Monday, February 23, 2015

Kids Can Weave Too!

I love working with children. And I love sharing ideas and teaching skills. In the past, I have done most of this through teaching piano and sewing, but last fall I decided to broaden my horizons to include weaving. I purchased a very small rigid heddle loom from our local yarn store, The Little Red Mitten and got to work. Actually, my husband got to work first because the loom had to be sanded, oiled, and then put together. (The SampleIt loom is made by  Ashford, a spinning and weaving company from New Zealand.)  After the loom was ready to go, I got the instruction book out and figured out how to warp this fun little loom. I used the direct warping method shown in the booklet and was very surprised at how fast it went. Weaving the first scarf was very fun indeed. I could't wait to show it to some of my students.

Daniella and Pauline were more than eager to get to work!

Daniella is holding the warp threads around the end pin, while Pauline is helping me put the threads through the slots in the loom. The beater in this type of loom has slots and holes; each warp thread must go through a slot and a hole. We first measure the warp by pulling 2 threads through each slot. After the warp has been beamed on, we cut the ends and pull one of the threads out of a slot and put it through a hole.
  Pauline is assisting me making sure there is a thread in each slot and hole. There is a lot that goes on in weaving--- hand/eye coordination being  prominent. 

 Daniella is busy with her weaving. The heddle/beater has been placed in the 'down' position and Daniella is feeding the shuttle with the weft thread through the shed (the opening).

 The warp thread must be placed in the shed at an angle so that the sides don't pull in too much, and then Daniella can bring the rigid heddle/beater foward to put the weft thread in place.

 Now the rigid heddle can be put in the up position and the weft thread can be put through the opposite shed.

 Pauline's turn. 

 The same sequence is repeated over and over until the entire warp has been filled with weft threads. Heddle up, place weft and beat into place; heddle down, place weft and beat into place. When the cloth fills up the space in front of the weaver, the the warp must be advanced. The ratchets at the front and back are released and turned toward the front of the loom. Eventually there is not enough warp to weave with, but the front beam is filled with cloth.

Two scarves completed! Daniella and Pauline help each other on both of their scarves. 

There is nothing like turning balls of yarns into cloth and then wearing it. These pictures were taken at the end of last summer, but the scarves serve their purpose in the cold winter ahead.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Great White North

Last fall Environment Canada predicted a very cold winter but with less precipitation. As per normal they did not quite get it right. We have a lot of snow here in St Thomas, which is  known to be located at the tip of what is sometimes called the Banana Belt of Canada.

Derk and I are familiar with this kind of cold (windchill factors down to -30 Celsius and more) having lived in Manitoba for nine winters. However my younger brother is experiencing these temperatures for the first time. Last summer he and his wife and their youngest son moved to Manitouwadge. Manito what? you ask. This town is where you can experience the Great White North of Canada. According to wikipedia: Manitouwadge is a township in the Canadian province of Ontario. It is located in the Thunder Bay District, at the north end of Highway 614, 331 kilometres east of Thunder Bay and 378 kilometres north-west of Sault Ste. Marie.

When you here the words 'winter' and 'Manitouwadge' you should automatically follow it with BRRRRRR!

So....last December, when I heard that they were coming down south for Christmas, I decided that they would greatly benefit from and homespun, handwoven blanket. The yarn was just begging to come off the shelves and jump onto the loom. And here's the thing ---  once certain skeins have been selected to go into a blanket, others start clamouring for a turn as well. The result? Instead of one blanket you actually end up weaving two.

My older brother also lives further north. It is true that Barrie is not as far north as 'the Wadge', but it does rate in terms of snowfall and cold weather. So, in order to stay in the good graces of both these siblings, I wove two blankets in three weeks and was able to gift both brothers and their wives at our Christmas get-together.

This is the Manitouwadge blanket.

This blanket is the first blanket that I have brushed. I usually full my homespun blankets in a toploading washing machine. This makes the blanket softer and less stiff. But I had recently watched a video by Laura Fry on wetfinishing  handwoven items. So I did something new and also brushed this blanket while it was still damp. Doing this raised the nap and created what is called a halo. And presto: the blanket was softer yet!

The Barrie Blanket

These balls of yarn are feeling pretty please with themselves, having made it from skeins, into balls and on the front beam of the loom.

The warp on the back beam ready to be wound on.

Weaving in progress....

Finished product!

The recipients and their blankets. (Unfortunately my older brother didn't make it onto the picture).

Here's to you, Walter and Marsha, and Martyn and Mary: may you enjoy your blankets in the Great White North!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Two Blankets

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a finished project is one that affords much satisfaction. For me this is particularly true when it comes to weaving a blanket that started off in my house as dirty fleece. I do not, as a rule, process fleece into yarn with any particular project in mind. But when my shelves are full of colourful yarn and a particular idea comes to mind, there's nothing better than to just jump in and create a blanket.

Joel's Blanket

Last fall my nephew, Joel, was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. There was a huge tumor in his chest causing breathing issues, and Joel needed to begin a cancer treatment that would leave him with all the typical, nasty side effects.  I wanted to do something (don't we all) and decided to weave a blanket for Joel.

Joel, is a very special young man. He has tremendous faith. Joel's witness is that he belongs to the Lord Jesus who died on the cross for him, and that no matter what happens, God is good. 
So I decided to weave a blanket that would tell a story.  A blanket with a straight twill weave, warped and woven off without a set colour sequence. The  colours, however,  would reflect Joel's confession of faith. 

It was December, and the colours of Christmas were everywhere. But for me the Christmas colours of red and green have always been combined with brown and white. So as I wove this blanket I thought of the wonderful work that the Lord Jesus came to do on this earth.
The browns reminds me of the Christmas tree, and the tree, the cross that Jesus died on; the red of the blood that He shed for us at Calvary; the green for the new life we have in Him; and the white of us being washed whiter than snow through the shedding of his blood.

You will be happy to know that Joel's treatment is almost completed and he is doing very well. God IS good! 

Gerald's Blanket

This blanket is a 'just because' blanket for a very dear friend on the other side of Canada. It has no special story and was woven for no special reason except that I just wanted to. So I did.
Again it is woven in a straight twill with no special planning for the colour sequence.

Here's 2 ewe, Gerald!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A trip to Cold Stream Ranch

It is very special to have friends who share the same interests as you. My friend, Grace, whom you met in my last post has also become a spinner. She says it's my fault, but honestly, all I did was do my own thing and spin some wool when she was over for a visit. She made some comments to show that she was interested, and before I knew it she was spinning a fine yarn. She caught on to the technique more quicly than I did!

Grace has been most helpful in reducing my stash of wool that was waiting to be spun. And when I started running low she went on a google search to find some local fleece. As a result we met two very lovely people, Mels and Ruthanne van der Laan. Mels and Ruthanne run Cold Stream Ranch which is close to Denfield, ON and raise Texel sheep, with a few East Friesians on the side. Both of these sheep breeds are Dutch just like their owner! Mels knows all about his sheep and has won various awards, and both he and his wife are spinners. You can read more about the ranch here:

On May 2 Grace and I went to Cold Stream Ranch where we a had a lovely visit with this lovely couple. And since Grace and I are also of Dutch background we just HAD to buy some Dutch fleece. The sheep had just been shorn four days before and the fleeces are just wonderful and fresh, very clean and with hardly any vegetable matter. When we put our hand in the the Texel fleece it came out glistening with lanolin. Needless to say, Grace and I are excited to wash our fleeces and see what we can produce on our wheels. We both bought a Texel fleece, and one East Friesian fleece to split.

Of course, a trip to the barn was part of the visit and Mels helped Grace a 'snuggle' with a lamb!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Warped Friendship

Grace and Russ got married 2 weeks before my husband, Derk, and I did. Derk and Grace had known each their whole lives, having grown in the same church community. Russ and I were the new ones in the mix. It seemed natural that as newly married couples we would start to hang out together, and the last 32 years have made for wonderful memories: camping trips, hanging out Friday nights, and the traditional new year's eve together. Even when our familty spent 12 years in provinces west of Ontario, the friendship stayed strong despite the distance.

But never did I expect that Grace and I would have another bond. We moved back to Ontario in 2005 and when I started weaving in 2009, Grace started watching, asking questions, and eventually admitted that she also would like to learn this craft.

I set her up on a small 22" loom that I had at the time, and Grace was hooked. Grace now owns her own 45" jack loom, and many of our conversations revolve around the latest project. Usually we work on separate ideas, but this past month we decided to weave a tablerunner project from the latest Handwoven magazine. It involved a weave structure that we had not encountered before. Much of the initial planning involved chosing the kind of thread, and the colours. We both chose very different colours than what was shown in the magazine; colours that would fit in our own homes.

I am thrilled to have such a great friend to share such a wonderful craft with. Here's 2 Ewe, Grace Branch! Friends that get warped together have lots weft to talk about!

Grace at work

My Sotis Cloth Runner

Grace's Runner

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mita's Tea Towels and Runners

My friend, Mita, lives across the country in Rider Lake, BC. Mita and I have shared many cups of tea together as we discussed homeschooling, raising children, sewing, spinning, and all things homemaking. Although we didn't meet until 2001, when we moved to the Fraser Valley, we immediately clicked: kindred spirits, as Anne Shirley would say; or  'We both belong to the race that knows Joseph', as Cornelia Bryant would often remark. And although our family moved away from BC in 2004, kindred spirits always remain close.

Mita has a wonderful collection of Boerenbont dishes. This is a traditional kind of pottery from the Netherlands . The distinctive floral pattern is hand-painted with simple brush strokes of red, yellow, green, and blue. On special occasions Mita would pull out these dishes and we would celebrate a birthday or another special event.

Last year I made a set of tea towels for Mita, as well as two runners for her harvest table. One  of the runners is in cotton for summer, and one in  acrylic that would match the cooler temperatures of winter.

Here's 2 Ewe, Mita, my very dear friend!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ode to the Shawl

Spring is a tricky time of year. The temperature fluctuates between very warm days, warmish days that are a little on the damp side, not so warm days, and down right cool days. So what to wear? Layers are a good choice, but there are times when a sweater is just a bit too much.

One of my favourite clothing articles is the shawl. I have a number of them: some knitted and made of homespun wool, and others are woven and made of cotton, and, yes, even of acrylic.

Most likely when you think 'shawl' you are reminded of the pioneer women with their triangular shawls. Who can forget when Laura asked for horses for Christmas in the book On The Banks of Plum Creek. On Christmas morning "...Ma helped them button up the shoes and she pinned their shawls under their chins. They ran out into the cold". (from the chapter A Merry Christmas)

And, indeed, the first shawls I made were triangular, just as Garth Williams illustrated them for the Little House books. I have several versions of this kind of shawl laying strategically around the house, just in case I get a bit chilled. A favourite one is based on a Danish fisherwoman's shawl. It is also triangular, but the points are extra long so you can tie them behind your back and keep them out of the way, leaving your hands free to do other things.

But shawls today are more than just coverings. They are also fashion statements and can be worn just as well with jeans, officewear, or formal attire.

These shawls are great to cuddle up with on a cool day, a cold winter evening, or to accent your outfit for almost any occasion. Machine washable and very user friendly! Feel free to contact me if you would like to acquire one for yourself or as a gift.

When do you wear your shawl?