Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fire Snowflakes


My friend Lynnette is the weaving exchange coordinator for the Guild of Canadian Weavers and once again, the annual exchange is a go! This year I'm trying to be ahead of the game and get my warp on early. I know full well that 'stuff' happens over summer and things get delayed. One of my favourite patterns that has stood me in good stead over the years is a snowflake twill. The one I decided to use again is by Jane Evans and you can find it in Weavers magazine, issue #18 Third quarter 1992.

I wove five runners in this stunning pattern in 2003 as gifts for five guild friends who lost their homes in a terrible forest fire that ran into the neighbourshoods surround Kelowna, BC. They not only lost their homes but also their looms, stash...everything! Weavers from all over and even the USA sent them their surplus stash and equipment to get them back on their fibre feet again. I decided to help put handwovens back into their homes again by weaving a runner for each family for when they had a home and table once more. That was a terrible year for heat, tinder dry conditions and forest fires. We ourselves were on evacuation notice three times. Definitely one for the history books!

Anyhow, I digress...the exchange is quite simple. You are given the basic info: cost, planned project (plus size, pattern or other input) and then you have from March to the end of September to get it woven and sent in. This time it's weave a runner, get a runner. Size 14-16" wide by minimum 36" long. My warp is mercerised 2/16's cotton from Brassard's, sett at 30 epi and a 6 yard warp to do two runners and two smaller cloths, for a total of roughly 5 yards. The ends per inch is slightly more open than I would normally used for twills and 2/16's, but I know this sett works in this case. I have put this warp on my Louet Spring (Lilibet) and now have one runner done and the second started. Here's the warp being spread in the built in raddle:
Then here's a tidier looking warp being tightly wound on. The threading went well. This pattern and I are old friends. I swear I could recite it from memory in my sleep! No errors (nice) and then I had to get my weft ready. I decided to go with natural linen against the cream cotton for a softer look. It would also be more versatile for an exchange recipient, and the spares will make nice gifts, or even be used in our home. Now there's a good idea!

Linen can be quite wirey and spring off the bobbins or pirns. A trick I learned some time ago is to use dampened weft. There are rules though:
  • if you start with damp weft, do so for the entire piece or project.
  • allow to dry before being rolled up on the cloth beam (mildew is nasty)
  • keep bobbins in fridge if to be used within 48 hours, and freezer if longer.
  • extra bobbins can be stored, with a note to size of linen in the freezer after completion.
  • use a temple to minimize draw in and advance frequently.

I tightly wind the pirns with in this case 30/2 natural linen, and then take a clean facecloth and dampen it evenly. Wrap around the pirns and then place in a zip loc bag and leave in the fridge overnight. Take out only one bobbin at a time and rewrap the others. It's surprizing how fast it dries, especially this time of year. I'm going slowly as this is a treadle as threaded pattern so there are some interesting twill progressions to pay keen attention to. I also try to stop weaving at the end of a pirn and avoid starting a new one near the day's end. I don't want to leave it there over night, or cut off to store. Here's some shots of the work under way:


I tried to get the right colours here for you but its somewhere between the two. It's subtle...
Here's another showing my hemstitching and border for the second runner. I plan to twist the fringes to a shorter 2 or 2 1/2 inches so they are reversible. I had hoped to have this finished so Lynnette could take it home with her, but not so. It will have to be mailed later...


Next post will be the placemats which are coming along albeit slowly. It's also time to start winding the warp for the shawl commission too so I'll be doing this as time permits. It will be a busy week though as Lynnette and her hubby are coming to visit. Just a lot of yapping and catching up and the only weaving will be verbal.... but lots of it! Looks like we might be going back to Salt Spring Island but this time we'll visit Treenway... silk heaven!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Star Performer: Let's look at Colour

Not too long ago a weaving friend asked me for some input on a new project she's planning. She had two large cakes of wool she had picked up at a sale and she loved the colours. They were rich teal: one slightly more blue, the second more towards the yellow. She wanted to know what other colours would work with them. I tossed ideas around but realized that we needed help.... some guidance.

Then I remembered my The Colour Star by Johannes Itten. It's a small box set consisting of a colour wheel and eight overlays and also an instruction sheet. I bought it some years ago after a workshop and tucked it away and to be honest, hadn't given it another thought. Well, I got it out and we set up the wheel and then checked out the various combinations. She went home with a whole new colour combinations in mind than what she thought she would be using!

It seems that there was no given 'order' to colour, other than rainbows. It was a process learned by artists as they worked and was highly subjective and mainly intuitive. There was a start made to organise colour by Phillip Otto Runge in 1810. He used a globe to demonstrate his theories. Itten produced a star in 1921. ( if you click on Itten's name, it will take take you to a brief bio on him.) It's based on the primary colours of yellow, red and blue. All colours are made by mixing combinations of these and produce secondary colours of orange, violet and green. Six further colours complete the wheel.

First, there is the true colour or hue; if you add white to it then you get a tint; if you add black to it you get a shade ( think shadows!). When two colours are opposite on the wheel, or complimentary, where they meet they create gray. Ever heard the term "it's all shades of gray" ? Well it seems that gray can be quite helpful in showing us the depth of shade of a colour in a piece by using ten shades of gray as a scale. If colours are of a similar value of colour, they will work together better. Like I said, I'm no expert and there is a great deal of substance to the theory!
So back to the Star for amateurs like me. Let's look at what the Star does.

The first disc is set down over two colours and they are 'complimentary' to each other. Where they meet they produce gray. I have selected two cones of orlec here to show them in the flesh ( so to speak )
Next is a triad arrangement. I think my orange shade is too pale or doesn't have enough depth of shade.
This one shows a primary colour, blue and two split complimentary. This is where you select colours on either side of the true complimentary. This is getting to be fun. I was pulling out cones from my stash and playing with different combinations!
This is a tetrad where you use four or more colours on the wheel. I thought these looked nice together.
Here's a tetrad based on 'opposites' and I found a stronger orange. It now holds its self better with the other cones. More intense colour saturation.

Now this overlay is getting serious! It's a triad that uses colours on opposite sides of a true triad. I had to start using cottons to augment my orlec selections. {Orlec comes in 90 shades by the way...but I'm a bit shy of that!}
This is another example of using a primary and now four split complimentary's. While these colours do work together, I'm not that crazy about this combination.

This final overlay gives you a hexagon or six pointed star. If you study closely you'll see it incorporates three complimentarys. If you get the colour values or depth of shade just right, the potentials would be stunning! This one is a better balance than the previous overlay for me.
Now the Itten Star is wonderful and I am definitely planning to use it much more and most likely with each project to get more comfortable with my colour choices. It is a bit pricey to buy and my box says $41.50 but this was purchased way back when the Canadian dollar was only worth a pittance against the US dollar. I have another useful colour aid that I found at the artist supply store 'Opus'. It was about $10.00 and about as helpful! It's a colour wheel...

By turning the outer disc you can see what happens when you add white, black, varying shades and there's even a gray scale.

On the reverse there are the diagrams showing complimentary, split complimentarys, and triads and so on. A bit fiddlier than the star perhaps. I must admit that I would use the Star as it seems handier (read simpler!) for my needs.
I had a good scan of my book shelves to see what else I have that is 'new to me' and found this book:

There are some great pages in here on colour theory and even though it's geared towards spinners and carding machines, it all applies to us weavers. There's a gallery of projects made with hand dyed yarns that have been blended and hand spun. Some are woven tapestries! The colours are wonderful in how they work together.

While this book by Deb Menz is now on my coffee table to read through, I found that I had virtually no other books on colour theory. What I do have is this delightful book by Victoria Finlay called "Color: Journey Through the Paintbox". It's a delightful read on the history behind various natural colours used by early man through to 19th century artists. The author did extensive research and traveled to find sources and answers. It was an enjoyable read...

Studio update: I have been slowly plugging away at the place mats and runners. More on the runners next time! I have been experiencing some difficulty with my left knee and right ankle. I'm heading off to get an x-ray on the knee this week and see what's going on.
It's also time to start pulling the warp for the shawl commission. I'm still weaving and planning but just taking it slower!
So I'll close this time by wishing you a Happy Solstice. Yup, summer has arrived!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The 'Blur' that was My Week!


Aren't these cute? They are Amigurumi and you can check them and their other kind here. These were made by my daughter who lives in North Carolina and we just got them as a gift from her. Beautifully tensioned crochet! I love her girly flower :) They are going to my studio and sit by my two real cactus's, that look suspiciously like these two! Yup, my daughter is knitting, crocheting and playing with a drop spindle now.... I keep sending fibre stuff in each care parcel and slowly infiltrating yarn and such into her life. The spinning wheel and loom can't be too far behind!

I have had a busy time of it lately with my sweet mother in law "Granny" staying with us for a week. While the tone of the visit was laid back, as any of you know, company in the house means a heightened sense of 'hostess duty' and so meals and generally the whole time is like being on the job. We're are talking my *Italian* / Canadian mother in law here! We showed her the local area and dined in Cowichan Bay. We also did a day trip to Victoria and drove her around and saw the sights such as Oak Bay, the view of the Olympic Peninsula Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington State, the Government buildings down by the inner harbour, the quaint older buildings and Chinatown. I was amazed at how busy the streets were and there were crowds everywhere. Tourist season has hit! While there we did visit one of my favourite stores:
I made a couple of purchases: a linen hankie from France for my MIL and a small table 14" x 36" runner for our table. 'Scuse the lumps.... I haven't ironed it yet! The last photo is a close up of the details. The piece is well starched but I believe it's cotton and the work is hand done. Hard to tell with the starch!


Meanwhile, our garden and grassed areas are growing leaps and bounds! Where my MIL lives gets very hot and is also *very* dry. As she likes to say, it's only irrigation that keeps it from being a desert! The idea of lush green trees and vegetation was a constant source of amazement for her. We had a variety of birds at the feeders, squirrels playing in the trees and there was the constant search for 'Peter' our resident rabbit.

The ferns have shot straight up and unfurled...

This is the view from my kitchen window, but taken at ground level. The tall leggy fern in the fore ground is bracken.

I have a large rock garden in the back yard and the saxifrage were craning their necks to the sun!
While the more sedate columbine relaxed in the shade...


Meanwhile in the house, my snake plant (also known as Mother in law's Tongue) had produced a flower spike; it's third since 1994! It just so happens that my mother in law, Lorraine had given me a single stalk to start back in the mid 90's and it was wonderful she was here to see it bloom! The blossoms literally 'ooze' syrup and the petals are very delicate.

A close-up...
The flower stalk....
Then the day arrived for Lorraine to go back home and were up bright ( okay, not so bright) but early at 5 am to see her to the bus. The house sure seems empty without her. We hope to go to see her and visit in September.

The very next day, my local guild: The Tzouhalem Weavers and Spinners Guild had their annual pot luck and AGM. Good time, great food! The show and tell was amazing as well...

This is a fine strand of copper wire knitted by Alison. It's pulled through a hole in wood to elongate it after. The flexibility of the coil was surprising.

Alison also makes baskets from nothing more than string and yarn. The results are lovely. She teaches this method and I hope to take her class sometime. Great new way to use more stash!

This had to be my favourite though... simply lovely! The blending of colours really makes it special. Here Toni shows a wrap she made. Variegated chenille stripes in the warp made for a wonderful effect. It's treadled as plain weave. { Damselfly: you might be interested to know that's the cotton chenille you gave me as a prize and I passed it on. Look what you started!)

One member, Els, brought along an antique textile mill equipment. It's for making weaver's knots when a thread breaks between the spools in the cotton mills. Children were given jobs joining ends. It's says 'Boyce Weavers Knotter, Gastonia, NC. USA , patented 1912'. It's in working order.

I think you could hurt yourself with this is you weren't careful!

This is Els, who is Dutch by birth, showing a lovely crocheted cap that is part of a district costume from the Netherlands.

Here Gudrun is showing us her lovely silks scarves. The sheen and drape was beautiful. Her weaving is impeccably done. Close up of two of Gudrun's scarves

So, now I have a mountain of laundry to tackle, the weeding needs to be done in the gardens outside and the lawns all need mowing. Back to normal!
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