Studio Space

When Harry Potter lived with the Dursleys, his room for a  time was  the cupboard under the stairs. I have one of those. But as far as I know, no boy wizard has ever lived there. This is what my cupboard under the stairs looks like:

Rigid heddle looms and tools stored in the cupboard under the stairs

Some of the Beka and Schacht rigid heddle looms are stored here. Rigid heddles, stick shuttles, pick up sticks, clamps, warping tools and re-usable brown paper for winding are stored here. Two big blue buckets of cotton carpet warp and Peaches and Cream cotton yarn are stored here. Everything that I take to classes are conveniently stored in this space because it is easily accessible to the garage and driveway where I load and unload all the tools and equipment I need to teach my weaving classes. My inkle looms and large rigid heddle looms do not fit in the cupboard.  They are stored in the attic. More on that later. Though it doesn’t house  a wizard, the space under the stairs is more than functional.  However, there is no room for me to weave in the cupboard.

So where do I weave? As it turns out, a few places. In my last post, I mentioned cleaning out my weaving room. A room that measures roughly 9′ X 12′. It is off of the master bedroom and its  intended function when first built has long been forgotten. Was it a sitting room as part of the master bedroom suite? A nursery? An office? A man cave? Whatever its intended use,  a weaving room was not one of them. When I weave, that is what it becomes, but it also is a room where  I create the bulk of my designs, where I prepare my warps and sometimes pay the bills, answer my e-mails, read and listen to music. Sometimes my daughter even does her homework there. It is comfortable enough for me to call it my studio.

Weaving studio in a small space

This is as tidy as it gets.  It’s difficult to keep such a small space uncluttered and organized especially when working on a complex project.

56" Macomber Loom and Schacht Baby Wolf in my weaving studio

Amazingly, this large Macomber loom and the Baby Wolf loom both fit comfortably in this 9′ X 12′ studio space.

And I also have another space where I weave. I call it my attic studio. Previous owners had finished the attic probably in the 1970’s. The attic has a larger area than my weaving room and I use the additional space to sew my handwoven fabric and create my handbound books. One corner of the attic space has a third loom which I use for quick projects. And it’s very cozy up there. It’s off the beaten path of household activity.  I can turn my iHome up as loud as I want. And there is a day bed there, so I can take naps! I’m all for those! Now that’s a real studio!

The Leclerc Loom in my attic studio

October Scenes

November 1st already, and I haven’t entered a post for October.  It has been a busy month. Some of the things that I have been doing this past month include teaching a weaving class at the Lewis Senior Center in Midtown Memphis, a three day art show and sale held in a private home in Germantown, a mini-reunion with a college classmate whom I haven’t seen in over ten years, a short break for R & R to the National Shrimp Festival in Orange Beach, AL, going to the season opener of the Memphis Grizzlies, and celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.

And here are a few photos of what went on in October.


2010 National Shrimp Festival - Alabama Gulf Coast

View from our hotel room, Orange Beach, AL

Sea of Art and Craft Booths at the National Shrimp Festival

Some of the food offerings at the festival

Boardwalk at the National Shrimp Festival

One of the many shrimp platters we enjoyed

Surrounded by Parrot Heads

Back to work at home, weaving a bamboo scarf

Display of my handwoven scarves and purses at "Kaleidoscope" an annual art show and sale in a private home in Germantown, TN.

My college classmate, Betty visited me from the Washington, DC area and we spent a day at the Memphis Botanic Garden.

Irene, my weaving student at the Lewis Senior Center with two of her handwoven scarves woven on a rigid heddle loom.

Bertha, my weaving student at the Lewis Senior Center with her handwoven vest woven on a rigid heddle loom.

Katherine, my weaving student at the Lewis Senior Center with her handwoven scarf and purse woven on a rigid heddle loom.

10th season opener of the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum on October 27th which coincided with the 10th anniversary of our family's move to Memphis!


The Bar-Kays another Memphis institution performed at halftime.

And we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at Restaurant Iris in Memphis!

More weaving classes and more shows to come in the months ahead.  And also of course, more music, food, reunions, celebrations and winning games ahead as well. As the t-shirt says, “Life is Good”.

The Merry Weavers of Memphis

Fifteen students were registered to take the “Beginning Rigid Heddle Weaving” class I was teaching at the Lewis Senior Center of the Memphis Parks and Recreation Department. This class is funded by Creative Aging Midsouth, a non profit organization providing entertainment and arts workshops to senior citizens living in the communities of West Tennessee.  Many of the students had never woven before, but everyone completed at least one project which ranged from scarves to tote bags to mini purses to handbags made from rags or fabric strips. Students used both Beka and Schacht rigid heddle looms, and one student had her own Kromski “Fiddle”.

Students threading their warps on rigid heddle looms

Tommie weaving with fabric strips, or rags to make a handbag

Marty and Irene showing off their handwoven scarves

Dorotha and Frances wearing their scarves woven with Peaches and Cream cotton yarn

Marty's third class project on her Kromski "Fiddle"

Senorita with the two small purses and her scarf woven with peaches and cream yarn

Bea weaving fabric for mini purses

Kathryn with her cotton/linen/rayon scarf just cut off the loom

Ola was only able to attend two classes, but she managed to warp her loom, weave a scarf, and cut it off the loom

Everyone seemed to enjoy the class and they all were pleased with their finished projects.  Several decided to purchase their own looms,  and they all have requested another rigid heddle weaving class for early Spring.  It really was a pleasure to weave with these ladies!

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!

Next Stop: Art and Soul

The first annual celebration of fine craft presented by the Memphis Association of Craft Artists and Christian Brothers University was a great success! Over the three day period of the show, there were  approximately 900 visitors.  Of course, it would have been nice if we had more folks to crowd the arena, but this was the first year of the fair, and now we’ll know to step up the advertising end of the show production for 2010.  Without the hard work of the staff and faculty of Christian Brothers University and the many volunteers of MACA, we could not have pulled it off.  Thank you, everyone for your time and dedication for such a worthy project.  The silent auction of items donated by MACA artists and some community businesses was able to raise a very nice sum that will go toward the scholarship fund for students planning to major in the newly designed B.F.A. program in Fine Arts at the University.

Since weaving seems to be a stepchild of the craft community, the show provided a very nice opportunity to educate visitors about the weaving process and display the finished products.  Here is a photo of my booth at the Celebration of Fine Craft:

MemphisWeaver's booth of handwoven items

MemphisWeaver's booth of handwoven items

My handwoven items will be for sale at another craft fair this upcoming weekend, May 1, 2 and 3. This is the 38th annual Tennessee Craft Fair at Nashville’s Centennial Park. My work will be represented in the MACA booth which will be in the tent for TACA’s regional  chapters.  In addition to my handwovens, MACA artists represented in the chapter booth will include a potter, polymer clay artist, glass jeweler, and a wood turner.

Last weekend was also the “Lacy Summer Scarf” weaving workshop at the Memphis Botanic Garden.  It was a full class of 9 students, all beginning weavers, learning to weave a scarf on rigid heddle looms.  Here is a detail of the sample scarf that students wove:

Cotton/Rayon/Flax open weave scarf

Cotton/Rayon/Flax open weave scarf

There were many creative students in the class and several designed their own lace patterns.  I was so proud of this group, as many were master gardeners and more accustomed to burying their hands in a pile of mulch rather than a soft ball of cotton yarn! Great job everyone!

Students in rigid heddle weaving class

Students in rigid heddle weaving class

Now after several months of weaving for shows and fairs, and preparing class material for weaving classes, I am preparing to go on an art retreat.  For the next few days I will be at the Art and Soul Retreat in Hampton, VA.

Art and Soul 2009

Art and Soul 2009

I will be taking two workshops with Asheville, NC  based book artist, Daniel Essig.  One is  a two day workshop — “Book of  Mica” and the other is an evening workshop — “Mica Cover – Herring Bone Binding”.  I am really excited and looking forward to not only learning new techniques from a renowned sculptural book artist, but also to work with a new material.  This is an excerpt from the 2 day class description:  Mica or bookstone is a silicate mineral found throughout the world.  This workshop will push beyond using mica just as an element in book arts. The material will be so different from the handwoven fabric that I like to incorporate into my handbound books, and that is a very exciting prospect for me.

I will take this class with my friend, Theano, who will be coming down from the Baltimore area to meet me at the art retreat.  We had met at another workshop,  Shakerag, about 3 years ago.  That was my first introduction to book arts, and what an introduction!  The class was called “The Voluminous Page” and the instructor was none other than the brilliant book arts pioneer, Hedi Kyle. I came into the workshop not knowing anything about book arts, but Hedi helped me fall in love with the process and inspired me to think about how I can incorporate my handwoven textiles into a handbound book.    The possibilities are endless.

Upon my return from Art and Soul – this year’s theme is Rock and Roll –  I will hopefully have some handbound books to post and pictures of the workshop.  Stay tuned!

Leno vs. Mock Leno

The weave structure ” leno” shares its name with a popular late night tv talk show host. Of course, there’s the difference in pronunciation, and the fact that woven leno (LEE-no) has been around much longer. Though in my 30 years of weaving, I’ve known few weavers who have actually woven leno.  It probably has to do with the time consuming set up on the loom.  Leno, to those who aren’t familiar with the weave, is an open, lacy weave structure that is produced from two or more warp threads that are twisted around each other. There is a very thorough article in the Winter 2008 issue of that describes the loom set up for leno by using “doups” or yarn loops to wrap around the warp threads and twist them during weaving.

Leno can also be woven on a rigid heddle loom. The leno scarf below was woven on a Schacht rigid  heddle loom.

Leno scarf woven on rigid heddle loom

Leno scarf woven on rigid heddle loom

The warp consisted of two yarns:  a smooth bamboo, Bambu 7 from Woodland Woolworks, and a nubby rayon yarn from my stash.  The weft was the rayon by itself.  I followed Rowena Hart’s instructions in The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving to set up the rigid heddle loom for leno lace weaving.  The rigid heddle itself is not used to create the sheds, it is only used to space the warp threads and for beating.  Instead, the sheds are created by using a pick up stick behind the heddle,  and  string heddles  attached to a dowel are used for the alternating shed. The twisting together of the warp threads occur behind the rigid heddle. In this way, the weaving goes a bit slowly, but I really love the open weave and texture of the end result.

Rowena Hart's The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving

Rowena Hart's The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving

Now I wanted to weave a leno lace on my four harness floor loom, but I didn’t have the time nor patience to try the doup or bead leno technique to twist the warp yarns together.  I saw that in Marguerite Davison’s A Handweaver’s Pattern Book, there was such a thing called “mock leno”.  It is considered a “canvas weave” because the open weave of the fabric resembles needlepoint canvas.  The lacy effect is produced by a combination of treadling sequence and grouped warp threads alternating with empty dents in the reed.

My ancient copy of Davison's A Handweavers Pattern Book

My ancient copy of Davison's A Handweavers Pattern Book

I adapted Davison’s pattern for “Canvas Weave Spots” by grouping three warp threads in one dent in the reed, and threading them through separate heddles in harnesses 2-1-2, then 4-3-4.  There was one empty dent between each group of 3 warp threads.  The tabby structure between the leno “stripes” was threaded in harnesses 2-4.  As for treadling, I followed Davison’s short and sweet pattern of raising these harness in the following sequence:   1-4, 1-2, 1-4 then 2-3, 3-4, 2-3. Easy to remember and made for quick weaving! This is the result — still on my loom!

Mock leno woven on a 4 harness loom

Mock leno woven on a 4 harness loom

The warp here is the same bamboo as the leno scarf, and the weft is the same nubby rayon yarn used in the first scarf. The open areas of the lace are not as open as the true leno woven scarf, but they look more stable.  I also added the tabby sections, because I was afraid that the tension on leno lace stripes would be compromised and become too loose.  I’m almost done weaving this 5 yard warp, and I have had no tension problems at all. The next time I try mock leno I might weave wider leno lace stripes so that the fabric would be more similar to that of the first scarf.

The lacy effect of the mock leno, though not exactly resembling a true leno weave,  does have a comparable look.  The weaving on the 4 harness loom goes very quickly and other than the usual warping process, there is no additional set up while threading the loom.  So for a lacy open weave look, mock leno on a four harness loom is definitely a fast and effective alternative to the more traditional doup or bead leno.