Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Special Blanket with Handspun Local Icelandic Wool

A repeat studio visitor returned recently to look at a special blanket with handspun local Icelandic wool. She'd seen and liked the skeins of wool I'd spun from a ram named Dimayo, who I blogged about last summer. Dimayo's badgerface colour is one of the Icelandic sheep's official pattern combinations.

The fleece was mostly cream-coloured, supplemented with caramel and black, for a stunning yarn when randomly spun together.

I marvelled at the results as I wove this blanket in an undulating twill pattern. Knowing that my Dimayo yarn supply was a bit low, I wove strong, dark brown borders with wool left over from a ewe in Dimayo's flock, Nancy. Both Icelandic sheep fleeces were produced close by, just over on Fox Mountain near Williams Lake. Here is the blanket in the fringing process.

The finished Dimayo blanket:

The detail and uniqueness of the woven cloth were the most incredible for me:

The new owner of the Dimayo blanket bought it for one of her sons ... but she admitted she might keep it for herself!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Added Adventures in Advancing Twill

A second towel project this year in advancing twill gave me the chance to use similar and new treadlings on a similar threading as my recent project, but in lighter warp colours. I felt like I was on a bit of a roll and I wasn't ready to leave advancing twill quite yet. The lighter colours in the warp generally needed medium to dark colours in the weft to show the pattern.

I beamed on a long warp of close to 20 m in length (23 turns on the back beam). This gave me 26 towels in total, but by the last few I had run out of favourite colours and good ideas. This was a good thing though because it pushed me into trying new patterns, and I discovered some new ideas to pursue later. This is so typical: towards the end of the warp I want to finish it all and start something new, then I feel almost heartbroken to weave the last towel when I was on a fresh surge.

I also learned how the little glitch in the centre section was incorrectly threaded. It's a bit off kilter although I doubt anyone will mind too much - just me. I figured out the error and now I want to do a third project with the correction. That's already beamed onto the loom. :-)

Here are some of the towels with the lighter warp.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

One Weaver's Interpretation of the Johnston Tartan

A long-time friend has lineage from the Johnston clan of Scotland, and he requested a wool blanket in the Johnston tartan colours. At first I thought he was talking about me weaving the tartan itself, with all its intricate complexity and specific pattern. That I cannot do! But no, he just wanted a blanket with those colours and I was free to create something that might interest him.

He had a tie of the Johnston tartan, which I used for colour selection.

The blanket warp was stripes of black, charcoal and light grey and the weave structure would be undulating twill. The suitable weft colours I had on hand were black, dark blue, limited dark green, and yellow.

At first I tried to repeat the sequence in the tie with two shots of this and four of that - but that did not suit undulating twill and started to drive me crazy. So I unwove that and thought hard about my next option. And what you see on the dark green cone was all I had. Hmmm.

What I ended up doing was weaving the blanket ends in predominantly dark blue, then the entire blanket with alternating stripes of the dark green, all with yellow stripes edged in black throughout.

I'm not sure how I came up with this plan, but I was pleased with the result. And, as always, the blanket looked better off the loom and stretched out, then better yet when washed and pressed. Here it is with the tie:

And ... what did my friend say about the blanket?
"I love the blanket. We both do. Thank you for exploring this design."
This was actually not an easy challenge, but what challenge is? I like the final product and my friend knew he was under no obligation. The Johnston tartan colours are so nice that as a muse they've helped create a beautiful blanket.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Ask Me Almost Anything About Advancing Twill

I've been enjoying advancing twill patterns in my blankets and towels over the years. An article a year ago in the premier issue of Heddlecraft encouraged me to work with it again for a towel project. When I say you can ask me almost anything, I have to emphasize 'almost' because this blog's title is meant to be a bit silly ... and readers know by now that I absolutely adore alliteration. :-)

So, if you want to know anything more than the little I share here - definitely go to Heddlecraft or explore advancing twill another way.

In these towels, I designed the threading for the 26" width and used different treadlings with a twill tie-up of 3-2-1-2 for the eight harnesses. It's exciting to create different sequences and see the results. The selvedges took a bit of a hit in their quality, and I had to do some manual improvements at the end of certain sequences when the edge thread was not being woven in. If I missed it for awhile, that edge thread forms a small loop, but is likely to shrink in with washings and not be too prominent. The antidote to that problem is to use a floating selvedge, I know.

Anyway, here are some of my experiments ... using bright colours in cold and dark January to brighten things up.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Letting Go

I recently learned that letting go of some of my work can be surprisingly hard to do.

It all started when an artist friend wrote me awhile ago and said: "Whenever I sell a painting ... it's always a little bitter/sweet ... but more sweet than bitter by far, knowing my craft is appreciated."

My philosophy has most often been that the more work that leaves my studio, the more fun I have ahead to replace it. That motivates me even more than I normally feel (which is a lot). To me, it's less the bu$ine$$ part of Cariboo Handwoven and instead feeling that my work is in demand - which makes me happy.

But when this blanket recently left my studio ... after the buyer examined it closely to make her decision ... I remembered my efforts in the two-shuttle weaving, adding some very compatible handspun wool, and struggling a bit with the fuzzy mohair on the shuttle bobbins.

The blanket came out beautifully and extra long at 195 cm (77"). Then it received many compliments but just never found a new home until now.

When I packaged it up and carried it out to the buyer's car with her, I realized what the artist meant: that bittersweet moment. Now I get it.

I know this blanket has gone to a good home, and can be returned easily for handwashing which I always extend as part of the sale. Farewell, and thanks for the memories!

Monday, 2 January 2017

"You Are Always In My Kitchen"

A friend sent me this to begin my new year with a lovely thought:
You are always in my kitchen.  Had a bunch of people over for dinner tonight so was in kitchen a lot today, and using your towel which made me think of you. Such a lovely little reminder.
I think I'll go and weave more towels now - such inspiration!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Was ... Fun!

We are all looking back today at a very complex year on this planet, but I will keep this to Cariboo Handwoven's year of 2016. The best word I have to describe it was "fun!"

The year began with the final steps in setting up and beginning to use my new Leclerc Colonial 8-harness loom.

It took the prime spot in my studio and the old Colonial moved to the other wall. I like both looms and both locations, and the little contrasts between them are actually quite helpful and refreshing for my body.

I wove a lot of blankets and towels this year and sold most of them from my studio, through Alison in Ottawa, in some local venues, and in three fall craft fairs in BC.

I learned a lot in helping a new weaver start from an immediate fascination with everything in the studio to getting his own 36" floor loom and making some beautiful things. Jon has been fun to weave with and I can't really say I'm teaching him. I'm just showing him some things now and then, and soon he's a step or two ahead of me. Our collaboration has boosted my own weaving and outlook.

I've learned a lot about some weave structures, particularly in combining twills and figuring out how to design the warp (lots of trial and error). And it's become a bit easier for me to show my work at craft fairs and put myself out there.

As well, I learned something for myself when I was recently asked if Cariboo Handwoven is a hobby or a business. Gee, good question. Well, it's much more than a hobby and it's certainly a business. But it's not a business in which I want to compromise the fun part just to grow. I'm producing at close to my maximum level anyway, so growth and increased sales are not really a significant goal. My primary goal is having fun - learning and experimenting while I work (if you can call it work), meeting people and hearing their feedback and stories, and thinking ahead to what's next.

I can't close 2016 without thanking Alison in Ottawa for all she has done again for Cariboo Handwoven and me; Jonathan for all his great questions, ideas and collaboration; and Pat, my husband, for putting up with all my wacky ideas, brief (I hope) episodes of angst, and time away this year. And to all of you with kind comments and heartfelt compliments - thanks to each of you.

May everyone's 2017 be filled with peace, joy, interesting challenges and successful pursuits of their own fun.