Confetti Landscapes

During the holiday show season, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kacky Walton on Memphis’ NPR affiliate, WKNO-FM. As a listener of her radio program, I always found her to be one of the most upbeat radio personalities that I ever heard. And sure enough, upon meeting her, she proved me right! This was my radio debut and her warmth and friendliness put me right at home.

During the interview, I wore a scarf that I had woven about 10 years earlier. Kacky remarked that the scarf looked like someone had merrily thrown bits of colorful confetti on it. It was a new description of a scarf I hadn’t woven in a long time. But her observations propelled me into re-examining this scarf design and weaving a collection for 2012.

When photographing the scarves in their various stages of production, the colors and textures reminded me of urban landscapes of tall buildings with mirrored windows and banners blowing in the wind.

Hand dyed tencel scarf with novelty yarn on the loom

The warp is a hand dyed 5/2 tencel yarn from Yarns Plus in Mississuaga, Ontario Canada. The novelty yarn is Cancun by Stacey Charles.

Dark confetti scarf of tencel and novelty yarn on the loom

The original 10 year old handwoven scarf that inspired the confetti landscapes

And the wound warp chain that will be the next set of scarves to go on the loom looks more like a high desert landscape.

I am looking forward to seeing the customers’ reactions to these colorful, textured and playful scarves.

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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

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.

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.

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.

Shabby Chic

My inspiration comes from my stash. And when I was looking for some textured yarn without leaving the comfort of my home weaving studio, I found this.

eyelash yarn - not recommended for use as warp yarn

My thought was to use a little of this as accent yarn in the warp with 10/2 perle cotton. Of course, this was a mistake.  The hairy characteristics of this “eyelash” yarn made the weaving process a slow and painstaking task which is not ordinarily the case with my weaving projects.  And to add insult to injury,  I was only a few inches short of the end of the scarf, when I ran out of the bamboo yarn I was using as weft.  Luckily, I had a new full cone of the same color, but having ordered the yarns on two separate occasions, of course the dye lots were different.  Yes, even with a bleached white yarn, this makes a difference.

My solution was to dip the finished scarf in a bath of green tea to give it an “antiqued” look and so masking the different shades of white. After the usual finishing of a quick soak and swirl in mild detergent and spin drying in the washing machine, I gave it a go. I added 20 green tea bags to boiling water in a large  stew pot.  I let the tea simmer and steep until the water was moderately warm, then removed the tea bags.  I placed the still wet scarf in the pot and moved it around a bit, then let it sit overnight. Didn’t fret over it.  Had a nice cocktail before bed and slept like a baby.

I was just expecting a softened creamy color, not a harsh brown so I hadn’t added any salt to the tea. (My understanding is that the addition of salt before dyeing would break down the fibers a bit and thus allow the fabric to more readily accept the dye.) And a soft creamy color is what I got the next morning.  After emptying the tea water, I rinsed the scarf   a few times until the water was clear.  In the last rinse, I added a bit of white vinegar and a couple of drops of mild dishwashing liquid.  The vinegar to set the color and the soap to remove any telltale vinegar odor. One more round in the washing machine’s spin cycle and the scarf  looked great as it hung to dry.

The finished scarf looks like a hot little  “shabby chic” number – an accessory for an “urban distressed” outfit.

Green tea dyed handwoven eyelash scarf

And, yes, the green tea dye completely covered any discrepancy in shades of the white bamboo yarn.  Success!

A Loom By Any Other Name

I’ve always taken issue when the word “loom” is used in a context other than weaving.  For instance:  “A harsh winter looms ahead.” Or “Factory workers’ strike looms.”  It always seems that it’s used in a negative way when weaving isn’t involved.  Deborah Chandler in Learning To Weave defines “loom” this way:

…a device to hold a set of yarns taut

so that it is easy to weave other yarns over

and under them.  (p. 14)

Cotton and ribbon "warp" tied with taut tension to front of floor loom

You Transylvanians are probably getting ready to do the time warp again. And though I’ve waited in an endless line in a raincoat to see “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and thrown toast at the movie screen, this is a slightly different time warp.  In fact it really doesn’t involve time transference except that it does take a bit of time to put a warp on a loom.

Deborah Chandler defines “warp” as this:  the yarn attached to the loom such as the warp yarns of cotton and ribbon tied to the front of a floor loom pictured above.  The warp is always kept under tension during the weaving process. The “weft”, Chandler continues is the cross threads that are woven over and under the warp threads.  “Warp” and “weft” are the essential ingredients of a handwoven product.

Not all looms need to be floor looms like the one pictured.  Here are some simple wood  and cardboard looms.  All of them are capable of holding a tight warp.

Simple wood looms

The loom on the left  is a small sample loom for needle weaving.  The loom on the right is a potholder loom just like the plastic or metal ones we all seemed to have as children.

Cardboard looms made from mat board

Above are cardboard looms cut from mat board.  They are notched at either end and then threaded with a warp of Peaches and Cream cotton yarn.  The two purses are examples of products that can be woven on a cardboard loom.

Harrisville peg loom

Here is a peg loom made by Harrisville Designs. The wooden needle is used to weave in the weft,  in this case fabric or “rag” strips.  The rag purse with braided handle is an example of what can be woven on the peg loom.

Now here is my gripe, other than the one when “loom” is used the wrong way.  If you have ever typed “handwoven” in the search box of an online retail site such as Etsy, you will find many items, most of them lovely.  However, not all have a warp and a weft which is the hallmark of a truly handwoven item. Some are knitted, some are crocheted, some are braided.  Keep in mind that these items are made with sticks, sometimes one, sometimes two.  They are not created on a loom, and they do not have a warp and a weft.  Let me just say, “Buyer beware”.  When you want to purchase a handwoven item, be sure it has a warp and a weft.  This means that it was woven on a loom – any kind of loom, from simple to complex. Weaving is a unique process – it is not knitting, crocheting, quilting, or embroidery although there are people who mistakenly believe so.

As for me, I am lucky to have a loom (several of them in fact) of my own.  And mine comes with a view.

My loom with a view