Thursday, November 29, 2012

Funny little rugs

Two of my daughters have asked for rugs. Small, like for a bathroom or tiny kitchen. I wanted to do something with diversified plain weave, as it is a nice sturdy structure. Here is a photo of the very beginning of rug one, on the loom. The yarns are Provence and Sprout, both from Classic Elite. This weave structure calls for a dark heavy warp, plus a light, light weight warp. This is woven with a dark lightweight weft and a light, heavy weight weft. This combination creates solid forms. My weaving looks nothing like what I expected, though I really like it. 22 inches to go. Then I get to try a different pattern and color combo.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Woodland Weaver Woven Shibori Workshop

I had great fun with some of the Woodland Weavers a few weekends ago. We met in a fire station. Spent the morning weaving on rigid heddle looms, with supplemental Shibori wefts. They served a delicious lunch. It had been so long since I had sloppy joes, I couldn't quite remember how to eat them. I managed though, and greatly enjoyed it.
In the afternoon we began pulling threads and dying the samples. There were some challenging moments. I found holes in the bottom of my steamer pot. No worries, one of the weavers has brought an extra, just in case. Then we blew a fuse and the water stopped heating. Again, no worries. One of the weavers found the fuse box and we were back in business. See, weavers are like that. Prepared for anything.
Here are just a few pictures of the samples they made. Aren't they pretty?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Put some hemp on that baby!

My trip to Santa Fe have me lots of train, plane, and bar knitting time. Enough to just about finish this cute little baby sweater: Elegant Empire from Lana Knits. I used the yarn "Hempton" a blend of 30% hemp, 30% modal, and 40% cotton. Made in Italy. It comes in some beautiful colors, this one is called cypress. As I was working with this yarn I noticed the luxurious feel and drape. Now I really want a summer sweater for myself made from this yarn. This baby sweater took two and a half balls for the 6 month size. At a cost of 7.25 per ball, that is a pretty reasonable cost for a baby sweater. You could machine wash and dry this sturdy yarn, but why would you ever do that to a hand knit? Nice to know that if the recipient ever does toss it in the machine, it will survive!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Land of Entrapment

My youngest and I recently took a trip to Santa Fe, NM. I had been there before, a few times. It is indeed a magical place, one that calls you back.

We did all the things that we McRays do on Mom-Daughter trips. We bought ourselves some cowboy boots. We went out dancing. Walked home from the bar in the middle of the night. Visited some East Lansing friends. Ate very well. Saw a ton of art, some of it great. Took a cooking class.

The stand out experience for me was our hike to the "White Place", so dubbed by Georgia O'Keefe. This is a grouping of white cliffs near the little town of Abiquiu. It is not well known. It is all on private land owned by a Mosque. There are some small discreet signs that make it clear you are welcome to be there.
On leaving your car, you begin to walk toward some tall white cliffs. From there you enter a huge canyon of white. Continuing down the river bed trail, the canyon narrows until you come to the end and find yourself completely enveloped with smooth, white, rolling rock walls. We were there in the late afternoon, and the light was quite dramatic. Not wanting to be there in the dark, once the sun dipped behind the west wall, I hurried us out of there. My one regret from our magic week.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kristin's Hiking Vest

It's done and available as a download on Raverly. You have heard the saying " it takes a village"? This village includes my daughter Kristin, who suggested a hiking vest, Lynn Schense, my first test knitter, Sarah Peasley, my extraordinary tech editor, Kathy Popoff, my second test knitter, and my daughter Kelly, who put it all together in a PDF for me. Thanks to all of you for your help and encouragement.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Colors of fall, pure Michigan

Found these mini peppers in the Evergreen market just north of Acme on US31. Roasted them along side a butter nut squash, and enjoyed their deep smokey flavor.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Taiten on a rigid heddle loom

According to Catherine Ellis, Taiten was practiced in Japan in the early 20th century. The word refers to gifts made to the Emperor Taisho.

Taiten is a plain weave cloth with a heavy thread placed at regular intervals
in the warp. After weaving , the heavier threads are used to gather the fabric tightly before dyeing. After dying, the heavy warp threads are removed, leaving lacey spaces in regular intervals.

Here is a series of pictures illustrating my process on a rigid heddle loom, plus the end result.

Disclaimer; I am trying out blogger on my iPad. I believe I will blog more if I can do it on this device. And, so far that is true. However, I seem to have no control over the placement or order. Please do your best to relate the random pictures to my narrative. Now back to our story.

Step one: measure a warp of treadsoft super wash wool sock weight yarn at ten ends per inch. This warp was about 80 inches long. Every 7th and 8th thread was a heavier weight hemp yarn. Next time I do this I will use a mercerized cotton, the hemp was not at all slippery, especially when wet.

Step two: plain weave using a fingering weight bamboo silk blended yarn, finished length of the woven price was 62".

Step three: remove from loom. Pull the hemp warp threads from each end, gathering the fabric as tightly as possible. This can cause blisters, so you may want to wear rubber gloves or have bandaids nearby. I was able to gather the entire price down to 9".

Step three: soak the fabric in a vinegar solution for half an hour to prepare the fibers for dying.

Step four: using an acid dye such as lanaset, paint one side of the fabric one color. Paint the other side a contrasting color.

Step five: steam it for 45 minutes.

Step six: this is the hardest part; let it dry.

Step seven: remove heavy warp threads. The resulting fabric will be very springy and will retain the pleats. These pleats are not permanent. For permanent pleats you must use a polyester yarn for the main warp.

Step eight: press fabric, sew into desired shape. I sewed one end of the long rectangle to the side of the other end of the rectangle. There are many ways to do this, so play around with different methods of draping.

I am really happy with this piece, and wear it a lot.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Third Coast Fiber Fest was just the best!

I had an absolute blast! The festival took place on the campus of Wayne State University. I got to hang out with Sarah Peasley, Sally Melville, Candace Eisner-Strick, Judy Pascale, Sheryl Theis, Ellen Taylor, some old friends and some new friends.

Sandra, owner of Artisan Knitworks and Mother of the festival made sure I had everything I needed for my classes and personal comfort. I was well fed and slept in the most comfortable bed at the Inns on Ferry street.

I taught a beginning rigid heddle weaving class all day on Friday. I had 7 terrific students. They stayed very focused, got their looms warped. They took to weaving like warp to weft, so we were able to play around with pick up sticks in the afternoon. This really means creating textures and patterns on our otherwise plain weave fabric. Not tossing sticks into the air to see where they land. Not on purpose anyway.

After a full day of teaching weaving, I was pretty spent, and desperate to knit. But! I had left my knitting project in my room. I was forced to go into the market to buy some yarn. It really was beyond my control. There were a LOT of really interesting vendors. I finally settled on a big ball of silk
Merino yarn from Twisted. I cast on my five stitches for Whippoorwill, and it was time for Sally's talk. She encourages knitting during her lecture, so I was able to cast on three more times before I got it right. By the end of the lecture I has finished about twelve rows.

Saturday I taught another day long class: color theory. We delved into color harmonies, value keys, simultaneous contrast and more. It was a discussion based class. The students were very insightful, and we all learned from each other. The event wrapped up with a jazz serenade, munchies and wine. The best news would be the words I heard over and over on Saturday: "next year... " Be there!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I love new weavers

Puppies, kittens, the beginning of the school year, new weavers. I love helping people fall in love with the possibilities of over, under, over, under. From this simple starting place possibilities are endless. Tomorrow, at the first Third Coast Fiber Festival, I will have the privilege of introducing 8 new weavers to warp and weft.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trip to the third coast

I am headed off tomorrow for the Third Coast. Fiber Festival that is. This is the first year for this  two day event on the campus of Wayne State U iversity. Organized by the good folks at Artisan Knits Works, they have assembled a hall full of very interesting vendors, and  "A" list teachers. The teacher list includes  Sally Melville, Sheri Theis, Candace Eisner Strick, Sarah Peasley, Molly Fletcher, and hey, look, me! Nancy McRay! I am very proud to be included. My list here is not exhaustive, so I do encourage you to head over to the Third Coast Fiber Festival website for more.

I will be teaching beginning rigid heddle weaving on Friday, and color theory on Saurday.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I haven't decided yet on which two new projects to start. In progress is Meriwether, a set of kitchen towels on the home loom, a collapse weave scarf on the shop studio loom, a reversible double knit hiking vest for my daughter.  But which should I start? I decided to make Dahlia for Team Woven Art in the Ravelympics (join up!) (there are benefits!), so I can't start that one yet. But, Diamond Sage Wrap, or Color Affection, or...

While I was pondering this last night, I grabbed a set of needles, some zauberball crazy, and accidentally cast on for Wingspan.  What can I say - knitting helps me think. I am not counting this as a new project - espcially because I am using stash yarn! It is more of a "bridge" project, to tide me over while I decide.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Finish one, start two

I finished Spectra, a design by Stephen West. Just in time for the staff Stephen West staff show at Woven Art, starting May 16. That means I get to start two new projects, but what should they be? This question is usually pretty easy. This time I have several contenders.

1) There is Dahlia. I already have the yarn waiting in my studio - Mountain Meadows Cody in moss. I love the lace panel in back, and the sweater construction. It seems like a perfect Summer-Fall sweater. The back panel doesn't look like car or wine consuming knitting though, and I need a project for that.

2) There is also color affection. I have wanted to make one of this designers shawls for some time now - and there she goes and makes another irresistible design. Only thing I have to do is select the right yarn combination. There are already several possibilities on the shelves at Woven Art.

3) Then there is the Diamond Sage wrap. It is crocheted. It is Filet crochet with beads. I believe this would make an interesting topic for a class. I have already made a mini one for a shop sample.  For the real thing I am thinking about Tsumugi silk from habu. I found the right beads.

4) I have an idea for double knit toe up socks. Again, I have the yarn ready to go. A set of tiny square double points set aside.

Not able to decide, this past weekend I resurrected a UFO; the mitered cross blanket. I am making a pillow, not a full blanket. It has been on the needles for a year now. One square is all the way done, and a second square is nearly done. All garter stitch, plus some interesting turns, it is perfect for car and bar. Bonus - when I finish this one, I get to start yet two more projects.

I would love some feedback on which to cast on - anyone?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Knit-a-long anyone?

Knit Your Own Uterus
Here is a very creative, fun and direct way to let our congressmen know how we feel about interference with Women's reproductive health.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sun, Rain and Sheep

And perfect resource management. That is what goes into Imperial Stock Ranch Yarns. You'll want to visit their website for the full story. 

I have been known to fall head over heels in love with a yarn on occasion. A couple of years ago, at our annual trade show, I fell in love with the whole company. This yarn is sustainably ranched in the high dessert in Oregon. I swear you can feel the integrity in the yarn.

This week we have the extreme pleasure of hosting their trunk show.  The garments, many designed by Leigh Radford are very fashion forward, and yet, very wearable. Unusual, but far from ridiculous. And smooshy in the wonderful yarns.

Here are a few teaser pictures. The problem with pictures is that you can't smoosh them, or try them on. Nor can you enter the drawing to enter the kit to make the adorable bracelet set. You will just have to get to downtown East Lansing sometime in the next ten days. That's all the time we have it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Miura Cowl in Salem

Salem, from Mountain Meadow Wool, is creamy.  I can't stop comparing it to whipped cream. It is soft, lofty, and wrapped in a slender strand of shiny silk.

The loft comes from the woolen spun construction of bouncy merino wool. The shine of silk against the matte wool gives this yarn visual dimension.

Because of it's spongy bounciness, this DK weight yarn is happy at a variety of gauges.  An open lacey shawl on size 8 needles would feel great.

I decided to make the Miura Cowl by Olga Jazzy. I love the stand up structure of this pattern, and the simple application of knit-purl to create the textures and folds. To get the correct gauge I needed to use size 4 (US) needles. This gave a dense fabric - which turned out to be just right for the pattern.

You can find Salem at Woven Art. At the moment we only have it in cream. I mean natural. But if you all love it up enough I will get all the colors!
If you are curious about other Mountain Meadows Yarns, come to the Yarn Tasting on March 31. You will get 10 yard samples of several of the yarns, some pattern ideas, plus snacks and fun. I promise there will be high quality chocolate. Spots are limited so we are asking for reservations. Call 517-203-4467.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Glove surgery gone terribly wrong

Around Christmas I decided to knit Tecknica for my darling eldest daughter. She is way hip, and lives in Chicago, as an architect. So, she needs her accessories to be stylish, and also have that something extra to make them interesting.  These would be perfect, and make me feel like I am pretty hip too.

It didn't really take all that long to get them into the mail - just about four weeks. And, she loved them. Except. But. This one little problem. They don't fit her in the thumb. We tried stretching them. I even made her put them on wet, thinking they would mold to the perfect size.  We decided they were just too short in that area where the web of the thumb is. We needed extra rows there.

I have seen Sarah  Peasley cut and paste her knitting projects before. I decided to try that. I am not Sarah Peasley. The general idea is that you snip one stitch, and very carefully pick out that row of knitting putting the live stitches from top and bottom on needles. Knit however many rows you need to add, and then graft top back to bottom.  This sounds just slightly less daunting than reknitting two gloves. Right this moment I kind of think reknitting the gloves would be fun.

In this case the glove gets  a little bit complicated around the base of the fingers - not just straight rows of knitting there. Plus - it is color work, so picking the yarn out row by row didn't happen either.

What you see here is the result of me chopping off the fingers, putting the hand stitches back on the needles, and giving up on the fingers. But fingerless gloves are most certainly not the point here.
I have ordered more conductive thread from the evil genius Laura Nelkin. It won't be too bad to knit 8 fingers - right? Tamysn - did you say you would do that for  me?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Diversified Plain Weave Experiment #1

Here are some results from my first experience with Diversified Plain Weave. I am beginning to understand the basics of this weave structure.  It turns out to be a series of thin-fat-thin yarn sandwiches in both warp and weft. The threading is 1, Pattern,1, 2, Pattern, 2, etc with skinny threads on 1 and 2, fat threads on all the pattern shafts. On an 8 harness loom you will have 6 pattern blocks to play with. 

Weaving is Tabby 1, pattern, Tabby 1, Tabby 2, pattern, Tabby 2. Now a key rule is that an ODD tabby shot must be followed by a pattern shot that is tied up to a 2 plus the pattern. Every EVEN tabby must be followed by a pattern shaft that is tied to a 1 plus the pattern. If you follow this rule, then you have a thin thread tabby base supporting the fat yarn pattern. 

There are also color rules for maximum effect. If your thin warp is dark, your fat warp  should be light, your fat weft should be dark and your thin weft should be light. 

 So, the very first thing I did was break one of the rules. I usually like to know what I am doing before I play fast and loose with the rules, but learning can happen either way. The  picture with the shallow zig zags is a sample of an even tabby followed by an even pattern and odd tabby followed by odd pattern.

 I changed the treadling order for the next sample to the correct version of odd tabby followed by even pattern, and even tabby followed by odd pattern. Makes a big difference. This is the one with the steeper zig zags.  There was never a problem with the weft catching the selvedge threads. The fabric is less stiff. But visually, I like them both. I might even like the "wrong" one a little better. Is it just because it is "wrong"?

 The one with the diamonds is another treadling on the same sample warp. The diamonds are more elongated than I expected them to be. Could be that it is a challenge to weave this structure to square. I will have to do a little more sampling with that question in mind.

 I think I shall hem these and turn them into a hostess gift, along with a bar of handmade soap from Sleeping Frog Farm.
Now, who wants to have me over for dinner?

P.S. For some reason (sunspots?) I can't put the text where I want in relation to the pictures, so You have to use your head a bit. 

I included a picture from my trip to Arizona just for fun, and as a reward to the non-weavers out there.1 Should this be my Christmas Card next year?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Second week of Studio Time, and I logged 15 hours. I am impressed with myself. Thank you, everyone in my life who allows me to cut loose and play in my studio. I learned quite a few things.

1) Studio Time makes me happy. There is a satisfaction, a release from anxiety, that I didn't expect. I have a great life. Fab hubby, nice house, great kids. I own a business that I am very proud of. But there is always a little itch. Always the question about when I will chase down the nagging technical question about... whatever. Just like any itch, it quiets down a bit if I scratch it.

2) Plying yarn is exciting - mostly because it means I will soon be finished with this one yarn project and will be able to start something new. It is still a very slow way to get yarn.

3) Diversified Plain Weave is just a bunch  of fat warp and fat weft sandwiches, with the bread being skinny warp and weft.  Skinny, Fat, Skinny, both ways.  Color play is important. It might help to have a floating selvedge with this one - because you repeat each tabby (skinny) thread two times before moving on. The treadling ( and threading) is Skinny#1, Fat #2, Skinny #1, Skinny #2, Fat #1, Skinny #2.
I know this isn't actually helpful to someone who wants to try this.  I am about 7 inches into a weaving sample. It is a stiff little piece of fabric. It might end up being OK for the towels I was hoping for. But it might be better suited to table runner, pillow or handbag. It's an experiment, and I am learning a lot. And, it is attractive. Pictures coming, once I find my camera.

4) Tunisian Entrelac is begging for more attention. The rule in Tunisian Crochet is to NEVER TURN YOUR WORK. The rule is Tunisian Entrelac is that you turn your work at the end of your series of beautiful tilty blocks. So, you get an interweaving of two "sides" of the fabric.  I have been preparing for a Tunisian Entrelac class - (Friday at Woven Art, still room! And at Knit Michigan, Feb 4 - still room!), and started  a blanket. I asked myself - what would happen if you did not turn your work at  the end of a series of tilty blocks? I mostly asked that question because I was WAY off on my gauge calculations, and my blanket would have been great for a baby - but not what I intended. What I intend is a cozy blanket that an entire family can cuddle under while watching TV.
I was off on my gauge because I wanted a jagged edge all the way around this blanket, instead of a smooth one - so I didn't start with base triangles. I started with squares, which take up twice as much of the chain as I had calculated for.
Blah, Blah Blah. Anyway - it all leads to me trying out something new. It is very interesting. It might be worthy of writing a pattern. It would be so much better in an ombre yarn, but it is pretty damn intriguing in the short variegation I am using.

I might be easily intrigued.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Woodland Weaver's Guild

I enjoyed a lovely evening last night with the Woodland Weaver's Guild in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The topic was Rigid Heddle Weaving. We demonstrated the speed and ease of direct warping, had a lengthy show and tell of fabrics my students and I have woven using these nifty looms, and a great question and answer period.  If you are a weaver in the Grand Rapids area who is not yet associated with this guild, look them up!
The drive to and from Lansing was easy and uneventful, but I did get home rather late last night. I am dragging a bit today. I would love an excuse to curl up in a quilt with a good book and a cup of tea. And, this arrives at the shop.

The only questions now are: what flavor tea, and does this count as studio time?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Studio Time

I have a plan. I am calling it studio time. I will have studio time as often as I can.

Studio time is more a state of mind than it is a place. I anticipate that most of my studio time will be happily spent in one of my studios. I am lucky enough to have two designated spaces in my home. One is wet (basement) for painting and dyeing. One is dry (grown child's former bedroom) for spinning and any form of yarn play. The dry studio is also where I keep books, magazines and a computer.

Studio time can be spent on anything that causes me to grow as an artist and craftsperson. Knitting, crocheting, weaving other people's designs does not count. I will still be doing that, because it is fun, and there are tons of great designs out there that are calling to me. I  learn something from every project. But still, I won't count it.

Studio time can be research. This could include reading about a technique, or taking photos, or gathering inspiration where ever I can find it.
Studio time should be experimental.
Studio time can be productive, as in making real things, so long as they are of my own design. I am allowed to use someone else's ideas as a jumping off point. I hope to return that favor to some other artist or designer down the road.
Studio time might  make me a better shopowner/teacher.
and most important: Studio time just makes me happy.

I was chatting with Kathy (works at Woven Art) about Studio time, as we agreed that when you make space in your life,to be creative, the ideas flood in.

I don't think I will set any goals regarding how much studio time to require of myself. If I aim for ten hours and only get 9, it will make me grumpy and feel like a failure. I know this from past experience. Instead, I will see Studio Time as a gift to myself. One that is really good for me, like exercise and farm fresh veggies.

I gave myself two hours of studio time today. I spun some yarn, worked on a Theo Moorman tapestry, and read a little about diversified plain weave.  And, I feel great.