Saturday, 22 June 2019

Introducing Big Blue Moma Baskets from Ghana

At the recent (and wonderful) conference of the Association of Northwest Weavers' Guilds in Prince George, I spied an interesting corner of the vendor market piled high with beautiful handwoven baskets from Ghana.

Big Blue Moma display at "Confluences" in Prince George, BC

At the vendor market at any conference, you have to think about your possible purchases and kind of plan it out. So I did and I had a plan - to buy one basket that I really liked. But when I went back on the Saturday morning and talked to owner Karie it turned out she asked me a wild question: "Would you like to be a supplier of Big Blue Moma baskets?" She said she didn't have anyone in my area and she explained the conditions.

So ... I bought twenty baskets! It was really fun to pick them out, thinking of what I like and what I think other people will like. What a dream task.

I brought them home and needed to reshape some of them. This is an under-one-minute job for each of wetting the squashed area and reshaping, then leaving to dry.

And they're ready to go now. Cariboo Handwoven has six styles available in my studio. (Since I didn't make them myself I cannot sell them at craft fairs or the farmers' market.) These are high-quality baskets and I'm proud to add them to my Cariboo Handwoven inventory of blankets, towels and scarves.

Right now I have several colours in each style. All baskets are large but they vary in exact sizes - best to see them for yourself and compare. Here they are:

Round basket | $75

U Shopper | $75

U Shopper with bound edge | $75

Special Shopper | $82

Shoulder Shopper | $85

Pot basket | $89

For the next month, until July 22, all basket prices are reduced by 20%.  (GST and PST will be additional.)

Let me know if you're interested in a studio visit or a meeting in town with a few baskets you might like tossed in my car.

Thank you, Karie - it was great to meet you and do something I NEVER IMAGINED DOING!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

A Wedding Blanket

A big fan of Cariboo Handwoven bought a wool blanket in January for her son and daughter-in-law for their wedding in late April. She and I met for lunch and had a lovely time, and I delivered the blanket then at the restaurant table.

I remembered the date coming and wished her well before. A few weeks later, I learned that everything went off without a hitch and it was a lovely wedding and wonderful family celebration.

I couldn't help but wonder how the blanket was received - well, this couldn't be nicer to hear:
I wanted to let you know that the blanket was a huge hit - apparently the ones I have here have been secretly coveted (I admit having suspected as much). It will enjoy pride of place in their home for many years to come.  
Thank you for the care and talent you put into your art. 
Best wishes to the new couple!

Friday, 10 May 2019

Six New Wool Blankets

I usually weave wool blankets through the year and I finished my latest batch in March. Now they're all fringed and ready to go; one has even sold already. This batch has a very simple pattern of a wide centre stripe in charcoal flanked in light grey, with wide white edges.

Cariboo Handwoven wool blankets are really my classics. They are beautiful in the home, cozy and warm for reading or watching a movie, and they last for years and years - decades, I would say. At this time of year, people looking for grad and retirement gifts might find one here that could suit their needs.

Here they are, the first two with handspun wool with the sheep's name added:

253 | 100% wool (50% handspun from "Dimayo") | 172 cm x 132 cm (67.5" x 52") | $400

253 Detail

254 | 100% wool (50% handspun from "Coco") | 178 cm x 135 cm (70" x 53") | $400

255 | 100% wool | 179 cm x 127 cm (70.5" x 50") | $300

256 | 100% wool | 180 cm x 125 cm (71" x 49") | $300

257 | 100% wool | Sold at Handmade in the Cariboo

258 | 100% wool | 200 cm x 123 cm (79" x 48.5") | $300

Let me know if you're interested in any of these blankets!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

I Just Love It When ...

A recent studio visit by a Cariboo Handwoven blanket owner had a special moment for me. Well, the whole visit was special for me because she and a friend made a day trip to visit my studio, watch how a loom works (they were amazed) and see what I had available for sale. I was really touched that they would take a day to visit me, and I gave them some ideas for things in town to see and do before they headed home.

The blanket owner wanted a second blanket, a cotton one, and requested something in greys with a little yellow. I think that's how she put it. I had something new that might fit her idea. As soon as I pulled it down from the shelf, she knew it was for her. I just happened to have those colours and it was a quick and easy decision for her.

I just love it when someone instantly 'knows' that one of my works is for them.

Here's the blanket she bought:

It's a fringed cotton blanket, just finished a month ago. It's gone to a good home!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Three Days of Weaving in Perugia, Italy: Part 2

To continue from Part 1 (highly recommended to read first for Part 2 to make sense), I arrived at Giuditta Brozzetti on the first day not knowing what Marta's plan was. I had suggested I could assist with a big project that she needed some help with, but she said right away that I could weave on her small four-harness loom from the 1700s. I was quite surprised actually and I really appreciated her trust in me as a weaver. She wanted to see what someone new would do on that loom.

The main feature of the studio is the array of old Jacquard looms. They produce very complex patterns based on punched cards, meaning that each warp thread is controlled individually, like a harness for each one. Unbelievable, I know! The weaver climbs above the loom to change cards. Giuditta Brozzetti's website has examples of the beautiful fabrics woven on the Jacquard looms.

Jacquard loom looking from the back beam

One of many Jacquard looms at Giuditta Brozzetti with the design mechanism above the loom.
On the railing hang various pattern cards used for weaving. Each row in the punched cards
creates a different weft shot for the woven pattern.

Marta had two weavers working for her, a woman from Paris who spoke fluent English after her time in London, and a man from Peru with whom I communicated in gestures and very basic Italian. He liked to call me 'signora' and he was just as much help to me with the bobbin winder and advancing the warp on my loom. Marta joked that she has a multi-national studio. The Jacquard looms are quite noisy, and working beside the two of them made me feel part of the production.

My loom was apparently from 1750 and it's still working well. It's a counter-marche set-up, unlike the jack looms I've always used, and has one treadle for each harness. This required more detailed mental work for this new weaver on it, ahem. The front and back beams were held with a ratchet and pawl system, with no brake on the back beam that modern weavers expect.

I had a lot of fun on this loom and the experience was a big 'wow' to me for the three days. I wove with gorgeous 4/68 cotton from a company in Milan. Marta and her weavers double the weft for pattern stripes to help them stand out. This is a good concept to try in my own studio. A big part of the whole opportunity was using an entirely new colour palette.

But before I could weave, I had to learn the complexities of the bobbin winder. After the main switch to the upper right (not visible in photo) is turned on, the whole machine comes to life through a lengthwise drive band to which individual winders can be engaged. Figuring out this monster took some time, but with help by the two weavers who often saw me struggling, I figured it out.

Winding double cotton onto one bobbin (actually a pirn)

After a little practice on my loom, I wove seven samples that Marta can sew into bags, bracelets or whatever she likes. Here they are:

On my third day, everyone had left for lunch and I planned my last sample to finish in plenty of time to catch the train back to Arezzo. I wanted to savour my last hour in Giudetta Brozzeti. I finished weaving and tidied up, then enjoyed how the afternoon sunlight filled the whole building with beautiful soft light. I walked around to photograph, drink it in, remember. It was all so enchanting for me.

The goodbyes were hard. I could only promise myself I would be back.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Three Days of Weaving in Perugia, Italy: Part 1

A year ago, my husband and I were in Arezzo, Italy and decided to take the train to Perugia, a fascinating city he knew fairly well. Perugia dates back to the Etruscans from several centuries BC and its university was founded in 1320. Situated on a massive hill, modern residents can take the MiniMetro from the valley floor up to the two main piazzas. The medieval street plan is pretty complicated and challenging to most North Americans used to a perpendicular street grid - and it's beautiful.

Piazza IV Novembre, Perugia

Before going last year, Pat found information online about a weaving studio and suggested we visit. It is the Giudutta Brozzetti Museum-Laboratory of Handweaving and it is one of the most incredible places we'd ever seen, augmented by the friendly, high-energy owner, Marta Cucchia. The building is the Church of San Francisco Delle Donne ("Of the Women") that was established in 1212 by Saint Francis and then passed on, originally as a monastery, to the Benedictine sisters in 1252. In more recent years, the building was used as a factory; holes in the roof's brickwork (covered with a tile roof now) were made for exhaust fumes.

Giuditta Brozzetti established the weaving business in 1920 to revive traditional weaving from the Umbrian province. Marta is her great-granddaughter and a passionate weaver. She and I kept in touch through the following year and then I said I'd be back this March. She very kindly agreed that I could spend three days in her studio.

I cannot write everything in one blog so I'm making this Part 1 and will finish with Part 2. To me, the three extraordinary days I spent with Marta and her weavers included the daily commute from Arezzo, where we stayed again, to Giuditta Brozzeti. First, I had a 20-minute walk to the train station, buy tickets and validate the first one, then I traveled on two trains in the morning with an easy connection. I next walked to the MiniMetro station and went up to the final stop, Il Pincetto. I first walked out and oriented myself (fairly familiar from a year ago and helpful with GPS on my phone) and made my way northwest for about 1.5 km. My favourite route was to walk along the aqueduct built in 1254 which became a walking route in 1812.

Aqueduct on the left, a long flight of shallow steps on the right

The aqueduct is just wide enough for two people. Houses have been built along
the way and their entrances have required removing sections of the low wall
(as in the example on the lower right with the open gate).

For a western Canadian, all these dates and sights were extraordinary and they really fired my imagination!

Here are some photos of Giuditta Brozzetti:

Tessuti means textiles | Umbri is the Italian province of Umbria

Looking from the far end of the building to the east.
The loom I used is in the right foreground and I'll talk about it in Part 2.

Afternoon light in the church's south transept

First and last view of the studio along Via Tiberio Berardi

Before concluding Part 1 and planning Part 2, I want to thank Marta for three really special days in her atelier (studio). She was really good to me and I will always cherish this opportunity from her.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - it's coming!

Saturday, 9 March 2019

New Cotton Blankets for Spring

After a long winter, with February setting a record daily low temperature in my area, signs of spring are most welcome. I've just finished nine cotton blankets in shades of green, blues and yellows. There is also one blanket in bright diamonds and two are in taupes and greys with black, a common request I receive.

Here are the blankets with measurements and price. And where a photo doesn't really reflect the colours well, I added a description. All blankets are machine washable and versatile for year-round use.

C334 | 100% cotton | Light teal, seafoam and light green with narrow white
186 cm x 135 cm (73" x 53") | $170

C335 | 100% cotton | 178 cm x 135 cm (70" x 53") | Sold

C336 | 100% cotton | Dark green, shamrock and olive with light green stripes
(180 cm x 135 cm (71" x 53") | $170

C337 | 100% cotton | Four shades of green with bright green stripes
188 cm x 135 cm (74" x 53") | $170

C338 | 100% cotton | 185 cm x 135 cm (73' x 53") | Sold

C339 | 100% cotton | Navy, royal and bright blue with light blue stripes
186 cm x 135 cm (74" x 53") | Sold

C340 | 100% cotton | Greens with black stripes
185 cm x 135 cm (73" x 53") | Donated to Island Mountain Arts fundraiser

C341 | 100% cotton | Dark grey herringbone with bold borders in black and grey
183 cm x 135 cm (72" x 53") | $170

C342 | 100% cotton | Fringed | 188 cm x 135 cm (74" x 53") excluding fringes | Sold

Gosh, those were fun to weave!