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…

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.

Weaving At Last

On the Australia Day weekend it finally happened: I warped up the floor loom.

I had thought the craft room tidy up might get the creative juices flowing again, and I was right. It was the push I needed. Not in the way I expected, though. I thought clearing space for the looms would declutter my mind. Instead it was the need to do projects in order to make space that spurred me into action.

The project is the rya rag rug, which is not only using up the old shirts, sheets, fabric scraps, table cloths and pajamas I’ve been collecting for this project and the craft yarn I bought for it over ten years ago, but also a pile of shirts, sheets and a skirt I’d but a side for possible refashioning. And an excess of rags in the rag bag.

I cut everything into strips first, then dressed the loom with rug warp, making it twice the length of the rug I wanted so I could make two then join them together. I cut up each pile of strips into 15cm lengths as I weave, then collected them into batches of 34 – one to weave now, one for the second half of the first rug (to make sure the colour spread was even across it) and another two batches for the second rug. This was very slow work, but it told me that I needed to acquire more fabric and now that I’m on the second half of the first rug the rya knot rows seem to fly by.

I had a minor panic at nine rows of rya knots in, as the fabric wasn’t growing as fast as I’d calculated and I was worried about running out of craft yarn. So I did a whole lot of internet searching for another yarn to pair with the craft yarn to bulk out the weft. Then I redid my sums and realised I’d forgotten a step, and I still had enough yarn anyway. Me and my absent-minded maths.

At 25 cm I’d done enough to know I’d run out of rags less than halfway through, so I put out a request for old shirts, sheets and such from friends on Facebook… and got almost no response. Guessing that everyone had done their end/beginning of year cull and tossed the excess already, I searched the garage for old sheets to use as drop sheets and found one that was perfect. One of the two friends who responded let me rifle through her pile of fabric scraps, which gave me a good sized pile of fabric that mostly didn’t need seams cut off. That turned out to be enough to cover the whole rug.

Now that I’m not running around looking for more fabric, and cutting up endless strips, it’s settled into a relaxing weave. I’m hoping it lasts through most of February, giving me something creative to do in work breaks. I’m also liking how it’s coming out, all thick and stripy.

And I’m now thinking about other methods of weaving rags and fabric, as I think about what I will weave next.

Patchwork Pillow

The first of the big post-craft room tidy up projects was finished last week:

The usual law of using up stash applied: there will always be something new you have to buy in order to use up the old. In this case, two zippers. But it enabled me to remove several pairs of jeans and two large pillow inserts from my sewing stash.

The next big post-craft room tidy up project is the rya rug. I have been strangely reluctant to dedicate the floor loom to it since it’s going to occupy it for a while. I say ‘strangely’ because the loom has been empty for months and I’m not exactly anxious to make anything else in particular right now.

But it’s time to kick myself in the posterior and just get on with it.

Lady Finishers

Back when Paul was doing his Batchelor of Photography he needed old wooden frames, so he bought some through eBay. One had an embroidery from 1992 in it. He was going to throw it away, but I figured I could probably make something with it one day.

Recently (but probably not so recently that I’m being all that trendy) I noticed there was a fashion for denim jackets with embellishments on the back. I thought about putting that embroidery on the back of mine as a kind of fast, cheats way to get the look. In the meantime, a corduroy jacket I’d bought second hand lost a button. I went on a long and fruitless hunt for a replacement that would match the rest, but it being your typical metal shank button I couldn’t find anything even similar.

Eventually I settled on a plastic shank button in my stash that has a pearlescent effect that looks remarkably like the metal buttons from a distance. I sewed it on when tackling the mending pile after my big craft room cull. The embroidery was in my ‘not sure if I should toss or keep’ pile and I decided it was time to decide whether to sew it on my jacket or toss it out. I took out my denim jacket and laid the embroidery out on the back. Since it was there I also tried it on the corduroy jacket – and it matched that one better. So I decided to go ahead and sew it on.

I’m so glad I did! When I removed the backing board from the embroidery I had quite a surprise.

Whoever had framed the embroidery had used the photo that was originally in the frame – from the late 1800s we think. On the back was a rather amusing note from the photo studio:

As for the embroidery… I used iron-on fusing to attach interfacing to the back then sewed that onto the jacket. I’m rather chuffed with the result:

The Big Craft Room Tidy of 2019

It’s been hot in Melbourne for several days now. Dry hot then humid hot. Too hot to go outside. Too hot to even work on mosaics, as the studio is the warmest room in the house and I only run the aircon unit out there if I really have to – say, we have visitors.

Somehow my brain decided that this meant a big clean out of the craft room would be a good idea.

My aim was to get everything but looms, furniture and the rubbish bin off the floor and into the wardrobe or bookcase. Not only was I sick of the clutter, but I also know that if I do get another floor loom I’ll have to do this anyway.

First I dragged everything on the floor into the kitchen. Baskets, tubs and felt storage buckets covered the dining table. Most of the contents were t-shirt material, jeans, cotton fabric to be repurposed. One basket was overflowing with sewing and refashioning projects. On top of that: three square pillow inserts waiting to be given pillowcases.

Looking in the wardrobe, I mentally added all this to all my sewing supplies and a question immediately sprang to mind:

Why the heck do I have so much sewing stuff when I’m really not that keen on sewing?

So I culled.

And I culled HARD. At least a third of my sewing stuff went into a pile to get rid of, including the mini sewing machine and a quarter of my fabric stash. I then culled some embroidery yarns, stretchers and books, keeping supplies for kinds of embroidery I reckon my eyes can cope with.

The jewellery-making supplies were reduced next. I culled most of my seed beads since they’re hard to see now. I removed beads I didn’t love. (Then I got distracted and lost half a day trying to make a bracelet… but once I realised my mistake I decided there would be NO MORE GETTING DISTRACTED!)

Lots of swapping of plastic tube contents followed to make best use of the wardrobe shelving. I was determined to avoid buying more plastic stuff. The only container I wound up needing to buy was a replacement sewing box – the lid had finally broken off the one I’ve been using since I was a teenager and though I’d duck-taped it back on it was only strong enough to store sewing patterns. I took a morning off and visited several op shops until I found an old cane picnic basket that was the exact dimensions to fit the space for the sewing basket in my wardrobe. A cane document tray I already had fitted inside. I did end up buying two small plastic boxes to hold my sewing threads, as the tray only sits loosely and I could see myself being a clutz and spilling spools everywhere.

Headway had been made, but much more work lay ahead. I hardly ever touch my paper and card stash, so it needed to be culled too. The space dedicated to it needed to be more efficiently arranged, too. A trip to Bunnings and Officeworks sorted that.

The bookcase was scrutinised, too. Knitting books, macrame books and art books went OUT. This gave me two shelves spare to put weaving and drawing tools on.

Finally, a week after I began, I’m finished. There are still some areas that need work. I have bags of yarn that won’t fit in the stash in bags hanging from door handles, and the sack of cotton fabric for a rya rug has nowhere to go but the floor, so I haven’t achieved 100% of my aim. But it’s a LOT less cluttered in the craft room now.

And all I have to do to get to 100% is tackle couple of big projects: a couple of recycled denim patchwork pillowcases and a giant rya rug.

All I need to do for the latter is work out if I can do it on the floor loom, or if I’ll need to make or buy a rug loom.

Continued/Discontinued

When I had my long bout of finishitis last year, one of the items on the WIP list that I failed to eliminate was the Swimmers Clock. There was simply too many hours of work left to do, to get it done by Christmas. But I did find time to work on it, and my enthusiasm for it and mosaics returned.

Pretty soon, however, I hit a snag. I ran out of blue tiles for the background. They weren’t available at Bunnings, so I headed to the manufacturer, Johnson Tiles. There I learned that the colour was discontinued. The girl at the front desk said there were a few boxes left at the warehouse and ordered them for me, but when I rang on the day she said to call on, she found no order and the person I spoke to said there were none left. This is where the clock is up to:

In the meantime, I started another project: a house number. Seeing Paul with his large tin of obsolete keys, I had the idea of using them in the background. I finished the mosaic just after New Year.

The cream tiles are the same type I was using on the clock. However, I ran out of that colour, too. But it isn’t a discontinued colour, and I was able to get a couple from Bunnings. But these did not break as easily or in a predictable way as the old ones. I looked on the back and saw that the old ones say “Made in Britain” while the newer ones says “Made in Malaysia”.

Fortunately I was able to finish the mosaic by simply cutting and breaking until I had the right shapes, making a lot more wastage in the process. But I was kind of glad the blue for the clock was discontinued as it would be a much more frustrating process filling in the last of the background.

I had bought a bunch of duck-egg blue tiles hoping to just transition into another colour on the clock, but they didn’t match very well and the cutting problem put me off trying with any other colour. Googling, I found that the colour is still available in the UK. I can’t tell from the websites if they are made in Britain or Malaysia, however, so I posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew someone over there who could ship some to me.

A few days later, at a party, a friend said the tiles sounded a lot like what he and his wife used on their bathroom. Later he sent a photo, and they do look very much like the ones I need. I just need to get hold of them and see.

In the meantime, again, I’ve started another mosaic. I’ve been meaning to tile one of our bird baths, as it has a hole in the bottom that needs filling. Wondering what I’d do with the hard-to-cut duck egg blue and leftover cream tiles, I realised that if I smash them up with a hammer and use them as random shapes they should work okay. The smaller the pieces, the easier to fit them together.

Of course, I then ran out of cream, but that’s okay, I know I can get those ones at Bunnings.