Thursday, January 20, 2011

A couple bags of novelty yarns came my way recently, so I experimented making what I call "wild" shawls. I used two weights of rayon chenille on a blue shiney rayon warp sett at 10 epi. I interspersed the blue, light green and pink chenille with bands of the fluffy, multi-colored, novelty yarns for "wild" effects.

For one shawl, however, I used only the lighter weight chenille in deep teal, rust and rich purple, colors I observed in a crocheted shawl worn by a character in a Masterpiece Mystery Miss Marple episode. The colors are rich and very pleasing to me, conjuring up Medieval castles and aristocratic banquets, or by contrast, a colorful gypsy caravan.

Although Americans left the aristocracy behind in 1776, we are still fascinated by castles and knights and grand ladies in beautiful clothes.

And gypsies? Well, the mysterious world of living on the road, fortune telling, exotic music, women dancing in long skirts, colorful scarves, flashy jewelry, are always intriguing even for those of us who are more sedentary.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Recycled Wool Rug

Now that my Christmas sale weaving projects are finished for the season, it's time to play at my looms.

Recently, friends brought me several bags of selvedge trimmings from the Pendleton Woolen Mill in Oregon. My friend was originally going to crochet circular rugs with the pieces, but decided against it, rather than discard them, she thought I might like to play with strips.

So, this weekend I warped up my loom with multi-colored cotton rug warp, enough for three 25-45 inch throw rugs. And here is the result of my project. The weaving went rather slowly since my LeClerc Nilus loom doesn't make a very deep shed (weaving may have gone more smoothly on my homemade counter balance loom with a deeper shed -- but it is occupied with another project) and the trimmings are quite bulky. My regular rag shuttle was too fat for the project, so I switched to a slimmer ski shuttle. I wove them in a simple plain weave and set the warp at 5 epi so the fluffy edges, similar to a wide, coarse chenille, would dominate.

I cut them off the loom and twisted and knotted the 6" fringes, then washed them with a bit of detergent on the gentle cycle in cold water and hung them to dry. The trimmings have been treated with a rather odorous moth resistant chemical which I wanted to wash away, or at least tone down.

If I weave others, I may set the warp at 10 and take more care in the warp color(s) to create a different effect. I think the pieces can also be woven into fabric for handbags.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Crazy Shawls

I just finished weaving three new shawls using thicker chenille yarns than I usually use and several novelty yarns. I started out wanting to weave something outrageous, but the original plan didn't work out. Am filing away that particular inspiration for a future project. It needs to gestate a while.

I don't have cable television, so until this week, I hadn't seen programs such as Project Runway. For fun, I rented Season 1 via Netflix. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the designers develop their concepts to meet the parameters of the various creative challenges. I was also thrown into a wave of nostalgia when I saw it was filmed at Parsons School of Design. Several of my NYC friends attended Parsons back in the 1960s when I lived there while I attended the Laboratory Institute of Fashion Merchandising -- all several lives ago.

Even through my life has taken me on many varied journeys from magazine publisher, journalist, farmer/rancher's wife, mother, English professor, I guess the fashion designing germ is still at work at a base level in my psyche worming its way out at my looms. I feel like I'm behind, however. The last 40 years haven't been wasted, but I've been distracted from some kinds of creative endeavors. Creativity builds upon itself, grows, so we'll see how far I can get on this particular resurrected life journey at my silly age . . .

Saturday, October 16, 2010


The cooler weather of Fall/Autumn brings out my desire to spin wool and make warm clothing items, mainly handwoven scarves and crocheted handwarmers. This year, I am spinning both llama and wool fibers. Taking a pile of freshly sheared wool through washing, carding, spinning, plying, and weaving is a pleasurable, but time-consuming task. This year, however, I found a wonderful company near Salt Lake City, called Spinderella, whom I hired to wash and card a black sheep fleece and some llama fleeces that were given to me. Eliminating those two steps in the processing feels very luxurious. I can now merely enjoy my favorite parts of the process: spinning and weaving.

I plied two handspun strands of the llama yarn together (plying the opposite direction from which the strands are spun) to make a stronger yarn to withstand warp tension on my loom, and wove two scarves. One is woven in a loose, soft, twill weave; the other is softly woven plain weave. Both have overhand knotted fringe. $45 each.

Earlier, I also wove a batch of mixed fiber sparkle scarves in a variety of colors. They've been selling quickly. The only two I have left are gold and red. The red one looks rather pink in the computer's color translation, but is really quite red. $30 each.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I spent last weekend manning a booth at the Sagebrush Arts Fair in Pocatello, Idaho. I had a great time. I saw several people I hadn't seen in a long time and made some new friends. My tea towels sold well as did my scarves. I guess it was still too warm for people to show much interest in comfortable shawls. I'm posting a photo here for when my readers/customers decide a warm shawl on the shoulders on a cool autumn evening sounds nice. Shawls are $80-$90, depending on length.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lots of Tea Towels

Every so often someone asks me "What's a tea towel?" My guess it's an old-fashioned term for dishtowel, a piece of cloth used to dry and polish one's china tea set or crystal glassware so the pieces don't develop water spots. Considering Pocatello's water, it's no easy feat to eliminate water spots on handwashed dishes.

As a weaver, there's something amazingly satisfying about weaving such humble, useful cloth. Even from the very beginning of my fascination with the craft back in the dark ages of the 1970s, I wasn't all that interested in weaving "wall hangings." I wanted to weave useful cloth, pieces I could wear that were entirely unique and household items for family and friends to respect and enjoy.

We treat cloth differently when we put the hours into making it ourselves, a significant lesson in this throw-away society we live in.

But I take pleasure in placing a colorful handwoven cloth over a bowl of rising bread dough. I enjoy lining a breadbasket with a handwoven cloth that coordinates with my dishes and table setting and placing it on my table for guests to enjoy. I occasionally wrap a loaf of freshly baked bread or fruitcake in a cloth and give it as a gift. Just having my cloth hanging on a rack in my kitchen gives me a large amount of visual pleasure.

There's been talk recently about the gulf between the person who works with his/her hands and those who prefer the intellectual life. I posit that it is silly to separate the two. Weaving has been a significant accompaniment to my intellectual development; it's the doorway to learning about the world via anthropology, economics, geography, philosophy, history, etc.

Making things from "scratch" teaches us almost all we need to know.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

New Projects

Much has happened since I last posted. My son, James, was married in a lovely ceremony in the Idaho mountains. At the bride's request, I wove a length of white chenille cloth my daughter, Patricia, made into a cloak for Michelle to wear in the cool evening during the reception. I'm hoping someone will soon give me a photo of it that I can post.

I also wove a length of cloth for Patricia to turn into a tailored jacket, an annual project we do together. She's an excellent seamstress, and we manage to sell these one-of-a-kind handwoven jackets before the next season. I'll post a photo of the cloth drying in my apple trees.

Yesterday, I took three scarves off one loom. Reds and purples and sparkles, loosely woven. I've developed a fondness for glitz. Does the sudden preference have anything to do with age? In my youth, my mother warned me against wearing anything that sparkled before the sun went down. Women who did were considered ... unspeakable ... pierced ears and dangling earrings fit in that category too. Thankfully, fashion these days has cast most of those taboos out the window. Even so, the shadow of that warning lingers in the background of many of my design decisions.

I have blue and white tea towels on one loom, and the other I am warping with black cotton on which to weave a series of cocoons since the first ones I wove turned out to be quite popular. These will be for evening wear, or special occasions. Soft and glitzy. I'm inspired by Art Deco clothing designs and color combinations. I hope they turn out as I'm imagining them.