After sampling various types of blends and plies, the dog project came to a halt because there was neither a way to convey the feel of the sample yarns, nor the true look of the samples.
It turned out that I needed to make a trip to Michigan, very near where Jamie lives, and we agreed that a “face-to-face” was needed. I took my samples along and we met over lunch. Thank you Panera, Ann Arbor, MI. This was definitely a good idea, because immediately, the choice was made once Jamie could touch and see the samples.
We settled on a blend of dog and alpaca. The yarn wouldn’t be black, but we’d achieve the look she wanted because I suggested that I weave the blanket using a black wool (commercially purchased from Harrisville Designs) warp yarn. She liked that idea because it meant that she wouldn’t have to sneak around finding time to knit the afghan without her husband being tipped off too early.
I got to spinning as soon as I was back home. We settled on a 1/4 black Alpaca and 3/4 dog fiber blend. Once that decision was made, then it was easy to spin yards and yards of yarn.
Once I had enough yarn to reach my calculations, I began the process of weaving. In order to help Jamie visualize what the blanket would look like, I entered the approximate colors into a weaving program I have for my iPad,
and sent that to her. She liked it. We decided that a simple, plain weave (over, under, over, under) weave structure would be best, but because of it’s width, I’d have to weave it in “double weave”. This means that I would be weaving 2 layers of fabric at once, with an opening on one side. So that when the blanket is removed from the loom, it opens flat, and allows for fabric wider than the loom can produce in one layer.
Once the 536 threads were threaded on the loom,
the weaving, back and forth, with the dog fur, went very smoothly.
Then came the washing, because woven cloth from the loom is not finished until the fibers can settle (also known as fulling) into permanent position.
The final blanket is warm and thick and luscious.
One surprise in the end was that there was fiber left over because we didn’t need to spin the warp threads which we originally were trying to do. We wouldn’t have had enough for that, but there was quite a bit of fiber left over. So I spun that up and sent it along with the blanket. Jamie liked the idea of being able to knit something for herself with it.
This was such a big project for me, I couldn’t resist entering the blanket and some of the yarn in the Westmoreland Fair. Jamie said she didn’t need the blanket until later in the year, so…
…at the end of August, I entered the blanket in the “miscellaneous woven” class and won 1st place. It was very exciting (the yarn won 2nd place in the “novelty yarn” class). I was so proud.
Finally, I sent the blanket to Jamie in September and had to wait to hear what her husband thought. The report came back that he loved it, wept and was so glad to have it. They did say, however, that it “sheds” like the dogs, and the fur tends to collect in the same place that the dogs’ fur collected in the house. “It’s almost like having the dogs back again.” The shedding should stop soon as the shortest fibers work their way out, leaving the longer, more anchored, fibers in the yarn.
Happy ending, and such a relief. I loved working on this project and hearing about how well it was received.