Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coaching Weaving

Having Syne come to the studio meant I spent some time analyzing what I do in order to try and come up with the language needed to convey the skills being shown.

You can read about Syne's perspective here: http://3.ly/B3x

One of the things that new weavers don't understand right away is that the relationship between the weaver, the loom and the materials being woven is a three way conversation.

For example, the warp I wove today was a bit of a challenge.

(I apologize if the picture isn't in focus - I'm still getting used to my new glasses!)

This weaving is not my best work. The yarn is a wool/silk blend, very softly spun and therefore a lot more elastic than what I'm used to. Given that elasticity, it should have been set at 12 epi not the 10 I chose, especially given the weft that was used.

But this is a sample warp, and these are things I needed to learn about the qualities of the yarn in order to plan a 'real' project.

(What I actually wanted to use was for weft was wool but the only yarn I had on hand that was the right colour was a silk. The silk was a bit too fine and very slippery, so my beating is not as consistent as I wouild like. )

One of the reasons I wanted Syne to weave on the four shaft loom was to evaluate the physical skills she came to me with already. After giving her time to get used to the strange (to her) loom, I video taped her while she wove. We were then able to look at what she was doing and tweak her physical movements.

I then video taped her again after she had time to incorporate the changes and reviewed her movements so that she could again see what she was doing. After that we worked on how to figure out the choreography of the various treadlings with suggetions for how I remember the sequences.

Unlearning muscle memory in order to learn new muscle memory (changing treadling sequences) is also a skill. We have to put our minds to the task of over riding what we have learned in order to learn the new information.

Some people are more open to being able to do this than others. Dancers, for example, are constantly learning new dances - new choreography - new step sequences. Not so different from weavers, really.

After finishing the tea towel warp and feeling comfortable with the loom and that particular warp, I radically changed gears on Syne and we set the loom up with a very open weave. The yarn was a silk boucle warp and weft, and the set was 10 epi. The challenge was to control the beat and create a gauze fabric.

When we weave we must do that in co-operation with the equipment and the yarn we are using. We must be open to feedback from both so that we can choose the manner of how we use them in order to create the quality of cloth we desire. Learning the limits of the equipment and the yarn is an important step in becoming a proficient weaver.

After weaving with the Silken Twist (available from Yarns Plus http://yarnsplus.com) I now have a much better understanding of how it behaves e.g. it stretches under tension so I have to weave longer in the loom in order to get the woven length required, the set to use and which yarns I would like to combine with it. The fact that this particular cloth isn't my best work doesn't mean that it isn't perfectly acceptable as it is. But I now have the information I need to continue on to create a fabric that is good, instead of just acceptable.

And therein lies the on-going challenge, and what keeps me fascinated with weaving.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scarf #3

This morning I started weaving the third and last scarf on this warp, and wish I'd gone with the teal sooner!

Oh well.

The warp is off the loom, and now I'm wanting to work on something else - something other than the AVL - and not sure what to tackle. Maybe knitting on the sample shawl would be good?

I've got massage and doctor tomorrow afternoon - I could leave winding the next warp for the Fanny for Karena to do......... :)

Time for dinner anyway - think I'll make soup with the bits and leftovers in the fridge and clean that out.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Too Much Quiet

The house seemed awfully empty and terribly quiet once our 'playmates' had left and I just didn't feel up to fighting with the fly shuttle box on the AVL.

So, consulting the handy job list, I was reminded that I needed to weave some samples of the yarn I will be offering for sale (some of it is already listed in my Art Fire store http://LauraFry.artfire.com)

The skeins of painted rayon slub have about 800 yards per skein - too much for a warp for one scarf, not enough for two. However I also have some painted Tencel from Yarns Plus in the right colour, so I coned off a skein of each and wound a 7 meter long warp using the two yarns together. A 7 meter long warp should easily give me 3 scarves.

Since this was for sample scarves I wasn't too fussed about exactly how wide the warp would be and simply kept winding until I ran out of yarn - 9 inches plus 4 ends wide.

The warp is set at 24 epi and for the first scarf I'm using Bambu 7 for weft.

The threading was a straight twill with Wall of Troy every once in a while. I'm not really sure why so many people say you must use only plain weave with variegated yarns. I think fancy twills look quite nice, too. :)

Not sure what else I'll use for weft for the other two scarves. I'm toying with trying a 1450 rayon chenille for one as I've several shades of blue that would probably look nice, too. If I use rayon chenille, I will use plain weave, though. Will see where the Muse leads me.

Tomorrow is lace - I'll let my Lace Ladies know the article in WeaveZine is published as they beta tested the pricking for it. :) http://www.weavezine.com

Currently reading The Devil's Disciples by Susanna Gregory

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cloth Materializing

Got started weaving last night after fixing a threading error, and a tie-up error. It's taking a while to get used to the rhythm - two picks of foundation, one pick of pattern. It feels unbalanced and erratic, which is only normal given the hop, hop, skip nature of throwing the two shuttles. :)

With such a heavy concentration of chenille - threads in both warp and weft - I opted for the cheese grater beam. This warp is 20 yards long, so I want the auto cloth advance to work properly!

This first afghan has some quality issues - i.e. the tie up error and loops at the selvedge - but since this warp was an experiment - and a very 'full size sample' I'll probably give the first one to my mom. The blue is less grey in life than in the photo, and should go with her sofa. Besides which, she's my mom and will forgive a few oopsies. :D

I'll design a more adverturous pattern for the next one now that I've figured out how the tie up works. The threading I used was not the traditional sequence, but threaded on a point progression over 16 shafts. If anyone is interested in the draft, I can post to Weavolution.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Tricky Bit

It's beginning to come back to me - how much extra work and how fiddly working with two warp layers is. :)

The above photo shows the first warp all beamed, and the second (upper) warp nearly beamed. I put plastic over the bottom warp beam just to make sure that nothing gets caught on the rakes of the lower beam.

Once both warps are beamed, I start by positioning the lower warp ready for threading. All the bouts are taped to a long stick which then gets taped to the loom just behind the shafts at the bottom with sufficient slack for easy threading. This is my 'normal' position for threading a warp.

Then all the bouts for the upper warp are transferred onto another long stick after putting the plastic back over the bottom beam and the bottom warp.

The second (upper) warp is then suspended from long string loops attached to the top of the loom frame.

I've left the upper stick angled so you can see the two warps, one above the other.

Then I started threading. And remembered another 'trick' about working with two layers of warp.

Do NOT wrap the bouts or any part of any bout around either the other layer or other ends in the same bout!

I don't know if you can see it in this photo, but I keep the tape holding the bottom ends taped to the bottom of the shaft while the tape holding ends from the upper ends is taped to the top of the shafts.

This requires a certain amount of 'contortion' on my part, but helps to remind me not to get the ends wrapped around each other.

I'd hoped to be able to thread several ends at a time as is my usual approach to threading, but in the end decided that it was going to be a lot faster in the long run to thread one fat thread, then two skinny ones, tie them in a slip knot, then do the next three ends. Slower by the end, faster by the project.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sectional Beaming

I'm setting up the AVL for an experimental warp for Diversified Plain Weave.

With DPW, you need two different warp threads - two very fine ends to every thick end. Since I'm beaming a 20 yard long warp, and the fine threads are very fine compared to the thick ones, it's much more sensible to beam them separately.

When I'm doing two warps, I usually beam the bottom warp first, then the top one.

My beams have 1" sections. There are times when I wish I had 2" sections in order to halve the time required to beam, but generally, 1" makes more sense for me.

I like to work with fine threads, and a 2" section would mean twice as many yarn packages, so twice as much spool winding (if I'm using spools) or buying twice as many tubes (which can get to be expensive).

My loom is old. It doesn't have a directional roller for the bottom beam - the warp just comes off the top of the actual beam, straight through the heddles to the front of the loom.

One of the things required before I could beam this warp was have Karena make a bunch more leader strings. :}

I'm about 2/3's done the fine warp, and hope to finish beaming and start threading tomorrow.

On-line Interview


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Who's That Tapping?

So I had a little oopsie while beaming the tea towel warp. Well, more than one, but I'll only discuss one here!

One of the ends snagged on the S hook holding the water jug and broke about 2 yards from the end. Then I couldn't find the other end - no doubt buried in the beam - so I just let it be until after the warp was beamed and I started threading. The missing end was easy to find. I'd wound two ends (actually Karena wound this warp) so it was obvious where the missing end was when there was only one end instead of two in the cross.

Since I'm using the same thread as the weft for hems I just wound a full bobbin, threaded it where it should be, then after tying on suspended the bobbin from the warping valet. :) The repair end goes under the back beam - you can just see it at the back of the loom heading up toward the valet.

When the bobbin is hanging low enough it means that from time to time I feel it tapping on my shoulder. But it also means I don't have to get up to let more thread off as the warp is advancing. When the original end is long enough, I'll tie it back into the weaving and remove the bobbin, which can be used as weft for the hems.

What can I say? I'm lazy. :)

Just finished reading Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton and started The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Little Pockets

One of the challenges in getting my studio organized was trying to figure out what to do with all the little stuff that one uses on a daily/weekly basis. One wants it close to hand, but out of the way.

A friend gave me this shoe storage bag for Christmas one year. It's been great for storing those every day things, and some of the weird stuff that I don't know where to put but need to put 'away' somewhere.

As you can see, I could use a dozen more pockets, but so far I've been living with the vertical clutter in preference to the horizontal clutter these items would create on my work space. :)

You can also see my other secret weapon in terms of organization. Post-It Notes. Lots and lots of Post-It Notes. In many colours and shapes. Sometimes I use the colours for different tasks. Sometimes I just grab the first pad of them that comes to hand!

I write down scratch notes for warps - Length, Width, EPI - and toss them into the box with the wound warp so I don't forget what I did. Sometimes a wound warp will languish for months (nay, years!) before I finally get to weaving it. :( Sometimes what seemed like A Good Idea At The Time doesn't seem like such a great idea later, so that box may get shoved onto a shelf somewhere until I can come up with A Better Idea. :}

Progress on The Job List continues, and as is wont to do, grows in about equal proportion to my crossing things off. :} Life. Gotta love it. :D

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Getting A Grip on Work

Job List

Weave chenille warps
Wind Bamboo Rain
Wind Silk Boucle
Wind tea towel warp
Review S&W
Review DPW
Weave shawl warps
Hem afghans
Hem tea towels
Wet finish tea towels (one load – 24 towels)
Hem tea towels (as above)
Dye Skeins
Knit sample of Bamboo Rain
Knit Bamboo Rain shawl

I am a big fan of job lists. Lists keep my head screwed on straight and my feet firmly on the straight and narrow headed toward my goals.

The bad news is that my job lists look a lot like the above. The big problem is that several, if not most of the above jobs cannot be completed in a week, never mind a day.

And so I get discouraged and start feeling overwhelmed because I begin to feel as though I'm not accomplishing anything, even when I am.

So I re-thought my approach to job lists this weekend, and I've re-formatted how I make the list up.

Now instead of saying "weave chenille warps" I follow that with:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

That's how many warps I want to do before company comes on the 22nd. As I weave each warp, I can cross off the last number so that I can see the count coming down. :)

Since I've been managing one warp a day, I should be able to ace getting those 7 warps woven. After deciding to just do one warp a day to give myself time to get other stuff accomplished, I'm also hoping to cone off the 9 cones of Bamboo Rain in order to get that box up and off of the floor next to the small loom. Where I'll put the skeins until I can dye them I'm not quite sure yet. My storage space is crammed to the rafters already and I need to move all the boxes I've been saving to re-use for shipping somewhere and the storage area seems the most logical place.

But I did ship out two boxes of inventory last week so there are two small shelves empty so perhaps I can get some things onto those small shelves.

I really need to clear out some room - with two of us in the studio, it's going to be cramped quarters unless I deal with the clutter. Long past due, really.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Encouraging a Healthy Heart

Given that my heart has not had an 'attack' in spite of a rather large 70-90% blockage in a major artery, I can only assume that it's a good sturdy muscle. And given that I have further blockages, one of which - at 60% - is not treatable via angio-plasty due to it's position, let's just say that I am highly motivated to encourage my good sturdy heart to stay healthy. :)

As a non-smoker, non-drinker, reasonably active person who eats as healthy a diet as possible given a long list of food allergies, I found myself with few options in terms of lifestyle changes. Apart from adding more fibre and reducing the quantity of meat I eat, that was about it.

Genetics trump lifestyle.

After my diagnosis of food allergies and subsequent Calcium Deficiency Syndrome a number of years ago, I have done a fair amount of reading into nutrition. Since my diet is so restricted, my best option is to take handfuls of nutritional supplements to make sure I'm getting all the good fuel I need to stay as healthy as I can be.

It was with interest that I heard about a test called Digital Pulse Analysis which checks the health of a person's cardio-vascular system. The company also sells a nutritional supplement designed to encourage a healthy c-v system.

Last Wednesday I went to be tested. After discussing the previous 15 months and explaining what the DPA machine was all about, plus other nutritional approaches to a healthy c-v system, the retired RN ran the machine and discussed the print out with me.

I don't think either of us expected my c-v system to test younger than my actual age! I know that after the events of the previous months that *I* was surprised - and pleased.

So I bought a bottle of their Cardio Cocktail, will take it for 3 months and then get re-tested. Their website lists all of the ingredients so I knew there were no allergens. I also knew from previous reading that many of the listed ingredients were good, and learned about a couple new ones that I hadn't heard about before. Arginine and pomegranate juice.

I bought two types of pomegranate juice to see which I preferred - one with blueberries (which I find a bit syrup-y) and cranberry (which I haven't tried yet). I may also get some CoQ 10 enzymes which I'd read about previously and which Ann suggested would help speed the rest of the nutrients in their work.

Since getting off the Ezetrol and starting the Niacin therapy, my blood pressure has been - in a word - great! I'm thinking the Ezetrol was also causing me problems because I was only off it for a couple of days when my bp dropped and it's stayed nicely below 120/80 ever since.

It would seem that I finally have the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle right, and given the apparent health of my cardio-vascular system, I can look forward to a good many more years of weaving. Goodness knows, I've got way too much stash to give up weaving yet! :D

I would like to thank everyone who encouraged and supported me, especially those who are walking the same path. You gave me hope when it seemed hopeless. It would appear that I have finally found that 'new woman' so many medical professionals promised! While I had to dig deep to find the silver linings in amongst the clouds, they were there. And one of the best silver linings was knowing that so many people cared what was happening to me, and let me know.

Thank you. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Doing the Same Old Thing

Got the next warp rough sleyed before dinner, then afterwards I beamed/threaded/sleyed and tied on.

Since I've had issues of efficiency on my mind I did a quick time survey. The warp was beamed and threaded in under 30 minutes (10 inches at 16 epi, 5 meters long) and the sleying took 7 minutes. Tieing on took just about a minute and a half.

The last few days I've very rapidly gotten used to feeling well again. So much so, last night (possibly on an excess of energy after having had none for so long) I found myself planning on burning through as many chenille warps as possible for the next week to 10 days.

And caught myself just in time, reminding myself that there is no need to push myself like that any more. In terms of inventory, I've actually got lots for the upcoming fall sales. The only reason to make more is to a) have some new things to show and b) reduce stash!

So I dug out the Priority List I made up last week, crossed off the things that I've actually managed to complete and reviewed the rest.

Since weaving chenille scarves was, indeed, on the list, I carried on with doing that. But not at the rate of 4 scarves a day. Two per day is probably plenty. :}

Doing just one warp per day will also leave me time for other jobs on the list - winding skeins, possibly dyeing a batch or two, hemming - and tackle things like getting my house ready for much anticipated company in two weeks. :) And reading. I've got 6 books from the library, all of them brand new so likely not able to be renewed. :}

Doug has started turfing stuff out of the guest room, put up a shelving unit in the basement where I can store some stuff that's been stacked on the floor, and we've both been trying to deal with the accumulation of clutter that neither of us had any energy for previously. He even made a run to the Salvation Army yesterday and Habitat for Humanity today with stuff to 'recycle'.

As the sage says - if you keep doing what you've always been doing, you'll keep getting what you've always been getting. Time to do things differently, and achieve different results.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Efficient Weaver

These are the scarves I've woven since getting home Tuesday evening. I would have liked to see the pile a lot higher but I had several appointments (dentist/dr/etc) and other work that needed to be done (banking, skein winding, workshop prep - unpacking!)

The truly amazing thing to me is that I've been off the Ezetrol since Tuesday, and yesterday I felt great! After the angio everyone kept telling me I would feel like a new woman, that I'd have energy to burn. And it didn't happen. In fact, things got a whole lot worse before they started to get better.

I'm now suspicious that the Ezetrol, just like the statins, was affecting me a lot more than I'd realized. :(

So far I've had two doses of the Niacin (500 mg a day) and so far so good. My bp has actually dropped significantly since getting off the Ezetrol. It's now low enough that I've been having a cup of high octane coffee in the morning! :D

Anyway, I'm going to ask my doctor if I can stay at 500 mg/day for three months and check my cholesterol levels before upping it to 1000 mg/day (the recommended dose is 1000-2000 mg/day).

My cholesterol has never been 'high' - just that since it's so sticky they want to see it down as low as safely possible. But frankly, I'd rather risk a slightly higher level than go through more adverse reactions.

In spite of feeling so much better I've been taking it easy today after a massage treatment this morning. I wound 3 more chenille warps, and dressed the loom with one of those. I've reviewed the workshop materials and will start photocopying the handouts this evening, with the goal of getting everything into the mail next week.

And I've been picking away at my hemming pile.

I had a bit of a chuckle at the conference. I'd brought a bin of tea towels that needed to be hemmed and worked on those during lulls in the vendor hall.

Two weavers came up to me and commented that I was hand hemming - that they'd been getting negative comments from other weavers about hand hemming their wovens and urging them to machine hem.

When I started weaving in 1975, the vast majority of weavers would not dream of machine stitching their hems. In fact I heard of one weaver who top stitched a coat *by hand* because her guild would not allow visible machine stitching!

Now I have nothing whatsoever against hemming towels by machine. For me hand hemming is much like drop spindling. It's portable and something I can easily pick up and set down. It's my evening tv-watching job (not that I really watch tv - more something that I listen to and glance at once in a while!) For me to machine stitch, I'd have to drag my machine out, and then do it in the studio. It would turn into a big committment - clearing off space to put the machine, setting it up, making sure I had the right colour in the bobbin, yadda, yadda.

So for me, hand hemming is a form of efficiency. I get a lot more hemming done by doing it by hand during small chunks of time. I can take it with me when I travel to teach and hem in the evenings (most weaving hostesses understand about handwork!). I brought a bin to ANWG and hemmed during lulls. And I hem in the evening while watching tv.

Efficiency isn't always about working as fast as possible. It's about getting the maximum amount of work done with the least amount of effort. :)

I set up a group on Weavolution yesterday called The Efficient Weaver. Once Weavolution launches on Monday, people can sign up and join the group. It's open to anyone who wants to join. My hope is that people will share their hints and tips for working efficiently, whatever that means to them. I'm particularly hoping people will have hints and tips for studio organization in tight quarters. :)


See you there!

Friday, June 5, 2009


This picture is not so much about how I rough sley the reed (which has been covered in step by step detail on CD Weaver in You Have to be Warped) but about the size of the ties I use to secure the cross and tie off the warp chain.

I was reminded about this not too long ago when my studio assistant wound a warp for me and used a 2/8 cotton doubled to secure the cross, etc. This tie was far too skinny for me as I had to fiddle way too much with untying the warp. A fat tie yarn is so much easier to see and to remove than a skinny one.

It is also a good idea to use something with a little 'tooth' - a little grip. Something slippery just doesn't want to tie securely.

In thinking about all this while getting the next chenille warp ready I started thinking about general issues of efficiency and how so few weavers even realize that there are more efficient ways of working than what they may have been shown, or worked out on their own in the isolation of their homes/studios.

I was also thinking about Weavolution as I've purchased an ad and the developers are getting really excited about their up-coming launch date June 8. That's just a few days away and they will soon know if the weaving community will join in the excitement. :)

Weavolution will be able to host special interest forums, and I started wondering if there was any interest in a forum about working efficiently. Now efficiency is personal, depending upon our physical abilities, disabilities, equipment and space available. But it is also general. There is some equipment that just doesn't work very well (impo) but if the person using it has never seen any other type, how would they know?

So what do you think? Would such a special interest forum on Weavolution be something you would be interested in?

Email me through my website http://laurafry.com or post a comment here.

ps - if you have CD Weaver and find it helpful, I'd appreciate reviews to the weaving groups.

Currently reading The Carpet Wars by Christopher Kremmer

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Into Chenille Mode

This variegated chenille is bordering on garish (to my taste) but calms down nicely with the dark purple weft. :)

I had two chenille scarf warps already wound before I left, so I got one of the warps dressed this afternoon, and just barely started weaving before I ran out of steam.

I didn't sleep particularly well while I was away so I'm running a bit ragged. But I did get one copy of Magic shipped, the banking done, the impressions for my crown underway, and the appointment with the doctor to change my cholesterol medication. The pharmacy had to order it in specially for me, so I'll go to the lab tomorrow morning for bloodwork, and see when the pharmacy expects their order to arrive.

For those who might be interested, it's an extended release form of niacin (Vitamin B3) in a very high dose. It's supposed to increase the good stuff while decreasing the bad stuff.

After all the running around I phoned my studio assistant to see if I could come and 'shop' in her chenille stash and came home with about 15 pounds of yarn, both solids and variegateds. Now to start winding some more warps.

I really ought to go wind a few more skeins tonight, but I think I'll call it quits and see if there is anything at all worth watching on tv and knit a bit. There is also a big stack of library books waiting my attention, so perhaps I will head for bed with a book. We'll see!

Home Again, Home Again

So, I'm home again, and trying to get myself organized.

One of the things I had Karena do last week when she was sorting out the storage area was to pull out all the painted warps she could find and leave them on the floor in the studio so that I could see what I have.

What I have is a whole lot of painted warps!

I'm pretty much unpacked and ready to head to town to mail an order for a copy of Magic, hit the bank, dentist and doctor. I'm really hoping that a change in cholesterol medication will work without the long list of 'adverse reactions' that I've been experiencing with everything we've tried so far. Otherwise, my blood pressure seems to be pretty much fine on the current mixture.

I am very greatful that I live in the 21st c. The level of technology and medical options available are pretty amazing. At the conference I talked with a couple of friends who are also going through medical issues and the prognosis now is so much better than it was even a few years ago. It is sobering to be reminded yet again that life is, indeed, fragile and precious.

For anyone else going through medical challenges - my best wishes to you. I am constantly reminded of a quote I read somewhere - Be kind to all you meet. Everyone is fighting a great battle.

I don't remember who this was attributed to, just that it was a Greek philosopher from around 600 BC. The human condition really hasn't changed much, has it?

Another quote I have on my fridge is by Winston Churchill - When you are going through hell, keep going. :D

Currently reading Coraline by Neil Gaiman