Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Granting the gap a name

This month, I had a writing break that was neither planned nor a slowdown. It just was. And because it's August, I'm calling it my ferragosto.

Life slows down in Italy in August. Actually, that's true across Europe and many shops and restaurants, especially the smaller ones, close for a couple of weeks. The Italians call it 'ferragosto.'

Conversely, I haven't slowed down, but instead of blogging, I've been very busy making and finishing things. I've kept my sewing machine humming with some things I can't talk about yet.

Two major unfinished projects have been haunting me. A rug on the loom and about four yards of handwoven fabric.

The rug. I finished weaving it but can't yet call it finished as I must tie it off and finish the ends. More details and photos to come, obviously

Handwoven yardage. I originally envisioned it made up into a coat. Warped with very fine wool yarn, it was an absolute bear to weave. Although threaded and woven to an 8-shaft herringbone twill, it was so sticky that it didn't weave up to my expectation--or satisfaction.

To stabilize the fabric and harmonize the effect, I lightly wet-felted it. This created a nice tweedy effect in which the herringbone is just barely visible. Nice fabric, but not enough yardage or yarn for the coat I'd imagined. I hemmed and hawed and let it sit for a good while while I pondered its future.

Finally, finally I've found a yarn that complements the gray-blue fabric without outshouting or detracting from it. And since finding it, I've been deep in the weeds working out trim patterns. Photos to follow.

So now you're caught up. (Unfortunately, I'm not--and doubt that I will ever be.)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lemons to lemonade

What to do with troublesome wool?

 Love the natural colors on my new dryer balls.
In my blog last week, I shared my encounter with wool unsuitable for spinning and a real pain in the neck to card. The answer: Dryer balls. 

I have three and love them! They work just fine, but I've been wanting a couple more--especially when one goes temporarily missing in a pocket or sleeve.

People at fiber shows often ask how to use them. Simple. Throw them in the dryer and leave them there where they keep the clothes from clumping together and the dryer dries more efficiently.

Dryer ball recipe

If you already have the wool, you only need the foot and leg portion of pantyhose or knee-highs. The wool can be in just about any form so long as it will felt. Yarn blends are unlikely to felt well, nor do yarns treated to be machine washable.

Knotted nylon full of wool fiber 
Also beware of dyed and colored wool or yarn as they may bleed out on clothing in the dryer later.
Stuff the wool into the foot of one of the nylons. I made a ball with my hands, inserted it and then just added wool until the nylon was as full as possible. If using yarn, wrap it tightly in a ball.

Pull the nylon tightly around the ball and make a knot at the top, as in the photo at right. I had enough to make another ball, so I repeated the stuffing and tying process in the same nylon. 
Then I threw the knotted nylon with the two wooly balls into the washer with a load of towels and the wash water set to hot. I wanted the wool to felt--and felt a lot. The balls followed the towels into the dryer. 

There is no recipe. If the ball doesn't felt enough on the first load, repeat the washer and dryer runs until it feels fairly solid. Not hard. Just firm.

After I'd finished the two dryer balls at the top right, I found some wool that I'd overlooked and added it to a ball that was on the small side. The wool didn't adhere tightly to the felted ball, so I wrapped it with some test yarn that I'd spun and discarded and sent it back through the washer and dryer in my next towel load. It is perfect!

Note: At least three dryer balls are needed for them to work effectively. Five is even better.