Friday, August 12, 2011

Using what you have

I was rummaging through some very old photos this morning, and ran across images of some earrings I had made almost two decades ago. We had been bitten hard by the early nineties recession in California, and were preparing to leave for Missouri. The cost of living in SoCal was just too much for us with a new baby.

I knew I would have to make and sell jewelry to help with income, but we had no money for supplies to keep me going. I mean NO money.

Big earrings were in style back then, and sparkly dangles, and niobium and titanium. I had a few findings to work with, but not enough to flesh out a craft show when I got to the Midwest. I also knew I’d have to change my products and my price points for a different market. How to do this with no money?

One day, I got to thinking about making art paper earrings with beading as accents. I found out that the art paper I had in mind came in huge sheets, and would cost as much as a pack of diapers for my baby, so that was right out.

I don’t know how it happened, but one day I got the idea to use an old brass stamping as a mold, and try making an impression of it by laying down a piece of thin paper, squirting on some glue gun glue, then laying down another sheet of paper. I pressed down the stamping with the end of a pencil to make an impression in the hot glue, and then I cut away the extra paper. The goal was to end up with a surface that looked like art paper, and could accept paints and varnish. After some trial and error with every type of paper readily available to me, I tried sheets of Charmin toilet paper. Bingo! Success! The paper was thick enough to make a good painting surface and to keep the glue contained, but thin enough to get a good stamping of the design in the brass. And they did not look like what they were made from once I finished.

I painted and sold a bunch of these earrings back then. I made them in all different colors, with whatever suitable old stampings I could find. This is the only pair I had left when I stopped making them and moved on to other designs. The pictures I took are very blurry and the earrings themselves are long gone. I painted and decorated them in all different ways. This was one of the plainer pair that was just a solid color slicked over with some shimmery violet interference paint.

Now we are being kicked in the teeth again and again by the economy, and I am learning how to spin and weave even though these both are very expensive hobbies. I probably will not resort to using Charmin in my work ever again, but I do find myself having to create as many of my supplies as I can. I’ll be blogging about that in the coming months.

This blog lay dormant for a long time because my schedule and my toddler kept me busy, It’s hard to find time to write sometimes. But now he is growing up and becoming a good helper, and he goes off to preschool this year. More posts coming soon.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, August 11, 2011

The scarf that made me get a spinning wheel

It’s both too much “something”, and not enough “something”, and it’s scratchy as heck. This is my first clasped weft weaving project from last year. I had just ordered a 10-dent rigid heddle, and I thought I had plenty of fingering weight yarns that would work, but I was wrong. I forgot to take into account the need for lots of tensile strength in warp yarns, and that they should not be subject to stretching. Suddenly I was down to a strident green mystery yarn that was the only yarn I had that would work as warp. I found two other colors that I hoped would at least be on speaking terms with the green, and off I went to make my scarf.

I loved every minute of the process, and I see real possibility here, but not with these types of yarn. To get what I want, I have to spin it myself, or dye it myself, or both. A scarf like this in buttery soft homespun with random slubs and harmonious color changes throughout would be a different beast altogether.

With this in mind, I asked for a Babe wheel for Christmas. I had always wanted to spin, and now I had a legitimate reason to start. The economy being what it is, I didn’t want to ask for something I couldn’t use a lot, and eventually use for income.

I discovered that I love spinning. I mean, I LOVE spinning. I also learned that I am not crazy about spinning uniform and neat yarns unless they have a lot of color in them. A couple of weeks ago, I spun a bobbin full of solid teal colored yarn and it felt to me like the yarny equivalent to driving I-80 across Nebraska or I-70 through Kansas. Serviceable and predictably monotonous, and not something I want to do a lot of.

I’m being pushed towards art yarns, and incorporating them into my weaving. I don’t know where I am going with all this fiber stuff yet. All I know is that feels right to me, and that I enjoy the journey. I thank this itchy scarf for pointing the way.

Once my kids are in school this fall, I will start blogging about spinning, weaving, beading, etc. I will also get around to writing beadwork tutorials at last.

Whatever you might be working on right now, embrace it and listen to what it has to tell you.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Do you recycle ramie sweaters?

I have misgivings about ramie, but I found a sweater that was 40% silk, 30% nylon, 15% ramie, 11% wool, and 4% other fiber, and I decided to buy it. It was a quarter, so I would not be out much money if it didn't work out.

I found it reasonably easy to take apart and unravel, but I did not like the feel of the ramie. It was dusty and the texture reminds me of soft paper. Even with only 15% ramie, I could feel it was in there.

Since I am not attached to this yarn, I thought it would be fun to blotch it with McCormick Neon purple and blue. The yarn itself is a striped gray tweed. I'm hoping this will be fun to weave into scarves with the colors appearing at random throughout the work.
I will probably avoid ramie in any quantity from here on out. I just don't like it. The texture reminds me of the feel of an old wadded up unused tissue that has spent the winter in your coat pocket. Soft, yet dusty and vaguely unpleasant. It's not my thing for knitting or weaving.

Have you ever taken apart ramie sweaters for the yarn or re-purposed them in some other way? What did you make with the sweater? There are tons of these sweaters around, and if there is a project for them, I might reconsider my stance on ramie.

Chenille on the Wheel

Hi folks,

This blog has been dormant for a very, very long time, but I have been crafting. I will not really have time to post about all the things I have learned until this fall, but I will get in here from time to time this summer.

Since I last showed up here, I have taken up weaving and spinning with all the zeal of a new convert. I don't have a lot of money, and I like the concept of recycling whenever I can, so I will be posting about making "new" yarn from old yarns in the coming months.

Today's effort is a chenille yarn made from 2 plies of recycled thrift shop sweaters. It's acrylic, and I'm making it for weaving into scarves on my Schacht Cricket loom.

I wasn't sure what to expect, so I started out with the sweater I liked the least from my thrift shop haul, and got this yarn as an end result. I'll edit in the wpi later.
On the niddy noddy, before setting the twist
Balls before plying.
On the Babe Production wheel.
I have not used Blogger in so long that I accidentally uploaded my pictures in the wrong order. Whoops. :)

So far, I'm pretty happy with this yarn. I don't know if I would knit with it, but my goal was to make a weaving yarn. I believe I could use this yarn right from the sweaters without plying it, and use the 12-dent heddle I bought separately, but a lot of us only have the 8-dent heddle that comes with the loom. By plying this yarn, I now have a thick enough yarn to use with the 8-dent. I have been reading that chenille yarns need to be woven fairly tightly to prevent "worming" in the finished piece.

I'll keep experimenting and posting my results. For now, I will continue to be semi-random in my posting habits, but soon you will see more from me. Look for a lot more posting activity from September on.