Saturday, January 14, 2017

This Week in Fiber

 I have a new obsession.  It's all my friend Pam's fault.  Before Christmas, she was assisting in a class taught by Diane Notten on inkle weaving.  I went to visit the class one day on a break from the kitchen, having no intention of being interested in what they were teaching, just being friendly.  A long table full of inkle weavers were in various stages of their developments, some weaving the most basic belts and bands, some learning pick-up and spelling their names, Christmas messages or starry designs.  It was...interesting.  I asked some questions, admired everyone's work and went back to the kitchen.
  A few days later, Pam gave me a little Ashford loom with a red and green strap on it, and asked me to finish it.  I did, but I wasn't very good at it.  The strap is thick and thin, with loose and tight tension, but it didn't take long to finish, and I was just wondering if I could warp the loom on my own.  I found an inkle loom warp generating website,, and made up a pattern.  I warped the loom, after a few false starts, and started weaving.  Again, my tension was not great, and my left selvedges were wonky, but this stuff is addictive.  I sit down to weave for just a minute before work, or with a beer when I get home, and before I know it, a half hour has gone by.  This warp is giving me a lot of trouble advancing, which I think just means I warped it too tightly, with the tension adjustment too far out.  And I didn't think about how all the un-heddled (new term, made up) threads would look in all brown.  But I am enjoying it, and already planning the next warp.  I will have to return this loom soon, though, and will need to buy my own.
Upstairs, I've rethreaded the turned overshot warp into plain weave, because I'm too cheap to just cut the sucker off.  I think it will make nice table runners for my sister, and I thought that while I was at it, I would try some things.  Turns out, you can't weave hand-manipulated lace when you're only using 2 shafts!  Okay, lesson 1 learned!  But I've long been curious about clasped weft, so I started doing that this morning.  Turns  out, you can't have a floating selvedge with clasped weft!  Okay, lesson 2.  There's a previously broken thread giving me some tension issues, but this is one of those weavings where I just need to get it done and move on.  It's fun, almost effortless and will be just fine.  When it's done, I'll do something fancy and careful.
   Today, our knitting group is meeting, and I've got two things I'm working on.  One is a triangle shawl, the kind with the slanting garter stitch and a lace border, in a lovely variegated wool that doesn't photograph well.  I'll take a nice picture when it's done, washed and blocked.
  I'm also working on a cabled sweater.  It's just complicated enough, not too fierce.  And the yarn is lovely and soft.
  It's freakishly warm outside, and cloudy, but fine for a woodsy walk with Bella this morning.  I'll weave until the sun comes up and spend the day doing what I like best, playing with fiber.  I hope you do the same!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snow Big Deal

ON my first day off since Christmas, I plan on spending the entire day in my studio, except when I need sustenance or more coffee.  Excuse me a second.  More coffee. And a biscotti that my friend David sent me for Christmas so the extra caffeine doesn't make me spin out of control.
  Most of the time, when I post pictures here, I've tidied things up.  Who wants their readers to think they're slobs?  But the truth is for me, and probably for you, that the studio is usually the eye of the storm of creativity.  It's a mess.  And this studio in this house is combining what was two studios in Knoxville.  It's a mess.  There's even a big pile of hair on the floor.  Oh, wait...that's Bella.

 Before Christmas, I was barreling through the purple and green warp, then realized I needed to make purses for Mom and Liz for gifts.  Needed, maybe not, but wanted to, for sure.  The bed is my cutting table.  And yesterday, I really felt the need to cut out a couple of purses for me, because once I'd finished their purses, I really wanted a couple for myself.  I thought I'd taken pictures of the purses, but I can't find them.  They're pretty cool, kind of a mix of Ralph Lauren and Sundance Catalog.  I'll post photos of mine when I finish them.

 Since Mom gave me all her yarn, there are boxes and baskets of yarn everywhere.  I can't show you the closet.  It's a mess.  When I get tired of looking at a certain box, it gets thrown in the closet.  And I've stopped unpacking stuff because I don't like this house, and friends are trying to find a new place for me to rent, come May.  Why unpack if I just have to pack back up?
  So I work among squalor, but it only bothers me between projects!   Or I go downstairs and knit, binge watching Grey's Anatomy or The Good Wife.  I've been knitting a lot, mostly Christmas gifts, and now, a shawl for me and a sweater for Matt.  It's nice to knit without the pressure of gift-giving, but I'm ready to weave.

So, with that in mind yesterday, I went upstairs to put the LeClerc Colonial back together.  The movers took it apart, and didn't put it back together.  There is one key piece missing, the rod that the treadle springs slide onto.  I've looked everywhere, and I think they must have just left it in the truck, thinking it was trash.  Once the sun is up and the ice melts on the pavement, I can head out to Lowe's and get a new one, along with a snow shovel.
  We got four inches of snow Friday night, which is why I didn't have all of Saturday off.  I had to come in at 3:00 and make 12 people dinner.  They hadn't been able to leave the school because of the snow, or more likely didn't want to, because 40 of their fellow students made it out just fine!  Turns out, it was all instructors and work-studies who took advantage of the offer made to theoretically snow bound students.  But they were very nice, and enjoyed the meal.  And I got a fresh meal out of it, as well.
  The sun is just starting to light up the sky.  I'll check one more time around the loft for the missing rod, then wind a warp until I can head out on the highway.  I hope this new year is full of everything we need, and lots of stuff we want.  Happy new year!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mistake or Design Element?

 I have finished the second shawl on the purple-green warp, and as I hem-stitched, beading as I went, I saw two errors.  I'd noticed one before, the short floats on one side of one of the "oranges," but chose to ignore it.  The second, and I'm not sure you can see it in this picture, is that there are two warp threads next to each other.
  When I finished stitching and cut the second shawl off, I pondered the errors.  I remember when I was a member of the Tuesday Weavers, we would joke about errors, asking the philosophical question:  Is it a mistake, or is it a design element?  Another way to think about it is the perennial question:  If an error falls in the warp and no one sees it, does it really fall?
  Look at the topmost repeat of the pattern and see if you can see the mistake.  I see it right away, but when I look at the entire shawl, it disappears.  The two threads running together is much more difficult to see, nearly impossible, unless you happen to be hem-stitiching.
  So, after a day of agonizing--slight exaggeration; there was little agony--I decided to go ahead with the third shawl without fixing the errors.  Two already had them!  If anyone notices the errors, well, they are keen-eyed and fierce.
  The next colorway for the flawed, or over-designed, warp is the grey tencel back as tabby warp, and the sage green carpet warp I wondered about last week.  The beads I chose came out perfectly with the warp and wefts.  I'm not crazy about the purple with the sage green, but overall, I think it does all right.  And I'm to the point in this project that I'm thinking about what's next, as usual.  I have some lovely red and purple bamboo waiting in the wings, or what about the fire red and orange warp?  Or should it be dish towels?  Oh, the possibilities!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Measured in Inches or Millimeters

Inspiration photo
Sunday 11-6
Sunday, 11-13
Since last Sunday, and its extra hour due to daylight savings time, I've been weaving on LouElla, the tapestry loom that lives in the great room.  She was easy to ignore in Knoxville, tucked away into a corner of the studio, and overwhelming me with what I don't know about weaving tapestry.  I've woven on the tapestry just about every morning this week, working on the rose occasionally, the leaves in the background when I get stuck on a petal or shading or shaping on the rose.  It's mighty slow progress.  And I am making a lot of mistakes, but I keep reminding myself that it is my first full tapestry, having only made two small ones before, in Tommye Scanlon's class several years ago.  The whole think is 12 inches wide, and will probably be that long.  
Thursday, 11-10
   Last night, I watched every possible tapestry video on YouTube, and there is one in particular that captured my imagination.  It's titled "Un fil sense fi-How to make a tapestry, and I couldn't believe how the artist, Cesc Biosca,, makes his tapestry with huge yarn, fine yarn, big loops everywhere, using white on white and vague color variations.  I want to finish this tapestry now so I can try the stuff he does!  
    But for now, I will carry on with my millimeters of progress, learning as I go.  I'm going to take a class at the folk school with Tommye on my birthday weekend this year, and really learn--again--how to do this better, but one of the things I learned from watching so many videos is that, like many things, there is no one right way.  I don't think I want to do the minute details that they do at Gobelins in Paris, though I did once peak in their windows on a Sunday morning, but I want to try it all, tapestry-wise.
  An easier way to measure progress has been with my overshot shawls.  I finished the first one, with silver tencel tabby weft and the purple slub cotton pattern weft.  I made it 84 inches long, with two fringes of 6 inches each.  It's waiting downstairs to have its fringes twisted.  
Then, I started using some somewhat fragile black bamboo for the tabby weft.  I'm not sure where it came from; it lost its tube somewhere, but I know it's bamboo.  I like the way it makes the internal shapes in the Orange Peel stand out more than the silver did.  And the shapes are less elongated than with the silver, because the black packs in more tightly.  This one will also be 84 inches long, and I beaded it with smaller beads on the fringe than the first one.  This morning, I went past the halfway mark, and then, I'll have to figure out the third one.  I have some 8/4 carpet warp in the exact perfect shade of green, but do I want to use carpet warp?  It seems so...common!  
 Weftie gives the black weft a paws up.  He took my stool over when I got up to use the computer.
I don't know if you've heard about the fires raging over here in western North Carolina, but they are fierce.  The smokey smell is inside the house this morning, making my throat and eyes burn, but I'm pretty far away from any of the fires.  Two of my employees have been on alert for evacuation, but so far, they haven't had to leave.  It makes the sunrises lovely, but it's a threat anywhere around here, since it's so very dry.

This young lady hung out in the front yard Friday, waited while I got out of the car, fumbled for my phone and took her picture.  As soon as I did, she took off, only to be replaced by another, who seemed to wait for me to take her photo, too.
  Let's all hope this coming week brings better things than this past one.  We've lived through worse, right?  Let's all hope so!  Keep calm and weave on!

Monday, October 24, 2016


I'm sitting in the loft of my new "home," a Chalet-style house in the woods.  This past weekend, my landlady asked me think about buying this house.  On Tuesday, the movers brought my furniture and looms and yarn and fabric from my house in Knoxville.  The chalet feels more like home now, with all my stuff around me, but it's clear my stuff doesn't go in a chalet.  My furniture is big and dark and old on purpose.  I love my stuff.  I have relaxed a lot since my stuff surrounds me, but I will not buy this house.  It will never be home, in the true sense of the word.  It's modern and white and not very well built, with plastic bath tubs and slick vinyl floors and stained Berber carpet.  It's not energy efficient or situated well in the lot. It ain't me!

But my studio is big and light and airy.  Now that it's getting chilly outside, the loft is warm and comfy, not blazing hot as it was in the summer.  Jenny and Tootsie have been here for a while, but Jennifer just got here, and is still not put all together.  A friend is going to make a top tray for Tootsie to keep the shafts from jumping out the top.
 Outside, the house is surrounded by trees, and kind of in a gully, without any views.  I think once the leaves are gone, I'll be able to see a little farther, but for now, it's lovely with all the golden light through the autumn leaves.
  I'm off to Murphy this morning to vote early, get new contacts and get out of the gully for a little while.  For now, this chalet is "home," and I'm in this community to stay for a while, and I will keep my eye out for my true home here.

Monday, September 19, 2016


 Fall is coming to western North Carolina, and the temperatures have dropped oh, so slightly.  The trees are dripping outside my window from the rain we had last night and early this morning.  
  I've been very busy, making new friends, exploring the area, getting ready for the Fall Festival, and weaving, finally.  Two of my bosses took me to a wine tasting just over the state line in Georgia, to a winery called Crane Creek, set in the rolling hills that magically transformed from north Georgia to Tuscany when we left the road.
It was beautiful, and a fine way to end the day.  

I have spent most of the month so far smoking pork shoulder butts for the fall festival (
I went in every morning, fired up the gigantic smoker and put 16-24 butts on the grill.  Every two hours, I would go out and stoke the fire, and by 9:00 p.m., the night crew would take them off the grill.  They pulled the meat off the bones and put it all in bags to go in the freezer to chill until the first weekend in October.  I think I have smoked 320 butts, and have decided that that's enough.  Next, it's on to ordering coleslaw mix, cornmeal and buttermilk, baked beans, buns, barbecue sauce...  It takes a lot of food to feed 15,000 people!  I try not  to get nervous about it, but it's not really working.  I'll be so happy to see the back end of the fall festival!  But at the same time, I hope some of you will be able to attend!  LouAnn and I went a few years ago, and we really enjoyed it.

As you know, I think the folk school is a magical place, and this past week, some friends thought so, too.  Michelle, pictured here with her new, hand-made Windsor chair, has been a work-study here, and after her last week, she took a class to make one.  She was surprised, not always pleasantly, to find out that most of it was done by hand, her hands.  She said it was very hard work, but every time she sits in that chair, she will have the satisfaction of knowing she make every bit of it.

My friend Anne spent the week here, staying at my house and taking a class in paper art, which included making a paper "quilt," up in the corner of the board behind her, and some books that she's holding. They batiked on paper, made paper from cornstarch and learned to bind books.  She had a great time, and it was nice to spend time with her.
 The last day Anne was here, we walked along the Rivercane Walk, and she took these beautiful photos.  We'd been to the Brasstown Full Moon party the night before, and the full moon was still lingering while we walked through the mist.

It was a beautiful morning, and the start of a long, lovely day.  After Anne left for Knoxville, I went to Pam Howard's house to meet some new friends, and to take of tour of Pam's house.  Pam is the resident artist for weaving at the folk school, and her studio was amazing!  I didn't take any pictures, but it was inspirational. She has a dye kitchen, lots of yarn storage and three NAKED looms!  But due to the gas shortage this weekend, she was forced to work in the studio yesterday, and I'm hoping she got something on those looms!
  After that, I rushed home to clean the house for our inaugural knitting group meeting.  Four crafty women came, two knitters, one basket maker and a quilter.  We had snacks, gossip and craftiness, and fun.  We hope it will be a monthly thing.
  Then, it was upstairs for me to get something done about my own looms.  Yesterday, I started on Jenny's painted warp, beading the hem stitching before I started weaving.  I posted a photo of the beading on 4-shaft weaving on Facebook, and had almost 250 likes!  It was pretty exciting!  
  I started weaving the Orange Peel design out of some silver tencel for the tabby, and purple cotton slubbed yarn for the pattern weft.  I wove some more this morning, sat down to blog, looked over at the loom, and saw a big fat error, where I must have missed the tabby throw about 1 1/2 inches ago.  Guess who'll be unweaving tonight?
  I also noticed Weft on warp.  His favorite nap spot is on any warp, which is how he got his name.  And how all my handwoven items have a little of him in every one.
  Remember, today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day, so be sure to say ARRGH! at least once!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Looking Up

 Earlier this week, I went out to do yoga on the deck, and I really just did not feel like it.  I unrolled my mat, stared at it for a few minutes, and sat down on a deck chair.  I looked up, and this is what I saw.  Incredible, isn't it?  Well worth not doing yoga to be able to see this.  And I could hear the cattle from Brasstown Beef lowing.  We buy all our beef from them, and they are less than half a mile from my house.  That's what buying local means!

 That afternoon, I had to fire one more person.  That makes four since I've started at the Folk School, and I believe it's my last for the foreseeable future.  I really hope so.  The person I let go simply refused to follow my direction, would not follow any recipe I gave him, and constantly tried to get his co-workers to do likewise.  I finally found a good, trustworthy, hard working and pleasant person to replace him.  And now, he's gone.  My team is now MY team, and I think we're gong to have fun.
  Bella and I went back to the Rivercane Trail yesterday, and had a lovely walk.  This is my new favorite Bella photo!  She loves hiking without a leash, something she could never do in the city.

 I love the way they make hay here in the east!  The big rolls left out in the field just make me happy to see.  We walked past a field on our way to the river, I think the Little Brasstown River.  

There's an overlook, so Bella looked it over.
And this morning, we went to campus at the Folk School and wandered around, exploring.  Afterwards, I started working on the turned overshot warp that has been a pain in my butt since moving Tootsie here.  Today, I was weaving along, following the pattern, listening to jazz, thinking about other things, having a good old time, being in the rhythm.  When I stopped to look at the weaving itself, darned if stupid old Tootsie wasn't up to her old tricks!  Shaft 5 was sitting on top of the castle, just hanging out, not getting woven into the pattern.  Many picks had happened since I'd last looked.  I unwove, fixed the problem, and kept going.  And then, about 5 inches later, it happened again.  
  I haven't unwoven it yet.  I started threading the heddles on Jenny with her hand-dyed warp instead.  Tootsie just makes me so angry!  I know many people love Tools of the Trade looms.  I wish I did.  She clacks and slams and the poor design of the shaft channels is so irritating!  But she's mine, and the only 8-shaft loom I have here, so we will make peace.  I'm going to ask two woodworkers I've met at the school if they have a solution, and how much it will cost.  
  On our walk this morning, at the back of the wood turning studio, I saw this flower.  I think it's a hibiscus, but I'm not sure.  I will scavenge some seeds and see if I can grow one in my yard next year!