Saturday, December 29, 2012

Great Towel Warp of 2012

There are things in life that I'm afraid to try for fear of failure. 

Oddly, when I sat down to weave for the first time, I did not have that fear. I approached it with a general attitude of "Eh. It will work, or it won't. Let's try." And so far, with the exception of one project, that attitude has maintained throughout my weaving education.

Its something Erin and I continue to giggle at. She is very structured - I am not. We both absorb a little of the other's attitude; I'm a little more structured and picky, she's a little more "who cares."
I love how we've both slid to a more centered view of life and fiber-art. Its lovely to find that friend that helps to balance you out.

After Thanksgiving, I came home from the holiday and wound a 12 yard warp - known in my mind as "the epic warp" - of 8/2 cotton and started making towels.

This is the same project that required about 2 million string heddles because I'm an idiot and didn't count heddles.  (PS: I'm now an EXPERT at string heddles.)

It became 1/2 overshot towels and 1/2 waffle weave towels - the unintentional split was due to my boredom and frustration. I think I have a 6 yard limit per project.

This is the first 1/2 of the towels before I rethreaded for waffle weave. Erin was kind enough to snap a photo after I did my "OMG I MADE FABRIC" dance of dorky joy. I had lots of fun playing with colors and learning overshot. There's also a towel in there that is cotton and linen weft, which I'm sorely tempted to keep for myself because its just yummy.

The remaining yardage of warp was used for Waffle Weave towels.

The red white and blue towel and the yellow towel became x-mas gifts for mom. My sister received a Red/Black overshot towel and a white/Black overshot towel, while my brother in law received the butt-ugly blue/orange overshot towel in honor of his beloved Miami Dolphins.

Nothing against the Dolphins specifically, however after weaving that atrocious towel in those particular colors, I am a firm believer that a design consultant should be hired by the NFL before team colors are selected. 

So that's the great towel warp of 2012 and how it ended up.

All towels got finished. The warp got used - every bit of the 12 yards!

The remaining woven Xmas Gifts need more pictures before they should be mentioned in a blog. So pics and details to follow.

I'm so pleased with the towels. They are not error free. They are not perfect by any means. There are "oopsies" in each one. But I'm still proud of them. One towel contains some of my handspun cotton. The rest are fun colorful experiments of "this yarn looks good with that yarn." And they all are just plain neat.

Weaving is not 'hard' in that I do not feel I need a degree in applied physics to attempt it. But it is entirely different from spinning. Or knitting. Or crocheting. Or any of the other arts I've tried. Without Erin's patient help -and copious reference library and book addiction - I would have given up and walked away.

I'm glad Erin stuck it out with me. I'm glad I powered through the 12 yard warp. I'm glad I had several hand made gifts to give this year. And I'm really glad I didn't approaching weaving with a fear of failure. :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

When I weave...

When I weave, I am focused and everything is clear.

When I weave I feel calm. I know who I am and I know what the world is about. The evils of the world fall away. The politics of friendships, of states, of red and blue, are gone.

It's just me and the threads. 342 navy blue warp threads. Some are a little weak. Some are strong. I shore up the weak ones with a few extra packing sticks on the warp beam. Some are still a little weak, so for a while I will fuss with them and see if I can get them to behave.

When I weave I can feel the rhythm: step, throw, beat, step, throw, beat, step throw beat.

But then I run out of weft. I use a piano bench as my chair because it is the perfect height and I get up and walk over to my little rolling kitchen cart which has the bobbin winder attached to it. It's a great tool, that cart. So is the bobbin winder.

When I weave, my mind empties and I begin to daydream about other projects. I think about projects I want to do and take a mental inventory of my stash - do I have the right yarn? do I have colors that I want to use?  Do I need  to spin hundreds of yards of fiber? Do I need to - gasp - order more yarn??? A friend thinks about what she has and then thinks what she can make with it. Why can't I think like that?

When I weave, I relax, and time disappears. I almost don't need that massage gift certificate given to me by my manager.

When I weave, I don't worry about my day job. There are no statistics or reports or off-shore blame games.

When I weave, I know who I am. I'm me and I make. I weave, I knit, I spin, I flute, I photograph, and (sometimes) I blog. Mostly, lately, I weave and I love it.

When I help someone else weave, I feel joyful. That's better than anything else.

And when it is the holiday season I get a little misty and mushy.

Happy Holidays and Weave On!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stubborn? Moi?

A few weeks ago I (Kerry) started to warp out what I am told is a very ambitious project - especially considering it is only my second attempt at weaving.

I decided that I was going to weave towels and hopefully gift a few for the winter holidays. And hopefully sell a few at some craft shows or on Etsy.

I did some mental polling and determined that I am, in fact, too lazy to do multiple warps to achieve a high volume of towels. What does that mean? If I want 10 towels, I'm only doing 1 warp, not 2 different ones. I am truly that lazy about this sort of thing.

So I then did the math and learned that 10 or 11 towels required about 12 yards of warp. So I began winding warp! And Winding. And Winding. And Winding. I managed to wrench my shoulder from so much winding. And got a kink in my neck until I fixed where the warping board was. Lots of winding = lots of learning.

We had a Loom Lounge day earlier this week and I started to sley my reed with all of this natural 8/2 cotton warp. The sley was 2-2-1 pattern which went very quickly and used up almost every dent on the reed, save a few on one side. I had a few bits of warp left over that didn't quite fit and they got set aside.

Yesterday (Saturday) I began to thread the heddles.

Being the lazy and often carefree crafter that I am, I didn't count a single heddle before weaving. So when Erin turned around about 1/3 of the way into my threading and said "Did you count your heddles?" I looked at her, scoffed/snorted, and replied with an amused "No."

I mean, why would I count my heddles? What in the world would prompt me to do such a thing? There were plenty for my LAST project. Why wouldn't there be plenty for THIS project? (For inquiring minds: the answer to follow in a later blog post.)

What a stupid question, Erin! It'll be fine! Thought I.

... yeah.

This post is renamed The Blog Post in Which Kerry Eats Crow. :(

Today please learn one thing. Learn to count your heddles.

For serious.

I got about 2/3 of the way through the threading and promptly ran out of heddles on shaft 1.

Erin was right. (As per usual.)

So with some Googling and YouTubing, I quickly learned the art of making string heddles. My understanding is that these hand tied heddles are traditionally used in an emergency repair situation where perhaps you've made a threading mistake and you do not want to un-thread 30 inches of warp for one string.

A special thank you to this particular video and this particular video which give two methods for creating string heddles.

Being my stubborn self, however, I was determined to not un-thread the warp and lose 2 days worth of work. I was determined to make this work. And if I had to tie on heddles, that's what I'd do.
I cannot afford to buy new heddles right this minute. And I couldn't wait on delivery time anyway. So I tied. And Tied. And Tied.
At the end of the warp, I must have tied 100 string heddles. It felt like I tied one thousand.

But the warp is on. And I tied it onto the back beam without any help. and I began winding without any help.

And then a thread broke.

And I ALMOST had a melt-down.

Erin was lovely enough to pause in her warp-winding to intervene and prevent the Great-Flood-O-Tears. She re-attached my thread, fluffed the warp, let me wind a bit while she found a good pausing point in her warp.

And she sat for all the remaining 11 yards. And she helped me wind that danged 12 yard warp onto my loom. And she laughed while I cussed and offered pointers for next time, and praised my ambition of a 12 yard warp.

The end of the night went a little longer than we both planned, but the end result is the warp is on the loom.

Let the Choir Sing! Hallelujah!

Tomorrow afternoon I will tie onto the front beam and then give a few test passes.

My greatest fear is that the hand-tied string heddles will not function correctly and that all of that work will have to be chalked up to 'practice.' (A four-letter-word in my book.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Time To Dye, My Sweet

Last night Kerry, my guild/fiber/weaving/spinning partner and crime (and also wonderful friend) and I had an up close and personal encounter with Pro MX Fiber Reactive Dye. This is the view from my side of the Dye Lab island.

Do you remember Bob Costas' "Up Close & Personal" segments from the '96 Olympics? And how we all use the phrase now when we never did before, in that way? And were you totally over it by the 2000 Olympics? Me too. Used it anyway. 

Kerry skeined up hundreds and hundreds of yards of 8/2 cotton that we purchased from WCMercantile on Etsy, and picked up soda ash at a local pool supply store. 

I'm all about learning from experience, regardless of success. 

Lesson #1: As spinners we are accustomed to working in animal fibers - things that FELT when agitated or subjected to weird temps. So when you dye animal fibers, you have to be a little careful. Those finicky rules go right out the window with plant fibers!!!  Weeeeee! I think we had as much fun mushing and twisting the heck out of those hanks as we did playing with colors.

Lesson #2: Some rules are for safety. Don't reuse containers for food unless you are using Wilton or other food dyes. Soda ash stinks and you definitely need to use gloves because it will irritate your skin. 

Lesson #3: Some rules are best practice, but do let your intuition guide you. Have fun! If your gut says "I want purple" then do it. If your gut says it needs more dye powder because the color seems weak, then it probably does. Even for a novice, your gut is smarter than we give it credit. If the color is all goofed up, dye it black and move on.  

Lesson #4: Have more dyeing containers than you need. We were scrounging around the house for containers. I was ready to dump out one of the full containers of spackle just to get another dye bucket. Chopsticks make great pokers/stirrers/lifters.

Lesson #5: Don't be stingy with the dye powder. In the grand scheme of life, it's pretty affordable. 

Lesson #6: Have a rinsing strategy. We used my roomy kitchen, threw a nice think sheet of plastic over the island, and had a blast. But there was NO WAY that dye was gonna hit MY WHITE PORCELAIN SINK. 
Kerry: Where should we dump this batch of dye?  
Erin: Uhm. (looks around dumbly) I dunno. Outside? (I had read that it was safe to dump outside so I felt pretty solid on this)
Kerry: Where should we rinse our hanks?
Erin: Oh crap. Uhm. Bathroom, we're replacing that sink anyway.
As it turns out, the old bathroom sink wasn't stained at all. But have a rinsing strategy, especially if the weather doesn't really permit outdoor dyeing.  This also goes to Lesson #3, because we had to reuse containers until we swiped some from my DH's tool shelf.

Lesson #7: Allow enough time. This stuff wants to sit in soda ash for a a minimum of 30 min (prepares the fiber to accept the dye), and cure in it's dye bath for no less than 3 hours. We wove and warped in between bouts of soaking, dyeing, and rinsing.

Lesson #8: Don't give up. Keep playing with dye. I'm really happy I gave it another shot, and that I did it with someone less constrained by being over-careful than I.


p.s. - as I write, the hanks are still drying.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sometimes You Wing It

Anyone who knows me (Erin) knows I actually "read the instructions." I am one of those whose natural tendency is to color inside the lines. When I color outside the lines, I'm likely to make a 1/2" margin and color inside THAT. That is how...uhm...uptight I can be.

So, when someone asks me what I'm weaving, and I say "I'm winging it" what I really mean is that I know enough to set up my threading and treadling for twill, but I don't have a pattern and I'm going to experiment and see what speaks to me.  That is how the project below emerged. I'm coloring outside the lines but I have a framework, my 1/2" margin.

The most common question I was asked at Norfolk Mini Maker Faire, after "How does that work? was "What are you weaving?" 

I had no good answer. Demo cloth was the reality. I had dressed the loom with 40/2 cotton carpet warp (it was free, and like thread thin), one thread per dent in an 8-dent reed, and a 1-2-3-4 twill threading. I knew I wanted to use twill, and I knew I wanted weft faced because that is interesting to see the pattern emerge when someone is trying it out. Beyond that, though, I really didn't know. Demo cloth sounded so lame. Table runner? Shawl? Placemats? Towels?

Cloth. I'm making cloth. I'll figure out what I want to do with it when I'm finished. Maybe it'll be a tote bag.

Update: It wants to be an alpaca shawl in reversed twill.

Update: it's off the loom. It's...interesting. I'm not sure I'd say it was a successful experiment yet, only that it was an experiment. And sometimes that's all it has to be. Not all things work. This will not work as a shawl. It's delightfully heavy, but not wide enough to be a throw. Maybe it'll be wall art. I'll report back.

Tien Chiu is a funny, thoughtful, accomplished weaver. She is blogging a book on creativity at Creating Craft: A Guide to Designing Original Pieces. You can subscribe to her posts (I do!) and be both inspired and relieved that you are not alone and that there are strategies for bringing out the creative. 

And guess what? There's always a time to wing it.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

November News! Equipment, Projects, Hurricanes, OH MY!

November is giving us a small but appreciated respite from our demos and educational events. Even though our December events are creeping up on us, this is a nice month to catch our breath and regroup. We're taking advantage of the time and catching up with some much needed Guild related administration, equipment purchasing/cataloging, library expansion, and (of course) meetings!

New Loom!!

Last week, I (Kerry) rescued a loom from a nearby weaver who was down sizing. The loom is a LeClerc Minerva. She had a coat of mildew on her, some nastily rusted/warped harnesses, and in general need of some serious time at a spa.

Erin, our resident Weave-expert has been heading up the loom-rehab program.

The reed was quite rusty and needed some TLC, which Erin provided. A Dawn/Vinegar solution helped polish the metal and remove any gunk that had built up over the years. We had an impromptu guild-night on Friday and, with the help of our friend (and guild-member) Stephanie, we straightened the badly warped harnesses and removed any far-gone heddles and prepared the loom for warping.

One harness did not survive and Erin was generous enough to loan a harness until I can make arrangements to purchase one. Heddles are all working - though they will need to be replaced in the future as some are rather bent and disagreeable.

The castle is a bit warped and I will have to contact LeClerc (or a supplier) to get some must-haves for this loom. But all in all, it was a nominal price for a loom which, after a bit of TLC and a few new parts, will be in full working condition.

While this a piece of personal equipment, this loom will be one of our guild's teaching-looms.

Donated Equipment and Supplies: 
Stephanie kindly donated a lovely Schacht warping board and some cone yarn. Both of which promptly got put to use. Thank you, Stephanie!

The Guild received via donation several vintage square knitting looms and a stick-shuttle.

Also, we were able to add three new books to our weaving library. (Library list to follow at a later date.)

Kerry's Project:

On Friday, I headed to Tuesday Morning and found some super cool Flecked Cotton cone yarn for a great price and also some fun complimentary colors. I snapped them up and when we finished with Loom-Surgery, I started counting my warp. I envisioned a pretty plaid with the colors I had purchased and Stephanie's cone-yarn donation allowed me to expand my color selection even further. I warped out 170 ends at 4 yards per and the goal is 2 placemats.

Saturday brought about Thai food and getting the loom warped. The reed was sleyed and heddles threaded with only minimal cross-overs (etc) on my part. Erin said I didn't mess up too badly for my first attempt at threading heddles.  I am doing a twill pattern so it was a very simple tie up and threading - I'm thankful of that for my first project!

Despite the late hour, we did get some weaving done and both of us were quite pleased with how pretty the fabric was.

Sunday was a bit more weaving and some education. I love being able to ask our Guild's Weave-Master (that'd be Erin!) all sorts of questions as I try to understand the "why and how" of what I'm doing in each process along the way.

The fabric is coming out beautifully and I'm SO excited about the plaid that's developing.

Public Service Announcement: Weaving is highly addictive. I'm already planning out my project. I believe my knitting is going to feel quite neglected!

Erin's Project(s): 

This weekend Erin finished a lovely mixed-fiber table runner sampler. It was a gorgeous use of her stash-fibers and she got a chance to work on barberpole plying fibers and then using those in her weaving. She learned that weaving was a really good use for barber-poled yarns as it allowed the colors and fibers to show off in a different way than knitting or crocheting would

When that project was done and sufficiently ooh'd and ahh'd over, she began counting her warp for her current project: some waffle-weave dish towels in vibrant and beautiful blue shades of cotton.

I believe this is a kit from Halcyon yarns and the colors are just amazing.

Her reed is about 3/4 sleyed at this point and there could be weaving by the end of the night! GO ERIN!

Yes, there was a hurricane. Sandy came and she rained.
Tidewater flooded (as per usual) and there was a run on toilet paper, bottled water, bread, and milk.

No wheels or looms were harmed during our Hurricane encounter. (Thank goodness)

And, while we were lucky and fared well, we know that our fellow spinners/weavers in New England perhaps were not so lucky. Our thoughts are with them during this time as they work to get their communities, lives, and fiber-arts back on track after the devastating storm.

Monday, October 22, 2012

We've been busy!

We've been very busy getting our guild artifacts and visibility going. We started with the Google groups, then as we were coming up on the Norfolk Mini Maker Faire we realized there was an opportunity to do a few more things. Handouts! Business Cards! Lists! More lists!

All that and a blog.

We don't have a physical and regular meeting location so I suppose you could say we are a virtual guild. For now.

We received two anonymous and one non-anonymous donation today:

  • 19" HP LCD flat panel monitor - this will be great for displaying slide shows of finished objects, photos from past events, and pretty much anything related to fiber from source to completed object. Neat!
  • "A Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns" edited by Carol Strickler. We are very fortunate to have this as the first item in our guild library. It's a seminal work that weavers across the world look to for inspiration and guidance. 
  • 9 issues of Handwoven magazine, 1989 and 1994. These were acquired by me (Erin) and I'll post the exact issue dates and contents when I start the library list. These are interesting in that they are prior to Handwoven's editorial change to a more four-shaft weaving focus for less experienced weavers. This was also a time when their articles were longer and incredibly informative. 
If you have any spinning, weaving, or other equipment or books that are gathering dust, please consider donating them to the guild. If you don't know whether we can use it, just ask. Here are a few items we'd like to acquire: carpet remnants or area rugs - clean but used (the objective is to cover a 10'x20' space); weaving/spinning books of any type in reasonable condition; money (yes, it costs money to do the demonstrations, print documents and business cards, etc), folding chairs.  

Members of the guild may borrow from the library free of cost. 

About Events
At the moment there are a core group of folks who are participating in events - me, Kerry, Tara, and Donna.  However, in addition to having people to work in the booth/exhibition area I'd really like to see others take on the role of demonstrator so Kerry and I aren't carrying the full load. Not all events are everyone's cup of tea. The Harvest Faire required that participants where period-appropriate-ish "garb." Isn't it great that we have some folks who can are willing to wear that stuff? Maker Faire was loud and busy. The Hermitage Museum is probably a much more low-key affair where not a lot of teaching will occur, but possibly question answering and definitely spinning and weaving. That might appeal to the less-outgoing members. In other words, someone will find a fit.

Upcoming Events
October 27-28 - Cornerstone Alpaca
We are hoping to participate as an exhibitor at Cornerstone Alpacas next weekend, October 27/28. As soon as I know for sure I'll post it here and the group forum. We may need volunteers to help answer questions, explain spinning and/or weaving. All the better if you are familiar working with alpaca fiber - either as a spinner/weaver or knitter/crocheter.

December 8 - Hermitage Museum
Kerry and I will be at the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk spinning and weaving. Again, more to come on that.

Past Events
Annual Harvest Faire, Endview Plantation, October 13-14
Hands-on demonstration, gorgeous weather, camping, Renaissance-themed. Tara, Kerry, and Erin went, and we wore garb. And we camped out, which was fun for me, but Tara and Kerry found it a little chilly.

Lessons Learned: ask for a more level spot. Bring a large rug. Camping is fun, but it multiplies the amount of equipment by two. Small dogs are a real draw (we brought along Sarah Dog, the dachshund). Come for the dog, stay for the spinning.

Norfolk Mini Maker Faire, October 20
Loud, exciting, and packed. Donna, Tara, Erin, and Kerry manned, and Peg Graham stepped in to help us put kits together. There were more children than I thought we'd see, but Donna had the bright idea for some kind of "make and take" situation. We put together about 105 make-your-own-spindles kit with assembly and use instructions and we gave out 80 of them to children and adults.

Lessons Learned: make more kits; we started hoarding them a little, but with about double the amount we wouldn't have had to. In fact, we might want to triple the amount for next year. It's a great item. The folding screen made a really good display stand. We need to be prepared to have items available for sale. Only Kerry was prepared on that front. Bigger loom would be impressive - next year I'll bring Bam-Bam.

Happy Spinning!