Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tapestry in Unexpected Places : Origins

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now. Please forgive the poor quality of the photos. I took them with my iPad.

Last summer we were dealing with old dog Pyper's mysterious skin condition. Our regular vet got us a referral to the Veterinary Hospital at Virginia Tech. I had forgotten that my friends Lynn and Bernie had commissioned and donated this tapestry to the Vet School, so it was a special pleasure to become reacquainted with it while Pyper and I were hanging out in the waiting area.

"Origins" was designed and woven by Jean Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie. I quote from the informational sign:

"A husband and wife team, Jean-Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie created this multi-dimensional tapestry to showcase the coordinating dimensions of veterinary medicine and the natural world. It is woven in the classic French Aubusson style, from the back rather than the front. ... The piece has many layers of symbolism and meaning. Serpents are especially appropriate for the College of Veterinary Medicine as they symbolize the vital forces in life and are a long standing symbol of the medical profession. The serpents are entwined to form a double helix, the genetic code of life. Hands represent creativity, compassion and healing - all essential to veterinary medicine. A vast variety of plant and animal life can be noticed throughout the work, tucked away in different layers of the tapestry."

 You can see more of their work at the American Tapestry Alliance web site in an extensive on-line exhibition.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Truckload of Tickle

I never knew you could get tickles delivered! :-)

Monday, March 11, 2013

January Photos

Yes, I know it's March. I'm trying to get caught up.

I took these in early January on the Huckleberry Trail.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Random things of awesomeness.

So, you know when you go to the thrift store and see something kind of cool but you can't figure out what you'd do with it so you don't buy it? And then you go back a while later and it's still there, and you still can't figure out what to do with it so you don't buy it again. And then you go back a month later, it's still there, and you still like it, but this time, even though you don't know what you'll do with it, you buy it anyway. Because if it's still there, you were meant to have it.

That's what this is. Yes, it's a red ceramic tile toilet paper holder. Crazy, right? I love the color and wish I could see a bathroom that this was used in. Really. My bathroom is pink and I hate it, but I might be able to love a bathroom that had awesome red tile. Maybe. Anyway, when I got the roll holder home I had my lightbulb moment. This little beauty is going to become a dispenser of garden twine. Oh, yeah. I'm off to the hardware store to get a replacement springy thing to go in the middle.

The second brilliant find of the day, also at the YMCA Thrift Store, was the discovery of this ginormous roll of vintage Con-Tact paper, pictured under my new twine dispenser. Seriously cheerful, isn't it? And the roll is huge!

You may be wondering how I know this fab Con-Tact Paper is vintage. Well, look at the back of the roll...
Hints for covering walls!?! That explains the size of the roll....

Isn't everything easier when you read and follow directions?
And wear a little frilly apron.

I think everything in this room that isn't fabric has Con-Tact paper on it!

Seriously. Awesome.

I see a Con-Tact desk set in my future.
If there's any Con-Tact paper left over after I paper my kitchen...

And on to the kitchen. Check out the dining set.
So vintage, so hip, so now.  And Con-Tact on the fridge, too!

Saving the best for last.
She's also faux wood Con-Tacted all of her kitchen cabinets.
Check out the roll on the floor.
Wow. Just wow. I'm not sure how many yards of this stuff I have, but I'm getting inspired.

Fuzzy Warps 3 : weave it!

This is part of a series of three posts on weaving with a fuzzy warp. I'm putting this out there in the hopes that you might find some of it useful. I am in no way saying my way of approaching this is the Right Way. It's just my way. You should use it as a springboard to find out what works best for you! Every yarn, loom, and weaver is different. Your mileage will, most certainly, vary!

Mohair and alpaca warp, alpaca weft.
So, you've planned you project, you've got your fuzzy warp on the loom, you're all ready to weave! Here are a few tips that may help you weave off your project with ease.

1. Get a big shed. Now personally, I think big sheds are highly overrated for most weaving. Really you only need a shed big enough to easily scoot that shuttle right on through.

In the case of a fuzzy warp however, a bigger shed can be helpful. If you recall from my previous posts, I've been encouraging you to give your fuzzy warp yarns space - both in your sett, and in spreading them out as far as possible through the depth of your harnesses. A nice big shed will also separate those yarns going up and down. How big a shed, you ask? Well, a little bit bigger than the length of the fuzz on your yarns would be good. You might have to experiment a little to find the perfect shed for your yarns. What you want to do is separate the threads that are up and the threads that are down completely. If the the fuzz from adjacent harnesses stays together and rubs up and down with each shed change it's like teasing hair. Or felting.

If you remember to advance your warp often, you'll be able to take advantage of whatever size shed you have. Don't weave right up to the reed. As soon as stuff starts sticking, advance your warp! That will also move the fuzziest bits that have been rubbing up and down out of the harnesses, making things even easier.

2. Treadle with a little bounce. If your warp yarns still stick a little bit, sometimes you can "bounce" the treadles a little and they will work loose. I think this is preferable to having to stick your hands into the harnesses all the time to clear things up.

3. Use the weight of your loom to help you. The easiest fuzzy warp weaving I've done has been on my 8 harness jack loom. With over 40 inches of weaving width and metal heddles, those harnesses had some weight to them. If the bounce didn't work, I'd raise all the harnesses that were threaded and then DROP the ones that needed to be down. Really, just let them fall. I was, of course, confident that my warp yarn, my loom, and my husbands temper had the strength to handle the repeated crashing and banging.

The countermarch Glimakra that I wove my Fuzzy Afghan on was a different story entirely. Oh, I could bounce the shed a bit, but the harnesses, with their Texsolv heddles, are very light. I think my shed was large enough, but again, those flexy soft Texsolv heddles, as much as I love them, didn't hold the yarns as much as move around with them. Honestly, it was a bit of a mess. Which doesn't mean you shouldn't try weaving fuzzy yarns on your loom with Texsolv or string heddles! It means that I was treating my countermarch loom as if it were a jack loom. That is, I hadn't given it a thought!

4. Change the way you beat. You can use the beater to help clear some small tangles. Try this: Open your shed, throw the shuttle, pull the beater into the fell of the cloth and hold it there, change your shed (you may have to bounce a little with the treadles), then push the beater back. Only move that beater on an open shed when the yarns are as far apart as possible. This should clear any tangles by stray fibers that are extra-long and keep the beater from rubbing together the threads from different harnesses.

I hope you've enjoyed this little series on weaving with fuzzy yarns. Clearly, I didn't follow all of these guidelines when I wove that Fuzzy Afghan, but it reminded me of things that I did know, and taught me some new things too. And after all, isn't learning new stuff half the fun?

By the way, that afghan is the warmest and coziest nap blanket ever!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fuzzy Warps 2 : planning and warping

 This is part of a series of three posts on weaving with a fuzzy warp. I'm putting this out there in the hopes that you might find some of it useful. I am in no way saying my way of approaching this is the Right Way. It's just my way. You should use it as a springboard to find out what works best for you! Every yarn, loom, and weaver is different. Your mileage will, most certainly, vary!
A seriously fuzzy warp on the loom and ready to weave.
Welcome to the second post in my little "Fuzzy Warps" series. This time I'm going to write a little bit about planning your warp and getting that fuzzy puppy onto your loom.

1. Let it breathe. If you're committed to your fuzzy warp for whatever reason, it's time to start planning. If you look at a fuzzy yarn, think of it as two parts. The core, that part that creates the actual structure of the yarn, and the fuzzy bits that stick out from the core. When you figure out the ends per inch to sett your yarn, you do a wrapping around a ruler and then count how many wraps to an inch or a half inch and base your sett on that number. But if you wrap your fuzzy yarn so that the cores touch, you're not really leaving much space for the fluff to bloom. Open up that sett a little bit. Maybe do a small sample weaving on a little cardboard loom. See how it looks and feels. I'm guessing that you've chosen this yarn because you want to make a soft, light, floaty, fluffy fabric. So give that fluff a little breathing room.

2. Look at your weave structure and figure out how to spread those yarns out through the depth of your harnesses. You may have to re-write your draft to achieve this. Instead of threading your plain weave on 1-2-3-4 you will want to thread it on 1 & 4 only. That's an easy example. Plain weave basically goes over one thread and under the next, so the conversion to two harnesses is simple. If you've chosen a more complex weave structure you will have to do some thinking, and possibly drafting. This will make you a stronger person and a better weaver. Give it a try.

That said, let me go on for a bit about the wonders of plain weave. It's simple. It's easy. It's has endless possibilities for design using color, sett, texture, and beat. If you want a light, floaty, dreamy, mohair shawl please consider plain weave. If they interest you, you should absolutely explore the wonders of other weave structures. But for your first time working with a fuzzy warp chose a delicious yarn in a color you love and let plain weave handle the rest. For your first fuzzy warp you'll want to concentrate on the fuzziness of the thing, what works and doesn't work with your loom, sett, beat, things like that. A more complex weave structure gives you just one more thing to worry about. Save it for your next project.

3. Don't choke your warp (too much). I was taught to weave by someone who had obviously seen some warp disasters in her classroom. As a result, we were taught that before we took our warps off the warping board and over to the loom we had to truss them up tight so they wouldn't get away. Honestly, I still do this unless I'm working with a fuzzy warp. If you do this to a fuzzy warp you are going to have a matted tangle to deal with when what you really want to do is just pull off that choke tie and get on with the warping. So here are two bits of advice:
  • use a slick yarn to make your choke ties - perle cotton is ideal
  • tie your chokes just enough to hold things together and then trot that warp chain right on over to the loom and at the very least get it set in your raddle (we're warping back to front, see below)
4. Warp back to front. The less rubbing together that fuzz does, the better. You've got to take this principle all the way back to your warping method. You front to back warpers will need to learn a new trick. The advantages to back to front warping are as follows:
  • you get all the warp on the loom before you start threading, so it can't tangle or get out of order.
  • you avoid having to pull all that lovely fluff through the reed and the harnesses twice. Front to back warping threads the reed, the harnesses, then winds the yarn on the warp beam. Then you wind the yarn back through the harness and reed as you weave. Twice the rubbing, more chance for tangles.
The only reason I can think of to not warp from back to front would be if the architecture of your loom makes it super uncomfortable or awkward to do so. I'm really lucky to have two looms that are well suited to this method. With the Glimakra I can take off the breast beam and sit inside the loom to thread. So, if you've never tried the back to front method of warping, read up on it, find a friend who's done it before to give you some help the first time through and go for it.

That's all for now. In the next episode of Fuzzy Warps we'll talk a little bit about weaving your fuzzy fabric.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fuzzy Warps 1 : think about it

This is part of a series of three posts on weaving with a fuzzy warp. I'm putting this out there in the hopes that you might find some of it useful. I am in no way saying my way of approaching this is the Right Way. It's just my way. You should use it as a springboard to find out what works best for you! Every yarn, loom, and weaver is different. Your mileage will, most certainly, vary!

I recently wrote a post about weaving the Fuzzy Afghan and mentioned in my weaving notes that I had to clear each shed manually as I wove because the mohair warp stuck together. I'd like to revisit that for a little while and hopefully give you some information that will make your next fuzzy warp a breeze.

The problem with very fuzzy warps, like the mohair in my afghan, is that the action of the warp threads going up and down in the harnesses causes those fuzzy bits to rub against each other and tangle. This results in you having to manually reach into the harnesses and clear out the tangles so you don't end up with skips and errors in your fabric, or worse, broken warp ends.

Here are a few things to think about before you wind on a fuzzy warp:

1. Does the fuzzy yarn really need to be in the warp, or could it just as easily be the weft yarn? If you're making a plain-weave fabric, your overall design doesn't require warp stripes, and you're using another non-fuzzy yarn in the project, consider using the fuzzy stuff as weft.

2. Can you mix in some non-fuzzy warps to separate the fuzzy ones even more? Would using a fuzzy yarn for every other, or every third warp end give you enough fluff for your desired effect?

3. Will your desired sett be wide enough (i.e. few enough warp ends per inch) to give all that fuzz some breathing room? If you want a more tightly woven fabric, go back to question 1.  Do you have to have the fuzzy yarn as warp?

4. Think about your weave structure and your loom. The key to weaving with fuzzy warp yarns is to give the fuzz plenty of room so it's not jammed together in your harnesses or your reed. The further apart you can spread your yarn through the depth of the harnesses the better. For my plain weave fabric on my 4 harness loom I thread on  harnesses 1 and 4. If I had 8 harnesses I might even thread on 1 and 8. For a 2/2 twill, I'd thread every other harness on my 8 shaft loom. Sett matters, of course, but the more space between the threads through the depth of the harnesses, the easier your weaving will be.

So, where does that leave you? I would never discourage anyone from trying something at the loom that they really wanted to do. In fact, the reason I started weaving with fuzzy warps is because someone once emphatically told me that it was impossible to use mohair yarn as warp. Bah! I maintain that if you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your raw materials, and you have a good understanding of your process, you should certainly try out your ideas. You might fail, you might succeed beyond your wildest dreams. You will certainly learn something.

In my next post, I'll write a little bit about planning your warp and how best to get that mess o' fluff on your loom.