Friday, May 27, 2005

The Project Pipeline

I know that those of you reading this have a stack of projects in various stages of unfinishedness (new words are invented everyday). So how do you choose? Sometimes, mine choose me. In fact they are insistent.


I worked on this bag for the last two days, finishing it up. It is not needed for a nearby deadline (as others are), but I did need to clear it off the loom it was on, because the loom is needed. Well, that's nutty, because the loom was a homemade copper pipe loom, and I could just as easily, and more quickly, have made another loom. But that would be even nuttier, as I would then have four copper pipe looms in the studio with projects in various stages of unfinishedness. Hence the promise to myself: finish this bag before starting the next one.

I started this bag as a class sample last summer, so it was designed on the fly, and then the design was polished up a bit when I got home and got down to weaving it. And Marie, the orange wool you gave me last Fall is in this bag: look along the rust/orange border at the bottom of the flap, and you'll see where the color changes slightly: that's where I started with your wool!

Some of you may recall the back of the bag:


The quilt block design in knotted pile. This photo also more clearly shows the beads I shoved onto the fringe. I occasionally feel like I'm exposing my old Hippie ways when I bead every available surface, but I know I'm in good, worldwide company, especially when I see the bags on display at the Textile Museum in DC or read this book.

What remained was the front of the bag, which I usually do in (very slow) soumak, and the handle (cardweaving, but simple cardweaving, not Gudrun Polack cardweaving), and the sewing up and embellishment.

So this week I did the soumak:


conveniently running out of grey handspun before the front was finished. When I run out of yarn on projects like this, I try to improvise. I call it "thinking like a village weaver". If I lived in a remote village in the regions where this type of weaving is done as a matter of course, I would be weaving for practicality's sake, as well as for technical excellence and beauty. So if I ran out of yarn, I'd finish the bag in what was on hand. So I did, using the white yarn at the top.

This made for a nice stage for some more bead embellishment, in this case seeds, glass beads, and shells (painted red, from a thrift store shell necklace, woohoo!). Until I took this photo, and looked at it from the distance perspective photos can give, I did not realize they looked like little red teeth. Cool, that should be a good protective omen for a bag, don't you think?

Now, I must take control of the project pipeline and finish the Labyrinth Bag, which *is* needed for a deadline. I will be pressed for time, under the gun, and I did it to myself. I'd like to abdicate responsibility, and insist that this project pressed itself forward, but more likely it was my long standing habit of procrastination rearing it's ugly head.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Well, no cigar, but close:


Some of you may remember the start of this project last February. It served two purposes: as a public demonstration of weaving at my guild's open house, and also as an experiment in weaving without a plan. There was an update progress photo, but for the most part, this project languished.

It is knotted pile, and I like to equate the process of knotting to the process of knitting. It is knot by knot, rather than stitch by stitch. The hand motions are mostly fine motor manipulations that become habit, and unconsciously done, as in knitting. This allows time for the mind to wander, solving the world's problems, and occasionally some of my own.

This bag will be in a show, next June, in which all the pieces must be for sale. So as I weave away, I imagine the person who might buy this bag. It most likely will be someone near my age or younger, and probably someone who works. I imagine them sitting on the subway going to work, or in meetings at work, both times where, if it were me, I would need assistance with patience and equanimity.

That thought gave me the idea of putting a labyrinth on the bag, so the eventual owner could calmly follow the labyrinth path with her finger, while passing time, or pretending to look interested. It just might help her keep her mouth shut (a prop I would appreciate sometimes), or remain calm under stressful circumstances.

So I drafted out a labyrinth which fit the space, thus foregoing the *designing on the fly* quotient of the project. What I failed to do is draft the whole bag front, as it would look with the labyrinth on top of the existing graphic image.

They don't really mesh. It's not bad, terrible, throw up my hands and quit, but not as seamless as I would have liked. I like both images separately, but would have put more detail in the graphic image, so it's not such a stark contrast to the labyrinth.

I love, love, love the labyrinth. I will use it again, perhaps more than once, and in different incarnations, on other bags for the show. I like the idea of it, and the representation of it; more to come.

Success comes in small doses sometimes, and one can build on it. A series allows me to develop an idea to a successful conclusion, even if the first steps are halting. I think it's this focus, and growth through the process, that keeps me coming back for more.

Next: On to the back side, same colors, different image.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Blogger Does DC


Yep, been traveling. DC was great fun, good food was had by all, and I can highly recommend the Metro. Not much fiber happened, but I did manage to visit a Mecca of sorts:


The Textile Museum. Be still my heart. The two exhibits currently running are textiles from Insular Southeast Asia (resist dyed, both before and after weaving) and Beyond the Bag: Textiles as Containers. Dyeing and Bags. Too much fun. My patient husband wandered through the exhibits valiantly, then I had him go find a seat while I went into the library (!) and the bookstore. Oh my.

I would show you what I bought, but I could not carry them out. I had them shipped home. Books. Periodicals. Journals. I am a member, so I receive a discount. You'd have thought it was Filene's Basement. I actually pushed someone aside (I apologized, really. I didn't see him! I was intent).

Send them money. Become a member. They will send you a cool Journal. I love this place. It all started when George Hewitt Myer bought an Oriental carpet for his dorm room at Yale (puhleeze!). He became a collector of Textiles, bought the building next door, to house his collections, then donated both buildings and the collection to start the Museum. They have a World Class collection of rugs, some of which were on display, and textiles of all sorts. I'm wracking my brain to try to think of some sort of scholarly reason to go back, and ask for tours of the collections.

I did take a few photos of DC buildings which had great textile potential:

(I'm hoping the security cameras were not on me as I was taking photos of the Treasury Building. Heh. I'm probably in some file now.)

This maze design as from the Department of Agriculture, but it showed up in the positive and negative versions in the Museum of Natural History too. This was one of my favorites.

And then the ubiquitous *S* shape, this from in front of the Bead Museum.

I will stop, you get the idea: design ideas are everywhere, and certainly aplenty in DC.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Gratuitous silk picture:


I know, I know, boring. But they are darker colors than the usual, eh? I'm going for the neutrals, the squadgey, the darks. I'm using navy in every dyebath, and I can see I need to curb it with the reds. I'm so predictable. I sincerely wish that I could show you today's golden brown, but alas, it is still damp.

I wanted to answer a few comments from the last post, and I really had nothing new to photograph. As I'm quite sure it's all about the photos, my abject apologies for my lack of new material.

Kate: I keep the warps chained and unchain them as I wind on. I separate the warps when I tug on them. I snap, or tug, on them individually as I wind on, this separates, and straightens them out before they hit the reed.

Colleen: Dyestocks are mixed dye powders in liquid, ready to use. I mix dyestocks for 2 reasons: a) it minimizes exposure to dye powders (the *iffy* part of dyeing with synthetics), and b) it allows for very accurate measurement in small increments (if I so choose; mostly I dump dye, an inelegant term for not measuring).

I'll be off-blog, so to speak, for a few days. Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, May 09, 2005


I spent a few days last week in San Diego, with members of the Creative Weavers Guild, and Palomar Weavers. We made dye samples for a sample book, and also painted some warps, skeins, and fiber. This is one of the most useful classes, in my opinion, because everyone goes home with a series of samples, formulas, and a few examples of dyed fiber. Last week, we did about 600 samples, here is a photo of a few from the first day:


At the end of the class, one of the most frequent questions I get is on setting up the warps, after they are dyed. So herewith a brief photo gallery of the process I use. Caveat: It's only the process I use. It's not the only way, perhaps not even the best way, but it is what I do.

dyed warps2

These are the warps I painted in this post. I'm very happy with the colors on these warps: some of the dye stock was up to two years old, some was from last Fall and the gold was mixed that day. As you can see, there was still plenty of color, despite my thrifty tendency to save dyestock perhaps too long.

I took two of these warps, and added three more warps of solid color cotton yarns, from 2000 ypp to 3000 ypp. I will sett these yarns at 20 epi. The 2 painted warps totaled 204 ends, so I needed another 156 ends for the width I wanted: 18" (360 ends total). I ran 3 small warps to accomplish this: some copper and gold outline stripes, and some reds.


I slip the warps on the lease sticks, in the order I intend to thread them. I may invest in some Angel Wings, which I saw on Verna's and Charleen's blogs, but for now, you can see I tie the lease sticks to the front beam.

I run the warps through the reed, from right to left, beginning with the rightmost warp:


I continue with each warp, threading it across as needed:


Until all the warps are threaded:


This is the view from the back of the loom, as I sit and thread the heddles:


Next, I tie onto the back apron bar, and wind the warp onto the back beam:


I use corrugated cardboard for a warp separator. This is cut to the size of my back beam, and winds on as I go. This roll is about 15 years old, it just does not wear out. Here it is, all wound on. This 8 yard warp took 20 minutes to wind on.


Here, the warp is tied on to the front apron bar, ready to weave a header, to spread the warps. You can see the cone of 10/2 unmercerized cotton which will be the weft:

tying on

I've woven a few shots here:


That's it. Plain weave, sett at 20 epi, cotton, painted warp. It may be curtains for our bedroom, or handtowels (or both). Now, I just have to weave it off!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Group Rug

My local guild's Rug Project made a few public appearances recently. We are creating a knotted pile rug, using local wool, handspun by our members, naturally dyed, in a design which features local flora and fauna, representing our foothill environment.

We received a FiberHearts award from Interweave Press, and used the money for materials and a natural dye workshop with Karen Urbanek for this project.

In the photo below, Dee is weaving a new row. You can see the galvanized pipe loom we built for the project, and some of the tools. To the right of her is the pattern, and in her right hand is a small pair of clippers which we use as we knot.

rug project3

We advanced the rug again:

rug project1

In this photo, you can see a few more of our tools on the ground: the large pile scissors and the larger beater we use to pound in the knots.

It is so exciting to see the rug progress. We are nearly done with the body of the rug, and have the final border and hem left to weave. We are selling raffle tickets, and several of us are inventing ticket strategies to ensure our ticket is picked (mine was to make the ticket sticky, but I not *too sticky*, so it won't stick to other tickets! I haven't figured out what substance would be effective). One member even offered to buy *all* of the tickets (500) to increase her odds(!). We told her no. (Tickets can be purchased by absolute complete strangers: send me an email), and I'll send you the 411.

We expect the rug to be finished before August, and our county fair, where we will draw the winning ticket. There are many more photos at the guild website (click on Rug Project).

A few answers to comments: June and Sarah, the dyebook Deb and I are working on now is a set of completely different colors from the first book. We expect to do a third also, so as not to leave any colors bereft. We will probably repeat the first (Basic) book, but it will be a few years. Each book is taking us about two years to dye and collate.

Monday, May 02, 2005

What? Knitting?

Yes, occasionally.


This is the beginnings of a shawl. You can see the square neckline, and the increases (I hope, it's a dark photo).

I'm using the shape of the Irish Diamond Shawl from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls, but not the lace patterning. I'm not really a lace kinda gal, but a comfy garter stitch shawl has been beckoning. It's a good travel project, and a good travel shawl, both of which make it perfect for now, as travel season begins.

I made the stitch markers, but (duh) totally forgot about them, and initially used those plastic thingys one can buy. I remembered these, though, and retrieved them. I made them a few years ago, as gifts for knitting friends, but being so not much a knitter, I'd never used them. They're cool!


The yarn is wool, a 3 ply, spun from Polwarth roving from Francine at Rovings. But yes, I overdyed it. In the picture below you can see the original roving, and the yarn overdyed (with fuschia, magenta, whatever you might call it: WashFast red #338). Francine had this roving at SOAR 2004, and I bought it, but I wanted more red. I am not above overdyeing *anything*; wool, yarn, finished goods, even clothing I buy, if it is not quite the right color.


I *do* knit, and have for many years (28, to be exact). But I've only ever knit with my own handspun (which is why I learned, to begin with) and thus have always made up patterns as I go. I have a drawer full of vests, and several drawers of sweaters. I've given away several handspun handknit sweaters when the drawers got too full.

For all of that, I do not think of myself as a knitter. I make this stuff up. I do a gauge swatch, then I do the math, use simple shapes and knit on. Elizabeth Zimmermann was, as you may have guessed, an early influence. But I'd like to advance my skills, understand shaping a little better, and learn details I've overlooked. So I am learning to follow patterns, rather than just use them as inspiration.

I have taken a few knitting classes, and I cannot tell you how inadequate I feel. The most common comment I hear when I knit in public is *shall I show you how to do that right?*. I'm not kidding.

I took a *learn two-handed two-strand knitting* class from Anna Zilboorg (a very nice, and interesting woman) and struggled through the class, but did not practice enough to actually use the technique.

But I persevere. I don't teach knitting, it is not the focus of my *work* so to speak (I sometimes have to laugh when I describe what I do as *work*. It is so far from it). I want to think like a knitter, though. I equate it with architectural thinking: spatial relations. I can do that (think like an architect), so I have hope.

Until then, I knit on. Garter stitch, and a flat shawl, no less.