Monday, May 31, 2010

The Teacher Learns about Weft Interlocks

A few weeks ago I was teaching the weft interlock to a student, when we both observed that it sometimes looked really good and other times it looked awful. I have always hated using this technique and now I know why! Because I was doing it wrong.

Weft InterlockI had always taught that it’s important to be consistent about which weft goes under and which one goes over, which is somewhat true, but it’s far more complicated than that.

After consulting many books, and trying it out myself, I finally made sense of it. Weft Interlock Step 2

Carol Russell’s book explains it, but I couldn’t understand the explanation until I tried it.

Here goes.

When the 2 wefts meet in the same shed, they will meet between 2 warps. Weft Interlock 3

One of those wefts will have to go under a raised warp afterwards, and it is THAT WEFT that must go under the other, then back over it and weave itself into the next shed first. 

If you do it the other way, then the join will look lumpy, as you can see in this example.Weft Interlock Wrong

Here you can see the correctly woven join at the bottom, then when I shifted to the next warp space on the right, but continued to weave the left weft first, it came out wrong. Messy and lumpy.

So instead of saying that you must always weave the left hand (or right hand) weft first, which is what I used to say, I would now say that you have to judge it by which one goes UNDER a RAISED WARP; and that will change each time you move to the next space. Squares 2

So if you are moving over one warp at a time, you will have to alternate left and right. Try it! You’ll see.

Now that I’ve got the hang of it, I’ve discovered what a lovely join it is, and have been playing with it this weekend, so that I can offer examples for my students. It certainly makes a lot of sense when you have a long vertical line.

I realize that this will be different if you weave all your wefts in the same direction while in the same shed, but since I preach the “meet and separate” method, where adjacent wefts go in opposite directions in the same shed, this is how it works for me.

high-tide It’s the official beginning of summer here on Cape Cod, where I’ve spent the Memorial Day weekend with my sister and her family, cleaning the cottage inside and out.

The weather has been perfect, and I enjoyed paddling my kayak in Cape Cod Bay. The water was not as cold as I expected, so I even went for a brief swim yesterday. This morning it was so smoky that I couldn’t stand being outside. We discovered it was from wild fires hundreds of miles to the north in Quebec, but luckily for us, the wind changed in the afternoon and the air cleared.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Alpacas and Goats

Fiber Festival Sign…but no sheep! Just lots of wool at the RI Wool and Fiber Festival. For some reason I thought it was the RI Sheep and Wool Festival.

All the signs said “Fiber Festival,” which really made me wonder if anyone who was not already into fiber would be encouraged to attend.

Most people think Fiber is what you find in healthy breakfast cereals.

I spent the day demonstrating tapestry weaving on my Friendly Loom, and helping children weave on little frame looms. I took this photo before I adjusted the height of the loom. It gets shortened to fit in the car. Demo Tent

It was a gorgeous day, sunny and just warm enough but a little windy.

I had to borrow two large rocks from the nearby stone wall to put on the loom’s feet, after it almost blew over.  It was fun to see many friends and some of my students who were participating in the Sheep to Shawl demonstration.

IMG_5517Here’s the tapestry I was weaving…..I think I’ll unweave it. I usually weave with about 9 or 10 warps per inch, and this is only 4 1/2. ACK! It’s really hard to make a nice steep diagonal line, never mind a smooth curve. It was fun to weave something that grows so quickly, but I think I’ll re-warp the loom with more warps per inch before the next time I demonstrate.

I love to introduce people to tapestry weaving. You might say I’m kind of a tapestry evangelist.

My tent-mate was a hooker, just like my Mom (who also got a big Kit's Sheepkick out of referring to herself this way!)  only instead of rugs, Kit Salisbury hooks smaller projects like tea cozies, runners etc.

I particularly admired her sheep and cows.

There was a stream of children visiting our tent and concentrating on hooking small houses and Kit's cowsthe like, and weaving on my frame looms.

I can’t believe I’ve never been to Coggeshall Farm before, since I’ve lived in Rhode Island for 26 years.

It’s a small historic farm on a hill overlooking the salt marsh, on the edge of Colt State Park. I know my kids visited on school field trips, like very other RI school child! Between Coggeshall Farm and Slater Mill Historic Site, you won’t find too many Rhode Islanders who are unfamiliar with basic textile processes.

Here’s the marsh right across the street from the festival.Salt Marsh

Our tent was next to a little shed in front of which a historic re-enactor was demonstrating flax preparation and spinning. His spiel was very amusing and I didn’t get tired of hearing it even after the first 20 times or so!

Flax Demo

I bought a lovely silver and brass wool needle from Leslie Wind, who was demonstrating her jewelry making right next door. I was tempted by her lovely shawl pins, but was feeling a big frugal.

Another neighbor, Rose Ann Hunter introduced me to an amazing collection of pieces made with early American textile techniques that she has researched over the years. Alpacas 3

All of these are creative ways to reuse the smallest fabric scraps, which are gathered, rolled and otherwise manipulated before being assembled. I particularly love her “Standing Wool” Rugs.

It’s hard to describe how this is done, but you might be able to tell from looking at the photos on her website.  Alpaca face 2

I bought a pair of incredibly soft socks from the owners of these adorable alpacas, who live right here in RI, at Ice Pond Farm. They look so huggable. We’re having a few cold rainy days now and the socks are keeping my feet nice and warm.

Heide Pygora This is Heidi, a pygora goat, whose fleece is heavenly. This breed is  a cross between pygmy and angora goats. Heidi’s little friend is a lovely shade of grayish tan.

There were some lovely lacy scarves knitted from their fleeces. SOOO soft.

I think I stumbled on the best way to immunize myself against the temptation to add to my yarn stash. Little Brown Pygora

A few days before the festival I was looking for a particular yarn for my demonstration tapestry (which I never found) and ended up taking all the storage containers out of my studio closet.

These boxes are in addition to the yarns on my shelves, and in large plastic jugs, assorted baskets, and in the cedar chest. Wool Festival

It was much easier to resist all the fabulous yarn at the festival, since that experience was fresh in my mind! I found myself thinking “Yes, but I already have an entire box or that kind of yarn, which I am not using….”

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spring Flowers Everywhere

mayfirst-weekFlowers are blooming in the yard and on my loom. Now that it’s May, I have changed my color scheme for the tapestry diary.  May6b

May will be a riot of sickly sweet spring flower colors. I’m also having fun weaving viney flowery leafy shapes. Click on any photo to see it larger.

Here’s a basket of May colored yarns.IMG_5459

It’s hard to do anything inside, with the weather SO perfect.

Warm, sunny and dry, with delicious breezes and the occasional shower.

I always have to plant pansies first, as early as I can. That’s usually in March, but with the floods this year, I had to wait til April.may6pansies

It’s impossible to choose, so I end up buying 6 of almost every color, and now I have at least 6 pots of pansies. 

I grow them in pots so I can move them into the shade as the weather gets hotter, and it also helps to keep the slugs away.


These small violas are the ones I always used to give to my Mom for Easter.

There were many azaleas sprinkled all over the yard and in the flower gardens when we moved into this house 5 years ago. I don’t like them in the sunny flower gardens, and would NEVER choose some of the acidic psychedelic colors which can’t even be captured accurately in a photo. (that purple is more of a neon fuscia shade)May6azaleas2 So I moved a bunch of them to a spot under the tall trees in the front yard.


I have fond memories of azaleas growing in the shade of tall trees in North Carolina and mine are doing very well in their new location.  Clusters of tiny bluets are sprinkled around between the azaleas.

This huge azalea, which is about 7 feet tall, lives in the back yard next to the stone wall. may6brightpinkI have to be vigilant because various evil vines like Asian bittersweet and wild blackberries, dewberries and grapes, come creeping over the wall and try to strangle my shrubs and trees.

I was thrilled to spot these gorgeous blood red rhododendron blooms from across the yard. This color is unusual, as most of the rhodies here are in shades of pink, or purplish pink.

This rhodie was too close to the house, in a sunny spot I wanted to use for a perennial garden, so I moved it 4 years ago. may6redrhodie

The next year it seemed to be dead so I cut it all the way back to about 6 inches, and for the past few years it’s only had a few leaves on it. If you look closely you’ll see wild blackberries growing around it. I was determined to get rid of them finally this year, but then I noticed they are covered with flowers, so maybe I’ll let them live until August and see if I get a bunch of good berries.Bleedingheartplant

My favorite spring plant is this white Japanese bleeding heart, which is right by the back door, and grows from a tiny sprout to a bushel basket sized lush green plant in just a few weeks. May6bleedingheartmyrtle

It’s covered in pure white hearts on gracefully arching stems, that stick around for a month or more. 

So, for the month of May, I’ll be wallowing in flower colors, in the studio and the gardens.