave in the ends to
form the YO loops.
But that is just theory right now.
Anyone tried it? Be great to know.
Also — has anyone knit more than a little square
with the coffee filter yarn?
It’s weirdly nice.
I might mess around with this little square
and see how it holds up.
Who EVER knows?
So there I was,
happily weaving along,
minding my selvedges,
thinking about the interlacement
of linen, wool and plain weave
through the millennia,
when I remembered this book.
I've owned Nancy Arthur Hoskins' book
for a long time
but until last week had not actually tried
the ever-intriguing notion
of tapestry as built-in embellishment
in an otherwise unadorned balanced plain weave--
at least for clothing--
as was the case with Coptic Tapestry.
Ten or fifteen years ago
I did the wool/ wool sample pictured below
as part of some early
Four Selvedge Tapestry experiments,
and long time readers of this blog
will know that exploring ways
to get tapestry off the wall
has long been a passion of mine,
so you might imagine my delight
when I suddenly realized--
wait-- I'm making cloth for clothing
and I can work tapestry into this cloth
As I think I mentioned last week,
usually seems to be wool weft on a linen warp,
and the the same holds true
for late 3rd to mid 7th Century Coptic Tapestry
(which makes sense given ease of dyeing wool for imagery
and a centuries old tradition of growing flax for clothing.).
Since my cloth had a wool warp and linen weft however,
I decided to do the tapestry part backwards too --
weaving a weft faced linen ground
with little woolen squares
(using the same yarn as the warp).
Those of you who have read Backstrap Dialogues
are already familiar with the endless disagreements
between my inner Luminist and Storymaker--
so while they are fighting over aesthetics
I will just mention that technically,
this first stab at tabby/tapestry
was both a delight
and a pain in the butt.
There are issues of tension,
(and the simultaneous weaving of)
the tabby areas on the sides,
all of which I want to mess about with
in future experiments,
but overall I'm thrilled --
both with the addition of tapestry
and with the cloth itself which,
now that it is off the loom and washed,
(by hand as for wool, with extra agitation for fulling)
I find to be crisp, light, fluid
and even a little glittery.
The tapestry section is smooth and weighty
in an intriguing and satisfying way.
Nothing odd or 'unbelonging' feeling about it.
I will probably sew the slits
before beginning the actual garment --
and of course that can't happen
until I've completed
the next swathe --
linen warp/wool weft
with whatever touch of sartorial tapestry
Luminist and Storymaker decide upon--
and designed whatever it is I'm going to make.
Two final thoughts --
1. Linsey Woolsey has a long rocky history
from breeds of sheep, to the use and abuse of power,
from linen processing in Coptic Egypt
to ramifications of the British Wool Act of 1699,
from The Fibershed movement
to the enforced spinning and weaving of slave clothing--
as I was reminded by Mary Madison in last week's comments.
It is a history at once painful, fascinating and full of possibility--
worthy of serious inquiry on many levels.
As usual I've no idea where it all is going for me,
but as you can see,
I'm on the path,
spindle in hand.
and thank you kindly
for your company.
2. Switching Newsletter providers last week seemed to go well,
though a few people reported
that their newsletter went into Spam
because it came from Sarah C Swett
instead of A Field Guide To Needlework.
I have now changed that and hope it works better.
Thank you again for your support and patience!
Do you ever lie in bed at night,
thinking about an idea --
trying to imagine--
and then solve--
every issue that might arise
when you actually start
bringing it into the physical world?
It is a thing
that happens to me --
so much so
that even as I've been committing
chunks of time every day
to spinning flax
for yards of linsey woolsey cloth,
I have also been designing
the mythical garment
the cloth will become--
and growing wildly curious
about construction possibilites.
Some of this design work is necessary --
not least to help calculate
how much yardage
I will need to spin.
But technical questions
have been driving me nuts
and the only way to resolve one or two--
or at least understand their nature--
is to stitch some cloth together.
Luckily, I have a motley collection
of linen backstrap experiments
sitting in a box
(some of it originally intended for needlepoint,
other bits left over from work for this show,
though mostly untouched)
so I could mess around a little--
do a little draping if nothing else.
All are linen,
though few are the same weight, width or sett
so I wasn't expecting to end up
with much of a garment.
Still --an education, not a product
is what I was pursuing,
and these bits of cloth
could provide that.
Every piece has selvedges,
which means overlapping seams
with minimal bulk
and the particular drape that results--
a thing I hope to make a feature
of my mythical linsey woolsey garment,
and is definitely based
on all I've learned
from the design of the Sarah-Dippity.
Indeed, that series of skirts
has given me quite a taste
for this business of
additive clothing construction.
Use the shapes you have,
make the shapes you need
then put them together,
take them apart
and baste again
in a different way
until things are right.
Basting, indeed, is my new best friend.
Great big stitches
make it possible to try things on,
even as they are easy to whip out
when a new (and vastly improved)
idea for sleeve and underarm construction
arises in the middle of the night.
It's been a slow process
over the last few weeks--
filled with delight, frustration
and unexpectedly visceral
Indeed those scraps of cloth
have provided such delight
that the wee tapestry pocket
might even be too much.
Time will tell, I suppose.
I hope it eventually lets me know
if this shirt wants a nice tidy hem --
All I know for sure right now
is that this garment-in-progress
is fantastically comfortable.
And between this shirt,
a couple of sweaters in various states of completion
(more on those eventually)
and my summer Sarah-Dippity,
this is proving to be
quite the sartorial spring.
Sarah C Swett