Thursday, December 15, 2011

Weaving Scarves (and Spa Cloths)

It's funny when you feel as though you're not making any progress and then you start counting up the finished items... and realize that you've gotten quite a bit done indeed!  I'm feeling much more cheerful about my weaving.  Not much is being done on the floor looms, but my rigid-heddle looms, especially my little Cricket, have been working their heddles to the bone!

Spa Cloths

I've finished nine spa cloths.  They're all hand-finished, washed, dried and ready to find new homes.  The four in the photo above are destined to leave here in the next few days.  The three in the bowl... well... we'll see what happens with them.  I have lots of yarn just waiting to become more spa cloths.  There's more of the lavender, lavender linen to make a different version, a set of natural colored yarn for yet another set and much more waiting in the wings!

Scarves and More Scarves
I usually don't like making scarves.  I seldom wear them and don't often give them as gifts.  However, they're great as samples.  They typically don't use much yarn and they're a finished project.  I've been working with my Cricket, developing projects that could be woven on a narrow loom and still be attractive.  Here are two scarves that depend on the color of the yarn to make them work.

Autumn Scarf
This scarf, while technically woven on the Flip loom, could easily have been done on the Cricket.  It has very subtle color variations that don't really show in the photograph. The warp is striped in stripes, alternating wide stripes of forest green with narrow ones of brown.  The weft is the autumn-colors Kauni Effektgarn (color EV).  It's easy to see the gradual shading of the Kauni, but the warp stripes give a depth to the scarf that's more subtle.

Faux Ikat Scarf
Now this one is just fun, and I mean fun!  You take a handpaint sock yarn with shorter color runs (this isn't the time for Mini-Mochi or Kauni) and arrange it on the warping board so that the colors pool together.  You can't wind the warp "out-and-back" style as you usually do, you have to wind it around in large circles.  The diameter of the circle depends on the repeat of the colors.  I used Great Adirondack's Silky Sock for this scarf.  A single color repeat was a bit over a yard, so the finished scarf with two color repeats was.. very long.  Not The Fourth Doctor long, but long.  The interesting thing is that it's not as easy to get the colors to pool as you might think.  Sometimes, I think they had been caught in a skein backwards or something because the winding would be going along well and then would come a thread that didn't fit at all.  I finally realized that those threads would have to simply be cut out.  Things went better after that, until I saw that one rogue thread made it into the warp, dead in the middle.  I pronounced it a design element and off we went!

The scarf is woven off with Malagrigo Sock in Violeta Africana, a beautiful tonal purple in Malabrigo's cushy-soft merino wool. I am really proud of this scarf!

Lace on a Rigid-Heddle Loom
But tabby weave, while pretty, was getting a bit boring, so I decided to play with weft floats.  In multi-harness weaving, this is how laces such as Atwater-Bronson and Huck laces are done.  The same thing can be done even more easily with a rigid-heddle loom.  All that is needed is the addition of a pick-up stick.  The pick-up stick is placed such that every other slot warp thread is caught.  Then when the pick-up stick is used in place of the down heddle position, only half of the threads are lifted, which means the weft thread skips over all of the hole warp threads and half of the slot warp threads.  This draws the warp threads together just close enough to make a normal down heddle pass stand apart from the weft float section.  And this gives us lace!

Bamboo Lace Scarf

The first lace scarf was woven in a fingering weight pure bamboo, Midori by Fiber Lady. I met the Fiber Lady folks at KidNEwe this year.  Their yarns and rovings are beautiful - hand-dyed in luscious colors.  But the natural color is beautiful, too, and I thought it would make a lovely lace scarf, as indeed it did. I bought WAY too much yarn and roving from them, but I probably won't see them again for a year, so I had to have enough to tide me over!  The next ones will probably be woven on the floor looms... maybe.  Again, this scarf was technically woven on the Flip, but could easily have been done on the Cricket.

Aqua Panda Silk Scarf
And here's the last scarf in the collection, a lace scarf woven in Panda Silk.  The warp is the subtly variegated Blue Lagoon color while the weft is the solid Aquarium.  The Blue Lagoon gives the scarf very subtle warp-wise striping. While it was on the loom, I thought it would have been better to have woven it with the colors reversed.  Now that it's off the loom and finished, I think I prefer the way I did it.  I'm working on another Panda Silk scarf with the variegated in the weft and the solid in the warp.  We'll see how it compares.

So back to the looms and more weaving!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

O Come, O Come

Advent Wreath 2011

We've made it through Thanksgiving and into the Advent season.  This year, I decided to make a new Advent wreath. The old one was too big to fit anywhere, so I took the purple decorations from it and put them on a large candle wreath. Then I put the candle wreath of evergreens inside a wood-looking (resin) Advent wreath/candleholder I've had forever. With new candles, it's ready to go. All I could find this year were blue candles and the pink one. I prefer purple candles, but the blue ones looked rustic and were so pretty, that I used them. Maybe next year I'll actually start well before the Advent season!  (It would be a first!)

In the center, in place of the white Christ candle, I put the Madonna and Child icon given to me by my friend from Turkey. As I recall, the icon is from Ephesus, traditionally the last home of the Virgin, as she was taken there by the Apostle John.  It's on my Bucket List of places to visit.

The Christmas wreath is on the door and another on the wall beside the garage. After St. Nicholas' Day (December 6th), I'll start putting the "candles" in the windows and begin the Christmas decorations.

Making Spa Cloths
Blue Spa Cloths on the Loom
The Cricket rigid-heddle group on Ravelry is doing a spa-cloth weave-along. I thought they'd be really good gifts for Christmas this year, so I decided to participate... well, as soon as I could free up the Cricket loom.  This is a difficult thing as there's always a project on the Cricket!  But I did find some linen yarn at Yarnivore as well as the Grass yarn (hemp and cotton) for the weft.  The first warp I put on was a bit over a yard in length and was a slate-blue linen.  The weft was a marled blue Grass yarn.  I used a #8 knitting needle to form the loops. I have one finished cloth and three others waiting to be hand-finished.

The linen yarn was awfully hard on my hands, so I used Hempathy - a hemp / modal blend - for the warp on my current set.  Again, I'm using the Grass in the weft and will get four cloths from this warp.  Wrapped with a lovely bar of hand-made soap from a local soap-maker, the cloths will make wonderful gifts!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wax On / Wax Off or The Big and The Little Of It

It's been a busy time around here. While we've been getting ready for the Austin Celtic Festival, I got a crazy desire to look at Glimakra looms. We've been talking about building a small reproduction loom for demonstrations and the most authentic loom we've seen is the old Swedish loom at the Institute of Texan Cultures. We went to closely examine their loom and then looked at modern Glimakra looms. They're so close! We toyed with the idea of getting a smaller Glimakra, but George is sure he can build one, and I know he can.

See the small Cricket loom on the bench of the Glimakra??
I've always wanted a Glimakra, but the Standard, their workhorse loom, is big.  I mean BIG.  Although how would I know since I'd never seen one??  Something made me browse Craigslist and what should I see but a Glimakra Standard loom for sale. It was 45" wide and supposedly 4-harness, 6-treadle countermarche.  Well, I wanted a countermarche, figuring that it would be more useful than counterbalance.  However, I already have two 4-harness / 6-treadle looms so why this one?  I got in touch with the Glimakra USA representative and found out that Glimakras can be upgraded.  She gave me tips on what to look for in a used loom and information on setting up a Glimakra.

When we went to look at the loom, we found that it was counterbalance, not countermarche, and had been sitting in a garage for years.  But it was in pretty good shape, had tons of accessories, and since I'd found out that Glimkras can be almost infinitely upgraded, we decided to make an offer.  By the end of the day, my birthday present was a pile of lumber in the garage and no place to put it.

Right after getting the Glimakra home, we were up against the annual insanity known as Yarn Crawl - the 4-day event held among 9 area yarn shops. Working Yarn Crawl leaves time for nothing else, but I did manage to do one thing... actually four things. I wove three scarves on a rigid-heddle loom and bought my own Cricket loom.

The Cricket Loom
Why another loom, especially a loom that some consider "toy" looms? Well, it isn't a toy, it's a very well-designed small loom. It's compact enough to take with me, I can warp it in less than an hour and it's a great adjunct to my larger weaving life. I keep it downstairs and weave while I'm enjoying my morning coffee. No sitting at the computer, no working on something else, just sit and weave and sip coffee and look out the windows.  (It's time to feed the birds again!) A great way to start my day!

The Chakra Scarf
The Chakra Scarf
So first off the little loom was this Chakra scarf!  It's made with Noro's Silk Garden Sock in the warp and Mango Moon's Chakra yarn in the weft. The stones and beads in the Chakra yarn are hand-tied by women in Indonesia and Nepal. Mango Moon is a Fair Trade company and sales of their products benefits these women. I wasn't pleased with the scarf on the loom, but I really like it off-loom. The stones and beads in the Chakra give it a weight and drape.  I like to wear it with a black dress or top.  It makes a statement!

There are two more scarves off the loom from the same Silk Garden Sock yarn as the Chakra scarf.  They'll have to be photographed and posted soon.  The scarf on the loom right now is a "let the yarn do the work" scarf. The warp is a handpaint lace yarn - Ella Rae Lace Merino and the weft is Capra, a silk / mohair blend also from Mango Moon.  Mohair doesn't work in the warp as it's almost impossible to get a clean shed, but it's lovely in the weft.

Dyeing My Own

But the next project will be a color project to the nines!  Twelves, actually... This involves a confession. I'm afraid of color. I'm afraid of making a mistake. I don't know what goes with what nor do I know how to add that spark that makes things really glow. But I figure I can learn, so I'm going to learn. I'm starting the learning process by working through Gail Callahan's Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. Last night's project was dyeing 12 small skeins of sock yarn in 12 colors of the color wheel.  All the dyes were mixed from three stock solutions - red, yellow and blue - made with McCormick's food colors.  Yep, this is a kitchen project.  When all the skeins were in the dyebaths (small Mason jars) and arranged in a wheel, I got a crazy idea. I'd mis-measured and made 40-yard skeins when I intended to make 20-yard skeins. However, 40-yard skeins gives me enough to do a color gamp scarf project on my trusty Cricket.  As soon as the mohair scarf is off the loom, I'll warp on the color gamp project with each shade set off with black yarn.  This should be pretty!
The Finished Skeins

Pinwheel Towels

And yes, I finally finished all six towels of the pinwheel project.  Four will leave for the towel exchange, but two are staying here.  George refuses to use them, but I love them... hanging on the stove handle... not being used...

The Autumn Leaves Shawl
But wait!  I didn't leave the poor Glimakra as a pile of lumber in the garage! Last week was the project of starting to clean out and rearrange the upstairs.  Now that both kids are more or less moved out, it's time to rethink how we use the house. This is their home, too, but it's time that old stuff leaves to make room for the new. So after hauling and moving and giving away and throwing out, there was a spot for the Glimakra in the loft. Wax on / Wax off??  The wood was so dry that every bit had to be conditioned with our favorite Ashford Spinning Wheel wax. If I ever leave the Cricket unwarped for five minutes, it'll get the same treatment.

Setting up a counterbalance loom requires having a project on it. I tried to think of something that wouldn't be too much of a challenge to weave and finally thought of a chenille shawl project kit I've had laying around for years. I hauled it out and warped it onto the Glimakra. At first I was wondering why anyone bothers to put on anything less than 10 yards, but the shawl is fine.  It didn't take but a time or so around the warp beam, but everything got on and tensioned correctly. Then came tying up the loom and setting everything up.  After only a few mistakes the old girl was weaving again.

Which caused the biggest surprise. I like counterbalance looms.  I'm going to leave her that way for a while before I upgrade her.

Leave it as it is.
Never mind the turpentine.
Just leave it as it is.
It's fine.
-- David Wilcox

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weaving with the Bionic Eye

Okay, back to the looms! I finished the shadow weave scarves after the surgery, but didn't consider that the real test of my vision. I AM pleased with how they turned out, so before telling the tale of warping with new vision, here are the finished scarves!
Shadow Weave Scarf - Tromp as Writ
The first scarf is "tromp as writ," meaning that it is treadled exactly as it's threaded. In this case, it forms little boxes of alternating design. Shadow weave tends to be complex and this one was no exception. It's one of the few where I've had to keep the draft beside me to remember the treadling sequence. Having said that, I must say I love this draft!

Shadow Weave Scarf - Alternate Treadling
This is the alternate treadling for the threading I used. It's a simpler treadling and gives a kind of striped effect. It should have gone faster than the first treadling, but the surgery interrupted its progress, so it took longer to complete.

After twisting the fringe and wet-finishing the pieces, the chenille turned out soft and slinky. Very nice!  Chenille isn't my favorite thing to weave, especially in the warp. Several warp threads broke - some from Cat Assistance - but it wasn't a big deal to fix and they turned out well. I may tackle chenille again sometime.

Pinwheel Towels
Thread for the Towels
I'm participating in a handwoven towel exchange in the Warped Weavers Ravelry group. I came across the draft for color-and-weave pinwheel towels in Handwoven Magazine's  Winning Towels - an e-book with the drafts of the winning towels from their recent competition. The original towels were done in teals and white with a specific yellow accent.  I liked the colors, but I couldn't match all the colors the designer used. When I did finally choose colors - not quite as teal, more to the blue - I really wanted the specific yellow accent she used.  It's not too eye-bending yellow, but does provide a good contrast.  I finally found one supplier with a mini-cone of the yellow. After quite a search, I found the other colors I needed from the same supplier and so finally got the yarn ordered.

And now to warp!  Because of the color sequences, measuring the warp was a challenge, but it let me think out of the box and think how I use my warping board. This is the first time I've used the warping board for a long warp since we redesigned the weaving studio. I'm still not really happy with how it works, but it will do until I think of something better. Once the I started measuring the warp, it was time to sley it into the reed. In some ways, I was kind of scared, not being sure if I could see. The good news is that since my intermediate and close vision is improving in the "bionic" eye, it wasn't as difficult as I thought. I sleyed most of it without reading glasses.

Of course, threading the heddles is the tricky part, but again, no problems. I used reading glasses... and then found myself looking over them as I was threading.  So I took them off for part of the process.  I think I can say that my vision isn't hampering me in my weaving any more than it ever did, and in some ways is much better.

Pinwheel Towels on the Loom

These are turning out very well! The interplay of the colors with the pinwheel pattern is very interesting. When I was warping the loom, I wondered if it would be possible to see the pinwheels. Traditionally, pinwheel alternates 8 light colors and 8 dark colors. No contiguous eight colors are the same in this draft. But it works and you can see the pinwheels in areas where the weft color sequence is the same as the warp color sequence.  Hopefully, it can be seen in this detail photo:
Pinwheel Towels - Detail
The pinwheels are easiest to see in the lower left corner. I'll get more photos as the process continues.

I think I can say... I'm back in the weaving room!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Seeing on the Other Side

Such an Interesting Time!  Early in the year, I noticed that my 6-month-old glasses weren't working.  Everything was blurry out of my left eye.  I went to my optometrist.  He tweaked and tried and couldn't get a correction that worked.  At one point I asked why I was seeing the letters doubled.  He got real quiet and went out to get his father, an optometrist with many more years experience.  Of course, the worry was that I 1) had a brain tumor, 2) was having a stroke, or 3) something else.  The older optometrist was able to get a prescription that worked, but it was a worrying thing.  Within less than six months, my vision was blurry again.  For other reasons, I thought I might be having a detached retina issue in that eye.  (My first detached retina was 20-plus years earlier in the other eye.)  This time, I went to the ophthalmologist. The good news was that no, there was no retinal involvement.  The bad news was that I was developing a pretty sizable cataract.  I'm in my mid-fifties, which is young for this sort of thing, but there we are.  I had a mild infection in that eye, so he prescribed drops and told me to come back in two weeks.

Within the two weeks, I started seeing rainbow halos around lights.  The good news was that the infection was gone.  The bad news was that the cataract was getting rapidly worse.  He referred me to the cataract doc.  A month later, I went to see the cataract doc who took one look and pretty much scheduled me for surgery.  It was a bit more involved than that, but it really came down to two choices, a distance-only implanted lens or the newer multi-focal implanted lens.

After hours of research and long talks with my doctor and his surgical assistant, I opted for the newer multi-focal lens.  I knew going into the operation that it might not solve all my vision issues in that eye, but it should help a good deal.  The surgeon had two openings in his schedule.  The first was the Monday after we moved my daughter back up to college and the second was two weeks later.  I opted for the second option.  Unfortunately, that gave me time to worry about the whole thing!

Cataract surgery is supposed to be one of the quickest, easiest surgeries available, with a very good record of positive outcomes.  That may be true, but it's MY eyes!  I managed to worry anyway.

Having just dealt with insurance and hospital / surgical expenses for my daughter's recent surgery, I finally figured out that it's almost impossible to forecast the expenses for a surgery.  Why it's taken me this long to realize that, I don't know, but I was tired of hidden expenses I didn't know about until months later when I'd get a bill from someone I'd never heard of for services I had no idea were rendered.  This time, darnit, I was going to be prepared.  Especially since the multi-focal lens is considered by most insurance companies to be elective surgery.

The short version of the story is that I still have no idea who did what or what I owe.  I got the name and contact information for the anesthesiologist and the surgical center.  After bouncing around a few people, I did finally get an estimate for the anesthesiologist - a first since I've never been able to get one before.  I got an estimate from the surgeon.  The surgical center wouldn't talk to me until the Friday before the surgery when I was out.  So I've yet to figure out what I owe them.  And are there others?  Pathologists?  (That's a big one, by the way.)  Lab fees?  Fees for sitting in the waiting room?  God alone knows what I'll be faced with.  I could get no information from the insurance company as to what they'd cover.  All I got was a form letter with a repeat of the policy.  That much I could have read for myself.  I got no help at all as to what they would cover and what they wouldn't.  We're two weeks out from the surgery and I still don't know.

So why does this happen?  I don't know, but I think it's a combination of factors.  Most patients don't know to ask questions and the information is seldom offered and never completely covered when it is.  Each doctor, hospital or surgical center, lab, etc. does their own billing and there is no central organization that coordinates them all.  Or if there is, I've never found it.  Since patients aren't awake for most procedures, they have no idea who was in there doing what or what went where or much of anything.  Most of us don't want to know.   Most of us us pay every bill presented and never question the insurance coverage or whether the bill is even valid!  There is a huge disconnect between patient and the medical community and no apparent way to bridge it.

Gentle readers, if you're about to tell me the recently enacted healthcare legislation will solve all this, please save the electrons.  It won't.  It hasn't.  If anything, it's made it more difficult to get information, not less.

And that's just the financial part of it.  I've been waffling about outlining my experiences, but I think I'll go ahead and do it.  Just remember, this is MY story and these are MY experiences.  Your mileage may vary.

First of all, let's be clear about one thing that never came up during all my research.  I was awake for the surgery.  They tell you you're going to be put under conscious sedation and you assume that means out for the count.  It doesn't.  What it means is that you'll be sedated for about five minutes while they numb up the eye, but you'll be awake for the procedure itself.  I didn't find this out until five minutes before the anesthesiologist walked in.

Next, they put a drape over my face with only the affected eye uncovered.  Standard procedure and I understand why they'd do it.  But again, I wasn't warned of this.  I'm claustrophobic.  So in addition to the deep breathing / relaxation exercises I was doing to deal with watching my eye being rearranged, I had to cope with the claustrophobia.  Well, it gave me something to do, I suppose.

On the up side, the surgery is very fast and totally painless.  The anesthesiologist was with me the entire time keeping watch over me (that's what they do).  If I felt anything, I was to tell him and he'd take care of any pain issues or anything that came up.  Happily, I didn't need anything special at all.  I got through the procedure fairly easily.  Recovery was very quick and I was able to walk out of the center and be driven home.  My poor husband!  I was even able to backseat drive all the way home!  And that was with one eye bandaged up and no distance vision correction in the other!  Woot!!

Then came the next day and the discovery of the wrong eyedrops.  I went in for the follow-up appointment and discovered that either the surgeon's office or the pharmacy messed up my prescriptions and I'd been using the wrong eyedrops prior to surgery.  As it turned out, I don't think it was a big deal, but it added to my post-surgical worry factor.  That all got corrected, but still.  It could have been very bad.

And the lens?  Well, there's one thing that, with a degree in psychology, I should have known, but didn't and again, nobody warned me about this going into the procedure.  With the multi-focal lens, at least, I'm having to re-learn how to see out of that eye.  For six months or so, my other eye had been taking the load of all vision.  Now with the new lens, my left eye needs to take up its load again, but how?  I literally have to learn to use it.  It's coming along, but not as fast as I thought it would.  We're two weeks out.  Distance vision, which I thought would come back fastest is still blurry.  I'm wearing a distance contact lens in the other eye, so my distance vision is decent, but the new lens is not quite there yet.  Intermediate vision is surprisingly good.  Close-up vision is dicey.  It's good for most things, but tiny print is hard for me as is reading in low light situations.  I keep reading glasses for when I absolutely need them, but am trying to work with the new lens only in the left eye.  But this is a work-in-progress so we'll see where we are in a month or so.

So my advice to you?  Ask questions.  Ask a LOT of questions.  Don't be shy and don't let anybody make you feel that you're imposing by doing so.  Very few people in the medical and/or insurance business will tell you everything you need to know.  Ask.  It's up to you.  If you can't think of questions during appointments, call the office later and ask.  Keep lists.  Make spreadsheets.  Just do it.  If something doesn't seem right, ask.
If you get a bill and don't know what it's for, call 'em up and ask.  I think the more consumers ask and pound on providers until we get answers, the more the culture will change and information will be more freely given.

But freely given or not, it's your body, your eyes, your experience and, let's face it, your life.  It's your right to know and you're in charge.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A New Kind of Weaving

Wow!  It's been forever since I posted.  Still going through crazy times and trying to make it work.  I think ultimately it will, but I'm still trying to find balance.

Shadow Weave
The latest Weave-a-long (WAL) on Ravelry's Warped Weavers group is shadow weave.  Years ago, I made the Shadow Weave Bamboo Shawl from Handwoven magazine.  It's a great shawl, but kind of hard to find the rhythm. While wondering what to do for the WAL, I stumbled upon Marian Powell's 1000(+) Shadow Weave Patterns for 4, 6, and 8 Harnesses.  Figuring out her drafting notation takes some doing, but it really isn't hard and the drafts are so beautiful, they're worth it.  I chose a four-harness draft to use for a couple of scarves. Webs had 1900 YPP rayon chenille on sale and they had some beautiful colors available. I chose a soft rose and an ecru to make up these scarves.  The first one is still in-progress.  Here it is on the loom:

Marian Powell's 4-40-1 Shadow Weave draft
Smaller Weaving
But while I've been working on the shadow weave project, I've decided to try my hand at some smaller weaving. I got interested in tablet (card) weaving, inkle loom weaving and pickup weaving. All are used to create narrow bands of fabric, many highly decorated.  Here are the three projects I've recently finished:

From left to right: two sections of the inkle-woven band, a section of the pickup band and a section of the tablet-woven band. Of the three, the inkle-woven band came out the best, I think. I "got" the concept of warping for the inkle-loom more quickly than the others and I was able to keep it a decently even width with good selvedges.

The first project was the tablet-woven band.  I used the rigid-heddle loom frame to hold the warp. Unfortunately, I used a DK cotton knitting yarn.  It was smooth and pretty, but way too thick, I think.  I'll use something much more fine next time.

The pickup band was the most recent project. Instead of using a backstrap loom, I put about a yard of warp onto my smaller rigid-heddle loom. I threaded the warp through double 12-dent heddles for an EPI (ends per inch) of 24.  That worked fine with 5/2 perle cotton, but I must say that using double heddles made the pickup a bit more interesting.  The double heddles cause one level of warp to lie in two planes instead of one. It's okay because I flattened out the warp in my hand, but still...  It's something to look out for.  Here's a side view of the warp:

Side View of Pickup Warp
You can see the upper and lower plane of the warp as well as where the warp threads cross for the pickup (and dropdown). In pickup weaving, designs are formed by picking up heavier warp threads so that the ones necessary for the design are on the top.  Half of the threads will naturally be at the top because of the shedding mechanism of the loom.  Here's a photo of the shed formed, before the pickup stick is inserted:

Okay, the pickup stick is inserted into the plain shed to highlight the threads!  But you can bet that some of those threads shouldn't be showing and some that aren't showing should be.  So you take your trusty pickup stick and pick up those that should be on top and push down the ones that should be hidden.  Here's what it looks like with the pickup stick inserted and turned on its side:

Easier said than done at the beginning, but it becomes really logical soon enough.

I made more mistakes on this than I care to admit to.  The worst one was misreading the instructions and thinking that the weft had to be the same color as the outer border of the piece.  That's quite true in tablet weaving and inkle weaving, but the weft shows a little bit in the pattern area of pickup weaving, so I should have made the background color, the outer border and the weft color all the same.  I'll fix that for sure in the next project, but that's why there are green speckles in the background of the hearts.  I probably shouldn't have started with anything quite as complex as I did, but hey, it was fun!

And that's what it's all about - having fun!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Back to the Handmade Life

Such joy to have gone to the Pearl Farmer's Market on Saturday!  It's obvious that this year is a hard one for everyone.  From the hard freezes we had during the winter, to the ongoing drought and excessively high temperatures this summer, it's not fun. The meat vendors were telling us that they're having to feed hay already - something that doesn't usually happen much in South Texas.  The vegetable selection was down to the tougher veggies that can tolerate the heat and even then, they're smaller than usual.  But everything is still good. Visiting with the farmers, ranchers and artisans feeds the soul as always.  There are new vendors in since the last time we visited. I'm delighted to see the younger vendors who have chosen to make their life's work supplying fresh, handmade, local foods.

Bread Dough Rising
After a long hiatus, we're back to making our own bread and some of our cheeses again. Yes, it's time-consuming, but not as time-consuming as all that and the results are so tasty! During the long, July 4th weekend, we've gone back to our slow-rise, wet-dough bread. I love the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I can mix bread dough once and have fresh bread four times in almost no time. One of these days I'm going to need to try the other recipes in the book!  I can't seem to get past the first one.

Fresh Bread, Mozzarella Cheese and Peach Cobbler 
Making Mozzarella cheese is surprisingly easy. At least it is once you find the right milk. Ultra-pasteurization is the enemy of cheese making. It gives the milk a very long shelf life but nothing else. It was a disappointment to us when our local grocery store's organic milk went ultra-pasteurized. Fortunately, good ol Borden milk can be made into cheese... at least for now.  Since Mozzarella is a soft, non-ripened cheese, it can be made in under an hour. First is warming the milk and adding the citric acid and rennet to force it to separate. Then comes cooking the curd until it holds together well.

Stirring the Curds
Finishing the cheese - forcing the remaining whey out of the cheese and stretching it like taffy is fun and takes tough hands!  The cheese has to be just over hotter than hands like to deal with.  Because I cut my hand in a stupid accident, George took over stretching the cheese for me today.

Stretching the Cheese
The end result is tastier than anything you'll find ready-made... unless you get your cheese from the young folks at the market!

The entire take of Fredericksburg peaches went into a cobbler for today's celebration.  We can't have fireworks this year because of the drought and the danger of wildfires.  As in, even the cities have canceled fireworks displays.  But we can still eat and I saw no reason for the family to be deprived of our traditional Fourth of July supper just because it won't be followed by fireworks.  So this year, we're having Cassie's friends over as well as my parents.  We'll all swim in the pool and eat.  Good stuff!

Weaving is Handmade!
Colorwork Pillows on the Loom
I'm still working on the colorwork pillows I started in June. I've decided I do like Cotton Clouds Aurora Earth unmercerized cotton.  It's not that the pillows are hard at all.  I just haven't had the time to weave that I'd like.  I'm on the last part of the second pillow, though.  I still have to weave off the rest of the warp in stripes to make the diagonal-cut welt, but that probably won't take all that long.  It's good weaving and I'm enjoying it quite a bit.  It's beautiful to watch the color interplay develop.
Weaving a Life - or at least my pillows!
So it's good to be back to making things for ourselves again. I still need to find the balance to fit everything into my days, but I suppose I'll be working on that all my life.  That's not an end, that's really a process!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Back To The Icons, or How To Do Image Transfers

I'm back to working on a Mosaicon that's been languishing for months - the icon based on the image of Diana the Huntress.  You first met it in my blog post back in September.  The Leonardo da Vinci icon pushed its way to the fore and the Dia de los Muertos icon bounced in and demanded to be finished.  Diana waited.  Fortunately, she seems to be willing to wait for me.  I'm grateful!

The June 2011 collection from Gecko Galz contained a set of Grecian Girls images.  One of the images seemed especially appropriate for the Huntress icon.  I decided to use that image transferred to a polymer clay tile.  I thought it might be appropriate to share the technique for image transfers here.  Or at least one technique!  There are many.

Choose Your Image
Choosing your image might not sound like a big deal, but it really is.  You don't want it so busy that little details will be lost in the transfer process.  There also needs to be a strong focus in the image.  In fact, the strong focus is what you will transfer.  Backgrounds need to be merged into the tile itself, usually with paint.  You will probably need to size your image, possibly crop it, and most likely need to reverse the image, all of which can be done in Paint, but I prefer Photoshop Elements.  Bear in mind that the image will transfer reversed from how it is printed, so plan accordingly. This is extremely important if there are words or if the image is so well-known that seeing it reversed will cause problems.

Once you've chosen your image and cropped and reversed it, make a page with several sizes of the image.  You're pretty sure what size you want the finished tile to be, but I'm always grateful to have several choices of image sizes to choose from.  For this technique, print the finished page of images on an inkjet printer.  I print them on matte brochure or presentation paper.  You want a good enough paper to get a good ink saturation, but you don't want a glossy photo finish.  After the ink dries, tear out the image you want to use.

Preparing the Polymer Clay Tile
There are several types of clay you can use to make your tile.  I recommend using either Sculpey white clay or Premo white or pearl clay.  The clay color will show through the image, somewhat, and will affect the finished image.  The whiter the clay, the less it will interfere with the color of the image inks.  In the following photos, I've used Premo pearl clay.

Prepare and bake several sizes of tiles.  Having several sizes ready to go makes it easier if you change  your mind about the finished product, or make a mistake that can't be recovered.

Gather Your Materials

For this technique, you'll need the image, the baked and cooled tile and a gel medium. I use Liquitex gloss gel medium. It's useful to have some kind of burnishing tool.  A good old-fashioned Popsicle stick works beautifully!  Having a box of baby wipes and paper towels on-hand helps with keeping the mess at bay.

"Gluing on the Image"
Coat the image with the gel medium and place it, coated image side down, on the polymer clay tile.  With your burnishing tool, burnish the image onto the tile, making sure the ink of the image is in contact with the tile and that there are no air bubbles.  Do NOT start removing the paper backing yet!  You'll be almost certain to tear the delicate ink film if you do.

Remove the Paper Backing
Removing the Paper
Let the image set and dry for a few minutes.  Dampen your finger and start rubbing the paper in small circles.  You'll soon start to notice the paper peeling up.  Gently continue the rubbing, dampening your finger again, if necessary.  You'll start to see the image appear beneath a haze of paper.

Image Appearing Through The Haze
It's tempting to stop rubbing when you see the image appearing, but you need to get as much of the paper removed as possible.  What you're going for here is the ink adhered to the clay tile without any paper marring it.  So keep gently rubbing.  This can take quite a while.  However you don't want to rub so hard that you remove the delicate ink.

Image Appearing
In the image above, you can see how the lower half of the image is revealed, but there is still paper to be removed at the top of the image.  Keep on rubbing!

Transfer Completed!
Once the paper has been completely removed, you need to work the image background into the tile.  This is normally done by painting the tile from the edges of the image to the edges of the tile.  In the photo of the finished tile, you can see that I chose to paint the tile gold.  In retrospect, I might should have painted it a deep rich blue.  It's all up to you!

Finished Painted Tile
Protecting the Tile
Once you have the image transferred and the rest of the tile painted, you might think you're finished.  Do remember to seal the tile!  The image will be delicate and can easily be scratched, especially if you're using the tile as a piece of jewelry.  You'll want to seal it with an acrylic sealer once the paint dries.  Apply several coats to adequately seal the image and paint.

And always remember the most important thing:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weaving in the Heat

Ah, the Texas Folklife Festival!  Three days outdoors, demonstrating in 100-degree heat.  Yeah.  My idea of a lot of fun!  Actually, in many ways it was fun.  We were sweaty and exhausted every night when we got home.  But the response to our demonstrations was enthusiastic.  We could hardly leave the booth.  When one group would leave, another would arrive.
Spinning on the Polonaise
This is the second outing for the new Kromski Polonaise spinning wheel.  She is a joy to spin on.  She looks antique, but she's a beautiful modern wheel.  Since I'm the best wheel spinner of the three of us, I would sit and spin.  The wheel is so eyecatching - as soon as I set her in motion, the crowds would gather around.  After three days, I'd spun an entire bobbin of yarn - and Kromski bobbins are larger than average!!  I'll ply the yarn and dye it this week.  It may be knitted into socks or it may find its way into a woven piece.   You never know!

We also received more requests for photos than we've ever had before.  People seemed drawn to the prairie dresses worn by both Cassandra and myself.  Cassandra looks so natural in her grey dress.  I just look really, really OLD in mine!!  But they are comfortable - or as comfortable as anything can be in this heat!  I insisted that Cassandra put on her bonnet whenever leaving the tent, as did I.  Neither of us burned.  Hey!  Our ancestresses must have known what they were doing!

George got a proposal of marriage!  A charming Czech lady came to the booth to watch us spin.  She had a miniature spinning wheel - most likely a woodturning apprentice's "final exam" piece.  It had been "fixed" by somebody who "knew all about spinning wheels."  Needless to say, the poor thing couldn't spin.  Honestly, it probably never did well, nor was it intended to.  However, George went with her to look at the wheel.  He was able to fix it for her and get it going again.  As if that weren't enough, he noted the red dye on the decorated eggs the ladies had on display.  They told him the dyestuff was cochineal, but they didn't know anything about it.  He was able to fill them in on the story of cochineal.  They were delighted!

Czech Decorated Egg
So they gave him one of the beautiful decorated eggshells, an information sheet about the eggs, a hug, and a proposal of marriage!  Let's see...  He's up to how many wives now??

I've known about the Polish version of the decorated eggs - Pysanki, I think it's called.  I didn't know about the Czech eggs - Kraslice.  Instead of drawing the design on the bare egg with wax, dyeing the egg so the shell takes the color everywhere except where the wax is, and then melting the wax off, Czech eggs are dyed a single color and then the design is scratched off to reveal the egg underneath.  Cochineal is commonly used to get the strong, bright red color.

Fabric View of the Draft
But the excitement for me was the weaving of my very first design!  I've been wanting forever to do the overshot patterns in Marguerite Porter Davison's A Handweaver's Source Book.  But for years they've made no sense to me.  I decided that I would finally come to grips with them.  I chose Soldier's Return (page 40) for my first foray into understanding these drafts.  It really wasn't all that hard.  However, the floats were longer than I wanted.  So I started to tweak.  And tweak.  And really tweak.  And suddenly, I had a fabric that didn't look like the original, exactly, but it looked beautiful!  So I thought, why not?

Why not?  Well, it has to be crazy to use an untested draft at a demonstration with thousands of people watching.  Okay, 99.9% of the thousands of people don't know anything about weaving, so you can get away with some things.  However, your 19-year-old beginning weaver daughter needs to be able to weave this pattern and she's never woven overshot before.  And so???

And so I did it.  And it's beautiful!  People were fascinated with it.  Cassie was able to weave it with no problems after the first repeat or so.

Cassie at the loom
When I took the runner off the loom, I was suprised to see that it was almost two feet longer than I thought it would be.  Hmm...  I'm still not sure how I did that.  It's really too long, but it's so pretty.  I think I'll try weaving it off in a finer thread.  I have a large cone of natural 20/2 perle cotton and a large cone of 16/2 perle cotton coming.  (Excitement!!)

The Finished Runner
Overshot In Color

Overshot In Color Runner
I finished this overshot runner several weeks ago, but didn't get photographs until after the Folklife Festival.  This is a draft from the November / December 2010 issue of Handwoven magazine.  It is a beautiful runner!  Three closely analagous colors are used for the warp and tabby weft.  The warp alternates the mid and light tones of the color while the warp is the darker tone.  This gives the background fabric a depth that it usually doesn't have.  I liked this project so much that I ordered silk to do another "colorwork" overshot piece.  This will be interesting!

And in the meantime?  Well, I'm making up another prairie dress and pinafore for myself and another shirt for George.  When we do these multiday demonstrations, we need multiple outfits.  And it's fun to have costume pieces to mix and match. I found an antique end-feed shuttle in an antique store this week.  The wood is dry and the metal rusted, but I think it can be brought back into service and that will be fun!  And on to weaving off the colorwork pillows I started before the Festival.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Weaving with Cousin Sam

The General Sam Houston Folk Festival has come and gone.  This is the first time I've done a major demonstration without George.  He was in SQL class at RackSpace and couldn't come until Friday night. My parents bravely stepped up to the plate and accompanied me for the first part of the fair. We drove out to Huntsville on Thursday, got all set up, and then faced School Day on Friday!  My mom tried valiently to help me demonstrate, but there's quite a bit of technical knowledge needed that she just didn't have. It went suprisingly well, though.  I found my groove - found what information I wanted to impart to the kids, and stayed with it.  Sadly, with so many kids I couldn't give them any real hands-on experience.

By the time the fair ended on Friday, I was so exhausted and dehydrated that I was having trouble getting the tent closed up.  But I managed it and made it back to the hotel with Mom to find that George had arrived. 

We went out to the most wonderful place for supper - The Homestead on 19th.  The restaurant is housed in two old cabins that have been moved to their current location across 19th street from the Sam Houston Museum.  The food is simple and perfectly prepared, the service is wonderful and the setting is awesome! That was one of the many high points in the weekend.

Saturday and Sunday were more normal demonstration days. Although we were told the gate count was off, we'd have never known it. We were swamped! We didn't get to see much of the rest of the fair, but what we saw was so interesting! They have so many craftspeople and reenactors there. I even got used to cannon and muskets going off at regular intervals. Okay, a few times they must have put a double charge in the cannon 'cause I felt the loom shake, but overall, it was good.

We had more than our share of wonderful moments this time.  There was a blind girl and her friend who came by on Friday. I took the blind girl's hand and guided it all across the loom so she could "see" what was going on. There was the elderly black woman who, after 76 years spun her own yarn.  She was dancing all over the fair afterwards, so happy with what she'd accomplished. There was the five-year-old girl who dragged Daddy back to the fair on Sunday after coming to see us on Saturday. She was okay doing the drop spinning again and working with the small frame loom, but she really wanted to "do EVERYTHING!" I lifted her onto my lap and showed her how to spin on the wheel. Then we went over to the loom and I did the same. She was barely able to reach the beater, even on the small loom and sitting on my lap, but she was game and she gave it her best.

Needless to say, I didn't take out either the yarn she spun or the shots she wove.

And then there was Sunday morning. I misread the fair schedule and got us to the fair early.  Way early as I thought the fair opened at 9 and it actually opened at noon!  George had fun exploring and talking to the early fair folk while I sat in the cool morning air, under those beautiful big East Texas trees and spun.  I must have spun for hours. I still wonder if any of my ancestors found a quiet morning and took her spinning wheel out on the porch to enjoy the beauty of the day.  I like to think so.

The Runner
I finished the overshot runner today. I was afraid I'd weave it off well before the end of the fair, but had no problem. I dearly love this draft - Snowballs in A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. Both treadlings are beautiful, but this is my favorite. The natural cotton-linen blend in the warp and tabby weft and the rustic Evilla Artyarn in the pattern weft combined to give a very earthy, rustic feel to the piece. I like to think Cousin Sam (Houston) would approve!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time to Weave

With George having started his new job on Monday, we're adjusting to this new phase of our lives. He wasn't very enthusiastic about the new place, but how could he be? Our last jobs were as perfect as any job could possibly be. However, I'm delighted to see his enthusiasm building. He's learning so much, and sees the opportunity to learn much, much more. This is a very good thing!

And me?  Well, I'm learning lots, too, about weaving. I'm taking this time to learn and practice things I've wanted to learn forever. Now that I seem to be over the worst of the warping issues, dressing the loom is nowhere near the daunting task it has been in the past. It's kept me from weaving for years.

Weaving to Sell
So I decided to see if I could actually sell my work. Many people have encouraged me, including a woman at the St. Francis In The Wood Fair.  I think she's probably one of my guardian angels. I'm convinced my angels show up in human or animal form from time to time to take care of me and push me in directions I need to go.  They have some typical forms I'm coming to recognize, too.

After being inspired by a piece on Ravelry's Warped Weavers group, I decided to use some variegated Tencel I've had laying around forever. I used the variegated in the warp and black Tencel in the weft. I somewhat fearfully chose a twill pattern in Marguerite Porter Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book. I say fearfully because the drafts in the book are in the old style and I wasn't sure I could read them correctly. But it proved much easier than I had feared.  There were a couple of  false starts. I forgot the prime rule of design.  If you have a complicated yarn, and most variegated yarns are, you need a simple structure. Of course, I tried a complicated structure. And immediately unwove it and used a simpler tie-up and treadling. I promptly broke a warp thread - Tencel takes less abrasion than bamboo, I think.  But I patched the thread and had no further trouble with it.

The two scarves I warped on wove off quickly enough, especially considering I was also weaving the Peacock Shawl on the 8-harness loom. They looked good, even straight off the loom.  But wet-finishing provided the miracle it usually does.  And without further ado...

Twill Scarves
Here is one of the scarves!  With an amazing amount of fear and trepidation, I opened an Etsy shop where I listed them for sale.  We'll see what happens!  I need to spiff up my shop, but at least it's there.

I'm pleased with the interplay of the color against black.  If I had it to do over again, and had an unlimited amount of Tencel in the house, I think I'd choose a navy blue for the weft.  The black is a little harsh.  Here's the detail of the scarf.
Twill Scarf Detail

Overshot is Hot... But Slow
The Overshot Runner on the Loom
I'm gravitating to finer weaves and more traditional structures. I've wanted to try overshot for years.  I've been collecting overshot books forever, it seems.  But I've never actually tackled a project. Warped Weaver's winter Weave-Along this year was overshot.  Looking through the postings, I decided to squeak a last project in on that WAL. I chose a table runner project in one of Interweave's e-books - the same project that many others in the WAL chose. For a first project, I'm glad I did. I used a natural colored cotton in the warp and tabby weft and an indigo blue wool for the pattern weft. It looks almost black and white in the photos, but I was going for the traditional natural / indigo look.

Threading the loom required attention.  It's amazing how complex something can be in only four harnesses. But I used the small-group theory of threading - thread a small number of heddles, double check them, tie them off and forget them!  Thankfully, there were no mistakes. When I started weaving the tabby header I was almost dismayed to see how open the weave was.  But fortunately, I had the benefit of everyone else's experience telling me that the tabby needs to be open to accomodate the pattern weft. I planned the pattern weft in a single strand of the blue wool.  But when I sampled it, it seemed kind of thin.  I opted to double the wool... and promptly realized I didn't have enough.  I think that problem will get taken care of, though.

Overshot Detail
So beautiful... And so much what most of us think of as traditional American.  Overshot didn't originate here - like many things it was brought here by the colonists, but it was raised to a folk art here.  So many patterns were developed here and have names reflecting American history - much like quilt patterns and names.  Next up will probably be placemats in Lee's Surrender at Appomattox... if I can get my parents to stop cringing at the name!

The Peacock Shawl is Finished
And it's as beautiful as I thought it would be. I have several more color combinations in mind to do it next time.  I want to try the peacock color again but using an emerald green for the weft instead of moss green. I think the resulting color will be closer to true peacock.  And I want to do it in two tones of white - I think it would be beautiful for a bride.  And I'm going to try the unthinkable - running a glimmer thread along with some of the warp threads. I'll probably get tensioning nightmares, but that's what the weighted S-hooks are for.  And I have two shades of pink in SoySilk that would probably be gorgeous!  So many projects, so little time!
The Shawl