Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Accidents

The latest things off my loom are the results of other plans gone awry. But sometimes you succeed despite yarn and color challenges. I am still experimenting with beiderwand and how to turn the draft for faster weaving and more drape. While at the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair last month, I stopped in to see our friends at Just Our Yarn, looking for some pattern threads to go with some of their hand-dyed tencel skeins I had on hand. We pulled out this gorgeous deep red violet color of a very soft cotton from Habu that I’ve used before. It would make a beautiful pattern weft for the next beiderwand scarf. I snapped it up, without another thought.

Back at the studio that afternoon I couldn’t wait to wind the warp. It dawned on me briefly that when turning this draft, the pattern weft would now be in the warp, alternated 1 on 1 with the tencel. I gave it the old “Is this strong enough for warp?” test, before winding the two yarns together. Mistake Number 1. What was glorious on the warping board turned into a nightmare when trying to wind it on the beam. The cotton was just too fluffy, the double-weave sett too dense. I persevered (stubbornness mixed with the thought of wasting this hand-dyed beauty) and once on the beam, it threaded fine. I started weaving the beiderwand pattern and it was beautiful. But about 8 inches into the scarf, the cotton fluff started clogging up my 15-dent reed and those devilish little cotton warps started breaking. One, then another. I fixed them and kept weaving. Then a few more, and finally two snapped in the space of a quarter inch. I gave up on the turned beiderwand for now, but was determined not to waste either the cotton or tencel.

I lifted the pattern shafts, put a cross in all that cotton and pulled it away from the tencel, winding it on a kite stick on the floor under the warp beam. Then I decided to just weave the remaining tencel in plain weave. Probably would have enough for two scarves. I used the remaining cotton on the ball for weft and started weaving (very fast I might add). After about 48 inches of scarf, I ran out of the cotton. I toyed with the idea of using some of the warp ends I’d been saving, then thought better of it. Who says a scarf has to look the same on both ends? I used some stripes of the warp yarn and a little bamboo I had on the shelf to weave another foot or so. It’s a bit short, but I liked it so much I decided to keep it for m012yself.

The fun thing about those JOY colorways is that you can weave almost any color into them and they look good. I pulled out some turquoise and blue silk I’ve had for a while and decided to weave them together in an ombre pattern. Here is the result. Happy accident number 1.

The remaining cotton warp is now on my studio loom being threaded into a point twill, 018at a much more open sett and in an 8 dent  reed. We’ll hope that ends in happy accident number 3.

Happy accident number 2 was the result of not wanting to move heddles around on my teaching looms at the studio to accommodate that beiderwand project. (I wove that at home.) With an empty studio loom and time, I decided to stop planning and figuring and just wind a warp out of leftover bobbins. Because they came from Barb’s stash (thanks, Barb) they were mostly silk and bamboo. I gave only minor thought to the order an022d started winding stripes. As soon as one bobbin emptied, I started another. Here’s a pic of the warp on the warping board. I thought it reflected Meagan Chaney’s tiles pretty nicely.

Barb dubbed it the ugliest warp she’d ever seen. You can’t see the audacious pink stripe in this pic. Again, I persevered. After our first sutherland Weaver’s Study Group meeting last month, I decided to weave some honeycomb in this scarf which I threaded into twill blocks. That looked nice but was a bit heavy, so I wove the center portion in 1/3-3/1 twill to make pleats. Then 004I finished off the other end in honeycomb. Barb still wasn’t convinced. So I washed the thing, which made both the honeycomb and the twill pleats do their thing. Then I decided to stitch the honeycomb ends into tubes to more closely match the width of the twill pleats. Ta da! Happy Accident number 2.

As for the short scarf, I haven’t photographed it yet. It’s around my neck today.  


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Weaving His Way Back into Notoriety

I’m not really a Conan O’Brien fan, and was only half paying attention when I first caught his new American Express ad. Here he was walking into a shop in India, picking up a cone of silk and tasting it. Then he’s winding it, presumably a warp, weaving it on a loom with a fly shuttle (well, we see only one pick), crushing berries for dye and standing waist deep in red water either dyeing or rinsing.

Next time I paid more attention. Still kind of missed the point of the Amex ad, but enjoyed all the weaving references. Maybe we should show this in a loop when explaining how much work goes into our fine handwoven cloth. The slogan: “When every detail counts.”

Even if you’ve seen the ad, here’s a longer online version, which is even better.



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Slow Weaving in North Georgia

I’m an occasional tapestry weaver. I learned enough from my wonderful tapestry teachers Rita Landau and Betsy Snope (both members of Archie Brennan’s and Susan Martin Maffei’s Wednesday Group) to finish the three tapestries I needed for HGA’s Certificate of Excellence in Handweaving Level I. I even managed to write a tapestry primer for Handwoven Magazine in spring of 2009, with careful editing by my tapestry mentors.
030A few other tapestries have come off my loom since, including a puffin tapestry that’s currently exhibited in the Blue Ridge Fiber Show. The puffin had been on the loom almost two years. In the course of finishing it, I realized my tapestry skills had become a bit rusty. A new member of Tapestry Weavers South, I headed off to a mountain camp/conference center just north of Toccoa, GA, last weekend to take a refresher workshop sponsored by TWS with Tommye Scanlin and Pat Williams.

The weekend was filled with excellent instruction, beautiful inspiration, entertaining conversation and even a visit from master tapestry bobbin maker John Moss, who brought a whole box full of the brass-tipped beauties for us to try and buy. What a treat, as I’ve always had to order these and wait for my order to reach the top of his list. I added three more to my collection, and only about five remained by the end of the weekend.
Though Tommye and Pat are good friends, this is the first time they have taught a workshop together, and they complement each other nicely. With no TV and limited cell-phone coverage, the 15 of us, about half of whom were from Atlanta, enjoyed an intensive 2 1/2 day study of tapestry and design, interrupted only for meals and sleep. Our evening sessions gave us insight into Tommye’s and Pat’s design processes, a slide show of their work and influences and an amazing show and tell by some of the students. My roommate wove the piece above in sewing thread. (Note the pen for scale.) Conversations continued into the late night. Here are the finished samples most of us cut off the loom on Sunday. Mine is third from the right.
035On the drive home, I was visualizing a tapestry design I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ll need to do some photography to put the pieces in place, but am now excited to get the next warp on my tapestry loom. Yes, it’s very slow weaving, but it’s also addictive, especially with the support of my new weaving friends pictured here. That’s Tommye and Pat in the center of the second row. Between weaving for sutherland, teaching and going to school, I’ll do my best to keep the tapestry skills tuned.