Monday, June 23, 2008

The Textile Arts

I’d love to write about the tapestries I am weaving, but I haven’t been in the studio for a month. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about making a list of the textile books on my studio bookcase, so here’s a favorite.

Birrell, Verla. The Textile Arts: a Handbook of Weaving, Braiding, Printing, and Other Textile Techniques. New York, Schocken, 1973 (Paperback Edition). It was first published in hardcover by Harper, 1959, with a different subtitle.

This is an unassuming book, about 9 inches tall, with black and white photos, 513 pages including index, bibliography and glossary.

It includes chapters on: History of Weaving, Fibers and Yarns, Simple Looms and Their Uses, Belt Looms and Belt Weaves, Rug Looms and Rug-Making Techniques, Mechanically Operated Looms, Basic Weaves, Nonwoven Fabrics, Embroidery and Needlework, Dyes and Dyeing Processes, Textile Painting and Textile Stamping and Printing.

When I was a Fibers major at the Massachusetts College of Art in the early 1970s, this book was required for a class. I was completely enchanted, and my goal became to learn every textile technique in the book, thus making myself an indispensable fountain of knowledge. I did learn many of the techniques, because this book includes brief but accurate diagrams of how to do Knotless Needle Netting (one of my favorites), various pile knots, Sprang, Lace Weaving and much more.

Looking at the page on Overshot patterns, I see that the example is “Honeysuckle,” the pattern I used for placemats, back in 70s when I was weaving things to sell.

There are 17 pages on tapestry weaving, including photographs of a 15th Century Chinese Ming Dynasty tapestry, Peruvian, German, French, and modern tapestries. There is also a photo of Jan Yoors and weavers in his New York studio.

I got all of this for only $7.95! Amazon lists the hardcover edition, used, from $4.00 to $92.50.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Lucky Day

I realized yesterday that it was my Dad’s birthday, and a Friday.

This is significant because Dad was born on Friday the 13th.
He always told us that his date of birth meant that 13 was a lucky number for him and all of his family.
We believed it, of course, and I realized a few years ago that my brother, my niece and I were all wearing the number 13 on our soccer jerseys.

No paraskavedekatriaphobia for our family!

I was 40 before I realized that he had probably invented that rule. I say “probably” because a part of me still believes everything my Dad ever told me, except for the one about how in China they get to eat their dessert first; I started having my doubts about that one when I was 25.

Dad loved to tease, and had a great sense of humor. When I was 16, and pontificating about being an artist, he challenged me with the question “Are you sure you’re a real artist? Do you have a license?” So I made one for him, complete with signature by Pablo Picasso and official seal with paintbrushes over a palette, and stamped with official footprints.

Even with all that good luck, Dad never got to meet his grandchildren. They would have loved having him for a grampa. They would have learned so much from him, although by now they'd be wondering about some of it!

This is his first grandchild, born 6 years too late to meet him.
He died of lung cancer at age 51, after smoking for over 35 years. Was asbestos a contributing factor? Dad was in the navy during WW2.

Thanks, Dad, for the gift of going through life feeling lucky.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gran's Special Shoelace Trick

Do your shoes come untied?

For some reason, my grandmother never taught me this valuable lesson, but a few years after she died at age 100, my brother showed me the trick.

“Didn’t Gran show you how to tie your shoes so they will never come untied?”

Well no, she didn’t, but then he’s the firstborn, and probably her favorite.

How did I survive all those years of floppy shoelaces?

Of course I knew how to tie a “double bow,” but it’s a pain to untie (unless you are a 15 month old who is determined to lose her shoes in the grocery store in mid-winter, but that’s another story).

This is way better. It will NOT come untied, but when you are ready to take your shoes off, just pull on the end of the lace and it will untie as usual. Ready?

Tie your shoelaces in the traditional way, making a loop, wrapping the other end around, but when you pass the loop through the rabbit-hole, just pass it through one more time from the same direction before tightening it.

If you are interested in 34 other ways to tie your shoes, including the Spider Web and the patented Double Helix method, then check out Ian’s Shoelace Site. It has lovely diagrams.

Sorry, I’m not going to make a lovely diagram, or even an unlovely diagram, so I hope you can figure out Gran's Special Shoelace Trick from my description.