Friday, May 29, 2009

That's a Wrap....

Spring, and the better weather must be here and how can I tell that? Well, it seems that all the blogs I follow are slowing down how often they post... including me. To be truthful, I haven't been weaving as much due to a bum knee, which is improving, thanks, and many things that take me on errands or outside more.
It seems the bonus of having a car at my disposal once more means, I'm doing more away from home. All those errands that Hub used to do are now mine. Ouch, a two edged sword! While I do like getting out more, the loom(s) are sitting patiently waiting for me. They are good that way.

I have also discovered that I am avoiding the 4/8 cotton placemats on the big CM Emmatrude. There's no other way to describe it. Why? I have no idea.... I must be a fine thread snob. But I will sit my butt down and weave them.... once the fine 2/16's warp is set to go on Lilibet. Can't have a naked loom! After all my MIL is coming next Tuesday and the studio must look like a hive of activity (even if it isn't :) She's here for a week so no weaving then either. That would be rude wouldn't it? 'Scuse me, sit right here, and I'll be back in an hour or two!

I have bought another used loom bench and it will come along with my friend, Lynnette, when they come for a visit in either July or August. It's a Woolhouse Tools commuter bench so essentially the same as the bench for my Woolhouse Tools loom. It will be be for my Louet Spring, Lilibet as the little tiny bench I'm using there is too small for the width of the loom. The smaller bench will shift to the Jane on her stand. Hub thought I could just drag one bench over to the other loom but I quickly straightened him out on that. Both looms are at different heights. End of story.
Oh, and I finally broke down and bought a gently used copy of the Janet Phillips book 'The Weaver's Book of Fabric Design'. I feel pretty darn pleased at getting it for $42.00, postage included. Just one small tear in the dust jacket and I can live with that. New starts at $75.00! It's in the mail to me as I write.

So I did dangle a nice picture at the top to lure you in and so we'll continue on with the regularly scheduled post:
This part of the post will show the final finishing of the recent towel project and a bit of show and tell. Once the cloth comes off the loom, I take it to the sewing table and use my serger to cut the towels apart. I have a White Speedyloc serger and love it. The only downside to a serger ( and I must admit my knowledge is extremely limited) is the threading. I cut off near the top by the cones and tie a knot and take off the tension, then pull the new colour through. So I cheat.... but every now and then I am forced to thread from scratch and its a chore and a half... The connections points are colour coded but the guide book is flat, and in black and white. Definitely something was lost in translation from Chinese into English. (no offense) If we had stayed living where I bought it, a few in store lessons would have been the smart way to go!

Serging seems to secure the the raw edges of handwoven fabric far better than simply sewing or zig-zagging the edges. The only thing I might not serge is a fine thread fabric where you don't want *any* extra bulk at all in the hem edge.

Here's the stack all serged! A satisfying feeling....

With this particular pattern, 'breaks and recesses', there is a nice clear line on which to fold and turn. In this case I decided to machine sew over hand sewing as these are clearly towels. Some of you may be familiar with the gifting of a kitchen towel only to see it being used as a runner, or some other use..... or worse still, stuck in a drawer as it's 'too good' to use! Machine sewing the hem is my way of trying to steer the end usage :)

This was an 11 yard warp which produced 10 towels, woven to 34" each, plus a small strip for samples and of course, loom waste. Before they were off the loom, I knew some were sold. I just didn't know how many! I wanted at least a couple for our kitchen. One was woven with 2/16's in black to coordinate with the black accents on my Ceran stove top. The second was woven with the thicker boucle weft but I had forgotten to to use a finer weft for the hem area, so this one was for us as well. Since we are hand washing dishes ( long story, short: dishwasher broke, too old to fix and we are waiting till the kitchen is reno'd to buy another...) the thicker towel is perfect for us! I brought them to the kitchen right away!

The black weft really makes the colours pop...
While the white seems to soften them and reduce the intensity of the stripes...

So 4 towels were bought and whisked off to Toronto and this is the balance of the herd all posed for show:

So I have a lot to do in the coming days: bake some desserts, clean house, laundry, grocery shop and we have to get the lawns and such under control before Mom arrives..... wish us luck.
I'll be back after she's gone home....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eye Candy: The Yarns We Use

Edit: June 2010
Yarns Plus has closed down their business. To get the same colours and quality, take a look at Webs for tencel.  Also, no one seems to be supplying 10/2 dyed tencel any longer. This is my preferred size and so if anyone learns of a supplier, please email me!
Consider doing up joint orders with other weavers to reduce shipping costs.  
There! That should get your attention... a nice cone of yarn. It's 2/8 tencel in a colour called eggplant. This picture gives you some idea of how rich this is but the photo doesn't quite measure up to the real colour! Tencel has such a sheen that it's difficult to take a picture without the shine getting in the way.

I have received two yarn orders recently. I *had* to order some as the shawl commission will be using some shades I don't have in stock (darn). The shawl will be two shades of red, alternating end for end across the warp to give a more dimensional colour than a single shade and the weft will be black.
You'll be seeing more about this commission in posts to come...

So I naturally took advantage of the order to pick up some colours I don't have in my stash and here are the bonus cones:

Ming blue, red purple and the eggplant. These are in 2/8 tencel. My preferred yarn size is 2/10 but Yarns Plus can't get a consistent and regular supply of dyed tencel in that size so they had to drop it. The only colours available in 2/10 is undyed off white and a black, which they get dyed locally in Ontario. But Don did have one colour left and on sale and I jumped on it! This is 2/10 in a gold shade. I have used it before to good effect! Orders from Don at Yarns Plus are a real treat. It's like Christmas opening those boxes up!

Okay, want some more?
As you know I have been weaving up a lot of towels lately and Brassard has new colours out in all cotton sizes. The LYS has some of these in stock and look what followed me home!

The colours don't show as well as I hoped but there 2 of plain white ( your basic, good for everything white), 2 cones of a colour called clay which is more than a beige or ecru, 1 each of a deep plum and a olive green. No project in particular but merely an attempt to update colours on hand. Works for me!

More? Okay.....

This is 2/12 authentic tartan yarns from Locharron, Scotland that were on sale at The Yarn Source. I had read about the sale quite late after the initial sale announcement due to my computer being at the repair depot and so a bit 'late to the party' as I told Lise who runs this business. Most of the colours I wanted had already gone home with other weavers. So I used my colour card and we went through what was left of the modern, ancient and weathered shades left. These are a basic white, red, maroon, and a charcoal black, plus a medium green.

I chose all of these purchases by using colours cards I have on hand here at home....

We seem to talk a lot about looms, equipment, books, magazines but very little about something we use every time we sit down to weave.... our yarns. Only that we got some new... but what and from where? And colours? Sizes?

Mail ordering yarns: how to have a happy experience! Well, it means investing in sample cards and keeping them current. If your local yarn store doesn't carry weaving supplies, you should invest in a least one set. Most companies have them and over time you can build up a nice collection. Be sure to ask them for their return policy just in case you get something you weren't expecting.
I would like to recommend that you check out this 'Master Yarn' chart at the bottom of this page at Interweave Press/ Handwoven web site. I have these sheets in plastic sleeves and refer to them quite often. They also show the yarns used and where to purchase them in each magazine issue. This chart is just very convenient to use as they also include recommended setts.

My colour samples on hand.... and I use them!
Here's Treenway's. I usually buy my silk undyed in either 2/20 or 2/30 as my basic sizes for weaving and doing painted silk warps. I do have other silks and blends of course....

Here's Brassard's sample BOOK! ( great investment and one I recommend for Canadian weavers at the least). It's an amazing resource!

Look at all the sheets and dozens and dozens of samples! Well worth the $13.00 ( in Canadian $ too)

Jane Stafford's selection featuring Louet yarns. These have a lovely colour range and beautiful quality too.

The Silk Tree ( situated at Diane Sanderson's Silk Weaving Studio at Granville Island, in Vancouver, BC. and also Maple Ridge, BC) They seem to feature silks from Europe. I bought some lovely tussah silks in a natural gold and blacks and did some houndstooth check scarves... lovely to weave with and from Italy...

Yarns Plus, in Mississauga Ontario.
Don and Marie also feature a full range of colours in rayon chenille as well as a full range of undyed tencel in varying sizes and 2/8 in astounding colours!

Another card from Aurelia Wool and Weaving. They feature wools and spinning fleece from New Zealand. (If I can find their web site address, I will edit this in later)

I like to use (synthetic) orlec from time to time for wash and wear table linens. I ordered some from an Ontarian business called 'What's Weft" and they sent me the colour cards. At that time there was 63 colours to choose from.... and now there are 90! Brassard carry it and they call it orlon. Its nice to have the colours on hand for planning.

Check the project notes in Handwoven for the yarns used in their project and the companies selling them. Names such as Webs, Halcyon, and Habu , to name just a few of the many, are featured. Also check the back advertising section closely too for smaller operations that can provide you with yarns, tools and supplies.

Most weavers (spinners and dyers too) normally try to support local businesses first, regional next and then national. I would shop across the border much more often if our exchange rate was at par or close to it. (If that happens, I would get the Halcyon yarn store in a box! I love their catalogues) I must admit here to my international visitors that my knowledge is focused on Canada and the USA. I have no information about European yarn suppliers or 'down under' from Australia and New Zealand. Please share in the comment section if you like... and thank you!

Going together with other weavers to place an order is a good idea as well so the shipping expenses are shared. Ask if they have a magic order size where you can get a discounted rate. For example, Treenway gives a discount on order sizes of $150.00 or more. Not hard to do given the prices of that yummy silk! Most companies have email newsletters and sales once or twice a year. Give those a close look and shop sales. Brassard has regular sales on basic cottons and speciality yarns. When ordering, be sure to ask if they have new, updated colours to add to your sample cards.

Then there's the all popular 'ugly yarn swap and shop' at guild meetings. I have brought home some lovely items from sale tables. Maybe the size is right but the colour not so much? Plan a day over dyeing it. You don't have much to lose by trying and a fun day what ever the result. I have some magenta 2/6 wool on cones that I plan to skein up and over dye navy blue. It's perfect weft for doing a balanced overshot using 2/10 cottons. I got the cone for $2.00 so it's worth a try.

Then every now and then a weaver hangs up their shuttle for the last time and we have estate sales. The first few sort of creeped me out, but eventually I adjusted to the fact that the weaver would have wanted her stash to be used and shared (including me someday.) I have some lovely yarns in my stash that belonged to special friends and they are with me in spirit when I use them. It really is one big continuous warp on the universal loom!

On a personal note: Thanks for hanging in there while I wrestled with my lack of smarts with regards to blogging. (Granted Blogger didn't help much...) I appreciated your collective help. I will be looking at that alternative you suggested Peg!
I have a weaving exchange runner warp going onto the Louet Spring... still have the place mats to weave off on the big CM (next!) and I'll be winding the shawl commission warp shortly now the cones have arrived. The trouble is time.
Time is being pulled in many directions now the grass is growing, along with weeds and 2 1/2 acres to share looking after, .....and the renovations will be starting again. We will be replacing the outer decks (upper and lower) and including reworking the entry way to our home. Most of the work is outside ( thankfully) and will be done in stages.
So, there will be pictures of that from time to time as it will be what's current and happening in our lives. Don't worry... there will be weaving too!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nose to the Grindstone

So, time for a studio check. I have been weaving most days.... and normally all afternoon. I have pulled a new a warp for the Spring today and it's ready to go on the minute the current towel warp comes off. (More on that warp another time.)

To refresh, the project underway on the loom is 2/16's cotton, sett 36 epi and threaded in the 8 shaft pattern 'breaks and recesses'. The threading is a straight draw and the treadling, a run from 1 to 8. All the pattern is in the tie up. The cloth is fully reversible and from my past experiences, makes great towels! I would say that unless you used really fine yarns, I can't see how this would be useful for clothing unless it was for a jacket. It would make good upholstery as there are no long floats. This weaves up chunky in yarns 2/8 and larger. I can't see how this would drape very well. Why is that? Let's take a closer look:

In this close-up you can see that the pattern forms little boxes. Clear breaks of plain weave horizontally and a line in the pattern vertically. This tucks all threads neatly together in a tight grouping. This will be more evident off tension, off the loom and better still after washing. Those little 'pillows' are dynamite for absorbing water!

Last time I wove this up, I used 2/8 cotton, sett at 24 epi and they are great towels. But my friend Gudrun uses 2/16's and I love those skinnier kitchen towels she wove. So, on went this 11 yard warp. This was much different weaving as the finer weft takes much longer to weave up. It took 4 repeats to an inch and times that by 34 inches (length of towel before hems) and you have 136 repeats to a towel. So I loaded up some podcasts and just went on 'auto-pilot'. Now I have ten towels and a swatch of samples. I serged them apart today and neatly stacked the towels for hemming. Then, started into beaming the next warp! The Louet Spring makes this a nice task with the clear steps to the process. :)
Here are some variations of plain white weft, or white weft with striped borders:

Blogger turned the image (again) and there's no fighting, or correcting it! So turn your head and you have the right view. The weft is the black mercerised 2/16's cotton. I wanted something to co-ordinate the kitchen appliances and black ceramic smooth top of my stove. Yes, I get to actually keep one or two for me. ( Usually the seconds!) The majority of the towels are in whites, or the main colours and fresh, crisp and clean looking. I'll show you the towels when they are hemmed and washed at a later time.

One other variation I did try was to use an approx 2/8 size boucle weft. It sure wove up faster and will make a thicker, thirsty towel:

Once again, turn head! ....geesh....

On the Woolhouse CM "Emmatrude" I have woven 3 or 4 placemats but the most effort has been on the towels. Weaving on this loom seemed to irritate my lower back so a day after gardening, I would weave on the Spring and avoid this one. I don't not want to be laid up with a bad back again like last year! Anyhoo.... I will be giving it much more attention now the towels are done.

The Louet Jane table (or Cricket as I call it) still languishes with the red bamboo huck lace. It's going to the guild meeting this coming Tuesday to be part of a demo on this new model loom for the guild members. I hope it will see some action that day! For later at home, I foresee a nice sunny day with me sitting just outside the studio on the deck and weaving away on the lace. Well , that's the plan.....

More news:
I sold a scarf yesterday. This one in fact ( tencel with silk/ cashmere blend weft)

......and three towels are reserved! Remember this pattern? It's this colour.. (exercise time! turn head :)

Also the client is coming back to look at the fresh towels just off the loom and I'll hem their choice first. So Lynnette, your prediction came true! You never get to see them as they sell right away! Seems I will have to do another warp of kitchen towels again *real* soon. Oh, and guest towels as well.... Darn!

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Friend: Gudrun Weisinger

First, some background on how to we came to move and live where we have.....

My husband and I lived in the Okanagan Valley for roughly 13 years. We had transferred there for his work as a railway engineer which was supposed to last for 5 years and we stayed much longer. I loved the Okanagan and the new weaving/ spinning friends I made there, so much so that when we moved back to the coast, I was quite 'wrenched' by the move away from friends. It seems that us 'rolling stones' had put down roots while we weren't watching. Oh, we didn't stop moving while we were there! We had our original rental home, then a better situation came up and we moved to the Winfield area, which is roughly half way between Vernon and Kelowna. We had a wonderful 180 degree view of the lake there. But it wasn't our home and the land lord, as nice as he was, was selling and we couldn't afford to buy that place. We did buy a cute place across the lake instead and had a lake view again.... but for four years we had a 45 minute drive in and out for anything! Mean while the well known summer heat ( it is a dry heat, with low humidity) seemed to be increasing each year. I don't do well with heat and quite wilted. It seemed we went from AC in the house to AC in the car... to AC in the shops and malls. The Shuswap area is north of Vernon by 20 or 30 minutes drive and was known for being cooler and more temperate. It also meant we were still reasonably close to friends and family. Well, this was the plan....

The day we moved into our new home in Blind Bay ( 28 km's west of Salmon Arm, BC) it was 38 degrees celsius. There was a large glass ceiling above the kitchen and the sink and taps were so hot, they burnt your hands to touch them! We eventually put a motorized roll shutter on it for shade. Sunsets were stunning and the night sky was beautiful. Here's a peek of the kitchen area ( roll shutter is down for shade this day):
The ladies of the local guild were not complete strangers to me as I had met many of them at potlucks and other events over the years. I was happy to join (and still a current member) of the Shuswap Spinners and Weavers Guild. It's a bit tough getting to meetings and such. I'd love to share some of them with you, but I can feel them squirm from here but for today, so I'm sharing one special weaver with you.
While they are all special, one weaver, Gudrun Weisinger, in particular became a close friend and we socialized frequently. Meet Gudrun.
This photo, taken by guild member Clare Fensom, was at boundweave class Gudrun held last year. This is a sample of Gudrun's boundweave that she sent me as a gift. Little swallows sitting on the power line or clothes line.

We had many lovely dinners together and one memorable evening, Gudrun played the piano and we enjoyed it *very* much. Gudrun also taught me how to make Schnitzel and we have it from time to time. I call it 'Gudrun's schnitzel'. Gudrun and her husband Alfred live near Bastion Mountain. The views from their lovely home are of the Shuswap lake and the city across the other side. I can recall the guild having spinning days there and some workshops.

Gudrun and I get along famously and we encourage each other with ideas for drafts and projects. You see, Gudrun is not just a casual weaver, but is in fact a bonafide German Master Weaver and so I felt quite privileged to take classes from her and to become friends and share ideas. I took four workshops with Gudrun ( and wish it was many more!): fabric analysis, Theo Mormon, huck lace and basic tapestry techniques. I came away loaded with information and refer to and use some of the techniques she taught.

Gudrun has a neat loom. It's an antique from Scotland ( if my memory serves me right) and was built in approximately 1932. A twelve shaft loom that has been 'adjusted' by Alfred to serve her needs and it's outfitted with a fly shuttle. It has large dark beams and reminds me of the old barn looms somehow, though not as big or boxy. She also has a Leclerc tapestry loom and there is also a unique all metal loom that she brings to workshops and is quite unusual to see. Sorry but I don't recall the manufacturer. { edit: Note from Gudrun: The metal loom is a designer loom, we had them in our school, they had up to 24 shafts. Mine 16, enough! I do not know the company who made them }
Gudrun's weaving is simply beautiful as you can imagine. I have some runners she wove in my home, as well as tea towels I use daily. Here's a picture I took today of kitchen towel that is in and out of my washer and dryer often and it still looks great! It's in 2/16's cotton.
Here are two pictures, taken by me this morning, of runners woven by Gudrun in my home.
Double weave in fine linens.... here's a close up:
This runner is in my guest room and is a 12 shaft pattern. You might recognise the edge treatment! I learned this from Gudrun. (The white things is a conch shell)
Now what gave me the inspiration do do this post and feature on Gudrun was a picture she sent me of a newly completed tapestry. With out a doubt, it is simply an amazing piece of work! Here is the tapestry in progress approximately 6 to 8 months ago. Gudrun had sent it to me to show me what she was up to:
I couldn't tell too much what the picture was going to be and simply saved the picture to look over another time. Then recently, we received this!

Don't those birch trees look real?! Here is a closer detail view:

I am certain that these pictures, although nice, simply don't do this work justice! I asked Gudrun to share a bit about herself, her education and the inspiration behind this tapestry:

Hi Susan,
Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.

I will tell you a little bit about the new tapestry:
Years ago, I found a picture in a calendar and cut it out.It was an autumn scene just like what I see when we drive along the Sunnybrae Road in September-October. The trees, with their yellow and red leaves and all the fall colors were the inspiration.. I will weave this one day when I am ready for it. That one day finally came and I started to warp my upright loom with cotton twine.
I ordered fine 20/2 wools in red shades, green shades, and yellow fine boucle for the leaves of the trees, I had a variety of colours in fine worsted wool as well as some shiny rayon (very thin), some linen, some silk and other fibers.
I mixed strands of the fine yarns together until the right shades were achieved, Also, I liked the tapestry to look like the photo and so I wove as many details as possible. Sometimes I added a "silly" colour just to show off. (It is almost not noticeable, but still there).

It was an exciting moment as I took the tapestry off the loom one year later.
I call the tapestry "Autumn in Sunnybrae"

My training:
My first year, I was an apprentice in a oriental carpet studio, repairing and weaving oriental rugs. After that year I went to the trade school in
Sindelfingen, (Meisterschule fuer das Weberhandwerk) near Stuttgart in Germany for two years, finishing the journeyman certificate. Later I have been in several studios in Germany learning to weave on a Damask-Jacquard loom, designing home textiles, clothing and weaving with linen, and using all different fibers. I have been a weaver in an convent in Baden Baden weaving tapestries and ecclesiastical items. After three years I went back to Sindelfingen for one year finishing my master degree in weaving and designing. In 1966 I immigrated to Canada.

I think you know the rest, I meet Alfred, get married, had the two boys. As soon as the boys went to school I started weaving and teaching again.

Thank you again, Gudrun

I would like to add that if you check your book shelves and magazines you may find that Gudrun has contributed to publications as well. You may find her 'gems' in Weavers' Magazine #18, page 21. 'More Snowflakes'.... weave a rhombus (part of series run on snowflake twills in issues #13 and #18. Also you can find pictures of Gudrun's table cloths on page 135 in Sigrid Piroch's book "The Magic of Hand Weaving: Basics and Beyond."

Gudrun and I would study sample or draft together and I can still hear her say " oh, this is easy, I show you", and she does! I always get the impression that weaving for Gudrun is a joyful experience and she is eager to share all of that joy with others.

{This post was re-edited from the original. Susan May 8th 2009}