Point of No Return


These socks took close to forever for me.


I blame this on the needles. No, really. The needles. And those needles? Signature Needle Arts 6 inch double points. Why? Because they are too damn pointy. I was splitting yarn like I have never split yarn before.

I got the needles at last year’s Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I had heard so much about them, and such raves, that I thought that I would give them a try. To try them out, I made the socks above using Smooshy with Cashmere that I got from Cloverhill at the same festival. And a splitting I went with the first sock. Another problem that I had is that I had a difficult time seeing my stitches on the main part of the needle, as the needle’s color was close to the yarn that I was using. Maybe I just need better lighting, in that case.

The first sock took a darn long time, but since the needles were new to me and the yarn was new to me, I needed to eliminate one variable to see what was causing the splits. So for the second sock, I changed back to my Addi Turbos. No splits. Not a one. (BTW, Smooshy with Cashmere? Very nice yarn. Will definitely use again.)

Just to confirm, I started another pair of socks in a yarn that I have used before with no issues, Sheila’s Wullenstudio sock yarn.


As you can see in the photo, I am back to using Addi Turbos. Why? Because I was splitting with the Signatures.

Now maybe all of those that rave about these needles aren’t using the stiletto points, but that is all that is available for the double points unless you get a custom order or get the 4 inch needles, which are too small for me. Or maybe they are using the needles with yarns that have a harder twist than what I have tried before. I will have to give that a try, as these needles are too expensive to just let sit idle.

Copyright 2013 by G. P. Donohue for textillian.com.



So, what was I doing New Year’s Eve?

Well, during the day I was cutting strips with my rag cutter. I dug it out so that I could cut up the eight yards of fabric that I am using as the weft to weave the rugs that were being put on the big loom at the end of the last post. Those rugs are my parents’ Christmas present. (My family is used to getting I.O.U.’s for gifts.)

The rag cutter basically works like a pasta maker. You turn the crank to feed the fabric through against the guide to get a consistent width strip cut by the rotary blade that is sandwiched between two rubber discs that press again a large metal cylinder, that is actually connected to the crank. The blurry picture below gives you an idea of what it looks like in action.

This took an amazingly long time. It was close to three hours to do the eight yards of quilting cotton in 1 1/4″ strips. I tried folding the fabric to cut more than one strip at a time, but that actually took longer because of having to keep the fabric together so that all of the layers would press up against the guide. This is probably one of the reasons why I don’t make rag rugs that often. The last time that I used the rag cutter was when I made these rugs about ten years ago.

The cutter was also making an awful grinding noise during a portion of the turn of the crank. It was a concerning noise to me, and an irritating one for Bogey and Mr. Penney.

This tool is probably meant more for rug hookers that rag rug weavers. The rag cutter has the option of placing several blades together, and rug hookers generally use thinner strips (about 1/4″ wide as opposed to 1 1/4″ wide) of thicker fabrics (woolens rather than quilting cottons). I bought the cutter back when I thought I needed every weaving tool ever created. I am long over that period now.

In any case, all of the fabric is cut up.

And weaving has commenced.


I am unsure about how I feel about these rugs at the moment. I am kind of wishing I picked a darker fabric as the weft, but that may just be the fluorescent lighting in the basement. I have seven yards of warp on the loom, and I only have to get two 40″ long rugs off of it, so I should be able to try other fabrics without re-warping the loom if I think I can do better. Weave on!

Copyright 2011 by G. P. Donohue for textillian.com

Caught Up


It feels like forever since I posted anything fibery, so here is a nice big post to catch up on what has been going on with the textiles.

After finishing the STR heel experiment, I started on these socks.

The sock yarn is Eidos from Sanguine Gryphon in the colorway Poesis. The colors don’t show up well in my photography. (I either need a new camera, am a lousy photographer, or all of the above.) It is a rather dark sock, making it kind of difficult to work on at night. Note to self, stick with lighter colorways. I do like the resulting sock, though.

The pattern for the sock club is coming along well, now that I have taken a break from it for a few weeks. I made a number of edits and am knitting the revised edition now. I am pretty amazed at how fast the second one is going. After only a few days, I am already turning the heel.

The spinning has not stopped either.

This is the Sea Kelp Salad from the Fiber Feast by Hungry for Handspun. I am wishing I spun this with not so much twist and not so thin, because it is taking quiet a while to work through the roving. (This is all my fault, not the rovings.) I figure I will do a chained ply with this single.

And I have gotten back to the loom.

This is Sea Silk from Handmaiden. The warp is the Pewter colorway (I believe,) and the weft is of unknown name, but is browns and purples. My original idea for this scarf was to do a 3/1 twill rib, that you can see a bit of at the bottom; but that weave needs a tighter sett than 12 epi for this yarn, and making this a tighter sett would make the scarf narrower that I would like. That means that the scarf is now plain weave. So far, so good.

But that is not the only weaving going on.

These are squares that I wove using the Weave-It loom. It is a fun little thing that makes weaving portable. The Weave-It is actually my mother’s; but I borrowed several years ago, and it never made it way back to her. She hasn’t missed it, so far.

I am not sure what I am going to make from these squares. I may be a blanket of size to be determined. It is a nice diversion, at the very least.

Copyright 2009 by G. P. Donohue for textillian.com

(Sley) Ride


OK.  A few notes before I go forward with this entry:

  1. I have changed warps on you. I am using yarn that I spun a couple years ago for the project you are about to see. I didn’t want anyone thinking that weaving had the magical power to turn fingering weight purple silk into worsted weight handspun blue/green/purple mohair and romney.
  2. The information here is not intended to be a complete course in weaving. Far from it. But it should give you an idea of what is done, and maybe encourage you to learn some more. The best beginning weaving book that I have found is Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler. Highly recommended.
  3. A reminder that this is just the way I normally do things. It is not the only way to skin the cat. (No offense to the cat lovers out there.) I say this because I am about to show you how I put a warp on the loom, and this is something that some people get very passionate about.

On with the show! Continue reading

The Heart of the Matter


Well, I had a different title and everything for this post back on Monday morning; but just as I was publishing the last entry, I got a phone call from my mother. Now, my mother never calls me unless something is up. She, in particular, doesn’t call me in the morning just to chat. It turns out that they had taken my father to the hospital for chest pains the night before, and in their always protective way even though I am a 40-year-old man, waited until Monday morning to tell me. Oy.

So, Monday was spent at the hospital, keeping my mother company and trying to make sense of what was going on with my father. He was released from the hospital yesterday after a battery of tests, and they still don’t know what the problem is. The most likely candidate seems to be a muscle pull, according to the doctors. Hopefully, they are right. Unfortunately, as much science as there is in medicine, there is still a lot of art to it, which makes it so frustrating. In any case, my father is home and seems to be doing fine. Fingers crossed.

Of course, the first planned photo for this post made me think of my father:

Handspun singles warp on warping board

The warping board that you see here is one that my father made for me to my specifications. My father enjoys working with wood, and I barely had to ask him to make a warping board for me before he was selecting the type of wood to be used and how he was going to make the pegs removeable. The board is made from maple, and all of the pegs can be removed, making it easier for me to wind a warp by only have the pegs in that I need and being able to take the warp off of the board by removing a peg. It is unusual for me to use this board now, because I have a warping mill; and it is faster for me to wind most warps on the mill. But with how things are situated in the house at the moment, it was easier for me to get out the board instead of the mill.

To wind this warp, I had spun one (mostly full) bobbin on my Lendrum Saxony, put the bobbin on the lazy kate, and wound the single directly from bobbin to board, as you see above. I didn’t bother tensioning the lazy kate, and it didn’t seem to matter here, as the resistance of the bobbin against the base of the lazy kate seemed to be enough for winding the warp.

As for the length of the warp, it is about four yards long. I wanted the warp to be long enough for a decent size scarf and some sampling. With the path that I took on the board, I got 98 ends. I figured this yarn to be between 14 and 15 epi; so for a 2×2 twill, I decided that I was going to sley the reed at 10 epi. This gives me a scarf that is almost 10 inches wide in the reed, with a finished size somewhere around 8 inches once it is off the loom and washed.

After tying all of the choke ties on the warp, I chained it and took it off of the board.

Warp chain from handspun singles, unblocked

This is where I got to worry a bit about the project because of this:

Warp chain from handspun singles, unblocked, close-up

That’s the cross in the warp chain, used to keep the threads in order when warping the loom. Once the yarn was no longer under tension, it did its thing and plied onto itself.

Fortunately, it really didn’t pose a problem. This is probably do to a couple things. One is that when sleying the reed, I cut the warp threads one at a time so that I wouldn’t lose the cross and have a big old tangled mess. (I have had that happen before. Trust me, it is no fun.) The other one is that I warped the loom from front to back (meaning that I sley the reed, then thread the heddles, tie the warp onto the back beam, beam the warp, and tie and tension the warp onto the front beam.) I think the action of the warp going through the reed and the heddles helped give an even tension when beaming the warp, with the reed and heddles acted as baffles.

So, with all of that the loom now looks like this:

Handspun singles warp on loom

And with weaving in some yarn to help spread the warp and to check my threading:

Handspun warp for scarf on loom

All systems are go for the weft, which I believe I have mostly spun up. Hopefully, things are calm again so I can work on this.

What I got for Christmas

Merry Christmas to me

Ooooooh! Aaaaaah!

This is what Mr. Penney got me for Christmas (among other things.) Ain’t he sweet!

I did a fair amount of research on this before buying. When I originally asked for a sewing machine for Christmas, I did not anticipate the price we were going to pay for one. I figured a simple sewing machine that was in the $200 range would be it, but nooooooo. Because one of the main reasons that I wanted the machine was to sew hems in warp-face rugs, the machine need to be able to go through dense layers of fabric that the machines in that price range just could not handle. Believe me, I tried all of the machines at Sears, and not one of them could go through the sample weaving that I brought with me to each store. So I narrowed my search to these brands: Viking, Bernina, and Pfaff.

Of those, I chose the Pfaff Select 1538. One of the main reasons why I selected this machine was for the IDT, which is the equivalent of a built in walking foot, but without all of the bulk that a separate walking foot has. It also helps that the last few times that I sewed was on my mom’s Pfaff, so I was accustomed to its operation. We got a great price on it from Sew Unique. The people who work there really have a passion for what they do, which was actually a bigger decider in where the purchase was made.

I have made two things with the sewing machine and have had no problems whatsoever with it, though I don’t feel qualified yet to give a full review of it. If you are looking for some good reviews on sewing machines, I would recommend Pattern Review. Most of the reviews are user contributed, and some go into great detail. After reading through a number for each manufacturer, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from each brand.

Soon, I will publish the examples of this beginning seamster’s (???) work.