9 Aug 2014

Weaving Blankets with Stash Yarns

I've been busy weaving blankets and towels these past months, mostly mostly working on one major project, a taste of which I present below.

Right now on my loom, luring me away from my desk to weave a bit more ...

But first things first.  This entry is about what I was weaving BEFORE I started what you see in that picture above.  I've been so taken up with my projects and life in general that I have been neglecting to share my experiences with the outside world.

I inherited my grandmother's counterbalance loom some years ago, a Fanny Leclerc.  I love this loom.  It is special to me because it was Grannie's and she was one pretty amazing person.  Sometimes when I'm weaving, I feel like I'm visiting with her.  I often wonder what she would think of what I'm getting up to.  I'm pretty sure she'd shake her head and laugh.

Much as I loved this loom, it is old enough not to have a shed regulator.  Even though it's possible to do many, many things on a counterbalance loom without one, I kept finding things I wanted to try that I couldn't, and it was always on my mind that if only I had a shed regulator it would be sooo perfect  and how will it be possible to survive without one ...  so this year I got an excellent birthday present ...

The shed regulator is added onto the top of the loom - all the lighter-coloured wood - to allow for an uneven shed, so instead of always raising combinations of two shafts, I can now raise just one or three.  A shame the wood colour doesn't match perfectly, but given that it's been added a good 50 years after the loom was bought, it's amazing that Leclerc has kept their specifications so perfectly that I can buy a new piece this way.  Also, the different colours remind me of my loom's history.

... and I am pleased. I can't figure out why it works, but then I don't really understand why or how my telephone works, either.  I just accept it and am thankful.

I was finding my yarn stash was becoming a little overwhelming, and I decided to weave some small blankets.  We don't overheat our house in the winter, and at night curling up in front of the TV it's nice to have a blanket to get cozy under.  I figured it would be a fun way to experiment with putting colours together and seeing how different yarns behaved on the loom.  

It's not the first time I've done this.  There's this throw blanket I made entirely from small skeinlets of leftovers.

The warp is mostly leftover Harrisville with a bit of other yarns thrown in.  It was so fun just randomly choosing my next stripe and weaving until I wanted to start something new.  It's not huge, just big enough for a 10-year-old to lie down under, and plenty large to wrap around a big person.

I also did an all-yellow experiment, a giant shawl made from taking out my box of yellow yarns and just following my heart.  I love yellow; it's always been one of my favourites.

Closeup of the shawl - I mixed fibres as well as yarn types.
Not woven too tight, so it has a nice drape.
It's much brighter in real life, I just can't capture it with our camera.

As I went through my stash looking for inspiration, I came upon several balls of lopi a friend of mine gave me from a Fair Isle sweater that she'd always intended to make but never did.  I'd never used lopi as a warp before, and was a bit leery that it would just break, given that it's spun with such a low twist.  It worked just fine (although there was a lot of lint on the floor under the loom by the time I was finished).  

There were two colours, navy blue and a dusty turquoise-green.  The challenge was designing a blanket that didn't need more warp than I had from the sweater yarn.  I alternated the colours in six-inch stripes, sett at 6 epi.  I love the difference in the weft colours as they move from one warp stripe to the next.  It totally changes what they look like.  Amongst the weft yarns you can see here are a few skeins of Noro yarn and some handspun.

The blanket was woven in two panels each 23 inches wide.  The centre of this photo shows the seam where I sewed them together to make the blanket.
I used a skip twill pattern because I wanted to show off the colours more than the actual patterning of the weaving.

After washing, the yarns really pulled together nicely into the blanket fabric.
It's really warm and solid but has a nice drape, so I think the sett of 6 epi worked out okay.

It's just the right size for laying down under on the couch.  I guess some sweaters were never meant to be.

I also had a whole lot of pinks in my stash, most of it Briggs & Little that I had picked up here and there.  They made the warp in my next project.
Different pinks of about the same weight.  I'm pretty sure that pink and grey yarn on the front right  is from my first tapestry weaving class when our instructor was teaching us to dye yarn.
For the weft I picked out several skeins of beautiful, soft yarns I'd gathered over the years. There's a lot of Misti Alpaca yarn of various sorts

as well as some gorgeous baby llama boucle handpainted by the Fleece Artist (top left), some lopi in a fabulous pink left from a sweater I made as a teenager (what ever happened to that, by the way?  I loved that sweater! I'm sure I lent it to one of my sisters....) and some handspun.  I couldn't wait to put all these colours together.  

I wove the blanket in two panels 32 inches wide in a skip twill, with a warp in random stripes of pink.  I changed weft colours at my whim.

Given that the whole point of this exercise was to use up stash yarn, I'm really happy with the colours.  If I were starting out fresh, I probably would have used something else for the warp - the colour I had the most of could have been better.  Still, it's a great blanket, very snuggly and just the right size for a single bed.  My daughter loves it.  

This photo shows the seam running up the middle of the blanket between the two panels.
One comment I would have is that I'd never used Misti Alpaca yarns before.  I bought those skeins because I saw them somewhere for a good price and couldn't resist the colours.  I have to say now that the blanket is in use, they pill and shed outrageously.  It's actually remarkable how much fibre that blanket loses from those yarns.  They make for super-softness, and they're lovely to hold and work with, but I don't think I'll use them on anything practical in the future.

Now time to get back to my loom and the current project I showed you at the top, which I've been working on a full year now ... that blog entry coming soon ...

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