Blazing Shuttles Workshop

We weavers spend a lot of time alone in our studios. This weekend, twelve of us got together to learn from Kathrin Weber of Blazing Shuttles. She brought her beautiful hand-dyed warps and taught us how to use them to their full advantage.

We each brought a loom already set up with a short warp. All we needed to do was tie the new warp on to the old, crank the knots through the reed and heddles, then wind the new warp around the back beam. That sounds fast and easy, but it took us all weekend.

First, on Friday night, we had to choose from all the colorful warps Kathrin had brought. Fortunately we’re a friendly bunch and no fights broke out. We each ended with colors we loved as she worked with us individually to find a couple of dyed warps that would go well together.

Saturday morning we arrived ready to come up with a design using stripes of our 2 or 3 different sets of warp threads. This was fun–seeing how everyone came up with a different design. Some of us counted threads meticulously. Some of us flew by the seat of our pants. Some measured and sketched and did math. We all anticipated how our color combinations would work.

 

Vicki thinks about stripes

Vicki thinks about stripes

Karen ties on.

Karen ties on.

 

By mid-morning we had begun to tie our new warp threads to the “dummy” warp threads we had set up on our loom before the workshop. Who knew tying 200-300 knots would be enjoyable? We chatted amiably as the day progressed. Most of the hard thinking was over and our fingers were moving busily. By the time we were done for the day we had most of our new warp tied to the old.

We arrived early on Sunday to begin the process of pulling the knots through the reed and the heddles. We had 4 yards of warp on the floor which meant lots of possibility for tangling. One of the advantages of weaving alone is that nobody hears you swearing when things don’t go well. We quickly learned each other’s favorite curse words. They ranged from polite to sailor-mouth. We tugged and sorted and strummed and beamed. But we DIDN’T COMB our tangled warps since Kathrin strictly forbade it. Instead, she taught us her methods for making our warps magically untangle. Since she is a great teacher, all did well and there were no tears.

 

I'm ready to pull the knots through the reed.

I’m ready to pull the knots through the reed.

Linda wrangles her warps.

Linda wrangles her warps.

My warp is spread over the back beam.

My warp is spread over the back beam.

Dee Dee starts to weave.

Dee Dee starts to weave.

 

Knotting the two warps.

Knotting the two warps.

 

Someone's twill gamp

A twill gamp.

By the end of the day we had beamed on, tied our new warps to the front of our looms, and woven enough to get us started.Throughout the weekend Kathrin kept us amused by her jokes, motivated by her vision, inspired by her passion. I’m eager to finish the warp I brought home with me and to explore using color boldly in my future projects.

My weaving is settling in. It's time to take it home and make fabric.

My weaving is settling in. It’s time to take it home and make fabric.

 

 

 

 

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Color Play

I love playing with color. It’s like painting but I use different colored threads instead of paints. My shelves are full of cones of 8/2 Tencel from WEBS. The yarns are my paint and the loom is my palette.

Usually I know what the results will be when I grab a couple of colors to put together. Sometimes, I’m surprised though. Two colors that I thought would blend perfectly may look awful together. Two colors I don’t like at all may look lovely as they blend with each other. That is part of the fun, the play, of weaving.

When I paint a sunset, I blend colors from orange through red to purple and then blue. I can do the same with my threads. In the scarf below I blended a brightly dyed, variegated warp–the vertical threads, with a muted variegated weft–the horizontal threads. Then I chose a to weave a pattern that sometimes showed more of the warp and sometimes more of the weft. When you see the scarf from across the room it has subtle vertical stripes from the warp and a circular pattern made by the weaving.

Photo by Stacey Evans

Color Play Scarf–Full Image (Photo by Stacey Evans)

When you come closer you can see more details of the pattern.

Photo by Stacey Evans

Close (Photo by Stacey Evans)

Looking more closely you can begin to see areas of bright threads and areas of muted threads.

Photo by Stacey Evans

Closer (Photo by Stacey Evans)

 

When you get right up close you begin to see individual threads. Sometime the the muted threads go over 3 or 4 brightly colored threads and sometimes the just go over one thread.

Photo by Stacey Evans

Color Play Scarf–Closest (Photo by Stacey Evans)

So painters aren’t the only ones that get to play around with color. Weavers do too, and boy is it fun.

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SCARVES, SCARVES, SCARVES

 

 It’s that time of year when the days become cooler. Leaving the house in the cool morning air is a bit easier with  a little something extra around your neck.

I’ve been working on the loom to fashion these scarves and now all I have left are the finishing touches. I love sitting in the evenings twisting the fringes on the scarves and sewing my labels on. The last touch is handwashing them and watching the threads relax around each other to create a supple fabric.

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Spring Has Sprung!!!

Hello sunshine. Hello noisy birds. Hello open windows. I think I have woken up after a long winter’s nap. The winter wasn’t even that hard, but I missed the longer days.

While house renovations and visits to parents have kept me from weaving as much, I’ve been teaching a lot. This winter I taught a series on applying block weaves. Once a month for four months we met and I introduced a new block weave. I taught about the weave structure itself and then how to apply it to a profile draft. The students helped each other as they analyzed and applied new techniques. Some were inspired enough to go home and weave projects using the information they learned. What a joy it has been. The last class will be on May 18, when we’ll wrap up what they’ve learned and consider how to continue to incorporate it into their weaving. We may even give birth to a study group.

I love teaching. I know I learn as much as my students. This series was especially fun as I watched the lights go on as students got the hang of profile drafting and block weaves. It’s so exciting to see them grow in their confidence as weavers.

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Fall Has Arrived

Wow, it was a busy weekend at the Fall Fiber Festival. I came as a vendor for my 2nd year after helping a friend for 3 years. The Fall Fiber Festival (hereafter called FFF) is held at Montpelier, James Madison’s home near Orange, Virginia, every year on the first weekend of October. In addition to fiber-ish activities and vendors FFF hosts an amazing 2 day sheep dog trial. Most attendees come looking for craft supplies, yarn and equipment rather than finished items. My work tends to be at the high end of what folks want to spend.

When I set up on Saturday morning I looked around at the other vendors with plenty of merchandise displayed on tables. They had cute props and lots of inventory at a variety of price points. I had a standing vertical rack on which I hung a couple of dozen scarves. I also had a card table (covered with a tablecloth) where I laid out my towels, business cards, a mirror for customers to use when trying on scarves, and a receipt book. When I looked around, my booth seemed pretty sparse and I figured I’d be lucky to sell a couple of scarves during the weekend. That would be okay, I always enjoy the crowd and have fun.

What I had forgotten is that last year I thought the same thing, yet managed to sell most of my scarves. This year was no different. Folks began to arrive. Many stopped in to admire my scarves. I got to talk about what inspires me, what my design process is, how I learned to weave, where I learned to weave, where my studio is, how long I’ve been weaving and answer countless other questions. I had the privilege of sharing my passion by describing how I liken weaving to painting, how I decide to match design and materials to function, how my trip to Maine inspired a series of scarves. I left without most of the scarves and towels I brought, but with a sense of satisfaction and pride in what I do.

What fun I had and what work I now have ahead of me as I prepare for the next show, The Artisans Studio Tour in November. I have some inventory to replace.

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Home Again Home Again

Hubby and I returned home this weekend from a wonderful vacation in Maine. What surprises me most this time is how refreshed and renewed I still feel, even after a few days of reentry. One day, Bill indulged in a nap in the car while I wandered through Halcyon Yarn in Bath. The family is used to me drooling over the yarns, paging through books and considering new weaving tools. This time was no different. I bought a copy of Oelsner’s Handbook of Weaves and the most recent issue of VAV Magazine.

Of course shopping isn’t what I most love about Maine. Besides visiting with my parents, my favorite pastime is kayaking. We spend so much time on the land looking out at the water and it’s such different perspective from the water looking at the land. Bill and I managed to find a seal watching us, as curious about us as we were about him. In shallow areas it’s possible to see through the clear water down to rocks and shells, sea grass and seaweed. The water acts as a medium to magnify what lies beneath.

I think my next series of scarves needs to be based on the water in Maine. It’s not bright blue like the Caribbean, but greenish brown and deep. I think I have just the right shade of tencel for the warp. Stay tuned for pictures.

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Buried Treasure

I love finding buried treasure in my studio. Yesterday I went on a cleaning spree and came across stuff I brought home from my last trip to John C. Campbell Folk School. This past JanuaryI went down to take  a class from Kathrin Weber, owner of Blazing Shuttles. (Yep, I dumped all the stuff in a corner of my studio when I came home and am finally dealing with it. Life ensued.) Kathrin dyes and weaves with beautiful warp and weft. In her class we spent the weekend dying and the week weaving with what we had dyed. I had enough time to dye an extra warp to bring home. I also purchased a few warps that Kathrin had dyed. Yesterday I unearthed all that dyed yarn and got excited again.

It’s funny how I put off tidying up the studio. I dust and vaccuum but put off the picking up. I feel the push to be producing something instead of doing chores. I forget how my mind wanders and I become inspired when I’m puttering. I’m likely to pick out a few new yarn or color combinations to consider. I’ll look through that last issue of Handwoven magazine as I’m putting it away. When I’m done, I’ve come up with new inspirations.

 Now it’s time to take that treasure I found yesterday and weave it into something. What to weave, what to weave? I’ll figure it out.

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Hot, Tired and Inspired

I spent the day touring the Textile Museum and Phillips Collection in D. C. There’s plenty of inspiration at both. The Jasper Johns exhibit at the Phillips Collection showed his work as printmaker. The marks he makes and his mantra “Take and item, do something to it and then do something else” (a rough interpretation) create layers of design. I think I could spend hours looking at some of his later works.

The Textile Museum invited a group of well-known textile artists to take a piece (or two or three) from the museum’s collection as inspiration for new work. The results are fun, intriguing, playful and meditative. The new works are displayed next to the historic pieces, contextualizing contemporary design within the tradition of textile art.

Both exhibits are well worth a trip to D.C., even in hot, muggy July.

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