Thursday, February 27, 2014

Experimenting with Weave Patterns

Why do you have to be a nonconformist
like everybody else?  
~ James Thurber

Given that these rugs are kind of "bonus" rugs, I decided to experiment with different weave patterns. 

Now, there are two primary components that contribute to the weave pattern that you produce with a loom.  The first is the sequence with which you thread the warp (lengthwise threads) in the hanging needles in the four different frames.  This is during the preparation of the loom.  

Once you do that with a warp, you can't easily change it for anything that you want to weave with that warp - you are stuck with it.  

I used a basic threading pattern - I put the first 4 warp threads through frames 4, 3, 2 and 1 respectively and then repeated that pattern over and over again.  

The other main component is the sequence in which you lift the frames by pressing on the pedals while you are actually weaving.  AND, you can monkey with this as often as you like!  EVEN on the SAME stripe of one rug!  ;)

Finally, you can go "plain jane" and have each pedal life one frame OR you can hook different pedals up to different combinations of frames, so that 1 pedal can lift 1, 2 or 3 frames.  I've tried to show that in this picture:  

Can you see how the 4 frames have little hooks on their bottoms?  And how the pedals have lightweight chains hooking the pedals to different frames?  In this picture, each pedal is controlling 2 frames.  

Finally, the outcome of different patterns of warp threadings and pedal-work are illustrated in these cool graphics:  

The "4, 3, 2, 1" that you see repeated across the top represents how the warp threads are threaded through the frames.  

The "4, 3, 2, 1" repeated along the right side represents the pattern of stepping on pedals.  

The little "0"s in the upper right corner show how to connect the pedals to the frames.  

And the beautiful blue and white pattern that covers almost the entire page, presumably shows you what pattern you'll end up weaving!  

However, this pattern assumes that the warp threads (white) and the weft threads (blue) are of equal thickness - notice how the white squares and the blue squares are the same size?  

With my rag rugs, the white cotton warp thread is much thinner than the thick, recycled t-shirt yarn weft threads.  Hence, when I follow this pattern, here is what I get:  

The other pattern I've tried so far is this chevron-like pattern:   

Notice that the "4, 3, 2, 1" across the top is the same, but now I need to use all 6 pedals instead of just 4 (column on the right side) and the hook up between the pedals and the frames (upper right hand corner) is also different.  

And, with my thin white warp threads and some thick aqua weft threads, this is what I got:  

Given the different widths of my warp and weft, it is hard for me to imagine ahead of time how a pattern will end up looking with my particular threads - I just know it will look different from the picture shown.  

But I kind of like how the chevron-y pattern came out.  :)

I know it's not typical for a rag rug to have a fancy weave pattern - but I've kind of given up on expecting anyone to put the word "typical" on my tombstone anyways...  ;)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gratuitous Kitten (Tummy) Photos

You can only hold your stomach in for so many years.
~ Burt Reynolds

Finally, after almost FOUR months, TWO surgeries and the removal of a large lump of wooly nylon thread from his intestines, our sweet baby Popeye is truly on the mend - scarfing down tuna fish (not that we are spoiling him or anything) and running around playing with the other cats.  Thank goodness!  

Look at that little pink shaved belly:  

"You talkin' to me?"  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rag Rug Redux

The Road to Wisdom?  
Well, it's plain
and simple to express.
Err and err and err again,
but less and less and less.  
~ Piet Hein

You may remember that, for Christmas, I made rag rugs out of recycled t-shirt yarn for all of my friends.  Well, it turns out that I overbought (what, me?!?!)  the white cotton yarn that made up the warp (lengthwise threads) of the rugs and I had enough to make another batch of 6 rugs!  

It took a while to get the loom ready, but I finally was able to start weaving over the last weekend.  I started by making a rug for my second cousin.  We are very close because she lives near and cared for my grandmother for many years and so we got to know each other quite well.  

Her kitchen is decorated in a kind of "vintage Coca-Cola" style.  So I picked red, white and black for her rug colors.  

I was going back and forth over how to arrange the three stripes, when it hit me that (regardless of what I did for the Christmas rugs) I am not actually restricted to making three, twelve inch stripes.  ;)

After some experimentation, I decided on this sequence:

6 inches black
6 inches white
12 inches red
6 inches white
6 inches black

I think it's going to look really nice!  

I don't remember if I complai...  I mean, if I mentioned it or not, but I had a lot of problems warping the loom this time.  And, once it was all "done" - I found this twisted bit:  

I'm sure it can fixed somehow - certainly by undoing and redoing everything (PASS) and maybe by snipping those few threads that are wrapped around others inappropriately, untangling them and then tying them back together (untwisted).  

But I decided to see what happens if I just ignore it - given that I am weaving rag rugs, which can tolerate a larger degree of "slop" than a fine silk scarf, for example...  

So, we'll see if I'm sorry or not - keep your fingers crossed for me!  ;)

PS - once I started mixing it up with the width of the stripes, I went a little crazy with weave patterns - I've got some cool pictures to show you later this week!  :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Apron Strings

Children pull on our apron strings for a while,
but on our heartstrings forever.  
~ Unknown

I have been recently reunited with a friend from high school - yes, it was thanks to technology and Facebook - and we discovered that we share a love of sewing...  

and the confusion over what to call a person who sews!  ;)

She was thinking of me during the rough weeks I had in January and early February, and dropped a gift in the mail.  It arrived last week - this beautiful, handmade apron:  

The pattern calls for standard, store-bought bias tape, but she says that she has a habit of making things more complicated than they need to be, and so she made her own bias binding with the fabric.  

Her stitching is amazing and the details are so special!  

I love the style!  Isn't it beautiful?  

Handmade is always special - I can feel the love that went into this apron...  :)  

I hope everyone had a great sewing weekend!  I actually got some weaving in - I'll show some pictures this week.  :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gratuitous Kitten Photo

If there is one spot of sun spilling onto the floor,
a cat will find it and soak it up.  
~ J. A. McIntosh

Oliver, drowsing in the sun...  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Some Progress...

I don't know where I'm going, 
but I'm on my way.  
~ Carl Sandburg

I also made some progress on warping my loom over the weekend - I got all 240 threads through the "heddles" (floating, metal needles) and 12 of those threads through the "dents" (slots) in the reed...  

Just 228 more threads to go!  And then I'll be ready to do my third batch of rag rugs...  ;)

This time I'm going to use some interesting patterns - not just plain weave.  I'm looking forward to trying it and showing you what it looks like!  :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Okay, Where Are My 60 Hours of Sewing Time?

Reaching a goal is like growing out your bangs.  
It gets ugly and sometimes you want to give it all up.  
But someday it will all be worth it.  
~ Unknown

So, I got started on my workbook - organizing my sewing projects over the weekend...  

There is a place to sketch each project, but sketching really isn't my thing, so I got some clear envelopes and double-sided tape and added an envelope on each page.  My idea is to put a scrap of fabric and a printed mini-image of the front of the pattern envelope inside - to provide a quick, visual reminder of each project.  

I put the envelopes in sideways - with the flap taped to the page and a strong crease to keep the envelope laying up against the page.  

I cut my scraps - which always scares me, because I'm afraid that the 1 inch square I cut will be aligned in some critical place on the fabric and interfere with me cutting out the pattern.  ;)

I still need to print mini-versions of each sewing pattern envelope to slide in with the corresponding fabrics.  

I'm hoping the book will serve 2 purposes - an easy and quick source that I can flip through, when it's time to pick out the project that I want to do next.  And a place to store my notes of (a) any needed supplies for the project and (b) any notes from earlier attempts with the pattern.

I suppose I could even, eventually, add photos of finished projects, to help spark even more memories...  

Anyways, I think I put about 60 minutes into the workbook so far - which means that I should have gained 60 hours of sewing time!  What I want to know is - where is it?  ;)

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Circus Came to Town!

Life is a free circus.
All you have to do is pay attention.  
~ Bill Copeland

With all due respect to Mr. Copeland, we enjoyed the official circus (Cirque Italia) that came to Lakeland over the weekend.  It was hard to get good pictures because of the lighting, but here are a few that came out:  

I'm off today for President's Day and HOPING to get in some time either on my sewing or my weaving...  Fingers crossed!  

I hope you had a good sewing weekend and Happy President's Day!  :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's All Clear Now!

See, when you're a little kid, nobody ever warns you 
that you've got an expiration date.  
~ Jeff Kinney

So, apparently the gallbladder surgery wasn't enough fun and the surgery on Popeye wasn't expensive enough - because I'm currently in the middle of a multi-step root canal...

Last night, I got my husband to look at the bottom of my feet and now it all makes sense.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, 
and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.
~ J. K. Rowling

Every once in a while, two ideas from different "worlds" come together and make magic!  Like when I realized that I could apply a knot from our rock climbing to help thread wooly nylon into my serger (here) or when I applied the statistical analyses I use in my day-job to the sewing-related question of how much fabric to buy when I didn't have a pattern on hand and came up with these cards (here).

Well, it doesn't happen often (at least, not to me!), but a mini-version did occur over the holidays.  The first event was our Christmas cookie exchange.  You know how these work, right?  

Each person made 4 dozen of one type of cookie and then we exchanged in such a way as to have everyone take home 2 each of 24 different types of cookies!  It was awesome!  :)

The second event was that I stumbled across a bunch of websites (okay, mommy-blogs) that described the process of filling lots of gallon-sized freezer bags with meats and vegetables and then freezing them all, so that you can toss one bag's contents into a crock pot in the morning and having a delicious homemade dinner ready that night.

These websites provide recipes (and even shopping lists!) so that a person can prepare freezer bags with half a dozen or more different meals in one afternoon.

You can see where I'm going with this, can't you?

I compiled a bunch of recipes from the websites and proposed a freezer crock pot meal exchange at work.  Six of us decided to give it a try.  Each person picked 1 recipe and made 6 gallon freezer bags worth of it.  Then we traded off, and each family ended up with 6 different crock pot meals that could be made at our leisure!

So far, all of the meals have been delicious!  We're tentatively planning to have an exchange like this once a month.  There aren't really any "rules" - anyone is allowed to veto a recipe if she thinks her family won't eat it.  Anyone can add recipes to the collection that we are working from.  Families are responsible for providing their own side dishes and any of the desired garnishes that are supposed to be fresh.  

It's really easy to make bulk quantities of ONE recipe and really awesome to get SIX different meals ready to go!  

I'll leave you with links to just some of the many sites I found with freeze-ahead crock pot recipes - Enjoy!  :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

On Baby Geniuses

Genius inspires resentment.  A sad fact of life.  
~ Eoin Colfer

One of my favorite things - a picture of a beautiful "baby" (~ 20 months) girl modeling one of the skirts that I made for her:  

Her mom shared this story with me recently: 

She was "reading" a book [basically she has the lines for each page memorized because we read the book 2-3 times a day] and I told her she was a baby genius. To which she replied, "Me baby genius - Yep!  Mommy baby genius - Yep! Daddy baby genius - Nope!"   
LOL.  Daddy was not thrilled about that...  

Note that I am not calling her a genius because she has memorized one (or more!) of her story books.  

I'm calling her a genius because she has already recognized the correlation between genius and gender!  ;)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chasing the "Organized" Dream

For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.  
~ Anonymous

I don't know if that quote is true or not (man, I hope it is!), but I do know that my project queue is completely out of control and browsing through my fabric and pattern stash involves way too many seemingly-new discoveries and not nearly enough recent memories...  

So, when I saw a notebook that had been designed specifically to help get your sewing projects organized, I jumped on it!  

It arrived in the mail this week and I am so excited to get started filling it in!  :)

The bulk of the notebook has project pages - with a spot to sketch the garment - although I'll probably attach a photocopy of the pattern envelope and a fabric swatch instead - and then lines to record all the relevant details - including the notions that you'll use, the modifications you make to the pattern, your happiness (or lack thereof) with the outcome and thoughts should you want to use the pattern again.  

In other words, they are the kind of pages that last through the lifetime of a project - from planning to execution to the post-project debrief (or "lessons learned" as we say at work.)  

At the end of the notebook there are some additional pages, where you can keep track of assorted sewing-related things - your pattern collection, dates of needle changes, etc.  

Okay, let's be honest - does a person actually need to buy this notebook?  Couldn't you just get a loose leaf binder, fill it with college ruled notebook paper and make one yourself?

Yeah, you probably could.  

But I never have.  

As much as I needed to organize my projects, I never sat down and tried to put together my own notebook...  

And, even if I feel kind of foolish admitting it, having this beautiful notebook with these perfect pages just waiting for me, inspires me to snip swatches and photocopy pattern envelopes and make a master list of my queue - one that I can flip through for inspiration and use to track my progress...  :)

You can read more about the notebook on the blog of the woman who designed it, Beth Byrge, here: 110 Creations

And you can order it here:  lulu

I'll have filled in pages for you to see soon!  :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Our Little ConeHead

Never pick up a stray kitten...  
unless you've already made up your mind to be owned by it. 
~ Robert A. Heinlein

Two years ago, I stopped my car and rescued a tiny kitten who was being harassed by a group of children.  And he quickly took over our home and our hearts with his sweetness.  :)

Late last fall there was an epic battle - Popeye versus wooly nylon thread.  And for a long time it seemed like the wooly nylon was going to win.   :(

But today, after so many vet bills he should have bionic powers, he seems to FINALLY be on the mend.  

And the thing that amazes me most is that the veterinary community seems to have actually come up with a neck cone that a cat can't get out of!  

Yes, these pictures were taken after he had been home almost 16 hours!  Beating the previous record for longest amount of time wearing a neck cone by approximately 15 hours and 59 minutes and 30 seconds...  ;)

I really wasn't up for another loss so early into the year...

I am so happy to have our sweet little Squeakers back!  :)  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Home Safe Home?

Few places in this world are more dangerous than home.  Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes.  They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.  
~ John Muir

In an apparent attempt to upstage me and my gall bladder surgery, Popeye took a turn for the worse and had to go back to the veterinary hospital over the weekend.  

An ultrasound revealed a foreign object blocking his small intestines.  

Surgery revealed the nature of the foreign object:  

Never doubt the strength of this stuff...  :(

He lost 6 inches of his small intestines, but it appears that the surgery was a success and we are all cautiously optimistic that we are going to have many years of keeping Popeye, now the most expensive cat in the world, away from my sewing room.  

Poor little buddy...  I would have just given him the spotlight - he didn't have to work so hard to get it...  :(

Monday, February 3, 2014

This Too...

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations.  
They presented him with the words, "And this too, shall pass away."  
How much it expresses!  
How chastening in the hour of pride!  
How consoling in the depths of affliction!  
~ Abraham Lincoln

The problem with quotes on the internet is that 
you can't always depend on their accuracy.  
~ Abraham Lincoln

So, as days creep by and I am here alone in the house - the sewing machine quiet and the loom still - falling further and further behind at work - I have to keep reminding myself forcibly how relatively minor this is and how relatively quickly it shall pass...  

And the logical part of me knows that it IS relatively minor and WILL be over soon.  But it's still no fun - and it continues to surprise me how much my spirits can be dragged down by even a little bit of pain, after it's been hanging around for a while.  

And I can't wait until everything is back to normal.