Thursday, July 17, 2014

So...Fixing Things

A few weeks ago, I posted about a making a few bags. This one is one of my favorites:


But there were problems with construction. I learned a few things, one of which was (is?) that my machine will not sew through 6 or 8 layers of this leather. The sewn attachment of the handles was, to put it mildly, sad. It was ugly, really: skipped stitches and several rows to hold where one (if done properly) should have been sufficient.

What to do? Why, learn something new!

1st bag connection fixed

Rivets! I cut the handle off, and reattached it with rivets on each side of the hardware. Voila!!! and Yay!! This bag is fabulous now: a bit large for everyday, but there are times....when one needs to carry everything and anything. Next? Try the same thing, a bit smaller. I knew how to rivet, and I would practice.

On this bag, I became a rivetting fool. If two are nice:

2 rivets

then three must be better:

bag connection fixed

How about five!

connection before repair

Oops. A bridge too far.

All repaired now, and back to three:

bag connection fixed

So, this bag is canvas and leather, with a woven pocket:

virgo pisces

It's a really nice size, I am happy with the construction, and I like the overall look of it. Now, to weave yet another pocket (!) and make one in all leather. And have my machine looked at, and learn to use it properly. It all takes time. Nice to see there is progress though!

So what else have we fixed around here? Spinning wheel:

Marin spinning

Yep. I bought another wheel. I really just needed the base, to replace my old base that is worn out from years of use. Yep. I wore out a wheel. Some people proudly claim how old their wheels are, but mine? never make it that far. I use them, and use them up!

The older Lendrum base is well traveled, has gotten ricketty over the years. It has been broken and repaired more than once, has been dropped (yikes!) and gets loaned out and then loaned out by the lendee and the upshot? sad, and wobbly.

So I bought a replacement. I really just needed the base, but now I have a few extra heads and bobbins, and the lazy kate to replace the one that went walkabout. It spins so smoothly! Granddaughter learned to treadle too, and I had a wheel to use while I was visiting for the week. I put it to good use:


Spinning in the early mornings, on the back porch, while the sun comes up. I managed to fill a few bobbins:


It is a fast smooth spinner: so much less wobbly than my old one! And then? Something Terrible Occurred:


Yep. Another wheel This is a Crisp Tyrolean Saxony, made in the '70's, the maker long gone. It was a bargain, too good to pass up, and at this point, what's one more wheel? Besides, I had a chair. One. That did not have a wheel sitting in front of it. I fixed that.

I am going to have to divest myself of something someday. But right now, I am having fun with these new toys.

What other fun did we have:

Marin tea party

Tea parties (say cheese!), and ballet lessons:

denver july 2014 079

There was b-ball:
Jackson hoops

(will have to grow into that ball), and sometimes? we just like to "sing":

Jackson sings

How can we not sing? What's not to like? :)

Me? Off to the UK this afternoon. Classes, fiber festival, and some traveling north to the Orkneys and.. North Ronaldsay! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Oh Happy Day

Much has been happening here. Weaving upon weaving, at least 3 nice fabrics off the loom, all in one week! I was on fire. First was the tussah silk:
silk warps first bobbin

This is many several lots of spindle spun silks. I started in May of last year with this:

there were a few trips:
Beach spindle

Blue silk spindles

Plying, using a cork from (ahem) a wine bottle as a nostepinne (any port in a storm):
silk noste 008

Spinning and plying continued through the year, in airports, on planes, some even at home, on wheel and spindle:
silk plying spindle

tussah silk spindles airport

plying on the plane

silk plying spindles SOAR

spindle camp 002

I varied the entertainment by changing colors, often, and without regard to what goes with what. But it was all tussah silk, and I knew if need be, I could over dye the lot. And does all this spindle spinning pay off?

tussah silk fabric

Yep. Tweedy colorful, silk fabric for a shirt. Sett at 40, woven with a red cotton 32/2, it's a year of travel, conferences, family gatherings, weddings, shows, camps, and demonstrations made tangible in fabric.

The second fabric I spoke about last post: 2 ply handspun cotton, and the third fabric I had to keep under my hat until the baby shower could happen:

baby blanket on loom

Yep, another cotton blanket: this time in colors of the coast of Florida, to remind the new mother of her own mother, who likes those beaches:

baby blanket edge

No surprise now, the blanket went off to the shower in time. The new mother has the blanket in plenty of time before the baby comes.

But speaking of babies coming! The baby boy who owns this blanket and sweater:
blanket and sweater 011

was born this morning! Oh Happy Day, happy birthday baby boy, may you end the day (or the week, no pressure) with a name! even though you came a month early. You came on my father's birthday! a happy day, and a good day to come into the world. Welcome, welcome, and happy birthday, oh Happy Day!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I have been spinning cotton using various tools for a while now, at first against my will and better judgement: who among us needs a new rabbit hole?

cotton fabric 001

At a Spin-Off Autumn Retreat a few years ago, cotton grower, spinner, and weaver Phreadde Davis handed out small CD spindles and cotton still on the seed, and showed a table full of us how to spin it. It would have been rude to refuse such a kind a generous gesture: Phreadde had come with a pile of spindles for us, the cotton and much enthusiasm! And she is so nice, and so soft spoken, and yes, well, we'd had a glass or two, so, as I said, against my better judgement, I tried it.

Well. That was easy! I said to myself. What's all this fuss about cotton? I said to myself. It must have been the "glass or two" talking. Or maybe the "glass or two" gave me false confidence?

I tried that little spindle a few times at home, less under the influence, and lo! it still worked.

I bought a charkha. That worked too. I got better at it, making small skeins that the charkha's spindle allowed.

But then, Joan Ruane came to our guild, to speak and teach us about cotton, and spinning it on the wheel. I've known Joan over the years, we've met up at various fiber events, but I'd never taken a class from her. I signed up! Cotton Spinning on the Wheel. One Day! What did I have to lose?

She brought us many cottons to try: Pima, Acala, Sea Island, and several of the natural colored cottons. I don't remember the Aha! moment, but something she said clicked for me and I was off spinning cotton:

cotton fabric 017

I spun up everything she gave us, and then bought more. I tried (I really did) to keep track of which cotton was which, but with a dizzying array of fiber that all (pretty much) looked the same, I lost that battle.

So I spun and plied All. The. Cottons. I spun cottons that I'd purchased over the years, and some easy spin and natural green cotton given to me by another friend. I plied them all together, somewhat randomly, somewhat by color. I managed keep the Acala Easy Spin I purchased separate from the others, but only because I spun it last, after all the other bobbins were plied up.

I was on a mission. Joan had garments to show us, and as she spoke about them: she spins a soft yarn, softly plied, and setts her fabric a bit more openly than I would. Cotton (like any fiber) can be spun in many different ways, more or less twist, fine or finer (there is no sense in taking a really short fine fiber and trying to spin a fat yarn: it will only degrade with use. Any Use. And I spin to use my yarns. They are the material with which I weave or knit. They are not the end-game. But I digress!).

I knew my cotton yarns would be different than Joan's. I have a way of weaving, a propensity to sturdier fabrics, and I needed to spin, ply and weave a sample fabric before I would know if what I was thinking was actually possible/reasonable, right for me. Every fiber can be spun for a range of uses: cotton from fine lawn to sturdy canvas. Diaphanous gauze, to sailcloth, even! The end use determines the amount of twist, the grist, the finishing process, and whether one plies or not, and if so, how many plies? (oops, there's that digression, again!)

How would the yarn I was spinning behave in fabric? Is there differential shrinkage among the various types of cotton? How would I sett this yarn? What to use as weft? I set up the first length: 16" x 4 yards on the loom. This first woven cotton sample would/could be a scarf or shawl, if all worked well, and if there was differential shrinkage, a scarf would not mind that. So to speak.

cotton fabric 003

Well. It all worked out just fine: through running the warps, threading and sleying, winding on: no breakage, the yarns just behaved like ...Yarn. I wove it off with whatever skeins I had left: mostly the Acala Easy Spin, but there is at least one skein/bobbin of something else, which shows up a bit here:

cotton fabric 005

Just above the green inserted weft, you can see where I changed bobbins and the new weft is a slightly heavier grist. I don't know if it is from a different type of cotton or whether I just spun it differently, but it's not a deal-killer by any means, and does not scream out in the finished fabric.

So what did I learn from all this spinning, sampling, testing? Cotton spinning can be easy and fun, and the fabric is pretty darn nice. I am not a big fan of the colored cottons, and will probably spin up what I have and not buy much more of it in the near future. I want to spin more of the white Acala Easy Spin, I want to spin it with slightly more twist, and I want to (gasp, I know) dye it. This white stuff is just not me, and the natural colors? Well, yes, they are pretty. They are interesting because they bring color without dyeing. But for me? I want more color. I just might have to (gasp!) over-dye this 1st sample cotton fabric....time will tell.

And, best of all, I know exactly what I want to do for my next sample fabric.

So thanks Phreadde, thanks Diane, and many many many thanks to Joan. Rabbit hole? Here I come.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Wrap Ups

Things have been moving along steadily here, including finishing! of a few projects:


The blanket I started here, in an effort to clear out, use up yarns, is finished! In my usual fashion, there was a small math issue: it's a good bed cover, but a little narrow for this bed, so, alas! I will need to weave another! This is about twin bed size. Considering that the project was conceived to use up yarn, and how little yarn this actually consumed, a second big blanket is nothing short of good news.

The blue blanket, for a new baby boy, is also finished, wrapped and given:

blanket and sweater 011

Along with a sweater for the baby, in hand dyed superwash yarns. I love! the colors in the sweater, but finding appropriate buttons was a challenge. The answer? Pennies! Drilled, sanded and squished flat, they are the perfect size and color.

We took a few days off and spent some time over on the coast for our anniversary, this is the view from our hotel:


We climbed the many-several stairs up to the top of Point Arena Lighthouse and were rewarded with lots of seal siting from above, a mother nursing her cub, and babies cavorting in the shallows, and a whale! making her leisurely way along the rocky shoreline. It was the perfect vantage point from which to watch her slow progress, she breached and blew sevral times, heading north for the summer. photo... :(.

We traveled home via Bodega Bay and stopped in at Valley Ford Wool Mill, a new wool processing mill in the north bay area. They were to have a grand opening the coming weekend, which alas, we'd miss, but I purchased some locally made yarn, lavender oil, and felt from the well-stocked shelves:

yarn and felt

Summer is here, with very little need for blankets now, but we have new haircuts! just in time:

Marin haircut1

Jackson haircut1

And with that, I'm off to spindle camp! for 4 days. More, with pictures, about that next week.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Out In The World

book cover

Book Giveaway! There were 22 total comments on the post about Tom's new book, including a few duplicates, and one person who already had the book. I excluded those, and then numbered the remaining 17 in order of receipt. I used this number generator and got: #16! Tobie :). I've sent an email requesting a shipping address, Tobie, and as soon as I have it, Tom Kniseley's new book Weaving Rag Rugs goes out to you in the mail!

Teaching people in person is a lively and energizing event: you see the spark as it is ignited, you see the glimmer of understanding, and on a good day, people leave the class fired up with ideas and plans, ready to apply what they have learned.

Writing about the creative process, whether in articles, online or in books, is an extension of that personal connection one step removed. We may not see the spark of inspiration, the aha! of understanding, but it is out there, and it begins to show in the work of others.

We try our best in text and photographs, in live or recorded video, to get across the information that is really a tactile experience, with some of the hand and body movements very subtle and not necessarily conscious. We struggle with the words: and it is a struggle to analyze in detail all the steps we take. To see the instructor as he/she speaks about the process can clarify what the words we use are trying to mean.

One of the best things about teaching is seeing the work taken up by someone else. In the best circumstances, teaching is passing on what we know, what we have done, how we got here, and how you can too. And to see words in action, techniques and ideas moving out into the world, in someone else's wholly new work, is a gift indeed. It's why we teach!

Feedback is fabulous, especially when the information is handed out into the world in print, and we know not who it is that has taken it up. Send a letter :)! Send an email! Ask a question! Ask for clarification, and better yet: show us what you are doing. We love to see that you use and pass on the information we have tried so hard to get out to you!


This has been book week here: I have sent out the new silk books ordered directly from me, and will ship a few more tomorrow that have been ordered once the online buzz started up: thank you to all and sundry! I am down to my last few books, and have to order more: a good problem to have indeed.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

In this day and age those words are a catchphrase, and meant to encourage us all and make us think about ways we can live more lightly on the planet.

But they are not new ideas, and people who lived and wove before us have known many ways to re-use and recycle cloth: hand-me-down clothing, clothing re-sewn and made over for extended use, quilts made of scraps from leftover fabrics or from old clothing, rag rugs, and the most humble: rags used to clean, caulk and polish.

We were not always such a disposable society. We were not always so eager to bundle our old and out-of-date, broken or used up things and donate them or discard them. We had rag-bags and scrap piles, and things saved "in case they would be useful".

True, we had fewer things. In general. Which makes each thing more valuable: too much of anything, food, clothing, houses, cars....has made us jaded. Also less capable: people in cultures all over the world still use up more of their (and our!) scraps in sakiori weaving, rippsmatta weaving, and yes, humble rag carpets, rather than throwing so much away.


Tom Knisely has written a comprehensive and approachable book all about this simple weaving technique. The book starts with history, moves into tools needed, then warping and weaving techniques, and finishes with projects. It is beautifully presented, the many photographs illustrate each step clearly, from setting up the warp:


through weaving tips:


and finishing techniques:


The weaving information would be useful beyond rag rugs: some of Tom's tips and methods are simply good weaving technique. And the projects!


Over half the book is step by step information on weaving with new and used textiles, making rugs and table runners with every conceivable type of fabric as weft. The projects are all illustrated with the before and after photos of the weft fabrics: a great tip for any weaver wondering just how this fabric will look when woven!

In this day and age of instant information on the internet, why would anyone want a book like this on their shelf? Because Tom has put all the information here, in one place, no searching, no internet connection needed, available 24/7 even when the power goes out! And this is weaving information you can trust, from someone who has done it, and shows you how. He is not just talking about it: he demonstrates it all.

If you are interested in having this copy, please leave a comment on this post, a number generator will choose a winner, and I will drop this in the mail to you! Blogger does not give me your email information to contact you or respond to you, so please do so your comments, camouflaged by leaving spaces where none should be, and spelling out dot, so bots don't find you. Good luck!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Best Laid Plans

gang aft agley.

(favorite Robert Burns quote of my mother's. She is now long gone, but not forgotten, this Mother's Day weekend.Happy Mother's Day, Mom)

The latest Grand Plan started with this:
yurt yarn

Full shelves, mostly 5/2 cotton yarn I do not use much anymore, and an idea to clear space: pull out bunches of cones of similar colors, and weave Big Things. 1st up? a cotton blanket:

blanket center panel yarns

It is to be three panels, the first two here on the loom:
blanket warp

Weaving with some unknown unlabeled cotton, but red! the perfect weft:
blanket on loom

In the midst of weaving this, it occurred to me that I could use a few baby gifts, the first for a new boy (not in my family, but close friends!) so I did not weave the center blanket panel but instead ran another warp and wove the baby a new cotton blanket:
blanket 005

Two smaller panels, to be sewn up the center. Now done, washed and sewn:


and I am back to the center panel of the larger blanket, which is ready to weave: threaded and beamed:

This will be for our guest bed, a nice cover/lightweight summer blanket, and is simple and quick to weave: 5/2 cotton yarns, sett at 20, woven with heavier cotton weft (plain 2 ply in the bigger blanket, a cotton flake in the baby blanket). The binding is cotton fabric, rather than satin blanket binding, for these first two.

First two? Yes. The best laid plan was to use up some cones of yarn. These two used a total of 3 (!) partial cones....the shelves are still quite full. So I see more blankets in my future, and tablecloths and napkins and towels... I have 5/2 and 8/2 and 10/2 galore, time and a loom. Bounty!

More bounty? Breakfast of eggs and honey biscuits! made with grandpa Kurt's homegrown honey:
honey biscuits

Hmmm. Perhaps a big PINK! blanket should be next up :)!