Saturday, June 30, 2012

Happy Place

With molehills masquerading as mountains this week, the hurdles I encountered as I set to work this morning turned into complete roadblocks and instead of doing something productive on A Good Yarn, I went to my 'happy place' and wove a scarf.

Thankfully I'd dressed the loom last night including winding the bobbins so all I had to do was put my weaving shoes on and I was ready to go.

The colours of the yarn are actually a little more intense than shows on my screen and over all I'm quite pleased with the way this warp is turning out.  There are quite a few cones of this blue/pink soy protein so I'll wind up with maybe a dozen scarves (or more) in this colour range.  Since the yarn was dyed in a random variegation no two skeins are exactly alike although the general public won't really notice that much of a difference between them.

I have several different possible wefts so there will be some variation.

This line of scarves is a 'win' situation for me.  I imported the yarn from China, dyed it and schlepped it around western Canada for the last few years trying to sell it.  What's left is enough to do a good selection of scarves; when I'm done weaving it my stash will be that much less and I'll have decent inventory for the coming sales this fall.

Now to hope customers like them enough to buy!

As for A Good Yarn, I did get a load of samples into the washing machine, am about to transfer that to the dryer and put the next lot in.  While that's happening I'll sew some more samples and/or staple.  I did actually get some work done on the text earlier - found a few typos and some areas that needed clarification.

The weather is supposed to continue wet and cool so pressing the samples tomorrow should not be too bad.  OTOH, I'd sure like to see some sun this summer....

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sneak Peek

Enough progress has been made now that I feel as though A Good Yarn: Cotton is becoming a reality.  Here is a sneak peek at Sample 1.  The Notes page still needs to be proof read and possibly edited.  It doesn't look like any text is going to happen today - too many other things happening - but now that the pages are beginning to take concrete form I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Someone has graciously agreed to proof read for typos, the samples to be wet finished will get run through the washer/dryer Saturday, pressing will happen Sunday, in the meantime stapling continues (I'm just doing 50 of each to begin) and the writing will happen as quickly as I can manage that.  Once the proofed copy comes back I can finalize the text, burn the files to a cd and deliver to Staples for copying.  By the time that is done I expect to have 50 of each sample stapled and Doug and I can assemble the pages and package them into bags.

I am really feeling the pressure because I have a student arriving on July 30 - this project simply must be done before she arrives or there won't be room for me, let alone her!

Currently reading Murder in the Abbot's Folly by Amy Myers

Thursday, June 28, 2012

One Step At A Time

Today I got the stapling 'station' set up and stapled 50 of one of the samples.  And then realized as I was putting that bucket away that I'd forgotten to staple the yarn samples to the page, too.  And then discovered that the yarn samples for the second sample I'd selected are not cut apart and therefore there is still about a half hour's worth of work before that one will be ready.  I think I'll set it aside and cut them tonight while watching tv and work on a different sample.  There are more, after all!

Yesterday I got my new 'eyes' and have been having some fun getting used to them.  Up close (sewing) is good, and distance is good.  It's that in-between place - working at the computer, reaching for things - that is still a bit of a challenge.  Yesterday my arms were way too short - I'd go to reach for something and miss!

So today I've been doing a variety of things - wound another scarf warp, coned off a skein in preparation for warp winding, stapled 50 samples (sort of), wove a scarf, got my back crunched and visited the library because one of my reserved books had come in.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to have a studio elf - a friend's 14 year old son needs something to do now that summer is here (well, it is supposed to be here - school is out, anyway!)  He will attempt to vacuum the studio and see if he can't at least corral some of the dust buffalo.  And who knows - if I can get two more scarves woven there will be some warp left on the loom so if he's interested - and likes the colour (a rather brilliant spring-ish green) I'll let him weave some when he gets the vacuuming done.  :)

Yesterday I managed to finish the four sided samples to be wet finished and will take a load of pressing to the annex on Sunday and do that.  A small number of the 'before' samples are also sewn and I think I'll do some more as a break from weaving.

So, all in all, a little progress on a number of different fronts.  No writing though - hopefully more tomorrow and then at least one page a day each day.  That's my goal if I'm to get it all put together before the end of July.  (Did you hear the gigantic swoosh as the July 9 deadline got moved?)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Four At Once

winding four ends at once...

Winding four ends at once is definitely possible but I don't find it particularly faster.  Which would seem counter intuitive - if winding two ends at a time is twice as fast as winding one at a time, winding four ought to be four times faster, right?

Welllllll.  Possibly.

What I find is that with four ends it is harder to maintain consistent tension on the individual ends and one of them (the one held between the ring and pinkie fingers) always seems to be too far away from the rest and falls off the pegs.  Which means that I have to stop and get it settled in the correct place.  Which gets frustrating, if not actually winds up being slower than if I'd just wound two at a time in the first place.

But there is another reason for winding so many ends at once.  That reason is that I am trying to use up stash and get inventory woven for the fall sales.  It is faster in the long run to put a warp for four scarves into the loom rather than just two.  So I'm saving the loom dressing time that I'd have to spend if I only wound a 5 meter long warp instead of a 9 meter long warp.

Since I have assorted variegated yarns, it is much better in terms of blending the slightly different shades to wind from four cones to make the 9 meter long warp.  If I only wound with 2 cones at a time, I'd run out about 3/4's of the way through the 9 meters and the different dye lot would show up as a definite stripe.  That stripe might be pleasing, but it might also just look like a dye lot difference.

So I am 'fighting' with the four ends in order to wind up with a result that will at least be pleasing to me - and hopefully potential customers.

And wallowing in procrastination about getting started on writing the text.  I have opened Word and once I have done a little more work in the studio - the looms are both nekkid  and I'd like to at least get one of them dressed - I will begin sifting through the project details and start getting them written.

Currently reading Beastly Things by Donna Leon.  If you like Louise Penny you might like Leon, too.  I've only just got started (while waiting at the dentist's office this morning) and so far I'm liking what I'm reading.

Monday, June 25, 2012

This and That

preparing the samples

Today I stapled one set of each sample - of those that were ready - so that I could lay them out.  To my mind the samples should be visually appealing but the sequence also needs to make some sort of technical sense as well.

What I decided on was to lay them out in order of the size of the yarns - largest first (in the warp), then in complexity of the weave structure but also in a way that I felt would be attractive as people paged through the 'book'.

So this is the tentative line up.  I'm pretty satisfied with it but of course, things are always subject to change.  I may swap 2 and 3.

There are 10 samples/projects and each will be illustrated with a before and after sample because, after all, how could I do otherwise?  ;^)

I didn't get as much done on the Big Project as I hoped because I felt that before I could really get going on it I just had to clean the desk around the computer.  I confess there were papers dating back to 2009 - probably the last time I cleared the area down to the desktop!

However I did manage a couple of sessions of weaving and finished off the coral/red scarf warp:

four scarves, four different wefts - from left - soy protein in natural (a light tan), dark red bamboo, an orange-scarlet Tencel, dark red Tencel...the colours are not quite true to life - they are actually a little more intense/darker in life

The warp was too long so the next ones will be shorter to minimize loom waste.  Not that anything is truly wasted because I donate the thrums to the Salvation Army.  The local branch has a textile recycling program and everything gets sent to Asia where it is broken down into fibre, spun and woven.  Part of me is delighted that my 'waste' will eventually wind up as fabric, although the cloth will likely be labelled '100% unknown fibres'!

Today I also picked up an early bd present along with an order for bobbin lace supplies.  My two compadres and I ordered some patterns from Larkholme Lace and Jacqui sent a couple of bobbins and a booklet of designs for my bd.  I'm not sure if I'm up to the challenge of the Flutterbies and Flowers - they require a lot more bobbins than I'm used to using plus adding in and subtracting the coloured threads that make up the designs, so I'll probably start with one of the bookmarks from the small booklet first.

Currently reading A Killing Season by Priscilla Royal

Saturday, June 23, 2012


last rep warp cut off and being serged in preparation for wet finishing sometime next week - still have to finish sewing the fringe on four sides samples...

There is a poster going round Face Book which says something to the effect that if you are working at home you are not considered to be working.

I agree.  I have faced that attitude more times than I can count since 1975 when I decided to become a self-employed home based business.

But people will only take you and your work as seriously as you take it yourself.

Scenario 1 - your best friend phones and needs some retail therapy as you are getting inventory ready for an up-coming show event.

Do you a) sigh inwardly knowing that your best friend needs you and decide to go ahead and head for the mall, with the realization that you will be working until midnight to make sure you can go ahead and load the van and head for the show the next day

b) get angry because your best friend knows that you have a show coming up

c) agree to meet at the mall suggesting that when you are done you both return to your place to finish trimming, tagging, pricing and boxing up your inventory (if she is truly your best friend, she will help)

Scenario 2 - a family member phones and says they are dropping their kids off so you can have some quality time for a week while they go to Costa Rica in spite of the fact you have a major exhibit you need to install and attend the show opening during that week.

Do you a) sigh inwardly and think fast about who owes you a favour so that you can get them to look after the kids while you do what's necessary

b) Get angry because they know you have an important show coming up

c)  Suggest that after the show is done you'd be happy to take the kids for a week

Scenario 3 - a family member is famous for her "I can get it for you wholesale" attitude and expects a big 'family' discount on your work which means she'll be supplying the entire town (because she counts everybody in town as her close personal friend for whom she will do favours - like getting stuff for wholesale)

Do you a) sigh inwardly and give her a discount knowing that you'll never sell another item for retail in your town again

b) Get angry because you can't afford to give everybody in town a discount via this family member

c) Smile politely and tell her that no one gets a discount - and yes, that includes her

Choosing a) will not get you taken seriously.

Choosing b) is destructive not only to your relationships but to you, too.  Remember that we will not be punished for our anger but by our anger.

Choosing c) may initially put you in the position of being called selfish, but if you politely stick to your guns, the people in your life will eventually have to take your work - and you - seriously.

Being self-employed usually means that there is no one but you and if you don't get the work done on time it won't get done and all you'll hear is the swooshing noise as the deadlines fly by.

In celebration of getting the last rep warp off the loom I beamed the next warp to go onto the Leclerc Fanny - the first of my production scarf warps for the coming fall sales.  If I don't get them woven now, they won't get fringe twisted, wet finished, trimmed, tagged and priced in time for the major shows we have booked starting in September....and the scarf warps will give me mental respite while I begin writing the text for A Good Yarn: Cotton.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Groundhog Day

It's beginning to feel like deja vu all over again as I dress the loom with the 3rd - and hopefully last - of the rep weave warps.

I'm in the groove now with this textile - the muscle memory pretty much kicks in and I don't have to think very much or even very hard to weave it.  There are times when I totally zone out and mess up but it becomes apparent right away and it is easy to weave backwards and get on track again.  I wish it weren't so physically hard on my body as I remember the reasons I enjoyed making all those rugs back in my 20's - before the damage one's body sustains in an active life.  :}

I am also experiencing - how shall I call it - ego strain - the closer I come to actually completing the Big Project.  All the fears of rejection and worries about not doing it 'perfectly' and wondering if people will like it and actually plunk down their hard earned cash to buy it are crowding to the forefront of my brain.  Like the clouds  looming on the horizon this month, it's hard to face up to the fact that not everyone will love it and want it enough to buy it.

But staying in that mind set is crazy making, especially considering how deeply I am already into this project! I've done far too much work and invested way too much time and money to not complete it now.

I don't think I'm alone in experiencing this effect.  I rather suspect that most creative people find themselves hitting an emotional wall right before their work goes public.  It's something that is real - and in many ways unreal - because, after all, it's all happening in my head as my ego struggles with putting itself in the line of fire.

While I will do my utmost to make this a valuable publication, geared towards newer weavers, I also know that not everyone will find it helpful or interesting.  And I can't control their opinions.  In fact I can't control anybody's opinion - negative or positive.  I can only do my very best and I suppose like a parent bird, let their offspring launch and hope that they fly, not fall.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The End... in sight.  I cut the 2nd rep warp off the loom tonight, taped and cut the rest of the 'before' samples and worked out how long a warp needs to go onto the loom to finish weaving the 'after' samples.  

The Leclerc Fanny loom is quite efficient.  I could have woven even a bit closer to the heddles if there had been a little more warp.  I've woven to the point where the apron rod was almost touching the heddles.  But there wasn't enough warp to do one more gang of samples so decided this was The End - of this warp at least.

Tomorrow I'll wind the next - last! - warp and get it into the loom in between fetching all the yarns and fibres from the guild room and storing them at the annex.  Doug will put the van back to rights and we'll get the van stuff back in to the van and off my lr/dr floor.  And then I need to pay some serious attention to cleaning the floors so studio time may 'suffer'.  Being a self employed home based business means that you never truly get away from work and sometimes, well, let's just say that I'll never win the Good Housekeeping Award.

The bad news is that it is going to get worse before it gets better as I approach the assembly stage of the Big Project.  :}  Once the publication is put together I expect to store most of the copies at the annex with just a few here in order to ship orders.  With just 150 copies I'm hoping that they won't take up a huge amount of space.  Even better, that they will sell quickly so that storage won't be required!

In addition to finishing the rep warp, wet finishing and cutting the rest of the samples, writing the text, preparing the sample page text, stapling the samples, getting Staples to run the copies and assembling everything, I also have to do the usual things like balance my ledger and file my sales tax report.  It's going to be a busy 3 weeks....

And for Canadians, someone told me about these:

Shout Colour Catchers are no longer being distributed in Canada but it looks like these are essentially the same sort of product.  I got this package at London Drugs today.  To find a store near you try here.  Thanks to Deb for alerting me to this product.

Today was the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and today it got warm.  In fact the a/c is still running (it's about 11:30 pm as I write this) but the forecast is still saying rain for the next few days.  This is not good as the Fraser River still has not peaked and low lying parts of town are under flood watch.  The good news about all this rain is that the wild fire risk is low.  Win some, lose some.

And no, we aren't personally in any danger of getting wet as our house is well above the flood plain.

Currently reading Black Work by Monica Ferris.  I sort of lost track of this series a few years ago so I'm catching up on the latest titles that I haven't yet read.  I also have a large stack of library books that are tempting me to just sit and read.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Testing Technology

A not very good photo taken with my iPad of the yarn I will be winding into scarf warps as soon as I can get the last samples woven for A Good Yarn.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fringe - Four Sides

As mentioned in a previous post, I used to use this finish on placemats and table runners when we were doing table textiles in production mode.  For the purposes of these samples I didn't want to colour code the cut lines differently than the body of the textile because what I did was make a larger tea cloth while the samples themselves are more mug rug size.  I planned the warp so that the design (the green stripes) and the weave structure (turned twill) would act as cut lines and stitching lines.  

Here, then, are photos showing how I do it.

The samples were cut on one of the green stripes.  Three threads were pulled from the cloth using the weave structure as a guide - 4 blocks were designated as fringe so 3 threads were pulled out of the fringe area leaving a ditch in the warp and weft.  Where they intersect there is a hole where the needle pivots:

approaching the hole where the needle pivots

needle in the hole ready to start down the next side

After sewing all four sides, overlapping the beginning with the end by about an inch and a half, the excess 'fugitive' ends and picks can be pulled away from the body of the cloth.  I find that starting at a corner, pinching a couple of threads from both directions, I can strip two sides at once.

After the threads are pulled I am left with fringe on all four sides.  It looks very thready and not very attractive at this stage but after wet finishing the threads will relax and bloom, the corner will fill in and after trimming the four corners and pressing the end result looks pretty good.  

Warning:  If you are doing a lot of fabric like this, there will be oodles of lint in the washing machine and the dryer.  Clean the lint trap in both machines when done.

The trick to using this method is to keep the fringe fairly short so that the threads can be easily pulled from the cloth.

Currently reading Thai Dye by Monica Ferris (where the word 'dying' is used where the word 'dyEing' should have been - a grave mistake (pun alert) in a murder mystery!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Making Like a Tortoise

I took some 'me' time this weekend.  Saturdays I've been going to a dance conditioning class and I've missed quite a few this spring so I made a point of getting to class on Saturday.  It will move to Monday evenings after the end-of-year dance recital next weekend and I've benefited so much from attending I plan to carry on throughout the summer.  Beginning in September I'll be on the road again and classes will be hit and miss until December.  Mostly I need the stretching but my balance has improved so much.  After breaking my ankle two years ago my balance was very poor - now I can actually stand on one leg without toppling over.  :)

Today I went and made some lace with friends and finished off the bookmark I'd been working on.  We ordered some new prickings which should be here soon, but I wound more bobbins for the design I just finished - mainly because it's simple and easy and that seems very attractive right now while things in the weaving studio are getting a bit....pressured.

The first rep warp is off, taped and cut apart, the next warp is in the loom and the first two yards woven.  I'm having to really pace myself on it because weaving it is not friendly to my neck.  However between weaving the rep and sewing the above samples, progress has been made.  The first 50 are now sewn.  I am trying to co-ordinate the wet finishing of the last 3 samples so that they all get done at once, either next Sunday or early the following week.

So the coming week I will focus on continuing to weave and sew samples, still aiming to hit the July 9 publication date.  Without a deadline I'd never get anything done.  There are simply too many interesting distractions!

If you want to be notified when A Good Yarn: Cotton is ready, email me and I'll put you on my contact list.  Or eventually details will be posted here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

No Pressure!

tower of samples ready to be stapled to the card stock

The deadline for A Good Yarn is not just looming but towering, almost literally, over me!  Not only am I still weaving samples, I discovered today that I'd been overly generous in the size of the rep weave samples which will require not one, but two more warps!  Warps that I'm not much enjoying weaving because two shuttles are required, but even worse, are hard on my neck.  :(

The last time I did any significant weaving of rep weave I was much younger and much less 'damaged' (whip lash).

However, this is the last of the samples - there are 10 in all - and the first warp is off the loom and being cut apart.  As soon as that is done I'll wind the next warp and see if I can't get it into the loom tomorrow and start weaving on Sunday.

The sewing of the four-sided fringed sample has begun.  Now that the ice has been broken, so to speak, it should not take terribly long to get them ready for wet finishing.  I'm hoping to get the last three samples ready to be wet finished on June 24 or 25.  I've already warned Doug that he may be conscripted to do the stapling.  It will take at least 3 or 4 days to get all the project notes, drafts etc., ready plus the text still needs to be written.  Getting it all done by July 9 will be a bit of a challenge but as I've said before - I'm deadline driven and with the deadline so very close, towering over me as it were, I'm hoping to shove procrastination aside and power on through - on time.  Of course that is assuming that Staples can do the copying of the pages on a tight deadline!

Currently reading Packing for Mars my Mary Roach (a recommendation via Dana Stabenow)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Love My Job...

...most of the time.

Well, let me rephrase that - there are aspects of my job (work, career, avocation, what have you) that really don't appeal to me.  But, nonetheless, they have to be done.

While I am self-employed and therefore I get to choose what I will and won't do, there are times when I do things for - how shall I say this? - the greater good?

As in teaching.  There are times I will choose to include weave structures or techniques that I don't personally find appealing but know that they need to be exposed to students.

Hence this sample with fringe on all four sides.  I used to do this when we were doing production table textiles because it made the most sense in terms of efficient production.  But you know it's been a long, long time since I've had to sit at the sewing machine, rip ends and picks out to create a ditch and sew around all four sides of the textile.

It's a good finish.  A single line of stitching is totally adequate.  I know this because the past few years I've had customers tell me that place mats they purchased decades ago (yes, really) are still wearing well and going strong.  So I have no compunction about recommending this finish to handweavers.

But do I really want to sit myself down in front of the machine and do the work?  Not really.  But I will because it is a good technique and weavers need to know about it.

Which is why I am going to go back to a previous post and change the title from Ripsmatta to Rep Weave.

I was reminded (and I ought to have known better because I do know this) that ripsmatta actually means a rep woven rug.  I could blur the issue by claiming that the sample is meant to be for a mug 'rug' but that is sort of beside the point.  The actual fact is that the sample as woven is not suitable for a rug - it would have to be woven much thicker and denser.  So for the sake of accuracy, and ultimately wanting to use correct terminology, I will change the title.

It doesn't do to become sloppy - in our work practices or our language.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rep Weave

Four shafts, four blocks...

One of the reasons I decided to include rep weave in A Good Yarn is that it is one of the weave structures with which you can achieve four blocks on four shafts.  Others are overshot, crackle and shadow weave.

I threaded a point progression (Block A, B, C, D, C, B, repeat) and am weaving in a straight progression (A, B, C, D).

There is no 'true' plain weave with this weave structure because of the way it is threaded.  The treadles are used in pairs and it is dependent upon which of the pair you select for the thick yarn that determines which block is woven.

It takes a little bit for the brain to get comfortable with how it works, but once your brain and feet figure it out, it is simple to sort of 'draw' your pattern.  For the purposes of A Good Yarn I am weaving each sample exactly the same.

With four blocks on four shafts, when you want block A to weave you have to choose whether its 'pair' (or shadow) will be block D or block B.  When you want block B to weave you have to choose whether it will have block A or block C at the same time.  And so on.  In this way you can adjust the design and have a pattern that repeats, or constantly changes, always on the twill diagonal.

For more information on how this works I recommend Lucille Landis' book Twills and Twill Deriviatives - the section on shadow weave.  The same principle applies to any of the four shaft/four block weaves.

PS - this is one weave where a floating selvedge might come in handy.  Since I don't use one I am simply twisting the shuttles around each other at the selvedge to lock the warp ends into the weave structure.  It's a personal preference thing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Final Challenge

I don't like 'fighting' with the loom and warp.  I don't care much for weaving with two shuttles.  Especially weaving with two shuttles a weave structure that requires the two wefts to be wrapped around each other in one direction for some of the sheds, and the other direction for the other sheds.  It means I have to be constantly paying attention to the shuttles and twisting them in the 'right' direction in order to lock everything into place.

Of course I could use a floating selvedge but since I don't do floating selvedges....  :)

The photo above shows how the twist direction of the two wefts will lock them into place.  And once I weave a few repeats, I will have got the twist direction for each shed combination into muscle memory so that I don't have to keep such close track, watching to see which way it needs to go this time.

Ripsmatta is kind of a fun weave structure (once you get beyond the stuff you don't like to do) because you get four blocks on four shafts.  The possibilities for designing motifs are quite large.  In a small sample you really can't do too much, though, so I just threaded a simple point progression, and am treadling a straight progression so the cloth will have 'waves' or W's running across it.

And no, that's not a mistake you see in the photo.  The way the threads are sequenced, you have areas where the thick weft will descend lower than in other areas.  As you weave this all kind of straightens out.  I'll show more when I've got more woven.  One done, 99 more to go (which means a second warp because I knew from the get go that one 11 yard long warp wasn't going to do the entire number of samples required).

Once these samples are woven it will be full speed ahead on the text and sample stapling/assembly.  'Bout time too - it's the middle of June and July 9 will be here all too soon!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Earning Its Keep

Those of you who are friends on Face Book know that I recently invested in an iPad.  I'd seen one being used in a workshop to track where the student was in her liftplan sequence and I thought it was brilliant!

After much soul searching and crunching of numbers I decided the benefits of having an iPad outweighed the expense and with a great deal of assistance from my computer guru and his assistant, I got one on the way home from the Alberta conference.

I confess I still am not entirely conversant with all the ins and outs - up until tonight it was basically a very expensive Mahjogg game, but all that changed when I went to thread the small loom with sample #10 for A Good Yarn.

I had purchased iWeaveit from the Apple app store, plus the 'treadle tracker' add on and without very much fussing managed to put a draft into the program and save it.  Tonight I added the draft for the sample, headed to the loom and I must say I'm impressed with it - so far.

The way I would usually follow a draft like this would be to print it out and then mark my place with a coloured pen or pencil.  What that means is that I have to pick the pen or pencil up, find my place on the draft, tick it off and set the pencil down again.

Not so with the tracker.  Once you have entered your threadling, it is a simple matter to select the tracker and a pop up screen containing the threading appears over your draft with a red box around the first four ends.  Tapping the iPad screen anywhere causes the red box to advance another four ends.  Simple and fast with no fumbling for a pencil.

The only draw back is that, depending on the weave structure, I might thread 6 ends at a time, not four, so I'm not sure how that is going to work when I get to one of those drafts.  There may be a way to adjust the size of the box - I may have to email the developer and find out if that is a possibility, even perhaps in a future upgrade.  :)  Like I say, I've only scratched the surface - there are other features I haven't begun to explore - who knows if I poke around long enough I may find that it already exists.  :)

The other reasons I bought the iPad were - as a travelling library (have downloaded several novellas and short stories - free ones - what can I say, I'm cheap!), a music system (computer guru had loaded some music on it for me), web access (when there is access to wi-fi, which means I can check my email on it instead of on my Blackberry, paying roaming charges in the US), and oh, yes, Mahjongg.

After getting it, I also realized I can load all my teaching dates so that I don't have to tell people that I have to go home and check my calendar when they want to know if I'm available for the coming year.  I've spent a couple of hours doing that and I'm also very impressed with the calendar that came with the iPad.  I'm sure that as I get used to it I will find more things that it will allow me to do.

Twist and Shout

Winding a dense warp - only 15" wide, but too many threads to cram onto the warping board so I split into two chains.  The yarn is 2/8 warp twist cotton and as you can see below, there is residual twist in the yarn so when it is taken off tension the warp chain wants to torque.

When working with a yarn like this it is important to put the lease sticks in with the warp chain nice and straight like this...

...not twisted like this:

One reason I don't wind very small warp chains is that I tend to work with yarns with residual twist and with a very small chain it's just that much harder to see when it has twisted.  Not to mention the extra tying and storing of a bunch of small warps.

I tie the four 'arms' of the cross because quite often I will go on a warp winding tear and wind 6 or 8 at once and then weave them off later.  Tying all four parts of the cross is perhaps a tiny bit anal, but it feels more secure to me to leave them for some time and not worry about the chain getting disturbed and the cross mangled.

Currently reading Laughed til He Died by Carolyn Hart

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On Not Being a Perfectionist (or Perfect!)

starting a new bookmark using 2/20 mercerized cotton

Last night we watched a couple of episodes of Mastercrafts - a BBC 'reality' tv series.  On one of the episodes, one of the participants was a 'perfectionist' - in his effort to create perfect work he would over think and overwork his materials winding up with rather less than perfect results.  And taking a rather long time about it.

I have a confession to make.  I am not a perfectionist.  I am all too aware that I am not perfect and that - mostly - I do not create perfect work.

The cloth I cut off the loom this morning certainly reflects that as it is far from perfect.  I was pushing the materials to their limit in terms of what it would willingly do, but I was also striving for a particular quality of cloth.  As a result I had to cajole the threads to behave in such a way as to arrive at that particular destination.

There are 'flaws' in the cloth, but nothing that can't be fixed before wet finishing.  And some of the 'flaws' simply won't be visible to anyone else but me.

And that, I think, is the difference between someone who strives for perfection (me) and a perfectionist.  I am willing to settle for good enough, knowing that good at least gets me usable cloth.

I am also aware that once cut from the loom the job is not yet complete - the web still has to be finished and there are a number of adjustments that can be made at the next stage of the process to bring the cloth more closely to 'perfect' than by worrying away at the loom messing about with it.  This stage is sometimes referred to as 'dry' finishing - it's where you inspect and repair any flaws that can be fixed.  And then it is wet finished - where quite often small inconsistencies magically fade away as the threads relax and shift to areas of least resistance.

Am I happy to be done with this warp?  Oh yes!  Am I happy with the results?  That's a more difficult questions to answer.  The cloth shows the quality I was striving for.  As a teaching example, it will do the job.  Am I disappointed it isn't 'perfect'?  Yes - but I also know that I was pushing the materials and trying to force them to do something they didn't want to do.  I'll be much happier once I've done the inspection/repair and wet finishing, trusting the magic in the water to disguise the less than perfect technical execution of the cloth.  I'll settle for 'good enough'....

Currently in between books - started two that, while well written, did not 'grab' me in terms of their content

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Spring Arts Fest

Lots of textile things going on. Inkle and finger weaving. Gillian is spinning and I am winding the warp for sample number 10.

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gentle Persuasion

This warp is not in an 'ideal' situation.  The threads have been spaced - as you can clearly see - and crammed, which perhaps isn't quite so obvious.

The result of the cramming is that the sheds don't always open cleanly and the weft 'hangs up' and doesn't beat in straight.  Occasionally there are little loops left, which of course are clearly not ideal!

If the loop is close enough to the leading edge of the weft a gentle tug will pretty much straighten it out but if not, the only recourse is to unweave, pull the weft straight and beat it in again.

In order to reduce the number of loops I have resorted to a less than ideal approach to shuttle handling.  Since I have a temple I can actually lay the weft in at a much shallower angle than normally recommended knowing the temple will prevent the weft from drawing the weaving in too much.

And, I did go back and re-sley the 8 selvedge threads.  I was not happy with the extra flick of the shuttle and besides, it really wasn't preventing the build up of the weft at the selvedge.  The only solution then, was to reduce the density of the selvedge threads.

One of the things weavers have to learn is when to vary from the ideal and resort to the art of gentle persuasion.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Banging Away

I feel like I've been banging on the same old drum for far too long (ergonomics/efficiency) so back to weaving...

Sample number 9 is a spaced and crammed warp.  It's been a while since I've woven this sort of cloth and I've run into some issues that I'd forgotten about - specifically the fact that the crammed selvedge doesn't want to beat in very well.  

My first plan of attack was to use a temple, but of course that doesn't really help the outside 8 ends.  However it does keep the cloth stretched out to the proper width so I will continue to weave the rest of this 15 yard warp using it.  Sometimes slower is 'faster' - in this case the results are worth the little extra time it takes to move the temple forward every inch.

The problem at the selvedge continued so I modified my shuttle throwing in an effort to forestall the build up.

I catch the shuttle as usual like so:

Then before I pull the shuttle entirely out of the shed I flick it toward the fell line, like so:

You can see in the photo that the shuttle is higher than the shed so the selvedge ends are being forced apart which helps to let the weft beat in properly.  I am not pulling or tugging on the ends, which would eventually lengthen them and cause yet more problems with the selvedge.

My other option - and one I may try when I go back to the loom - is to reduce the epi in just the 8 selvedge ends.  If I sley them 3/2/3 instead of 4/4 the selvedge will not be so dense and will not resist the beat up of the weft pick each time.

Still mulling that over but I'm leaning towards trying that before I go very much further.  As I put an 'extra' 5 yards on I've got plenty to cut the threads, re-sley and weave a sample and not risk running out of warp.

Currently reading Last Nocturne by Marjorie Eccles

Monday, June 4, 2012

On Being Uncomfortable

sample #9 - spaced and crammed warp

One of the perq's of being an adult is that we have achieved a certain level of competency.  We have learned much and how to apply that learning.  We have reached a degree of skill with our methods and equipment that brings satisfaction with our results.  There is comfort in knowing what we know and how to do what we want to do.

All of which makes it very difficult to re-learn how to do those same things, differently.

Muscle memory is reluctant to be changed.  It takes concentrated effort to oust that ingrained knowledge and replace it with something new, even when we know - intellectually - that changing how we do 'it' will benefit us in the long run.

Our egos get very fussed with feeling incompetent - it's uncomfortable and we don't like it.  At all.

If we are not used to re-training ourselves in terms of bodily methods, this level of discomfort is off putting and we tend to slide back into our default mode - that ingrained muscle memory kicks in and we settle back into our comfort zone, in spite of knowing that by so doing we are probably not doing our muscles any great favours!

Having studied dance and some athletics, I came to weaving very familiar with the concept of bio-feedback and the awkwardness of re-training my muscles - the constant tweaking and fine-tuning of body position to achieve a particular effect.  So when I began weaving I was also highly aware of how something I was doing felt - whether or not it was awkward and how to slightly change position, test that and see if it improved anything, then change and test again.

Over the years I have refined my techniques and as I was exposed to new (to me) methods, I incorporated them when I recognized that they would be beneficial.

I've mentioned elsewhere that it generally takes me 7 warps to incorporate the new technique into my physical vocabulary.

Adults tend to assume that when they change a method it will be an automatic and instant change, not one that they will have to willfully and consciously work at over a (sometimes) lengthy period of time.  This is especially true for people who do not weave on a regular basis.  Muscle memory is insistent on clinging to the old, comfortable ways.

If a practitioner truly wants to change things, they need to work at it, mindfully, willfully, persistently.

And to take rest breaks.  Remember the golden rule of repetitive motions - when you feel the strain.....stop!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thumbs Down

towels cut off ready to be wet finished - three different wefts

Since September I've been attending a dance conditioning class.  It's been great - my balance has improved and it works on flexibility.  It seems dancers get muscle spasms/injuries in much the same places as weavers.  :)  (Although I already knew that, having studied dance when I was younger - much younger!)

My instructor is obviously very knowledgeable about body mechanics and co-incidentally, yesterday she talked about hand positions.  She observed that any time the hand is in the thumbs down position, this is very hard on the body, in particular the shoulders (rotator cuff).

I immediately thought of all those weavers I see all over the continent who hold and throw their shuttles like this:

Any time the thumb is in the thumbs up position, the arm, shoulder and neck are in neutral alignment.  This reduces the stress on the muscles which, if you are a weaver, you are stressing by the sheer repetitiveness of the weaving motions.  Much better then to hold the shuttle like this:  

When you hold the shuttle thumbs down the shoulder is raised out of neutral position and the lower arm is twisted.  With the thumb in the up position the shoulder can stay in neutral reducing stress on the muscles of the shoulder and neck and the lower arm is not twisted but straight.

If  you have shoulder problems you might want to think very seriously about changing your shuttle holding position if you hold the shuttle in the thumbs down orientation.

Likewise you might want to look at how you hold the hook for threading and sleying.  I use a Harrisville brass hook and hold it this way:

Even if you only pull one thread through one at a time, a mere flick of the wrist will do the job rather than having to move the entire arm and shoulder.

If you haven't watched my video clips on You Tube you might want to take a few minutes and watch them.

The happy result of changing your hand position is that you can do more weaving with less fatigue and sometimes people share with me that they can accomplish more with less effort.  And that has to be A Good Thing?

Currently reading Threadbare by Monica Ferris

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Journal

cover of the Summer 2012 issue of The Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers

page one of my article

I felt very honoured to be asked to contribute to The Journal, especially a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  :)

As the population ages, we are going to experience the aches and pains of aging and weaving, unfortunately, is full of repetitive motions.  Good posture and motions are critical to staying active and being able to keep on weaving.  The younger we establish good habits at the loom, the longer we are going to be able to carry on with the craft that we love.

Whatever loom one has, whatever physical abilities one has, we all must learn how best to use our bodies and equipment in order to keep on being active.

Sitting at the loom seems such a simple thing, but if it is done in such a way as to promote more aches and pains, that can't possibly be A Good Thing!  

So!  Make sure that your loom bench (or whatever you sit on) allows the 'waterfall' position - hips higher than knees. Sit up on your sitz bones, not slumped back on your tail bone.  A slight incline in the bench is sometimes helpful, but otherwise a little padding will also help.  Some people like to sit on a sheepskin - I found that too warm.  Sit high enough that your elbows clear the breast beam without having to hunch your shoulders in order to throw the shuttle.

At one loom I 'perch' on a high stool that is padded.  At the other loom I have a piece of high density foam to cushion my bottom.

It has been heartwarming to have inquiries from guilds to do presentations on being more efficient.  Watch the Schedule page on my website for where and when.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Treadle Envy

Green waffle towel with twill bands, similar to the ones shown in Handwoven May/June 2012

Rhonda mentioned about not having enough treadles to weave both waffle and twill on a four shaft loom and how she could set up a four shaft waffle weave on her 8 shaft loom and have plenty of treadles.

Well, here is another option:

Instead of using a 2:2 twill for the bands, you can use a 1:3 twill such as that shown in the photo at the top of this post.  Now the waffle I'm using in the above towel is not the standard point twill threading but you get the idea, I hope.  :)

Currently reading House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz