Thursday, 18 May 2017

Weaving by Trail or Bushwhacking

I've enjoyed different forms of transport over trails and I've also worked in the forest, creating my own path through the woods to take measurements or mark plots. I find a huge mental contrast between following a trail or 'bushwhacking' on my own. Both are nice, but they are just very different. This even applies to weaving.

Taking a trail when I weave means creating a pattern in my mind and then following it to the end of the fabric's length, whether it's a blanket, scarf or towel. I might have a set of colours and weave patterns in mind and then change them as soon as I begin, but it's a trail by the time the design is established, and then I simply follow what I've set for myself. Like this:

In contrast, my artistic blankets and towels are like bushwhacking. I have to create my own path throughout the full length of the fabric. This means having a picture in my mind, such as my Georgian Bay blankets and towels, and needing to loosely plan the proportions of water, rock, trees and sky. Then I must determine what colours to use, how to make possible colour gradations, and how I show wavy water, smooth rock and big sky with the weave patterns I have available.

And - how do I make the current piece a little different from all the others? That's all the bushwhacking part.  It takes more physical and mental energy but it's totally worth it. I just can't do a lot of it.

This concept of trail versus bushwhacking probably has endless other applications - painting or stitching geometric images versus abstract, cooking creatively versus following a recipe (someone else's trail), and much more.

Notice that people may wish you "Happy Trails" but never "Happy Bushwhacking"?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Winter's Tale (of Spinning)

The Winter's Tale is the last Shakespeare play I saw, in my very limited experience with (and knowledge of) Shakespeare. I was a groundling in London at the Globe Theatre 12 years ago. That meant standing for the performance down in front of the stage, but it was worth it - and affordable!

My winter's tale of spinning, or part of it, includes two local fleeces. The light grey is the last roving from a Romney flock in Beaver Valley, east of here. It has a lovely lustre and was gorgeous to spin. The dark brown is from the Wenger's sheep on Fox Mountain quite nearby my studio. I loved working with these fibres; I know both producers and the relationship I have with each is part of the very fulfilling experience for me.

Both yarns are two-ply, meaning that I spun two separate yarns and plied them together in the opposite direction to the spun direction of twist. The two strands want to do this anyway. I find two-ply more stable in finished cloth and it's worth all the time. I figure I spent about 40-50 hours to spin and finish each of these two projects.

Local fibres woven into blankets are growing in popularity. The last blanket I sold with local handspun Icelandic wool generated interest from the skeins when a studio visitor spied them. And that's where the blanket went!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Travel Shawls

My latest project, which I call travel shawls, was designed to serve a need. (Mine!) Often I would think how nice it would be to have a practical and stylish small blanket to:
  • Wrap around my shoulders like a shawl.
  • Sit on as a cushion when folded up.
  • Fill the badly designed void in seat backs on many airplane seats and conference chairs.
  • Use as an extra small blanket on my bed in a chilly hotel room.
  • Wrap around my waist like a sarong to keep my butt and legs warm when I'm fine up top.
  • Use as a lap blanket when seated for chilly legs.

So I designed travel shawls. They're smaller than a full-sized blanket but warmer and a bit heavier than a typical lightweight shawl. They're also designed to be a bit of a travel buddy that can be taken along for all those purposes and look great in the process. They're compact and sturdy, and will stand up well to a lot of use without looking grubby.

I wove all of them in big waves of undulating twill, with a few little interesting variations in some of them. All of them are made of wool, one with a little mohair, and measure approximately 150-155 cm (60"-61") long. Width varies from 69 cm (27") to a maximum of 78 cm (30.5") for the white one.

 Each one below is priced at $150.

#1 | Heathery blue for about 3/4s of the cloth | Sold

#1 | Detail of transition from heathery dark mauve at the other end into heathery blue

#2 | Dark brown handspun of either alpaca or very soft wool | This one is quite thick and luxurious.

#3 | Very dark charcoal Sold

#4 | Soft brown | Sold

#5 | White wool-mohair | Very soft, a bit fuzzy and wider at 78 cm (30.5") | Sold

I have a feeling that travel shawls could be popular. And I think that other needs from mine could arise from other users.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Special Blanket with Handspun Local Icelandic Wool

A repeat studio visitor returned recently to look at a special blanket with handspun local Icelandic wool. She'd seen and liked the skeins of wool I'd spun from a ram named Dimayo, who I blogged about last summer. Dimayo's badgerface colour is one of the Icelandic sheep's official pattern combinations.

The fleece was mostly cream-coloured, supplemented with caramel and black, for a stunning yarn when randomly spun together.

I marvelled at the results as I wove this blanket in an undulating twill pattern. Knowing that my Dimayo yarn supply was a bit low, I wove strong, dark brown borders with wool left over from a ewe in Dimayo's flock, Nancy. Both Icelandic sheep fleeces were produced close by, just over on Fox Mountain near Williams Lake. Here is the blanket in the fringing process.

The finished Dimayo blanket:

The detail and uniqueness of the woven cloth were the most incredible for me:

The new owner of the Dimayo blanket bought it for one of her sons ... but she admitted she might keep it for herself!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Added Adventures in Advancing Twill

A second towel project this year in advancing twill gave me the chance to use similar and new treadlings on a similar threading as my recent project, but in lighter warp colours. I felt like I was on a bit of a roll and I wasn't ready to leave advancing twill quite yet. The lighter colours in the warp generally needed medium to dark colours in the weft to show the pattern.

I beamed on a long warp of close to 20 m in length (23 turns on the back beam). This gave me 26 towels in total, but by the last few I had run out of favourite colours and good ideas. This was a good thing though because it pushed me into trying new patterns, and I discovered some new ideas to pursue later. This is so typical: towards the end of the warp I want to finish it all and start something new, then I feel almost heartbroken to weave the last towel when I was on a fresh surge.

I also learned how the little glitch in the centre section was incorrectly threaded. It's a bit off kilter although I doubt anyone will mind too much - just me. I figured out the error and now I want to do a third project with the correction. That's already beamed onto the loom. :-)

Here are some of the towels with the lighter warp.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

One Weaver's Interpretation of the Johnston Tartan

A long-time friend has lineage from the Johnston clan of Scotland, and he requested a wool blanket in the Johnston tartan colours. At first I thought he was talking about me weaving the tartan itself, with all its intricate complexity and specific pattern. That I cannot do! But no, he just wanted a blanket with those colours and I was free to create something that might interest him.

He had a tie of the Johnston tartan, which I used for colour selection.

The blanket warp was stripes of black, charcoal and light grey and the weave structure would be undulating twill. The suitable weft colours I had on hand were black, dark blue, limited dark green, and yellow.

At first I tried to repeat the sequence in the tie with two shots of this and four of that - but that did not suit undulating twill and started to drive me crazy. So I unwove that and thought hard about my next option. And what you see on the dark green cone was all I had. Hmmm.

What I ended up doing was weaving the blanket ends in predominantly dark blue, then the entire blanket with alternating stripes of the dark green, all with yellow stripes edged in black throughout.

I'm not sure how I came up with this plan, but I was pleased with the result. And, as always, the blanket looked better off the loom and stretched out, then better yet when washed and pressed. Here it is with the tie:

And ... what did my friend say about the blanket?
"I love the blanket. We both do. Thank you for exploring this design."
This was actually not an easy challenge, but what challenge is? I like the final product and my friend knew he was under no obligation. The Johnston tartan colours are so nice that as a muse they've helped create a beautiful blanket.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Ask Me Almost Anything About Advancing Twill

I've been enjoying advancing twill patterns in my blankets and towels over the years. An article a year ago in the premier issue of Heddlecraft encouraged me to work with it again for a towel project. When I say you can ask me almost anything, I have to emphasize 'almost' because this blog's title is meant to be a bit silly ... and readers know by now that I absolutely adore alliteration. :-)

So, if you want to know anything more than the little I share here - definitely go to Heddlecraft or explore advancing twill another way.

In these towels, I designed the threading for the 26" width and used different treadlings with a twill tie-up of 3-2-1-2 for the eight harnesses. It's exciting to create different sequences and see the results. The selvedges took a bit of a hit in their quality, and I had to do some manual improvements at the end of certain sequences when the edge thread was not being woven in. If I missed it for awhile, that edge thread forms a small loop, but is likely to shrink in with washings and not be too prominent. The antidote to that problem is to use a floating selvedge, I know.

Anyway, here are some of my experiments ... using bright colours in cold and dark January to brighten things up.