Saturday, February 1, 2014

Can't Stop

 I just can’t stop starting new lace projects.  Two of them have been on the list for a long time and one just popped out a couple of nights ago.

A little over a year ago I got hold of a Spanish lace magazine called, La Encajera.  In it was a pattern for a bobbin lace fan.  It was really beautiful but it was also composed of elements that I knew how to do – individually, at least.  The challenge with it was that there were absolutely no instructions.  There was the pricking and a good photo but no clues as to how many pairs of bobbins, not to mention how to hang them, start off or anything else.  For a long time, I knew it was beyond my skills so I prepared the pricking, ordered the thread and waited for the right time.

It seems to be the right time now so I shrunk the pricking to match the thread I wanted to use (a nice linen thread) and got everything started.  If I just work slowly and pay close attention to how each element interacts with its neighbor, I should be okay.  I’ve only had to take out part of it twice so I think this is pretty good progress.

The second project was one I thought about last summer as I was in the process of buying the house.  I wanted something of my Glasgow heritage to be represented in the house but wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it.  After I did the Victorian Lady piece for Jane, I realized that this was the perfect style to work a piece based on the symbols and emblems that make up the coat of arms of Glasgow. 
All based on:

 There’s the tree that never grew,

There’s the bird that never flew,

There’s the fish that never swam,

There’s the bell that never rang.

 All of these are based in legends that you can read about hereI took my representation from a photo of light post found in the city.

I’ve started but am prepared to go through a bit of trial and error to make sure to get something that will take pride of place over the mantle.

Finally, I had a crazy idea a couple of nights ago.  I had brought up a handspun skein of yarn from the basement that I was trying to decide what it wanted to be.  I had a lot of fun spinning it but I only had 1 skein of chunky yarn that wasn’t super soft and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I’d brought it up and dug out some needles, assuming I would be knitting something.

Who knows how these things happen but I looked at it and thought, “I wonder if I could use this to lace a scarf?”  Sure I could but how would I do it.  Although it was pretty chunky, I felt it needed a little more bulk so I decided to crochet a looooooong chain and use that for the lacing.  So I made a base and then crocheted 6 pairs of chains.  At first I thought I would need more but after thinking about it a little, I decided that any more would make it too bulky so I left it at that. 

A couple of unknowns were:
  • How long should I make each chain?  I just made them long and tried to make them roughly the same length.  When I finished the chain, I only loosely bound it off – I figured I would need to adjust the length at the end of the day.  Actually, I was pretty sure I would need to add to the length (I didn’t) but this would work either way – to lengthen or shorten.
  •  Where would I do the lacing?  I wasn’t going to make an actual pricking so I thought the bed would be plenty long for working it.  It was enough but not plenty.  When I reached the end of the bed, I finished.  Plus I had only 1 of my large pins left.  It was long enough.
  • How would I finish it off at the end?  I ended up making a similar placket to what I’d begun with and tied the chains onto it.  The yarn ends were worked in with a needle but it needed more.  I decided to go with a plaited fringe.  I think it needs some large beads added to the fringe area but I didn’t have what I wanted on hand and it’s a freezing sheet of ice on the roads outside.  Beads can always be added later.
It was a fun project and gave me tons of ideas for some funky projects I could work in a similar manner. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Flax to Linen

I’ve just finished spinning a bunch of flax for a friend of mine.  The flax had belonged to a dear friend of hers who passed away.  She didn’t want a very fine thread because she wanted to use it in her knitting but the fiber was fairly coarse anyway so it was spun “rustically.”  That’s my way of saying that I didn’t know what the heck I was doing but had a great reference book to guide me and I learned a few things.  Linen Hand Spinning and Weaving by Patricia Baines was my introduction to this challenging fiber.
Here are a few of things I learning in this process, which, by the way, took me about 2 years to do – 1 ½ years sitting staring at me from its perch on one of my stash piles and 6 months of starting in the summer when it could be done on the back porch and then putting it off for another 5 ½ months because it took a lot of concentration).  All in all, it was probably about 6 hours of spinning. 

  1. Learning to dress the distaff correctly is critical.  If it the distaff isn’t correctly dressed, it can either be too dense to draft well or too loose, making it hard to draw in the right amount of fiber.  Learned by experience as well as by reference to the book.
  2. Flax shouldn’t be spun in the living room unless you have a couple of hours to dust, mop and vacuum after you’re done.  If you’re spinning on carpet, by all means, lay a sheet or cloth beneath your entire work area.  Flax is messy.  It’s like hanging out with a bunch of grass clippings, which it sorta is, if you think about it.  If you have people in your house with allergies, I strongly recommend spinning this fiber outside.
  3. When spinning flax, be prepared to pamper your wheel.   Make sure that it’s well-oiled throughout the process and that you clean it thoroughly after you’re finished.  You’ll most likely be spinning on a very high ratio which means your wheel needs lots of oil to handle the very fast moving parts.  Reasons for the cleaning, refer to #2.
  4. Patricia Baines says that the tradition (and the innate desire of the flax fibers) is to spin S singles and Z ply although she does stress that if you’re going to weave with your thread, there’s not a need to ply it.
  5. You should keep a pot of warm water or a sponge wetted with warm water by your side because water makes flax stronger and makes it possible to spin a smoother yarn or thread.
  6. It makes your hands smell very fresh.
  7. It’s very difficult to find well prepared flax although I did located some through The Woolery in Kentucky.  But it was backordered for about 6 months before I received it.
  8. Ms. Baines recommendation to treadle very slowly is very good advice.
I have an ambition to spin some flax finely and evenly enough to use it for a piece of bobbin lace, which is the traditional fiber used for the craft.  Check back in another 2 years and I might be close to giving it a go!