Heddle Wars…

This has been a rather tough week.  Not for me.  I’m fine.  But in a series of really sad, and horrifying events, accidents, deaths, unwanted health diagnoses, and other calamities, none of which I have any control over, it has been rather tough to carry on as if everything in the world is fine.  Sunday alone I went to two visitations at local funeral homes.  None of these events are my stories to tell, but my heart is broken for my friend with a cancer diagnosis, my other friend who lost her father, and a pretty horrific event that, if you live in my area, you know about, and if you don’t, you don’t want to know about, all of which has left me distracted and in mourning.  And there is my daughter.  I haven’t said much about her issues, again it isn’t my story to tell, but she is struggling with her own health diagnosis.  She has left her job to reevaluate her life, and is living in my basement now, safe, but lacking focus and purpose.  She will be OK, of that I’m confident.

When my husband was dying, one of the only things I could think of to keep my brain from exploding with grief, was to steal away moments in my studio and calculate the most intense fabric design, one that even I had to struggle to execute but honestly it kept me sane. It is the banner fabric across my facebook page.   If you read my last couple of posts, you know my goal was to fill all of my beautiful looms with colorful cloth because they have been naked for way too long.  My original 45″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade loom from the 70’s had been given to my daughter when she moved out a couple of years ago, which left me with glorious space and room for all of my textile-y things.  When she moved back in, she brought the loom back and a second one almost identical which she picked up for $350.  That one got shoved in the guest room. So between us we own 9 Tools of the Trade Looms, manufactured in the 70’s – 90’s.  The great thing about having 9 of the same brand loom is that all the parts are interchangeable.  Which gets to the meat of the story.

Because of my daughter’s health issues, and work schedule and general life style, she had slowly gotten away from the things in life that brought her joy.  I know how it happens, and I suspect dear readers that this kind of situation has happened to all of you at some point in your lives, and sometimes,  many times throughout your life.  I just got off the phone with a coordinator for Florida Tropical Conference which is happening in about two weeks.  I suspect that every person who has ever coordinated a conference has gotten so far away from the simple things that bring you joy, reading a book, designing a project, setting up a loom, knitting a scarf, whatever, that suddenly they, actually we, find ourselves rudderless drifting in a stormy ocean with nothing to ground us.  I would look in my daughter’s eyes and see nothing.  There were no lights on.  Rudderless…

Having left her job for a bit of a sabbatical shall we say, mostly to get her health back on track and to finish school, she woke up last weekend and I reminded her, having just updated the schedule on one of the guild websites I maintain, that the guild challenge was due in April.  She looked at me aghast.  When she signed up last year, life looked very different.  Suddenly her eyes sparked and the lights went on and she dove into her basement dwelling and came up with her laptop, weaving software and the plans she had shelved for her challenge project.  

Meanwhile, I needed to dress one more loom, my 36″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade also sat naked in my studio.  It was depressing every time I entered the room.  And so it began. I came up with a really complicated warp design, spent hours with my weaving software.  She wound her 12 yard warp using my mill (hers is packed in the attic) while I used a small 4+ yard warping board propped on  my ironing board.  I was building my cloth around a 4 1/2 yard warp I had obtained in a Kathrin Weber Dye Class.  I’m not sure if I dyed it or if Kathrin did as a demo, but there it sat and it was my trusty assistant who said, “When are you going to use that warp?”  I pulled all kinds of things from my shelf, including some cupcake dyed skeins I also did in that class.  For those who are curious, cupcake dyeing is where you wind a ball on a ball winder, and then pop it in a deli container with about an inch dye and let it absorb into the ball.  Flipping the ball over and putting in a different color makes some great effects.  I wound a total of 11 warps for a cloth about 32″ wide.  Most of the warps were rayon, and very slippery rayon, the kind that you have to really keep under tight control, and then of course, my daughter’s cat had to be in on all the fun.  I won’t bore you with cat photos, they are all on my facebook page.

She had a narrower warp, dishtowel width, so she finished before I did.  Next step before sleying the reed is to find out if you have enough heddles.  Those are the wire things with eyes on each of the shafts that the warp ends go through, which allows you to create patterns.  This is where the story has a bizarre twist. 

Sidebar:  I’ve had trouble with my smaller Tools of the Trade looms, and breaking warp beams and brakes because I load too much on them and require too much torque to get the tension I like for weaving.  My little 25″ looms weren’t probably designed for 12 yards of warp.  I had done some alterations to the brake on one of the looms and had the bolt shear off.  Some of this is because hardware from other countries is getting cheaper and thinner and not able to withstand what I need said hardware to do.  But I digress.  I have a number of sectional beams in addition to standard beams for my small 25″ looms, which are of course interchangeable.  The sectional beams have more substance but the kind of warp I’m putting on doesn’t work well on a loom with no packing. Too much variation in the warp threads.  I got the idea a number of years ago to pull the sectional pegs from one of the warp beams and use it as it if was a standard warp beam.  In the photo you can see a second warp beam still with the pegs and the upper one has had the metal pegs pulled out.  

It worked well for what I needed, except when the bolt for the ratchet sheared off, and I had to replace it with the original handle.  It is hard to tighten a beam with 12 yards of warp and paper packed on it with that little L shaped handle.  I would have much preferred a ratchet like on my large looms.  Meanwhile my daughter had moved away with my large Tools of the Trade, for more than a year and I had the room renovated and bookcases installed and a lot of detritus tossed in the process.  

I got the idea that if I could put the perimeter metal pegs back in, it would give me a better grip on the beam when I wanted to tighten it.  So I went to find the pegs.  I remember storing them in a container, a small basket I thought, and though the room had been redone, it shouldn’t have been hard to locate that container.  Gone.  I’ve been searching for two years for that stupid container of pegs.  I don’t lose things.  I’m fastidious about cleaning up after myself, putting things back in their place, and if I wasn’t, I could never do the job I do traveling around and having everything I need to pack right at my fingertips.  

Fast forward to last weekend…

My daughter was removing the shafts from the large loom to count the heddles on them.  She needed  about 700 heddles for her project.  So each shaft got pulled, and she started the count.  She had developed a counter weight system for the project she had previously been working on using suspended film canisters on the front shafts, filled with whatever, pennies, I had no idea.  She needed more weight on the front shaft for whatever she was doing, I didn’t much pay attention because the loom wasn’t with me for the last couple years.  

She started peeling off the pink duct tape wrapped around the film canisters and cried out, “OMG”!  I looked over and there, stuck to the duct tape wrapped around each of the film canisters were all of my missing sectional pegs.  All of them.  She had pulled them off the shelf a few years ago, needing additional weight and never happened to mention it because, well why?  I wasn’t sure whether to kiss the earth in celebration for the return of something I definitely needed for this new run of scarves, or to kill her.  There are no words.

So at this point, I’m beginning to count my heddles as well.  I need something like 1200.  It was pretty obvious that between us, we did not have enough.  All of our nine Tools of the Trade Looms use the same 10 1/2″ inserted eye heddles.  But all of them were warped with the exception of one of the table looms which I was keeping in reserve in case I need an emergency warp for an article I’m working on.  There were extra heddles on the other looms, but they can’t be removed once the loom is warped.  So I ran to the internet and knowing WEBS ships pretty quick, I ordered another 400.  I hadn’t gotten notification that they had shipped, and it is now Thursday and I’m getting desperate, we were battling for who got the heddles, there were enough for one of the looms but not for both.  I called them, and the order hadn’t been shipped, and wasn’t going to be shipped until the following Tuesday, so I added another 200 and spent a ridiculous amount on overnight shipping which still meant that the heddles wouldn’t arrive until Monday because unlike Amazon, UPS doesn’t deliver on weekends.  We are getting so spoiled!

Meanwhile we did what any self respecting couple of desperate fiber artists would do, we stripped the poor remaining table loom of all of its heddles.  Poor thing.  We had enough to get us going and when the heddles came in yesterday, I carefully put the table loom back together and all is well.  

So I sleyed my warp…

Then I threaded it.  

Meanwhile she was all warped and starting to weave.

Then I beamed my warp.  It is so luminous, shimmering and just plain pretty.  

And now, my 36″ loom has a pretty four yards of warp for a fabric that will one day become a garment, but first it has to travel around, I just got an email that Peters Valley needs a faculty piece from me for the summer faculty exhibit.  So I have to get cracking on the weaving…

And Brianna’s dishtowel warp which is built off a photograph my husband took at Baltimore Inner Harbor of the beautiful lights reflecting on the water in the Harbor, is on its way as well.

Stay tuned…

A Tale of Two Dish Towels, 4000 pages later, and other random stuff…

A good weaving buddy of mine recently contributed to a series of interesting comments on my  Facebook page after I wrote on my Wall the following query:

Daryl: Do two days off equal a vacation?

Ginnie: Does it feel like it? What’s a vacation?

Daryl: I don’t know exactly, but I see some people talking about them on Facebook.

Ginnie: Maybe you and I need to research this!

Daryl: Sounds like a plan, I’ll add “research the definition of a vacation” to my to-do list.

Daryl again: Actually, I just heard that when you have off on a Saturday and Sunday, that some people call that a “Weekend”. I’ve never experienced something like that, so I can’t verify.

Ginnie: Ah, I have heard of “weekends”, said to be invented by labor and teacher unions…. There’s a banner in our town to that effect!

Daryl: I don’t think there is any such thing as a labor union for the self employed artist. That’s probably why I am not familiar with the term “weekend” or “vacation”. Might be something else to research, it was great to have two days NOT in my studio.

Truth is, I had two glorious days last Saturday and Sunday, where no one expected anything from me, and there was nothing on the calendar for me to worry about or deal with, or get in a car or on a plane for, and I sort of didn’t quite know what to do with myself.  A gift.  There is nothing more to be said.

So I spent the last three days, gearing back up for the next event, a conference in Northern California, CNCH 2010, I leave April 8th.  I cranked up the trusty HP printer, and printed no less than 4000 pages of handouts and monographs, bound everything, packed two large Priority Flat Rate Boxes, and shipped them off to California this afternoon.  Huge exhale, that job is complete.  I paid all my bills, and now have to tackle a pile of documents due tomorrow.

On a completely different note, in a recent string of emails, about the tie up on a Tools of the Trade Loom, of which I own four, see blog post from last year, I ended up solving the problem and then deciding to purchase the loom from the person who posted the original email.  This is a sister loom to my TOTT floor looms, I own two 25″ and one 45″ floor loom and regret never having purchased the 36″ version.  I have found that, although I don’t have space for another loom there have been times where I wished I had a second bigger loom.  It would of course have to have 8 shafts, and big bonus, it has two back beams.  I wish one was a sectional, but I can deal with that.  So I will head to Maryland in April, to pick up my newest addition, and then figure out where the hell heck I’m going to put this puppy.

A Tale of Two dish towels…

I don’t weave dish towels.  I have been weaving since 1974 and I have never actually woven a dishtowel.  Is that some sort of record?  I did weave place mats, runners, scarves, throws, all kinds of products on my loom when I was in production in the 1980’s, selling my little heart out on the weekends in craft fairs, I may have mentioned that, but I never wove much less sold a dishtowel.  I don’t know exactly why that is.  It isn’t like I don’t use dishtowels.  I go through them like water, use them until they fall apart, and buy new ones at the grocery store and use them until they fall apart.  I can’t say I’m one of those who go by the motto, “It’s too good to actually use”, for goodness sake, I chop up my handwoven fabric, and make garments and wear them until I’m tired of them, they wear out, or they go out of style and then I cut them into something else.

For some odd reason, I’ve never made a dish towel.  But in the last couple of months, I’ve actually acquired two.  The first one came from Laura Fry (hey, if you are going to have someone else’s handwoven dishtowel in your house, you might as well have one from the best!).  Laura was offering an incentive on her blog, after the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, a dishtowel, to anyone donating to Doctors Without Borders.  I had planned on doing that anyway, I donate on a monthly basis now, just like I do for public radio, but I took her up on her offer and she sent me a lovely aqua cotton dish towel.  I didn’t use it, just looked at it.  OK, to be fair, we have a dog.  And this has been the rainiest March in the history of the state of NJ (and for those whose US history is a bit cloudy, we were one of the original 13 colonies.  George Washington slept in almost every town in the state in the late 1700’s or so they say…) Which means that our lovely back yard is a swamp.  Swamp + dog = muddy paws.  Dog comes in, nearest textile gets grabbed, and by the back door off the kitchen, it is usually the dishtowel.  So I haven’t actually wanted to put my lovely Laura Fry dishtowel out because it would be covered in mud within about 10 minutes.

On the drive back to the airport after my recent trip to Columbia, MO, Debbie Schluckebier, my lovely workshop coordinator and airport chauffeur, presented me with a thank you gift from the Columbia Weavers and Spinners, one of her beautiful handwoven dishtowels.  The universe was trying to tell me something.  That and the three hour trip to the Kansas City airport allowed Debbie to convince me that it was silly to have handwoven dishtowels and not love them and use them.  So I’m using them.  Both of them.  No one has died, and none have been covered with mud yet, and they are really pretty and I feel good when I use them.  I am getting dangerously close to actually wanting to warp up one of my numerous looms, all of which are naked at the moment I’m embarrassed to say, with some cotton warp, and weave some actual dishtowels.  They don’t have to be prize winning, and they don’t have to color matched to my kitchen.  And I don’t have to turn them into clothing.  I can just use them in the kitchen, and be happy, and if they get used on muddy dog paws, there is always the washing machine…  I hear they won’t disintegrate in the washer and dryer…

A Cast of Characters

I could not get focused today.  Maybe it was because I got up at 3am to drive my husband and son to the airport.  They are taking advantage of some frequent flyer miles, my son’s spring break, and some new snow in Utah, and off they flew to Salt Lake City for the week to enjoy some guy time on the mountain.  🙂

I did go back to bed once I returned from the airport, and I did manage another four hours of sleep, but the day felt very disjointed.  So I puttered.  I did a little of this, a little of that.  After all, it is Sunday, and most normal people get off a day or two a week.  That would be a foreign word for me.  I did some grocery shopping, cleaned my bathroom, started cleaning the kitchen, the dirt doesn’t stop coming just because I left for a week for a conference.  I tackled a pile of files, deciding that my son’s progress reports and school files from elementary and middle school, now that he is in college, didn’t need to be taking up space in my file cabinet any longer.  They’ve been on my floor for awhile.  So that pile is gone.

Speaking of piles.  loom1

This is what happens when a loom is left unused for a period of time.  Piles start to cover it.  It looks lost amid the debris.  I had a major guilt attack today over my poor naked looms.  I’m in the middle of too many other projects to even think about getting a warp on this puppy, my beloved first loom, a 45″ 8 shaft double sectional back beam Tools of the Trade, I bought in 1978, right out of college.  I love this loom, I will never part with it.  I have woven thousands of yards of fabric on it.  But at the moment, it is looking like a neglected child.

Enter the twins.

twinsThis pair of looms sits beside the big loom.  I never named my looms, not sure why. It was hard enough to name my kids.  So this pair, both from Tools of the Trade as well, bought in the 1980’s at different times, helps me out when my big loom is busy.  The one on the right, 25″ wide, is four shaft, and it is warped with 10/2 cotton for my daughter’s and my placemat exchange we are doing with the Jockey Hollow Guild.  More about that later.

The one on the left, is pretty well equipped, for a 25″ wide loom, it has eight shafts, double sectional back beams, and is a little work horse.  I wove the Arctic Sky fabric on that loom.  It currently has the remaining yard or so of tencel warp from a Bonnie Inouye class I took last October (oh how embarrassing).  It had my only 25″ 12 dent reed in it, which I needed for the placemat exchange loom on the right, so I stole it.  Just pulled the warp out of the reed and moved it over.  So I couldn’t have woven the rest of the warp if I had wanted to.

loom2To the left of that loom, I have a 25″ Tools of the Trade table loom, also four shaft, that I keep warped with a Theo Moorman 10/2 cotton structure, for my art pieces.  I just finished the Big Sister piece, and I had originally needed the 12 dent reed for that one, but settled on a 6 dent reed, though I wasn’t completely happy with the reed marks it left.

So I was pretty embarrassed that nothing was happening on any of my four looms, one without a reed, one with the wrong reed, one with a warp and nothing started, and one with no warp at all.

So I looked through my vast stash of reeds, and found an extra 12 dent reed I had purchased used many years ago, for my 45″ loom, and I had my daughter hacksaw the thing into two pieces.  I decided that I needed to spend the day paying some attention to my poor neglected looms, and I resleyed the tencel warp into the replacement reed, and I switched out the reed on the table loom, tied both warps on the front beams, and they are ready to weave.

dog_tracksI turned my attention to the placemat exchange, and spent some time getting the structure to work right.  I took it from a workshop I took many years ago with Barbara Miller on 18th Century Structures.  It is a four shaft overshot pattern called Dog Tracks.  My daughter and I are both participating in this exchange, each of the 16 participants picks a 5/2 cotton weft color, and winds off a couple ounces and passes a ball off to each of the other 7 participants in their group.  My daughter and I are in two different groups.  So we will each have eight different overshot placemats at the end, all in our selected color.  I chose a grayed green, and I started the whole thing with mine.  Once I reworked the treadling, to give me the placement of the blocks I wanted, it started to weave quite well.  warp

I detest two shuttle weaves.  I know, I know…  But I am use to weaving yardage, lots of yardage, I like my shuttles to fly, and two shuttle weaves just don’t produce the speed of a one shuttle structure.  Part of the problem here is the size of the loom.  There isn’t room for the two shuttles to fit on the web, when I beat, they bounce right off the loom into my lap and onto the floor.  I solved this problem on another warp I did, by taking the unused second back beam from the eight shaft (remember two warp beams require a second back beam), and clipping it onto the front of the loom, with a heavy plastic ruler clipped to the surface so I have an extra ledge to support the shuttles while I’m weaving.

I did manage to get to Morristown today, to practice with my recorder group.  I probably didn’t mention that I play Baroque recorder, I play alto with this group, and we got all new music today, something new to practice, a whole play list of French love songs from the 1600’s.    And I did manage to get down to my neighbor’s house for our Sunday night ritual, a gathering of the women to watch Desperate Housewives.  We hoot and howl all the way through it, and will be really sorry when the season ends, it is a long way until September….

It turned out to be a productive day after all, and the looms (all except my big one) look so much more happy.  I think tomorrow I will clean off the big loom so it doesn’t feel so burdened with my junk…