Friday, July 18, 2014

Cotton Candy Purse - Denise Renee Grace

I love working with color and texture in simple form, and art yarn lends itself well to this formula. Knit Collage has some great yarns with amazing color and texture! It is handspun by women in India so it also supports a great cause. For this bag, I chose Pixie Dust in Azalea Boom for the weft, which is a core spun thick and thin with glitz, and Maharani silk in Firework for the warp and the strap. It is bright, luscious, and happy.

Warping the loom: Warp the full width of an 8 dent reed on a 10” Cricket loom (80 ends). Using the warp yarn, weave a 1 1/2" hem, then move on to the thick and thin using a firm beat. End the piece with another 1 1/2" hem. Including the hems, the finished length is about 30” making the measured warp about 60” long - this accounts for loom waste and take-up.

Detail of the thick and thin weft

The strap of the bag is an inkle band woven with the Maharani Silk in Firework for both the warp and weft. The set-up is 35 warp threads, starting and ending with heddled warp threads. The finished band measures approximately 3.5 feet long.

Detail of the inkle band strap.

Construction of the bag: Fold the hems in twice and tack the edge down with a whip stitch in a coordinating color of sewing thread. Fold the bottom edge up about 7.5" and whip stitch along the sides to join. Using some fabric, sew a small liner to fit inside this newly formed cavity. Whip stitch the fabric to the woven piece.

Detail of front of bag attachment of the strap              Detail of back of bag attachment of the strap

To attach the inkle strap, fold the raw end of the strap under itself, and line up the folded edge with the flap of the purse. Position this strap approximately 1" away from the side edge of the flap. Sew this strap down by stitching the sides down into the woven fabric, again with a whip stitch. Where the strap meets the top of the flap, straight stitch three lines to help secure and fortify the connection. The other end of the strap can be attached about inch down on the back side of the purse using three rows of straight stitch.

This bag is the perfect size for your Zoom Loom!

-Denise Renee Grace

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Default Yarn - Benjamin Krudwig

From left to right - Top row: 2-ply, singles. Bottom row: 4-ply, 3-ply.

Initially when I started thinking about my yarn, I thought "I will make a worsted weight 2-ply yarn." However when I started to think deeper about my "default yarn," I realized it wasn't the weight or ply of the yarn, but the mechanics of how I spin that makes it my default yarn.

Fleece ready to be washed.
I tend to let the fiber speak for itself. Because I still call myself a novice spinner and because I love all yarns, I enjoy spinning many different kinds of fiber. However, alpaca is my all time favorite. With Spinzilla coming up in October, I am brushing up my spinning skills and thinking of what I want to spin for that week. Creating goals for myself helps me follow through and actually accomplish something. I do know: Whatever I am going to do, it is going to be big.

Washed and dried fleece
I dug out my alpaca fleece I'd purchased earlier this year and started processing it. At a few pounds, its surely enough for a big project. After a little picking, washing, drying, carding, and more picking, I finally had 3 small batts ready to test spin. I spun these on my 30" Schacht Reeves not thinking of much except for fine and consistency. There are lumps and bumps, nubs and slubs, but I left them all. I enjoy the rustic and casual experience of handspun yarn.

Since I won't be dyeing this this yarn and I will probably knit it into a sweater with it, I decided I should play with plying techniques to create an interesting texture in the finished piece. I spun some singles, a 2-ply, a 3-ply, and a 4-ply. All of these yarns have a unique personality which will give the finished knit piece a different physical and visual texture.

For the singles I attempted to spin a roughly worsted weight size yarn. However since I have started to spin fine, all of these yarns fall into the DK weight category according to this guide. Since alpaca is a fine fiber, I spun the singles with a little extra twist to avoid drift.

For plying, I turned to my Sidekick, which I keep set up with my Bulky Plyer Flyer. This way I can ply easily and not change bobbins so often.

Making a sample "stick" helps to see all of the yarns in one place.

For the 2-ply, 3-ply, and 4-ply yarns, I spun very fine singles and used them for each of the sample yarns. This gave me different sizes of yarn, though surprisingly, they yielded similar wpi (see above) . That is, until I knit the swatches.

A few things changed as I increased the number of plies. The first and most apparent was the texture and physical weight of the swatch which more dense as I added more plies. The second observation was a halo effect. The swatches knit from singles was far less controlled with a fuzzy, soft texture in the fabric. The 4-ply had a much more controlled look to it, with less of a halo and a very clear stitch definition.

Something to keep in mind is that the singles (being naturally unbalanced) had a clear bias towards the right.
Knit singles - size 4 needles
Knit 2-ply - size 4 needles
Knit 3-ply - size 4 needles
Knit 4-ply - size 4 needles
For my finished project I think I'll use the 3-ply yarn as it had just the right density, control and halo for a warm and comfortable sweater with a nice drape.

This experiment taught me that you can achieve varying textures just by changing the number of plies. Also, as always, swatching is critical step not to be forgotten.

I now know exactly what I'm spinning for Spinzilla, do you? Tell us in the comments what your plans and goals are for October 6th-12th. We'd love to hear all about them!

-Benjamin Krudwig

Benjamin has a double degree in biology and photography (he also spins, weaves, knits and crochets)--so he's a great mix of data and creativity--all wonderful traits as a member of our sales team. You'll often hear his friendly voice on the phone and you've probably noticed his name pop up in many places: Ravelry, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube. Ben is our social media manager--the main reason you've seen more activity on our Blog, Facebook, Ravelry, and Pinterest. To see what's happening, click on the links below.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Winner of the Spring Zoom Loom Doll Challenge

We asked Spring Zoom Loom Doll Winner "HotAfricanQueen" a few questions about her Doll!
What a relaxing scene

What is your name?
"Chantal Hoareau"

Where are you from? 
"Born in Africa, I now make Los Angeles, California my home."

How long have you been weaving?
"I have only been weaving since March 2014. This is the 1st loom I have ever worked with consistently."

What drew you to the Zoom Loom? 
"I am a tool-gal. I am always looking for new tools to use or hone a skill. When I saw the Zoom Loom at Stitches West 2014, I immediately saw the potential it had—so I had to get it. I am glad the vendor selling it had a partially worked project on it. That is what drew me to the loom."

What other fiber arts do you do? 
"Knitting & Crochet"

What was the inspiration behind this doll?
"I ended up working on the environment first, then the doll much later. Inspiration happened while I was on a coffee run one spring morning. I stopped to observe a newly planted flower bed that was facing the sidewalk. Their classic spring colors were a welcome sight from the dreary winter colors. Even in California. Tall and short flowers, some open and others still, others partially open, yet others almost shyly, closed shut. The still-shut flowers reminded me that Mother Nature un-folds flowers to show them off. It occurred to me that I could possibly reverse the process by folding a flower into place. I thought this would be a good experiment to try some origami using the Zoom Loom squares. My experiments revealed that regular yarn did not match my perception—it created too much bulk for what I had in mind. So I moved onto finer, thread yarn and came up with a lace origami flower! It took me a weekend to fine-tune the process as I wanted to include as many flower components as possible from 1 (one) completed Zoom Loom square. In the end, I succeeded in making them small enough to include petals, stamen, pistil and stem. To keep the idea fresh, I wrote up a pattern that is now posted among my Ravelry projects. The flowers were done by April. These served as inspiration for the dress for the doll when I decided to use the same yarns as the flowers. Fun project!"

What yarns do you prefer to use? 

Do you have plans for the next doll?
"I am still toying with ideas for the summer doll. There are so many sources of inspiration. A friend even gave me the idea of a dancing Hawaiian girl!"

If you could have one super-power what would it be? 
"Erase all hatred and greed"

Thank you to everyone who participated in this round! If you would like to participate in the Summer Doll Challenge, pop on over to the Ravelry thread!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Spinning Lessons - Inflection

Several years ago, I signed up for the Fiber Project at Feederbrook Farm. Then a knitter, I requested my wool share as roving, with the idea that I would one day learn to spin. I moved that fleece across the country with me, and when I interviewed at Schacht I said, “well, I don’t spin or weave, but I have this sheep in my closet…” Schacht, of course, is a great place to learn to spin and weave.

Last Spinzilla I started spinning a merino silk roving, which I proudly skeined a mere eight months later. For those eight months, I fought yarn that drifted apart as I spun and singles that dissolved during plying. I fought, fought, fought changing my whorl. I had been taught that the purpose of whorls is to adjust our spinning wheel, rather than our inherent style, to get the effects that we want. Despite having a good source on high speed whorls for my Ladybug, I feared locking myself out of options. Moreover, I felt like I should be like "normal" people and be able to spin on my medium speed whorl.

Crafting doesn't always bring out the best in me.

Swatch woven on a Zoom Loom.
Even so, I have a weaving project in mind and recently decided it was time to tackle my Shetland from Feederbrook. One day I was spinning with Denise and as she watched me hunt for yet another lost end in the depths of my bobbin, she asked if I had checked my twist. She showed me how to pull the yarn off the bobbin to see how it behaves, and to learn from that behavior. This caused in me an existential crisis regarding the relationship of twist and a good ply and, of course, my style and skill. After ten minutes of silent spinning (and stewing), I quietly settled my driveband into the smaller of the grooves on my fast speed whorl – something I had absolutely refused to do before. Suddenly my yarn started behaving.

With enough trustworthy singles for a sample, I sat down to try a 3-ply yarn. The result was sloppy. My singles and my project are both well-suited for a 3-ply, but I am not yet; proper execution will require some more research and practice on my part.

I call this yarn “Inflection.”  First, it seems like a poetic, if not literal, opposite of “deflection.” Learning requires vulnerability, a willingness to open and absorb rather than close off and turn away. Conversely, “inflection” calls to mind a voice, and reminds me that learning is not always meant to be a download of information, but a process of relationship and personalization. Neither of these components of learning are my default. Fortunately, I have another pound and a half of wool to work with and learn from.

-Kate White

Kate White, right, and Denise Renee Grace spin on the lawn at Schacht.

Kate White wears several hats here at Schacht. Some of the many rolls she plays each day include computer operating system liaison, project manager, data maven, and interface between our sales and production departments.  

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Weaving Around the World - Floral Cashmere Shawl

Weaving Around the World - Floral Cashmere Shawl

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of working with some beautiful hand spun cashmere yarn from Afghanistan. From the Mountain is a great company working with folks overseas to bring viable hand made products to the United States to help support those artisans. The yarn was spun by women in Fayzabad, Afghanistan, and offers an alternative method of income in a primarily opium-based economy. This is the softest yarn I have ever felt and so evenly spun, it is a dream to weave!


I got all four colors in worsted weight, 3 skeins of gray, and one of each of dark brown, light brown, and natural white. Using the full width of my 20" Flip, I chose the variable dent reed with 5 and 8 dent sections (in this order 8,8,5,5,8,8,8,8). Since I love the direct warping method, I rotated 3 of the colors in each dent starting with dark brown, light brown, then off white and ending with dark brown again on the other side of the shawl. I just carried the yarn over as I warped along to get the striped effect.

The woven shawl wanted some embellishment, so I got out my Zoom Loom. Flowers and leaves are easy to make with a single square. (See our last blog post to learn how to make them.) The flowers and leaves were made before the squares were washed. I felted them a little bit by agitating slightly during the washing process and putting them in the dryer for 5-10 min, watching them to make sure they didn't felt too much.

Before attaching the flowers and leaves, I crocheted a swirly vine directly onto the fabric with a 'G' hook. I worked the crochet in the 5-dent sections where the weave was a little looser. This made it easy to get the hook in between the woven web. You may find it helpful to use an invisible marker to trace your path before starting to crochet. Sew on the flower and leaves, weave in ends, hand wash, and lay flat to dry.

This is one of my favorite creations so far. The drape is amazing and it feels so luxurious. I was also pleased with result of the embellishment. It added just the right touch to make this a smashing success!



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Zoom loom flower and leaf tutorial

Zoom Loom Flower and Leaf tutorial

This is a quick tutorial on how to make flowers and leaves with Zoom Loom squares.

The Flower:

Find the crossing threads in the center of the square by folding in half twice.

Put the needle through the cross threads.

Pull threads.

Tie with a square knot.


Voila, a flower!

The Leaf:

Find the pointed corner (pointed works better than rounded corners).

Pull the cross threads at the corner.

Tie in an overhand knot.

Fiddle a little and you have a fabulous leaf!

Look out for a project using these methods on Friday!

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