Smooth as silk

I’ve been spending some time lately trying to make my work processes more efficient. It’s really bearing fruit, too.

Today I warped my loom (meaning I got all the fibre on the beam and rolled up). It can be tricky sometimes – if you are, like I was today, using delicate fibre, or if you are trying to keep the tension  regular throughout and the dog is barking, something snags, the phone rings… or you all of a sudden find that you really need three hands….

I’ve been dressing my looms for years now, but it’s still tricky to me, every time. Sometimes my husband helps, sometimes I just do it myself and muddle through. Weavers are a clever bunch – we use weights, water bottles, hang weights from strings. We use trapezes, friends, dowels, etc. We’re always looking for an easier way to wind on.

Today, though?

I used this lovely tool made by my talented friend Lee Yorke, who made it after  seeing  other tensioning devices online. It’s custom fit to my loom, and even has a spot for me to hang a roll of paper that will magically roll between the layers of warp. It’s quite something.

Here it is, in action. It seriously hastened the process, and was a pleasure to use. I just had to share because I didn’t swear once during the entire process. A miracle!  (Please note, the noise is from traffic outside my window, not the tensioner.)

This warp, by the way, will be jewel-toned mohair shawls, eventually.

Shopping? I’ve got that covered.

There are some small but vital changes coming to Berwick Weaving Co.

I like social media.  I like to curate Berwick Weaving Co’s Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. I like blogging, here on this page. I don’t always remember to update them all, and it seems that this page has started to become a little orphaned. I don’t always remember to update it with day-to-day things like I do the Facebook page, but I tend instead to think of it as the long form version of the others, where I can muse about what I do, or give you a better view of the big picture of what I do.

I do not really want to have an IRL store – I have prioritized making things over running a brick-and-mortar business, which would allow me less time to actually do what I love.   I do an occasional show, and while I really enjoy every minute of it, I am always glad to be back in my little studio.

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I have recently made a tiny step toward putting up an option on the Berwick Weaving Co.  Facebook page that will allow you all to see what is available for sale in real-time, and to buy it from me, online.  When I have a moment this week, I’ll also make this site a spot from which you can see my inventory and purchase it using PayPal, email transfer, or credit cards.

And while I don’t have a storefront, as always I am available here at my studio if you want to come and see what I’ve got, and have a chat. Just email or message me first, and we can set up a time. I love visitors and am happy to oblige but need advance warning.

So. Gearing up into Fall, you should start to think about shopping for the holidays. Christmas is only 117 days away.

HO-HO-HO!

 

Flying!

A few months ago we were in Ireland, and made a point to revisit a lovely old town with a mill of the same name: Avoca. About 4 years ago we’d first happened upon it, and it was maybe the first time I’d ever really seen a loom in action. Much of what they do now is automated, but they still have a few old looms on the factory floor. The weaver was a lovely man who told me he’d been working there for over 30 years and wasn’t tired of it yet.

Watching the weaver on that loom was, somehow, life-changing for me. On the spot I realized I wanted to do that. Not only wanted, but needed to try it. I don’t know why, and I’m not going to worry about it over much – I think that if you feel that sort of urge, you should go with it.

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Later in that first trip, that weaver was still in the back of my head; the snick-snick of the shuttle, the clatter of the harnesses, the gorgeous textiles…. We then happened upon Swallow Studios in Annyalla, and lo! More weaving. This time, Liz Christy’s studio with all of her gorgeous colors and textures. It was such a pleasure to see her work (and to buy a shawl to take home), and to realize that it wasn’t only “factories” like Avoca that had looms.

4 years later, almost to the day, I’m sitting in my home weaving studio. The past four years have been a treasure. It has been, essentially, a dedicated self-directed journey into the art and mechanics of weaving. There isn’t much I don’t like about it, and I continue to fine-tune my practice and techniques. It’ll take me the rest of my days to learn all there is to know and that’s just fine with me. I’m putting in my ten thousand hours, and ten thousand more.

This month I treated myself to a flying shuttle beater.  A very interesting contraption that offers the opportunity to weave more quickly, over wider areas. It revolutionized handweaving back in the industrial revolution, and although I’ve only used it to make one blanket so far, it is having the same effect on my weaving.  Faster, and smoother, but still handweaving nonetheless. I’m keeping my other, sans-flying-beater, loom as well, at least for the moment.

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Yesterday I’d finally cleared the decks enough to try out the flying shuttle, and as I stood there, pulling the cord and listening to the snick-snick of the shuttle and the clatter of the harnesses, I realized that I was doing exactly what I’d seen that weaver  doing 4 years ago in Avoca.

There’s something to be said for listening to that little voice that says “I want to do that”.  Go out and do whatever it is that is whispering to you. Weave, write, make toys…. whatever it is, make the time.

 

 

June!

 

I love this time of year, and it just gives me so many ideas – everything is blooming and bursting with colour, and saturated with that gorgeous limpid/lucid June light. I’ve been busy weaving and rearranging the workroom, warping, teaching, and weaving some more.

Some scenes from my workroom (mouse over each photo for a caption)….

I haven’t been writing on this page much; I tend to post things on Berwick Weaving Co.’s Facebook page and forget about this place. If you’re looking for day-to-day Berwick Weaving news, go there.

As always, if you want to arrange a commission or have any questions, please email or comment here on this page or on facebook.

 

Spring!

I’ve been weaving with a purpose for the past little while. I don’t do a lot of shows, but there’s one here in Berwick on 08 April (this Saturday), and it was so much fun to try to work up some spring-like weaving. I’ve got some “seasonless” shawls – silk and mohair, cotton, merino. I’ve also made something new to me – a few “stroller blankets” – the perfect size for a stroller (hence the name) and machine washable materials.

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The information: the “Swing into Spring” Craft Show is Saturday 08 April, and runs from 10-4 at the Berwick Legion (232 Main Street).  Admission is free. There will be a canteen that will provide lunch and various treats. There will also be a “Kiddie Korner” so the kids can be entertained while you look at 40 tables of local craft and art.  There is an ATM on site (and I take credit cards at my table). Here’s the link to the event on Facebook, so you can see more information about other artisans who will be there. Did I mention 40 tables?

There will also be a 50/50 draw, so you may end up with more than you came with!

As I write this, Spring has overnight come to the Valley. It’s sunny, the sky is blue. There’s been a little rain (it is April, after all). There are crocuses! This is the perfect time to get out of your late-winter fog and come see some colour, and to buy local.

Here’s a bit of a slideshow of what I’ll have available on my table tomorrow. Remember, though, that I do a lot of commission work, and so am happy to discuss with you making just the right thing.

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Looking forward to seeing you there.

January Blues (& Greens, Reds, etc.)

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It may be dreary outside, but these are not.

January is a funny time of year – it’s usually a bit dreary, and we begin to long for Spring, but we know there’s still some winter to slog through. Sometimes there are, say, world events that get us a bit down. We will look away from those things for a moment, and think about ways to cheer ourselves up, right?

To counteract the doldrums, I’ve been weaving with more colour lately, moving slightly out of my usual palette, and it’s been a brilliant move for my own mood. Just handling these lovely fibres makes me happy.

So. If your neck is cold, or you want to warm up a loved one, here’s what I’ve got in inventory. Of course, feel free to contact me if you would like me to make something different up for you to your specifications.

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**SOLD**  Sea and Sky, with some bottle green beach glass thrown in. Wide and slinky scarf, 12.5” x 80” all in a 70/30 mix of super wash merino and tencel. It’s really beautiful, $140

 

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**SOLD**One of my favourites. A large scarf of “peacock colors” – teal, purple, green. Who can resist? Chunky, nubby blue-faced leicester wool, with merino, silk, and bamboo warp. 13” x 68” $100

 

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Stole, in pink/orange/red with some chartreuse thrown in. Handspun weft with multicoloured 8/2 cotton warp. It’s lightweight and gorgeous. 26” x 70” $175

 

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There’s a special buzz that happens when you mix blue with rust/red. I love this mix – cotton and merino warp with a blue faced leicester/merino weft. 8” x 84” nice to wrap around several times. $100

 

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Ravenclaw House, anyone? Made in the Hogwarts’ Ravenclaw colors of blue and bronze, this is for those in your life who are known for their wit, learning, and wisdom. Smaller than my usual, it’s still a good size at 5.5” x 60” and made with a mix of cotton and super wash merino.  $50

Looking for last minute gifts?

Christmas is fast approaching. I have a few pieces still available.

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img_3255Stole, pink/orange/red. A gorgeous handspun wool. 26″ x 70″
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Understated generously sized scarf, 12″ x 78″. Very pretty tweedy grays with subtle panache – greens, purples, blues. Cotton warp, Merino weft. $100

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img_3259One of my favorites. Large scarf, “peacock colors” of teal, purple, green. Who can resist? Chunky nubby Blue Faced Leicester wool, with merino, silk and bamboo warp. $100img_3260

 

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Sea and sky, with some bottle green beach glass thrown in. Wide and slinky scarf, 12.5″ x 80″ all in a 70/30 mix of superwash merino and tencel. It’s really beautiful. $140

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Tracking texture

I am always delighted by the alchemy of colours. A pretty multicoloured sock yarn, married to some gorgeous tourmaline- and beet-coloured blue faced leicester (all by Fleece Artist), and you’ve got yourself something quite lovely that you couldn’t really anticipate. Those colours just somehow make something entirely different in the end.

On top of that, with this particular piece, there is an unintended patterning of textures. Can you see it, there in the bottom right-hand picture?  Compare that to the picture, directly above it, of the piece still on the loom.  The finished piece is thick and rustic, and there’s tracking on a large scale.

Tracking is a mysterious event caused by the random (un)twisting of the wool one uses, once the material is wet-finished. I haven’t been able to find an official definition of it, because it’s an elusive effect – one cannot anticipate or plan it. It has something to do with the twist put into the yarn by the spinner, with humidity, with the amount of space you have between rows…there are a lot of variables, and like I said, none of them are reproducible.  In this case I also used a weft that was thick-and-thin, which made some really interesting window-pane type patterns while I was weaving (which are, oddly, pretty much lost because of how the fibre fulled with washing).

Tracking is not always prized by weavers, or by those who buy their wares. Sometimes one wants a perfectly smooth piece of cloth, or you have an ocd-ish inability to live with the imperfections of hand-made textiles and want to press the tracking out (you can’t, btw).  I am of the pro-tracking school – I love what it does, and how it makes something that cannot be reproducible. Embrace it. It’s a unique and completely original thing, never to be seen again.

Tracking is weaving’s snowflake.

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I made this stole on a very simple loom called a “rigid heddle”, and using what is called plain weave, which is a very simple and (I think) under-appreciated  method of weaving. It is a simple over-under, over-under. It is absolutely the most primal of weaving drafts, and the one that I think I may love the most. It allows the texture, colours, and fibre to shine; it is what I always imagined Gandalf’s gorgeous grey cloak to be made with, and Dumbledore’s, Kvothe’s, and William of Baskerville’s….

oldtobygandalf3In fact, you can see it in Gandalf’s cloak, here. There are what look to be diagonal patterns in the fabric, all of which are the delightful collateral damage of the wet finishing process once you take something off the loom.

There are always opportunities to make complicated and beautiful patterns using more complicated drafts, more complicated threading, more finicky techniques. But when looking at this, I want to celebrate the fabulous textiles that we can create on simple rigid heddle looms, with plain weave.

Next time you see fabric – at home, in a store, at a holiday craft fair – take a look at it. Touch it and rub it between your fingers. Look at it, really look and think about how it was made, and by whom. Think about what it’s made from, and in some lucky cases you’ll see tracking, and think about how the fibre was spun and twisted and handled, and made-with.

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Interplay

It’s the beginning of October. The leaves are starting to turn, and my view is full of greens, orange, brown, and red. I don’t want to work, but to play. I’m counteracting the autumn colors with this:

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Two kinds of gorgeous purple merino from Mineville Wool, one more blue, the other with some pink and magenta mixed in. Then some brilliant shots of thick-and-thin turquoise, emerald, sapphire….

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I started to warp this up, and realize I have no idea what this particular piece of fabric will be. I think that I’m going to stay simple with this, just to let those delicious colors speak for themselves. I’ll use my rigid heddle loom and craft a stole, with a thin and simple purple weft – about 14 inches wide, and 6 and a half feet long. I might bead it, I might not. I’m happy to entertain suggestions.

This is one of my favourite parts of weaving – the  interplay of texture, colour, and function. Having a plan is always nice, but for the moment, I’m going to just see what feels right and we’ll see what we end up with. Whatever it is, you can’t really go wrong with those luminous colors, and the fibre is lovely and bouncy and soft.

Whatever you’re doing, remember to play once in a while, eh?

 

“Grey” or “Gray”?

What’s the convention for “grey” vs “gray”? I’ve looked at them so long that neither one looks right.

Regardless of how one spells it, I’m continuing my love affair with textures, and with the grey/pink combination. This time I added some rust and  hints of red/peach/orange. Good enough to eat, this.

It’s a mix of fibres – cotton, merino, silk, bamboo and yes – acrylic. This will be a shawl, already commissioned.

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Yeah, I think I prefer “grey”…. You?