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.

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.

IMG_3553

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.

IMG_3551

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.

 

 

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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 10.01.46 AM.png

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

January Blues (& Greens, Reds, etc.)

fullsizerender-52

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.

img_3262

**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

 

img_3259

**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

 

img_3256

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

 

img_0270

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

 

img_0427

 

img_0437

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

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.

FCEEB65D-ED29-4217-A024-5E200F529FF8.JPG

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.

fullsizerender-43

 

 

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:

fullsizerender-35

 

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….

fullsizerender-37

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?

 

Woolgathering

IMG_1291I know I’m probably not the first fibre artist blogger to use the term. I know it’s a bit…obvious, but it’s also exactly what I’ve been doing.

FullSizeRender 32

In the time since my last post I attended the Expo, went to Belgium, Scotland, and Ireland, redesigned my studio, had a lovely bunch of visitors,  and got a (very time-consuming) puppy. It has turned into a bit of an extended hiatus for Berwick Weaving Co., but that’s the beauty of working at your own pace, by your own rules, right?

With the beginning of August, though,  work will soon begin again. I feel a strong urge to get my hands in the wool again, to design and work with colors, to have those stretches of real peace when working with the rhythm of the loom. There’s a quickening, when I think of the work I’m going to really get my hands into this Fall.

All of that reverie, that woolgathering, is where creativity comes from. Without it, I’d be a machine just cranking out woven goods.

Here then, is a gallery of those things that have provoked my dreamy imaginings for the past few months.  Everywhere, there’s a feeling or a colour, something to translate into woven work.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lady Weavers

I read an article the other day, about 14 “women artists” (is that like “lady doctor”?) who changed the way we look at design. Regardless of the title, you should read it. Besides being an  great starting point for further research, I just love the portraits of these women in their studios and workrooms, creating.

Like this one, of Lenore Tawney in her NY studio, 1958:o-TRAWNEY-900

I also have a bit of a crush on the work of Dorothy Liebes.

weaver-dorothy-liebes-working-on-a-loom-in-her-studio-charles-e-steinheimer-1947

Much of her work is simple and colourful, but the more you look at it you see just how  surprising it is.  She’s synonymous with mid-century modern  and industrial design, and worked with many of the greats of that era (most notably Frank Lloyd Wright).

Go forth and research – the history of women artists and textiles is long, and full of ingenuity, beauty, and skill.

"Color and personality are closely related, as I see it. I find myself subconsciously thinking of one person as “blue,” another “green,” etc.” -- Dorothy Liebes

“Color and personality are closely related, as I see it. I find myself subconsciously thinking of one person as “blue,” another “green,” etc.” — Dorothy Liebes

 

How does your garden grow?

“Color is the place where our

brain and the universe meet” 

from: ‘What he told me – The motif’, ín “Cézanne, – a Memoir with Conversations” (1897 – 1906) by Joachim Gasquet, Thames and Hudson, London 1991 p. 153

Someone told me a while ago that there are two types of weavers – those who are drawn to the color/texture/fibre and those who are intrigued by the process. I know, absolutely, that while I love the process, it’s the color and texture that speak to me. It all comes out of that. If I could eat these colors, savour them like wine, or crack them between my teeth like a delicious hard candy, I would. They’re like flowers, a profusion of color and unintentional pairings that make new colors. Like anyone who works with fibre, I have a lot of it. There are jokes amongst weavers and knitters about their “stash” (it’s a nice way of saying “hoard”). I go through phases where certain colors appeal to me, or textures.

stash!

stash!

I usually buy fibre with no particular project in mind. The color appeals, or it feels good. Sometimes it smells good (silk).  Sometimes I buy it because it’s on sale, or as a souvenir of a place I’ve visited. Sometimes I buy it for a specific commission, but I almost always have trouble with that…. I’ve found that projects almost always come out of the color/fibre I have, not the other way around. When I try to reverse-engineer it and say, produce a “blue blanket” for someone, I will have a bit of Weaver’s Block until I find a blue that works for me. There’s a mysterious alchemy;  a serendipitous confluence of color/emotion/meaning that happens eventually. It might sound weird, but as I continue to explore how ideas happen I find myself more often than not using language like that. It is a beautiful Mystery, creation. I bought this a while ago, with – as usual – no real purpose in mind. It’s from Mineville Wool Project; I’ve written before about how much I love them and their beautiful one-off unlabelled fibres (the two little balls are some local homespun I bought at the North Mountain Farmer’s Market, and some koigu sock yarn). I often think of my internal palette/palate as being predominantly green-blue-yellow, but this red-orange-pink keeps popping up. ann dakin yarn Then I forgot about it. I haven’t even wound it into a ball yet. I’ve been concentrating on a project with purples and greens (oh! purple and green, how I love them), and then I left my loom for a bit – got involved in planning and filling the new front garden, and had a little anniversary trip with my husband to the adorable funky town of Parrsboro. They had some gorgeous roses in the Inn’s garden, and I reminded myself to look them up when I got home. If you have time, you should visit that town – you will be seduced.

front garden

My front garden

While looking for lavender for my side garden, I went to a local nursery that I love, the Briar Patch, and  – along with the lavender, some Dianthus, etc., I bought a “Mystery Rose” – one whose label had fallen off somehow. It has turned out to be quite lovely, and the lovely people at the Briar Patch tell me it might be a Carefree Celebration rose, which the internet tells me looks like this:

http://www.landscape-design-advice.com/easy-to-grow-roses.html#.VbIsWHisZHg

Carefree Celebration roses (taken from the internet)

Mine bloomed shortly thereafter and this came up – that silky hard-to-pin down coral pink/orange combo. Just to die for, no?

Carefree Celebration, from my garden

Carefree Celebration roses, from my garden

I cannot seem to get enough of this color combination all of a sudden. The corals and pink and orange. The softness of a pink that’s somehow so much more when you add the acid warmth of orange to it. The brashness of orange, tempered with the pinks. The surprising shades in between… it’s lovely. Once I remembered to look up those gorgeous  flowers that I saw at our Inn I found that they were Charles de Mills roses. A Gallica rose – lush, potent, crimson/burgundy and hot.  They date back to the 1790’s; I cannot resist those old double blooms.  In my search for Charles de Mills, I was side-tracked by this other beautiful specimen:  the Anne Dakin rose. Who can resist that? They are on my wish list, along with the Alchymist rose.  It’s the changeable colors, I think – that hot burgundy crimson that feathers out to pink; the peachy coral orange yellow pink that can’t be captured entirely. Cézanne also said “I was very pleased with myself when I discovered that sunlight could not be reproduced; it had to be represented by something else… …by colour.” Maybe that’s what I’m working with here;  it’s also the memory of the day I smelled the rose, the way the sun came out later that afternoon, the way I held my husband’s hand as we walked by the garden bed. Again, a beautiful Mystery.

https://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/showrose.asp?showr=3109

Anne Dakin climbing roses

Charles de Mills

Charles de Mills

The love child of Charles de Mills and Anne Dakin

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet. 

Random moments, captured. 

Today I realized just how happy I am here in the BWCo. weavery.

These are tiny moments from the past 24 hours – I’m counting my blessings.

Quiet moments

IMG_4434

Hugo’s Wall of Troy


Shiny moments

IMG_4424

Sylvia’s Peacock Beads

Glowing moments

IMG_4426

Last night’s  sunset, viewed from the weavery.