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.

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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…

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