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

KISS of the Weaver

For five years, I had been teaching weaving to senior citizens through Creative Aging Mid-South. The students I have worked with often express their creativity through their lifelong passions and experiences. Students’ abilities have ranged from the completely independent and self learning individuals to those with dementia who require a fair amount of assistance and guidance toward the completion of their projects.

When I work with individuals demonstrating decreased levels of cognitive functioning due to dementia, disease or other illness, I need to structure the project so that the many steps of weaving are broken down into a limited number of  tasks with a repetitive element. For instance, residents of an Alzheimer’s or dementia program will more easily remember the repeated rhythmic chants of  “under, over, under, over” than trying to remember the many steps of weaving with a frame loom such as “raise the heddle, insert the shuttle, beat, lower the heddle, insert the shuttle, beat” and so on. In fact, many of the individuals with cognitive impairments will remember the under and over motion of weaving on a potholder loom, either from their own childhoods or from teaching their children.

In previous classes  offered to dementia groups, I taught weaving on a simple frame loom, or on a cardboard loom where the finished project had to be removed in order to be displayed or worn, such as a woven pendant or necklace. This meant that the students needed to finish their projects before the piece had to be removed.  More often than not, I was the one who ended up having to finish their projects and then preparing them for display or to be worn. In this way, the art work became a piece woven by me and not by the students! And so I had to remind myself to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!

For my current class with a group of residents in an assisted living facility which housed an Alzheimer’s unit, I referred to this book for inspiration.

Small Loom and Free Form Weaving by Barbara Matthiessen

The book is Small Loom and Freeform Weaving: Five Ways to Weave by Barbara Matthiessen.  It is available here at And specifically, I was interested in adapting this altered book project by Ms. Matthiessen and present it to the members of the Alzheimer’s group:

Altered book weaving project idea from “Small Loom and Freeform Weaving”

The author of  Small Loom and Freeform Weaving used the discarded cover of an old book as a loom to weave a non-traditional piece with open spaces in the weaving. In my own studio, I have many sheets of mat board as well as scraps of decorative paper, and so I designed my own mat board looms for the residents of the assisted living facility.


Mat board looms in various stages of completion

The looms were made from rectangles of mat board with a decorative frame of scrapbooking paper around the four edges. Carpet tacks were inserted at the top and the bottom of the boards and cotton carpet warp was wound around the tacks. Students used a large wooden weaving needle and bulky novelty yarns in a variety of colors and textures to weave under and over the cotton warp threads.


Mat board loom with a wooden weaving needle and bulky weft yarn

For some residents, I needed to begin the first row or two so that they could have a visual image of what their weaving would look like. Once they began  a rhythm of  weaving  “under, over, under, over”, the class was well underway.


Selection of some of the yarns students used for weaving

Students most appeared to enjoy the various textures and weights of the yarns, and the brightest and softest yarns were the most popular choices.


Weaving on Mat Board Looms at Table I

Weaving on Mat Board Looms at Table II

Ten students joined me in this class and will continue to meet weekly for three more weeks. Many will be able to complete their projects by the end of this time. And the mat board loom will become part of their art creation, because their weaving will not have to be removed from it in order for their work to be displayed! Whether or not they finish weaving, all will have a frame with a woven picture that they can proudly display, and know that they wove it themselves!

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 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.

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!

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.