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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

 

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Crossing Borders – A Visit to the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland

It had been a dream of mine for quite some time to be able to walk the streets of Europe with my husband, knowing how much he would enjoy the walkable cities that are there in abundance. We finally managed to schedule a trip there, with his brother and our sister-in-law, to take a 19 day tour of the U.K. and Republic of Ireland.  It was booked through CIE Tours, based in Dublin. We had great luck with the weather and our itinerary, and it turned out so much better than we could ever anticipate. Good times, good memories, and a snippet of some of the pictures I took along the way can be found at this link. Enjoy!

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Huck Lace Gamp with Tom Knisely

This year is certainly the time for local workshops – and in March, I was able to attend, courtesy of the Telarana Weavers Guild in Mesa, Arizona, Tom Knisely’s Huck Lace Workshop.

Tom provided drafts for both four and eight harness looms.  Since my workshop loom has four harnesses, that was my choice by default – and what a fun exercise!  This is the first time ever that I have woven a “gamp” ( A gamp is a systematic arrangement of warp threadings or warp color sequences in section of equal size, each section being a minimum of two inches and not more than six, and woven as drawn in.  Thank you, Harriet Tidball via Handwoven magazine!) My excuses were numerous, laziness my driver, but there is always a first time for everything, and an opportunity for the best time to make an exception.

Tom’s a great teacher.  He’s focused, keeps you on track, has a great sense of humor. While he covers the basics and makes sure you understand the concept, he also allows for curiosity of the structure and individual exploration of new possibilities. If you’re a foodie, you can imagine Tom as the Alton Brown of weaving, minus Brown’s (sometimes) annoying theatrics. You can feel the enthusiasm and passion for the craft – Tom loves to weave, he loves weaving, and he loves to share it, too.

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Gamp Work on Day Two

There was a change of tie-up in every new section, each section containing at least six treadling variations. I was constantly amazed at how much my interest was captivated. Time flew by, measured by the aches in my weaving muscles that called for the requisite stretching. Two colors in the warp, then one, two or three colors in the weft.  Someone calculated the total number of variations, but I just like knowing that there is an ever-expanding horizon of choice with no chance of getting bored.

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Tom Demonstrating Tips for Warping

One of workshop participants blasted through his warp in two days. That provided an opportunity for Tom to demonstrate how he warps the loom. He shared a lot of interesting tricks of the trade, and gave a new perspective to the warping process – especially overlaying multiple color warps. I believe he has documented most of what he covered in class on his Rag Rug video.

I, for one, muddled along, and in the interest of trying to “square” every sample variation, I finished my warp on the third day, in the morning, with a few of the last variations uncompleted.  But now I have a three yard pallate of amazing huck lace – so many scarves, runners and shirt material, and so little time!

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My Gamp, Off the Loom, Ready for Finishing!

 

My gamp is now washed and hanging in full view in my front room – inspiring me every day and gently reminding me of the great expanse of weaving yet to be done.

 

A closing note – since The Mannings have closed their shop, Tom and his daughter are working to get the Red Stone Glen FIber Arts Center in Pennsylvania up and running, to continue offering weaving instruction. In the meatime he travels throughout the country, teaching weaving.  He also writes a monthly column Notes from the Fell in Handwoven Magazine.

 

Linen and Hemp

IMG_2947There are so many weaving drafts out on the internet, whether through social media or dedicated websites it’s overwhelming at times. Some people like to “design” their own weaving drafts – and I have weaving buddies that do some incredible designing. My needs are pretty basic ( and on an 8 shaft loom). Most times I can take a basic pattern and just by the choice of fiber make it a different animal.

So, to feed my fascination with negative space, floats, and squares, I played with the pattern posted here.  I found it on either Facebook or Pinterest or maybe someplace else – at this point I couldn’t tell you because I can’t remember!  (That is why documenting as you go is so important.) But I had some hemp that I wanted to play with, and this seemed like the perfect draft.

I never seem to follow drafts exactly – and not always on purpose.  Since there was such a difference in texture between the hemp and the linen, I opted for a single color warp and a single color weft. 16/1 linen, sett at 24 ends per inch.  It wove up pretty nicely, except for when the hemp just loved to unroll off the bobbin without stopping.  Kinda like driving on ice. Afterwards some weaving friends mentioned that keeping the bobbin damp would help prevent that in the future. But none the wiser at the time, I persevered, and voila – here is the finished product, after a soak and a tumble.

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After an overnight soak in fabric softener and another tumble, it came out significantly softer. Since it is only about 57 inches without the fringe, I went ahead and steam-ironed it straight, leaving the fringe au natural.  It’s a fun scarf, and I am sure I will get a lot of use out of it in the desert.  At some point I will be using this same pattern again, only I want to block the colors as they are in the draft – that would pop the pattern out.  And if I use multiple textures again, it certainly will furl up and maybe then I’ll leave it in a bumpy state.

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Dye, No Tie, Oh My!!!!!

There are so many ways to dye fabric and yarn these days, that it can be overwhelming in picking any one method.  My preference is to handle as few noxious agents as possible. And sometimes that is close to impossible or improbable, even when studying methods from the old days of yore, since where there is dye, there must be an agent to make that dye stick. When the opportunity popped up to take a natural dye class with Ric Rao of Las Cruces, New Mexico, I jumped on the chance and was absolutely enthralled with the process as well as the results.

Ric is always searching out natural dye sources, and also has an extensive dye garden in Las Cruces.  The first day of class we used Black Walnuts, Brazilwood, Chamisa (Rabbitbrush), Cochineal, Cota (Navajo Tea), Logwood, Osage Orange, and Snakeweed (with and without Iron). On the second day we used plants exclusively from Ric’s garden – Cosmos (Yellow and Orange), Hibiscus flowers, Hollyhocks, Madder, Indigo, Marigolds, Pecan and Goldenrod.

It was hot work, but very rewarding. Checking on the boiling pots, checking the process, straining the “brew” and adding the fiber to the pot – lots of heat! I usually do pretty well when I am dying “under supervision”. On my own I tend to overthink the process and get into all sorts of problems. But at this point the lightbulb has illuminated – I have a focus on the type of fiber that I am going to be experimenting on in my weaving.  Also, I really want to focus on the desert palate because it is so amazingly versatile with so many options.

Another intriguing aspect of the day was observing the differences in how the dye took to the sample cards that Ric created for us from each pot compared to the variety of yarns each one of us added to the same pot. Since I knew that I had used different tannins for the cellulose-based fibers, I could see the impact of modifying that step of the process. This can be a never-ending science project! I can really appreciate the effort it takes for people who need to replicate colors consistently.  Now I am convinced that it is a black art – even something as unassuming as the type of water or humidity level can change the outcome.

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My Desert Palate

So now I have an amazing desert palate, documented in my notebook for reference when preparing future dye sessions.  I hope to be able to resurrect my favorite outcomes – the Black Walnut, Pecan and Snakeweed with Iron – so I can work those colors into a cool weaving project!

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My Dye Notebook

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Woodpeckers Don’t Get Concussions

Sometimes small truths put life in perspective and help us get through the day.  For Leo Kottke, who played a smoking concert at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix last night, the title remark was his concert opening.

Leo Kottke has been at the fringe of my musical attention for many years, but I never had an obvious and realistic opportunity to see him play in person.  Let’s face it – going to a concert these days is an assault on the senses.  It seems most venues continually find ways to amplify music to the point of hearing oblivion, with lights and flashes to amplify the pain to the infinite level. I don’t appreciate walking out of a concert not being able to hear for three days afterwards.  That said, thank god for performers like Leo Kottke, and venues like the MIM, to bring music back to the level where it can be experienced and appreciated in full resonance, enhancing your mind instead of crushing it in your body.

There is something magical in finding a lone musician on stage, instruments at the ready, plying the craft and producing a personal experience.  Back in the day, in Jersey (New Jersey), my high school friends and I would find ways to get tickets to performers at the Capital Theater in Passaic, NJ. It was a triple X theater by day, so you can imagine parental reaction to that factoid. It was there that we saw Melanie, Jackson Brown, New Orleans, Elvis Costello, among others. But it was in that creaky, stale-smelling old theater that I learned the appreciation of listening to musicians tell and sing their stories, with music being the main attraction, in what could idealogically be described as an elegant and intimate space.

I am sure that there are other modern venues like the MIM throughout the country.  My hats off to them, because it’s that experience that will keep real music alive, at least in my life.

And thank you, Leo Kottke, for helping to keep these venues viable.  Enjoyed the performance. And that “song from the 60’s” you hadn’t played in a while but played last night – it was my favorite of the evening. To quote a former boss of mine, if the past memory is bad, go back and change the memory to the present.

Life is good.

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