Sunday, September 21, 2008

When the Cardboard Falls

I use corrugated cardboard rolls to pack my warp beam and one of the most satisfying parts of a project is when the cardboard falls off and thunks onto the floor. That means the project is almost finished and ready to come off the loom.

I recently heard about something called rosin paper, though, and bought a big roll at Home Depot and plan to use it instead of the cardboard. It is a thinner paper, but very sturdy. More on this in some later post.

I got my crackle scarves off the loom last week but don't plan to post pictures until I get them finished and washed. They are quite different. On one I treadled 24 picks of each block A to H and back to A and repeated that for the whole scarf. I got a nice diamond an X pattern. On the other one, I had a regular pattern but I varied the picks per block and I did five blocks in sequence, then backed up three, then forward again ... On that one I got a series of wobbly V's. The patterns are both pretty subtle, though, and I'm anxious to see how they look when washed. But not anxious enough to be in a huge hurry to twist fringe ;-)

Next project, in the planning stages, is a bunch of tea towels in an 8/2 Cotton/linen blend using different fancy twill patterns. I haven't decided whether to use 8-shaft or 16-shaft twills. The latter, of course, have more variety, but they probably mean I have to crawl under the Macomber in the middle of the project to change the tie-up. That prospect alone heavily favors the 8-shaft twills.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


For most of you I don't think finding a nest of snakes in your yard would exactly make your day, but today it made mine. My wife found these two cuties snuggling in a nest they made in one of our large azalea bushes (click on the photo for a larger picture):

I like having snakes in the yard. My friend Lisa Couturier, a fine writer, wrote a great book of nature essays called The Hope of Snakes: And Other Tales of the Urban Landscape. I enjoyed reading it and you might, too.

Friday, September 12, 2008

End-Fed Shuttles

I've been weaving with a Bluster Bay end-fed shuttle (EFS) for close to a year now, and recently bought two AVL EFS's at an estate sale. If I'm doing a one-shuttle weave, I usually use the Bluster Bay. For the most part, I like it and it does what it is supposed to do.

I think I'm winding the pirns correctly, but I still sometimes get sections of the weft that pull more than other sections.

I'm now weaving with a Jaggerspun merino/silk blend for the weft and I've found that when weaving with a yarn like this that is a little sticky, I have to put a lot of tension on the warp for everything to work correctly. I also have quite a bit of tension in the shuttle and when I throw the shuttle, there is sometimes quite a pull on the selvage and I have to remember to release that tension before beating. If I do that, everything seems to be ok. I may get a little more draw in than normal, but I'm not even sure about that.

I have really good selvages even with boat shuttles, but I do still like weaving with EFS's. I don't, however, think they're the cat's meow as some weavers seem to think. With a bit of care, boat shuttles can do just as well.

I haven't tried the AVL's yet because they are quite a bit longer than the Bluster Bay. Next time I have something wider on the loom, I'll give them a whirl.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Even Further Off Topic (Hillary / Sarah)

OK, I'm really, truly, no kidding, not very political (although I do have rather strong opinions), but within the last few days I saw an article in the newspaper that implied there had been a 20% shift with white women voters (who formerly supported Hillary) who shifted from Obama to McCain, presumably because of Sarah Palin. Here's what I have to say about that: Are they nuts??? I mean, really, if that's true, these people should have their voter registration rescinded. It's like saying you were going to vote for Mother Teresa but changed your mind and were going to vote for Adolph Hitler because you liked mustaches. (Not to imply that Sarah Palin is like Adoplh Hitler - she obviously would never grow a mustache.)

So much for voting on the issues. Sigh!

Way Off Topic

I found two cool things today.

1. If you click on a photo in my (or probably any other) blog, you can get a bigger picture! For instance, if you click on my shawl, you get a huge, ginormous picture of the shawl. I didn't know you could do that. Actually, the shawl picture is probably too big and I should try to prune my photos a little before uploading.

2. I found this really cool test while surfing on the Weaving Web Ring - it was at Melissa's site:

Try it! (She does better than I do.)

60 words
I did it a bunch of time and 60 was my best time - more often I was in the mid-50's.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Crackle (Finally!) and the Shawl

To answer Bev's question about the shawl first: There are actually five different supplementary warp yarns in this shawl, most of which is 5/2 perle cotton. I'm sure you can't see them all in the little photo. One of them is Dazzle, a green and gold ladder ribbon yarn. Another is Tartelette, a chenille that was a blue/green mix. It wormed when washed but since the floats were so small it actually produce a pretty nice effect.

After the Complex Weavers conference in Florida this year, I told a friend of mine that my favorite class was the polychrome crackle workshop. She laughed and, after a pregnant pause, said, "You're kidding, right? That stuff is so ugly." Well, I wasn't kidding, although some four block crackles can be pretty unsightly. With more blocks, though, I think you can get some wonderful subtle blending of colors.

Crackle is a block weave that allows you to have one block per shaft, which is pretty unusual. They aren't pure blocks because some of them sort of weave together, but you can still see the blocks. In four shafts, the blocks are (A: 1-2-3-2), (B: 2-3-4-3), (C: 3-4-1-3) and (D: 4-1-2-1). When you move from one block to the adjacent one, you need to add an "incidental" to keep the odd/even shaft sequence. For instance, threading A and B next to each other would be: 1-2-3-2-1-2-3-4-3, with the middle, bold, 1, being the incidental.

There are several ways to tie up and treadle crackle, but a common way is to make it a twill derivative. When you do polychrome crackle, you usually thread the warp with one color and use multiple colors (and, thus, multiple shuttles) in the weft.

The crackle warp I have on the loom now is a concoction I call crack-hell. I started with an 8-block polychrome crackle and then turned it (flipped the warp and weft) so I could put the colors in the warp and weave with a single shuttle. That worked well until after I wound the warp and beamed it on the loom and then noticed that when it turned, it also morphed into a 10-shaft structure. Of course, if I had put it on my 16-shaft loom this wouldn't have been a problem, but I put it on my 8-shaft loom. So ... back to the drawing board to come up with something that I could salvage. I finally came up with something that works and sort of looks like polychrome crackle, but I'm not sure exactly what it is. Anyway, the draft, if treadled one block after the next, produces cloth that looks like this:

I'm not weaving it exactly like this - I'm varying the block sequence as I weave. I'll post pictures of the two scarves when they've come off the loom and have been washed.

I think blogging is supposed to be about short posts, which I don't seem to do well ;-) Thanks to those of you who actually read it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Gallery Jury Day

In June, I got juried into the Potomac Craftsmen Fiber Gallery, which is in Gallery 18 at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Va. I had to go through some training before being allowed to submit things for the Gallery, but I completed that recently. The Gallery has 11 shows each year and all of the individual pieces have to be juried into each show. Today was the first jury day when I was eligible to submit items. I put five things in - three scarves, a table runner and a shawl and all five made it into the show.

Here is a picture of the shawl:

This is exciting for me on several levels. It gives me someplace to sell some of the things I make, which is good because there are only so many things you can give away for gifts. But more importantly for me, it is corroboration that I've achieved some level of recognized competence in my craft. It's also very motivating for me to be part of the Gallery - it's a co-op of about 70 fiber artists who are very talented. I once had a smart boss who said, "Competence breeds competence." It's exciting to be part of such a talented group and every time I work at the Gallery I come away with a new burst of energy for my own work.

I also have been thinking lately about what I want to achieve with my crafts. Right now, my "core theme" for my work is that I want to make beautiful, but functional things. That applies to my weaving and my bookbinding. (I do like to make wall hangings, so I guess I have to assume they are "functional.") I see too many things in both the fiber and book arts that I wouldn't want to make - I guess someone thinks they are art but if all you can do with a "book" is look at it, I don't get the point.

OK, enough of that. Next post really will be about crackle.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dumb Weaving Tricks

Yesterday I mentioned a funny weaving story (at least it's funny now.) With two exceptions, I've always warped my loom from front to back. A few weeks ago, I was using a fine bumpy yarn for the warp and decided it would work better back to front. There are two ways to beam the warp on - one with the warp going through to the front of the loom and the other with both you and the warp at the back of the loom. I like the second way better because you don't have to get up all the time and I think it makes for a better warp - you wind one turn and then pull on sections of the warp to tighten them.

But, when you do it that way, the warp goes over the back beam backwards (I don't have pictures of this part, but you tie the warp onto the apron then bring it trough the inside of the back beam and through the raddle to the back of the loom.) After beaming on you have to remember to bring the other end of the warp around the back beam before threading the heddles. Well, I was so happy with the ease of beaming on that I just forgot about that part until after I had the heddles threaded and the reed sleyed. On my Schacht loom, this wouldn't be a huge problem because the back beam lifts off and I could have just moved it under the warp and put it back on and it would have been fixed. But on my Macomber loom, the back beam is screwed on and glued - it doesn't go anywhere.

So, what to do? Fortunately, it wasn't a really wide warp and I had a section of an old beam laying around (doesn't everyone have a spare beam?). With clamps and spacers, I essentially made a new back beam inside the real one, so that I could get a proper shed. Here's my Rube Goldberg loom:

And, if you think this is one of those mistakes that are so bad that you'll only make them once, you'd be wrong ;-) I did the same thing on the very next warp! Fortunately that one was on the Schacht loom and I just fixed it by removing the back beam and slipping it under the warp before putting it back on. Despite all of this, I think I've been converted to warping back to front for most things.

Next time, I'll post a bit on crackle and what I have on the loom now.

p.s. Thanks to Peg from South Carolina for nudging me on the photos and telling me that Blogger will trim them down - I don't have to do that.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Maybe I'm not Meant to Blog

I've been listening to some of the great interviews at Craft Sanity and have gotten inspired to blog again - we'll see if it lasts. I am primarily a weaver and have just gotten juried into a gallery (more about that later), so I'm busy getting some of my pieces ready to go into the gallery. I also spent some time in Florence, Italy this past spring and came back excited about resuming my latent bookbinding skills. I've also been spending time learning kumihimo and tablet weaving. So, I've had a pretty unproductive summer but feel ready to go with some new ideas for the coming season.

I think the reason my blogs bog down is that I always feel that I need to put some pictures in my posts and that little bit of extra work is enough to stop me. It's not a big deal, but sometimes I just don't feel like getting the camera out, taking the pictures, downloading them, processing them to make them web-ready and then uploading them. This time, I think I'll try to just blog and not worry about the pictures. I have a funny weaving story for which I already have pictures (but they need processing), and I'll try to post that soon.

Right now, I have a warp on the loom for two polychrome crackle scarves made from Jaggerspun wool/silk plus an alpaca/silk blend. I have about half of the first scarf done. I also have about a half-dozen pieces off the loom but in need of finishing - either hemming or fringe twisting. Finishing isn't my favorite thing, but I do need to work off some of this backlog. I want to put two pieces in the gallery and need to finish them by Sunday (today's Friday), so I have an incentive for those.

More later (I hope more regularly).