Refilling the Creative Well

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Our part of the world enjoys four seasons and right now spring is transitioning to summer. The days are getting longer, warmer, and greener. There’s renewed hope for the garden, renewed energy in the morning walks, the desire to break out of the routine, for something different on the loom, something to get excited about. Getting away for some kind of retreat is a good way to refill the creative well for the coming months.

This past week was just such a retreat for me. I spent the week at Vävstuga Weaving School in Shelburne, Massachusetts studying Drawloom Basics with Becky Ashenden. Becky’s warm welcome and enthusiasm for all things Swedish made all of us feel right at home from start to finish.

What an inspiring week! Yes, I’ve woven on a drawloom for many years, but only with a few structures. Where I’ve woven 5-shaft satin damask before, this past week I had the opportunity to try 8-shaft satin damask.

Damask in 8-Shaft Satin

Damask in 8-Shaft Satin

We learned the properties of the various damask weaves, 5- 7-, 8-, and 10-shaft. We even worked with weaving swords to hold pattern sheds open on two different looms.

4-Shaft broken twill woven with a weaving sword

4-Shaft broken twill woven with a weaving sword

Where I’ve woven opphämta in the past, at Vävstuga I saw the variety of designs beyond what I’ve tried, combining borders and designing effective figures.

Opphämta with Weaving Sword

Opphämta with Weaving Sword

Opphämta borders on 10 patterns shafts

Opphämta borders on 10 patterns shafts

And with Smålandsväv, there seems to be limitless variations to keep me busy indefinitely.

Smålandsväv

Smålandsväv, back

Smålandsväv, front

Smålandsväv, front

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have shaft drawlooms; last week I also wove on single unit drawlooms, both with pattern-saving lashes

 

Damask with Pattern-Saving Lashes, front

Damask with Pattern-Saving Lashes, front

Damask with Pattern-Saving Lashes, back

Damask with Pattern-Saving Lashes, back

 

 

 

 

 

 

and without.

Single Unit Draw in 6-shaft satin, front

Single Unit Draw in 6-shaft satin, front

Single Unit Draw in 6-shaft satin, back

Single Unit Draw in 6-shaft satin, back

 

I’ve woven mostly with cotton; this week, it was almost exclusively linen or cottonlin. I beat my warp with a steady hand; this week, I learned that some weaves just need a heavy thump.

Lithuanian Opphamta on 21 Pattern Shafts

Lithuanian Opphamta on 21 Pattern Shafts

I can follow simple directions, but I don’t always know the “why” behind the “how.” After a week of discussing the different kinds of looms, deciphering drawdowns, and weaving on several different set-ups, I have a lot more understanding of how to make the loom do what I want it to do.

And now that I’m home again, I’m putting more thought into rearranging my looms and their set-ups. When I bought my second Glimäkra last year, it was basically so I could have one dedicated to drawloom weaves and one to wide and multi-shaft weaves. The class gave me the incentive to make that happen. Over the coming weeks, I will take the draw attachments off my bigger loom and allow it to be used fully as the 12-shaft loom that it is. The smaller loom will then be the dedicated drawloom since I usually don’t weave wide drawn pieces.

I so appreciate Becky’s encouragement and the warm welcome from all the Vävstuga staff.  Many thanks to all you! Now that I’m home, there’s so much to weave, so little time!

Designing Double Duty

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Blue and Red Towels off the loom

The blue towels came off the loom a couple weeks ago and before the last shuttle thrown, I already knew a red warp would follow.

The blue warp has three shades threaded evenly across the ground with plaid-like bands of pale yellow bordered with purple on either side. This was the first time in a while that I wove distinct bands in the warp and it turned out to be a relaxing weave—I knew the drill, followed old habits and came up with several variations for weft-wise borders.

Even as the blue towels are waiting to be hemmed, I was measuring the red warp, this time a blend of various shades accented with yellow, purple, orange, and fuchsia. Using the same treadling orders, this set of towels wove up fast. All the designing was done already. And yes, I did tie the red warp onto the blue.

The first three towels were an experiment in themselves. Twill draws in more than tabby. Twill woven within a tabby towel often leaves scalloped selvages, but could I reduce or eliminate those scallops by bubbling the weft more? The answer is yes –and no. The twill bands didn’t draw in as much, but there is still some difference. And if I wasn’t careful, the excess weft sometimes left loops on the surface.

This twill threading allows a variety of different treadlings too. This is when I really appreciate the computer. I was able to eliminate a couple ideas because they resulted in some long floats. I took careful notes on how I treadled each set so that I could repeat them with the red warp. Even so, there are plenty of options with straight draw twill:

Straight Draw Twill on Ms and Ws Threading

a combination of tabby and twill (bubbling carefully):

Tabby with twill

woven as drawn in (what is sometimes called “trompt as writ”):

Ms and Ws woven as drawn in

and point treadling:

Point treadling on Ms and Ws threading

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a green warp next. However, a niece is expecting a baby this fall and baby blankets and bibs are next on the to-do list. And then there’s a loom reassignment coming up—more on that next time!

When have your designs done double duty? Share your story!

Making the Most of Time

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Gebrochene on the loom

Gebrochene on the loom

Last night our study group met. We were a small group—the local colleges are on spring break and many people are out of town. Those of us who came shared our current projects and the conversation turned to tying a new warp onto the previous one.

Susan said she rarely ties on. She says she is always planning the next project while she is weaving, and it is often in a different structure.

As an example, Susan brought a rainbow colored baby blanket woven in 8-shaft crackle. What a bright and cheery blanket! The blocks for her crackle pattern came from an overshot name draft that she designed. She showed us that same name draft woven in fine white and blue linen overshot. Then there were the lace towels in 10/2 cotton—again using those name draft blocks, this time in lace. That’s three different structures from one block design. She couldn’t tie each warp onto the previous one because they are different structures, but she started with the same block design for each.

Paula said she ties on whenever she can. Paula has an Ms and Os warp on right now for a baby blanket after which she will reduce the sett for a scarf, then after that, she’s spread the warp again and tie on for a rug. Paula has studied Ms and Os for years. She starts with that one weave structure and interprets it into everything from fine to heavy fabrics. She knows just what to expect from different yarns in that weave and how they will respond to the floats and interlacements. One weave structure—many ways.

I’m somewhere in between in the tying discussions. I tie on when I can, but like Susan, I’m often on to a different structure with the next project.

Gebrochene Draft

Gebrochene Draft

Currently I’m working on a gebrochene weave. That’s an old German name for a fancy Ms and Ws twill. I really love the intricate patterns created with just the classic twill line going in different directions. From this one threading, I can weave plain weave with a fancy twill border, gebrochene in a straight treadling, gebrochene in a point treadling, trompt as writ, or a combination of any of these. Using different colors and fibers and tying on to the existing warp, I can weave towels, runners, napkins, even scarves before I have to rethread.

All of us have ways to get the most out of our creative time, whether it tying on to the previous warp, or using the same draft in multiple structures, or weaving a single structure into a variety of items.

How do you get the most out of your creative time?

Problem-Solving in the Works

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my thrums dilemma and eventual inspiration to weave a bench pad in rosepath boundweave. On Friday, I pulled the pad off the loom and yesterday, finished the hemming.

Thrums waiting to be woven

Thrums waiting to be woven

The bed covering in the painting “Lallah Rookh” is my source for inspiration. It has, as one of its motifs, an elongated flame shape on a solid ground. Because I had a limited supply of thrums for patterning, I focused on that shape rather than trying to duplicate the entire covering. I supplemented the thrums with other wools from my stash for additional colors. From this image, I went to past magazine issues for specifics.

I have seen different tie-up methods for boundweave. Tom Knisely threads boundweave in the typical rosepath arrangement and treadles the colors in blocks which float two ends up, two down. (see “A Boundweave Rug” p. 34 November/December 2010 Handwoven). This results in a reversible fabric.

Flame taking shape

Flame taking shape

However, I chose the tie-up from “Rugs in the Scandinavian Way” in the May/June 1987 Handwoven Magazine for no other reason than I just wanted to see how it would work. Here, Phyllis Waggoner uses a boundweave tie-up that lifts three ends against one. With this set-up, the backside is definitely a backside. Her rug shows several design bands in varying colors, one of which was a distinctive flame motif. Sometime, that would be a fun rug to weave in its entirety, using the block treadling to produce a more reversible fabric, but for now, I needed to focus on that flame pattern and maybe a smaller diamond.

Backside of the boundweave, right off the loom

Backside of the boundweave, right off the loom

Weaving progressed slowly, not just because boundweave is a slow weave, but because I was working with weft in one-yard lengths. Lots of loose ends! Every end had to be overlapped and tucked to the back of the web while weaving. Here is where I made a decision based on expediency: because the back side would not be seen, indeed would be tied down to my loom bench, I decided not to worry about all those loose ends. If this had been a piece on which both sides would be seen, I would have used a needle to weave those ends in after taking the piece off the loom.

Because I didn’t know how long the flame motif would end up, after weaving the hem and header, I started the border just a couple inches in from the beginning. As it turned out, one repeat was going to be too short, and if I wove a second one, the pad wouldn’t fit on my bench. An added smaller diamond on one end resulted in a more useable length, even though it does bother my “symmetry” sensibilities a bit.

The finished boundweave bench pad

The finished boundweave bench pad

This was definitely an exercise in problem-solving that resulted in something useful—which is what I wanted from my thrums.

What challenges are you working on this week? Share your discoveries!

Passing It On

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We as humans seem wired to want to pass things on to the next generation. We tell our children about our family heritage. We save heirlooms to hand down.  We hope our children remember all the things we tried to teach them. And sometimes they even learn things we unintentionally model.

I did not learn to knit or weave or sew from my Mom. She was a busy farm wife, mother, and freelance writer without much leisure time. But I saw that she sewed, she knit, she wove when something was needed, and I wanted “to do that too.” However, I learned to knit and sew and weave in 4-H and later in school.

The Knitting Lesson

The Knitting Lesson

As a young mother myself, I wanted my children to know how to work with their hands. I wanted to share with them the pleasure of making something themselves. But I also did not want to force them. I did not want to make it a dreaded project. So I crafted around them, asked them from time to time if they wanted to try, and if they showed interest, I showed them. Now I wish I had been more tenacious. None of my four has taken up knitting needles, shuttle, or fiber. That may soon change.

My daughter’s family just left after a week’s visit. In between trips to parks and reading stories, one granddaughter asked to learn how to knit. So I picked out some bright green yarn from the stash, a pair of easy-to-handle needles and off we went. She stuck to it and today before they left, she cast off a nice little sample piece.

I did warn my daughter: now that her daughter is learning to knit, she, too, will have to learn so that she can help her daughter on this adventure. She smiled and nodded.

A turn at the loom

A turn at the loom

Not to be left out, another granddaughter asked how to weave. I have a towel warp on the loom with a bit of warp at the end. So I showed her how to move the treadles and how to throw the shuttle. She wove through one sequence of the twill pattern, then she skipped off to another game. Shorter attention span on that one! Someday, she may try it again. At least she knows whom to ask.

Not every child or grandchild will be interested in fiber arts, but every one we teach will in turn pass along the skills in their own children. It’s been going on for generations.

Pass it on!

What To Do With Loom Waste?

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Loom waste from the wool blanket warp

Loom waste from the wool blanket warp

After I took my blanket off the loom, I was left with a familiar dilemma—what do I do about all that loom waste—thrums in weaving parlance.

Loom waste is the warp yarn left when you can’t get weave any further. Most of the time, it’s about 36” that is either cut off and thrown away or tied on to the next warp. On my Glimakras, it can be as much as 42” depending on the draft. For a wide warp, that’s a lot of yarn.

I left the warp knotted on the loom after I cut off the blanket. I just couldn’t bear to throw it away, knowing how precious good wool is. Yet what could I do with it?

Back in 2014, I used thrums for mug rugs in an overshot weave but I don’t need any wool mug rugs right now.

A couple years ago at a Midwest Weavers Conference, I took a class by Robyn Spaedy on making jewelry with thrums. She creatively wound precious yarns around pipe cleaners and twisted them into curious shapes to make whimsical pendants, earrings, and bracelets — an inspired used for sparkly, fun yarns, but these muted colors of wool wouldn’t make much of a statement.

So the thrums stayed on the loom.

At the same time, I’ve been pondering what I can weave for our annual guild challenge. The past few years, the challenge has revolved around the color of the year. This past October, we met at the University of Missouri Museum of Art and Archeology. We were challenged to use something in the exhibits to inspire a finished product. “Lallah Rookh” by Francis John Wyburd is filled with elements that can be translated to the loom, from the bed covering to the drapery, and even the women’s clothing!

As I walked past the loom with the wool this week, it occurred to me that this wool could make great cushion fabric for my loom bench. And the bed covering in “Lallah Rookh” looks like rosepath boundweave! At last, inspiration!

Boundweave sample from a recent workshop

Boundweave sample from a recent workshop

In boundweave, the weft covers the warp entirely. It makes good sturdy rugs with striking figures if more than a couple colors are used. My thrum wool colors may be subtle, but they do contrast with each other and will bloom nicely after fulling to cover the warp. Because the lengths are only about 36”, I will weave the cushion sideways, 18” wide by 30” long, folding it around the seat and hiding the cut ends on the underside. Extra thrums can be used as ties to keep the cushion in place. A path forward feels so good!

How do you use up your project leftovers?

Storm Warning — or How to Spend a Weekend Indoors

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What do you do when an ice storm looms (no pun intended)?

Wool on the cone

Wool on the cone

Dire predictions preceded Winter Storm Jupiter, so named by the National Weather Service. Ice is nothing to fool around with, so we did what most everyone did this weekend—we stayed home.

It was a perfect excuse to work on a wool blanket, something nice and warm.

Before the holidays, I agreed to weave a full-size wool blanket for a customer who attends 1800’s era reenactments. This is a little out of my experience, so it required some research.

Wool Blanket on the Loom

Wool Blanket on the Loom

Because the customer will be using this blanket outdoors, it has to be warm and sturdy. I chose Harrisville Highland Wool (900 yds. per pound) and straight twill for the weave structure. A 24” square sample helped me determine how long to soak and agitate it to get the desired finish.

The size is wider than my looms, but weaving it double-width makes up for that. I had to watch the bottom layer to avoid skips and catches as well as a messy selvedge.

And I weave cotton more than wool, so I had to brush up on how to treat this lovely yarn respectfully, to make it bloom into full potential.

Wool twill blanket off the loom

Wool twill blanket off the loom. Finished sample is in the upper right.

Yesterday I pulled the finished warp off the loom with a sense of accomplishment. I still have to hem it and make any necessary repairs before fulling the finished blanket, but it was a pleasant way to wait out an ice storm.

The Treasure of Winter Time

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Snowfall in the trees

Snowfall in the trees

It’s a quiet time of year. The to-do lists of the holiday season are checked off and tossed away. The company has gone home. The decorations will soon be stowed for their annual hibernation.

This is the time of year when I try to clean up the studio and record the drafts I hurriedly tossed on the pile after the warps came off the loom, weigh cones of yarn and replenish supplies for upcoming projects, ponder what I might want to explore in the coming year.

This is the time of year when I delve into something I’ve been wanting to learn but haven’t had time yet. A couple years back, I spent a few mornings with guild friends learning to tat. There was the year I attended a Fiber Retreat to hone my spinning skills.

So what will I do with the treasure of winter 2017?

Green and White Damask Runner

Green and White Damask Runner

Photography is one of those things that I know I can improve on. I spend way too much time struggling with lighting and focus, and then trying to edit the photos into my vision of what they should be. So with a little time and a different camera, I will see what I can do about that. There will be a learning curve, of course. I don’t expect stunning results right off the bat, but I’m willing to work on it.

Same runner, different camera

Same runner, different camera

Then there’s damask. I do love the sheen of satin damask, but so far, I’ve only tried 5-thread satin damask and only at a very narrow range of setts. What about 6- or 8-thread satin? What about varying the sett? If the tie-downs in the satin are spaced wider, would the fabric have more sheen or just be sleazy? I have some warp on the big loom that waits for sampling.

Our guild presents a challenge each year as a way to push our creativity. This year, we visited a local museum and are to translate inspiration into fiber. Some years ago we had a museum challenge and I wove fabric in the colors of an iridescent vase on display. This year I’m considering something with varying blocks to imitate drape since several of the paintings showed lovely fabrics on the subjects. We’ll see how far I get with that!

Now is the time to explore, before spring comes with a garden to plant, before we travel to see kids and grandkids, before I buckle down to more production in preparation for the fall. Now time is a treasure not to be wasted.

How to you spend your winter treasure?

Catching Up on Projects Interrupted

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As the year winds down, it’s a good time to finish those projects that I stepped away from for one reason or another.

Placemat in progress.

Placemat in progress.

Earlier in the fall, I started to explore how to weave overshot placemats more efficiently. Overshot is normally woven with two shuttles, one for the ground weft which gives the fabric stability, and the other with a heavier weft which makes the pattern. But weaving with two shuttles takes a bit more time. I wanted something that would weave quickly.

What to do?

I remembered trying a nifty little trick some time ago—turning the draft, making the warp act like the weft and vice versa. Then I can weave with just one shuttle.

So if I have an 8-shaft overshot which weaves with 10 treadles, turning it makes it a 10-shaft overshot woven with 8 treadles. The original ground weft is threaded into the warp and every other warp thread is weaving the tabby either on shaft 1 or shaft 2. And now the weft will act like the original warp—in other words, I can weave it with just one shuttle!

There are a few things to keep in mind. For one thing, look at the draft. You can’t weave a 10-shaft pattern on an 8-shaft loom! My original plan was to use my 8-shaft Baby Wolf. Only when I was ready to start winding the warp did I realize that it just wasn’t going to work that way! I do suffer from tunnel vision sometimes. Luckily, I have other looms.

Also, the warp will be very dense with both pattern and ground threads sharing dents in the reed, but because the pattern threads are floating either on the face or on the back, the warp should be sett as a balanced plain weave for the size of the ground warp. The pattern thread has to be sturdy and smooth to stand up to warp tension as well.

There at the top and bottom, the figures just don't match as they should.

There at the top and bottom, the figures just don’t match as they should.

And threading the warp exactly as the weft didn’t seem to work my first try. After weaving a few repeats, it didn’t look just right. Then I noticed that the figures above and below the diamond weren’t symmetrical. The drawdown looked fine on computer but not on the loom. Hmmm…

I checked the “usual suspects”— tie-up, treadling, threading. I enlarged the draft on the computer and that’s when I noticed that at the reversing point in the diamond, the weaving program had also reversed the tabby. On the loom, I had faithfully threaded all the ground threads on shafts 1 and 2, alternating all the way across. I should have reversed those ground threads as well as the pattern threads.

After rethreading, the figures are now symmetrical.

After rethreading, the figures are now symmetrical.

After some rethreading, it is now symmetrical. There are some other irregularities, but I will work on those with the next warp.  This is a retraining project after all. By the time I make it through the various color ways I had in mind, I ought to have the process down pat.

What projects are you finishing before year’s end?

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?