Sunday, February 12, 2012

Radical Creative Surgery

Free clip art from:
Sometimes a road block can be a handy device, even when it is annoying. It slows you down and makes you think. My tie up cords came and I can proceed but I have done some serious thinking. Let me back up a bit and explain. One of the joys of being a fiber person is collecting fiber stuff. There are plenty of opportunities to do so, usually presented by our fellow fiber persons. I must admit I have been guilty of presenting these opportunities myself and will probably do it again in the future! You all know what I am taking about, someone decides to sell of part of her stash or, sadly, a weaver or knitter has passed on and their family enlists the help of a guild or group to sell off the piles of yarn. I am no different from any other fiber collector. I have yarn that I have gleefully scored for an insanely low price of fill-in-the blank dollars. Then once it is home and resting proudly on its shelf or in its bin, you start to think. You realize that you have just purchase 10,000 yards of a yarn in a size, color, or fiber that you don't use! "But, it was such a good deal!", you think. Of course, not all the yarn is like that but, well, you all know how it goes. It all secretly multiplies when the lights are off until you suddenly find yourself under a pile of cascading cones of yarn when you open the cupboard door.
So what does this have to do with the cheerful lady with the big scissors? You probably guessed. I have this giant cone of cotton yarn, good stuff too, only I have always preferred to weave with fine yarns. In the giddiness of resurrecting my loom I have fallen pray to the "got to use it up, after all it was such a good deal" mentality.  Time for some radical creative surgery.
In the few years that my loom was dismantled and quietly sleeping, my life shifted, rather dramatically. My priorities shifted as well. My focus, which was temporarily softened by the excitement of getting my loom back up, has snapped sharply back, whacking me along side the head in the process. I can't do it. I can't weave 10 yards of something I really don't want to weave and therefore really don't have the time to. So, after making sure the loom is indeed running well, off it comes. In addition, I am going to go through my greatly diminished stash and purge anything left that does not fit in with my life. More on that later.
What do I want to weave? Well I mentioned it before, linen canvas for painting. My intent is to weave enough to sell to a rather exclusive market so that I can supply myself as well. It will be a large learning curve but I have been riding that curve for the past three years now and I am rather getting to like it!
Here is the final element of that sharp focus. This really is the final chance for such a huge loom to fit into my life. If it doesn't fall into place, with the proper application of elbow grease of course, I WILL sell the loom. I will miss Phoenix of course but I will still have Jane.
Hope this doesn't sound too gloomy or dramatic. This is just what happens when your life takes a sharp turn round a corner.
I do enjoy reading the weaving blogs!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Road Block

Nope, not a flashy image, nor an image of lovely textiles in progress. The image above is a temporary weaving road block. Actually it is a texsolv tie-up cord for my loom. As you can see, they are wearing out and actually have been for some time. I do not have enough good tie-up cords to weave my current warp so, I put in an order for more texsolv cords and will have to wait until they arrive to continue.
When I got the loom warped and ready to throw the shuttle, I hadn't done the tie-up as it usually takes a few minutes and off I go. Looks like I posted a bit too soon on the actual shuttle launch time. : )
On a rather more interesting note, I recently read and article that showed a very interesting linen fabric used for painting canvas. It was woven in an undulating twill. Guess what my next warp will be?! I will see if I can find a picture of it and a reference link for the article for the next post.
Hopefully the tie-up cord will arrive fast so I can get on with the weaving. I am anxious to get this warp off the loom and try out the linen.
Until next post, -Renee

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"And Warp Well the Long Threads"

"And warp well the long threads,
The bright threads, the strong threads;
Woof well the cross threads,
      To make the colours shine." 
-from The Weaving of the Tartan by Alice Macdonell of Keppoch

This is just a snippet from a very serious poem published in 1894 by the above Scottish poet, but I really liked these particular lines. My current warp is all cream colored and certainly not a Tartan but the threading is done! I just have to wind some bobbins, take a deep breath and throw the first shuttle I have thrown in about 4 years. 
It felt good to thread the loom. My hands haven't forgotten a thing and my brain remembered how to double check and balance out the pattern. I am pleased. We shall see how things proceed. I have been very busy setting a lot of things up so that I can start selling my artwork as soon as I am ready, which will be very soon. I worked a little bit each day getting the loom threaded and am quite pleased I selected a fairly easy warp to put on. 
I didn't think a current picture would be too exciting so I will wait to post a picture of the weaving in progress until next week. Instead, I leave you with my sweet canine companion, Twill, who found a patch of winter sun to enjoy.  

Until next week, -Renee

Sunday, January 15, 2012

She's Warped and Ready to Thread!

Well, with a little nudge from Cindie I decided what to put on Phoenix for my welcome-back-to weaving warp. If you recall from the previous post that giant cone of cotton that gave me a bit of a pause when I unpacked it. I was trying to figure out the best project to use it up. Cindie mentioned placemats and runners. Hello! Of course! Well, it has been a while. So, I got out my Best of Weaver's: Guide to Huck Lace, love to weave huck lace, and started browsing. In the past I have also enjoyed making my own drafts and experimenting but at this place and time in my life I decided to use ready-made drafts to start with. I put on 10 yards of the cotton (sadly, there was no noticeable difference in the amount on the cone afterwards) so that I can start out with several samples. Yes, I use the "s" word quite frequently so you have been warned!. From there I will decide which pattern I want to use for placemats and runners. I WILL use up that cone. I am going to leave the yarn natural for now. I will be able to thread during breaks from my painting, which is how I plan to weave too.
So thank you Cindie! Click on her name to go to her blog. She is getting an even more serious loom than mine up and running at the moment which always make for interesting reading.
Until next week.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What to Weave?

Progress is being made in getting my hybrid weaving and painting studio up to full speed. I am painting again and that part can be found on my "Art = Life" blog. I have been getting things put away in the weaving part of the studio and re-configuring my spool rack to work in the new space. It is a bit of a tight squeeze but it is working so far. I also need to find my electric bobbin winder!
In the meantime, I have unpacked my two bins of yarn. I hadn't seen the contents for a few years and I groaned when I saw this huge, and I mean huge, cone of cotton yarn. I vaguely remember getting it at one of those weaver's yarn stash sales thinking that it would be good rug warp or something. Don't laugh when you read the next part...I don't weave rugs! Oh, I thought I would try to but never could get into it in spite of how much I admired the rugs woven by my weaving friends. Here is what I mean:

The cone is about 16" tall and probably weighs 2 or 3 pounds. The cotton looks to be about a 5/2 weight. The two cones in front are some of Jane Stafford's lovely 8/2 cotton. I have a few cones of some odd colors of that in my stash too.
So, I have been debating what to put on for my first welcome-back-to-weaving warp. Common sense says I should put on something easy to get reacquainted with my loom and the weaving process. However, what I really would love to put on is a linen warp to try to weave my own painting canvas! So do I play it safe and sensible or do I throw caution to the winds? I have to think about it, and what in the heck am I going to do with that huge cone of cotton yarn?
Oh yeah, the weaving the painting canvas part. I am sure there are some who cringe to think that I would weave this gorgeous linen fabric and then...paint on it. So, I will explain a teeny bit. One of my favorite old master painters is Diego Velazquez. Rob Liberace, an artist I took a painting workshop from this summer, is teaching a workshop next summer on the painting techniques and materials that Velazquez used in his work. I did a little online research of my own and the canvas he used is mentioned. It is different from what you can buy today and well, as a weaver, you can probably see the attraction of the idea of weaving something like what is described. Apparently some of his canvas had a weave that had little crosses. Not only that but thinking on it, there was a time when all painting canvas was handwoven! There are some rather intriguing possibilities here.
Back to my relaunching warp, I have been thinking that I would start with simple tea towels. I have the 8/2 cotton which I have used for tea towels in the past. I also found these samples from a Jane Stafford color workshop:
They will be a big help when trying to figure out how to use the odd colors of the 8/2 cotton I have.
What am I going to do with that huge cone of yarn? One idea I had were to weave cloth for rugged shopping bags to sell. Honestly, I like to weave with much finer yarns. Perhaps I will experiment and sample since I have plenty of yarn. I might even have to get out the dye pots. Sigh. I do want to use up as much of my stash as possible before ordering any more yarn. Fortunately it isn't a large stash, just challenging. I have some very nice linen yarns for some fine table linens and a painting canvas or two (oh yes, I will weave a canvas and paint on it, just watch!).
Well, I will have to decide this week or as soon as I find that errant bobbin winder. I would love to hear any ideas for using that huge cone of cotton out there. Perhaps a contest? The winning idea gets a something woven from it? Will think about that too!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Phoenix Rising

Happy New Year! Guess what has been added back into my life for 2012? Give up? Nah, you probably guessed. I am bringing back weaving into my life after a few years off. I took a couple of weeks off to think about what direction I needed my life to go. We have had such a roller coaster ride the past few years and settling here on the Oregon coast has allowed me to catch my breath and re-evaluate. My loom has been in pieces and has been in storage and then stored in places here and there in the house. I came to the conclusion that I needed to either sell it (try to sell it, again that is) or use it. The problem is, the loom is not Before I share the pictures, I have to break off a minute and give a shout out to the weaver's spouse everywhere. I have found that in general they are wonderfully supportive of their weavers and put up with tripping over a lot of large equipment and fiber. My spouse is definitely one of these. The only way I could set my big loom up was for us to move out of the lovely large upstairs bedroom and into what was previously the painting studio and a wee bit smaller. He didn't even blink, in fact, he was the one who suggested it. A weaver's hero!  I have spent the last week packing, scrubbing carpets and walls, moving it all upstairs, setting up our bedroom downstairs and rebuilding the loom. Our "new" bedroom is cozy and clean and the loom is built. I still have stuff to put away but I will be able to paint tomorrow. Here are a couple of photos:

Oh yeah, for those who don't know, the loom is a 60" AVL modular production loom with 8 harnesses and a single box fly shuttle. The loom grows up to be a 16 harness dobby loom with the addition of some rather expensive parts. I hope to eventually acquire those parts but that is a future post.
Up until now, she never had a name but now it is obvious, her name is Phoenix.
The loom was in even smaller pieces than what was originally shipped to me. I am the one who has built it, deconstructed and packed it, and then rebuilt it. I believe it is important to know how my loom works. The re-building went faster as I knew how it was supposed to go and I did a careful job when I took it apart. Everything was labeled, hardware was bagged and labeled and not a piece was missing. Nothing was broken, dented, or scratched, which was rather amazing. I have a couple thousand texsolve heddles that I had carefully removed and tied. They went on fairly easy but, there are a lot of them so it took a bit of time. I am pleased to say my hands remembered exactly how to handle them fast and efficiently. The feet of the loom are cushioned with layers of non-slip padding and area rugs protect the exposed wood floor.
So, I had hoped to be able to get the warp on tomorrow but I still have a few things to put away and I have to rebuild the spool rack and find my bobbin winder. To start with, I have two 18 gallon bins of yarn, all of it cotton, linen, or rayon. I am going to be focusing on plant fibers and some of the human constructed fibers such as rayon and bamboo.
I still have a lot to say but I will save that for future posts. Renee Weaves! is back in addition to continuing my art blog (click on the "paint" link above). The weaving blog has a new look and will have a slightly different focus and direction. It is a new year after all! I have removed the glossary and a few other things and will be adding different things along the way. Most of all, I will be posting about weaving and selling handwoven items.
Thanks to those who hung in there, and to those who are returning or are new. Please feel free to leave comments and stay tuned!
Until next week,