Focus

IMG_9823Summer is here in force, and with it an unrelenting heat and humidity that only starts to let up after dinner.  Other than the early morning cool, it’s almost more confining than winter.  So we go out early to the park and play in the shade until we can bare it no longer.  A quick walk through the sprinklers and then we hide inside until the sun goes down.  I forgot what this was like, the East Coast summer, and without a garden to tend and distract me with the glorious allure of ripening fruit, a little part of me is ready for it to be fall already.

Part of my frustration with the heat is that knitted things seem incredibly inappropriate right about now.  Give me some linen for a sun dress, but keep warm hats and mittens far away!  And yet, if last fall was any indication, the chill will come on quick and fierce, and this time I intend to be ready.

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Progress has been slow, but I finally broke down and started a separate journal for knitting with pages that stay open and flat to easily read a pattern.  My sewing journal is too large to be portable to the park and has an annoying habit of closing itself at the slightest breeze. Ever the diligent planner, there is now a list of all the yarn in my stash, including weights and yardage and yarn thickness, as well as a list of my needle collection, which is still woefully incomplete.  More important, and slightly terrifying, is the list of all the knits we need for when the weather grows cold.  Hats, cowls, mittens, and a toddler sweater.  And that’s just all the stuff I could think of before rushing off to take a cold shower and sit motionless in front of a fan.

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Despite my inability to focus for long in this heat, I have had spurts of productivity, mostly motivated by deadlines, such as a visit with friends on the West Coast.  That was the inspiration behind my very first knitted baby sweater, a gift for a wee little thing much smaller than Adi.  Remembering how quickly Adi grew out of her smallest baby clothes, however, I made the sweater for a 12-18 month old, with the added bonus that Adi could model it while cruising around our California rental.  The sweater pattern is from Baby Knits for Beginners, by Debbie Bliss, but with seed stitch on the cuffs, hem, and neckline because I rather dislike knits that roll up at the edges.  It involved knitting four rectangles, only two of which had any shaping, and a laborious sewing up at the end.  If nothing else, this sweater taught me that I would rather learn how to knit a seamless sweater than enjoy the ease of rectangles.

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For the next knitting project I am learning to make mittens.  I bought my first yarn of 2016 while visiting my parents earlier this summer.  It is 60 g of 70% angora rabbit and 30% merino from a farm in Maine and too expensive to waste on anything short of fabulous.

Kathryn

A New Cardboard Loom

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Many of my crafting decisions over the last year have been motivated by either a lack of space or a lack of time.  Nowhere is this more true than in my flirtation with weaving, where a dearth of proper training, enough space to store a loom that inhabits more than two dimensions, or time to finish weaving something larger than a place mat have conspired to make it one of the least realistic crafting choices in my current situation.

Unfortunately I remain undeterred.

The first compromise was the loom.  Both due to impatience and a shortage of funds to risk on highly improbable ventures, I decided that the path of least resistance was to make a loom myself.  Without much wood working experience, tools, or – the real show-stopper – wood, I contented myself with cardboard.  After all, you can cut it with scissors and attach it with tape.  Oh, and it’s free!

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The first loom was made from a tiny box in which we received a baby spoon and construction took all of ten minutes.  I was so delighted by both the instantaneous nature of making a loom and the glorious amount of trial and error required to turn small strings of yarn into cloth that at first I ignored the tiny loom’s many shortcomings.

After tying off my first woven piece with the tiny loom, I knew there must be a better way to finish the ends than trying to deal with short and stubby yarn tails.  I started dreaming of a larger cardboard loom where the warp would be spaced farther apart and the weft (from the actual weaving) would be compressed against a solid surface, such as a knitting needle, to prevent the ends from being rounded.  Since this new cardboard loom would be both longer and wider, a tapestry needle (from my knitting kit) would no longer suffice to thread the yarn between the warp threads and the scale-up would also require longer pieces of yarn wound around a shuttle.

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And then the perfect cardboard box arrived as the packaging for a baby book gifted to Adi for her first birthday.  Cutting out the sides of the box to make weaving easier even provided the perfect size cardboard pieces to make a shuttle or two.  Fifteen minutes later (there was some taping to do this time) I had a new cardboard loom and shuttle all ready to use and five minutes after that it was warped and weaving had commenced.

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The first finished piece from my new loom is now a doll cape for Adi.  It uses alpaca yarn for the warp and muted colors of naturally dyed cotton for the weft.  I’m still not completely happy with the way the ends turned out; probably longer ends for the warp that could be tied and braided afterwards would be better.  One end is finished by encasing the warp tails in stitches and the other end with longer warp tails is finished by tying the tails together and then sewing them down as a fringe for the top of the cape.

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While this new loom is far from perfect, it has already taught me a lot about what parts of weaving I most enjoy and what parts I still find frustrating.  There is no chance of finding room for a larger loom in our apartment any time soon, but I have started dreaming of dusting off one of my mother’s looms long forgotten in their barn.  She made all sorts of beautiful woven pieces back before I was born, including the most lovely cotton baby blanket for her first grandbaby.  I’m not sure I’m prepared to plan ahead quite that far, but the thought of finally weaving my own cloth for a dress is a good start!

Kathryn