Friday, March 20, 2015

A colorful tartan

Hello, friends. Springtime in New England is often more about still-wintertime-temperatures, grey skies, and mud. But we artisans can do something about that, right?

Here is a new tartan in some bright colors. This will be a table runner. It's woven from 5/2 mercerized cotton. I sett the warp yarns at 20 epi (yes, this is a close sett for a twill, but I like a sturdy table runner) and have hemstitched the ends.

This is a rather bold fabric for me. At first I thought that the fabric would look like one of those "bad plaids" that turn up every so often:

I'm glad I did not toss the warp. (I've only done this once before - true confessions! It was a rayon chenille warp and was a tangled, unruly, unbeamable mess, mostly due to a failed friction brake). Never judge a fabric based on the warp alone!

Weaving friends, have you ever pitched a warp? (Don't worry. I won't send the weaving police your way).

That's all for now.
Be well,

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Four shaft point twill bookmark pattern

Hello, friends. Happy-Almost-Spring. Nutfield Weaver's house is still surrounded by lots of snow but warmer days will show up eventually.

I participated in a small exhibit last Saturday and had a selection of bookmarks available for purchase. These colorful, small textile pretties gathered a lot of attention. From a weaver's point of view, these small projects are a nice way to try out a new pattern or to use up bits of yarn from your stash. Plus, they're really fun to weave! Here is a photo of one of the finished bookmarks:

Handwoven point twill bookmark in colonial blue and ivory

I used 10/2 mercerized cottons for both warp and weft. I sett the warp threads at 30 ends per inch (two per dent in a 15 dent reed). After leaving a weft "tail" for hemstitching, weave a few picks of tabby, about 7-8" of pattern, finish with a few picks of tabby, and complete hemstitching. A 3 1/2 yard warp yielded 10 bookmarks on my loom (a LeClerc Nilus II); a loom that doesn't generate as much loom waste might yield an extra bookmark or two for you.

Here is a photo of the draft that I created on my Fiberworks weaving software:

Weaving draft for a point twill bookmark
If you don't have 6 shafts available to you on  your loom, just omit the threading on shafts 1 and 2 and include floating selvedges.

Happy weaving, friends!
Be well,

Friday, March 6, 2015

On birds and tea towels

Hello, friends. I've been weaving a lot of kitchen towels lately. A few have been farmed out to League of NH Craftsmen shops, a few are listed in my online store, a couple have been purchased, and, (lucky me!) one ended up in our own kitchen (we get the "seconds" in our house).

Tea towels, while simple in appearance and materials, do not make for easy weaving. To craft a towel that is going to hold up to the rigors of serious household tasks, you need to have a relatively thirsty piece of cloth. The fabric should be dense, but not so dense that it feels coarse or lacks any kind of drape. I generally use 8/2 cotton yarn for my towels. 8/2 cotton yarn is thin, meaning that I generally sett the warp at 20-24 ends per inch, depending on the weaving structure. To make a towel that is at least 16-20" in width, you're looking at a lot of threads! Here's the latest tea towel in process on the loom today:

New Hampshire Tartan - tea towel

After the woven tea towel fabric is removed from the loom, I run the fabric through the washer and the dryer. The initial washing/drying action is important because the fabric undergoes shrinkage. After a trip in the dryer, it is time for hemming.

So. Why go through all of this kerfuffle just for a dishtowel?

The kitchen towel is probably the most undervalued textile in the home. Just think about it. Here are just a few ways that tea towels are used:

  • To dry dishes
  • To grab a hot tea kettle
  • To dry off freshly washed fruit/veggies
  • To cover bread dough during the proofing stages
  • To line a bread basket
  • To dry our hands after washing
  • To hold ice on an aching muscle or twisted ankle
I grow so attached to my towels that I have a hard time retiring them from daily use. There is one towel that I've used for the past 10-11 years, and the threads are getting a little bit thin. I think I'll hang onto it for a month or two longer. The orioles will be back soon, and they love threads for lining their nests. Really! Here is an oriole and an Eastern kingbird that visited the pea trellis in search of suitable nesting material: 

Oriole and Eastern kingbird getting nesting material (Yes! I took this picture in our backyard!)

So I'll know that my old tea towel still has some usefulness in someone's housekeeping endeavors. It is a very comforting thought.

Be well,