argos: Fursuit by myself. :-D (at work)
2010-10-04 07:39 pm
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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
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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
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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: (forest wuff)
2010-01-28 09:35 pm
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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: (white!)
2009-12-26 10:18 am
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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: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2009-11-12 10:09 am
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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
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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
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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
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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.
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2009-10-23 08:21 pm
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New toys!

I splurged this month and bought two weaving tools I've wanted for a long time. One is a spool rack that lets you unwind up to 40 threads at once from separate spools without tangling. The other is called a tension box, and has staggered pegs over which those threads can be passed to develop an even amount of tension across the group as they are pulled through. Each end of the box has a small comb called a reed that you thread them through to spread them evenly across a certain width. Together these two devices allow what is called sectional warping, in which the warp can be wound onto the loom's back beam in one or two inch segments rather than doing the entire width of the cloth all at once. It makes the complicated process easier for one person without an assistant, and also speeds it up because it is no longer necessary to measure and cut all the warp threads individually before the loom can be dressed and threaded.

Two of my five looms are designed for this type of warping process, and though I've used them with the older methods and it works fine, I've wanted to be able to do this. It makes wider warps more practical and should speed up the whole process of getting set up for weaving by as much as a third. (Some weavers claim half, but I'm doubtful about that.) While I love designing the cloth and even enjoy the rather tedious job of threading the loom, measuring and beaming a wide warp is so nerve-wracking and tedious to me that I have usually avoided it. Hopefully, this can change now.

I'm going to try setting up a simple warp for rag rugs this weekend, just to get the feel of the process. I've done that before enough times to know roughly how long it took, and thus should have some valid comparison.

Unfortunately, I went out to the barn to get some stored materials for rag rug weaving and found that mice have gotten into the terrycloth sock strips I had left out there. The brazen little beasts didn't even run away, they just sat in the midst of their wreckage and stared at me. The cotton rug warp, though, and balls of rag strips already cut and sewn together were all safe, so I can still proceed.

I'll see about getting photos of the procedure if I can.

My spinning group has agreed that for the next twelve months we will each track and report the number of yards of yarn or thread we have spun each month. I thought I was in good shape with 848 yards for October already, but of course the guild president just sent me a message saying she had Navajo-plied 500 yards of wool this week. Navajo plying produces a three stranded yarn, so that means she spun 1500 yards before plying. Darn it. ;p (I knew she'd probably come out on top of everyone though. She's incredibly productive, and does much of her spinning with an ordinary hand drop spindle while riding the train to and from work in Chicago.)
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2009-10-18 10:52 am
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Fall Weaving, 2009 edition

Judge's comment forms are now in paw, having arrived in yesterday's mail. Not bad, really. They score on a 50 point scale, and my scores were 40 for the handwoven scarf, 42 for the purple onions overshot, and 44 for the wall hanging that got third place. The handwritten notes make it clear that the judge in fact liked all three pieces. Competition was intense, certainly.

I received the prize last week. The third place award in the tapestries and wall hangings was-- two balls of purple yarn. Ironic, no? But I'll figure out something to do with it.

I've got an itch to put a warp onto the big loom now. That's the one my shawl was woven on last year. It's the size of a small piano but fortunately doesn't weigh as much. 'Tivo wants a Peruvian ruana and has had the wool yarn for it stored up for years. I think it's time. I'd like to use sectional warping, though, because this will be a large warp. I need a couple of additional tools for that, which means shopping around and ordering them from the least costly source.

Meanwhile, I'm spinning. I have a big box of white wool from our sheep Dodge, all washed and carded, ready to spin. Started this morning, and looks like it will go pretty fast. This will make a sportweight woolen knitting yarn, suitable for sweaters, scarves, and other garments. I'm using a long draw technique, which makes a slightly fuzzy, lofty yarn that should be quite warm. There should be enough yarn to knit a full sweater from, but I'll most likely go for several smaller items instead.
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2009-10-08 08:21 pm
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Eep! How did I do that?

For the first time since 2004, a weaving judge has awarded my work a placement. Of course it figures that it wouldn't be the serious effort of the purple onion piece, or the deliberate simplicity of the rustic scarf. I got the third in tapestries and wall hangings for the "Homage to the Cat in the Hat," an afterthought tossed off in one weekend because I could do it and was entitled to one more entry for my basic member's fee.

Funny. As a writer, 'Tivo has trouble understanding editors. As an artist and craftsperson, I have trouble understanding judges and committees. It's not that there were only three entries in the category, either. I thought to check on that. Can't wait to see the judge's comments. They ought to be amusing at least.

Not that I think the piece is bad. It's technically pretty decent and consistent, meets the requirements for the class, and so forth. But had I been the judge, I doubt it would have gotten a placement. ;p
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
2009-10-07 06:30 pm
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Show opens

View color flyer here (PDF)

What: Woodstock Weavers Guild 12th annual show, combined with Hollow Tree Spinners
Where: Old Courthouse Arts Center, 101 Johnson (on the Square), Woodstock, Illinois
When: Thursday, October 8, 2009 through Sunday, November 1, 2009
Hours: Thursday-Friday 11 am to 5 pm, Sunday 1 to 5 pm, Monday-Wednesday CLOSED

*tail wags*

I have eleven pieces in the show. Judging was not complete when I was last in the gallery, but I had three firsts and three thirds in spinning at that point.

That's not why you should go, though. There are gorgeous things to see. Clothing, rugs, tapestry, table linens, and more. Visit the Square on Saturday morning and there's a farmer's market as well. Restaurants and boutiques surround the park in the center, which is just beginning to develop fall color. See the historic Woodstock Opera House, and the former jail that at various times held famous prisoners like Eugene V. Debs or John Dillinger. Apple orchards in the area are open and busy selling ripe apples, cider, doughnuts and other goodies.

If you are in the Rockford-Crystal Lake-Elgin-McHenry area of Illinois, or the Elkhorn-Walworth-Lake Geneva area of Wisconsin, this is well worth the trip. Come see.