there is coffee filter yarn.
The sun is shining.
And the narcissus--
are casting shadows on the wall.
After the weaving/knitting confusion
of last week's post
I was pretty sure that today
I could stick to the point.
The trouble began
when I began to gather
for no sooner had I found a few decent pictures
--of fleece prep and spindle choice,
--of knitting and ripping out and knitting again,
--of the three-needle-side-and-sleeve-seam-bind-off,
--and of the joys of putting a mock turtleneck
on what I had previously considered
a square-necked garment
(making it a square neck that looks round,
to riff off of Roald Dahl),*
*see chapter 23, Square Candies that Look Round
than I got completely distracted
by the other three (or is it four now?)
sweaters I've knit from this same fleece
(a Targhee/Debouillet from Nancy Ortmann).
What caught me up
was thinking about how,
though I used the same Hepty Spindles
and spun virtually identical singles
I treated the final yarn making process quite differently:
--dyeing and carding the fleece, spinning all the singles, then plying and knitting
--chain plying each spindle full of singles, then dyeing and knitting then all
--chain plying each spindle full and knitting it right away.
Before long I was all bogged down
with gathering pictures,
covering my computer desk top
with images to explain my choices,
and trying to describe why each approach
suited the mood and project of the moment
(and also getting sucked into inspecting old projects
with the wisdom of hindsight)--
and soon I'd totally forgotten
that your patience for such nonsense
(at least all in one blog post)
would soon be exhausted--
especially when what I REALLY wanted to do
was talk about the third choice,
the one I used for the most recent two:
-the Somewhat Slanted I'm wearing as I type
-and a Magic Medium
that I've worn like crazy since July
but don't think I've blogged about
because I hope to revise the magic Medium pattern
and figure it'd be better to talk about it
when I've got the new, more versatile version done
(though of course anyone who has bought it on Ravelry
will get a revised version if/when I get
a round tooit).
So in the name of sticking to the point
I deleted all that historic nonsense
so that I could say
though potentially filled with imperfections
(each skein slightly different
due to my spinning mood
and the weight of the spindle
from one end of the cop to the other)
with a plying stick/wand
is my current absolute favorite.
And here's why:
A gal can even lounge on her bed
and pretend to take a nap
if she really needs a break
but can't quite bring herself
to put down the yarn.
And what's not to love about that?
ps . For more about using a plying stick,
check out this blog post:
pps And sigh.
I still feel compelled
to tuck a few photos of those other two methods
at the bottom
because there they are on my desktop
and I want to tidy it up
but will dispense with the descriptions
as I think I'm almost out of words.
Method One: spin all the singles and mix them up
Method Two: spin and ply, then dye (Henry's Shop Shirt)
And Bonus for reading this far:
The Proper recipients for both these last two garments:
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.
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.
Before it began,
I dreamed I would be able
to spend the month of August
relishing the dailyness of home,
and also giving time
to the the myriad tempting ideas
that had been tickling my brain.
Luckily, many of those ideas
had to do with spinning,
(which allows me to read at the same time),
except when I'm spinning flax,
(which means putting down my book),
or learning new tunes,
putting down the spindle),
or sitting quietly in the shade
listening to the birds
with a cup of tea
(which means neither book nor spindle
but maybe some knitting).
I had hoped to do some sewing
but then I'd have to put down EVERYTHING else!
Looking back at my daily drawings
I can see that holding my shoes
while running barefoot,
is probably the only way
I managed to avoid the temptation
of attempting to spin and run
at the same time.
And that it was likewise important
that the juice of the yellow plums
from our tree in the hell strip
is so sweet and sticky
that yarn, concertina,
and the current novel
could not be in the kitchen
while said fruit was prepared
for winter consumption.
are not yarn friendly--
though the now dry weld
will someday transform
into spectacular yellows
(or greens with the help of indigo and/or iron).
On the other hand,
if she's sufficiently half-assed
while cleaning the house for visitors,
a gal can sometimes
carve out a moment
of elemental pleasure.
Water, coffee, salad, spindle and a book
at the same time?
It will surprise none of you--
certainly not long time readers of this blog--
or anyone who has read
the post before this one--
or has happened to click
on the word Handspinning
in the sidebar to the right--
that given a chance to make yarn
(as slowly as I possibly can),
or to make something with that yarn,
I'll take it.
the depth of my entrancement
still surprises me.
So yes --
though I did not get around
to making myself
a new pair of pants*
from those finally-too-worn-to-mend
sides-to-middled linen sheets,
or learn all the tunes I dreamed of,
it has been an exquisite
and deliciously yarn-centric August,
at home on the Palouse.
I'm so glad
I didn't need
I have plenty of Sarah-Dippity skirts to wear.
Many of this month's comics
indicate that I wore the short wool ones
as often as the long one I made just for summer!
I plan/hope to wax verbose
in future posts
about the specifics
of my August explorations
(not least, what feels like an improvement
in my flax spinning),
so stay tuned.
Due to unforeseen vagaries of life, however,
I may not, for a time
be able to blog quite as consistently
as I have in the past.
I'll still aim for every Tuesday,
but if I don't make it
know that I'm probably making yarn,
drawing pictures of whatever is going on,
and will be back to tell you about it.
ps -- Remember, too,
that you can visit the archives
(links on the right)
if you need more glimpses
into this yarnish life
though every inch of yarn feels fresh,
I keep coming back
to the same old elemental bliss.
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!
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!
Yesterday was wonderful.
A little math showed that I'd spun enough yarn
to warp and weave the first swath of cloth
for an imaginary garment of linen and wool--
so I began.
Honestly, the prototype shirt
I talked about last week
is just so satisfying and comfortable
I couldn't wait another minute.
Anyway, I really like to warp--
for tapestry or plain cloth.
What's not to love
about strand after strand
undulating through a pair of lease sticks?
My earlier linseny-woolsey samples
had both wool and linen in the warp.
The cloth is lovely
but warping was a total pain
so for this first swathe of actual yardage
I'm using 2 ply wool as warp
and singles linen as weft.
apparently used linen warp and wool weft,
and maybe I'll try that next time.
The Ashford Rigid Heddle
is 10 inches wide and 15 dpi.
15 is as fine as rigid heddles go,
so I designed the yarn with that in mind--
just as I am designing the cloth
to suit the garment I want to make.
Note: For more info on the three selvedge structure pictured below
there are instructions in Backstrap Dialogues
The next swathe will be
between 4 and 5 inches wide,
(depending on the draw-in on this one).
Together, they should add up
to my shoulder width.
It is just so exiting --
(well, to me anyway),
to see how building a garment
with the narrow lengths of cloth I love to weave
can be an enormous boon to design
rather than the hindrance I once thought it.
It is also amazing
to run smack into my fixed ideas--
whatever they may be
though in this case
that garment sewing
is all about subtracting shapes
from someone else's idea
of how wide cloth can be made--
and suddenly see
that those ideas
are but illusions
I can stroll right through.
There is more exploring to do
along these lines
--building garments in an additive,
and I'm definitely planning to do some,
even as, for the moment,
I'll keep geeking out
on the pleasure of using paper purns
and this old boat shuttle
to slip shots of flax
across the open shed.
Speaking of geeking out --
I just moved my newsletter host
from Mailchimp, where it has been for the last few years
to Weebly, the outfit within which I have this website and blog.
There were myriad reasons for this,
and the odd hassle,
but all I can say for the moment is -- it's done.
At least I think it is done.
If you usually get the newsletter
and came to the blog today as a result,
you will know that it worked
(things will look different, plus I expect I'll mention it there).
If, however, things don't work quite right
please let me know!
I thank you in advance for your patience.
Cuz, as you probably know,
my geekiness has its limitations.
It seemed simple enough when I began:
a big spinning project completed last week
means it is time for the next idea in the queue, right?
And the last 1 .5 lbs of this Targhee/Deboullet fleece
has been very patient,
and was totally ready.
Indeed, despite having sat for two years post scouring,
the locks were clean and lovely--
still easy to tease and card into silky batts .
The goal is a spring/ summer
spin-and-knit-as-I-go portable project
and I wanted to get both parts going
so I can pick up either part
at a moment's notice
without much thought.
(Yes, I know it is sensible to spin all the yarn
and mix up the skeins before plying,
or at least before casting on,
but who can be sensible
when one's fingers absolutely ache
for this fresh fluffy, fine yarn,
especially since the spinning portion
of other recent projects in progress
actually did need to be complete
before I could commence the next phase?)
BUT, which spindle is the one for the job:
--my reliable, superfast 24 gram cherry Hepty,
whose steadfast nature
has, over the last three years+,
been the tool of choice for several sweaters
and enough yarn for a couple of good sized
but as yet to be designed swaths of backstrap cloth
--the cheerful, fast and balanced but mostly untested
20 gram blue and yellow Hepty
that my son 3-D printed as an experiment
for wet-spinning flax
and is just as happy with wool?
(the shaft is painted wood, the whorl 3-D printed --
and no production of these is planned, fyi...)
They both make me happy.
And so does working with one tool at a time,
especially for a portable project.
Why, then, was I simultaneously so susceptible
to this glorious strick of Belgian flax
singing sweet songs from the cabinet
where it had been waiting for months?
Well.... cuz... um....
I'm susceptible to wooing?
There is actually a super cool story about this strick
connected with my search for local flax
(short of me growing my own-- another future project),
and the heart-stoppingly exciting work being done in Oregon
by the women of Fibreevolution.
No room today for the whole surprising tale,
except that I feel most fortunate to have this strick in my hands,
and am thoroughly enjoying turning it into yarn,
especially with an appropriate spindle.
Not that I'm great at it or anything,
but it is good to slow down and develop a rhythm,
since, in my flaxen eagerness last year
I got ahead of myself,
and found, among other things,
that the blue and yellow Hepty
is far too fast
for the yarn I'm able to make
with my slowly emerging skills--
and perhaps too fast for flax at all
as the long fibers do not need the kind of twist
demanded by the fine wool yarn I love to make
and that my hands think spinning is all all about.
Luckily, practice is a thing,
as is really nice fiber
and a slow-and-steady
long-armed, lightweight spindle--
even if it's not water resistant.
(this Jenkins Spindle is a 17 gram Lark
now discontinued but perhaps similar to the Wren?)
Good thing wool and flax
use slightly different hand and finger muscles
and switching back and forth
actually gives my hands a break.
Except, you know,
just because my hands know when they need a break
doesn't mean my brain does
and my friend Jodi had sent me
another batch of coffee filters,
many of them a weirdly enticing light brown
and I was curious... so...
Another 3-D printed wet spinning spindle
was the tool of choice this time
(coffee filters, in my experience, are best spun damp),
and I had a swell time cutting and adding twist.
This 10 gram cross-arm spindle,
also a slightly too speedy flax spinning contender,
turned out to be ideal, both in weight and speed, for the filter paper,
and a worthy and portable alternative to
on the slow charkha
I talked about in the post linked above.
(Note: Public domain code is available for these spindles;
it can be found with a little googling and printed by someone in your area who knows how to do such things --
local library/maker space/ etc).
So -- um-- that was yesterday.
Happily, last week's lessons are still with me,
at least mostly,
and having learned what those brown
bits of paper look like spun into yarn,
I returned the coffee filters to the cabinet,
moved the associated tapestry idea
to ferment at the back of the cue,
and returned to the pleasures at hand--
which might actually,
if I don't get distracted again,
join the completed skeins of wool
to become the linsey-woolsey cloth
I've been longing to wear.
Sarah C Swett