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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The Weaving Adventures Continue….

For all my weaving enthusiast friends, I’ve written about my recent trip to Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Great place for a weaving retreat, and a fabulous teacher, too!

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Wisconsin – Not Just About the Cheese!

Arizona August heat meant it was time for Emmett and Caesar (that would be Denny and Claudia) to get on a plane to someplace a little cooler that we’ve never been before.  Wisconsin was a place of many pleasant surprises – more than just cheese! and we certainly loved it.  And there was a matter of checking out part of Michigan’s UP, too. Here is a summary of our 2014 adventure!

Forks, Water, Cheese – Roadtrip 2014

Water, Water Everywhere…

It’s Miller Time

Wisconsin State of (af)Fairs

Riding the Rails

All Things Polish 

Dodging (Rain)drops – All Things Madison

West Lake Winnebago

Family Roots in Hermansville

(A)Door(able) County

Green Bay, Cedarburg and the Way Home

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Fiber Circuiting

Hello, hello, hello.  The past few weeks have felt like a work out circuit more so than working on any given project.  A little of this, a little more of that, working on a lot of things and not really getting anything that I had planned in my head done.  When I get into this kind of a funk, I am more prone to rip things out that are not making me happy.  That said, I was able to complete a shawl with the yarn that I head previously used for a vest, which I totally ripped out after having completed it – yes, I had bound off the last row, sewed the seams and woven in the loose ends.  It was an interesting experience, and having lived through it, I am actually glad I did it.  It was empowering.

IMG_0310What I ditched was the Die Cut vest by Sara Morris; what I valiantly attempted and completed to my satisfaction (but not without a few expletives ) is the  Mount Vernon Shawl by Tanis Grey – with much better results. I still have a lot of the same yarn left.  I might use it to work on mitered squares, or use it as a back drop for some of the weaving samples I just took off my workshop loom.  Ah.  That was another whole project!  I had about 2 yards left on the warp from the Bonnie Inouye workshop, and so I used all the leftover weft bobbins, with various different treadlings from the workshop.  What resulted is a collection of various sizes, shapes and color combos that are quite interesting.  That will have to percolate in my brain for a while.

IMG_0311Speaking of completing things from workshops, I also got busy carding and finishing off the cotton lint (dyed and natural) from the Joan Ruane spinning class.  It’s the skein that is on the top of the picture.  That will have to be used as a weft – I am not going to knit with it because I don’t have enough for something substantial, and I hate a short scarf.  What was really great about this was that I was getting pretty good at spinning at a higher speed and with shorter fibers (no less), so when I work on the good stuff I will be a regular whiz at it.  Life is good.  The skeins that you see below the cotton are this fabulous merino/silk blend from Handwerks, my friend Laura’s hand dyed yarn.  I am using a pattern from DanDo – it’s called Urban Chic and I just started it.  Of course, that was after I ripped out another pattern I was working on that I had saved from 2004.  The directions were terrible, so I won’t embarrass the author.

Can you get the feeling of circuiting through different fiber crafts, picking up one and leaving the other hanging until you circle back to it?

Lastly, here is the finished product of the circular scarf (mobius to those of you who know what that is) that I was working on before Denny’s hip replacement.  Let me tell you, even though it was 90+ degrees outside, the yak/silk/mohair combination was perfect for inside the hospital.  Got a lot of complements, too.  It pays to rip out what you don’t like.

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Fiber Frenzy

Dye Class Skeins 2It’s been a busy day.  Signed up for a dye class at Tempe Yarn and Fiber.  The great part was a that there were only five students, so we pretty much ran the roost and had a blast playing with the colors.  You can see the results.  Fearless color mixing.  Well worth the forty minute drive. Dyeing can be fun, but I am still at the point where I need to be supervised when dyeing.  There is a very strict protocol for “protein” versus “plant” fibers.  For me, it’s a lot safer working with vinegar than soda ash.  Either way, I don’t have a “dedicated area” for dyeing at home, and the number one rule is NEVER use dyeing utensils for food-based activity once you’ve used them for dyeing.  That said, there is so much discovery and fun in the whole process.  It’s a few steps past easter eggs, with a lot of creativity involved.

My Skeins, DryingThe finished product!  I have three skeins that were completed in the class and that are now hanging out to dry.  From the far left – Desert Rocks and Grass.  In the middle, Desert Sage.  At the far right, Cranes on the Platte (see Smithsonian March 2014).  Sunsets, landscapes, cityscapes – all are inspiration for color ways that are awesome when used with yarns.

I had been knitting a vest pattern by Sara Morris – Dye Cut Vest.  I ended up ripping it all out after I was done.  I hated the armholes and it was not a flattering pattern.  I loved the yarn – Meadow, in Fennel, by The Fibre Company – but it will have to find another project to give it life.  These things happen all the time, and when they end up like this, you just have to suck it up and move on.  Part of the party.

Origami Baby KimonoI also just finished this “commission” for my sister – a colleague is expecting a child, congratulations!  Valley Yarns 100% cotton, should work well for the babe in arms.  It sure was soft to work. It took about 12 hours, and went quickly. Once you’ve gotten into the groove of knitting, you find that you’re attracted to projects that give a pleasing tactile interaction with the yarn.  I find if I don’t like the hand of the yarn, it feels like the project takes forever to work (and that is not fun).

My poor spinning has been taking a back seat, and I do miss it.  This past week I managed to finish carding the rest of the cotton slivers we dyed from the cotton spinning class I took (now when was that, again???).  So now it’s a matter of sitting at the wheel.

Bonnie Inouye Bonnie's SamplesBonnie Inouye is a REALLY talented weaver, and I was lucky to take her class this February.  We learned about working color in the warp and utilizing computer programs to design network drafting, turning drafts, and what seemed like thousands of techniques.  Three full days and it felt like a full semester of work!  She’s inspiring, and open to new ideas and methods.  Here’s my humble sample of A parallel, half-curve draft, with a rep weave variation:

My Workshop Sample

Ha.  And you thought I was sitting on my lazy butt all this time.

IMG_0265After the workshop I flew out to Santa Clara to visit with my sisters in fiber and play at the Stitches Convention.  Talk about an unlimited source of inspiration!  Most people walk about wearing something they’ve made.  In this picture with Laura and Jocelyn, in Laura’s Handwerks booth, I am wearing my Eco-vest, in a linen-cotton blend.

My Finished ScarfI did manage to finish my linen scarf.  I’ve worn it a few times, but really have to break it in to get it softer.  With time, with time.  Overall I am happy with the way it came out.  I managed to minimize the loom waste, and I really enjoy working with linen.  My next project will be an attempt at making a variation of the Hunger Games Catching Fire scarf that Katniss wears when she is hunting in her home District, 12.  I have a lot of good leads on patterns, it’s a matter of pulling the salient structures from them and weaving a few samples.

Pure Elegance, Moss StitchLast but not least, here is a project that I am working on as a fun diversion for a no-brainer scarf that will look great and has such a decadent hand to work – Yak, silk and mohair, hand spun.  This one is all for me!!!!!

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