Sunday, March 19, 2017

An Inspiring Story: They “Searched for a leader, but the leader was me.” (John Legend)

The Thursdays: Semifinals 2017; credit to Sara Yood
Go ahead and open the first link  below while you read this.

I should be writing an entry that has something to do with the subject of this blog, which I haven’t touched in months.  I should be working on my taxes.  I should be cleaning the house.  It’s a nice day; I should be picking up the  evidence outdoors that three dogs live here.  I should be clearing a space in my studio for …oops… another loom that’s on its way.  I should be weaving (yes, I have been weaving).

Instead I have succumbed to committing to virtual paper a story- with music-that dominates me these days.  At a party yesterday I saw several old friends whom I hadn’t seen in years and we all took time to exchange news about ourselves and our families. Right now this story is my biggest news.  I decided to get it all down here so that my old friends can follow the links.  

My daughter Amanda teaches vocal music in Chelmsford Massachusetts, a large town that you pass through if you drive on I-495 north of the Mass Pike.  She has taught there for three or four years and introduced a cappella to her students.  A group of students came together to become The Thursdays and they sound good.  So good that they entered the International Championship of High School A Cappella.  Early last fall Amanda presented The Thursdays with a number of songs from which the group chose their set for the competition.  Rehearsing began.

Election Day came and went; The Thursdays continued to rehearse their set.  Just before Christmas vacation they approached Amanda to say that they needed a new set.  Their set had to express how they are feeling about the world these days.   Amanda quickly searched for a few songs that were a bit edgier; The Thursdays chose their songs and over the Christmas break Amanda worked on arrangements.

The quarterfinals for this competition were held on February 11th and The Thursdays came in first.  On March 11 they went on to the Northeast Semifinals… and placed first.  Now it’s on to the Nationals which will occur April 21 at Town Hall In New York City.  How will they do?  Amanda is just proud that her students will participate, and that they searched their souls and had the courage to make a change in their set based on what they found in that search.

So here is a link to their performance at Semifinals last weekend, caught perhaps on someone’s smartphone.  The audio quality is good but not perfect.  If you’re like me and want to really hear every bit of the lyrics… and the lyrics are as powerful as the music… I’m also providing links to recordings of two of the three songs in the medley below.  I believe that the artists in these recordings are the artists that originated the songs.  And one is Bob Dylan.

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall   Bob Dylan                 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Rigid Heddling

This summer I'm working at what for me are extremes.  I've enjoyed very simple weaving on one of my (now three) rigid heddle looms.  I like them because some of them (the ones with narrower weaving widths) are very portable.  A project can be kept in a tote bag anywhere; if I'm ready to begin my workday but have ten extra minutes I can squeeze in a little weaving right now.  They're great for weaving with yarn that is expensive because there is minimal yarn waste.  And as long as there's no hurry, it's a rewarding way to weave something with beautiful yarn because I believe that you're handling the yarn more with this type of loom.  And lastly, if other aspects of one's life, including other weaving projects, are complex... it's nice to have the simplicity of a rigid heddle loom project for unplugged, restful weaving.

Speaking of complexity, I recently purchased Fiberworks for Mac and am picking (literally) my way through learning how the program can help me.  More on that later.

Back to rigid heddle weaving.  The project above was being woven on a new-to-me eight inch Ashford Sampleit loom.  This was my most recent RH loom acquisition, bought because I believe that it is the most portable of the RH looms.  A part of what I mean by portability is the ability to be able to weave with the loom on my lap without the use of a table edge for a prop.  I wove my project on my boat, outdoors overlooking the garden, and at my desk (this time propped) right in front of the desk top to be sure I'd stop when it was time to leave for work.  

I do find, however, that when the loom is flat on my lap it's not as easy as I'd like to get the heddle into the lowered position because the lower edge of the heddle bumps into my thighs.  So... a minute or two with a pool noodle and a bread knife took care of that little complaint.  If you look carefully in the top photo you can see the blue pool noodle.  It fits right in the bag with my loom so all is good.

My project was what I call a mini mobi: a small mobius scarf.  I find many scarves overwhelming: too long, too wide, flopping and falling.  Long snuggly scarves are great for outerwear on a cold blustery day, but for indoors I like a mobius that is just large enough to fit over my head.  The warp yarn for this scarf was purchased in 2011 and put aside until I could come up with a project that would really spotlight its colors.  It is 60% merino and 40% silk from Biltmore Wool Barn in Brewster MA.  I paired it with a weft of polyester sewing thread in a blackberry hue.  Rather than stitching after the turn required to create a mobius scarf, I twisted the fringes together.  I'm happy with the results although I won't be surprised if this scarf pills with wear.

Here it is below on another recent acquisition: a dress form, bought from someone who had advertised on Craigslist.  I've been wanting a dress form for some time.  Unfortunately, although this one is sized as small, it's still substantially bigger than I am.  It will serve for the purpose of draping woven fabrics and designing simple clothing but I need to keep my eyes open for one that really is my size.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Suggestion...

For several years I have been using snap clips at several stages of the warping process.  I find that it much more efficient to secure bouts with these clips than by tying them in the usual manner.  Less finger manipulation is required and at this point in life that's a good thing!

If you look to the right in the photo you can see where one bout has been sleyed and I've refastened the clip to that bout on the other side of the reed.  Snap clips are available in any store that has a section for hair care supplies.  Some of the cheaper ones, such as those available in dollar stores, are not as nicely finished and have rough areas; avoid these.

I posted this suggestion on the Weaving Hacks page on Facebook and was bowled over by the positive response so I thought I'd mention it here too!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

That Vest Project

Construction of the vest from my hand woven material started in September; it was my project for  a  course on weaving with hand wovens that I was taking at Hill Institute here in Florence MA.  The vest was mostly finished in November.  I must admit that I was closing up the lining and sewing on the buttons on Christmas Day, the first day I wore it!

I'm delighted with the results and love wearing it.  A black and white vest in a simple style gets to go out a lot!

Unfortunately I haven't been weaving the last couple of months.  My work has kept me quite busy during what is always a busy time of year.  I have though been working steadily at clearing out unused and underused equipment as well as readying fiber that is being consigned at Sheep and Shawl.  My Meadow Muffins sport weight yarn is also available at Sheep and Shawl.  It's a lovely shop, always a joy to visit.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Shawls and Bags

My posts are still lagging behind the weaving that I'm doing.  Actually that's not such a bad thing.  In fact it's far better than  blogging more and weaving less!

Dorset loom on left and Baby Wolf loom on right
In this somewhat odd photo there's a new project on my little Dorset loom.  Right next to it is my Baby Wolf.  I took this photo because without giving it too much thought I positioned the Dorset within spitting distance because I find the new Wolf Trap so useful.  For anyone not familiar with this piece of equipment, it is the little hammock-like shelf attached to the breast beam of the Baby Wolf.  In this photo it's holding several items that I'm using on the neighboring loom!  I particularly like how much easier weaving with two or more shuttles is with the Wolf Trap in place.

Prayer Shawl yarns

I think I mentioned one or two posts ago that I'd be including items here that I weave with fibers other than wool.  Here's one.  I am a member of what is called the Prayer Shawl Ministry at my church.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept of prayer shawls, you will find more information here.  One requirement of prayer shawls is that they be machine washable and dry-able.  This eliminates the use of many beautiful fibers.  The need to keep material costs down (I'm already donating an awful lot of my time!) eliminates purchasing lovely wash and dry yarns.  I try to make do with donated yarn and those bought at thrift shops etc.  Lots of acrylic.

Prayer Shawl; fringe not yet trimmed

This one starts with a warp of pale green Softball Cotton.  For the weft I tried two acrylics: a marly green Lion Brand Homespun, a yarn that is used by many knitters and crocheters.  It's actually difficult to knit and crochet with: terrible to frog.  It's great for weaving!  The second yarn, chosen for value contrast, is Moda Dea Metro.  I'd like to do another one in other colors soon because I think this one worked out nicely.  Next time I'll reduce the EPI from 10 to 8 to create a more drape-y effect.

Meadow Muffins yarn

Presently I have a warp of my Meadow Muffins sock yarn on the loom in variegated yellow-orange-pink.  I'm weaving a series of little drawstring bags based on one that I saw in Fabrics That Go Bump.  the weft is the same as the warp with strategic shots of novelty yarn or hand-spun to create a honeycomb effect.  Love these colors!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

More Color-and-Weave

On the loom; the colors are not as accurate here as they are in the photos below.

Just a quick post with my most recent completed project, a small evening bag which will be submitted for a Guild exhibit at the local hospital.  I needed to do this in a hurry and hadn't yet investigated how to line bags like these so this one is unlined.  I found the draft in An Introduction to Multishaft Weaving by Kathryn Wertenberger.  

This draft requires eight shafts and two shuttles.  A very easy pattern to weave; once the rhythm is established it's a breeze. I used my usual sock yarn, dyed in chartreuse and magenta, and wove it on my Baby Wolf loom.  Nothing pale about this piece!

Monday, September 7, 2015

I Hope You Weren't Holding Your Breath...

A good year for our apple tree.  We never spray, yet some years the apples aren't wormy!

In the last year I've restructured operations around here, modifying several times. I needed to bring things more into line with the fact that I must stop hurting myself while doing farm tasks and dedicate more time to weaving.  The lovely Pygora goats went to several farms.  Although I do miss them, re-homing them eliminated the constant need for two pastures (one for does, one for the buck) and shelters in addition to the quarters for my sheep.  At this point my livestock consists of three elderly sheep.  I'm able to provide enough grazing with minimum use of the portable electronet fencing.  The electronet has never been kind to my right rotator cuff.

In the meantime, I wanted to get myself to a point with my weaving where I would no longer feel obligated to refer to myself as a Perpetual Beginner.  Basic skills need sharpening such as warping, reading drafts, and creating a quality woven fabric based on what I have in my mind.  I am constantly confronted in weaving by what I call Rude Awakenings.  This happens when I learn something the hard way.  My results aren't what I was expecting or hoping for because I have too many gaps in my knowledge; my reach exceeds my grasp by too many yards.  Examples include embarking on a project with a new weave structure without sampling first.  This could be prevented by cookbook-style weaving... in other words, duplicating a project in a weaving journal with the exact same warp and weft yarns and the same weave structure. With rare exceptions, this doesn't seem to be something I can interest myself in doing.

As a result my blog will be changing.  There will be less posts about sheep, or about yarns or roving for sale. Posts will focus more on current weaving projects, including those that aren't even woven from animal fiber!

That said, I'll laterally arabesque  over to the most recent work.  I've had increasing interest over the last few months in Color-and-Weave.  In her recently-published book, Next Steps in Weaving, Pattie Graver writes: 
Color-and-Weave is not a type of weave structure.  Instead, it describes a pattern that develops through repeating sequences of dark and light warp ends in both the warp and weft.  The design or pattern you see in the cloth is the result of the color alternations interacting with the weave structure.

Several things came together.  First, in the early spring I was offered the opportunity to take a course at Hill Institute called Sewing with Handwoven Fabric which will begin later this month.  The finished item will be a vest.  Lots or work... and I really want to use fabric that will make this endeavor worthwhile.  

Second, in an effort to weave more fabric that doesn't just look like mud when the warp and weft intersect...such as this...

 I had been reading a number of sources about Color-and-Weave.  

Third, a sub group of my weaving guild started a color study group this spring.  I decided that my project for this group would be a Color-and-Weave sampler, woven from the yarn that I intend to use for the fabric I'll be using my sewing class.  I warped and threaded my loom with an alternating dark and light warp and tried several different treadle tie-ups and treadling sequences, based on an eight harness eight point twill on page 115 of Color-and-Weave by Margaret and Thomas Windernecht.


The sample enabled me to make an informed choice when it came to which pattern I would weave for my vest project.  No Rude Awakenings!

I have an abundant supply (more than three hundred pounds originally), un-dyed, of this yarn.  It's sock yarn, 85% wool and 15% nylon, 1700 ypp.  I had it commercially spun here in Massachusetts from wool that I had collected from local sheep including my own.  I've been hand-dyeing it and offering it for sale for a number of years; currently it's available for knitters who like to do lots of color work in small one ounce cakes called Meadow Muffins.  It is stocked by Sheep and Shawl, a lovely small yarn store here in Western Massachusetts.

Meadow Muffins (center) at Sheep and Shawl

At left is the fabric in progress on the loom.

The photo below shows the fabric after fulling and pressing.

I'm very pleased with this fabric.  The colors will coordinate with just about anything.  The pattern isn't so large that it looks... goofy... but not so small that it is mousy like the beige and white fabric above.  I have high hopes!

There's more to say, but I think I've gone on long enough for one day.  More posts soon.