In Dyeing on
January 31, 2016

Dyeing to share

You might think that I was keeping myself busy enough with the floor loom. And the traveling. And the sewing machines. And the sweater-dismembering. And the knitting, inkle weaving, rigid heddle weaving… oh, and my day job! But no. Someone needs to dye. Meaning change the color of fibers, you dark, dark person!

I’ve been dyeing wool for several years, and more recently have tried my hand at dyeing silk. They’re both protein fibers, so you can use the same acid dyes on both (insert here all the stuff I didn’t learn in chemistry class in high school but know understand). I really love using the Greener Shades dyes, which are both safe (heavy-metal free) and intensely beautiful. I’m quite comfortable working with them know so I can improvise pretty well on-the-fly. (I know, things that stain mixed with flame don’t sound like a good match with my randomness, but trust me – it works!)

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In Weaving on
January 31, 2016

Take it to the floor!

I’ve been thinking about getting a floor loom for a while (I’d been using a few rigid heddle looms, and my mom taught me on her Schacht floor loom), but when I was visiting weavers in Ireland, I finally crossed the line and decided it was time to get one. Also I had done a massive clean-up job in my basement and finally had room for one! I did my research toward the end of my trip (on the Spinners’, Weavers’, and Knitters’ Housecleaning pages, amongst other places) and communicated with a weaver who was retiring and was within a reasonable driving range from my home.

So, a few days after I returned from Boston, a friend of mine who has a pickup truck (tip: a key piece of equipment for transporting a floor loom!) drove me to upstate New York to retrieve the loom. We got plenty of practice tying knots and arranging tarps in the borderline-harrowing drive home, but the loom arrived in one piece and is now living in my basement, below a ceiling festooned with Christmas lights!

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In Weaving on
October 15, 2015

Lovely Donegal

I was lucky enough this fall to visit Ireland for the third time in three years, and especially to spend a significant amount of time in Donegal. I’m very drawn to this region, in part because of its rich weaving history, but as a New Englander, the cheery self-reliance of the people despite a sometimes unforgiving landscape feels very familiar. While I was there, I was fortunate to spend some good hours with a few of the wonderful weavers and craftspeople keeping the tradition of Donegal weaving alive and, importantly, living. I was impressed in both the fiber crafts and in the traditional music to find a wonderful harmony between the traditions and a growing, thriving, creative force rooted very much in the present. This is truly how traditions survive and don’t just become museum pieces.

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In Knitting, Recycling on
May 30, 2015

How to free beautiful yarn from an ugly sweater

Okay. This may be too rough for you, but I like murdering sweaters. Especially evil sweaters that are trapping beautiful yarn in an ugly shape or pattern.

For example, I found one terrifying 80’s sweater — cropped, mock turtleneck, hideous stitch pattern — at a Goodwill near my house, and it was holding hostage a ton of absolutely gorgeous white 8-ply baby alpaca yarn. Sweater? Hideous. Yarn? Gorgeous.

This may be obvious, but you can get a full sweater’s worth of yarn for the cost of one Goodwill sweater (or for free, if you already own the sweater).

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In Sewing on
May 30, 2015

The lure of antique sewing machines, part 1

I have a weakness for old sewing machines, in particular Singers, because they are incredibly well made and there’s a lot of historical information available about them.

It’s amazing how many of them are floating around at antique markets, thrift stores, town dumps, and in people’s attics. Some of them are in practically mint condition and just need a little cleaning and oiling, but others are pretty worn or broken. Each one of them is part of a history lesson that touches on industrial manufacturing, mass marketing, and gender roles in such an interesting way.

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In Weaving on
December 2, 2014

Demo day at the ICA

This Saturday, December 6, from 10-1 I’ll be demonstrating rigid heddle weaving (on my 32″ Kromski Harp) at the Institute of Contemporary Art on Boston’s South Boston waterfront (more recently known as the “Innovation District”). Other members of the Weavers’ Guild of Boston will be demonstrating carding, spinning, and weaving on a variety of equipment — all part of the Fiber Sculpture 1960-present exhibition that’s up through early January. It should be lots of fun, and this is a great little museum to visit any time.

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In Knitting on
November 30, 2014

“It’s not that cold” mitt pattern for late fall in Boston

I created this pattern a few years ago, mostly for myself, but have made many sets for friends. It’s a quick project, which you can easily customize, and the mitts are great for those sort-of-cold days when you want your fingers free, for knitting, texting, playing music, or whatever. Please let me know what you think!

In Knitting on
September 16, 2014

Meaning in raw materials

I find the most interesting part of starting a new project is selecting the materials. I have a vast stash of yarn and fiber, and a particular skein might grab my attention to get me started. Sometimes it’s because that skein is visible from the front of a shelf (maybe because I just used the yarn that was in front of it), sometimes I start hankering to use a specific type or color of yarn and dig through the stash until I find a suitable choice, and sometimes I see a finished object in a particular type of yarn and want to work with it.

I can remember where I acquired almost every skein I own, and this memory and connection to a place, person, or circumstance makes the materials more interesting and meaningful than they otherwise would be. For example, there’s the glitzy novelty yarn I was so excited to find in the sale bin of a yarn store near my house when I first (re)started knitting about eight years ago. There are the two shades of the richly colored yarn that my father, who paints in oils, helped me to pick out at one of my mother’s favorite destination yarn stores, matching the colors in a way I never would have thought to do. There’s the handspun from my own wheel, using soft and springy roving from a farm in Vermont, before I had great technique, but after I was competent enough to make usable yarn. There’s the classic natural white sock yarn that’s traditionally used in Latvia, brought back for me by a friend visiting home and her mother, the master knitter. And there’s the golden-colored, rough wool that my mother inherited from her mother-in-law, and gave to me because she didn’t like the color (but I do). When I use one of these yarns to make a particular project, it imbues it with new meaning, informed by the story of the raw materials in addition to the circumstances around the object’s creation.

With my grandmother’s yarn, I made a short-sleeve cardigan, with multi-trick waist shaping, improvised on the fly, and including cables “for good measure,” which my grandmother, a brave and improvisatory needleworker, would have appreciate, possibly with that exact phrase. With the Vermont-sourced handspun, I designed a cozy and flattering pullover that I wear throughout the winter. With the yarn my father matched, I knit an asymmetrical sweater pattern my mother encouraged me to do, even though at the time it felt a little too stylish for me to pull off. (For the record, it’s not too stylish – she was right again!)

I really enjoy having a special story for every skein, and carrying that meaning around with me, or giving it to someone else, in the finished product.