Weaving 101

This weekend, June 28-30, I taught at the MAFA 2019 Conference at Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania. MAFA is the MidAtlantic Fiber Association and they put on a conference every other year. This year I taught Weaving 101 to motivated group of 8 students. They started on Friday morning with some yarn and a warping board, and by Sunday noon they had woven off a sampler of plain weave, twill weave and even double weave–a pretty advanced concept. It was wonderful to observe their camaraderie as they shared with each other. There were often exclamations of excitement as they understood a new technique or bit of information.

I tell my students that learning to weave isn’t just one skill, but a series of skills they have to master. Each one takes patience to learn. They start with learning to measure the warp on a warping board. Next they have to move the warp to the loom. At the loom, they have to wind the warp on the back beam. Then they have to thread the warp, and put the warp ends through what’s called a reed. Next they tie the warp on to the cloth beam in front of the loom. Finally they tie up the treadles and begin to weave. The whole process of getting the loom ready to weave can take as long as actually weaving the fabric. My students this weekend finished the setting up of the loom in record time so they were able to explore plenty of weave structures in their sample. On top of being quick they had great attitudes, making it a pleasurable class. Having Leslie Fesperman, of Yadkin Valley Fiber Center, as my assistant was a great help.

There are now some new weavers in the world. They have the knowledge and enthusiasm to go far. I hope at the next MAFA conference I’ll see them with projects they have woven at home with their newfound skills.

MAFA 2019 Weaving 101 Spreading the Warp in the Raddle
MAFA 2019 Weaving 101 Spreading the Warp in the Raddle

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Double Weave Pick-up

I have been playing around lately with double weave-pick up. I taught a class in West Virginia on double-weave and had enough of my sampler warp left to practice the technique. It’s pretty time consuming and you have to really pay attention, much more so than when weaving scarves. I found the meditative quality pleasant.
In double weave the loom is set up so that two layers of cloth are woven simultaneously, one above the other. If you want, you can form an image by hand-manipulating how the two layers of cloth interact. This is called double weave pick-up. When you weave double weave pick-up, you use a stick to pick up some threads from the bottom layer and weave them into the top layer, then pick up other threads to weave top layer threads into the bottom layer. Below you can see part of my process and a couple of finished pieces.
I used 10/2 cotton threaded at 32 ends per inch (16 ends per inch in each layer). The colors were deep purple and red-orange. When the colors are next to each other they read as orange and blue. As a side note, I wove some of these pieces while UVA was winning the NCAA basketball championship. Their colors are orange and blue–go ‘Hoo’s!

Here I have picked up the purple threads to keep them on top.

Picking the purple threads

I have raised the half of the orange threads and the selected purple threads stay up while I weave with orange.

Weaving orange while selected purple threads are raised

Here I have picked up the orange threads.

Picking up the orange threads

Here I have raised half of the purple threads. The selected orange threads stay above while I weave with purple thread.

Selected orange threads stay above while half of the purple threads are raised.

This is how I keep track of where I am.

Keeping track

This is the finished piece.

The finished piece (8″ X 8″)

Here's one of the finished pieces.

Another finished piece (8″ X 8″)

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Using Handwovens

I love using my handwoven items every day. There is something satisfying about picking up an item I have made and putting it to good use. Each piece I weave is designed with the end use in mind so having something functional when I finish weaving is important.

Unfortunately, when I give or sell towels to people, the towels are more likely to become small table runners, or to sit in a drawer. People tell me that the towels are just too pretty to use on dishes or hands. When I give a towel to another weaver, though, they are likely to use that sucker.

This year at Convergence 2018 in Reno, I participated in the towel exchange. We were given guidelines for final dimensions and type of fibers to use. Each participant wove 5 towels and brought the towels with them. In return, we went home with 5 new handwoven towels, each from a different weaver. Along with the towels, people shared instructions for how to reproduce their towel. What fun it was to weave and share towels.

Over 50 people participated in the popular event. I was excited by the towels I received and I got some good ideas for weaving more towels. There are plans for doing a similar exchange in two years at the next Convergence and I hope to join in again.

The towels I wove included overshot borders.

I loved the earth tones in these.

A little color can go a long way.

I love all that is going on in these towels.

These feature beautiful space dyed warp stripes.

These color changes are lovely.

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Thoughts on Overshot

This July I will be teaching a workshop in Reno, NV as part of Handweavers Guild of America’s Convergence 2018. The workshop explores the possibilities of a weave structure known as overshot, one of my favorite types of weaving. In preparation, I went back through old photos to find examples of my own overshot exploration. As I reviewed my previous overshot pieces  I reflected on why I find this weave so satisfying, and a few observations came to mind.

Overshot has some strong pattern lines. As you weave it you see the pattern unfold one shuttle-throw at a time. Lines build upon each other to develop curves.

This table runner was woven in the traditional Rattlesnake Trail pattern.

Overshot also has strong ties to history. Many coverlets seen in early American reproductions are made using overshot patterns. Weaving overshot ties me to the many weavers who came before me.

Detail of a traditional Mary Anne Ostrander overshot runner.

Overshot also allows for a lot of color interaction. Sometimes the weft makes long floats over the warp so you see areas of pattern weft color. Sometimes you see more of the background plain weave where thin warp and thin plain weave weft intersect and form blocks. In other areas you see the pattern weft going in between warp and the two elements blend to get a completely different color.

Overshot treadled in a style called “on opposites”.

In the workshop I teach we try out different ways of combining pattern and color to get cloth that doesn’t look like traditional overshot.

Italian style treadling of an overshot threading.

Flame treadling of an overshot threading.

If I had to choose only one type of weave to concentrate on for the rest of my weaving career, it could easily be overshot. I could play with it for a long time without getting bored.

Recent shawl in cotton and wool/silk blend

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Traveler’s Rest

It has been a busy summer of traveling, but the past few weeks have seen me settled down in the studio and getting ready for the fall Charlottesville Artisans Studio Tour. A pile of scarves waits on my dining room table ready to be washed. Another pile sits on the living room couch waiting for fringe to be twisted. More scarves are on the loom in the studio.

I have been throwing the shuttle daily, watching the thread unwind from the shuttle and dreaming up more designs. I wish my feet and hands could keep up with the ideas that stream into my head. There are always a bunch of “what ifs”. What if I tried these colors together? What if I tried treadling this pattern? What if I added stripes? That’s the joy of weaving–there never seems to be a lack of new ideas to try.

I will post pictures of the finished scarves soon, but in the meantime, I can’t resist taking pictures while they’re still on the loom. Here are a few offerings.

Snowflake In Iris Scarf

Streams In the Desert Scarf

Desert Stars Scarf

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Fall Colors in the Studio

This fall has been plenty busy. After a summer of travel, I’m finding great inspiration around home. The soft colors of sunrise or the brilliant leaves against a spectacular sunset are hard to capture in fabric but I’m giving it my best. I have found new yarn to help me and that’s a good thing since the 22nd annual Artisans Studio Tour is just around the corner. Below are pictured some of this year’s scarves. To view the complete collection, go to my current work page.

Silver Stream Scarf

Silver Stream Scarf

Pastel in Stars Scarf

Pastel in Stars Scarf

Earth and Sky With Turquoise Scarf

Earth and Sky With Turquoise Scarf

Turquoise Diamonds Scarf

Turquoise Diamonds Scarf

I will be in Mud Dauber Pottery again this year from 10-5 on November 12th and 13th. I hope to see you there.

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Artisans Studio Tour

One of the new scarves with hand-dyed warp.

One of the new scarves with hand-dyed warp.

 

This weekend is the big weekend for a talented group of artisan craftsmen who will be showing  and selling their work in and around Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m fortunate to be part of this group, Artisans Studio Tour. I will be showing my work at Mud Dauber Pottery.

This year I’ll have a new style of scarves, using hand-dyed thread from Kathrin Weber of Blazing Shuttles. Her color work is beautiful and I love the feel of the material she uses. I’ll still have some of my traditional scarves, too. Our central Virginia fall colors are still gorgeous so there will be beauty both inside and outside the local studios.

This is my big chance each year to meet customers face-to-face and talk about my process and what inspires me. I look forward to it each year and this year is no different. We’ll talk over food and cups of hot cider. I’ll have my demo loom there and people can throw the shuttle a few times if they want.

We have all been working hard to make the tour a success. Here’s hoping we have plenty of visitors and get to reconnect with people who love fine craft.

One of the new scarves with a hand-dyed warp

One of the new scarves with a hand-dyed warp

 

One the more traditional scarves

One the more traditional scarves

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Woven Shibori Experiments

Over a year ago I took a workshop with Su Butler called “You Did That on Four Shafts?”. Su’s an inspiring teacher with a wealth of experience. The workshop covered surface design and some dying techniques.

One technique she taught us was woven shibori. We used a natural colored thin thread to weave plain cloth (either plain weave or twill for you weavers). Every few weft shots, we lifted the shafts in a different pattern and wove in a sturdy, thicker thread (8/4 cotton warp). When we wove in the thick threads we left 3″ tails hanging out on each side of the fabric. After removing the fabric from the loom, we pulled on the tails of the thick thread to gather the fabric. This made it all puckery across the width of the fabric. Next we dyed the fabric, let it dry, then pulled out the gathering thick threads so the fabric spread back out. The fabric had taken the dye in some places but not others, because it had been gathered.

I had fun experimenting that weekend. When I came home, I wove some more using that technique and even tried it with a warp I had set up on the loom in an overshot pattern.  Since I’m not an experienced dyer, I just let them sit around until I got the gumption to attempt the dying portion.

Last month I finally took a deep breath, got out the dyepot and went to work. The colors aren’t expert, but the effect is fun.

The green thick threads will be gathered up when the cloth is off the loom.

The green thick threads will be gathered up when the cloth is off the loom.

You can see how the cloth has been gathered by pulling the thick threads tight.

You can see how the cloth has been gathered by pulling the thick threads tight.

Here's the dye set up. I used discarded water bottles to squeeze red onto some areas and blue onto others.

Here’s the dye set up. I used discarded water bottles to squeeze red onto some areas and blue onto others.

This pattern was an overshot pattern. Here's side A

This pattern was an overshot pattern. Here’s side A.

This is side B of the overshot pattern.

This is side B of the overshot pattern.

Here's a longer piece. The thin yarn wove one twill pattern and the thick yarn wove another twill pattern.

Here’s a longer piece. The thin yarn wove one twill pattern and the thick yarn wove another twill pattern.

Here's a close up of the longer piece.

Here’s a close up of the longer piece.

In this close up you can see the background twill pattern in thin thread.

In this close up you can see the background twill pattern in thin thread.

I learned a few things when I dyed on my own. First, I just need to do it more. Second, the horizontal stripes in the big piece were kind of distracting. Third, the most successful dying was when I dyed one side of a piece in color A and the other side in color B. That effect gave more interesting results.

I guess I have another area to explore now. There’s always something new to learn in weaving. How much fun is that?

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Blazing Shuttles, Summer Daze

After the Blazing Shuttles workshop, I purchased yarn from Kathrin Weber. It came in the form of a lovely painted warp called Summer Daze. Warp is the yarn I put on the loom to set it up for weaving. Setting up the loom is the most technically tricky part of weaving and can take hours.

The first set of Summer Daze scarves

The first set of Summer Daze scarves

 

The warp consisted of 400 threads and I used half of them at a time. First I set up the loom with 200 threads of Kathrin’s hand-dyed warp in the middle and about an inch of commercially dyed black on the outsides. After weaving 4 scarves I had gotten to the end of the first set of warp threads. I put on the last 200 warp threads and put an inch of bluish gray threads on the outside where the black had been before. I’m almost finished weaving off the second set of scarves.

Scarves with silver, taupe and black weft.

Scarves with silver, taupe and black weft.

Taupe weft on the left and black on the right.

Taupe weft on the left and black on the right.

Each scarf is different from the rest. I use different colors of weft, the thread that goes back and forth between the warp threads. I also wove some slightly different patterns. It is really fun to see how the colors combine.

Orange weft

Orange weft

Still on the loom

On the loom

Still on the loom, but it look luscious.

Still on the loom, but it looks luscious.

Purple weft scarf still on the loom.

Purple weft scarf still on the loom.

When I’m finished with them all, I’ll twist the fringe, wash, dry and iron them. At each step along the way they relax a bit and should give lovely, soft, shiny scarves.

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Blazing Shuttles Workshop, Part II

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Off the Loom

 

 

The fabric from the Blazing Shuttles workshop is off the loom and in my hands. It took longer than I had planned, but that’s because it’s summer and I love to play outside. When humidity or showers forced me back to the studio, the sunny colors of the warp on my loom greeted me.

 

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So Many Colors

 

What fun it was to weave the rep weave piece. I used Kathrin’s workshop suggestion number 3 and threaded blocks randomly throughout the warp. I wove blocks randomly, too. That’s different for me. I feel much more in control when I have my piece planned out ahead of time. This was fun.

Here’s a bit of technical information for you weavers. I combined two hand-dyed 8/2 warps with a black 8/2 warp and set the warp at 24 ends per inch. The warp was a bit sticky at times, but I learned to make accommodations by clearing the shed with the reed.

Next in line is to finish a 5-scarf warp I have on the big loom. When done I’ll dress the loom with a Blazing Shuttles 6/2 tencel warp and weave some scarves with that. In the meantime I’ll figure out what to do with the workshop fabric. I’m thinking bags and maybe a runner or two.

 

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Random Blocks

Weaving these warps is good summertime play. I can come into the studio from working in the garden to a whole new palette of colors.

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My Favorite Section

 

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Love the Movement

 

 

 

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