Now that I’ve finished dyeing all 231 colors of this 20-step dye triangle, I’m faced with the paperwork. This morning I finished creating all of the tags that will go onto the balls of dyed yarn, along with the cards that a sample of yarn will be wound around.
Then I turned towards winding more balls of yarn from the dyed skeins. As I’ve mentioned before, Brian is working on making a pegboard for the display/storage of the skeins, but I don’t think he had quite realized the urgency for this. I was forced to innovate a temporary solution. I took a very large warping board, set it atop an extra weaving bench, and created shelves by putting warping sticks across the pegs of the warping board. On these shelves, I’ve been putting the wound balls.
The top of the triangle is still on the table. I’ve still got around 70 balls to wind, but this is good progress. I’m tempting fate, however, because if any human or animal bumps into this makeshift shelving, all the balls will come tumbling down.
I’ve been soliciting ideas on how to most effectively weave these colors into a “periodic table of elements” and will most likely proceed to dye my background yarn black. This is a good thing, because today, when I didn’t have anything to dye, I felt bereft!
Yesterday I dyed the very last of the triangle, and these are my most favorite colors.
Many years ago when I was a young teenager I read the book Cheaper By The Dozen, by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Elaine Gilbreth Carey, which was published in 1948. It is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in a family with a dozen children. I laughed and laughed. The father of the family was an efficiency expert. He would time the children as they brushed their teeth, at the same time playing foreign-language lessons on the record player so that they would simultaneously improve their teeth and their French.
Since then, I’ve always played a game with myself where, if I have to do a process more than once, I try to find ways to make it more efficient. For example, I’ve got the process of making a pot of coffee down to an art.
A container I use for water is stored in a drawer along with a canister of coffee beans and the coffee filters. I open the drawer, remove the water container with my right hand, the beans and one filter with my left. As I’m setting the beans on the counter, I put the water container underneath the drinking water spout and turn it on. As it fills, I measure two scoops of beans into the grinder and turn it on, then put the filter in the filter container on top of the coffee carafe. At that point, the water has filled to exactly the right level, so I turn off the faucet and pour the water into the reservoir. Precisely then, the grinder stops– but it hasn’t finished all the beans, so I press the button again, and while it finishes I put the whole beans and the water container back in the drawer. The put the ground beans into the filter, put the carafe into the coffeemaker, and turn it on. This all takes less than a minute.
Sometimes I get absentminded and put whole beans into the filter. Sometimes a cat distracts me and I forget to pour the water into the reservoir. Sometimes I put the carafe in but forget to put the ground coffee into the filter. But most of the time it works perfectly. When Brian makes the coffee I have to refrain from coaching. I’ve never actually told him about my achievements in the coffee making olympics!
So when it comes to dyeing 231 skeins of wool, I have had great fun developing and improving my process. I can wind and put 3 figure-8 ties on 3 46-yard skeins in one minute and thirty-four seconds. I can weigh skeins, record the weight, and make bracelets quicker than I ever imagined.
What once seemed like it took forever now seems just like making a pot of coffee. 28 pots– 2-1/3 dozen– at a time.
I put out 2 sets of 14 jars each, which have been numbered in Sharpie and always set out in the same order. I have two electric canners and two enamel canners, and each of them can hold 7 quart jars.
I add a bit of water to each, then add their sooper sekret ingredients (acid and sodium acetate). Then, referring to my ledger, I measure out to each one its allotment of golden yellow.
I score big points if I measure the exact amount on the first try, which is with a rather crudely measuring disposable pipette. If I get close but would go over with another drop (all these measurements are between 0.512 and 9.9g or ml), I use a more precise glass eyedropper. And if that isn’t exact enough, I go to the 0.5 – 10 microliter pipette. I always warn the eyedropper, “don’t make me go to the pipette!”. I can’t always get precisely to the microgram, but I make sure I’m within .004g. I love the metric system, where grams equate to milliliters and it’s so easy to switch between weight and volume.
Gisela was a quick study when it came to puppy potty training, so we have lots of leftover puppy pads that I am using instead of paper towels to protect the counter, though it’s very resilient and easy to clean.
After all of the yellow is in, then it’s on to the turquoise and then the magenta.
I add enough water to each jar that it’s about 3/4 full, then give each one its personal pre-soaked skein, which has been labeled with its skein number, its weight, its jar number and its formula.
One set of 14 skeins has a dash prepended to the jar number, so that later, when the skeins are dyed and rinsed I can easily distinguish one set from the other and keep them in order. One set of jars is wide-mouthed, and the other is regular-mouthed, so there is no chance of getting 2 of the same number in a set.
I am sure that as time goes on I’ll find even better ways to finesse the process. It’s all part of the fun!
Gisela provides companionship every step of the way, often lying on the floor at my feet, ready to leap upon any would-be assailant and always willing to move out of my way when necessary.
Beowulf, on the other hand, simply checks up on us once in a while, especially when he hears the camera and senses there is a photo opportunity. He is a born poser.
But it’s Katie, often known as “the third poodle” who is most apt to interrupt efficiency in order to “help”. I tried putting one of my rug samples inside the antique roaster known as “Mrs. Westinghouse” to see if she or any of the other cats would just settle in and nap there, but they aren’t having any of it.
I have completed dyeing 140 of the 231 triangle skeins. I have to admit, I was getting really tired of greens and oranges and browns and felt much relieved to start seeing mauves, grays, vermillion and then into eggplant, amethyst and teal.
I’m a little behind on winding them into balls and labeling them, but because each skein has its own id bracelet, there is no chance they’ll get mixed up. Brian has purchased a large piece of pegboard that will be going into the studio so I can hang the balls near the loom.
The tapestry, which is just supposed to be all the colors woven in their order in a triangle, was not going well. I keep telling myself that the whole reason for doing this, other than to have a color reference, is to practice weaving tapestry, and that failure along the way just means I’m learning what not to do.
I warped this loom at 10 epi, which is a tighter sett than the 8epi I actually prefer. Why did I do this? My loom has a sectional warp beam, and since it was made in Switzerland, the sections are 2cm each. By putting 8 threads in each section, I could achieve 10 epi. My other choice was to put 6 threads in each section, and have 7.5 epi– and that would have been fine, except I have no 7.5-dent reed. Meanwhile, there was a 5-dent reed with the loom when I bought it, and that seemed a fine choice for a 10epi warp and that is what I used, putting 2 threads in each dent.
Anyway– the warp was at 10 epi. I don’t know if it was beginners (bad) luck or the yarn itself, but my fabric seemed pretty inconsistent. It could also have been due to differences in the overall tension. With a regular loom, I’d probably be using a temple to keep the outer edges from drawing in. Although I didn’t see a lot of draw-in, I could feel it when I entered weft. I was also constantly adjusting for areas where the warp threads were closer together or further apart.
One issue could also be that I wasn’t using enough butterflies. Another could be that the 5-dent reed wasn’t ideal to pack down 10epi. If I beat with a tapestry fork, I could certainly get it packed in better, which to me is counter-intuitive.
So, I cut off the fabric woven so far, switched to a 10epi reed, re-sleyed the reed, tied the warp back on, wove a deeper header using an 8/4 linen and started over. So far, so good.
The batiks pictured in the last post? There’s a ton of them, collected over the years by a friend of mine who will soon be leaving the area to move in a different part of the country. She had wanted to weave a rag rug on one of my looms, but ran out of time and I volunteered to weave it for her. It will be 5′ by 8′. The warp is already on the Sovereign loom, as it was meant for a different project I’ve lost interest in, but will be perfect for rag rugs.
I leave you with a couple of photos on a lovely summer’s day.
This dyeing thing is really interesting. Yes, I come from a presumably long line of dyers, but I’m probably the first in the family for, say, 400 years. The last one I know of lived in Bavaria and dyed cloth. I’d really love to time travel back and speak to him. He might not have considered it much fun since it was his livelihood, and it was probably pretty smelly. Still, I’d love to know what colors were his specialty, if any, and how he arrived at them.
My secret is not so secret– acid dyes in powder form, which react with acid (acetic acid or citric acid most commonly for hobby dyers). One might, if one wished to dye, approach it with complete abandon and let Fate yield her hand, or one might approach it more scientifically so as to be able to replicate the colors she likes.
The other day I decided to choose two colors and dye a range of values in those colors. I wound 20g skeins of 2/55 rug wool from R&M yarns, coincidentally the same yarn I’m using for 3 of the colors in the great room rug. 20 grams is approximately 40 yards, and so I counted yards on the skeinwinder. [nb: my approach here was somewhat flawed, and I’ll explain why and how I changed that approach later].
I mix stock solutions of 2% dye to water, so 20 grams makes it easy to calculate formulas for depth of shade. Here are my two colors in 11 different shades, from 0.1% to 4%. Shades of Spinach and Boysenberry, yum!
I used one of the greens and all of the berries in part of a sample tapestry I was weaving for my color gradation class.
I had just grabbed those colors from thin air because I thought they looked good together, but since I am not an artist, I have to work backwards. I can’t decide what I want to weave and then choose colors– I need to have colors to work with and then put them together. Unfortunately there are few tapestry yarns that I like and are affordable, are readily available and provide a wide range of hues and values.
I did some digging around the internet and various forums, and discovered the concept, new to me but old hat to many, of a color triangle. The concept is that you take three primary colors and mix them in incrementally varying proportions, starting with one pure color at the top of the triangle and slowing adding higher proportions of another primary down the left side and the third primary on the right side until you reach the pure hues of those two primaries. In the middle, you mix varying proportions of the outer two colors.
(Here I insert a wave to my friends, who told me that my last post made it seem like all that dyeing was easy as pie. I promise to give more of the gory detail henceforth!)
Here’s a representation of the dye triangle with primary colors designated as A, B and C, and the subscript numbers representing the part (think cocktails where you mix 3 parts whiskey, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part simple syrup and 1 part egg white to get a delicious whiskey sour– only we’re not going to drink this dye now, are we? No, we are not.)
You can see the 66 circled over there on the right– that’s how many colors end up in a triangle using a 10-part scheme. Of course, you could use math to figure this out. At least, I was sure you could. So I sent Brian on the hunt for a formula, and he came up with this calculator. Since the number of levels in the triangle will be the number of parts in the scheme plus 1 (in the example above, there are eleven rows for a 10-part scheme), the first member is 1, the difference in each row is 1, and the index of the last term is 11. The calculator gives you the answer: 66.
So I said to myself, “Self, how many samples would you have to dye to have a 20-part dyeangle?” (that’s my made-up name for this concent, btw, I’ve not seen it used anywhere before). And so me and myself asked the calculator, who replied “231”.
231 samples didn’t seem too bad, and I want to see all the colors, but I wrung my hands over how many shades of each color to do. If I did 11 shades of each colors, like I did with the initial 2, that would be…. a lot of samples. 2,541 to be exact. And then of course I would want to do more than one dyeangle, because I could use different colors as primaries. In the Lanaset/Sabraset line, I could use sun yellow and mustard, blue, turquoise and violet, and red and magenta and scarlet. Oh my! Not to mention the addition of black or brown.
But after all, what I really wanted to do was dye yarn and weave a tapestry. So I had a little sitdown with myself and agreed to start with one 20-step triangle using mustard, turquoise and magenta. And with those I can weave a color-reference tapestry for that dyeangle. And then I can decide whether I want to dye other triangles, or dye different shades of certain colors that I particularly like from this one, or give up dyeing completely (not likely!).
So, that pot of jars in the last post? They were the first 14 colors of Dyeangle I. Here they are– along with the next 14– all wound into balls, labeled and ready to go into the tapestry. There’s at least one in there screaming to be named “teak”, I’d say.
For these colors– unlike the spinach and boysenberry– I’m using the 2/65 New Zealand rug wool from R&M yarns because I warped my tapestry loom at 10epi for reasons I will share at some other time. The 2/55 yarn was too big for that sett. I tried winding some sample skeins to figure out how to get reliably 20gram skeins but soon found that to be impossible. Instead, I wind 46-yard skeins and they range from 17.7 to 21.6 grams each. Therefore I calculate each formula especially for a specific skein of yarn. Is this tedious? You betcha! I treat each naked skein as a special patient and give it an arm bracelet with it’s number in the dyeangle, its formula, and its jar number. I record every skein in a ledger with its weight, and then calculate the dye amount for each color for each skein. If I didn’t do that, I would wonder if the color I saw in the dyed skein would actually be the same color if I dyed it again, because the amount of dye is calculated based on the dry weight of goods. The goods being the yarn, of course! I even subtract the weight of the figure-eight ties on the sample skeins, which are not wool and will not take the dye.
After the skeins are dry, I prepare sample cards of each one which include their number and their formula and depth of shade (DoS). I also tie a jewelry tag on the end of the outside yarn end identifying its number, its DoS and the yarn weight (because I know future me will ask herself, “what yarn is this?” one day).
The tapestry itself has a long way to go!
Earlier today I dyed the next 28 colors. They are beginning to get more interesting. Some of them I would now consider typical “exterior home” colors for those oh-so-boring communities with covenants to prevent anyone from expressing themselves through color!
Since I’ve got plenty of colors to keep me weaving the tapestry for a while, I’ll likely switch back to dyeing the last color for the great room rug until it’s done.
In my next post, I’ll tell you about the third project I have in the works. Here’s a sneak preview.
It took a perfect storm of a global pandemic, some fun new projects and the sad and offputting revamp of Ravelry to get me to dust off this old blog, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, so here I am again!
Like a lot of people, I’ve been staying home. Unlike lots of people, I really love staying home. I’ve been out of the house three times since March 1, twice to meet someone to buy an item (quick parking lot exchanges) and once to pick up the poodles from their grooming. I made Brian one mask and bought others, and he goes to get groceries and to the hardware store, and sometimes hangs out at the airport with other pilots in the open air. Hopefully we will avoid getting covid-19 and there will be a vaccine before too much longer.
A couple of months ago I decided it was time to put Thrugbot, my AVL PDRL (Professional Dobby Rug Loom) to work. I was angry, to be quite honest, about the lack of responsible national leadership in this country and the way the pandemic has been handled in particular, and thought that beating weft into a heavy rug would be therapeutic. I was right.
I reverse-engineered the design of a rug made by a company in Bellingham, Washington that I’ve long admired. Then I scraped together a lot of different yarns that had been rescued from the dumpsters when a local mill closed, and created my interpretation, a 5 x 8 rug that currently resides in the great room and is poodle-certified and approved.
I was so happy with the outcome, and with the loom itself, that I began sampling for a really large rug that will be better for the porportions of the great room. I sampled several different combinations of yarns and colors, and finally realized that I would have to dye my own.
Luckily, Brian had recently finished converting the former “workshop”, which is located between the main house and the garage, into a dyeing place for me (also conveniently emptying more drywall buckets that I repurposed for soaking and rinsing!). There are two sinks side by side, and the propane burner you see there has been moved outside and joined by two others and a very large pot. The flooring is rubber tiles that fit like puzzle pieces, great because I end up getting a lot of water on it.
And so I dyed and I sampled many combinations for a big rug until, eventually, I settled on this. The copper color goes well with the fireplace stones and with the color of the kitchen cabinets, which are adjacent to the great room.
There are 11 different yarns in the weft of this sample, and 5 of them are hand-dyed. This means that I have to hand-dye enough of those 5 colors (about 60 pounds) for an entire 12′ x 23′ rug. And that has kept me busy for the past several weeks. I’m almost done, with one color to go.
In my next post (hopefully later this week and not a year from now!) I’ll tell you what’s cooking right now in these jars, and why.
Over the weekend, I put a new warp on my Mirrix Zeus for the final project for Part 1 of Rebecca Mezoff’s Warp and Weft online tapestry class.
Part 1 involves learning the basics of tapestry and includes regular and irregular hatching, using the “meet and separate” technique, creating straight edges with slits and a little more. Therefore the final project for this part is supposed to focus on practicing these techniques.
You may have noticed that angles are not included, nor are curves and circles– those are not for beginners, and appear in later parts. It was a fun challenge, therefore, to come up with a design that uses the Part 1 techniques and avoided, for the most part, what I haven’t learned yet. (And I am here to tell you that I have, in the past, tried to weave some things I haven’t learned yet and learned that I definitely need to learn them first).
At Rebecca’s suggestion, I looked at a lot of Navajo weaving for inspiration. I have the wonderful book The Master Weavers by Mark Winter, a heavy thick book chock full of wonderful photos of Navajo weavers of the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills tradition and their rugs.
My tapestry will not be a copy of any of those, but will pull certain elements from that tradition and use colors never seen in the Navajo tradition. I finally settled on a 25″ x 35″ size and several colors of Harrisville Highland yarn at 8 epi, made rough sketches of the design on graph paper and began to work. Loki helps when I’m not watching.
I find that as I weave, an hour here and an hour there, I begin to think of how I can change my design “just a bit”. Like a cook tossing some chili pepper, a few cherries, an orange peel and a string of saffron into a blueberry pie, I’ve already added about 8 colors that weren’t in the original plan. In my dreams I come up with other variations– I have to force myself to wait until the morning to work out whether or not that idea is practical. I just hope the end of the piece ultimately matches the beginning, and doesn’t look like one of those children’s games where you match the bottom of one person with the top of another, or a Navajo version of Mr. Potato Head.
I’ve lived in Hendersonville for a little over two years now, but due to my introverted nature I haven’t explored a whole lot. But recently a friend of mine was organizing her knitting group for a tour of a local mill, the Oriole Mill. I tagged along and had a great time.
The Oriole mill creates fabrics used in fashion and furnishings on their industrial Jacquard and dobby looms. Wrangling my 20/2 cotton at 60 epi onto a warp beam evenly has been quite an experience for me, so imagine my reaction when I saw 50/2 cotton beamed at 195 (yes, one hundred ninety-five!) ends per inch.
It takes 4 people an entire month to warp this baby. Every thread goes through a thread watcher, then through a heddle, then through the reed. Luckily they have a machine that can tie on a new warp. The thread watcher (see the first set of open-top heddles in the photo below) is like an attentive guard dog waiting to see its thread fray or break, ready to bark the alarm (literally) and cause certain combinations of colored lights to go on signifying whether the problem is on the left or right of the loom and what kind of issue is occurring. Imagine that!
The selvedge threads are beamed separately and of a lower quality of thread since they will be cut off and not part of the final cloth.
I immedately asked how they get that warp onto the beam, and so we wandered over to the warping department. Since a width of cloth at 195 ends per inch requires nearly 12,000 ends, you won’t be surprised to hear that they don’t have 12,000 cones of yarn on a creel somewhere. Instead, they warp sectionally, only around 230 ends at a time.
Each section is first wound around the outside of this interestingly shaped drum, not stacked neatly in layers, but somehow arranged so that each section is slightly set off from the last. This is an intermediate warping step. After all the sections have been measured and wound onto this drum, they are then wound onto the warp beam all at once.
The warp beams look like giant spinning wheel bobbins.
Meanwhile, back at the loom, we saw how the weft is passed from one claw to another through the shed, then cut off Here we see it in slow motion.
And now at realtime speed…
This loom was weaving an elegant fabric for coverlets or pillows.
During the time we, er… milled around the store I met a woman who teaches Jacquard weaving at another place I didn’t know existed…. The Jacquard Center. Where is the Jacquard Center? A stone’s throw from the Oriole Mill, of course!
Before you leap to the conclusion that I will now endeavor to buy and weave on a Jacquard loom, let me assure you this will not happen. The technology behind Jacquard weaving, the idea that each thread is essentially on its own shaft and that designs of great intricacy can be woven are all interesting and wonderful, but I’ll leave that to the industrial folks. I’m just very glad they are still operating in the US and that the Oriole Mill is willing to shut down their operations for a couple of hours on Friday afternoon so that we can see how this fabric is made.
Long ago and far away– well ok, just one short year ago– I started Rebecca Mezzoff’s online Warp and Weft class for a comprehensive education on tapestry weaving. But then, as usual, I got distracted (when do I not get distracted?!) and forgot about it for a while.
When my Jason Collingwood rug class was canceled this month, I looked for a replacement activity, one that might assuage my acute disappointment in not being able to drive two days for fibery enlightenment. I eventually happened upon the fact that Rebecca is holding a fall tapestry weaving retreat in Vermont in September. I registered, and miraculously, although the retreat was already full, I’m only second on the waiting list so there is a good chance I’ll be able to get in.
Yikes! That means I’d better finish parts 1 and 2 of the course, since that is the stated prerequisite!
Last week, as you recall, I was beaming on the warp for the drawloom. Let me tell you that for WOACAs (Women of a Certain Age), that particular activity should not be undertaken for more than an hour or so at a time. But I, being often a resident of the state of Denial, worked at it for several hours at a time for two days in a row. My neck ached; my back ached, my trigger thumb started firing at everything in sight. Forget about cancer– my nemesis is a 25-yard cotton warp! Never again. I’ll be getting a sectional beam for the next long warp. Me and my AVL warping wheel are good buddies and know how to work together to get long warps onto sectional beams very quickly and efficiently.
Back to the tapestry course– yesterday I almost finished up Part I. Stripes, meet & separate, slits, regular hatching, irregular hatching– it’s all there. Now I have to come up with a final project for Part 1.
I wove this from the back on my Mirrix Zeus loom, using Harrisville Highland wool weft on a 12/6 cotton seine twine warp sett at 8 epi. It didn’t look nearly as neat while in progress.
I will say that I have made my peace with butterflies, and agree with Rebecca that, at least on this type of loom, they are easier and faster than bobbins. I just wish that I could resist the compulsion to sing, every single time I wind a butterfly…
Poor Butterfly, ‘neath the blossoms waiting Poor Butterfly, for she loved him so The moments pass into hours The hours pass into years, and as she smiles through her tears She murmurs low, the moon and I know that he’ll be faithful I’m sure he’ll come back by and by But if he don’t come back, I just must die, poor Butterfly
I blame Reader’s Digest for this. I used to sit at the piano and go through the green book for hours, playing and singing songs many people have never heard. How else would I know the words to the Beer Barrel Polka?
The first and only time I tried to put a warp on this loom (not for a drawloom project), it was a disaster. Since the drawloom extension is attached, the distance from the front to the back beam is extended by 3 feet. Keeping tension while beaming on from the breast beam was extremely difficult, and the warp had so many problems I eventually just cut it off– lesson learned.
This time, I decided to beam on from inside the back of the loom, taking advantage of the chrome roller bar to help tension the warp, like a built-in trapeze. I put my real trapeze bar just outside the pattern shaft holder to space the warp out from the roller bar enough that it doesn’t rub on itself.
Since I couldn’t put the beater itself onto the back of the loom, I used a 72″ reed to pre-sley my warp, and then let the sides of the loom hold it back as the warp flows through it, around the lease sticks, and onto the back beam.
As usual, I weighted each section of warp with a drawloom weight.
This is all working fabulously, though slowly. Some variations in the warp tension cause snarls at the lease sticks that I have to continually work out. Also, every yard or so I need to move the weights down. In 5 hours I’ve beamed on about 16 yards, with 9 more to go.
But alas! I have run out of warp sticks. And energy. Tomorrow is another day.
I’ve been winding a 25 yard warp of 20/2 cotton for the maiden voyage of the single-unit drawloom I bought used before we exited Seattle in 2017.
This warp will eventually be sett at around 60 ends per inch, so for a 24″ weaving width I needed 1440 ends.
At first I was winding 2 ends at a time, and this was taking forever. I got smarter and dug out a warping paddle so that I could wind 6 ends at a time. I could have wound more at a time if I had had more cones of the yarn or if I had been willing to take the time to wind off onto more “packages”. But I learned about the law of diminishing returns long ago, so I remained at 6.
Having gone from Warp Factor 2 to Warp Factor 6, my warp speed still did not approach the speed of light, but eventually I completed the task and can now proceed to the next step.
Meanwhile, various critters around the house continue to live a the life of Riley.