act instinctively and then reflect

There’s nothing new to show on the gypsy cloth. I worked in a creative frenzy to get the basic cloth woven, stabilized and dyed.  Now I have to let what I finished soak in for a bit.  I am not fully present, at least not with my logical mind, when I create. When the muse is strong in me, I follow without asking how or why.

Today I want to think about my relationship with quilting. Like my relationship with weaving, I have very strong likes and dislikes.

Here’s what I like

  • art quilts-whatever that means
  • frayed edges, tatters
  • minimal focus on geometric forms and repetition
  • use of found objects
  • text as a design element
  • clothing
  • dark or intense color
  • rescued and recycled fabric
  • hand sewn

Here’s what I dislike, and I say this with the utmost respect for those who work in this style. I honor your process, but it is not mine.

  • traditional patterns
  • strict geometry
  • fabric bought for the project
  • repetition
  • bed quilts
  • pastel color
  • floral prints
  • visible machine stitching

Can I combine my saori weaving with quilting?  I don’t know yet. There’s no reason why I can’t incorporate layers and patches of handwoven fabric, maybe build up a wool garment on a silk foundation, and combine wool and silk in a variety of ways.

If I didn’t have to be someplace else, I would love to dump out my entire armoire of fabric and put the fabrics back by color, rather than by the random arrangement that I have. I keep my books sheved by the color of their spines.  Why not the fabrics, too?


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.


An inch here, another there

The Misted Hills coat fabric is growing slowly, an inch here, another there. I know the reality of my days.  In winter, the long and cold nights do not inspire me to weave. They leave me completely uninspired. Spring finds me outside, enjoying the mild weather.  Summer and autumn are my best times for weaving. Weaving isn’t hot and sticky like knitting. All I touch is the smooth wooden shuttle. Maybe my fingertips brush gently across the cloth. My loom is an open and airy frame, a good refuge from summer’s heat.

It’s cool and rainy today, another reason to spend time at my loom.  I’ve declared, today is a weaving retreat.

I want to finish this fabric, because my inspiration basket is filling up with yarn for a project that’s still very formless in my mind.

All I know is that the yarn looks like this, the warp may be black, and the fabric is called Dreaming Myself Awake.


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.

The hills are complex in color

Nina stopped by my studio today and found me sitting in the middle of the floor, sorting through the basket of yarn and treasures that I collected for the Misted Hills project. I have 22….23…24…maybe a couple more bits that I forgot to count.

The hills are complex in color.  On a misty morning, there are shades of grey, pale green, pale blue and lavender. As the mist lifts, stronger greens, blues and purples emerge.

I use color in broad sweeps, as though I were drawing with soft pastels. Do you weave with as many colors as I do?  More? Less? Tell me about your approach to color.

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.

Ask what the cloth knows

Autumn Joy is off the loom.

The reality of freestyle weaving is that we cannot hide our feelings from our cloth. Whatever we are feeling when we sit down at the loom flows into our choice of color and effect, and especially into the density of the cloth.

I weave on a Schacht floor loom. It’s a heavy-handed loom, with a solid beater that you have to hold back more often than you have to beat with vigor. It’s a great loom for tightly woven upholstry fabric and table linens.  Shawls and scarves take attention. The delicate touch comes from the weaver, not from the loom. It takes energy and strength to restrain the beater, just letting it give an air kiss to the fell of the cloth.

When I started weaving Autumn Joy at the beginning of my studio retreat, I was tired and overwhelmed. I can feel that in the first few feet of my cloth(back and mannequin’s left shoulder below) . There’s a lot of stiffness and tension. I was no match for the weight of the beater.

In the middle section (front) , you can see where relaxation is creeping in.  The cloth is still a bit stiff at times, but there are small sections filled with whim and creativity.

The last section (mannequin’s right shoulder) is so diferent. It’s supple and filled with creative inclusions and sweeping areas of color, sometimes beat by my fingers rather than with the loom’s beater. The finish is deliciously ragged.

After wet finishing the fabric with a gentle soak in very hot water, I was surprised to find that I could use this fabric as a scarf after all.

SAORI kai in Manhattan (25 September 2010)

I had the pleasure to attend a SAORI kai (gathering of Saori weavers) at Loop of the Loom in Manhattan on Saturday. One of the precepts of SAORI weaving is that we learn from each other. I learned a great deal from this warm and friendly group of weavers.

Marie Suzaki has just finished an internship at Loop of the Loom, and she presented her collection of clothing and tapestries. Her work is lively and spontaneous, and blurs the lines between clothing and tapestry. Words can’t describe.  Marie’s work speaks eloquently for itself.

Note the tapestry on the wall in most of the photos?  It’s the gown shown in the last photo.

What fascinates me most is seeing the yards of fabric unrolled. A piece may be unified by some common theme of colors or density, but each thread is expressive of the moment at which it was woven.