Weaving and technology. Each has it’s place.

It has taken all evening to get online. My time has been squandered by a dodgy internet connection. I should have known something was going wrong with the wireless modem this week, because it kept getting slower and slower. The spare one is older technology, but it’s working better. At times like these, I am so grateful for my decision to keep my computer out of my weaving. It may be my research library and the recorder of these musings, but it is not part of the way I create cloth.

I don’t mind using simple, mechanical equipment, such as bobbin winders, ball winders, spinning wheels, and jack looms. That’s as far as I am willing to go, because these items still respond directly to my actions. They help me, but they don’t stand between me and my work. Once the computer intercedes, I become distanced and detached, because it takes over some of the things that engage my mind, like knowing which treadle to press.

What about you? Does technology enhance your weaving experience or detract from it?

Rainbow’s End

It took me four years to go from winding this rainbow warp to cutting this last length of fabric off the loom. I am not the same weaver I was when I began. I am not even the same person.

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Rainbow’s End is the resting point between life’s many journeys. As a weaver, my journey has been toward Saori free style weaving, a place outside the rule books, the place where instinct is all you need. As a person, it’s been a journey from a desperate need for absolutes, back toward a softer world of possibilities.

Rainbow’s End is the image of this transformation. The warp, with its regular stripes, is where I began. The weft, intuitive, yet made from mostly that same thread, is where I am today. My now empty loom is where I will begin my next journey.

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It took courage to plunge my smooth weaving into a tub of hot water. I was right to trust my instincts. The wool inlays are fine. The tightly spun worsted singles, steam-finished, didn’t shrink as much as the cotton. Don’t believe everything they tell you. Sometimes you have to take a chance.

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Amber cat says, “Chances. I take them.”

Through a glass, not so bad, actually.

The iPhone camera can take pictures of fabric through the lens of a pick glass, so you’ll be seeing some extreme close-ups of my weaving.

A pick glass, if you are unfamiliar with one, is a small folding magnifier with a 1-inch square opening that is used to examine textiles and count ends (warp) and picks (weft) per inch. When I was a student at Parsons School of Design, we used them to analyze weave structure and produce documentation about the fabrics we selected for our designs. As a weaver, I like to get a close-up look at my fabric on the loom, and again after wet finishing.

IMG_0075Through the lens, looking at a different part of the fabric, you can see that this is a warp-faced fabric, and you can see the multi-color fibers of the sari silk stripes in the weft. The square is 1 inch, and the magnification is 6X. A quick count shows 36 epi (ends per inch)and 10 ppi (picks per inch). Don’t forget to count across 2 rows to accommodate for the warps that go behind the weft on the first row.

IMG_0072The pictures are easy to take under bright lights. All I had to do was place the camera lens over the pick glass and wiggle the camera around until the entire square came into view. Afterwards, I used Photoshop to reduce the picture size. The original image is four times larger than what is shown here. I also cropped the picture tightly to the image shown through the pick glass lens.

Halcyon Yarns lists a 5X pick glass in their catalog. Come join the fun of seeing your fabric up close.

Metaphorically speaking

Before I left the village center of Shelburne Falls, I stopped at Wandering Moon (59 Bridge St.) They always have a great collection of handcrafted silver and gold jewelry. I was too focused on yarn to decide upon jewelry, so I left with only a small, marbled silk scarf in shades of purple and aqua.  I can make colour decisions no matter how focused I am on other things.

My next stop was Metaphor Yarns, and I was looking for yarns by local spinners and dyers that are not easy to find at home. Meta has a wonderful selection of basic and luxury yarns, but I was drawn to these three yarns by local artisans.

DSC02410 The grey yarn at the top is Twilight, a wool and alpaca twist, raised and spun by Barbara Parry of Foxfire Fiber. It has subtle blue and orchid accents.

The purple yarn in the middle is a marled yarn from Dragon Broook Yarns. It’s a Romney cross from a small farm in Shelburne. She sends her fleece to be mill-spun into singles, but dyes it in small batches and then plies it by hand.

The green yarn at the bottom is hand dyed especially for Metaphor Yarns by Gail Callahan, the Kangaroo Dyer. This colorway is Seafoam.

I intend to use all these yarns as accents in the weft of the Misted Hills coat

I was tempted to take home this entire basket of Barbara Parry yarns, but I left some for you, and headed south to meet a friend for dinner. If you like subtle Mexican food, La Veracruzana in Amherst is a real treat.

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North to Vävstuga

After buying warp at WEBS, I got back on I-91 and headed north to Greenfield. Once again I was traveling in my own shadow. When my mother and I owned Elizabethan Arts, one of our supply trips, nicknamed the ‘triple crown of fabric’ took us up I-91 starting at Osgood’s in Springfield, MA to Northampton Fabric Company and then on to Eastern Textile in Greenfield. Northampton Fabric Company closed many years ago. This stretch of highway is rather pretty, and as I relaxed into the driving, I realized how much I miss the hills and the open green spaces.

Shelburne Falls is a pretty little river town, with charming shops and the Bridge of Flowers. I chose to park on the opposite side of the river and walk back to Vävstuga on its garden-lined path.

I opened the door of the tiny yellow shop and fell in love with the tiny red loom, the handwoven shop curtains, and the inviting, welcoming staff.  I was so stunned that I stopped taking pictures. I wasn’t so stunned to walk out without any yarn. Oh no. I will have accent stripes in my weft that remind me of this lovely studio. Some really smooth Bockens Mobelatta came home with me, as did a temple for those times when I care about my selvedges.

I wanted to take a Glimakra Standard loom home with me, but the Aerie is simply too small for it. I must return someday to take a class at Vävstuga, weave on the classically beautiful looms, and stay in the charming guest quarters upstairs.

This time, with pictures

I’m back in my studio, and now I can tell the story with pictures, the way it was meant to be told.

This is WEBS. To imagine the scale of this yarn store, combine every yarn store you have ever visted, under one roof. It’s that big.  Maybe even bigger.Yarn Crawl in Western MA-5I didn’t even photograph the aisles and aisles of knitting yarns. The spinning and weaving sections were enough to keep me busy for a couple of hours of happy shopping.

While I was on line to make my purchases, I met Sue, a weaver and blogger (Life Looms Large) from New Hampshire who was in town for NEWS. She had picked out a basket of ‘random’ warp yarn. We had a great chat about weaving, and before we realized, the line was gone!

Speaking of yarn, this is what I selected for the warp of the Misted Hills Coat

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This is Valley Yarns’ own Colrain Lace, a size 10/2 Merino/Tencel blend. Clockwise from the top, the colours are Grey Teal, Whipple Blue, Majestic Blue, Navy, and Rich Purple. I visualize the warp as having random stripes within a field of Grey Teal.

Walking in my own shadow

The yarn crawl is an absolute delight, and I found the warp for my coat project, which now has a name: Misted Hills Coat. 

I’ve also decided that I HAVE to buy yarn in person.  If I had gone with my first instinct, I would have chosen Harrisville Shetland for my warp. The colors looked great online, and the yarn looked interesting. N0, no, no! It’s not fine like the Shetland sweaters of my youth. I would have been weaving a big, heavy blanket of a coat.

Instead, I chose a merino/tencel that came in equally gorgeous colors. I also picked up two new shuttles and some roving for an upcoming art yarn spinning class with  Insubordiknit.

Northampton is teeming with weavers. Smith College is hosting NEWS, a weavers symposium. The vendor room is open to the public, so I will be stopping there today.  More yarn!

I have to say that being in Northampton makes me feel like I am walking in my own shadow. I lived here many years ago, and so many things are unchanged that I feel like I might see my younger self a few steps ahead of me. It’s a bit unsettling, but I think I could get used to it.

I need pictures to tell the yarn crawl story properly. They’re in my camera and I’m using a comptuer in the hotel’s business center, and I suspect that never the twain shall meet. So I will just tempt you with these few words:

Swedish wool yarn…locally dyed roving…locally spun and dyed yarn…a temple for my loom…shuttles…books…plans to return often…soft shades of green, blue and violet.

Going on a yarn crawl in western Massachusetts

I’m feeling restless after spending some concerted time in the studio. It’s time for a road trip!  Tromp-as-writ is going on a yarn crawl.  I will be visiting two of my favorites, WEBS and Northampton Wools. These were my local yarn stores when I made my home in Northampton. I may also visit a store that’s new to me,  Wool and Dye Works in Florence. While they are primarily a rug-hooking store, I’m interested in their woolen fabric because I have this persistent little idea that has been teasing me. Wouldn’t a tiny sliver of woolen fabric make an interesting inlay?

I will also be visiting Shelburne Falls, home of Metaphor Yarns and Vävstuga Swedish Weaving and Folk Arts. These I only know from their Internet presence. It will be an adventure to visit them in person.

All this in two days.  I doubt I will be blogging from the road.

Seeing beyond ordinary

I was resigned to hanging the dutiful square little color gamp on the wall behind my loom. After I hemmed the top and fringed the bottom, of course. How traditional and ordinary. That was how I felt about the entire exercise. It was just ordinary.  I was ready to move on.

First, I needed a rod to hang it from, and I went rummaging in the umbrella stand. Found one umbrella, a paper parasol, a shepherd’s crook, and assorted rough walking sticks.  Hmmm. Here was a branch from Aunt Maple, the beautiful old tree that once stood outside the Aerie window. Perfect, just perfect. The weaving fits on one end, completely off center, like a flag. YES!

I quickly turned a blind hem to make a casing and tied a simple fringe at the bottom, leaving it ragged.  YES! YES! YES!

Altar-flag

Forget about hanging it behind the loom. It belongs here, above the altar of the Woodland God.