Year in Review: 2020

I’m a bit late doing my usual review, but better late than never!

January

The first creation I mentioned in January 2019 was our house number mosaic. I’m still pretty chuffed about this one. The next is one I also still love – the embroidery I sewed to the back of a jacket.

February

Feb was all about decor, with me making these cushion colours and most of my weaving time spend making the Memories Rya Rug.

March

Which I finished in March.

April

I did a big cull of my hats, scarves and shawls. Some frogging and embellishment happened, and many were given away. The scarf below gained some pom poms, which were exactly what it needed to transform from nice to wonderful.

And I went to the Fibre Forum in Ballarat, for what was to be my last workshop with Kay Faulkner.

Once home I finished the bird bath mosaic.

May

And soon after, finished the mosaic clock I’d been working on for two and a half years.

And went on a jewellery-making jape.

June

Kay died. I learned the news on a day of unusually intense physical pain, and came to a conclusion and decision that I hope will change my life for the better. (So far, so good!)

I finished a honeycomb scarf on my AKL.

July

I finished a runner I wove as a gift.

Wove two more using the sakiori technique, using rags from an old kimono.

And wove off the remaining warp from Kay’s workshop by trying spot bronson for the first time.

August

I started a four-shaft certificate weaving course at the guild.

And I bought another floor loom.

September

And before I had a chance to try it out, my Dad’s neighbour died and I had to help him clear her estate. With the much appreciated help of friends, we sent as much as possible of her unwanted belongings to various charities, and later raised money for charity by holding trash’n’treasure stalls and putting vintage clothes in a shop on consignment.

October

This and work took over my life so that I blogged mostly updates with no photos. But I did agree to run a rigid heddle class at the guild’s Summer School, and started making samplers and course notes.

Oh, and I turned 50.

November

I bought another table loom. And when I wove off the warp on it I’d made an unexpectedly beautiful, iridescent table runner.

December

As if to make up for August and September’s drought, December was intensely creative.

My friend KRin and I had fun making new candles from old.

I dyed some things.

I wove tea towels for Mum for Christmas – the first project on the ‘new’ floor loom.

At one point I had to write up a weaving schedule, so that I could prioritise and place the weaving of four projects: the tea towels, warping up looms for the 4-shaft weaving class and rug weaving workshop, and weaving samplers and examples for the rigid workshop I was going to teach. I made all my deadlines with a bit of time to spare, and had a Christmas season I enjoyed more than I had for years – apart from that one year we went to Japan!

Nearly DD Cowl

When I had only time enough to weave one more example project for the workshop I intended to weave face washers or a doubleweave project. Or maybe a nicer swaps scarf with the vari dent reed. But instead I sponteously decided to try making something using a deflected doubleweave method on the vari dent. I started and wove more than half of a scarf when Ilka sent back her feedback on the information sheets. Turns out that method wasn’t actually correct.

It wasn’t far off. I was able to achieve the correct effect with pick up sticks. But I couldn’t fix the sampler. Instead I removed that section of it and removed the instructions in the class notes.

I could have finished the scarf as it was, but I decided instead to weave far enough that I could make a cowl then cut it off. So that’s what I did:

I like it, but there are quite a few loopy bits that could get snagged. I definitely need to find some non-machine washable thin yarn so I can make a deflected doubleweave scarf that fuses into the classic, familiar structure.

Once the loom was free I put a cotton warp on so I could demonstrate making daisies with Danish medallions in class. By then I didn’t have enough time to weave any more examples, and I was a bit tired of rushing to get another example project done.

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.

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!

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.

Serendipity

At the last weaving class one of the students brought a Louet Erica loom for us to look at. I’ve seen a Louet David before, and I like the brand’s aesthetic. I got chatting with another weaver about the other looms in their range. She has a Spring on order. I think she has a Jane, too – the 8 shaft table loom.

In class we wound the warp for the next project during the afternoon, and I realised that this and the following project were 13 inches wide. The maximum width I can weave on the Katie is 12 inches. I asked if I could do the next project at home on my floor loom, and the teacher agreed.

When I got home, I decided to visit the Louet website. I compared the weight of the 16 inch Jane (8 kg) with the Ashford Katie (6.5 kg – plus a bit more for mine due to modifications). For 1.5 more kilos the Jane offers 4 more inches of width. I prefer the way the Jane folds up into a less awkward suitcase shape, but I like the way the entire front of the Katie folds down for warping. The Jane is more expensive, however, and newer on the Australian market so finding a second hand one would be pretty rare indeed. But I checked eBay just in case. Nope. Nadda.

I wasn’t seriously shopping for another loom, however. I could make do with what I had.

That night I started my usual forum reading on Ravelry and there it was… a post advertising a second hand Louet Jane for sale that had only gone up an hour or two before. So I asked if was still available, and several messages, emails and txts later…

Now I have to decide if I will sell the Katie. It might not be a bad idea to keep it until I’ve finished the 8 Shaft Weaving Certificate course a year after next. I have all the parts I took off it when I modified it, and can return it to it’s original state. But if I do sell it, I will give a buyer the option to acquire the altered version.

The Youth of Old Age

“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.” So said Victor Hugo. Well, I’m officially old, in that case. The young end of old, but still old.

Paul and I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on my birthday, which was very enjoyable and appropriately fancy for a zero birthday, and involved none of the preparation, clean up or recovery of a party.

The week before I’d discovered a Melbourne vintage clothing shop that sells on consignment, so I took photos of everything and emailed some thumbnail sheets of what I have to the owner. She said it was exactly the sort of stock she sold, so Paul and I took it all in the next day. She took everything except reproduction clothing, a caftan (not popular) and winter-weight clothing as we’re heading toward summer. When I saw she sold costumes, too, I mentioned I had culled some from my wardrobe, and she said she would have liked to see them.

The following Sunday my friend and I had our stall at the local market.

We made a small profit, which went to charity, and decided to do it all again the next month. I took the leftover vintage clothing along with with my culled garments and costumes but sold only one top. That convinced me to put the winter weight vintage clothes and my costumes aside to see if the shop wants them in autumn, and donate my clothes to the local op shop. The next stall will be some vintage scarves, tea towels and brick-a-brack, jewellery and such.

Craft-wise, I’ve been making samplers for a rigid heddle loom weaving workshop I’ll be running at the Guild’s summer school.

And doing my 4-shaft weaving class homework.

And I decided it was well past time to put a first project on the Lotus.

It’s going to be tea towels, using the 16/2 cotton I bought in 2008 only to discover that I didn’t even have half the heddles I needed on my Ashford table loom. The yarn has been sitting in my stash ever since.

And speaking of stash… it is now over 50 kg. Waaaay too many destash markets/Guild bazaar/freebies came my way these last couple of months, which only makes me more determined to GET ALL THE LOOMS WARPED! But then I remind myself that there’s only one weaver here, and I can only use one loom at a time, and I still have a stuffed back that won’t let me weave for hours at a time anyway.

I think there may be a stash review in my near future. And probably a stash cull.