Our Day At Caravan Beads

Getting ready for a day of teaching at Caravan Beads:  www.caravanbeads.com.  The guy to the left is Barry. His head looks just like a camera with a big lens.  Folks are wandering around collecting their wits and their beads. I will eventually remember to take my coat off.  Oh, that’s me to the right.

Who is that lovely woman above in the blue shirt?  That’s one of our “social networking” winners, Christina (Good Quill Hunting). She lives in the Portland, Maine area so was able to meet us at Caravan Beads to pick up her loom. As terrific in person as she is on paper (or on computer). Check out Christina’s blog:  http://goodquillhunting.wordpress.com/

It begins.  We’re off.  Smooth sailing all the way. I barely had to teach.  Indeed, even though the Caravan staff had not woven on the Mirrix Loom before, they were able to translate all their other bead knowledge into instant success. Eventually, I just sat back and watched Elena and Barry invent a new way to put on heddles.  

Look at those smiles!!!

One of many walls of beads and other great things to buy. If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Caravan in person, maybe you should. It’s worth a plane ride or a long car ride. It’s just plain worth it. Plus, the staff there knows how to set up and use the Mirrix Loom.  

We’re Ready!

Yesterday Claudia and I went up to Caravan Beads in Portland, Maine http://www.caravanbeads.net/  to visit with Barry and his family and employees and so Claudia could teach his employees on the Mirrix Loom. We also met Christina Neit (one of the participants in Social Market for a Mirrix) there and gave her her loom! We can’t wait for her to start blogging! This blog will now be handed over to our social marketers although I’ll probably still poke my head in and write sometimes. Check back!!!


Weaving Tapestry on the Mirrix Loom

I am about ten inches into my tapestry using the new Mirrix Tapestry Starter Kit.  I have to admit, I haven’t been weaving much tapestry in the last few years.  I’ve been totally stuck on beads.  Every time I would try to weave a tapestry (mainly so I could put a photo on the website) I would get a few inches done and then return to bead weaving.  I have no idea why certain mediums come in and out of favor for me.  I had stopped preparing my own yarn (getting the fleece, washing the fleece, dyeing the fleece, combing or carding the fleece and spinning the dyed fleece into color-blended tapestry yarn) and I guess I just didn’t feel I could weave without using my own yarn.  The reason I had stopped the whole fiber preparation process is I ran out of time.  Between running Mirrix, my family and being a State Rep. there didn’t seem to be that extra time to turn fleece into yarn.  It’s such a long and meditative process.  There are so many steps and so much time involved in each step.  I do miss it.  So from my spinning glory days when a basket of my homespun yarn graced the covers of Spin-Off magazine accompanying an article I wrote about how to spin for color, I was back to using commercially prepared yarn.

Now, I am inspired.  Turning the yarn for the kits into balls allowed me time to think about the process of weaving again.  It is so different from bead weaving.  I can no longer say which one I like best.  Ten years ago I would have said tapestry.  A few months ago I would have said bead weaving.  At this moment I will say BOTH.  I love both.

What I have rediscovered:

First of all, I am not going for a great design here.  I am just playing with color.  The goal was to take the Mirrix tapestry starter kit and turn it into an iPad case.  First I had to figure out the correct measurement.  The first warp I put on the loom was not wide enough.  In fact, I had put two warps on the loom:  one for the iPad case and one for an iPod case.  Once I wove in the header I discovered that the iPad case would be about seven and a half inches wide and the iPod case would be about three inches wide.  Both pieces had drawn in.  Of course they did.  That is the nature of tapestry.  Figure roughly an inch of draw in for every foot wide of weaving.  And because you know it’s going to happen eventually, you need to make it happen with the header.  What you see in the spring above in terms of width is not what you are going to see below once you’ve woven in your header.  So to fix this I had to add more warp.  Since I already had the heddles on and had started weaving, this wasn’t that easy.  I had to sneak another eight warps onto the iPad case and another four or five to the iPod case.  I released the tension on the loom to do this and amazingly enough was able to get the same tension on the new warps.  Then I had to add new heddles.  To do this I had to remove the shedding device from the clips and kind of let it just hang there.  I also had to remove some of the heddles already on the loom and tie them with string so I could easily replace them.  All of this was slightly awkward and not a lot of fun because I wanted to start weaving already!  I did fine with the iPad case but somehow screwed up the heddles on the iPod case once the shedding device was back in place.  So everything was ready to go and I discovered that the iPod case had a heddle in the wrong place which would have meant redoing all those heddles and once again delaying weaving.  I did what anyone would have done.  I cut the iPod warp off!  Which is why the loom now just has one warp (in a previous post I said it would have two).

What I relearned/remembered:

Tapestry and bead weaving are two very different species.  Beads are tiny and sometimes hard to catch and put in place but they are hard and require only a couple of techniques to weave.  Sure, you can do get fancy and increase and decrease, but even that is pretty straight forward.  Tapestry, on the other hand, can employ dozens of techniques.  Each one needs to be mastered.  But first you have to master the technique of getting your selvedges to be straight.  Fortunately, you have an extreme advantage with the Mirrix Loom because of the tension you can ramp up on that warp.  The greater the tension, the less chance the selvedges will start to draw in.  But tension is not the only ingredient.  Understanding what’s happening with that line of weft is crucial in understanding how to prevent your selvedges from drawing in.  I was nervous that I would fail at even that basic goal.  However, it did come back to me (I am getting my bicycle out tomorrow!).  Let me explain the basic concept here.  If you lay a straight line of tapestry weft into the shed the line of weft remains straight until you change the shed.  Once you change the shed the weft becomes scalloped in every place there is a warp.  If you’ve just laid in a straight weft, in order to produce enough weft to allow for those scallops, extra weft will be pulled from the selvedges of your tapestry.  There just isn’t enough weft to go around.  So you have to compensate for that in the first place.  When using a bunch of discontinuous wefts, compensation almost happens naturally.  You’ve got the extra weft just because every start and ending creates a little more yarn in the joining places.  But if you are using one or just a couple of wefts (and yes, sometimes just weaving stripes is really hard!) you have to do the following:  Make sure the weft is wrapped tightly enough around the side warp to not have a baggy loop but not so tightly that it draws in at all. Lay the weft in to the warp in a curve and then take your finger and push down on that curve about every three or four inches so that the curve becomes a series of humps.  Change the shed.  Do this again.  Change the shed.  do this again. Then take your beater and beat it all together.  If you’ve done this correctly there will be no loops of wefts at the selvedges, the selvedges will not pull in at all, and there will not be little extra blobs of weft sticking out anywhere in the weaving.  What you will see is a smooth patch of flat weaving.  The best way to test your skill at this is to weave simple stripes for a long distance.  If you can accomplish that, you’ve mastered the art of straight selvedges.

Think about the two possible final products when weaving stripes.  One piece has straight selvedges and is totally flat with no visible loops around the side warps.  Another piece pulls in like a triangle, has baggy bits here and there, loops hanging off the side warps and is not flat.  Obviously, the first one would be lovely as long as your weft yarn is attractive and the colors work well together.  The second piece would be a failure no matter how gorgeous your yarn and your colors.

A trick for making sure your don’t get too complacent.  You can be doing everything right but get so into the flow of things that your weaving starts to pull in slightly.  That happens even to the best tapestry weavers.  So a rule of thumb is:  measure your width every half inch or so.  Don’t just eyeball it because your eye wants to see what it wants to see.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen perfection and then found I was actually off by quite a lot.  If you find your are starting to pull in by even the slightest fraction of an inch, you can correct it by making sure the next row is wider.

Another complicating problem with tapestry that doesn’t happen with beads (which are even and hard and make their own rules with or without your input) is the tendency for warps to want to not always be evenly spaced.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe they are just mean and want to test you every step of the way.  Again, excellent tension is imperative to prevent this from happening.  However, even with excellent tension sometimes you will find that the warps on the outside of the piece are growing farther and farther apart while the inside warps are drawing closer and closer together.  It is so annoying.  You’ve got to fix this the second you see this happening.  Just start pushing those warps back into place with each new line of weft.  Make them listen.  Place extra weft on the sides, weaving short distances back and forth to bring those warps closer together.  You can fix it but not if you’ve let this go too far.  The other result of your warps becoming too spaced at the selvedges is the appearance of ridges where the warps aren’t lying as flat as they should.  It’s almost a curling process.  It’s not pretty.  Again, it can be fixed by pulling those warp threads back into their correct alignment.

Beyond the Basics:

Thinking about it:  tension really is the key to almost all fiber or bead work.  Once you’ve mastered that in any given medium you can move on to the fun stuff.  It’s always frustrating to have to get past that point.  I remember trying for days to figure out how you actually start crochet!  What a mystery.  Now it seems so utterly simple.  Same with knitting.  Same with bead crochet, peyote, herringbone stitch . . . . rug hooking, basket making . . . they all have that weird “how the heck do I start this and then get the tension even???

My goal with this iPad case is to get my selvedges even, keep my warps nicely lined up, make sure my rows of weft are flat and even and to stay sane with my color placement.  I just want to produce a functional and attractive piece.  If the case proves to still be a little to slim for the iPad, I plan to weave a fake inkle band on the Mirrix and sew that along the sides of the tapestry, giving a little more width to the case as well as a handle.  I also crocheted a small patch that I plan to felt and then apply as an outside pocket.

Now back to the loom!

Congratulations to Christina and Sherri!

CONGRATULATIONS Christina Neit & Sherri Woodard Coffey, the chosen participants for our “Social Network for a Mirrix” campaign! Keep checking back to follow their Mirrix experiences! Congratulations also go out to our runners-up! Thank you to everyone who applied! We had some amazing applications and it was very difficult to choose just two people to participate.  We picked several runner-ups who will receive a 30% discount on a loom. If this whole project is successful (and we are guessing it will be) we will do it all over again in a few months.  Keep watching for notices.


This is very exciting! Christina Neit & Sherri Woodard Coffey were chosen yesterday as the two main participants in our campaign, “Social Market for a Mirrix”! We also chose four (I know, I know, we said two… but it was so hard!) runners-up who get a discount and, if they decide to purchase, will also do a bit of blogging for us. 

Congratulations to everyone! We were very impressed with both the quality and quantity of applications!

Now we need to spend a little time sorting out contracts and sending looms and making sure everyone is on the same page. Keep checking back, though, because soon this blog will be about Christina and Sherri. We hope you’re as excited as we are!

In other news… Claudia has been working hard making fantastic tapestry kits. They will include all you need to begin tapestry weaving and the yarn is GORGEOUS! I’ll be happy when the first batch is done and the studio is no longer filled the the squeal of the yarn winder, but I think it will be worth it. 

Right now I am in the middle of a big huge giant site redesign. We have a new logo, a new look for the site and even new navigation. Hopefully this will make the site uber-easy to navigate! We’re really trying to get things polished up! I’m hoping to get the new site launched by the end of April, but we’ll see. Keep checking back! 


Some fun pictures of the Mirrix Loom

The big white photo tent was in my studio so we decided we should take a few pictures because the sun is actually out for the first time in ages!  Thought you would enjoy seeing these.  First, the Mirrix party:

Behind everyone is the 22 inch loom.  To the right and in front of it is the 16 inch loom sporting a tapestry. To the left of that is the 8 inch loom with half of the beaded cuff pastel bracelet (tomorrow I finish it . . . well, maybe not, but I’ll make a dent).  And in front is hte 16 inch loom with the ipod kit in progress.

Then we took these:

Close up of pastel bead weaving.  Gotta love those colors!

Inkle Weaving on the Mirrix: Sort of

I warped up the Mirrix with perle cotton.  I don’t recall what the weight is (can’t recall what the weights of perle cotton are period and don’t want to take time to look them up . . . you can though!).  Wasn’t very thick.  I used a 22 dent spring.  (My next experiment will leave the spring out completely just as there is no spring on an inkle loom because the warps are meant to lie next to one another and the spring creates a slight separation.)  The idea was to create an inkle band.  Actually, originally I put two sets of warps on the loom.  The second one experienced so much experimentation that it finally accidentally got cut and was removed from the loom.  Let me show you a picture of the remaining warp and explain what I ended up doing with it.

See the bands of color in the warp?  See that the piece did not turn out weft-faced they way an inkle band should be.  What happened?  Again, the spring at the top was not a great idea.  Also, I used a novelty yarn which was too thick.  However, I LOVED the result.  Let me show you another picture of it.
There are vertical stripes and horizontal stripes.  It’s actually more of an even weave.  I will put the correct warp on the loom and weave with the correct weft to get a genuine inkle band, but for now I am having so much fun experimenting with the concept of both warp and weft showing.  The way you beat down the weft is by using an inkle shuttle.  This is a small shuttle with a sharp edge on one side.  As you are passing through your weft you pause first to beat down the previous weft with you shuttle.  You do this after you’ve changed the shed.  Then you pull your shuttle through and change the shed.  I am thinking my next experiment will be with a wider piece.  Maybe three or four inches wide.  And I am thinking that this piece could fold up beautifully into an ipod or cellphone purse and take very little time to weave but be rather gorgeous.  Final picture of piece close-up follows:
What am I going to use it for?  I had used the perle cotton to crochet a purse.  I am going to use this for the sides and the handle.  Will post final creation once it’s finally created!
Just remember:  You can weave just about anything on a Mirrix!


Some Things I’ve Made

My house is filled with things I’ve made on the loom over the years but for some reason I’ve not photographed a lot of those pieces.  I took a little walk around the house and picked out a few tapestry pieces to share with you.  It’s good stuff for those just embarking on the amazing journey of tapestry since these pieces are simple in their design.  I had fun with the colors (some use hand-dyed wool) and with the concept of straight lines or geometrical shapes. Let me show you.

This was my first totally symmetrical tapestry.  In order to guarantee that it would turn out symmetrical, rather than just eye-ball it as I went along, I cut all the color yarns to be exactly the same length.  It worked.  I used rug yarn that I bought at Halcyon.
I didn’t want the lines of this piece to be straight.  The yarn is rug yarn that I dyed.  I was pleased that the selvedges were so straight.  That is always the hard part but by then I finally owned a Mirrix and getting those selvedges straight was a lot easier than it had been in the past.  Also, both this piece and the one above are woven on a linen warp.  Linen gives your piece amazing body and because the warp on the Mirrix is continuous (ie., you don’t have to tie pairs of threads) the linen will go on perfectly evenly.  So I suggest to those of you who have avoided linen because it is so hard to get all the pairs tied to the same tension, give it a go on your Mirrix.  It’s wonderful.
Another piece woven on a linen warp. I used the same trick as with the first piece.  However, this was hand-dyed wool.  Problem was, this piece sat in sunlight for a few years and the hand-dyed wool got a little blotchy.  I still enjoy using it.
Front and back of small tapestry purse.  This was woven from a Mirrix tapestry kit from a while back.  It uses only slit tapestry and the slits are sewn with beads.  The strap is attached with beads as well.  I plan to revive a similar kit as soon as the yarn arrives.

So much going on!

You should see my list of Mirrix to-dos. It contains everything from “work on new website” to “buy new boxes for kits”. We’re doing an overhaul here at Mirrix and everything is going to get bigger and better! Our newest undertaking is creating kits. Lots and lots of kits. Bead kits and tapestry kits that will be made for three different levels of weavers. We’ll have “easy” kits for beginners, “intermediate” kits for those with a bit more experience and “expert” kits that will be a bit more complicated. We will color code the kits and are buying cute boxes to make the whole package as fun to look at as it is to use!

Would you buy a Mirrix Kit?
At this very minute, Claudia Chase (Mirrix President) is weaving an inkle band on [one of] her Mirrix Loom[s]! This is a whole new way to use a Mirrix!