Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Log Cabin

I couldn't decide what I wanted to do today.  Specifically, I couldn't decide if I wanted to put on a two-color cashmere warp, threading undecided, or Ben's Happi warp, not sellable, on the big loom.  I looked at my four-shaft Jack.  The poor thing has been neglected for much too long; I don't have a record, but I put on a black-and-gray alpaca warp in log cabin sometime between October last year and February this year.

I'm not a fan of alpaca; my face and arms itch, ergo the long neglect; there's no "expression" on the yarns; I imagine this is what it's like to weave nylon cords or horse hair.  And there is absolutely no joy of wet finishing alpaca, and the small problem of absolutely no disguising bad selvedge.  Still, I don't want to take off another  partially woven warp off the loom, only to have to resurrect it again, so I continued to weave a small scarf I started on April 8. This year. 

I'm still skeptical about this piece as a scarf, to be worn around the neck and face, (certainly not by me,) but color & weave fascinates me.  It's plain weave, but it looks three-dimensional.  At first I kept making treadling mistakes because I was lost in the maze of the vertical and horizontal stripes.

After a while the treadling became automatic; because of the massive size of the yarns, the weaving is super fast, and I was enjoying myself quite a bit.  Plain weave, though with two wefts, and this result.  Log cabin is one of the most energy efficient weave "structure", yes?

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Workaday" / Tags: Conclusion

Since Friday morning, I've been contemplating the word, and the notion, of "workaday".   I hadn't heard the word for a long time until Sheldon described Leonard thus to Leonard's Mom (1:30), in the episode of American sitcom "The Big Bang Theory".

Weavers, and other "makers" in New Zealand, use the term "bread and butter" to describe work they make which are creatively nononerous but bring in quick/easy money.  Now that I've been reminded of the word, "workaday" seems to describe this activity better; you put in the hours, pieces get made, and a small amount of money comes in.  Kind of like office jobs I've had.  Even though in the current economy even the small pieces aren't flying out the window.  But I know you get the point.  It's usually not very exciting cranking out  these pieces off, at least not for me.  

I've been thinking of what I perceive as my "workaday" pieces.  Make no mistake, the same care goes into each of my piece, but the small 2/2 twill, (because it brings out the best hand,) cashmere scarves are my most workaday, followed closely by the 110/2 merino warp medium (about 30cm wide) and wide (between 75-84cm wide) pieces, including the latest.  I honestly do appreciate your compliments, and it is a nice piece this latest, but I think you will understand when I say there was no real challenge, no something-new, in the making of the piece, and that is what I perceive as workaday.

So, I've been thinking of cashmeres in a different structure, and at least for a while, a markedly different appearance.  And I've been contemplating Color & Weave and/or Shadow Weave.

* * * * *

The tags have been fixed, to the best of the printer's ability.  Paul, the owner or manager of the company, cut the sides of the tags which had more than 1mm difference in the width of the front and the back page.  But I was still left with a little less than half of my order not acceptable to me, so I asked if he'd give me yellow cartridge paper ever so slightly smaller than the tags so I can insert them like pages to detract the eyes, and he did this in an instant.  Paul also gave me the exact dimensions of the yellow sheets so I could order if I need more.  Best of all, the tags came back looking as fresh as the day I first received them; not worn, no corners bashed, and not looking tired and "handled".

I went to the galleries in town to swap the tags, and I came across a new problem.  I punched holes in the top/center of the old tags; the news ones, since they look like books, I punch the top/left; wee plastic bags I sometimes use to attach yarn samples come with holes in the top/center.

I contemplated a long tag folding vertically, (the fold running horizontally,) as I thought it looks more like a garment tag, but I was more drawn to the booklet idea so the idea was rejected quickly.  I'll worry about this if ever I have to order some more.

Actually, there is another wee problem.  See, I used to use an inexpensive hole punch that made 1/4 inch holes; because I didn't like the look of these large holes in the new tags, I invested in a Frisker's 1/8 inch hole punch this time.  The holes in the bags are somewhere in-between, but in real life looks better next to the 1/4 inch hole in the tag.  Looking for small bags without the holes would be the quickest route, but I have about 80 bags left, so I shall worry about it later.

Of course all this is of a minor concern if I can weave spectacular, mind-blowingly fab pieces one after another.  But I'm Japanese; I can't help thinking about the whole package, and these usually have quicker solutions than spectacular, mind-blowingly fab pieces one after another.  

I have now been classified as a fussy customer of Speedy Print, (Paul said it much nicely,) and I'm happy about that. But I am also a satisfied customer. 

Now if I could weave more quickly and consistently...


Last week, I got my 2011 Cicely calendar in the mail.  It wasn't until then that I noticed I never got a 2010 one, nor did I have a motto for this year. (Even though this latter is not an every year thing, I usually have something vague and abstract to keep in mind; I've been stuck on "preposterous".)

Calendars are important to me.  I start looking for the following year's around August, and by about October I will have chosen one or two.  The large visuals relate to something I want to aim in the coming year, colors, shapes, lines or mindset.  And I have the smaller Cicely one to keep me grounded and write in work-related items only.  I make a small ceremony for myself of buying calendars and a diary/appointment book every year, visualizing the cloths to come.   

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed Cicely had a diary, too.  Or so I thought; it was near the diary section in the bookshop.  Now, I know my Cicely products like the back of my hand, so I was in a slight panic not knowing of this new one, but it was perfect timing, and I took it down to have a look: A5 size, spiral bound, cover sketch very appropriate for where I am now. I opened the pages to see if I like the font and spacing for entries, and it was all white!  No dates, no calendars, no lists of national holidays.  And my mind went blank.  Was that particular book faulty?  Or is my 2011 going to be as blank as 2010?? Am I going to be as impotent for another whole year???

It turns out it wasn't a diary, it was a visual diary, a sketchbook, one I've coveted for years. But it took me a couple of dozen moments to gather my thoughts, the fragments of myself, to remember that, and I didn't feel relieved one bit.

I also had a strange Sunday.  Outside was gloriously sunny, bright and hot, and I could have done anything I wanted to.  I thought of putting on a warp, weaving the purple cotton piece, or designing a commission baby blanket.  Or even reading up on one of the many structures I'm interested in right now; I could have gone over Sunner & Winter, return to Shadow or Color & Weave or Log Cabin, or just flip through the Eight Shaft book.  But I didn't do it.  I can't describe it, but the nearest I can tell is, I wasn't interested.   I wasn't interested in textiles.

I could have read, drawn, cooked, gardened, whatever, but I was genuinely stunned I wasn't interested in textiles that I sat around contemplating the point.  I better get a move on today before I loose my mojo completely. 

In two days, it's December.

* * * * *

I always thought if ever I do a giveaway on this blog, I would have liked to have woven a bunch of little things to give away to many folks.  I haven't gotten around to it, but it so happens Cecily was having a special, and I actually got two calendars, and I'd like to share one with you.

To enter, please leave in the comment section your dream textile holiday and money is no object.  It can be a workshop, visiting/revisiting a region or a museum or a particular weaver, or going somewhere to learn a particular technique.  I'll draw one winner on a completely biased, subjective, "wish-I-thought-of-it" basis this coming Sunday afternoon New Zealand time.   Multiple entries welcome.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Friday Night Rain"

This is what I got from this warp.

As mentioned before, the color areas were created by unintentional/accidental placement of the colors in the variegated yarns.  In real life the cloth is not as glittery as it appears here, but this mohair mix, in various colorways, has always been difficult to photograph.
The warp is 110/2 (2/17) merino; the weft is merino/mohair mix.  Both were commercially dyed in the same/similar color schemes of lavender/lilac/purple/dark forest green.    I used three short similar-but-different drafts, weaving sometimes from the top of the file, sometimes from the bottom.  This combination of yarns usually creates a light, almost lacy cloth, but this piece turned out a little heftier in comparison.

Scenario: running to a social function after work on Friday night, in a city somewhere like Tokyo; rain starts to descend, but the spirit is filled with anticipation/celebration.

I had a hard time with life around me going on as per usual and media blasting continuously about Christmas sales.  Everything felt very hollow, cheap, and shouty.  But it was nice to finish a piece.  


After having had enough of feeling sorry for myself, I set off to work. I wanted to weave, but early on yesterday, we were actually hearing hopeful news from the Pike River Mine, and I felt upbeat about the accident and wanted to stay close to the TV.  So I fringed. 

All afternoon I had pictures on the television and news on the radio going, but it wasn't until a little after 4.50PM that we heard about the second explosion.

Even though we had been told about the high levels of gas and the possibility of subsequent explosions from the onset, the brain listened but the minds were dreamily hopeful. I don't think I would be exaggerating to say many were expecting a replay of the Chilean rescue, perhaps not yesterday afternoon, but in a few days. 

Mine accidents are tragic anywhere in the world.  If you are someone who prays, please include the 29 miners and their families in your prayers today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Tis the Season to Ponder Concepts

This morning, I woke up to a bad dream. I was at Refinery Art Space at an opening of a exhibition/production, when Lloyd Harwood approached me to let me know the Fiber ("Fibre", here) Arts Award show "Changing Threads" is officially on again in 2011; there, amongst happy, excited school kids, the concept of "concept" started to wear me down.

Before I go on with this woe-is-me post, (not really,) let me spread the word that this show is indeed on again. I swear to the Weaving Goddess I found this announcement in Facebook this morning!

I've been struggling with my life of a weaver, being my own boss, in control of my schedule, projects, life. There is so much I can be doing, but I've been unable to prioritize, to focus, and frustrated with how long each task/project takes to complete.

Although I've been hoping to add to my stock at the three galleries in town, (because I wasn't able to get to work on an Etsy store yet again this gift-giving season,) I haven't had pieces coming off of my looms. Which partly caused the lack of sales this year, although, again, it's my priorities that is skewed because I've had a long-standing commission on which I finally started working after a friendly nudge from the client.  And worst of all, I haven't been lazy; I've been chiseling away at my mountain a little bit, every day.

As usual, I have theories. One is this "concept" thing: since I started thinking about art vs crafts, I feel guilty if I weave something not preceded with a drawn-out design process. I still feel I have to reinvent the wheel before every warp or series. I know it's silly but I haven't found a happy place of reasonable compromise.

The other is this. My dear mild-to-moderate depression started 18 months before I resolved to be a "proper" weaver; back then this meant since I was no longer willing to work in office jobs, I had to earn some money to finance my favorite hobby. Though I haven't been depressed for a year, I don't know how to operate when I'm well because I've never had the combination of not-depressed and being-a-weaver.

Though I have vague schedules, I am have become flexible, (which is a good thing for me in the scheme of things,) always aware that things may go down at any time. Pessimism? Maybe. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Not necessarily. As one learns to live with depression, we're taught to spot symptoms early so we are always aware, so it's pragmatism, (again, good for me.) The frustration of unproductivity hasn't been interrupted by depression meanwhile, so it's been building up like magma, occasionally spewing steam and hot rocks, but mostly turning into dread and foreboding quite different from depression.

While I was desperate to get better, I didn't pay much attention to my age other than as a number, but now that I've been better, I realize I'm 52 years old and seriously wonder how many good weaving years I've got left in me, what with all the minor physical problems tugging at my work shirt sleeves most days. How much time I have to learn and improve.

I know a good life. I live in a place where some folks call paradise. Ben is my rock and my soul mate, my provider and sometimes, cook.  And though I covet, I really don't have to have any more books, yarns, or equipment to weave happily.  Goodness knows I have plenty of books whose pictures I have studied over and over but never bothered with the words, and there are plenty more I can revisit and study. And though they are old and fragile, my parents in their early 80's still have reasonable lives; Mom and I still discuss our current and prospective waving projects every week.

I've been plagued by travel envy again. First there's the fact that we can't afford to travel, and if we could, we'd most probably go home to see my folks, again. I'm starting to wonder if I'll every visit places like Italy, France, Portugal or Croatia, or even Minneapolis and Maine (Halcyon!) in my lifetime. But this time the envy was triggered by the realization how many weavers travel long ways to attend conferences and workshops. That's definitely not on my dance card. The Internet has alleviated my sense of seclusion a great lead, quite remarkably even in the last five years, but I live in fear of being behind the times and therefore ignorant. So I read about your travels thirstily, and I study your photograph carefully. Then, some days, sadness descends.

And yet, most days, I want to be further secluded from the world and retreat to my cocoon and, yes, just weave.  So there's no pleasing me. And that frustrates me; I wasn't always this grumpy old ingrate.

* * *

I received Best of Weavers' Summer & Winter book; there's a few weeks of good read in that slim volume. I always liked Weavers articles where they showed drafts and photos of all permutations of one idea because that's how I think and they save me from having to sample likewise.  There are two more books I ordered before I discovered how really broke I am last week, ($1.83 in my account; I kid you not!) but these will keep me busy, potentially for the rest of my life.

I finished reading Donna Sullivan's Summer & Winter book the first time around.  Talk about a slim volume jam-packed with information.  I'm going back the second time and will do a post with what appeals to me.  But I have to share this with you.  I went and bought...

"Black barrel swivel with interlock snap, size 12" at the fishing shop for $5.  It's the interlock part that I need and I might have to cut off the swivel part, but they didn't sell just the interlock part.  Sullivan's book demonstrates how you can do Collinwood's shaft-switching with these little babies.     

* * * * *

I was sick from Friday to yesterday; nothing to do with my head, just a cold; the type of cold I get once or twice a year where fever creeps up on me and if I don't take care it knocks me out for a couple of days.  That must be why I was so uninspired over the weekend about stitching for the Indigo Evening. I stitched three pieces in an appalling just so I'd have something to dye, and ended up missing the Evening anyway.

India Flint's workshop in Nelson starts this weekend.  I hope everybody has a fabulous time.  Meanwhile, I'm going to put away my dye material for now and concentrate on weaving, with our without concepts.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Do You See Patterns?

This is the sample swatch from my purple warp.  I used white warp, and lifted one pattern shaft at a time, separated by yellow plain weave bands, so I can see how I distributed the warp on different shafts.  I tried to draw W or M or N across the fabric, and though I couldn't help including some quirks, the distribution looks pretty much the way I intended.  Although that's not going to matter much, because I'll mix all sorts of colors in the weft, so the woven cloth will be a symphony of colors, with square bits.  My P2P piece doesn't reveal clusters of warp ends in lower numbered shafts on the right side and moving to higher number shafts towards the left.  

I'm beginning to understand the pattern weft being positive space of the design in Summer & Winter.  That is what Sullivan says, based on the American Coverlet tradition.  At the same time I'm accustomed to thinking in rising-shed mode, visualizing and weaving with the movement of the warp yarns in mind in the first instance.  So I'm aware in Summer & Winter, I'm in fact looking and thinking about the background as I weave. And I hadn't realized how set I am in this way of thinking.  But then many a times I preferred the B-side of my pieces when they came off the loom, so it's not a big deal, as long as I keep this in mind when reading Sullivan's book.   

Thursday night, as looked at my swatch, I was pleasantly pleased with the yellow, plain weave band breaking up the Summer & Winter areas.  I have thought of including a plain weave band in the scarf, but most probably either in dark purples, or stay with the color changes but just weave plain at regular intervals, to include some kind of regularity or predictability into the piece.  I went to sleep thinking one day I'll have to think about the balance of freedom/whimsy vs order/predictability in cloths, and where I want to go about seven to 15 projects from now. 

* * * * *

Friday morning I showed the swatch to Ronette before class. (She's also has a  lot of experience weaving Summer & Winter, particularly for garments.)  Her reaction was, since the color distribution was so erratic, (that's my word,) she thought a more regular "tie-up" (her word) would bring in a "pattern" into the textile, because she looks for a pattern/patterns in flat textiles.  We agreed it mattered less when the scarf is on a person.

I dissented, not exactly disagreed, not aesthetically, but because my Summer & Winter cloths on her table loom are meant to be all about letting go of my control-freakishness. And she laughed, and approved.  But I also told her about the plain weave band, and then, I think, we were interrupted.

* * * * *

But what does "pattern" mean?

We used to have one Alison in our drawing class who always saw patterns in drawings. I understood her to mean repetition of similarly shapes and lines.  The only place I see patterns, strangely, is in architecture; there I see repetition of shapes and lines, sometimes identical, sometimes in different scales.  But I don't see repetition in nature because shapes and lines there are nonidentical, and I don't think of them as patterns. 

In textiles, in the first instance, pattern means warp- and weft-wise repeats to me; as weavers, that's a no-brainer, yes?  These are structural and visual predictable repetition in units, especially when color texture changes don't disrupt the appearance. (E.g. threading 1-2-3-4-1-2-1-2-3-4-1-2- makes the warp repeat easier to see than 1-2-3-4-1-2-1-2-3-4-1-2-, though I think this latter trick, done well, a wonderful trick to show the loth a bit more complicated than it is structurally.) In jacquard-woven and printed cloths, I try to identify similar units of designs.

I induce that I define patterns as repetition of more or less identical shapes and liens. The word "formation" is also nearby on my mind map when I think about this.   But is pattern synonymous with repetition?  

Do you look for patterns, and how do you define them?

One of the pieces I salvaged from Jill Alexander's waste basket.

Background Music No Longer

Sometime last year, I was reading something about an artist I'd never heard of in the Polytech library late Friday afternoon.  Two, and later three, male Sub-Continent-looking students were chatting happily very near me. Since I didn't understand the language, (couldn't even begin to guess what language it was) and since they were low male voices, it sounded more like pleasant background music.  I remember I enjoyed the experience.

Last week I started to listen to the Italian Rai Radio Tre on the Internet.  Among other things I have been spending much too long on the computer, usually playing mindless games as I try to figure out where one sentence ends and another starts.  Increasing I've been able to pick up words here and there, and some common phrases.  Mind you, I still don't understand most of what's going on, but at least the voices don't sound like one long drone. And I'm pleasantly pleased this happened a lot sooner than I expected.  I'm enjoying classical music for a change, and even some cacophonic modern music I would never listen to otherwise.  

The down side is, the talking part no longer works as background music.  My brain looks for words I know, or more precisely, sounds that sound like works I know.  :-<

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Being * Productive

I ended up being productive yesterday, but without show-able results.

I photographed some color inspiration shots from two recent issues of "View: Textile View Magazine" for my scrapbook.  It's a heavy, glossy magazine with loads of visuals out of, I think, Amsterdam, but fear not, it's in English and if you can get a hold of it in your library, you may unexpectedly spend a pleasant afternoon gazing at the pictures. (I've been disallowed to view the video and cannot go do the "tour" of the site. If you can, can you please let me know what's there?)

I read one article in the Jul/Aug 2009 issue of "Crafts" magazine, published by the UK Crafts Council. It was related to "Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design" exhibition held at the V&A, July - October last year, and there is a catalogue/book to go with it.

The article's title was "Tales of the Unexpected", and under it was written, "Coinciding with the V&A's 'Telling Tales' exhibition, Gareth Williams explains why today's designers love narrative..." So I was expecting a kind of a reflection on art education's penchant for concepts and processes; I could easily have missed the point, but I didn't find the answers to the "why" question. Instead, I learned that the "world" is now divided by movable, blurry lines into art vs craft vs design, and within design, there are design (mainly industrial) and design art (closer to craft and sometimes fetching art prices). And where a particular piece of work belongs to depends on rarity and connoisseurship.

That simplifies things, doesn't it?!

Then I tried to identify a threading mistake in my purple warp. Summer & Winter has such a predictable threading it's supposed to be dead easy to spot a mistake, but after two hours of checking from all conceivable angles twice or more, I still could not figure out why I had two extra ends. I'll do some more sampling and if I still can't see it, I shall make them float.

I'll probably find where I've gone wrong halfway into the scarf.

* * * * *

I had to sit down and make myself read the article yesterday, because over the last few days I've discovered a quirk in my view of life.

Hay fever this year hasn't been as bad as the last two years, or so I keep saying, but last weekend, what with the sun and the heat and the wind, was bad. And as ready, willing and able as my mind was to be productive, the body had a different idea. That's when I noticed that since my mild-to-moderate depression has been better, I've been so busy trying to be productive I forgot how to simply be. Instead of regretting not winding a warp or fringing a scarf, and literally pacing the house like a trapped beast, I could have sat down and smelled the roses, since I've been bringing in many from our rose patch this season. Or I could have sat down with a nice cup of tisane. I knew this, I was aware of my options, and still I paced.

I could have read, but I then couldn't, and I knew why. See, we don't have comfortable chairs in our house, and it's mostly because I'm so short and have short legs my legs dangle and circulation is cut at the knees. I've seldom been comfortable on any chair as long as I can remember. So when I read, I often lie down on the bed or on the floor. And because I lie down, I associate reading with either bedtime or sick days, (even when I'm ready about weaving structures and studying,) and feel guilty about reading during the day when I'm not sick.

So it was Sunday afternoon that because I wasn't sick and the sun was out in full force, I couldn't even allow myself continue to read the Summer & Winter book. I can't remember what I ended up doing. I had much better work/relaxation balance before depression, but since I've not done much in 2009/2010, I'm in a rush to do things, anything, before I get sick again.  This is not a self-fulfilled prophesy, but the reality of my life.

Oh, overthinking, including the tag problem, is just another tendency of the depression.  I need to be quicker on my feet to get busy thinking about/doing something else at times like these. 

* * * * *

The Summer & Winter book, is turning out to be a treat, when I do read. I can't remember which books I concentrated on when I first learned about the structure, but it wasn't the Sullivan book.  (Wow, isn't this embarassing, I mention the Sullivan book in April, but earlier this month, I had forgotten I had it!)  It starts from the traditional use of S&W, i.e. the traditional American coverlet, so it makes sense the weaving software shows the design with the pattern weft and it investigates how to modify/extend the structure.  For now I'll just read it, and I'll later read it again taking notes, so a post on my discoveries is forthcoming.  Suffice it to say, I'm glad Ali put me on this track or else I would have never looked into a two-shuttle structure myself.

* * * * *

Now that I'm not going to India Flint's workshop, I was going to put away my to-be-dyed swatches for the time being.  But Collen has planned an evening of Indigo dyeing and pot luck for next Monday, so I'm thinking of sewing up a simple garment made up of the swatches I prepared for the workshop; it'll be a patchwork of different kinds of cotton, in white and in color, some machine-embroidered and some in gingham checks.  They are on the thin side to be a proper garment, so maybe an overskirt or top to go over a T-shirt, but I'd like to construct the garment first and then do the stitching so the dye design covers the entire garment and over different fabrics.

It's just an idea in my head at the moment, but I'm really keen on it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tags Continued

Maybe it's me. Maybe it's New Zealand, or Nelson. But things are never as straight forward as one might expect, and that's why I was so elated when my tags came out so beautifully.

On Monday I started folding, punching holes and putting twisted yellow cotton through them so I can visit the galleries in town and swap the old ones with these beautiful new ones. I didn't notice this while working with the tags, but afterwards when I was counting, I noticed that some had uneven edges.

Of the 40 I prepared, (I only needed 15 but it was so fun I kept going,) about 10 were perfectly shaped, about 10 had the front cover with the logo were a little wider than the back cover. But the rest had front covers approximately 2 mm than the back.

I took the whole lot to the print shop, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and after I offered, a staff and I folded all of 450 tags on the shop counter and sorted them into good, not good, and unacceptable piles. They're going to cut the edge off the unacceptable ones, (the logo is not centered so they figured they can gut the edge and keep the integrity of the tags; we'll see how the care instructions on the inside looks.) They'll see what they can do with the not good pile as some of the edges are too skinny to slice off.

The problem was caused, from what I understood, because they cut too many cards at once, and as they progress, the pile becomes ever so slightly skewed, ergo the discrepancy. The staff who did the work, who did not speak to me directly, said he compensated for it by changing the angle of the pile or some of the sheets. I didn't ask why they didn't cut fewer sheets at the time.

So I came home with the good ones and some of the not good ones. They have the unacceptable ones and some of the not good ones. And they'll see what they can do.

The good part is, the staff are always very nice, and Tina, who helped me with the folding, had, I believe, the same level of expectations for what is acceptable and what is not. The bad part is, I have this horrible foreboding that some are going to come out looking really bad and I'll have to negotiate reprint of them. And all the tags now feel much too much "handled" and soiled and I can't stop overthinking this.

It is still a very good business; they are popular, inexpensive, and most of all, very reliable. So I'm hoping they'll do the right thing. But it still makes me frustrated, and adds to my feeling of having been defeated once again.

Even though life is hardly all bad news for me. The strange thing is, I can't really think about the good things this morning. Maybe this afternoon, yes?

Monday, November 15, 2010


In September, I was sickened by the look of my homemade tags having faded while my pieces sat in galleries, so I got new tags. They look almost the same as my old ones, because I wasn't looking to rebrand, and I like my logo and the simple look of my tags. What I did change, (besides having it printed professionally so they don't fade over time or wash away with water), was to double the width so I can fold it in half, and if the spirit moves, write a wee bit about the piece, the material, or the inspiration, inside; if I'm feeling particularly inspired, I could even insert pages to make a wee booklet. I didn't set out to copy The August One's tags, but it's the same format, only shorter and fatter, i.e. the equivalent of two standard business cards. Half of these have my contact address at the back for when I sell directly; half without for galleries.

The color of the logo itself, I changed a little bit. Way back, sometime between 2003 and 2005, when I decided I would like to sell my work, I needed something to write care instructions on and I made up this design and printed on printable business cards. Initially I had pale blue-yellow warps and dark gray letters, and I love it. Over the years we went through three ink jet printers, I think, and with every printer, and every ink manufacturer, the colors printed differently requiring modification to the files.  One time, when we had a faulty printer, (which the manufacturer eventually replaced,) the yellow came out soft orange, and I liked it so much I changed the file to orange. And the letters became just black.

I changed it back to the original yellow this time, partly because I wanted to go back to where it all started, partly because in the test print the yellow sample looked so much better than the orange, and partly because I think of my yellow/gold warp cotton pieces as my "signature" pieces if I was ever to have such a thing.  I was astounded by the details that show up in the professionally printed version; if I look close enough, I can even read the numbers and the threading and such. And the logo was kept the exact same size as before.

I considered Moo cards, and other less expensive Internet options, but in the end I went local, in a small part because I want to support local businesses where I can, but mostly because I am a control freak and I wanted to see exactly how it was going to turn out before I went ahead and ordered some number of these cards. In the end, a young chap named Ryan was in charge of my order, and at first I even wondered if he was out of high school, but this young man had an uncanny ability to pick out what I wanted when I mumbled and changed my mind and generally droned on thinking out loud. Amazing.

They came out less than 36 cents a piece, and though I don't know what I was expecting, it doesn't sound too bad, either.

One of these days I need to weave this draft.  It was one of many I made up while I was trying to get used to weaving software in preparation for Bonnie Inouye's workshop in 2002, and based on tulips, which is one of my sister's favorite flowers.  If I were to weave it, however, I'd change warps separating the tulips back to pale green of some description.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hardly Exemplary, Or, More Booboos

I had to stand at an angle to be able to show you the "pebbles". I finished the second sample, and it's not looking good.

I discovered loads of reading mistakes from my lift plan in the first, blue, sample, and I wasn't confident with the second, yellow, one. I kept amending the plan; the double lines indicate a change in the lifting pattern, and I amended up to six lines this afternoon.

Plus, because warp ends kept breaking at the left side in the blue example, I beat the wefts not as firmly with the yellow sample, making the color areas not as saturated as the blue sample.

Hardly an exemplary sample to attach on my Sketchbook page; I kept the warp ends in the heddles in case I want to weave a third, more respectable sample for the page.

* * * * *

I could really use some success right about now, and by success I don't mean anything big, but just something to turn out right.  I've been working diligently and consistently, I have beautiful yarns and equipment, and some of my plans aren't that bad, but the execution has been sucky at best. I'm not sick, I'm not down; just exasperated and in need for some validation or vindication to stay being a weaver, I guess.

Today I also withdrew from India Flint's eco dye workshop.

Two weeks ago I have a lovely long lunch with Jo Kinross the organizer, and she was do encouraging and inspiring I was all ready to jump right in.  Among other things, we talked about what we want to get out of making things, and in my case it's to make something that I can be happy and satisfied with.  And it hasn't happened for a while.

In the first instance, this was a financial decision; both our cars are old, ('89 and '94) and at the twice-yearly maintenance last week, both needed some bits and bobs replaced.  I'd been sitting on an email to Jo for three days but I finally sent it today, and in retrospect it feels like the right decision; I need to concentrate on weaving because I can't stand this dry spell with nothing nice to show for.

But Jo, Colleen, a few others and I are planning on an Indigo Dye evening in the near future, so it's not like the dye workshop morphed into greasy car parts I will never see.  Not entirely.

Wednesday Snapshot

The purple warp came off yesterday; the mohair-mix-weft piece was done last week, but I had about a meter left, so I wove some merino fabric yesterday. I say I never weave anything for myself, but I stand corrected: these warp-end fabrics, though I've never used them to make anything yet, are just for me. And I wonder if I could make up a patchwork Happi for myself; maybe hand-stitched.  Maybe next autumn.

Unfortunately there was yet another dye lot change on the merino/mohair weft cone, so not a very nice look; the overall colors change from blue-ish purple to very-violet about one-third the way. But really, I'm finished with this yarn source, even if they sell the best merino I've come across in New Zealand.  Enough said.

Two warps are waiting to be wound: one is Ben's Happi Blues; I've been wondering if I should go ahead and weave this in a 2/1 and 1/2 twill, or in Summer & Winter, so it will be wound, but not threaded until I make up my mind. If I'm particularly patient, I might even sample both.

The other is my pleasure weaving, the mainly-purple Summer & Winter in random threading, lifting and weft colors.

Speaking of Summer & Winter, at the end of the session on Monday, Ali said to read about Summer & Winter some more.  She asked if I had a book on the structure, and I said no, but I have books on structures, like Black and Alderman.

Before I went to bed, though, I wanted to check; knowing now what Summer & Winter looks like, I wondered if a book I had forever fits the description.  And it was.  Sullivan's book, I fell in love with the heart on the cover when I saw the advert in Handwoven, and I had it for almost as long as I can remember.  I was a tad disappointed at the other pictures inside, but just looking at the cover used to make me happy.

I haven't started reading this yet, but flipping through it, I came across something I had been wondering about this last week.  I wondered if instead of using four warps to make one unit of pattern, (1-P-2-P), I could use just two, (1-P1-2-P2), and yes, she says I can, and there is even a name for it.  And there are few other ways to tie in non-conventional ways, too.  She even mentions Barrett and Smith book, which, yes, I also happen to have; this was from Halcyon Yarns website.  Don't ask.

I'm all set to delve deeper, and maybe pick up the correct jargon.  Or mix them up even more.

On the sample loom, I'm weaving the same Robot Pebble 1 draft with yellow wefts from the bottom of the draft, so the finished piece looks exactly like the drawdown and the grid picture.  I thought it might be nice to add a few pieces of fabric in my neglected Sketchbook Project.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not Getting Easier...

I had a session with Ali today.

I was able to show her a badly woven sample of this draft, which took me all day today to weave... badly.

We went over how I worked on my problem and how I arrived at this draft, by backtracking, using the Fiberworks PCW software's sketchpad and draft conversion capabilities.  The most difficult part was to try to explain what it is I know I don't know but would like to know, though she seemed to have understood what I meant.  The best that I can describe "it" is, I'd like to know how shafts behave in Summer & Winter so I can construct a draft, rather than draft shapes on a grid, put it through the software conversion, and confirm my shaft count.  In other words, I'm back to where I was in July (not August) in my un-knowing-ness.

We brainstormed options; here are what I can remember, or what I understood; there were more good ideas but I was so flustered I couldn't find the words to write them down.  

* On cloudy days like these, weave with contrasting wefts so I can see.
* Don't worry about the final product but just work with the designs.
* Examine the software's use of shafts and especially the treadling; there may be ways I could economize and make my lifting life easier.  I had blind faith that the software takes into consideration maximum economy, but she wants me to check, which I think is a good thing.
* Difference scale: how changing scale will affect the appearance of the shapes, how different fibers will yield different results from same drafts; most importantly, how to enlarge a design without sacrificing shafts for details.  We arrived at no conclusions on this one. 
* Do I really need to sacrifice a shaft for the negative space?  Try designing not the pebbles, but the negative space.
* Try different sizes and different degrees of detail.  Also, try small variations, e.g. changing the width of the main part of the shape.  This kind of trick will increase the variety without using up shafts.  
* Go back to the original sheet and remember why I liked this bit on a whole sheet of random mark-making.  Then design something that emphasizes what I liked about it.
* It's OK to request a session when I'm stuck and don't have anything to show her; in fact, this is exactly when I need to see her, I guess.  

There were many moments when my eyes glazed over; I could feel the muscles rearranging and my attention fading.  I hate not having a clear idea of what I want to do and how I'll do it; it feels as if I took a big detour this last week but came back to where I was in July; I found a way to navigate around some of my problems, but I don't really see "progress".

Yeah yeah, process, journey, blah, blah.  But I did enjoy the sampling!

* * * * *

For 10 years and seven months, I used my Klik loom with the shafts color-coded but unnumbered, because the color coding is pretty, but the numbering, not so.  In my frustration of weaving the sample today, I hastily wrote the numbers on the shafts, which made the weaving a lot quicker and smoother, but I still think it's defacing a beautiful equipment.  No matter.  It's done.

EDIT: Ali's moved to Wellington, ending our mentor/ee relationship. But thanks for the time you've given me. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Calmer bloggers might discuss one or two projects/subjects at a time, or at least use labels intelligently so readers can follow a subject/project easily; I am not one of them. So, this post picks up where I left off here in the main, but continues with Summer & Winter train of thought as well. (After working on this post for 4 days, I finally started a "Summer and Winter" label for my own convenience, but I found out I'm not allowed to use ampersand in labels!!)

The reason I'm interested in analogous (at least not blatantly colorful) Summer & Winter is to create the pebbles I've been euphemistically sitting on. I want to continue using Summer & Winter because Ali said the structure allows maximum use of however many shafts a loom has, and I've become somewhat familiar with this structure. And with appropriate yarn selection, it has proven to be not as fuddy-duddy, (or "mumsy" as Jill Alexander likes to say,) as I used to think.

I hit a wall in August, though, and I made half a dozen attempts in trying to understand the behavior of shafts, warp ends on same shafts, and treadling. I've been searching for a logic/rule, if it indeed exists, in making the most efficient use of the shafts in creating similar but unidentical shapes on a grid. If you don't understand how I describe things in words in this post, don't worry; I hope the pictures help.

* I plan to sample on a table loom, so I can ignore treadle numbers. I'll use my Klik which has 16 shafts.
* Summer & Winter takes up two shafts for tabby, leaving 14 for as pattern shafts. However, I don't want my pebbles stuck to each other, so an extra shaft is required for the negative space. In all I have 16-3=13 shafts for positive space/pattern/pebbles.
* For convenience, I used the alternating treadling in my examples; I can easily convert the draft to any of the other three should I so choose.
* I could have started with few, bigger, nicely rounded pebbles, but I opted for a group of crudely-shaped ones as my initial idea was to weave cute pebbles in a rough grid formation. In fact, I started my studies with squares, because they are the simples shapes on a grid, so uses the fewest shafts.

Regardless of the size of the squares or the space between them on the grid, if the positive and negative shapes are uniform, only four shafts are required: two shafts for the tabby, one for squares/pebbles and one for the negative space.

Because I was interested to see how each shaft behaves, I paid a lot of attention to the tie-up and treadling. Here, I can see Shafts 1 and 2 are used for tabby, 3 for negative space, and 4 for the square/pebble.
I then chipped away at the squares, creating patterns with some element of uniformity, converting each variation into weaving drafts. (A little more about my software appears at the bottom of the post.) I was surprised to see all four arrangement below can be woven on the same tie-up; only the threading and treading vary.

All four patterns can be woven using this tie-up: Shafts 1 and 2 are used to weave the tabby; 3 to create the chip in the squares; 4 to create the positive areas, and 5 to create the negative space. Treadles 1 and 2 are used to weave the tabby; 3 and 4 to create the rows that contains chips; 5 and 6 to create rows of squares without chips, and 7 and 8 to create the negative space.

After this, I created dozens of designs by chipping away at, and later also adding lumps to, some of the squares on a 5-squares-by-5-squares base, counting the shafts required, converting the drawing with the software to create drafts and verify the shaft count.

So far this is the only design which contains sufficient variety of shapes. I have a session with Ali on Monday, so while I hope to create more interesting, more rounded pebble patterns, I think I'll thread my loom and weave this over the weekend.
This requires 16 shafts, and 50 treadles if I had a wide enough loom; one repeat is 312 picks. Although weaving tabby on table looms drive me nuts, I think I can handle it.

Ah, you say the shapes hardly look like the pebbles or dots I made in the first place? I couldn't agree with you more, but these are related to my attempts to break down the dots into small squares previously. As mentioned before, squares require the fewest shafts, and treadling is shorter than rectangles. Circles require a minimum of six shafts, and though I see cute, warped polka-dots in my future, I needed the simplest shapes to restart my investigation.

* Because my software Fiberworks PCW allows me to make a pattern on grids, convert it into a profile draft, then further convert it into a draft of weave structures of my choice, all quite automagically, I am able to create drafts without really understanding how the shafts and warps behave, most importantly how certain shafts could be shared across the cloth. To avoid this, I worked on graph papers for a long time, getting nowhere. After using the software, creating many shapes and analyzing how the software converted them, I started to see vaguely how the conversion works, and I was able to count the shafts for some my cruder shapes, or convert my crudest shapes into a weaving draft.
* To count the shafts accurately is my next goal. In addition, I'd like to be be able to convert less crude shapes into a weaving draft; in other words, I would feel more comfortable if I knew exactly how the software analyzed my shapes and turned them into drafts. My final goal is to "recycle" shafts wisely so that I can make shapes that appear as if they require more shafts than I have. If you are hoping to weave something like this on a foot loom, I think this is where skeleton tie-up comes in.
* The software defaults uses a white warp, and the shapes are created with weft colors; it took me until late last night to realize this. When I think about it, I very often start out with a dark warp, and almost always create shapes with my warp (i.e. dark) yarns until I am comfortable with the draft. Then and only then actual colors, particularly of the weft, comes into play. It's just a habit I wasn't aware I picked up, but these little discrepancies and the resultant appearances of the drafts on the screen confused me until I noticed these little things.
* I'm only interested in weaving my pebbles in a normal, cloth-weaving fashion, as opposed to on a jacquard loom, (I would if I had the chance!) or using pick-up; this shows my penchant for cloth-weaving, as opposed to another types (art?) of weaving, and I'm happy about that.
* Uber Teacher Bonnie Inouye said if we don't like weaving with two shuttles, we could always turn drafts. This is definitely on my list to try.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Goodness Me, It's November Today

Like my name in the photo, an idea for analogous Summer & Winter weave with interesting shapes have been on my mind awhile, but I can't figure out the shapes part.  Since August, I've been waiting for some kind of a serendipitous revelation, because several attempts at systematically understanding it have failed.  I thought to bring out all my gold threads to see if I'll be inspired; these are mercerized cotton, silk, rayon and polyester.  Though they were pretty, nothing.

I'm sick of waiting now and it's November and I feel bad I've done nothing of substance this year, so come rain or shine, (and it's a beautiful Sunny Nelson day outside!) I'm going to "get it" today. 

That's my To Do for the day.