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Oh no! I Cut a Mono Filament Thread: Mending my piece for China with Jim’s Fisherman’s Knot

When I was getting my piece ready to send to China, I cut one of the threads holding a string of swatches! On top of that, the thread was made of monofilament or slippery fish line. I had to reconnect the thread without extra thread for a knot and besides, it couldn’t show. It was one of the purple strings beside the black one.

I don’t think I’ve ever used this knot before but I’m sure glad that I remembered it when I needed it. The knot is Jim’s Fisherman’s knot which I learned from my mentor, Jim Ahrens. It’s for tying very slippery threads together. I put it in my book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, available now in print after being only available as a PD for many years.

How to tie this life-saving-knot-for-me is the subject of a post from quite a while ago. The post gives full directions and hints. The link to the post is HERE.

A Visit to a Contemporary Oriental Carpet Studio/Factory

We visited an Oriental carpet business in Yonezawa where we saw pile carpets being made and a studio with amazing carpets and historical photos.  They make hand knotted and not-hand-knotted carpets. This was our first view when entering the factory. It is a hand knotted carpet on the loom. Notice all the cones of dyed yarns for the many shades and colors needed for this carpet.

On the left beside the loom are the current colors of yarn needed for this area being knotted and the skeins so each yarn can be pulled out when the end is pulled to the loom to make a knot.

To make the knots each yarn is composed of several yarns.

Here is the color card with all the colors needed for this small carpet.

Six workers are hand knotting a huge carpet. All are working on the same row of knots. Then the one on the left will begin weaving in a weft thread and by the time that weft reaches the right-hand weaver she will have completed her section of knots and is ready to finish the row of plain weave (over one warp thread and under the next.) There will be one or two of these over one, under one weft threads woven in between each row of knots.

To make one knot, the weaver pulls the end of the group of threads from the ball above her, makes the knot, then cuts the yarn with the knife in her right hand. Later, these pile yarns will be cut so all the pile is even (or perhaps sculpted).

Color cards show that the exact color of a pile yarn will be that of the cut ends of the yarns, not the color of the length of the yarn itself.

You can tell if a carpet is hand knotted by looking at the back side. You can see the back sides of the individual knots.

The knots themselves are not actually what we think of as knots. There are two types of knots used for pile carpets. This is probably the knot used. It’s called the Symmetrical knot. Notice the 2 rows of plain weave between the rows of knots. I had a student once who forgot these rows and all the knots fell apart when she was finished!

This is called the Asymmetrical knot. It is used to my knowledge for finer knots so they can be closer together.

The carpet will be trimmed so it is flat or even encised.

Other pile carpets made at this factory are not hand knotted. A person holds a piece of equipment like a hand drill that pokes the yarns from the back through to the front side. The person works row by row holding the equipment perpendicular to the warp.

The back of the not-hand-knotted carpet needs a glued-on mesh to keep the yarns stable so they don’t come out since no knos are made and no rows of weaveing between the knots.

Shifu: Weaving with Paper


Now that I’m back home I have time to make more proper posts with photos of my 2 ½ weeks in Japan. We were extremely busy and went to a lot of interesting places. We visited an artist in Yamazawa who weaves with paper, and we had a chance to make some paper weft thread and weave it into cloth.

Here is a hanging made of paper hanging in the studio. I took the photo because it seemed like a really good idea to make a wall hanging without using a lot of weft or weaving time.

Old account books are popular for making thread for weaving. I’ve collected some myself over the years, hoping to make some shifu cloth myself. This time I mean it!

Here is a spool of the paper weft. The black marks (and maybe a red one or two) are from the notes written on the account books. People didn’t pay for each purchase but had a page in the merchant’s account book and paid up periodically. They were available on my past trips in flea markets.

How the treads were made.
We cut the paper into strips about 1/8 wide in such a way as to make very long strings. The cutting didn’t go clear to the edges of the paper, sort of like a paper lantern. We stretched out the cut paper and where the paper hadn’t been cut, it made a little bump where the paper was stretched. (See the book below.)Then we twisted it off the point of a spinning device. Formerly, I twisted it off the point of a bobbin winder.

Then came the weaving.
For several others, it was their first weaving experience, and they were thrilled beyond belief.

There is a special look of the cloth—little bumps or irregularities where the uncut paper was twisted.  Unless it’s very professionally made you can tell a shifu cloth by those little bumps.

This is the book I plan to use to make my own shifu. It goes into detail about cutting and also about what papers are good. In my  first class I took years ago we used old paper dress patterns.

Here’s a photo from the book that shows the irregularities indicating it is woven with shifu paper wefts.

A beautiful walk

A gorgeous walk in the Oirase gorge along the river near the city of Aomori. We are still in the north in Japan. Check the map in a previous post. The Japanese call the fall colors of the trees as “God’s brocade” or something close. I loved that because the tree color was just beginning and it looked like a brocade.

A walk along the river with waterfalls.

Falls and trees.

This was a gorgeous hike in the woods by the river..

“Two days of eating and traveling…” – Part Two

Two days of eating and traveling after breakfast in Kyoto ryokan and flying way north to Hokkaido for a lunch of much meat and big Ainu museum. Then the Shinkansen train back to Honshu, the main island of Japan. A huge wind and rainstorm really hit all the way to Temple Fugenin hot springs for the night.  PS. the drink was made with honeysuckle juice and was delicious.

Two days of eating and traveling…

Two days of eating and traveling after breakfast in Kyoto ryokan and flying way north to Hokkaido for a lunch of much meat and big Ainu museum. Then the Shinkansen train back to Honshu, the main island of Japan. A huge wind and rainstorm really hit all the way to Temple Fugenin hot springs for the night.  PS. the drink was made with honeysuckle juice and was delicious.

Pre Japan 2023 Tour Day

We caught a fleeting glimpse of Mt Fuji on the last leg of our flight from Tokyo to Nagoya.

We visited Tokonome a town famous for pottery. And had oolong tea with Seige Ito.  And we admired his gorgeous small tea pots. He is pouring hot water to cool it a bit to warm the tea cups in this photo.

Our hotel is inside Nagoya’s old radio tower on the levels lit up in this night photograph. The moon was full and lots of people and families were out enjoying the evening and relief from the 90 degree day.

I’m Off to Japan: My Art is Going to China!

I’m off to Japan on a tour with my precious friend and tour leader, Yoshiko Wada, founder of the World Shibori Network Foundation.

Here’s A Ring of Silks before shipping to China.

All nestled safely in a large box.

It is a large box. Off to be loaded in the car.

Waiting to be weighed and labeled. And I’m saying Goodbye!

Good News! My work got into the BoND Exhibition in Hangzhou, China

In the post last June, I showed the silk swatches I dyed along with the dilemma of how to present them to enter a show in China. You can see it HERE

A Ring of Silks
I did get into the show! That means sending it to China! The title of the show is “Contemporary Art and Design Exhibition: Natural Dyes and Colors of Nations”. I assumed my pieces were the colors of old China. It will be in November at the Chinese National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China.  My ring began as a hoola hoop!

Every piece started out as white. I used different white silks to get many shades in one dye pot. The dyes are the result of my experiments when researching old European dyes from a book, The Colorful Past. I was looking for natural dyes that might have been used in early China.

I made 48 separate dye baths for the project, each one using a different dye recipe or variation. There was a total of 720 samples.
A sack of bran, a handful of sumac, and three buckets of clear rainwater, are examples given in the old recipes. I had to estimate the size of “a handful” then estimate what weight that would be for sumac.

 I used a contemporary dye book , The Art and Science of Natural Dyes, by Boutrop and Ellis to help with the vague descriptions and proportions in the old recipes.

Hello Hemstitching!

Every time I want to do hemstitching, I have to look up how to do it. It’s easy, but for years I never tried it because I thought it was too hard. Now, I can open up Kindle on my iPhone and see the directions whenever I need to.

However, I remember making a headscarf in 4-H as one of my first projects. The first material I used was a dark blue cotton—rather fine—and it was impossible for a 10-year-old to pull out the tiny threads, let alone do the stitching. So, Mother took me shopping again and I chose a yellow coarse (and stiff) linen. I could see those threads!  If you can imagine a stiff linen headscarf you will see that it didn’t work as a closefitting headscarf, but I don’t remember the judge complaining when it came time for the county fair in Ohio.

I wanted to revisit hemstitching for this post, so I used the SEARCH function on my website homepage and found this post from 6 years ago. That was when I made my eBook about hemstitching. Click HERE to see the post and an easy method for hemstitching.

How to Cut Off a Sample: the 2-stick Heading Revisited – Plus I can’t resist: more flower photography

Since this is a weaving blog, I realized that I should make sure to post some important weaving information. The 2-stick heading came up when a weaver asked me for advice about the sett (epi) for her project she was planning. I couldn’t totally decide and recommended one but said to make a sample first and see how it draped, etc. after washing/finishing. By using the 2-stick heading she would not waste precious warp by tying on again. This is explained in Weaving for Beginners on pages 134-136. To see the full post from April 9, 2020, click HERE

Now, for the flowers:
I saw a lecture on photographing flowers recently.

You don’t have to show the whole flower!

Looking back at posts by searching for photography, I see I’ve been interested in the centers of flowers for some time.

I thought it was a new idea just lately to photograph the centers.

I bought a few bunches of tall poppies and spent the week watching them “age”.

That led to more photos. Here one petal is gone.

Looking a little closer at the center.

This one didn’t want to drop her skirt. Her neighbor dropped everything.

I think this stage is as beautiful in its own way as the full open flower.

Summer at My Farmer’s Market

My all-time summer purchases are fruit for breakfast. Peaches—the sweetest, apricots, plums. Cherries, too but they were gone today.

But this summer I’ve been getting flowers and photographing them. Here are zinnias which I love as you can see. (These two bunches were $10 apiece! So, enjoy those you can plant.)

The colors are what I love the most, I guess.

Since photographing them, I’m noticing the lovely details of the flowers.

The centers vary so much just as the petal colors.

I looked for marigolds because I think I can make dye or paint after they are done.

This variety I thought so interesting.

A simple yellow one.

Another single red one.

Another single flower.

I tried participating in a sale


I don’t often enter group shows. People ask why and I guess it comes to I don’t like to be rejected. But what I often say is that my work somehow doesn’t fit into group shows and doesn’t look good. Also, I don’t have the tech skills to enter such as the pixels, etc. I’ve never kept up with the show scene as well. I succumbed last week to a small sale at the World Shibori Network’s garden event because real textile people show up and I always have had a great time.

I put together this table and rack of my art scrolls I made during the pandemic. I took backgrounds and special textiles I made or collected and matched them up to support each other. I had a few scarves included that were left over from my big sale last year. All around the San Francisco Bay Area it was a scorcher day, but in Berkeley under a shade tree it was delightful, and I was proud of the table I put together. However, this was not the place for art sales I learned. From 10am to 4pm I made only 4 sales! People preferred things to wear or jewelry instead. I learned a lesson that taking something to a show does take work, but it also creates wear and tear on the items. By now I’ve put away almost everything I brought back—another consideration I hadn’t made for allowing time.

I showed the box I made a while ago and people were interested, and I enjoyed chatting with people as well as the other sellers. I also showed my little pouches I made. I got the idea in Japan when I saw them as part of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. So, I made my own with collages of fabric I had dyed and kumihimo  cords I made. In the tea ceremony they would have a little pot inside where the precious green tea powder was kept. The special knot used was to know if anyone had stollen any tea, because they wouldn’t be able to re-tie the knot!

My First Eco Prints

Some of my weaving friends had a play day and this is a detail of my first of 2 silk scarves.

Here is the first scarf. I am pleased with my first attempt. We used silk blanks from a shop called Dharma Trading Co. They do a big on-line business with blanks and white T-shirts, and other garments for tie-dye, etc.

This is my second scarf made the same day. I feel a little guilty that I only used plants that people knew would come out well. I didn’t take any chances. Being my first tries, was experiment enough.

My Dilemma That’s Not a Real Dilemma: Or Is it a Quandary?

I dyed these silks with natural dyes a couple of years ago. Now I want to make a hanging with them. I think I want to integrate this group of silks with the ones in the next photo. I want to enter this year’s BoND exhibition in China. My deadline is August 31.

I dyed this group of silks around the same time. I’m thinking that the combination of the two groups will be my pallet. That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.

I had 35 different white silk fabrics that I cut into swatches so each dye pot had 35 shades or tones when the fabrics came out of the pot. Here are the fabrics before dyeing. I think one turned out not to be silk—“he” always showed up .

Now for Something Different: Making watercolor paint from pigments

I took a workshop at Fibershed not far from me to make and use pigments. The teacher was Tilke Elkins at info@wildpigmentproject.org. What inspired me was to make paint for watercolor painting which I hope to do soon when I have all my paints made.

I was extremely fascinated by her showing us the process to make lakes as well. A lake takes a dye or ink solution and turns it into solid pigment. It’s a way to save left over dyes. I have quite a few jugs on my patio and would love to make them into lakes. That will be another workshop later this summer.

We went on a hike and Tilke showed us how to find rocks that will give good colors. Our hike as on a gravel path so there were lots of different stones to check out. To start out with the chosen rock, you need a mortar and pestle made of stone (not a ceramic one) or a stone and a marble slab. I had these from a previous workshop a few years ago making indigo pigment and paint. I trust it is still good and hope to add it to my pallet.

You break up the rock and grind it fine, like powder. If you have any lumps, your paint will be grainy.

For the next step I put the powder in a quart jar with water and let the pigment settle out to the bottom. The water should be clear as a glass of water. These jars have been sitting 24 hours and the water isn’t clear yet so I will check them tomorrow.

This is the pigment from a stone I ground the other day and put in the jar of water to settle out. I wanted it to be dry and crunchy, so it took more time to dry out after the water was poured off.

Now I use a muller on a glass plate or on my marble slab as the binder is mixed in. This is what makes the pigment stick to the paper. I’ll find out if I used enough when I try painting! I’m crossing my fingers.

Mull and be absolutely sure there are no lumps for smooth paint.

Fill a tube or watercolor pan and you have PAINT! I found these ½ pans on the internet and small tubes at my local art supply store.

Yarn Count Explained/Revisited

Yarn count is enormously interesting to beginning weavers but is also very complicated. What is so confusing is that this system was invented in the nineteenth century, and each fiber, such as cotton, linen, wool, or silk has its own specific method for determining the count. I explained yarn count in a previous post quite a long time ago. Please click this LINK to that post for the explanation.

Here’s how you can find the yards per pound when you know the yarn count (explained in the post mentioned above at the link given). The example here shows how to know the ypp (yards per pound) of 5/3 cotton.

A plied yarn is a yarn that is made up of more than one strand. For example, if you folded a one-ply yarn on itself, you would get a 2-ply yarn that would still weigh the same amount—for example, one pound—and would be half as long.

This illustration shows a 3-ply yarn. Diagonal lines can clearly be seen on yarns that are plied. If you look closely at the cut end in this illustration, you can see that there are 3 plies in the yarn, or 3 strands. Another way to count the plies is to untwist the end of a yarn and count the strands that can easily be seen.

By knowing the number of yards per pound of a yarn you can tell whether the yarn is fat or thin. If there are many yards in one pound the yarn is thinner than if there are only a few yards in a pound.

Summary: How to know if a yarn is fat or thin
The fraction given for a yarn tells if it is a thicker or thinner yarn by indicating the number of yards per pound. If cotton has a base count of 840 ypp for one strand, you can see that by looking at the counts only, 10/2 cotton (ten times the base count or 10 x 840, or 8400) has more yards per pound and, therefore is finer than 5/2 cotton (5 x 840 or 4200). Finally, by dividing the count’s ypp by the number of plies you get the yards per pound for 10/2 cotton as 4,200 ypp. The 5/2 cotton has only 2,100 yards in a pound (4 x 840 = 4,200 divided by 2 = 2,100 ypp).

Otherwise, look at the label for the yards per pound. Thinner yarns have more yards per pound than thicker ones. My mentor, Helen Pope told me thinner yarns are cheaper than fatter ones because you get more yards per pound.

In your weaving life, you’ll become familiar with some types of yarns and will remember some fractions and what they mean.

For more information, see my first book, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle HERE on pages 91 and 113-116.

When the Yarn Balance and yarn count differ.

Useful Information: More Charts

Reed Substitution Chart
When you don’t have the ideal reed for the sett (ends per inch), you must substitute one that you do have. Reeds go by dents per inch—meaning the number of spaces in the reed in one inch. The ideal reed accommodates two warp ends per dent, so that knots can pass through, and to avoid reed marks. The main thing you want to do is retain the epi (ends per inch) required.

Say you want to have 10 threads in one inch, and you have a reed that will give you 8 threads in an inch, you need to change from the ideal of 2 threads per dent to something else.

So, look for the sett (epi) you require (here, 10) in the column headed by the reed that you want to use (here, 8).

Look over to the left column (next to 10) to see the sequence that you will need to sley the reed to attain the sett you need. I see that what is given for an 8-dent reed for 10 epi, is sequence: 1-1-1-2—that is, one thread in a dent, another single thread, and yet another, then, 2 threads in the next dent. Or, 3 single threads per dent, then, a double. Repeat these 4 dents for all the warp threads.

Another example, which isn’t so pretty, is one where it doesn’t quite work out for the exact sett you want, and you have to compromise. You have to pick the one that’s close enough.

If your sett is 12 epi, and you only have a 10-dent reed, you would look in the column for 10 dent reeds and note that 12 ½ is close enough.

Then look over to the left column to see the sequence (order) that the threads should be placed (sleyed) into the dents: one, one, one, two.

Useful Equivalents
These are useful to have on hand. However, when I want to know something like this quickly, I often ask Google, etc.

Useful Formulae
These formulae can be useful to have on hand. However, I bet they are also on the internet!

Yards per Pound is Huge Key

A comment on my previous post gave more information about the yarn balance. It is available from Eugene Textile Center, in Eugene, Oregon ( www.eugenetextilecenter.com ) for $35. I find it one of my most important tools in my studio. It can tell you the yards per pound of a yarn as I explained in that post. In this post I want to show more about knowing the Yards per Pound.

Sett Chart for Plain Weave
You can see that by knowing the yards per pound in this sett chart you can get the yarn count of the yarn which is the number given on yarn labels. The diameters used in using the Ashenhurst Rule have been calculated, as well.

If you didn’t read about Ashenhurst and his rule when it was described in the recent post, “Sett Thoroughly Revisited on March 25, 2023,  https://peggyosterkamp.com/2023/04/sett-thoroughly-revisited/  refer to that post for links with information. There are 7 pages of charts for various fibers in my book Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle,  and 7 pages for the same yarns for twill. If a yarn is not listed in a chart, the formula to calculate your sett is given HERE https://peggyosterkamp.com/ashenhurst-rule/  . There is information in Weaving for Beginners with fewer charts and a way to use them to estimate your sett.

Sett Chart for Twill
Here you can see  the comparable chart for figuring the sett for twill. These charts also have calculated the diameters according to Ashenhurst, and the variations in sett for different purposes. (I use the 80% figure for “ordinary” fabrics.)