Happy Blog Anniversary!

Four years ago today, I posted the very first entry to the MemphisWeaver blog and today there have been over 81,000 visitors to this site. I have heard from several of you the past few years  and I am happy to have so many creatives among my readers! Thank you for your support!

The WinterArts show will be coming to a close on Christmas Eve. This is the fourth holiday season for this artists’ consortium to show and sell their work in an upscale location. Our customers continue to come back and this year many have told us that this was the best show ever! Each year new artists are added, and the returning artists always bring new and fresh work in addition to the classics for which they are known.

And I continue to learn from each show. I am always inspired by my customers as to what direction to follow next. The four to five weeks of the show found me constantly at my loom or at the bookbinder’s bench to create new products to replace any sold inventory. And during this time, I was inspired to create a series of handwoven bucket bags that are part of a new series that I have dubbed “Tribal Bags”. Here are the three that are currently in WinterArts.

Handwoven tribal bucket back in goose eye pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket back in goose eye twill pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket bag woven in evenpoint twill

Handwoven tribal bucket bag woven in evenpoint twill pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket bag in goose eye twill pattern and muted colors

Handwoven tribal bucket bag in goose eye twill pattern and muted colors

The bags are 100% cotton with a cotton denim lining and a recycled jeans pocket insert. It’s soft and roomy and deep enough for lots of stuff! Come springtime I will be weaving these in brigher colors as well as pastels. And yes, there will be more shows coming this spring, and yes, I do plan to participate in them! Besides the bags I have some other projects brewing. There will be smaller pouches for your cell phones and sleeves for your tablets as well as narrower and lightweight fashion scarves for warmer weather. And I am still working on expanding that series of pendants and bracelets to give the pieces a more 3 dimensional look.

So there is lots of work ahead of me as I welcome 2013 and look forward to showing and selling new work. I wish each and everyone of you a joyous holiday season and best wishes for a healthy and creative new year in 2013!

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, www.ukisupreme.com.

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!

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.

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.

The Girls in Their Summer Scarves

First off, my apologies to Irwin Shaw and Bruce Springsteen.  Shaw, a noted screenwriter, playwright and novelist is the author of the short story “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses” .  Springsteen in his acclaimed album “Magic” produced in 2007, included his lovely poem about youth and longing, “The Girls in Their Summer Clothes”.  Secondly, I’m taking poetic license with the  term “girls” in referring to women of all ages.  At my age, I feel I’ve earned the privilege to be called a “girl” again!

That being said, let’s get on with this post.  Check out this delightful slide show “On the Street/Muffled” by New York Times columnist Bill Cunningham.  In the heat of August, these images show lovely New York City women  (and one lovely man) sporting an array of elegant scarves over their tank tops, tees  and summer dresses.  Some scarves look like they might be cashmere, some silk or rayon and Cunningham describes them all as  “gossa-meer”. I imagine that’s a reference to their soft and flowing nature.  With warm weather approaching, this is the fashion statement of the hour.  Even Memphis’ own newspaper,  “The Commercial Appeal” featured a fashion article proclaiming that scarves are hot – even in hot weather.

This is excellent news for weavers!  Though I love the look of the lacy and open felted scarves that are so popular with weavers these days, they are just not appropriate for warm weather climates, and certainly not something you would want next to your skin in 90 degree heat.  In recent weeks, my students and I have been weaving open weave scarves out of cotton, rayon, and bamboo yarn.    These scarves were woven on a rigid heddle loom with a warp and weft of rayon flake yarn.

spaced warp and weft scarf on rigid heddle loom
Open weave rayon scarf

When threading the warp, one inch sections of yarn were separated by 3/4 inch sections of empty slots and holes in the rigid heddle.  When weaving, a 3/4″ wide cardboard spacer was used to separate one inch woven sections. In this scarf, spacing occurred in both the warp and the weft.

The photo of the finished scarf was taken before washing.  A gentle hand washing will allow the woven areas to slightly shift so the open areas will look softer and more delicate.  This rayon scarf will drape beautifully after washing.

warp and weft spaced scarf

warp and weft spaced scarf

A blend of 10/2 perle cotton yarns was threaded for this warp spaced scarf on a 4 harness floor loom.  Random warp threads of gold metallic yarn were placed in the warp.The warp was threaded in a point twill threading.  The weft was dyed bamboo yarn with short  pieces of gold metallic yarn placed in the shed at random intervals.  The weft spacing was determined by the insertion of a satin cord which was removed as the weaving progressed, then inserted into the next “spaced” section. The satin cord used as a spacing device in the weft was recommended in Sharon Alderman’s Book,  A Handweaver’s  Notebook.

Sharon Alderman's "A Handweavers Notebook"

Sharon Alderman's "A Handweaver's Notebook"

I also cut a paper template and used it as a measuring device to be sure that each woven section was equal in length.  Because of the twill threading, I needed to add floating selvages and while weaving, I inserted my shuttle over the floating selvage when entering the shed, and exited under the floating selvage in each row.

floating selvages

floating selvages

To weave a twill without a floating selvage, this is what you will need to remember:  when facing the loom, and this is assuming you have a 4 harness loom, thread the left selvage thread of your warp on an even numbered harness (2 or 4), and thread the right selvage thread of your warp on an odd numbered harness (1 or 3).  Then start weaving by throwing the shuttle from right to left.  But I have discovered that this only works if you are treadling a straight twill.  It does not work for a reverse twill treadling.  So, you’ll probably have to deal with a floating selvage after all.  But when using a floating selvage  all you have to remember is enter over and exit under.  Just a few details to keep in mind!

When these warp and weft spaced scarves are washed and finished with neatly twisted fringes, they will feel soft and silky and give a girl just the right look for a summer scarf.