Thursday, September 28, 2017

Its About Time

The signs are clearly starting to show.... summer is "done and dusted" and autumn is officially here.   As of October 1st we will have been here in our new home one year.  A year that flew by!   We have no regrets about our move to this home and simply love it.  We spent last winter looking at what needs to be done here and this summer we got busy and replaced some sealed window units, re-roofed the sheds (we had a leak),  checked our perimeter drains around the house (we get a lot of rain in the winter!), we're getting leaf guard protection on the gutters (no more cleaning clogged gutters and climbing ladders) and in a couple of weeks time we're getting some rooms painted to freshen them up. We already have a list started for some jobs for next year :  new kitchen sink and faucet, get one of two runs of side fencing replaced (a joint effort with the neighbours) and possibly more interior painting.  There's always something that needs tweaking!

After we recently went to Vancouver and saw the grand kids and returned home, I found my feet very painful again with arthritis and it hurt to walk, let alone treadle. So I took a rest and wound warps instead and wove when I could for short periods of time.   I'm waiting on  seeing a surgeon about my right foot, but the left is painful now too. Getting old(er) sucks!  So the studio has not been as busy as it normally is.

It seems I wasn't quite done with the last draft and tie up on the loom. I inherited a couple of 'seconds' over the years as table runners for our bedroom furniture but our night tables remained bare. This seemed to be a logical time to fix that and weave some up for our home.  I had the same warp and weft yarns on hand, the draft in hand and tie up all done.   They may not have been very long runners but they still had all the hemstitching!  In fact, it seemed like all hemstitching interspersed with a short run of weaving.  The day they were washed it was raining outside and so the rack was set up in the house to dry.

Tails were snipped, and then a hot time on the steam press and ironing board  and they were ready for some pictures.   There is also one longer runner that's 15.5 by 40 inches in length.  The warp is 10/2 mercerized cotton (colour: shell) , sett 28 epi and this runner was woven up with 8/2 tencel  (colour: taupe)

I wove two smaller cloths with the same shell mercerized cotton warp but used cream or off white 8/2 bamboo. This way they would match the existing runners in the room

Naked no longer!

close up detail of the pattern

Bruce has a couple of small little end tables in his den that needed a little something too, so I wove these small little covers for them.  I find it rather ironic that I weave miles of cloth, but it took so long to do these small pieces.  "The Cobbler's children have no shoes".

As you can see I reduced the pattern motif to fit the smaller table top.   The LED bulbs in the lamp are a rather warm white so I did my best to reduce the yellow in the computer. Now he can put down the cold beverage while he watches his Blue Jays baseball games.

The older table runners are up high on a tall dresser and an armoire..... so the treadling error isn't on full display but do their job well.   Yes, that's me at about age two or three with my mother.... a long time ago now. 

I held the camera up high and snapped these....  but you can see the new runners have good company.
We're all "matchy-matchy" now!

Some good news:   Two years ago today, I got a whole new left knee and while it was a tough recovery, its made a huge difference in my life! 🎉🎈 I have a 'birthday' for each one of my three artificial joints as each in turn resolved some painful issue  and gave me a new lease on life and, my main goal,  kept me weaving.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Our Big Little Adventure

Waiting on the ferry and hubby took this picture of heron patiently waiting for a meal to swim by!

Heading to Vancouver and area and that's the island slipping away in the wake....  The ferry trip from Nanaimo to Tsawassen terminal is two hours. (We had reservations for both trips and it was a good thing as they were sold out)   The drive from Campbell River to Nanaimo is two hours also.... plus an hour once we reach the other side (if the traffic is good)  So five hours all told, one way.  

This was our view from our hotel window. Beneath all that cloud and smoke are the Golden Ear Mountains.   It didn't smell smokey from all the provincial interior forest fires (plus south in Washington, Montana and Oregon) but the visibility was very poor.  You are aware that's fine particles in the air you are breathing. 

On Friday we found the chalk faeries had been at work and we found this greeting out front!  Grandad took a picture in the dark and good thing he did too, because the next day it was all gone with the rain.

Madison is two and a half.... and all girl!

Ethan is five and a half and just started kindergarten, plus is in ju-jitsu three times a week.

Grandad got busy with the camera and got some great pictures of them separately and together.

That's her little vacuum but he knows she can't make a fuss while the pictures are being taken. She carried it around to keep it away from him and I think I saw it going upstairs to bed later as well. 

Then she had to show us her "Miss Ooh La La" outfit. 

We also like to have our hair do played with and have 'piggies' added.  Just sweep up a bunch of hair and secure it with a small rubber band.  Did I mention she's two and a half? 

Well she sure melted Grandad's heart!  She showed us all her dollies and coloured pictures with him: "Grandad, make a picture of a bird pooping on my brudder's head".... so he did!

I really enjoyed some one on one time with Ethan while she was napping and we talked cars, kindergarten and watched videos of him as a baby.  He sat still with me for almost an hour!  He's a high energy boy.

Then it was all over and time to come home.  Ferry ride home yesterday and then driving up island singing mostly on key and loudly to Freddie Mercury and Queen songs.

Today?  well that would be laundry, and after four days in a kennel, steering Calli into a bath to freshen up.

I was, and will be continuing, to wind some warps, carry on with the small project on the Spring loom  and mentally bracing myself for the crown prep work to come later this week at the dentist.

Fall is coming on fast here and we are starting to think of the end of season clean up in the yard and garden.    Oh, did I tell you that we plan to have the inside of the house painted?  Yeah, that's later this month and they will do the studio first.    Doesn't that sound like fun? 😳

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


From the Sanskrit himalayah, literally "abode of snow," from hima "snow" + alaya "abode." Himalayas:  Mountain range in Asia, extending east through Pakistan, India, China (Tibet), Nepal, and Bhutan.

Also home to yaks. The domestic yak (Bos grunniens) is a long-haired domesticated bovid found throughout the Himalaya region of southern Central Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and as far north as Mongolia and Russia.

Yak wool is derived from the coat of yaks, a herd animal that is found in the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Yaks have long shaggy hair and a dense woolly undercoat. It is this soft fine under hair that is most desirable for manufacturing, and is removed by de-hairing.

So for my third scarf in the series, I chose a 55% silk and 45% yak blend (7600 yds/ lb). My skein label from the current Treenway management says its a 30/2 but my trusty silk chart from the older incarnation of Treenway says its a 32/2 and I would agree. Its much finer.  So this scarf is slightly weft faced but its just fine, because its fine.   I had a fully loaded pirn of it after my recent shawl project so I gave it a test try and liked it against the black silk.

It means the pattern is smaller and tighter. Nice crisp definition.  It makes working with finer threads so worthwhile !   It does add up to a lot more treadling but you get into the rhythm of it and it just adds up.  Weaving with fine threads is just the same as working with 8/2 or larger.... there's just more to each step.   Would you like to try finer threads? Work your way down by progressively using finer .... say if you are used to 8/2 (at 18 for lace, 20 for plain weave and 24 for twills) , then try 10/2 next time (20 for lace, 24 for plain weave, and 28 for twills)....then shift to 16/2 for some finer weight kitchen towels perhaps? (24 for lace, 30 for plain weave, 36 for twills).  All the other steps remain the same; just take your time and work through slowly each step.

Its more work overall so this is why weavers put on longer warps and plan multiple projects.  It makes the set up time really count, and reduces the overall loom waste.  Plus my favourite.... only one tie up for much or all of it! (some weavers will get under the loom mid warp and change it part way so they can get a new look and alleviate the boredom!)

The black silk most likely was originally from either India  (visit the Indian Government Silk Board link), or China. 

Modern Silk Production

Today over half (52%) of the world's silk is produced in China. The second largest production is from India who produces 14%. But silk is an important product for many cultures including Uzbekistan, Brazil, Iran, Thailand, and Vietnam. Japan is often associated with silk but only a small amount of sericulture is done in Japan. Japan is more active in production of silk-based products. (From Wikipedia)

The Chinese word for silk is 'si.'
The Manchurain word is 'sirghe.'
The Mongolian word for silk is 'sirkek.'

This lovely silvery beige is a blending of bombyx mori silk and yak undercoat fibre. Bombyx mori silk is created from moths who eat nothing but mulberry leaves and so the silk produced  is a white or ivory shade.   (Moths that eat other leaves with tannins and / or live in the 'wild' produce silk with a golden hue and its called tussah)

I have heard many weavers say that they are "saving their silk stash for later". That they feel they aren't up to the task. In short, silk intimidates them.   Well, no one warned me I should be nervous and  with the enthusiasm that comes with being a newbie I started weaving with silk about a year into my early weaving days.  Its actually quite strong on the loom and handles the tension well.  Its not a fan of abrasion but not many yarns are so be sure to beam well and allow for draw in, or use a temple.   

It takes a dye beautifully!  Its a protein fibre so use acid based dyes such as Telana, or Lanaset.  Don't let your temperatures go above 180 degrees as high heat will destroy the silk.    I also recommend orvus paste to scour the silks and let them soak a good amount of time to be thoroughly saturated. Many are now using procion mx and using the cold set process to dye silk (or any fibre!)

This picture above show both sides of the scarf. It measures 8 inches by 74 inches plus fringe.  This time I twisted three fringe groups to produce a rounder cord.  It washed and pressed up beautifully and looks quite elegant. It will be a nice statement against a black top coat. 

I added it to my Etsy shop and it sat for almost a week and then suddenly it was sold. The buyer is my client who commissioned me to weave the other two silk scarves!  I can't blame her though because if she is to give the other two away as gifts, then its nice to have one of her own.  So its ready to be shipped off today and so come to a journey's conclusion..... after all the Himalayan region is quite the start in life..... and its will finally land and live in "Weaverville".    I just love that name!

I have become friends with my client through this year of weaving together  and we have had some nice phone chats.  She specializes in spinning and weaving exotic luxury fibres such as Arctic Musk Ox Qiviut which is becoming rare and hard to find. Its essentially a Musk Ox's fine under coat that it naturally sheds each spring.

Hhmm, isn't that what yak fibre is?

In our house, especially with a dog, we have always called the finer undercoat of any critter their "underwear".   This goes way back to the days when we had a parrot named Ronnie and she would preen her feathers and drop all these little white fluffy bits all over the floor.   We would tell her to stop throwing her underwear on the floor.  Well, it seems we were right after reading the definition of qiviut... it also referred to bird's feathers as well as the musk ox.  How about that? 😳  we honestly didn't know that !

Ronnie- a double yellow napped Amazon parrot, and yes she could talk! 

Monday, August 21, 2017

More Than One Road to Walk

This blog post has lots of images and drafts to consider and think over. Grab a tea or coffee and settle in for a discussion on how to get more from your threading and tie up.   This draft in particular:

This is a twelve shaft twill threading and tie up that I used in the last post. Not very complicated......rather simple actually. This draft was also used to produce these scarves, these runners and these guest towels.    Everything I will talk  about here today will be based on this exact threading and tie up.  (except where noted)

Left: used draft for sample 2 (see below) ; Right: woven 'as threaded'
We are also going to lean a bit hard on my Fiberworks weaving software. I use the Silver Plus version as I have a Megado loom to run but the Bronze level will do just fine. It can also be any weaving program that you have to hand if you decide to play with a draft and tie up as we will today.  No program?  no problem!   I recommend downloading the Fiberworks Bronze and it will act as a free demo. You can do everything except save and print.  

Trying a free version of Fiberworks? Made a lovely design and want to save it?  On PC's: use a screen capture; on Mac's use "command-shift-4" and size your area to save as an image on the desk top. Drag to, and save in Photo and then print.    I did all those steps for  80% of the draft images here (and yes, I own my copy! 😊)

Back in the summer of 1996 I bought my first loom and brought it home. It was a 'new to me' four shaft Leclerc Colonial jack loom.  (It could be either jack or counterbalance). My friend and weaving mentor Margaret lived nearby and came over to view the new baby.  She saw I had it threaded for an overshot pattern from Deborah Chandler's Learning to Weave and she sat down to throw the shuttle and see the looms action and shed.  I was a brand new weaver and very much a 'recipe' weaver at that stage of things.  I would take all aspects of the project right off the paper or magazine and follow the instructions closely. Understanding the draft and how the interlacement of the threads worked was a long ways off for me at that point in time! But I still recall watching Margaret joyfully throwing the shuttle and change treadlings on the fly.  Each new 'dance' produced such a different look, and this was my first clue that I had a lot to learn! She was dancing on the treadles and having such a grand time seeing what she could come up with, even laughing as she made a mistake and unwove...(heck, it had looked good  to me!) It created a lasting impression for me.

Margaret in July 2013
But back to now....

I had to get better at getting more from drafts and tie up's due to health reasons. I was unable to get under the loom to change tie up's without hurting my joints or lower back. After three joint replacement surgeries parts of me simply do not bend or move the way they used to anymore.  I shifted to lifting my Spring 90 loom up onto crates and sitting on a stool, which while much better, is still an effort.... especially a full twelve shaft tie up of 144 cords! So why not make it count?  Plan a series of scarves....then put on another warp and weave towels.... and then maybe some quick book marks as gifts?

The threading can remain the same (or change it if you like * more on this later) , the tie up is all done. Simply choose a different way to treadle it and get a new project with a new look. 

I had enough warp leftover after the three silk scarves were done and so I was able to weave more than just a basic sample for my records , but a few variations too.  Sample number one is at the bottom and number 4 is at the top. All are on the same threading and tie up as shown at the beginning of this post and the only thing that has changed is how I treadled it.

Not all drafts will be suitable for this method, but many are, such as twills. That's where the weaving software comes in handy and saves you much time and effort.  Add in your chosen threading and tie up and then play with different treadlings and see what you can come up with! 

If you own the software you can also check float lengths, view the back of the cloth to see if its reversible.  You can click 'save' on the threading and tie up and then add and erase treadlings without having to re-enter the basic data over and over.
The program will allow you to add tabby and remove tabby, weave as network, as drawn in, flip and reverse the sequence and so on and so on.

the entire woven sampler (woven straight, photographed crooked!)
sample 1
... and below is the draft showing the pattern above and you can see how the treadling was achieved. The section showing the treadling of twelve to seven and back again can be done as many times as you like. I wove thirteen repeats on the red scarf simply because that length looked good to me. You could weave it the entire length is you liked!
draft for sample one
Below is one of the recent table runners woven this way. 10/2 mercerized cotton warp and weft, sett 28 epi.
runner using sample one draft

Sample Two: similar to the last, but simply the reverse.  Treadling one to six and back again. Once more, this section can be any length you like.  Even the break between groups is reversed.   There's no reason why you couldn't include both versions in a project. Think of them as weaving 'blocks" and sample one is block one and this is block two.  That would look more diverse, more visual complexity....

sample 2
draft for sample two
runner woven using draft for sample two

I tried paring things down to one repeat of each motif and it produced a neat and tidy, almost tight, groupings. Nice... very ornate!

sample three
draft for sample three
Then I tried weaving it the classic way, "as threaded" (or the old fashioned 'tromp as writ').  It adds more depth, with the two motifs now of a similar size. You could even add in some treadlings of one to twelve and back again...... and twelve to one and back again at the right intervals for an even more expansion of this .... if you wanted to of course!   (Are you seeing the possibilities?)

sample four
draft for sample four
Now I have run out of woven samples to show you, but we still have our drafts to play with.  So the first one is our same trusty twelve shaft threading and tie up, but this time I used the classic twill progression used in many snowflake twill drafts.  Now we have some drama!  (Reverse the twill progression and it will look like an exaggerated large 'X'). Again, add some point twills or straight runs.... or both in between.  How would that change things?

twill progression treadling (snowflake style)

Hmm, point twill all by itself?   It looks like this...

point twill treadling
How about a (seemingly) endless twill run back and forth?  Now that's pretty.

elaborate twill run

Okay, I can hear some of you saying that this is all very well and nice, but you don't have a twelve shaft loom.   So I sat with my Fiberworks and essentially reduced the draft and tie up to something as close as I could get and so these below are the results..    ( and some of you with sixteen shafts will have to adjust upwards)
                                              These drafts below are 8 shaft drafts  

8 shaft: ' as threaded'

8 shaft: woven as per sample one

8 shaft: woven as per sample two

8 shaft: woven as a twill progression (snowflake style)

Now some of you might remember seeing an asterisk * further back in the post.... I'll forgive you if you missed it or forgot!   If you were to decide to try weaving a series of scarves, towels or runners using the same tie up and threading, but after a warp or two you decide you are getting bored, or its not for you, then consider leaving just the tie up in place and using an entirely different threading.  

If you completely weave off one warp and plan to beam on another using the same tie up....  you could take the opportunity to change up the threading at this time too.  Simply play with your weaving program and this time change the threading and treadling variations.   😳     Its a whole new deck of cards to play with!

If you'd like to make a change with an existing warp on the loom: make the best plain shed you can with the current threading and slide in lease sticks *behind the reed and shafts*.  Support in place with cords.  Cut off the cloth in front of the reed.  Pull the warp back from the reed, and heddles.   Re thread taking the warp ends in order as closely as you can from the lease sticks. Threads can be slightly out of sequence back here, but not from the heddles forward.  Sley the reed, tie on or lace on and you are back in business again. 

I hope I have given you something to consider, some inspiration to try something new while leaving something old in place.  It really doesn't matter how many shafts you have as switching up the draft can be done as part of the design and planning phase for any loom.  Perhaps this will also help you to become more comfortable with your existing weaving program.... or to try a free download as a demo and give this some computer play time.   

Oh, and be warned, its addictive!  You start hanging out at places like cruising for drafts (and develop shaft envy.)  I have talked with some weavers who create a new draft and then say they like to weave about two inches on the loom to see what it will look like and they are ready to move on to the next design they can come up with!   

20/2 cotton and fine linen book marks, 48 epi.... and yes its our friend again, the same 12 shaft twill 
12 shaft draft for the left bookmarks

...yet another treadling variation!

If you made it this far, thank you for hanging in there.  If you like the possibilities playing creates, you can also see this older post from October 2011 where I wove three scarves, three different ways.