Brass rubbing scarves

Trying to find translations of “brass rubbing” was fruitless – other than ending up with different ways of saying “rubbing brass” (meaning with a cloth, elbow grease and a bottle of Brasso). I’ll search through the paper dictionaries at a later date.

These scarves were woven on the table loom, the first two in gold and silver, then the latter three in gold (was given a commission for a second one), copper and slate – all tencel with a black warp. The draft came from Alice Schlein’s website Weaverly and I’ve since noticed it posted on other blogs. Popular. Alice has posted a significant number of amalgamated drafts; the combination of two drafts in one (my simplified definition) really does add a lot of interest to the finished item in that the eye is constantly drawn from one pattern to the other.

The diagonal lines and “metallic” yarns (in shade rather than content) give these a real burnished look in the right light.


Woven in Friendship project

When I was first approached about participating, and agreed, it was on the misunderstanding that it would involve weaving one handwoven square to contribute towards a larger project. Nah!

quilt4The actual project was an excellent idea to use up a donated stash of cottons and honour the memory of a former Guild member. Each participant would weave 20 (or was it 21?) squares in overshot, one for themself, one for everyone else and one for the Guild. Each would choose their own pattern in 4-shaft overshot and their own colours. You could either accept squares woven in other people’s colours, or wind off the weft for everyone to weave in your colour. The squares would then be exchanged at a meeting a few months down the track and each participant would sew their squares into a quilt. That’s what I hadn’t been aware of to start with. A quilt? Sew? Squares and straight lines? Too late to back out now…

I didn’t get the weaving started until three weeks before the due date, and even then had quilt1a long fight with the warp: three stands of very fine cotton that was as much fun as brushing the tangled hair of a squirming four-year-old. I’d never woven overshot either, but was no stranger to weaving with two shuttles, and at the rate of at least one square per evening, they were all finished in time. I chose the particular draft as it reminded me of nasturtium leaves, although as with most patterns, stare at it long enough and you start to see other things: keys, crosses, diamonds…

quilt5Squares  separated and exchanged, it was time to start sewing. Or thinking about it, buying batting, then more thinking… That process alone, together with buying fabric, thread and a walking foot for the sewing machine took another three months, then submitting for a group exhibition. I had asked that a sign be put next to mine declaring that I was a first-timer and had done woodwork and metalwork at school instead of sewing… and I wasn’t joking. At least it was displayed back-to-the-wall so that the bits of dodgy sewing (when the machine starts making noises and the fabric doesn’t move forward) weren’t visible. The edges are actually straight, contrary to how it was hanging at the time. Honest. First attempt, what can I say…

A positive experience? Well, yes in that it took me out of my comfort zone, I got to know other weavers, and tried overshot for the first time and realised it could be used for colourful effects rather than simply making a pattern and limited shafts go further. Also there was the book that involved a workshop on making the covers; I couldn’t attend the second session on binding, but as there was a similar workshop last year, the work that went into it was appreciated.


Reproduction colours

Des couleurs reproduites, nachgebildete Farben, colores reproducidos, dathanna macasamhla

Talking of Otavalo market (see the previous post), the colours I remember most are browns and reds – earthy colours – as well as white, black, grey and other browns, presumably natural (undyed) colours apart from the reds.

Many a conversation with a Chilean friend on all things cultural led to the idea that I might be able to reproduce some of those colours in a scarf-cum-birthday present for her. At that time the only woollen yarn I was weaving with (I was still a beginner) was a very fine blue-grey, plied double at 24epi. Why blue-grey? I’d bought some old 1kg cones of Wangaratta Mills yarn from someone who’d be given it but was unable to use it for handknitting. It overdyed well in most colours, so why not…

photo4The photo shows just how well it turned out using two shades of brown and a red at half strength (all Landscape dyes). Several small samples of that experiment remain, but very little of the blue-grey yarn. The solution? Grey handspun?


Backstrap Weaving workshop

No posts for a long time… organising workshops, giving workshops and finally participating in one. We were lucky enough to have Laverne Waddington come to Adelaide last week to teach us about setting up a backstrap loom and complimentary pick-up weaving.

display.jpgThe day began with a display table (photo used with permission) that was a true feast for the eyes: braids and straps in all colours and designs and even some balls of yarn in traditional colours. This reminded me of Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez on the Interweave dvd Andean Spinning talking about keeping balls of yarn until they were “hard”. Laverne showed us a warp set up using freshly-spun yarn; the threads were all spiralled around each other and didn’t want to sit straight. The “aged” yarn on the other hand was “hard” and as straight as can be.

Apparently the traditional, earthy colours that I remember from the Otavalo market in the early 90’s are no longer favoured by the artisans – the brighter colours have taken over. Progress? Maybe the former will be considered “retro” in a decade or so…

Two days of expert tuition produced three warpswarp.jpg to take and finish at home as well as an introduction to various designs and techniques, and a thirst to practise everything and try out all the fascinating designs in Laverne’s books – we were able to purchase a couple of these as well as a dvd for the Guild library. Needless to say, there’s already a waiting list!

Laverne is a fantastic teacher – knowledgeable, patient, interesting and clearly enthusiastic about sharing the craft. I’d seriously recommend signing up for one of her workshops.

De-stash woollen blanket

couverture en laine, Wolldecke, cobija de lana, blaincéad olla

I’ve been doing some serious de-stashing of late, more out of necessity than anything else. But it’s produced some good results – mainly that I can see the floor again. I’d bought some weaving yarn from another de-stasher a few years ago, and with it came a bag full of homespunblanket1.jpg. Most of the yarn was from a fleece in all shades from beige to chocolate, and no doubt from a crossbreed sheep and a beginner spinner; the yarn was spun unevenly and had clearly been done by the same method as my own – stick your hand into the bag and spin whatever comes out, rather than separating the fleece into colours and textures.

blanket2The yarn was singles, so this was plied double, with the resulting average wpi at around 8, so I chose a four-shaft, 3-1 twill at 6epi. At first this seemed as though it may have had to come down to 4 or 5 epi, but the finished item confirms 6 epi was right. The size was calculated at using most of the yarn, although after weaving most of the blanket, I decided that the last ball looked too felted compared with the rest and cut the project short. It had obviblanket3ously come from the short-and-fuzzies of the fleece, while the rest was noticeably coarser and slicker.

And the result? Overall a successful project, and one that has made me want to do more single-colour, larger-scale projects.

Now, if anyone out there can translate “stash” and “de-stash” into French, German, Spanish and Irish… there’s some things they just don’t teach you at school or in the text books.

Three rag rugs

trois tapis de chiffon, drei Flickenteppiche, tres alfombras de trapo, trí ruga stiallacha

The French sounds suitably fashionable, the German commonly practical, the Spanish somewhat more exotic and the Irish quite comfortable for a language I’m still learning. Slowly. (Two days later: found out when nouns follow numbers in Gaelic, they stay in the singular).

denim2.jpgI’d made a couple of rag rugs some years ago and was amazed at i.) how much warp they required and ii.) how quickly they wove up. The first has become a foot mat under the loom pedals, whilst the second is stretched out in glorious tri-colour in the back room. This time the task was to get through the pile of old jeans and t-shirts that had grown to the right size for harvesting.

The two jeans rugs came out at c. 27″ x 45″ minus the fringes. I’d aimed for 50″ long, so this wasn’t far off. denim1One used 3 pairs of adult male jeans in large, the other 3 1/2 pairs (different sizes). The weft was cut into 1″ strips (more or less), and the binding was approximately half the width, cut from a linen shirt. Actually I have to admit that one of the large pairs was XXL. I’d run out of jeans and saw that they were only $7 new in one outlet, so naturally went for the biggest size I could get. Probably cheaper than an op shop, too.

The t-shirt rug is currently 25″ x 58″. It was on the same warp as the jeans, so I guess the stretchiness of the materials played back on itself. I followed Ton Kinsely’s advice in Weaving rag rugs and cut the t-shirts – 16 of them up to the arms – across, then stretched out the loops joining them by, well, looping the loops. The binding was the same as the warp – linen warp yarn. The rug is quite sturdy and sits flat at the end of the bed.

tshirtsAll the rugs are actually straighter than they appear in the photos (honest!), and after Mr Knisely’s comment on the DVD (you don’t need both DVD and book as they are in total accord) about never getting perfect edges because they’re rag rugs, I felt better.

Here’s an interesting Swedish site (in English) on the history of rag rugs: Story of a rug.


Finished indeed

And here’s the grey-blue and birch version. The diamond pattern is more evident due to the light and angle of the camera. Although the birch yarn felt a bit blue-boxesstiffer both before and after laundering, the wibbly-wobbly effect is the same and the finished article has all the drape and comfort expected of tencel.

The birch yarn by itself is interesting in that sometimes it looks more silvery, sometimes more golden. Definitely, however, a good match for the grey-blue.

The dahlia/henna/pomegranate-dyed blanket was also fringe-twisted just in time and was equally gratefully received. Now to make a similar one using eucalypt dyes (in the next school holidays when I can boil gum leaves with all the windows open and air the house before anyone notices…).dahlia-shawl

Moving boxes

redgoldfirstHaving set the loom up for boxes some time ago, I wondered what I could weave using the same tie-up. Lazy? Perhaps, but it lead to something worthwhile…

Looking through Carol Strickler’s 8-shaft patterns, and playing around on Fiberworks, I came up with a set of drafts using two colours in both warp and weft, as per shadow weave, but setting the warp at 24 epi rather than 20 to match the twill weave. I completed a run of five scarves in various designs using lime and aquamarine 8/2 tencel, and while I’ve received good feedback, I couldn’t help thinking that some of the patterns wereredgoldsecond more suited to a thicker yarn where the design would be more evident. Then one stood out form the rest… the moving boxes.

I warped the loom again, this time with spice and gold tencel. On the loom and under the light, the pattern looked more or less square. However, turning off the light, the curves in the weave were far more evident. After taking the scarves off redgold3rdthe loom and allowing the weaving to relax, the curves became irregular. Laundering at 40C in the front loader left the fabric soft and silky, and the boxes are permanently “moving”.

The scarves were 72″ x 10″ on the loom, and are approximately 69″ x 9″ after laundering. The woven fabric is typical of tencel: “heavy” enough to hold itself in whatever shape it’s worn in, yet light enough redgold4thto be comfortable.

I have two more on the loom at present in birch and blue grey tencel. I’d bought the former just because it was different, but it had sat in the cupboard for ages while inspiration came. Not an easy shade to match, but the blue grey seems to complement it nicely. Can I finish these within the next week? On verra…


shuttlesEvery now and again I’m lucky enough when a friend or colleague (or both) shows me something fibre- or craft-related that belonged to a relative, or was made by a relative. Fibre-crafts and social history, the perfect mix!

Today I held a drop spindle and some weaving shuttles that had been brought from Cypress in their grandparents’ luggage, together with some home-produced, homespun silk, not to mention a wooden hand reel fsilk.jpgor catching the evening meal. All were at least eighty years old.

I was a bit nervous at first to take hold of the drop spindle, but when I did, the first thing was to run my fingers along the grain of the wood and smell it. Just like an old church, or the Guild room – wood, wax polish and plenty of human usage! The silk had no smell, just sheen and body, and plenty of promise. There were also several reels made from bamboo (grown in the village), wound round with handspun cotton. Enough to write a book on? Definitely!

Alice in Wonderland

I can’t remember which book or movie it was, Alice scarfbut there was Alice, trying to make her way through the first door after drinking the potion that made her smaller. The floor had black and white tiles, chequer-board fashion, and because the floor was sloping, perspective made the tiles smaller in size the closer to the door they became.

I tried to copy this effect with a tencel scarf in block weave; the finished piece isn’t how I’d imagined it, but interesting nonetheless.