argos: Argos as the fourth Dr Who (drwho)
2012-08-17 02:06 pm

IFC 2012

Too long since I've posted here, so here's a photo taken by FoxxyFURtography at Indy Fur Con 2012 in Indianapolis. The theme was "Furs in Space" and I didn't want to do Star Wars or Star Trek, and thought Dr Who would be a better model given my inclinations and disposition. I made the scarf myself from a pattern provided by the BBC back in the 1980s. The "Sonic Screwdriver" I'm carrying is actually a battery powered drink swizzler.

The con was smallish but we had lots of fun, and the weather was great for fursuits (a surprise given the August date.
argos: Fursuit by myself. :-D (at work)
2010-10-04 07:39 pm
Entry tags:

Color Me Green

[Third of three descriptions]

The third woven piece was created in response to the weavers' challenge for 2010: "Weave a green bag" which explicitly left the definitions of "green" and "bag" up to the individual weaver. Almost all of the results Color Me Green that were exhibited at the June meeting were purses or handbags of some sort. Not that this was wrong, and most of them were quite interesting and well done, with a great deal of variety.

Having no particular use for a handbag, though, I naturally set out to do something different. I started with the word "green" and (after discarding it as slang for "cash") decided to cover multiple bases. This item is therefore "green" in the sense that it uses some recycled fiber (the blue weft was spun from fiber reclaimed from old jeans,) some organic fiber (the brown and beige wefts were organically grown cottons, in natural colors,) and literally, the color green (the warp threads and the weft at the two ends were commercial pearl cotton that came predyed green, and one weft thread was spun from a variety of cotton that has a natural pale green color even after processing.)

The project is intended for use as a convenient carrying bag to hold a drop spindle and a supply of wool or other fiber for spinning. I generally prefer a largish spindle for spinning on the road, so the bag is sized appropriately for a Kundert or Jenkins spindle.

The weave structure is plain double weave on four shafts, which allows two layers of cloth joined at the edges to be woven at once. Thus the bag has no vertical seam. Eyelets for the drawstrings were woven in right on the loom as well, so the only sewing required had to close the bottom and turn the casing at the top. Drawstrings were braided from six two-ply strands of the handspun weft in three of the four colors. Green wooden beads complete the finish. As simple as it looks, this was one of the more complex weave structures I've ever done entirely on my own. I've made complex garments before by weaving the fabric, then cutting and sewing it, but this was woven all of a piece and with most of the features in place. As such, I'm quite pleased with the result. Judging took place today, the show will be arranged for display tomorrow, and the results will be announced on Wednesday. I have no particular expectation for these pieces, because the weaving judges tend to focus more on high fashion than they do on unusual ideas, experiments, or simple art. That said, this bag and the shawl I described yesterday were both entered in the county fair and both received second place awards in their categories.
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2010-10-03 09:34 pm
Entry tags:

Rainbows are Relative

And here's the second of three pieces that will be in the gallery show this month. This one is a shawl or a wide scarf, of very soft handspun merino wool. Rainbows are RelativeBoth warp and weft are handspun, and the weave structure is barleycorn. It was woven on a rigid heddle loom, using a pickup stick to create the floats. For anyone interested in weave structures, barleycorn is a simple warp float design created on a straight draw on four harnesses by lifting just 1, then 2 and 4, then 1, then 2 and 4, and finally 1 and 3. This is repeated as necessary. A single shuttle is used, so one thread forms both the floats and the tabby weave ground.

The rainbow yarn is spun from a blend of bamboo and merino wool that came from Creatively Dyed Yarns as a dyed roving. The gray merino and the white merino warp (visible at the fringes) were spun from plain rovings. This shawl is about 12 in. wide and 50 in. long. The colors seem to fascinate people, and one offer to buy it has already been received.

As usual, click on the thumbnail above for a larger view. Tomorrow, we'll see the third piece in the show, titled "Color Me Green."
argos: (forest wuff)
2010-10-02 09:59 pm
Entry tags:

Winter Sunset

Looking forward in time a bit, I guess. Here is a photo of the finished rug that [personal profile] altivo has been talking about for the last month or so. Winter Sunset rug The image is a bit distorted by camera angle since it was hard to get far enough away to square up all four corners.

This rug is 31 x 52 inches, and nearly a half inch in thickness. It should be very absorbent and we intent to use it as a bath mat. The thickness should also help protect bare feet from cold floors this winter. The structure is simple plain weave, natural undyed 8/4 cotton carpet warp with dyed and undyed sock tops or loopers as weft. By picking and choosing the individual colors from a palette of five (white, eggshell, slate gray, cocoa, and vermilion) and knotting them together one row at a time, I was able to create this design. It represents, in a rather abstract way, a red sunset on a cloudy day with partly melted snow on the fields. The texture is enticing and spongy to hand or foot, and reminds me of the long rolls or pleats we commonly see when looking up at a snow-laden sky.

As usual, click the thumbnail image here in order to link to the other sizes available. Images of the work in progress can be found in the same location by scrolling back in time.
argos: (snowy argos)
2010-03-21 07:25 am
Entry tags:

Technical details again

Fox Blues for Aerofox
Prismacolor artist pens, watercolor wash
Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor postcard 6x4 in. cold press

"Am I blue? Am I blue?
Ain't these tears in my eyes tellin' you?"

Aerofox is down, and we all feel for him. I started thinking about that old 1929 standard, first recorded by Ethel Waters but since covered by dozens and dozens of singers. Possibly you think of Billie Holiday, or Cher, or even Batman singing it.

It took me about two weeks to firm up the ideas that are smooshed into this tiny postcard. Aero collects and restores old radios, especially Zenith. His prize is a 1936 Stratosphere, which fits perfectly timewise with that song. I went digging for reference photos of the Stratosphere, which turned out to be easy to find on the web. The actual drawing was sketched out in pencil and only took about 40 minutes or so since the postcard format limits detail.

I then inked it comic book style using artist pens by Prismacolor and Faber Castell. The Prismacolors I have go down to finer sizes, but the Faber Castell Pitt has blacker ink and I'll probably get some finer Pitts eventually. I admit these are an improvement over the old dip pen and India ink bottle I used to use. Sharp, clear lines, and no splatter or drips can't be beat. Copic makes some similar pens that take ink cartridges and should last even longer...

After inking I let it dry for a few minutes before cleaning off the pencil remnants with a vinyl eraser. That's another improvement over the old standby ArtGum I think. Fewer crumbs and less prone to leave any grease on the paper (that will resist the watercolor if present.)

I used only three brushes: a no. 6 for the broad washes, a no. 4 for details, and a very fine liner for fur textures. The paints were an inexpensive set of dry cake watercolor (Reeves) that I plan to try for outdoor sketching once the weather stabilizes.

I'd originally intended to include the lyrics of the song, but it was going to make the image too cluttered. I'll probably quote them on the back of the postcard before mailing it (in a sturdy envelope of course.) A fun little project for a snowy day. Hope it helps to cheer my friend a bit.

"Am I blue? You'd be too,
If each plan
With your man
Done fell through."

For those of you who have somehow avoided hearing this old song by Harry Akst and Grant Clarke, I urge you to look it up. Billie Holiday has the classic performance everyone should hear, but several renditions are readily obtainable on the net.
argos: (forest wuff)
2010-03-17 04:41 pm

Autumn Afternoon

This is the limited palette study I mentioned in the last entry. For a larger view, click the thumbnail here.

The object of the study was to work with just three primary colors and produce an entire image. Different artists approached it in various ways, some using just those three colors right out of the tube, and others mixing and blending them to get a fuller range. The specification was pretty precise. We were to use a green-biased yellow (Lemon or Hansa are the commonly used names,) a violet-biased red (Rose or Crimson,) and a green-biased blue (Winsor or Phthalo/Thalo.) The slightly "off center" nature of each primary makes unexpected things happen when they are mixed, and can produce browns or even grays where you'd expect a secondary color to appear. It is still possible to get most of the spectrum, but you often have to mix two different hues and then combine those to get the desired result. In doing this, most colors become somewhat muted and can, if not handled carefully, look muddy or dull.

The three specific pigments required here, called PY3 (a yellow,) PR83 (a violet-rose,) and PB15 (an intense blue) by paint makers, are all synthetic colors and tend to be bright and harsh or garish. If you look closely at the full sized image, I left samples of each in the lower right-hand corner. The scanner has dulled the red a bit, but you can see why you might not want to use these colors by themselves.

It was an interesting challenge to begin with, and I complicated it by choosing a subject with a wide variety of colors in it. Reference photo is here, an actual photo of my own barns. I changed the view angle and simplified the background somewhat because I thought it would be too busy in a 9 x 6 inch painting.

The drawing, as mentioned earlier, offered some challenges in terms of perspective, especially since I changed the angle of view from what is in the photo, and that had to be overcome before painting could begin. Soon I discovered that I was spending at least twice as much time mixing and testing colors as I was in actually painting. The whole process took three days, partly because of the many layers of color that had to dry between applications and partly because I can only work at this sort of thing for an hour or so at a time before I grow fatigued by the concentration and posture. It could be better, and if I were to expand this little sketch to a full sized painting at 33 x 20 in. or so, it would get much better because so much more detail could be supplied. It would also take a heck of a lot longer if it were done with just those three paints. ;p

I learned that I really can mix earth tones and bright hues from just three primaries, including Payne's grey and something that passes for black but is really a very dark blueish gray. I found that I could create the illusion of detail by using a very fine brush, though the texture of the paper and the limits of water's surface tension impose physical restrictions. The horses might have been better detailed by using watercolor pencil, for instance, but that would have violated the palette requirement. On a larger scale, the tiny brush would be adequate, I'm sure.

On the whole, I think this was indeed an educational experience, and I'm satisfied with the results.
argos: (snowy argos)
2010-03-14 08:44 pm
Entry tags:


Grrr. Y'know, I do understand the principles of perspective. I always get tangled up in it though, when objects are near enough to the viewer that the vanishing point is somewhere way far off the edge of the paper. Drawing a scene with fences, multiple buildings, and trees at various distances did that to me this afternoon. I thought I'd worked it out, but after leaving it alone for an hour and coming back to look at it, I can see it isn't right. Fortunately it's all in 4H pencil right now and can easily be erased and corrected. I swear though, I should anchor the paper to a big table, put a pin in the vanishing point wherever it really goes, and use a yardstick to get the proper converging angle on all the straight lines.

In this case, the reference was a photograph, and of course the same perspective is visible there. It's not just an idea dreamed up by artists. A camera sees things the same way. So, back to the drawing table with me. ;p
argos: (white!)
2010-02-21 10:29 pm
Entry tags:

Fox sketch in progress

Vixen preliminary sketch
by ~altivo on deviantART
4H pencil on watercolor paper

The next painting is started, or at least the basic sketch is laid down. This will be a vixen running ahead of an oncoming snowstorm, trying to go to ground before the heavy wind and snow hits. The sketch is based on several reference photos of my own, with pose taken from an excellent color photo by Bryan F. Collver. I'd like to call it "The Hounds of Aeolus" but I dunno if anyone will get that. More likely it will be "Before the Snow Storm" or something like that.

Anyway, here's the pencil sketch (click thumbnail for larger view) and it's a bit hard to see because the lines are very light. I was going to ink it comic book style before coloring, but I think I've changed my mind and will paint it directly the way the wolves in "Ice Run" were done.
argos: (snowy argos)
2010-02-19 04:28 am
Entry tags:

Ice Run

Ice Run
by ~altivo on deviantART

Ice Run (February 14, 2010)
12x9 in. 80 lb. cold pressed paper
Traditional watercolor

I promised a brief technical discussion of this painting so here it is. (Click thumbnail for larger view.)

The setting is Isle Royale National Park, in Lake Superior. Though I've visited there in person, it was nearly 30 years ago. This is an amalgam of several reference photos and my own recollections. The island is a wilderness of great scenic beauty and has a resident population of wolves and moose that have been studied for decades. Here we see three wolves crossing the ice on Siskiwit Bay in late winter, when the snowpack has melted and refrozen repeatedly at the surface and become crusty and hard.

After a very rough preliminary pencil sketch I applied some masking fluid to the cloud formation, snow on the promontory rocks, and white highlights on the wolves. Then I laid down flat washes for the sky and ice areas and allowed those to dry almost completely before filling in the sky, rocks, and pine forest in the background. The pines were the most interesting, as they began wet into wet (or at least damp) and were detailed as the painting dried which helps to give more depth to the image as the more distant trees are outlined and the foreground trees are laid over the top.

Then I removed the masking from the clouds and snow and added features and detailing to the white areas. This completed the background, which I allowed to dry for a day or so before continuing.

Next the wolves were finished: Each started with generalized color washes, different for the individual wolf as their base colors vary. Fur details and features were added after the base washes had nearly dried, using no. 4 and no. 0 round brushes. Masked areas were unmasked after these details had dried, and final touches could be added to the remaining whites. At this point the entire painting was allowed to dry overnight again.

The final details were the flying snowflakes in the foreground, kicked up by running paws. These were scratched with the corner of a razor blade, making the fine white trails that cross in front of the wolves, particularly the dark leader.

This was a fun painting, but amounts to little more than a sketch of what I wanted. Note to self: Repeat this on a larger scale, taking longer to get more detail into the image.
argos: (forest wuff)
2010-02-05 08:06 pm
Entry tags:

Plush Painting

Plush foal & SheepdogAnd here is that painting from last night. (Click thumbnail for larger version.) Not a masterpiece, certainly, but I had fun playing with different brushes and colors. I haven't forgotten everything as I'd feared, and just need practice again even though it has been probably 35 years since I tried to do anything serious with watercolor.

As for the stretched paper, it stayed stretched as intended even under the onslaught of water. As it dried (and shrank a bit) overnight, it tried to pull the drafting tape off the board but didn't quite get any of it loose, so it remains quite flat. That much is ideal. Removing the tape was easy and left no residue but did roughen the paper around the boarders. That's probably a non-issue for anything that will be matted and framed.

I rate the first experiment a qualified success.
argos: (white!)
2010-02-04 08:04 pm
Entry tags:

It's a stretch!

The paper, that is. Early this morning, before going to work, I finally got to sit down with my new art toys and experiment. Using a piece of 80 lb paper that was not quite properly stretched, I fiddled around with a set of Derwent water soluble colored pencils to see just how they work, and did find it interesting. I don't think such things existed the last time I was seriously trying to produce art.

I did various tricks to see how the pencils work when wet, dry, and on both wet and dry surfaces, and how they blend when stroked with a wet brush. I don't think I'll be throwing away my regular watercolors, but I see some potential for quick and easy fun with these. On one corner I did a color sketch of the pepper mill, since I was sitting at the dining room table and it was handy. With some judicious brush work, it turned out quite acceptably.

As for the paper, well, it needs better stretching. I did find and order some of the old water-activated gummed paper tape and it should be here in a week or so. A 600 foot roll is probably a lifetime supply if this is all I use it for.

I decided to try again this afternoon, this time using the pressure sensitive "drafting tape" that Gary picked up at the office supply. This looks like ordinary masking tape or freezer tape, though perhaps a bit thicker. I was dubious, but soaked a sheet of 80 lb. paper in the sink for a few minutes, then shook it out and patted it down with a paper towel to remove surface liquid. Laid it on the board and let it dry for a couple more minutes, then taped the edges down with strips of the drafting tape. I didn't think it would stick to the wet paper but it did. I stood by, pressing the edges down repeatedly for ten minutes or so. Then I let it dry for ten minutes and came back to check. Two of the tapes seemed to be loosening, so I pressed them down again hard. Then I took some push pins and skewered both tape and the edges of the paper to the board. Leaving the whole mess to dry for a couple of hours. It seems to have worked. The paper is now dry and tight as a drum. The tape is still stuck to the paper and the board. I plan to try drawing and painting on it yet tonight, and then in the morning will find out if the tape comes off cleanly.

If not, I think I'll move to some 140 lb. paper for now. That's thick enough not to require stretching to avoid buckling when wet.
argos: (snowy argos)
2010-01-31 08:48 pm
Entry tags:

Stretching things

Well, as if I didn't have enough to do, the art bug is chewing on me again. Instead of reaching for the flea soap I pulled out my box of art supplies and considered my options.

I have most everything I need to do a little fooling around. We'll see how it turns out before deciding whether to allocate regular time to it. The craving is familiar to me.

I've always loved painting in watercolor. Some consider this a most difficult medium, while others treat it as something suited only to children's play. I'm somewhere in the middle on it. What I really like about it though is that you can do whatever you like because there is no "orthodox" way of working with watercolor. Wet, dry, over pencil or ink or by itself, all are legit. Abstract or representational, as sharp and photographic as architectural drawing or as loose and fantastical as Vincent Van Gogh, watercolor does it all. It needs less equipment and is easily portable and easy to clean up after. I'm starting to sound like a commercial, eh?

Anyway, This afternoon I dusted off my drawing board and "stretched" a piece of 80 lb. cold press paper so I could do some remedial exercises to remind myself of various techniques. Stretching is the process of anchoring the edges of a soaking wet sheet of watercolor paper so that as it dries it will pull down flat and taut like a drum head. This keeps it from wrinkling and buckling when uneven moisture is applied during the painting. A slight hitch appeared immediately.

I've always used gummed brown paper package tape to anchor the wet paper. It does the job, comes off cleanly when moistened again with a sponge, and is cheap. Turns out we have none in the house because what they sell now for wrapping packages to mail is that thin plastic stuff. That probably won't work. I tried using it just the same, but it doesn't stick well to wet surfaces. I'm going to have to find some of the old stuff, if it's still made.

Anyway, the paper is [mostly] stretched and drying. Tomorrow, perhaps, the brushes get wet again for the first time in years.
argos: (forest wuff)
2010-01-28 09:35 pm
Entry tags:

Weaving news

So, in a burst of energy, I agreed to participate in a "Friendship Coverlet" project. The way it works is that each person in the group chooses an overshot weaving design, and weaves enough 14 inch squares with that design so that they can give one to each of the other group members. Everyone ends up with a stack of squares, one from each group member and one of their own, that can be assembled into a quilt or bedspread. We ordered the yarn as a group, so as to get the best possible discount and shipping deal.

Of course, in my enthusiasm for the project, I also volunteered to weave double (two sets of blocks in different patterns) instad of just one set, should that be needed to make the total number of blocks add up to a proper rectangle when assembled. So I'll be weaving at least 20 blocks rather than just twelve. I got my pattern drafts and yarn today, to the tune of $95 in cost. But OK, I'm sure the finished piece will be an heirloom worth the price and great to look at. The two patterns I'll be weaving are "The Chariot Wheel" and "Catalpa Flower."

This is a big project. It's estimated to take a year, though I hope to finish my weaving part of it sooner. The likely obstacle to that is that each participant has to measure out wool yarn in their selected color to give to every other weaver, so we weave our block for them in their choice of color. I have a fear that someone will take so long just to do that part that I'll be waiting and waiting for their yarn. But everyone should have all their yarn within the week, so that (theoretically) isn't supposed to happen. We'll see.

Meanwhile I need to weave off the rug warp that's on the big loom, because I want to use it for this project. That's the one that I can warp in sections, making the entire warping process much simpler for me. This warp is 354 ends (separate threads) and 14 1/2 inches wide. I will need at least 15 yards of warp on the loom in order to complete all the required work.
argos: (snowy argos)
2010-01-27 02:31 pm
Entry tags:


It's snowing again. Maybe an inch, they say. The odd thing is it's really cold. Normally we get snow here when temperatures are hovering within a few degrees of freezing, and it stops and just blows around once we get down below 20°F. Not this time, though.

Spin spin spin. Yak down. Yak yuk yuk. Actually, the first time I tried spinning yak I was far from impressed. It looked like dryer lint and smelled like belly button lint from a gorilla who needed a bath. And it was full of dust, on top of everything else.

The second time came after I'd figured out, with considerable effort, how to spin cotton. Cotton and yak share a characteristic: the fibers are quite short, well under an inch and generally close to a half inch (one cm. or so.) This means that everything you learned from spinning wool and flax has to be forgotten and you start over from the beginning. The methods that work with these short fibers are both counter-intuitive and in fact usually won't work with ordinary wool or flax. Using what I'd learned from cotton, I could spin the yak down. It was kind of lumpy looking, and the color was about the same as dog poo, but at least that sample didn't smell like dog poo (or much of anything else.) Still, I wasn't excited about yaks.

In October last year, our spinning study group decided to re-approach cotton. It seems that when we tried it the first time, I was the only one who got lucky and actually developed some proficiency with it. Everyone else sort of got it to work but thought it wasn't worth the bother. Now another member has broken the barrier (by using the same tool I did, the book charkha) and there's new interest.

In the two years since our first attempt, though, I've spun a mile or two of cotton thread. I wanted a different challenge, but one that would apply what I learned from cotton. So... Yakkity yak yak. Fortunately, The Fold has several kinds of yak now. One of them is a natural silvery gray and quite pretty. I thought yaks were only brown or sort of dirty white beige, but I was wrong. I got some gray yak down, and tried it on the charkha. Easy enough, it seemed. So I moved to the spinning wheel.

Like cotton, yak requires a different approach to the wheel. You increase the twist speed up to the maximum or nearly so, and back off the yarn tension as far as you can take it and still get the yarn to wind on when it's ready. And like cotton, yak falls apart if you misstep. As it turned out, I had few mishaps. I found I could use my cotton skills and make a fine, consistent thread. No carding or combing needed, because this yak is clean and fluffy. Just grab a pawful and spin it. Two bobbins now sufficiently filled, all I need to do is ply them together tonight and I'll have about a hundred yards or so of laceweight. By the time I get all four ounces of fluff spun, I'll have easily enough to make a nice scarf or shawl if I knit a lacy pattern. It feels almost as soft as cashmere and just as light. Since yaks are high altitude cold weather beasts, I suspect it will be warm in spite of the light weight.

Conclusion: All yaks are not yuck, but some are yuckier than others.
argos: (white!)
2009-12-26 10:18 am
Entry tags:

White Boxing Day

Boxing Day 2009: Road View On Christmas it rained, though not as heavily as first expected. The snow on the ground was largely reduced to a spongy gray mass, though it didn't melt enough to expose bare ground in most areas. By sunset, the temperature was dropping and it began to snow, but just flurries of those flat flakes that look like glitter. We figured it wouldn't amount to much.

This morning we were greeted by three inches of powdery fluff and another inch has fallen since then with no sign of stopping. I guess the blizzard out in the Dakotas has extended its icy fingers all the way to us, hundreds of miles to the east. If so, the effect is much more peaceful and pleasant here. We don't have to go anywhere now, there is nothing urgent to be done other than taking care of the animals, and it looks like a nice, peaceful opportunity to recover from the frenzy and pressure of the last week.

As you can see in the photo, it's pretty when you look out the window. I should be sitting there weaving, in fact, as that's the view from my big loom. Even if you walk out in it, other than a little dampness, it isn't at all unpleasant. The temperatures are in the 20s, there is little wind, and everything is white and peaceful. Happy Holidays to all. Stay warm and safe.
argos: White canine cupcake (pupcake)
2009-12-01 09:29 pm
Entry tags:

Mooning around

Time to howl! (Full moon.)

I've been waiting around for [personal profile] altivo to finish with the NaNoWriMo for this year so I could get back to spinning and weaving. Everything was on hold for most of November.

My spinning study group is working on cotton during the holidays. Since I'm pretty much acknowledged as the best cotton spinner in that group, I could just laze around but I feel obligated to crank out some interesting samples while they catch up to me in technique. I'm using the book charkha to do that. It's a remarkably portable tool, because it folds up into itself to the size of a hardback book. The only thing that would be smaller and lighter would be a drop spindle, and yes, I'm spinning some cotton on one of those too (an ultralight one that only weighs 10 grams) just to see if it works. So far it seems to, though it requires some rather odd techniques that differ from wool spinning on a drop spindle in many ways.

There's also a challenge for wool spinning to spin yarn for and knit a lace cap using a particular pattern. That needs to be done by the end of January and I haven't started yet, though it doesn't look as if it will take too long.

For cotton spinning, though, I find the charkha is the way to go. Once you get used to the technique (including sitting on the floor like Gandhi, which puts my feet to sleep after a half hour or so) it becomes extremely productive. I can fill a spindle in about 15 minutes (about 100 yards of cotton spun to the weight of sewing thread.) Then two spindles' worth get plied back together in the opposite direction to make a strong, fine thread suitable for crochet or weaving. You could knit with it too, but I don't much care for knitted cotton.

I'll see about some cotton photos for next time.
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2009-11-12 10:09 am
Entry tags:

Weaving progress

Rag rug in progress
Originally uploaded by Altivo
Here is the first rug, about half complete. The finished piece will be 32 x 50 inches, warp-faced, and about 3/8 inch thick. The weft is made of old blue jeans, cut in one inch wide strips that are folded double to put the brighter colored surface outside. These are twisted slightly as they are inserted, so that they pack down in round rolls rather than as flat folds. The color and texture are very appealing to me, and the finished item will be quite practical.

For a larger view, click thumbnail photo.

Click here for closeup of weaving in progress.
argos: (Default)
2009-11-04 10:03 pm
Entry tags:

Sleying the reed, and thoughts on order and chaos

Sleying the reed
Originally uploaded by Altivo
I finished threading the new warp on the Norwood this morning and, after a break for breakfast and barn chores, returned to start sleying the reed. That's a second step in threading, in which every warp thread is pulled through one of the slots in a comb-like device that is set into the beater. After each pick of weft is passed across the warp, the beater pulls the reed down against the forming edge of the fabric (the fell) to pack the weft down evenly and keep the warp threads arranged at equal distances. For this particular warp, I'm using a reed with ten slots (or dents) per inch, so exactly one warp thread goes through each slot in the reed.

When I had 60 or so warp ends pulled through the reed, I paused to admire the orderly parallel lie of the warp ends and realized that weaving is really about order. The weaver creates order in a chaotic environment, usually a rigidly enforced and precise order. The strength of fabric depends on that order, as does its ability to hold its shape and resist wear. In fact, sometimes we impose such good order that we have to undo some of it in the end to round the corners and soften the edges, so to speak. Woolen cloth in particular is usually fulled to soften it and make it thicker and warmer. This is done by washing and beating the fabric so that the wool fibers slip out of line a bit and contract, fluffing and thickening in the process. For some woolens, we also brush the surface with stiff brushes to pull out the ends of the fibers and make the surface fuzzy and resilient. Blankets are traditionally treated in this manner. Silks and linens are mangled, a process in which they are deliberately abused in order to bend and soften the fibers.

On the whole, though, weavers are creating order, imposing a rigid structure on threads that would otherwise lie limp and tangled. Knitters do something similar, but by a different means.

Spinners, on the other paw, often work to create chaos or disorder first. This happens not so much in the spinning process itself, which does impose a sort of order that is often resisted by the fibers as they try to unwind themselves again, but in the preparation for spinning. Wool is carded not just to make the fibers lie parallel but to make a certain percentage of them lie in random orientation. This produces a fluffier yarn that holds air and therefore insulates better. The garment feels warmer as a result. Wool and other animal fibers are typically washed once again after spinning with the express intention of both setting the twist (like setting hair with a permanent) and of letting the fibers relax and form a halo of loose fuzzy ends around the core of yarn (chaos again.) When we make felt from wool, we are pushing the chaos farther, deliberately tangling those fibers until they can't be untangled without cutting them.

No wonder, I thought, that the Ancient Greeks associated fate with spinning and weaving. The three Fates (or Moirae) were sisters who controlled the destiny of all humans. Clotho spun the fiber of life on her spindle. Lachesis measured and wove the spun threads into the tapestry of life in an orderly and controlled manner. Atropos (whose name can be translated loosely as "Untwisting" or even "Disorder") cut the threads, or sometimes tore or bit them, bringing life to an end and forcing Clotho ("Spinner") and Lachesis ("Measurer") to repair and reweave with new threads always.

Other thought systems often have similar concepts, expressed frequently in dualities in which one force represents creation and order, while the other is destruction and chaos. As a weaver, I have chosen the side of order, but I occasionally wonder if it isn't essential to balance that with some energy from the other side. It's a direction I've seldom taken, but sometimes it's necessary.
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2009-11-01 10:24 am
Entry tags:

Threading the loom

Threading: front view
Originally uploaded by Altivo
Progress continues apace. I can now say that this method, though it requires some new skills and equipment, is going to be faster in most cases than the old all-at-once method I have used. Threading is moving very quickly. Because there are ten warp threads per inch, and I chose a traditional threading called Rosepath that has a ten thread repeat, checking for errors is particularly fast and easy. Here is the threading for one 2-inch section of warp, with the harnesses numbered from 1 to 4, 1 being nearest the weaver. Each number in the diagram represents one warp thread in one heddle:

4 4 4 4 4 4
3 3 3 3
2 2 2 2
1 1 1 1 1 1

For a rear view of the drawing in, click through the thumbnail at right, and then proceed to the next photo in the set.
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2009-10-31 11:09 am
Entry tags:

Beaming a warp

Beaming a warp
Originally uploaded by Altivo
I am experimenting with sectional warping, one of several common methods for getting a new warp onto a floor loom. This technique requires additional specialized tools, including spools, a spool winder, spool rack, tension box, and a warp beam divided into sections by pegs or posts; but it has the advantage that a weaver working alone can beam a wide and/or long warp without tension difficulties. It also eliminates several steps in more conventional hand warping, particularly the tedious process of pre-measuring all the individual warp threads while keeping them all parallel and untangled. There are five photos in the sequence. To view them all, click through the thumbnail on the right.