Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flights of Fancy

So, not much weaving has been happening here! Besides the necessary garden work, I was busy getting ready for some special company and then there's cleaning up after all the fun!  My Dad and brother came for a short visit and we had a lot of fun.  Good food, lots of stories and laughing... and best of all, lots of time to simply be together.

My Dad has a love of birds of prey and so when he heard that we have the Pacific Northwest Raptor Centre  just down the road from us, we were on our way! We lucked out and caught a bonus flying session in addition to the normal 30 minute show at 3:30!  We saw many birds in large outdoor pens either as recovering patients or permanent residents. By the entry we saw two kookaburras and two large ravens.  We slowly made our way down to the viewing area and saw Great Horned Owls, Red Tailed Hawks, Prairie Falcons, and a Vulture. Their enclosures have small trees and greenery in them to reproduce a natural look and feel but it still is a cage, so they are all given time to fly each day. Clearly the Vulture thought she was due to stretch her wings!

This youngster was first up: (click on any picture to make them larger!)

This is a young Bald Eagle or Haliaeetus leucocephalus  Not sure what sex this bird is until it becomes mature but it will assume the adult colours by the end of this year. The woman doing the demonstration wore a heavy gauntlet and judging by the talons on this twelve pound bird, good thing!

There is no denying that steely gaze and narrow focus when flying! The guide told us the birds more or less do what they want and they  shape the show around it. We were sitting on low benches just mere feet away from these free flying birds with just a little fence to keep people back. I wondered if I should move a bit further back? Dad sat right up front and was loving it! His camera was doing bursts of eight frames a second. The noise 'annoyed' some of the birds but it went well.

Next up: Harris's Falcon or parabuteo unicintus    These birds are used to guard airports and wineries against flocks of birds straying through or feeding on the grapes. They are super fast divers as the video link shows if you click on the latin name.

A beautiful bird, not native to these parts. She (or he) was a calm steady flyer and seemed to know the routine and which perch to fly to next.

Then this dainty killer! Peregrine Falcon or Falco peregrinus. It has a lightening fast flight and can dive at amazing speeds and can catch other birds on the wing. This technique was demonstrated by twirling and launching a lure for the falcon. Its a fake bird lure filled with quail meat. This one flew so close over my Dad's head that it could have parted his hair!

It all happened so fast that if you blinked, you missed it!

This is Phoenix and she is a Turkey Vulture.  It was not a good day for her! She finally got a chance to stretch her wings but she decided to be cranky instead and charged the lady's feet and legs. She was rather determined to teach her a lesson about something. They finally lead her off the field and let her chase the woman back to the pens! Talk about cranky!

Now here's my personal favourite, Elton!  He's a Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata) from south and central America,  and was simply too cute! He did the classic head weaving motion owls do to see better (their eyes are stationary in their heads) and the neatest little churring noises. When his portion of the flying demo was done and she motioned for him to come back to her from the fence post, he turned his back and ignored her. He liked being out and didn't want to go into the little stand by house.

Isn't he handsome?

Sunday, we drove north to Yellow Point, a peninsula just south of Nanaimo,  to check out a different type of bird!  "The Crow and Gate" kind!

It is an authentic British style pub out in the country side. My brother and I went there about 18 months ago and decided that we had to bring Dad there for a visit when his health allowed. This was the day! The day was bright, warm and not overly hot so perfect for touring the grounds and enjoying a meal. They have amazing gardens there and its all beautifully maintained year round. (Hubby and I have been there mid winter with fresh snow on the ground and a large logs blazing away in the hearths... picture perfect!) Lets take a look!

All this is what you see after parking your car! There's been a lot of work done here and it shows beautifully. They have a large pond on the property and encourage wild birds to nest there. Then next to the pond is their private residence:

We sat inside near a doorway out to the back garden and enjoyed steak and mushroom pies with crispy fresh salads.

We sat here in the corner and where the gent is standing is one of the two bars, where you order your own food and beverage 'Brit- style'. Afterwards, we went for a stroll through the gardens in the back of the building. They have a large outdoor patio for patrons there as well.

Here are some pictures of the gardens....

And my favourite... peonies!

We noticed a few years ago that the pub has some stained glass windows and one is rather special:

If you enlarge the picture you will see its an Airedale! We had heard their last dog, Hobbs, had passed away and they had a new pup this spring, then while out for a walk Bruce and Calli met the new Airedale by accident.  'Swede' is ten months old and quite fair. The two of them played like demons, lay on the grass to catch their breath, then did it all over again. A conversation later and we discover that they both have the same father! So they are half brother and sister and we are invited back for another romp on another day before the pub opens. It really was a Family Reunion weekend!

Calli, 15 months old

I'd like to thank my Dad for the use of the bird photographs and the special one of Calli.  The pub photos were taken by either me, or my brother, and flowers were taken by my hubby, Bruce. It was a very memorable time and over far too soon!  I'm still working on the clean up (three men in the house!) and hope to be back at the loom shortly.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Making Blue

The tie up on a countermarche loom is fully double that of a jack loom but oh, so worth it! The large shed and easy treadling is a delight. For a twelve shaft /12 treadle project, that's 144 ties. Even a healthy back may have an issue or three by the time you waded through that! So, I decided to make the most of my projects by leaving a tie up in place and reworking the project and loading on another warp. First project was three scarves and this project will be three table runners, all woven in the gebrochene hind und under pattern.

I was inspired by Dorothy's runner (also shown at the link above) that she sent me for my birthday and so went looking for a fine 16/2 mercerised cotton in cream. I was more than a little stunned to find that I have none! How did that happen? In fact it always makes me laugh that I have a stash the size I do and still need to buy more. So I decided to see what I did have that would work and found a mercerised deep midnight blue 16/2 that might do. So I wound a 6 1/2 yard warp of 537 ends, for a width of 14.92" in the reed. I plan to sett the project at 36 epi, using a 12 dent reed.

Beaming a warp on the Louet Spring is a breeze and it goes quickly. Here's a review of the process. Here's the current project ready to load on the loom:

The bubble wrap stops the ends from slipping into the raddle slots on top! After a bit of work slipping the ends through the rod and lacing on, and filling the raddle, you have this:

Slip in the brown paper and wind on, tweaking the threads at the raddle every so often. The warp didn't give me any trouble winding on but it was another matter when it came to threading! Mercerised cottons have been treated to be smooth and shiny... right? They should behave.... right?  Well, no!

Every single warp thread did this (above) as I tried to thread. They clung to each other like they were mohair!
I like to pull my heddles across in an easy pattern, in this case one through four and then take four warp ends slotted between my fingers and then reach through with a hook to thread. 

Some times the thread pulled free of its clingy siblings and other times, they knotted. I kept a needle handy to open snarls. This meant the threading took far longer to do and my patience ran thin at times. Air got a little 'blue'  :)

I also took many breaks as it meant being hunched over far longer than I planned on. I wanted to use a natural beige 40/2 linen and so wound six pirns tightly and then dampened a clean new dishcloth and rolled the pirns into it, then slipped it all into a zip loc bag and placed in the fridge. In 24 hours they should be evenly damp and easier to weave with over the dry wirey linen straight off the cone. {but once you start a project with damp linen, you must continue till you finish and not switch to dry weft. This may mean winding  new pirns and having to wait till the next day to finish. } Its also best to allow the new cloth to dry before being curled up on the cloth roll.  If you are not able to weave with the damp pirns, store in the fridge. If you can't get to weaving for a few days, then slip the pirns into the freezer. Why all this fuss? Linen is susceptible to mildew if left damp and warp. Defrosting pirns only takes 15 to 20 minutes ahead of resuming your project. I just leave mine in a spot of sunshine and its ready in no time.

This is the first runner underway and I wasn't sure if I liked it or not. Its a busy pattern and that's why I was looking for softer shades of cream to play the greyed beige linen off. I thought it wouldn't hurt to complete it as someone would love it and buy it for their home or as a gift.  Its never failed to amaze me how something I have woven that I didn't like becomes someone's absolute favourite!

These two pictures are of my second runner in a 'tone on tone' approach to use a play of light to show the pattern to a good advantage.  Click to enlarge and you'll notice that there are 2 shades of blue: the lighter shade is the 16/2 cotton warp and my weft is an approx 'skinny' 8/2 orlec. Yup, a synthetic yarn. For one, it was a gorgeous shade of deep navy blue and it also means the runner will be more hard wearing and easier to iron.  {Orlec comes in 90+ colours and is super for day to day table linens such as placemats, napkins and such as today's households can't fuss with specialized laundry. I have alternated end for end with a good quality cotton as well and the table cloth turned out great!}

Runner number three is due to start and I have no idea what the weft will be! It will be from the stash though as Canada has a nation wide postal strike going on right now. Can you imagine it? Being cut off from yarn orders like this?
Oh, the horror!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Litha * Approaches

Have you ever seen such a perfect nest? Beautifully made... a perfect circle. Thoughtfully dished with soft grasses.

Three robin's eggs in that classic blue...

There is even a ring of mud in the outer wall to give the twigs firm support for the bouncing chicks and the moss all around the base just completes it.  Bruce found this nest at ground level in the old cedar hedge that was taken out recently. He was heart broken when he realized that these eggs had became a casualty of our gardening up grade. He moved the nest to a new spot with the parents watching and they did try to make a go of it, but finally they abandoned it. They built another nest in the tall fir tree and have a brood on the go as I write. We have a number of cats and also raccoons that would have attacked the nest as it was quite accessible. Perhaps their first time choosing a nesting spot?  At least it will have a happier ending now they have a high rise condo!

My rhododendron by the front door, next to my studio window is in full bloom and they are a glorious red! A couple of hand fulls of fertilizer once a year has made a huge difference to the  shrub over all since we moved here late 2007. It looked rather sad and we considered pulling it out but I'm glad we left it in. This is where my little green tree frog sits in the evening and 'sings' to me.

These are my two baskets on either side of the front door. They are filling out nicely and I love the vibrant green of the potato vine on the left.

 The large magnolia has more leaves than flowers now and this is one of the few left. Our property seems to be a bit later than homes in town and I don't mind. Despite my seasonal allergies, this is my favourite time of year, with fall a close second. That blossom is very large... about the size of a dinner plate!

The Japanese maple badly damaged in the heavy snows of Winter 2008 has adjusted well and somehow rebalanced it's limbs to compensate for its missing branch. Amazing how Nature heals itself...

Where there were several large trees that came out two years ago, is now full with ferns and native plants (yup, some of those are weeds too!)

Now this picture is fuzzy and was taken very quickly by my Hub with his mobile phone camera. You can just make out our resident doe and she is bringing out her twin fawns to show off. They are quite small still.  She knew he was working in the garden area and still came out. We also have three bunnies in the meadow so perhaps our lost little Peter left a legacy? We have also seen signs of a bear nearby and our immediate neighbour ran into the small black bear in his carport last week. We have squirrels running around the trees and the occasional raccoon parading through. With all this abundant life around us, its easy forget the other side of the coin.

This is a prayer flag woven by Theresa of Camprunamuck especially for our little Lakeland terrier Connor who passed away last September. It contains special messages, poems  and a Buddhist metta sutta written on silk that is cut into strips and woven into the flag. You hang it in the breeze and let the wind take the message. Traditionally they hang until they are almost shreds. There are little bells hanging in the fringe to tinkle as the wind blows.   And there is this:

He was a good and faithful companion for thirteen and a half years. We can't thank you enough Theresa....

*Litha or Summer Solstice:
Of the modern religions, it is the Pagan Celtic societies that celebrate this day with the most passion. This holiday is most commonly known as “Litha” (the ancient Germanic name for Summer) and it is believed to be the time when the Sun God is at his strongest. He is also the God of the Forrest and is often depicted as seated at on a green wood throne. During the time in which Christianity and Paganism were merging, images of the Sun God wearing masks made of leaves were included in the architectural features of many early churches. This God has become more commonly known to modern Pagans as The Green Man.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Drawing to a Conclusion

This was a pleasant weave after all was said and done, and not to mention the months to get it woven off! I used various colours from the warp to use as weft so my eleven or twelve yard warp yielded eleven towels!  I had planned on ten towels, but wove eleven so the last one, albeit a bit shorter than the others, was a bonus. I couldn't do coloured borders on this last one as I had no idea how far I could realistically weave it. I got four woven up with white weft, two in celery green, one in salmon pink, one in a pale yellow (not the darker yellow in the warp) and three in plum, all in 8/2 cottons. I would settle into my chair every afternoon and Calli took up her station next to the loom:

The new chair has been working out very well for me and the fact I can change the angle of the seat has made all the difference in the world. I was able to get a nice rhythm going even with moving a temple. Good music certainly helped as well. I've become a fan of Adele and her '21' album. I'm also getting smarter listening to podcasts from 'Stuff You Should Know'

I wove extra time on the day the knots came over the back beam. I find seeing those babies energizes you into action; a sprint to the finish line!  Calli can actually sleep with her head against the loom even with a regular 'thump, thump thump' ....she doesn't seem to mind the vibration.

She only woke up when I stopped!  Well, I had to stop as this is how much warp was left. Talk about getting your monies worth....

Once the cloth roll was off the loom, I had cleaned up the loom. Its a habit I do after every project and I put every thing back to the start ready for the next warp and get out the vacuum and thoroughly clean the loom and underneath. There is a lot of lint created by weaving and its not good to be breathing this stuff.  {in really linty projects I will even vacuum as I go along and keep the dust down} Since we may sell our place this summer, I've decided to leave this loom empty for now. If we do move, its a big chore to dismantle and keep everything organised. I know, I have moved it five times already!

I like to use the serger to cut the towels apart and secure the edges. It's quick and the edge seems to be reasonably 'thin' for the want of a better word. A friend commented that using a zig zag stitch seems to bunch up the cloth and it can get lumpy. There is quite the lengthy load to separate!
Next step is to turn and press the hem allowances and this pattern is really neat as it has clearly defined lines in the pattern to guide you. I turned two rows of 'boxes' over and then  turn over two more again, press firmly and pin. The basic steps for my hand hemming can be found here.  I find I'm hand hemming more and more over machine stitching. One reason is that I'm not much of a sewer and so don't trust my abilities to keep a straight line! Secondly, if there are natural lines in the cloth and you do go off, it really shows! I prepped all ten towels (the pink weft towel had gone home with Lynnette!) I just worked my way through all twenty hems on the ten towels in about 4-5 evenings.

I dropped all the towels into the washing machine and just did a normal cycle, and then after snipping off all weft tails, they went into the dryer. The washing and drying tightens up the pattern into tidy little squares that are fully reversible, and thirsty for drying dishes! Our slightly abbreviated bonus towel was pressed into service right away. No pressing required.

Click on the image to see the squares better:

The squares really show up well where it's a solid colour. Next time, I might try this as a ten or twelve shaft project with 16/2 cottons and see how that turns out.

The other towels are destined for sales and so they are pressed and primped.... but ready for their close up!
Brief review: 8/2 cotton sett 24 epi,  25" wide in the 12 dent reed, 8 shaft straight draw and all pattern is in the tie up. Breaks and Recesses #47 in The Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns by Carol Strickler (Interweave Press).  

One in  soft yellow and two of the green. I like the greens...

 ...and three plums and then four in white.
And their close up's.... feel free to click and embiggen!

You can see the diamonds appearing where two colours meet and then very distinct squares where there is a solid colour. Nice hand to the cloth and soft. I'm pleased with how this turned out with the exception of how long it took to weave! There was one more colour, the salmon pink and that went home with Lynnette....
Here's another peak of that while it was under way on the loom. Its a neat colour as it has a decided yellow undertone and so works with the green , yellow and plum.

More conclusions: a scan has shown a large disc bulging and pressing on my S1 nerve. So that's what has been causing all my discomfort which has been minimal of late. I've been offered surgery as an option but I think I will leave that and keep it as a last option. So now my 'Back is Boss' and I must adjust my activities. I can still weave but  not as hard and heavy as in past times. I find frequent but short rest breaks make a huge difference to my day. So, I'll still be posting about what's on the loom but most likely at the same time span as its been for the last while.   Since this Woolhouse Tools loom is going inactive for the summer and we figure out if we're moving or not, the next project is under way on the Louet Spring, but that's for another post.