On the Face of It

It’s been ages since I posted about the portraits I do. Well, it’s been ages since I finished one! Now I’ve finally got something to show off:

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I’ve really enjoyed this portrait, but it’s been a slow one. I started it in September. Art classes end at the start of November and resume in March, and though I did manage a few painting sessions during the break I didn’t like what I’d done and painted over it later.

My previous aims to speed up and get four portraits done a year are long abandoned. If a painting needs more time I have no choice but to give it more. And I’d rather take the time to do a good job.

Jean Jeany Rug

Back when I was on Pinterest I collected pins to tutorials on hand braiding strips of rag into floor rugs. The techniques used didn’t appeal, however, as they involved sewing, glue or making a wooden framework. I was sure there had to be a way to do it without sewing machine, glue, looms, needles – really, anything more than just the rags and my hands.

I now use Google Images to browse crafty ideas, and recently it led me to a YouTube vid on braiding rag rugs. The method wasn’t quite what I was after, as it still required using needles, but I could see that they were unnecessary. There was a bit of sewing at the start and end, but I could see a way around that, too. The teacher insisted that you could only do it with stretch fabric, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me trying it with the leftover strips of denim from my woven floor rugs.

So a few months ago I gave it a try. And it was so easy! And very, very addictive. This is how much I’ve done so far:

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It’s only the size of a small doormat so far. It’s slow work, but really satisfying. Good for when I want a creative but undemanding task, or something to do while listening to podcasts.

Undulating Twill

For a month or so now, the floor loom has had a project on it. My first one on this loom.

I considered carefully what to try first. Weaving with a yarn I was familiar with made sense, so I knew any idiosyncrasies I encountered were the loom not the yarn. A small project would be good, and one where I didn’t mind if I wasted the warp yarn.

I chose to use another twill project using the same yarns in the Glam Shawl. Yes, that project was a disaster, but it was the one that made me want a floor loom, so it was a good test to see if it did make all the problems go away.

I chose an undulating twill – something I’ve been wanting to try for while.

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The warp yarn is Bendigo Classic 2ply in a discontinued colour called ‘peacock’, which is the same yarn I used for the Glam Shawl just a ply thinner. The weft is – was – the same brand of metallic yarn in another colourway.

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It all seemed to be going well… until I realised I wouldn’t have enough to the metallic yarn. The fabric seemed a bit loose, too. I decided to try to dye some Bendy Classic 2ply to match the peacock colour.

I didn’t get even close. It was more of a Kelly green than a dark teal. I was going to try overdying it with blue, but something about the weaving I’d done so far made me hesitate.

Running my fingers over the fabric, I found it far too easy to distort. It also was a bit scratchy for my taste. Also, looking at my calculations, I realised that I’d sleyed the reed at 1/3 the wraps per inch instead of 2/3. It was way too loose.

I decided that, while it was pretty, I didn’t care for the metallic yarn, nor did I want to sit over a dye pot. I’d use the green yarn as it was. So I untied the warp and pulled simply slid the metallic yarn off the end. Yep, it was that loose!

Then I resleyed the reed and tied the warp back on. Of course, I managed to get two threads twisted to had to fix that. And then as I started weaving I found two threading errors and had to unweave twice – the green yarn showed the twill pattern better and the mistakes were obvious.

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Finally, it was good to go. I love the undulations, the colour combination, and yes, the loom is lovely to weave on.

Prime Failure

The table loom came with a rusty reed. Having spent a lot of time de-rusting the Dyer & Philips reed – and spent a lot of time renovating the table loom already – I didn’t hesitate to buy a new stainless steel reed. I didn’t want to wait!

What to do with the old reed, then? I asked on the Weaving Facebook group for alternative purposes for a reed… and straight away got lots of suggestions on how to de-rust it to use for weaving. Hmm, not what I was asking, but they were trying to be helpful.

Then I picked up a 12dpi free old reed at the guild that I could use on the Dyer & Philips – giving me more yarn options for that loom. I figured if I was going to de-rust that one I may as well do both.

Paul had suggested going to an auto shop and get a larger bottle of rust converter so I could soak the reeds rather than painting it on. They had a spray-on version that contained a primer. The idea of having a thin coat of primer to protect the reed sounded good, so I went for that.

I was SO wrong.

First, I had the reed lying on newspaper. The spray dried onto it, clogging the reed so badly I had to get Paul to use a rotary wire brush on a drill to get the paper off.

Then I reapplied the spray. The remnants of the first and the second coat didn’t go on thinly or consistently, instead leaving bare, rusty patches and globs of primer. I managed to scrape the bigger blobs off, but once I realised that there were bare patches I decided to strip it off and go back to using the old rust converter.

The paint stripper softened the primer, but didn’t dissolve it, so I just wound up with a reed covered in sticky, softened globs of primer. At this point I gave up.

A week or two later I decided to try one more experiment with the smaller reed. The spray advised using acetone to clean up, so I soaked the reed in that. It removed most of the primer… and the coating on the strings that hold the dents in place. The string didn’t come off, thankfully. Most of the primer was gone, but there was a residue left that I am now scraping off each dent with a knife.

So many, many hours labour later I have ruined the longer reed and, hopefully, saved the small one. Though it remains to be seen if the scraping will roughen the small reed so much it wears through a warp.

The old reed from the table loom will get used for something else – maybe a garden ornament. Something a climbing plant to run along, or for water to trickle down.

Lesson learned: never de-rust a reed with a rust converter containing a primer!

Plastic Not Fantastic

Recently I packed away my summer clothes and brought out the knitwear. Looking through the jumpers, cardigans, jackets and vests, I felt a mix of fondness and weariness. There’s a lot I love in there, but I found myself wishing I could pack it back away for a little longer.

I don’t think it has anything to do with dreading the cold months. I like winter. I’m just a little (dare I say it) bored with wearing the same old thing. Not just the knits, but the skivvies that allow me to wear wool without setting off my allergy to it.

Since I’m not constantly adding hand knits to my wardrobe through knitting any more I have to look for other ways to freshen things up a bit. Because I can’t wear wool against my skin I wear fleecy jackets over short-sleeved shirts on cooler summer days, but overall I prefer natural fibres. I have three cotton jackets, but they’re the same design in three different colours so if you didn’t register a change of colour you’d think I was wearing the same garment. Another kind of cotton jacket sounded like a good addition to my wardrobe.

I figured if I was going shopping I may as well tackle another item of clothing I needed. Too much feasting over the Easter weekend meant I wasn’t comfortable in my jeans and pants. I’d wear skirts instead, but because my cat occasionally swipes my ankles, I have to wear them with leggings instead of tights during cold weather. I have two pairs of leggings, and they’re starting to look a bit tired. Still, leggings shouldn’t be hard to find, right?

So I went shopping. And was aghast. I couldn’t find simple black cotton leggings. They were all made of polyester. And the jackets and knitwear – all acrylic. Even the long-sleeved t-shirts and polo-necks had high levels of plastic content. When did this happen?

Well, I dismissed it as bad luck – I just chose the wrong stores. However, when I went to Ishka a few days later, thinking their aesthetic is usually more ‘natural’, I found lots of 100% polyester fabric masquerading as cotton. Ugh!

A friend put me onto a shop that sells cotton leggings, so I mail-ordered four pairs. When it came to the knitwear and jackets, however, I decided to go second-hand and found a casual corduroy jacket and long cotton cardigan at a charity shop, the latter which I dyed. Problem solved.

However, I do wonder if I’m seeing a worrying trend. On a science program last year researches showed how when modern houses catch fire, the fires burn hotter and spread several times faster than they used to, because most house contents are now, essentially, petroleum products.

And in another program, researchers found that most of the plastic ingested by fish in Australian waterways was fibres from clothing.

Personally, I don’t mind polyester for evening wear and travel clothes. Otherwise, my wardrobe is mainly cotton based. I find polyester unpleasant to wear, even when it doesn’t give me a rash.

But I’m disturbed to see how much poly has crept into my daily wear. I’m not going to toss any of it out, but I am going to be more careful about what I’m buying from now on. I feel more justified in buying and refashioning vintage and second-hand clothing, too.

And I have a stronger urge to change my daily ‘look’ to incorporate much more hand woven and hand sewn clothing. My Saori garment design book is looking very interesting right now.

Sketching at the NGV

A few Thursdays ago a friend from Brisbane, Kathleen, was in town. She’s an artist and writer, and does the most adorable drawings wherever she goes, so I proposed an afternoon of sketching at the NGV’s 200 Years of Fashion exhibition. We met at Senior’s Art Supplies, where I bought some Copic markers.

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Then we headed to the gallery. I stuck to black ink for this one:

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The rest of my sketches I coloured later from memory, my photos and pics of the exhibition on Google Images. This one wasn’t so successful – should have chosen a better viewpoint than front on:

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I love this:

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The next one was a colour challenge, with the limited number of markers I had:

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We were there until closing, and I did this with four minutes to spare, finishing it from memory as the guards herded us out:

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Later I couldn’t find a picture online for the colours. It was only a week or so ago that a photo finally appeared.

I’ve never produced so many sketches in such a short time! It was fun having a sketching buddy for the afternoon, and it was a great way to experience the exhibition. I’d like to go back to see it again, and perhaps draw some more.

Final Weaving Class

Sunday before last the third and final Intermediate Weaving Sessions was run at the Guild. I’d woven my overshot project until I ran run out of the orange yarn, played a bit with substituted yarns, decided I preferred the orange, dyed more and wove to what seemed like closer to the end of the warp.

I wasn’t sure I should finish it for the class or not, since that could leave me with five hours of nothing to do. I asked Ilka, and she suggested I start another project. I decided to leave myself an hour or so of weaving to do in the class.

After we all went around the room to see how everyone’s projects were turning out, I had lunch then started weaving. It didn’t last as long as I’d hoped, as I ran out of orange yarn again. Here it is after I dyed yet more yarn and finished weaving:

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I was surprised and pleased to find the two lengths of orange pattern were exactly the same length. I must have been beating consistently this time!

With no weaving to continue with in the class, I helped a few fellow weavers, and when I got to chat to the teacher it turned out the project I had in mind wasn’t likely to work. So I switched to my back-up project. Since I’d bought the Katie because it’s an 8 shaft loom, I want to do a project that utilised all shafts. I’ve also wanted to try using doubleweave to make a cloth with solid coloured squares inside squares.

Ilka ran through a method of working out the draft using blocks, which I only just comprehended – and felt like my brain was being stretched into a new shape.

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I took this home, thought about it for a day, then the next night used it to map out a draft on graph paper. A few days later I recreated the draft in Illustrator.

Print

Like with overshot, it’s like doing two things at the same time. Unlike overshot, which is something very simple (tabby) alternating with something more complex (the overshot pattern), it’s a complicated interaction of two moderately simple tabby patterns.

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It is, however, perversely enjoyable. I’m keen to get a warp wound and onto the loom.

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I joined Instagram a year or so ago because a writer recommended it as the Place to Be on the Internet, where people were still friendly (compared to Twitter). It’s been fun and, being on the visual side, the crafting ‘grammers’ I followed soon outnumbered work-related ones.

Now there’s been talk about algorithms and monetisation and such. Of non-chronological feeds and advertising. I haven’t noticed a sudden change, like I did with Pinterest and Twitter, but based on what happened to them I expect social media to change. And that if I really like it, chances are the changes in future will turn it into something less suited to my needs.

Perhaps because of P and T, I haven’t got as sucked into Instagram. I don’t want to get invested in something that will probably go the way of other social media. Which makes me wonder… will I even bother trying the next one that comes along?

I’m not sure I’d bother. Does this make me wise or just cynical?

I worry that if I don’t keep up I’ll fall behind. Few people thought, 25 years ago, that the internet would become integral to everyday living. Now it’s a handicap to not have access to and an understand of it.

Perhaps one day all the social medias will merge to form one digital monster, which we’ll all have to participate in to meet our most basic needs and communicate with our loved ones, where the algorithms will decide what we buy, sell, learn and believe, and who we interact with.

That probably sounds like heaven to some people. One person’s dystopia is another’s utopia. But on the other hand, trying to get all people to do the same thing has to be like trying to herd cats. I don’t envy anyone who takes on that challenge!

Recent Sketches

A couple of drawings from our recent trip to Lake Hume. Both lunchtime sketches. The first done on the way up, the second of Tallangatta’s main street during our drive around the lake.

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I didn’t bother colouring them – sometimes they come out okay enough to leave as they are.

Old Loom, Better Stand

Having untied the Ashford Table Loom from the pedals of the homemade stand, then dismantled the stand, I was left with a few questions.

Do I sell the loom?

That was the plan. However, it left me with another question:

What do I do with the homemade stand?

There were issues with it. Now that I had a floor loom my suspicion that the old loom’s stand was too high was confirmed. Added to that was the need to move the supporting beam across the front that made it uncomfortable to sit at. I probably couldn’t sell it as it was, but I could give it away with the loom. But what if a friend wanted to buy it? I’d rather give them a stand that worked well.

After a bit of measuring up, I figured it wouldn’t take much to fix the problems. So Paul and I spent a few hours shortening the stand, adding a support beam under where the loom’s castle sits to simplify the pedal tie-up and a beam under the pedals to make the stand sturdier and easier to transport.

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Now all I have to do is decide how much to ask for it and advertise.

Though I have to admit, I am tempted to keep it. And I should at least try one project on it, to make sure everything works, right?