Tick Tock

What a journey this one has been.

Two and a half year since I started. Long breaks when I got plantar fasciitis and couldn’t stand in the garage to work on it, then discovering that the tiles in the pale blue were discontinued and a long hunt for a replacement. Eventually I found that one of the online mosaic supplies stores sell a tile very close in colour, and by adding glass ‘bubbles’ I hid the change from one to the other.

And then I had to hope the clock mechanism would work. So far it seems to.

Now to decide what to begin next.

A Loom in the Hand is Worth…

Recently a weaver at the Guild announced she wanted to sell her floor loom, a Leclerc Colonial. I’ve been wanting to replace or supplement my loom with an 8 shaft one for some time now, so I arranged to visit and see it. Looking up the loom on the maker’s website, I could see nothing to concern me except that I would have to not just sell my current one, but remove the tables in the craft room as the new one would take up most of the space. She sent me pics and I noticed something familiar about the pedals and asked for pics of those.

Unfortunately, on this old version of the loom they were exactly the same as the pedals on mine, so I cancelled the viewing regretfully.

In fact, I’d realised two things about my loom: there are too many similarities between our looms for mine not to be a Leclerc 4 shaft loom of the same era, and that it definitely has been adjusted to suit a shorter person. I can’t remember exactly the context in which the seller told me Harold Osbourne had a part in the loom’s making, but I’m pretty certain now that he only adjusted it for her.

Knowing this, so much makes more sense. While disappointed, I did gain something from all this: more information about my loom and the reassurance that I’m not crazy or using the loom incorrectly. The adjustments Paul and I made make perfect sense, as they add the height that was removed from the loom.

The other thing I gained was more clarity in what my options are. If I replace my floor loom with one that can handle fine, 8 shaft weaving as well as rugs, my craft room is going to be completely dominated by a very large loom. The second choice is to retain my current floor loom and buy an additional lightweight 8 shaft floor loom. I already know the Louet David would fit and I won’t have to sacrifice both tables. The third is to get a Louet Spring, or equivalent, and hope it can handle weaving the occasional rug.

As I told myself over a year ago, I’ll take my time over this. Try as many looms as I can. Wait until the right one comes along.

Slow Runner

I’m weaving a commission, of sorts.

I very rarely get requests for woven items. I’ve turned too many hobbies into work, so I have no interest in selling my pieces unless it’s a way to find them homes. But the piece I’m working on at the moment isn’t technically a ‘commission’ as I’m not planning to charge for it.

It’s a table runner for a friend who has a very long dining table. Four metres long, I think. The runner is going to be three metres. Otherwise the only specification was that it would be mainly blue.

Inspiration came from the location of the house, which has a panoramic view of islands and water.

I’ve taken the horizon line and used it to divide the runner lengthwise into two blues. I didn’t want to be too literal, so the only other features are grey rectangles that cross the horizon line.

Originally the rectangles were orange which, being the complimentary of blue, made the blue really pop. But the recipient didn’t like the orange so I change it to grey. They represent squalls of rain blowing through.

Runners are often warp rep, which is not my favourite weave structure. To get the wavy dividing line of the horizon I’m using clasped weft, and to get solid blues and a good thick runner I’m using weft rep. When I first came up with this combination I googled and looked in Interweave back issues, but found almost nothing like what I wanted to do. I did some sampling and worked out that to get a thick fabric I needed a very thick warp. I wound up buying 12/24 cotton. While I was at the workshop, I described what I wanted to do to Kay and she saw no reason it wouldn’t work.

So after months of deliberation, I got started.

Warping up was fast – only 60 threads to wind and tie on. To my relief, the weaving worked just as I planned. Only it took maybe an hour to weave around 10cm. That means I have just 29 hours of weaving left to do to finish the runner.

Hmm. This may take some time.

A Bath for Birds

Funny how the mosaic project that involved using a hammer to smash the tiles unsuitable for the swimmers clock was finished first. It really was quite therapeutic! And it fixed the problem of the bath’s mysteriously pitted inner surface.

I’d set up a folding table in Paul’s studio to do the swimmers clock, and then this one took over the space. Once I’d grouted the bath I moved it into the garage for sealing when I got back from Fibrearts. Then I cleaned off the folding table and asked Paul to vaccume the studio while I was away. (Having a sore shoulder, I wasn’t keen to do that bit myself.

I kinda hoped the vacuuming would lead to some cleaning up, and it did. I also hoped it might lead to some photography-related activity in there. It didn’t. Instead, Paul spread his diorama-making out onto the folding table. This meant I going to have to tell him to remove it or resume my mosaic-making elsewhere. Probably back to my area of the garage, where I used to do it. Which isn’t a big problem except when it’s really hot or really cold. Which seems to be most of the year, these days.

Could I possibly set up in our laundry? Paul has not entirely satisfactory ways of using it as a darkroom. Perhaps we could build a darkroom into the back of the studio. I raised it with him one morning. He didn’t like the idea. He said: “Do you really think you’ll continue with mosaics?”

After a shower and a think, I asked pointedly: “Do you really think you’ll continue making dioramas?” He conceded that his question – or rather, the way it had been phrased – hadn’t been very fair.

Because it was a relevant question for both of us. We’ve both have adopted a new hobby since moving to this house and modifying it to suit the hobbies we’d had at the time. We need to consider how to most sensibly incorporate our new hobbies into the space we have, and consider how much time we actually spend on each of our hobbies, not how much time we wish we did.

And perhaps even more importantly, how much stuff we store that relates to them.

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.