Wednesday, July 31, 2013

One Step at a Time

While I'm embarrassed to say how long this project has been going on, I'm also happy to crow that it's finally  finished now!  Do you ever have a project that you are happy to start but it turns into the longest 'short' warp ever?

So what happened? Well, I love the big loom... my Woolhouse Tools countermarche, but she needs a full leg extension to treadle and that can aggravate a lower back problem. So what happens is that what ever is on the loom must wait until I can treadle again comfortably.

Then add my left knee into the mix and a right foot as well and it complicates the issue.  While I complain about health issues, I rarely go into much depth on this topic but this time I will explain what I do know. I need a left knee replacement and waiting to see a surgeon. Then after that is done and healed, my right foot needs a mid foot bone fusion.  That requires a full three months to heal properly with no weight on the foot.  I drew the short straw when it came to the family's arthritis gene pool! None of this will be happening for at least a year

I share this as I'm not producing as much finished weaving as I used to and so things here at the blog will naturally reflect that. I'm continuing to weave regardless, but just not that fast.  

Baby Boomers are getting older and with that comes health problems such as worn out joints. It makes good sense that loom builders consider some modifications to their looms or at least have them available as options.  The 20+ tie up assist on my Woolhouse was one of those adaptations  and its very name means "twenty plus more years of weaving". I added mine after my hip replacement in 2001. It sure made life easier not having to crawl under the loom for tie up's.

Enough of my woes and lets get on with the towel project...

The draft came from and is threaded like a turned twill. Its the tie up that adds the twist! The draft above shows the two variations I used separated by a black stripe. More on them later.

I used 22/2  cottolin that I bought way back when from Nordic Studios when it still resided in Canada. (It was later sold and evolved into the Lone Star Loom Room ).  My sett was 24 epi and my warp was 8.06 yards for seven towels. (see what I mean about not that long??) The idea was six towels for sale and one for us. I like large towels and so they were 25"  in the reed and a total of 618 ends. I literally had enough cottolin left for one floating selvedge only and the second had to be 8/2 cotton. The two pound cone was barely enough for the warp. I haven't come quite this close before!

My weft was 8/2 cotton from Brassards that I have on hand so this project was helping with stash reduction. 

I found the treadling of simply going from treadle one to treadle twelve the easiest on my joints. The work was evenly shared by both legs and so after one towel woven  turned twill style, I went back to the simpler version and did the other six towels the same. I made each of them a different colour and once off the loom and edges secured by the serger they looked to be a happy bunch! (see the very top picture)

I enjoy hand sewing the hems. I also find there is no obvious stitch line like a sewing machine produces. It hangs smoothly with no buckling along the hem line. The sewing holds up nicely and I have a combination cottolin and cotton towel that was hand hemmed back in 1998 that is washed regularly and still looks great. Remember that sewing machines are a 'modern' invention and for many hundreds, if not thousands of years it was just the simple needle and thread.

They were washed and hung to dry out doors on my drying rack. I brought them in for ironing while still a touch damp.  The final measurements were 23" by 28" so generously large.




royal blue

bubblegum pink

moss green


I also managed to get an additional square measuring 24" by 24" in plum which I'm turning into a table centre and crocheting an edging. I'll show you that when its all done. Then were even some samples for my records which is always nice.    This project was hard work but I took it one step, literally, at a time.... 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Best Laid Plans...

About a month before our trip away, I got the bright idea of making up some guest towels to have handy as hostess gifts. I really liked the runners I wove up a year ago and had fun playing around with treadling variations I had woven up as book marks.

So I wound a warp of 10/2 mercerised cotton from Louet's yarn  for a dozen towels (yeah, I know, that's a lot of 'quickie' towels...)  My sett was 28 epi.  Bruce helped me beam the warp and I found I was short three ends. I double and triple checked and I was really three short.  So out came the weighted canisters and my handy dandy little separator. Why are there four? (five really) as two are floating selvedges...

The weaving was straightforward and fun. The hemstitching slowed me down some. I decided to use bamboo as my weft and I quickly went through the colours and  yarn I had on hand. I had to visit a LYS in Victoria and buy some new bamboo colours! 

I then has some issues with my left knee / right foot and so things came to a halt for a week and more. Next thing I knew, it was time to pack for the trip and so I decided to take in stock kitchen towels as gifts. I also took bottles of wine grown and produced locally here in the Cowichan Valley. A bit cheeky given the Okanagan Valley and Shuswap regions are major wine producers in their own right. 

After we got home and caught up on errands and Life, I picked up where I left off and carried on and finally a full cloth roll of twelve towels and some samples came off the loom. I got a BIG surprise when the brown paper roll finally dropped to the floor. Take a look at this!

This was a brand new roll of heavy brown paper and you can see a clear line on the left side.  It would seem the yarn was full of spinning oils! I have never see anything like this before. I knew they use a fine oil and sometimes even a wax when spinning the fibres up but my paper or sticks have never been stained like this.

I like hand hemming and so the twenty four hems took me about three or four evenings to get done. I did my usual hidden running stitch. You can see how I do this here

They were soaked a long time in hot sudsy water to get rid of the oils and then  laundered as per usual and hung out side on my clothes rack to dry. I gave them a hard pressing.  I think they turned out great, even if they are late arriving at the finish line.

There were three different versions with bronze and cream. Hems were woven with cream bamboo as well.

There were two woven with white weft against the cream warp and one guest towel was woven up all in cream. They look much prettier in person than here.... really nice sheen to the fabric.

 I also used this pretty teal bamboo weft, again with treadling variations. I found the softer colours looked nicer against the beige cream. I tried some darker colours (navy and blue red) but kept to my first choices.

One of the new colours I bought, periwinkle blue, is my personal favourite. Its almost a Wedgewood blue. They are all varying sizes in length depending on where I was in the treadling scheme as some would be to short, so I add one more repeat and then they would go over. They measure (roughly) 12" x 16" - 18".
So they may not have made it in time for the hostess gifts but they will be great to have on hand for the coming Christmas sales (yes, I really wrote *that* word).

I have to chuckle at the response to weaving these up. "Oh, I would never wipe my hands on those" but everyone  who comes to my house get a small regular store bought guest towel to use by the sink. Its a real dilemma for my guests. A common hand towel in a weaver's home?   But if I put a hand woven one there, no one touches it...   Its enough to make you go for therapy.... but its cheaper and more fun to weave instead.

Make a weaver happy and use a gift as it was intended when they made it.   They will be thrilled!   :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

M's and O's ~ a Sweet Old Thing

When I wove up various samples for the Guild of Canadian Weavers Test, one of the weave structures I had to study was an older weave structure called M's and O's.  I thought it looked pretty, almost like a poor cousin to the lace weaves. It seems it has an interesting history!
  • its believed to have originally come from Finland to America (and Canada) via Finnish settlers. They brought it with them along with their homestead belongings and shared in their new communities.
  • it was called  Sålldräll in Sweden. What does that mean exactly? Well, a search on the internet didn't get me any answers (in English!) so perhaps one of my readers can share with us in the comments.
  • Weaver Rose called it "Buckens and Owls" (this link takes you to a book review about the Weaving Roses of Rhode Island. Many of their drafts appear in Marguerite Porter Davison's book.
  • an interesting historical tid bit: Well's Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, published in London in 1850,  in its correct spelling: buckeens. It is an Anglo-Irish word which formerly denoted a young man of the second-rate gentry or a younger son of the poorer aristocracy who aped the manners of the wealthy. The buckeens would spend the night  drinking whiskey and carousing in the halls and taverns and other disreputable behaviours.  So the buckeen and the owl are both night-birds, hence the association of ideas that brings the two words together. So why they named a weaving pattern after this is beyond me!
So what exactly is M's and O's anyhow?  Its a simple weave structure that combines plain weave with a textured rib weave. It depends on thread distortion to create the familiar M's and O's. The ribbed sections are looser  and so curve around the plain weave block and make the O's. Much like huck lace, the curving of threads happens off the loom and even more after wet finishing.

Its a nifty one shuttle weave that has a simple threading and treadling.  The treadling is based on 'weaving on opposites'. On a four shaft loom you get two blocks *.   A "block" is made up of  eight ends (also known as a unit), which is repeated at least twice to make a block. This is the tradition, but there is no hard and fast rule about block size, so one unit can also make a block.

 The threading is as follows:
  • Block A: 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 4
  • Block B: 1, 3, 1, 3, 2, 4, 2, 4
{*Sharon Alderman says on a four shaft loom that you can get a third block by threading : Block C: 3, 2, 3, 2,1, 4, 1, 4}

 Lets leave that extra block C Sharon 'found' to one side right now and look at what you traditionally get on an eight shaft loom:
  • Block A and Block B as above, then,
  • Block C: 5, 6, 5, 6, 7,8 7, 8
  • Block D: 5, 7, 5, 7, 6, 8, 6, 8
Mary E. Black's Key to Weaving says there are two blocks on four shafts, three blocks on six shafts and four blocks on eight shafts. Of course Sharon's little method above could probably eke out an extra one or two blocks somehow!

Now to clarify, I'm not calling this a unit weave but simply referring to a threading group as a unit.  The warp ends in one block weave plain weave as individual ends while groups of warp ends weave together in plain weave order with the same weft in the alternate ribbed block. Since pattern cannot be woven in both blocks at the same time, M's and O's is not a true unit weave.

Click to enlarge this draft.

By referring to the threading guide above, you can see the following blocks (right to left of course) : 8 ends plain weave, A, B, A, A, B, B, A, B, B, A, A, B, A, 7 ends plain weave.
The tie up has Block A on treadles 1 and 2. Block B has treadles 3 and 4. You can see the treadling is based on opposites.  The plain weave is threaded on the selvedges but not part of the treadling sequence.  You can see the areas of plain weave (A) that surround the ribbed sections (B).

M's O's is a simple threading and  treadling, but here are some guidelines and advise to follow:

Classic M's and O's is best if the warp and weft are the same smooth yarn and also the same colour (much like other laces).  Novelty yarns, boucle and flake yarns all obscure the pattern.

The floats can become lengthy so finer threads are best. The floats can slide around so a fibre with some bite to it is best to hold in place them such as cottons, linens and even some silks.

The ribbed sections tend to pull apart easier and should be balanced with the plain weave blocks to produce a more stable cloth. Spread the blocks around!

Also ribbed sections will pull apart if the sett is too loose but then again, setting the threads too close won't improve the cloth either. It's best as a balanced 50/50 weave!

If a section of a given block is planned wide, then its best woven shallow; narrow sections look good woven deep.

Edges can be improved by threading four threads either side 1, 2, 3, 4.  Thread them but do not treadle them. Just proceed with your planned treadling (no tromp as writ). It improves the selvedges by preventing draw in by the pattern blocks. (you can also thread 1, 4, 1, 4 etc to produce plain weave)

Here is a silk scarf I wove for the tests using silk:

So what type of cloth is possible with M's and O's ? Well, its fully reversible and I have seen some very pretty valance curtains woven in cotton. Full curtains on sunny windows filter the light nicely. Linen is the best choice as it resists 'sun- rot'.

The surface floats mean it would make great cotton toweling and be absorbent. Its traditionally woven in linens for table cloth and runners and even hand towels.  Here is an example of a runner I wove some years ago on a four shaft Leclerc Artisat loom on loan from a guild.

I used 40/2 linen from Belgium, sett at  36 epi. It gets softer with each washing and I'm so glad I  slogged away on   stuck with all ten yards of it!  The rest were sold at sales of course and I have saved this last one for us. The linen is very fine at 6,000 yds/ lb, and I can see now that it should have been beaten harder to square. I also didn't know the trick about selvedges then but I think my edges turned out okay!

You can also turn the draft and weave turned M's and O's!  The main stripes will now go side to side. There are also some interesting effects that can be done when you think outside the box. If you have Handwoven Magazine, Nov/ Dec 2004 issue, pages 42-44..... take a look at the turned M's and O's scarf there that looks like honeycomb. I love this new take on an old weave!

When it comes to planning a balanced design using M's and O's I found a profile draft very helpful. So as a bonus this time, I'm going to discuss how a Profile Draft works.

Any weave structure that has a standard threading arrangement or unit and that you can combine units into blocks of any size, can be used in a profile draft format. So, using M's and O's for example:

1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3,4   is a unit of eight ends. This is Block A
1, 3, 1, 3, 2, 4, 2, 4   is a second unit of eight ends. This is Block B

On my silk scarf profile draft, I arranged the block into a balanced pattern and this is how I wove it based on using the M's and O's threading.  The line in the center is just that, the center, and the pattern reverses from there.

.....the chart above translates into this arrangement....

... and in this picture you can see the ribbed cells curving around the plain weave blocks. This scarf is beaten to square and you can see the difference that a balanced weave makes.


You can also switch out the M's and O's threading above and then replace with threading units for huck lace (1, 2, 1, 2, 1 / 4, 3, 4, 3, 4 ), summer and winter (1, 3, 2, 3 / 1, 4, 2, 4) and even crackle (1, 2, 3, 2  (*1) 2, 3, 4, 3) for example.  {*Making adjustments for the rules that any weave structure may have  like crackle's incidental ends}

You work out how many shafts you have available to weave with , then how may blocks are possible depending based on your 'preferred' choice of weave structure (such as 4 blocks with overshot and two blocks with huck etc), and play with arrangement of the blocks and the colours you want to use.

For example if you are planning a baby blanket with several colours in the  warp and weft, then the block arrangement you have chosen may look better woven up in Summer and Winter than your  first choice of M's and O's. The different weave structure may blend the colours better or produce a better block arrangement, such as using crackle, for your project.

 At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a computer program makes it possible to play around with this design tool. That's what a profile draft is....a design method

Books I used to research this post and you might to look up for a further study:
  • The Handweaver's Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon
  • A Handweavers Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison
  • Mastering Weave Structures by Sharon Alderman
  • Key to Weaving by Mary E. Black
  • Various Handwoven magazines....check the index for M's and O's

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Road Trip: Friends and Family

Sorry to leave you waiting for so long! That last overshot post should have kept you thinking for awhile at least. I have been away on a road trip to visit friends and family..... and I just couldn't bring myself to announce here at the blog that we would be gone, leaving our house empty. Being a policeman's daughter, I'm cautious about such things!

After packing and making up dog dinners for Calli's time at the doggy resort, we started our trip with this view:

These gals were waiting in the ferry line up to cross to the Vancouver side!  Soon we were all aboard and on our way. This is leaving Nanaimo:

We had a grey start but these clouds soon cleared away and we had sunshine. Also the start of a high pressure that was to bring hot weather to much of our area. Our air conditioning in the car couldn't be fixed as they couldn't find the leak.... this could be a problem!

We buzzed through the Vancouver area and out into the Fraser Valley. We were heading to Merritt the first day so we had a great drive. Once past the town of Hope, we were into big mountain country and a section they call avalanche alley. While I've showed you pictures from there on last years trip.... here are some fresh ones:

Mt Yak

Not sure of this one's name but its across from Mt Yak

After a few hours we reached Merritt

After a pleasant evening there we headed out to Kamloops and found this lovely view from the hillside east of Merritt of the Nicola Valley.  This is sage brush country...home to logging and cattle ranching.

Kamloops is also a hot and dry place but a confluence of highways, rivers and quite a boom town! We stopped here for breakfast at a Denny's east of town and I snapped some pictures of the hoodoos they have all along the river. I tried hard to get the three dimensional feel of them and all the benches. Tough when you are a basic point and click shooter!

They are really beautiful and reminded me of our visit to Dinosaur National Park near Brooks, Alberta in 1993. If you are ever near there, you *must* see it!

After Kamloops, there are small little places along the road: Pritchard (Hi Wendy!), Chase, Sorrento, and Blind Bay. We used to live in Blind Bay and we just had to cruise by the old house:

The trees are larger, fuller and the place looks nice. Yup, we should have stayed there.... oh, well! Too late now and too much water under the bridge. (I'd cut those cedars back if it was mine still)

We arrived at Gudrun and Alfred's place in Tappen just after lunch. They live at the foot of Mt Bastion, across the Shuswap lake from the city of Salmon Arm. Their little community of Sunnybrae is beautiful and a real slice of paradise.  Gudrun had some of her weaving on display at the local art gallery and the day we arrived was the last day of the display, so we had to go and see it!  Now there was weaving by three other weavers but unless you had their express permission, you could not take pictures, not even a over-view shot from the doorway!  So it looks like a one woman show as a result.

Gudrun with her metal sample loom. Her Jacquard woven yellow sunflower weaving in behind.

Beiderwand table cloth with Pine Tree Borders

Interesting bit of history associated with this one!

We posed for pictures: Elizabeth (Shuswap Guild President), Gudrun and myself.

Gudrun played the grand piano (she is a lovely pianist!)

We left there about 3:30 pm and had some time so we visited Lori Talerico's Fine Art Gallery nearby. What a delightful little gallery! Lori has so much talent and when we arrived she was working on a 'caustic' painting (I think that was her term) Its where you paint and then apply wax over top, more paint and then more wax and you build the painting up in layers. The finished result has a 3D look to it. It also means using a heat gun to melt the wax and given the ongoing heat wave, Lori is truly dedicated to her craft!

Alfred enjoying a coffee and some of Lori's art.

Then Lori and I realized that she had bought one of my shawls a few years ago and agreed to model it for me! My first "post purchase" picture. I usually never really know where my weaving goes after it leaves my hands so this was neat for me! 

Next up, we went just a short distance from Lori's gallery to the lake foreshore and Alfred and I sat in the shade of a tree and admired the view:

Shuswap lake and Mt Bastion is to the right of the picture. Gorgeous huh?

Bruce and Gudrun walked the pier.

At 5 pm we went into town and met Shuswap Guild friends for supper. What a GREAT time! I was hugged so much and it was nice to see them all. Given it was a long weekend, it was nice of them to take time to come and see us.  

Meet (left to right) Elvi, Judith, Gudie and Julia. Elvi is a beautiful weaver; Judith a spinning instructor, Gudie is the Queen of Recycling Fibre (and yarn bombing), and Julia is an accomplished fibre enthusiast, and woodworker. She usually plays a harp every Christmas at the annual sale that she made

This is Darlene with Gudrun. Darlene is a sweetie and also a beautiful weaver/ knitter.

We spent the next day quietly at Gudrun and Alfred's home. Gudrun and I discussed all things weaving. She has two studio rooms: one for her antique Scottish loom and the other is for her tapestry loom.

Tapestry loom with new project under way! This will be revealed here in the future when its all done. Trust me, its very unique! On the wall to the left, a tapestry called "Night Migration"

Here's all the shades of grays being used and all fibre types depending on the effect Gudrun wants to achieve.

The light from the windows make getting a shot of the front difficult but you can see the fly shuttle boxes.

Its an amazing loom and built in 1932 or so.

There is weaving all over Gudrun's home: rugs on floors, tapestry on walls, table cloth on the dining room table along with placemats and napkins. Even new upholstery fabric on their Ikea chairs! Its really a weavers home and every room had something special.

Transparencies hanging in the stairwell...

...and the most amazing overshot coverlets on the beds!!

This was our bed. It was woven in two pieces and sewn together. It takes a careful beat to get two sections to match up and trust me, they match! (on both coverlets)

After my last post on overshot, this was a real treat to find!

We enjoyed the cooler evening air on their deck with this stunning view of Mount Ida and the city of Salmon Arm along the shore of Shuswap lake.

Next day we headed off down the road and drove through towns like Enderby, Armstrong, and Vernon:

Swan Lake north of Vernon

Coldstream Valley

The beach at Kalamalka Lake was full of people trying to keep cool!

Almost to Kelowna!

and then we arrived in Kelowna to visit Bruce's mother. She was celebrating her 90th birthday! By the time we arrived, the heat had me all done in. It was reaching 38-40 degrees Celsius and I'm used to a more sedate and cooler 20-22 degrees on the Island.  A cool shower and some time in the cooler basement and I felt better!
We stayed with Lorraine for three days and before we knew it, we were on the road home again. We weren't too far along on the highway between Kelowna and we came across these beauties browsing along the highway near Pennask Summit:

The scenery between Kelowna and Merritt on the "connector". Rolling hills...

Then back through Avalanche Alley....

This rock cornice looks menacing...especially when you look at the slope below it!

The fresh green growth is where previous snow slides have taken out the trees. We try not to travel during the winter months and that starts in late September way up here.

Finally we arrived in Vancouver!  We stayed overnight at the Sheraton and I upgraded our room as a special treat: king size bed on the top floor, free internet and wifi, free dinner appies and a free full breakfast. Best of all, air conditioning!! It was the crowning touch to a great week away!

Then we were looking at this welcome view.... That's Nanaimo in the middle there and home is forty five minutes away. Oh, and the heat wave eased off once we got in the door.