Saturday, October 28, 2006

Baby Steps

One of the reasons I usually end up with a series of similar projects is that I'm working things out, step by step, project by project.

Long time readers of this blog will remember this post, about my first knotted pile hat, inspired by this book:

Afghan book2

The hat on the cover is a fabulous shape, has great color and detail, and inspired my first version:


Handspun silk pile, good colors and design, but the top was flat, which made the hat more of a pill box. Also, the hat was too small for my (very small) head. More research was needed.

The next two hats:

dona hat

choice hat

Wool pile, the shape is getting there, and the hats fit better. A little big, but wearable.

The latest hat is finally the right conical shape:

new hat

Handspun wools. I really like the hat band and fake fur trim:

new hat band

I wove the fur trim with locks of wool, rather than spun yarn. The band was woven next, then the pile area. It's a simple design, and subtle colors (for me) and I have Big Plans to make the next one more colorful, maybe even dye the fleece so the *fur* will be dyed too.

But first, I have to get a handle on the hat sizing:

hat head

Off to SOAR, for Hallowe'en festivities and much more fun. Mojo has entered into the spirit of the season:

mojo vampire

vampire cat. :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


nancy's silk bag final

It's always fun to have a new bag for a party. This one is for SOAR, starting this Sunday, and it's done just in time!

You might recognize the colors, this is the same silk that Nancy dyed for my birthday jacket here. There was an extra knitted panel of silk:

Nancy's silk4

which Nancy gave me to weave up a sample scarf for her SOAR vendor booth. I procrastinated, thankfully, because she really doesn't need another silk scarf, Chris Little Carmack has been doing an admirable job of weaving beautiful scarves for her. Nope, what Nancy needed was a silk bag.

So I ran the warp:

nancy's silk warp2 Oct 2006

The beautiful silk was just too pretty:

Nancy's silk warp3 Oct 2006

And then I took it off the warping board:

Nancy's silk warp4 Oct 2006

:-)! Is that fun? It looks so festive, like curly ribbon. No matter, I put the warp on the loom:

Nancy's silk bag2

This is through the heddles, and this:

Nancy's silk bag3

is tied on, ready to weave. You can see one escapee, and the festive curly look returns whenever the yarn is not under tension. Whoop!

For the record, the warp is three yards long, 114 ends, sett at 30 epi, 3.8" in the reed. I warped from to back, and there was no problem contending with the curliness of the yarns; whenever I applied tension, they behaved quite nicely. I wove off the fabric with a 5/2 mercerized cotton weft:

Nancy's silk bag

Then I needed a band. I reserved a portion of the silk for a handle woven on the inkle:

Inkle warp Oct 2006

The bag panel was folded and stitched, and the band was sewn to both sides. The bag is lined with some silk, and interlined with thin batting. The final touch: those festive thrums, made into a tassel:

silk tassel

The total yardage in one silk blank was 420. It would make a nice scarf sett a little wider, as Chris has amply demonstrated. And now Nancy has a new sample for her booth. Stop by and see her next week at SOAR, she and Deb will be selling under the name Color to Dye For.

Me? Gerbiling. Packing. Wrapping up. I should not be taking the time to blog but there you go.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Rounding the Final Bend

The last of the dyeing is done:

SOAR yarn 2006

I think there are 22 skeins here, raw silk. Barbara asked which class, and it is for the workshop, Silk Cut Pile, at the end of this month at SOAR.

I woke up this morning at 3 AM in a panic about all the unfinished details I need to accomplish in the coming week. This is typical behavior, I tend to work through my to-do list one portion at a time, ticking things off, and when one part is done (the dyeing, in this case) look on in a panic at how long the list still is.

Workshop prep takes time, and lots of materials. I sometimes wish I taught the kind of spinning class where I could throw down a pile of fibers, and people could just have at it.

Not so for me: there is calculating, ordering, gathering, breaking down, dyeing, sorting, piling, packing, cutting, building, re-writing, printing and finally, either shipping or (hooray!) loading the car and driving it all there.

I feel accomplished as the pile of boxes grows higher, as items are checked off the list. But I am not fully satisfied until it's all at the site, and everyone has what they need, in their own little hands.

I have been stymied by customs, airlines, broken boxes in shipping, and miscommunication. But we always manage to manage, we can be resourceful when the need arises. Most places have stores, and some stores even have what we need!

The actual fun begins when the workshop is underway, as people are busy working through their process, the next step, the project, or visiting. That's really what we are there for, too, the visiting part. The rest is icing on the cake; the fact that we learn something new, or share something we know, is secondary. We are there to be together.

At no time was this more clear than SOAR September 2001, when people had driven, braved the airlines, arrived from all over this country and from countries far away, to be together. It's always fabulous to look around a room full of people who understand, more so when the world outside seems beleaguered.

Much Rheinbeck blog-fodder this week, and next week I hope to be entertained by stories and pictures. It will help me with the last push, building looms, panic buying, making sure everything I might need is loaded a ready to go.

Meanwhile, Autumn is here: crisp mornings, the smell of wood smoke and moisture in the air, the Sandhill Cranes flying overhead, with their high-pitched calling. Let's hope the weather holds, sunny and clear days, cool nights and stars everywhere. Friends are on their way, the show is about to begin.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Good, The Bad, and The Sqwadgy

For those of you sqwadgy-color fans:

sqwadgy silk2

Sqwadgy: [skwa-djee] colors likely to be found in a swamp. Or in the Autumn, all around us now.

As Marcy said, there are no bad colors. Just colors other-people-like-better-than-I-do. Or perhaps, colors more likely to be used by people other than me.

Anyway, you get the picture. And I get the point. For the record, some of the sqwadgy colors have begun to creep their little way into my work too. Turns out they are useful, and sometimes a great complement to the reds/blues/golds I like to use:

Sqwadgy silk1

And the fate of all of this silk?

SOAR silk 2006

Packets of silk, 29 total, all packed up for SOAR.

The Dye Lots project continues, but we are moving on to yarns this week. More Bright Color Pictures(tm) to follow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

On Dyeing Silk

Time again for a few batches of dyed silk fiber:

silk Oct 2006

It is always a challenge and a pleasure to dye silk in a variety of colors that I think someone else might like.

Color is so important to most of us. It is often the first key, the reason many people are attracted to an item. But to some, color is no color (or what I would call no color). To others, the color has to hit you between the eyes. Most of us fall into the space between, but it is a wide continuum.

I know what I like (and I think Marcy and Nancy know too). But when I look at colors other people choose, I'm sometimes stumped.

They are all beautiful, and they will all make fine yarn. With enough dyed, there will be something for everyone.

The goal here is lots. Lots of color, lots of silk, and lots of choices.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A New Yarn Snob

The SSK met recently (Society of Subversive Knitters, a left-leaning group) and found that Sue has created a monster. Patricia and she are doing a project together, Sue is spinning the yarn, Patricia is knitting:


I think it's the Highland Triangle shawl from Cheryl Oberle's book Folk Shawls (and if it is not, I'm sure someone will correct me!).

Anyway, Patricia was out of yarn, Sue was spinning to catch up:

sue spinning

Patricia is now back on track and knitting. Sue spun like a madwoman, while Patricia tapped her fingers, and ate cookies (I think, like, 6. But who was counting?).

The fiber is a blend of wool, alpaca and silk, from Lambspun (again, I think, if not someone will let me know?)[You can see how much I pay attention! but also, there were cookies: what is more urgent, to pay attention to Sue and Patricia's project or to eat cookies?]:


Now Patricia has become a yarn snob. She wants to knit with only handspun, which is problematic because Patricia does not spin. And does not want to spin. She wants Sue to spin faster, more, and hand it over. We'll see where this leads.

Lindsey regaled us with stories of life in the outside world. Lindsey works at the library. There are always stories [hint: if you intend to die, yes, die, not dye, do not go into the library restroom, sit down in a stall, close the door, and wait for someone to find you. Dead. Yuck].

Anyway, the county had an inservice training day recently for all employees who deal with the public. Part of the inservice included techniques one can use to remain calm in the face of an insufferable client. Anyone who has worked with the public knows that there are, indeed, unreasonable and difficult people out there with whom one has to be polite. We especially liked the *name on the bottom of the shoe* technique, wherein one writes the name of the insufferable client on the bottom of one's shoe, and walks on it. Or stamps on it, as the case may be.

Sue immediately ran for some shoes:


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Weaving Simply

First of all, thanks for all of your comments on my last post on weaving a simple silk band. Sometimes a project just seems right, things fall into place, and all works well together. I can never predict which project this will be. I like to say 1 out of every 10 projects is a success, but that's a guess. I just know that not everything works out to my satisfaction, and yet I still work at it.

But why? Why do we persist? What brought me to weaving, as opposed to say, pottery (which I so admire, and always wanted to do). There must be some inherent satisfaction in just the doing, for some of us, for those of us who do things. It's not always the product, because heaven knows we could buy it for cheaper at [insert the name of your local discount store here].

I came to weaving at about the same time as raising a family. Weaving was something to occupy my mind while caring for small children. As anyone who has raised children knows, there is very little *adult* in the caretaking, cleaning and cleaning again that goes along with childcare. Weaving can be demanding, thoughtful, entertaining and fun to think about, while scrubbing mud out of small shoes, or sweeping sand off the floor (again), or standing in line at the grocery store, closely examining the fabric of the jacket on the person ahead in line, while seeming to be nonchalant.

Weaving is everywhere. It wraps around us everyday, mostly unsung and un-noticed. I have made an effort to share my joy and pleasure in weaving, and am delighted to find new reasons to cajole potential victims new weavers into trying a few things. Jane Patrick's new book Time to Weave illustrates well that weaving is anywhere and everywhere, accessible and fun.


I've had a chance this week to interview Jane, as part of the Interweave Press blog tour announcing her new book:

1.Your new book Time to Weave is beautiful and contemporary, the projects
are timeless. The book could be classified as Weaving, or Contemporary
Craft, or even under Home Decoration. Who is your target market?

This is a good question. I think what I had in mind and Interweave had in
mind was a book for people who like to make things with their hands to try
weaving on a simple scale. By presenting attractive, simple-to-make projects
my hope was to inspire readers to want to learn more. However, I think the
book has a broader market because of the response I've seen. Even weavers
with very sophisticated equipment are getting excited about making projects
from the book. I've also heard from teachers who are finding good ideas in
Time to Weave to use in their classrooms.

jane's twining

2. There is braiding, plaiting, weaving and twining, such a wide variety of
textile techniques used in the projects: did you plan ahead of time which
techniques you wanted to present?

No. The techniques really came as I developed ideas for projects. I wanted
to make, for example, a choker and found that an 8-strand braid produced the
look I had in my mind.

3. Did the materials, or the finished idea come first? How did you choose
the projects?

Generally, all the projects started from a concept. I knew, for example,
that I wanted to make a window hanging. I had set equipment parameters, such
as only using frame looms. So, the first thing I tried was working on a
large frame but I found it too cumbersome and I didn't like the look I was
getting. Also, I decided if it was too hard for me, I couldn't expect my
reader to be successful either. Then came a period of just sitting with the
idea and finally I came up with cutting plastic sheeting used for windows
and weaving with ribbon. It gave me the result I wanted and happened to not
require a loom.

4. Some of the materials are very non-textile oriented: I imagine you
wandering the aisles of the local home store, wondering how you can use
*this* or *this*. You stretch the definition of yarn, and textile in the
projects. Was this a fun diversion from your usual textile projects, or do
you usually think *textiles* in all things?

Like most people who get involved in textiles, I see the world in textures
and lines and shapes that I can't help but translate into textiles.
Everything seems to be a potential textile or an idea for a textile. I had a
lot of fun at the hardware store. Working on this book, really truly, was a

5. The tools you use range far a field from traditional textile tools, mat
knives, glue sticks, pliers, hammer and drill (!). Many of the tools and
materials cross over from other crafts: quilting, sewing, even gardening,
integrating weaving ideas into other crafts. Weaving is integrated into
everything we do, but often goes unnoticed. Was it part of your intent to
make the idea of weaving just part of everyday life?

Sara, weaving as part of everyday life would be my dream come true! But
seriously, I did want to make weaving "just another craft", like scrap
booking or knitting. I don't know that I was always intentional about the
tools I chose but I did think that the reader of my book would be familiar
with the tools I was using as well as a variety of craft techniques.
Perhaps, secretly, I hoped this would also lend a familiarity to the process
of weaving.

6. The book seems to progress in an organic way to the textile orientation
of weaving: the projects start with non-textile materials and gradually move
into more yarn, fiber and fabric, culminating with woven pile (be still my
heart). Is this a sneaky way to bring new people around to the
accessibility of weaving? If so, congratulations, I think the book will work
well as a subversive guide for people formerly intimidated by the thought of
Weaving, and introduce it as merely weaving, part of the world around us.

What you say is true, but I didn't feel sneaky about it. (But maybe what you
say is true, and frankly, if it is, I'm all for it.) Honestly, though, it
was important to me that a few projects be what I consider "real weaving".
That is, a loom that is warped with yarn and a weft of yarn crossing it. I
wanted to introduce some weaving techniques such as the pile in the Pillow
Patch, but I didn't want to be too teach-y (which is my tendency). I just
tried to expose people to weaving and hope that they'll say, "Wow, I really
love doing this. I want to WEAVE."


Perhaps this last question illustrates my propensity for underhandedness, for slipping weaving into every conversation, for trying to hoodwink the few people who are still unaware of weaving as a craft. This new book will be another tool in a bag of tricks, useful in presenting weaving as an everyday event, and tricking teaching new people to weave.

Jane is the former editor of Handwoven Magazine, to which I have subscribed since the very first issue. When it arrived in those early days, I would save the magazine until evening, when the boys were in bed, and I could devour every word. Thank you Jane, for a fine new book, and thank you Interweave, for all of your fine work over the years: without you, I would not be who I am today.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's All a Process

Sometimes simple is better:

mother of pearl necklace

My son and his wife brought me this Mother-of-Pearl spiral pendant from their trip to New Zealand this summer.

My first inclination was to make it a pendant on a string of beads or pearls. I got out all the mother-of-pearl, pearls and dyed pearls, shells, stones and glass beads that I thought might work with the colors in the pendant:

necklace process2

Then I made a bale out of silver wire and a few beads:

Mother of pearl necklace4

while I thought about which pearls and beads to use, and in what way, for the necklace: one strand or two? length? stone and glass, or pearls only? mother-of-pearl, and dyed pearls? I ruminated. But something irritated me about the bale: I thought it might be hard on the pendant. I thought it just might scratch or mar the surface of the Mother-of-Pearl, over time. Also, somehow, the hard wire clashed with the organic softness of the pearl surface and shape.

Then I remembered a necklace that I have, made for me by Mary Spanos several years ago. She wove a fine silk ribbon of her handspun, and wrapped the ribbon around an antique stone spindle whorl:

Mary's necklace2

Simple, effective and beautiful. I wear it often, especially to spinning and weaving venues where someone else might recognize and appreciate the stone whorl.

So, I had a small skein of silk:

silk yarn for mother of pearl dyeing

Which I then dyed a few colors that seemed "mother-of-pearl" to me:

abalone silk2

abalone silk

and warped up a silk ribbon. It was woven on an inkle loom, about 27" long, with white 30's/2 silk as weft.

The finished ribbon was wrapped around the pendant, with a simple knot. I had thought to leave it there, but the mother-of-pearl is not very weighty. To add some heft, I slipped on one silver bead.

There is not even a clasp:

necklace finished

I finished the warps with a twisted fringe, and simply tied the ends.

Sometimes simple is best:

two necklaces