Another One for the Books

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2016 Holiday Exhibition and Sale Postcard

2016 Holiday Exhibition and Sale Postcard

The annual Holiday Exhibition and Sale for our local Columbia Weavers and Spinners Guild has just finished. Those participants selling, and many fellow guild members besides, put in hours preparing our wares for the big weekend and so enjoy each other’s company for the three day event.

The wall of scarves

The wall of scarves

I only do this one local event each year and I have great respect for those who sell at multiple events throughout the season. Just the set-up and take-down require a lot of energy, muscle, and forethought—how best to display and how best to store for another event. But before the weekend ever arrives, there is also all the loving labor that goes into each piece.

The ever popular towel display

The ever popular towel display

Those of us who produce to exhibit and sell soak up the inspiration of seeing how others use their talents. And we usually support each other generously and treasure each item we bring home!

And of course we take notes for 2017. Always planning ahead. Always room for improvement. Isn’t inspiration great!

Have you been to any local art fairs lately?

How to Get There From Here

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I have always enjoyed Sharon Alderman’s articles in Handwoven Magazine. She has a comfortable style of explaining things and even when discussing complex structures, she is easy to follow. Recently I borrowed Mastering Weave Structures, by Sharon Alderman and published in 2004 by Interweave Press, and was quickly absorbed in the wealth of information she included.

Mastering Weave Structures by Sharon Alderman

Mastering Weave Structures by Sharon Alderman

Sharon inspired me right from the get-go by her approach to plain weave. What can a weaver do with simple old plain weave to make an interesting fabric? What about grouping warp and/or weft ends? You can vary the denting. Vary the yarn sizes. Use mercerized with unmercerized cotton. Use different fibers in the same fabric. Use colors close in hue or value. Combine basket weave, a form of plain weave, with plain weave itself. Use color and weave effects, including rep weaves. Sharon discusses how these choices and others affect the end fabric.

What makes a twill? What is the difference between an even twill and uneven twill? How do you make a twill more or less steep? What about sett? What if you weave the draft in a point, or combine different points, or advance the twill line? What happens if you weave one pick from one treadling sequence and the next pick from the second? What if you rearrange the treadling order?

She starts each structure with 4-shaft drafts and moves on to include drafts for 8 shafts, 16 shafts, and sometimes 24 shafts. She gives the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. Several times, she points out that an uneven beat will produce crosswise striations in the finished cloth. And she strongly encourages weaving good sized samples, at least 12” x 12”, in order to see what the yarns will actually weave up as.

Compound weaves are those that use more than a single warp and a single weft. They include overshot, summer and winter, crackle, and beiderwand. Sharon covers treadling variations, skeleton tie-ups, and going beyond the expected. “Pushing an idea boils down to this: try the idea, notice what happens, and if you like what happens, see if you can exaggerate it.”

I was particularly curious about her chapter “Inventing Your Own Weave Structures.” Here she presents three different approaches she uses to achieve the fabric in her head, working backwards to the draft and figuring out what she needs to put on the loom to get the result she wants.

In one approach, she starts with paper and pencil, sketching the elements she wants in her cloth and their relative position. Another approach is to design from the tie-up: start with a basic tie-up and make changes to form the elements you want to include. Her third approach is to draw out the design on graph paper and then work out the threading, the treadling, and finally the tie-up.

Anyone who is familiar with Sharon’s articles in Handwoven Magazine will recognize her easy style and practical approach to weaving. She includes drafts, diagrams and sumptuous photos of the resulting fabrics to illustrate the possibilities.

“The important thing, as always, is knowing how to achieve the effect you want.”

Focus, Focus, Focus!!!

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I have to confess – I was not an exemplary student. I recently found some of my old grade cards from elementary and high school. A solid B student. Nothing outstanding. The reason? Focus!

It seems like I always aimed to just finish the assignment fast rather than to finish it well. I’d exalt if I completed the paper first, but then be dismayed at the red checks and corrections I had to make. I missed details because I wasn’t paying attention. How many times did my teachers have to call me back with “Pay attention!”

Even in my high school sewing class, I chaffed at waiting till the teacher approved one step before she let me move on, but she saved me from later frustration by pointing out mistakes that I could still correct.

Planning in the works

Planning in the works

As an adult, I sometimes show the same lack of focus. There are so many exciting fiber arts to play with—spinning, dying, twining, knitting, tatting, book-making, the list goes on and on. And within weaving itself, there are lots of different directions I could go—domestic, artistic, fine threads, rugs, linen, cotton, silk, wool…

I’ve always admired those weavers who focused on a technique until they learned it, really learned it, and could explain what the threads are doing. They sample carefully, documenting their process, and can then repeat what works and avoid what doesn’t. They are not “jacks of all trades, masters of none”– they stick with a technique until they master it. That is the weaver I want to be when I grow up.

At our recent weavers guild meeting, one of our members shared her samples from an on-line tapestry course she is taking. Every sample showed a different technique, executed with precision. I’m sure she had to take out some as she was learning, but she stayed with it. What a great inspiration!

Other members shared what they learned at various summer classes and conferences—Convergence in Milwaukee, a felters symposium, a rep weaving workshop. All these events are opportunities to focus on one technique, one skill, to break open a discipline that can be studied further at home. That’s the real challenge of a workshop or class—to continue learning after the last session and to make the technique my own. That takes focus.

For me, it means looking at what equipment I already have, what weave structures I keep coming back to, and getting to know them really well. I have two Glimakra looms; what more can I learn with them? Those looms have drawloom attachments; there’s so much more that those can do than I am currently using them for!

So in this late-year review of goals, focus is right at the top of my list. I plan to pay attention to what the threads on the loom are doing, and delve deeper into each weave structure.

It is never too late to learn!

What are your goals for the rest of the year?

More on Opphämta

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Opphämta on the Loom

Opphämta on the Loom

Earlier this summer, I set out to explore opphämta and chose to put together some aprons using the patterning as borders along the sides and bodice. This has been a season-long project, but one in which I’ve learned a lot.

Because I wanted to make unique aprons, I wound only enough warp to make two aprons of each color. I also wanted to include some contrasting threads spaced randomly across the warp and weft. Since the borders and ties are woven on the same warp, this presented a bit of a challenge. Those contrasting threads interrupted the opphämpta pattern.

Royal Apron with White Opphämta Pattern

Royal Apron with White Opphämta Pattern

My first solution was to weave the body of the apron first with the contrasting threads. Then for the tie bands and patterns, I replaced those threads in the warp with the main color and weighted them off the back of the loom. This worked okay but caused a few tension issues.

White Apron with Star and Rose Pattern

White Apron with Star and Rose Pattern

I actually preferred the second solution—changing the contrasting threads on the warping board as I was measuring the warp. This did take some calculating, but the warp tension was more consistent.

My color choices were mainly pretty traditional—blue on white, white on blue. Then for the third warp, I used some seafoam green mercerized cotton that blends well with lavender. Those color studies from earlier this month came in handy.

White Apron with Star and Leaf Pattern

White Apron with Star and Leaf Pattern

Each apron uses a different opphämta design. There are so many different sources and motifs that I can spend hours playing with stars, roses, diamonds, and crosses. The scale of the pattern had to fit on the apron, so I kept my units to two threads each. With a sett of 24 epi, a five-unit float is almost ½”, so any float over five units had to be tied down.

Seafoam and Lavender Apron

Seafoam and Lavender Apron

As enjoyable as the aprons have been, I’m ready to move on. The nice thing about these opphämta patterns is that they can be used for other weave structures. Next up—damask. But what if these same units could be woven in overshot or lace or ….hmmm…

The Language of Color

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Color Swatches

Color Swatches

I get a kick out of perusing the color trends that come down from who knows where. Just do an internet search for “color trends for home interiors” and you can get an idea of the colors being promoted by industry. Everyone from paint companies, interior decorators, furniture manufacturers, not to mention fashion designers, all have a take on what colors we want in our homes this year.

And the names of the colors can be quite poetic. Green is not just green; it’s Lush Meadow, Nile, Malachite. Pink can be Orchid, Salmon, Peach, Rose.  Phrases like “transcendent, powerful and polarizing,” “restrained and refined,”  “serene”, tempt me to read between the lines—what color are they really talking about? What does “serene” look like? I think of the soft green of a summer meadow, but really it’s a pale sky blue.IMG_0274

This is more than a casual search for those of us who create for the home. It does little good to go to all the trouble of handweaving a piece that doesn’t go with anything in anyone’s home. I used to buy odd lots of mill end yarns because the price was right, but soon discovered that those odd lots included colors that were long out of date.

There is a down side to following the trends. It takes a good long time to plan something, weave and finish it. Will that “trendy” color still be trendy by the time my handwoven hits to market? And who redecorates completely every year? A friend of mine doesn’t watch the color trends for just that reason. She creates large quantities of items for an established line and she can’t afford to have unsold pieces sitting around because a color has gone out of style.

The upside of color trends is that they are usually pretty broad. Look at most forecasts and you are bound to find some shade of your favorite hue. And the trends from previous years will carry over to a certain degree. The Marsala and Radiant Orchid of 2015 and 2016 still show up in 2017 forecasts, even if they are not called exactly that. Even the Emerald of 2014 shows up in home interior ads.

This is especially true for those of us living outside major urban areas. Often color trends on the coasts of the U.S. take a couple years to filter into the midsection of the country.

Yarns on Hand

Yarns on Hand

But when it comes right down to it, when I’m planning a project, the colors come from my yarn on hand.  When I stock up on yarn, I focus on colors that will “play well together” over time, to make something pleasing both to me and to the person who buys it.

So that’s the creative challenge for handweavers—using the yarn on hand in ways that will complement the current color trends without being limited to what someone else says we should choose.

Cotton Kitchen Towel in Aqua and Turquoise

Cotton Kitchen Towel in Aqua and Turquoise

I am not a color theorist, nor have I done any extensive study of color. What I know, or think I know, about color comes from paying attention to what’s in the market, what yarn colors are currently available, but most of all, what I like.

Look at the yarn on your shelf. What can you make from what you have?

Inspired by Nature

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If you  scroll through my photo files, you will see landscapes, family members, fascinating flowers, and – what’s this?

That’s the reaction I get when showing trip pictures. There’s always some odd picture that is not quite identifiable. I know what it is, but my husband and other family members just scroll right past, thinking it’s a mistake.

Colorful lichen formations

Colorful lichen formations

This, from our recent trip to Wyoming, is lichen growing on the rock. Yes, I did take pictures of the area as a whole, but these colors intrigued me too. So I brought them home – on the camera! Orange, lime green, rusty tan on a background of cool gray — an interesting color relationship!

I’ve written before about my adventures in choosing colors. This rock made me think again of Sharon Alderman’s suggestion to pay attention to what colors occur in nature. She spoke about going around her neighborhood photographing tree bark, moss, and lichens. So I try to train my eyes to see the colors with the idea of perhaps using them in some woven piece.

Blues and greens in grape hyacinths

Blues and greens in grape hyacinths

And not just the colors. Notice the many shades of blue and green in these grape hyacinths, how the highlights and shadows blend together.  I can see these together in a kitchen towel. The trick sometimes is to choose an effective weft. The colors may be stunning in the warp, but choosing a weft that won’t overpower them is also important. I’ve learned from experience that darker weft colors will “recede” and lighter ones will dominate. If I want the warp colors to draw attention, then I will pick the darker color from the warp and use that as the weft.

Choosing colors from the garden

Choosing colors from the garden

Sometimes I blend colors across the warp from one hue to another, similar to a flower garden. However, a weft that will work with one of the warps may not look so good with another. That’s where I need to sample before winding on a long warp. The red and yellow of these geraniums and heliopolis may work as accent colors, and perhaps a soft green could then be the “background”, just as the grass and asparagus fern here.

And just because colors look lovely on the stem doesn’t mean they’ll look lovely in a scarf or a towel. Not every color combination will be the current trend. But it’s a good starting point, a good prompt for creatively thinking about colors.

What colors come home with you from your walks and adventures?

 

Books, Books, Glorious Books!

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You can tell a lot about a person by looking at her bookshelf.

My mother loved books. She was a writer after all. She had shelves of histories. She had shelves of dictionaries (biographical, quotation, geographical, biblical, your standard Webster, and more). She had shelves – and shelves! – of cookbooks, because as a food writer, she researched – a lot! She had so many books that the auctioneer was overwhelmed—literally.

I have inherited my mother’s love of books. I look around me and I have shelves of histories, an interest my husband also shares. I have shelves of books by Wisconsin authors, some friends of my mother’s, some I know by reputation only. But my favorite shelves are those of fiber books!DSCN3998a

I still have my green-covered A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite P. Davison, a classic I bought when I first started weaving. Right up there next to that is my copy of A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns ed. by Carol Strickler. I did pass along my Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler to a friend who was just starting and I hope she got as much out of it as I did.

There are books on coverlets,DSCN3997a

books on design,DSCN3996a

and books on linen.DSCN3995a

Beside these sit books on early weaving manuscripts, and yes, more histories of weaving.DSCN3990a

Sometimes I buy books on techniques that intrigue me, but I have yet to go beyond reading the book. Tapestry is one of those. I have two books called Tapestry Weaving, one by Kirsten Glasbrook and one by Nancy Harvey, both of which I have pored over and dreamed through. Someday…DSCN3993a

Then there is Weaving as an Art Form: A Personal Statement by Theo Moorman—another classic—and More on Moreman by Heather Winslow. Both very inspiring and worthy of a reread.

And these are just some of the weaving books! There are also books on spinning, books on knitting, and a few on book-making. Handmade art books are so amazing!

Inspiration is right there in front of me. All I have to do is pull a book off the shelf and fall in!

What does your bookshelf say about you?

(For those of you who are interested, I’ve included a bibliography. Some of the books are out of print but you may be able to find them in your local library or on line. There are many other books on my shelf that I didn’t mention.  Explore your shelves and see what you can find!)

Bibliography:

Davison, Marguerite Porter (1944) A Handweaver’s Pattern Book. Swarthmore, PA: Marguerite P. Davison, Inc.

Glasbrook, Kirsten (2002) Tapestry Weaving. Turnbridge Wells, Kent, England: Search Press

Gordon, Judith (1995) American Star Work Coverlets. New York, NY: Design Books

Harvey, Nancy (1991) Tapestry Weaving: A Comprehensive Study Guide. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Heinrich, Linda (2010) Linen: From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

Hersh, Tandy and Charles (2001) Rural Pennsylvania German Weaving 1833-1857. Carlisle, PA: Tandy and Charles Hersh

Jarvis, Helen N. (1989) Weaving a Traditional Coverlet. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Kurtz, Carol S. (1981) Designing for Weaving. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Lamb, Sara (2013) Spin to Weave: A Weaver’s Guide to Making Yarn. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Meek, Kati Reeder (2000) Reflections From a Flaxen Past: For Love of Lituanian Weaving. Alpena, MI: Penannular Press International

Moorman, Theo (1975) Weaving as an Art Form: A Personal Statement. West Chester, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

Oelsner, G.H. (1952) A Handbook of Weaves. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

Safner, Isadora M. (1985) The Weaving Roses of Rhode Island. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Strickler, Carol (1987)  American Woven Coverlets. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Strickler, Carol, editor (1991) A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Thompson, Marjie, Kathleen L. Grant, and Alan G. Keyser. Forgotten Pennsylvania Textiles of the 18th and 19th Centuries.  Cumberland, ME: The Linen Press

Wertenberger, Kathryn (1988) 8, 12…20: An Introduction to Multishaft Weaving. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Winslow, Heather Lyn (1994) More on Moorman: Theo Moorman Inlay Adapted to Clothing. Sugar Grove, IL: Heather Winslow

Exploring Opphämta

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Opphämta Borders

Opphämta Borders

I would like to introduce you to my friend, opphämta. Opphämta has spent a lot of time in my studio lately. I probably don’t pronounce her name correctly, but I sure am having fun with her.

Opphämta, or upphämta, is a Swedish weave structure in which the pattern thread forms the design over a plain weave ground. In a way, she reminds me of overshot, only without the half-tones. Like overshot, she is often woven in wool on a cotton plain weave or basketweave background, and often used for coverlets. Unlike overshot, the pattern thread is either on the face or on the reverse; there are no tie-downs which in overshot create half-tones, so long floats can occur. The patterns can often be traced to specific regions, are usually symmetrical, can be woven as borders or as all-over designs.

Opphämta was originally woven by picking up the pattern with a weaving sword. Although I’ve never tried to weave it with a sword, I have woven it on a draw loom which I’m sure is much faster than a sword. Although “fast” is a relative term for a draw loom.

Early aprons in opphämta, 1998

Early aprons in opphämta, 1998

Many years ago, I wove opphämta borders for some aprons, and decided  to revisit that project. Those aprons were a traditional bib-type design, with the opphamta border running along the hem and across the top. Two patch pockets also sported patterning.

My current project is inspired by a diamond-shaped apron my Mom sewed for me some years back. She was a quilter and her apron showcased her patchwork skills. I borrowed her apron’s shape, applying opphämta borders instead of patchwork along two sides and again across the top.

Detail of opphämta borders

Detail of opphämta borders

This is a work in progress. There are so many possibilities with this technique and it will be an adventure to see where opphämta takes me.

Loom Therapy

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Another damask warp off the loom!

Another damask warp off the loom!

Life happens, and there are seasons when it demands attention. We have all experienced them. Parents age. Children struggle. Friends face crises. Sometimes it’s joyful distractions: weddings, graduations, new jobs, new children–or grandchildren. All these pull at our energies and keep us away from the work of our hands.

In the past, physicians recognized the healing properties of working with the hands. There are images of hospital patients, adults and children alike, weaving at looms, making baskets, painting. Occupational Therapy is only one of many fields in which arts and crafts are used to soothe. Who among us hasn’t found peace in the gentle rhythm of the shuttle or knitting needles?

The past several months have been full of distractions, and yet whenever I sat down at the loom again, it felt so good, so peaceful to throw the shuttle, listen to the gentle thump of the beater, to watch the pattern grown at the fell. And while I was away from the loom, knitting brought some peace at the end of the day. Each row, each stitch, helped unknot the tensions.

Just this past week, I finished a warp that had been on my loom since September. It’s rare for a warp to take that long, but how gratifying to throw the final shot and cut the web! How satisfying to see the yards of damask unfold!

There are other warps that have been languishing as well. I’m looking forward to continuing some linen towels that have been patiently waiting on the Baby Wolf! And then there’s “Junior” waiting to have the shafts properly balanced for the opphämta weave I’ve been wanting to try.

And all of these are my therapy, soothing my mind and soul. Whenever life winds itself up tight, it’s good to pick up the shuttle again and re-center.

What do you do to calm your spirit?

Progress Report

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Lovely imprint of the maker

Lovely imprint of the maker

Junior is coming together. After almost 30 years of moving around, disassembled from coast to coast, Junior landed in my home, purchased this winter from a retired weaver.

Junior is a 10-shaft Glimakra countermarche loom, 47” wide with a drawloom frame on the top. I say “on the top” because that is its proper position, but it lay for many years in so many pieces along with a multitude of wooden sticks and metal bars that comprise the loom.

And I have to guess a little on that proper position, because this draw attachment is an earlier version of the one I have been using since 1993 which is a more robust design.

One of the replacement wheel ratchets

One of the replacement wheel ratchets

The first thing I did when getting it to my basement was to give it a thorough cleaning with wood conditioner. The wood was so very dry and dusty. Cleaning meant taking off yards of tangled Texsolv cords and washing those too. And I did a quick inventory of parts to be sure I could put it together. Ah, two vital missing components: the wheel ratchets to turn the cloth beam and the warp beam, and the wooden wedges that hold the frame together. Ordered those and waited patiently.

Yesterday, my kind husband helped assemble the frame and square it up. Then it got a second go-over with wood conditioner. The loom fairly glows now, although the wheel ratchets are a decidedly lighter color than the rest.

Junior Coming Together

Junior Coming Together

Now I’m sorting and matching which cords go where. They all were cut to specific lengths for specific purposes; it’s just a matter of finding which ones fit on which component.

All along, I’ve been pondering what the first warp will be. I know there will be a fair amount of adjustment as I get it threaded and balanced, so the first warp should be simple. And since it has the drawloom frame, I might as well set it up for a drawn design. Perhaps just some cotton yardage that I can use for towels or aprons will be the inaugural project.

I will keep you posted.