All weaving is a meditation

I am ready to throw the shuttle…after a peace-filled day of winding the last chain of warp and finally Knowing how it is supposed to go.

40 ends of purple were supposed to come together with 160 ends of black, but I wasn’t sure how.

Sometimes I’ve rolled dice to tell me how many ends of each color make up a stripe.  Other times I’ve used a a progression that evenly faded one color into the next. Today, I tried something new.  This is a gradual fade, based on the Fibonacci series. It’s actually two Fibonacci series going in opposite directions.

Life is like that sometimes, going in opposite directions at the same time. Meditation is like that, too, especially the part about where the colors merge into a natural and wonderful progression.  Wonderful moment, this present moment.


Sleying, threading the heddles and beaming on went very quickly.  Isn’t that the way it is–Knowing how to go can be more difficult than just going.

a long time coming

In the morning, the fog recedes, revealing the distant hills in shades of green, gray and soft purple. This is the place I call home.

It has been a long journey, over a year from inspiration…gathering the yarn…spinning some of it myself…warping the loom and weaving, weaving, weaving…getting past the trepidation of making the first cut in the fabric…painstakingly sewing each seam by hand…and now it is done.

I have woven a year of my life into this coat, joys and sorrow, change and awakening, even the seeds of revolution. When I wear this coat, I am fully wrapped in all these memories, especially of the mountains that wait for me at home.


winding a long warp

I’m warping the loom again. This time it is 24 inches by 8 yards for the Misted Hills coat.

I have to tell you that I made a prototype of the coat from some black linen fabrics that were intended for a different jacket, some ten years ago. It’s amazing what turns up in the bottom shelves of my armoires. It’s really gorgeous, and the pattern is very forgiving in fit. One size fits most. It looked great on willowy Nina, and it also fit sturdier me to perfection.  I’m going to be all secretive and not show you the prototype.  When you see pictures of the real coat, I want the design to be new and exciting for you.

OK.  Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  There’s still half a length of warp chain on the floor under the loom.

Here you can see a couple of accessories that make it easy for me to wind a smooth and even warp. I use Purrington Angel Wings to hold 2 or 4 tension sticks.  These aren’t lease sticks, because I warp from FRONT to BACK.

The other thing you can just barely see is the roll of corrugated paper that I use in place of packing sticks. It’s coming to an end right now, because it is only 4 yards long.  I’ll switch to brown paper to separate the remaining yards of the warp.

Today’s plans are to wind on the remainder of the warp.

PS. I nearly forgot to tell you that I upgraded the apron cords on my loom. Now, instead of a wonky, 20 year spiderweb of black shoelace, I have perfectly even lengths of texsolv.  Welcome to the 21st. century, eh?

I really love this old loom.

I am pleased

I AM pleased with the randomness of the colors, the delicious irregularity of the selvages, the uneven shrinkage of the weft, and the overall softness of the fabric.

There could have been more mist. There will be more mist when I weave the coat.

I wore this scarf for most of the day at the NY Sheep and Wool festival.  Some people loved it, others didn’t know quite what to make of it. I would expect no less than that.

Now I have to face the math of estimating the warp for the coat. I think I’ll set up a spreadsheet this time, so that I never have to do it again. Conceptually, it needs to go like this:

I started with this length and width in the reed–>and I got this much fabric after finishing.  So, If I want this much of the same fabric after finishing, I need to start with this length and width in the reed.

Anyone have a spreadsheet that already does this? I don’t want the really diffy one that calls for percentage of take up and shrinkage and picks per inch.  There’s no way that this melange of warp can be expressed in ppi. I just want one that is all about the ratios. You know I will thrown in an extra half-yard of length for good measure. And a couple of inches of extra width. I trust my instinct more than I trust numbers.

Misted Hills

It’s damp and chilly in the Aerie this morning. I am glad to be wearing a scarf around my neck, and even more glad to be weaving another one.  I am sampling for the Misted Hills coat project by weaving a scarf that uses all the yarns that I plan to use in the coat.

I like the direction this is taking.  The fabric will be soft and flexible.  The warp is Merino/Tencel from WEBS, set at 10 epi, except for the accent stripe at 20epi

The weft shown above is predominately the Merino/Tencel, with accents of unspun roving and handspun art yarn.  The darkest accents are a bit of sock yarn, whose origin escapes me. I think it was from Metaphor Yarns. I am still looking for a yarn in soft grey, white and pale lavender. There needs to be more mist in this fabric.

Yes, I am still annoyed at the beater on my loom, even though I have it under control right now.  I’m debating whether I can have one of the heavy maple parts replaced with a replica in lighter weight wood.  Cedar? I am also considering the purchase of a SAORI loom.  I don’t enjoy having a loom that I struggle with when I am tired.

I only threaded two harnesses for this project. At least the treadling is much lighter this way. I am not planning to work any patterning into this design.

Autumn joy

Autumn arrives tonight.  Blessings of the season to all my readers!

I am making good progress on the Autumn Joy scarf. I’ve woven the better part of a yard, and am absolutely ECSTATIC over combining two weave structures and yarns in a simple tapestry technique.

Isn’t that random patch of twill just AWESOME?

I always thread my plain weave on all four harnesses for balance, and I tied up both plain weave and twill for this project. To get this effect, I wove three shuttles, changing from plain weave to twill as I changed colors.  It took a bit of mental gymnastics and some simple footwork to open the correct pattern for each section. It’s slow and painstaking to weave.

I had dreamed this flowing combination of patterns a long time ago. I’m so thrilled that I made it happen.

Yes, I am still weaving

Don’t ask what has kept me away from my loom for so long. What matters is that I am back, and there’s a warp on my loom.

It’s a scarf named Autumn Joy, and my original design concept was to use three colors of yarn and a pair of dice to create a randomly striped scarf.

The Yarn:

Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk from WEBS. 80% alpaca/20% silk

Colors: Eggplant, Sienna, Copper

3472 yards per pound, put up on half pound cones.

Sett: 18-20 epi.

As I stood in WEBS, designing in my mind, the warp would be random stripes of Sienna and Copper, and the weft would be solid Eggplant. Or maybe the weft would be mostly Eggplant with a few Sienna stripes.

It’s all well and good to design a scarf in your mind. What happens in the studio is quite another thing.

The Retreat:

All the things that have been keeping me away from my loom have left me exhausted, stressed and incoherent. I really needed to get away for renewal, but I was too exhausted to consider a trip to Kripalu or any of the beautiful places that restore my spirit.

I decided to take a two-day retreat in my own studio instead. I stocked the refrigerator with healthy food, put together a playlist of music ranging from new age to trance to Sanskrit chanting. I unrolled the yoga mat, lit some candles, and at the end of my practice, I set my intentions for the retreat. I would keep silence, listen to my inner voice, and take simple pleasure in whatever activities I chose.

I chose to weave the Autumn Joy scarf.

I decided to weave a 10-inch wide fabric at 20 epi. That’s 200 ends.  I wanted more Sienna than Copper, so I measured 120 ends of Sienna and 80 ends of Copper. I really did use the dice to determine where to place the colors.  I rolled one die for the Copper and two for the Sienna. The number I rolled determined how many pairs of ends to put into the stripe. I wonder if I had randomly sleyed the ends, would I have come up with something similar?

It took the better part of the first day to wind the warp and dress the loom. The Alpaca Silk is just a little bit sticky, but it is soft as a kitten and has a subtle sheen. I am not totally thrilled with the colors. The Copper is pale and insipid. I would if a verdigris green would have brought it to life in a way that the Eggplant cannot?

It doesn’t matter. These are the colors I have and they will tell their own story.

As I go about the familiar steps of dressing the loom, my mind is free to wander. The colors take me to Rhinebeck and memories of so many NY Sheep and Wool festivals. They also take me to Colorado, to memories of the pottery studio in Littleton.

I also ride the thin web of yarn into the future, to the little house with the potting shed and the inviting jumble of woven color. I realize that The Aerie can become that space right here and right now.  Why am I waiting?

Somewhere in the midst of these thoughts, I started weaving. First a stripe of Sienna to stabilize the warp, and then I began the Eggplant.  How dull. You didn’t think I would weave a plain, smooth striped scarf, did you?  I poked through my treasure baskets, and selected these accents.

The Treasures:

Fire – I spun this two-ply wool yarn a few years ago.  This was the sample skein and I have a lot more of it. As I recall, it was a painted roving from Louet. I will only weave the occasional single strand of this, because it is much heavier than the rest of the yarn.

Hyacinth – This is 2 strands of 2-ply Mongolian Cashmere from Jade Sapphire.

Rhinebeck – This was a custom dyed sock yarn that Seaport Yarn sold at the 2009 NY Sheep and Wool festival.  I told you this scarf is the color of Rhinebeck.

Cancer – I love this zodiac yarn from WEBS. Alas, it’s been discontinued for years.

The Weaving:

For the love of fine wooden tools

I have to tell you that a big part of my joy in weaving comes from my love of fine wooden tools. I love the color and grain of wood, and the way it feels in my hands. It is such a delight to handle a perfect shuttle, feeling the smooth contours and the silken finish.

In addition to the fiber I bought at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival, I bought these fine shuttles.

Rhinebeck 09 - 23The Birdseye Maple boat shuttle at the top was made by Jonathan Bosworth. It feels serious and sturdy in hand, and I really like the locking mechanism that lets you remove the spindle for those times when hairy yarn gets wrapped around it.

The red Bloodwood Swedish style shuttle is from Bluster Bay Woodworks. It is small and graceful, with a very low profile to glide through stubborn sheds.

Neither of these shuttles use my Schacht Bobbins. I plan to make paper quills using recycled junk mail, and use my Swedish bobbin winder to fill them.

Do you have a favorite shuttle?  Is it a work of art, or simply a workhorse?

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!


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

Letting go of old ideas

Last week, I had only questions.  Today I have answers and they are resoundingly YES! The color gamp is history, and I suppose I did learn something from it, if only to discover that I don’t like regular stripes of  huck lace.  What I do like is a random melange of soft Egyptian cotton for weft  (Thanks, Jojomojo, for the bag of goodies!). I like recycled sari silk. I like having a purpose for weaving but not a plan.

moving freely through the rainbow

It feels good to have no draft in front of me.

It feels good to have each throw of the shuttle be its own moment.

I don’t have words to describe  how it feels to be so present in the weaving.

I think this picture tells the whole story.