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?

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…