Sunday, February 5, 2017

Picking Stuff Up

A little tension trouble!
 I'm still inkle weaving this week, when I'm not cooking.  It occurred to me this week that I never take photos of the food I make anymore!  But it's just food for 100 hungry crafters, three times a day, and if it's interesting enough, or pretty enough, to take photos of, I'm usually too busy to grab my phone.  My kitchen team is so great now, that things are finally running smoothly, and cooking is actually becoming fun.  I never thought we'd get here, but here we are!  Whew!  Students' comments have gone from 75% negative to over 75% positive in the last two months.  What a relief!
  The weather has kept me in Brasstown for the last few days off, and even though it's supposed to be in the 50's with sun this afternoon, there was freezing rain this morning and it's not above freezing yet.  Bella wants to walk!
  Until then, I've been learning pick-up on the Inkle loom. I had to break down and buy Anne Dixon's book on Inkle weaving.  None of the available YouTube videos were clear enough in their instructions on how to do pick-up.  There was a lot of assumed information, that I didn't know, like how to warp for pick-up.  I'd heard Dixon's book wasn't very clear, either, but it's been so helpful for me.  I'm glad I laid the groundwork with the plain weave stuff, so I can follow her instructions.  I already had a warp on the loom that I thought I could use for letters and patterns.  Turns out it's a little too narrow for letters, so I have just been following her beginning pick-up patterns.  What fun!  The patterns develop slowly, and it's a little confusing at first, but as I kept the attitude with this first warp that there were no mistakes, only learning opportunities, I just played.
  I am finishing the warp with a pattern I made up, using both heddled and unheddled pick up together.  I'll have at least a little strip of belt I can use for something, and getting good practice in.  The next warp will be some hand-dyed carpet warp with some solid mercerized cotton, to learn how to weave letters.

I've spent the evenings binge-watching bad t.v., and knitting some fun socks.  I bought this yarn from a sale bin a few years ago, and felt like using it up this week.  I started toe-up, two circulars, and have just turned the heels.  I'm using a lace pattern from the newest issue of Interweave Knits, from the yummy patterns they have for weddings.  I'd love to make the lace sweater I've borrowed this little pattern from, make it longer, and out of something soft, like JaggerSpun Zephyr, that lovely 50% wool-50% silk yarn.  Meanwhile, the socks are just easy enough to watch t.v., and just difficult enough to enjoy.
  C'mon, clouds!  Go away!  Bella and I want to play!  Or I'll just have to weave...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Fiber in the Family

This week, I had a lovely 3-day weekend, because this coming weekend, we have weekend classes.  If you've ever wanted to take a class at John C. Campbell Folk School, and thought it was too expensive, take a weekend class!  Much less expensive, and way more bang for your buck.  Plus, if you're my buddy, you can stay at my house for free!  You'd still have to pay for meals at the school, because I won't be home to cook for you.
  Anyway, three day weekend:  I put a new warp on the inkle loom, and quickly fell in love with it.  I used the pattern generator I mentioned last post, and it worked!  Sixty-one threads is almost too much for this little loom, and I have to be careful advancing the warp, but I do love it!
I also went to Nashville to see my son.  He's been doing a lot of chain stitch embroidery there, to order, as people wait.  You can check out his stuff here:
Nashville's ugly skyline, with Batman in center
 He bought his first chain stitch embroidery machine this past summer, and has been collecting more since then.  He puts one in the back of his 1967 Ford Ranger and takes it to events around Nashville, where he embroiders on jackets and shirts and what have you, while they wait.  He also takes orders, and has done some amazing things.  He let me try his machine, which moves really fast and seems to have a mind of its own.  He's very good at it; I am not.

Back at home on Monday, I needed a lot more treadle tie-ups than I had, so I went to Lowe's, and found this lovely pink cord.  It was a little stiff to use for the tie-ups, but I persevered, and the under-side of the Colonial is very vibrant now.  I'd take a picture, but the light in this studio is not good, especially at 6 in the morning.  Suffice to say, I will be getting more cheerful hot pink cord for tying up the looms!

The reason I needed more tie-up cords was to produce this lovely little number, a hand-dyed blue warp, 360 ends, of carpet warp, to make bath towels.  I didn't wind it or dye it to be bath towels; it was just one of those dye days, having fun, making boring yarn pretty, but when I pulled it out of the warp box, I had just read a blog by a woman who makes bath towels and blankets,, and was inspired.  The average bath towel is 27"-30" by 52" to 60".  This warp is 30" before it pulls in, and it is pulling in quite a bit, with the twill pulling on it.
  So far, I'm using the treadling sequence #370 in Carol Strickler's 8-shaft book, but the next one will be #369, the one that first caught my eye.
  I've been surprised at all the possible tie-ups for this twill.  I first chose one with gobs of tied shafts, needing 48 ties.  Well, I ran out of pink cord, and didn't have enough old white ones, either, so I did some research, and even within Strickler's book, there are several, with the same threading.  I think that's interesting, so many paths to the same road.
  I'm enjoying watching the pattern develop, but I have to say, I had no idea that Jennifer, my Colonial, was so hard to treadle all 8 shafts.  They're kind of far apart, and not that easy to depress on the outer shafts.  I only wove about 4 inches yesterday, and worked up quite a sweat.  I've only woven rugs on her so far, so hadn't much experience in using all 8 shafts, or going as fast, without shag to clip or rags to wind.  It's not much different than dear Bertha at the Tuesday Weavers, with her sliding bench.  I hear Bertha's had to be retired because she was just too much!  She was a gym unto herself, that's for sure, and Jennifer isn't much difference.  I'm sure with practice, and this warp is 8 yards, so there will be practice, that it will get easier.
  Work has gotten easier, too, with an almost complete change of staff since I started.  I lost four employees over the holidays, but they've all been replace by friendly, hard-working people, and I have high hopes for our future.  We have our first kitchen meeting today, and we can all look forward together.  Exciting!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Might as Well Weave

 It is a gray, cloudy day, dripping from everywhere.  Bella and I went for a long walk with Olivia, our neighbor, before the storm got here, but now, we're trapped inside.  Bella's napping, but only because she can't hold the shuttle or reed hook.
  So, I might as well weave.  I finished my third inkle band just a minute ago, and while I was finishing it, I watched a video on pick-up weaving.  I don't think that's next; I think I'll make one more plain weave band, this time in red, black and white.  I already drew up the pattern, and have the yarn ready to go downstairs.

But this afternoon, I want to finish threading this warp.  I'm over 2/3 of the way done, but this gray weather is making me sleeeeeeepyyyy!  I can't concentrate very well!  But I'll try, because I hate to waste a good day off sleeping.  Tomorrow, I'm going to Nashville, so I need to get something done today!  Besides, I'm anxious to see this plaited twill come to life.  I'm falling in love with this warp, and I know it's going to be fun to weave.  I haven't woven much on the Colonial but rugs, and I've never used all 8 shafts, that I recall, so it'll be an adventure.  I've woven with 8 shafts before, but not on the Colonial.  I'm interested to see how the shaft set-up, where they all seem to be kind of flopping around, will work.  It was fine with 6 shafts for rug weaving, but rugs are pretty forgiving, especially the shag rugs I love to weave.  This new pattern will show an error immediately.
  I'm using the pattern #380 from Carol Strickler's book, A Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns. my first try at a pattern from that book.  I'm excited to get started, so I'll make a cup of tea to ward off the urge to nap and get going.  I'll show you how it went next week!

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!