Two Seasons in One Workshop

Two winters ago I attended a workshop taught by Kay Faulkner at the FibreArts gathering in Ballarat. I had a fabulous time, learning heaps and meeting some lovely weavers. So when she was announced as a teacher at this year’s Easter gathering I immediately booked a place, despite knowing it was likely I would be in the midst of editing my current book. (As it turned out, I wasn’t.)

Well, it was just as wonderful as the last one. The theme of the previous was mixing two weave structures. There is always room to pursue something personal, and I’d mentioned that I’d like to try Summer and Winter, so I mixed it with double weave.

This time the theme was Summer and Winter. I went with the option of prewarping our looms with a draft Kay provided. Despite that, it took me a day to get my brain back to the level of understanding I reached at the end of the last workshop.

By the third day I had two samplers done.

On the fourth I created two drafts I liked, using the iWeaveIt app on my iPad and some help from Kay in Fibreworks.

I rethreaded my loom to weave them.

Late that night, when I couldn’t get to sleep, I made four more drafts, each a stage of evolution between the first two I’d come up with. Then the next day I wove a runner using all six as quickly as I could in the shorter time we had on the last day. (Later I found two mistakes, which I think is pretty good considering how I rushed the weaving.)

On the last night we all set out our work for the student exhibition:

I now have a pretty good grasp of Summer and Winter. I’m hoping to finish off the warp by weaving matching placemats – but not straight away. My back was a bit touchy after so many hours of weaving in a row, and I have recently developed the beginnings of a frozen left shoulder.

And I think my brain could do with a rest, too!

It’s a Given

Post accessory overhaul, I had lots of repurposing and rehoming to do. Mostly rehoming, but I had put aside a few things to frog, unweave, or refashion. I also kept finding more scarves! All were in the craft room, already awaiting refashioning or frogging.

I didn’t want to add a pile of yarn to my stash. Neither did I want to turn everything into new accessories for me. I was fine with making some to give away, so that’s mostly what I set out to do.

One very long scarf was shortened to make two. A scarf, neckwarmer and two pairs of wristwarmers were frogged. A scarf was unwoven. Out came the circular knitting machines. I turned the neckwarmer and wristwarmer yarns into a beanies to give away:

I bought an extra ball of yarn so I could add pompoms to the ends of this scarf:

And I brought out the Knitters Loom and warped up to weave a honeycomb scarf using handspun from a frogged scarf as the feature yarn:

That left me with a ball of very colourful handspun and a batch of blue speckled alpaca to repurpose.

The blue speckled yarn has already been knit on the circular machines several times, and is beginning to feel a bit worse for wear. Though I love the yarn, I’ve just not loved anything I’ve made from it so far. Time to try weaving it, I think.

Assortment

In the midst of all the accessory sorting I also did a big cull of a box stuffed with batches of leftover yarn from projects. When a project is done I tend to just open the lid a crack and stuff in the remains. I keep them in case the item I’ve made needs repair, but of course I don’t need the ones for garments I’ve frogged or passed on to the op shop. Now and then I’ll do a cull and tidy, but often I can’t remember if I still have the object I made.

This time it was much easier, thanks again to Stylebook. I only needed to have my phone next to me as I went through and check if I still had the item I’d made from it. That made the task quick and manageable, so I even put each batch of yarn into a reused zip lock bag and (shock! amazement!) labelled it. The labelling then helped when I started making things from the frogged accessories, as I was able to locate the leftovers to use if I didn’t have enough frogged yarn to finish the new item.

Being so organised feels satisfying, but I had to admit there’s a rebellious part of me that pffts at such tidiness. Maybe I should blame it for leading me astray at The Open Drawer Destash Market last weekend, where I picked up a whole lot of yarn despite not having room for the stash as it is, and some ceramic tiles for mosaics despite the fact that I’d supposedly decided I wasn’t that keen on mosaicing with ceramic tiles.

I did leave the inkle loom and warping board behind, though. I don’t need multiples of either.

A Stranglehold of Scarves

When I started entering clothing into the Stylebook app I figured I might put in scarves, gloves and beanies eventually, but I was in no rush to. When I started, I thought I’d only use the app to put together new combinations of clothing, and I figured I didn’t need any help matching accessories to outfits – they would only be an addition to any look anyway.

But I didn’t know then how useful the app would be for getting an overview of what I own. Once I did well… I still put off tackling scarves, gloves and beanies. Why? Because they come with baggage. Well, to be honest, not the gloves and beanies. The scarves.

Gosh, did I have a lot of scarves.

Some I’d made, some were gifts and some were souvenirs. Two were given to me by a secret admirer when I was a teen (and only found out years later who sent them). Ten I’d bought on trips overseas. Nine were from my silk painting days of my twenties and, in my eyes now, are irreplaceable works of art. Ten or so I knitted or crocheted before RSI set in. Some were made from yarns spun by me and by friends. Some were made from yarn I’d bought on holidays. A few were made with luxurious, expensive yarn. A couple had been from garments I’d loved and refashioned into scarves.

More than 80 scarves in total.

How many scarves is too many? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having lots of scarves, especially when they’re handmade or have a personal story. But I’ve had this thought, itching at the back of my mind, that I didn’t actually like quite a few of mine. So lots of quick phone snaps and some photo tweaking in Stylebook followed, then sorting them into categories. One for the artistic silk-painted ones, one for keepers, one for outs.

I told myself to be ruthless but mostly I didn’t have to be. You see, I didn’t really like the scarves my mystery admirer had given to me, though I liked the guy. Some of the ones I’d bought on holidays were nasty polyester, and I have other, better souvenirs from the same trip. I usually buy more than one batch of yarn on a trip so I don’t need to keep all the objects made with all the yarn. The scarf made from my first ever handspun and another using a friend’s handspun could be frogged and unwoven and used again.

Of the scarves I’ve made… well, the rule for all handmade items applies: I tend to keep what I love, and what turns out so badly I can’t really sell or gift it. I decided the latter had to go.

I got my collection down to 50 scarves, including 5 shawls. I was hoping to halve it, but didn’t really expect to get there. I could be more ruthless, but I decided to wear every scarf once this winter and see whether any aren’t comfortable or practical. I’m also thinking of framing some of the better silk-painted ones.

What to do with the ‘out’ scarves? Well, I’m going to wash everything then do the usual round of clothing adoption prospects – friends, acquaintances, op shop – or else frog/unweave and make something new. Maybe even more scarves.

Memories Rya Rug

Done!

(Actually, I finished it a week or two ago, but I’ve been a bit too busy to blog.)

I love it! It’s cushy and attractive and was inexpensive to make. The fabric strips don’t seem to stay pressed down when it’s walked on. It’s big enough for the room without costing a fortune.

One of the unexpected, but in retrospect kinda obvious, benefits of a rya rug is that the tufty nature of hides seams. I’ve learned a great deal while making it, most significantly that this method uses a LOT of fabric. If I was to make another I’d have to find a source of free rags, because if I’d used $7 mens shirts from the op shop this would have cost around $700 in fabric alone.

I’d like to try making one out of t-shirt rags. It’d have a different texture, I reckon. More spongy, not as soft, I reckon.

Next project on the floor loom will probably be a very long table runner using a combination of methods I’ve not seen before: weft rep and clasped weft. I’ve done a bit of test weaving, and I think it’ll work. Well, I hope so, anyway!

Creative Fidgeting Consciously

So my thoughts about the sustainability of making had me opening my visual journal and exploring the “eco-ness” of four of my hobbies: craft, art, cooking and gardening.

Gardening was the least worrying, as I like to repurpose things, grow food, buy organic weed killer (in bulk to reduce packaging) and put plastic pots in the recycling. I’d already decided to switch from plastic to cane or fabric carriers for weeds. I think I’m doing okay there.

Cooking produces a lot of packaging, but I’m already reducing that as much as possible and making my own nut butter, crackers and other things you can’t easily buy without non-recyclable packaging.

Craft has some issues – mainly the use of toxic dyes and inks – but I probably buy second hand materials and repurpose things as much as, if not more than, new. In fact, reusing, repurposing and refashioning is pretty much a hobby in itself. Even my mosaics have mostly been about fixing or repurposing something.

Art is… actually quite problematic. Natural pigment isn’t always better than synthetic – cadmium is carcinogenic, for example – but (I think) synthetic comes from petrochemicals. Stretched canvasses are so cheap these days I wonder if, like cheap clothes, they’re made by underpaid workers, I hate to think where the wood comes from as most cheap wood is stripped from old growth rainforests, and I have no idea what the fabric is made of (probably plastic – and the surface coating repels watery paint, so it isn’t gesso). Then there’s waste. I’ve alway struggled to decide what to do with artwork that doesn’t turn out well. Doing something frequently enough to get good at it can leave you with lot of unwanted work headed for landfill.

Thinking about this, I realised that working on paper more might be better, as it can be recycled. Oils are still better than acrylic, since I work with a spatula mostly and wipe the excess on rags. When I do use brushes I let the turps I wash them in sit until the paint particles settle, then tip off and reuse the turps. I keep old brushes for rough work, then stirrers. In the past I’ve taken the canvas off unwanted paintings and sewn it into bags, then recovered the frame with new cotton or linen canvas, which makes stretched canvasses more reusable than canvas boards. However, making my own canvas boards may eliminate the possibility I’m using wood stripped from rainforests or plastic fabric. I even thought about weaving my own canvas fabric, but it would be slow and occupy the loom when I want to weave other projects.

After my brainstorming session, I went out into the studio and considered the art supplies I have. I realised it will take quite a while before I need anything new. So there’s not a lot I can do to make my art practise more sustainable right now. I’ll keep these ideas in mind for when I do run out of materials, and reach for paper based art methods over canvas more often.

Thinking Time

So it turns out I have tennis elbow as well as a return of RSI. The term ‘tennis elbow’ annoys me somewhat, since it makes it sound like I developed it because of a recreational activity, not work. I got to thinking, after a friend suggested I come up with better names, that I would rename my maladies more accurately. So I have Writer’s Wrist, Editor’s Elbow and Novelist’s Neck.

Or maybe that should be Weaver’s Wrist. Hmm.

Resting my hand and arm meant finding occupation that didn’t use it. I turned it into planning time. Getting out my entire stash, I plonked it on the office floor. Then I printed a pile of project sheets. Then I went through the ‘ideas’ section of my weaving folder, my stash spreadsheet, visual journal, notebook on my phone and the Craft To-Do list on this site, and wrote a list of projects, ideas and weaving structures I wanted to try.

A big mix and match session followed. By the end of the second day, I had twenty project sheets partially filled in and a list of 15 less developed project ideas.

Part of the motive behind this was that I never did get all my stash to fit in the wardrobe after my big craft room cull, and I hoped a reshuffle would fix that (it didn’t, but there’s now only one bag of yarn hanging off a door handle). Another part was a feeling that’s been growing these last few years, as I learned more about issues with ethical clothing and waste in general, that there’s an obvious conflict between constantly making stuff and not filling the world with more trash and toxins.

Both had me determined to use what I have. Also, as I considered each project, I asked myself the same question I do when considering buying clothing: “Do I really need this?”. It was a sobering question, as the answer was pretty much ‘no’ for all of them. So I asked: “Could I gift/sell it?” but that was followed by: “Am I then just filling the world with stuff nobody really needs?”.

I’m a creative person. I’m not going to stop making things. If I gift or sell them, I can’t know if the person who owns them really needs them. Heck, I can’t guarantee if a gift recipient, whether from me or a buyer of my things, will even like them or, if not, pass them on to someone who will not toss them. But I can try to reduce the impact of the making of those things by making sure the materials, tools and methods are as sustainable as possible.

Fortunately I don’t need to change much to do that. Since my interest in fibre arts began when I was broke, I have a long-standing habit of seeking out second hand materials. I prefer natural fibres and, when not second-hand, I go for as locally made as possible. The challenge will be to do this with the fine cotton yarns for weaving, as there’s not a lot of choice new and I’ve rarely seen them selling second hand. Hmm, time to do some googling…

Oops, I Did it Again

RSI is back:

My wrist started hurting during the cutting up of strips for the rag rug. Though I finished doing that a few weeks back, work has involved a bit more intense wear on the hands lately. I’ve been doing stretches and using anti-inflammatory cream, but I think last Monday, when I pushed through to meet a deadline, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

I’m a third through the second half rag rug. I can’t do the knots entirely left-handed, but I’ve minimised the right-hand involvement enough that I can weave a bit at a time. Mosaic work is not possible, however. Those tile nippers are hard on the hands. So what can I do? Machine knitting? Probably not. Spinning? No. Sewing? Maybe, if there’s no hand sewing involved. Frame weaving? Nope. Inkle weaving? Only with no pick up patterning. Jewellery making? Definitely not! Printing? Yes, but not carving stamps.

I could do some project planning. When at the guild last weekend I bought two books on rag weaving. I want to try sakiori, using a kimono a friend donated to the rag rug, but that I didn’t end up using. I reckon I could wind a warp – maybe even dress a loom. But I only have the rigid heddle free right now as I’m saving the Katie for an upcoming workshop.

There are some things waiting to be dyed.

At Last!

The first half of the rya rug is off the loom:

It’s cushy and weighs more than it looks like it’s going to.

I had to buy even more fabric: four shirts and a pillowcase from an op shop. The rug was still 5cm too short, but I’d had enough. 5cm won’t make much difference to the overall size of the finished rug.

I’ll be finishing the edges after I attach the second half. I wove several rows of 8/2 cotton to fold under and encase the knots. First time I’ve tried that. Will see how it goes.

Trying it on for size:

The second half should go quicker, since I have already torn and cut the strips.

Stretched for Fabric

Here’s the rya rug from underneath the loom, showing what the top will be like:

When I began weaving it I pinned a piece of cotton tape to the start and put a knot at the length I wanted the rugs to be, so I would know where to end the first one, leave a gap and start the next. When I had nearly finished knotting in all the strips of fabric I’d cut, having estimated from the knot on the tape and the rows of knots I’d done already that I should have enough, I found the rug was about 15 cm too short. I wondered if the tape was stretching and the rug was actually longer than the tape was saying, so I decided to loosen the warp and measure what I’d woven so far with a measuring tape.

I discovered it was actually 40 cm too short!

Perhaps the tension of the loom was stretching the warp quite a bit. Perhaps the thick fabric it was creating was pulling in the warp quite a bit as well. Perhaps I didn’t measure the tape properly. Whatever the reason, I needed many more strips. So I tore more from the leftover fabric given to me by my friend, and went on a hunt for more fabric. Two other friends had volunteered some fabric scraps, so I made arrangements to visit and raided their stash.

This is the collection of strips set aside for the second half of the rug. I reckon I’ll have the whole table covered by the time I’ve finished the first half.

To fill in the time before the visits I’d arranged, I went back to working on the mosaics. The tiles I’d got from a friend weren’t the same blue as the ones I needed, but complimented the hue. In my earlier hunt for other ways to finish the mosaic I’d picked out some round glass tiles. They looked a bit like bubbles to me, so I figured I’d put some between where the old and new tiles changed.

I needed more, so I ordered them. The shop also had some 10×10 tiles in blue, so I ordered one of each of the three colours on the odd chance they’d match the one’s I’d run out of. It turned out, they did.

There’s the slightest difference, so I’m still going with the glass ‘bubbles’. But before I could do that, I needed to stick down some tiles on the bird bath. Well, once I got started I kept going.

I’m using a mix of grout, water and glass mosaic additive as glue, which is what we used in the class. It’s frustratingly fast setting, so I have to mix up a tiny bit at a time and the last few tiles I attached usually come off again. I’m hoping that the final grouting and sealing will keep everything in place.