Progress on Big Sister

I was able to make a lot of progress today on the piece I started yesterday.  I made so much progress, I’m 2/3 of the way through.  So I’d like to think that I’ll get it off the loom tomorrow, but who knows, life keeps taking all sorts of twists and turns…

I’ll describe how I did the piece, if you aren’t a handweaver and are reading this, it will go right over your head I’m sure, but bear with me, I always get really interested people whenever I lecture on the Theo Moorman technique, and I’m doing this a slightly different way, with a pick-up.  First the draft:


I am threading the first and second shaft with gray 10/2 cotton,  and shafts three and four are threaded with gray polyester sewing thread.  So the ground fabric is a plain weave with shafts one and two, and the thin tie-down threads are on shafts three and four.

step1First I lift shaft 1 and 3, and weave across with the 10/2 cotton in the shuttle.

step2Then I drop shaft one, and insert a pick-up stick, which is an 1/8″ dowel that I shaved the ends on to make it pointy.  The pick-up stick goes under the threads on shaft 3, the sewing thread, picking up only the threads I want to hold up through the next four rows.  That way, the tie-down threads will weave into the background on the sides where the silk strips won’t be woven in.  I release shaft 3.

step3I lift shafts 2 and 4, and before I weave the next shot, I push the pick-up stick up against the reed.  That lifts the tie-down threads from shaft 3 up and keeps them out of the way.  I weave across with my cotton weft.  I beat the weft in place, which moves the pick-up stick back to the fell line (last row of weaving) and then release shafts 2 and 4.


I lift shafts 1 and 3, and weave a shot of weft across, the pick-up stick remains at the fell line.

Then I repeat the previous step, lifting shafts 2 and 4, pushing the pickup stick against the reed, weave a shot of weft, and beat into place.  The pick-up stick moves back to the fell line.

ready_for_stripOne more shot of weft, with shafts 1 and 3 lifted, for a total of five shots, it is important to weave an odd number of shots, once the strip is placed, the next row will raise the opposite set of tie-down threads.

The piece should look like this, remove the pick up stick, and lower shaft 1.  All that remains raised, are the tie-down threads on shaft 3.

I carefully take my silk strip (see the blog from yesterday for information on this part of the story), and place it under the raised tie-down threads.

with_stripI beat that strip gently into place, and change the shed to raise shafts 2 and 4, and start the process all over again, but this time shafts 2 and 4 lead, with the pick-up stick placed under the tie-down threads on shaft 4.  You eventually get into a rhythm.

I could really use a boat shuttle with a lower profile, I’ve seen them around, made for the Structo Looms I think.  My weaving buddy Sally had a couple at a meeting once, and I thought they would make weaving on a table loom so much more efficient.  But for now, since I mostly do yardage on large floor looms, this is what I have to work with and I just scoot it across the shallow shed, until it gets to the other side.  If I wanted speed, I’d use the floor loom.  An advantage of the table loom is that shafts stay up by themselves while you are manipulating the silk strip.  Speed isn’t so important here.

It is late and bedtime is looking like a pretty great concept…

Big Sister Revisited

What an odd day.  I had some very sad news this morning, after my celebration yesterday of my 7th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, one of my very best friend’s was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I’m so sad for her, this is such an epidemic, that I almost feel like it isn’t a matter of if, but when…  The good news is that it is in a pretty early stage and with careful treatment it should all be fine.  But that doesn’t help right now, you still have to go through the misery and fear of a diagnosis, not everyone responds to your news in the best most supportive way, and the road will be a thorny and uncomfortable one.  But like I told her this morning, what ever side of the spiritual fence you sit on, I firmly believe that the universe sends angels, lots of them, to guide you through this maze, and they are always there in disguise, you just have to know they are there and look for them.  The fiber community really rallied around me when I was diagnosed, I got some lovely cards, handwoven scarves, cookies in the mail from Connecticut, love and support through phone calls and emails.  Oddly enough my favorite emails came from Duchess, a lovely black Labrador who had also just had a mastectomy and we corresponded through her owner for a couple of years.  Oh, and I loved the email from some wonderful angel who said to me, “You can’t die, because I haven’t taken a workshop with you yet.”  That might sound like an odd thing to say, but it gave me a good laugh and kept me going through another couple of chemo treatments, it lifted my spirits in a way that said, I was so much more than this disease and I wasn’t done here yet.

I also had a phone call which thrilled me, the rumor from a very reliable source, is that Pellon will eventually be printing the red dot plates onto a pattern medium they already had in the archives with seems to be identical to the base fabric of the original red dot tracer from HTCW, which has sadly been discontinued.  If you haven’t followed this thread of the blog, I’ve been in hot pursuit of a suitable pattern tracing medium to replace the discontinued Red Dot Tracer, and it seems I only have to wait a bit longer.  🙂

I had to switch gears today, I wanted to send a piece to the members exhibit at the Surface Design Conference in Kansas City.  The deadline is March 1st.  I was under the assumption that they wanted an image by March 1st, but when I reread the prospectus, it calls for the actual piece, 18″ square to be sent to them by that date.  I had been planning to use the photo of the 16″ version, and if accepted would weave the 18″ version.  But alas, they need an actual piece.

release_backingSo I brought my table loom over to the cutting table , which is really convenient because I can stand and cut the strips as I weave them in.  The second or third blog I wrote back in December described the process and gave the draft, using a Theo Moorman threading. I weave about a quarter inch of ground fabric, then lay in on top a thin strip of silk, and hold it down with poly sewing thread which is warped in with the cotton ground. The strip is part of a childhood photograph I printed on 10mm silk Habotai, which comes on an 8.5″ x 10′ roll, pretreated for ink jet ink, and mounted on paper for easy transport through the printer. I got this from Dharma Trading. By running two  lengths of this silk, 8.5″ x 16″ long, I could print a much larger image, since I’m stripping it anyway, it doesn’t matter if it is in two  pieces.

table_loomIn the first photo, I found if I score the paper backing with a sharp ruler edge, I can get it started easier than fumbling with the corner.  In the second photo, I am peeling the paper backing off the silk.  In the third photo, I am remove_backingcutting the strips of silk, I cut them about 3/16″.  You can see there are two big sections that make up the image.  The last photo is of the table loom, you can see I have two strips woven in already.  I’ll describe more about the weaving process later.  I figured out a way to do a pick up of the tie down threads so only the ones I need are actually held out, the rest on the side get woven into the ground.

This will be a slightly larger version of one I sold, called Big Sister. The photo is from around 1957, of my younger sister and me, caught in an intimate moment. The photo  is the smaller version.  In the December blog, I was weaving the same piece, but 24″ wide.  My sister saw it on my blog and tearfully requested one for her, she even offered to pay me, but since she is the other child in the slice_photophotograph, it is only fair she gets this one once I have exhibited it.