Sweet

Things have been crazy lately – meetings, working (yes, working), historical society stuff, goats, dogs, house, garden, blah, blah, blah.  I got a message that Lenny was going to be working on the looms with a couple of mechanically minded guys.  The timing was poor but I made it work and was oh so happy that I did.

Any opportunity to spend time with Lenny and the looms is something to be cherished in my opinion.  It’s the closest I can get to my grandfather who’s been gone since 1976.  Lenny is a slight, flirty little man in his 90’s who loves, loves, loves the Crompton & Knowles W3 power looms.  They have been his life.  The look of delight on his face when he is running one is magical to me.

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This event (and it is one to me) also afforded me the opportunity to spend time not only with Peggy but two men who had as high an interest in these machines as I do.  One is a machinist, the other runs the vintage cards at a spinnery in VT.

Mechanical ability is an art in itself and I soaked in that energy like a very dry sponge.  It wasn’t until I looked at the photos/videos that I really began to see mechanics as artists.  The enthusiasm in the room was palpable.  The beauty of this machinery is with a little study they are understandable and magical to watch.  Lenny knows them like they are a part of his being, the others were meeting them for the second time.  They’d already spent time with Lenny and the looms, walked away and had to return – the machine’s magic is seeping into their souls (insert an evil laugh here).  When one of them told me they could watch them run all day I knew he was hooked.  The other, while trying to rig a part that would work said, “I look at the part and think ‘how can I make this better'”.  No sweeter words. . .

Now it has been a while since I’ve had that experience.  It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. Peggy brought it all together, fiber, weaving, machinery. Yesterday was a nourishing experience and I realize that being  around fellow creatives feeds me.    I slept well, I woke up calmer, I feel the need to sit at the loom and make something.  I realize how important it is to find what does that for me and to fit that into my life.  Everyone should do just one thing that makes them extraordinarily happy, or causes their minds to stretch in the effort to learn and understand something.  A workout for your brain.  It makes everything else just a little bit easier.

WFH

When I started working with Peggy the only compensation I asked for was blankets to give for Christmas.  Quite honestly, being there, observing and helping in small ways was really compensation enough.

In one of my earliest posts about Bedfellows Blankets – It’s Always Something – I talked about the problems of badly spun yarn.  There were two jobs that were being woven for the same person with the same bad yarn.  One warp was finished and shipped.  The other has seen an off again on again relationship with the loom over the past 9 months.  Yes, that warp and I have been in close contact since I started going there.  It’s now affectionately referred to as the WFH (warp from hell).  Two hundred yards that have slowly and painfully made their way into cloth.

The pattern for the original job was a twill but had to be woven with double threads to give it more strength.  A little over 150 yards were woven, repaired and brought to the finisher before making its way to the customer.

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There were hours of mending broken threads.  Finally during the summer, with the cost overruns the customer cut their losses and there we sat with 50 yards or so still on the beam.  It sat there for a while.

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Peggy rethreaded it a number of different ways and finally began weaving a few throws when time permitted.  Warp threads still broke but different yarns for weft helped a little.

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It was still an exercise in frustration.  But . . . the finished throws were quite beautiful.  I decided these were the ones I wanted for gifts.  I brought a couple home – one herringbone and one plaited twill and wrapped them for Christmas.   I asked if I got some yarn for weft could we weave one for me.  I got a resounding  “Are you sure?”

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I got some lovely Harrisville Highland which proceeded to cause no end of problems because the weight of the yarn was just a little too much for the bobbin winder.  The temps were subzero outdoors and around 55 in the weave room.  Antique, oil-filled machines do not like cold temperatures so the process was slow.  Finally we were off and running.

Ahhh, I love that sound.  If you turn the sound up as high as it goes that’s what it sounds like with your ear protection on.  I’m not sure why my grandfather wasn’t deaf.

Well, we were stopping every 10 to 15 picks as usual.  The whole process was pretty painful.  Photographing is was – challenging.  During that little video two threads broke that I didn’t see on either side of the frame.  Yup, now I was just thinking about the repairs.

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Knotting the fringe was the final job before wet finishing – into the washer, cold water gentle, line dry.

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The finished throw is truly wonderful.  The yarn fulled as I expected making a soft, thick blanket.  The fringe looks almost like raw wool ( it almost is) because it had to little twist in it.  I probably should trim it and will eventually but I’m just enjoying it for now.

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These past months have given me a new respect for artists who create these treasures.  People will buy them and love them but will never know what went into their making.  The time, the care and often  frustration.

Peggy wove 3 more throws the other day while I was there.  One went pretty well, the other two not so much.  There’s probably another 20 yards on the warp and I asked her when she was going to be done with it – just cut it off.  She told me she was going to continue to work on it.  She did it to honor the wool.  So with time and patience that’s what she’s doing and for me that’s the most important lesson of all.

If you’re interested in one of these throws contact Bedfellows Blankets and ask about the WFH.

 

Divine Intervention

W3 Loom

It all started with a little black book filled with cloth samples and drafts – my grandfather’s sample book.  I’ve been moving it with me since his death in 1976. None of it made any sense to me.

Four years ago a highschool friend posted on Facebook that she had a Harrisville loom for sale.  I had always wanted to learn and it seemed like the right opportunity.  I then went about looking for a weaving teacher that taught on that particular loom.  As luck would have it there was one in a town that was relatively close.  My first visit to the weaving group on Tuesday nights I brought that little black book and told Pam, my teacher, that I wanted to learn to weave so I would understand the book.  She told me that wouldn’t be a problem and someday I might be able to weave my way through the drafts in the book.

I read an article recently about genetic memory.  The basic principle is we carry the ability to do complex tasks around in our dna, handed down from generation to generation.  I’m not sure about people who are born savants but I do know that weaving felt like something I already knew and understood on a visceral level.  It was something that was already there, it just needed to be unlocked.

Now I love to weaving but if I’m honest it’s really about the looms. I love troubleshooting problems.  Figure out how one works and make it work better.  Since I started weaving I have also amassed quite the collection of looms.  All but one are in working order and I use most of them, one is a restoration project without room to put it so it waits.

During this whole weaving learning experience I started to write about it, mostly to spark conversations with my dad about the mills my family members had all worked in.  My fascination for the machinery of the mill grew.  He would explain to me how they worked with vivid descriptions.  If I found a video of a power-loom in action he would point out the things he was trying to describe.  For me it was the sound of the loom running that drew me in.  I have a vivid memory of that sound from early childhood when I would be taken to my grandfather’s mill.  It was loud and amazing.

Well dad is gone and so are the stories and I needed something to keep it alive for me.  Pam asked me to go to a weaver’s guild meeting the week after my father died because Peggy Hart was going to be giving a talk.  I went, for many different reasons.  One – because Pam asked me to. Two – hoping to hear the stories. Three – to meet Peggy, someone my father had repeatedly said to meet because she had the looms.

I met her there, called her the following week and visited her mill a few days later (it’s very close to home, who knew?).  I was there for a tour really and it turned into an apprenticeship.  She needs help, I want to learn to run the machines.

This morning I spent 3 hours or so learning to wind bobbins, putting them into the loom, repairing broken threads and listening to it run.  I can only describe that sound to me as being wrapped in a warm hug.

Timing is everything.  I had called Peggy over a year ago to meet her and see her mill because my father was badgering me to do it.  For one reason or another it never happened.  As it turns out I would never have had the time to give to this then.  Peggy lost her weaving assistant recently (he’s 90) and has more jobs ahead of her than usual.  As I was leaving today we were talking about scheduling and she said, “I think you have come into my life at the perfect time.” My reply, “For me as well.” It feels like divine intervention.

Krokgragd Finished

141118 Krokbragd (2)To date this project took me the longest to complete.  I started it the first week in August and took it off of the loom last week.  It’s stunning and the photographs do not do it justice, you have to feel it.  Wool, there’s nothing quite like it.

Initially I did twisted fringe for a finish and HATED it.  So I took it all out and got out my Weaver’s Companion – almost on the last page they had directions for a woven edge and I knew this was it.  Very easy to do and it’s clean.  I thought the geometry of the piece called for a clean edge and it also tightened everything up at the beginning and end.

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As I probably have posted this color combination came as somewhat of a surprise.  I was using yarn that I had.  When I got to the center I found two other colors in the weave studio I thought would work and kept weaving on.

I love that moment when you cut your warp threads at the end of a project and release the breast beam – the project rolls off and you get your first look at the project as a whole.  I was so please with this.

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It’s finished dimension is 24″x 36″.  From every angle it looks wonderful.  I have to tell you that I don’t think this will be spending any time on the floor.  I’ll keep moving it around until it finds its home.  This is one project that won’t be given away.

 

Weaving Wednesday – More Krokbragd

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Today I hit the halfway point in my little weaving project.  A friend’s comment,”Simple to warp, forever to weave” was right on target with this one.

To make my life a little easier I numbered the three shuttles that I am using to correspond with the treadles I use while weaving. Krokbragd, done on three shafts, is threaded 3,2,1,2,3.  The tie ups are 1-2, 2-3, 1-3.  One pick really consists of throwing all three of the shuttles in sequence – you just treadle 1-2-3 over and over again.  This allows each of the warp threads to be covered by the weft.  It is very densely packed, requires a heavy beat and takes forever to do quite honestly.

I’m using Harrisville Shetland for the weft of this mat and have to go through the treadling sequence 32 times to make the 1 1/2 inches for each color sequence.  Next time I will use a heavier wool but this has woven up beautifully.  I thought I’d be crazy with boredom going from overshot to this but I have to tell you this whole process is fascinating and ripe with possibilities.  As usual I’m planning out the next project while weaving this one.

Handwoven magazine has a number of issues over the years with krokbragd projects.  This mat is one of them.  I like to have good instructions when I learn a new structure.  Usually by the time I’m finished with it I have enough of an understanding to begin to run with it.  Sampling always seems to come second with me.

A YouTube video called Talking Threads 17 Krokbragd explains the whole process really well for those of you who are really interested in this structure.  I found it really helpful.

More Krokbragd

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The problem with learning a new structure is my unbridled enthusiasm.  It’s a problem because I just jump in and figure things out as I go.  This can be good but at times it’s not so good.

140828 Krokbragd (3)The mat that I’m weaving comes from an older weaving magazine.  Although I had spent a couple of weeks reading up on the process I neglected to actually read the instructions of the project I was weaving.  I had yarn, in various colors, I figured I was good.  I figured I’d just wing it, decide as I was going along.  Uhm, yeah.  That worked until I realized – four colors in – that some of them repeated and I was going to have to make it all work when I got to the center and worked my way back through the color scheme.  I thought there were 9 colors in the pattern but it turns out there are only 6.  What I had with me for yarn was not going to work.

I spent some time during my last session going through the yarn available.  I’m fortunate that the last two colors don’t really require a lot of yardage so I picked two skeins from Pam’s stash.

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I’m pretty excited about how I envision it looking at this point.  It also showed me how much planning has to go into the weaving of these Scandinavian treasures.  I didn’t plan at all and now realize that maybe I should have.  I guess that’s what class is all about for me, learning what the important things are for each particular structure and dreaming about the possibilities.

Weaving Wednesday – Krokbragd

140819 Krokbragd

I started weaving camp last week.  This is a short course for the month of August on a technique of my choice (although it was really with the help of my instructor Pam that the decision was made).  We decided to do a rug technique since it is something new to me.  This will be a 24″x 36″mat done in  Krokbragd, a Norwegian rug weaving techniques known for its color and design.

I don’t know what my problem was the past week but getting this project warped has been an exercise in frustration.  It’s 4 doubled epi, so it should have been quick.  Between threading mistakes and a heck of a time sleying the reed (missed all kinds of threads, did it over TWICE) it took me about 8 hours to get to the point of throwing a shuttle.  8 hours – to wind and warp – there must be something wrong with my brain that doesn’t allow projects to happen in August.

Finally, towards the end of class yesterday I began to weave.  I’m using Harrisville Shetland yard so it doesn’t work up as fast as it would with a thicker yarn but oh, is it beautiful.  I chose Shetland because of the colors that were available to me (and I had a lot of it).  I have to say I’m very excited about the possibilities in color and pattern for this.

Another woman in my class woven a runner over the summer and brought it in last week for me to photograph.  It is stunning.

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She started out with a couple of muted tones and then took off with color.  It’s so much fun to look at and so exciting to think this is something I can do that isn’t terribly complicated.

I love it when I’m learning a new structure.  The drive home from class is always filled with thoughts of how to use this new-found technique.  I’m thinking of color combinations and patterns the whole way.  I can’t wait to get back into the studio with a serious block of time devoted to weaving.  Let the magic begin.

Hand Made

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Yesterday the weather wasn’t conducive to gardening, or much of anything outdoors.  Although there was plenty to do in the house (like vacuuming) I decided to finish up the project on the loom.

This is a 72″ runner with a linen warp and wool weft.  I made it for a friend of mine who has been one of my weaving cheerleaders since the beginning.  She has an older home and her love of blue and white traditional overshot drove the project.  I told her last year that I would make her something and that’s what lead me to the linen warp.  It was an experience.

These are my favorite projects, the ones I make for particular people.  It’s a different kind of effort.  As I said before it’s really the process not the project. Once it was off of the loom, fringed and wet finished I photographed it and then folded it and got it ready for presentation.   The gifting is my favorite part.

The end of last year I was weaving some beautiful twill towels with the intention of gifting one of them to one of my biggest cheerleaders.  The intent was Christmas as he wondered how he could get on my Christmas list.  Well, as usual, life got in the way and they weren’t ready by Christmas, or by January.  His health took a turn for the worse after the holidays and in my heart I knew this was the end.  It all but stopped my progress on that project.  It came to a screeching halt actually.  He passed away in March and with that I had to change my entire mindset on those towels.  I did finish them and gifted them to my oldest daughter – they were her colors.  In weaving the last of the warp though he was constantly on my mind.

I don’t know how to explain what happened when he died honestly.  The week after his death I was a total mess, trying to find meaning in what had transpired surrounding it.  After his memorial service I was at total peace.  Not just peace with his passing, peace with everything.  It was as though the moment he died he took all of my lifetime crap with him when he left.  I just had to be quiet enough to see it.  Now I always knew we had a connection and over the past year or two he was more than ready to lend an empathetic ear but this was unexpected.  There is no other explanation, the calm with my life came when he left.  Thank you.

The loss of a dear friend, in the middle of a project like that gives urgency to finishing things when they are made directly for someone.  I really want this to go to its intended home.  Although I have never seen her table I imagine it laying there and the pleasure it will give to its recipient.

Last year, after winning a blue ribbon on an overshot throw at the Eastern States Exposition, Paul wrote on my post about it.  “Hands made this. Hands were used by a person. A person made this. It holds and conveys the sense and feel of those hands and the spirit of that person. Yes, it is beautiful.”  There are people who intrinsically understand this about things that are hand-made.  Maybe it comes from making art of your own because I know many people who don’t get it.

I will continue to weave and create beautiful things and giving many of them away.  I think a little piece of my soul goes with them most of the time and I gift to those that can see it.

Lomogram_2014-07-31_03-28-54-PMThe bonus on most weaving projects is I always warp a little longer than required so I can play at the end.  The photo above is a small table runner I made in a variation of the pattern and that one stays on my table.

 

 

Weaving Wednesday – April Fools

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Last night’s weaving class was one disaster after another it seemed.

My towels were tracking funny in the loom, the more I wove the worse it got until the weft had taken on a decidedly diagonal line.  I asked Pam if I should take off the toweling and tie the warp back on but we started out trying to see if we could just start over again and make it straight.  We checked all of the mechanics of the loom, tightened every screw, nut and bolt.   A few picks into it the problem was still there and it became obvious that the tension was more loose on one side than the other.  I had to unravel a good amount of weaving to save the warp length.  Wasn’t as bad as it sounds, once I got going it was almost relaxing.

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As I’m unravelling my mess, Jan, to my left is having the exact same problem.  It was hard to believe that both of us, doing completely different projects had the same thing going on.  It was true.  After tightening up her loom and measuring and remeasuring to see if it could be anything else she had to unravel her project as well.

As we were rebeaming my warp we found a problem with the brakes on the loom that might have been a factor in my whole fiasco so we had to pay attention to that before I continued.  All in all a rather stressful night for Pam.

While we were talking about warp tension she told me I should post a few photos of another project that has turned into what I would consider a nightmare.  A class member decided she wanted to weave yardage for a jacket out of chenille.  The pattern is lovely and they thought they had beamed her warp perfectly until she began weaving.

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In the process, while moving the warp forward, all hell has broken loose with her warp. This may be the nature of chenille since none of us has ever woven anything wider than 10 inches.

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The only way to salvage this was to use lease sticks in the warp while weaving.  This holds the tension evenly (although I couldn’t tell you how at the moment).

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Every time the lease sticks get to the heddles everything behind it has to be untangled as the sticks are pulled back.

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I’ll be honest with you – this might just be the project I would walk away from.  Or it might have turned into yardage for a vest instead of a jacket.

All in all last night was the first night I might have thought for a second we were the biggest April fools of all.

A Weaving Weekend

131020 Green Crosss

Although it wasn’t totally planned I spent most of the weekend doing something related to weaving (in between cooking, cleaning and loads of laundry).  I make the mundane more pleasurable by rewarding myself with loom time.  I finished the blue and white and moved onto a green variegated version of the Maltese Cross and discovered something in the process.  Being a newby to this craft I didn’t realize what a HUGE difference yarn would make in how the pattern looked.  (Apparently I’m paying too much attention to other things while I’m throwing a shuttle).  The last two throws I have woven in this pattern I used Bartlettyarn Maine Wool for the weft with a warp of Jaggerspun Maine Line 2/8 wool.  I love the feel of the wool when it’s been fulled and finished, it’s a warm, heavy blanket but . . . the crosses in the pattern were more elongated than I had thought they would be.  When I started weaving the green version of this I was using Noro Boku, a wool/silk blend.  Both of these yarns are worsted weight but one is thicker than the other and the less hefty of the two brought the pattern into what I had expected.  Yes, I continue to weave with the variegated yarn even though the judge didn’t like it at the Big E.

Sunday I spent a good part of my afternoon at the weaving studio helping Pam put together a new Harrisville 36″ 8 Shaft, 10 Treadle Loom. The latest addition arrived in two boxes and reminded me of something I might have picked up at IKEA.

131020 (1)Parts, parts, parts, tools, instructions.

131020 (2)More parts.

131020 (3)Okay, I’ve built IKEA before – Harrisville should get some advice from them on their instructions.

131020 (4)Pam’s attaching the treadles.

131020 (5)You have to be fairly flexible to get this job done ( at least be able to get up off of the floor).

131020 (6)About 3 hours later here she is ready to go – well, with four shafts ready to go.  After 3 hours we were fried, so opted to add the other four later.

131020 (7)Set in the new spot with the other looms.

This was a great experience.  I now feel as if anything that happens to my loom I will be totally prepared to repair.  The maple that the loom is made out of is quite beautiful.  I also learned why Pam asked me for help – it is virtually impossible to put this together without an extra set of hands. I also think it was an extension of my weaving education.