New Weavers

This summer I was lucky to participate in the MidAtlantic Fiber Association biennial conference. Like so many conferences these days, it was presented online. That didn’t diminish the talent or interest of the students. In fact, it seemed that even more than usual were interested in attending and I had to increase the number of students able to attend. There was enough interaction that attendance did need to be limited, but since we weren’t constrained by space, we could accommodate more people than we usually can.

I found that there are many advantages to presenting online. I showed videos and narrated them as I went. When students had a question, I could replay the pertinent part of the video. The general consensus was that students could see much better using that format versus trying to fit a dozen people around one loom during an in-person demonstration. My presentations were recorded and attendees had access to the recorded sessions on the conference platform for a few weeks after the class. During that period, they could come back as many times as they needed and view the lecture and videos. They also had my email and I corresponded with students as they showed me their progress and asked questions after the conference.

The students did not have to haul around their looms. The daunting task of loading and unloading looms at each end of a conference is challenging. New weavers could work in their own spaces with their own equipment. If they needed to take more time than usually allotted in a weekend conference, they could. The students didn’t have to pay for travel, either. Hotel stays, meals and travel expenses can cost more than the conference fees, so online teaching makes learning weaving accessible to more people.

Of course there were some disadvantages to teaching online. I couldn’t see what the students were doing as they wove. Usually I walk around the room and can see problems as they develop. In person, I can catch mistakes in the early stages when they are still correctable. Neither could I read the body language of the students, so I couldn’t see when they were getting frustrated or when they weren’t comprehending the material. Mostly I found, though, that people spoke up and questioned as soon as they felt left behind.

Our new reality means that teaching virtually is here to stay. I’m glad I have had the opportunity to develop online teaching skills and I hope to become better at it. I anticipate that there will soon be another opportunity to teach beginning weaving online.

This is the hemstitching and plain weave at the beginning of the sampler.
It’s fun to weave pockets into the cloth.
There are many ways to play with colors.

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What a Year!!!

Oh my. The last time I posted was 14 months ago. I had just returned from teaching in northwest Washington state and the world was shutting down. We have been through a lot since then. I have had some time to weave, some time to teach via Zoom and some time to try out new ideas. I’ll catch you up a bit.

In the spring of 2020 I decided to try out some dyeing. I measured four different warps (the yarns that go on the loom when I set it up), laid the out on a table, and dyed them. I needed a nice spring day since I would do this outside with lots of ventilation. After dyeing each warp, I needed to wrap the in plastic wrap, steam them in a pot and then let them set for a day. The next day, I unwrapped the warps and rinsed them multiple times to remove the dye. The weft (the yarn that goes horizontally across the warp) would be commercially dyed yarn. By dyeing my own warps, I could change the color of the warp along the length of each scarf. I had fun dying my warps.

In the summer, I read about a project called the Violet Protest, https://www.violetprotest.com. The project seeks to provide physical examples of the beauty of coming together as nation. Participants combined blue and red to create eight-inch square works of textile art. Squares would be exhibited in the Phoenix Art Museum March 10 and September 5, 2021. After the exhibit, 50 squares will be mailed to each US Representative and Senator as a tangible reminder of the need to work together. Ann Morton has organized this public effort and I was happy to weave five squares for the project.

It was back to the backyard for some more dying in the fall, as I tried my hand at woven shibori. I wove some pieces in white with regularly spaced gathering threads. After weaving and cutting the cloth off the loom, I pulled the threads tight across the width of the piece to create tight bundles where the fabric would resist taking dye. I then dyed the pieces, let them dry and then pulled out the gathers. The resulting fabric showed some interesting patterns.

There has been other activity, including Zoom teaching and online learning. For now, though this is a good catch up post.

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Washington Weavers Community

I had the privilege of teaching in Washington state for 8 days in March this year. I found out how to pronounce names like Skagitt and Whatcom. I enjoyed meeting some fascinating weavers. I also experienced the wonderful community of weavers in the Puget Sound area, and of course I saw some lovely scenery.

The Olympic Range from Whidbey Island

I didn’t know that the Skagit Valley is one of the top producers of flower bulbs in the world. The bulbs I order from Holland often originate in the Skagit Valley. While I was there the daffodils were in bloom.

Daffodils in bloom in the Skagit Valley

My first teaching assignment was a lecture to the Whidbey Weavers Guild. During this time of emerging corona virus activity, the guild was well attended. My lecture on Overshot: Past and Present was a warm-up for the three-day workshop I would begin the following day.

We had an eager 15 attendees in the overshot workshop. The work was very creative. I send out instructions for preparing the looms ahead of time. In the workshop, everyone follows the same treadling order, but each weaver chooses their own colors to bring. Sometimes the thickness varies from one weaver to the next, also. The result is that everyone’s artistic decisions and sense of design are apparent. No two set of samples are identical. The students work through a certain set of treadling patterns and go home with a variety of samples. Some of their work is pictured below.

It was fun getting to know this weaving group. They are so supportive of each other and encouraging. I have never taught in an area where I needed to plan my presentation around the ferry schedule so that was a new experience. I said my good-byes at the end of the weekend class, knowing that I’d see some of them the next day.

The day after my overshot workshop, two wonderful ladies took me up to my next assignment: a lecture on Summer and Winter to the Skagit Valley Weavers Guild. Many of the guild members were also members of Whidbey Weavers Guild and of the Whatcom Weavers Guild, who would host me for my next workshop. A couple of my overshot workshop students brought in their samples. They had cut them from the loom and washed them the day before, after the overshot workshop was finished. It was fun to see their completed work and talk about what their next steps would be.

After my lecture I was driven to Lynden, Washington where I would give my last workshop of the trip on early American textiles.

The three-day Early American Textiles workshop was presented at the Jansen Art Center and hosted by the Whatcom Weavers Guild. Nine students wove round robin style on ten different looms. Each loom had been warped by one of the students in a traditional weaving pattern using thread similar to what early American weavers would have used. Throughout the workshop we stopped to talk about production practices within the US and Europe during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. One of the students brought in a lovely coverlet she had found in a thrift store. Another shared stories of her aunt and uncle who were weavers. My students were very knowledgeable and, as usual, I learned as much from them as they did from me.

The students did lovely work. On the last day, we cut the samples from the loom and secured the edges of each student’s work. Then we cut the samples apart so the students could take them home and wash them. One of the students sent photos of her work after washing.

The Whatcom group was a tight-knit community of weavers, too. Many have known each other for years and they constantly share ideas and encouragement. The Jansen Art Center provides studio space for their collection of looms as well as library and meeting space. The staff at the Jansen Center was very welcoming and the cafe served some dynamite lunches–plus afternoon lattes to keep us all going.

I hope I get a chance to visit the area again. I wish everyone had such a nurturing weaving community. We all need connections and we benefit from seeing each others work. I’ll leave with a couple of photos from the ferry to Whidbey Island from Mukilteo.

On the way to Whidbey Island
The view from the ferry
The returning ferry passes

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Overshot Workshop at Yadkin Valley Fiber Center

On January 10-12, 2020 I taught an overshot workshop at Yadkin Valley Fiber Center to a delightful group of students. They came prepared with looms warped and questions ready. We had a full two and a half days of weaving, talking, learning and sharing. Students started with the same threading pattern and worked their way through various treadling variations. Each made their own decisions regarding color and thickness of the weft. Along the way we talked about the theory of overshot, how to design overshot and what life must have been like for the weavers who came before us.

For new or non-weavers, overshot is type of weave structure that creates blocks of pattern when some threads skip, or shoot, over the cloth. The structure was used in making coverlets. Old time weavers used cotton (or linen) thread crossed with wool thread. The resulting cloth was lovely and warm. We used cotton thread and some wool thread in class.

One student had mistakenly used warp twice as thick as what was called for so her samples were extra large.

Giant Full Sampler
One student mistakenly used warp twice as thick as what was called for. The results were spectacular (after we re-sleyed the warp).

It is always fun to see how each student’s work is unique, even though all start with the same instructions. That is what makes handwoven creations works of art. You can see it in the photos below.

We didn’t just weave traditional overshot. We added some other structures that are possible to weave on an overshot threading, like the flame point variation shown in the above pictures. We also wove honeycomb.

Green and Red Honeycomb
This is a close up of one student’s honeycomb treadling.
Blue and White Honeycomb
Here’s another example of honeycomb treadling.

The students labeled their work as they went. When they went home, they cut the sampler off the loom and washed it. Everything changes with washing. The warp and weft threads relax and settle around each other. Some cloth that looks two dimensional on the loom becomes more three dimensional after it is washed and dried.

I’m proud of the work everyone put into the class. Everybody helped each other, sharing tips, supplies and extra yarn. Thanks to Leslie at the fiber center for wonderful hospitality in her new surroundings. It was a great place to meet. I came home from the class inspired by my students and ready to try some new ideas of my own.

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November Tradition

This has been a busy year as I have had plenty of opportunities to teach. I still love the joy of creating new work, though, and have been able to get in some productive time at the loom. November 9th and 10th was the weekend of the annual Artisans Studio Tour here in Charlottesville. This year’s tour was well attended. Below you can see what is left from my weekend sales. Prices range from $75 to $200 depending on the piece.

I’ll continue to weave and prepare for teaching this month, but I’ll also take some time with family and friends to give thanks for my many blessings.

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Huck and Friends

On the weekend of Sept. 21 and 22 I’ll teach a workshop for Central Virginia Fiberarts Guild in Albemarle County. We’ll explore huck lace, spot huck and many variations of the huck structure. We’ll also try some non-huck patterns you can weave using the same threading. It’s always fun to weave with others. Weavers spend a lot of time with just themselves and their looms. When we weave with a group, we bounce ideas off of each other, coming up with lots of “what-if” ideas. It is always inspiring. Here is a sampling of just a few weaves we’ll explore.

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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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