Monday, June 27, 2005


Or the Evolution of a project.

I put this warp on the loom in 2002. I had an inkling at the time that I should not do this: I had lots to do, and should not tie up the big loom with this warp. I went ahead anyway.

rug sample2

I wove a small bit, then stopped. (If you click on it, there is a larger photo). I got busy with deadlines, other projects, and, to be honest, a bit of fear and loathing of *this* project.

It is handspun silk, the warp is tussah, the pile weft is a mix, mostly bombyx, but some tussah. There are four distinct yarns involved in a pile project: the warp, the pile, the selvedge, and the foundation weft. All of it is handspun silk.

When I wove this, it took an hour per row, there are eleven rows per inch. The finished piece was to be 48 inches; you can extrapolate the time commitment this meant. It was put aside, as I said, in favor of other projects. Then it languished. Being honest with myself, I was afraid of it.

The time commitment I could deal with: being a spinner, I am used to making things in increments. I knew I could do a row here and a row there, and it eventually would get done.

But the design was freeform. I began to realize it was intimidating to me: I was used to balanced, symmetrical and graphable designs. One midnight, in one of those unbidden revelations, I decided to try out the design in a smaller work, just to see if I could manage it:


I liked the design, the colors, the sinuous border pattern, the way the hearts turn into stars as they hit the sky, the moon, and it's reflection in the water, and the fish, swimming toward the moonlight. Once I had woven this, I felt more confident in the bigger piece, but things just kept getting in the way: the chair was not in front of the loom, so sitting down to a row here and there meant shuffling furniture, finding tools, yadda yadda, blah, blah, blah. It just wasn't getting done.

Never one to waste a more-than-300 thread handspun silk warp, I just let the warp languish. It niggled, in the back of my mind, and wanted to be woven.

Then I had another midnight revelation, involving using the warp for an entirely different project. That idea pushed to the forefront, and this weekend I resolved to finish this as a sample, useful in classes, and get on with the next thing.

As I wove the last few rows, not caring about the old pattern, I flew through them. I, in the intervening years, had become much more adept, the rows were going at about half the rate as before. This was intriguing. The colors I used to finish it off also enchanted me: I began to have thoughts of just finishing this, and ignoring the next project. It was tough, I had to take myself in hand and really look at the sample, which showed its origins and lack of planning in various color changes. So I finished it off:


If you click on the photo, you can get a close up. In the close up you can see the new weaving, where the plain blue begins, and the violet disappears. You can also see the stripe of color that so enchanted me: the reds-to-orange-gold in the blue field. That serves as the sample for the next project's colors, and I like them quite a lot. At the top edge of the weaving, in blue, and later at the final edge in plain silk, you can see the soumak lines, and if you look really closely, a very white line of linen, which is the twining.

This was so fun to do, that it has energized me for the next project, which I just can't wait to start. It is great to be excited and energized at the beginning of a project, so perhaps all this angst was worth it! I promise updates soon.

Friday, June 24, 2005

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I've been gone. I learned to make these:

silver bits 3

Very Small Silver Bits, from ArtClay Silver. While at Midwest Weavers Conference in Sheboygan WI, I had enough free time to take a silver clay class. I had not fully realized my potential for Obsessive Compulsive behavior until I took this class. I made tiny bits. Everyone else made pieces you could actually see without magnifying glasses.

I tried to justify my tiny bits by adding beads and hanging wires:

silver bits and beads

A bit better, but tiny bits nonetheless. I put some on coins, you get a better picture of scale:

fish bits

Isn't that bottom handblown fish just the cutest little fish ever? The fish beads were a gift from my son in Hawaii. Later, after I had spent countless hours burnishing tiny bits of silver, I made a few rings and some bigger bits:

silver bits and rings

More rings than I have fingers available. I blackened these Slightly Bigger Bits to show off some of the detail, but hey, they are still obsessive little bits. I will work on the rings, finishing up the edges so they look a bit less like pipe parts, but I have been wearing three of them obsessively (how appropriate) ever since the conference.

The rest will be charms, or embellishments on bags. I was so happy to take the class, particularly the interaction with some of my classmates. I try to be a good student, not disruptive, nor demanding (I think I may sometimes fail here). I certainly had fun, and I learned something I have wanted to try.

I was among friends, in a beautiful place, with good weather! The food? Well, let's just say we did leave the campus a few times for excellent dinners in the area. In Plymouth, there was also a piper playing (and a woman with a self-acknowledged Bad Haircut), and in Elkhart Lake, we ate among the pagans and heathens who had driven up from Chicago (the Bad Haircut Woman was there too. We must be a fascinating bunch to follow!). A good time was had by all.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Labyrinth Bag

All dressed up and ready to show:

Labyrinth bag

Labyrinth Bag on it's cute little copper pipe stand.

And the back:

labyrinth bag back

It's hard to know how to display two-sided items. Is this cool or what? I think, with time and effort, I could adjust the dimensions slightly to have the band secure and not obscuring a small portion of the back. But this will do, and since the deadline is here, it will *have* to do.

And I so love the bag. Isn't it fun when things work out?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Moving Right Along

This is the back of the Labyrinth Bag:


In this photo, it's still on the loom, but as of now, it is washed and drying. Some of you may recognize the border pattern, it was inpsired by this:


architectural detail from the Department of Agriculture Building in DC. Color makes quite a difference, doesn't it?

I need to weave the band for the bag (or rather the *second* band for the bag: the first one is too narrow).

Then there's the sewing up, lining, closure and any embellishment (I think none, this is *enough* as far as patterning goes) yet to do. But, barring any unforeseen circumstances, there is still time. I would like to have this ready for the Midwest Weavers Conference this coming week, which will be held in Sheboygan, WI.

So, back to the studio, back to work. And LauraJ? No, I haven't bought Uncut Cloth. I have looked at it several times, but have not felt the need. If I see it among the vendors next week, I'll give it a look-over again, and report back.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Displacement Activity

I'm still avoiding the last few rows of the Project Which Must Be Done Today. The studio is so cold, my husband had to re-light the pilot light on the heater this morning. So while it warms up, I'll respond to June's question about learning knotted pile:

"Not that I need another hobby, but where can I read about the fundamentals of knotted pile? Do you have a favorite book or website to recommend?"

Well, yes! Since learning this technique myself 6 years ago, I have taken it as my mission to proselytize, er, enable others to learn, knotted pile.

(LauraJ, look away! look away!)

One of my favorite books is Woven Structures, by Marla Mallett. Marla is a dealer/collector of indigenous textiles, but she started out as a weaver. She has a maker's understanding of structure, and she wrote this book to help dealers and collectors understand what they are looking at. Thus, it is not a *how to weave* book, but a book about *how weavers have woven*. Once you see there are many ways to produce these textiles, lots of selvedge treatments, several styles of inserting foundation wefts, and several knots, then you become more free to develop your own best methods.

Her website is a treasure of textiles and tutorials.

There is also a video, by the man who taught me this technique. Orlo Duker's video Cut Pile Rug Techniques, is sold by Victorian Video, AKA the Yarn Barn, in Lawrence KS. Duke made the video after several years of weaving, and it includes plans for a loom, and a beater of his own devising. I use his beater, and we make them in pile classes (time permitting) or I send people home with the plans to make one. Duke changed his warping methods after this video was filmed. I learned a different process from him, a depressed warp technique, which results in a tighter weave structure. Since there are so many ways to skin this particular cat (yuck!), the video is still a good learning tool.

There is a British website, where you can buy a new book written by Noreen Roberts on the basics of knotted pile, plus tools and yarns she imports from Iran. Several people have purchased pile scissors from her, it's one of the few places I know of to do so, and Noreen is a quick and friendly vendor.

But, the most exciting news is Sarah Swett's new book Kids Weaving wherein she has plans for the copper pipe loom (as a PVC loom in the book, but just switch to copper pipe), instructions for warping it, and a few beginning pile projects! It's not out yet, but it's worth waiting for: the step by step process is so simple, and well explained by Sarah. The diagrams are fabulous, the project is great, the pictures are wonderful, and, short of someone sitting right next to you, it is (in my opinion) the best way to learn this technique.

My last suggestion is to haunt used book stores. Oriental rugs are a collectible on the worldwide market. Uncounted volumes have been written about rugs, some with photos and diagrams of their construction. I buy inspirational ones, and those that have good maps and diagrams. They are a constant source of pleasure to me, just looking at all of the rugs, woven over the centuries and throughout the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, and Spain, connecting my work to other weavers of the world.

Monday, June 06, 2005

An Unprecedented Second Post

I am practicing avoidance: I'm on the last few rows of a project, and that's always the hardest. I seem to find *anything* to do to avoid finishing. Today, I came back and read comments from the Empty Bins post, and was all inspired to answer them.

I can see I have been remiss. Both June and Claudia were curious about the grist of the Rug Yarn Which Has It's Own Bin. I could get out the McMorran Yarn Balance and give you numbers, but hey, it's really all about the pictures, isn't it? So we dragged ol' Franklin Delano out of retirement and put him to work:


And for those of you who have no Franklin Delanos with which to compare: he's about 3/4" across. And no, I don't know what that is in metrics. Numbers, feh.

And how about the shine on that Lincoln yarn, eh? Won't that make just the best pile?

And while we are responding to comments: yep, Valerie, there is dyeing in the future for these yarns. I'm thinking reds, and a gold, and a blue. I know, boring, predictable. And Judy? I found Eva Cassidy and Sarah McLachlan to be just the thing for mindless spinning. From even further back: see LauraJ? no books mentioned! (just a few CDs). and Carol? You are right: there is no purple silk. Good spotting. I will remedy that (which means, you know, that I have to dye at least 3 purple batches, to give enough choices. Sheesh).

The Empty Bins Project

Like many of you reading this, I have acquired newly shorn fiber this Spring. My usual procedure is to send the raw wool or mohair to a processor to be washed and carded or combed, into roving or top. I received some mohair from my friend Sue, and promptly mailed it off, anticipating the clean, ready-to spin top I would get back.

Then I looked around the studio, and realized I have no room to store *any* more fiber (do I hear cries of me too!?). So, I sat down with a goal of spinning up a few bins worth, to make room for the new.

Now, this is zippy-skippy spinning, the easiest yarn to spin in the Universe: it will eventually be cut into little one inch bits as the pile in a rug, so it need not be particularly well spun nor consistent. It is spinning-to-daydream-by, or automatic spinning. I put on a few CDs, and plowed through 4 or 5 bags of prepared fibers:

rug yarn1

This is 6 pounds of yarn, in about 8 oz. skeins. The white on the left is Lincoln, the grey is Lincoln, and the cream color yarn is a mohair/wool blend. I used the SpinTech (large bobbins), and zoned out.

The yarn piled up on the worktable, the bins emptied of top. I almost broke my arm, patting myself on the back: the studio was looking positively spacious. The glorious pile of yarn on the table isn't needed right away, I'll start this rug in January or so. I might dye it soon, or better yet, wait until the daydreamed plans for size, design and color of the rug become more solid.

Then it hit me.

I would need a place to store the yarn.

I would need more bins.

I bought more bins. They are Empty Bins, ready for the new wool.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

That Math Thing Again

silks1 May 2005

Last Friday I finished dyeing all the silk for class materials. I tried to get a range of colors. Each packet will contain a dark, a medium and a light, plus white and tussah (pale gold), to do the class project. I have to think of colors I would not normally use, and color combinations with them, so this is a challenge (of sorts, I realize there are degrees, and this is no Climbing Mount Everest challenge, but still).

So, I think there's enough green to satisfy Freyalynn, and several Dark Colors Not Blue to satisfy Claudia (see? There's brown, and dark green and even Really Dark Red).

Here are a few close ups;

dark silks May 2005
silks May 2005

There is another picture,
silk May 2005
where I tried to organize them by color family, but the darks disappear in the shadows, so I had to mix them up a bit.

I was getting a bit tired of the morning dye routine, and I thought when I finished I would rush to put away the dye pot, but nope. As soon as it was free, I started in on some of my future projects:

rug yarn

This is commercial rug yarn, for a knotted pile table runner, which I have designed and planned, but cannot get to until at least July. But the yarns are ready! Is anyone surprised at the colors I chose? I thought not.

I also dyed some navy silk yarn for cardweaving, but it doesn't photograph well, so you'll have to imagine it (dark navy silk here).

I counted the silk bundles as I stacked them in a bin to store them away until next Fall, and there are 59. I need 60. Oh, my (that is not the word I used in actual real life), I'm one bundle short. That very loud groan you hear is me, going back to the dyeing board.