Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Winner of the Being Thankful Handspun Yarn Giveaway Announced!

First, thank you to EVERYONE who participated in this challenge. I hope you had fun with the Mini-Challenges I hosted on facebook, and it really gave me a nice window into your lives. :) I also hope you took this opportunity to see what really matters to you and the people around you, and to get a bigger picture of the world around you. It's easy to fall into a rut where you think things couldn't possibly get more unfair. These last two weeks have really made me think more positively about what I do have, and to look for the silver lining in everything.

I have chosen the winner via random number generator to keep things fair. Here is the screenshot of the winning number and the winning name:

It's you, Heather! :) I'll get in touch with you about shipping shortly. For everyone else, here's a major consolation prize. From now until December 31, 2013, use the coupon code STOCKINGSTUFFER10 at Etsy checkout and get 10% off your entire order. Also, because this giveaway was a great success, I'm offering a free domestic shipping coupon on your next order (you'll get the free shipping code after you make your purchase)! And since I can't possibly forget about my overseas friends, I'll give you 50% off your shipping costs if you make a purchase from now until December 31, 2013. I'll do this manually since Etsy doesn't offer shipping discounts like this.

So, let's all sit down and enjoy our family's company while we eat, drink, and be merry. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! <3

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Free Cora Shawl Knitting Pattern

Here is my first free pattern I posted on my blog and ravelry.

First posted on March 8, 2013:

First, a bit of an update. They’re on their way! What are? The batts, of course! Now, you’ll remember that I can’t dye in Korea, so I’ve been focusing on making batts for the last few months. I sent off the box to America a few days ago, so they’ll be available for sale this weekend..hopefully. :) I will be posting special offers only available to my Facebook and Twitter followers. So...go there and collect on the deals!

Also, I’ve had a lot more time lately to develop new patterns for handspun yarn (or commercial and artisan dyed yarns). I’ve been posting a lot of sneak peek photos to FB. The first one I'm posting is a FREE shawl pattern. I call it Cora, and here's an excerpt from the pattern:

"Cora is a story of an enduring shawl. She was built to keep a neck warm, and her elegance is expressed in the clarity of the design. With functionality in mind, Cora conveys a gratitude to the simplicity of our pre-internet days."

Well spoken, no? I was truly inspired to make it, so I hope you will be too. If you make the shawl, be sure to send me some photos. I'd love to make a shawl gallery for the website. :)

Here's the pattern link: Download Cora Shawl Pattern

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Warp-Weighted Loom Update #1: Finding the Sources

I'm not going for accuracy here, I just want to get a really good idea of what I'm doing with this warp weighted loom project. But it's good to talk briefly about the sources. I've read other blogs which have attempted such projects (though, they were going for more than just accuracy since most of them already have mad weaving skills), and they post their progress just like I'm about to do. However, most of the time at least, they list no sources for their information. No, I'm not the bibliography police--I'm just curious which sources they used so that I can use them. No need to reinvent the wheel here.

So that got me thinking: Why don't I list a bibliography here so others can find out about the information I used? And further, I can offer my reasoning for using/not using certain sources (probably in a future update when I have a good working bibliography). Plus, it'll keep me on track. And motivated. It isn't hyper critical for me to get everything "right" on the first try, but it's good to start out with a basic idea.

First, let's talk about the archaeological record. Finding well-preserved textiles which can tell us something about the craft, decoration, use, dye, and components (like wool/plant/metallic/etc.) are rare, so when they are found, papers are written about them. The biggest problem facing archaeologists who want to study ancient textiles (besides the problem of rarity) is the context. To determine the context, you often need to destroy the artifact. Great, but what do I mean by "context?"

In simple terms, I'm talking about all of the other stuff you can determine by examining something. For example, if you look at the dyes used on a textile from a specific site, the dye can tell you something about the dyeing technology, importation of dyes (or dyed items), and regional use of certain dyestuffs. If you're looking at a textile which has been dyed with dyestuffs found locally and in abundance, the archaeologists can make inferences about that site. The archaeologist can use this information to begin forming the context of a site, usually with the help of other types of artifacts and features (features are things like walls and houses). Let's say that there is just one family-sized house and adult sheep bones found in refuse pits to add to our example.

Given this information, the archaeologist begins to paint a picture of a small farmstead where people were raising sheep for subsistence (ie, just enough to support a family with very little surplus possibilities) and using the local flora to add flair to their textiles. This is essential for archaeologists to get a rounded view of the people who lived here before, and to prevent contextual biases like those frequently made in the 19th century. Unfortunately, in order to do this, archaeologists often need to destroy the textile to extract the information needed.

There are some ways to determine dyestuffs and fiber type without destroying the artifact, that's true, but the accuracy decreases and it won't account for surface changes (ie, the presence of dirt, abrasions, etc.). During the experimentation process of my master's dissertation, I used visible spectrophotometry to determine absorption curves of one dyestuff (cochineal) with various mordants (the substance that binds the dye to the fiber). The point of that sentence is to tell you that even though I used only one type of dyestuff, the absorption curves were different given different mordants. Thus, this isn't a reliable method for determining dyestuffs.

Destructive methods are generally employed to determine the exact (or nearly so) dye used, and possibly its origin (in the case of several species within the same genera), to understand how people led their lives in prehistory. This discussion of dyes is just one aspect that archaeologists investigate, and it isn't the only investigation which requires destruction of the sample to obtain vital information.

So let's bring this all together. Textiles are rare. Archaeologists tend to preserve as much of the artifact as possible for future study (and conservation) while doing their research. The study of ancient textiles is often destructive, which leads to textile research being understudied. As a result, not much information exists about textiles in specific regions/time periods. In the end, archaeologists don't use textile information regularly to help determine context of archaeological sites. Textile research may not be crucial for understanding and interpreting most archaeological sites, but it adds a dimension to the daily lives of these people we don't know much about, and finally, isn't it all about rebuilding a picture of the past through excavation?

Okay, don't get ahead of yourself; here's what I'll do. What I am able to find I will document here on this blog. The articles and websites I list will be pertinent to hobby weavers, spinners, and dyers, and extremely useful for those out there who are like me in wanting to reproduce archaically woven textiles.

Also, I'm sorry I wasn't so brief. There's a lot to say about this project. In the next update, I'll continue on with finding sources for wool and loom building (and I'll definitely post more pictures). Thanks for reading!

Current Bibliography:

Andresen, S. T., & Karg, S. (2011). Retting pits for textile fibre plants at Danish prehistoric sites dated between 800 bc and ad 1050. Vegetation history and archaeobotany, 20(6), 517-526.

Joosten, I., van Bommel, M. R., Hofmann-de Keijzer, R., & Reschreiter, H. (2006). Micro analysis on Hallstatt textiles: colour and condition. Microchimica Acta, 155(1-2), 169-174.

Rast-Eicher, A., & Bender Jørgensen, L. (2012). Sheep wool in Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science.

Ryder, M. L. (1987). The evolution of the fleece. Scientific American, 256(1), 112-119.

Strand, E. A., Frei, K. M., Gleba, M., Mannering, U., Nosch, M. L., & Skals, I. (2010). Old Textiles—New Possibilities. European journal of archaeology, 13(2), 149-173.

Vanden Berghe, I., Gleba, M., & Mannering, U. (2009). Towards the identification of dyestuffs in Early Iron Age Scandinavian peat bog textiles. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36(9), 1910-1921.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Photo Tutorial: How to make a M1 Knitted Increase

Here is a "make 1" photo tutorial that I posted on my old blog in 2011. Before I learned how to do this, I only knew one way to make an increase, kfb (knit into the front leg of the stitch, then without slipping, knit into the back leg of the stitch). I have found this particular increase to be _extremely_ good at making a hidden increase. I've used it mostly in making skirts, since I don't want large openings or strange bar stitches on my hips. But, it's a useful increase to know about for many other types of projects (sweaters, mittens, etc.) and gives you a great alternative to the kfb increase stitch. Further, depending on if you do a M1L or M1R, the slant of the stitch will look more gradual than an kfb stitch.

Original Post from March 8, 2011:

When I first started knitting in 2006, I had one goal: finish a scarf. I attempted to learn to knit from a book, but a friend of mine, Christine, pointed out that I was doing it wrong. Once corrected, that scarf took no time to finish.

After finishing my first project, I just had to start knitting other things. I made a couple of hats, made a scarf for my husband, but I felt like I wanted to do more. Christine pointed me to the local yarn shop, and it took no time to get hooked on Malabrigo and merino.

Then started Knitter's ADD. Suddenly, a whole new realm of fabulous fibers were exposed to me. I bought alpaca, mohair, and more merino. To increase my knitting knowledge, I started working on harder patterns. I also learned how important it is to make a gauge swatch! Much of my earlier work was too small for me, so I sent it along. If I really wanted to keep the yarn, I would re-knit the item, or choose a different pattern. Eventually, I had multiple knitting projects going and, for some, no finish date in sight.

I've read on places like Ravelry, that many knitters have several works in progress (WIPs). I like to have an easy project (something that doesn't require me to keep track of stitches or rows), a medium project (my current knitting level), and a harder project (introduces new stitches, patterns, shaping, etc.). This keeps my sanity.

My New Year's Resolution for 2011 was to learn how to knit socks, something I had been avoiding for a few years. I made my first sock by the end of January 1st. I can see how they might be addictive, but a pain if you knit one sock at a time. I have several more months this year to learn 2 socks at a time, so I'll keep you posted on that development.

So, what have I been up to lately? I'm revisiting some yarn that I had knitted into a partial dress, but soon realized that the yarn isn't meant for that pattern (when a pattern calls for wool yarn, don't use cotton yarn--it doesn't have the same kind of stretch). I'm knitting a skirt with 100% cotton. I'm confident that this will be a finished project that I'll actually wear. Here are a couple of pictures of the pattern:

I'll also show you how to do a M1 increase, with photos. I've done the KFB (knit front back) to increase, but the M1 is a little different. If you knit through the front of the knit stitch, and, without slipping the stitch off the needle, knit through the back of the same stitch, you will have made a KFB increase. It takes one stitch and makes two. The M1 increase is a little different. Below is a photo-tutorial of the M1 stitch:

The M1 stitch is very easy to make. In between stitches, there is a "bar," as can be seen in the above picture. Pick up the bar with the tip of the right hand needle from the front side of the work. Place the bar on the left needle purlwise. The bar should rest on the needle, as you can see in the picture below.

In the following picture, you just knit the bar as if it were a normal knit stitch. It will feel a bit awkward and a bit tight, but that will be normal.

If I pull the stitches like I do in the picture below, you can see how the stitch looks when it's just been made.

I'm a huge fan of this increase, since it leaves no discernible hole like you would have with a yarn over increase. There is only a subtle trace of the increase, unlike the look of a KFB stitch. The last picture is a close-up of how the M1 stitch looks in a knitted garment.

In another post, I'll revisit this project since it involves a fishtail lace pattern. The lace is knit separate and grafted onto the base of the skirt (the part I'm making right now) by using the kitchner stitch.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Being Thankful: Handspun Yarn Giveaway!

You guys are great. No really. Absolutely fantastic. When I'm sitting here thinking of what to make a video about, you're there. When I'm indecisive about a new project, you're there. When I've made something pretty and I can't find anyone around to appreciate it, you're there. So, thank you for always being there for me.

Big businesses often forget what got them there. It's the people buying the product and being loyal. It's about filling a need. It's the business listening to what the people want and giving it to them. But they sometimes lose sight of that when they get too big for their britches and scale-up. That's one of the best reasons to shop at small businesses. That's why I love being a small business. I listen to what you say, give you the product you want, and make changes that brings all aspects of entrepreneurship into balance. In return, you share your ideas, your projects, and your unending enthusiasm. Without further adieu, here are the details of the give away. First, the yarn!

This novelty handspun is made of mostly merino wool, with teeswater locks, bamboo, firestar, angelina, and tussah silk, and it has been plied with a heavy cotton thread and various colored sequins.

There's a color gradient that goes from a desaturated green to a chocolatey burnt sienna brown. The total weight of the skein is 113g, with about 130 yards total.

Here are the details of how to enter to win. There are numerous ways to get your name into the hat for the drawing.
  1. Follow my blog! (Post in the comments below)
  2. Follow me on Twitter! (Tweet at me so I know to give you an entry)
  3. Like my Facebook page! (Post on my page so I can give you another entry!)
Those will give you one entry each. How else can you get an entry ticket? Well, I'll be posting mini-challenges on Facebook from now until November 27, 2013, and if you contribute, I'll give you another entry. On November 27 at 5pm CDT, I'll tally up the entries and pick a random winner via random number generator. The winner will be announced on Thursday, November 28. I have a secret for those who didn't win the giveaway, but I'll not spoil the prize before then. :) Just keep watching the facebook page for more info.

I can't thank you enough. You're the best support structure I could ask for, and I'm glad you spend a few moments every day reading my posts on Facebook, here, and watching my videos on Youtube.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Starting a Big Project: Warp-Weighted Loom Weaving

I normally shy away from large-scale projects because I lose sight of the end as life and other stuff piles up. Scarves, mittens, socks, etc., these are my kind of projects. And nothing overly complicated either. I would love to make a sweater that fits me. Or a lovely lace shawl. But then reality hits me and I know that I don’t have the time or brain capacity to begin a project like this.

However, that shouldn't be a good excuse. If I blamed a busy life on why I can’t do X or Y, I wouldn't get to enjoy all of the cool things in life. To keep me on track and not straying from my goal, I've decided to post my progress regularly here. It might not be a weekly update, but I’ll try to do it once a month at the very least. In this endeavor, I’m a beginner, as I know next to nothing about weaving or loom building.

Okay, so why did I pick _this_ type of loom? I have archaeological training, and I’m planning to head back to school for an MA/PhD in archaeology soon (I've been accepted to the school, I’m just scrounging up spare change to pay for it). For a long time, I have believed that you need to have a job which you love doing, and if your hobbies can transcend that line, your job can be all the better for it. I love seeing how things are connected together, and I have quite a few personal interests. I’m planning to get a PhD in landscape archaeology, and I’d like to add the skills an experimental archaeologist might have. As an ultimate goal, I want to see how textiles might have played into choosing various landscapes in the prehistoric past, or if textile production helped shape the land somehow.

I’m looking to specialize in the landscapes of Iron Age Britain. Most archaeologists have secondary or tertiary skills which aid their research and interpretation, and I would like to call upon my training in museum studies and experimental textile production. I’m not reinventing the wheel here, but with my unique background, I’m hoping to cross boundaries that are rarely crossed. And I’m bringing you all with me. Doesn't that sound like fun? :) More updates to come!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Photo Tutorial: Adventures in Drum Carding

This is an old tutorial post that I created to help others learn how to use a drum carder. This information was tough to find all in one place, since I have a love/hate relationship with the forums on ravelry. What you're seeing here is the fruitful labor of combining the information from several sources into one, while also adding personal insight from a beginner. Since writing this particular tutorial back in March of 2011, I've become a drum carding connoisseur and made several drum carder tutorials on youtube. To keep the content of this post reasonable and focused, I'm going to just repost the photo tutorial here (with a bit of fine tuning).

Original Post from March 15, 2011:

I am currently renting a drum carder from my local guild. Prior to using one, I watched a bunch of videos on youtube, but there are few "drum carding tutorials." The drum carder I rented is a Pat Green, but since it's kind of old, no one remembers which model it is. I've found several similar models on their website.

There are some basic things to know about drum carders before you get started.
  1. Never try to add too much fiber all at once. It will bend the metal tines and break the fibers, resulting in a major expense to replace the carding cloth and batts which have many weak, broken fibers.
  2. Never try to add more fiber than the drum carder can hold. You might receive specs from the company regarding your specific drum carder, or if you're borrowing one, be sure to slowly add on more fiber until it looks full.
  3. If yours has a handcrank, be sure to turn it slowly. If you try to card the fibers quickly, it may result in broken fibers and a batt full of nepps.
  4. Unless your drum carder specs say otherwise, I suggest that the longest staple length that should be carded is 6 inches. Longer fibers will wrap around the drum, making it difficult to successfully lift the batt from the drum.
Now, on to the pictures! I've been carding for a couple of months, but I am by no means an expert, nor do I know everything there is to know about the various ways you can apply fiber and color to a drum carder. First, I'll show you a few tools that I use to make a hand-pulled roving from a drum carder.

This is a diz that I cut out of cardboard. It doesn't have to be round, so I made it more complicated than it needed to be. The point is, you don't have to spend $15 on a diz unless you want to (or maybe someone bought you a nice diz as a gift?). Also, my husband giggles whenever I tell him about spinning/knitting/weaving terminology--"diz" is no exception!

This is a doffer pin. This usually comes with a carder, but you could easily use a long knitting needle if you're in a pinch. (Voice of experience here: don't use a metal knitting needle every time. It'll bend and warp over time, and the tip will become sharper than a nail.)

Most importantly, you need fiber! I'm using hand dyed (by me ^^): Suffolk top, dyed firestar, and dyed tussah silk. Roughly, there are 20 grams of the Suffolk, 1.5 grams of tussah silk, and 0.5 grams firestar.

Apply the fiber to the carder in any fashion you choose. In a future post, I'll hopefully be able to talk about the different ways to apply fiber for different results.

Here is a nice, close-up shot of the fibers on the main drum:

Depending on how blended you want the fibers to be will dictate how many passes you make with the carder. If you start with a dyed, combed top, for example, you may just want to layer the colors on the drum and produce a batt which exhibits color chunks. The spinner can choose to spin the batt however s/he chooses, and s/he might produce a yarn that looks something like this.

In my case, I wanted to make an evenly blended batt, so the color streaks were less defined. I achieved this by sending the carded batt I made through the carder a total of 3 times. In the next 3 photos, I'll show you how I remove a carded batt from a drum carder.

There is a groove where the carding cloth has been stapled to the main drum, which will allow you to remove the fiber from the carder as a batt (a giant rectangle of carded fibers). Insert the doffer pin into this groove, making sure to slide it underneath the fibers.

Once the pin is through, gently lift it at a 45 degree angle from the drum. Continue sliding the doffer pin across this groove and gently lifting the fibers at a 45 degree angle. The fibers over the groove will draft apart, making a clean break from each other. If they don't make a clean break, just work in sections. (If you're confused by this, let me know!)

There are many ways to remove the batt without leaving fibers on the drum carder. To remove the fiber as a batt, I just pinch the fiber between my first and second fingers, and gently pull away from the carder. After I've pulled about 2-3 inches, I scoot my fingers back down to the tines and do it again. Rinse and repeat.

After the batt has been released from the drum, split the batt into 4 or 6 pieces, and recard the batt you just made (if you want it to be more blended, that is). Since my batt was less than 1 ounce, I split it into 4, roughly equal pieces. When you're carding, be sure that you can see through your fiber. Here's what I mean:

When you're ready to remove the batt from the carder for the last time, you can follow the above directions and remove it as a batt, or you can remove it into a roving. I'll show you how I pull the batt into a roving in the following pictures.

Insert the doffer pin into a section of the groove equal to about 1 inch. Lift up, and you'll have a small opening to get started with.

Twist these fibers and push through the opening of your diz. You can also use a small crochet hook to pull the fibers through.

Using a "pull-push" motion, push the diz towards the drum while pulling back on the fiber that has been threaded through the hole in the diz. Do this process while also rotating the drum between the "pull-push" motion, until all of the fiber has been turned into a roving.

After the fiber has been removed, it should look light and airy, and should draft smoothly. If you start with a washed fleece, you can get a very nice preparation for a longdraw method of spinning. If your chosen method of spinning is semi-worsted (like me, at least until I'm better at the long draw), you can still get a loftier worsted spun yarn than if you began with a combed top.

You can wind the roving into a pretty little nest until you're ready to use it.

Carding is time intensive, and can also require more labor if you begin with a washed fleece. Don't expect to produce multiple carded batts per hour, because if you're doing it correctly, you'll probably only manage to get 1 or 2 made in an hour. So, whenever you buy carded batts on Etsy, be sure to thank the seller and offer great feedback. They are a labor of love, much like most products in the fiber world. :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Meet the Crafty Academic

Hey there everyone, welcome to my new blog! To introduce myself a little, I’m a 29 year old spinner/knitter/designer/dyer/wife/martial artist. Like many of you, there’s a life outside the crafting world, and no matter how you try, some nights you just fall asleep with a ball of yarn (or fiber!) in your lap. We have so many daily demands that our creative spirit just disintegrates, leaving an exhausted husk behind. Drastic imagery, but you get my point. While we’re waiting in line at the grocery store, at the bus, or during our lunch break, we whip out our smart phones, tablets, what-have-yous and veg out for a while. Among my sparse ‘veg-out’ time, I look at what other people have made and try to design my own version. Sometimes, I have a vague idea for a new kind of this or that, then I spend the next hour or two slopping through the creative phase. Sometimes it works, sometimes I have no idea what I did wrong (or need to learn how to do) so I turn to the internet for help. Let me be one of your many go-to places for inspiration, ideas, and troubleshooting.

A Cloudy Day - Expertly Dyed Batts Limited Edition Colorways
But I’m getting ahead of myself--there’s more to me than that. We're all complicated people, and I’m an academic at heart. I got into spinning initially by doing it for my master’s degree. No, no, it wasn’t in something you’re probably guessing--it was for my museum studies dissertation. I did the whole spinning, dyeing, and weaving thing to create surrogates for real, archaeological samples. Why? Well, I was going to shoot lasers at them to specifically damage them. So, no museum would let a grad student without funding destroy something irreplaceable--which brings me to my current obsession.

Because of my innate spirit to teach, I began making youtube videos and blog tutorials to help fill a void on the internet. When I first began searching for videos on spinning yarn (back in January 2010), there was only a small handful of videos that were worth watching. Many of the videos were short. And hard to see. And some played _terrible_ music in the background. After gaining two years of spinning proficiency, partially under the guidance of a master spinner, I began sharing my knowledge with the beginners out there. And the soon-to-be-beginners.

Now, how does this fit the academic connection? Disseminating information is one of the most important attributes of being a professional academic. Who cares if you’re full of revolutionary or controversial ideas if you never share it? Or worse, some grant-giving agency has given you funding for research/excavation/etc., and you never publish--that’s a huge thorn in everyone’s side. I see myself as a budding expert in spinning and dyeing, so my academic background urges me to disseminate this information to the rest of the world.  I want to share what I know about these crafts to keep the spirit of the handmade movement alive and thriving. In so doing, I have instilled in several others the desire to spin and dye.

Handfelted Alpaca Triangle Shawl - Expertly Dyed
And as with any good academic, I realize that I’m presenting opinions (albeit, based on experience, science, and research) which can conflict with others. If I have presented something on this blog which you think I have wrong or haven’t explained properly, by all means, please let me know. It’s an opportunity to grow as a person and learn something new about myself and others.

This isn’t my first blog experience. In fact, I had a website once, with a blog and everything. It was created by my husband from scratch, but over the last few years, my business has grown and changed. And with that, so did my needs. Over the next few months, I’ll be re-posting some of my more relevant blog posts from my former site, in addition to posting new material. Some of the tips and tutorials I created on that site were too good to be lost to the internet! I'll be back with tips, tutorials, and large-scale projects soon. :)

Thanks for reading everyone,
Happy Crafting.

Jennifer Beamer