Here are a few photos about another loom built by Jim Ahrens: his 40-shaft dobby loom which he built during the second world war in the 40’s. These are just to whet your appetite for the information you’ll find on ahrenslooms.com. My apprentice, Vera Totos and I made the site because it was important to show how Jim’s looms worked.
This is part of a chain I used to weave the music notes for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star several years ago. Over time some pegs have been removed.
Here is the backside of the dobby chain and some of the dobby mechanism. You can see it took a lot of bars for the first phrase of the tune.
Part of the mechanism has a cord with a knot for each of the 40 shafts. When a peg hits the mechanism it pushes the corresponding cord so it can’t go throought the hole, thus moving that shaft.
Here is a photo near the beginning of our restoration of the loom. Lots and lots of cords and knots!!
This was forwarded to me by Yoshiko Wada–my textile guru who I adore. I’ve been on several of her trips to Japan and taken wonderful workshops at her studio in Berkeley. Slow Fibers Studio is her website. Her trips anywhere are fabulous and she is enormously knowledgeable about so many things and people where ever she goes. She gives classes on many of the techniques you see on the video. I took one by this master in Japan in the town of Arimatsu where the video is located. The town is a lovely town with traditional Japanese architecture everywhere. It is south of Nagoya. Nagoya itself has a fantastic museum: the Toyota Museum–Toyota first was a loom manufacturing company and there are wonderful old and modern looms working on display. There also is a huge and wonderful automobile section.
I’ve been weaving a lot of white lately, mostly silks that Iinherited from Ethel Aotoni when she died. I had the intention to dye them. The silk threads took the light differently whether you looked at them warps wise of weft wise. This fabric is a white 12-end satin. I tried to see if I could make it completely warp face with strong colored wefts. i.e white on one side and red or black on the other. When I had the fabric in hand I noticed that it changed color accoring to whether the warp or the weft was vertical. You can only see the borders and center when the light is just right. (You can see bits of white showing the warps peeking through on the edges of the squares I cut). These are works in progress, nothing is set yet. [ click to enlarge any photo ]
Here is what the red and white pieces look like when looking straight on–no borders or center color change.
This piece I dyed with black walnuts. Weaving the 12 end satin going in 11 stages from warp face to weft face. It didn’t look very interesting as a whole but I liked a lot of the sections. That is why I decided to cut the squares. Then I realized the light-play and came up with this design.
Another satin warp of silk dyed with black walnuts. I dyed the weft silk before weaving. Then I dyed the whole piece again in a light walnut dye with iron after bath. This photo shows how the light changes the darks and lights.
This was the first white warp satin I did and I couldn’t bear to dye it. It feels gorgeous, and I love the way the fabric takes the light.
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.
I learned that many people don’t buy DVD’s anymore—in fact computers often don’t have a drawer (or slot?) for them—and people don’t even own a DVD player. This reminds me of the VHS videos I used to sell that are now useless.
Now you can either purchase my “Warping the Loom Back to Front” as a real DVD or download it or stream it on demand from the Vimeo website. I am thrilled that I can offer all of these methods to my customers. To kick off this event, I have reduced the physical DVD price from $34.95 to $19.95. The Vimeo options are to buy it for $9.95 (stream or download anytime) or rent it for 48 hours for $4.99. See my Vimeo page HERE. I’m proud to say that after 14 years in production, people are still ordering the DVD.
For anyone who bought a DVD in the last year at the higher price, you can contact me HERE and we’ll make a settlement together—say a free book, another DVD or credit for a download or Weaving for Beginners.
I hope you’ll want this on all your devices. Always have it nearby–handy at the warping board, when beaming, or threading the heddles. Learn how to make great warps with perfect tension and to thread the heddles without mistakes. My mentor, Jim Ahrens said, warping is 50% of weaving and if done well, the weaving will be hassle free without tangles or broken threads.
We even made a real “trailer”. It feels almost like I’m in the movie business.
Remember: The only thread that can’t tangle is one under tension! Happy weaving!—-Peggy
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.
Lease sticks are important in my weaving at so many stages. Shown here they are holding the crosses in both a new warp and the old one in preparation for tying on a new warp. The illustration is from my book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps” which is no longer in print. (However it can be downloaded as a PDF.) This is the subject of my next eBook which will be coming soon. Then you can have the process on your devices right at the loom as you proceed. I found it more convienient when I was hemstitching to have my iPhone at the loom, rather than the whole book.
People mostly know of lease sticks used in threading the heddles. Do you know why they are called lease sticks? Because what we now call the “cross” is officially called the “lease”. So these are the sticks that hold the lease.This image is from my book Weaving for Beginners. I like THIN lease sticks–the thick ones are cumbersom and take up too much space in my opinion. Jim Ahrens (the “A” part of AVL) made lovely thin, narrow ones. They are now available at AVL Looms.
We just made the cover today. Remember it’s not available yet–but coming soon! This is always an exciting time of the process–seeing the cover!
I needed to hemstitch the other day and had to get out my big book, Weaving for Beginners, which was so big that it made it impossible to do the stitching. So I got out my Mini iPad and opened up my Kindle book on hemstitching. Perfect–then I taught myself again how to make the stitches. I was all thumbs at first but when I got it, it was quick and easy.
Then I got out my iPhone and it worked better than ever. What fun! I learned to hemstitch way late in my weaving life so on one piece I even forgot to use it.
So, I got it! Since this will be on the hem on the back of the piece, I didn’t need to be careful about having every group of threads the same size. The reason here is to keep the last wefts from unravelling. You should leave at least an inch of warp on the piece before cutting it off the loom.
You can get a copy of my Kindle Hemstitching booklet for just $2.99 HERE.
Next month I’ll publish my third booklet. This one will be about a unique way of “Tying On New Warps”. FYI: the second booklet is “Weaver’s Knots“.
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.
In my last post I showed some work that has inspired me and this time I’ll show some of my own work that resulted. [click photos to enlarge]
I have used horse hair in quite a few of my pieces, especially in my sheer pieces I called veils. Here are 5 I made to hang separately or as a whole.
Here are two details.
Another detail that shows a cow’s tail I wove in.
These photos are of a table runner in linen where I flattened the warp threads using a rolling pin on a bread board.
The detail gives an idea how silky and shiny it looks in the warp face areas.
This piece is one of two I have by Adela Akers. She weaves narrow strips on her 4-shaft floor loom. Here are two stitched together with black horse hair woven in. Between the folds she has attached little red twigs from a tree in her yard. The red is the natural color, she painted the black color. The piece is 12” wide by 14” tall. [click images to enlarge]
This is another piece woven by Adela. Here, three strips are joined. Again, she has woven in horse hair. It is about 12” x 11”.
This piece is by Sandra Greenlee. I love the simplicity/complexity, borders, everything. She weaves in the black patterns using inlay technique. I read that she opens the shed then decides what black threads she wants to lay in, each weft at a time. Originally I thought she had a jacquard loom—and I was crazy about the fact that she used it so sparingly. How mistaken I was—but I think it would be a good thing to try. Dimensions are 9 1/2” x 12 1/2”. Notice how nicely she finished the top and bottom and designed the selvedges.
The last piece is by Lia Cook. I remember fondly when she was weaving these lovely twills in fat rayon butchers string and then pressing them hard to flatten the large wefts. Dimensions are 7” x 8 ½”. I often wondered if it was one of her original samples. It gave me the idea of framing some of the experiments that I wove.
How these have inspired me:
Each artist has inspired my own weaving. I have used horse hair in my sheer silk pieces. I wove rose thorn twigs in other sheer silk pieces. I have always been fascinated by selvedges and little warp face patterns. And I pressed some linens I wove after hearing Lia talk about flattening her pieces using a rolling pin. I have these pieces on my walls in my living room and they continue to bring pleasure and inspiration.
I have revived my indigo vats and neither of them is dark enough for my taste. This picture is what I gave as gifts to the artisans we visited in Japan last year. The writing is Peggy Osterkamp. Gift wrapping is important there. This is the blue I hoped for with the revived vats now. [click images to enlarge]
This is what I got from my oldest vat after many dips. I was disappointed but maybe I’ll learn to like it. I plan to dip again in my “younger” vat and see if I can achieve the depth of color.
The technique I learned from a class with Yoshiko Wada with Chris Palmer. After folding the cloth I wrapped it on a pole for dying–called “arashi shibori”. I love the technique and the mysterious lines it makes.
When I was living in New York in 1983 I began volunteering in the Textile Department at the Cooper Hewitt Museum (now part of the Smithsonian). Milton Sonday was the curator and a wonderful mentor for me. He introduced me to Ethel Stein and I visited her home and studio one day. She taught me the secret for using the warping paddle and was friendly and generous with her time .
She had just finished building her drawloom after figuring out the mechanics to make it work. She began with a countermarch loom and converted it to the drawloom after studying damask fabrics at the Cooper Hewitt with Milton.
I was thrilled to find this video of her working and think you’ll love it. I hope to have a video of me working to play at my memorial some day! Other weavers might consider doing the same thing.
I have my indigo vats from some months ago and they look awful but i was determined to revive them if possible. The vats were covered with mold.After I doctored up the little vat, I think it looks pretty good–the flower looks just fine, but maybe the surface needs to be more coppery–not just along that edge.
Here is my asparagus cooker vat–I love the size for doing the small pieces that I do and the basket inside keeps things from getting lost in the vat and off the bottom, too. My tiny kitchen in my apartment is also my dye kitchen. When I’m not heating dye pots on my two burners, my dish drainer sits on the burners. This is my ironing set up for small pieces. I take my iron down the hall to a regular ironing board when needed. I absolutely love my cordless iron–it has points at both ends. Mine is a Panasonic.
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“.
When Pat Keily sent me his question, I gave him my thoughts but non suited his problem with floating shafts with multiple tie-ups. Here is what he wrote for this guest post to explain the problem and his happy solution. Thanks for contributing this tip, Pat!
“I have a 67-year-old LeClerc Nilus 36-inch, 10 treadle loom that has given me fits. The problem has been floating frames on multiple tie-ups. For some reason still unbeknownst to me, depressing a treadle would cause one or more frames to “float” an inch or so off the bottom. I was finally able to determine the cause and solution by googling the right key words. The problem is caused by the weight of the treadles (but why depressing a treadle would cause this is beyond me) lifting the jack. The solution is to install springs that keep the treadles from weighing down the frames. After searching for the right size springs and seeing they would cost over $50, my wife came up with a much better idea. We went to the Dollar Store and bought clasp-free hair bands for 10 cents each (pack of ten for a dollar). I bought 20 eye screws, installed ten in the end of the treadles and ten on a hardwood strip that I attached to the loom (Pat told me that he opened the “eyes” with two pairs of pliers). I slipped the hair band (fancy rubber bands) onto the eye screws and my floating frames floated right out of my life!”
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.
Day 22. A cosmopolitan day in Tokyo. In the morning we went to the Shibuya district to look for interesting contemporary shops and up-to-date people watching. I was shocked at the crowds we saw when we got out of the subway. All these people were waiting for the light to change so they could cross the street. We ducked into the Seibu department store to get away from the hordes of people and to cool off. There were nice contemporary and designer clothes to look at. I got a nice linen blouse.
We left these Shibuya crowds and headed for our favorite tea shop for lunch. It was too crowded so we headed for our favorite lunch place and the wait was worse so we went across the alley to another place and had a great lunch in the Omonte-Santo district.
Then we spent the afternoon in the Nihombashi district in the Takashimaya department store. On an upper floor were maybe a dozen craftsmen (and their wives) demonstrating their craft and selling their goods. This weaver was weaving weft ikat fabric and had lovely things. I treated myself to a tote bag with a crane on it done in weft ikat. In another area was a weaver of fabric for contemporary clothing. I bought a simple jacket for myself. My friend at home asked me to buy her something that I would like. We were lucky there was another jacket just like it so I got one for my friend who lives across the hall from me.
Then home to our hotel in the Shiba district for a “last night” sake. It was sad to think of leaving a country we love so much. Then to our room to eat a lovely take-out dinner complete with a delicious bing cherry tart. Then the job of packing began. We leave Tuesday morning and will get into San Francisco Tuesday afternoon.
This is gold leaf on paper cut into strips for wefts for obi weaving. For the paper warp loom in my previous post I think the paper was cut in a similar way and put on the loom before the strips were detached from the paper at the margins. The gold leaf can be patterned or plain.
Day 14. Leaving Okinawa for Kyoto. The architecture in all of Okinawa was so ugly to my eye. This was outside the front door of our hotel. We realized that everything had been bombed during the war and this is what has been built since. The people and the textiles more than made up however.
Beautiful beautiful Kyoto. We walked along some residential streets on our first day in Kyoto and I loved seeing the beauty here. This is what I seek out in Japan. This is an old style building with the second floor being very low. It would have been where the servants lived. The slits for windows upstairs were for collecting crickets we were told. They they would have been kept in small cages. I remember seeing the cages at Cost Plus when we came to San Francisco in the 60s.