Workshopping the Workshop

Yesterday’s rigid heddle workshop went well! A quick skim over the feedback sheets revealed that the main criticism was not enough time to learn everything, which isn’t a bad complaint. It could have gone another hour, I reckon. Maybe two, but then I think I would have lost the ability to make any sense at all if it had.

I learned some valuable things:

Problem:
In the course description I said attendees should know how to warp their loom. I’d planned to help those warping for the variable dent sampler while everyone else tackled the standard warping for the rest. But two students needed assistance with the standard warping, which meant I did not have much time to help the one trying variable dent sampler. What surprised me was that the lack of warping familiarity was due to the weavers coming from a shafted loom background, not because they were raw beginners. One was fine once she had her loom warped, the other did well but progressed more slowly.

Possible solutions:
Ensure my assistant knows how to do direct warping. (The lovely weaver who was to be mine called in sick – poor thing! But as she doesn’t know direct warping or rh looms it wouldn’t have solved this problem if she’d been able to come.)

Get students to warp their looms beforehand. This would be a shame, as I was able to show them a few ways to make the warping easier. I suspect there’d always be a weaver who signed up then discovered they couldn’t warp and then expected to be shown anyway, or else expect me to show them in my own time before the class. I couldn’t include varident weaving… or could I?

Do a separate rh loom beginner/refresher class.

Problem:
The organisers of summer school assured me twice that the tables would be the solid kind suitable for clamps. They weren’t. If I’d known they wouldn’t be, I could have come up with a solution beforehand.

Possible solutions:
Buy clamps with a longer reach and loan them to students on the day.

Get students to warp their looms beforehand. (Ditto on the hitches listed above.)

Problem:
The temporary shop at the scout hall didn’t have any of the weaving accessories students wanted to buy. The shop at the Guild doesn’t have some of them either. Well, I was only able to get a list of suggestions to them last week, so I wasn’t relying on the shop having anything. But in future it would be good if there were accessories for sale.

Possible solutions:
Sell the more basic tools myself.

Get my list of suggestions to the shop organisers earlier.

Problem:
I forgot to take photos!

Possible solutions:
Get the assistant to take them.

Set an alarm near the end of the class to remind me.

Problem:
Not all the techniques in some of the samplers are of similar difficulty. Tapestry may be too fiddly for the easy sampler. Krokbragd is harder to understand than the rest of that sampler’s methods.

Solution:
Review and remake three samplers. Include just three methods on each. Move inlay to easy sampler. Move overshot to texture sampler. Move Krokbragd to an advanced class.

Problem:
The Schacht Cricket loom was wide enough for the variable dent sampler, but didn’t allow room for chocking the heddles.

Solution:
I know now that if I do a variable dent workshop I’ll need to get Cricket owners – and probably SampleIt users – to use three heddles instead of four.

Problem:
Eight was a lot of students to wrangle.

Solution:
Reduce classes to six unless doing a single technique.

Potential problems:
Most of the students asked for the instructions of samplers they didn’t choose. I let them, though I was not sure it was a good idea. They also asked if they could email if they had problems. The notes are written specifically to be used in class, not tacked without any assistance. This could become a problem, if they expect a lot of assistance when they really ought to do another sampler in another class.

Also, some students switched to another sampler midway, which I minded less and could see it was partly because the samplers need tweaking. However, I think this might have given the impression that they didn’t finish something and therefore felt like they hadn’t done enough over the day.

All this might make it sound like the day wasn’t a success. It was. Most of it went to plan and I expected to be adapting on the day and watching for ways to improve. Many of the students were having fun and getting excited about the potential of rh looms, which is the main aim after all. I’ve come away thinking I could teach again, and better, and that the demand for rigid heddle weaving classes is strong.

I just need to work out how and where I’ll do it.

Start Stop

Everything creative seems to be stop start lately. Or start stop. Trying things. Failing. Trying something else.

I warped up the AKL with my homemade divided heddle reed to weave a deflected doubleweave sampler only to discover what I was going wasn’t quite doubleweave. So I cut it off the loom and made a cowl, then removed that bit from the class sampler and information sheets. I didn’t have enough time to make any other example items for the class, so I put on a warp to demonstrate one of the methods.

Then I went through everything for the class and extracted anything I didn’t think I needed so I could pack it in such a way that I can carry and roll it all from the car to the hall in one go without wrenching my back.

I’ve been slowly turning knitted tubes into possum pouches, and recruited a friend to sew around 60 pouch linings for them that I cut out of old sheets and pillow cases. Though one pouch took only an hour to finish, I’m getting RSI twinges. Then a post appeared on the Facebook group saying that the number of donations were getting out of hand, and though that post disappeared again I’ve switched to making beanies. Latching up dropped stitches to form a ribbed band then cinching the top of a beanie is much easier on my wrists and hands than knitting a garter stitch top and decrease rows for the base of a pouch.

In other news… A few weeks ago I knocked together a still from an old pressure cooker, copper tubing and an electric stove, and extracted lavender oil. My english lavender hedge had produced a huge amount of flowers, and I had to find another way to process it than spending many hours rubbing dried flowers off heads. I got one small brown essential oil jar’s worth of lavender oil over three distilling batches, and nearly 2 litres of lavender water, so I’m pretty chuffed.

Then today I tried distilling geranium oil since I have heaps of geranium plants that need pruning… and got too little oil to extract anything from the hydrosol (oil infused water). Oh well.

I’m hoping to find some fallen gum tree branches and try extracting eucalyptus oil. I don’t want to cut any branches from my trees, and certainly not from anyone else’s so I must wait. Even if I don’t get much oil, the water that boils the leaves in the pressure cooker should be usable as dye.

I spent a few days last week tackling the sewing pile, shortening a skirt, taking the collar off a dress, fixing a carry bag for outdoor furniture mattresses, refashioning a cardigan. Then I started an idea for a convertible dress/top/skirt. I stopped at dinner time, and the next day all my enthusiasm had dried up. So that’s sitting there in the craft room, looking forlorn and abandoned. But it was good to make a dint in the pile while the urge was there.

In the next few weeks I have a workshop to teach, another to attend as a student, and then the first 4 shaft weaving class of the year. It seems like all the looms are occupied. But not quite… I’d warped the Lotus for five tea towels but wove three. I didn’t feel like making more tea towels and we certainly don’t need them, so I looked at the crazy long straight twill sampler I did a couple of years ago and decided to weave one of my favourite drafts from it, and just make a long piece of white cotton fabric. Who knows what it’ll be. I’m just enjoying the no-pressure weaving.

The Osbourne loom? It’s still empty. I have an idea for something to weave on it, after I ask a particular question at the rug weaving workshop I’m doing next week. If the answer is ‘no’, I’ll move on to my next idea… weaving canvas for paintings.

Start. Stop. Start. Trying things might mean failing, but it might also mean success. It might be a little frustrating, but I’m learning stuff in the process.

Black Sand Scarf

The second scarf I’ve woven as an example of using the methods I’m teaching in the summer school workshop is done:

It’s inspired by the black sand beaches I’ve visited while travelling the world.

The yarn is a deep charcoal Filatura Lana Zephir wool that I adopted from a friend’s stash bust. It’s lovely and soft.

I’ve started another sample scarf. I might be overextending myself, but we’ll see. More on that in another post.

All the information sheets for the workshop are ready to be printed. I’m at the point of sitting back and considering whether I’m mad to offer so much in one workshop. There are 25 techniques available to learn, but they’re bunched into six samplers, so there can only ever be a maximum of six methods taught at the same time – and there’s always the possibility that several students will choose the same sampler to do. Also, two of the samplers are more advanced and require particular tools – two heddles or a variable dent reed – and there’s less chance students will have those.

If I was to remove one sampler it’d be the doubleweave one. It’s more of an advanced than intermediate method. But I have it and the info sheets there in case I get a student who has tried everything else and wants to learn to weave with two heddles.

In other news… bushfires. I don’t need to say anything as it has all be said already. Having been a teen living at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges when Ash Wednesday happened fires have made a deep impression on my memory. Then 1997, the Canberra fires, Black Saturday… every time we have a bushfire season it is so much worse. What’s new this time, however, is the vile disinformation. Urgh.

Little wonder, then, that the need to do something hopeful and helpful has spread and grown faster than ever, too. I’ve donated money to a variety of charities but I’m wary of getting too enthused about making anything, having seen how drives to create stuff for people and animals can end up causing more problems than they solve. I’ve joined a Facebook craft group for wildlife pouches, etc. that seems pretty well organised. Over the last two days I’ve cranked out tubes of knitting to turn into possum pouches or beanies, depending on the need. Even as I did, the FB group put up a notice saying to finish what you’ve started but don’t begin making anything new until they had a chance to do a stocktake.

So maybe I’ll be making beanies out of those tubes instead. After the Black Saturday fires there was a call, a few months later, for winter woollies. I wove a big batch of scarves and took them to a drop off centre. It might not be a bad idea to get started early, so I’m ready for when the call comes. If it doesn’t, there are always charities asking for beanies and scarves for the homeless as autumn arrives.

Books Read in 2019

I only managed to read thirteen books last year. Four non-fiction and nine fiction. Since I don’t tend to read much fiction when I’m writing or editing, I was hoping that once I had none of either to do I’d tear through my to-read list. It felt like I was, but the books per month ration didn’t change. Possibly that’s because the last two fiction books I read were quite large.

Entanglement Emma Tarlo
Vardaesia Lynette Noni
City of Lies Sam Hawke
Stormdancer Jay Kristoff
Kinslayer Jay Kristoff
Endsinger Jay Kristoff
The Conscious Closet Elizabeth Cline
Suited Jo Anderton
Guardian Jo Anderton
Roy G. Biv: An Exceedingly Surprising Book about Colour Jude Stewart
The Last Stormlord Glenda Larke
Stormlord Rising Glenda Larke
Minxy Vintage Kelly Doust

I’m hoping to increase the number of books read next year. I need to set a ratio rule for how many to-read list books I must read before I add a new book. Maybe 3:1.

Getting There

12dpi reed cut, de-rusted and threaded for rug weaving workshop – tick!

Samples for rigid heddle loom workshop finished – tick!

Information sheets for last sampler done… not quite yet. But I made this:

Having a free rigid heddle loom at last, I decided I needed more examples of items made using the methods I’ll be teaching in the workshop. I didn’t have any examples of lace weaves, only one from the Fun With Texture and Double Your Fun samplers. So I rifled through the stash and found a skein of red Turkish cashmere I bought in Canada ten years ago. Very pricey it was, and I’d hesitated to weave with it until I had something wonderful in mind.

I decided it was time to weave it. Though I didn’t have anything specific in mind, I warped the loom with half of it. Then I played about with different approaches using leno and brook’s bouquet techniques until I hit upon one I liked:

It’s brooks bouquet that never continues across an entire row, making wedge-shaped gaps. I call this the Red Bouquet Scarf. It was fun to weave. I did it in spare moments over Christmas, Boxing Day and finished it the following Friday. The scarf is so, so soft. I wish it was winter so I could wear it. Anything but this crushing, ominous summer heat.

Next I wanted to weave an example of inlay, so I’m rifled through the stash again and started another scarf. But that can wait for another post…

Twirly Tea Towels

Mum’s tea towels are done:

A close up:

The pattern is #49 from A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns by Carol Strickler. I liked how it formed pinwheels, but it’s not the traditional pinwheel pattern. Mum likes blue the most, green secondly. I used these same colours to weave her some plain weave tea towels some years back.

That’s two items off the schedule of out four. I thought I had another done – warping the Katie ready for the rug weaving class – but I ran into a snag with the reed. I only have a 10dpi reed for it, not the 12dpi one specified. That ought to have been fine, but when I looked up a sett chart for how to space 6 ends per inch on a 10 dpi the only option was to dent at 5dpi or 7dpi. I opted for 5dpi, which made it two inches wider. While I can just fit the threads across the reed, the ends at the sides bulge around the unused heddles.

I thought about removing the heddles, which would be fiddly but doable. Then I remembered that I have an old reed in the garage from the Osbourne floor loom that I made a mess of de-rusting by using a spray on derust with a primer that gooped up the slots. If it was a 12dpi reed, I could cut a piece off of the right length. The short piece would still need cleaning up, but it wouldn’t be as big a job as the full length of reed.

Sure enough, there is a reed in the garage. In fact, there were four! I’d totally forgotten that I’d got three reeds with the Lotus loom, all of which needed a bit of de-rusting. I’d bought a new stainless steel reed for it. I wasn’t going to cut up those reeds, however. Thankfully, the really old reed is 12dpi as I’d hoped. I’m going to get Paul to cut a piece off tomorrow and I’ll set about derusting it and the three newer reeds. Then I’ll rethread the reed on the Katie loom and that’ll be another item off the schedule.

Which leaves the last of the Rigid Heddle samplers to weave and write notes for – the Vari Dent one. I’ve been looking forward to this one!

Dreams

Lately I’ve had a string of dreams where I’m trying to get organised for something and just can’t seem to manage it. Firstly it was a trip to somewhere – I couldn’t seem to get my back packed. Then it was a house move where no matter how many times I returned, even after the new people had moved in, I kept find more things to take with me. Finally it was a public speaking engagement, which wasn’t the source of stress – choosing an outfit and remembering to put on make up was the problem. I vividly remember trying to polish my shoes only to have my fingers covered in black goo and the soles fall off.

What’s up, brain?

Well, it’s kinda obvious, really. I have Christmas gatherings to cook and/or arrange gifts for, then a New Year event, a weaving workshop to prepare for, another one I’m teaching, then the next 4 shaft class. There’s a work trip happening a few months later, and the parties involved are being frustratingly vague.

Yesterday I finished preparing the Jane for the next 4 shaft weaving class, to that’s ticked off the list. I also wound the warp for the rug weaving workshop. The most pressing deadline is Mum’s tea towels. I should get them off the loom this week at least, ready to sew and wash on Monday.

This week… that’s what I need to focus on. The last rigid heddle sampler and warping for the rug workshop can wait until after Christmas. Trip planning is mentally slotted in for January. That leaves tea towel making and shortbread baking by Friday, and salad making for the weekend.

I got this, brain. Stop with the nagging.

A Good Day to Dye

I’ve had a slowly growing pile of items to dye for maybe two years now, and it’s been large enough to tackle for a few months. Last Sunday I decided it was time to tackle it.

The majority of dye-able items were to be indigo dyed with the leftovers of the kit used at the Kay Plus Fun workshop I organised at the beginning of last year. Part of the reason it’s taken me so long is I’d assumed the kit was one of those overnight fermentation deals, and I tend to dye spontaneously. In fact it was a ‘mix up and wait 20-30 minutes” one. So I set it going and wet down all the pieces I wanted to dye. That included the last bit of shibori sampler I wove on the leftover warp from the workshop. There were definitely a lot of fond memories of Kay as well as wistful, sad thoughts about not being able to tell her I was finally getting that last bit of shibori done.

Other pieces to be dyed included a tshirt, two long-sleeved tops and the chenille scarf I wove earlier this year. I tie-dyed the tshirt and tried for uneven coverage with one of the long-sleeved tops. I dip-dyed the scarf, but it came out so dark that contrast was too severe, so I dipped the rest laster when the pot was growing weaker.

When everything to be indigo dyed was done I still had plenty of liquid left, so I grabbed some ripped hemp/cotton sheets and sopped up the rest to use in rag weaving.

After a break for lunch I tackled the Procion dye lot. I had four other cotton items: one of Lucy’s jumpers and three factory-produced lace table cloths. The jumper was white with colourful embroidered flowers around the front… that had bled when I washed it. The table cloths were too stained to give to the op shop and I had a vague idea of dyeing them black and making something goth-y out of them.

The jumper came out great. The dye didn’t produce a proper black – more a dark indigo blue, ironically! It took aaaaages to wash out the dye, so it clearly didn’t set well. Which meant the flowers, as I hoped, retained some colour.

The table cloths came out a disappointing grey-blue, even lighter when dry than this photo shows:

Oh well, that’s dyeing for you! I’m chuffed that nearly everything came out well, and maybe I’ll still find a purpose for the table cloths.

What They Say About Retirement…

I seem to be busier than ever! Mainly with weaving. I have:

Homework for the weaving certificate course.
Preparation for the rigid heddle workshop I’m running at the guild’s Summer School.
Preparation for the rug weaving workshop I’m attending at the guild’s Summer School.
Tea towels to weave for Mum’s Christmas present.

It’s a bit like having a part time job and going to University. Only a bit, though. I don’t think I’d have the energy for full university study right now.

I had to draw up a schedule to reassure myself I could do everything. It all seems doable, thankfully. The hardest part is anything that requires using the computer, which is why I’m not blogging as much as I used to. Writing up notes for the weaving certificate course is manageable, but creating info sheets for the rigid heddle workshop is very computer intensive. Photos must be cropped and adjusted, then added to Word documents and instructions typed up. It’s the most time-consuming part of the process.

I’m kinda surprised at how much I’m enjoying all this. Not that I’m enjoying it, but the degree to which I am. It’s had me consider how much I wasn’t enjoying writing for publication in recent years, and if this change/break was long overdue. And that has me wary about a possible future problem. My work life has been a series of turning hobbies into work, which I always intended to do with writing, not so much with art but I went into illustration with enthusiasm. Is there a danger I’ll ‘spoil’ weaving by making it work, even if I’m not teaching it for money but to spread the knowledge?

The risk is definitely there, but it’s one worth taking, I think. And I remind myself that I did regain an enjoyment of art when I stopped working as an illustrator, mainly by switching to a new medium unsuited to illustration work (oils, as they take too long to dry). I might even rediscover my love of writing after a long enough break from it.

Re-Candle

My friend and I have taken to calling my Dad’s deceased neighbour “Late Lucy”, as we know a couple of living Lucys and it prevents confusion. Anyway… Late Lucy had a LOT of candles. KRin managed to give away most of them, but discovered one forgotten box later. We put them in our local market stall, but they didn’t look that appealing all piled together and nobody bought any.

I got to wondering if, for our next market, they would appeal more if we bundled them into matching sets and tied them with Christmas ribbon. I messaged my friend to suggest it. Turns out the bag they were in had busted and some were now broken. We tossed ideas back and forth, and next thing we knew we were in my laundry hovering over saucepans on the portable stove top I use for dyeing.

I do love a spontaneous craft day!

We melted down the broken candles and saved the wicks. I found some old candle-making supplies and we used the wax dye and powdered food colouring to colour the melted wax.

The first thing I tried was dribbling wax down an old tapered candle. It produced a nice ombre effect. I used the same method on a fatter candle and the hot wax adhered and solidified differently, creating more of a dribbled coating. Next I tried coating three candles in hot wax then quickly rolling them in sand. I quite like the way they look, and reckon they’d be even better with shells pressed into them. Only I didn’t have any shells.

Why did I even think of sand? Well, when I was a child I made sand mold candles at school, or Brownies, or something, and I loved it. I’ve wanted to try it again for a while now. I’ve had a bucket of play sand sitting in the kitchen garden for a few years, waiting for me to get around to it. So I sieved out the dead leaves that had blown in, found some yoghurt containers to hold it, and once I had work out how damp to make the sand I began pressing objects into it. The results were varied. The blue and green candles came out a bit too rustic, but I rather like the yellow one.

I decided to try dipping short pieces of wick to make little fat candles, but it was taking ages for the wax to build up. I settled on making rustic birthday cake candles instead. I think these are hilarious!

My friend and I then joined forces, me dribbling green and her wielding red wax to coat two sets of candles with a Christmassy colour scheme.

Then she used up most of the remainder of the wax making red and green striped sand candles. Curiously, the sand stuck to the green but not the red.

We were pretty chuffed with our efforts overall, and had a fun afternoon of playing around with melted wax.

The next day I decided to package up the candles, making half boxes out of card covered in paper and wrapped in some florists cellophane.

I decided to keep the roughest two sand candles. The rest went into our market stall. Did anybody buy them? Yes! The matching six red and green ones, and the three blue with sands ones. I gave the long tapered one away as a gift yesterday.