Friday, May 22, 2015

Warped

It's been an up-and-down week, but I managed some work. I didn't do it in good balance, (not much gardening in spite of three beautiful still, sunny but chilly days,) and I might regret having so many warps on so many looms at once. But I'll live.
I made a warp with the navy version of the previous gray mill-end fine merino, and started wondering what silk to use in the weft. Mom wants an uplifting, light-colored piece; she wanted me to withdraw one of the grays from the Suter but I don't do that, and she's so not a gray person, and I so enjoyed weaving with this yarn, so I'm looking forward to this project.
I made warp of cashmere mixed with a few other things, some of which I overdyed with walnut shells way back. It's on the 16-shaft Klick because one of the pieces is Mom's commission she wants it in a many-shaft weave, and I'm not putting another cashmere warp on the big loom in the foreseeable future. But even on this loom I'm not confident if this yarn can withstand all the ups and downs. I may come to regret this. I need to design a lovely curvy threading to be woven in a straight-forward, regular lift plan. Another piece will be a Thank You pressie. Unless I get so frustrated and cut it off.
I made two warps with Mom's old wool; one in two grays, another in four browns, again some overdyed in walnut shells. I had in mind fabrics, but these wash up so deliciously I may make at least one shawl from each warp. Or two.
The brown warp is waiting to be threaded in Dornick; I have more of the two un-overdyed brown to go in the weft first; haven't thought beyond that.  
 The two grays' weft candidates are waiting to be called up.
I recounted the number of merino/mohair warp ends. 520, not 500 as written down, which makes me wonder how many I have in the black version, which I made immediately before this, and for which I wrote down 500 also. I need to make a few drafts but they will be similar to or modified versions of what I used for the fine gray merino. Or not.
Some nights ago I fringed roughly 55% of this piece; I need to finish this before I forget how many times I twisted each way.
And as long as I'm in a brown mood, (because I'm so not a brown weaver,) I may make one more warp before I sit down to weave. Or not.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Joy Spilled Over to the Weekend

On Friday Maria brought me lemons from her tree and a skein of snow-white silk, wrapped in cute cloth and ribbon; she called my attention to the ribbon but I was so taken by the purple polka-dotted swatch I was speechless. Kath brought us bread to go with my bean soup and apricot squares but you are mistaken if you thought I'd take pictures of apricot squares before getting stuck into them, my dears.
Having an ally like Maria makes me feel confident I will eventually be able to make use of any fabric I weave. Somehow. These are from Mom's stash and interesting in this instance she bought many colors of the same yarn which makes the stash easier for me to use. (She usually buys one skein or one skein each of a few colors.) They are old-fashioned, greasy, scaly wool. The four smaller balls I overdyed with walnuts years ago tell me the resultant cloth will full beautifully.
More stash-busting idea mixing/matching shades/fibers/styles. The four brown at the left, (I excluded the tiny dark brown,) will become another fabric warp.
Next warp, merino/mohair mix, approx 17/2, (110/2 in Kiwispeak;) I usually thread the same size merino from the same source at 18EPI but this yarn doesn't full so I'll start sampling at 20EPI. I had written down 500 ends, but I had 26 inches in the raddle. Humm...
Weft candidates: possum/merino/silk in natural/brown, merino in variegated light blues, and a skinny (78/2 from memory) merino with a little bit of scale. I say a little bit because merino-with-scale as I know/learned fulls far more richly than this one, but it's still a lovely yearn.

I had a great idea for a fourth weft while winding on the warp, then the loom make a cracking sound halfway through, something you might expect if 100 warp ends broke at once. I couldn't find anything unusual with the loom nor a single broken warp, though, so I kept winding gingerly. I might be in for a rude surprise later.

I remembered the fourth candidate when I walked into the stash room but I haven't retrieved it. The stash room hasn't been put back in order and everything is still pushed against the dresser and, well, in chaos as far as accessing/retrieving goes. One reason I haven't remedied this is I have been wondering if/when I will go back to drawing/mixed media, and how much stuff, among them collage material, to keep. I won't ever stop playing with them, but I have accumulated a bit in the years I took drawing lessons, and I know that if I culled them the room would be roomier. Hummm...

Mom told me about a lecture series she found in her neighborhood; a young Japanese anthropologist/film-maker addressing belief systems in Bali. She was so excited and I was so envious I started watching BBC's Lost Kingdom of Central America and Lost Kingdom of South America, some of which were available on a NZ telly channel website. This is curious because Central and South Americas are the last big regions I've become interested in, largely because they never popped up in world history classes when I was a student in Japan, except the Incas, Mayas and the Spanish expansion. But textile-wise, I've been aware they are so important and fascinating.

In one of the episodes a scholar mentioned the iconography on a beer vessel; this one had on the outside motifs from an older, geographically-distant culture which initially developed and promoted beer, but the inside was decorated with motifs from the later, local makers'/users' culture.

And I've been dwelling on the idea of iconography.  

And I've been trying to write a blog post on my Japanese blog on how to wet-finish cashmere and wool. Since Christmas.

And there are eight off-the-loom pieces at various stages of finishedness on the floor.

Hummmm...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mid-May

Already! It has indeed been an unusual few weeks: my cold, the rain, Mom, Mana. Did I mention the rain? Wellington and the lower North Island had horrendous rain, landslides and flooding. Nelson? Well, lots and lots of rain and a wee bit of thunder and lightening, in between brilliant Sunny Nelson days. But no flooding. And as you can imagine, vigorous growth outside.

In the last week, as I tried to reenter my normal life, I had two too-exhausted-to-cook-up-excuses days, one productive weaving-and-cleaning day, one town/errands day, and today, Kath and Maria, who didn't know each other, came to lunch. Kath's second musical collaboration is being produced in town, and one of Maria's submissions to Changing Threads received an award; the show opened tonight and I hope to read about it on her FB page soon. Great things happening to friends!!

Me, I finished weaving the black-merino-overdyed-with-walnuts warp end, which was longer than I expected and for a minute I thought I might get a proper scarf, but no, it was around one meter. Now I'm wondering if I should make a crowl. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mana's Visit 4

Friday was weaving day; she trying to finish the scarf, I putting on a warp for a intriguing weft she brought from Japan. We took a late afternoon break to visit potter Royce McGlashen, a spot of wine tasting, and a walk around the airport at dusk. She finished weaving both projects just before midnight and we had a wee celebration.
 
Saturday we did what was left on her To Do list: the Saturday market, some more shopping, Centre of New Zealand, (her hometown is the geographical center of Japan,) before taking off to Auckland, then on to Hong Kong, Osaka, and home.

I am exhausted after a long month of visitor activities. It's been fun but I have missed my quiet, uneventful life. I hope to get back on my usual weed/weave schedule, but I'm gonna need a few days, folks. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mana's Visit 3

Still on Tuesday, after dinner, adrenaline-pumped Mana wanted to learn how to make jam with no added sugar, (cook fruits a little, let it cool, add chia seeds,) so we did that. These late nights are getting harder on this old body, and I've declared to Ben I was planning to sleep all day next Sunday.

Day 3, Wednesday morning, we talked about family, (both our fathers passed away in the last two years,) food and did a bit of cooking. As I type, in the late afternoon, she's weaving her scarf as that progress dictates what we can do tomorrow, her last full day here, and whether she can tackle another small project she brought from Japan.

Tonight on the menu: dinner when Ben comes home, followed by a much anticipated trip to the supermarket.

Mana's Visit 2

Day 2, Tuesday, (can't believe it was only our second day,) we had breakfast at the Suter Cafe, and walked around town, shopping a little, mostly kitchen gadget places but also quite a long time at Carol Priest.
Then Pat brought us to her house for a lovely lunch, (Mana may be blogging about it with pictures,) we looked closely at Pat's tapestries, and then Pat showed Mana how tapestries are woven.
 
We moved on to Pat's newly tidied, (and I mean, tidied, with surreptitious stash gone and a chair, a love seat, and a large desk installed, or they may have existed but were in hiding; something to aspire to, weavers,) where Pat showed her Ikat work, Moorman Technique, Indigo and Kakishibu projects, and a myriad of strange and wonderful yarns Pat's collected mostly from Japan which neither Mana nor I have ever encountered.

Mana was particularly intrigued by the Moorman Technique and it's application on clothing fabric; she was already thinking of a Jacquard at her work capable of this technique.
Me, my brain was overflowing so I concentrated on the boys. Larry said photographing black dogs is no fun because all features disappear; I can verify it's true at least without good sunlight. Poor Dudley.
A wonderful time was had by all.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mana's Visit 1

Mana Akihara arrived midday yesterday. It's only been half a day we've had her but I feel as though we've been discussing weaving for years. She grew up in Nishiwaki, northeast of Kobe, a region known for Banshu Ori cotton weaving. Many mills appear to be three-generation old, so not very old for Japan, but they promote the dyed-in-the-yarn aspect, and are known for their stripes and checks. The town is apparently full of dye places and family-owned mills to this day.

Although she grew up in her grandfather's and father's mill, she wasn't interested in textiles until a chance meeting in Osaka with her current employer and our hero, one Mr Okido, who happens to be from Nishiwaki. And it turned out there had been apprentice relationships in previous generations between the two families/companies as well.

So far I've learned how much of a renegade Mr Okido is in his innovation and breadth of collaboration, so Mana's workplace is not a typical Banshu Ori mill. We're trying to learn the difference between handweaving and mill-weaving. In mills, the faster the machine the harder the beat, and of course mill-woven results in much harder cloth than handwoven, ergo generally easier to sew.

I'm finding out more about paper (washi) threads in practical cloth. She's wearing a few of them, so not just experimental but practical and surprisingly hard-wearing items. And even though she knows weaving is a time consuming business, she has renewed respect for what we do, as most of us do most/all the work ourselves, from making the warp, threading, sleying, and finishing, whereas they have professionals who take care of various stages of their process, and a machine to tie on a new warp to the old!

Today we're off to breakfast in a cafe, a stroll in town, then to Pat's for lunch and looking at her tapestry work and looms, Ikat, Kakishibu, and I'm sure Pat has questions about things Japanese. (She knows far more about Japanese textiles and traditions than I do, so I learn things from Pat.) Mana is also a camera/photography enthusiast, so she and Ben has some one-on-one time coming up, too, I'm sure.
Instead of making a boring old wet finish sample using different kinds of wool, she opted to make a short scarf on the black merino with possum/silk/merino weft.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Prepping

Mana arrives in less than 18 hours, and I did make good progress in cleaning yesterday afternoon and part of today, but instead of tidying the outside, (like moving a bunch of tall dead grass away from the kitchen windows,) I wove.

I enjoyed finishing Mom's piece last week and I missed weaving. And it's been a while since I wove a piece in one day, but here it is. The warp is the same as Mom's, black merino "softened" in walnut husk dye some years ago; the weft is purple 100% cashmere, 2/20 from memory. The draft is slightly modified version of what Mom wove, to make it not symmetrical/regular. This way, I could fringe it and show Mana how I wash wool pieces, if that's what she's interested in.
It'll be an intense and interesting five days, trying to do a variety of things on the loom while I pick her brain, and we may even have terrible rain in the meantime. Isn't life exciting!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Interim

During the first half of April, we didn't have a single 24-hour period without rain; sometimes the sky-falling stuff, sometimes the persistent, misty gray version. We've had more since, once or twice enough to obscure our own shrubs, but not continuously. The same fortnight and a bit, I was sick for all but three days; I haven't been sick in bed for longer than four and a half days as long as I can remember.

Then we cleaned, laundered, and cleaned to for visitors. The garden doesn't exist in my conscience right now, and so be it; traditionally I didn't even worry until May. Plus winter came suddenly this year with no Indian summer, so my visitors don't really have a heck of a lot of time for outside. That's the official version, folks!

Mom has been and gone; we talked weaving, she had a go on my big loom, we managed two long walks plus a day in town, but it ten days is a short stay. I went up to Auckland to see her off and had half a day at the newly refurbished Auckland City Art Gallery yesterday.
 Mom learning to design in the lift plan, as all of her 8-shafts are table looms.
Mom having a go on the big loom; I finished the weaving, we fringed, and she will wash it at home.
But she is happiest being active outside.
We had our 25th while Mom was here. The next day was my sister's 20th, so we took a groupie to send her. 

Mana comes Tuesday and has an even shorter stay, only until late Saturday. Then I might have a chance to catch up with Annie who was in town the same time as Mom; Annie will be passing through Nelson on her way back north.

This is turning into a year of visitors and plenty of weaving talks.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Gray Lot

Yesterday was the beginning of the end for my cold. I had the same symptoms and fever, but my head was clearer so we ran around two garden centers, me looking for good perennials to plonk in the gap, the thinking being if I have stuff to look at, visitors are less likely to notice weeds; Ben looking for a new BBQ. (We bought a standard grade one on New Year's Eve, 1999. It stood protected from direct sun/rain, but was exposed to wind; that metal would disintegrate in mere 13-14 years has been my delayed Y2K bug.)

It's been raining off and on this week; great for the garden and sore throat, but it's the variety that makes the wooden kitchen floor "moist". During breaks I rush out to pot bulbs or fill gaps, but for no longer than half an hour at a stretch. It makes me frustrated, but it's dark and wet enough I don't have to do the should-I-or-shouldn't-I dance.

So I've fringed three more, (three to go,) but am no washing until the dryness returns. Instead I've been preparing the three cashmeres, (Ben took the far right piece, I'm still not sure what to do with the bamboo-shaped monochrome;) three grays and the brown/black wool, (wonderful hand and weight,) to take to the Suter, tomorrow if all goes to plan. The gray ones remain milestones of sorts, so I must wax lyrical before they leave the house. (Sorry for the bad pics, but rain, dark, you get the picture. Ummm, no pun intended.)
 
The first piece, with the skinny silver weft, is the very kind of cloth I've wanted to weave for a long time, and I like it. I like the balance of values and sheen, I like the scale of the design in proportion to the size of the piece and relative to the size of the yarns. Even the unfamiliar papery hand is interesting; it's crisp and almost tin-foil like, so not exactly showing off the best characteristics of merino, but perhaps "saved" by it. It's a heavy, rainy, December-in-Tokyo gray, (whereas Nelson this week is more dark moss green,) and I can see Ben wearing it in his previous life, in the latest cut of suit and width of tie every season, but we don't live that life any more, and I hope this finds a very special home.
 
(Sorry about my shadow; this was shot sideways and I couldn't take myself out of the shot.)
This is the piece I could easily see at a wedding or christening. Visually, I like this the best; it's fancy, celebratory, and has a weight I expect in silk. It makes me happy looking at it, and the draft is worth looking at several times as it's a little more complicated than at first glance. (All my draft pics are a little deceptive as I have blank picks, appearing as dark gray horizontal lines, so I know the start/end of each unit as I weave.)

I tend to see scarves and shawls as vertical pieces of cloth, and have often displayed them as such, but when worm, wider pieces present horizontally in parts, and with that in mind I'm thinking of weaving this draft and its variations turned.
This has the same weft as above, (and then don't wrinkle,) the worst selvedge, and a few other problems. Weaving this draft was more challenging as it's less "regular" and more "graphic". I like this the least because I don't know where to focus even now when I can see it as a whole; there is no emphasis nor flow, and this is useful in marrying my design with my preferences. Because I'm the hardest person to please.

While I don't intend to stop weaving the more predictable, same-pattern-all-over designs, (because I like them,) I also want to delve into creating drama, and this was an OK first step.
* * * * *

When I was sick, I caught up on Craft in America. Episode XII includes a small production weaving mill which may interest you. I needed to be reminded cloth used to be heirloom, and we can all appreciate the way the lady says, "because it takes so long to make!.