Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shut Up and Weave Rethought

I have been thinking about a post I made a while back about not sharing ideas, especially undeveloped ideas, until these ideas are thought out and put into place. I appreciate the thinking behind that and understand how this kind of talk can take away from the power of the thinking and the doing. The notion is that the more someone talks about something, the less likely he is to do it.

But as I thought about this over the past weeks, I began to realize that if there is any purpose to this blog at all its purpose is to show process. Not completed objects, but the process of one particular weaver as she moves and slips and slides through the process of bringing a weaving to life. Whether I view the blog as something of value to me or something perhaps of value to someone else, this is where I believe its value lies. It is a kind of messy film about a messy weaving life.

There is another piece to this, however. In many ways, I am also a writer. To think I need to write. I was never the person who could construct an essay in her head and then type it out. I needed the physical act of writing to help me process ideas. Blogging helps.

I am not that much different as a weaver either. Weaving helps me process weaving ideas.

A number of years ago I took a workshop in tapestry weaving at Arrowmont. There were only a few of us in the class, five if I remember correctly. I had the good fortune of finding the workshop instructor sitting at the loom next to me. During those times when she wasn't teaching or checking out what we were doing or answering questions, she used that loom as a place to play and invent. Being able to watch her experimenting on the loom was perhaps the best thing of the whole workshop. That is certainly what I remember most vividly.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Woven Yesterday: 5.5"
Total Woven To Date: 38.5"aka 1 yd 11"

But not yet off the loom................

I have a bit of warp left. I am using it to weave the same treadling as this last part of the yardage, but using 10/2 pearl cotton instead of 20/2. I am interested not just in the effect on colors but also on the feel and drape of the fabric. So I plan on weaving as much as the remaining warp will allow me.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Spinning for Weaving

Woven Yesterday: 4"
Total Woven To Date: 1 yd 6.5"

I love to spin. Spinning is probably the most relaxing therapeutic fiber thing I do. Last year I wove a shawl and later a scarf with some fiber I had spun. Having heard all the negative problems about warping with handspun, I was terrified. I had spun the fiber for both articles woolen style and quite softly. I did ply it. I imagined warp ends breaking all over the place.I tied them on to a dummy warps so as not to waste any of this precious stuff. And then I wove. There was no breakage in either warp whatsoever. But the most amazing thing were the woven pieces themselves. After washing and pressing, they were incredibly soft. I was hooked on weaving with handspun.

What I especially enjoyed about weaving with this stuff is the total contrast with what I do with fine silks. In fact, the stuff wove so quickly I wanted to cry. The loom just seemed to inhale the yarn. Sob.

The problem is, I really don't like spinning yards and yards and yards of the same color. Another problem is that I live in South Carolina. Ahh, but I have a daughter and a son, one living in the wilds of Manhattan, the other in the true wilds of Idaho. Scarves! And I could do them in color and weave effects as well. That would mean spinning two or even three colors.

So I have finally figured out a reason (excuse?!) to spin. At the rate I weave my silk, and at the rate I spin, however, my children will be lucky to get one scarf a year. I doubt that they will be overwhelmed with scarves. But I foresee a lot of fun for myself.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Inspiration on the Loom

Woven Yesterday: 6.5"
Total Woven To Date: 38.5"aka 1 yd 2.5"

I have pulled out the old weaving inspirations from its frame and put in this new set. The original source for these is a couple of emails from Robert Genn's The Painter's Keys. I can't find the original email. I tried searching the site, but no luck. I culled these particular points out because they seemed to fit where I am right now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Treadling Conundrum

Woven Yesterday: 2.5"
Total Woven To Date: 31"

The whole time I have been weaving this piece, I have not liked the way the first treadle works. The upper part of the shed was really cockeyed; some warp ends were raised significantly higher than others. And those higher warp ends were as a result stretched much more tightly than the others. On the other hand the lower part was fine. Since there was enough room for the shuttle to go through without catching, I didn't worry about it too much. But it did niggle at me a bit. I worried about those overly stretched warp ends. Still, after the first day or two of weaving, the only warp ends that broke were the floating selvedges. I didn't feel any pressure to try to figure out what was wrong.

This piece is a 4-shaft crackle threading but it is threaded on 8-shafts. Even so, it is still a 4-shaft crackle threading, just spread out. With this 4-shaft crackle, I need to tie up only 4 pattern treadles. For ease of treadling, however, I tied up 8 treadles. Treadles 4 though 8 simply repeat the tie-up of treadles 1 through 4.

On this part of the weaving I have been treadling 1, 7 followed by 2, 8. This is equivalent to treadling 1,3 followed by 2,4. Treadling the first way simply lets me use two feet more easily.

Today I discovered that there is a difference in the way the treadles 1 and 5 raise the shafts. Perhaps I noticed this because I have finally started working to develop the habit of watching what shafts go up and down when I push down on a treadle. On treadles 1 and 5 the tie-up is identical. But when I treadle on 1, the first set of raised shafts rise higher than the second set of raised shafts. When I press on treadle 5, the same shafts, of course, rise, but this time all 4 rising shafts rise up the same distant. The result is that the top of the shed is even. No overly stretched warp ends.

I got down and looked at how I had put on the tie up cords. They were placed identically on both treadles. I smooshed around with my hand so that I could clearly see the cords themselves. Everything the same. I stepped on the treadles again. The rising shafts on treadle 1 now rose up to the same height............... All I can figure is that somehow the cords had gotten twisted and when I smoothed/smooshed at them with my hands to see them better, they got untwisted.

I am glad I have figured this out because today I have been treadling 5 and 7 instead of 1 and 7. I started doing that to ease the excess tension on some of the warp ends that was happening when I treadled 1 and 7. Buy treadling 1 and 7 is much easier.

And I am glad I figured this out because this is not the first time I have had this kind of problem with a particular treadle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dye Sampling Update

Woven Yesterday: 8.5"
Total Woven To Date: 28.5"

I am on the last leg of dyeing samples for the next silk warp. The top samples are gradated dullings of blue. The brightest blue with only a bit of yellow-orange added is at the left. The dullest blue is at the right. There the percentage of blue is 70% and the percentage of yellow- orange is 30%. It is almost neutral, but not quite.

I had done an earlier sample series using this blue. But I used a very reddish orange. Also, I restricted the samples to the red-orange to dull side, not the blue side. Go here to see those colors.

One of the interesting differences in using yellow-orange instead of red-orange is that the red-orange used earlier results in greater differences in dullness than the yellow orange does. The red in the red-orange is much more powerful than the comparatively small amount of red in the yellow-orange. And yellow is a very weak color.

Blue is going to be the major actual color that I will be using. This is in contrast to the large amount of neutral color I plan on using. Because blue will play a major role, I needed to see the blue side of the sampling. Later this week I plan on doing one more sampling of blues, but this time using a blue that is closer to a true blue, less a teal.

The second sample above is my last set of neutrals. Minus one. Yes, there should be a sample wound on the card in that empty middle spot. The yarn for it was in the jar. But when I poured more boiling water into the pan to bring the level of the water bath up, I tipped over that particular jar. Yarn and dye spilled into the pan. So, when I do the next dyeing of blues, I will dye the missing neutral.

This neutral, by the way turned out to be a very nice brown. It was created by mixing 30% blue and 70% yellow-orange.

The yarn wrapping on the left side of the card is brown dyed at 2% depth of shade. The yarn wrapping on the right is brown dyed on 0.5% DOS (depth of shade.) The missing spot will be filled with yarn dyed at 1% DOS.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Recently I ran across a fiber art web site with some interesting essays. One of the essays, written by a creator of art cloth and wall hangings by the name of Claire Benn, contained the following statement:

"To be a practising artist is to practise".

A truism? I don't know. I think it is very intriguing. When I think about practicing, usually I think about preparing for a performance. A pianist, for example, practices. A weaver practices when she uses the first inches of a warp to get everything right. A physician practices medicine.

A physician practices medicine? A physician practices on me?!! No way.

As I contemplated the horrendous possibility that my doctor is only practicing on me, I began to think of the implications of Claire's statement, "To be a practising artist is to practise." The reality is that when we paint a picture, weave a scarf, see a patient, we are really practicing. We are becoming better at our craft. The work we produce, the work we do, it is all practice. It is never final. It is always preparatory to the next thing.

And so the "thing" we produce loses its preciousness. It becomes simply a part of an ongoing process. I like that perspective.

In the current piece I am weaving, one of the things I have been practicing very carefully is looking at the mirrors on each side of the loom each time I open a shed. There have not been many warp ends that have gotten stuck. When I see one in the mirror, though, I am grateful that I have seen it. Seeing it then means that I can fix it during the weaving process itself, and not after it is off the loom. Off the loom, fabric is much more difficult to fix, sometimes, in fact, virtually impossible. So checking the mirrors is beginning to become second nature to me. I know, however, that when it is time to weave the next item, I will have to continue practicing that.

Since the unweaving fiasco, I have also started practicing watching the shafts as well as the treadles. This is taking lots of concentration. But it is worth it. For watching them helps me catch treadling errors before they happen. And I am grateful when I catch one.

Today I have begun practicing something else. On Friday my shoulders started to bother me. I realized then that I had to work on keeping my shoulders lowered and my "wing" bones pulled a bit to center back. There is a pose in yoga called Tree Pose. Keeping shoulders lowered and "wing" bones back are two of the many things I work on when I am practicing that pose. I try to remember the pose and how it feels when I weave. Today, practicing that really helped. My shoulders are just fine. I am grateful for my yoga practice. But I shall have to continue to work on practicing that.

Gratitude is an amazing thing.

Unweaving and Weaving

Woven Friday: 5"
Total Woven To Date: 20"

On Friday I wove the warp back to where I was before I unwove. Today I can move on.

I'm glad I unwove. If nothing else, I feel better about myself as a weaver. Bonnie gave me a whole new perspective on the unweaving thing. She left a comment which I think deserves being up front on the blog for all to read. Here it is:

"The true joy and miracle of unweaving is....that we can. When I shared my weaving studio with a wood carver, he wistfully said one day 'Many's the time I wish I could uncarve'. My appreciation and gratitude for unweaving was born on that day,"

Friday, October 19, 2007

What is This?

Total Woven To Date: 15"
Unwoven Yesterday: 5"

5 inches of unwoven weft in all its glory--20/2 mercerized pearl cotton.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Into Every Life.......

Total Woven To Date: 20"
Woven Yesterday: 6"

..............Some Rain Must Fall. Or so they say.

Yesterday I was weaving, but not without difficulty. I thought I was focusing. I wasn't I knew I wasn't because I was forgetting to check the shafts. Oh yes, I was forgetting to check the shafts alright. Take a look.

Those three white arrows show three mistakes. The top one is really easy to see. Ironically, however, I had not noticed this error in the woven cloth. I first saw it in the photo. In the photo that mistake jumped out at me, much more so than the other two errors. In that top error I wove only half the number of shots with the yellow and blue than I needed to. Not really treadling errors; I had just jumped too quickly to the next block.

The second two arrows point to clear mistreadlings. At first it might look like I left out a blue shot entirely. The two yellow wefts at each arrow look like they follow one upon the other in the same shed. They only look that way. There is a blue shot in between. But it is on the wrong treadle. Consequently the blue weft shot does not separate the two yellow weft shots.

I should have realized that forgetting to check the shafts meant that I wasn't totally on board with the weaving. I should have used those memory lapses to jog me into looking more carefully at the fabric itself that I was weaving. Had I indeed treadled a wrong shaft when I wasn't paying attention?

I was also frequently on the verge of making errors. Sometimes I picked up the wrong shuttle. Sometimes I almost didn't weave all 8 shots. Yes, there were times when I caught myself. Clearly however, there was one time..........

Given the lucidity of hindsight, I now realize that I should have stopped weaving for the day. I also might have stopped to think how I might get my focus back. However, I doubt that I would have been successful.

I was weaving in the late afternoon. Late afternoon is not usually a good time for focussed activity, for me anyway. Making this time of day even less good was the fact that I had just spent two hours outside planting shrubs. I was tired. I should have known better. I should have woven first and then gone outside and planted. But I have all these shrubs I purchased and they really really need to get planted. I was afraid I would be too tired after weaving to go out and plant. I should have thought about the reverse issue!

I decided not to unweave. I am not weaving the fabric for show. And I was pretty sure I could avoid the problem areas when I cut out the fabric

Then I went to bed.

I lay there. I lay there. I couldn't sleep. I realized that I had decided to unweave. I wanted to get up immediately and at least begin the process. This is how I am with unweaving. I feel this over-riding need at least to get it started so that there is no danger of changing my mind. But I didn't get up and start because the loom is in the room right next to our bedroom. Looms are noisy creatures. Finally, finally I did get to sleep.

Today I have started the unweaving. All five inches of it. Yes, the three errors happened at the beginning of yesterday's session. Ah well.

But I have learned a lesson the hard way. Now if I can only remember that lesson when I need it in the future! Trying to glue this experience into my memory was, in fact, probably the most important reason for my decision to reweave. Surely I will not forget this?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Leaving the Comfort Zone

Total Woven To Date: 15"
Woven Yesterday: 2"

To enter the unfamiliar we must leave the familiar. How hard that is! At least for me. And the area of weaving is no exception.

I am finding myself growing comfortable in what I am currently doing. Yesterday as I wove, I found myself thinking, I really like this! I want to do more like this! Then a thought slapped me across the face: I wanted to stay in familiar territory! Who, me? Yes, me. Guilty. All sorts of new things I had been wanting to try out had just evaporated from my head. I did not want to leave my current comfort zone.

Recognizing what was going on, I found it surprisingly easy to change gears. Perhaps it is true that recognizing a problem puts you half way towards solving it. So change gears I did.

Two ideas have been going through my head. One is doing a bit of ikat. I had been thinking very seriously about warp painting or warp ikat or some combination of the two. Warp painting is nothing new for me. I have done it several times and I really enjoy weaving off a painted warp. The constant changing of the warp is really exciting. It is exciting because it is fun just to see the changing colors. But it is also fun to figure out when and how to change the weft colors as the warp colors change.

Nor is ikat totally new to me. I have never done it on my own. I did, however, take a week-long workshop on warp ikat at Arrowmont. I had a very good time and learned a lot. And I took a weekend workshop the Chattahoochee Handweavers' Guild offered on weft ikat and enjoyed that as well.

Combining warp painting or warp ikat with crackle, however, is certainly a totally new thing for me!! I have thought for several weeks about this and, while It think it has some definite possibilities, I don't think it's quite where I want to go right now. Maybe it's too big a jump for me right now. Maybe I'm not quite ready.

If truth be told, my warp ikat ideas were really getting very complicated. Of course I am not ready for what I was conceiving!

But then there is weft ikat. I think I could get something I want to happen in the next warp with weft ikat. I would not weave the whole warp of as weft ikat. It would be just bits and pieces here and there. Kind of getting my toes wet, so to speak.

Weft ikat does pose some difficulties. It is not easy to get the weft to go exactly where you want it to, no matter how carefully you calculate and measure. The result is that usually with each shot you end up adjusting the placement of the weft thread. This has definite impact on the selvedges! But in this case, I am not viewing precise placement of the weft as critical. Or at least I think that right now.

There is a second thing I am thinking of trying on this next warp as well. I would like to use some kind of supplementary warps and/or wefts for occasional lines of black. I've got some ideas on how I might go about this, but nothing firm yet.

I think it is really important to move out of my comfort zone. If I don't, I will get bored and I will stop growing as a weaver. Probably as a person, too.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Progress on Trim Fabric

Total Woven To Date: 13"
Woven Yesterday: 8"

I mentioned in an earlier post how surprised I had been when I stood at the back of the loom and caught a glimpse of the fabric..........upside down. Yesterday when I was done weaving I took a lot of pictures. This time I took some from the back of the loom. This was not particularly easy to get the camera up over the shafts and I really didn't hold out a lot of hope for the pictures. They turned out to be the best pictures.

The first image is a little blurry and so gives an impressionist feel. The receding look that happened from the angle of the camera adds to that feel. I rather like the effect. In reality, though, the fabric looks more like the close-up below.

This is really a pretty good picture of what the fabric actually looks like. Usually when I take a closeup, I zoom all the way, but this time I didn't. It worked.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Nice Matters" Blog Award

I made the mistake (grin!--really never a mistake) of going to Leigh's site this morning and discovered that she had tagged me, among six others, for the "Nice Matters" blog award. Here is what the award is supposed to be:

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded, please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award."

That's pretty powerful stuff, and I thank you, Leigh!

Anyway, so here are my seven. I tried to make them seven that I had not seen tagged yet on other blogs:
A spinner and knitter, she prepares and sells wonderful fibers to spin. Lots of eye candy on her blog and also good information. An active participant on the spin lists and generous with her vast knowledge of spinning.
How can I resist listing a blog with this motto:
"You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm". -Colette
Filled with good information on spinning
Weaver and dyer and also someone who uses her computer for designing.
Karren Brito's shibori blog. Lots of good photos and some interesting essays. Another textile person who is generous with her knowledge and experience.
Lisa Souza's very personal life journey, often fun, always interesting. Lisa dyes fibers and yarns for the rest of us to play with.
Stef is into all kinds of fiber arts, including weaving
Covers the process of her various tapestry weavings. But don't miss her second blog, which is a community blog done with three other tapestry weavers"

If you've counted, you know I've sneaked in an either blog. I just had to. I had not known about that last blog until this very afternoon. It's really kind of a subsidiary of her main blog. Well, even if it's not, I like it because it's a good blog. But I also like it because it's a community blog. Perhaps this might encourage other weavers to think about starting community blogs?

Watching the Shafts

Amount woven Friday: 5"

My first weaving teacher emphasized that we needed to watch the shafts, not the treadles. Well, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. Weaving this crackle fabric I did not watch the shafts because I did not know where the shafts were supposed to be in each of the eight treadles I was pressing down. It was just to complicated for this poor old head!

When I started weaving this second bit, however, I noticed some errors at the beginning. This is strange, I thought. The treadling is so easy. 1,7 and repeat four times. Then 2 and 8 and repeat four times. As I looked carefully at the errors it was clear that they were both mis-treadles. How could I have done that? I started watching the shafts. This time it was easy to see what shafts were supposed to be up and what shafts were supposed to be down. And I discovered that, even with watching the treadles carefully, I would occasionally press on the wrong treadle or catch a neighboring treadling along with the correct treadle.

I still find this unbelievable! Clearly, at least for me, watching the treadles is not sufficient. I am now watching the shafts (as well as the treadles...........).

Thank you, Elaine. You were right!

Friday, October 12, 2007


Yesterday I had noted that I was less than enthusiastic about what I was weaving. I had at last committed to something that at least seemed possible. Both the colors and the treadling seemed promising. But enthusiasm was genuinely gone. And this bothered me. Perhaps I should just forget about weaving this so-called trim? Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm was a sign that I should just stop? Or so I wondered.

The pain of the wondering was intensified by my remembering a piece on enthusiasm written by Robert Genn. In one of his twice-weekly email letters he discussed a Canadian sign-painter turned painter by the name of Bruno Cote. He is a painter, according to Genn, for whom enthusiasm is all important. Its importance reached him when, as a young man, he read a book by Norman Vincent Peale with the title Enthusiasm Makes the Difference. This book so affected him that at the top of his easel, Cote now keeps a board clearly visible at the top of his easel with the letters: EMTD. These are the first letters of the title of Peale's book.

According to Genn, "EMTD is more than Bruno's motto, it's his primal force and method of living."

This is all that I remembered of Genn's essay, and remembering that certainly depressed me. And then I got a bit angry because I don't believe any human being can be enthusiastic about something all the time. So I went back to Genn's piece.

I discovered, when I went back, that I had forgotten what Genn had gone on to say:

"I asked him how he gets enthusiastic when he isn't feeling it. 'It
builds up,' he says. 'If you don't work for a while, then you
need to and you do it. I come in here and go for it. I work
myself up. I work very, very fast and get a lot done for every
blast. If you're not enthusiastic, it's no good.' "

The answer is work.

And that is what I discovered today. I started weaving, a bit glumly. But I continued. I started noticing some things as I wove. My mind started becoming a bit more active. Slowly enthusiasm began to return. Not the excited can't wait enthusiasm that comes with beginning a new project, but a genuine enthusiasm nonetheless.

When I got up from the weaving I did something totally accidentally. I went to the back of the loom to raise up the weighted floating selvedges. That I always do. But what I unexpectedly did was to look at what I had woven from back there. I looked at the woven bit, in essence, upside down. And I thought the fabric lovely.

The answer is work.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I'm back to weaving again. I still am not quite wild about what I am doing. The gold does work much better than the paler yellow. But enthusiasm for weaving off this warp has definitely waned. My plan has now become to weave a yard, which is the weaveable length I think is left. If, after washing and pressing everything, it looks like the two are incompatible, then I will use this last portion as samples for the Complex Weavers' Crackle Exchange this winter. But I think, at worst, this yard might work as an interesting front facing.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about the next warp. And since I've been doing all these dyeing experiments, I've been thinking about color. I had recently taken a look at David Box's book on embroidery and found he has some interesting things to say about proportion in terms of color. The proportions he favors are one-third of color A and two-thirds of color B. Other colors should be used in much smaller quantities.

One place to derive these colors is from either Color A or Color B, if one of them is a mix. If one of the colors is a mix, then bits of the pure colors making up that mix should be included. For example, if using a lot of violet, bits of reds and blues could be incorporated. Another place to derive these supplementary colors is from the complements to Color A and/or Color B. For example, if using a lot of violet, bits of the complement, yellow-orange could be incorporated. .

But I want to turn to my own plans. Let's say I am thinking of a color scheme based on 2/3 neutrals and 1/3 blue. I already have a problem with that idea because I want two neutrals: a gray version and a brown version. One thing I could do, and it seems to make sense, is to break that down into a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio. There would still be the overall sense that neutrals make up roughly two-thirds of the whole. Blue is a pure color but its complement orange is not. It is made up of red and yellow So I could use bits of orange, red, and yellow. Oranges are already latent in the browned neutrals, and something more like yellow in the more golden of the browned neutrals. But wouldn't just a bit of red put a little bit of a sting in the whole thing? I think that could be quite interesting.

Ah, but how do I make this a reality in a piece of crackle fabric?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don't Count Your Chickens Before..........

My so-called "brilliant" idea turned out to be a disaster. Well, perhaps that is a very slight exaggeration. But I certainly didn't like it at all. I even left the loom and did something else after I'd woven enough to thoroughly dislike it. Leaving didn't help. So I looked at my original samplings and tried some other possibilities. Nothing worked.

I was in a funk for the rest of the afternoon. Actually, for the rest of the day. But today, after a good night's sleep, I tried some other things, including a treadling I had not tried in the earlier samples. I tried treadling on opposites. Well, it was kind of right but the colors were wrong. The two weft colors I had used were the light blue and the light violet I had used as two of the wefts in the yardage. I would have liked this as separate yardage. But I didn't like it as a coordinate for the current yardage.

So I tried again. And I left the loom and returned and tried again.

Finally I think I'm almost there. I'm back to the treadling on opposites. Instead of the light blue, I tried using the more medium blue I had used in the warp. And instead of the light violet , I tried using the light yellow I had used in the weft of the yardage. This has turned out to be very close to a viable idea. But the light yellow is wrong. The next time I return to the loom I will try the more golden yellow that is in the warp.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Out of Brown Yarn

Amount woven yesterday: 5"
Final length: 3 yards + 32.5"

And being out of brown yarn means I am done weaving the basic yardage. I was surprised how long the brown lasted. I actually got fairly close to my original intention of 4.1 yards. Now I can move on to weaving what I am going to call the trim.

My plan is to use this trim for border/edging, either at the hems of the jacket and sleeves or along the front, or maybe both. So I want something a bit different, but something that will still fit in with the yardage.

To accomplish this, I am planning to weave something much simpler than the original yardage.The repeat will be much shorter. The weft will be only lavender and blue. And the treadling will yield what are the equivalent of 4-shaft crackle blocks. To get these blocks I will treadle 1 B, 2 V repeat x times; 3 B, 4V repeat x times. X is yet to be determined. I am eager to get started!

To tell the truth, I am glad to be done with the basic yardage and get into weaving something different. The repetition was beginning to get to me, as witness my mistakes the past few days. Still, I have gained more weaving skill for having woven this. I felt this as I continued to weave and that feeling one of the things that helped to keep me going.

Monday, October 8, 2007


It happened again today. It's happened for the past few days. It happens shortly after I have begun my first weaving session of the day. I look at my yarns. I look at what I have just woven. At some point I have interchanged shuttles 2 and 3. It's never shuttles 1 and 4. It's never shuttles 1 and 2. It's never shuttles 3 and 4. It's always those two middle shuttles, 2 and 3. I discover that at some point, I have picked them up in reverse order; I have picked up shuttle 3 instead of shuttle 2. When I then lay the shuttles down after throwing them, they of course stay in reverse order. So of course I continue weaving with them in reverse order. Until I spot the error.

Today I had to weave back 24 shots. That's more than usual. Usually it's only 16 or 20 shots.

The place with the error really looks very little different from the rest. If I took a picture of it, I doubt that anyone could even spot the error. Should I really unweave it? Yes, no, yes, no. Oh jeezz, oh well.

I unweave.

When I unweave, I cut off the weft ends. I raise each shed and pull out the corresponding weft end. Then when the four are pull through, I cut those short. And so I continue. However, I am trying to preserve the brown ends, since I have so little of the brown left. So, instead of cutting it off, I throw it in reverse through its appropriate shed. After I have done that a second time, I then wind the loose weft yarn onto the pirn and continue.

The color order for the blocks never changes. The only thing that changes with each block is the starting point of the colors. I would think that by now I would have the color order memorized. But I don't. Perhaps there is too much else going on. Perhaps, because of the way I lay the shuttles down I think I don't need to worry about memorizing the order.

I could blame my bench. My bench is the kind that has an empty space on each side to keep things like shuttles and other tools. When I weave, there is room on my bench next to me for one shuttle. The other three go in that empty space. There is not room for them to lie flat, so I put them in at a slant with their noses pointing up. They stay in the right order. But in any case, it apparently is not all that difficult to grab the third shuttle (the second in that space) instead of the second shuttle (the first in that space).

All of this could happen just as easily if the shuttles were lying on a flat space next to me.

One more thing to hyperventilate about........

When I am done with the unweaving I always weave back to the point where I discovered the error. No matter how tired I am. No matter how sick and tired I am of the correcting. If I am still tired, I then stop weaving for awhile. If I am not, I just continue on. Today I am going next door to take care of the neighbor's cat.............

Two New Weaving Blog Links

Amount woven Friday: 1.5"
Amount woven to date: 3 yards + 27.5"

I have added two links to my list of weaving blogs. One is to Shirley Treasure, who does all sorts of interesting weaving. The other is to the Handweavers,' Spinners' and Dyers' Guild of Western Australia. Here are lots of photos of pieces from different shows. May of these pieces are indeed inspiring. The site seems to be run by Shirley Treasure, but I am not sure.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Dyeing: Some Discsoveries

Amount woven yesterday: 7"
Amount woven to date: 3 yards + 26"

Yesterday I dyed a second run of orange to blue. This orange, however, I made less red than the original orange. In the dye pot this orange looked to be very distinctly yellow-orange rather than orange or red-orange. But when I took it out of the dye pot and let it dry, it was definitely orange, non yellow-orange. I definitely cannot trust the color I see in the dye pot!

Then I compared this orange silk with the earlier orange silk, which had seemed so red-orange. To my eye, there was only the slightest of differences. It seemed hardly worth the effort to go through this second dye run.

But then I compared the total of the two dye runs. Each time I added more blue to the respective oranges, the differences between the colors widened. As the colors moved towards the browns, there was no trace of the reds that appeared in the first dye run. It gives me two gorgeous browns. One is a rich goldeny oranged brown, warmer than the equivalent more reddish brown of the first sampling. The other is a deep neutral brown, more grayed than the equivalent neutral brown of the first dye run. And gray appeared at the 50/50 equation this time instead of at the 60B/40O equation of the first dye run.

I also did some value gradations with two neutral I had obtained. Each neutral was dyed at 2% depth of shade, a 1 % DOS, and a 0.5% DOS. The one group produced lovely silvery grays. These were done with the gray I had gotten by commbining orange and blue the first time, where the orange was really a red-orange. Looking at the colors developing in the dye pots I was sure I had gotten it wrong. I was getting blues. They were lovely. But they were definitely blues. But, after removing from the dye pot and letting dry, it was a new thing.

The other value gradation was of the golden brown I had obtained in the RedViolet + YellowGreen dye run. Here, as well as with the grays, I learned that there was no way I could tell what the color was by simply looking at the individual threads. I had to wind them onto my cardboard to get a solid batch of color. The I could see. And these too were beautiful.

I am so amazed that I had hit the jackpot with these combinations. I have never tried dyeing neutrals before. However, since I used 0.1% solutions instead of 0.01% solutions, I question my ability to accurately reproduce them with a bigger batch of yarn. I have figured out how I might increase my chances of getting what I want in the final project. I will make all the dye solutions I plan to use. I will make them in my usual 1% solutions. But then for the neutrals, I will take out enough from the colors I am using to create 0.01% solutions and test dye some small skeins. If the color comes out right with them, I can be a little more assured that the color will come out right in the big dye pot. I hope!

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Amount woven yesterday: 1.5"
Amount woven to date: 3 yards + 19"

Recently I subscribed to an email newsletter put out by fiber artist Virginia Spiegel. In the archives, I found a newsletter in which she asked the following questions, questions that I am trying to take to heart in terms of my weaving. Her words are excerpted from the Fall #1 2005 issue:

"...Are we, as artists, stubborn enough in our studios? Do we show up at our studio at the appointed time, every time? Are we 100% committed to sweat out the tough times, laugh at the disasters, be immune to what others might think and work, work, work? Are we stubborn enough to know that our early efforts don't count, that it is the being there and the doing that will pay off in the end?"

These are tough words to hear.

Virginia has collected her essays into an E-book which is about to be published. The book is called Art, Nature, Creativity, Life. Anyone interested in learning more about the book can go here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dye Stock Solutions

When I dye I always use dye stock solutions. I never dye enough yarn to work just with the dye powder. And I want as little exposure to dye powder as possible.

Because I dye relatively small amounts of yarn I make 1% solutions. I use these solutions to mix the colors I am going to use for a project. The mixed colors are also 1% solutions. But it is very easy to make 4% solutions from these mixes. It is 4% mixed solutions that I use most often.

When I am dyeing small samples, however, I dye using 0.1% solutions. It is much easier to get reproducible colors when I do this.

I am not going to explain all this because Karren Brito has just done an absolutely marvelous job on her blog, Entwinements. On this post, she gives you all you need to know about concentration levels in dye stock solutions. She talks about what circumstances would lead you to use anywhere from 0.01% concentrations to 2.0% concentrations. And she explains in language that even I can understand the concept of margins of error. She also explains when it is better just to use the dye powder.

The book I rely on for my dyeing is Ann Milner's The Ashford Book of Dyeing. Milner deals with all different types of dyes and many different types of dyeing. It is Milner's book that taught me how to use the metric system. Karren's post fleshes out what Milner has to say about stock solutions and is definitely a keeper.

Karren herself has written an excellent book on shibori called Shibori: Creating Color and Texture on Silk. The book is not just about shibori. It is also about the acid dyeing of silk. I have found much there of value for my own dyeing technique.

Green Plus Red-Violet

Amount woven yesterday: 4"
Amount woven to date: 3 yards + 17.5"

It's a little hard to tell from this picture, but it looks like there are two possible browns here. On the far right is a slightly reddish brown. To the left of it is what seems to be a very neutral brown.

Dye sampling can be very addictive. Sometimes the only thing that really forces me to bring it to an end is the amount of time I need to be on my feet. That's not as easy as it used to be! But I figure that it is also good for me. After the first ten minutes I am not just standing but moving around. I do little things like put the dishes away, make a note of something, make the bed, all things that take little time and allow me to go back frequently to check the time and temperature.

Dye sampling is addictive because it is just so much fun to see the colors. Not just the final colors but the colors as they develop in the dye pot.

Last night I looked at a quilting book which focuses on color. It is by Joen Wolfrom and is called Visual Coloring. For those who feel insecure about using color, she has an interesting suggetion. Get together a bunch of magazines and flip through them. When you see a picture whose colors appeal to you, stop but don't think. Just cut it out. Keep doing that. Don't analyze. Be quick and intuitive in your choices. Save them.

These pictures will give you a clue about the colors that really speak to you. When you are ready to begin a project, come back to these pictures you cut out. Flip through them. Pick the one that speaks to you and begin your designing with those colors. Those are the colors that, at that moment, speak to you the most.

I think this is a really good way to begin. It is very much how I begin. I begin with the colors that really speak to me.

If I could avoid it, I would absolutely not weave with colors I don't like. And since I weave for myself alone, I have that freedom of choice. But it seems that all colors speak to me. Whatever colors I am currently working on tend to be my current favorites. Well, there are some I do dislike. Baby pinks and blues, except on babies. Gray them a bit and I like them. I actually did buy a light blue shirt and a pink shirt. I love them. I get lots of compliments on them, primarily, I think, because people are so surprised to see me wearing such colors. And they really are grayed just a bit. I dislike neon colors. They have their place but not in my work!

I tend to live in khaki pants and shorts and pair them with various colored tee shirts. Right now I am in black phase with tee shirts. But I have lots of warm colors. Reds, oranges, yellows. I realized my lack of cool colors as I was knitting a pair of deep teal socks. I am going to remedy that in my tee shirts. I definitely need some blues. I don't care for violet on me. I don't know why, especially since I do love the color. Pure green I tend not to like. But blue greens, yellow greens, grayed greens, they are all wonderful. All that green needs is a tiny bit of blue to take the green edge off and then a tiny bit of its opposite and I am happy. Though even in silk pure unadulterated green is beautiful. What can I say? I really do love colors. I especially love colors in silk

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Dorothy had this to say on how creative ideas come to here. This is from her comment on my post, "More on Resistance:"

"I find a lot of creative ideas pop up when I've stopped looking for them, when I'm doing one of those steady methodical tasks, like tying up treadles, threading heddles, or often enough, washing the dishes! So, for me, Leigh's "work" time is my time to let my mind wander off, and to see what it finds. I know lots of people don't like washing dishes, for me it's a useful time to just let my mind do it's own thing, things get resolved, I get relaxed, ideas happen."

This is very true for me as well. In a recent post I talked about my "spinning mind." The way I used the phrase implied a kind of separation from my body, something operating outside of thre boundaries of my body. And I talked about that "spinning mind" while throwing the shuttle. Certainly throwing a shuttle qualifies as a "steady methodical task."

It is very energizing to find ideas coming somewhere from those subconscious depths with no apparent effort on my part. But then it is also frustrating. I feel the urgent need, when this happens, to stop immediately whatever it is I am doing and write it down. The other alternative is to try hard to hold it in memory. All this is especially difficult during those moments when idea after idea seems to roll out. These are usually not different ideas, but continuations of the original idea that just popped up.

I have learned something interesting, however. Recently I decided that if the idea was important enough, I would remember it. And so I have found myself to be perfectly capable of holding the idea or ideas in my memory until an appropriate stopping point comes. What is more, I am able to do the same thing when these ideas come to me suddenly in the middle of the night. I used to get up and write them down. But now I tell myself, if it is worth while, it will be there waiting for me in the morning. And so I just go back to sleep and find the idea still there when I wake up, ready to be written down.

I do not really think, however, that these ideas come from nowhere. I think they come because some necessary work has already been done. Some kind of groundwork has been laid.

But besides writing down these unanticipated ideas, what am I to do with them? Richard Box, in his book Color and Design in Embroidery, suggests a process that must then follow these flashes of insight:

"This illumination then requires confirmation and realisation which in itself may take time, cause changes and developments before eventual completion." (page 1)

Indeed, it is my experience that many or maybe even most of these "brilliant" ideas are never confirmed but instead dissolve into nothingness upon examination. But even if they do so dissolve, their coming into existence is of value. Their erupting into the consciousness brings me pleasure, and they may in some unknown way contribute to other ideas that will prove valuable to me.

Yellow + Violet

Amount woven yesterday: 5"
Amount woven to date: 3 yards + 13.5"

The image is a bit blurry but the colors reproduction is not bad. The colors I used for this dye run are Sabraset/Lanaset Sun Yellow and Sabraset/Lanaset Violet. Earlier I did a similar dye run, using the Sun Yellow but created a mix for the Violet rather than the Sabraset Violet. The mix consisted of 95% SAB Violet plus 5% SAB Scarlet. The two dye runs are almost identical. Clearly the little bit of SAB Scarlet I added did not affect the dye run perceptibly, though I think I like the composed violet a little better. In any case, I will doubtless use the simpler combination in working out the neutrals.

Monday, October 1, 2007


No weaving accomplished Friday. But today it feels good to get back to the weaving.

Once I got started, my head started spinning with ideas. At first they were ideas having to do with my next silk warp. The ideas focussed mainly on possibilities of ikat and dip dyeing, and colors I wanted to use. But then my spinning mind returned to the fabric in front of me. I was looking forward to finishing this up. Finishing it up is going to come sooner than planned.

The end is coming before the total amount of planned yardage is woven because I am running out of the brown cotton. I ordered more. When they told me it was on backorder I started to worry. I was worried mostly because often back orders of pearl cotton take a long long time. I could see a warp just sitting there waiting for? Well, I didn't know how long the loom would just sit there.........

Actually it turned out that I was worried about the wrong thing. The yarn did arrive. On non-weaving Friday, by the way. It was obvious even to my color insensitive husband that this new yarn was a totally different dye lot from the old yarn. The color numbers were the same and there are no dye lot numbers. But it was a totally different brown.

Actually, that difference in color didn't really make me as unhappy as it might have a week or so earlier. I had already thought about weaving another yard with a different weft design which I would use as trim. There would be no brown in this next piece. So at first I was actually unhappy when I saw the package. That meant that I could just finish the yardage as planned and there would be no risk taking. I would not longer be forced into trying an experiment of sorts. When I opened the package and saw the color, in a moment I was actually happy. I was forced into plan B!

Anyway, returning to sitting at the loom with my spinning mind reacting to the fabric beneath my nose. My original plan had involved making the finished yardage into a jacket with only a few pieces. I wanted to break up the design of the fabric as little as possible. But my mind started to spin another way. Early on in the design process I had rejected the notion of anything with princess seams precisely because these garment design elements would break up the fabric design. But my spinning mind began to question the validity of that logic. By the time I was ready to stop weaving this morning, I had done a turnaround. I was convinced that actually in the case of this fabric, breaking it up with something like princess seaming would be a very good idea!

I also looked through my latest Vogue Pattern Magazine and found the cutest short jacket with seams than break up the fabric. It requires so little fabric I could actually stop weaving now. But I'm not sure what I would wear it with, and I think it would probably look best on a size 8 young woman. It's a little too "cute" for me. But I am going to check out the Chanel type jacket patterns.

Then I found in my pattern stash a Vogue pattern that uses trim along the front and the sleeve edges. And the trim requires only 3/4 yards of fabric, so one yard of the accessory fabric I planned to weave would be fine.

Possibilities. Possibilities are so wonderful and yet so frustrating.