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.

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: