Weaving Off

Of all my looms, the one I most urgently need to free up is the Katie Loom. I’d put a six metre warp on there for Kay’s class, intending to sample then weave eight napkins. Well, best laid plans and all that. I wound up doing a metre and a half of sampling and a half metre table runner, so I had four metres of warp left to weave.

I was intending to weave six napkins using the six summer and winter designs I’d come up with, but I had to put it aside while I chased a work deadline. As soon I was free, I printed off those designs and surveyed what I had, and decided three things: I should do something quicker than summer and winter, something all white (so the napkins can be bleached to get inevitable food stains out), and something that made a lighter fabric than the runner.

Lace made sense. I’ve done huck already, Swedish looks a bit complicated, Atwater-Bronson appeals but a Spot Bronson threading looked not too dissimilar to summer and winter. At least, it was made up of blocks of four threads and that might make rethreading the loom simpler. (It didn’t, but it was worth trying.)

I found a project in an old Interweave that, if I only did two rounds of the repeated bit of the pattern, used almost exactly the same number of warp threads I had. I just needed to add a few more, and since I already had eight supplemental threads added to the left side, they could just join those.

Rethreading went fairly well. The biggest hitch was that I ran out of heddles for shaft one and had to make a whole lot of string heddles – and I hate making large numbers of string heddles. I had some issues getting the supplemental threads weighted enough to match the tension of the rest, and there were some miss-threadings, but eventually I was able to get weaving.

I like it, and I think it’ll go fast.

In the meantime, this arrived:

My teaching/photography loom. It seems weird buying another of the same loom, but when I considered what I want to use it for, it made the most sense. I want to get the napkins done and maybe the honeycomb scarf finished before I start anything new, but at least I have the loom I need now.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.