My last weaving was full of colour, with lots of colour changes and ends to weave in. I needed a palate changer, a little bit of simple weaving that I didn’t really need to think about. I looked at the stash on my shelf and pulled a dark blue, a light blue, and white to create a striped warp. These colours in the warp would provide a nice foundation that would “go with” several weft choices. I wanted to randomly use up bits and pieces, and not think too hard about what I was weaving as I cleared my mind for more complicated designs.
I happily made my warp, with a simple graphic and wound the colour blocks and started to dress my loom. I took a break and looked up, and my husband was watching Blue Jays baseball. I looked at the team uniforms, and then my warp, and . . . now that is all I see.
It confirms my belief that nothing really happens in a vacuum, and everything that is going on around us affects our choices.
I wove a long, long run of fabric, mostly plain weave with small inserts of twill. The weft is composed of the left-over thrums of past projects knotted together, creating a rustic feel with random colour changes. Thrums are the scraps of warp threads that are left over on the end of the loom, called loom waste, after the handwoven cloth has been cut off. These small scraps of yarn can be knotted together and used for weft in a new project. The knots become points of interest in the story. In Japanese weaving, this technique is called zanshi. In addition to the plain weave, I added small sections of twill to add to the story.
The thrums were all 2/8 cotton, and no real thought was given to colour changes. Just tie on the next piece and keep going. No ends to weave in.
I will probably sew this fabric into a set of tote bags. It feels good to recycle the small lengths of cotton thread to a useful purpose.
Following along with the Jane Stafford Online Guild, I have worked through Episode 5.2 Canvas Weave. I rearranged the draft to weave napkins instead of a sampler. Canvas weave is a fun and easy one shuttle weave. Jane gave us lots to think about, and different ways to create canvas lace. For the napkins, I choose two colours of 2.8 cotton: natural and flax. I put the canvas lace in the centre, and smaller amounts of canvas towards the outer edges, creating a nine-patch square when woven as drawn in. Throughout the episode, Jane Stafford gave us many variations, so we went beyond the simple Tromp-as-writ. I wove 14 napkins in total. Here are my four favourites.
More fun with turned twill, this time with a song. I have been thinking about how to turn music into weaving for a while now, and so I took the plunge. I started with a simple song, in this case “Row, row, row your boat”.
From this, I made a profile draft based on the relative value of the notes. So, an eighth-note has a value of 1, a quarter-note has a value of 2, a dotted quarter-note has a value of 3, a half-note has a value of 4, and a dotted half note has a value of 6. Using this information, I created the profile draft shown below. I looked at the first line of the song. The first note is a dotted quarter note, with a value of 3, so I put 3 squares on the bottom line. The second note also has a value of 3, this went on the second line. The third note has a value of 2, and back to the bottom line. I worked my way through the first line, Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Then I mirrored the draft back to the beginning of the line.
I let each square of the profile draft become one unit of turned twill. The squares on the bottom row were threaded 1,2,3,4 for each black square and the black squares on the top row were threaded as 5,6,7,8 for each square. I used 2/8 Tencel in the colour order given. The multi-blue was a beautiful skein of Tencel/bamboo, hand dyed by Teresa Ruch that I had been hoarding for some time.
I wove the first scarf in Periwinkle Tencel, using the relative value of the notes of the second line, “Merrily, merrily, merrily ,merrily, life is but a dream”, again mirrored, to create the border design.
For the second scarf, I switched to a light olive green and used a repetitive sequence for the turned twill design. this scarf has an iridescent glow, and I love the way the colours look different on each side.
These towels are modelled after those shown in Jane Stafford Online Guild, Season 5, Episode 1, turned twill. I changed the colour order, making cherry the largest colour. Then I have stripes of yellow, grey, apricot separated by black to complete the asymmetrical warp. I loved watching the colours advance, and recede, and even disappear through the manipulation of turned twill. Jane’s explanations and examples cleared up any doubts and confusion I had about using turned twill.
Weaving these towels became a journey of joy and exploration.
A change in weft colour from magenta in one towel to cherry in the next, gives a different tone to the towel.
Alternating stripes, changing the turn of the twill adds dimension. Here the grey stripe in the first towel looks almost blue against the orange. And in the narrow strips of apricot and cherry, the shift moves from weft-faced to warp-faced twill.
Dots and dashes are achievable as well.
And weaving with these colours and adding in more made these towels a joy to weave, because everything looked so different from what I thought I was going to see. Hard to believe they all came from the same warp. Colour is the star of these towels, but turned twill is a strong supporting cast.
I continue my journey of finding ways to communicate through the woven cloth. These scarves have what looks like random stripes, but a message is hidden within.
The stripes form letters, which form words of love. I turned to an early career in computer coding and remembered binary codes which use zeros and ones to create a key.
It was simple enough to let each “zero” be a dark thread and each “one” be a light thread.
I coded the message: “Love You Forever” and mapped out the warp placement.
I threaded this as a broken twill, eight threads per letter, and changed the direction of the twill for each new letter. I wove one scarf with dark yarn, Harrisville Shetland Midnight, and one with light yarn, Harrisville Shetland Cornflower. 10 ends per inch, 10 picks per inch. The Harrisville Shetland bloomed on washing and here we have two delightful scarves woven with love.
This in the first weaving that evolved out of reading the story of Penelope, a woman from a long time ago, who was waiting for her husband to return, and passed the time while waiting, weaving during the day and unweaving again through the night. And I started thinking about what we think about while we are weaving. And I thought about how many of us weave for loved ones who are not at home with us. Family and friends who have gone off to serve in the military, or to work overseas, or to a different part of our country. Children who have gone off to school, or to start their own life in a different city. Sisters and friends who are no longer close by. Others that we cannot be with during these Covid times.
We are makers. We make things with our hands and with our hearts. My daughter says that when she cooks with love, the food always tastes better. And it really does.
Then I thought about how we can let our loved ones know how much we care and respect who they are, what they do, and where they go. And I thought about real messages, secretly coded into the cloth. I looked around and started seeing bar codes everywhere, on practically everything we buy and use. Bar codes are a series of light and dark lines, the order of which describe a product. The bar code is scanned, and the computer interprets the code and identifies the product. So, I searched the internet and found out the order of the light and dark lines of the bar code that represent the letters of the alphabet. It really is a form of colour and weave: For instance, A is DDLDLDLLDLDD.
I simplified it a bit so that every letter represents 12 threads in a light and dark pattern. Then I thought of a person who is going off to travel on a grand adventure, and I coded the message “Go, make memories” into the scarves.
So, a subtle message embedded into the cloth. I made the scarves in a lighter and a darker colour of Fox Fibre naturally coloured cotton, light green and coyote, and I separated each letter with a dark brown thread of 2/8 cotton. Sett at 20 ends per inch. I wove the first scarf in straight twill, with a border in brown basket weave and twill.
The second scarf on the same warp was woven in plain weave with organic cotton in the colour “Curry”, and naturally coloured “Coyote”
So, certainly not a coded message that can be read with a bar code scanner, but you, the weaver, know that the message is there. What messages do you weave into your cloth?
2020 was a year of isolation and introspection. I spent much more time in and around home, and much less time out in the world. At first, the isolation was hard, but as time went on our guilds figured out how to meet and have programs, and rhythms began to emerge. It was good to have meetings again, even if they were virtual, and this pushed me to have something finished each month for show and tell.
In 2020 I wove 70 items on 23 different warps. Three of my favourites from 2020 are:
In Chocolate Mint, I love the big blocks and stripes that come up in just two colours. I also like how the hand and look of the fabric changes when I moved from weaving with cotton for the towels, to weaving with silk for the scarves.
Overshot is silk just glows. Changing the background colours added interest and movement as the colours shifted.
Here the simple plain wave structure is combined with symmetrical stripes and soft, absorbent linen. It feels like a heritage piece.
In 2020 I became more confident as a weaver. A highlight was being published in, and on the cover of the Sep/Oct 2020 issue of Handwoven magazine. I have also become more mindful in my weaving and I am learning to be more present and focused in what I do.
Moving into 2021 I am starting a long-term, multi-part project and building a collection. Well, if every textile has a story behind it, then it stands to reason that every story has a textile connected to it. I am gathering stories, myths, fables, legends and fairy tales that have some aspect of weaving or spinning or textiles involved. I want to examine how the weaving, spinning, or other textile impacts the story and the characters. I am re-imagining the stories with a textile twist, and then designing a textile inspired by the story. Then that textile will become part of the collection. So, you will hear more about this project as the year moves along.
The first story I am working on is Rumpelstiltskin, and the textile concept is spinning straw into gold. From a spinner’s perspective, if the “straw” of the story is flax, then the “gold” must be a lustrous linen thread. The value of textiles throughout history would, at times, overshadow the value of gold.
I have designed a linen table runner “Rumpel’s Runner” to be this story’s textile. This project is currently on my loom, awaiting completion.
Moving into 2021 all three looms are dressed,
The Baby Wolf holds “Rumpel’s Runner”, in fine 40/2 linen in natural flax colour. It is hard to see the pattern on the loom, but it will become more evident once it is off the loom and washed. Weaving here requires full care and attention, keeping in mind the springiness of the linen, and a sixty-pick pattern count. It is hard to see the lace pattern emerging on the loom, and some unpicking happens when I get lost. I am enjoying the look and feel of the linen.
The Queen is dressed with a simple scarf in naturally coloured cotton, light green and coyote brown, and accents of 2/8 cotton in dark brown. Easy and restful weaving, I love the feel of the cotton in my hand, and watching the web build up is easy on my eyes. I understand that the colours of the naturally coloured cottons will deepen and intensify upon washing, so I am looking forward to seeing the difference.
You can see a theme emerging here of natural colours in natural materials. Calm, restful, cool cellulose.
The Ashford table loom hold a carpet warp to weave mug rugs based on the samples in Jane Stafford Online Guild episode 4.9-Weft Faced Twills. I decided to weave the samples mug rug size to help my materials stretch further. With only 69 ends and sett at five ends per inch this warp was super fast to get dressed on the loom. The weaving however is super, super slow. It took me three full hours to weave one 6-inch-wide, 7-inch-long mug “carpet”. My daughter suggested that these be called mug carpets instead of mug rugs, because they are very heavy and dense. Here I get to play with colour and symmetry, and graphic division of space. A lot of design considerations go into each little carpet. I expect it will take me a good long while to work through five yards of warp.
Wishing the best for everyone as we move into the new year. Happy Weaving.
These tea towels came off the loom just in time for Christmas Gift Giving.
The towels are a combination of twill and basket weave inspired by JST Online Guild Episode 4.7.
I pulled out all my partial spools of blue 2/8 cotton – pale blue, chambray, cobalt, royal, periwinkle, and marine blue. These went into the warp in different twill threadings. Then I used black 2/8 cotton to form the separating stripes, threaded as basket weave.
I wove the towels using different colours and different twill treadling ideas.
One towel was woven using only basket weave treadling.
Changing colours, I used up more partial spools. This one has light purple as weft.
The last one I wove, using the colours and threadings “as-drawn-in”, or “trop as writ”, where the weft colours and twill patterns follow the order of the warp threading.
My warp was six yards long, and 21 inches wide in the reed. I wove five different towels, approximately 33 inches long each, and a small sample.
These towels were a delight to weave. My frugal self enjoyed the opportunity to use up odd bits of yarn, and the project provided an ever-changing “loom landscape” with shifting patterns and colour changes. I was pushed to weave just a few more rows each time I sat down at the loom.
Each year, through the month of December, I set up my planning calendar for the new year, to determine what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year, with respect to my weaving and spinning goals. There are so many ideas and projects floating through my mind, but I have to be realistic about what I can accomplish in one year. Throughout 2020 I have kept an “Ideas List” on my computer, and when I see something, I find interesting or think of something I might like to do, or something I need to do, I put it on my ideas list. Now in December, I look at the list and make decisions on which ideas will move onto the 2021 project list. Do I ever finish everything on my annual schedule? No, but it gives me a direction and a goal post. When I fall into an overwhelm situation, I can easily decide what to drop. Or, if an opening appears I can go back to my idea list.
Most of the time I begin with the end in mind. I ask myself a question – at the end of thiswhat do I want to have in my hand? And of course, what is this?
Sometimes, the this is a simple one-off:
A friend’s birthday is coming up and I want to make a scarf for her
I want to gift tea towels to my family members for Christmas
I want to make samples to try out a new technique or a new yarn
Sometime, the this is driven by guild requirements or another weaving event. These pieces usually have a deadline:
Our guild is putting on a display to follow our study of Swedish textiles
Our study group is studying double weave
Our guild has been asked to participate in a show at the museum
To create an item of clothing to enter in the ANWG conference fashion show
I want to create pieces to sell at our guild’s annual show and sale
I want to create samples for a workshop I will teach
I want to weave the samples for each lesson of the JST Online weaving guild
Sometimes the this is more complex, more nebulous, more overreaching and will involve a series of coordinated pieces. These project series could take several months or years to complete, no rush.
I want to create a series of pieces to memorialize the life of my mother and grandmother
I want to create textiles to represent music, a song, a story, or a movie that resonates with me
I want to create a series of shawls that show the evolution of fashion over the centuries
A challenge: If I could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party what would I wear? What would they wear? What would the table settings look like? What would the upholstery on the chairs look like? What would I serve?
I want to work through one of my weaving books, (For example “Weave Classic Crackle and More” by Susan Wilson) and make pieces to reinforce the learning.
Now, I take out my calendar for 2021 and start filling it in. First go in the hard deadline dates: Guild meetings, show dates, birthdays, anniversaries, workshops, and conference dates. Then I look at each of these dates and decide if I need to have anything finished for these dates. For instance, until this COVID-19 thing is cleared up, for 2021 there are no conferences or shows scheduled yet. I do have a friend’s Birthday coming up in April. I have a 50th wedding anniversary for a couple in August, and a vow renewal event for another couple in August as well. And family tea towels for Christmas are traditional. I’m not sure exactly what I am making for each of these events, but I know that I will have to do something. Working back from these deadline dates, I schedule the project to be completely finished one week before the event. So, for example, working backwards from completion date, and being generous with the time frame, because, you know, things happen, I would schedule the Christmas tea towels as follows:
December 18 – Christmas towels completed
December 15 – all towels hemmed
December 11 – towels off the loom and ends zig-zagged and wash, dry, press
Nov 20 – start weaving towels
Nov 13 – dress the loom for tea towels
Nov 6 – measure warp for towels
Oct 23 – gather or order materials for towels
Oct 16 – design/plan warp for towels.
Each of these dates are marked on my planning calendar. I would create this kind of time line for each project that need to be completed by a certain date.
Next, I schedule in the soft deadline dates. Some of these are pretty open ended, but I schedule them nonetheless. They fit around the hard deadline projects, and I can usually work on more than one thing at a time. Each piece will be in a different part of the process.
For instance, I am following along with the JST Online Guild projects. The episodes go live every five weeks, so I would look at my calendar and once I know the date the episodes will go live and the topics, I will decide if I am going to do a particular project. I look for a three-week period between when, for instance, episode (1) goes live, and episode (2) goes live to dedicate to the project. I want to fit the project in that three-week window, which is doable, because the pattern and material and sett are given, so it goes on the loom, woven, off and finished within the window. If my calendar is already occupied for that time frame, or I don’t have the right materials, or the loom is otherwise occupied, then I can defer a project to November/December/ early January. In any case, I want to complete the episodes for this season before the new season begins. All of the episode projects are scheduled in my calendar.
Study Groups and Self-Directed Learning: These projects require time for research and design. Time is blocked off in the calendar for this, and then the actual project activities as described above are scheduled, once the research and design is completed.
Long-term, overarching, complex, multi piece project. I pick only oneoverarchingtopic to work on throughout the year. This may mean more than one woven piece, but they will all be related to the chosen topic. These are the pieces that define me as an artist, where my artistic vision and voice are found, that will develop as part of my legacy. They take time. I will block off large chunks of time to develop and define the theme. To brainstorm. To incubate. To research. To sample. To design. To produce. To reflect. To revise. Again, and again. These projects move as fast or as slow as they must. But by blocking out time devoted to the theme, it keeps the project moving forward.
Documentation and Reflection: I block out one afternoon a week to work on documentation and reflection. I keep a studio log and file for each project to record hours and materials used. This helps me determine a price if I choose to sell the item, and gives each piece value. It also helps me know how long it will take to make a similar item. After each project all the relevant paperwork and samples are gathered together in the file and stored for future reference. I also fit in time to sit in silence with myself and reflect on what I am doing, how things are going, what went well, what was challenging, what do I want to change, where do I go from here?
Of course, things will happen throughout the year that can change my plans: the birth of a baby, a new family member, the guild could be invited to participate in a show, a conference opens up, a study group changes topic. Or, on reflection, a finished piece may propel me on a tangent of deeper exploration. Or, I could really dislike something enough to abandon a course and cut it off the loom and change direction. But, going into January, I have a plan and a schedule, I know I can meet deadlines, and keep moving towards my goals.
I have three active looms in my studio. The Queen is the workhorse, 4 shaft, 48 inches wide, 6 treadles. The tie-up mainly stays in a plain weave / 2/2 twill format, and The Queen is used for these straightforward weaves. Loomella is an 8 shaft Baby Wolf, 26 inches wide, 10 treadles. Used for 4 or 8-shaft projects that fit in 26 inches.
The third loom is an 8 shaft Ashford table loom, 32 inches wide, on a stand. The Ashford is used for 8 shaft projects that require more than 10 treadles, or have frequent tie-up changes. Currently it is naked.
I spend 25 to 30 hours per week in my studio, taking care of all of the planned processes and projects described.
Here we have a couple of simple half-aprons, with gathered skirts, woven in plain weave. To accommodate loom width, the apron is woven sideways, with top and bottom on the selvedges. The warp for the bottom side of the apron is solid charcoal gray, and the remainder of the warp has narrow 4 and 4-thread stripes in charcoal and natural coloured cotton.
Here is an image of the layout and cutting diagram. This then, fits a loom that is more than 28 inches wide. For an even narrower loom, this could be woven in 23 inches to accommodate the skirt, and the waistband and ties could be woven lengthwise after the skirt.
Once off the loom, the fabric was turned sideways, and the side hems on the skirt were sewn and pressed. The waist band was cut to 25 inches long and the checked edge of the apron skirt gathered to fit the waist band. Then the ties were stitched lengthwise to form a tube, turned right side out and attached to the ends of the waistband with right sides together. The top of the waist band was folded down to cover all the raw edges, and stitched down, and there it is!
The fun of creating a more “neutral” warp is that any colour can be added in the weft. The weft is woven in narrow 4 and 4-thread repeats resulting in gingham check for the top of the apron, and creating a bottom border in stripes. For one apron I used a turquoise and white 4 and 4 pick pattern to make the gingham check. In the second apron I used lilac and charcoal for a more muted gingham. Below is a close-up of the fabric samples.
These aprons remind me of growing up in the 50s and 60s, and my mother, who always wore an apron in the home as she went about her days. Food preparation from fresh ingredients always took a little longer, and was always served at the table. The apron came off and was hung on the hook beside the refrigerator as we sat down to dinner. The television was turned off and the phone went unanswered as we ate the meal and talked of our respective days. The focus was on good food and family ties.