First project ON the drawloom

While the assembly of the drawloom consumed most of my summer and early autumn, I am now completely consumed by weaving the first project on my Myrehed single unit drawloom.

img_0451

There is something so satisfying about pulling draw cords according to the charted design that I drew. I feel like I have finally found an outlet for my somewhat primitive drawing skills. And, should I not feel like drawing, there are so many sources for charted traditional folk art motifs.

One of my uncles kept bees, and I have given serious thought to getting a hive. Bees are a threatened resource because of the pesticides used in industrial farming. I shudder to think of a world without bees, for it would be a world without fruits and vegetables.

What stopped me from getting a hive is that it would produce 40-50 pounds of honey a year. I probably use a pound of honey in a good year.

Instead, I shall weave my hive and bees, and buy my honey and beeswax from a local farm.

This is the  beginning of a pair of casual napkins for the kitchen table, woven in broken twill using 8/2 cotton. They will be perfect for the breakfast table, especially when serving toast with honey.

You can live with someone for years

You can live with someone for years and think you know them. Then one day, you realize that you don’t know them at all.

Per, the big loom that I’ve always called a Glimakra Standard, has had his paternity called into question. When I was adding the extension for the drawloom, there were too many things didn’t fit correctly. His warp beam did not fit into the bolsters. The extension was 10cm. shorter than expected. Had I been able to insert the back beam, It would have been too low.

Why did I ever think he was a Glimakra? That’s what the logo on the beater says. But beaters do not a loom make. The rest of the parts are similar enough to the Glimakra Standards I’ve woven on at Vavstuga. Who notices 10cm when the looms are not side by side and the benches are different. The beater is old, based on the logo and the lack of hardware at the bottom. I just assumed that the whole loom was an old Glimakra.

image

Then there was the bench; the one that came with was not a typical Glimakra bench. But benches do not a loom make. I sit on an Oxaback bench by choice, but that does not turn Per into an Oxaback Cyrus.

So, who is this loom I’ve been living with for the past two years? For now, I’ll just call him Per and describe him as a large Scandinavian loom. He’s my big countermarch loom, 135cm, with 10 shafts and treadles, and I still love him, quirks and all.

We managed to customize the loom extension so that it would fit. Everyone at Vavstuga was so accommodating in making this happen. We made up solutions as we went along, adding blocks to the bottom of the extension uprights, and inserting a spacer between the uprights and the bolsters. Everything fits, and the add-ons are almost imperceptible. I even got into the act and cobbled together longer bolts for the bolsters, using threaded rods and locking hex nuts.

Wicked productive

Said with my best approximation of a Massachusetts accent, of course. It is the place I call home now, so I might as well use the local idiom.

I have been wicked productive in the past few weeks. My winter study project in the Swedish art weaves of the Skåne region is off the loom. Yes, it ran long past winter, but I was having such fun with it. I am thrilled to see the fabric, because it was woven face down. It’s fabric for a tote bag. This is the front

IMG_6792The plainer design at the bottom is for the back of the tote.IMG_6790Another project from the winter is finally done. You may recall this shawl, called Opposites Attract. I’m going to appreciate its thickness and warmth on a cold winter’s day. Today, I am content to drape it over a chair in the library and enjoy the warmth of a fine June day.

IMG_6789 (1)

What’s happening in the studio?

I still have warp for more Swedish art weaves on the 4-shaft Julia. The other Julia is set up to weave the wide border for my Stjerne coverlet.  Three yards done, and four to go. Per, my big old Standard, is naked, as is often the case, but there is something very exciting in his future. I have purchased a ‘harnesk’  or single-unit drawloom! There are some minor technical difficulties in getting the loom extension set up.  Per is a non-standard Standard. There are loom parts all over the studio right now. It looks like a loom exploded in there.

I have fallen in love with weaving damask, and am so excited that I will be able to do it in my own studio. Here are two pieces that I wove at Vävstuga Weaving School a few weeks ago.

IMG_6720 IMG_8950

Table for One

Although I am an indifferent cook, I love to set a cheerful table, even when I dine alone. This placemat is the first in a series I have called Table for One. There are four place mats woven from the same warp, but each has its distinctive style.

SettingATableForOne

This is Maija’s mat, named in honor of the woman who was my big Glimåkra’s first owner. The loom came to me with a box of poppana, rolls of bias cut cotton strip that was made to be used as weft. The bias cut edges give a gentle chenille texture to the finished cloth.

It was an interesting warp, designed with only a vague idea in mind. The threading was for Monks’ Belt, which also gave me plain weave. I took advantage of both.

As the snow falls enthusiastically outside, my mind is actually focused beneath the snow, and beneath the frozen crust of garden soil. I can sense an almost imperceptible stirring. The spring bulbs are awakening, gathering strength for their journey. This is the season for garden catalogs and for living on the cusp between dreams and plans.

It also snowed that Imbolc night in Manhattan when S. and I lead the public ritual. We all sat on the floor, while the lights on the altar flickered above us. Did I really lead a meditation on a spring bulb’s journey toward awakening? I must have, because I remember giving everyone in circle some paperwhite bulbs to take home and grow in a pot on the window sill. It was my farewell gift. I was being called to a more traditional form of practice that is grounded in a direct connection with the land. I knew I couldn’t thrive in a pot on the window sill. I never could.

In a few minutes, I will go out and shovel some snow to make room for more snow to fall. Then, I’ll put on my mother’s red cloak, and take up my broom and a pail of milk to give the traditional Imbolc blessing to the land.

May you also be blessed, and remember that, like a spring bulb, you hold within you everything that you need to make your dreams a reality.

Sticks and strings

I often call the Glimåkra Standard a bundle of sticks and strings. There certainly are enough sticks. It’s a ten shaft loom, currently set up for only four shafts, so the corner is filled with extra lamms, heddle bars and treadles. Until now, these have been a tumbled mess.

While Glimåkra and others make various stands for storing reeds and sticks, I was convinced I needed something a bit larger. By chance, I saw a post on Ravelry that recommended using IKEA wine racks as reed holders. As you can see, they work for both reeds and sticks.

20140717-153306-55986310.jpgI believe in good, well made equipment. In this case, I found something ordinary that was equally as useful as a purpose-built solution. That’s a rare and wonderful occurrence.

It appears that all the damage to this site, done by the hackers and the well-meaning technicians, has been repaired. I think I am more rattled by the fortress that the technicians tried to create than by the original hack. I am not a person who can live in hatred or fear. I will not have empty threats or warnings as part of my website. I once worked for a company that had a paragraph-long unwelcome mat on their login screen. It was a lot of pseudo-legal rubbish that threatened all sorts of actions against anyone who wasn’t a duly authorised user. I doubt it deterred any hacker, and it certainly offended customers and employees who had to face such negativity each time they used the site.

I’d rather say welcome, and please be so kind to leave things as you found them.

 

moving forward, one cord at a time

The studio was glorious this weekend, filled with air and light. Other than a brief appearance at a friend’s gathering on Saturday, I kept company with my cats and my loom all weekend. I am patiently upgrading Per, my newly found but venerable Glimakra loom, to include a countermarch and all new Texsolv cords and heddles. I started at the top of the loom with the countermarch itself, and am working my way down. This weekend, I put on new beam cords and heddles, and started to put a warp on the loom.

Beaming a warp has never been one of my favorite steps in weaving.  A lot can go wrong, especially when working alone. I have good intentions of building a warping ‘valet’ or ‘trapeze’ but I didn’t feel like going in to town this weekend to pick up the necessary lumber. However, I realized that I could use weights on the bouts of warp and could expect better results than the crank, yank and cross your fingers method that I have been using.

What to use for weights? I drink water, so I didn’t have any stray milk or juice containers in my recycling bin. I could use rocks, because this part of New England is famous for its rocky soil, and I had dug up plenty of them when preparing the flower garden last month. Rocks need to be washed, weighed and bagged, and that seems like a lot of work. What to use?  Back to the fact that I drink water.  I have collapsible water bottles in my camping gear. I have a pair of one liter bottles for the seltzer maker. All told, I was able to round up enough bottles to put 2.5 kg. of weight on each of the two bouts of warp.

That has to be the smoothest warp I have ever beamed on. It’s neatly packed with sticks, and for once in my life, I finally have enough sticks to do the job right.

With this loom, taking my time and doing things right feels natural and good. I want to understand each cord and know its purpose. I am determined to have each cord in a set be the same length, so that I can know that they are in balance. With the right tools and the right skills, there is nothing to dread about any step of weaving.

It is worth every careful step, because I am home and I have the loom of my dreams.

20140707-112642-41202732.jpg

 

revenons à nos moutons

Thank you for permitting me to get off topic yesterday. It is an issue that has the potential to affect us all.

Back in the studio, I am slowly working my way through hundreds of Texsolv cords needed for the countermarch on my Glimakra Standard. Although the cords come in a package of pre-cut lengths, the ends are but lightly sealed by the hot knife used to cut them. I am taking each cord, heating each end at a candle flame to soften it, and then rolling it to a point. I have a bowl of ice water at hand to protect my fingers, but it is still something that I can only do for a while, maybe thirty ends in one sitting. It’s time well spent, because the Texsolv cords will not fray and will be much easier to use in the tie up.

I am also marking up each cord used to tie the lamms to the treadles, according the Vavstuga tie up system. These reference marks make the actual tie up quick and painless compared to counting holes in the cord or tying up by guesswork.

 

There is something very grounding and loving about sitting inside my loom, connecting up the cords. I feel encircled and embraced by the loom. It reminds me of the many joyful hours spent sitting on the floor beside my mother’s chair, as we chatted and stitched. I would begin sitting on a chair, but would invariably slip to the floor because it was more comfortable. It becomes a meditation, time spent being present in the moment, thoughts stilled by the task in hand. The loom slips easily between reality and metaphor.

“I am the Goddess. My feet are rooted deep within the earth… My arms are open wide to hold eternity…”

-Lyrics from “I am the Goddess” by P. J. Seale

 

None of this is weaving. All of this is weaving.

 

(about today’s title: If your French language lessons never took you past looking for your aunt’s pen, you may not know that “Let’s return to our sheep” is an old idiom for returning to the subject at hand. Magique, my little Francophone cat, just murmured a sleepy and surprised comment that her aunt always knew where to find the feather stick. I love the way that cats look at language…)

Just because I can

I am living in a house full of unpacked boxes, but all I feel like doing is exploring my Glimakra loom. It’s only natural, after seven weeks of extreme discipline, to be a little bit naughty. I’m not on a deadline now. I am home and will be in this house for years to come. There’s nothing to do but breathe it all in and experience every moment.

So I am playing with the loom while I wait for a small order of parts from Glimakra USA. There’s a bit of coarse white linen warp on the loom, a slubby single that reminds me more of knitting yarn than weaving yarn. Euroflax? Perhaps.

I might be able to eke a placemat out of it, using a coarse unbleached two-ply linen weft, in a humorous reversal of the usual yarn choices for weaving. Oh, let’s make it monks’ belt, just to give it some color and character. I don’t know yet what the pattern yarn will be.

It’s all an experiment, one of these ideas that starts up and keeps going in its own direction. All I can do is grab my shuttle and follow.