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!

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 www.portero.com 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!

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.

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.

Diary of A Mad Weaver

Like realtors whose mantra is “location, location, location”, the weavers’ mantra is “sample, sample, sample”. But as a weaver for 30 years, I’m very bad at this.  I just don’t have the patience to weave a small sample to represent a larger piece, and my attention is so short, that by the time the sample is off the loom, I’ve changed my mind completely as far as pattern, colors, yarn, textures, etc.  With my limited production of handwoven scarves and purses that I sell at fairs and shows, I like to design directly on the loom. This gives me creator’s license to make one of a kind items.  Even though my loom might be set up to weave a dozen scarves for example, each one will be unique.  When I see the weave pattern develop as I  throw the shuttle, that is the time when my creative juices flow most freely.  My stash of yarns is within my visual field while weaving, and my eye always seems to rove in that direction. I see nubby yarns, metallic yarns, blended yarns, exotic yarns, and I like the idea of “contrasts” in my weaving:  dark/light, thick/thin, smooth/nubby, dull/shiny etc.  And so I prefer designing directly on the loom rather than sampling beforehand.

But  (and there’s always one of those) I also weave commissions for the religious community here in the Memphis area.  And because I often work with a committee representing the church, synagogue, or clergy I have to create samples to show before getting a final design approval.  And when I do, I usually go overboard, creating many more samples than necessary!  Currently I am working on a commission to weave two sets of 4 tallitot, prayer shawls with a neckband used in Jewish worship, for a large synagogue.  After a brief presentation with the senior rabbi, I decided to use bamboo and tencel for the warp and weft of the prayer shawls.  My decision was largely based on  the clergy members’ requests that they won’t get hot from wearing the tallitot. So my usual materials of a silk and wool blend yarn was out of the question.  I had previously woven a tallit for a girl’s Bat Mitzvah ceremony with a bamboo warp and weft.

bamboo tallit

Handwoven Tallit (prayer shawl) woven with bamboo yarn

This prayer shawl was woven in a diamond twill pattern.  The twill weave structure really lent itself to the light weight of the bamboo and this combination created an elegant drape – something that would be appropriate and attractive for a tallit.

And so I set out to order samples of both bamboo and tencel yarns in varying weights.

yarn samples 2

bamboo and tencel yarn samples

Sample yarns and color cards began to pour in from a number of suppliers and manufacturers.  There were yarns of several different weights:  16/2, 10/2, 8/2 and 5/2.  There were solid colors, variegated, mill dyed, hand dyed.  It was time to get organized!  No more designing on the loom – I had to create samples and decide on some successful patterns that could be presented to the design committee. All the sample cards were given their own sleeve protector which were all filed in my new loose leaf binder from Office Depot.

I threaded my looms six times to get an elegant twill weave that would also create a natural drape.  Most of my samples proved to be useless – the pattern was too small, or too detailed, or did not match any of my visual preconceptions of a final design.  So sampling turned out to be a good thing!

weaving samples 1

Handwoven samples in twill and overshot weave structures

With the materials I was using- a 10/2 tencel yarn in the warp and Bambu 7 in the weft, a variety of twill weaves packed down too much and became a dense fabric.  Not at all what I was looking for.  With much procrastination I rethreaded my looms once again with a few overshot patterns, not my favorite weave.  But it turned out that I really liked the way the fabric draped and the look of the overall designs.

Here are some of the overshot patterns that I am considering to present to the design committee for a decision on the final tallitot designs.

weaving samples 6

Honeysuckle Twill Overshot Pattern #1

weaving samples 7

Honeysuckle Twill Overshot Pattern #2

weaving samples 2

Double Diamond Pattern

My instructions from the design committee were to make these prayer shawls “colorful” and “grandiose” in a design that would represent this synagogue for the twenty years that they expect these tallitot to last.  Not too much pressure there, right? So as I continue this journey, I will try to post more about this project and possibly dear reader, you will watch me descend into madness…..

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.