Getting the 40-shaft mechanical dobby going. Jim Ahrens built this loom in the 40’s. Beside the dobby shafts are 4 more made for a ground weave. You can see a small practice warp ready to see that the dobby mechanism works after replacing all the cords. A big project.
Here are the dobby bars I pegged for a design some years ago next to the mechanism. There is a single wide treadle to activate the dobby which is what makes the sheds. Next week we should see if all the adjustments and knots work like they should.
Here is a close up of the bars and pegs. Each bar represents one shed or row of weaving. The pegs tell the dooby which shafts to lift and lower to make the sheds.
The big pedal operates the dobby. The 4 regular pedals are meant to operate a ground weave which we aren’t using for our trial. Each press of the big pedal changes the shed (dobby bar with pegs).
For the trial only 4 shafts will be used.
Here are the completed 4 shafts with their individual weights at the bottom of each shaft. The cords for the remainder of the shafts are bunched up out of the way.
The Chinese National silk Museum is in a huge and beautiful building.
Here is one of the exhibition spaces. I wonder if our show will be there.
Now I have my business cards made–It is beginning to feel like it is really going to be.
I am going with my very favorite tour guide, Yoshiko Wada, with Slow Fiber Studios. There are two tours with her plus going to the BoND Symposium. The tour before is around the area of Shanghai and the tour after is to the Yi Minority Autonomous Region in Southwest Cina. Yoshiko’s trips are THE BEST. If you’ve folled my blog you know. I think registration is still open. Contact Slow Fiber Studios.
“Colorful World: Overview of Natural Dyes” The First Biennale of Natural Dyes
The advent of synthetic dyes in the 19th century has brought a steep decline in the centuries-old productions of natural dyes around the world. The beginning of the 21st century, however, saw a revival of interest in natural dyes as more people turn to nature for solace and harmonious living. Now, many international communities are advocating the use of natural dyes in modern practices and promoting researches on ancient dyeing techniques. In recognition for these artistic and scientific endeavors, the China National Silk Museum (CNSM) organizes the first biennale of natural dyes, with an aim to embrace the beauty of nature, as well as to explore the ancient wisdom and knowledge embodied in the traditional craft of dyeing.
Here are the needle cushions as they were woven, before cutting them apart. After sampling, I was happy with the way they looked. See below for some of the problems that needed solving.
I hated the spaces between the pattern threads as seen here. Read how I solved that below. I chose different colors of the pattern threads and doubled the number of threads to make them thicker. Then I was satisfied.
I went to my bible on Overshot techniques, Helene Bress’s book. On page 206 in the Overshot chapter was my answer! Her book has such depth with many ways to think about how one can design things. There must be thousands of images.
I wonder if I have a “thing” about needle books. The first one I had I made in 4-H when I was 10. I never saw the use of it and never used it. Then I saw one my friend Mary Rowe had when I was in New York. I think it was her mother’s in New Zealand. It was the cutest thing I ever saw so I made one for my best friend’s 40th birthday years ago. She still uses it a lot of years later. [ click photos to enlarge ]
Last month or so a weaver/friend died and I took care of finding homes for her loom and stash. I found the most wonderful needle “cushion” in with her things. (The colorful one full of her needles.) It now lives on my new dobby loom. I had to weave some of my own! I’ve been dyeing with black walnuts so I thought I would dye the cloth and the pattern threads–what whimsy and fun that was. I made a lot for gifts when I travel. On the rest of the warp I had fun designing 4 new fabrics without changing the threading.
These are needle books I have lying around–in my sewing box at home and near my looms in the studio. In 4-H I learned that one needed protein fiber for pins and needles so they won’t rust. So all the pages are wool fabrics. (The new needle cushions are made with silk).
The round yellow crocheted needle book is like the one I saw in New York and made for my friend. The inner “pages” are made from scraps of wool overshot fabic I wove when I was an apprentice with Jim Ahrens. The tiny heart shaped one I found in a sewing box at a thrift store–lovingly crocheted. The round, fat pin cushion with sashiko stitching I got in Japan and couldn’t resist it.
The last is a pin cushion I made and use now. We wove yards of this wool fabric in a production weaving class with Jim Ahrens at Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts in the 70’s. My inspiration was a pin cushion I got in Whales at a weaving mill made from their scraps. The red book came from there, too.
My mobile is 9 feet tall. We had to rent a photo studio to be able to take pictures for the entry. All the pieces are dyed with natural dyes: indigo, green persimmons (kakishibu) and black walnutes.I dyed lots of different white fabrics to get so many shades of colors.
It was exciting to be in a real photo studio. The Image Flow Photographic Center has this studio is in Mill Valley. There was equipment all over the place and being there made it possible to get these great photos by my photographer, Bob Hemstock.
The bamboo structure on top is constructed like an Alexander Calder mobile. Until we got it permanently balanced and held in place, it got knocked down time and time again whenever anyone touched it to rotate the pieces. To have it change sides and rotate in the air currents we used 7 fishing gear swivles.
A detail with mostly green persimmon dye. The Japanesse word is kakishibu. I got many colors and shades with it. I have quite a stash now of white fabrics that take the dyes differently and I have figured out ways to get mottled looks. The transparent blue fabric peeking out from the back side was dyed in my indigo vat.
This detail shows how I took shiny silk and turned the pieces 90 deagrees so the light caught it in different ways–similar to nap. I liked the way the fabric looked when it wasn’t ironed completely flat. That makes it shimmer more I think. Wish me luck at getting accepted into the international show.
Now my studio really looks like a weaving studio. My newest loom is in the center. All my looms except this new sweetie were built by Jim Ahrens. Now the new one was made by AVL looms—the “A” stands for Ahrens, so all the engineering is related. The ‘V’ stands for Jon Violette, who began the company with Jim and the ‘L’ stands for looms.
Are you wondering what the other looms are that circle the new one in the center? Starting with the loom on the left and going around clockwise: 10-shaft, side tie-up, 4-shaft loom, 40-shaft dobby built by Jim Ahrens in the 1940’s, and my love, the 4-shaft loom made of bird’s eye maple wood which I have used exclusively for years and years. Going to 12 is a giant and exciting step for me!
Here she is—a real sweetie. I’ve been trying to reduce and give away things but this loom from Jan Langdon I fell in love with years ago. When she decided to down size, she said I was the only person who had longed for it. It is a 12-shaft dobby about 36” wide. Note that in the photo, my 10-shaft loom with a side tie-up is back behind the new loom. Small in a way but the dobby will increase my capacity for new structures greatly. I’ve been wanting to weave a structure for years and finally decided to do it until I realized I would run out of treadles. The dobby solves that problem. Two treadles work the mechanism to raise the shafts. Notice it is on wheels—that has been very handy already. I just need a pillow on my bench.
Here’s the back of the loom. The dobby mechanism is on the left side in the photo.
This is the dobby mechanism. Each bar represents one shed or row of weaving.
A close-up shows the pegs in the bars. A special tool makes it easy to ‘peg’ each shed. The holes without pegs are the shafts that will go up. Since there are 12 shafts, there are 12 holes in each bar. When the right treadle is pressed, the mechanism raises the shafts for one bar—one shed. When the left treadle is pressed, the shed closes and the mechanism readies itself for the next shed. When all the holes are filled nothing will go up. It’s a way to mark the end of a repeat.
Here is the first thing I’ve woven! I wanted to shade the 12-shaft satin weave to go from only the warp showing graded to only the weft showing. The white warps are shiny spun silk (2 different yarns) and the weft is handspun silk from Bhutan that is not shiny.Then I dyed the piece lightly in black walnut dye. I was hoping the shades of the color would contrast more, to go in shades from light to dark–but that is what I’ll work on next. I thought the two yarns—one shiny and one mat would contrast more when in the dye. Lately I’ve been weaving cloth for the dye pot—really fun to weave and get my creative juices flowing.
Here I show the iron I used on this singles linen piece I made. I love the sheen on the linen.
Here is the iron stipped in its cradel to show the bottom with the holes for steaming. It has great steam and spray and holds its heat. I place it in the cradle when I shift the cloth. The cord to the cradle is plenty long and retracts easily. It can even steam or spray with the iron held vertically.
The carrying case is surprisingly handy. Sometimes I even carry it to my kitchen counter and iron a small piece on a towel.
I am reminded fondly of the special squeak my mother’s ironing board made.
Below you can see the link to the iron on Amazon.
Here is my current warp on my loom! Just what I taught my students to avoid–unevenly handspun singles yarns that are lumpy and sticky for warp threads. This is silk yarn I brought back from Bhutan–mainly to show the tour group what handspun yarn looked like. I did use plied threads for the 4 selvedge threads on the edges and weighted them separately. I used 5/2 cotton but a plied silk might have been a better idea.
From Linda Heinrich’s linen workshop at Convergence in 1994 and from her book on weaving linen I learned how easy it is to size a warp on the loom. Before now I’ve always been afraid to size anything. Her recipe is 1 tsp flax seed (any kind will do) to 1 cup of water. Simmer 15 minutes and strain. Refigerate and use within 2 weeks or freeze.I brush on the sizing then strum the threads and then open the shed to dry. Don’t apply too much–sort of like dry painting but pat the threads to get the sizing to go through to the bottom of the threads.
This is the yarn on the skein. I’ve shown it before to show the cross made in the skein. The threads are horribly sticky but with the cross the threads are coming off perfectly. There are plenty of soft-spun lumps and thin areas where it is twisted tighter. I knew from winding the yarn off the skein that the threads were strong–that’s what convinced me to try them for a warp. The stickyness would have prevented the sheds from opening without sizing I realized.
Here is the cloth off the loom and wet finished. I got the cloth really wet in the sink then blotted with a towel. And ironed until dry I love ironing and ironing until dry and I love the sheen I got with the totally mat yarns.
Here is the cloth I just dyed with black walnuts I collected last week. What frun all this is. I can’t wait for the warp to dry and begin weaving again.
The fine silk warp at 125 ends per inch stymied me and I walked away and left it on the loom for a year and a half. I thenbegan dyeing. I knew there were enough threads left unbroken to weave so I began weaving with some heavier handspun silk from Bhutan. When I took off the entire warp, This piece is what I found had already been woven–and I loved it. Originally I was weaving a tube but had decided to weave two separate layers–hence this piece was formed! [click photos to enlarge to see detail]
Here is the cloth woven with the silk from Bhutan. I decided just to weave off the warp with it so I could cut it up to dye later with the natural dyes I’ve been playing with.
You may remember the skein from Bhutan from another post. The skein was unusual because there was a cross in it. Even this extremely sticky thread came off the skein perfectly.
Here is my latest peice–5 yards to try the new silk/retted bamboo thread I saw in Handwoven Magazine. I love it. I the twill warp face on one side and weft faced on the other so when I dye it I’ll have two choices of tones of color.
Today I started to weave again after over a year. It takes two swifts to hold the skein.
This skein of raw silk from Bhutan has a cross in the middle of it! I’d never seen such a skein before. However it really makes it easy to ball off the yarn because of the cross. This is definitely hand spun and sticky.
Here’s that hand spun yarn woven with my fine silk warp at 125 EPI.
I decided to try a fatter weft so the weaving would go faster. I may have a dog on the loom. I’ve spent so much time already with broken ends I can’t quite give it up yet. I think I’ll use the cloth to dye with my dyes I brought back from Japan. I’m weaving two layers at once. Well since I’m going slowly anyway, why not?
I had accumulated a large pile of fabrics I collected for collages and it was growing uncontrollably. I decided to organize them by value. That was too foreboding at first so I sorted them by color (hue) then I took each pile and took out the light ones for the box of light-values.
Next I pulled out the darkest value ones for the dark box. That made it easier to fill the medium box.
The fourth box was for larger pieces of cloth.
What fun. But I sure had a backache after all that working with piles on the floor.
I was busy over the holidays making this piece. All the fabrics were dyed with black walnuts I collected in early December. Some I put in iron water for a short time to “sadden” or grey the colors. There were two different fabrics which were shiny so I could play with the color differences when I turned them 90 degrees. I cut the squares and turned them 90 degrees from each other to get the same effect as changing the nap in corduroy or velvet. I mounted the pieces on cotton fabric strips and moved them around to make the composition. Then I mounted all the strips on black fabric. Everything was joined with long straight pins. Some time ago I realized the straight pins in my pin cushion were too fat for silk fabrics so I got “Extra-Long Satin Pins”.
Last night when only one light was on in the room, the pins themselves shimmered for further effect.
When I got started I wanted to know what fiber my fabrics were made of. I went to my files to look up “burn test” and there was a page from my own book! I’m still not exactly sure of what I have—it came from a warehouse sale I went to in November. I think they are silk. Here is the chart from my book, “Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth“.
Many years ago I took a class in damask and learned about satins and I focused on warp face and weft face and color. I don’t know why I thought I needed 11 yards, but I made the warp that long. I would say it was about 15” wide. The warp was blue and grey out of 20/2 pearl cotton. The threading was 2 blocks and then I played with how colors mixed and looked next to each other. I still have a large stash of a lot of colors and shades of sewing thread which I used for wefts.
Since I was playing, sometimes the “right side” was on top and sometimes the “wrong side”. Of course there was no repeat!
When I showed it to my students one day Antione Alexander said he could make a coat out of it. The next week he had a muslin and the next week the completed coat! WOW! Later I had a seamstress put in interfacing and a lining. I wore it to the symphony a few weeks ago and have gotten nice compliments every time I wear it. I really feel I lucked out! I think he did a great job.
After each trip I seem to need to patch worn places and last time, a 3-corner tear. (I learned the name for that kind of tear in 4-H as a kid). When we took this photo, I realized that I’d sewn one of the pockets shut!! Another job to do before the next trip. Here is the current version after the trip to Japan in May. It felt so good when I put it on for the photos–nice and clean. At the end of a trip it is limp from sweat and constant wearing every day! I love it because of the pockets: for my camera, purse, train tickets, hotel key pad and pen. This is a Safekeeper vest made by Marion Gartler in Seattle. She brought them to Berkeley for a trunk show a few years ago.
I took a workshop with Yoshiko Wada’s Slow Fiber Studios in Berkeley, California recently. We learned to fold cloth in origami-like ways and then we did arashi shibori (pole wrapping shibori) with the cloth and got these lovely simple patterns. The teacher was Chris Palmer and his book is called Shadow folds: Surprisingly Easy-to-Make Geometric Designs in Fabric by Jeffrey Rutzky and Chris K. Palmer.
I folded and dyed 11” silk squares I got already hemmed from Dharma Trading Company. This was my first attempt at arashi shibori and I used my own indigo vat. I am proud of the results for such a novice. They can be used singly or as a group as pieces for the wall or gifts.
I took small pieces I’ve dyed and made little collage compositions and mounted them on squares of dark indigo linen I got in India a few years ago. We went to see the Matisse and Diebenkorn show yesterday and I decided to call these pieces “My Little Diebenkorns”! They can be used singly or in a group, too. I have put similar pieces in CD cases to present them! They also could be little coasters or gifts.
I had really nice responses to my previous post which showed details of my new collage wall hangings with my dyed fabrics. Now you can see what they are like in reality. There are seven–all 11″ wide and 36″ long. Now if you want to see details again, you can go back to the first post. Click on these thumbnails to see them full size then click again to see the detail.
Finally! I wove a record of 7 1/2 inches the other day–in a 2-hour session. I think most of the repairs are done now and I can weave along. You can see how it is going on the video.
Here is a close up of the cloth with only one broken thread repair–hooray! I think I am finally on my way now. I make the repairs with colored sewing thread so I can see what I’m doing. Usually those threads will continue until the end of the warp so it will be a bit of a surprise to see what it looks like off the loom. I have about a yard done so far with the previous sessions averaging an inch or so each because of all the repairs that needed to be done. For each repair, I have to find the missing heddle and route the repair thread in the exact position where the broken thread was. I join the sewing thread to the silk one and weight it at the back of the loom. See a previous post of my set-up to weight the threads and keep them in order–keeping them in order is crucial so I have a cross on the stand where the weighted threads are.
Each composition is made up of fabrics that were in the same dye pot. The differences in the tones are due to the different fabrics I put into the pot. I love these subtle “colors”. The yellows were from woad plants. The browns were from green persimmons over dyed with indigo. I especially find myself liking things that have almost no color at all. One of these is from oak galls. I can’t remember all the specifics but I like to put dyed fabrics in a bath of iron water to “sadden” the color.
Over the holidays I dyed a lot in my very first indigo vat. Lots and lots of dips were necessary to get the different shades. I always used a variety of silks and cottons in each dye bath to get a variety of close tones. I’m thrilled with the results and all the “colors” I could get just by using different cloths. Then I did similar experiments with saffron, henna and turmeric. It has been fun seeing what I could get. My next post will show some of the art pieces I made using these small pieces.
I’m weaving 125 fine threads per inch so I can weave another ruffle (see my gallery) which I will shibori dye with indigo. Then the ruffle will disappear and appear in the dyed and un-dyed areas. [click any photo to enlarge]
I’m trying to weave with finer-than-ever silk threads. I should have starched them first but didn’t because I didn’t realize it would be necessary. That would have made the threads stronger. There are 125 threads per inch and I made more threading errors than I’ve ever made in my life. I have spent hours correcting these almost invisible threads and have lost a few and a few have broken –there are 16 threads to date that are hanging off the back of my loom and I expect I’ll have more as I weave along. Here is a close up of the weaving and one broken thread pinned in. (I’ve been mending the threads with sewing thread so I can see them.)
I used this stand which I’d used when I was weaving velvet to rig up a way to keep all the threads from tangling. Knowing that the only thread that can’t tangle is one under tension this is what I did.
I took the threads as they came from the warp beam and made a cross to keep them in order.
I took a workshop called Shibori and Sublimation Printing on the weekend. It was really inspiring. We were dying on polyester using shibori techniques and dying by sublimation using disperse dyes and a heat press. I hope to use the ideas with my persimmon dyes on silk and cotton.
I’ve been interested that I could dye with green persimmons for awhile and I have a friend with persimmon trees. But when I got Chris Conrad’s book, “Kakishibu: Traditional Persimmon Dye of Japan”” and found I could buy the dye already made I was hooked. These are some of my first experiments. I love them and have more pictures for an album we’ll make later. Her book told me all I needed to know to get started. Visit her website : http://kakishibui.com/