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?

This and that

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

This is the day we begin the inward journey, toward winter and toward the deepest understanding of our own hearts. As an introvert/hermit on the mountaintop, I am so ready for this moment. Summer overwhelms me in so many ways–all the gatherings and events, all the noise and running about, and all the oppressive heat.  Give me a warm sweater and the scent of fallen leaves! I do love autumn.

I’ve started to sew the coverlet to its sheepskin backing. One side is done. It’s still too hot to work under such a warm and weighty piece, so I sew for a little while, first thing in the morning, and put it aside in the midday heat. I can’t wait to snuggle under it some frosty evening.

Here’s a tablecloth warp, all pre-sleyed and ready to beam on. I think this will be a good example for showing Lori how to use a ‘trapeze,’ since they are ideal for putting even tension on a wide warp. Traditionally, you would have two people help you beam on a warp like this. It will weave up at 1 meter in width. This is slated to be the inaugural warp for the shaft drawloom. 9 meters of cottolin goodness. There will be more than 1 table cloth from it. The first one I have planned is inspired by a classic and simple piece I wove in Drawloom Basics at Vävstuga.

I am in love with my face cloth! I recently wove this on a 16/2 cotton warp, using 16/2 line linen weft. It has a gentle exfoliating action. If your idea of luxury is all about having healthy, glowing skin, you will absolutely love this face cloth. I have plans to weave more, because I can’t bear it when this is in the laundry and I have to wash my face on something ordinary. Expect to see hand towels and spa towels in the near future!

Weave in peace and joy!



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.


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.

A good harvest

My garden is metaphorical, but the harvest has been very real. What becomes of winter studies and grand projects that leave me crumpled and worn down by the hot days of summer? They come back to life in autumn, when I am refreshed and once again excited.

img_7089 My winter study in Swedish art weaves is now my favorite shoulder bag. Something about the shape is familiar from my student days. I can feel my hand resting on that bag, but I cannot see it in my mind. The memory is based completely on touch and hand position. It is also familiar from more distant lives, a different bag holding the worldly goods of the barefoot gipsy girl that the gaj called Wild Blue, or another holding the few scraps of sacred text and the begging bowl of an old Buddhist nun.

img_7185The band for my Stjerne coverlet is off the loom, and I played with the ribbon swirls for a while before settling down to sew the band into a mitered border. Despite the three sewing machines in my studio, my hand reaches instinctively for needle and thread. Hand-woven fabric deserves hand-sewn seams. I can backstitch along at a good rate, and I enjoy the contrast between the cool linen border and the complex surface of cotton and linen overshot by woolen pattern threads.

Even the drawloom project is coming along. The first warp is neatly wound around the warp beam and threaded through the pattern heddles at the back of the loom. Now, the long-eyed ground heddle are hanging on their shafts and I am threading a simple broken twill for the first project.

The house and studio have been caught up in enthusiasm of the harvest. I donated three bags of clothing and one large bag of yarn, and have discarded several bags of useless stuff. It feels good to be free of things that no longer bring me joy.

I still marvel at the turns of fate that have brought me to this present moment, and especially at the inner calm that arises when I weave cloth.


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.

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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 meters 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.

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Someday this will be cloth

For now, it is the finest, fluffiest, whitest wool I have had the pleasure to touch. I have been flicking the locks open at each end, creating little puffs of wool that spin up into fine and lofty yarn. That’s not the beginning of the process or even the beginning of the story.

The story begins with Peaches, a Cormo sheep from Ensign Brook Farm, because it’s her fleece. It was the Champion fleece at the 2014 Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival. Since this is the first fleece I’ve processed in over 30 years, I decided to start with something both easy and complicated at the same time. This is easy because the fleece is practically perfect in all aspects, but also difficult because Cormo is a tight fleece, full of lanolin.

I have been washing the fleece a handful at a time, because I want to preserve the perfect lock structure as much as possible.

As I spin the fleece I am being careful to make thin and even yarn that should become a soft and lustrous two-ply weaving yarn. I am surprised how lustrous Cormo can be. I am even more surprised how much easier it is to spin with the Very Fast Flyer on my Lendrum spinning wheel. Wisdom has it that you know when you are ready for this flyer. I think it has something to do with hitting a frustration point with the (not so) Fast Flyer when trying to spin fine yarn.

IMG_5567I am a long way from having yarn to weave, but that’s OK. This is slow cloth, starting with a fleece and eventually creating a soft and warm shawl. This is my personal version of fleece to shawl, not the frenzied competition that creates coarse and heavy cloth, spun by committee and woven under extreme pressure. No, indeed. This is a slow and mindful journey in wool.


The summer before I went away to Smith College, I enrolled in a tapestry weaving course at my local community college. I felt strongly that if I didn’t learn to weave, right that very minute, that the opportunity might slip past me and that I might never weave at all.

It was a glorious summer, and I learned as much about the world as I did about warp and weft. I was probably the youngest student in the course, and other than the anti-war movement that my whole family was involved in, I had grown up very sheltered from the rest of the world. I came away from the course with a love of both spinning and weaving, and a brain filled with the wonders of environmental activism, utopian societies and a belief that the individual has power to change the world. Who knew that my political beliefs would be formed thread by thread?

yarma_medium2I’ve picked up my tapestry bobbins again, reaching back through time to remember how. I still have the instinct for expansive sweeps of color, broad lines sketched on paper, and then ignored as the weaving comes to life. I need to regain the gift of working more freely, adding little grace notes of color and texture as the work takes on its own life. This work is flat, intellectual, and too methodical.

Changing the world, one thread at a time. I still believe in that.

And, hand-to-hand, we cast the circle.


(Tapestry, Hands of the Goddess, Embracing Us All)

with a few days remaining in the year

It’s good to look around and see if I can finish any weaving project that’s in progress.  Hmmm. I could hem a towel or two, but that’s about it. Everything that’s on the loom or making its way onto the loom is still going to be a work in progress well into the new year. I’m OK with that. I have all the time in the world.

Walking through the house last Saturday, making sure everything looked tidy before a friend dropped by, I realized that I am making progress toward my desire of having my home filled with handwoven textiles. It brings me joy to have made these things or to have supported other weavers by buying their work.

  • Living room-my block weave table square on the coffee table
  • Dining room-my table runner and napkins from a local weaver
  • Kitchen-my towels, my tablecloth, and a rug from a local weaving guild sale. And let’s not forget my seasonal potholders, woven with loopers on an old-style potholder loom.
  • Library-my lap blanket
  • Guest room-table square by Bev Bowman and rug from a weaver in Sweden
  • Guest bath-my fingertip towels
  • Studio-my color gamp
  • Master bedroom-lap blanket by Lenora Fowler

What’s on the looms right now?

  • Alpaca/bamboo scarf
  • Yardage for a boudoir pillow
  • Yardage for a Saori wool shawl
  • Squares for a cashmere shawl (on the dreaded Weavette loom)
  • A narrow band (maybe a lanyard, or maybe just to tie something)

What comes next?

  • Rugs
  • Placemats and napkins
  • Tea towels

What’s in my dreams?

  • Bath towels and wash cloths
  • Blankets
  • Cushions
  • Curtains

With the cold, bright days of winter coming, I wonder how much of this I will weave before spring?


Walking in my shadow again

Some thirty years ago, I had a passing fancy for a handful of towns along the Connecticut River in Franklin County, MA. Each of these towns had one or two outstanding shops that I would visit on occasion. I found myself in Greenfield on Saturday. The Textile Company is still on Power Square, and they still take only cash or checks. Outside, it’s an unimpressive old factory building, covered in asphalt siding, but inside is a gem of a fabric shop. They have just enough quilting fabric to satisfy, without there being so much that my head starts spinning.

IMG_5066.JPGI found a packet of pre-cut fabric squares, which quilters call ‘charms.’ They are very charming. I am going to make a pair of pillows, pieced but not quilted. By the time I’m done, the narrow, mostly red, stripes will only be 1/2 inch wide,  there may be some hand-sewn kantha stitching, and vintage buttons attached.

Somehow, I came away with too much fabric. The salesperson was very enthusiastic. I suppose I can use the remnants in some rag place mats.

That was as much of my shadow as I could find in Greenfield. Lund Silversmiths is no longer in business, and the breathtakingly creative jeweler on Main Street moved to NJ years ago.

I took a meandering route home, driving through Turners Falls and Millers Falls, where a faint shadow lingered. Renovators’ Supply is still there, somewhere, but doesn’t have a retail showroom at present.


The Connecticut River is beautiful as it passes through farmlands, and it was a particularly pleasant afternoon, warm enough that my vest and scarf kept me comfy. I don’t remember the river being this lovely. Change is gradual and continual. I have become a person who notices rivers.

spots and stripes

Life at Buttonwood gets better every day. If I could only figure out what box contains my copy of Barbro Wallin’s Moraband, things would be near perfect. I’m tempted to order a second copy, but I suspect this is supposed to be one of those life lessons in patience. Didn’t I already have this one last year, when the new sheets went missing for months, and were finally discovered in a box of art supplies? Did I not learn enough from that?

On the side of perfection, the woods are full of birds, and I have seen so many young ones  out exploring the world. Several mornings, I’ve seen young wild turkeys dutifully lined up behind their mother, exploring the land.  This morning, a little robin, his plumage half way between juvenile and adult, was on my lawn.IMG_1606

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that sparrows and robins are ordinary or boring. While they may be plentiful, they are also insouciant and fascinating little bundles of feathers.

Turning away from the window, a bit reluctantly on such a nice morning, I am making good progress on the band loom with the curtain tieback. I have a little more than ten inches done, and need forty in total for the borders, since they are used on either side of the central band.


As I expected, I am weaving more efficiently using a Glimåkra band knife with the weft thread wrapped around the handle. I am also becoming more efficient in writing about weaving. I can now click on a icon for a Swedish keyboard and get the additional vowels that are necessary to spell words like väv (weave) and dräll