All week I felt as though I were moving through Jello. I slept as much as I could, and just accomplished what absolutely needed to get accomplished. And I mourned that, although I’m having a wonderful year teaching, I haven’t done anything creative in the studio, except write, for a long time… My adventures on the road though interesting, from a blogger’s point of view, get redundant after awhile, there isn’t anything new to say, and I long for a meaty project, and for that matter, to just put warps on my looms, any of them would be great, because they are looking like that girl from Bluefly.com who goes to the party naked because she has nothing to wear. (If you watch Project Runway, you’ll know the ad.)
My handweaving guild, Jockey Hollow Weavers, has an exchange every September. The goal/project for the year is set, we have all year to come up with whatever is expected of us, and we present it in June. Well of course that means I don’t look at it until April, and then maybe start on it in May. The meeting comes early in the month, first Wednesday, so I really only have about another month to pull this off. You might remember last year this time, my daughter and I were working frantically on eight overshot placemats each, the loom wasn’t cooperating, and we were pretty much down to the wire on that one. My daughter is participating this year as well, but I have my own project to worry about, so I’m not nagging her, yet…
This year, the guild chose a creativity project, each participant put cones of yarn in a brown bag, and then chose from the bags on the table; the assignment was to weave something from the contents of the bag, and then return it to the person whose bag it was in June. This isn’t unlike the Challenge project I did for the Tampa Bay Convergence in 2008. Here is yarn, make something. Sort of a Project Runway parameter. Except I had nine months, not one day. My bag of yarn was from my guild-mate Sherrie Miller. She put a very large cone of pink kid mohair, with a cone of beige Homespun unmercerized cotton, and a small cone of some unlabeled rust cotton, and about 100 yards of a fat, soft, hairy variegated knitting yarn.
I’m not one to plan projects. I like to weave yardage. How much yardage? How much yarn do I have? I spent a day with my McMorran Yarn Balance, and a scale, and did lots of calculations. The knitting yarn, I just measured by hand. I wasn’t sure how else to be completely accurate and I didn’t want to waste an inch playing around with the balance. Then I played with yarn wraps, getting a feel for how the yarns looked together. I loved the knitting yarn, but with only 100 yards, and I was determined to use every inch, how could I get that to work with 30 ounces of fine kid mohair weighing in at 2750 yards per pound. And the cottons seemed coarse next to the mohair. So I was thinking of trying to minimize their impact. I started leafing through my vast collection of weaving books for structure inspiration. I have acquired some new ones, and I pulled Ann Dixon’s Handweaver’s Pattern Directory from Interweave Press. I found a lovely Swedish lace pattern, and started to see lace boxes with plain weave horizontal and vertical stripes of the cotton with a center of the knitting yarn. I worked out how many warp and weft stripes I could get for varying widths of fabric, until I came up with something I liked. It was relatively easy to work out using weaving software. I use Fiberworks PCW. I have for years. I plugged in one of the lace blocks into my software, and to my surprise, the software showed it wasn’t actually weaving. There were warp floats that were the size of the entire block. Hmmmm…… I checked it about six times, thinking my brain must be really fried, and then it dawned on me, could there be an error in the book? I went to the Interweave Press website, to check for errata, we can do that now you know, and sure enough, to my horror, there were pages of errata. But not the page I was using, page 191. Could it be I discovered yet another mistake in the book? I quick emailed my guild-mate Sally, there isn’t a structure she doesn’t know or can’t figure out, and I figured if she had the book, she could look at it and confirm that I wasn’t nuts. Sure enough, she wrote back within five minutes, had the book, and declared I was correct, there was an error. I quickly corrected it, and felt vindicated… small silly victory, but hey, it made me feel competent for about five minutes. I love the internet…
Since I only had eight shafts, I chose to use only one of the blocks of the Swedish Lace, and then set out to figure out how to make the knitting yarn act as a supplemental warp AND weft, which took most of the remaining shafts. It took me quite awhile to figure how to get it to float and intersect like a cross in the middle of the stripe. I love challenges like this. The world disappears and I am so focused… When I clicked on the correct shaft, suddenly the draft wove perfectly and I was cheering from my desk. The rest of the family did the proverbial eye roll, you know how we get, but I was really happy with myself, and now all I needed to do was actually weave it, sample first once the warp is threaded and wound, and then adjust the sett if needed.
So I pulled out my warping mill, and wound three separate sections of the warp. There will be less distortion on the yarns for 30″ across, and I’m not sure how fragile the kid mohair is. I found some breakage, maybe from old rodent or insect damage near the bottom of the cone, so I didn’t want to cause any unnecessary stress on the yarns. Since I had so little of the knitting yarn, I didn’t want to lose any to loom waste, I added a 20″ header of junk yarn, to each of the knitting yarns in the warp. Since this is eight shafts, the waste is more because of the depth of the castle.
So I’m all wound and ready to start threading. I’m feeling a bit more rested, and I’ve given my mind a creative stretch, and I’ll soon have a warp on the new loom.
Oh, and what am I going to make with this fabric? I don’t have a clue, I’ll wait until I actually make the fabric, and since Sherrie is a fantastic sewer (she was one of my favorite weavers who worked with me on the forecast column for Handwoven Magazine) I might just give it to her as yardage. 🙂
testing after removing and restoring wp
Daryl, this is such a wonderful post!!!! i love peeking over your shoulder and observing your design process. You document so well, it’s like being in your head with you. And the final result is just gorgeous! You just keep bettering your best! Thank you for the inspiration! xO Gail & Fog