What you can do (slowly) with Hand painted Silk

I have been playing (slowly) with hand painted silk.  The eyeglass case, which is still on the loom, is now not wanting to be an eyeglass case.  More about that tomorrow when I take it off the loom.

To find the silk go to: http://www.mirrixlooms.com/store/silkandgoldkit24.html  That’s the big pack and best deal if you want to make a larger piece.

The first strip of silk is done.  The other, almost done, is still on the loom.  It’s hard to fail.  Use any color of our hand painted silk in any order and it will be just right.  I added a few rows of beads here and there.  The sett was 14 ends per inch, so I used size 11/0 beads.

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I crocheted this purse.  It was actually a piece I made many months ago. I had made a bunch of these, but is the only one I kept.   I added a row of magnatama beads and finished it with a braided strap.  Number of hours to make?  Who knows, but quite a lot.  I wasn’t counting.

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Now for the embroidery.  This one you might have seen before.  It probably took about sixty hours to make and my hands did get sore doing it so I had to take many breaks to do other things.  I think the creation time spanned about eight months.

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What follows are details of another embroidery I just finished.  This one took even longer.  But at some point I knew I was finished.  I have two more that are almost completed.

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And then there is the knitted scarf (a Christmas present).  Whenever I joined two colors, I tied an overhand knot and strung crystals or porcelain beads on the thread ends.  It was a great way to nicely hide those ends and add some interesting accents.

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Now back to finished the “not going to be an eyeglass case!”

10 Ways to Tell if Someone in Your Life Would Love a Mirrix Loom

1) She has beads everywhere… in the car, on top of the washing machine, in her bedside table…

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2) When he’s at a museum, he never gets past the textile section.

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3) He’s thought about making his own loom… but it’s a little overwhelming.

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4) She spends a good portion of her free time pinning DIY craft projects on Pinterest.

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5) She finds beauty in everything and always thinks… “Wouldn’t that make a great bead pattern?”

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6) He has secret yarn stashes (but everyone knows about them).

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7) Even her place settings are a work of art.

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8) He’s always knitting or beading or sewing… even the dog gets homemade gifts. IMG_1658

9) She makes gorgeous beaded jewelry, and you know she’d love to add weaving on a loom to her list of skills.

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10) The background on her phone is a picture of a Mirrix.

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Pass this on and visit www.mirrixlooms.com for more information on our looms, kits and accessories!

Holiday Hints!

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Some of us are blessed with friends and family who just know how to choose the perfect gift. They are savvy at picking up on subtle hints and know exactly what you like. A few years ago a good friend of mine, in his early-to-mid-20s at the time, bought his wife a Mirrix Loom. I remember thinking how sweet it was that he, on his own, came up with the idea, knowing her passion for crafting. But not everyone is as punctilious as my friend. Some husbands need a little hint, some friends are still looking for the perfect crafty gift for their best friend who has everything and some moms don’t know their son’s passion for Mirrix products.

This is where our third-annual holiday hints program comes in! Fill out the form below with what Mirrix-item you’d like this holiday season and, on the weekend before Cyber Monday, we’ll email the person you specify and give them a little hint about what you’d really like this holiday season!

MirrixHacks

Ever heard of lifehacks? They’re little things in life you can do to make life easier. For example, using a binder clip to help organize your computer cables or freezing unused fresh herbs in an ice cube tray with oil. All the great lifehacks on Pinterest got us thinking about MirrixHacks. We hear from customers all the time who have come up with great little tricks to make warping or weaving easier. We’d love to crowd-source some of these hacks to share! What MirrixHacks do you use?

One of my favorite MirrixHacks? The “comb” method of warping for bead weaving with the shedding device! Read about it here.

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Email me elena@mirrixlooms.com with information about your MirrixHack (and a picture if possible) and we’ll feature them on a future blog post and send you any one of our bead patterns for free!

FREE Warp Coil Label Template: Label Those Springs!

When you have more than one loom and a bazillion sets of warp coils, it can be a pain to find a warp coil you want when you want it. Instead of struggling with this every time they warp, a lot of our smart customers label their warp coils so they always know which one is which. I’ve made a printable template to make labeling your own warp coils easier!

Step One: Determine what loom sizes and warp coils you have

You probably already know what size loom you have, but if you’ve forgotten, measure the top beam in inches. That number is your loom size.

To determine what size each warp coil is, place your coil on your loom and measure an inch. Count how many dents (spaces in the spring) there are in that inch. That number is the size warp coil you have. If you have more than one loom and you’ve mixed up your warp coils this can be a more difficult process. If you get a non-standard number, you may have a warp coil on the wrong loom!

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Step Two: Pop by your local office supply store and grab some standard sticker address labels. I used an Avery template number 5160. This size is very standard, though, so it should be fine for other brands as long as they have 30 address labels.

This is the template I downloaded: Download the template here

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Step Three: Download my template and edit it for your needs. You probably don’t have every loom and every coil, and may have a bottom spring kit so you have more than one of certain coils. Edit the template in Word and print it on your sticker labels!

Download the template here

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Step Four: Cut each label in half and place each label on the end of the corresponding warp coil. I found folding a little end over the end of the warp coil and then folding everything in half worked best.

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Step Five: Bask in your organizational skills.

Five Reasons why you should Choose Mirrix this Summer

Here are five reasons why you should consider purchasing a Mirrix this summer:

1. Mirrix Looms are made in America. Our amazing manufacturing facility employs people with special needs and/or disabilities right in the heart of the USA in Door County, Wisconsin. Learn more about our manufacturing facility here.

You can feel good about where Mirrix Looms are made!

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2. Weaving is the perfect summertime activity. Take a seat in the shade and grab your portable Mirrix for some me-time!

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3. Mirrix has free projects with detailed instructions available to everyone! Click here to download instructions for our famous Tapestry/Bead Cuff Bracelet or our wonderful Affinity Bracelet.

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4. You can get a head start on making gifts for friends and family. We haven’t yet found anyone who hasn’t fallen in love with our newest bracelet kit!

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5. We offer FREE bead patterns to our customers! Download one today.

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On Kindness and Art

One of my favorite parts of my job is seeing what people create with our looms. From simple jewelry pieces to lavish tapestries, we constantly  see amazing and inspirational work. It’s also neat to see the creative ways people use our looms. One of my favorite innovative uses for a Mirrix is  seen in Anthony Locane’s work.

Anthony weaves with wire warp and printed metal weft, creating gorgeous and fascinating pieces.

You can read Anthony’s 2011 guest post on our blog here to learn a little more about what he does. Be sure to visit his website as well!

In October of 2012 Anthony’s studio was hit by hurricane Sandy. His looms were damaged, but even a hurricane can’t keep a Mirrix down (with a little TLC, of course)! In digging around a little, we found a NYT article about Anthony and the hurricane. If you scroll a bit, there’s a picture of one of his pieces on a Mirrix (although you can’t see the actual loom).

Fortunately, it looks like Anthony is getting everything cleaned up and his looms are currently being restored.

Recently Anthony sent Claudia and me each one of his fabulous pieces of art. We ADORE them and are so grateful for his kind gesture. Have I said before that we have the BEST customers in the world? Check them out (below)!

Thanks, Tony!

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Quality Workmanship: Better for your wallet, better for the environment. Happy Earth Day

It seems like many products these days aren’t built to last. We buy things knowing they’ll only work for a few years and then we replace them and start the cycle over. We’re all aware that this isn’t a great system, for our wallets or for the environment, but a lot of the time there isn’t much we can do. This morning as I struggled with a broken (AGAIN) espresso machine, I thought about this and reflected upon the seemingly-outdated concept of quality workmanship.

As I sat down at my computer with my half-made cup of coffee (the steamer is broken, I really craved a soy latte) and began checking my emails I realized how proud I am to be part of a company that makes products the old fashioned way. Each loom is hand-crafted by our wonderful employees at our manufacturing facility in Wisconsin and meant to last not one year, not ten years, but a lifetime. You may need to replace a spring or a clip, but a Mirrix Loom should be able to be passed down from generation to generation. That means no broken looms in the trash can and no need to buy another (unless, of course, you want more than one).

And that’s how it should be, for our earth and for our wallets.

Happy Earth Day! (I leave you with a picture of the Mirrix pup, Sam, when he was a little guy working hard for the environment at grist.org)

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Embroidery with hand painted silk yarn

This is not about weaving.  This is about embroidery, which I decided to learn how to do because I wanted another way to play with my hand painted silk yarn.  I can only do so much embroidery.  Weaving is gentle on my hands but embroidery seems to anger them after an hour or so.  It’s mainly my left hand.  My thumb has to grasp the cloth (maybe I need one of those wooden frames that hold the cloth?) and it doesn’t like it.  I am thinking I might combine the embroidery with weaving.  For example, doing embroidery on a weaving.  You don’t see much of that.  Once in a while a tapestry weaver will add some embroidery to achieve, for example, a thin vertical line without having to weave double weft interlock, which can be a real pain.  I am sure there are other examples of embroidery on tapestry, but it’s not that common.  That will be my next adventure.

I thought I would show you a sneak preview of two unfinished works.  The first two (almost full photo and close up):  It’s a combination of angelina fiber, hand painted silk yarn and beads. It took a long time and it’s not finished.  The swirls around the solid areas need to be finished.  I embroidered it on black hemp cloth. The last one is done on linen cloth with just hand painted silk.  I plan to completely fill the cloth.  It is a long way from being finished.

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Inspiration

This post is inspired by a comment to the last post by “Andy.”  Andy and I met in college.  We shared a room (poor Andy!).  At that time I was a wannabe weaver.  Yes, I had woven a scarf and a few other random things on a rigid heddle loom by the time I hit freshman year.  I had also done some needlepoint.  But I was lacking good tools, good materials and, most of all, guidance.  It was a weird period in time in relationship to fiber art.  We were past the point where a mother routinely passed on all the skills she learned from her mother to her daughter.  They were no longer important.  I did not know one girl who learned how to form perfect letters with thread on a sampler.  Those things were seen in history museums under glass.  It’s what girls did in another time, another century even, sitting in front of a fireplace making lace for her sister’s wedding gown or making a sampler to learn how to correctly use a needle.  I suppose someone my age somewhere was learning how to knit or crochet but I didn’t know her and I don’t remember anyone wearing a sweater she had knit.  Although, I do remember that my mother knit three adorable red sweaters for each of her three little kids.  Each had our initials sewn onto it.  And yes, they were lovely.  And since I was the youngest I ended up wearing the other two sweaters as my brother and sister our grew them.  My initials went from CAC to WSC to PEC.  My grandmother knit a  beautiful afghan that lived on our couch for as long as I can remember.  We must all have memories of a hand knitted afghan covering the back of the couch.  Now my couch is decorated with my hand knitted afghan, but I don’t think it’s now a common sight.

My first encounter with fiber and creativity came from my aunt.  Her husband was an artist.  He created abstract art, which I loved.  I didn’t realize at the time why I was so attracted to abstract art.  But now it makes sense.  I am not a realist in any sense of the word.  I like dividing the world into shapes and colors.  It’s how I see it:  I break the world down into blobs of intersecting color. My aunt did needlepoint.  My uncle painted the canvas for her and she turned it into lovely pillows.  So many pillows filled with blobs of color.  I was in awe.

My parents returned from a trip to Paris with needlepoint kits for both my sister and me.  Each kit contained three little squares with printed pictures and yarn.  I filled in the first square and turned the other two squares upside down and “did my own thing.”  I am sure my own thing was pretty awful.  I don’t have these squares anymore.  At some point my aunt gave some of her needlepoint supplies to my sister since my sister was the acknowledged family artist.  All for good reason. She was (and is) amazing.  I have rarely in my life met anyone as good as she is at art.  Some of it was realistic, some of it was fantasy.  But the fact was:  she could draw anything and she drew all the time.  In that world the tools for drawing were readily available.  All you needed was paper and a pencil and pen.  But creating needle art or weaving was not so easy because the tools were not “just there.”  Anyway, my sister got the canvas and the yarn and she had absolutely no use for them.  I took them.  They were meant to by mine!  I made quite a few things from these materials which all became gifts for my mother.

When I was ten I received a rigid heddle loom for my birthday.  I had seen it at Macys.  Yes, Macys!  It must have been in the homeware’s department.  I wove a couple of scarves on the loom and backings for my needlepoint pillow creations.  And I knew I wanted to weave.  But I still didn’t have the materials I would need to find out what that really means.

When I arrived at college and met Andy, I knew I was a “weaver” but I also knew I was a fake because my experience was mostly contained within my imagination.  I went to Andy’s home during a vacation and met my first real large weaving loom.  Andy’s father had built it for her sister.  It was gorgeous.  I don’t think it was complete at that point and I know it had not yet been used.  There I was “the weaver” and I didn’t had the first idea of how one would use that enormous, complicated loom.  I was still a “weaver” in my head but the reality seemed far away.

A few years later my brother found a loom in California where he was living.  It was a small four harness table loom.  He sent it to me.  Without any knowledge of how to set up such a loom, I set it up.  Somehow I got it to work.  I remember taking my food money to explore Ottawa (I was attending my last semester of university there) and find yarn so I could use that loom.  I lived in a dark, cold apartment and the only color I saw that winter was in the yarn I was weaving.

It wasn’t until I had my first child (Elena) that I set off to explore weaving.  I discovered immediately that I was not a weaver of cloth, that my large floor loom would not be like Andy’s sister’s.  I found out I was a tapestry weaver.  That seed had been planted when I was 19 and had seen  the Unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters in New York City.  I was in awe.  I stuffed those images in my brain and thought I would never really understand how such things were made.  And then I learned on my own for the most part how tapestry is made.

I wove my first tapestries (for two years) on a rigid heddle loom before I bought my first second hand tapestry floor loom.  My creative life exploded with the purchase of that loom.  Soon after I was teaching myself how to dye yarn so I could get exactly the colors I wanted.  That was followed with learning how to spin.  I could not be stopped!

I am now surrounded with materials and tools to feed my need to create art from fiber.  And these days, things have changed so much for the fiber arts.  First of all, we’ve got that word “art” following the word fiber.  It’s been given weight that it did not have.  It’s no longer a thing women do to pass their time.  I guess I was born at exactly the wrong time.

Access to the right materials and tools is essential to create fiber art.  I can now get whatever I want, whatever I need to create what is in my head.  I am surrounded by inspiring materials.  I feel very fortunate to have arrived at this place.  And I realize that when I told Andy I was a weaver, I really was a weaver, but mostly in my head.  Now I am a weaver among other things and I have allowed myself to put that in the center of my life.  It is a focal point.  It’s kind of a relief because I could just as easily have passed it while heading somewhere else in my life.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the pull toward it was so great I would never have passed it. But how lucky for me that it is both my hobby and my work and I can indulge it every day.

I have made it my lifelong goal to give this gift to others as I continue to explore all the aspects of all the fiber arts on my own.

I forgot to mention that when Andy and I were room mates in college I used to demand she pick up her guitar and play and sing for me.  Poor mundane Andy, the gifted musician!