Saturday, April 30, 2011

Basket Weaving & Quilting Progress

My husband made a "shakuhachi" for his instrument building class (it's a recorder-like the photo he's playing an tenor recorder). Two days before he presented his instrument to the class, he commented that the shakuhachi is traditionally played with a basket over the head, effectively isolating the player from the outside world. He then suggested that a pillow case would be an ok substitute, and I cringed. So, I offered to make him a basket instead.

I have made two baskets in my life (previous to this). Both of them are a modification of a pattern by Elaine Webbeking from the March/April 1994 issue of Handwoven. For my first attempt at this big basket, I used 3.5" wide strips of paper grocery bags. The basket turned out to be too small for the end use.

The second attempt at a big basket was done with 3.5" wide strips of unprinted newsprint. The strips were 1.5x as long as the paper bag strips and we used 8 strips per side. My husband cut and folded all the strips. I didn't have enough hand strength to fold a second basket worth of strips in one day! (It's tiring!) Once the strips were all folded we wove the basket together and viola! One shakuhachi basket ready for use. (And he apparently stole the show when he did his presentation! The basket and instrument are on display this week at Wabash College along with all the other instruments created for the course.)

Here's a shot of the weaving in process. The newsprint does not have as much structural strength as the brown paper bags. The finished basket does stand like a basket should and is able to support its own weight, it's just more floppy than the brown paper bag version.

Here's the brown paper bag version. It's big enough to fit over my head. Right now it is holding the next warp for my loom.

And, last, but not least, the April installment of my quilt project. This square is called "Churn Dash" and I did three variations on the simple pattern--one all green, one all red, and one red & green. This simple nine square block, where each square is made of a maximum of two pieces, went together so much faster than last month's blocks where there were 16 'half-square triangle' squares per block.

Friday, April 22, 2011

On and Off Again

I have a trio of items that have been "on" and "off" again. Two have been on and off the loom; one has been on and off the spindle.

The spindle project was an ounce of shetland wool from Fall Creek Farm. It was easy to spin and even easier to ply. Now I have to decide how I am going to use~60 yards of shetland wool 2-ply.

The two weaving projects are in preparation for a presentation that I will be doing for the Weaving Indiana Guild in November. Donna H. and I are going to focus on cotton for our "fiber intensive". The top collection (dark blue with light blue stripes) is 10/2 cotton in a balanced plain weave. I wove three pieces and then did different finishing treatments on them. It is easy for me to distinguish between the unwashed sample and the other two, but the difference between the handwashed and the machine washed piece is not so obvious.

The second woven set is a collection of pieces woven with Sugar 'n Cream, a 4-ply worsted weight knitting yarn. The yarn was a "hand-me-over" from my great aunt (great story craft room is full and overflowing. Why does it never get emptied out? Because my friends and relatives all know that I use "stuff". I do occasionally say "no", but more often than not, I encourage the odd & random replenishing of my stash!) . I hadn't used this yarn for weaving before, but it was just the right sort of thing to try! I started by measuring the wraps per inch, then divided by 2 to get an estimate of the "ideal" sett (7 epi) for tabby. Then I ran through a series of calculations to determine the size of the final piece if I sett it wider (4 epi) and closer (9 epi). I warped the loom and rethreaded the reed for each sett. The changes in the fabric are phenomenal!

Here are two of the pieces: 4 epi & 6 epi. Can you guess which is which?

(6 epi)

(4 epi)

And, just because I played around with the twill, here is a two color twill (left edge of photo), a single color twill (middle), and a tabby with a fine weft all at 9 epi. The warp is the same two color warp from above.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

When the student is ready...

My children aren't much interested in my fiber pursuits. It's just one of those things that "mom does". So this week when we stopped in at a friends' weaving classroom, I was not at all surprised that my two youngest asked to go play outside the room.

The oldest (10) chose to hang out with me and my friend. She is growing was fun to see her hanging out with the grownups!

And, as a result of the conversation of the grownups, my ten year old chose to weave a placemat! I was thrilled!

She helped me warp the Emilia rigid heddle loom ("This takes a long time, Mom"); she helped tear the fabric into strips; and she wove the entire placemat ("My arms are tired."). Afterwards, she helped me wet finish the piece and sew the headers.

And, you should have seen my friend's face when she received the placemat! It was a sweet moment.

[And the rest of the quote from the title..."When the student is ready, a teacher will appear."]

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Color Exercises

Interweave Press recently release the DVD "A Fiber Artist's Guide to Color" with Laura Bryant. They've posted a teaser on their site (

It's a good teaser. I watched it and was really excited about it. But, I'm not sure yet about fiber art instruction via videos. It turns out I love books. I devour books. I slurp them up and then go back and nibble on the good parts. And the good parts change from day to day or month to month.

After I got excited about this video, I started some research. Who is Laura Bryant? What else has she made/produced/written? It turns out that she is a fiber artist--she weaves & knits & dyes--and one of her specialties is color. My library is part of a fantastic interlibrary loan system. Today I picked up two of Laura's books "The Yarn Stash Workbook" and "Knitting with Novelty Yarns" (by Laura & Barry Klein). Page 6 of the workbook has photos similar to the dvd trailer. She discusses taking a crazy mix of color and making some order out of it.

So, I tried it.

I have a collection of my grandmother's sewing thread (I use it...slowly, but I use it). Here is a random tray of yarns:

Then, I tried getting all the light colors to the left and all the "heavy" (dark) colors to the right:

I realized that I was tending to group the threads by color as well as light/heavy, so I intentionally tried to group them in lines of color.

It was a good exercise. Laura comments, "Artists spend years training their eyes to detect fine nuances in weight between colors..." I'm not trained yet, but I'm getting started! :)