Friday, November 11, 2011

Latest Obsession: Card-Weaving

Greetings, everyone. I know I've been away for months and months, so let's see if I can quickly sum up all that's been happening.

Experimenting with Transitions
First Success

In June, I had my last day of work after a 3-year contract. After job hunting, I was pleased to find a new position to start immediately after the July 4th holiday. So yes, good news: New job. Unusual news: Really long commute. It's not actually my longest mileage commute, but it is my longest time-on-the-clock commute. I don't mind driving, but it has been a challenge to juggle the hours missing from my schedule to be productive and crafty.

In October, I was part of the organizational staff for a large camping event. For fun and relaxation, I dug out an old UnFinished-Object (UFO) to work on some lazy afternoon at the event. I didn't bring any instruction with me, just a class sampler of card-weaving, warped up on my inkle loom, dusty and ignored for two years since I had last taken a class. I could not actually figure out the solution while I was camping, but my interest was kindled, and I was *determined* to solve the puzzle when I returned home.

This red, white, and black sampler consumed my brain. I finally remembered enough from my classes, and consulted the handouts from both Bridget's and Aldgytha's classes, until I solved the riddles. Along the way, I came up with my own mnemonic phrases to keep track with turns were next in the pattern. By the time I completed the sampler, I was completely weaving without a printed pattern.

Finished first sample, fuzzy sampler on the loom

My next tasks included: Learning to understand how the stitches work, how to chart the patterns (and design new patterns), and then warp a project all on my own without any assistance.

To understand the stitches, I warped up four cards with the bulkiest, fuzzy yarn in my stash. The stitches were bold and easy to see, chart, examine, and understand. Then I stayed up late drawing by hand, drawing on the computer, charting in spreadsheets, and experimenting until I found the best way to make notes about card-weaving patterns. I also went online to find some card-weaving (tablet-weaving) software I'd seen several years ago. Turns out that Guntram's Tablet-Weaving Thingy charts patterns almost the same way I had been sketching over dinner one evening. I'm glad I went to the trouble to figure out charting methods. Now all the resources on the internet and in my library make more sense, having invented the wheel once myself, too.

Failed sampler. Nothing looks right, including one yarn needs to go entirely.
"Lessons Learned" sampler set aside, warp cut and ready to remove from the loom.
Salvaging the warp threads from the cut "lessons learned" sampler. The brown was tossed out.

Next: warping a loom from scratch. I was actually somewhat relieved to have my first failed "need to cut it off the loom" experience.

Houston, we have a problem. Those should be closed circles.
This looks promising.
Yeah, I got this. *grin*

Now I'm trying to write up my lessons learned, for my own handouts or crib notes. Several card-weavers and textile artists around me are looking forward to seeing how I solved these tricks. And I'm happily enjoying yet another way to play with string.

Want to browse all the photos? You can find them here: / Google+ / Picasa / Facebook

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pink and Purple Yarn

Just a quick note with some bulky yarn, custom order for a dollmaker.

And one of my favorite new tools to demonstrate WPI (wraps per inch).
I'm off to a Fiber Retreat weekend, put on by Griffin Dyeworks, where I'll be teaching and learning a variety of different spinning techniques. I hope to have many fantastic new photos for you when I return. Until then, enjoy these.

P.S. Here's where I purchased the sheep yarn gauge:

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Hair

Not my crafty work, but the crafty work of my dear friend Lora. I decided I wanted something fun and silly that I could do with my hair. The white "streak" in my hair is actually an illusion: I grow white hair all over my head, and Lora dyes the rest of it brunette for me. This time we did something else special:

"Business hair"
I've been growing out my short hair cut, and it was time to do the darker brunette color again. But with a single added clip, I can do this:

"Dancer Hair"
You can click the images above to see larger versions. *grin*

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Troupe Floral Clips

This week I finished up an order for floral hair clips for a Dance Troupe. (If you click the photos, you can see a larger image.)
Collection of floral hair clips for a Dance Troupe

I'm so pleased with how well my new supply of feathers worked in these clips. I'm extremely happy with -- she sells some fantastic feathers, and was a pleasure to work with from customer to merchant.

That purple feather just looks so jaunty and fun!

The wind was whipping around while I was taking photos after lunch, so shadows from the tree branches overhead kept obscuring some of my photos. But I'm fairly pleased with the final group of facinators (hair clips).

Best of all, I'm much happier with the glitter. I changed my application technique, and the glitter effect was much more subtle and consistent.

Glitter on the bright blue flower looks just right

Next up: Floral hair clips for a crafts fair. A friend of mine plans to work the event, and invited me to send some of my crafts to her table on commission.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Latest Project Updates

I've been spinning in spare time at work, but I haven't taken any new photos of this yarn yet. I'll get on that later this week.

I started the replacement tassels for Nat's dance belt, and after making tassels and attaching two of them, I took photos in the early morning sunshine yesterday.

Tassel attachment loop has button-thread core, wrapped in hand-spun bulky wool
I like the attachment, but the tops of the tassels are not fancy enough for me yet. I may go back and embroider a better wrap for each of the tassels.

Two bulky yarns used: Blue and Multi-colored.
Half the tassels are wrapped in blue, half in the multi-color yarn.
More tassel photos:

No new finished floral hair clips yet, but I've been experimenting with adding glitter to the tips of some fabric flowers. The photos are bizarre, but they give me the impression that I might work with different glue on the next round. These were dipped into a white craft glue then dipped into glitter. I'm not sure I like how solid the glitter looks. I think I'd rather see a lighter (more sparce) application.

Geranium garland: flowers removed, separated.
Then petals tipped in glue and glitter.
Besides the glitter projects (which require more patience, since the glue has to dry before I can use the flowers), I spent some time adding receipts and inventory numbers into a spreadsheet. The data will eventually help me avoid over-stocking materials, as well as charge accurately for the price of my materials and my efforts.

More glitter flower pictures:

Tonight: Off to pick up some custom feathers I ordered! *grin*

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Opportunities, New Ideas

No pictures today, just some brainstorming and thought swirling lately.

I've known for a while that Knitters and Crocheters were spending a lot of time on Ravelry, and I created an account several years ago but didn't really know how I planned to use it. In recent months as I get more and more familiar with some of the etsy crafters out there, I've started to notice mentions of various Ravelry communities, discussion boards, forums, swaps, and giveaways. Various bloggers promote their communities, and new friendships are formed. So I've dipped my toe into the waters, and plan to be more involved with the crafting community, as it exists in some of these projects, craft-alongs, and special events. I'm likely to make a few friends along the way, and if some of my networking turns into sales ideas or customers, that will be just incidental. I'm looking forward to being part of these supportive communities.

I was invited to place some of my crafts on a commission in a crafting booth at the end of May. I've got some very specific ideas of what to make for this event. This morning on my way to work, I was daydreaming about some of the components and supplies I might need. It dawned on me that I could *make* some of the components from balsa wood and/or fimo clay. I'm really excited about solving craft plans as I just sip coffee and navigate traffic.

I was also contacted about photos of some of my yarns. One friend of mine, deeply embedded in the crafting community herself, met another dollmaker who is frustrated with commercial yarns. I sent along some photo links, and I was really grateful that I'd been logging my photos each step along the way. I had quite a few to draw from, and we'll see if maybe this results in another contact or not. But for my own purposes, it was a very good thing to be able to survey my photo website, and put together a nice portfolio set of links for someone. I'm feeling very good about my progress.

Oh! Okay, maybe I was wrong -- I have a completely different progress photo that I'm proud of this morning. So you get one photo after all. Enjoy.
Apparently all my hard work is starting to show. ♥
Full image:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Making Me Cry, in the Good Way

Remember this yarn?
RED DIRT GIRL - Silk yarn
I got this feedback today:
My mom got the yarn today. She cried. She loves it. Its perfect. Said its the best Mothers day present ever. Loves that its called "red dirt girl" because I am. Reminds her of the little girl with feet stained red from hawaiian volcanic soil when I was eight, and of my roses now as her grownup girl. So your craft is also a blessing to my mommy. She says shen she looks at it, it glows.

So, huge thank you's to my dearest Flora for sharing this with me. Huge thank you's to Lynn for selling some of her stash at the Fiber Frolic. And thank you's to Enchanted Knoll Farm for the dyelot in the first place. Wow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just another Rock n Roll Artist

I had to laugh at myself this weekend, as I prepared to perform a live gig with my band. How many other singers in bands spend their days spinning yarn and creating floral hair clips, then get all gussied up to perform on stage? Here's the actual remark I posted to twitter:
@cayswann -- do laundry, clean room, make 3 floral hair clips, spin 2 skeins of yarn, apply makeup, go be a Rock Star singer in a band.
The gig went really well,  and I was just as struck by the surreal nature of performing as being artsy beforehand.

So then, to the Arts!

I'd been making so many yarns based on commissions, that I finally decided just to make a yarn because the fiber looked interesting. I bought some blended fibers on a whim on etsy, and thought the bright orange blend would be the perfect shiny and exciting yarn to lift my creative spirits.

MARIGOLD SPARKS - listed on etsy
Full set of photos start here (12 total):

In the early morning sunshine

In the mid-day sunshine
Several examples of wraps per inch
My favorite is a 3-part image of an extreme close-up photo of yarns wrapped around my new "wrap per inch" cedar tool. I really love the little wooden tool, and I had the perfect custom kumihimo cord to string it that Dayle made for me and gave me last weekend at King's Hunt.

I'm extremely thankful that I've been keeping extremely detailed records on where I purchased fiber, from whom, how much it weighed, how much it cost, etc. I was surprised when I figured the cost of materials into the finished yarn, because this orange yarn was deceptively soft and luxurious... lulling me into almost forgetting that I actually spent quite a bit on the luxury fiber before I spun the yarn. Recording keeping is going to save my sanity.

Then I assembled half a dozen commissioned small floral hair clips for a fundraiser, and one large hair clip for my store. I cannot show off the commissioned pieces yet, until their troupe store is in place. But here's the personal stock I created.

SPIRAL JOY - listed on etsy
Full set of photos start here (6 total):
Spiral Joy - such a fun hair clip

Easily the largest floral hair clip I've assembled to date, both in length and height
I've noticed that I want to buy additional feathers for my stock. My selection is far too limited. *grin*

This week I'll be working on two doll-hair yarn commissions, one personal-choice yarn (I've just passed the 50% mark on the fiber), and possibly building tassels. I need to check my home library for my tassel books. My friend Ellen has launched her henna business recently, and her booth at King's Hunt was decorated with some of her tassels. She spun and dyed the yarns (natural dyestuffs, of course), and then created the tassels. I was really inspired by the variety of tassel designs she had assembled, reminding me to do some research before working on Natalie's tassel belt (version 2.0).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Floral Hair Clip Frenzy

Little did I know that making floral hair clips could consume my entire evening, or that 2 of 3 would be purchased before finished my morning coffee.
My very first clip, and it's MINE all MINE!
But I'm excited to share a few photos of my evening.
Jean claimed this clip first, beating Lora to the punch

Claimed by Nicole
This floral clip is still available for sale, in my etsy store
The one clip that is left can be found here: Looks like I'll be making many more clips next week!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Ideas, Overflowing Inspiration

I've been spinning like a madwoman for the past several weeks, and now suddenly I have the urge to weave. The first idea bouncing around in my head is to learn the fundamentals of Backstrap Weaving. This site in particular, Backstrap Weaving by Laverne Waddington, just sends my brain into over-time with inspiration and excitement. She's truly a master of weaving, story-telling, and inspirational photography.

There was a post I read about making circular rugs from t-shirt scraps on a hula-hoop frame. Suddenly I feel like going home, cutting up all the t-shirts I'll never wear, and weaving or crocheting rag rugs. I can easily picture that turning into an investment in some good fabric dyes, to supplement the colors already found in my t-shirt stash.
Hula Hoop Rug
by Nicole Blasenak Shapiro From FamilyFun Magazine

I've also been itching to spend more evenings making floral hair clips, both to increase my own stash to wear while dancing and to sell on etsy and at dance events. And speaking of dance, I'm finally well-stocked on skirts and hip belts, so I really want to sew several pairs of pants for my costume closet. And then I want to embroidery and stitch together fancy hip belts and tassel belts.

How about you? What projects are lurking in your brain, inspiring you to get into creative production mode?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hair Clips with Flowers

I made this hair clip for Lorissa, in time for our Belly-dance Hafla a few weeks ago. She wore it to our dance class Thursday, so that I could take a nice photo.

A single hair clip with multiple flowers, using:
Fabric and paper flowers, hot glue, sewing thread, craft gem
(Zoom in on a Full-sized photo here)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bulky Goth St. Paddy's Day

Some quick photos of new yarn that I spun for myself: a Bulky yarn for a St. Patrick's day party at a Goth club with a Tribal belly dance troupe. I'll be wearing this in my hair tonight.

The yarn has been separated into two ponytail holders and will be worn in my hair tonight.
Black natural merino wool blended with bits of naturally dyed wool, dyed wool locks,
sari silk threads, and wool blends with firestar sparkle threads
Extremely bulky 2-ply yarn. Some thick/thin variation, the largest sections are almost 3/4-inch thick.

More photos:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photographing the "Red Dirt Girl" silk

At the Fiber Frolic (, a close friend decided to have a "trunk sale" to sell off some of her spinning fibers stash, rather than hoard it and never spin it. I picked up tons of great bargains from her, and started working on the silk right away.

The custom dye lot was named "Red Dirt Girl" and in honor of the artisan who did the dyeing, I've continued to call the yarn by this name. On my way to lunch, I took a few pictures of my current progress. I will post full statistics later, but this yarn already has a buyer. I suppose I'm just teasing you with beautiful yarn that you cannot purchase... but it is very pretty.

Silk, 2-ply, hand-spun on a drop-spindle, "red dirt girl" colorway

Three bumps of silk are spun and plied, last one is on the spindle
More photos here:

That's all. I just wanted to share some pretty photos with you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Tassel Belt in Action

Remember when I made a tassel belt in less than 48 hours for Nat?
Here's the performance and the belt in action:
If the embedded video doesn't play for you, go to YouTube: - Jennalah's Dance Party "Cashbah Belly" at Skinnys Restaurant January 2011: Twisted Gypsy

You'll also see why I've purchased shiny embroidery threads and shisha mirrors ( to further decorate the belt. Hers looks too plain on stage in comparision to all the other belts.
Friday I'll also be working on floral hair clips with my friend Adrienne. I'll start with some pieces I can wear myself, and see if I want to make any for my friends. Primarily I want to figure out how to make "dreads" on hair clips for dancers, but I only own 2 flower clips right now. And there's nothing like coming up with new costume accessories.

If you didn't know, I'm studying dance AND drum with all these folks. This is the dance style and the drumming that I've been working on since June 2011. I'm completely addicted. The only downside? Figuring out when I will drum versus when I will dance! *grin*

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Letting Go

For me, making yarn includes falling in love with the yarn I've made. One problem with selling my yarn: I don't get to keep the yarn! And today I let go of yarn in less than 24 hours. So I'm definitely in love with taking photos. If nothing else, I have my photos and memories of the work I've done.

First, the White/Pink order was completed:
135 yards, and the first skeins with my new tags
I created some new printed tags to label my work (yards, ounces, grams, wraps per inch, fiber type, dye type) and included my various craft website links. However, since one order could include more than one skein, I also make some smaller "skein 1 of 3, 2 of 3..." type of flags. I really like the presentation of the finished yarn: I feel so darn professional. But I suppose after spinning (and teaching and conducting demos) for more than 15 years, it is only natural to actually *feel* like a professional now that my yarn is selling for actual dollars!

Next up, this dollmaker needed some Brown with Pink:
Browns and Pink, Wool and Alpaca
This yarn was started just after midnight, finished around 3 am, and picked up / paid for before 3 pm. Wowsers. I definitely need to collect some warm and natural browns for my stash. Her next brown yarns should avoid black and/or grey fibers, and many brown fibers in my stash lean towards the grey.

Spinning for a specific tassel belt has been wrapped up:
Bulky wool from the Dread Viscountess Seelie, photographed in the setting sun

The multi-colored bulky yarn will be paired with the bulky blue indigo yarn I made earlier. But I adored the fiber so much, I couldn't just use it all up for tassels. I decided I need some "me time" spinning: Ultra thin, personal yarn.
The same multi-colored wool, now spun ultra-thin on my very first spindle ever!
I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the office yesterday. I'd grabbed a smaller spindle on the way out the door, without looking at it. Turns out I accidentally found my VERY FIRST spindle. I hadn't seen it in ages, and I think I'd even loaned it out once (and it wasn't returned for several years). I'd forgotten how much I loved that spindle, and have really been relaxing into the tactile memory of the wood. When I first learned to spin, it was as if a Bell had sounded throughout the Heavens and a voice announced, "Hi, I'm Spinning, and I will be Your Addiction For Life. Go dig coins from your car to find enough money to purchase This Very Spindle, RIGHT NOW." And obediently, I did. I dug money out of the car and scraped together just enough to go home with a permanent addiction.

Letting go of the brown and pink yarn in under 24 hours is easier, since I still have my first spindle sitting here beside me--full of promise and many miles of yarn to come.

Additional photos here:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Working by Color

Pinks and Purples

One of my customers placed an order for some yarn in White and Pink and some in Pink and Purple. To get ready to spin, two weekends ago I spent several evenings prepping the fiber. I've been dying fiber for several years, just saving it in my stash "for someday." I can hardly contain my excitement that "someday" has finally arrived!

The pinks and purples are ready now, and I took some nice photos last week.
The full collection of pinks and purples, fluffed and ready to spin

Comparing the dyed materials to some undyed white wool
I spun for one evening last week, but I haven't taken any photos yet. I'll finish the pink and white yarn this week.

Starting the Blues

I set aside the Pink order this past weekend to do some last-minute quick hand-sewing. A close friend needed to wear a tassle belt for a performance on Sunday night. After class on Friday night, I volunteered to put one together for her.
Detail from photo by Richard Lowe Jr, (c)
See the original photo here:

The top layer of shiny fabric comes from scraps I had in my stash (a dress from 15 years ago); the lining is made from scrap linen (a dress from 10 years ago); the top band is a hand-woven inkle woven piece of trim I won in a raffle (made by my friend Joe/Balthazar); and the tassles are attached with a 4-strand viking whip cord braid I've been working on since last summer.

The tassles are temporary, because they are made from primarily chenille yarns. Chenille is too fragile to hold up to the vigors of regular dancing, so this was always intended as just a "round one" version of the belt. You can see her wearing the belt here:

I had about 30 minutes before my drum class last night (which I take with/from these guys:  and so I sat down at the wheel with some indigo hand-dyed wool from my stash. The wool as been around since the Fiber Retreat in 2007. You can see the original wool drying on the fence here:
The original wool dyed at the Fiber Retreat, 2007
The original photo can be found here:

My camera was in the car, but I snapped this image with my phone.
73 yards of yarn, measured out on my warping board. Quarter under a single strand, for scale.
The white strings are helping me mark 10-yard measures of yarn. Original photo:
I set the twist last night, and I'll be making new tassles from this yarn. I'm already excited about the next wool in my stash that I plan to use and finally spin.

I love that Someday is Finally Here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


My ravelry account is also here:
I hope to see some of you over there, too.
Mom, modeling one of my scarves
-- which is also a "Finished Object" in Ravelry

Same scarf - Colors for both teams that Mom was cheering for

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Facebook Page for CaySwann Crafts

And I'm also really pleased to announce a Facebook page you can follow / fan / like...

My first commissioned bulky custom hand-spun yarn for a dollmaker