Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Weaving Air

Having several different projects going at a time is a habit I’ve gotten accustomed to over the years. I don’t have a schedule that allows me go to weave at my loom for entire days. Instead, I have bits of time here and there that I try to make good use of when I can. I used to judge this part of my nature, the part that flits from this to that. I wondered if I had a discipline problem, or some issue with commitment. Always the therapist, I’m often unpacking who I am and how I operate, and examining how my traits and tendencies impact my day-to-day life.

Well, in this case, I’ve learned that I really enjoy making things, at home, at work, on my loom, with kids, with adults, and by myself. I feel frustrated when the only thing I’m working on is not with me, leaving my hands idle and my mind clanking a bit. When I allow myself to indulge in the many-projects-at-once rhythm, I get to eventually enjoy what I refer to now as my creative crescendo; so often many things are finished around the same time and I have this wonderful experience of seeing multiple ideas and efforts come to fruition at once.

Right now, I’ve got this vibe going in full-force. There’s a curtain (hopefully) on my counterbalance loom, towels on my rigid heddle, a tapestry on my copper pipe loom, another tapestry on a small frame loom, and oh… that second mitten I’ve been wanting to finish knitting for months.

What I’m noticing about a few of my projects is that they are going after a feeling or sense experience that I can best describe as airy. I want my curtain to be as flowing and loose as I can manage weaving it, with bits of structure and form throughout. This is an experiment as I try my hand at weaving with 20/2 cotton as the warp and using inlay throughout. I’m not using a pattern or following any directions. I’ve already learned something. I have my 20/2 warp sett at 12 epi, and I originally hoped to use the same yarn for the plain weave weft; the inlay was going to be a thicker cotton slub yarn that has a yummy texture. Well, what I learned was that the fabric was just too loose. I was beating it lightly to maintain an openness and transparency. I basically wanted a curtain that blended in with air. But what I found was that if I even looked at the fabric funny, the weave drooped and flopped, making it look injured and offended. When I started considering finding a spray adhesive and shellacking the whole thing once it was done, I realized I’d maybe made a mistake, chalked it up to my steep learning curve, and switched gears. I am going to try to use the experiment to cover some beautiful handmade paper I have, so all is not lost.

Now, I’m weaving the curtain with the same warp, but with the thicker cotton slub yarn as weft, beat loosely (still finding the right beat and trying to keep it consistently). I can’t do the same inlay design I was doing because I’m using that yarn for the plain weave. I decided instead on this twine, jute-like string/rope/yarn I have and opted to just lay it in, leaving both ends exposed. This is a departure from the inlay techniques I was planning on practicing with this curtain, but that’s okay. I’ll get to them. I love the twine because you can unravel it and it becomes this wild grass-like stuff. It smells good, too. I’m hoping my curtain will still feel airy, but I suspect it will hang with a little more purpose and won’t be so vulnerable to the passing breeze or occasional handling as my original design would have been.

On my rigid heddle, I’ve got an actual pattern that I’m following. It’s another slub cotton project, this time towels. I love weaving with this yarn! It’s soft, gentle, light. Clasped weft is the main weaving technique utilized in this pattern, and it’s very satisfying to watch it build up. Getting the beat right on this project takes some doing. You can see on the bottom right that I’m beating too hard in the clasped weft section that is newly begun, but I’m working that out. I’m definitely turning into a person that uses a tape measure as a necklace! Ha! I’ll share pics of these towels when they’re done.

I’ll get to the tapestry work in another post, but for now, I hope that whatever you’re doing, there’s some room for creativity and texture, even if it’s just here and there. All those moments add up and make something, eventually.


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Weaving is Collective and Personal

I’m a member of the Vermont Weaver’s Guild and I participated in this year’s weaving challenge. It was to make a pillow using three of the four elements randomly assigned to each weaver who entered. I got overshot, cotton, stripes and black and white. I chose the first three elements because nowhere in my house is there a spot to receive a black and white anything, so that part was simple. One pillow is to be donated to the guild so it can be part of a sale that we have to raise money.

I’ve not been weaving for terribly long, and every time I learn a new thing, it feels like I have to relearn a bunch of old things, although I can say I’m noticing a growing ease with preparing a warp, getting it on the loom, setting the loom up and threading, so that is a good thing. I will share a story in another post about a fight I got into with my counterbalance loom with the absolute simplest warp/threading/tie up you can imagine just this week, but I’ll save that for later. For this pillow project, I opted to utilize the weaving class I was taking at Shelburne Craft School with Lausanne Allen to get help and support as I tackled the most complicated pattern and weaving structure I’ve done to date. The class was for weavers who have experience but are still actively learning and benefit from the guidance of a skilled and patient teacher.

I felt rather overwhelmed immediately with the overshot part of things, and how to add stripes to it, because I don’t know how to create my own patterns yet. I referenced Madelyn van der Hoogt and of course, Bertha Gray Hayes, and saw so many drafts I’d love to weave, but somehow, translating those into a pattern made me feel like I was swimming in too deep water- maybe it was resistance? Or confusion? Or just the simple fact that I need to dig in and study what size yarns go with what epi goes with what draft, etc., etc., and then color choice- oh man! It’s a lot to sort out! So… I kept getting stuck. Enter Lausanne, who showed me a wonderful pattern called Bertha’s Towels from Handwoven. I was like, boom… Cotton, check. Overshot, check-check. Stripes, bingo. I knew I could modify the pattern for the pillows I needed, and get a few towels out of the bargain as well, if I lengthened the warp. And from there I went.

What I loved about the process once I got out from under the stress of making a bunch of decisions about a weave structure I didn’t really understand yet was the toggling between community and self, community and self. During class and open studios, I shared close space with fellow students who I now consider friends. One was weaving a beautiful Krokbragd pattern on a rug warp; the other was approaching our school’s antique barn loom that was having new life breathed into it with all of the attention paid to her; that weaver has her own incredible story to tell about her experience, and she wove an absolutely gorgeous table runner using an overshot pattern. In the back weaving room, there were other wonderful weavers and friends working out their warps and weaving. The sounds of a working weaving studio are amazing- clanking, knocking, the occasional sigh, swear, muttering to self, the walking around and looking at others’ work when you’re so tweaked by threading, sleying and realizing a mistake. I’d have a moment where I’d meet myself and my own growth edge, exclaim some thing, get support and dive back in to my own mind and project.

It took a long time for me to weave three towels and two pillow covers (one side- I used a lovely muslin-esque type fabric for the back). The flow of overshot and the pattern itself requires complete attention, pretty much the whole time. I think I finally internalized the pattern by the middle of the second to last towel I wove and it started to make sense to me, how it all worked. And wow, as the fabric became reality, I couldn’t believe what I was making. It was so much fun to problem solve selvedges and beats, fixing mistakes and troubleshooting loom peculiarities with Lausanne and my weaving partners. And it was heartening to meet, yet again in this weaving passion I’ve found myself in, my own growth edges and how I deal with them- it’s not pretty all the time, that’s for sure, but I know that I can move forward now towards pattern design- not with ease, but maybe with less trepidation? I mean, I’m in no rush… we’ll see.


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New Project on the Loom- Trying My Hand at Making a Slitrya Blanket

Finally… a project is on my floor loom. Well, not entirely. Threading is still in the queue, but with the help of Lausanne, I got the close to four and half yard warp wound on without too much trouble. There was one moment when it seemed the whole thing might become a bit more cumbersome when the rod attached to the back beam was found to be uneven, but with some tinkering, it was straightened out. I also think I finally came to understand the relationship between the pattern width, the width of the raddle sections, and the numbers of threads in each bout of the warp. For some reason, the relationship between these things has never fully clicked. I was making my warp bout size more about the total number of ends and the way to split it up as evenly as possible without the bouts being too big. I never even considered the raddle. I remember when I had to take statistics in college… I was in the second semester of it, which meant that presumably, I understood all the stuff I learned in the first class. This one day, I just could not at all, in any way, grasp what the professor was saying. To this day, I remember more his glorious, curly hair that the Florida humidity had fun with, rather than the stats itself. Doing some homework after class, I slammed into a wall of confusion and had to get some space from the claustrophobia of my own limits. I sat on a bench outside of the library, that building in which I spent most of my time, other than my own apartment. I just let my mind drift and then the concept I was struggling with came to me, like a fresh breeze on a stifling hot day. I got it! I remember I jumped a little and wanted to yell to someone… anyone, “Did you see what just happened in my head!” I didn’t. I just went upstairs and completed my homework with ease, enjoying my newfound insight. I feel like that’s what happened yesterday, thanks to Lausanne (again!).

The pattern is called Lillebror Slitrya and is from the Handwoven Nov/Dec 2020 issue. I’m very excited about it. I’ll keep you posted on progress as I make my way towards actual weaving. With the extra warp, I’ll play, play and see what happens!


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Cookie Sheet Weaving Project

Hello All~ I sure do hope you are doing okay, wherever you are. I have so much I’d like to say and share about what this COVID-19 pandemic is teaching me. I may have to do that in another post. But here and now, I will share with you a project I made up for wonderful kids I get to spend time with, even though we are all doing some wicked epic social distancing. I have spent large bits of the last seven years teaching fiber art in my kids’ classes (and in some others, too!) and I can tell you, the kids inspire in me so much longing to keep making, keep creating and keep sharing. Now that our Fiber Friday classes are happening on Saturdays via Zoom, I’m trying to figure out lots of yarn-y things to teach using materials we might have kicking around at home. The thing with weaving is, you can make a loom out of so many things! “Homework” for this week is to look around the house and yard to see if we might find weird, unexpected, unique or random “looms” that could be woven on. These could be sticks, frames, chairs, trees… whatever! I hope I see some good ideas next week!

This project is aptly called the Cookie Sheet Weaving Project. As you can see, I’ve used a cookie sheet, yarn, and tape to make this loom. I’ll give step-by-step instructions and maybe you can give it a go!

Materials:

  • cookie sheet, any size
  • yarn
  • scissors
  • tape

Optional Materials

  • fabric
  • large eyed tapestry needle
  • lots of variety of yarn- this is a great project for using up small bits of yarn stash

This is what your loom will look like once it is set up. I’ve chosen to warp my tray the long way, making my weaving piece wide. You can do it the other way, too. You can also choose to warp only a portion of the tray.

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To secure the warp, tape the end of skein of yarn to one side of the bottom of the tray, and then start wrapping the yarn around the tray, with about a 1/4 inch to a 1/3 inch between each wrapped thread. You can see, the underside of the loom isn’t gorgeous, with tape everywhere, securing the warp. Don’t worry about that. It’s most important that your warp is securely fastened onto the tray. Since my tape wasn’t turbo sticky, I used a lot of it.

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I opted for making a very fringy piece. Rather than moving back and forth and back and forth with the yarn, leaving no fringe on the edge, I chose to cut lengths of yarn that were several inches longer than the width of the cookie sheet. I wove each thread individually and then made sure that the remaining yarn was about equal on each side. If you don’t want fringe, just keep weaving back and forth with a long length of yarn, being sure not to pull too hard on the warp threads as you come back the other way.

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Row 1: I started by taking one end of a cut length of yarn and going under the first warp thread, over the next, under the next, and so on.

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Row 2: With the next cut length of yarn, I went over the first warp thread, under the next, over the next, under the next and so on. In this way of weaving, I noticed that I liked weaving from right to left, over and over again. This is different than when you weave with a very long length, moving back and forth from right to left, and then left to right as you head back again.

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Because I have a LOT of small balls of yarn, I chose colors and textures that go well together and I cut a bunch of lengths at a time so I could just get into the flow of weaving. This is a very portable project, so I had it all over the house depending on what I was doing.

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And I wove, and wove… and wove… Once you get to the top, you’ll notice that there’s not much room for your fingers to move the yarn around the warp threads.

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If you have a tapestry needle, this is a good time to get it. Threading it with the yarn you are weaving with (the weft), you can really get up to the edge of the tray.

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Before I thought about taking the project off the loom, I tied off the fringe on each side. You just take one weft thread, and the next one, and tie it in a double knot. Make sure that the two edges you tie are on opposite sides of the warp thread. This will ensure that the warp is secure and your piece won’t become loose and/or unravel.

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When your fringe is all tied up, flip the tray over and remove the pieces of tape that are securing the edges of the warp. Then, cut across the middle of the warp threads, freeing the piece from the tray.

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You have a choice to make here. For both choices you should tie off the warp threads in the same way you did the fringe, tying one thread next to its neighbor. If you have an extra one at the end, just include it with the two next to it.

Then, the choice… Do you leave the warp as fringe, too? Or do you sew it into your weaving? There is no right answer except for doing what you think is best for your piece. If I had used a thicker, more interesting or robust yarn for my warp, I think I would have left it as fringe, but the yarn I chose is kind of tame compared to my fringy side, so I opted to sew it in.

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Here’s the warp threads tied off.

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I chose to sew the two tied threads at a time, because they are already tied together as one.

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Using your tapestry needle, bring the warp threads back through the weaving, drawing the needle through the column of the woven piece that is right under it. Don’t pull too tight here as you’ll pucker your cloth.

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Flip your piece over to make sure the warp threads are really hidden in the column of weaving. Sometimes they peep through too much and you have to do it again.

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Once you’ve gone through a couple of inches, you can snip the remainder off.

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Here you see my piece with the wild fringe and sewn in warp threads. This thing definitely needs a little fringe-cut.

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And there we have it! Who knew I needed a new woven table decor piece?!

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Stay tuned for some more fiber art ideas. These will always be great for kids to do, but for sure, these are also fun for folks of all ages. It’s the truth that handcrafting is good for us. It quiets the mind, especially once we get into a good flow. It helps ground us when things feel wild or unpredictable. And, it can give us the chance to see that we can make some really beautiful things.

Take good care,

Bradie


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Ahhh, Satisfaction! 

Yesterday evening I took a piece off my rigid heddle loom I’d started weeks ago. September 1st, I think. 


I used a yummy mohair yarn and what I’m fairly certain is a kind of thick cotton thread. I love autumn-esque colors. I was going for a shawl that both looks warm and delicate, airy and solid. I also wanted to practice a weaving technique called Leno as described in the book, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom, by Syne Mitchell. 

The cotton thread behaved so much differently than the wool yarn. It is much less forgiving and had almost no elasticity. Sometimes the selveges were a catastrophe. I thought about bailing on the project about halfway through because I was worried it was just a hot mess and I should start over. Then I got stubborn and opted to carry on ~ best case scenario, I reasoned, was that I’d love the shawl and want to show it to the world, imperfections and all. Worst case? That once off the loom I’d lament wasting hours of my life weaving cloth not fit for mouse bedding. 

I tried out some things in an effort to minimize loose ends. Oh loose ends! They are part of things, aren’t they? 

When I had to switch colors (according to my own pattern; I’d arrange the color changes much differently if I were to make this again) I tried securing the loose threads in the loop of the weft as it was going back through the warp. That worked out pretty well. Wish I’d have figured that out sooner! 




Taking the shawl off the loom was nerve wracking! Not sure why. It feels both sturdy and fragile at the same time, and all of the loose ends made me wonder how the hell I’d get them all sewn in without ruining the fabric. 


There it is all laid out. 


I stayed up until the wee hours last night sewing all the strands in, those that couldn’t be trimmed as they were. It was so worth it. 

The shawl isn’t blocked yet but here it is. I’m so happy I kept at it. I learned so much about how different threads behave, selveges, the utter importance of a proper tension in all warp threads (obvious I know, but I thought I’d done that and still there were problems throughout. I think I need to make smaller groups of weft threads in the beginning stages). 


Here’s an up-close view of the general pattern. 


Here’s some unfortunate selvege proof. 


And there’s me, still proud as hell of this piece!