Brace Yourself

Here it is the end of August, and not one post this month. My apologies. My previous posts  suggested a need to reinvent myself, or my work at any rate. And that is what has taken up most of my time – not the producing part, but everything else: reading, surfing, talking, thinking, imagining, visualizing, all just to grab a wisp of inspiration. In the end, there were two designs that inspired me to use as a jumping off point and attempt to transform a new concept into a woven form.

18K gold bracelet handwoven on a traditional loom with gold threads and black silk in a twill pattern. By Carolina Bucci.

As soon as I saw this, I fell in love with this bracelet. This is from and sold for $2,200.  That would be a nice income for a handweaver, a handweaver who could easily recognize the point twill pattern in the design. I set out to warp my Baby Wolf loom with a 6 Harness point twill in a black perle cotton yarn. I used colorful novelty yarns in the weft. (Didn’t want to use the 18k gold yarn for this first effort.) These are my results.

Handwoven twill cotton and novelty yarn cuff bracelet – blue/green/purple

Handwoven twill cotton and novelty yarn  cuff bracelet – pink/yellow/orange

Not a bad first try. I am quite happy with the finished bracelets and am looking forward to playing with it some more and tweaking the pattern, the fibers and the shape.

Now my other inspiration came from Memphis artist Dawn McKay. She and her partner Shannon Cable are shoveIt designs. This is how they describe their work on their website:  “shoveIt designs transform broken skateboards into wicked wearable art.” Now I am not at all familiar with the construction of skateboards, and don’t think I’ve ever been up close and personal with one. My generation after all still used skate keys for our roller skates – the one with 4 wheels on each boot. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this deconstructed skateboard that Dawn transformed into a bracelet.

Cuff bracelet made from a broken skateboard. By Dawn McKay of shoveIt designs.

This was another example of love at first sight for me. And as you all know, I have been playing with rep weave designs on my loom lately, and saw that the pattern in this broken skateboard represented rep weave. Here is my cuff design in a rep weave pattern inspired by shoveIt designs.

Handwoven rep weave cotton cuff bracelet

Creating these bracelets was like my “Aha moment”. This was what I had been searching for all along. But it doesn’t end here! I have had my eye on a certain lovely all metal  tapestry and beading loom for a long while now. The looms are made  by Mirrix Looms  based in New Hampshire. So I took the plunge and purchased the “Big Sister” model.

16″ wide Big Sister Mirrix loom for tapestry and bead weaving

You ask, what am I going to weave on this loom? More jewelry of course! Here are a couple of handwoven tapestry pendants that I wove on my new loom.

Handwoven tapestry pendant with coins

Handwoven tapestry pendant

So here it is, the end of the summer and I am finally having fun!

Bag It, Gladys

I think I am done. I have been weaving fabric to sew into bags for a number of years now. Probably about 15 years. That’s almost half my weaving life! And I really do enjoy designing and creating bags, but every time I try to sell one I am disappointed. Customers seem to like the style, but it’s not the right color, too big, too small, too casual, not the right strap, etc. And I’m talking about all kinds of bags from tiny, what I call “pick pockets” (TM) for storing your guitar picks to” the mother of all tote bag” humongous bags. Some are for evening, some for daily use, and others are just for fun. Once, and I am grateful it only happened once, a customer was admiring my bags and expressed her approval. But the next question she asked was  “Where do you get your fabric?” Really?

I just can’t help it, it’s a fact that I love all kinds of  purses and tote bags. But the truth is, the current market can’t support the cost that is worthy of a bag made from handwoven fabric, then carefully constructed and sewn with a lining, a pocket and often a hand-twisted strap. The bags I wove these last few weeks will be my swan song.

If you recall my post Back to The Future, there was an image of  the double weave fabric I was weaving still on the loom. This is the fabric now:

Hobo bag made from handwoven double weave fabric

Lined interior of hobo bag with magnetic closure

I have also been playing with recycled fabric and cutting narrow strips from thrift store t-shirts to make my own “yarn”. Here is a tote bag made from strips cut from a neon green t-shirt. The weave is a rep weave which I seem to be fond of!

Tote bag woven in rep weave with t-shirt strips in the weft.

Lined interior of tote bag with pocket and magnetic snap closure.

And here is a photo of the tote bag’s fabric while still on the loom with the t-shirt strips on the stick shuttle. I used a metallic thread called “holo-shimmer” as the alternating fine warp on the boat shuttle to get the rep weave effect.

Tote bag fabric still on the loom.

So now I took the t-shirt idea a step further and added recycled jeans to the mix. These two bags were woven in a rep weave and both have recycled jeans pockets in the interior.

Mini-messenger bag woven in rep weave with a hand-twisted strap.

Rep Weave hobo bag woven as one long strip.

Yes, the fabric of the hobo bag was woven in one long narrow strip, approximately 7 1/2″ wide by 96″ long. I then folded it to create a strap from part of the strip and joined the other sections to make the body of the bag. Blogger Donatella who writes doni’s delis explains it here. It’s quite ingenious.

The interiors of the last two bags were lined with denim fabric and each  has an inside pocket taken from a  pair of  recycled jeans.

Interior of hobo bag with denim lining, recycled jeans pocket and a magnet snap closure.

These bags will definitely be one of a kind, because I am not weaving them anymore.  Though I may still weave one or two just for me, or for my daughter, or for a friend… But maybe not this summer. Definitely not this summer.

Rep Gallery

The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright has always been an inspiration to me.  And for many years I have been admiring the handwoven textiles of Kelly Marshall whose rugs and accessories for the home are a natural fit for any Prairie style or Arts and Crafts style home. Ms. Marshall who has been designing and weaving through her business, Custom Woven Interiors since 1992 has work in private residences, corporations, businesses, restaurants and galleries throughout the country. Readers of this blog would know that I lean toward the block type weaves which are prevalent in the rep weave structure which Ms. Marshall utilizes in her work.

In my last blog I described rep weave as a Swedish weave structure also called ripsmatta. It is characterized by densely threaded warp yarn on the loom. The pattern design is created through the colors and sequence of yarn ends in the warp yarn, that is the yarn threaded on the loom. Ms Marshall has just published a book for weavers based on her own creative process for her work in rep weave. The book is as beautiful as the work Ms. Marshall produces and she is extremely generous with her instructions for projects with precise details and clear photographs. I am still in the process of savoring each word and photo of this book.

Custom Woven Interiors by Kelly Marshall

I hope that my weaving will one day aspire to the many layers and complexities of Ms. Marshall’s work. My work is much simpler and certainly not as technically skillful as Ms. Marshall’s. Rep continues to be one of my favorite weaves and I will work on any challenges that will help me get to a higher level of skill. In the meantime, I will end this blog post with a short gallery of my own work in rep weave. The gallery, shall we say will be the baseline for my work so that in another year or so, we can all compare any progress that I’ve made!

Three Irises

Turkish Kilim


Bongo Fury

Curacao Sensivel

Safe as Milk



Jacob’s Ladder

Falling Waters


Back to the Future

Yes, May was a busy month with graduations, reunions and out of town guests. June finds me back at the loom, this time weaving something from my not too long ago past. It’s been awhile since I have woven a rag rug. When my son went to college, I wove one for him, and now it’s my daughter’s turn. She and I like to visit thrift shops and look for nostalgia items or clothing that can be recycled. I often buy used  jeans at these shops so I can cut out the pockets. I make a sort of patch from the jeans’ pocket and then sew it onto denim fabric which I use to line the purses that I weave.

Lining pocket from recycled jeans

This lining is from a small rep weave messenger bag that I recently completed.

Small rep weave messenger bag with denim lining

Rep weave to non-weavers is a term that refers to a traditional Swedish weave known as ripsmatta. It is a very sturdy weave as the warp threads are packed close together when threaded on the loom. And so with rep weave on the brain, I warped my Macomber loom with 600 ends of cotton carpet warp for a rep weave rug woven with strips from recycled jeans. This is what it looks like at the moment:

Rep Weave rug woven with recycled jeans

And this is the rug once finished that will go with my daughter to Chicago where as it happens is also the home of my son’s rep weave rug.

Here is another rag rug that I wove some time ago. This one is woven in a point return twill or goose eye pattern. Lucky seems to favor this one.

Lucky on a handwoven goose eye twill rag rug

Detail of the goose eye twill rag rug pattern

Playtime is over, and I am done with weaving with thick weft yarns for awhile. I miss working with fine, smooth and silky yarns. The kind that is soft and that drapes beautifully. Here is another project just completed where I wove two layers of fabric at the same time in a technique known as doubleweave.

Doubleweave fabric on the loom

The fabric on the bottom is bamboo yarn and the fabric on the top layer is a variegated tencel yarn. Both rep weave and doubleweave are slow patterns to weave. In fact there’s nothing fast about any kind weaving. But for me, I believe my future holds the promise of working with finer, smoother and more elegant yarns.

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?

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.

Basket Case

I hit the wall this summer.  I was in a desert of creative ideas.  I played around with lots of media: book arts, silk fusion, beading, needle weaving and sadly spent little time at my looms.  My Macomber and Baby Wolf sat mostly empty. Only my Leclerc saw a little weaving action.  I managed to finish these few things which are now in my etsy store, MemphisWeaver.

"White Stripes" handwoven cotton scarf with warp floats

"White Stripes" handwoven cotton scarf with warp floats

"Pretty in Pink" handwoven bamboo/cotton/metallic scarf with warp floats

"Pretty in Pink" handwoven bamboo/cotton/metallic scarf with warp floats

"Purple Passion" handwoven bamboo/cotton/metallic scarf with warp floats

"Purple Passion" handwoven bamboo/cotton/metallic scarf with warp floats

"Luscious Lavender" handwoven shawl in twill weave, cotton/flax/rayon/metallic yarn

"Luscious Lavender" handwoven shawl in twill weave, cotton/flax/rayon/metallic yarn

All my weaving years I had been struggling with commercial vs. art. I wove scarves and purses in limited production to sell to those who appreciate a fine handmade object.  Though always keeping in mind price points that the market could bear. And so the time and expertise involved in the production  had to be largely ignored.  Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be weavers. (Thanks, Willie!) Doing what you love only to be under-appreciated is frustrating indeed.

Then there it was. I was reaching for yet another medium, this time my knitting, when I noticed what my unfinished projects were sitting in:

Handwoven Papago basket

Handwoven Papago basket

Handwoven Papago basket

Handwoven Papago basket

Papago Indians live mostly in the northern desert of Sonora and Arizona.  They are known for their narrowly coiled baskets made from yucca splints. More of their baskets can be seen here. One of my best friends in college is originally from Tucson, and over the years, her family has given us these beautiful baskets.

The simple yet striking designs of these baskets reminded me of a weave structure that I favored in many of my wall hangings, but that had given way to the demands of the fashion accessories market. The weave is of Swedish origin, known as ripsmatta and often referred to as rep weave by American weavers. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed weaving this structure as the actual weaving takes very little time.  It is the designing and dressing of the loom that is most time consuming – but that is the weaving component that appeals to me most.  A few of my earlier wall hangings done in rep weave:

"Turkish Kilim" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Turkish Kilim" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Night Crawlers" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Night Crawlers" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

Untitled handwoven wall rug, woven in rep weave

Untitled handwoven wall rug, woven in rep weave

"Moonshadow" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Moonshadow" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Nesting" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Nesting" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

The Papago basket designs in their simple beauty will inspire me to weave more of these rep weave wall rugs. After revisiting my handwoven pieces, I see how much fun I had designing and weaving them.  My three looms are empty now, but not for long.  Rep weave wall rugs will be the next sensation!

The Dog on My Baby Wolf

I have a very early version of  Schacht Spindle Company’s Baby Wolf .  It is an 8 harness loom that I purchased in 1983.    Of all my looms, this is the one that gets the most use.  The width of 25″ is just right for most of my weaving projects, and I have a variety of reeds to use on this loom.  A reed of this width is much more affordable than purchasing a reed for my 56″ wide Macomber for example.

But at the moment, there is a dog sitting on this loom, and it’s been there since, oh I’d say January. For the non-initiated, or for new weavers,  “dog” refers to an unsuccessful, ugly or unwanted piece of handwoven fabric. I had wanted to weave a rep weave fabric to use as book covers.  Rep weave is a tightly sett block  weave where  the warp pattern is dominant.  Here is the sketch I did on graph paper.

Sketch of Rep Weave Fabric

Sketch of Rep Weave Fabric

And here it is woven on the Baby Wolf.  This is the state it’s been in since January, that’s 6 months ago!

Rep Weave project still on my Baby Wolf

Rep Weave project still on my Baby Wolf

Somehow, the woven fabric doesn’t match the sketch.  And do you see the separation of  blue warp threads a little left of the center of the piece?  This happened when one of the dents in my (only used once before) 15 dent reed buckled while beating.

Broken dent on my 15 dent reed

Broken dent on my 15 dent reed

Very frustrating indeed!  So this has become the dog that just won’t go away.  And I’m very hesitant to put it to sleep, as I just don’t like the idea of wasting several yards of lovely 5/2 pearl cotton. So it looks like it will just lie on my Baby Wolf  until I have the courage to take my extra sharp Gingher scissors and cut.  It may also take a few glasses of lovely shiraz before it gets to that point.

Meanwhile, I am preparing to teach a one day workshop on inkle loom weaving at the University of Memphis Department of Continuing Education. I was inspired by an article in Handwoven Magazine’s September/October 2008 issue. It was Bands, bands, bands, and more bands! by Christi Eales Ehler.   After a trip to Guatemala, the author designed several inkle woven bands inspired by the jaspe cloth she saw there. Before the jaspe cloth is woven, selected areas of the weft yarn are dyed.  This is the same process known as ikat in Indonesia and other  Asian countries. In Guatemala,  jaspe cloth is sewn into traditional skirts, called corte.  Incorporating the design concepts, that Ms. Ehler presented in this article, I adapted an inkle band that looks like it may somewhat be inspired by jaspe cloth.

Inkle woven band inspired by Guatemalan jaspe cloth

Inkle woven band inspired by Guatemalan jaspe cloth

The pattern looks a lot different than the more traditional inkle designs of checks, ladders, railroad tracks and wavy lines as described in Helene Bress’s classic book, Inkle Weaving.   The warping for the jaspe inspired band required a lot of attention as there were frequent color changes.  Overall, I was quite pleased with the result, and the pattern is a refreshing change from the more easily recognizable inkle woven patterns.

I’m sure that I’ll find enough interesting weaving projects to complete while the dog continues to sit on the baby wolf.  But as my list of projects grow, I think that this dog’s days are numbered.