Maryland Alpaca and Fleece Festival 2021

Fiber festivals are back! We drove the 45 minutes to the Howard County Fairgrounds Saturday and wasn’t disappointed.

We had gone to the festival at least once before but of course, they have all be suspended due to the pandemic. This one required masks in the buildings but not the barns.

Everyone was masked and it was pretty crowded despite the damp weather! Lots of yarn and alpaca goods. I bought a skein of hand dyed yarn and so did Matt. I bought two bags of colorful roving to maybe try with my drop spindle. We also got some knitting nancys (aka spool knitters) to try out. He’s already been practicing on one.

I also bought a 12 inch triangle pin loom. I have a three foot one I bought on Facebook Marketplace but thought it might be nice to practice on a smaller one. Continuous thread weaving does not come naturally to me! I haven’t found a person who does good videos for most pin loom projects to be honest.

We got to see quite a few alpacas, including some in costume for a children’s parade.

Project 8: Blueberry Pudding Wrap

I warped this on my Kromski 32 the same day as I warped the towels on my Cricket 15. That was kind of brutal! I liked the idea of having both ready to go at the same time but I’m not sure if I am going to do that again. The Kromski is more difficult to work on during the evenings because it takes up a lot of the living room when I’m using it. The Cricket is fine to use on the coffee table and therefore better when I want to weave while we are watching a movie or something in the evenings.

Warping both took 3-4 episodes of Queen Sugar and tied up the whole room. Good thing Matt was working because the route to the bathroom and the backyard was cut off due to the long warps.

I was reminded how much more like the Kromski than the Cricket. The Cricket size is a bonus for evening weaving and I like being able to clamp it to the coffee table when I’m warping but it feels so flimsy. The heddle wants to flop off the sides every time I touch it. It just doesn’t stay the loom the same way because it is basically the same width of the loom and sits in a open slot versus being set into a more solid heddle block. The size makes the heddle very light weight as well. I have to use rubber bands to hold the heddle steady with both but I only have problems with the heddle shifting after that with the Cricket. I also don’t like the double bars on the back, it’s harder to use the warp sticks (instead of Kraft paper) because you can’t see what you are doing as well and they sort of fall to the same place when you wind the yarn on.

Anyway, it was nice to get back to the Kromski. I really love the look of the walnut too. I wish I had walnut warp sticks. Would it be too far to stain them myself?

For this wrap I used a Caron “Skinny Cakes” cake in Blueberry Pudding which is apparently special to Michael’s. I got it there on clearance a couple months ago. It is 100% acrylic but not as springy as the Lion Mandela yarn I’ve used twice before and really cozy feeling. I used an 8 dent heddle but I almost wonder if I could have used a 5 because the yarn was pretty thick despite being DK/sport weight. I’m not sure why it is called a “skinny” cake; I looked on the site and it didn’t provide any answers. I don’t know if I’ve ever used Caron yarn before. I did find one join when I was warping on so I cut it and tied it on again.

I warped this back in August and just finished it! I think it turned out pretty well. I love how the colors turned out. I can see where I missed a few warp stings (how??) but since it’s just for me it doesn’t matter. I’m excited to warp on something new! This took a while to do when I got side tracked with my temperature blanket and it’s a bigger loom so I generally only use it during the day when my husband is working.

I did realize how important it is to center your warps, I had wanted to make the wrap slightly wider than it is but there was knot or a tangle and I ended up making it slightly narrower so there were a few more slots empty on the right side than the left and the weaving felt a little lopsided. The weaving itself was totally fine, it was just more awkward working that giant 32 inch heddle.

Project 7 Dish Towel(s)

I wanted to make something more everyday useful so I found this pattern for dish towels using a 15 inch Cricket that yields four dish towels on one warp, one after another.

It was a long warp—-155 inches— which was challenging because that is almost the length of my living room. I’m convinced no weaver lives in a small space. The amount of random junk and long tables I see so many patterns, books and blogs call for is mind boggling. Is everyone who weaves a pack rat in a giant house? I’m glad I didn’t take too much notice of this before I got started because that might have discouraged me.

I used Hobbii 8/4 cotton in Turquoise (#33) for the warp. I used almost 3 (186 yds each). Next time I will wind it into balls first, it tangled very easily no matter where I pulled from and there was a large clump of tangled yarn in the middle of the ball. It is not the brand of yarn the pattern called for but less than $1.50 a ball on sale, it seemed like a better choice for a first towel project. It is the same thickness and fiber.

I didn’t really enjoy using the yarn for the weft, just the length off the shuttle passing through would knot.

After weaving one towel length I decided to teach myself the hem stitch and pull one off the warp. I should have hemmed it in the beginning (I think that’s something people do? but the pattern I was roughly following didn’t call for it. Hem stitching the end side while on the loom went fine but when I tried to go back and hem stitch the first bit, the yarn tangled so much I ended up just knotting it into tassels. Not ideal but I was really left with a mess I didn’t even think I could even machine hem.

I hand washed it and put in the yard to dry. I am not someone who really beats down the yarn so I wanted to see if any shrinkage would help with that. It did! It really tightened up.

I retied the warp on the apron and that was oddly difficult and resulted in having to cut off a big chunk of yarn so that has derailed my plans because I have a lot less warp than I planned on. I’m going to just weave something else on it and call a day.

I have a ton of this yarn left in several colors so I need to come up with some use for it! It tangles so easily! I think it might be good for a bread bag? It is a slightly coarse weave and thicker yarn than how I prefer towels. Warping on for a shorter project would be less fraught I think.

So not a total failure-I do have one functional towel—but now I have a lot of warp to use.

Temperature Blanket Update #3: 8 Weeks

I made a little video to show my progress. It’s not washed or blocked so it’s a little bumpy but you can get an idea of the temperature fluctuations.

We were getting into the blues of the 70s but it’s been warm the last few days so the next strip will be back to some purples.

I’m sewing 14 days together and then adding the whole strip at once on top of the previous weeks. You can see the pink square on the bottom left with a safety pin in it—that’s day one. I’ve been sticking a piece of pink yarn through the first day of each new row to keep that straight too. I don’t want any mistakes!

I have a notebook too (of course!) where I track the temps and what block I am on and the over all square number.

So far it’s a manageable project! I’ve found I really prefer it when I can get it done during the day, our house is dark and the bright light makes it so much easier to see. Plus it frees up some time the evenings to do other weaving (I have two projects on the go on my Cricket and Kromski rigid heddles) or something else. When I’m tired I dawdle on the pin loom because it’s a little fiddly once you get towards the end.

Temperature Blanket Update #2: Joining

After the angst of my last post, I decided not to do a decorative crochet join with the squares. I practiced it a lot and got the hang of it but it was so long and tedious. If I was making a small blanket or wall hanging, I’d go for it but it was driving me bananas and that is not the purpose of this project!

I really wanted a project with a small, manageable daily goal. Making a square and then crocheting it perfectly into another square every day did not seem manageable.

I agonized over how else to join the squares and went with something both easy and secure. It does create a ridge on the wrong side but techniques that simply stitched them together so they laid flat did not seem strong enough for what will be a pretty heavy blanket and left gaps.

Wrong side
Right side

I set up my lounge chair on a sunny day and stitched them all together- right sides together, stitched through both loops using the tails I had left on and then pulling the yarn through the seam to secure. It only took me a couple of hours to get caught up from when it started on August 19th.

I’m doing 14 across and if my math is correct, this will leave me with a rectangular blanket and one extra square I could embroider the dates on.

I’m adding the square on to the last day’s square every day and then joining the strips once they reach two weeks. Much more manageable! I’m almost at six weeks now.

Pin Loom Temperature Blanket 1 Month Update

It’s been about a month since I started my temperature blanket. I caught up on the “back” squares and have been able to make a square a day which has been great!

Not so great is that I still haven’t been able to join the squares together. I think I am going to use this technique from this YouTube video. I wish you could see what she was doing a little more clearly but her narration was pretty solid. I made a couple of squares with spare yarn and was able to get a good join.

I had been leaving long tails because I wasn’t sure how I was going to join them but I realized I really preferred to have some sort of border between each one rather than having different day’s colors overlap. I found the above technique and decided to use charcoal colored yarn as my connecting yarn. I’m hoping for sort of a stained glass effect.

My husband was on “vacation” a couple weeks ago when I figured this out. We don’t live near a Micheal’s, maker of the yarn I’m using, and last time I made a order for in-store pick up they gave me the wrong color and made a big deal of how I would have to make another near hour round trip to swap it out. Anyway, I kept thinking we were going to do some day trips and didn’t want to tie up a day with finding a Michael’s with this yarn in stock so I ordered it online for home delivery. It said 3 day delivery and it took two full weeks! This really put me behind.

What’s worse is that we actually didn’t end up doing much of anything over his vacation so I could have taken the time and just picked up the yarn myself. Ugh. I am seriously stressed out about joining a whole month of squares together and keeping up with the daily square. There are only so many hours in the day! Maybe I should have picked something smaller for my first pin loom project? It seemed very manageable at the time and I hope it still is.

Part of what I am learning in my adventures down the pin loom/zoom loom rabbit hole is that there is a lot of talk about making the squares (aka “weavies” a term I’m not sure I like) but very little about actually doing anything with them or how to connect them. That’s why I thought the blanket would be fun. It was a manageable task each day.

I was excited when the Holiday issue of Little Looms magazine arrived and on the cover it said there would be directions on how to knit, crochet and cross stitch pin-loom squares.

I was a little disappointed by the actual article by Gabi van Tassell though, she uses crochet terms like “slip stitch” without giving any idea what that is or how to do it. I’m a recipe developer, I know how important clear directions are. Instead we get “keys” and directions like this:

Why are there no tips on how to keep the yarn underneath the fabric? She also doesn’t mention how or if you have to to line the squares up like the video by the other woman does. The pictures don’t show any squares next to each other so there is no way to know. Zoom loom squares (which are the kind pictured) have bumps and valleys that can “hook” together. Am I supposed to line them up? The video woman says its very important to line them up correctly but van Tassell doesn’t mention it at all.

The bumps have two loops. Which loop do I use? Both? At the same time or separate? Any tips on working in from the front? It’s a very counter intuitive way to join something together. What is a slip stitch? I’ve done some crocheting and never had to do a slip stitch nor it is in any of the “beginning crocheter” videos or articles I’ve read.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I bought a turtle loom from this woman and while she seems very nice, her directions on that were just as horrible. Is there such a dearth of pin loom weavers this is the best we’ve got? Maybe so? Writing directions is an art and I’m surprised these got published in this (very expensive) magazine. I hope it’s not true of all Little Looms patterns! Maybe they don’t have much staff? Or editors? I can see possibly assuming anyone getting the magazine is pretty into weaving but assuming they also know all other yarn crafts seems unreasonable.

Is every weaver a proficient crocheter? I highly doubt it. When I watch crochet videos about weaving together granny squares with a slip stitch, it’s clear it isn’t the most common method and that it is done differently than how you have to for pin loom squares. Further confusing the issue is that the US slip stitch is the same as the UK single crochet.

The magazine looks cute but between this low quality and how they argued with me when I reached out for help accessing the digital copies I paid for, I’m not thinking they are the most critical thinkers there. They kept saying I didn’t know how to log in and was the problem when later it was clear the app was just having technical difficulties that were resolved. Maybe I just need to become very good at weaving and take over the industry.

So one month in I’m stressed and cranky. Hopefully I can zoom through some joining and get back on track. My husband keeps saying it’s all pressure I’m putting on myself but I planned the project so it would be very manageable and leave me plenty of time to do other things. Now I’m way behind and have to hustle to catch up through no fault of my own. If I get too far behind I know I will just not catch up and will have wasted a lot of time, effort and money.

Maryland State Fair Winner!

I mentioned I was planning to enter a scarf into the Maryland State Fair. Well, I did and won third place! I’m excited because I had only been weaving for two months when I made that scarf and dropped it off. The first place winner had a much more elaborate entry. I thought I had entered under “new adult weaver with less than one year experience” but the prize was under the “first time fair entrant” category instead. That might be why the first place winner was so fancy!

Oddly, they don’t notify you when you win or even give you discounted passes to go to the Fair. The prizes are just the ribbons and a $6 check. My husband had a vacation day so we went when it opened to avoid the crowds. It was fun seeing it on display and seeing that I won!

The Maryland State Fair is weirdly small for a state that has a lot of farm land. It’s basically one small Home Arts building, some cows, goats, sheep and pigs and that’s it. We went to the Kentucky Fair a few years ago and had chickens, rabbits, pigeons, lots of exhibits and a huge home arts section. Ours is more like a county fair and expensive—$10 to park and $10 entry per person.

Anyway! It was nice to win! I don’t know if I might enter again because both the fair and the contest are so anticlimactic but I might. It’s a fun thing to be able to say I did.

Temperature Blanket

My husband bought me a Zoom Loom (4×4 inch pin loom) for my birthday. I think I got the hang of it on the beach yesterday and of course, ended up at Michael’s on my way home to buy yarn to make a Temperature Blanket with it.

I had seen people crocheting or knitting these blankets—the idea is that you stitch one row every day reflecting the temperature—but not weaving. With good reason—I don’t have a frame loom big enough for 365 rows nor do I want to tie one up for that long. It would work on a rigid heddle but again, it would be tying up the loom for a whole year. But why not a pin loom? I’ve made quilts before so piecing together little 4×4 squares sounds reasonable.

I’m going to have the first block be my birthday (August 19th) because I don’t want to wait until January and it was less than two weeks ago so it will be easy to catch up.

I love color so I decided to have yarn for every five degrees which I think will be more my style than bigger groupings. I saw a woman on Tiktok that did like 30° ranges! Why? Half her blanket was the same. I think having shorter ranges will end up using about the same amount of yarn.

I used the slightly annoying and tedious Temperature Blanket tool (I suggest you add all the extra rows you need before inputting any data) to look up the highs and lows of each day from August 19, 2020 to August 19, 2021 to get an idea of what amount of yarn to get. A 4×4 pin loom uses a little under 8 yards but I rounded it up to 10 to account for mistakes and any variations.

I ended up with 3 skeins of yarn for the most popular temperature ranges, 2 for some ranges that were right on the edge (some ranges had about 25 days in them and that was the upper end of what I could get from one 280 yard skein) and just one for the very highest and some of the lowest temperatures. For some of the ranges I did get a coordinating variegated yarn just for fun. The yardage on those were only 183 so I had to get extra of one just to be safe.

I’m using Impeccable acrylic yarn (I think it’s Michael’s brand) because I wanted something easily washed, easy to find and didn’t have the dye lot issues natural yarns would have. It is advertised as a blanket yarn so it should be fine. With a coupon it ended up being under $3/skein for most of the yarns. The variegated was the same price for about 3/4 as much. I saw some people who used it with pin looms to make baby blankets so hopefully it will be fine.

I don’t have a huge table inside that ready accessible so I took all the yarn outside and figured out the order.

Of course there will be some intermingling but I wanted to make sure the colors that would most likely be together looked okay together. I went with what color felt like the temperature to me without fixating on “blue for cold, red for warm”. I wish I had some green in there but I didn’t end up liking any of them when I was at the store. I wanted to stick to one brand for continuity.

I did get some orange, yellow and a bright variegated I didn’t end up loving with the the other colors so I’ll have to find another use for them.

I used post-it notes and pinned them to each color. I then wound the most commonly used colors for right now into cakes and refastened the post-its to the cakes.

I used the site Time and Date to see what the high (and low) was each day. I’m only using the high. I saw some people using the high and low twisted together or using the average but using the high felt right. That’s the temperature I notice most often since it happens during the day when I’m awake! I am tracking the lows just in case I needed it for some reason.

I have a note book set up to track the temperature and I created a little reference board of all the yarn for a quick reference.

I’m not sure how I am going to stitch them together yet so I’m leaving long tails.

Project 6: Purple Plaid Scarf

My second attempt at making something quick for the State Fair. The deadline is soon so a scarf seemed like the logical choice.

I had problems with the warp on the Cricket creeping off the warping sticks last project so I was extra careful when warping the colors on. The warping were made especially for the Cricket 15 inch by a super nice and fast shipping woodworker on Etsy but I think they are just a tad short. My Kromski ones are almost exactly the same length as the back beam so it’s different. It’s fine but now I know, I will be more careful. The second back beam still puzzles me since the Kromski works just fine without it. It just seems cumbersome to me. This time I used rubber bands to help keep the heddle and warp stick steady and that seemed to help too.

For this one I used cones of Brown Sheep worsted weight Nature Spun wool in Magenta, Amethyst and Alpine violet. I did alternating stripes of 8 wraps around the warping peg (so 16 ends) twice yielding six wide vertical stripes. Doing multiple colors in the warp looks impressive but is so easy! I used a little clicker counter from Clover to keep track. It really amazes me how much of weaving is just tying a knot (to switch colors in your warp or tucking an end into the next row (to change weft colors).

After all that careful warping on, I tripped carrying the loom to where I was actually going to weave and the heddle flew out so I had to loop the yarn through both the slot and the hole rather than just the hole (why isn’t it called the eye, like on a needle?) which was a pain. But it seemed to work just fine.

Then I wove the weft in passes (rows) of 18 for Magenta, Amethyst and 8 in Magenta to make plaid.

No major problems with this at all! It was tedious counting the rows even with a counter and I wonder if I should have put the medium colored strip in the middle of the wider light one but I think it looks great as-is. There were times when the weaving looked like it was at an angle and I don’t know how that happened but the pattern on the finished product is straight. I guess it was winding unevenly?

I hand washed it with hand soap in the sink and let it to dry on a towel on our picnic table.

It was almost 100° so it dried really quickly.

I cut off all the spots where I joined the yarn. I’m really happy with how it turned out! I’m wondering if I should iron it because it is a little wrinkled.

Getting Started: Handy Supplies

When I started weaving I didn’t realized how many little extras you needed beyond the loom and some yarn. I guess this will be a running list but so far I’ve found I needed:

  • Kraft paper or warping sticks slightly smaller than the size of your loom’s weaving length. Easy to find online from Amazon, Etsy stores or the Woolery. I used this 30 inch craft paper for my 32 inch Kromski Warp Forte but vastly prefer the Kromski warping sticks.
  • Weights for weighing down broken warps. I made one using a small plastic cube and some coins but Ashford sells some that are weights attached to a hook that look promising.
  • T-pins. Easy to find on Amazon or any craft or sewing store. Used to secure a new warp after a breakage in the fabric.
  • Extra shuttles the size of your loom. Makes using multiple weft colors easier. If you have a large loom, smaller ones for smaller projects are ideal.
  • A stand for any loom over around 24 inches.
  • Something to weight down your loom/stand when indirect warping. A bag of yarn and some small Kettlebells worked but you need something or it wants to move.
  • A table wider than your loom with a “lip” large enough to clamp your loom to if you don’t have a stand. A surprising number of our tables do not meet this requirement.
  • A second small table or even a chair to attach the peg to for indirect warping. It needs to have a wide enough edge that you can clamp a peg onto it. Tables without much of a “lip” do not work.
  • Cones of yarn. Not 100% necessary but they do generally work out cheaper than buying even the same yarn in smaller quantities. You Warping takes a lot of yarn. I’ve had good luck finding them on clearance and even at our local SCRAP, a thrift store for craft supplies that’s in several cities. You can use pretty much any yarn for weft but warps need strong yarn which often means pricier wool, cotton and linen.
  • Knitting or other counter. I use a very basic one from Clover. It’s great for keeping track of how much of each color you are using in your warp or weft.
  • Thick rubber bands to connect your heddle to where you are trying the yarn on when indirect warping. I use these.