Playing for the Raptors

Today was one of those fabulous pre-winter Arizona days. Temps in the lower 80’s, partially overcast sky providing shade in the perfect amount. It was a great day to be outside feeding the raptors in recovery at Wild at Heart right here in Cave Creek, Arizona.

In keeping with my flute journey, today after the 3pm hawk feeding (which includes Kestrels, Turkey Vultures, Harris and Redtail Hawks, a Bald Eagle as well as a Golden Eagle), I pulled out my trusty flute and played for them for a half hour in the outdoor courtyard.

Most of it was improv, some of it was trying to play practiced songs from memory. But it was all for those amazing birds of prey that have fallen victim to the vagaries of civilization. With luck they will recover from their afflictions and be returned to the wild. Some make it, some don’t. But it was my small tribute to help, in a small way, towards their recovery. I sure heard more bird calling then usual, and one of the permanent workers though that she observed some of the birds actually listening. I’d like to hope so!

It has to be shock to be a wild bird and then suddenly finding yourself maimed and then caged. Some are submissive to their fate, others rage against it. But I think nothing can vanquish the drive for survival that these birds have, constantly adapting to the changes we humans force on their environment.

Happy fluting!





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More Deflected Double Weave – 14/2 Linen

One goal I had set for myself after my trip to CNCH was to make a sturdy flute bag. I had one false start with all cotton that ended up as two little bags (got some good practice sewing the bag shape – picture at the end of this post). Then my adventure with mixed cotton and linen (in 20/2 and 16/1) ended up purposed as something totally different than what I had intended. So I decided to up the ante and go back to the 14/2 to get the sturdiness that I wanted for the flute bag cover. Jane Stafford Textiles has a great color selection, and in no time at all I had the linen and a warped loom.

Linen so far is my favorite fiber to use with deflected doubleweave. There is something about the crispness while weaving that keeps me thinking that the project will turn out ok, no matter what happens in the meantime. Euroflax 14/2 is a great weight to use if you want to make something sturdy, like a flute cover, for example. It holds the structure really well, with the added benefit of getting softer but not less strong over time. One thing that surprised me about this project was, after washing and sewing, there was still a bit of a drape to the fabric. A nice surprise!


This is the basic pattern I used. You can tell it was from a book, and now I can’t find it to tell you the name. It’s in a pile somewhere…….


Warping had its challenges. I managed to get all the color alternation correct except for that one twisted section. I did unwind that section and rewound it, but made the same mistake. The funny thing is that it didn’t impact my weaving, although I did add an S hook towards the end of the warp.


No accounting for color truth when taking pictures – the lighting in my room is much different between daytime and evening, with no natural light. But you can see the openness of the weave on the loom. It fills in quite nicely after finishing, even with a hand washing.

This was warped at 24 epi – two per dent on a twelve dent reed. 364 ends, roughly 15 inches wide on the loom. I measured a four yard length, and wove about 60 inches, adding plain weave hems. After weaving, I had enough left over for another piece. To my horror, I had made a mistake smack in the middle of the extra piece. Not to worry, it sewed up perfectly into a cowl where the mistake is not noticeable. You could even call it a design separation.


Finished flute cover, with its owner just waiting to jump in. The flute is a Gm made by Charles Littleleaf from Warm Springs, Oregon.



Ignore the woman behind the curtain – this is the finished cowl. I’m really happy about the drape!

As promised, here is the picture of the cotton “little bag” experiment. I had started at 12 epi, one per dent in a 12 dent reed, then ended up re-sleying to two per dent. End count was 144. I had thought an open sett would work, but I have to re-think the approach on a twill with a plain weave stripe. You can imagine that they are sturdy.


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Sett and the Deflected Weave

Several of my flutes don’t have covers. And they certainly need a cover for safe transport.  I’ve been buying up a lot of 40/2 linen, with the hope of making something pretty grand. And then I noticed I had some 20/2 cotton and a 16/1 linen that would get me primed, so to speak, for working with a finer thread. Grabbing a Santa Fe-ish type draft from, I found three colors that balanced nicely, and went for broke.

Now, sett has been an issue with me ever since I stared on my weaving journey a LONG time ago. My thought was always to follow the pattern then beat the heck out of it, which resulted in a lot of stiff scarves and miscellaneous projects that never really found a good home. Sampling I can eventually warm myself up to, but I hate making something for the sake of it and then not having a good use for it. That’s one of the reasons why you’ll find so many wall hangings and table scarves scattered around my home. (I am fortunate enough to have a husband who will tolerate this!) With my history of beating it till it’s dead hand, when I see something that calls for a 30 epi sett I cringe on how to proceed. How can that be woven without turning it into a ironing board, even if I have a thin thread?  Trial and error, plus adapting to a new environment are the personal growth phases I have to go through to get confident in establishing sett to get the right drape I am looking for in a fabric. And the experiments continue.

That said, I chucked the planned 30 epi out the window, and went with a 24 epi – two threads in each dent of a twelve dent reed.


It wove up pretty nicely. At first it took a while to get through one repeat. It’s not that the repeat was long – it was changing the shuttles for each color change. My final technique was to break and tuck the blue linen thread every time its turn came up, but keep the brown and grey cottons, and travel them up the side. Also, I didn’t really have to pass the shuttle through the last block of color on the right side (see Elisabeth Hill’s YouTube video on this selvedge technique) since I broke off the thread for the blue color change. The edges aren’t perfect because I hadn’t planned on them being perfect since my original purpose was to sew a seam along the sides. I’ve been a little nonchalant about my edges (based on the purpose of piece) ever since I watched a Donegal weaver at the loom. Very impressed with his speed, I had the chance to talk to him about edges. He surprised me by saying that he and his weavers didn’t dwell on them since they were making fabric which would be cut so the edges really didn’t matter. Duh. Another myth debunked, and another incentive to go to the next level and create yardage for sewing garments, or whatever. Sometimes the most simple truths can knock me for a loop.

After all that, weaving went pretty quickly. The piece was finished at the planned 60 inch plus hem allowance and ready to cut –  and not a moment too soon, based on how much warp I had left – which was a big fat zilch.  After I washed finished the piece, I found that it had such a wonderful drape that I couldn’t bear using it for a flute bag. My edges really aren’t that bad, either, and they will work for the final re-purposed piece. (Confession – I really do care about how my edges look.)

Look at this drape! I’ll be using the hemming to join both ends, and it will be just long enough to double wrap for a cowl (infinity) scarf. That makes me a happy weaver.


You can see the plain weave stripe that will be the seam when the cowl is joined. No fringe is visible on the final product (see below).


All sewn up! Folded so that it is doubled. Love that drape! I added a tie through the seam so that I could scrunch it. It’s a really fun cowl.

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Flutes and Feathers

Starting last year, and continuing into this year has been quite an interesting journey so far, with many new roads and offshoots demanding my attention.

Most of all, I find it hard to write about this subject without feeling like I am being a bit pretentious. After all, I am descended from immigrant Italians. I have no connection to any tribes. I live in the area of the country that has the largest Native American (tribal) population in the United States. I feel honored to be able to try, in my way, to learn this instrument and embrace its culture. I want to do this in a way that does not cause offense. It is time that we, as the uninvited culture, embrace and honor the culture that was here before us.

Since starting on this journey, I have been researching the history of the flute, and there is so much to learn – and unlearn, as well. But, enough of vague commentary.

Most of my technical learning has been through the John Vames’ Understanding the Gift, Volume 1. It’s pretty informative, and good for someone who doesn’t have a very formal music background, like me. I also found R. Carlos Nakai’s The Art of the Native American Flute a must have for understanding how this instrument became what it is today, and how important is to understand its role in bridging between the white and tribal nations.

My practice is sporadic, but mostly because I am caught between following a traditional music theory path, and what some people call an improv path. My guess is that my approach could be somewhere between the two – learning the basics of reading Nakai Tab and traditionally written music, and then playing straight from the heart. I have seen Nakia in concert twice so far. And the impression I walked away with from both venues (one with the RCNQ and the other with MusicaNova) is that RC soars when he plays from the heart.

My very first live exposure to the NAF was hearing Tony Duncan play at a Cave Creek (AZ) Art festival. It was just so beautiful I could only dream of being able to try and play. Yet, here I am, with five flutes to my name, still stumbling my way through finding my voice. That, I understand, comes with time. And the flutists that I have spoken with that play from the heart stress how important it is to be able to separate yourself from the western music style to achieve the real peace and grace that is present in the Native American flute.

That said, here is my first public performance, done on a volunteer basis. There is so much more to learn!

Koko’s Lament by John Vames, played by Claudia Cocco

Playing for the Raptors

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Deflected Hand Dyed – Double Fluff!

This all started with the scarf that Katniss wears in the second movie of The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire. She is hunting in District Twelve, her home district. It’s a really cool design. But the pixel level was not good enough for me to really analyze the pattern, especially since the scarf was all scrunched. Everything old is new again definitely applies to weaving. Patterns pop up in weaving circles like they are the latest new candy, and lo and behold you find something similar that has been published more than fifty years ago. For me, it’s the use of different fibers that makes for fun in the chase, even on the most simple patterns. Hmmm….. But with good friends on the look-out, observation, and patience brought a lot of patterns to my attention, and I started to learn about a new structure (new to me, at least), called deflected doubleweave, also known as integrated cell, and in the case of the pattern I am using for this project, Double Fluff (from Russell Groff, 200 Patterns for Multiple Harness Looms, Robin and Russ Handweavers, 1979). Thank you, to whomever in the Catching Fire production staff that chose that particular scarf for Katniss to wear!

Mary Atwater Briggs has the earliest version that I happened to accidentally stumble upon without realizing what I was looking at (1957). Handwoven has a felted version that has been passed around a lot (January/February 2009, by Barbara Herbster). Weaving Today published a free How to Weave a Scarf e-book with a Felted Lace pattern by Madelyn van der Hoogt (on page 13). Alas, the Catching Fire scarf is definitely not felted. And it’s not really an open windowpane effect. I did try the tie-up and came out with mixed results:

Onward, indeed.

Kudos to my weaving friend Laura who found the real deal. It is called the “Double Fluff”, by Russell Groff, from 200 Patterns for Multiple Harness Looms, Robin and Russ Handweavers, 1979.


There was also the question of which threads I would use, and quite frankly I had been hoping to be able to use the yarn I dyed at my Rick Rao class back in February.  After all, I had handspun silk in there as well as linen, cotton, linen boucle, merino wool and even embroidery thread. It would be a perfect showcase for all the colors that had grown together in Rick’s garden in New Mexico.

I quickly loaded it into my iWeave app to check the draft. Measured the warp, sectionally, and then loaded it onto the beam. My gut told me that I would be better off using my 8 dent reed than the 10 dent I had used in all my calculations.  I just didn’t want to overtax the yarn through a narrower reed. After spreading the warp, I threw two plain weave picks and sewed a hemstitch, then threw four more plain weave picks. Out of curiosity I left a one (1) inch dent, then started the pattern.

At first I thought I had left enough weft yarn from measuring the warp, but the extra spread from changing from a 10 dent to an 8 dent reed through my weft measurements all out of whack. So although I started by using only one color per pattern repeat, I decided to just go with the flow and change colors as I ran out of a full bobbin of any given color, alternating as I wove.

It was a bit hairy at times, but overall it worked out pretty well.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided to repeat the dent and then hemstitch at the originally planned length, 70 inches, not thinking that the wider width (does that sound brilliant, or what?) would require a longer length (so technical!). I left a nice fringe length, and then started another section without a dent at the hem. Instead of 36 inches, though, I only had a weaving length of 20 before I had to call it a day because I couldn’t get anymore shed. Since I was just flying blind anyway, I pulled it off the lo0m and threw it into the washing machine on the delicate cycle with Tide Colorfast. There was no telling how much bleeding might occur, and Tide Colorfast has saved me in the past, and it did very well here. It was hung to dry – and being in Arizona in August, out in the sunshine it went and it was all dry in no time at all.

The length versus width issue was very apparent here. And the wide dent had hemstitch on either side, so guess what? It’s staying all one piece.

Of course I couldn’t have a boring fringe. So I decided to knot a macrame pattern, tying on beads and things on the fourth row of knots, then trimming off the ragged edges. I used charms, beads, feathers, orphaned earrings and buttons – quite a mishmash of memories and symbols.

The beads tingle and ring when I throw the scarf around my shoulders. I hate to think of it lying rolled up in a dark drawer – there was so much work put in this (spinning, dying, weaving and finishing) that I couldn’t bear to think about parting with it. So, when I find the right type of curtain rod, it will be hanging on a wall in my home to I can enjoy it when I’m not wearing it. Deflected doubleweave is currently my favorite structure.




Study Group Recovery

Study groups can be pretty tricky, no matter what the discipline. Of course, you’d think that creating a group that is smaller than the larger group (or guild) would be able to get some in-depth structure study. The problem is that, over time, it grows too big agin, and then there are too many people with too many divergent opinions about what the topics would be. Then nothing gets accomplished.

So, without saying much more, I tagged along with a topic (network) that was not my favorite. I thought if I forced myself I might find that I would like it and at the least, learn something. I learned that I wasn’t too keen after all. So my four color network project turned into a two color network project and not so informative sample.


I had three yards left on the loom! I tried to recover with a Huck lace pattern from my last workshop. But I think there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and a 100% huck lace structure in a cotton that has a bit of heft didn’t make me very happy either. I think that a looser sett would have been better, it would have turned out less stiff.  Also, I wasn’t consistent on the beating – it’s hard to maintain an even beat when you keep walking away from a project. I did like the color combo:

So, how was I going to get my mojo back??????

Dish towels, 8/2 cotton (thirsty as all get out), colors to match my kitchen granite. Weft woven to match the warp color distribution with a few stretches so it wouldn’t be a square. And hand sewn hems. Spell broken. And now on to my current fascination, deflected double weave. Stay tuned!

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Colour and Design – Another Jane Stafford Textiles Adventure

Hey Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, Canada – we’re back! My friend Laura and I returned once more for another weaving adventure with a favorite weaving teacher, Jane Stafford. Colour and Design was offered at the beginning of April, so we coordinated schedules and headed up to the island studio once again.

This time we weren’t able to get a Farm Stay, but ended up with comfortable accomodations down the road at the Green Acres Lakeside Resort, just a short (but invigorating) walk down the road.


Jane had unlimited examples of using division of space, sett, gradation of color, throwing in a color zinger. The sky’s the limit and each example was a springboard for so many more ideas. No way you can write all this down – it’s something that gets absorbed through repetition, observance, and actually doing.  Doing is the operative action here.


One of the exercises we performed was pulling colors from pictures that we found inspriring and/or that spoke to something inside us. Nature has so many interesting combinations of colors that aren’t necessarily intuitive from our cultural training. It’s all a matter of recognizing the box we’ve drawn for ourselves, then stretching outside of the self-imposed limit.  No judgement, no frustration, just observing and reacting. If you start thinking about it too much it just doesn’t work.


My new design tools…..sketchbook, pencils, imagination.


Laura and I made sure to get some outside time on the island – Salt Spring is very beautiful and has many hidden crannies that beg for exploration. Observing nature while taking the class gave us different pespectives on natural division of space and use of color.

As a group we all drove into town to visit a local fiber exhibition, which included work not just from Jane and other local artists, but many former students of Jane’s that went on to become recognized artists.


Here’s Jane demonstrating poper technique when using a warping wheel, one of many tips we picked up during the class.

Here are my samples – trimmed and washed. In each sample, we basically wove the weft in the same color pattern as the warp. It was an interesting study in balance (and being able count, on top of that). It was all in 8/2 unmercerized cotton, which I have to say was very pleasant to work with.  I had only used mercerized before, but liked the hand of this much more.


Airflights are far and few between, so we opted to repeat last year’s overnight stay, this time in Victoria.  We were able to catch a decent ferry off the island, which allowed us to tour the Gardens at the Horticultural Society in Victoria. Sometimes I wonder if gardens I visit seem so spectacular because I live in a desert environment and don’t get to see much green. But, based on my previous lives, I thought this was particularly attractive on its own merits.

Dinner at a Tapas restaurant in town, an evening walk, and the next day brought us back to the airport and homeward bound. Thanks to Jane for such a fun learning experience, and to Laura for sharing it with me!


Posted in fiber arts, Travel, Weaving | 2 Comments