Monday, December 7, 2009

"It is more blessed to give than to receive"

It's the time of year in which many of us think about helping those in need. This year, in my town, where the local economy depends heavily on Chrysler and GM, there is no shortage of opportunities to give. I was afraid that this year, having taken a cut in pay, I wouldn't be able to help much, but when I received a list of needs for some local senior citizens, I was inspired. The list included the normal socks, puzzle books, sweatshirts, and... knitting supplies! I immediately thought of my stash of handspun. Over the past couple of years, I have accumulated quite a few skeins for which I had no particular project in mind. So I washed the skeins that looked useable (not my beginnery handspun), wound them into balls, and took them to work to be included in the gift bags for the seniors. I can't tell you how good it felt! After hearing the stories of some of these seniors, many of whom have no family or friends to care for them, I was amazed to think that something I made could touch them.

Earlier this year, I decided to play with echo weave. I wove two scarves on one warp using Mora yan. They turned out pretty well. Since I'm getting to the point where I have more scarves than I can wear, I decided to donate them to a local charity auction, and they were sold this weekend. Those scarves are pictured below:

I was hesitant to write this post because I don't want to pat myself on the back and talk about how good and generous I am. But my hope is that someone may read this and be inspired to use their own talents to reach out to others in their own, individual way. If you aren't sure where to start, I would suggest contacting a local church or the United Way in your area. They can surely direct you to someone who would be encouraged by your gift of fiber (or whatever else). If you have any other ideas for giving, please leave a comment!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guild Challenge

This year, our guild's design challenge consisted of drawing three cards. Each one gave instructions with respect to weave structure, color, or fiber. We all had to weave something based on the cards we drew. I had to do plainweave, no more than two colors, and weft heavier than the warp. My first thought after I drew those cards was, "yuck, how boring!" I decided that to make it a little more interesting, I would bend the rules a little, and use several values of one color. Since I have very little experience dying, I consulted "Hands on Dying" and decided to follow the instructions for the first project in that book, which should yield four values of the same color, using Rit or Cushing dye. I thought it would be fun to do some clasped weft weaving with the light and dark colors of weft.

To meet the grist requirements for the warp and weft, I chose some natural 10/2 cotton as warp and some worsted weight cotton as weft. I figured with a heavier weft, I would make some placemats or a table runner. I bought Hobby Lobby brand worsted weight cotton, and I was pretty impressed with it. It is much softer (and I think nicer) than sugar 'n cream cotton, and on sale, it cost less for me to buy several skeins of the Hobby Lobby cotton than it would bave cost to buy a cone of the same weight of sugarn 'n cream. For the dye, I chose Rit in Apple Green.

Anyway, I took the heavy cotton, skeined it, and dyed it according to the instructions in the book. I left the warp cotton natural. A couple of things happened when I did the dying, and, please, keep in mind that I am a very inexperienced dyer. First, the difference in value of each skein was barely discernable. I suspect that this was because the dye I chose to use had a relatively light value to begin with. Since I needed to get moving on the project to meet the due date, I decided just to use what I had and weave something a little plainer without the clasped weft.

The other thing that happened during the dyeing was that when I skeined the yarn, I tied the choke ties too tight. This left some very light spots throughout the skein. Even though this was a mistake, it worked to my advantage. Since the idea of using light and dark yarns to do clasped weft was out, the light spots in the yarn added some interest.

Then I started weaving a placemat in plainweave. It was just OK. The worst part was the selvedges. I don't normally weave with such heavy yarns, and had a horrible time getting nice selvedges. I decided that one placemat of this was enough to fulfill the guild challenge requirements and that I would weave a runner in a different structure. At that point, I wished that I had threaded for rosepath instead of 1, 2, 3, 4. I really didn't want to rethread, so I consulted Davison's book to see what else I could do with that threading. I wove a couple of samples and settled on Joseph France's "Ribs Three & One" on page 7. This was like a plainweave, except three of the warp ends acted as one. I liked the way this looked a lot better, and for some reason, the selvedges looked a lot better with this structure. I'm sure I didn't do anything differently, so I'm not sure what made the difference.

The runner looked fine, but I don't see myself doing much more like that. I'm looking forward to getting back to weaving with some finer yarns. I do think, though, that something similar might be nice for some hand towels since it's nice and soft. I may have to try drying my hands on the runner to see if it's absorment enough. :)
Here are the four skeins after being dyed. You can see a little difference in value, but not much.

Here is the finished placemat, yucky selvedges, and all.

Here is the runner on the loom.

And here is the finished runner.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Slow Weaving

I keep hearing about how hot slow art is right now. I think that just about any handweaving and handspinning could be considered slow, but what I'm working on now is ultra-slow! I'm weaving summer and winter bookmarks with 20/2 cotton warp and tabby weft and 10/2 cotton pattern weft on a table loom. It is sett at 36 epi. I chose the table loom for a couple of reasons. First, it's a louet, so it has a raddle that's suited to very fine warp. Second, I like the texsolve heddles for fine warps. If I were to weave this on a floor loom, I would need to use a skeleton tie-up, which would slow down my weaving rhythm considerably, anyway.

This is my first experience with weaving summer and winter. I wanted to make some Christmas gifts, so I designed a draft with little pine trees. I'm thankful to a member of our guild, who put on a program last year about designing with blocks. I had read about this before and vaguely understood how to do it, but to see it explained in person made it much clearer to me. After I had settled on my final design, I was perusing WeaveZine and found a draft there with Christmas trees. I'm glad I found it after I made my own design. While it would have saved me time to use an existing draft, it was good to go through the exercise of designing my own. Besides, I like mine a little better :)

So far, I have one bookmark woven, shown below. It is in the "singles" treadling order, as described by Strickler in her 8-shaft pattern book. My plan is to weave at least one bookmark each in singles, x's, o's, and dukagang-fashion.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Autumn Yarn

I've just finished spinning some beautiful alpaca/merino/silk fiber from Yarn Hollow. It was hand painted in their chai colorway, which is just perfect for autumn. I'm still getting used to the great big bobbins on my Ladybug. I misjudged how much fiber I had left and wound up with about twice as much singles on one bobbin as I did on the other. I went ahead and plied the two together, and I Navajo plied the leftovers. The two-ply came out at about 32 - 36 wpi. The Navajo ply was about 24 - 28 wpi. I wish I would have taken the time to wind the leftover bobbin onto a ball and ply it onto itself because I really like the two-ply a lot better. Of course, maybe I just need more practice Navajo plying... :)

Here is the two-ply:

And here is the Navajo ply:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Advance! warp samples

After Bonnie Inouye's Advance! workshop, I had plenty of warp left on the loom. I had a lot of breaking ends because, I believe, the tencel warp wasn't getting along with the flat steel heddles on my Baby Wolf. I'd had that issue in the past, but it had been a while, so I kind of forgot about it. Anyway, I didn't want to fight the warp to make a scarf or anything, but it was perfect for weaving more samples.

The warp was 8/2 tencel sleyed at 28 epi. Each of us in the workshop was assinged a different threading. Mine was an extended advancing twill: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc... I enjoyed this threading because each pattern had a large scale. That was one of the points that Bonnie tried to make, that it's nice to be able to see that a textile is interesting from across the room. Below I'll show the samples that I wove, both during the workshop and at home.
The first sample, below, is tromp as writ, with wide bands of color moving diagonally across the sample.

The next sample, below, starts out with a regular 5 pick advancing treadling. Then I moved to an extended advancing treadling, and you can see the slope of the lines change. Then I reversed the treadling, and you can see mirror symmetry at those points.

The next sample below shows an advancing and descending treadling. Here, you can see the slope of the lines reverse, but the twill continues without the mirror symmetry seen above.

The next sample below shows an advancing point treadling. This one was a lot of fun. It was really easy to change the slope and the direction of the lines.

This sample shows an overshot treadling. For the tabby weft, I used Bambu12 in a color that blended with the warp. The pattern weft was 8/2 tencel. Here I played a little, trying to get some curves. I had my for the other samples, I had the treadles tied in a walking format, so I decided to re-tie the treadles for this overshot sample so that the tabby treadles would be next to each other. After I was done with this sample, I figured out that one of my pattern treadles was tied up wrong.
This sample is the last one I wove during the workshop. It has a network treadling. At the beginning of the sample (the left in this picture), I used the treadling that Bonnie gave us in her workbook. Toward the right, I treadled freestyle, using a technique that Bonnie explained in her lecture. I started to get the hang of it, but to be able to create curves that really look good, I'll definitely need some practice.

This sample, I wove at home after the workshop. I wove all of this freestyle, using the techniques that Bonnie taught. The far left, light blue, is a combination of advancing and extended advancing treadlings, which changes the slope of the diagonal lines. The middle sample, dark blue, is an overshot treadling. The tabby weft in this sample is rayon chennile, and the pattern weft is the Bambu 12 that I used as tabby weft in the overshot above. The effect was very subtle, and the sample looks nicer from a distance than it does close-up, which is shown in the next photo.
The sample below shows overshot with Bambu 12 tabby weft and 8/2 tencel as pattern weft. To the right, I played some more with advancing and decending treadling. I need to study this a little more since I understand the basics, but something about it hasn't quite clicked. I think I'll understand it more if I continue to play with it.
Finally, the last sample, on the right, shows network treadling. I'm starting to get a better feel for this, but, again, it will take some more practice to really get the hang of it and create some nice curves while I'm at the loom.
At our guild meeting this weekend, we all brought our samples from the workshop for show-and-tell for the other members. One thing that stuck out to me after our discussion was how many of the samples (mine and others) looked better from across the room than they did close-up. As people across the room would hold up their samples, I thought, wow! Then, as they were passed around and came to me, I thought, well, that's interesting, but I don't love it. That wasn't the case for all of the samples, but for some. This is something I'm definitely going to play with more and practice, to see what I like best, and how to use it best.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Weekend Workshop

Last weekend, our guild hosted Bonnie Inouye, who presented her Advance! workshop. This was an amazing workshop. In it, Bonnie gave us tools for using advancing twills, network twills, advancing points, overshot, etc. By advancing these units, we have the ability to control scale and to use curves in our weaving. Bonnie is a great teacher, very clear and encouraging. This workshop was challenging and inspiring, and it left me full of new ideas. One question I have been considering since then is: How can I best use these tools to create something in my own style? In other words, how do I keep it from looking like a copy of Bonnie Inouye's work? I think the answer is just through practice. I think it will take time to develop my own style. I think it will be a slow, challenging, and enjoyable journey to take just one project at a time.

Below are a few pictures of the samples we wove in the workshop. I still have some of this warp left on my loom, and I'm looking forward to just playing with it and weaving more samples.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weaving With Kids

A friend invited me to Bethlehem Days at her church last weekend to demonstrate weaving. I have to admit that I don't know much about weaving in a historical context, but since no one was too concerned with historical authenticity, I just brought my Kombo. I dressed it in natural cotton for plain weave, and wound several bobbins in bright colors for weft. I wanted to let the kids do most of the weaving. The day went really well. Lots of kids wanted to try, and a few were hooked. A couple were really interested in what we were doing but not quite brave enough to give it a try.

This little boy came to visit me several times and really got into it. His grandma got a little irritated with him because he wouldn't leave the loom when she said it was time to go.

I got a kick out of this little girl. She never really got the hang of it, but she had such a good time. She told me she wanted to learn to weave, so she could do it for a living. I had to ask her a couple of times to let the other kids have a turn at the loom. :)

This is my friend's little sister, Faith. She was a natural at the loom and caugh on very quickly. At the end of the day, when I went to change out of my bible costume, I came back to find Faith weaving away, all on her own. She later told her mom that she wanted a "weaver" of her own. Her grandmother used to weave rugs, so it may be in her blood. :)

Here is a bit of the finished piece. It was beautiful, with lots of long floats and crazy selvedges. After finishing it, I gave it to my friend to use as a wall-hanging in the children's room at the church. A couple of the kids were disappointed that they didn't get to keep what they had woven, so hopefully the wall-hanging will be a good memory for them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dragonfly Dreams

For our guild's entry at Midwest Weavers' Conference, we all wove baby blankets to donate to a local hospital. The hospital suggested that blankets in deep and bright colors were welcome, as many would be going to African American and Hispanic families. To me, that sounded like an invitation to step outside of my box and have some fun. So I went to my local weaving shop, bought three cones of cotton in some of the brightest colors I could find, and played with some design ideas on the computer. I was delighted when I realized that using two of the colors (Pacific Blue and Caribbean) in the warp and the other (Magenta) in the weft resulted in iridescence. I took a draft from the Strickler book, turned it, and took out a few ends to come up with a heart shaped twill because the theme of the conference was Weaving in the Heart-land. I called the blanket "Dragonfly Dreams" because of the iridescence and because I love alliterations. Here are a couple of views of the blanket on the loom and one of the finished blanket:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I love my Ladybug!

When I went to Greencastle earlier this year, I sat down and took a Schacht Ladybug for a spin. And I was hooked. So a Ladybug finally made her way to my house. Here she is:
No, I didn't need another wheel. In fact, I've noted an alarming trend: In the three years I've been weaving, I've collected three looms, and in the two years I've been spinning, two wheels. Anyway, my other wheel is an Ashford Joy, which is fabulous for taking places. Recently, I took it on a business trip to relax in the hotel that evening. The Ladybug will be my stay-at-home wheel. She is so stable and smooth, a real pleasure to use. I love that the functionality is similar to that of a Matchless. The only drawback I can find to this wheel is that it's not pretty, like a Matchless. The red plastic isn't traditional, but with my background in materials engineering, I feel almost as if I need to defend the inexpensive but funcitonally similar materials, even if they aren't beautiful.
So far, I've spun some BFL, some merino-alpaca blend, and some silk hankies. I've really enjoyed it. I had forgotten how much I looooooove silk hankies.
Here's one last parting shot, showing the little enamel ladybug on the wheel. Sort of cheesey and cute all at once!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wedding in the Smokies

Last month, I got married. We went to Gatlinburg and had a very small ceremony with family and a couple of close friends, and stayed in a nearby cabin for our honeymoon. As I was planning the wedding, I had planned on weaving a silk shaw to go with my dress. That was the plan until I picked out the dress. I found a lovely dress on clearance, and it fit me perfectly. The problem was that there was so much going on with the dress, beaded motifs and such, that I didn't think a shawl woud go with it very well. So I decided to make a necklace and earrings to go with it instead. They are made of pearl, swarovski crystals, and sterling silver.
While on the honeymoon, my dear husband was kind enough to go to a few fibery places with me. One place was the Smokey Mountain Spinnery. There I picked up some merino cross top, some soy silk top, and a hand-held bookmark loom. We also went to Spinning Wheel Crafts, where an older lady sells some handwovens and her husband does woodworking. She had a beautiful loom in her shop. When I asked her about it, she asked if I was a weaver. She told me that her father built the loom and asked me to weave a few picks on it, which made my day. :) So I couldn't leave without at least buying a couple of mug rugs from her. The warp is 10/2 cotton, and the weft is peaches and cream.
One of my favorite places that we visited along the arts and crafts trail was Cliff Dwellers gallery. They carried the work of several different weavers. Upstairs from the gallery, several of the artists were at work and demonstrating their crafts. There I met a woman who spins and dyes, a woman who does marbling, and a couple of women who paint. They were all so friendly and seemed to really enjoy answering questions about their work. Back downstairs, one of the owners of the gallery was weaving on an inkle loom. I bought a bookmark that she made, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the national park.
And now a few pictures from the honeymoon. First, the view from our cabin the morning after the wedding:
A view from the trail to Clingman's Dome:
Finally, my husband and me at the observation tower atop Clingman's Dome:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Iris's yarn

The roving I'm spinning reminds me of my rabbit, Iris.

The yarn, not so much.

The fiber is Cormo and Cormo X. I got it from Cormo 24/7 at Greencastle. It is sooo nice to spin. Very clean, very soft, and very fine. I'm naming the yarn for Iris, anyway.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Greencastle and Greeting Cards

On Good Friday we went to Greencastle. I was thinking I wanted some nice, natural fibers, and that's just what I came home with.
A Romeldale-Merino fleece

Cormo, Cormo-X roving

Natural Bluefaced Leicester roving

Dyed Coopworth, Silk roving

Wow, I have a lot of spinning to do!

This weekend, the program at our guild meeting was about making greeting cards with handwoven fabric. Eleanor and Sue gave a lot of practical advice about making cards and showed their impressive collections of cards they had made and recieved over the years. Then we all got to make cards with scraps of fabric that we had brought. Here is what I came home with:

It was a fun program, and the ladies did such a nice job!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Awesome Gift

I went to a spin-in this weekend at Tabby Tree Weaver and was presented with a beautiful early-wedding-gift made by the ladies there.

The white yarn is commercial, and the rest is handspun. The blanket is, of course, handwoven. It is lovely, soft, warm, and thoughtful. It is long enough to wrap around my fiance and me. It has been nice during this unseasonably cold weather. We are so thankful!

I am busy weaving a couple of projects right now. One is for our guild's entry in the Midwest Weavers' Conference. The other is a sample for the program I'm doing for our guild in June. So no pictures for a while.

Also, this weekend is the Fiber Event at Greencastle, and I'm really looking forward to going. I'm going to look for some nice, natural wools to spin, but who knows what I'll come home with!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spring Serendipity Scarves

Last summer I used part of my economic stimulus check to buy the Earthues natural dye kit in the colors collection. I've always been drawn to the warm, soft colors from natural dyes. I had also been wanting to try my hand at warp painting, so the natural dye extracts seemed to be the way to go. Last summer, I painted a bunch of silk hankies and two silk warps. I finall got around to weaving one of the warps. It is a 20/2 silk noile, and I wove it in a 4-shaft huck. I do like the colors, and the noile yarn along with the huck weave structure gave the scarves a nice, airy feel. It was a lot of fun to see the colors change as I wove, and I am happy with the end results.