Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Those Mischievous Memes

I was a little dubious when I got a message stating that I was sent a “meme” and had been tagged. First of all, I wasn’t entirely sure what a meme tag was and secondly, I read a lot of science fiction and sometimes memes can be mischievous. I did a little research before responding. I will admit to treating it a bit like a bomb squad with an unknown package! The wonderful part is that it is not harmful and I found a delightful new-to-me website and blog to read. Thanks Shannon!
So what was I to do now that I have been “tagged?” I was to go to the sixth folder and the share the sixth picture in my files. The picture above is the sixth picture in the sixth folder. My folder was the album that contains pictures I take, usually from nature, that inspire me in whatever way. This mushroom blossomed on one of our trees on our property. I was enchanted with the delicate structure and color of it. I took several pictures. I have no idea exactly what kind of mushroom it is, some kind of shelf mushroom perhaps. I will have to see if I can find out.
As I mentioned in the last post, my Jane loom is due to be delivered today but we are buried under 20 inches of snow down a long country gravel road. We had to dig our way out today to get to the store and it was challenging even with a four wheel drive vehicle. With all the airport closures and snowy, icy roads I am not exactly holding my breath for a delivery today.
In the meantime, I think I will have another cup of tea. Check out Shannon’s website at Sunrise Lodge Fiber Studio and be sure to click on her blog.
I hope to post exciting news next time! -Renee

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowed In!

Oh my, so much of the continental U.S. is being hit with winter weather. We have been pretty much snowed in for a week. At the moment it is snowing again and we have about 2 feet. It is a bit unusual for our area to have so much snow for so long. Usually it goes away within a day or two.
It isn't hard to keep busy in the meantime. I have been dismantling my 60" wide AVL loom. It is a bit bittersweet to take it down. At this time I don't know when and where it will be reassembled. I am not completely bereft. My new Jane loom is due to arrive on Tuesday! I am excited about that and a little anxious. I am not sure how the delivery truck will make it through two feet of snow a mile back on a gravel road. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will work out. So far the weather hasn't been too promising.
We are fortunate, we haven't lost power and we have plenty of food and things to amuse us. Our house is heated by wood so we are nice and cozy warm, even when the thermometer reads zero degrees and there is a wind chill.
I will be posting with pictures when the Jane loom arrives. Can't wait to try it out! -Renee

Saturday, November 15, 2008

You Tube Waulking Link

I just checked out one of the videos on You Tube. Click here to get a nice peek at what the waulking looks like! -Renee

Friday, November 14, 2008

Waulking the Wool with Slighe nan Gaidheal

I made a journey up to Bellingham the other night to visit the Whatcom Weavers Guild. They had some very special guests that evening. A year or two ago I joined a very wonderful group in Seattle to learn Scott's Gaelic, the Slighe nan Gaidheal. I will take a stab at spelling out the pronunciation here with apologies for any inaccuracies, schleeah nawn gall. They came up to talk about waulking wool as well as having us do an actual waulking of the wool. If you would like more information about Slighe nan Gaideal click on the link slighe.com.
So, for those who do not know what waulking is here is my explanation; Waulking is a traditional method of fulling or shrinking woven wool cloth by pounding so that it is weather-tight and warm. As the process is labor intensive, people came together to pound and full the wool. In Scotland, the waulking was accompanied by songs and traditions to make the work go easier. Originally, the wool was soaked in stale urine to set the vegetable dyes that were used. Not a pleasant smelling process but since your very life would depend on the good wool fabric, one did what was needed! We used water on the wool fabric that Nancy, a Whatcom weaver had woven for the waulking. The lengthwise ends of the fabric were sewn together to form a long tube and we gathered around the table with the fabric in a circle as shown in the photo at the top left.
The Slighe members kindly gave us a demonstration of the pounding method and started us off singing Gaelic waulking songs. It is very challenging to capture the rhythym and movement in still photos. If you are interested go to youtube.com and enter "waulking" into the search box and there will be several videos that pop up. I haven't had a chance to check them out yet but you will probably be able to see and hear what is depicted here.
The singing and pounding went on for five songs or so and the fabric was lifted, pounded down on the table, lifted and passed clockwise, boom, boom BOOM...boom, boom, BOOM. Now, bear in mind I was busy taking pictures so I might not be giving the rhythm quite right and I lost track of the number of songs.
I was even persuaded to put the camera down and join in. The energy is wonderful. Here you see Nancy, the weaver of the fabric, at the top center of the picture.
After each song a person uses their knuckles end to end to measure the progress. We started with a width of 31 knuckles and ended with 26. The fabric shrunk roughly 5 to 6 inches in the width!
When the fabric is finished it is ceremoniously patted and wound on a board to dry with a special ending song. The finished fabric looked absolutely beautiful. What a huge difference the waulking makes. We didn't waulk the fabric until it was weather-tight but it was nicely fulled.
It was a very interesting and fun meeting. It is always wonderful to connect to the traditions that have shaped our art. A big thanks to Nancy, the Whatcom Weavers Guild, and Slighe nan Gaidheal for a terrific cultural evening.
I know my explanation about waulking here was very sketchy. I wanted to get the pictures in and a bit of the feel of the evening. I may have to do another post with a bit of the historical and cultural background to fill it out. In the meantime, check out the links listed above! -Renee
An additional note, I need to figure out how to post several pictures and get the words to go around them properly. Sorry for the odd spacing.-R

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spinning a Warp

Oh boy! I had another wonderful spinning class with Judith MacKenzie McCuin. Actually it was two days in the countryside east of Bellingham, Washington. As you can see from the pictures we had spinning wheels and fiber galore. The first day was a comprehensive spinning class. I always learn something new even though I have been spinning for about eleven years. Spinning, weaving, knitting, like so many things in life all have a life long learning curve. Judith always brings a lot of fiber. Not just quantities, but varieties as well. There were fleeces to look at and discuss. We spun Shetland and Ramboulett blend wool, rabbit and wool blend, Bison, baby Alpaca, merino wools, bamboo, silk and linen blend, and mohair locks. We spun woolen, semi-woolen, worsted, and semi-worsted yarns.
The second day took all of that and expanded it to focus on spinning yarns specifically for weaving and even more specifically, for using as warp.

I have never used my handspun in a warp even though, as Judith says, there is about 7000 years of history to back it up. I was surprised how little it takes to make a scarf. I have decided that the first warp I put on my new Jane loom will be the yarns I made from this class. I will have to wait a bit to put all the knowledge I gained to work, but I am spinning the fiber we were given in class in the meantime. I must say I am enjoying myself tremendously!
It is always satisfying to be able to take a day or two or three and concentrate on building my skills in the fiber arts. It is always tremendous fun to meet other spinners and weavers both new friends and old. One of the things I love about spinning in a group is the chance to chat while the rhythmic hum of the spinning wheel relaxes you into a lovely state. I actually think we learn better under such conditions. I wouldn't be surprised if they ever do a study that it would prove true. As you can see from the picture it is a wonderful activity for both women and men. I know children take to it quite well too.
Things are a bit slow at the moment on the fiber art front for me. Being in limbo is a challenging state to be in. I don't have to tell everyone how the economy and housing market is around here since it is nigh universal. We hang on and know we will get where we want to go... eventually.
The weather is stormy which make for pleasant times spinning and weaving, and perhaps for me, sewing. I have a use for that shibori woven fabric that I need to work on.
I will be posting on my progress with that as well a some of the fun spinning yarns from class.
A special thanks to Nancy for hosting us all at her farm. It is a pleasant place to spin.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Drop Spindling at the Bellingham Spin-In

I have a bit of catching up to do. Last weekend we took an opportunity to have a change of scenery and went to visit young relatives in Portland, Oregon. I brought along my drop spindle and actually had a chance to zone out on a cold blustery day and spin a little. The fiber is a bit of combed silk top I had which I stuffed into the dye leftover from dyeing the sample of woven shibori. I didn't stir it or anything and so I got a lovely uneven dye which is spinning into a beautiful variegated or marled yarn.
This leads me into the Bellingham Spin-In which I attended yesterday. The featured speaker was Celia Quinn. Here is the blurb on Celia since I really couldn't state it better:
"Celia Quinn, popular spinning instructor, workshop leader and well-known contributor to
Spin Off magazine, will present a program about supported and suspended spindles.
Based on historian and author Bette Hochberg’s slide archives and lecture notes, Ms.
Quinn will share the fascinating history and provenance of spindles from around the
world. In addition to learning the history of spindles, spindle use and techniques will be
discussed and demonstrated."
Her program on drop, or suspended, and supported spindles and distaffs was very interesting. I haven't had much opportunity to attend programs on drop spindling. Like the rest of my spinning and weaving, I taught myself how to use the drop spindle. I enjoy using it, in fact I have three spindles, but must admit that spinning with a wheel goes much faster. Below is a quick picture I took of a few of the spindles and distaffs that Celia brought to share and demonstrate. I quick note here, my spindle pictured above is a Bosworth spindle made from an exotic South African wood. I bought it at the Whidbey Spin-In and detailed that in an earlier post. It is lovely to spin with and it just hums.
The Bellingham Spin-In is fairly new. This was their second year. I will say here that they did an excellent job. The venue is comfortable and the programs have been excellent so far. It would be wonderful to see more people there though. I also won a nice doorprize of a hank of painted wool roving. I will have more on that in a future post. The Spin-In is put on by the Spin Drifters, a fiber group that belongs to NWRSA, which stands for the Northwest Regional Spinners Association. Click on the blue letters if you wish to find out more.
In addition to the spindles, distaffs, and excellent slide show, Celia brought a few textiles she has made using a spindle. To say they were stunning is an understatement.

The picture on the left is a detail of a camisole that was constructed using fine silk singles and filet crochet. It was very fine and soft, like cobwebs.
What I mainly took away from Celia's presentation is the idea of using a hand-held distaff with my drop spindle. At this time I usually wrap the fiber around my wrist. Convenient, until it falls off and gets twisted up with my drop spindle! I got a few ideas for constructing my own distaff. I also was impressed anew with our ancestresses who constantly spun with their spindles out of a grueling need to clothe themselves and their families.
With perhaps a few exceptions in certain parts of the world, we no longer have that need so spindling is done for our own enjoyment. The reminder that Celia gave to us makes me look at my drop spindle with new respect and gratitude. Such a humble tool spanning from a simple rock and stick to spindles made of glass and precious metals and stones. Such a powerful tool, one of the reasons why we no longer wear animal skins for clothing and I am able to blog on this computer (it is all connected you know!).
If you have a drop, suspended, or supported spindle tucked away in a drawer somewhere, pull it out again and give it a whirl. If you have never spun on one and are interested, find a local spinning and weaving guild or group and find someone who will teach you. It is an awesome way to connect to our past.
Off to spin a bit more, -Renee

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Woven Shibori Fabric-Final

Last post I put up a picture of a view of where we live. We hiked back up there to take these pictures. First, let me explain where these are taken. Many folks have heard of the glass artist Dale Chihuly. He co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School which is located a few miles from us in the midst of the Pilchuck tree farm. The glass school built a monument on one of the hills above the school and this is where we often hike to. There are polished stone seats looking out at the view that I took the picture of in the previous post.
I thought it would make a lovely backdrop for the fabric. The weather turned on us on the hike up becoming cold and cloudy. So, here is the fabric! Instead of immersing the fabric in one solid dye as I did the sample, I decided to paint, or in this case squirt, the dye on. I must confess I forgot to add the vinegar so I ended up spraying on vinegar after I squirted the dye on. I wasn't sure it would work.

I then rolled the dyed fabric up in plastic wrap and steamed it. To my great relief, it worked! I dyed the gathered fabric first in black. I then opened up the fabric and then proceded with the dyeing as mentioned above. I used three colors in the second round of dyeing, blue, yellow, and a warm red. I knew I wanted greens and purples and that played a key role in my color choice.
I am working on this post from a cafe and realized I forgot to pack the statistics on the cloth. I will have to edit this post when I get a chance. I will put the final width and length in this spot.

I am including a close up of the fabric here as well as the texture and play of color is interesting.
As I mentioned before, this is the last batch of weaving that will be coming off my AVL loom for a while. I really enjoyed the woven shibori and it is something that I plan to come back to. In the meantime, I am going to work on tapestry weaving and spinning. I haven't decided what to use the shibori fabric for but I have a few ideas. I plan to attend the Skagit Valley Weavers guild meeting tomorrow evening and should have something interesting to post from that.
Hope everyone is settling into the fall weather and getting the fiber out to work on. -Renee

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blogs to Enjoy

While I am waiting to do the final finishing on my woven shibori fabric, I thought I would take the opportunity to mention a few blogs that I enjoy visiting when I have the chance. The first one is Peg in South Carolina's blog. Peg often leaves comments. I love to check out what other weavers in different parts of the country and world are doing. We all have different influences and points of view shaped in part by where we live. Peg's blog is www.talkingaboutweaving.blogspot.com. She likes to weave crackle and creates lovely fabrics.
The second blog of note is by Karen Madigan in Australia. Her blog has tutorials, video, and a tremendous amount of information. I find her site very inspiring not only for weaving and textile information but on blogging about it all too. Check out her site at curiousweaver.id.au.
I recently found a delightful blog by a male weaver to provide another perspective. Check out Larry's blog at www.sleepingdogstudios.blogspot.com.
The final weaving blog for this post is Linda's Fiber Weblog at www.jasmineweaver.blogspot.com. Not only is Linda a weaver and fiber artist, but she teaches too. Her blog has a lot of interesting technical information.
My final overall link is not a weaving blog or website. It is not my intent to post my political views on this blog although a few links creep in on my personal link list. I feel at the moment that this one is important for all of us U.S. voting citizens. This website is non-partisan. It is an independent site that checks the truth or untruths behind the presidential candidate's campaigns. You can find the site at www. factcheck.org.
I will have the shibori fabric posted soon. It has been dyed and awaits a final press and photos. It was tremedously fun to weave.
I am adding this picture after my initial post. This is a view of where we live. In fact, if you know where to look, you can see my neighborhood. We have been hiking and mountain biking in the hills behind our house several times a week. This was a bit of a moody day and you can't see the Olympic Mountains. You can see the Skagit river delta, Puget Sound, and the San Juan Islands. The picture doesn't do this breathtakingly beautiful area justice. I don't like posting without a picture so I decided to add this one. Enjoy!

I'll be back soon! -Renee

Saturday, September 27, 2008

An Old Loom and a New Loom

Well, the final yard on my AVL loom at our current house has been woven and it is time to take it down in the hopes that we will be moving soon. Here is the loom on the left with the last warp that was finished soon after the picture was taken. I have a 8 harness AVL modular loom. That means it grows up to be a 16 or 24 harness compu-dobby production loom if I wish to put the money into it. The loom is 60 inches wide as I love to weave fabric. I have a single box flyshuttle beater. It is bottom mounted. I would choose the overhead if I did it again. I have enjoyed this loom tremendously. I am a bit different from many weavers in that I bought the loom before I had learned to weave. I taught myself to weave on this loom.
Peg in South Carolina asked in a comment what it was I had dismantled that would stop me from putting it back together to do another warp. I warp my loom sectionally. To do that I use a spool rack to arrange the warp to run it through the tension box. If you are not familiar with sectional warping bear with me. I am not going to go into it here (unless someone asks!) but I do need the spool rack to warp it properly. I suppose I could improvise but it would be a challenge that I don't want to tackle at this time. I had already dismantled and re-mantled the spool rack when I packed up the majority of the studio. When the first buyers backed out of the house sale I decided to keep weaving for a bit longer. I realized when I saw the (now two time) dismantled spool rack, that I really need to start moving on even though the house still hasn't sold.
I have plenty to do with spinning and tapestry weaving and other fiber arts.
All this time I have had this big loom but never a table loom. I always borrowed one from the guild to take to workshops. This has its drawbacks. We will be living in a small trailer for a while and I still want to weave. When Jane Stafford gave her workshop she gave us a heads up on a redesigned table loom that was coming out. I liked what she described so I pre-ordered one from her. It is none other than the new Jane loom (named for guess who?) from Louet that will be available in December.

Here it is! Notice how small it folds up. Just right for a trailer. It also has 8 harness so I can keep learning and weaving. I am getting the smaller width.
I will of course be reporting on it when I get it and it is up and running.
In the meantime, I will be processing the length of woven shibori cloth and, or course, taking down my AVL loom after a long deep breath.
I definitely have mixed feelings but will look forward to when I can put it back together in a new studio in a new town.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Woven Shibori Sample

Well darn, the pictures for the sample don't even come close to the beauty of the fabric. I will have to try again. I do want to share the results of my sample though. On the left is the first sample. It is woven from a fine merino wool yarn called Pony by Henry's Attic Yarns. I sett the yarn at 16 epi* after doing a wrap to give me a starting point. I have 5.5 yards on the loom, 20 inches wide. The warp is threaded in a point twill, and is woven with a plain weave ground and an 8-harness random twill tie up!
I wove four picks of plain weave and then a pick of the gathering thread using the twill for most of the sample. The top bit after the darker section was woven with eight picks of plain weave between each gathering thread. I really like this the best. I gathered the threads as tight as I could. The gathered fabric looked like this:
The black blot is our cat Nyx whose curiosity has whittled down her nine lives considerably. After gathering the threads, I dyed the sample in Greener Shades midnight black. As I mentioned before, Greener Shades is a non-toxic acid dye. When the sample had been dyed and processed, I carefully cut one side of the gathered thread knots and pulled out the threads. The fabric has a bit of texture from the shibori process. After it dried, I gave it a rinse and then overdyed it in River Blue, again from Greener Shades.

I must say that this picture is worse than I thought it was but, as this is a sample, you get the idea. The sample is so lovely in real life, I want to use it to make something. The finished sample is about 16"x 10.5". I lost 2" in the width and 2" in the length from the off-loom measurements.
I learned two main things from the sampling. The first is that the 16 epi sett is too wide. I changed it to 18 epi. I also found, as I mentioned above, that I really liked the 8 pick spacing between the gathering threads. I did another quick mini sample (no dyeing) with the new sett to check it and to make sure I could still gather the fabric easily and the loom is all set to go. The merino yarn is lovely soft and takes the dye beautifully. I used blue on the sample just to get an idea but I am thinking I want to use a two or more colors in the second dye step and "paint" them on.
The house selling grinds on but it does allow a bit of time for weaving. I will see if I can get a better picture of the sample.
A final note, I was so enchanted with the results from the sample that I was thinking perhaps I would do "one more warp". I then realized that I had dismantled some of my warping equipment which reminded me that, alas, the current warp will have to be the final one in this house. Perhaps it is for the best.
I can't wait to see what the final fabric will look like. I am sure I will have a story so stay tuned. -Renee
*see glossary

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Must have books

I was planning to post a review of the book on the left, Intertwined, but Spin-Off magazine beat me to it! On page 14 of the Fall 2008 issue there is a review by Patsy Zawistoski. The only thing I would add is that the author, Lexi Boeger, has a wonderful section on creativity that I found spot on. I also love her first book, Handspun Revolution, which I have. I haven't purchased Intertwined yet but it is on the top three of my wish list. I checked it out from my local library to get a good look at it.
Since I am not reviewing, I decided to just list the books that I want to get for myself and to bring them to everyone's attention. Check oout Lexi's website, Pluckyfluff, in my Fiber Links list.

The other spinning book on my wish list is The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin and is about to be released. I have been fortunate to have had a workshop and attend programs presented by Judith. If you heard the episode on spinning for weaving on Syne's podcast Weavecast, Judith is as calm and laid back as she sounds, exactly what is needed in a weaving/spinning teacher. Her knowledge of fiber, spinning, and weaving is vast. I am thrilled that she has published another book. I will be getting a copy of this one as soon as possible.

The third book on my list is for the tapestry weavers or wanna-be tapestry weavers like me. It is the Tapestry Handbook: The Next Generation by Carol K. Russel. I have the first, out of print, tapestry book by this author and it is excellent. I use it as my first go-to reference book for tapestry.
My big loom is warped up and the weaving has started. As soon as I get the sample off the loom and processed, I will make a post on it. This is the last warp on this loom before I dismantle it. I won't be entirely loomless. I will be doing some tapestry weaving on my copper pipe loom and in December, will be taking delivery on a new table loom. New to me and new to the market. I will be posting about that when it comes. I have never had a table loom in all the years I have been weaving. I usually borrow a table loom for guild workshops. Not always a happy solution!
I still have some interesting fiber blogs to post about and will get busy on that too.
Stay tuned for the shibori weaving sample. -Renee

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Finished Fabric

I have finished weaving the warp I put on the loom. Here is a picture of the warp on the loom from the previous post. Now, if you have been reading this blog for a while you will remember that I am not fond of pale, tepid, colors in general. The "fern" color of this yarn is a gray-green color. I decided before I even put the warp on the loom that I was going to overdye it. I had ordered some new dye called Greener Shades from Still River Mills. I saw the ad in Handwoven Magazine. Greener Shades says it is "a non-hazardous, non-chrome dye for use on silk, wool, nylon, or any animal fiber." I thought I would try it out on this project. I decided to use the warm red called "Flame Red" and overdye it at 1% WOG*, predicting that I would get a lovely rich rust color.
As you can see, that is exactly what I got! I am quite pleased. For those folks who may be new dyers, I used red knowing that red and green are compliments on one another and will produce brown. The green was so pale I predicted that the red would dominate and give me more of a rust than a brown. I used the warm red since I like warm colors. The "ruby red" dye is a cool red and would give me yet a different effect. I fulled the fabric a bit during the dye process. The result is a lovely textured light fabric. The "breaks" in the weave give a slight lacy effect.
Here is a shot of the fabric draped over a rail. The mottling is due to being able to see a bit of the background scenery through the fabric.
Overall, I am quite happy with the results. I started out with a different purpose in mind but decided to go where the fabric took me. I must say at this point that, although the dye was easy to use like many acid dyes, I really didn't like the smell. I still prefer Earthues dye extracts.
So, I have one more warp that I am putting on the loom at this moment. After it is woven, I will be taking the loom down and putting it in storage in preparation for our move. The warp is a wool yarn called Pony from Henry's Attic Yarns. It is undyed and has 3470 yards per pound. I have 5.5 yards going on at 20" wide and sett at 16 epi*.
I am going to make my first attempt at woven shibori. I have Catherine Ellis' book. I was inspired by the woven shibori I saw at the end of the year meeting for the Skagit Valley Weavers Guild.
I will be posting a book review and more blog links very soon so keep checking back! -Renee
*see glossary
P.S. Tina, if you are reading this, it was so great to hear from you! I have asked Janice for your e-mail. Be in touch soon! -Renee

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sampling on the Loom

Well, the warp is on the loom and I wove enough to cut off for a sample. To the left is a picture of the warp on the loom. The camera distorts the fabric a bit but you can see the weave structure here. Beating the weft in has been a bit of a challenge. That is, it is a challenge to keep the beat nice and even. The weight of the beater alone packs the weft in too much. I have to control the beater very carefully to "waft" it in. That said, it is a pleasure to weave.
I have mentioned Weavecast on my blog before. I was listening to Episode 26: Sew Your Weaving with Daryl Lancaster when I heard her describe how she processes her samples. It made sense to me so I did the same thing. She cuts the samples into three pieces and sets aside one as the unwashed sample straight off the loom. The second sample she lightly washes and the third sample she tosses in the washer and dryer. This gives a good look at both ends of the spectrum. I did exactly that as the following pictures show.
The above picture shows sample 1 on the left. This is straight off the loom. As the threads relax off the loom you can start to see the texture of the weave. The sample on the right has been gently patted in soapy lukewarm water, rinsed the same way, and then rolled in a towel and air dried.
The picture on the left shows sample 2, the lightly washed one next to sample 3 the heavily processed one. Sample three is extremely fulled but if you hold it up to the light, you can still see the wonderful weave structure.
Now, what do you do with all this info? I sampled to determine the correct sett for the final fabric. I originally wanted to weave a fabric for a light jacket. The 30 epi sett would be a little too wide so I would go down to 26 epi (and sample again) for a slightly denser fabric. However, one of the aspects of weaving that I love is the journey. I loved the look of the lightly washed sample. It is a light and warm fabric with a lovely drape and texture. So, I am going to keep the warp sett at 30 epi. I will full it just a bit more than sample 2 but not to the extreme of sample 3. I am not sure what I will do with the fabric but I will let it tell me what it wants to be used for.
So now I will just continue to weave at 30 epi. I will post about the finished fabric when it is off the loom and processed.
In the meantime, we continue to fine tune and maintain the house in between watching the Olympics. So far we have had no lookers for the house. Perhaps they are enjoying summer.
Tomorrow I will host the spinning group from the Skagit Weavers Guild at our house. It will be wonderful to catch up with friends.
Hope summer is going well for everyone out there! -Renee

Monday, August 11, 2008

FiberArts Magazine

I couldn't resist picking up the September/October issue of FiberArts magazine. My eye was caught by the banner on the front cover that read "Plush Art: toys for grown-ups. The article begins on page 40 and is titled Crammed Organisms. I found the article so much fun I checked out the websites listed and have posted a banner on the sidebar of the blog. Here is what it looks like:
Crammed Organisms - World's Largest Plush Show! Plush, Stuffed Animals, Plushies, Softies

I think it would be totally fun to create my own plush toys from handwoven scraps, in fact, I plan to! If anyone else decides to do so I would be happy to post a picture of it on the blog too. Check out the Crammed Organisms website!
In the meantime, I have a new project going on the loom.
The yarn is the 24/2 Zephyr in a color called "fern". It is a greyish green. I picked the cone up at one of those weaver's sales for a dollar or two. Zephyr is 50/50 wool and silk. As I have so much going on I decided to weave four yards using draft #47 out of A Weavers Book of 8 Shaft Patterns. I have used this draft before and liked the fabric I got with it.
In the future I will be getting back to creating my own drafts but with all that is going on I didn't want to have to fuss with it. If I end up with enough fabric I will make a light weight jacket out of it. We shall see what I end up with.
I am just about finished threading the warp which is sett at 30 e.p.i. and is threaded in a straight draw pattern. I do plan to sample this warp to see if I need to adjust the sett. So, how did I determine this one? Zephyr is one of those yarns that pop up on yarn sett charts and is well known. I used the sett listed on one of the charts.
For some reason the second comment on the previous post did not get published until this evening. My apologies for the technical glitch.
The comment mentioned that I could also just take half of the number of wraps that were crammed together. Well, yes and no! It is a good point but I must confess I just got lucky on the number of wraps that I had crammed together and I wasn't too precise on that one. In addition, if I were to use a different width of yarn for my weft, I would need to leave a space wide enough for that in my wrapping. The structure of the weave would also need to be accounted for. Those aren't addressed when the wrapping is all crammed together. Like I said, it is one of many methods and is a starting point. Sampling (yep, the dreaded 'S' word), as I will be doing for this current warp, is the best way to get the fabric you are trying to weave.
I deeply appreciate the supportive comments on the selling of our house. Thank you all so much.
Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Sett Method and Finished Towels

I know, it has been a while. I have been caught up in the sale of our house and getting ready to move... then, our buyers backed out of the sale so we are back to square one. I am not going to go into the gory details here since I want to focus on weaving but, I might just create a temporary blog as the story is both amusing and frustrating.
I promised a bit on sett* in the previous post so I am going to start out here. There are many ways to determine sett. One common way to to do a wrapping on a ruler. The instructions usually say to place the wraps of the yarn right next to one another as they are in the picture above.

Jane Stafford teaches a slightly different wrapping method that I find makes a lot of sense. Instead of placing the wraps right next to one another, you leave a space, the width of the weft yarn, between the wraps like in this picture above.
With the first method, I got about 20 to 30 ends per inch (epi) for my sett. I got 15 epi with Jane's method. It must be noted here that this only gives you a ballpark figure or starting point. Sampling the sett is the best way to go.
This wrap is for plain weave. If I were to weave a 2/2 twill I would wrap two yarns next to one another and leave a space two yarns wide. If you are an experienced weaver, think about it, it will probably make sense. I am not going to go into great detail on this blog but I will say I got a nice sett for my towels.
This was a quick project and I didn't sample but just wove the towels at 15 epi. It was a good sett as the towels have a lovely hand and drape yet are not sleazy.

Here is the first towel on the right. As I mentioned in the previous post, in my haste to get a picture of it on the loom, I forgot to border the horizontal stripe with the yellow. If you look in the square where the two stripe meet, you can see the color and weave pattern that I was after.

The second towel here has the horizontal stripe bordered by the yellow. I like that much better.

I thought I wouldn't have enough of the light blue to use for the weft for a full length of the towels but it turns out I did so I wove the third towel with alternating light and dark blue picks. I put two thin stripes of yellow one third and two thirds along the towel to give it some interest. The color and weave stripe runs the whole length of the towel and seems to "pop" or look almost three dimensional. Over all I am quite pleased with the project.

The final picture is a sample I wove with the little bit remaining at the end of the warp. I tried different combinations of light and dark weft to get different color-and-weave effects in the squares.

The final measurements for towels when washed and hemmed were 17 inches wide by 23 inches long. That was from a 20x30 inch warp on the loom.
So, what next? I dug into my dwindling stash and pulled out a cone of greyish-green Zepher yarn. It is half silk, half wool and is a 24/2 yarn. I am going to weave a fabric with it. I will have all the details of that project in the next post!
Good weaving to all, -Renee

* See glossary

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Color and Weave on the Loom!

Well, it has been a very strange summer for us so far. We worked our fanny's off getting the house ready for sale and it sold faster than we were prepared for it to! That is a good thing. There is a contingency but it looks like it will work out just fine.
I had decided to leave the loom up so I could work while the house was on the market thinking I would have time. Well, now it looks like the loom will be coming down in two weeks!
I have pulled some yarn out of my now meager stash. I found some cotton to play with a bit of Color and Weave. I didn't have enough of both colors to make the entire set of tea towels in Color and Weave so I just put a stripe in one side that will have one square of the Color and Weave patterning where the vertical and horizontal stripes meet.
As I took this picture of the first one being woven, I realized I forgot to border the horizontal stripe with two picks of yellow on either side for a "zinger". I will have to remember to do that on the next one. I should have enough warp to weave three tea towels.
So here are the specs on the loom. Warp and weft yarns are dark blue 8/2 cotton and light blue 8/2 cotton. Roughly that is. Neither cone is labeled and they are not from the same line. The light blue cotton is coarser spun but about the same grist as the dark blue. The yellow zinger, or accent yarn, is a linen yarn about the same size as the blue ones. Again an unlabeled cone.
The warp is sett 15 epi. I determined that sett using Jane Stafford's method of wrapping the yarn on a ruler. I will do a post on that later.
The warp is 20" wide in the reed and 4 yards long. I am weaving the towels in 30" lengths including the hems. As I weave, I am paying careful attention to my beat so that I get a nice balanced fabric.
I usually sample on the loom. That is, I go ahead and warp the loom for the project and put on extra to sample with. I weave a bit and cut it off the loom. I wash one half and leave the other half unwashed. I study the results and make any changes to the sett or beat if needed and have a record of what I did. Due to the nature of time and limitations on the available yarn from my stash, I am not sampling. This is just to get something on the loom and satisfy the itch to weave. I have missed it during the time I had to let it sit while getting the house ready to sell.
If all goes well we will be moving to Eugene, Oregon in a month. The loom will be in storage until I have a studio. In the meantime, I will be working on tapestry weaving and doing some spinning.
Stay tuned for my take on Jane Stafford's yarn wrapping method of determining sett. It is slightly different than most of the instructions I have seen out there.
Soaking up the sunshine, -Renee

Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm Back!

Well, it has been a while! I apologize for the longer than anticipated absence. We have been busy getting our house on the market and it has been not only all-consuming, but grueling hard work. We do all the work ourselves rather than hire it out. Crazy, I know. Amazingly enough it all finally came together. There is still much to do but it is now listed and on the market!
I decided to keep my loom up and weave while waiting for the house to sell. I did this for two reasons. One is that it not only added to the ambiance of the house, it would keep me busy. The second reason is that as soon as I put a warp on it, the house is bound to sell. Sort of like if you bring an umbrella it probably won’t rain (we are in the Pacific Northwest) but forget to bring the umbrella and it will pour!
The last month or so has been one of saying our goodbyes. I had my final guild meeting of the year with the Skagit Valley Weavers Guild. I was president of the guild this past year and took advantage of having control over the microphone to say a proper goodbye. I know I am going to miss all my weaving friends very very much.
The picture above is one of many I took at the guild meeting. This was a loom controlled Ikat piece that Fran M. had woven and dyed. It not only looked beautiful but it looked like a lot of fun to weave.
The Monday after the guild meeting I went to my final spinning group meeting as well. I will have a few pictures of that and talk about what is going on the loom in the next post.
Summer is here at last! -Renee

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pushing the Boundaries of Plain Weave-A Workshop

Ah, finally a chance to pause in the midst of packing stuff up and settle in to write about the workshop that Jane Stafford conducted for us. The title of this post is actually the title of the workshop. For those of you who are not familiar with Jane, she is an articulate, knowledgeable, experienced, and extremely funny teacher. While I am at it, I will also add engaging and passionate! Before I get into the details of the three day workshop visit her website Jane Stafford Textiles to read about her studio and shop on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, Canada. Be sure to click on her "Old Lady With String Digest!" Her website link is also in my Fiber Links and has been for some time.
I could do a whole post on Jane alone but I will stick to the workshop for now. Sixteen of us arrived Friday morning with our looms all warped with the beautiful yarns Jane sent from her studio in variations of plain weave. We had eight variations to play with as follows: Denting, Cramming and Denting, Colour and Weave Gamp, Weft-faced effects, Warp-faced Repp, Collapsible, Tufted Weft, and Supplementary Warp. Above is a closeup of the Cramming and Denting. It used a lovely 14/2 Euroflax linen. I was one of two weavers assigned this particular example to warp on my loom. The yarn was a pleasure to work with throughout.
Jane's workshops always are crammed with information not only about the weave structure in great detail but about handling the yarns, the looms, the shuttles, and the resulting fabrics. No matter how experienced, you always learn something more. She has years of hands-on experience to back all her information up. We had a lesson on hem-stitching and hem-stitched every sample, thereby becoming quite deft at the technique.
To the right is a picture of the Warp-faced Repp. This required a slight adaptation in the treadling of the loom due to the density of the warp threads. In addition to lifting the harnesses one by one (not as slow to do as it sounds), each pick was further packed in place with a ruler after the beater was used. None of us pounded away with our beaters after Jane's lesson. We learned how to use the beater to place our pick of weft so that it was balanced with the warp. Jane mentioned that this workshop was also an exercise in sett. Our setts went from the closely packed warp-faced sample to the widely sett weft-faced sample and everything in between.

Here is a picture of my favorite plain weave sample. As usual, the picture doesn't do it justice. The ground is a grey linen and the supplementary warps were beautiful icy blues and blue-greens. It reminds me of the glacier fed lakes and streams that are found in many areas of British Columbia. The supplementary warps float over the ground cloth and are tied down in squares when the weaver chooses. Actually, now that I think of it, it is hard to choose a favorite. I will have to do another post to show some of the other samples. These pictures were taken on the loom during the workshop and were woven by some of the other participants.
We worked hard during the workshop with Jane working even harder. During our lunch many of us sat outside in the first warm sunshine we have had for many a month. I love workshops of this nature. I enjoy working along side all the intelligent and interesting women in the group. It is three, eight-hour long days and intense but the jokes and laughter are always flowing. Jane also gave our guild an evening program on Monday night. I will have a report of that along with a few more pictures of my samples in a few days.
Back to work I go! -Renee

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nurturing Weavers and Trees

It has been a bit longer than I anticipated since the last post. I had hoped to get a chance to explore a couple of blogs that I would like to mention but haven't had the chance. I will get to them in due time. We have been very busy getting our house ready to put on the market. In spite of that, weaving does go on!
First a bit of old business. I mentioned the bags I got as a door prize at the Spin-In in a previous post and my solution to honor the prize. The bags and handspun yarn have sold. As promised, I have donated all of the proceeds to kiva.org which I believe is in my Personal Links section. If not, I will place it there. To be a bit more specific, I donated the money to loan to the Kakeda Sun Village Bank Group. There is a young 25 year old scarf weaver in the group who will be using the money for weaving supplies. The website does an excellent job explaining how the microloan process works. Check it out when you have a chance and if you decide to make a donation, let them know that I recommended the site. My e-mail is ispyaweaver@yahoo.com.
So what are some of these things that have kept me from my blog? Planting 400 baby cedar trees on our 5 acres is only one of the many many tasks. Green on green is a challenge to see but the picture below is one of the 400 baby trees. They are about a foot tall.

Today was an exciting day because I got to take a break from all the work and participate in Jane Stafford's Pushing the Boundaries of Plain Weave workshop. Jane is always a treat. We also had our first really warm day in what seems like an age so we all sat outside at lunch soaking up the sun. I will have a full report (and pictures!) on the whole three day workshop as well as the Skagit Valley Weavers Guild meeting next week so stay tuned! -Renee

Friday, May 2, 2008

Whidbey Weavers Guild: Kakishibu and Farewell

Yesterday was the Whidbey Weavers Guild meeting. The morning program was a wonderful treat presented by Chris Conrad on kakishibu. What is kakishibu you ask? I will quote from Chris' handout as she tells it best.

"Calling kakishibu a “dye” is a bit of a misnomer. Made from the fermented juice of unripe astringent persimmons, the color comes from the tannin molecules linking together and forming a coating. More than a coloring agent, kakishibu also has strengthening, antibacterial and waterproofing properties. Kakishibu was used in China and Korea, but reached its ultimate utilization in Japan. It was used as a wood preservative, waterproofer, insect repellent, folk medicine, and on washi (Japanese paper), fans, parasols, clothing and in sake production."
Chris is an engaging and interesting speaker. She and her husband lived in Japan for several years when she came upon kakishibu. They returned to Japan so that she could study and learn about kakishibu and are now back in Washington State where she is teaching the rest of us fiber folks about this wonderful process. She has written a book on the topic, the first one written in English, and has an elegant and informational website called Kakishibui. I will also put her website in my Fiber Links section. She sells kakishibu "dye" as well as textiles. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of her beautiful textiles to share here but you can see some of them on her website. Those of you who were at the Spin-In will remember her booth.
In the afternoon, I presented the results of my grant study. It is hard to believe it has been a year already! I gave a Powerpoint presentation and had all 515 skeins of yarn piled on the tables for people to see. There was a bit of a technological glitch getting the digital projector up and running but, thanks to the folks at Camp Casey who brought in the spare, I was able to share my project.
To the wonderful fiber artists of Whidbey Weavers Guild, a big thank you and hugs all around for your support and encouragement not only for my grant project but for all the years, starting with my journey as a beginning weaver, to where I am now. I will be keeping up with the news on the Whidbey Weavers Guild website and I will definitely be back to visit sometime.
To my friends at the Whidbey Weavers guild, farewell. Please keep coming back to this blog to keep in touch!
My husband and I are continuing our work on the house to get it on the market very soon.
On a final note, yesterday marked the first anniversary of the creation of this blog! I am looking forward to another year of adventure.
This month I will have the workshop with Jane Stafford so please stay tuned!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Handy Tip and Door Prizes

I have a handy tip that I read in Threads Magazine. The tip was sent in by a reader and I thought it was a great one for storing not just any fabric but handwoven fabric. Purchase foam pipe insulation at the hardware store. I got mine at Home Depot. It comes in different lengths. I got a bag of four 3ft. lengths of insulation for a couple of dollars. The insulation is soft and cushy and has a pre-cut slit down the length of it. Tuck one edge of the fabric in the slit and roll. Nice and neat and light-weight. You can see the slit in the picture above if you look closely and the fabric is partially rolled around. If you are concerned about the foam affecting the fabric (I haven't heard of it happening but you never know) you can roll an acid-free tissue between the fabric and the pipe insulation. The insulation is easily trimmed to fit the width of the fabric too. I didn't trim it in the picture because I wanted to show the process. I apologize for not having the exact issue of Threads magazine the tip was published in. My magazines are all packed and in storage at the moment. I will try to find it online when I have a chance. I will also put a link to the magazine website in the Fiber Links column.
Now, about the door prizes. I have a bit of a story to tell leading up to the picture below so please hang in there for a moment. One of the fun things going on at the Spin-In I mentioned in a previous post was the lavish amount of door prizes given away. There was fiber and gift certificates and tools and all kinds of fun stuff. Not everyone gets a prize but many do. I was one of the fortunate ones and had my number called. Now, I have an uncomfortable confession to make here. I was disappointed for a flash of an instant when I was handed a stack of paper bags for my door prize. I did not see at first they were decorated. I thought there might be a gift certificate or something but the paper bags were the door prize. I realized almost instantly that it was silly to be disappointed as the door prizes are all in good fun. I did not go to the Spin-In for the door prizes and as I said, not everyone won one.
Someone decorated the bags and generously donated them to the Spin-In. As I was driving back to the park for the night, I decided that I needed to do something to turn around the brief moment of disappointment and to honor the gift. Sounds more noble than it is but can't think of another way to put it. We are moving and I am getting rid of things like this. It didn't feel right to just stick them in the recycle bin. I decided to select a skein of my handspun yarn for each bag. I am going to sell each bag and skein for a minimum donation of $10. I will then take all of the proceeds and donate them to an organization called kiva.org which uses the donations to make micro-loans to impoverished entrepreneurs around the world. Many of them are women.
Below is a picture of the bags and skeins. Starting on the left is an Australian 54's wool roving that I hand painted and spun. The center is from Kathy Green's Potluck roving and is spun thick and thin. The right skein is a 3-ply wool spun from a Jacob's sheep fleece that I purchased at the Spin-In years and years ago. I am going to take them to the Whidbey guild meeting on May 1 to give them the first opportunity to purchase the bags. From there I will take it to the Skagit guild and if I still have anything left, I will put them up for sale online somehow, either through this blog or otherwise.

You never know when an opportunity to look outside yourself will be presented. This was one of my opportunities. I probably would have never thought of doing this 10 years ago. I guess there is hope for me yet!
So, that is my story for the week. I should have some things of interest to post after the Whidbey Weavers Guild meeting this week and then the Jane Stafford workshop later on in the month.
A big thanks to all of you who have either e-mailed me or left a comment. It is much appreciated. More to come, -Renee

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Snow Woman Weaver

I have to ask you all for an indulgence. You see, I grew up in an area that did not get snow so not only do I have fun when it does snow, I am not an expert snow-woman builder!
It is April 19th, my birthday weekend. I usually have lilac blooms for my birthday, not snow. Western Washington set a new record for a late snowfall. It was a heavy, wet, 5" plus snowfall and it packed into beautiful snowballs. I built this snow-woman weaver with the help of my dog Twill who enjoys playing in the snow as much as I do. Her eyes are buttons in the shape of yellow flowers. In her right hand is a high-whorl drop spindle and she is cradling a boat shuttle. In her left, she flourishes a handwoven bag. Her cap is a University of Oregon sun hat.

Here is a closer picture of her bag. She is leaning because the snow was wet and heavy. She actually fell over in the middle of the photo shoot!

Here is Twill sitting still enough for a photo and a shot of the drop spindle. Note the model like pose of the snow woman with "hips" jutting forward! We had a fun time throwing snow balls and romping in the snow before going inside for a cup of hot chocolate.
It was actually a perfect day to continue packing up my studio. Alas, it is time. For those who do not know yet, I am going to be moving in a few months. We will be moving down to Eugene Oregon so that I can get my MFA in Fibers. It will be a fun adventure. We will have a year to transition before I enroll and start the program. I will have a lot of fiber things to report and a new area to share so stay tuned!
I will still be spinning and will have a tapestry loom to weave on. The big AVL loom will be dismantled and stored for a time. I also have a lot of handwoven fabrics to make into various projects. Before I leave this area, I will have one more workshop with the Skagit Valley Weavers Guild to report on. The workshop will be given by Jane Stafford, one of my favorite weaving teachers.
Click on her name to see her website and I will add her to my Fiber Links.
Thanks for your indulgence. I couldn't resist sharing the snow photos. If anyone is looking to buy a house with a weaving studio loft on 5 acres that has easy access to I-5 in the Stanwood area, send me an e-mail!
Stay warm! -Renee