Monthly Archives: January 2014

Colour play

Ooh it probably looks just the same to you but from where I’m looking WordPress has changed so bear with me whilst I get to grips with it.
Today has been a GOOD day, I felt better than I have for a long while, so what did I do? Lots and lots; it was lovely.
Today’s weaving looked like this:

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Seeing that yesterday it looked like this:

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I thinks that’s good going. I watched a YouTube video with Jane Stafford about warping and she recommends not using a heddle hook ( a nifty contraption for pulling the threads through the white things in the top pic) but doing it by hand. So much easier. Who knew?!?
The weaving is 2/8 (or is that 8/2? I never know which) organic cotton and it’s a sample just to practice but will become tea towels eventually. I’m very pleased with my selvedges and it’s rather lovely although it does remind me of those towel things on the big roller you used to find in public toilets.
These arrived today too

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One word: yum.

Getting there

I’ve been having very happy times with my new rigid heddle loom, compared to my table loom, it’s a walk in the park. When I think how easy it feels to warp in respect to the first time I ever warped a loom (way way back ha ha) which was a borrowed rigid heddle I realise how much I’ve learned.
I cut my second experiment with faux ikat off the loom a couple of days ago and it’s now finished and ready to go into my Etsy shop when I get round to it. I’ve added a few scarves this week as I need to make some room and raise funds for more weaving.

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The colours are gorgeous, the warp is sock yarn called Handmaiden Casbah in Autumn Apple which is just the colour of red, yellow and green British apples, the weft is copper bamboo so it’s very soft and drapey. I think it is My.Favourite.Thing. It could become yours…
I’ve not had quite so happy times with my table loom however; I wound on a tencel warp for a shawl. It started well, a twill pattern using a bamboo weft, but there was a lot of draw in, where the selvedges narrow, a common issue with twill, but to such an extent that I had a couple of broken threads. The tension went too and after trying to fix it all with some improvised temples (a weaving device that pulls out the selvedges to counter draw in) and a spare skein of wool tucked behind the loose threads I gave up and cut off the weaving.

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You can see the broken thread above, it’s a real shame as the pattern looked beautiful.

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I’ve retied it and started again, this time using a tencel weft as well. I still can’t seem to get the tension right though and again, one side has loosened considerably. I’m being really careful not to pull in the selvedges so haven’t had any broken threads (yet), but I think the remaining warp won’t be long enough for anything in particular so I’m using it purely for practice. It still looks pretty!

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Finally I’ve managed to get some knitting done, I’m nearly at the end of another pair of socks, for a friend. They are pink for a reason and are also imperfect for a reason (the ribbing is deliberately different on each sock) but that will be between me and the person to whom they will fly.

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Weaving woolly wonderfulness

There has been lots of weaving afoot since we last spoke. Some of you on twitter (and even in real life, heavens!) will have already seen said projects but I’m so pleased that I want to share them here too.
I came across some stunning scarves a newby weaver had made, on Ravelry. The draft was designed by a woman selling them via her Esty shop (link here) and as I’m also a newby weaver I thought it would be good to work through a weaving pattern with someone holding my hand, so to speak. The pattern, called Maltese Cross, uses bamboo yarn for the warp and tabby weft, and Mini Mochi sock yarn for the pattern weft. The sock yarn is self-striping which makes the fabric look shimmery and the bamboo, which I’ve not worked with before, is incredibly soft.
As with my previous attempt at overshot, I still need to learn to beat harder, but overall I’m very happy.

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My rigid heddle loom arrived too! It’s a 16″ Ashford – in the UK we are fairly limited in respect to loom manufacturers. I managed to put it together all by myself, although Mr Knittingkitten would have been horrified if he’d seen how I actually did it (much swearing and hammering was involved).

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It’s perfect for propping on my knees and the coffee table in front of the TV so now I can weave all the time!.
We will draw a veil over the first time I warped it where I managed to put it on the wrong way around…
It took ages to work out how to get the warp yarn’s colours to ‘pool’, something I was aiming for so as to weave some faux ikat (see previous post, sorry, I can remember which one) and because I’d had to wind the warp from the front beam onto the back one, the tension was shocking. However, the completed scarf looks ok. The warp is my hand dyed Aran weight yarn (in Highland Hillside) and the weft is some undyed shetland 3ply.

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‘OLAD strikes again’

That’s the name of a forum thread on Ravelry. OLAD stands for Obsessive Loom Acquisition Disorder, it’s a terrible affliction that can affect weavers and I think I’m in the early acute stage. As I’ve already mentioned, my Ashford table loom has barely had chance to settle and I’m already saving for a floor loom. It’s going to be a long process where I’m having to abstain from trawling the internet looking at floor looms as the temptation to ‘accidentally’ hit the ‘buy now’ button is getting overwhelming…

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That is my first love, my little Ashford. We are slowly getting to know it each other and like any relationship we have our ups and downs. We’ve had our first falling out when I was weaving some kitchen towels and she decided to unravel the whole warp from the back beam unexpectedly – for non-weavers all you need to know is that this is a complete disaster and meant that I nearly lost rather a lot of quite pricey cotton thread.
I’m learning her little quirks, like the fact that I can’t keep the warp under too much tension otherwise she refuses to let me wind it on, and her limitations, like when I tried overshot for the first time and didn’t think to take into account the number of her heddles so was unable to thread the final twenty or so warp ends as I ran out of space.
However, I am convinced that a floor loom is the way forward. I need more shafts (8 minimum) and a wider weaving width, as well as the ability to tie up treadles to make it easier to follow a weaving draft.
At this point I feel I need to mention that I never know how much I need to explain about weaving terms. My dilemma is that I am torn between not wanting to patronise you but also not wanting this blog to become completely unintelligible. Before I started weaving I knew nothing of shafts, treadles, warp or weft. I didn’t know what a draft was let alone how to read one, or the difference between a table, floor or rigid heddle loom (not to mention the various kinds of floor loom such a jack, countermarch or dobby – he’s a character from Harry Potter right?).
So on that note, and skip this paragraph if you weave, shafts are the part of the loom the threads (or warp) go through and can be raised up or down to make the pattern (from a draft), so the more shafts you have the more complex a pattern you can weave. The most basic looms have two, but you have up to 36 on a computerised dobby loom. Each shaft has heddles on it that hold the threads (this is a really poor explanation). On a floor loom the shafts can be tied to treadles so you move them using your feet. On my table loom I have four levers across the top that do this. The warp is the threads that run up and down, the weft refers to the threads that go across. Ok, here endeth today’s lesson.
As the floor loom is on the far horizon, I decided I needed something to keep OLAD at bay and bought a rigid heddle. This is a basic loom, with two shafts, that can be used for plain weave, ideal for scarves or small projects. I can use it to weave while watching TV, hopefully, as my table loom is resident in my craft room the spare bedroom. I don’t know when it’ll get here but I’m beginning to obsess about the postie arriving each day…

Happy feet (and muddy paws)

I am pleased to report that I have 2014’s first FO (finished object for non-Ravelry speakers) under my figurative belt (my actual belt is rather tight these days and unlikely to fit anything under it).
They are a pair of super sparkly purple socks

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Knitted on teeny tiny toothpicks, A.K.A 2mm needles – this was a mistake, I didn’t read my sizes properly – in a skein of yarn I adopted at Woolfest. It’s rather lovely, with a fabulous name, called ‘Ziggy Stardust’ by Iknit or Dye and looks like blackberries with added glitter.
They are intended for a swap, always the best purpose I think as we both end up happy.
If I was so inclined I might be considering knitting some puppy socks as our two dogs seem to be deliberately paddling in muddy puddles at the moment, before trampling them all over the house. Well, I did decide to move into the middle of a field.

Cloudy with a small chance of improvement

I have been inspired to write this post after reading this one here. Although I have written a little about my experience of chronic fatigue syndrome I don’t really like doing so because I worry that you, dear reader, will think I am moaning or whinging. I’ve also avoided it as I think others say it so much more succinctly or manage to encapsulate my experience so well, why bother saying it again?
However, when I started this blog I wanted to ‘tell it like it is’ without sugar coating my life. Plus I don’t really think anyone else is more qualified to tell you about how chronic fatigue has impacted upon my life than, ahem, me.
So here goes (and I promise I will return to more fibre-y topics in my next post).
Before we moved to Caithness, about 3 1/2 years ago, I spent my time working in a large and dynamic substance misuse team. Alongside this I was studying for my MA, running a private psychotherapy practice as well as seeing a handful of voluntary clients. At weekends we either had our three grand kids or went hillwalking. I went to the gym three times weekly, spent time with our family and cared for (badly at times) my teenage son. When I wasn’t busy doing all of this I was knitting, gardening or cooking and holidays were spent flinging ourselves up mountains, usually in the depths of Winter. My then manager described me as ‘a grafter’, my step-mother used to say I ‘worked like stink’ (whatever that means!).
As I have since learned, this is a fairly typical background for someone who is later diagnosed with CFS.
After moving to the Far North, Mr Knittingkitten and I were looking forward to some quieter moments. We were to be given far more of those than we had bargained on.
Officially I have had CFS two years now; I can see symptoms from at least three years. I started to feel lazier and stopped hillwalking and gained weight. As the tiredness increased I assumed that was why – not so fit and overweight. So the first step was to shift some pounds, I lost about 7lbs and felt marginally better but noticed my joints were aching at the end of the day. This I put down to ‘old age’ (at this point I was 39!). My sleep was poor and the migraines I have had for as long as I can remember suddenly worsened quite dramatically.
My job can be stressful and emotionally draining and I was feeling overwhelmed by it. Each week felt harder and harder to get through; I was quite literally giving myself a talking to every morning just to get going. One thing I couldn’t understand though was working in rural Caithness is infinitely less stressful than in a busy city centre clinic. My work here is more rewarding as I don’t feel as though I am merely doling out methadone but supporting people to make meaningful changes. So I couldn’t work out why I felt so stressed. With hindsight I now think that I just didn’t have the energy to manage any any feeling, whether comfortable or uncomfortable.
After taking a weeks leave I was horrified to realise I felt worse, not better and went back to dragging myself through each day, living for the weekend and the hope that a couple of days rest would make me feel better until finally I gave up fighting. My GP took one look at me and signed me off work for three weeks. I haven’t been able to return to full-time work since.
Since then life has been a journey of acceptance. Chronic ill health is not something I was prepared for mentally, spiritually or emotionally. The frustrating thing about living with CFS is that I have no idea how I will be feeling from one day to the next. I know that if I ‘over do it’ (my understanding of this has changed significantly), I will crash. What I can’t predict is how long for. I also crash for no apparent reason which is the most frustrating thing. The trigger for this post is that I have been off work again since August after experiencing a ‘relapse’. It has taken me quite a while to get back up to my pre-relapse level of functioning (this is being able to gently potter about at home, knit -although complex patterns continue to exhaust me, weave, spin, cook and manage the odd trip to Tesco). The last couple of days, however, have left me barely able to walk again following a house clean for the New Year. Today a trip to Wick for an hour left me unable to hold up my head or talk.
I was hoping to be able to return to work for a few hours soon, this is now looking less likely. If I lose my job, we lose our house , no two ways about it. I know that, according to research, the fact I have had CFS for over two years now means that full recovery is unlikely. I also know that I am damned if it will stop me from living.
Chronic health issues affect hundreds of thousands of people every day. I never this would affect me, I hope one doesn’t affect you.

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Bad weather, great year

The New Year has brought some horrendous weather to parts of the UK, I’ve spent some of today reading tweets from folks who are affected by the heavy rain, strong winds and flooding and am feeling very fortunate that here in Caithness we have avoided the worst of the weather. My thoughts are with those who have been less fortunate.
On a happier note I have been enjoying blogs written by those reviewing their projects over the last twelve months. I’ve been especially impressed and inspired by Sew Katy Did, what wonderful quilts, I love the colours she has used and am amazed that she managed to produce so much in a mere twelve months.
Here’s another from Elk Studio – great hats!
For me the last twelve months have been a real learning curve. The highlights included Woolfest, I have never ever seen so much woolly loveliness in one place, I was in heaven.

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I also opened my Etsy Shop, it has been, and still is, a joy to be part of the British Wool Industry and a HUGE thank you to all of you who have supported my shop and I look forward to improving my dyeing skills and producing more lovely yarn for you to enjoy.

Next, and a biggy, I am learning to weave. I feel as though I have really found my niche. Knitting has been my passion for a few years now and because of this I have discovered the wonders of British wool, especially that from our precious rare breeds. Consequently, being able to take this into a new craft and learn different ways of using fibre is exciting and something I can’t wait to develop. I have started ‘Operation Floor Loom’ to save some pennies for a Louet Spring loom, I hope that this time next year I will be nearing that goal. Mr Knittingkitten has threatened to make one of those totaliser things they used to have on Blue Peter to show funds raised!! I will keep you posted.
Which leads me onto my final accomplishment of 2013 – starting this blog. I didn’t really have any expectations about how it would be, and no clear idea of what I wanted to achieve by doing it but I’ve learnt that I really enjoy writing and the flexibility that is offered by this format is perfect for me. I’m looking forward to continuing over the coming year, sharing some of the joys and frustrations of crafty life as well as sharing a little of my experiences of Planet Knittingkitten. Go well.

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