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Tibetan Clouds Shawl, Interpreted

As they rode eastward along the water’s edge, they watched birds foraging and playing.  A few thin clouds were scudding in the pure blue sky and swooping birds united the heavens and the earth.

Sky Burial: an Epic Love Story of Tibet” by Xinran, p. 146

This Sivia Harding design, the “Tibetan Clouds Beaded Stole” has drawn my lace knitting up a level.  No matter how many times, I saw the word “Experienced” on p. 173 of “The Knitter’s Book of Wool,” I kept leafing back to the chart, and thinking what really boil down to being covetous thoughts.  The best designs do that kind of self-promotion under your skin.  You have to, and the skills will come because you had to, right?  

The shawl is constructed from the middle with 4 triangular repeats around to form a lace counterpane.  In the design’s introduction we are told that the centre evokes the mandala motif of Tibetan Buddist art.  

 My stole includes the beads as written in the pattern but I used Japanese Toho size 8/0 seed beads for my finer laceweight yarn.  The centre beads are purple, and the wing panel beads are orange.  Instead of making purl bobbles at row 45 of that centre section (Chart A), I knitted in orange beads.  

The yarn is my handspun from a single braid of Yarn Hollow top.  Sivia Harding chose a worsted-spun fingering-weight yarn that is an even blend of merino and silk.  My yarn is lighter, and has slight halo from the 50% alpaca; 30% merino; 20% tussah silk.  

There was variation in my spinning.  How could there not be?  I made 979.6 yards over 6 skeins.  The singles were spun first, wound into plying balls, and plied together.  This part of the project – all on spindles – ran between May 1, 2012 and October 25, 2012.  

Fibre as it was in the 2012 Tour de Fleece

The method to my madness in spinning a 3,919 yards per pound large project is to isolate colour.  I unbraided a length at a time, and alternated spindles.  With an eye to the colour shifts, I was able to build shades from the dyed top.  The ochre sections have warmer tinges of pink, and vice versa through to my favourite mostly-solid purple at the centre of the shawl.  The little that barber-poled came up in either the panel transitions or on the edge.

The shawl is wider than I am tall.  With draping and a measure of chutzpah, I wore it to my cousin’s wedding last Saturday with a black dress.  It came into its own as the day cooled into a Boston September evening reception on a windy patio.  Others shivered, and the Cousin Who Knits did not.  

My philosophy is simple – if I am too shy to wear this at a formal wedding then what’s the point?  My knits are here to live in the real world.  The hours of making deserve that much.  As I tweeted:  Self-esteem, thy name is handspun knitted lace.  

You wrap a large stole thusly

This is my first knit made entirely from spindle-spun yarn.  It was an intentional project.  It went on my needles February 24, 2013 and was completed in early September 2013 with a few months’ break for other knitting.

A side panel, detail

The side panels of this stole were the difficult part for me.  The shifting of the lace felt like architecture, and took both focus and time.  I knit while listening to Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle on Audible.  Daniel Waterhouse had a hand in this too, I think.

Why I spin

 America Knits includes this Selma Miriam quote on p. 50.  I not only love it but her design the handspun, “Kousa Dogwood Shawl” inspired me towards both spinning, and lace counterpanes.  

When people ask about the time needed to produce a handmade object, it means that they do not see that it is the act of making it which provides the “grounding,” the stitch after stitch that are individual moments of possibility.

I sometimes get lost in the spinning of yarn.  There really is nothing quite like working with your own for-better-or-worse unique yarn.  Each skein was a new exploration in lace making, and the alpaca/merino/silk blend is just fantastic.


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Hello, Weftember!

The inaugural Weftember Weavers’ Open is about to begin!  Enallagma9 also known as Bug Girl threw down the thread in the Friends of Abby’s Yarns Ravelry group, and said:

Ladies and gentlemen, knitters and spinners, weavers and all those who fiddle with fiber, in just under four weeks the very first Weftember will begin! Weftember begins Saturday, September 7th (not on the 1st!), and goes through Sunday, September 29th, midnight to midnight, Rav time.

She said more but if you are a FOAY then you already knew that!  Since she posted this 22 days ago, so far FOAY has managed a good 32 pages of pre-Weftember in fine form.

We each get to pick something that stretches us as a weaver.  I picked taking a floor loom weaving Guild class that starts later this month.

Weaving sampler

Weftember has drawn weavers from every nook & cranny of the skill levels.  It’s been a rollicking first 32 pages.  The group inspired me to sit back down at the loom bench.  The end result may not be a looker but the weavers were having none of my shyness.  You can thank them for any pictures at all!

Janet Dawson’s Craftsy class is what really helped orient me, alone at home.  She talks you through & also weaves with a smaller Schacht Wolf loom.  Most of all, I love her ‘loom scavenger hunt’ for All the Ties.  With Janet’s back-to-front warping, and Peggy Osterkamp‘s sampler from Weaving for Beginners, I made out all right.

Sampler, fresh off the loom

The lines of skipped warp threads are no trick of the light.  I discovered rust to the back of the reed, and also my own sleying error.  Several deep breaths later, I advanced the warp and fetched the can of spray starch.

Weaving sampler, underbelly

Starting over with plain weave helped but not entirely.  See how the floats extend beyond that point?  I tackled this again by hanging 2 heavy stone necklaces off the back beam.  It worked!  The trouble in the reed was much more manageable after that.

FOAY is so utterly cool that they picked up on the key word “rust” immediately.  Chemists weighed in, and with discussion, I got the green flag for Plan 1 of 2.  It involved rubber gloves, a steel scrubbie, diluted CLR, and an apron.  The reed still has rust but Plan 2 of 2 is in place.  That reminds me, I need to get naval jelly & a small brass brush…

Jakima progress

Yesterday, as my brain strained under the idea of a new floor loom warp, I had an Aha! moment.  Soon the backstrap loom from String Thing was out of its basket hiding place.  I was afraid that all the learning had flown out of my head but I was able to pick up, pallashanin as it were, where I left off.

Backstrap weaving

Although I started with the loom on my bare foot, I switched over to use the back of my floor loom.  I love the mahogany swords or kaulla from Abby’s class.  The Tanka Ch’oro design is described by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez in Textile Traditions of Chinchero: A Living Heritage as being:

… formed by three pairs of threads of two colors.  This is the first design that the weaver learns.

It is a series of shells side by side.

Here I was seeing some mistakes, and learning by doing.  Soon, I was thinking more in terms of creating the design:  “two red legs; yellow heart” and “sonqopa heart.”  I remembered to drop warps first, and I didn’t saw my yllawa or string heddles when changing sheds.

My loom manipulation improved, and so did my weaving.  Backstrap weaving is so simple, and yet so far from my true grasp.

Happy Weftember