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.

Scarf Ace

I’ve always loved those lightweight gauzy scarves that many department stores carry. They look so elegant and swing softly with the wearer, making  every movement look so graceful.  Very chic.  And they’re almost always imported from another country, sometimes India, sometimes Nepal or Thailand. Being a handweaver of scarves here in the States, I cannot bring myself to purchasing an imported scarf.  So when I was asked to demonstrate weaving on a rigid heddle loom for a community event, I thought it would be a good idea to warp something on the loom that might capture the feeling of one of those flowing and colorful scarves.

For the warp yarns, I decided to use two balls of Berroco’s Zen Colors.  This is a cotton and nylon ribbon generally used by knitters.  One ball was a bright multi colored variegated pattern of lime green, turquoise, orange and red. The other ball had stripes of pink and orange side by side.

Berroco's Zen Colors ribbon yarn

Berroco's Zen Colors ribbon yarn

Also in the warp is a cotton/acrylic nylon yarn in light green spun with a multi-colored ribbon.  This is Katia’s Sonrisa.

Katia Sonrisa cotton yarn

Katia Sonrisa cotton yarn

The warp yarns were purchased online from Webs in Northampton, MA during one of their clearance sales. I threaded the warp yarns on a 24″ wide  Schacht rigid heddle loom and with an 8 dent heddle. I have several of these looms that I use in my weaving classes.  They are true workhorses. – built sturdily with indestructible wood.   As I understand it, Schacht is no longer manufacturing these looms, but rather concentrating on their line of  “Flip”, a folding rigid heddle loom, and the “Cricket”, both excellent looms, and more portable than the ones that I have.

I warp my rigid heddle loom using the direct warping method. That is I do not use a warping board or reel to wind a warp chain first before threading the rigid heddle.  I thread the warp yarns directly from the balls or cones to the slots of the rigid heddle.  I believe that Rowena Hart was the first to describe the direct warping method in her book, The Ashford Book of  Rigid Heddle Weaving published in 2002 and recently reprinted.

While threading the slots in the rigid heddle, I started with the Sonrisa yarn and threaded every other slot, leaving the alternating slots empty for the time being. Once I finished threading with the Sonrisa for the width of the scarf which is 7 inches, I went back and threaded every other of the remaining empty slots with the pink/orange ribbon yarn, leaving the alternating empty slots blank for now.  After the ribbon yarn was threaded across the width of the scarf, there were still empty spaces at every fourth slot. These slots were the last to be threaded with the multi colored  ribbon yarn.  Unconventional?  You bet!  But the results were worth it, and the time saved by not winding a warp chain beforehand is priceless!

Ribbon and cotton yarn threaded on an 8 dent rigid heddle

Ribbon and cotton yarn threaded on an 8 dent rigid heddle

Now to get that lightweight, gauzy effect, I decided to use a fine cotton yarn, 10/2 perle cotton in the color Oleandar by UKI.  This can be ordered directly from the manufacturer,

10/2 perle cotton in oleander by UKI

10/2 perle cotton in oleander by UKI

The scarf is still on my rigid heddle loom, and this is what it looks like:

Gauzy ribbon scarf on a rigid heddle loom

Gauzy ribbon scarf on a rigid heddle loom

I really like the way some of the ribbons twisted slightly during the weaving process, adding a bit of texture to the fabric.  The scarf looks a bit like gauze and it feels like a fine fabric.  I hope it will flow gracefully once it is off the loom.  I can’t wait to wear it!

The Big Muddy

“Waist deep in the Big Muddy” – the lines from Pete Seeger’s Vietnam era protest sang has been playing in my mind for the last 24 hours. I was at the Pink Palace Craft Fair in Memphis, TN for the last 4 days. The weather was perfect the first 3 days.  On Sunday, the last day of the fair, the weather forecast had predicted some light rain and occasional thundershowers.  That turned out to be wrong. There were downpours all day long, and the visitors at the fair which was held in a city park had to dodge small rivers and floods around, and sometimes through, the tents. Several of us upon leaving became stuck in the mud and required the assistance of a front end loader or a couple of strong young men to become mobile again. It was an adventure! But needless to say, the faithful and die-hard shoppers were out in full force, and of course all the craftspeople and vendors were there to the bitter end!

My mud covered sneakers at the end of the day!

My mud covered sneakers at the end of the day!

I shared a double booth with several other craftspeople from MACA – Memphis Association of Craft Artists. There were  potters,  jewelers, and I was the lone fiber person.

MACA booths at the Pink Palace Craft Fair

MACA's booths at the Pink Palace Craft Fair

Pottery and Jewelry in the MACA booth

Pottery and Jewelry in the MACA booth

Fiber and Jewelry in the MACA booth

Fiber and Jewelry in the MACA booth

Our group received several positive comments on the appearance of our booth, and most of us did quite well in sales. Of course, it was also a pleasure to educate the public about our group and our craft work.  And my booth partners and I will have something to talk about for awhile as we shared a leaky tent, a little flooding, a lot of mud and a lot of muscle as we all helped push each others’ cars out of the mud!  It wasn’t bad at all.

Off The Loom

The rep weave wall hanging is finished!  Off the loom it measures slightly less than what I had planned:  29″ wide and 48″ long.  Still large enough to fill up a bit of wall space.  This piece will be included in an upcoming exhibit at Circuit Playhouse, a local professional theater group in Memphis.

Three Iris Blooms woven in rep weave

Three Iris Blooms woven in rep weave

The wall hanging is woven with 100% natural cotton yarn. The ends are finished with a machine sewn hem.  It can be easily displayed with a wooden strip attached to the back of the fabric with velcro. My previous post described how the colors and design of this piece were inspired by van Gogh’s paintings of irises.


When I lived in Massachusetts years ago, I had a good friend from Tennessee who used to give me gifts of  irises.  I learned that they were the state’s official  flower.   And for some reason I’ve always remembered that.  Now that I am a resident of Memphis tucked away in the far southwest corner of the state and bordered by the Mississippi River, I’ve come to truly appreciate irises. Especially in early August.  I never realized how many varieties and colors there were.

Map of Tennessee

Map of Tennessee

Because of their rich colors and textures, irises have for a long time been a beloved subject for artists.  Though these irises aren’t from Tennessee, they were painted by an artist who shares my Dutch ancestral heritage.

Irises painted by Vincent van Gogh

Irises painted by Vincent van Gogh

And so this painting became my inspiration to create a rep weave wall hanging  based on the colors and design of van Gogh’s irises.  My weaving is not completed yet, but here’s a glimpse while it still sits on my loom.

Irises in Rep Weave on Loom

Irises in Rep Weave on Loom

Instead of a field of irises, I designed three large blooms in three different shades of purple.   When completed, this wall hanging will measure approximately 30″ wide and 50″ long.  I wanted to capture a “prairie style” block design with a visual imagery of long columns and squared off blocks – a suitable pattern to rep weave structure. My warp is 5/2 perle cotton doubled and threaded at 24 ends per inch. I find that the doubled cotton strands cover the weft nicely when sett at this epi.  My weft requires two shuttles as the weft rows alternate thick and thin yarn, as is customary in rep weave.  The thick weft is comprised of two strands of 100% cotton, Peaches and Creme by Elmore-Pisgah. The doubled peaches and cream strands are wound around the ski shuttle.  The color is olive which is primarily seen at the selvages.  The thin weft yarn is a 16/2 cotton in turquoise that I just found in my stash. This is wound on the bobbin in the boat shuttle.  And so each shuttle is thrown alternately in successive rows to create the design in the pattern.

This piece is almost finished, and once the ends are hemmed and sewn , then I will post a photo of it here. But as with all my other work, during the weaving process I am always thinking of my next project.  And I so fell in love with van Gogh’s painting that I think that I’ll stick with the theme of irises.  But I may try to design narrower columns and smaller blocks  of color so that the finished piece will  more resemble an entire field of irises instead of just three individual beauties.