The Sakiori Runner

Among the fabric my friends donated for the Memories Rug was a kimono that I didn’t end up needing. So, of course, I’ve been wondering what to do with it. I found a kimono-to-vest sakiori project in an issue of Handwoven, and decided to rip up the kimono to make it. But in the weeks since I did, it kept bothering me that I really don’t need another vest. What else could I weave? The idea of a table runner appealed. When the 40 Hour Fun Runner came off the loom and proved a bit short, I decided that I’d make another runner out of the kimono fabric and give it to the same friend.

I used up some 8/2 cotton winding the warp, and when that ran out I added a darker blue to the edges.

The weaving was easy – and so much faster than weft-faced clasped weft. Good for podcast listening. And something happened that hasn’t occurred with my floor loom before. I was able to release the spring holding the tension brake from the front, and crank on the warp, without any threads snapping. I still had to stand up, reach over the loom and press the brake back in place afterwards, but it was so good not having to crank from the side of the loom.

I wondered if the runner was going to be a bit plain, but when I took it off the loom I found it looked great. It was 3 metres long pre-washed.

After washing, I finished the ends by sewing on a strip of the kimono’s collar. It shrank a little, down to about 285cm. I have quite a bit of kimono rag left, so I’m thinking of weaving some placemats to match it. Not exactly, as I ran out of the middle colour. But I have a slightly different blue that will do perfectly well.

Spotty Napkins

When I named these napkins it was just a silly reference to spot bronson, the lace structure I used. But when I washed the fabric, the name gained a new, less fun, meaning.

The colour of the blue threads I’d added to mark where to cut the napkins bled. And not just to the nearby threads, but all over the napkins.

After zig zagging next to the blue threads, I cut the fabric to separate the napkins and bleached them. It wasn’t 100% successful. I also bleached some dishcloths without great results so maybe the bleach has gone off. Maybe I’ll try again with fresh bleach. Or maybe I’ll just hem and added them to the Indigo dyeing pile.

At least this means the Katie Loom is free, ready for the 4 shaft weaving course starting in a month.

The 40 Hour Fun Runner

It’s done!

It’s rather hard to get a good photo of it. This is three photos stitched together:

The division line between the two blues is the horizon as seen from the recipient’s balcony. The grey stripes represent rain squalls coming through.

Though it was a slooooow project, it was perfect weaving between work sessions, and for listening to podcasts. Not too mentally challenging, but getting the clasp to land where I wanted it and the wandering line of the horison stopped it from being boring.

Technically, some problems surfaced after it was washed. The runner should be 3 metres long. It’s 2.65. Since the weft weaves around the warp threads, not distorting them, I didn’t need to stretch the cartoon to compensate for shrinkage. So the shrinkage that did happen must be from the warp shrinking when I washed the runner. That’s 18% shrinkage just from washing, and I didn’t even use warm water. I’m wondering if rug yarn is supposed to shrink, to help tighten up the fabric of rugs, but it has shrunk widthwise even more. From 30cm to 24. That’s 20% lost. I’m nots surprised that it came out narrower, but I am that it shrank that much.

I can live with a shorter, narrower runner. It’s not what my friend asked for, but it’s not far off. The flaw in the runner is that one side seems to have shrunk more than the other, making it a little bit ripply. I’m hoping that will sort itself out through use and further washing and pressing.

This combination of weaving methods was entirely new to me, and if google is any indication it’s pretty rare. Maybe the above issues are why. Still, the finished piece works for the purpose it was made for, so I’m pretty happy with how it came out.

Rigid Heddle Honeycomb Scarf 1

In Syne Mitchell’s book Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom she has a formula for weaving honeycomb on a rigid heddle loom. Intrigued, I warped up the AKL some months ago and wove a scarf.

A wash let the yarn relax into the honeycomb pattern.

From the start, I wondered if it was possible to turn things 90 degrees and have the feature yarn as a supplemental warp. After I finished the first scarf, I immediately started exploring. I warped up the loom with the same yarns. And warped it again. And warped it again. And warped it again. And rethreaded the supplemental warp another time. After all that faffing about, I seem to have a working honeycomb happening.

I learned quite a bit about designing on a rigid-heddle loom. The tricky thing with rigid heddles is that the warp threads you manipulate with pick up sticks have to be in the slots, not holes, of the heddle. The supplemental warp threads sit next to threads that need to manipulatable, so to make both manipulatable I had two choices: spread the warp out by skipping two holes, or putting the supplemental warp threads into the same slots as their neighbours. And then I still had to rig up a separate ‘heddle’ of loops on a dowel for the supplemental warp.

Though the set-up is a little more complicated, the weaving is no more time-consuming and slow than the weft honeycomb – and no wrangling of two shuttles.

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.

Section Necklaces

The jewellery making itch has well and truly passed, now. The last few pieces were section necklaces. I’d bought a mini beading mat, which was great for the short sections and bracelets but too small for the longer sections. So I ordered a full size one, and it made designing much easier:

I finished the black one:

I now have three necklaces with interchangeable lower sections. The green one was made by a friend with a few sections made by me. The purple I made out of beads I had and some given to me by another friend. The black one is mostly made from jewellery I bought from an op shop:

That’s enough, I think. I’m keeping them in these old wooden dishes because there’s no room left on my costume jewellery pinboard and the pins don’t hold heavy pieces well:

The Ins & Outs

It doesn’t seem so long ago that I went through my yarn stash and reduced it to 35 kilos. I recall I wanted to reach that weight by the Bendy Show. That was around ten months ago. Since then I’ve added quite a bit of yarn to the stash. A few weeks back I added it all up and realised I now have more than 46 kilos.

46 kilos! How the heck did that happen?

Destashes. That’s how. Other people’s destashes. The Handweavers and Spinners Guild bazaar. Two recent markets. It seems I completely lose all sense when faced with inexpensive second-hand yarn. It also seems I have a weakness for tweedy brown yarn of all shades and weights, from cone yarn to super bulky. I tell myself it won’t take long to weave a blanket out of them. Trouble is, I only have one blanket-sized loom that will be occupied for a couple of months, and I already have plenty of blankets.

Needless to say, the stash storage spilleth over. I’ve been putting new acquisitions into the freezer in batches to kill any moth eggs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also have several bags of yarn lurking in corners of the craft room. I’ve even employed that old gem of starting a project and leaving yarn in a basket so that it ‘doesn’t count’.

I can see another stash cull in the future, but at the moment I am too clingy. More likely the knitting machine will emerge soon, as many of the ‘new’ yarns speak to me of cosy winter jumpers or jackets. In fact, that may be the source and solution to the problem. Cooling temps always bring out a craving in me for new woollens, making me weak in the face of cosy yarn, but also inspiring me to bring out the Bond.

But no, I must not get distracted from finishing weaving projects and freeing up looms!

Acceptance & Adaption

When you’re young you feel invincible. You look at people older and frailer than you and think ‘that won’t be me’ and believe that you’ll eat healthier, exercise, keep mentally active, and get things checked out by the doctor before they become serious. You assume medical technology will improve well enough that anything that does become a problem can be dealt with, and between it and your determination you will turn into one of those older people who is fit and sharp-witted and celebrating their 100th birthday by running a marathon.

The truth is, little of this is in our control, and what is isn’t as easy to control as we thought (like not having that cupcake or cocktail, or going to the gym). I’ve eaten pretty healthy most of my life, but information on what’s healthy has changed dramatically in that time. I’ve exercised moderately when I could, but half the time it led to some sort of overuse injury. Medical technology prevented me going blind, but drove it home that such interventions always come with compromises. I’ve found the medical profession often hasn’t got a clue simply because the human body is a mystery.

What I learned during my middle age is that there is a point where acceptance makes a great deal more sense than fighting on. Acceptance is different to giving up. Acceptance is acknowledging reality and working within it. Or as Kurt Fearnley said in a recent episode of “Who Do You Think You Are”: you don’t cure disability, you adapt to it.

I’ve had the luck and privilege of being able to work hard at something I love and be rewarded for it. There’s been a physical price but I don’t regret that. I accept it. Just as now I’m having to accept the consequences – that the career I love will come to an end earlier than I anticipated.

Fortunately, my career isn’t the only source of creative fulfilment in my life. That’s the advantage of being a creative fidget.

For while now I’ve thought hard about what I’d do if I had to quit writing. Friends have suggested I teach art, but I don’t feel I have a broad enough experience or qualification in it. I considered teaching writing, which I’ve done before, but it involves too much computer time. That left weaving, which appeals because I think I could make a greater impact. There’s no shortage of people writing and doing art in the world, so knowledge of either is not in danger of being lost.

So I’ve signed up for a year long 4 shaft weaving course, starting in August. Just one Sunday a month plus homework. If that goes well I’ll do the 8 shaft course the following year.

I’m also exploring the idea of teaching rigid heddle weaving, both beginner classes designed to introduce people to weaving, and more advanced classes to show how versatile those looms can be.

Prep for both means weaving off the projects on my looms. My Katie loom still has the warp on it from Kay’s summer and winter class, so I’ll be weaving the napkins I’d planned to do before I ran out of time. The knitters loom has a honeycomb scarf on it. The floor loom has the clasped weft runner on it, which is slow weaving – but that’s okay as I shouldn’t need that loom free for the course or classes.

I have a few months to prepare for the course and I’m feeling excited about it. I’m ready to transition into a new phase of my life, and for once I’m feeling good about that.

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.