Running From the Storm…

What a week.  I’m not sure where to begin, except to say right up front I’m home safe in NJ, for now.  

I left a week ago for Atlanta, and on to John C Campbell, a folk school in the Appalachian mountains in the western corner of NC where they meet TN and GA.  We had heavy thunderstorms almost every day, but they were unrelated to what was happening in the Atlantic.  The folk school is gorgeous, magical, and I can see why it is a popular place to learn craft.  I am so grateful to add this to my resume, my students, the facility, the food, housing, staff and infrastructure were all wonderful and encouraging and promoting of creativity and inspiration.

I took a break from teaching my regular garment construction intensive, and taught a five day inkle weaving intensive.  I don’t think I am capable anymore of teaching anything but an intensive. I work my students hard.  I don’t think anyone has ever complained that they didn’t get their money’s worth in one of my classes.  And this one in particular was pretty challenging, especially if you had little or no weaving experience.  I started students off, (there were 10 of them) learning about the inkle loom, and how to set it up efficiently and how to weave a competent band.  By lunch the first day, they were all right there and doing really well.  

Then I introduced supplemental weft, which was lots of fun and very creative.

Followed by supplemental warp.  

The afternoon of the first day we tackled what at first seemed challenging, but by the time the class ended, everyone was thinking that this technique was really elementary! This is a 2:1 pick up, often called Baltic.  Most students did the designs on five thread, a couple with more experience managed 9 thread.

On Tuesday we rewarped the looms, using complementary warps, light vs. dark.  The first technique was name drafts, which again, seemed so hard at the time, but by the end, students were returning to the name draft for a bit of a break!

Then we explored pebble weave, some simple diamonds, each technique building on the previous one.

It became pretty obvious that there was some serious stuff happening in the Atlantic, and one of the students lived on the coast and decided to leave after lunch on Wednesday, to head back to retrieve her animals so she could evacuate.  I saw a lot of very nervous students, trying to decide what to do.  Meanwhile there were heavy thunderstorms throughout my stay, which resulted in some pretty awesome rainbows.

Next up was a free form technique or Runic as Ann Dixon calls it.  I explained the basics of how it was done, and students just made up their designs.  Many of the techniques are adapted from Ann Dixon’s book of Inkle loom patterns, I make up the patterns for them to use, but encourage them to buy her book for more ideas.  Most had a copy by the time the class ended.

Wednesday afternoon they were ready to tackle Paired Pebbles, which is an Andean technique, and one of my favorites.  Laverne Waddington publishes many books of patterns, usually done on the backstrap loom, but very doable on an inkle loom.  Students were all copying the links so they could order for themselves.  Laverne’s books are available as downloads from

Thursday morning we rewarped the loom, and you could see how exhausted everyone was, but I saved the best for last, and once everyone caught on, there were some really pretty designs using a three shaft technique called Turned Krokbragd. 

One of my students Margaret rewarped a companion loom to coordinate with her Krokbragd piece, so she had these beautiful small inkle looms, handmade from gorgeous woods, which she had bought on the internet.

I had a mom and daughter team, which was so wonderful and sweet to watch, sort of like watching my daughter and me in a workshop together.  Sarah, like my daughter, though she had no previous weaving experience, ran rings around everyone in the room.  To be young again with all that stamina and energy.  At one point, late one afternoon they asked if they could just warp up something simple, like shoe laces.  I had showed the link for the article my daughter wrote 10 years ago when she was just 15, for an online magazine called Weavezine.  Though the magazine is not in publication anymore, the archives are still there, and they went off and downloaded the article.  Next thing I new, they were both happily weaving off a pair of shoelaces each.

Everyday at the folk school is magical, from the well maintained wooded paths, to early morning song where local folk singers come to perform, to Tuesday yoga, demonstrations, concerts, and stuff that was hard to fit in sometimes.  I tried to keep the studio open in the evenings, so students could concentrate better with less distraction.  The last day was graduation day, and each of the dozen classes that happened during the week, from clay and woodturning, to blacksmithing, enameling, painting and photography, had a show and tell of students accomplishments for the week.  The dulcimer students gave a lovely performance singing and playing in a round.  My class set up their table with looms still in progress and a stunning array of bands, they were so proud of what they had done.  The class photo was missing a few students, some had already left to beat the storm, but the joy and pride was evident on their faces.

All of these technique are available as a download and as a bound monograph on my website in my book, Advanced Inkle Loom Techniques.

I had planned to stay on for the weekend to take a sketchbooking class.  As I followed the path of Florence, it became apparent that it was headed for the folk school and though I didn’t think the storm would directly affect operations, maybe knocking out the WIFI, I was worried that the storm would graze Atlanta and I wouldn’t get out Sunday night.  With a turn around flight Wednesday to Sievers in Wisconsin, I decided not to chance it and rebooked my flight to Friday night (thank you United for not charging me to rebook) and took off shortly after the presentation, hopped the shuttle to the airport and made it home safely and uneventfully by late Friday night.  Oddly enough, the storm is veering back toward the Atlantic, heading right over NJ, and I’m hoping the rain and wind are finished before I fly Wednesday morning.  Crossing fingers.

Stay tuned…




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 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.  🙂

Stay tuned…