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The Adventures of two Fibre Artists.



Contributing Artists

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Time....3 hours,

Over the years my DH has built little projects for me, and not so little projects like the screen porch and garden pond, which I have always considered to be priceless, certainly more meaningful than anything store bought. The latest gift, as I mentioned here in an previous entry, is a tapestry loom.

We went to Lowes and picked out some straight 2"X1" oak, I would have chosen the Douglas Fir, save that they did not have enough to accommodate my needs. We discussed several ways to make a sturdy frame and after some thought I asked him what he thought about bolting the sides onto the top and bottom beams so if I choose to work on a flat surface the sides will be raised enough and offer room to work my hand under the warp. He felt he could find a way of doing this and make it stable. We decided bolting the frame would offer more stability than nailing it. The next question would be what is the best way to bolt it. Instead of drilling through the top and bottom and using wing nuts on the back of the bolts DH suggested using Tee nuts that recess into the wood about halfway and sits flush with the top surface which accepts the bolt, securing it, without any hardware on the backside of the beams. This will prevent any metal possibly damaging the surface the frame will lie against. Finally when planning placement for the warp nails we drilled the holes first, staggering them to prevent the wood from splitting, before hammering the bard nails into place.

So you see the project is easy enough and very inexpensive. The materials came to $22.00, and after I return some of the hardware we ended up not needing it will actually come closer to $20.OO. While it is a basic loom, it is fully functional and saved us about $100.00 or more had we bought one of similar size. I was also happy to find that the frame DH built with the Triangle loom he gave me a couple of Christmas' ago works very well with this one also. You can see how this is the ideal way to go for anyone interested in Tapestry weaving, but not quite sure to what degree. There was very little time and expense put into the project, that if I find that I don't have the talent for this fibre craft I have not invested a great deal.

A final note, when proofreading I notice that throughout this article I have used "I" and "we" in reference to planning and building the loom when in point of fact it was my DH who contributed the most to this this project, for which I owe him a big "Thank you!"

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Socks That Became A Bag

Today I put the finishing touches on a bag that began its life a few years ago as a pair of socks.

My dear fiber friend showed me how to cast on and knit with double points, and I began my first pair of socks. After knitting for awhile with a traditional sock yarn and getting the hang of managing the double pointed needles that seemed to be everywhere at once, I was ready to knit my socks.

I chose a handspun yarn, a mix of mohair and wool, dyed in muted colors of mauve, blue, and brown. Having been cautioned by the spinner that her handspun singles were intended for weaving, not knitting, I decided to solve that problem by plying two strands together. So, taking my yarn in hand, and using the same double pointed needles that had worked very well with the tiny sock yarn, I embarked on my journey. Not having the slightest notion of how to turn a heel, I chose a pattern that did not require one. I persisted throughout the ordeal of knitting a bulky yarn with needles that were more suited to lace work. Yes, I did produce two socks. Had they not been so uncomfortable in the toe area, they possibly would have served as bedroom shoes. So thick were they, that no shoes in my considerable shoe collection would fit over them. Oh well, I told myself that I had gained experience, albeit at a rather high cost, in terms of money and time.

Earlier this year, I pulled out my socks and decided to unravel all that wonderful handspun and change directions. The result is this bag, knitted in stockinette, then felted. The handles are i-cord, the button is from a coat bought many years ago in Italy. Although I love to collect pottery buttons and other unique fastenings, my stash did not contain the color needed.

Just an example of how we sometimes take a winding path, eventually ending up in the right place, even if it was not where we intended to go. Remind me to tell you about the hat that became a bowl.....

A Quick, Fun Project

The bright colors in this inexpensive synthetic yarn caught my eye, and I purchased it with little idea of how to use it. Although it would have worked nicely in a scarf as one of several yarns, I decided to knit a small pouchy purse. Purple being the favorite color of my sister-in-law, I gave it to her for her August birthday.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Another Adventure

Last night my husband and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary. Twenty-eight years of marriage is an adventure in itself but this is not the adventure I mean to discuss here. I only mention it as a lead in, of sorts, because after dinner he took me to Lowes to purchase supplies for a new fibre adventure. Now keep in mind I barely have time for the myriad of fibre adventures I already participate in. In point of fact I have resisted taking this particular adventure for some time, but the temptation has proved too alluring and my resolve all but exhausted. Whenever I mentioned to my fibre sister that I was considering embarking on this path she would offer a grin, in lieu of spoken words, that communicated sincere empathy, that another adventure would indeed be exciting, but how in the world would I manage getting anything finished. I suspect most fibre artists can relate. Whether you want to experience every aspect of the craft, or it's a matter of one thing leading to another, suddenly you find yourself overwhelmed by the possibilities.

I started out wanting to learn to spin and decided it would be great fun, since I love animals, to raise a small spinner's herd. After spinning several skeins it occurred to me, as beautiful the yarn was, some projects may require a colour other than what the animals were capable of producing. Subsequently the next logical step was to learn to dye, and with everything I do in my life I wanted to do this as natural as possible. Resultantly my fibre sister and I began researching and experimenting with natural dyes.

I want to say that our decision to learn felting came about, as with most fibre enthusiasts, by mistake, but maybe I should speak for myself. It takes little effort to discover felt when working with wool, water and soap. Then one year while at SAFF, almost as an afterthought, certainly out of curiosity, we decided to take a workshop on a different kind of felting, done with needles. So you begin to see how one can get caught up in all aspects of this multifarious craft.

The decision to embark on this new adventure was bourne from the difficulty of trying to demonstrate weaving outside the home, due to the size of our 4 harness floor looms. My fibre The triangle looms, though not as heavy, were twice as cumbersome due to their size. Until recently I had a van large enough and a husband willing to do the heavy work of getting us and the equipment to our destination and back, even the triangle looms, but with some real complications. I have since had to retire that old van and due to the rising gas prices replaced it with something smaller. This gave weight, no pun intended, to either no longer offer weaving demonstrations outside our homes or explore an alternative form of weaving, one that could be done on a smaller loom and something more sophisticated than weaving potholders like the ones everyone remembers making in school.

Tapestries have always held a real fascination for me. If done well they seemed to have a life of their own, as individual as the piece and technique. Some so moving you could hear the life within softly whispering. I can only hope that I can induce the same in my work.

When I came home from Saturday Tea this afternoon my dear husband had the frame finished. Now all that needs done is to mark the spacing for him to drill where I will place each nail for the warp. I would have some difficulty petitioning his help in hammering the nails as the memory, or should I say nightmare, of tapping nearly 400 bard nails in a Triangle loom he made me one Christmas some years ago is still too raw in his mind. Since we, like many, find ourselves on a strict budget, I am very grateful for my husband's ability and willingness to build this loom for me. The materials came to just under $22.00, which is 10 times cheaper than the more affordable, and smaller looms. Even though I could manage, with difficulty, I would be hard pressed to spend that kind of money rather than direct it toward something more important...like food. But very soon I will be ready for my first attempt at creating something that I hope others will appreciate. Something that will represent the energy of the animals that provided the fibre as well as, to some measure, my appreciation for the beauty of our Heavenly Father's creation.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

See You at the Fair

Each year, with the advent of the State Fair, comes, for me personally, enthusiastic anticipation. Anticipation of cooler weather, which is a big deal here in the south, opportunity to visit the animal barns, which is my one of my favorite activities and, of course, the opportunity to share my craft with others, either through exhibition or demonstration and/or education.

For the past 7 years we, my fibre sister and I, have been asked to demonstrate spinning and weaving in the Arts and Crafts exhibition building. We take advantage of the circumstances, season and atmosphere, conducive for this old craft. There would be less interest in this kind of fibre craft if the weather was warmer so the timing works in our favour and the audience, pulled to anything crafty delights in viewing something atypical for this area, not to mention era.

Children seem especially curious. They will sit crosslegged on the floor watching the wheel spin, or murmur one word sentences like "cool", "wow" and "neat" as the fibre twists into it yarn, asking scores of questions on everything from what kind of animals can fibre be used, to what kind of articles can be made from the different looms. Adults, too, will stop and remark on the wonder of the craft and even comment how they once thought they would like to learn, unfortunately, when pushed, they always amend the comment with "but I just don't have the time to learn".

After 7 years of offering workshops, not at the State Fair alone, but also at our local library, schools, churches and even knitting groups, only a few individuals have taken us up on our offer to go beyond demonstration and instruct them in the art of spinning, weaving, natural dyeing, felting or any other fibre craft. Of those few even fewer have perservered. Yet, happily, we continue to offer demonstrations because we love the craft enough to attempt to keep it alive, if not, for their part,in practice, at least in interest through education.