Leaving the Octopus’ Garden

After a 6 month hiatus, I am finally emerging from my hideaway beneath the ocean waves. Can’t say the past six months have not been uneventful. This is what I did:

I ate well.

Strawberry Margarita Cheesecake

Strawberry Margarita Cheesecake

I drank well.

Red wine sangria

Red wine sangria

And I relaxed well.

On the beach in Curacao

On the beach in Curacao

But I have also worked hard, already having four shows behind me in 2013. And usually that is the total number of shows I participate in in any given year. I have been working on a few new products. One being earrings made from yarn leftover from my weaving projects with fabric recycled from other projects.

Earrings made from recycled fabric and yarn

Earrings made from recycled fabric and yarn

I also introduced a new line of scarves which I have called “Watercolor” scarves because the colors in the novelty yarns  in the warp seem like they blend into each other. There are eight colorways in this line:  Blue Bayou, Purple Passion, First Blush, First Encounter, Rhymes with Orange, Hydrangeas, Spring Fling and Mellow Mushroom. You can see them all here.  And here is an example of one of the scarves.

Purple Passion Watercolor Scarf

Purple Passion Watercolor Scarf

This particular colorway was purchased by a very stylish woman whom I met at  Art2Wear  Nashville. She liked it so much, she even blogged about it! Thank you, Alicia!

So as I emerge from the octopus’ garden I am preparing for new challenges in weaving, and I will be more diligent in writing about them. I promise!

Octopus Garden Sidewalk chalk drawing

Octopus Garden Sidewalk chalk drawing

Spin Span Spun

Ashford traveler spinning wheel

So I’m polishing my wheel.  It’s not what you think. Haven’t used either of my spinning wheels in quite some time. And well, frankly I miss the rhythmic pull of the yarn and watching a cloud of soft fiber softly twist and wind onto the bobbin. And finally  being rewarded with a luscious colorful skein of handspun yarn that can be used in my weaving.

Some of my handspun skeins of yarn

I have been spinning nearly as long as I have been weaving which I started in 1980. But I have not spent as much time at the wheel as I have had at the loom. So I have some catching up to do. The lovely handspun art yarns that I have seen on etsy recently has inspired me to start spinning again and create something beautiful. Just go to etsy and search for “Art Yarn”.  Some very talented spinners there.

Then there is Pluckyfluff. Pluckyfluff if you don’t already know is the Queen of handspun art yarn.  This is the very talented and creative Lexi Boeger from California who travels the world to share her skills and expertise with other handspinners and fiber lovers who want to create luscious and unusual art yarns. She has written two books:

Handspun Revolution is sadly out of print!

Intertwined, the book is a piece of art by itself

And she is coming to Memphis! And I am one of the lucky ones who will be sitting at her feet, absorbing all of her wisdom and hopefully creating something beautiful. I am especially interested in spinning with non-traditional materials. I look forward to using my small collection of art wire and spinning that as the core around which I will wrap colorful locks of mohair and odds and ends of ribbons, lace and bits of bamboo yarn leftover from my weaving projects. Maybe I can finally figure out how to weave a 3-D project on my floor loom with yarn that will hold a stiff shape on its own.

Reclaimed fabric is another non-traditional fiber I plan to use in my spinning.  If you have read some of my older posts, then you know that I like to use fabric from clothes that I have recycled into strips and incorporated into my weaving projects.  This is something that many of my weaving students like to do.  I can’t wait to use “rag” strips and twist them around metallic yarn, handmade paper, ribbon, felted bits and other reclaimed material. Fabulous! Art yarn indeed!

So I am polishing my wheel, polishing my dormant spinning skills and gathering some of my stash of hand dyed fiber.  Fiber that has been sitting around for awhile and waiting for this day.  Yippeee!

Hand dyed mohair locks, purple and orange

Hand dyed mohair locks, green and magenta

Desperately Seeking High End Crafts in Memphis

 

WinterArts - Affordable Gifts by Local Artists

Living in the Bible Belt guarantees that each holiday season there will be a gazillion opportunities to attend “Arts and Crafts Bazaars” at a local church on any given Saturday between Halloween and Christmas. Few of these fairs are juried by committees with discerning eyes for fine craft. So by this time in November, local folks may get pretty tired of seeing yet another onesie proclaiming that it’s wearer is “Cute as a Button” or thin socks made in China, or wreaths and jewelry assembled from kits that were assembled in China. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But for those who expect a unique and finely made craft object produced by a maker who considers himself/herself a professional artist, and who produces his/her art locally, there is relief in sight.

In recent years, the craft holiday market in Memphis has been growing to include high end craft items created by local artists who have been doing this kind of work for years.  Previously, many have found greater success in selling their work outside of the area where the market for good quality craft products command more respect and in turn a higher price. For years, the high end holiday shows in this region have been commandeered by the fine art market, which locally is very fine indeed. However, little room was left for the many glass artists, wood workers, fiber artists, metalsmiths, printmakers and clay artists who live and work in the Memphis area.

This holiday season, there will be two shows that are fairly new to Memphis (this will be the second year for both shows) that will showcase the fine crafts of local artists. And of course everything will be available for sale at very reasonable prices. And yes, my handwoven scarves and my handbound books will be at both shows.  If you are in the Memphis area or plan to visit, please stop by. WinterArts will be open daily until December 24 and the Brooks Museum Artists Market will be a one day event on December 5. The Museum will be planning many special events on that day for shoppers and museum goers including a special holiday luncheon at their renowned “Brushmark” Restaurant. I hope to meet many of you there! More information is posted below.

WinterArts – Affordable Gifts by Local Artists.  The Shops of Saddle Creek South, West Street at Poplar Avenue, Germantown, TN 38138.  Opening Reception is Friday, November 26, 2010, 5:30 – 9 PM.  Open daily from November 27 to December 24.  Works in glass, clay, wood, metal, fiber, jewelry, photography and paintings.

Brooks Museum Artists Market at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104.  Sunday, December 5, 2010 from 11 AM – 5 PM.  Holiday bazaar presented by the Brooks Museum Gift Shop and representing local artists who also sell their work year round in the gift shop. Artists who will be there work in clay, wood, metal, jewelry, paper and fiber.

A Tale of Two Tallitot

Tallitot is plural for tallit.  For those of you who are wondering what a tallit is —  it is a prayer shawl worn for Jewish worship. The shawl has special twined and knotted fringes called tzitzit attached to its four corners. There are more than two tallitot involved here, but I really liked the alliterative reference!

This previous post described one of my long term projects – a commission to weave eight ceremonial tallitot, prayer shawls for a large synagogue.  The project is currently on my loom and looks like this.

Tallit on loom - Right and Left sides are woven separately and at the same time

This is the first prayer shawl in a series of four. These are ceremonial tallitot and so are narrower than standard prayer shawls.  They will be worn around the neck  much like a scarf and with a seam in the back.  The tallitot will be lined and taper to a width of about  four inches at the seam at the back of the neck.  Here is my sketch for one side of the tallit.

sketch of tallit design

The reason that I am weaving a single tallit side by side is so that the pattern bands are equal in length as these will lie in front of the wearer and for the congregation to see. Ideally the pattern bands should line up with each other.   This means that I am weaving with four shuttles at a time:  each side has one shuttle for plain weave and one shuttle for the pattern weave. I will also be weaving a separate neck band or atarah which will be sewn over the back seam and whose design will extend onto the front of the prayer shawl. This is the blue green band that is at the top of the design sketch.

Detail of tallit on loom

The warp and plain weave weft yarn for this project is an undyed  natural 8/2 tencel yarn.  The pattern weft is Bambu 7 in solid colors and also a handpainted 5/2 tencel.  The pattern design is a variation of  a honeysuckle twill.  The weave pattern for the atarah will be in a different design. The imagery of the twill weave reminded me of a flame, and so this collection will be titled “Ner Tamid” the eternal light above the Holy Ark that houses the Torah and thus is a symbol of God’s ever presence.

This first  set of four prayer shawls should be completed by the time of the Jewish New Year, or the High Holy Days which this year occurs the first week of September.  And at this time as well, Lark Books will introduce a new book: “500 Judaica:  Innovative Contemporary Ritual Art.” This is one of Lark Books’  “500 series”  of publications showcasing collections of contemporary design by an international array of artists in varying media.

Lark Books' "500 Judaica"

And it just so happens that four of  my original design handwoven tallitot have been selected for publication in this book. This book will be available in September and can be purchased at all book stores and online shops.  To find out more visit Lark Books.

A Cheater’s Lace

The song says “A Cheater’s Love Will Set You Free”.  Don’t really know if it’s true, but I was thinking of those words when feeling the pressure to produce appropriate gifts for this Mother’s Day show:

The Spring Show

Much of my scarf inventory was diminished with the recent show less than a month ago. And with the weather warming up, tightly woven scarves were out of the question.  So I decided to weave some lacey scarves which really hadn’t been in my repertoire that much.  After much research and deliberating, I settled on a weave pattern based on a modified Atwater-Bronson lace.  The end product was a lightweight airy fabric that draped beautifully and was perfect for cool summer evenings, a rare occurrence here in Memphis.  So this shawl really had to be pleasing to the eyes.

The warp is a 10/2 perle cotton which was sett loosely at 20 ends per inch (epi).  These three colors were used in the warp.

10/2 perle cotton in natural, bleached white, and pale pink

I threaded a simplified variation of the more traditional 6 thread unit of the original Atwater-Bronson lace pattern. I used a 4 thread unit instead which utilized only 3 harnesses on my 8 harness loom. Sweet! Threading was easy.  In a 10 dent reed, I threaded 2 ends per dent and in the heddles, threaded in this order:  shaft 1, shaft 3, shaft 1 and shaft 2.  This 1-3-1-2 threading was repeated for the entire 15″ width of the shawl. Treadling and tie up were even easier.  I used only 4 treadles:  treadle 1 raised shaft 1, treadle 2 raised shaft 2, treadle 3 raised shaft 1 and treadle 4 raised shafts 2 and 3 together.  And so treadling was an easy to remember 1-2-3-4 !

Cotton/bamboo lace shawl on the loom

The weft was 100% bamboo yarn, Bambu 7 from Silk City Fibers. Here is the detail of the lace weave with the Bambu 7 weft of  “Rice”.

Detail Atwater-Bronson Lace weave with Bambu 7 "Rice"

And here is a detail of the lace weave with a weft of the Bambu 7 yarn in the color “Tide Blue”.

Detail Atwater-Bronson Lace weave with weft of Bambu 7 "Tide Blue"

The finished lace shawl on my faithful model Velma who accompanies me to every show:

Handwoven cotton/bamboo lace shawl

So, was this simplified version of Atwater-Bronson lace weave a cheater’s lace?  Definitely yes!  And did it set me free? Absolutely yes! And Velma looked pretty good in the finished shawl.

Kreativ Blogger

A couple of weeks ago  Bety from Deep End of the Loom nominated me to be recognized as a “Kreativ Blogger”.  It was quite flattering and an honor to know that there are talented fiber artists out there who are reading my blog and may even be getting something out of it!  I truly appreciate that! And I especially appreciate Bety’s acknowledgment of my efforts.

The Kreativ Blogger nomination is an excellent way to share one’s passions with the online community and in turn learn from others.  The origin of this award and it’s logo was designed by Norwegian blogger Hulda who created it in May 2008  from fabric scraps:

Kreative Blogger

Once a blogger has been nominated for this honor, there are 7 criteria that the honoree needs to follow in order to pass this award on to others

1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link the person who nominated you.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that no one would really know.
5. Nominate seven ‘Kreativ Bloggers’.
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

Now for the seven things about me.  Those of you who have been followers of my writings, rantings, and whatnot, know that I am a fanatic when it comes to music of all kinds.  So in the “kreativ” spirit of this award, I am posting seven  links to seven songs that I think will reveal a few things about me that most of you won’t already know.

1. “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys.

It’s not what you think.  I’ve lived in two countries and fourteen cities.

2.  “Ragmamarag” by Robbie Robertson and the Band

I am a mama, and occasionally I complain.

3.  “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley

I’ve been told I’m paranoid.  And being in Memphis, I had to include one by Elvis.

4.  “Twisted” by Joni Mitchell

Just listen to the lyrics….

5.  “Your Mind is on Vacation and Your  Mouth is Working Overtime” by Mose Allison

Because I’ve been told I talk too much and what I say may or may not be about nothing.

6.  “Red Red Wine” by UB 40

I also enjoy good food and good wine.

7.  “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley

Because life is too short….

That was the easy part.  Now for the hard part.  There are many, many more blogs that I would like to add to this list of seven.  But as I am limited to only seven, here are my nominees in no particular order for “Kreativ Blogger”.

Woven Thoughts – also spinning, and dyeing,in fact anything fiber:  http://www.saralamb.blogspot.com

Mulberries and Dew-ethics, sustainability, weaving, and a love of the handcrafted: http://taliweinberg.wordpress.com

Meridian Jacobs – life on the farm and at the loom:  http://meridianjacobs.wordpress.com

Book Girl-random musings on my bookish (and occasionally other) passions:  http://ashevillebookgirl.blogspot.com

My Handbound Books-bookbinding blog:  http://myhandboundbooks.blogspot.com

Getting Purly With It-adventures and yarn lustings of a passionate knitter:  http://gettingpurlywithit.wordpress.com

Buy-A-Thread-adventures in the skein trade:  http://buyathread.wordpress.com

Congratulations to all the nominees.  May we continue to be honored by your words, photographs and creativity.

Fiber Rush

You thought I was going to write about weavers who get a “rush” from working with the fiber of their choice, right?  Wrong. I am going to tell you about a product called fiber rush.  It is a twisted paper cord used mostly to weave chair seats. It comes in a variety of diameters from the smallest 1/32″ to the largest 6/32″ and it comes in brown, gold or white. I purchased two – 1 pound coils of the smallest sizes #1 and #2.

Baby Fiber Rush

The baby fiber rush as it is often called can be used as a core in coiling baskets and also for small wicker furniture.  I found this at Royalwood Ltd. a source for basket weaving and seat weaving supplies. They are in Mansfield, OH and I also order Irish Waxed Linen thread from them.  I use the thread for bookbinding.

My previous experience with basket weaving was not a pleasant one, and so that was not my intention with the fiber rush.  I was looking for a stiff material that I could use as weft in a rep weave pattern.  I had previously tried weaving with wire but I did not like working with the constantly kinking, curling and twisting wire.   Three dimensional weaving had always intrigued me and I was curious as to how I could weave a bowl or vase on the loom.

The #2 baby fiber rush seemed more stiff than the #1 and thus more suitable to my idea of the final product.  I wound a bunch of the rush around a stick shuttle.  The rush would be the thick rows of weft to create the dominate weave pattern.  For the alternating thin rows, I used a spool of sewing thread which I simply inserted onto the shaft of a boat shuttle. Using the thick and thin wefts, I wove the way I would normally weave a rep weave pattern.  This is how it looks on my loom.

Rep weave on loom, woven with alternate weft rows of fiber rush and sewing thread

My warp is 3/2 perle cotton sett at 30 epi.  I blended various shades of blues and yellows together so the pattern wouldn’t look so flat.  This was a recommendation by Joanne Tallarovic in her book Rep Weave and Beyond. In fact the above pattern was inspired by her “Circle of Life” sash on page 78. The fiber rush in the thick rows can only be seen at the selvages of the woven fabric.

Once this piece is off the loom I will try to sew it into a basket.  I wove two same sized and identical pieces that I will lay flat, one centered and perpendicular to the other one on the bottom.  Then I will fold up the sides and hand sew the corners where they meet.  I will also sew the open ended selvages on the bottom edges of the “basket” and perhaps insert a square of mat board if the piece is not stiff enough.  The actual fabric is not as stiff as I had intended, so I don’t know if this will even work.  I have also woven some extra pieces on this warp, so if all else fails, I will at least have some rep weave pieces that I can use as book covers.

Fiber rush, anyone?

Brand New Day

After finishing that little shabby chic scarf (see previous post), my next project seems to be the opposite extreme.  The characteristics of the scarf that is currently on my loom are  traditional and conservative.  The fiber in the warp is Zephyr, a silk and wool blend made by Jaggerspun. The weft is a wool heathered yarn also by Jaggerspun.  I happen to have a few cones of it in my stash.

Blue heathered wool by Jaggerspun

The yarn was left over from a cooperative project that I participated in with some other weavers.  All of us wove a 20″ X 20″  square of an overshot design of our choosing and we exchanged the squares with each other.  Supposedly to make a friendship coverlet — however some members of this group never quite finished, so I am left with a partial coverlet.

The overshot design I chose was called “Four Leaf Clover”.  Here is a detail of my woven square.

Detail of handwoven square - "Four Leaf Clover" pattern

I’m still wondering what to do with the handful of coverlet squares I do have.  All of them are beautiful, but just not enough to sew into a coverlet.  I may frame them…

Back to the current project. I decided to weave a pattern called “Shaded Twill” which is described in Marguerite Davison’s A Handweaver’s Pattern Book. This is what it looks like on my loom at this moment.

Shaded Twill Weave Scarf on Loom

Very unusual for my handwoven scarves – not my style at all. In my weaving, I tend to favor lightweight fibers like cotton, bamboo and tencel.  My colors generally lean toward the lights and brights, sometimes even neon. And my patterns favor texture often with floats to break up the monotony of a repetitive weave pattern. But I had to use up that wool yarn and I already had a warp chain wound of the natural silk and wool blend yarn. And this is the result.  Pretty pattern with a suggestion of quiet elegance,  and the wool is  soft and comforting as well.  I will weave the one scarf, then I’ll be back to my old funky self – color and texture – the two characteristics that drew me into the weaving process to begin with. But change is good sometimes, and this shows that even unplanned change in a new direction can have its merits.

It’s Supplementary, My Dear Watson

This scarf came about by mistake.  A simple mistake. An elementary one, really.  Against my better judgment gained from 30 years of weaving, I used a loosely spun novelty yarn as a supplementary warp that would sit or “float”  on top of the woven fabric and then anchored down by a weft row every 12 picks.  And of course as I was beaming the warp, the novelty yarn began to break and unravel causing a major headache and a few choice words on my part.  So I carefully removed the novelty yarn and continued to wind the 10/2 perle cotton warp minus the supplementary warp threads which were meant to be spaced at every fifth dent in an 8 dent reed.  The 10/2 perle cotton was sleyed at 3 ends per dent for 4 consecutive dents, then the fifth dent  for the supplementary novelty yarn remained empty.  And so this pattern of sleying continued for the width of the scarf which was 7 inches.

I needed a replacement for the heavier novelty yarn. A quick look at my yarn shelves revealed this little used cone of fuchsia mohair and nylon yarn.

cone of mohair and nylon yarn for supplementary warp

I wound 12 ends of this mohair yarn, each measuring  7 1/2 yards which was the length of the original warp.  The ends were threaded through the empty dents and heddles that were reserved for the supplementary warp yarn. Because the 10/2 warp was already tied and wound onto the the warp beam, I had to improvise with the mohair yarn. The entire length of each of the supplementary warp yarns were wrapped around  small squares of plastic needlepoint canvas weighted down with a washer.  A small “Boston” clip was used to keep the yarn in place and to prevent unraveling. These were hung over the loom’s back beam.

Supplementary warp ends hanging from back of loom

It looked rather messy, but it worked.  This was a true “McGyver” moment! The two film canisters held ends of 10/2 perle cotton that happened to break during the beaming and so also needed replacements.

During the actual weaving, the scarf had a supplementary weft yarn that was inserted  after every 12 picks. I used the same mohair/nylon yarn for the supplementary weft.

Scarf with supplementary warp and weft on loom

Detail of handwoven pattern

The choice of colors to me wasn’t an ideal one, but given the selection of my yarn stash, it seemed to work better than anything else that was at hand. This was a simple and easy solution to a very frustrating problem.  And I was reminded that I always tell my students that 75% of weaving is trying to figure out how to solve a problem.  In this case, the problem was  my mistake and short sightedness.  It’s all supplementary, I mean elementary isn’t it?

The China Closet Syndrome

My mother had a morbid way of looking at life.  Basically she didn’t believe that life should be lived at all.  We should all be locked up in china closets she would say to spare us the pain, hurt and humiliation that life has to offer.  I guess for her the glass was always half empty.  That also explains my youthful rebelliousness which thankfully continued into my adulthood.  The rebelliousness, I mean, not necessarily the youth part.

I can’t admit to ever living in a china closet, but some of my earliest handwoven clothes did, and still seem to be in residence there.  Because the world seems to be shifting on its axis, or maybe it’s just me reaching a certain age, I decided to open the china closet and let these clothes live.  I’m past the point of being mindful of what others think of me, so I won’t mind wearing some of these handwoven creations from the 1980’s!  Only thing is, I live in a different climate now than I did thirty years ago!  Almost everything I wove then was created with wool yarn – practical if one is living where temperatures were routinely below the freezing mark!  But here in Memphis it rarely gets that cold! So, laugh if you must, but here are a few examples of my early work in weaving.

Handwoven cotton huipil, 1980

The huipil was one of the first pieces I ever wove.  A huipil (wee-peel) is a traditional Guatemalan blouse usually woven on a back strap loom.  My huipil was woven on a rigid heddle loom threaded with cotton carpet warp and the weft was a nubby cotton slub yarn.  The pattern was woven with a pick up stick.  This is actually one of the few early handwoven pieces of clothing I can still wear in Memphis.

handwoven overshot sweater, 1981

Oy, what a geek I must have been to actually have worn this!  This was woven on my first floor loom – a Harrisville 40″ wide four harness loom that I built from a kit. The warp and weft are both wool, the warp being a Harrisville Design single ply yarn, and the pattern weft was a beautiful 2 ply wool from Borg’s of Lund in Sweden.

handwoven lined wool jacket, 1981

I remember how I loved wearing this jacket!  It was woven with 2 ply Harrisville wool yarns and sett at 8 epi.  I remember walking on the finished fabric in a bathtub full of lukewarm soapy water to get it to felt the slightest bit! Since then, I’ve learned a little more about lining finished handwoven items!  I can probably still wear this today – it resembles the swing sweaters that seem to be coming back into style.

handwoven plaid cardigan, 1983

Another geeky sweater.  Woven in a twill plaid pattern with Harrisville Designs 2 ply wool.  The cuffs, collar, buttoned front and bottom of this sweater as well as the overshot sweater above were hand knit by me as well.

handwoven twill vest, 1985

I wove this for the MAFA – Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association – Conference that was held in Glassboro, NJ in 1985.  It was included in the fashion show which was presided over by Linda Ligon, the founder and creative director  of Interweave Press.

vest handwoven with handspun wool/silk, 1988

I learned to spin in 1988, and I remember splurging on this gorgeous batt of dyed burgundy wool blended with tussah silk noils.  At the time I used to visit Linda Berry Walker’s farm, Wood’s Edge Wool Farm along the Delaware River in Stockton, NJ to purchase wool and batts for spinning.  After spinning the yarn, I wove the front panels, then with an imported silk yarn, I knit the back, cuffs, front and bottom edges of the vest.  This was finished in 1988 and as far as I can remember, the last major start to finish project I tackled.  My first child was born in 1989! But today, I can probably wear the vest even in Memphis weather!  So yes, I think it’s time that these vintage handwoven clothes come out of their china closet and start living again!

As for my mother. She is 85 years old and living it up.  Apparently she emerged from her own china closet about the time I left home when I was 18!  I guess kids can do that to you.