Monday, September 18, 2023

Seeing Double (Two-Tie)

It doesn't look that big...
    I do not do things by halves. My attitude has always been, "go big or go home." This can sometimes get me into trouble (see, "not knowing how to say 'No' "), but it's usually pretty interesting. 
   Right now, it's a big warp. When I say "big," I mean my idea of "big." I ask a lot of weavers how big a "big" warp to them is, and it's around eight to ten yards. Basically, enough to weave 8 kitchen towels. Sorry, but that's not big. My very first warp on a floor loom, way back in the dark ages, was ten yards, and when I was weaving babywraps, my "standard" warp was about 25 yards (the most fabric that would fit in the washing machine for wet-finishing). As I said, this warp is big: 100 yards of snowy white 10/2 cotton.
...until seen from
from the side.
   I put a big warp on because I need towels for the business. Until this week, I was down to my last few kitchen towels, and the holiday shopping season is right around the corner. So, a great big warp is necessary to weave dozens of kitchen towels that will delight customers for the next few months.
   A warp like this is a great excuse for playing with designs, especially if a weaver is lucky enough to have a computerized loom with a lot of shafts. I have 40 to play with, so a tied weave with little blocks is, for me, what Lego is to a youngster--a way to get very creative. One of my favorites is double-two-tie, a 2-end block with the ties on two alternating shafts. Basically, it's like Summer & Winter (properly called "single-two-tie), but the blocks are half the size. After subtracting 2 shafts for the ties, and 2 shafts for the selvedges, I have 36 shafts for drawing pictures. But wait--I have more! Any image that is symmetrical can be created by threading a point twill (/\/\/\), so I can "draw" any image up to 70 blocks wide. I decided to be a bit more conservative, and I limited myself to a 35-shaft point twill.
   I draw out my designs on quadrille (graph) paper before transferring them to the workstation. Some might consider it "old fashioned," but I like working in this way--I can see what I'm doing, and if I change my mind, or refine a design, I can either erase what I've done, or start on a fresh sheet of paper. Once the design is complete, I create a profile draft in the weaving software.
   Once the profile draft is finished, it's pretty easy to turn it into whatever weave structure I'm working with, in this case, double-two-tie. This is how I change a profile draft in the liftplan to weave double-two-tie using weaving software.
  • Columns 1 & 2 are selvedges; 3 & 4 are tie ties; 5-39 are
    the pattern shafts
    Step 1: Set up the wif and the threading. In this case, it's a 39-shaft liftplan draft. 1 & 2 are the selvedges; 3 and 4 are the ties; and 5-39 are the "pattern" shafts. Save the wif.
  • Step 2: Insert a pick/row between each pick/row of the profile draft in the liftplan.
  • Step 3: Move 4 empty columns in the liftplan over to the far left side of the liftplan (shafts 1-4). These will be used for the selvedges and the ties.
  • Step 4: On columns 1 and 2, fill in boxes alternately, just as if it was plainweave. These will control the ends that are serving as the faux floating selvedge.
  • Step 5: Controlling the ties is what makes this all work, and it's surprisingly compact: just 4 picks.
That's it! 
   So, how crazy can you get with 35 pattern shafts threaded in point twill? Pretty crazy. I'm weaving nine different designs, in various colors. The total is somewhere around ninety 20"x30" kitchen towels, more than enough to last me until the end of the year.

The sampler with all the designs.

Friday, May 05, 2023

The Central American Caper, Part 1

Sitting on the tarmac in St. Paul.
    How to look like a complete flake: Restart your blog after years of silence, write two posts, and then disappear for five weeks. I had a reason for the "radio silence": I was in Central America!
   Way back in 2016, at the end of our European Adventure, we booked a 3-week "repositioning" cruise on one of Holland America's ships. Repositioning cruises--scheduled when a cruise line has to move a ship from its winter cruising area (the Carribbean) to its summer cruising area (Alaska) in April, or reverse direction in October. The cruises are a bit more laid back than a normal cruise, and are usually less expensive. We originally booked passage on the Eurodam, from Ft. Lauderdale to San Francisco, for April 2018, but a family emergency resulted in rebooking for April 2020. Needless to say, that cruise was canceled.
   Last June, I had the opportunity to rebook nearly the same trip for April 2023 and I jumped at it. Same ship (the Eurodam) but no San Francisco this time: instead, I had my choice of San Diego or Seattle. I chose Seattle, and we left on April 4 for Ft. Lauderdale, for a few days of relaxing in a sunny, warm clime. "Sunny" and "warm" were important words: by early April, we had had five months of wet and cold, and I was ready to thaw out. We didn't stay anywhere fancy while in Ft. Lauderdale--the Residence Inn in Miramar, a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale was our "base of operations" while making sure we had everything we needed for the cruise, swimming in the hotel pool, and generally goofing off. It was warm, it was sunny, and I really didn't do anything except laze around and read trashy romance novels. It was heaven!


Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Ladies' Fancy

"Ladis[sic] Fancy" by Jacob Biesecker (1825)
    I've been a member of Complex Weavers for quite a while, and for the past couple of years I've been a member of the Early Weaving Books and Manuscripts (EWBM) study group. The purpose of a study group is pretty simple: the entire group focuses on weaving revolving around one aspect of weaving. In the case of the EWBM group, it's drafts and weaves that predate 1926. That covers a lot of territory, as there have been drawdowns and drafts for nearly 500 years, and cloth itself goes back a lot further. The group has a newsletter that comes out periodically, and for an extra amount (and a commitment to participate), members can join a "samples exchange," and get actual samples of the fabric other members are weaving.
   I like this group for several reasons. I get to spend time researching weaves I would already research because I'm interested in historical weaving. There are a lot of fairly high-level weavers that belong to it, so the samples are unusual, interesting fabrics. And, I have actual, touchable samples of cloth. However, I owe samples.
   I have no good excuse for not weaving the samples beside the usual: I was busy. I forgot. I got sidetracked researching an obscure weave structure. No matter--those samples are due, and I've pressed my luck by delaying until the end of March to send off my samples for 2022. However, no more procrastinating!
"Ladies Fancy," in 10/2 cotton, on the loom.
   My 2022 samples are a 12-shaft twill from the pattern book of Jacob Biesecker, a weaver in Cashtown, Pennsylvania in 1825. (The pattern book is in the collection of the Winterthur Museum and Library.) Why this particular draft? Well, I chose a pattern book at random, and flipped through it until I found something I could weave fast. It's an interesting twill--not a "proper" 12-shaft point twill, but not quite elaborate enough to be considered a "proper" gebrochene
   This time last week, I started beaming 6 yards of 10/2 unmercerized cotton from Georgia Yarn Company. This stuff is luxe--soft, nice twist, and just enough wax to make it really manageable. 607 ends later, and I had a beamed warp. After a day or two of running errands and taking care of other tasks in my overly busy life, I disassembled the front of Bertie and started threading heddles. I haven't finished dressing a loom that fast in a long time--less than 9 hours later, the warp was threaded, sleyed, tied on, tensioned, and the header woven. I even managed to weave the first sixty picks of the samples!
   I had hoped to weave off the entire warp in a single day (something else I haven't done in a long time) but I simply can't weave that fast, or that long, any more. I did manage at least two yards each day, along with everything else I needed to do (including spending 90 minutes down at the office this morning) and cut the cloth off the loom this afternoon.
   All in all, I think it looks pretty good. The brick-colored weft (also from Georgia Yarn Company) really makes the design pop, and the floats are small enough that the fabric will wear well. It feels like it has a nice hand--a bit too thin for kitchen towels, but perfect for napkins or a tablecloth. I should have about 4 3/4 yards once it comes out of the dryer, so there's not only plenty for samples, but for some napkins for the drawer.
   Now, what am I going to weave for my 2023 samples?

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Back At It

A handwritten journal in six volumes.
1,178 days ago, I clicked "Publish" on the previous post.

I didn't really stop writing--I simply stopped writing this blog. Instead, I took a big step back and kept "a" journal. By hand. At the time, I felt it was the safest option to chronicle what I was observing (and opining on). A handwritten journal can be easily disposed of, if necessary, while a published blog might be incriminating forever. The journals themselves don't look like much: college-ruled composition books, all written in longhand, with a fountain pen. But they capture a lot of what was going on in my life, and in my studio, during the past three years.

I'm glad I kept a journal through the tumult of a pandemic, political upheaval, and what appear to be some odd changes in how life works. But now it's time to start writing a blog again.

There are a few changes, starting with the name. After more than sixteen years, it really needed a tweak, so I've dropped "Hobbies" in favor of "Adventures." The focus will remain on the fiber and textile arts, with occasional forays into gardening, cooking, and my travels. I'm not changing the formatting to "optimize" it for reading off a phone. It will simply be a chronicle of what's going on in my life as a fiber and textile artist.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Metaphorically Kicked in the Head. Again.

     Hooray, the holidays are over! I actually love the holidays, but after two weeks of non-stop parties and fun (with all the appropriate eating, drinking, and staying up very late), I feel like a need a vacation from my "vacation." The studio is officially closed for another week, but I'm starting to get everything in my moderately well-run household back on track, and doing some design work for warps in 2020.
     My latest obsession is with 17th and 18th century German linen-weaving. This started nearly a year ago, when I stumbled across pdfs of old German weaving books on (If you aren't already a subscriber, it's $25/year and well worth the money.) I've been interested in historical textiles and weaving drafts for many years, and already had a few American books including

  • The Weavers Draft Book and Clothier's Assistant by John Hargrove (1792)
  • The Domestic Manufacturer's Assistant and Family Directory in the Arts of Weaving and Dyeing by J. and R. Bronson (1810)
  • The Weaver's Assistant, Explaining in a Familiar Manner, the First Principles of the Art of Weaving by Philo Blakeman (1818)

but then I started to look at these earlier books and manuscripts and was entranced. Here were fabric designs for looms that had far more than four or eight shafts. I kept digging around, and now have in my library

  • A Book of Patterns for Hand-Weaving: Designs from the John Landes Drawings in the Pennsylvania Museum by Mary Meigs Atwater (n.d.)
  • The Speck Book: An 18th Century Weaving Manuscript by Johann Ludwig Speck (1723)
  • Nutzliches Weber-Bild Buch by Johann Michael Frickinger (1740)
  • Neues Weberbild-und Musterbuch by Johann Michael Kirschbaum (1771)
  • The Draught Book by Jeremiah Fielding (1775)
  • A German Weaver's Pattern Book by Christian Morath (1784)

and I'm continuing to add to my collection as I run across them. The majority of these are either written or printed in German fraktur, so I can't read them, but I can read most weaving notation, or so I thought.
     I started with the "simple" drafts: point twills known as *hin und weider* ("out and back") that were all tromp as writ. These drafts, often simply a tie-up diagram with a zig-zag line next to it to indicate a point twill, gave textile production shops a real advantage in "custom" cloth production: a loom could be dressed with dozens (or hundreds) of yards of warp in a single threading, then the required cloth woven off as it was needed, after the client/customer "ordered" from a book of pictures of the tie-ups (which look like the designs).
     It wasn't until New Year's Eve that I had time to sit down and read a 1986 article by Patricia Hilts on the development of block patterns that all those weird little threading drafts started to make sense, and I realized just how incredibly sophisticated 18th century German weaving technology was. Included in the article were some of the block drafts I had been puzzling over, along with Hilts' modern redactions done on a TRS-80 computer. It was a "Rosetta Stone" moment: all those lines that look like chicken scratches are actually profile drafts. Very complex profile drafts. That require a lot more shafts than most American weavers have worked with. I thought back to something Rebecca Heil had written in the preface for The Speck Book: "At least one researcher had speculated that damask was the intended structure. Miss Nancy A. Reath, Assistant Curator of Textiles at the Pennsylvania Museum (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art) in the 1930s, was quoted as having 'come to the conclusion that the coverlet weaving was derived from linen damask weaving which, in its turn, was practiced in Germany.' " Damask is a type of satin, which takes 5 shafts. That means one of these drafts, with what appears as 5 shafts in modern notation, is actually a profile draft requiring 25 shafts. This was confirmed by a quote from Frickinger's Nutzliches Weber-Bild Buch that Hilts included in her article:
To work with 35 and 40 shafts will certainly render greater advantage even though this is the highest class of shaft-loom work. Under this classification you will find such that will require thought and will need great effort to weave, but you should not think that they have been set out only to look at or to vex people. They are meant to be woven and are serviceable.... Some people think hat I drive the shaft loom weaving [footwork] too high, but as in any art, I say, let him who will, drive it higher." (Italics mine.)
     In other words, "Go big or go home." I rather like that. My first attempt at GBGH is a gebrochene arbeit draft from A German Weaver's Pattern Book. It looks like a series of squiggles, but is actually a tricky little point twill that produces a beautiful design of circles within circles separated by tiny tables and fine lines of flags. At 250+ ends per repeat when drawn as a 15-shaft damask, the design is meant for very fine threads, but the resulting cloth is probably stunning.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019, Don't Leave In A Huff...

...just leave.
     It's the last day of 2019, and all I can say is, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." All in all, it hasn't been an absolutely banner year. I spent far too much time away from the studio, misplaced my artistic drive for months, and have generally felt like I've been slogging through knee-deep mud.
     I know some of it is simply the aftermath of dealing with death, and the knowledge that I can't physically do everything I once, foolishly, could. But a lot of it is, I think, from people behaving badly, particularly online. I've watched group after group turn into nasty nests full of vipers, hissing and lashing out at each other over some perceived slight or another. 2019 may be remembered as "The Year of Butthurt": everything from people getting their knickers in a knot over a bit of history that doesn't jive with their pre-conceived notions, to people discussing what might be received as gifts during the holidays being an insult to those who don't celebrate a particular holiday. You name the topic, somebody is pissed off about it and isn't going to hesitate to announce their affront loudly and often.
     I have gotten things accomplished. I have flax growing in three beds. The front yard is showing signs of being full of daffodils and grape hyacinth in the spring. The never-ending, everlasting warp is off the loom and Bertie is resting quietly until January 8, when I officially go "back to work." And I have a list of weaving resolutions for 2020 that I'm going to accomplish.
     For 2020, I'm using an old teaching strategy: developing "S.M.A.R.T. Goals." S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym meaning Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant, and Time-oriented. Once upon a time, we called these "well-written teaching objectives," and I can still write these puppies in my sleep. Today's S.M.A.R.T. goals look a little different, as they don't begin with the words "The learner will...", but they're written specifically for tasks I really need to do in 2020.
  • Finish adjusting Bertie for optimal weaving by January 15, 2020.
  • Design two "holiday" warps by January 31, 2020.
  • Reassemble the HD loom by February 29, 2020.
  • Weave off the polychrome crackle warp on MiniMac by March 30, 2020.
  • Finish large off-loom piece by April 30, 2020
  • Sew one garment out of handwoven cloth by May 30, 2020.
  • Weave a wool warp by June 30 2020.
  • Weave a flax warp by August 31, 2020.
  • Demonstrate mastery of the principles of gebrochene arbeit ("broken work") by designing three warps--including one suitable for eight shafts--by September 30, 2020.
  • Complete one unit of OHS program by December 31, 2020.
So there are my goals for things in the studio. Meanwhile, I got a grain mill attachment for my stand mixer, so I'm going to spend time in 2020 baking more unusual breads: I want to see if I can "reverse-engineer" the schwartze bread (black bread) my mother-in-law bought in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. I also have another recipe for bialys, something unavailable in the Bay Area. I also have a fair amount of sewing, a bit of costuming, and some gardening to do in 2020. I may even squeeze in a bit of travel. I'm trying to spend less time online and more time doing things in Real Life.
     Adios, 2019. Hello, 2020!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

The Mad Dash

    It's a cold, wet, miserable Sunday morning, and I'd love nothing more than to curl up with the Sunday newspapers, a pot of coffee, and a pencil for the Sunday crossword puzzle. No. Not today. Not this month. And definitely not this year. The mad dash to the holidays has begun.
    I have a love/hate relationship with the time period between Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) and Christmas. There's always too much to do, and not enough time to do it, and I'm usually afraid I'll disappoint or offend someone, so there's a certain amount of generalized angst. This year is particularly bad as, through the horrid quirks of two different calendars (Gregorian and Jewish), Thanksgiving was on November 28, Chanukkah starts the evening of December 22, and Christmas is December 25. That leaves me with three weeks to

  • clean the house from top to bottom;
  • decorate it inside and out;
  • do all the food shopping for a round of parties and fancy dinners;
  • make a mountain of cookies and confections; and
  • buy and wrap presents

without losing my mind, my patience, my sense of humor, or my coffee cup. Add in a 20-yard warp that should be woven off by the end of the year, and I'm a teensy bit overwhelmed. It's why I've dropped a few things off the list over the years. For example, I don't send out Christmas cards. I also don't host fancy sit-down dinners, opting instead for buffet-style cocktail parties and open houses.
    I also make lists. Lots of lists. And timelines. I use a couple different programs to track what I need to do when, and to prepare shopping lists. For example, I know we'll probably have house guests next weekend, so the house should be clean by Friday afternoon. I also need to go "big shopping" on Wednesday, so I have to skip that day in the number of days (2) I need to get the house ready. I also need to lay out the general meal plans for December and make shopping lists--that takes several hours. I also need to mix more cookie doughs and get them into the freezer for baking later in the month. Today's To Do list includes:

  • Finish December menus and shopping lists (I started on this yesterday).
  • Bake a pie for dessert.
  • Continue sewing the lights on the Christmas tree hat. 
  • Finish knitting the toe on a "travel/social knitting" (aka "drunk knitting") sock.
  • Mix up cookie doughs for freezer.
This list keeps growing, so I'd better get to it.