Monday, October 12, 2015

Lather Rinse Repeat!

So I took my new bag on tour. It's big! Too big... ::insert sad face here::

Cut pile travel bag

If I fill it, I can lift it, and carry it. I carried through several airports, it flopped onto TSA checkpoint conveyors, it fit in all manner of overhead bins: large plane and small. In short, it certainly works, and serves it's purpose. It will be trip worthy.

But it was heavy. I plan to make a pad for the shoulder strap (easy fix) and I thought about ways to cut it down (not easy fix) and decided, well, it's easier just to make another! We shall consider this Travel Bag Version 1.0.

In the meantime, I have retreated, with several friends, also makers, to a house on the edge of a lake:

And while there, wove a sample for the next bag:

Gila Cliff Dwellings

This image has been in my head for several months waiting for the time to make it real. I am so pleased! It's quite near my mental picture, although smaller: this was after all, to be a sample. I'm so happy with it though, it's going smack dab on the front of another leather bag. Bag as yet to be started, but the pocket piece is done!

In the course of weaving this, my head came up with several other iterations of the image, so I will weave another, at least one, maybe two. I have Yet Another, completely different image I want to weave, involving greys and reds, before I tackle another of these. All this is to say that one thing leads to another and another and another, images and bags, bags and images...and so it goes.

Last stop on the recent grand tour:


Two kids a bubble bath, and good clean fun!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Project momentum.

Long projects, those that take months, even years, have their own rhythm. Interest and time available wax and wane, but at some point, when enough of the preliminary steps have been taken, momentum increases, the project takes on an urgency, and compels finishing.

Cut pile travel bag

But before that point is the slog...


This photo, of the loom and the very beginning of the weaving, was dated January 2013.

knotted pile upright loom

No part of this is instant gratification. Yarns are spun. Yarns are dyed. The loom is set up and the weaving progresses. It is easy to be distracted by something new! Or other life commitments. But for me, if I can keep the original plan in my mind, no matter how many times I have had to adjust, compromise or accommodate because the materials or my skills cannot produce my ideas exactly, I can pick up the threads and continue.

Cut pile travel bag

The bag construction is slow step by step, consuming time. I am improving, gaining skills, getting quicker, more sure of the process, and more familiar with the tools and materials. Stitching is fun to do!

And in the end, a new travel bag. I am traveling! with the bag! Again, to visit I these munchkins:



Thursday, July 09, 2015

Sample Sample Sample

"Sample" is somewhat of a dirty word. It's the answer to many a weaving question, we know it's the answer, and yet we resist. We ask anyway.
"How will this yarn work at this sett?"
"How should I wash the fabric I've woven?"
"What color should I use?"
"How does this weave structure compare with this one?"

We can all give an answer. Weaving and the end result we are seeking is so vast and varied though, the answer we give, while it may be totally correct, may not be the "right" answer.

And so we sample. But how? Well, I have 2 absolute rules:
#1: always weave the sample on the equipment you will use to weave the project.

This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. A sample woven on a rigid heddle loom does not give accurate information if your project, even woven at the same width and sett, is woven on a floor loom. The yarns will be under different tension. The beater and consequently the beat, will vary. The depth of the shed will vary. And, importantly here: the rigid heddle loom raises and lowers one set of warps, leaving the other (the slotted warps) static: not moving, never rising or sinking. This means a variation, a differentiation, in warp tension due to the very mechanism itself.

Pin loom weaving is not a sample for fabric woven on any loom: it's an alternative type of weaving. The warp and weft of a pin loom (or of a triangle loom) intermingle in ways not done on a rigid heddle, table or floor loom. There is only the tension the weaver applies, there is no beater, and there is no shed.

Rule #2: determine what you are sampling for....

If I am sampling for sett choice, weave structure, weft choice or yarn suitability, or how the fabric will finish, I simply add an extra yard in length to the warp. With that extra length, I can do a series a samples, still using the same equipment as the final piece. I can test wefts for color and size, I can test for beat: double? open shed? closed shed? I can sample weave structures, and re-thread or re-tie if needed. I can cut off and wash a sample, and still have room to re-tie and weave the project. A few inches of warp is sometimes all I will need:

Handspun silk

In the small space of 2", this sample tells me 4 things: choice of weft (finer, singles silk noil), color of weft (gold, not purple), manner of beating (double beat), and weave structure (plain weave, not broken twill). Since I put on a bit more than this 2" for sampling, I also ended up with a generous length of fabric left over, never a bad thing.

But if I am weaving to test the drape of the fabric, my sample will be bigger. I need a big enough length to wash and press, and then test for drape. A little square, even an extra yard won't really do. In this case, I am testing a new weft (singles fine wool):

Silk scarf

So lots of my samples are scarves or shawls. They can vary so much in qualities like thickness, fulling, width and length, and color arrangement that a full length sample tested in real life is never a bad idea. These samples also help me determine how much fiber I will need for the finished project: how much do I need to buy or spin? I end up with lots of samples:


Drape is important in the fabrics that I make. My warp-dominant fabrics could be stiff and boardy, so the components: sett and weft are critical. But not "to the eye" critical: to the hand. To feel. After finishing. In use. Scarves and shawls get used. Yarn and sett get assessed. The the final fabric gets woven:

Silk fabric

So think big. Buy extra fiber or yarn, beyond just the minimum amount you think you will need. Make samples that will be useful, depending on the quality you are sampling for. Samples are not a waste of time and materials, they are tools. They are tools I need to use to learn how best to make the finished fabric.

Since I am learning new skills in leather stitching, I've had to make samples here too:



Testing color and thickness of the leather, a new-to-me thread, finish choices and size choices: the same types of things I need to sample in weaving. Also? skill building: the more I make, the more my hands learn what to do. The more I make, the better decisions I can make next time.

It's all a process, It's all time and materials well spent. Sometimes, the sample is enough:

Tablet loom

Not pretty, made of scrap wood. But it should be a functional tool! I have no plans to be a woodworker, but I did want a small tablet weaving loom. The sample is the project, in this case, and I am off to try out the results today! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Much Flitting

Before I take off this afternoon, yet again! I'll post a photo of the travel knitting in progress:
Stash sweater

Stash busting sweater, a design-as-I-go sort of thing, in an attempt to use up skeins and bits of skeins left over from other things. Much of this is yarn spun on spindles while traveling too, also in an attempt to use up small bits of leftover fiber.I love the variegated yarns that have come of this travel spinning: clearly more interesting than the flat colors that I am using to strand the patterns.

Some day this will be a jacket-type long sweater, with a band up the front (steeking! eek!) and most likely a hood. Afterthought pockets, because I just don't know how long this will be... I have ripped back a few times. Sometimes, the picture in my mind does not match the thing in my hands.But hey, there is no deadline, no time limit, and I have many-several sweaters, so no real need.

Luxury, eh? Extra time, extra yarn, and eventually, an extra sweater!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Laverne Waddington came again to our area, this time for a few events. We had a guided study group, she was able to attend our guild meeting, and then she taught 2 classes: a new weaver's group and "wide fabrics on the backstrap" for the intermediate group (that's me!).

I set up a reeled warp of hand-dyed and warp painted sections for weft brocade:
silk brocade1

Here I am testing the brocade weft: this is 3 strands of silk floss, and it's not quite covering. Laverne took a look at it and thought I should both a)add to the floss so it would cover, and b) weave less narrow (don't pull in so much on the weft) so there was more room for the brocade to fan out and cover the warp.

Since this was (to me) a sample, I planned to finish this part off, and the weave a bit wider in the next section and see how that went.

Laverne blanched. She hesitated. She looked at me funny. Then she said "you could just take this out". Well, of course I could! but it's a sample. I'd just weave on. This clearly made her uncomfortable. She is a master craftsperson, and she wanted to see this done correctly. She offered to take it out for me. I said sure! While she did that, I ran a second warp of the same reeled silk:
reeled silk

This is set up for a pebble weave center section, and "thick" borders, as in pebble structure all the way across, rather than plain weave borders.

Everyone in the class was doing something different and it was great fun to see all the fabrics people were making. First up:
jan set up

Here's Jan settingup her wide warp for a backstrap for herself. Jan was in the beginning class only the week before! But she is smart, and dedicated, and clearly learned well:

Jan's backstrap1

This is her band (complementary pickup) at the end of day two. She'll have it done and in use by Spindle Camp, where several of us plan to weave together on our backstrap looms. Jan is the mastermind behind Spindle Camp, which is now more Fiber Camp, as we do all kinds of fiber, not spinning alone. Another weaver from the beginning class, Diane, has also finished her back strap and done some complementary pickup: she'll be joining us at camp too!

More bands from the intermediate class:
Diane's backstrap
Diane's pebble design thick borders

Janet's backstrap pebble
Janet's, also pebble design

Stephanie set up
This is Stephanie's set up, I did not get a photo of her woven piece: also pebble.

So Laverne is off traveling somewhere else, now, and we are left to finish up these bands and look forward to her next visit. We have a class scheduled to learn finishing techniques next Fall, which includes Niawi awapi, among other things. More backstrap weaving to look forward to!

And me? Traveling too. I will be visiting with a Hot Pink Flamingo:
Hot Pink Flamingoes!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bag Version 2.0

So last year I made this bag:
leather and silk pile bag

Silk knotted pile pocket, suede, about 11" x 12". I like it a lot. I had to change out a few things, fix the handle attachment, trim the seams closer, but I've carried it, it holds things, I like the image on the front. It's a bit big, but I generally err on the side of "maybe I'll use this as a carry-on" so it would have to hold passport and boarding documents, phone, iPad, headphones, spindle tube, knitting, shawl/scarf, wallet, toothbrush and a few small essentials.

I sewed it with the skills I had at the time, on this:
sewing machine 001

Using the brain I had at the time, I thought: if I were to sew something, I'd need a sewing machine. If I were to sew leather, I'd need a big ol' honkin' powerful industrial sewing machine. So I used this. It was less than optimum, mostly operator error: I am not a big fan of loud fast machines, and this intimidated me. Enough so that I never really learned ho to use it well.

I gave the machine to a friend who knows how to use old sewing machines. First thing: she oiled it, and said it worked much better (duh, me).

Anyway! We move on to leather hand stitching lessons, and since then, I have been practicing.

Also last year, Kristy, at Opulent Fibers, gave me some leather. I have been plotting how to use that leather, or rather which bag, made how and with what textile attachment, because the leather was always going to be a bag.

I went back to last year's bag (above) and worked on v.2.0, entirely hand stitched, and not perfect, yet, mind you, but closer!
opulent leather FB

I originally planned to use the smooth side of the leather, but the suede side looked so good with the silk pile that it won. Marking stitch lines on fuzzy suede was a new one for me, so, mainly, I had to wing it, or find another way to mark the lines than with the tools I have learned to use. There are some decidedly crooked stitching lines, but once you poke that hole in leather, it stays a hole. No matter, it's my bag.

I have learned how to "make zippers", as in buy a length of zipper cloth, cut to size, add hardware and remove extra teeth. It's a bit challenging, but the zippers are better. The zippers in the bag at the top of the page are purchased from a sewing supply, and likely not strong enough to last for long. That problem? solved now.

The front pocket is again silk knotted pile:
opulent leather detail

I took apart this older bag to use this panel:
silk bag front

I carried this for about 8 years, replacing the worn out cardwoven handle once, and when the second handle started to wear out, I retired the bag and made another to carry. I like the panel though, so I rescued it from a box in the closet, and used it for the pocket here.

This new v.2.0 bag is not perfect, but it is very good! I am still learning, my stitching is getting better. I need to make a few specialized tools if I am going to make more bags: the gyrations and clamping and light-rearranging, and tool managing I had to do while stitching parts of this bag were humorous, when not actually painful.

I have stab marks and cuts all over my fingers: this leather stuff is not for the faint of heart. My Dad, who was a wood worker and a smoker, often had burn marks on wood projects where he'd put down a cigarette. He called them his "trademark". I have blood marks. Very little sweat though, and no tears! at least this time.

Now, to carry it, the true test. Is the handle the right length? Is the size right? Does it hold everything I need it to and can I get to stuff easily? It's lined with a light colored leather, for easier retrieval. We'll see during beta testing. Surely, it will not be The Last Bag, though. This is way too fun.

Last, keeping on topic, so to speak, we close with:
bag and Jackson, Carbondale

Duffel, filled, in use, in situ, with a small boy added for scale :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Proof of Concept

This past weekend, I attended the Conference of Northern California Handweavers (CNCH), held every year in some form or another. This year was a "retreat" format, which meant a gathering, classes, no galleries of work, and usually no vendors. We did have a vendor, Village Spinning and Weaving, whom I managed to support! But mostly, it was all about the classes.

At Asilomar! The beach! A good-weather weekend at the beach! who could resist? We've had CNCH at Asilomar before, I always enjoy my time there. The food is excellent, the rooms generally have a sea view and a fireplace, so we listen to the sound of the waves all night long. I can drive, although it's about 4 hours, so a bit of a trek for me.

Coptic band

This year, I took a class in tablet (card) weaving from John Mullarkey. It was wonderful in many ways, not the least of which is that John himself is delightful, patient and kind, a good teacher, and full full full of information. His presentation, and documentation is superb: even I could understand it!

We did two bands, Egyptian Diagonals (top), and Coptic Diamonds (bottom):

egyptian duo3

I'd never done Coptic Diamonds and had great fun with it. You can see towards the end (left side in the photo) some of the designs I began to weave "off reservation" so to speak. It is a technique that lends itself easily to variation, designing, if you will, although it is so organic that I cannot believe everything I could "design" has not been done before. The very last motif, bottom band left, was an "S", which worked, indeed, but would be better centered with another row of cards.

So I came home and tried it out:

egyptian duo2

White background with black lines, this time, two "S" motifs, flipping and rotating them. Proof of concept! And...I was able to do it at home, with my tools and in my studio, alone. When I learn something new, I try to repeat it at home, under my conditions, without anyone to ask for help. It's the only way I know I will actually learn the technique....rather than relying on someone else to help me out of a tough spot.

White background and black lines: this just cries out for color! I will weave off the band (this being the sample) with the proper weft (leftover black used here, and you can see it peeking out occasionally). Then...paint? dye? colored pens? Such possibilities!

I do a lot of card weaving. Basic stuff, I know lots of things to do....but John understands what is going on, and can help us begin to understand it too. Card weaving is a complex weave structure, with convoluted thread paths not easily traced or unwoven! should a mistake be made. If you have a chance, take a class from him! You will learn a lot. And get to weave for a weekend, uninterrupted. Perhaps also surrounded by clean air, the beach, good friends, good food...What could be better?!