Stretching my abilities to the max

I recently spent a week at Vävstuga School of Weaving, working on a long warp in 16/2 cotton. The structures are Monks’ Belt and turned Monks’ Belt. With these two structures, you can weave symmetric borders on all four sides of the cloth, although the treadling of each is far from symmetric.

It took me a very long day to thread the warp. 16/2 doesn’t have much weight and the threads stick together unmercifully. I was using an Ideal loom for the first time, and have come to the conclusion that it is less than Ideal for me. I couldn’t find a comfortable compromise that worked with my new glasses and my old back. I needed sit further back, but the Ideal is a shallow loom. I could have enjoyed more height at the breast beam and more room underneath to tie up, but the Ideal is a short little loom. I muddled through the threading on Tuesday, the sleying and tie ups on Wednesday, and seriously debated whether I would give up weaving for good on Wednesday night. I didn’t.  A good night’s sleep and some help from the weaving fairies (Thanks, Becky) and I was throwing the shuttle quite happily on Thursday.

I have learned something from the experience.  Individual threads of 16/2 are only visible to me when they are in pale colors and under very bright lights (hello, rainy weather!) I also can’t sit at the loom and pound through tasks for twelve hours with minimal breaks.  I think my limit is 4 hours per day, with frequent tea breaks. On the plus side, I have never had such beautiful selvedges in 16/1 linen, and I seem to be able to throw a shuttle just fine with my left hand. I didn’t have to use a temple; there was no need. I can also manage a profile draft just fine, with only a couple penciled notes to remind me what the notation means.

I’m not quitting weaving anytime soon..

I love to weave in community; something about the presence of other weavers inspires me and drives me to persevere. I will have to pick my community projects more carefully, and only use pale-colored warp, and narrow width. I will also have to pace myself and take enough tea breaks. Apparently, I can go full bore on weaving the pattern, because I can see that with my glasses and understand that with my brain.  Perhaps rosepath and smålandsväv would be fun. Perhaps an independent study of each, in my own studio, would be a good place to start.

See what I wove? I finished two table squares, each a half-meter in length and width. To support the turned borders, which run parallel with the selvedges, every pick is treadled in pattern. Four treadles are used to create the two blocks. The horizontal borders use two shuttles, and all six treadles. It’s clever how it all comes together.

At home in my studio, I’m threading the shaft drawloom for large table squares (or small tablecloths–It depends on how you consider 1.10 meters in width). I can see it just fine, as it is cottolin in wide stripes of white and unbleached linen color. I’m nearly done with the pattern heddles and will do something simple, like broken twill, for the ground heddles. The look will be rustic and bold, with a tow linen weft.

I”m also working on a wool scarf I designed, I’m really into simple weaves made rich through color play. There are six colors of thread in the Monks’ Belt pictured above. The scarf features four colors. More on that soon…

A parting thought.  I am a very seasonal person. Winter isn’t the time of year I weave. I plan and I shovel snow. I dream by the fire and I shiver when I venture too far from it. Spring is when I get creative, using the community of weavers to help me ignite my own well-banked creative fires. It’s an urgent time of creativity, before summer’s heat wilts me. I wonder what I can accomplish before July?

Winter is over, but my project rolls on

I’m still weaving on my ‘winter’ project of Swedish art weaves. It’s been nearly impossible to share what I have woven, because these techniques are woven face down. I only had small glimpses of what my work looked like until it came so far over the beam that I could peer down at it.

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It is to be a small cushion cover, and I’m currently weaving a simple striped length for the back.

I’m not sure when this warp will be off the loom. If there will be enough left, I want to keep weaving. Halvkrabba pin cushions? Fabric for a small purse?

Honey’s new adventure

This time, I think I have the right mix of looms. Yesterday, I said goodbye to Honey, my first floor loom and long-time sidekick in this adventure we call weaving. It was time. Looms become sad from disuse, and weavers become sad when a beloved loom sits unused in the corner.

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A loom can be an absolute thing of beauty, but not be right for the weaver any more. The last two years have been such a journey of understanding for me. I have a much better sense of how like to weave and what I need in a loom. I’ve learned methods of weaving that are more efficient and easier on my body.

It wasn’t easy to come to this decision. I had been easing myself into it for almost a year now. You cannot imagine my sense of utter relief when my ad was answered by a weaver that I know and respect. That made everything so much easier.

So, Honey is on her way to her new home. New adventures in cloth await us all!

 

towels

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The black and teal towels are officially cloth. They’re off the loom and they look much better than I had expected. The tension issues had a slight impact on the first two towels. They are a bit off square.

No one will mind when they are hanging from a hook in the kitchen. Towels are useful; perfection is not required.

My weaving plans have gone a bit sideways. I may tie up the remainder of the Dreaming warp on Honey (Schacht Standard) and audition the draft I want to use for Fleece to Shawl. That would be productive and practical. You know I really want to weave the placemats on the Glimakra.

In the meanwhile, I have given Justine (Leclerc Compact) a complete cleaning and going over. I think she is a bit easier to treadle now. Isn’t it ironic that my least friendly loom should end up as my partner for this next adventure?

When a loom falls from the sky

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When you want something long enough and hard enough, it eventually falls from the sky.  This is one of the essential truths in my life.

A few years ago, I became aware of these large, traditional looms that break down into a pile of sticks and strings when they are disassembled. I learned that the design of looms in Scandinavia had survived relatively unscathed by the influence of the industrial revolution. I was fascinated by the idea that you began with a basic, sturdy frame, and added only the parts that the current weaving project required. It seemed so pure and focused. I wanted a loom like this.

Which led to the selection of the right house and studio…

Which led to a week-long Basics class at Vävstuga…

Which led to me haunting Craigslist for almost a year…

Everything came together at once, knocking me out of my careful plan into a madcap scramble to get everything done.  Basics class fell in the middle of renovations. The beautiful Glimåkra Standard materialized the DAY BEFORE I was scheduled to move.

I love the way the pine loom fades into the pine wall beyond it. Who would think such a big loom could relax so subtly into my studio? This is what it means to be home.

What it means for me as a weaver is interesting. I am eager to begin weaving for the house: rugs, pillows and blankets. Most of my work up to this point had focused on weaving me home, magical cloth that made my dreams a reality. The work I did at Sparrow Hill was transitional, opening my senses to a quieter and calmer way of weaving as the tension finally drained out of the fiber of my being.

Now here, in the yet-unnamed studio, on a yet-unnamed loom, all I can think of are long warps and simple weaves–stripes, rosepath, and monks’ belt.

 

So, with four looms….

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So, with four looms….I should be four times as productive, or four times as happy.  Something like that? I think I am on the way to being four times as happy, and will be when I get the right projects going on the right looms. Things are a bit muddled right now, with quick projects on slow looms, and vice versa.

I might just finish Alisoun’s hair ribbons, a quick project, on the Glimakra band loom, and then put something deliciously complex on the loom, maybe a wide band with more than 20 pattern threads, surrounded by a pair of wide and interesting borders.

My floor loom will probably take a rest after the Midnight Snowflake scarf.  I hope to be moving to a new home and studio space in the next five months. I don’t want to repeat the hasty cutting of work-in-progress that was symbolic of my journey here. I can be content with two slow projects and a quick one on the smaller and more portable looms.

I still marvel every day at the convergence of circumstances that brought me home and continue to enrich my life.

Unpacking and shaking everything free

Parts of my home still look like the interior of a moving van, but there are a couple of rooms where only one or two boxes remain. I have not yet woven. I feel too compelled to unpack.

How did all this stuff fit into the Aerie? It was a careful balancing act, and much of it arrived bit by bit, fitting into specific spaces. This house is beautiful but difficult. There are more windows than walls, and far fewer closets. I have twice as much space, but I am still figuring out how to use it.

I have decided that the loom belongs in the living room. I could have chosen the studio, another huge window-filled room off the master bedroom, but I was struck by the intimate view of the woods that the living room has. The house nestles into the hillside, and the woods begin just beyond the windows.

 

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First threads of a Dream

And so, I began to fill in the weft. Dreaming Myself Awake has been a basket full of yarn for a long time, since a hot summer day in 2011 when I realized that a half dozen balls and skeins of leftover yarn had a purpose and a name. I know I gave away a year along the way, in service to Occupy Wall St. and in Being There for two beloved cats.  It doesn’t matter, this is the Now where the fabric takes shape.

It’s going to be an unruly fabric to photograph as a work in progress.  I am weaving a slightly gauzy fabric at 4 epc, with the warp being beat according to my mood and the needs of the thread that is in hand. The colors are nuanced, and the camera wants to make them garish and strange, with a honeyed undertone from the old maple loom.

It looks like this, kind of. Let’s say it feels like this.

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Well, almost like this. The threading error down the middle has been painstakingly fixed. Usually I leave such things in place, as part of the whim of freestyle weaving.  Sometimes I create dense stripes on purpose, by doubling the sett for just a little area.  Or gauzy stripes by spreading the warp further apart.  I don’t know.  This looked too centered. It interfered with the lively purple stripe, and dragged it down into an unhealthy stasis. It had to go.

Don’t you love the heathery blue/purple/burgundy section?  It’s a balanced single that I spun from a Loop Spontaneous Spinning Cloud. These clouds spin like an absolute dream, especially because I would rather spin woolen than worsted, and create a fine, lofty yarn rather than a ‘stainless steel wire’, as Judith Mackenzie describes worsted spun yarn.

I am giddy with the joy of creating new fabric. I am keeping mum about what the finished garment will look like.  Let’s just say that you could call it a tunic or a jumper (American usage, not British), and that it will look stunning over a turtleneck and leggings.