Monday, April 27, 2009

An Old Standby

So this is where I left you last time.... dangling bait in front of you!

If the warp on my Woolhouse is 4/8 cotton and is thicker than I'm used to, then this is the opposite size wise. It's 2/16's cotton and will be set 36 epi for tea towels. I have some towels woven by a friend of mine, Gudrun and they are 2/16's. I love the hand and feel of them and you can get them into glasses and cups. They wash and dry well and are a bright cheery addition to the kitchen. 'Santa' brought me some 2/16's cotton for Christmas and I had towels planned for it. I wanted to use a bit of the 'new' greens that seem to be popular right now and so they would be more current for the fashion trends.

With no other pressing projects, I decided to put on 12 yards on the Louet Spring "Lilibet". I chose a favourite pattern, my old stand by, that I have used many times before from Strickler's A Weaver's 8 Shaft Pattern Book, #47 "Breaks and Recesses". It's a straight draw 1 to 8 and the treadling is the same. All the pattern is in the tie up! When you get into weaving something like this and develop a rhythm you can actually pick up speed and you go on 'auto pilot', and then your mind is free to think or ? Some call this 'zen weaving'. What I have been doing is plugging into my iPod and listening to music and podcasts and just loving it.

So now that both looms are fully loaded with long warps and between grabbing a few shots in between house chores and gardening, I'm busy! Then I came home to a message on my answering machine. A young woman who was recommended to me by a friend, wants me to weave her a one of a kind shawl. A commission order.... possibly. Now I have to weave off at least one of the warps to free up a loom! Then I recalled that I signed up for a weaving exchange ( "Spring is Sprung' April 1st /09 post)for the GCW to weave a runner. While this may or may not go ahead given the sign up numbers, it would be smart to plan something *now* and get to it. Life happens!

Update: It seems I will be weaving a commission shawl! We met today and details went smoothly. I will have to place a yarn order (darn! :) and the shawl is to be ready for late September.

On the home front: we have decided to go ahead with ripping off and replacing our upper and lower decks, side decks by the studio and re-inventing our front entry way to the house. When you come in the front door you are cramped into a small space and right next door is a room we barely use. So it looks like a small interior wall is going to come down (or create an archway) and a whole new entry will be built! This means new patio doors, new front door and the stairwell inside will all be affected as well. HUGE job and happily most of it's outside. It will make a huge difference to how the house looks and feels for us. We are, after all, staying here! We are starting on this soon and plans are commencing tonight with a contractor coming to look things over.

So it seems to be a time of fresh starts.... for many reasons. Heck even the dog got a spring hair cut and is looking like a plucked chicken! A cute one mind you....
Here's Connor 'before'... note the surly attitude. We agree that this is a mutually disagreeable activity to be endured. We've been doing haircuts for 12 years now, so he knows when the grooming table comes out!

And after, no doubt feeling a draft!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Maybe Third Time's a Charm?

There's something about a new warp on the loom.......such promise in the orderly theads!

I have been working recently with finer threads, so my new project on Emmatrude means an interesting adjustment on my part. It's an eleven yard warp of 4/8 cotton, sett 18 epi for placemats. We have some new everyday china in a soft cream and I thought new placemats would be nice. This grist of cotton is not something I have used very much of, other than the occasional warp at a workshop. While there are a great array of colours available, it's not what I reach for when planning projects. I lean towards finer threads but placemats need to be buffers between a warm plate and your dining room table (or lap!). The warp used about three and a half 1/2 pound cones so there's a fair amount of 'heft' to the warp when the yarn size is this chubby.

What I had in mind was a twill pattern that produced a star burst. On paper it looked grand! I threaded, sleyed and tied up.... and sat down eagerly to weave.
Oops, some threading errors.
Fixed those.
All set to go again.
Now I found the sleying error, which of course was at the centre of the warp.
Okay, fixed that and finally threw the shuttle.
I wove about 6 to 8 inches and stopped.
I *hated* the pattern.
So.... I replaced the lease sticks and pulled everything back through to hang just behind the heddles and went on a search for a replacement draft.

I was looking for something that would produce a reversible pattern, be pleasing to the eye and be a bit bolder. I searched my samples, went through, searched the Complex Weaver cd's I have here, many of my books and also played with my design program: Fiberworks-PCW. I settled on a draft called Rosenkransen. An 8 shaft bold twill. I double checked numbers and confirmed now many repeats given the ends I had on the loom, then *slowly* threaded and sleyed, this time using the autodenter. The warp is black and these eyes are dim! No errors and I'm weaving again. I had company at the house and they saw the work in progress. Now this pattern has some little runs to and fro as part of the overall pattern. This non-weaver said as she pointed to a little run " is this a mistake here? " Then suddenly I realized that the pattern looked disjointed with these 'hiccups'.

Okay, rehang the lease sticks ( which had to be a single stick as there was no plain weave in this draft) I just lifted a lease stick under and made sure that all threads stayed in order and then used the second stick to push all threads straight down out of the heddles. To say I was discouraged was an understatement! I had done everything right the first time: planned the project, printed the draft up and checked it visually. The threading errors were all mine despite the fact I'm not a fast threader. I'd rather work sequentially through a draft and create logical groups of threads, double check and move on. Clearly this hadn't worked for me either!

So it was about this time that my two shawls were modeled at the fashion show and that cheered me up. But clearly this warp was a 'keep me humble' project. I even tried asking Lynnette for help! Maybe she had used this yarn before and had some success she would share? Nope, we both like finer threads...

So the reason this wasn't working as well for me was due (I think) to the possibility that patterns that look great worked up in finer yarns don't always look as good in heavier weight yarns. A good thing to note and file away for the future. If I ever use 4/8 cotton again that is.... ah, but I have to as I have a stash of it.

I pulled out Strickler's "A Weavers' Book of Eight Shaft Patterns" and got seriously browsing. Then I saw it. Bird's Eye Twill. It's a classic, it's bold, it's reversible. Why mess with anything else? So I didn't.... and perhaps third time is the charm? I'm on mat number 2 out of 14 planned as I write this, so wish me luck!

Now... for that other naked loom.....

Blogger turned my picture sideways again. The weft is cream orlec and it seems to be weaving up balanced!

See you again soon......

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Personal Look Back

I recently found a long lost friend! My very first piece of weaving:

It's a plain weave table runner with an alternating warp of pale cream synthetic orlec and natural cotton as warp and I used a fine cotton boucle yarn as weft. I don't recall the sett or total warp length and it seems I didn't write it down either. I did manage to hemstitched the ends and this runner was on my dining room table for a time but somehow it was packed up for one of our many moves and disappeared from view. It was woven on a 4 shaft, 45 inch weaveable Leclerc Colonial loom which was stuffed into a small spare bedroom. The brake slipped a bit and so there were jugs of water to help tension the bands, which were later replaced by a new brake ring.

To back up a bit in the story, I had heard of weaving and seen the Richmond Guild's studio space at the local library. There was no one there to let me in so I looked through the large windows at the looms and equipment and was fascinated. The loom right under the window had a beautiful warp on it and I was smitten! So I decided to go to the next meeting. To that point my textile endeavours were related to embroidery and crochet. Time to expand my horizons! Then my hubby came home and told me about a coming transfer for his job. Oh, dear....

Two months later we were into our new rental home in the Okanagan Valley in south central BC. I lived quite close to Lynnette actually. We went straight into the one of their longest and hardest winters in 25 years. We had 3 feet of snow in the back yard in late March. My main activity was shoveling snow and being bored, bored, bored! I knew no one there and to make matters worse my husband worked long night shifts and slept all day. He was a locomotive engineer. I cross stitched myself into a stupor that winter, but I hadn't forgotten about the looms and weaving. I had taken a video out from the library and watched how to beam a warp and remembered being totally stumped by the process. Obviously it would be better if I was shown how to do this. It couldn't be all that complicated right? A long story a wee bit shorter, I found the local guild and then discovered they had held their weaving classes back in January when I was more concerned with digging myself out of the snow! This was April and I still had lots of snow in the back yard. By May hubby Bruce had found a used loom for sale on the coast and we drove down and back in one day to collect it. I had no idea of how good a deal this was at the time but we paid $500 for a 45" Leclerc Colonial loom that could be either jack or counter balance, a bench, a Glimakra swift, an older electric bobbin winder ( which still runs great today after a new pedal was installed) shuttles and bobbins, reed hooks and lease sticks and even some yarns. There was a box of books, most are of the 1970's publications we all have or seen but there were some classics such as: Burnham's Keep Me Warm One Night, Collingwood's classic Rug Weaving Techniques, Davison's Pattern Book, among others. In fact all that was missing was the apron rods but a trip to a local machine shop fixed that. One weaver volunteered to come and show me the basics and she spent a day with me. Winding the warp around chair legs (I had no warping board as yet!), then beamed on from front to back.... and threaded a straight draw. There we stopped as we discovered the missing rods. I got a copy of Chandler's Learning to Weave and picked it up from there and wove off two runners. This was back in the spring of 1996.
The rest is history as they say.

I thought I had lost out on joining the Richmond guild when we moved there, but unknown to me, I had moved to weaving heaven! Not only was there the companionship of the local guild, there is a weavers guild in most of the cities in the valley there and I eventually joined many, became president of one and made many friends! The weaver who helped me that first time has a yarn store in her home and I spent many an hour absorbing colours and inspiration there ( and we won't talk about the money left behind either...) She freely shared with me and I will always be grateful. Woolhouse Tools also is in the top end of the valley and my new Gertrude loom came to me in July 1998. I renamed her Emmatrude.

Until that day, I used a variety of other looms. It seems that the Valley had enjoyed a weaving boom in the 80's and there was a lot of gently used weaving equipment coming out of closets and storage. We would buy the used equipment and my hubby would restore the wood, make repairs or replace and when they were ready to sell, they were as good as new. This was a neat way for me to be able to collect all the bits and bobs that you need to have. I'm still in touch with some of the weavers who bought our refurbished looms.

I met and made some real neat friends during those years and they are friends still. I also learned to spin, dye and attempt bobbin lace along the way as well. I had some great mentors who shared and encouraged me. I heard such things as:

  • "Want great edges? Then weave a mile"

  • " Get yourself in front of as many teachers as you can"

  • "There is no right way or wrong way to do anything."

  • " Always put on extra warp and play around with the treadling... experiment!" ( sample?)
So, enough about me.... I follow a number of weaving blogs and we all visit each other. I'd like to ask you to share your first weaving project and how you came to weaving. I'm sure that you are passionate about weaving as I am, and it has changed your life too. There is a 'real line in your life' where there was BW and AW. Those mean 'before weaving' and 'after weaving' of course.

To finish my story, I can't...... I'm only part way on my journey. Besides, the next warp is ready for Lilibet...

2/16's cotton to be sett 36 epi for tea towels..... 12 yards worth!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Forest for the Trees and other Diversions

This is Connor, our terrier, checking the 'p-mail' at the bottom of the drive. He's there in the shade...
This post will cover three recent improvements here at our place. I wasn't weaving much during all this activity! There was a lot going on on the home front for a lengthy time. I thought I would roll all three events into one post, so to spare you a series of non- weaving entries. The picture above is part of the driveway to our house. Below Connor is the turn off to the neighbour's place and beyond that a bridge over the stream and the orchard area. As you can see, even in the height of summer, it's well shaded by the big trees. In winter, it's way darker and actually quite oppressive. The trees prevent the sun light from hitting the house. Some days we can be sitting in cold shade and can see sunlight through the lower part of the property. So close! So far!

So we had a tree faller come and and take down some trees in the lower meadow areas that were either dead, or dying. Their time had come sadly. Later the stumps were removed as well so we aren't trying to mow around them all the time. Those areas will be reseeded with grass this spring.

Trees up the driveway had to come down to allow more light in. This started okay but by the time they got to the top of the drive, I found I was quite upset! A quick call to hubby and they stopped at the last two trees near the carport. So we still have those trees framing the top of the drive. The fallers did the clean up and and reduced the stump sizes to ground level. We plan to plant some low growing spreading ground cover and in time it will look better.

I couldn't get too close to take the pictures as they were using cable and pulleys to bring them down and it was dangerous work.

A couple of days after all the tree stuff was done, the neighbour's trees fell towards the house! A group of three came down while I was watching. Yes, trees falling do make a big noise! They were definitely heading for the house when the tree below took the brunt of the falling trees and laid them down neatly on the other side of the hedge. It took down a fence near our wood shed and this is all you could see.

Doesn't look like much huh? But trust me, there are three 80 foot tall trees on the other side, laying on the bank of a steep ravine. Tests later found they had something called 'cone rot'. This is where a fungal infection has invaded the root systems and destabilizes them over time. Based on the test results our neighbour brought down more trees in the area and so some big trees that hovered over our heads and house are gone. Sad decision, but necessary give the high winds we can get here from time to time. We were with out power eight or nine times this past winter from trees and branches falling over power lines. There is still lots of trees between the two properties and with spring, leaves will fill in the rest of the gaps. Heck of a way to meet your neighbours but they are really nice folks and now new friends.

So what's next? The driveway... it was leveled and cleared and new road base rock laid down. Spiffy huh?
This work extends down to the lower part of the driveway and a small section will be done later once the machines have removed the tree stumps and level a new small parking area we are creating.
Next? new windows! We replaced 15 windows in the house to new energy efficient vinyl framed models. Most are casements, but some are sliders where there is a deck or walk way. We still have to replace 3 patio doors but those will be done after the new decks are built later this spring or summer. Yup, more work to come! I won't bore you with before and after shots of 15 windows but I chose just a couple. My studio window first. The weather was clear, dry and reasonably warm for a run of about 8 days, followed by snow! Snow that was falling as the last trim went up. So that was close timing!
So here's the studio window before... all prepped and ready to go.

Here the new window is in.... that's John by the way, taping the edges. My hubby, Bruce (with the railway cap) helped lift windows into place.

And here it is after they were done, complete with new exterior trim and new colour.

So how close was the timing? Well here's John's work station for cutting trims:

Then the next morning....
Happily, this was our last snow fall for the winter and it melted pretty quick.

So how chaotic was it? Well you saw pictures of me twisting fringes for the two recent shawls... and what you didn't see was this....

Primer, paints, brushes window cleaners and and room in total upheaval!
This is living room window and the couch is gone as well as all the trims which I had to paint.

Here's my bed pushed over to make access to the window. Clean huh?? That's because there is NO window there. :)
Here the guys are lifting it into place. They do it from the inside so no nasty ladder work with a heavy weight.

So I'll close this post by showing you the inside of my new studio window... real nice! I *love* it.
No more cold drafts or hot sun burning my poor loom!
Okay back to weaving next post. Promise.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Victoria Guild 75th Anniversary Retreat

Model: Sharon Simpson

Model: Gloria Bond.
I would like to thank these ladies from for modeling my shawls during the fashion show! They did it with style and panache.

The Victoria Handweavers and Spinners Guild has had a series of events to celebrate their 75th year. One of which was to host this retreat at the Oceanfront Hotel in Cowichan Bay. It was held April 3rd and 4th. I had a Retreat package, but didn't stay at the hotel. I drove in both days from home. It was only 20 minutes away and I sleep much better in my own bed. The Friday evening was a reception and a 'meet and greet' evening in the ballroom. It was nice to mix and mingle and find old friends and make new ones. A bunch of us went for a walk along the waterfront and had dinner at the Rock Cod Cafe. Then as the ladies headed to their rooms, I drove home along the bay.

Then the next day was busy and filled with activities. I unfortunately missed the silk reeling demo but caught the warping demo by Jane Stafford and later on, a tassel making demo with Audrey and Helen. In between was spinning and socializing and people wandering to 6 rooms where vendors had their wares for sale.

Karen Selk of Treenway was there, Jane Stafford Textiles, Knotty by Nature from Victoria, Pagan Creations from Campbell River, Hummingbird Fibre Arts, Aurelia Wool and Weaving. There were some lovely 'treasures' calling your name and in my case some wandered home with me! So at Treenway, I bought some more of that lovely silk yak blend. It's beautiful to weave with! I also bought a skein of silk bamboo blend. The silk seems to give it a bit more firmness over straight bamboo alone.

At Jane Stafford's room I bought 2 cones of 2/8 cotton in green. It's to help perk up some of my other 'older' colours for towels. I also had a cone of 2/10 mercerized cotton in black on order.

I bought this lovely fibre to spin at Aurelia. The white is silk. Yummy...

At the end of the evening, there were door prizes handed out. Six in total from each of the vendors and your truly won the prize from Knotty by Nature

I was very happy to discover that I had won the new book by Judith MacKenzie McCuin "The Intentional Spinner". Lovely book and full of fabulous information.

The company was warm and friendly, the food fabulous and a good time was had by all.