Friday, April 29, 2005

Green Silk

dyed silk5

As you can see, I've been dyeing silk green (with a brief foray into purple, but more on that later).

The greens are varied: on the left and center are combinations of yellow and blue, in the back is a gold/turquoise blend, and on the right are navy/gold versions. I am not measuring, so I can't tell you percentages. I am going for variety, so I just use different components.

These are not blending in the pot well, and are variegated. They'll make fabulous greens spun up though, so I'm not concerned. I think the lack of blending is because I am being supremely lazy and not even making up dyestocks: I'm just tipping dye powder into the pot before adding the silk. I'm also not using all the auxiliary chemicals that I would use if I wanted level colors: no salt (a leveling agent) and no sodium acetate (a pH buffer). The colors will still be fast, just not level. Oh well!

How do I choose which colors to put together? It's daily serendipity: I know I need a variety of greens so I vary the mix. I have lots of sample books from which I can select colors, and (Warning!: small commercial plug ahead) Deb Menz and I did a sample book for sale a few years ago:

dye book cover

We made up 50 books for sale, and we're down to only a few left ( if you are interested). We are starting the dyeing for the next volume, which we should have ready by June 2006. It will be more complex colors than the first volume (really *volumes*, the first ran to 1100 samples and took 2 binders to contain). I will be clogging the blog with dye sample pictures as I get them done!

So I can look at, say *green* pages and see how the different yellows and blues create a variety of greens:

dye book page2

Here's the yellow/blue page. There are 3 blues (navy, turquoise and blue) and 2 yellows (yellow or gold) in the sample book, so the variety is quite extensive, without even taking into account the depth of shade (D.O.S.). My dump dyeing is emulating the 50/50 range of colors, but again, with no measuring so all the colors vary somewhat.

All those greens seemed to call out for a brown-purple, so yesterday (and today) I did a scarlet/navy purple:

dye book page

Scarlet is a yellow-red, so the components of this purple go nicely with the greens I'd been dyeing. I need several more batches of this squadgey purple, then I'll do some bright purps.

Dyeing, what fun!

A few quick answers to comments:

June: the brushes in the photo come from Maiwa Handprints in BC. But my favorite brushes are from the paint store, in the section for Faux Painting Supplies. They have black and gold handles, and are simply labeled The Decorator (tm), by Robert Simmons. They are pricey, but last forever. Many of my brushes are abused, overused, and lose bristles. When the whole brush part falls off, I just glue it back together. I don't worry about bristles falling out, they wash out.

Minnie (dragon knitter): yes, the pans are food service stainless steel steam trays. I bought them at a restaurant supply, for dyeing. I use them for oven dyeing (immersions), and to hold warps while they batch (as I did in the last post). They are just a convenient size/material.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Back to Something Simple

I painted some warps this morning, perhaps for towels (usually gifts) or curtains (our bedroom is hurting).

It's so nice to get back to a simple process that I know how to do! Yesterday, I ran 4 warps of cottons and cotton/rayon blends. They are about 8 yards long, no idea just how many threads. I use a paddle, and just run a batch of warps to dye, then count threads and add warps to get the necessary number once the yarns are dry (and I've decided what to make). There were 6 different threads in these: at least 2 5/2 mercerized, an 8/2 unmercerized, and a cotton/rayon novelty. That leaves 2 yarns, I know, but I forgot what they were: something in the 2000 to 3000 ypp range and cotton.

I washed the warps overnight in hot water and detergent in a bucket. I changed the water once (the first wash water can get really funky: mill oils I think). This morning I dumped out the wash water and re-filled the bucket with a soda ash solution, and soaked the warps. (Soda ash solution is approx. 1/3 cup of soda ash to each gallon of water.) There's no need to rinse the warps, detergent does not impede the dye, and may act as a sort of lubricant, to help the dye migrate.

While the warps soaked, I prepared the dyes: I use Cibacron F fiber reactive dyes from ProChem. Several of the colors were already in dyestock solutions (of either 1% or 2%) but I needed a gold. I mixed 1/2 yellow and 1/2 gold dye powders to a 1% solution (in this case 8 grams of dye to 800 ml of water).

I stretched out a sheet of plastic wrap and arranged the warp to be painted:

warps ready to paint2

The cups hold the dye colors, which will be applied with the 1" stencil brushes you can see in the photo. The 4 warps will all have a combination of the same five colors: orange, gold, rust, cardinal and scarlet:

warps painted2

The painted yarns were wrapped into little packages, and set out to batch in the sun

warps batching

Today should be 70ºF, and sunny, so I'll leave them outside until this evening. Then I'll finish them off inside: they need to stay warm, above 70ºF is best, and wrapped for about 48 hours.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dreaming of Cardweaving

I spent last weekend at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers (CNCH)at Asilomar, yes, on the beach at Pacific Grove. It was a tough assignment.

I took a cardweaving class from Gudrun Polack. I hoped to come away with a better understanding of the structure of cardweaving, and insight into how she weaves her beautiful interlocked patterns.

The first day we wove a sampler of shadow weave. I started weaving where the threads are bunched in a loop, with some easier patterning, then tried some more challenging return and spiral designs towards the end of the band.

cardweaving sample

We were given drafting homework that evening. I opted for a gin and tonic (perhaps the first mistake).

The next morning the plan was simple: we'd each choose a more complex draft, warp it up, weave a sample, then try a sample of other structures warped by other class members. We would each end up with about a bookmark-length sample of a variety of patterns. I chose a braided pattern, also chosen by at least two other people in the class.

Day two did not go swimmingly. In the photo below, I started weaving at the loop end. Each of those little threads sticking out indicates where I started over. And over. And over. At the very beginning, Gudrun wove a tiny bit to make sure the cards were threaded correctly. They were. The rest is me, going slowly nuts.

cardweaving sample2

I left for the day not having succeeded. I left the warp set up, and once again, Gudrun wove a sample and it worked just fine (it was me, not the cards). I, however, had returned to the gin and tonic.

Day three. I arrived full of new enthusiasm. I repeated my less than stellar attempts for a few tries. Then I took a deep breath, pulled myself together and wove a few inches correctly, sigh, finally (see the very end of the sample above).

After a few days R & R in Carmel and Monterey, I came home Wednesday with a goal of weaving my bookmark. Yikes, thwarted again. Here are my repeated attempts:

cardweaving sample3

Close, very close, but no cigar. I stopped, went on with my day, and went to bed contemplating The Pattern. I dreamed of the cards. I woke up with the pattern going back and forth in my mind. I tried again. This time, I turned the cards without referring to the diagram. That was the key: I was familiar enough with the pattern to keep going, not be distracted, and I managed to weave a passable sample:

cardwoven bookmark

I have not yet mastered this pattern. I can weave a bit without mistakes, but mastery, to me, involves knowing enough to correct mistakes when they occur. I will weave it over again, perhaps many times, until I understand it, and where the threads should be at any given turn. Then, when I can correct mistakes (which are inevitable), I will have a greater understanding, or mastery. And with mastery comes the ability to innovate, and vary. That's when the real fun will begin!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

This Week's Haul

See? Even green (at the back there, behind the orange and gold).

dyed silk4

More green, and purples, are in order. I got out the whole lot so I could take stock:
dyed silk2

30 lumps of silk. I need about 30 more. The class will use 45 total, but I like to have enough so everyone gets a real choice, not *what's left*. Everyone gets 3 colors, and some natural silks.

The tally is 14 reds/oranges, 11 blues, 3 golds, and 2 greens. I have a red on the rack drying and another red in the dyepot cooling. Reds win, hmmm. Greens, browns, golds, Fall colors are what's needed. Plus a few purples, and the jewel brights.

Thank you all for your great comments on the silk shirt. Yes, Colleen, the fabric is cut and sewn. The pattern is easy though, all straight cuts. Laura, the pattern is in Interweave Press' Design Collection #13, Simple Tops. It's a T-shirt kind of shirt, I wear them for everyday (that is, around town, on planes, in public. My *real* everyday clothes are not to be revealed). It would look nice in greens Freyalynn, and it is plain weave, so it shouldn't take you 30 years to get there. In fact, knowing you, it will be done by next week, in fabulous colors, in handspun tencel, or something else equally remarkable! Claudia wants a model shot? Sure, soon. When I figure out the timer thing on the camera (hah!).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


The silk fabric is finished, and the shirt sewn.

Here is a cool pic of the warp still on the loom:


And the fabric just off the loom:


(looks a little stiff, huh?) So I washed it:


(ah, now it looks more like silk)

Here's a close up:


I've been a weaver for close to 30 years, and a member of weaving guilds for almost that long. In that time, I've heard lots of speakers, seen lots of exhibits, and taken lots of workshops. Throughout all of them,I've heard many critiques, both formal and informal, and some speakers whose opinions differed from mine. Over the years, I've heard: *if you are still doing plain weave painted warp, it's boring*, and *top stitching is tacky* and *if you are not warping my way, you are not weaving*, along with the previously mentioned *peasant cloth* comment about my fabrics.

If I had taken these comments to heart, this shirt would not be. It's only because I chose to select what was important to me, out of all the advice given, either sought or not, that I can produce what I want, and what suits me. So here it is, a *tacky*, *boring*, *peasant cloth*, shirt, that must be crocheted, because I don't put a warp on my loom in the manner she presented:


Monday, April 11, 2005

They're Back!

Each Spring I look forward to the salamander sightings:


Sierra Red Newt. I found a much better photo on the web here, and yes, they are that cute.

We live on a ridge, the nearest stream being far downslope, so we have no idea why these guys are up here. But they are, and they come back each year. I have no pets, so, being starved for animal companions, I actually go outside looking for these guys each morning. As I type this, there are two of them making their slow, steady way around the front of the house. One year, we bought bait worms, and I fed them! Yes, they slurped up the worms, and waddled back home (a drain pipe).

They have also made their way into my work:


This is a graph, and the woven newt, in handspun silk. Here's a (perhaps) better shot of the pile:


And another bag, this time in wool:

squirrel bag4

This bag has several of my other animal companions represented: one is the squirrel, in front of the red yurt. One year, this squirrel seemed to be living or foraging under the yurt. Several times, when I started down the stairs, he came screaming up them. What did I, fearless woman, do when faced with a screaming squirrel? I dropped everything and ran. From a squirrel. Thank the gods he wasn't a mountain lion.

There is also a reciprocating border of green and red *hooks* on the bag. This is a typical Middle Eastern border on carpets: it's called Running Dogs. I used it in honor of these characters:



These are the neighbor's Queensland Heelers. I don't know their names, but they come around often, and I pet them and we chat. They are thieves though, we've lost *a* shoe and *a* work glove, and who knows what else. One time, as I was hanging out laundry, they stole the portable phone. Hah! I chased them through the woods, but they were fast, and I didn't have my running shoes. We bought a new phone.

So they made their symbolic way into my work. I like developing a personal vocabulary of symbols, they may seem random, but they are a journal of my days.

The dogs came by last week. I heard quite the commotion on the back porch and went out to find this:
kitty in tree

Kitty in the tree. She is quick, and has her eye on the dogs, as they make their merry way onward, visiting other dogs down the road. She came down eventually, and went into hiding to recover.

We have our independent little lives up here, and every now and then we cross paths, and occasionally my companions show up on in my work.

Friday, April 08, 2005


rug done2

Here is Peter's Rug. I finished the on-loom part this afternoon, and will tie the warp end knots this evening. It will be delivered tomorrow (not like working to a deadline, or anything).

I was surprised, when I rolled it around, to find only one central motif. Most of the rug had been rolled up in back when I got the loom, and I thought, assumed, there would be two central blocks, surrounded by the borders. I guess because the Mass at St. Giles version, the inspiration for this rug, has at least two center blocks.

This is nicer, in my opinion, than one with two blocks would have been. Two seems an unbalanced number, to my Western eyes, for a center section. One, three or five, any odd number, seems more appropriate, somehow.

The loom this rug was woven on is too big for my studio (the yurt). It is 8 feet tall, for one thing (the side walls of the yurt are 6 feet), and it leans against the wall for support (the yurt has no walls per se). So the loom and rug have been living in the garage, an unheated and no power garage. I've been alternately freezing and sweating to get this done, and could only work in good daylight hours. Today, I had no choice, I had to work. Thankfully I had the extra light glowing off the *snow* which fell all day! Yep, snow, in April, in California. Claudia? How did you do this?


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Quilt Blocks Again

This weekend I found a new (to me) resource of quilt block patterns: 1000 Great Quilt Blocks.

I especially like this book because all the patterns are done in grey scale, allowing the designer (me!) to choose colors.

I did a quick graph of one I liked, then added color:

quilt block2

I'm not a quilter, and probably won't ever use these as quilt patterns (never say never), but I now have a whole new source of graphic patterns for knotted pile. Yay!

Monday, April 04, 2005

More Silk

silk dyeing4

There is no neat and tidy theme for the latest round of silk dyeing. Suffice it to say I am stockpiling colors. I'll be working on greens, honest, I just have to build up to them, this glowing Peridot is a start. I need to add squadgy swamp greens, and some bright field and tree greens, and a few purples for good measure. The whole spectrum will eventually be represented, along with a few value variations.

Most of my weaving time has been spent with Peter's rug; I'm on the last row of knots. You may not be able to hear the trumpets blaring from where you sit, but they are, trust me, they are.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Weaving is Applied Mathematics

This thought popped into my head in those wee sleepless hours this morning. I know it's true, and I know what it means to me. But it is true to varying degrees for different weavers, different weaving, and it is inclusive: dyeing, knitting and other handcrafts involve math skills too.

I think of what I do as intuitive. Although it does involve some calculations, they are simple ones: adding, subtracting and multiplying. There is some geometry in the graphic images I use, but it's mostly all about color, in plain or simple weaves. And adapting, when complications arise, rather than planning so well that they don't arise.

All of this being said, weaving still involves that math part of the brain, and I'm counting on that (pun intended) to keep me from early dementia. If I keep doing those mental math calculations, simple though they may be, perhaps I can stave off confusion. One can hope!

Today I set up a simple copper pipe loom to weave some silk bookmarks:

copper pipe band loom

This is a variation on Archie Brennan's copper pipe loom, with some adjustments made based on Rachel Brown's Hopi Loom. Sarah Swett, in her upcoming book Kids Weaving, has great instructions for making, warping and using a loom like this.

I'm trying to find out the best dimensions for a band loom. Usually I make it about 30" x 12". Outside dimensions of this version are 18" by 12" with the weaving area being 14" x 12". This is as small as is practical, shorter than this and the shed is too hard to pull; a longer weaving area would give a better shed.

Now see, math skills might have been able to calculate this: I did it experientially. But I also get nice silk bookmarks in the process!