Vale Kay Faulkner

The relationship between a student and a teacher is usually fleeting. Sometimes it transforms into an ongoing bond between novice and mentor. I’ve only experienced the latter once in my life. My painting teacher, Carol, was as much a life coach as an art mentor. In the last three years, I felt like a similar link might be beginning between myself and a wonderful weaver named Kay Faulkner.

I had plans to fly up to her studio once my current work commitments were done, and do a workshop. Every time I learned from her I made huge leaps of comprehension. We also planned for me to try out the floor loom models she thought might suit, and perhaps I’d order one from a loom maker she knew. I was also going to offer to help her update her website, to make it more mobile/tablet friendly. We’d drink wine and eat chocolate and talk about living a creative life.

I was really looking forward to it.

Last week I learned that she was in hospital, in a coma. A few days later came the news I was fearing: she had passed away.

It affected me more than I expected. After all, I’d only known her for three sets of about five days, on top of a few email conversations. I don’t make new friends that quickly these days. But there was a feeling that here was someone who ‘got’ me on a certain level, and perhaps I had a bit of the same in return. And, well, she was a really nice person.

So after feeling a bit lost for a few days, I worked my way through lamenting missed opportunities to being grateful for the ones I’d been able to take, from worrying that so much of her knowledge would be lost to wondering if I could help spread and preserve it. The undeniable truth is, I could never, at my age with my physical limitations, catch up with such an accomplished weaver. But I can, in my own small way, introduce more people to weaving – and maybe a young student will go on to make a career out of it and become as knowledgeable as Kay was.

So I returned to an idea I had several months ago, to teach rigid heddle weaving. I’ve been making notes and considering buying another, different model to the one I own. As for getting an eight+ shaft floor loom, it’s tempting to think the fates don’t want me heading in that direction yet, but Kay would have wanted me to continue learning, so I’ll just have to keep looking for one.

Stringing Along

More jewellery-making has been happening here. I’ve wrapped a gemstone slice with wire, strung a bag of tiger-eye pieces onto wire to make a necklace, and joined more spacers together to make a bracelet:

I like the tiger-eye one, but the other two aren’t me so I’ll see if friends want them.

I made more sections for my green bead necklace, then more section necklaces. I’d already added a chain to the black bead necklace to mimic the structure. Next I made a purple version with two options for the short section:

I’m now gathering beads to make black and red version. Or a black and red version.

But I can feel my interest in making jewellery is waning, now. I’ve been weaving the runner in pod-cast length sessions. (Not even halfway done yet. About a third, I reckon.) There’s been some work on the knitters loom, too, but that’ll go in a separate post. I want to weave the summer and winter placemats on the Katie loom, and for that I need to clear the craft room table of jewellery things.

Big In, Small Out

A friend of mine makes really cool customisable necklaces and when I asked if she’d make me one if I provided the materials, she agreed. So when I saw a multi-strand bracelet at a destash market containing lots of beads I liked, I knew it was a great opportunity to have that necklace made. The result was fabulous…

What I like about this necklace idea is that the main part can be a shorter necklace on it’s own, and the short section could be a bracelet. I could even clip on a pendant. Since the spirit of the design is that you can swap out sections to suit your mood, I got out my jewellery-making box to see if I could make some from the supplies I had. I found that I needed to order more bead stringing materials, like crimps and jump rings and a pearl doubler.

Well, if I was going to order jewellery supplies, I’d better look in the bag of unfinished jewellery projects to see what I needed for them. Some I could do straight away, so once the order was made I started working, and soon had a few completed pieces:

When the supplies arrived, I finished more:

I started making swap-out sections for the new necklace, but got stalled because the beading wire and crimps I bought were waaaaay too fine, and the bead mat I’d bought was too small for the longer lengths. So while I waited for a new mat, I had a big clean out of my supplies.

You see, I’d learned something while finishing all those projects: embroidery isn’t the only craft I have to rethink post eye surgery. My new eyes really don’t cope with smallness. I made a huge mistake in my ordering, buying that really fine beading wire and crimps. I simply couldn’t see the crimp holes or the ends of the wire, and was reduced to moving the wire in the vague direction of the bead and hoping to eventually thread it. Yes, I could use a magnifying glass, but when I did that with embroidery I just got a headache.

I’m not interested in craft that is uncomfortable. I know now that small beads are out and soft lighting is vital. Nearly all the seed beads, some larger beads I didn’t care for, beading needles and thread, and the mistake purchases, went into a bag to destash. Then I reorganised the rest. Since I’d finished most of the unfinished projects and a few new ones, my jewellery-making box suddenly had room to spare.

Which may not last for long. Small is out, which means big is in. And refashioning second hand is pretty much my thing these day. A few days ago I bought some necklaces and bracelets with medium to large beads and charms from a charity shop to cannibalise.

Because this isn’t about giving up a craft, but taking it in new directions.

Which is why I’ve also got out the silver metal clay kit I haven’t had the courage to play with yet and started playing with that.

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.

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.