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I just returned from a couple of months in our condo in Tucson, Arizona. We did a lot of hiking and exploring there, but we didn’t have room for a floor loom. What’s a weaver to do with two months and no loom? In past years I have brought a tapestry loom with me, but decided to go in a different direction this year, so I went out and bought a potholder loom. I’m used to designing using complicated weave structures so restricting myself to a child’s toy seemed a bit of a step down. I expected to be bored until I looked into the world of grown-up potholder weavers. Wow!

It seems potholders are a thing now. A friend even told me she recently saw someone selling $20 potholders at a farmers’ market. I went online and searched for information and found there are plenty of inspiring websites and YouTube videos with clear instructions. After seeing some fun patterns and watching a few videos I decided to try my hand.

I love the color and weave effect called log cabin and decided to try it on my first potholder. It’s created by alternating dark and light loops vertically. Halfway across the loom, you put two lights or two darks next to each other then continue to alternate light and dark loops. You do the same thing with the color order of the horizontal loops as you weave them in. I used orange and yellow loops.

Next I tried another color and weave effect to get a houndstooth pattern. For this pattern you use two light loops, then two dark loops as you put on the vertical loops. Then you weave with the horizontal loops in the same color order–two light then two dark. I used red and pale yellow loops. Like my first potholder, the weaving was just over one, under one.

Next I got adventurous after watching Margie Duffy do some pretty cool stuff on her YouTube site. Here I kind of folded vertical and horizontal loops around each other as I put the loops on. You have to watch her video to get the idea. I used pink and lavender loops in this potholder.

For my fourth potholder I went back to a variation on log cabin. Two quadrants of the potholder give an effect of horizontal stripes. One quadrant shows stripes in pink and orange while the other quadrant shows stripes of light blue and medium blue. The other two quadrants show all four colors.

By this time I was tired of just over one, under one and decided to try weaving 2/2 twill. In 2/2 twill structure, you weave over 2, under 2 for the first pass. The next pass is under 1, over 2 then finish the pass by going under 2, over 2 across. Then you weave under 2, over 2 across. Finally you weave over 1, under 2 then repeat over 2, under 2 across. This potholder is a variation on 2/2 twill so the diagonal lines that you get with twill change directions.

For my sixth potholder I returned to plain weave but played with some color gradations. The color order in the horizontal loops are the same as the color order in the vertical loops.

Finally I went back to some twisting and bending of loops to make this four-way wedge looking weave. It was a challenge but fun to weave. This was another of Margie Duffy’s inspirations. You might be able to see that I put a ring in the potholder’s hanging loop. That was to keep the loop from slipping out. I ended up doing that for all my potholders.

I loved weaving on my potholder loom. It kept my hands busy and my mind engaged until I could get home to my bigger looms. There are a lot of potholder weavers out there and a lot of things to try. If you’re interested, check out the maker of my potholder loom, Harrisville Designs. Their website has even more design ideas. Another resource is Piglet’s Potholders. She has an amazing variety of patterns to try. I’ll be happy to get weaving again on my big looms, but I enjoyed my adventures with potholders and plan on doing more little weaving in the future.

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Begin Again

Winter is a great time to hunker down and learn new skills or brush up on old ones. I’ll be teaching beginning weaving again this winter. I like to call it Weaving Fundamentals, because the class is appropriate for beginners or those who just need to brush up on their weaving skills. It’s always good to review basic techniques in measuring a warp, dressing the loom, weaving and finishing your work. Central Virginia Fiberarts Guild is offering the four-part online class. We’ll meet in January with time between sessions to work on the class material. If you’re interested, you can sign up for all of the sessions or just one or two.

Those who take the entire class will be able to weave a sampler out of wool–the most forgiving of yarns. I prefer Harrisville Design Highland. It’s a nice weight for trying out different weaving patterns and they have a nice range of colors.

Here are some photos of what you might weave.

Broken Twill

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Summer Teaching

I’m happy that I will be teaching at a few venues in the upcoming months. The first will be the MAFA Virtual Mini-Conference on July 8 and 9, 2023. I will teach Profile Drafts For Dummies 9:30-10 a.m. on Saturday, and Meet Summer and Winter 9:30-10 a.m. on Sunday. Both classes will be online lectures with no preparation necessary. They are for weavers of all levels. The classes will be recorded and the recordings available to enrolled students on the LessonFace platform for thirty days after the talks. In addition to all of the class offerings Dawn Hoeg of Stitch Buffalo, and Jane Dunnewold will give talks on Saturday and Sunday at lunchtime. There will also be a Yoga for Crafters session and Fiber Trivia session on Saturday evening, as well as a Sunday Show and Tell. This promises to be a fun learning and socialization time, especially for those who can’t travel to the in-person MAFA conference in June.

For those not familiar, MAFA is the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association. It had been around to support fiber guilds in the Mid-Atlantic area for decades. The association puts on a fiber conference every two years on odd-numbered years. Those who are members of guilds that belong to MAFA are automatically members of MAFA.

I will also be teaching at the in-person MAFA Conference in June and at NEWS in July. I’ll have more on those conferences in another post. In the meantime, I’ll leave photos of the weaving that my students or I have done in Summer and Winter weave structure.

Summer and Winter Sampler on the Loom
Summer and Winter Scarf in Chenille and Tencel
Christmas Trees in Summer and Winter

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Playing With Layers

In July I’ll teach at Convergence 2022, a weaving and fiber arts conference that usually happens every two years. In 2020, the pandemic prevented our meeting so this year it will be four years since our last gathering. One of the classes I’ll teach is on a weave structure called “overshot-patterned double weave.”

Overshot is a weave structure, or group of patterns, beloved by weavers and textile enthusiasts for years. Ancient weavers used overshot to weave circle and curve patterns into lovely coverlets. I’ve woven lots of table runners using overshot, including the one shown below.

Detail of a traditional Mary Ann Ostrander overshot runner.

In overshot-patterned double weave, weavers take the pattern shorthand we use to weave overshot and adapt it to what is called double weave. In double weave there are two layers of cloth woven simultaneously, one under the other. In patterned double weave, the two layers contrast with each other, often in color, and the layers exchange. The structure is different, but the circles and curves that overshot produces still appear in the cloth. Below is a photo of fabric woven by adapting the Mary Ann Ostrander overshot pattern to patterned double weave.

Mary Ann Ostrander as Patterned Double Weave

Students in the class will be able to choose from three different patterns. The patterns are Mary Ann Ostrander; Je Länger, Je Lieber; and Blooming Leaf and you can see them below. You may notice that the back of each piece is the negative of the front. The top two samples were woven in purple and gold tencel thread. The bottom was woven in blue and aqua cotton thread.

Blooming Leaf as Double Weave

I have had fun designing and weaving overshot patterns converted into double weave patterns. I think the students in class will enjoy it, too.

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Something New is Looming Exhibit

On April 26, 2022 a new exhibit opened at the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The exhibit, “Something New is Looming”, will be up until June 18. It features nine contemporary weavers living and/or working in Virginia. I am honored to be one of the nine weavers.

The museum chose work that I have been focusing on during the pandemic. Since all of my shows and in-person classes were canceled for two years, I took time to explore ideas that had been brewing for some time.

During the pandemic I took a look at the leftover yarns and materials I had in my studio. I wanted to create work that incorporated texture as the main design element. In addition to the smooth, fine commercially-spun yarn that I normally work with, I played with unspun wool roving, handspun yarn, and bark. The two texture studies in the exhibit are just a couple of examples of what I wove in my explorations. They highlight how I use the weaving technique called double weave to incorporate bits of texture.

Color is an integral part of my weaving, and I had been purchasing hand-dyed yarn from other textile artists. During COVID I had time to try my hand at dyeing. I invited a friend over and we spent a spring morning outside socializing at an appropriate distance and dyeing thread. I prepared quite a few warps that I could combine with commercially-dyed yarn to weave the scarves that I usually sell in November at the Charlottesville Artisans Studio Tour. The two scarves in this show are just some of the results of that morning of dyeing.

If we weren’t anxious enough about the worldwide experience of COVID, we could add to our worries by reading about the polarization of political discourse in our country as we approached elections in 2020. A group of textile artists reacted by creating The Violet Protest and chose the color violet as a symbol of the combination of blue and red. Textile artists from across the nation created 8” X 8” squares created from equal parts blue and red. These squares were displayed at Phoenix Art Museum in 2020 and then sent to the 117th Congress in November of 2021. We hope to encourage politicians of different backgrounds and political leanings to work together to make the fabric of our nation strong and united. The Violet Protest piece in the quilt museum exhibit is a replica of one of the five squares I sent to The Violet Protest Project. I chose a traditional overshot pattern called American Beauty. We are, indeed, a beautiful nation when we work through our differences by listening respectfully to each other.

Violet Protest: American Beauty

I am thrilled to be included in the Virginia Quilt Museum exhibit. I’m glad I took advantage of the slower pandemic pace to explore new possibilities and I look forward to going over to Harrisonburg to see what other weavers have been up to recently.

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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, 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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