I thought I would write a post between Christmas and New Year this week so that while everyone is relaxing between all the festivities, they might have time to go online and read.
Here are some sweet handcrafted fiber decorations and ornaments that I have been seeing online…
These were made by Arlene Davis from a pattern by Heidi Bears. You can see more about this project on Arlene’s page Woollen Wonders. I was about to launch into a project using teal and was happy to have this confirmation that I was heading in the right direction by planning on combining purple with it. This really makes me want to pick up a crochet hook.
Jennifer Williams, aka Inkled Pink, came up with a way to fashion inkle bands into gorgeous Christmas decorations…
And, she shared it by writing a tutorial for these on her blog.
As a testament to how well the tutorial has been written, Annamieke Ruijper, in the Netherlands, quickly followed the directions and made her own. What a great way to use those pretty patterned bands that we tend to accumulate.
I don’t do Christmas. I was here at home on the 24th and 25th happily winding a new silk warp, stitching panels together and sampling for a new project. The weather has been kind these last days with lower temperatures than normal. It is awful working with silk when you have sweaty hands and fingers. Mango season is in full swing and the large rosy ones from the Yungas have arrived costing all of 12 cents a piece. Meanwhile the local smaller yellow ones are raked together in their hundreds to rot in huge, smelly, fly-infested heaps on the street. While people enjoy the shade that the mango trees provide, most people consider the abundance of fruit a curse.
I got out the tubes of 60/2 silk that Deanna had given me when I recently visited her. Beautiful tubes of teal and yellow…loads of it!..reminding me of the colors of mangoes and refreshing tropical seas.
You can see them there in the photo at left among other goodies I brought home. My pictures can’t quite capture the amount of green that is in that teal.
I was pretty excited about the silk. Although I have lots of colors in 60/2 silk that I had bought in the UK several years ago as well as some from Redfish Dyeworks, they were very small skeins and tubes…enough for use as supplementary-weft or for my small wrist cuff projects. I didn’t have enough to take on any kind of large project.
Speaking of silk wrist cuffs, I spent some time sewing plastic snaps to the ribbon necklace and cuff that I made to match the yurt pouch I showed last week. They are made from 60/2 silk in both warp and weft and these are the largest things I have made with this silk so far…
I had learned from past experience that not all my 60/2 silk was the same. The purple that I bought in the UK is finer than the turquoise, for example, which meant that letters that I had sampled in turquoise a long time ago had their proportions altered when I tried to weave them in purple. I gave up and just wove the ”real” piece in turquoise. I was not in the mood to re-chart my letters for the purple silk.
This is the silk bookmark I wove with the letters for my nephew, Ryan, the triathlete. The inspirational quote was his favorite at that time.
In another project, I found that the Redfish Dyeworks 60/2 silk did not behave the same way as the UK stuff when washed. I had used some of each as supplementary weft in a project and they shrank differently when wet. That was disappointing! As a result, I ended up with scalloped edges on the brown project below.
And then I decided that I couldn’t even trust the information for the yellow to be the same for the teal and I sampled again in teal. Fortunately, samples for backstrap weaving do not need to consume huge amounts of yarn. The samples are a bit lumpy and bumpy because I didn’t use a coil rod.
I messed about with some supplementary-weft motifs to see how many warps the wefts could span before becoming awkwardly long and impractical. I tried silk and embroidery floss as the supplementary weft and decided I liked the silk better.
You probably know by now that I am not product-driven. Its all about the process for me and so the very last thing I decided was exactly what I wanted to make. I really just wanted to weave something large with the fine silk in plain weave and see if I could manage it on my backstrap loom. I decided on a sort of bandanna, or neckerchief. I remember some time ago planning one of those in the Guatemalan cotton that I had. It had never materialized.
I planned for about 18 inches of width based on a cotton bandanna that I have, wound the 2000 ends that were required, and then realized that none of my loom bars were long enough to comfortably hold this width.
Fortunately, I have an old Guatemalan loom that Lorraine in California gave me years ago. It had been given to her by her weaving teachers in Guatemala in the 1970s and she passed it on to me.
That loom is old and well used and full of character. The loom bars were just long enough but I still felt uncomfortable with the warp ends sitting so very near the end of the rods. The wonderful shed rod that came with the loom was longer and did the trick for the near beam. The shed rod is a thick piece of wood that is amazingly light for its size…just what you want in a shed rod. I wonder what kind of wood it is.
You can see above, the shed rod that I am using as the front beam and one of the other beams that I will use as the roll-up stick. And there’s my favorite Guatemalan pick-up stick. Below you can see the complete set of sticks and a spindle that Lorraine gave me. Those swords get a lot of use. This is the first time I will be using the shed rod.
I so wish my camera would capture the green in the teal silk…Anyway, here is the warp stretched ready for heddles. I haven’t found a long stick for the back beam yet and have the threads crammed onto one of my regular loom bars for now.
And here it is underway…
Before I could start weaving, there was the coil rod to install and the cross to flip. As usual, I spent an entire morning sliding threads around trying to get them evenly spaced before I could throw the first shot of silk weft.
I LOVE wide warps! I am having so much fun with this…using the big swords, strumming the silk threads with the blunt end of my pick-up stick, snapping the back shed through the heddles, having my legs completely disappear beneath the width…so much fun!
I am using a discontinuous supplementary-weft technique which has the weft-turns shadowing the outline of the pattern. You can barely see the turns because of the fineness of the silk. I did not want to carry the gold supplementary weft from one edge of the fabric to the other or even as far as the gold stripe as I didn’t want the fabric to be ”thickened” by the extra weft sandwiched between the layers of threads.
You can see that I chose, as I generally do, to use a fairly slim shed rod and that I have it secured to a second stick. There are so many different ways that I have seen to set up and operate what I will call the ”back shed”. This happens to be my current preferred way. Anyone who has spent some time backstrap weaving will soon realize that it is the back shed that is the trickiest to operate. Clearing the threads through the heddles and to the front of the loom can be difficult if the yarn you are using is sticky. Forget the common description ”smooth as silk”…this spun silk is surprisingly sticky. There is a lot of strumming involved while sitting back and and applying as much tension to the warp as I can. I insert my sword next to the shed rod and then tip it on its side next to the heddles while strumming in front of the heddles with my pointed stick. My llama bone tool would be a little too rough on the silk.
Many weavers prefer to use a shed rod with a very large girth. This can add a lot of weight to the warp and I have seen weavers here in Bolivia and Peru use pvc pipe to give them the girth without excessive weight…
They simply draw the shed rod down to the heddles and strum in front of the heddles to clear the shed while applying tension to the warp. If the yarn is not sticky, those threads will snap right through the heddles effortlessly. The drawback for me is that a very thick shed rod requires the weaver to use more effort to raise the heddles. There are many different ways to operate these simple looms!
Weavers in Ecuador with a load of heavy-ish sticky hand spun wool on their looms use two shed rods, as you can see above. The number of warp ends are halved and distributed over the two rods and the rods are rolled so that one set of threads is first raised and then the other.
What I will need to eventually find is another long rod for my back beam. Right now, the coil rod is keeping everything nicely spread at the far end. I can usually count on going up onto the terrace of my building and finding an abandoned broom or mop to cut down. The place at which I used to buy my dowel rods stopped carrying them over a year ago. Well, I can always just buy a broom, right?
As I started a brand new project, I decided that it was also time to finish off an old one. You may remember that just before I left on my last trip, I had woven two brown panels which I had been hoping to join using one of the kinds of decorative stitches that weavers here in Bolivia use. I had been disappointed to find that the nice straight edges that I had been hoping to butt together and connect had come out scalloped after the wet-finishing process.
You can see the two panels, at left, before they got washed.
Well, I just went ahead and tried to connect them anyway…and, it worked!…far better than I ever could have hoped. I had anticipated everything that could possibly go wrong and none of those things eventuated.
I was inspired, as I have been so many times before, by my teacher, Maxima. You can see her below joining the two panels of one of her new carrying cloths with a different stitch to the one I used. Hers look like staggered triangles.
And speaking of Maxima and the weavers and spinners of Cochabamba, a new product has been developed by the co-operative. Maxima has been teaching the teenagers to weave and put together yoga mat straps. Aren’t they great?
Here are some projects from my weaving friends…
Moniek Deroo has been using my Andean Pebble Weave books and weaves her bands on an inkle loom. She is even designing her own original motifs.
Julia has added another wall hanging to a beautiful series that she has been creating. This one has a pattern from my second book. It is a motif that I translated to the Andean Pebble Weave structure from a tablet woven design by Louise Ström. In the chart in the book, I left a large blank space between the repeats and challenged readers to design their own ”filler”. Julia did just that and created something that so perfectly matches the rest of the pattern. She is using Knit Picks Curio cotton which has beautiful sheen. It is a 2-ply cotton and I imagine it to be similar to the Circulo Clea that I use. I do prefer 2-ply to the more ”round” 3-ply crochet cotton thread.
Bethan sent me a picture of the first of two panels that she will sew into a poncho. She is using her own hand spun wool. She mentioned some struggles with the back shed and that is to be expected, especially when using wool. I have seen Bolivian and Peruvian weavers strum away patiently for quite some time trying to coax those sticky wool threads to break their grip on each other and behave.
Finally, I will show you one of Lily’s Christmas presents from her mom, Lori. You may remember Lily weaving pick-up patterns in my ”Wee Fingers” post not so long ago. Lori wove a small backstrap for her. It’s adorable!
Back to my silk bandanna project and the hunt for a long back beam for my loom….