Tuesday, 28 June 2011

P2P2: dyeing to move on

I spent last week in Adelaide on a training course for work. I was lucky, I flew over there just before the ash cloud descended and travelled nack 24 hours after Tasmanian airports were re-opened. I spent part of the weekend before I went weaving, and took my second sample off the loom just hours before I was due to leave for the airport. I took it with me, unfinished, to have a look at and think about while I was away. More on that another time.

I also thought more about the photos. I realised that no matter how often I looked at the set, the picture of the heron was the central point of focus for my mind. So I started digging through my stash of handpun silk cap to see what I had that worked with it. I have a lot of handspun silk cap. I bought a kilogram of silk caps a few years ago and have been enjoying playing with dyeing them ever since. The problem was, I was now down to precisely one undyed silk cap - and now there are none!

If you click on the image above to biggify it, you can see that I've been matching colours to the photo. Those on bobbins I already had. The skein of silk and the silk cap have been dyed over the last couple of days.

The skein started out cornflower blue, before I started to fiddle with overdyeing. I tried to match the colours and in a way also textures in the grass. The silk cap, below, was dyed randomly to match not only the salmon-lavender colours in the reeds but also the purplishness of the tree in the background.

I plan to split out the darker and lighter portions as I spin and spin them seperately.

One striking thing about this photo is that the elements pull in towards the centre from either side. That screams clasped weft to me. But having the colour elements in the weft - particularly varigated ones - will give a fabric with the predominant elements horizontal, whereas this photo has a strong vertical element with all the tall grasses and reeds - not to forget the upright heron!

I have a plan for that, but more on that later.

Monday, 13 June 2011


In some ways, this has been inspired by yarninmypocket of Yarnscape. She started talking some time ago about spinning a suitable yarn for the lovely Shipwreck shawl. This reminded me that I'd had that pattern saved to my favourites on Ravelry for some time - the only shawl pattern I've ever considered making.

Some time later, I was browsing through the yarn shop of our guild and found a bag of "winter" dyed tussah silk roving. I don't often buy dyed roving to spin but fell in love with the colours and enjoyed an evening of joy spinning. In a search for things to do with it, I plied it with some pastel blue spun silk cap. Then I thought of the shipwreck shawl - but the yarn was too fine for the pattern, which calls for a light fingering weight.

Enter The Thylacine yarns. Browsing her lovely hand-dyed rovings at a recent open day, I spotted a lovely blues-and-greys silk/merino that would go perfectly with the silk I already had. I'd already plied the silk, but it's passive enough that it would ply with the wool fine.

A couple of pleasant evenings later, and I have about 650 m of a lovely marled fingering weight yarn, in blues and greys with just the odd hint of peach. It would make a lovely shawl...only the shawl calls for 1320 yards of yarn.

At this stage, may I say bugger?

I'm off to the weaving evening at the guild tonight. I may have to stick my head in the shop to see whether I can pick up any more of that silk.

First sample

Not a success. This was 3/2 silk warp with a 10/1 silk noil weft. The plan had been to use a fine weft to see whether the fabric would pleat, but I think that the warp wasn't set tightly enough and the weft is too passive and fine. Never mind, the alternate motive was to use up a few more cone ends in my stash, and that was achieved. I hadn't intended weaving a full piece but I was having too much fun with the colour progression.

This was a structural test for the P2P2 challenge, using the draft in my previous post. I've decided that trying to use an advancing broken twill only really works with a network drafted liftplan if you have more than 8 shafts. A simple 3/1-1/3 twill results in floats that are impractically large. I knew this from the draft but needed to weave it so I could see how the cloth would work.

I'm not sure what I'll do with this piece. The colours are pretty but I'm not in love with the hand of the fabric. It may make and interesting throw or hanging once it's been properly pressed. I still haven't replaced my ironing board after the move, so it will have to wait until I've done so.

Somewhat alarmingly, when I washed the piece, the water immediately turned purple.

In the meantime, sampling continues.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

P2P2: thinking...

I've been thinking a great deal about how to make a start on my P2P2 challenge during the week. There are two things at hand here for me: the colours of the images, as a set, and the general feel of texture, movement and flight that they suggest to me. For colour, I've pulled out various yarns in my stash that make me think of the images:

These are silk yarns of varying weights, all with texture. I may make a sample with them. But they're not right for the project I have in mind. The project I have in mind is probably going to require some dyeing to be done, but at least these are stimulating my visual mind.

The other thing I've been thinking about is the fabric itself. I've worked a bit with pleated fabrics in the past, and the concept of movement and flight suggests the floatiness and texture of a pleated fabric to me. Not straight pleats, but something more fluid. And I'm really struggling to get the idea of a comfy floaty skirt out of my head. So I started to play with a draft of a broken twill with a 3/1-1/3 pleat tie-up.

Broken advancing twill threading with a 3/1-1/3 twill tie-up and evenly advancing treadling

One thing I like about this draft is that the broken twill is suggestive of feathers to me, and would create a floaty fabric if the right yarns and sett were used. But this isn't enough, because the images I've been sent are also strong on round shapes, and there's nothing round about this draft. So I started to modify the treadling, to incorporate more of a network-drafted concept. To read more on network drafting, I recommend you read this article by Bonnie Innouye in Weavezine. Bonnie also has a fabulous and very informative book on the subject, Exploring Multishaft Design. Networked drafting takes a bit more thought on 8 shafts than it does for those with more shafts, but within the limitations it can be done.

Broken advancing twill threading with a 3/1-1/3 twill tie-up and networked treadling

That's getting more like it. Is this where I'm going to head? I have absolutely no idea. But for now, I'm going to start samplying dyes and samping this weave structure and see what I think. My next decision is whether to sample using the thick mulberry silk and fine silk noil in the top image, or whether to sample using some rayon and handspun silk cap that's been sitting in the queue waiting to turn into a scarf. They're not colours that fit with the challenge but would work for the structure.

Decision, decisions. I'd better make one soon, because I've had a naked loom for nearly a week.

Summing up the cost vs value post

My thanks to those who commented, it was fascinating to learn the views of others on the matter. There was a real sense of valueing the work of others in the replies.

I must confess that like Sonya, I treat the work of others with more care than my own. My old handwoven teatowels get used every day and tossed in the wash. I received some stunningly beautiful cream cotton towels from Sonya in an exchange a few years ago. I absolutely love them...and I have to confess that they're saved to use to line tea trays and bread baskets on special ocassions.

Meg also hit the spot when she said that her towels are softer and more absorbent than bought towels. That's one reason I make my own. Linking back to the origins of craft hits a spot as well. One of the reasons I weave is because it fits in with my lifestyle of taking responsibility for my consumption. I have one store-bought towel in my kitchen now, and it does tend to be pushed to the bottom of my pile.

Beauty was another good reason. There's love in a handmade item that you don't get from something bought in a shop - great point, Amy.

Laura Sue summed up the point I was trying to form best. In order to be truly beautiful, and item must also be useful.

How many of us have met beginner weavers who think that a handmade teatowel is a waste of effort, and yet give up weaving because there are only so many samples one can make?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The old cost and value argument again

The tea towel warp, fresh off the loom.

After moving the loom, I wove off the remainder of the tea towel warp in two bouts of a couple of hours each last weekend. One night during the week, I dropped in to the midweek meeting of weavers in the local guild rooms. Having been asked before, I took some samples for show and tell, and tossed the tea towel warp in as well.

The overwhelming comments amongst the ladies there, after exclaiming on their workmanship were "I don't have time to weave tea towels. They're so beautiful I'd never use them. Such a waste to use handwovens in the kitchen."

I replied that I couldn't bring myself to buy teatowels when I knew I could make them from items already in my stash. As many of the cottons I used for these ones were either cone ends from other projects of cottons I was given when I bought my loom, or came with another group of yarns I bought on ebay, these are effectively free save for my time. I estimate those tea towels have cost me perhaps 50c and an hour of my time, each. Some of the cotton was organic, natural-coloured cotton.

Compare this to the cost of a tea towel in the shops. Most will have been made in China, of cotton that's 68% likely to be genetically modified. We live in a world of strange perceptions, when even the people who make things can't appreciate a good home-made useful object. The general vibe I got from the weaver in my group was that their time was too valuable to waste on such a mundane item. It's the old art vs craft debate, perhaps, in a slightly different guise.

What about you? Do you make items for use around your house, or do you define weaving as art? If so, why?

Monday, 6 June 2011

A seasonal migration of sorts

One of the reasons I chose to rent the house I'm in is the large converted garage a half-level below the rest of the house. With an east-facing sliding door, it's a great space for a loom. There's room to have all my stash and equipment out at the same time and to still be neat. But being in the south-east corner of the house (and the furthest corner from the wood burner), it's cooler than the rest of the house and natural light levels are limited.

While Mr G was here, he pointed out that this house also has a huge, long living room, only half of which was actually being used. The largest vacant space was against a north-facing set of windows which is catching the sun now the light is lower. He suggested the loom would get more use over a longer day there. The only problem was, it was through two sets of doors down a small flight of stairs and it was warped with a half-woven warp. And being a Glimakra, much of the frame is held together by nothing more than gravity and good engineering. And the loom is significantly larger than any of the doors we had available to move it through.

However, in the spirit of experimentation, we measured spaces and checked them twice, then moved the castle and beater to the back of the superstructure, carefully tying all of the heddles, beater and shafts, then lay it on its side. From there we slackened the warp (essential to rotate the castle and base around the doors), carefully rotated the loom castle first then base second, out one sliding door, through the garden to the other end of the house and through another sliding door. A bit of shuffling, and lo: a loom with a view.

It's by the fire, it gets the sun for half the day and it's under down lights for weaving at night. It's going to be a good spot as we come to the shortest day of the year.

I hadn't been sure we'd be able to do it and had been prepared to cut the existing towels off and rethread the warp if anything went wrong, but in the end there was not a single broken warp thread - even the tension was fine.

This warp is the stash-busting warp I put on the lok to balance it while rebuilding it, and to celebrate the move I spent part of Saturday weaving the other 2/3 of it, in the sun. I now have six new tea towels requiring hemming and finishing.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

P2P2: my images are here!

In case you're wondering what P2P2 is, it's Pics to Picks, the second. Details can be found on Meg's blog, here. You can also follow along with the fun there. The general idea is that weavers swap images of inspiration and then use the images they have received to develop a woven piece.

I am very much a time-poor weaver, and as a consequence the projects I make tend to start either as a way to use up my stash or with a specific finished project in mind. That has limited the creativity I've been able to put into my weaving lately. Because of this, P2P2 is going to be a real challenge for me. It's going to force me to think about my weaving in terms of art rather than craft, or at least in terms of practical finished article.

I've made a slow start so far, but in a fit of perfect timing a parcel of joy arrived in my letterbox on Friday. It had come from Alienore, in the US. Alienore has chosen to send me a number of clippings, found objects and a photo of a warp on her loom.

I really like this collection, because these are all things that mean something to Alienore. The photo on the right especially, of a silk warp on Alienore's loom, seems to channel her intention. I found myself unable to consider the images singly, because they seem to want to be a whole.

These are the clippings. Top left is what seems to be a close-up of some kind of egg. Bottom left is ladybirds on luscious wine grapes. Top centre is a delicious-looking collection of differently-coloured and shaped heirloom tomatoes. Bottom centre is an image of a heron in front of some russet-coloured reeds. Interestingly, my eyes sank into the colour of the reeds in the background long before they registered the bird in the foreground. The right image is of a woman, horse and dog sharing a cuddle. Beside this, Alinore has written "I love connections".

Many things strike me about this collection of images. They're strong on colour, shape and connections. Warm colours, round, soothing shapes, and an overall pallete of yellow, orange, reds, mauves and purple with an emphasis on reds and purples. This colour pallette is one that I surround myself with in life, as the soft furnishings in my living room are in these colours and I've recently bought the Tubular spectrum cottons in that pallette, with which to make myself tea towels.

The special treat is below the image of the silk warp:

Hummingbird feathers she has found on her patio. I'm very much a bird person and love hummingbirds (who couldn't? They defy gravity.) so the feathers are a special treat for me. Combined with the heron and the ladybirds, flight is emerging as a theme for me from this set of images. The final thing that srtuck me about these images is the rough, warm texture of the silk in the photo of Alienore's warp. I weave with silk a lot, so the photo of a silk warp has made me decide that silk is probably the right material to use for this project, wherever that project takes me.

So, to sum up, here are my initial impressions:

Emotive: roundness, warmth, growth, abundance, comfort, connections.

Colours: warm colours, especially in the pink-red-purple spectrum

Material: silk, but perhaps with some texture

Weave: Something involving flight, movement, possibly feathers

Overall: strong focus on the connection between colour and weave interplay. Possibly a networked draft on a hand-painted warp, but that hasn't become clear in my head yet.

This has been a great set of images to play with. Thanks, Alienore.

And now I should probably make a start on getting the next warp on my loom!