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!

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

They call me Ragmamarag

If you’re on Ravelry.com, then you know me as ragmamarag.  Beside the fact that I am a child of the 60’s and I still listen to Robbie Robertson and The Band, I also weave with rags.   Mostly I use new fabric, and with my rotary cutter and cutting mat, I cut narrow strips about 1/2″ wide.  With a warp of  5/2 perle cotton sett at 18 epi I weave one shot of fabric strip and then a shot of 5/2 perle cotton in a plain weave pattern.   The alternating shot of 5/2 perle cotton isn’t necessary, it’s a design element that I tend to fancy because to me this additional row makes the weave pattern look more consistent, especially if you are using a busy fabric.  In fact, I like to use fabric that has a lot of colors and shapes.  Once the fabric is cut and compressed within the body of the weaving, the original image of the fabric resembles  Pointillism, the Neo Impressionist painting technique where small distinct points of colors  appear to be blended together.

Fabric salvaged from garbage

Fabric salvaged from garbage

Handwoven sample made from strips cut from fabric at left

Handwoven sample made from strips cut from fabric at left

The fabric to the left  is a  colorful cotton fabric printed in Japan.   I discovered it at an assisted living facility where I was teaching a weaving class.  The fabric was slated to be thrown out as its owner was no longer able to sew.  I happily became its new owner!  The woven sample in the photo on the right  demonstrates the “pointillism” effect of this beautiful fabric.  The way the narrow strips of fabric are compressed into the weaving along with the alternating rows of 5/2 perle cotton radically changes the  original pattern of the fabric.  My thanks to Molly my student intern from Memphis College of Art. This was the first warp that Molly put on the 4-harness loom and the first sample that she wove on it.

Molly’s warp was long enough so I could weave additional fabric.  Once the handwoven fabric was finished I sewed them into purses.  Each purse has a textured ceramic button  with a decorative embellishment of some  glass beads that were yard sale finds.

Rag purses handwoven with fabric strips

Rag purses handwoven with fabric strips

Some years ago, I had written an article for Handwoven magazine  describing how to weave and construct this type of rag purse.   There have been many other contributors to the magazine as well  who have written about  variations on this bag, and Interweave Press  offers some  free pattens of rag purses  in their “Bag of the Month” feature.  This is a great resource for weavers of all levels.

The above purses will be sold in my booth, MemphisWeaver, at the upcoming Celebration of Fine Craft featuring artists from Memphis Association of Craft Artists (MACA).  The fair  will  be held at Christian Brothers University on April 17, 18, and 19.  Since the purses came from fabric and beads that were destined for the landfill, they will be sold under my “Rethreads” label which includes handwoven items made from recycled (or upcycled) material.

Rethreads labels

Rethreads labels

I have another warp on the loom now and hope to use up the rest of these fabric strips and plan to make more “rag bags”.  I like to mix and match colors and patterns to really make a funky finished product.  Each bag is pretty unique, and they look nothing like your  grandmother’s rag rugs!

Basket of fabric strips

Basket of fabric strips