Wrapping Things Up

…Or should I say warping things up?  ;)

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been four weeks since my little adventure with Mirrix first began. Time really does fly by. You know how when, if you’re lucky, you meet someone for the first time and really hit it off? You quickly become fast friends, cherish the time spent and can’t wait to see them again. Well that’s how it is with my Mirrix loom. I probably shouldn’t admit wanting to get up out of bed in the middle of the night -I do have insomnia- and start weaving, should I? 

                                                       Two bracelets down, one to go 

As I have mentioned, I was initially reluctant to accept the offer to blog for the Social Market for a Craftsy Course because of my lack of weaving skills. Having already purchased the class, I knew what I would be facing. Initially the lessons seemed to blend into each other and the many little warping and weaving details seemed overwhelming. And with so many weavers far more experienced than myself, what could I possibly have to offer? And when would I even find the time? Besides the actual weaving, there’s the writing part and we all know how difficult that can be.

                                                      Notice my homemade heddles?  

Well I can safely say that all my fears and reluctance melted away upon receiving my package from Mirrix. The loom itself is so UN-intimidating and user friendly, and the fibers just seemed to talk to me as I knew they would. I dove in head first and haven’t look back since. My family has grown quite accustomed to Mom sitting at her loom ignoring everyone around her. (Needless to say, they’re not as fond of Mirrix as I am.) 

 

Each Craftsy lesson is so carefully laid out and slowly builds upon the knowledge learned in the previous one. Claudia is a superb teacher with a wonderful dry sense of humor. (Have you noticed?) And the finished projects, are they ever stunning. (Random note: in my day job I have occasion to spend time with some rather famous knitters. Last week, I was complimented by both Debbie Bliss -herself- and separately, Louisa Harding, on the Bead and Tapestry Cuff bracelet that I was wearing. When I took it off and told them I had made it, they were even more impressed. Fashion mavens both and definitely arbiters of good taste when it comes to fiber. Maybe they should be taking the Craftsy class, eh?)
As I have now completed all twelve sections of the class and woven every project, my blogging job is done. Claudia and Elena have kindly invited me to stay on to blog about some future projects so it is not goodbye as yet. I wish to thank all of you for bothering to read this at all and for all the warmth and encouragement you’ve shown. Truly, it would not have been nearly as enjoyable without all of your wonderful support.

 

Until we talk again soon, happy weaving!
xxx, Karen

Advanced Tapestry Techniques

Lesson 10 of the Craftsy Bead & Tapestry Cuff class teaches advanced tapestry techniques. Upon first viewing it, I felt as if I’d been suddenly thrown into the deep end of the pool. After many slow and steady lessons, this class uses frequent new terms and I must admit, unfortunately does not always employ the best photography. The techniques themselves are not really all that difficult but if it is one’s first time attempting them, I am certain that you will need to watch multiple times before catching on. The thirty-second rewind feature is useful although I found I required more than just the quick thirty seconds to review certain sections. (I cannot speak for everyone’s experience however it seems that the Craftsy platform does not always allow for smooth rewinding and fast forwarding although this could perhaps just be a problem with my own computer.) My criticism of the photography concerns the bad angles that are sometimes used and the need for more close ups. As Claudia does admit however, if you are seriously interested in learning more about tapestry, any of the many books available at www.mirrixlooms.com will provide the necessary depth that is beyond the scope of this class. I’ve purchased Kirsten Glasbrook’s classic and look forward to diving into it as soon as I’ve completed this course.


Pick and Pick

          

                                                    Wavy Lines & Lazy Lines

Minor concerns aside, I seriously love the results of “pick and pick” or what I prefer to call simply vertical striping. The beauty of these advanced techniques is that suddenly the whole process of weaving becomes quite clear in a novel way. Of course, if you weave in one shed with one color and the following shed in another, you will get vertical stripes. Two passes with one color followed by two passes with a second color will yield horizontal stripes. Brilliant. For me, the term “lazy line” seems a little too close to “wavy line.” (And why not just call it “diagonal line” which is what it is?) And if anyone can explain the difference to me between hatching and shading, I’m all ears. Also, those special situations when the edge warps are lowered are a little confusing but once again I’m sure a little more experience will clear this up.
 

                                                        Finished on the loom

                                                         Weaving two at a time!

                                                           

Well, as they say, practice makes perfect and I’m more than willing. My first cuff has attracted so much attention that I’m afraid I’ve already overextended myself gift-wise. This should keep me busy for quite some time.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be weaving tapestry cuffs.

xxx, Karen
 

Ain’t No Stopping Me Now

I’ve said it before but these Mirrix Loom bracelets really do weave themselves. After years of painstaking pattern-following, row-by-row stitch count knitting, what a pleasure it is to obtain such instant gratification. In less time than it takes to watch an episode of Law & Order, another bracelet is woven and finished off. The only problem, if you could call it that, is what to do with all the resulting bracelets. (Another random note: I once started making handmade herbal soap as a hobby. Well, it was so much fun that I wound up with far more soap than I could ever use. The upshot: a fairly successful cottage industry with customers that included Bed, Bath & Beyond and HomeGoods. It nearly killed me though. Not again, please.)

 

Using the shedding device, admittedly, takes a little getting used to. At first I couldn’t figure out how to keep the shed open. Only after several rewinds of the video did I catch on to the fact that the black part of the handle must actually wind around the bar, hugging it, to keep the shed open. Duh. Also, I’m still not entirely happy with how my bead rows are sitting- not quite even and a little wobbly for sure. I must be doing something wrong or else I prefer the other method of sewing the row in as it seems more secure. Oh well, good to know that I’m not exactly an expert at this yet ;)


The finishing…well, let’s see…the glue is a little messy. Be sparing. I would definitely use clothes pins or clamps to temporarily hold the three layers of tapestry, brass cuff and ultrasuede together while the glue dries. And while I enjoy the Zen-like process of sewing the three bead picot edge around the perimeter of the piece, I would definitely set aside some quiet time for this, and don’t plan it for too late an hour. It’s a little tedious for sure but the results, you must admit, are spectacular.

                                                            Freshly cut off the loom

 

                                                 Backside before being trimmed & glued

Backside after being trimmed & glued
 
Clamped while glue dries

 After beading
 
 The finished bracelet
 
Lookin’ good!
 

I think they’ll fit perfectly in several Christmas stockings, don’t you? Who will be the recipients of your Mirrix weavings this year?

 
xxx, Karen

The Big Leagues

Whoever designed the Mirrix class for Craftsy really knows their stuff. (Claudia/ Elena?) Each lesson builds on knowledge learned in the previous one and progresses so gradually that nothing ever seems too difficult. Although I’ve been moving through it all rather smoothly, secretly I’ve been terrified of that odd looking metal tube lurking in the box. Ever since first becoming interested in Mirrix looms, I‘ve been fascinated with the concept of this shedding device. The name itself is so unusual, don’t you think? I’ve wondered if the term is unique to Mirrix and if not, who invented it? Of course, I had to google it. Wikipedia explains “a shedding device is the device used to raise or open the shed.” Ok, so the term exists out there in the greater world of weaving and the definition definitely makes sense. But still…you have to admit is does sound strange. (Random note: in describing the shedding device to my husband -who I warn you has a strange sense of humor- he responds by pointing to Ollie, our beloved Old English Sheepdog and says “Now that is a real shedding device.” Yuk yuk.)



Ollie, the original “shedding device”


Clearly, I had no idea, when the time came, how I was going to deal with this contraption. I would have remained perfectly content to continue using my loom as is, sans shedding device, making Affinity Bracelets from now ’til doomsday. But captivated as I was by the sheer beauty of the Tapestry Cuff, I knew that sooner or later, like it or not, I would have to conquer the dreaded shedding device!

Almost as terrifying a concept as the shedding device are those devilish little bits of string called heddles. How confusing they seemed and could I figure out a way to avoid using them? Well, was I ever pleasantly surprised. Following Claudia’s step by step instructions in Lesson 9, I was warped for tapestry, with shedding device and both sets of heddles in place in the wink of…well, you know. I cannot describe my joy while using the shedding device handle and seeing the shed move back and forth before my eyes. Magic. And how brilliant! I’m happy to report that I am well on my way to creating my very own magnificent beaded tapestry cuff. Wait ‘til you see it. Won’t you be jealous!

 
Warped, heddled & ready to go
 

 
 
 

 

Oh and by the way, think only Claudia’s Mirrix gets to go sailing?

xxx, Karen

 

Everything Old is New Again…Plus Another Tip!

As I tackle the second No Warp Ends project in this Craftsy course, I am reminded of the first bead weaving I did many years ago. Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, many young girls were obsessed with making simple little necklaces, bracelets and even rings using what we then called Indian seed beads. For years I kept my “Navajo Bead Loom” in its original box but of course, as I awaited the arrival of my new Mirrix, I naturally could not find the old loom. Since they are still widely available and cost next to nothing, I purchased a new one. I felt thirteen years old again!

 
This no warp ends project uses a simple charted design much like my Sixties weavings did. Who would have thought that my crafting life would come full circle as it has? (If someone had told me back then that nearly forty years later I would again be making seed bead jewelry…) Fortunately though, someone had the vision to improve upon the original primitive bead weaving loom. I can tell you that it sure is a whole lot faster and more enjoyable using a Mirrix.
Like Claudia, I have a real problem following these simple little charts. I don’t know why but if there’s a mistake to be made, I’ll make it. Of course, this involves a fair amount of UN-weaving so my progress is a little slower than I’d like… and alot more tedious. However, I persevere.

 

 

 

By the way, I have another tip for you. Although many of you may use bead mats, I have another idea for easy beading for when you’re not sitting at a table or otherwise on the go. I cannot take credit for this. I learned it while attending a sewing workshop with Natalie Chanin, the brilliant hand-sewn clothing designer for Alabama Chanin. (www.alabamachanin.com). Her artisans have created a “beading cuff” from a cast off cotton jersey sleeve. By applying heavy duty double-faced tape to it, tiny beads easily stick to it. Voila, beads right at your fingertip just when and where you want them. Easy, cheap and up-cycled, what could be better?
 
 
 
 
 

Try it and let me know how it works out for you.

And Happy Labor Day!

xxx, Karen 

Look Ma, No Warp Ends!

After previewing this lesson, I was actually a little nervous about getting started. Just when I was beginning to feel confident with the ease of bead weaving in the previous lessons, I would now have to actually do something drastically different. Those innocent-looking paper clips and tex-solv cord seemed more than just a little intimidating. Well, fear not. I’m here to tell you that like everything else so far in this course, the learning curve is swift and before long I was on my way.
 
 
 
I will admit to making good use of the thirty second replay button that Craftsyoffers. After several replays, I finally realized that TWO lengths of tex-solv were necessary. Duh! (This was also a good time to actually READ the course material provided.) Getting all the new cords adjusted and evened  out was a bit of a challenge but once the paper clips were in place, the warping was surprisingly painless. I’ve since watched my fellow blogger Noreen’s excellent video tutorial where she uses S-hooks in lieu of the paper clips. (http://tottietalkscrafts.com/2012/06/22/a-slightly-different-approach-to-the-no-warp-ends-on-the-mirrix/). I may try that next as my biggest difficulty was figuring out which direction to actually place the paper clips. Again, not a huge problem but using the S-hooks will eliminate that confusion. As Claudia promised, the actual weaving part is lightening fast and in no time flat, I had completed another beautiful fully beaded cuff.


Now who doesn’t love the final result? Really…no warp ends to deal with! This is just genius, don’t you think? The strength that using the wire warps is a bonus as it gives a very professional look. I also love having the option of choosing how to finish the bracelet with either the peyote clasp or by using an unusual or vintage button as I did. How cool!
 
Off to the hardware store to purchase S-hooks. I may never use real warps again.
 
xxx, Karen 

 

 

Magnatamas, Tilas & Silk, Oh My… Plus A Quick Tip

I’m really cooking now. Finished the latest Affinity Bracelet in under thirty minutes and that includes warping! They’re just so easy. Using the no. 8 beads again makes bead weaving a breeze. There’s plenty of room to squeeze a needle and thread through without nasty mishaps like catching warps. The tilas are fun and aptly named- they resemble little rows of tiles. My favorites though are the magnatamas-they look like little pudgy off-centered donuts. Love ‘em. Although I’ve seen them at the bead shop before, I now intend to purchase lots more and play around with design possibilities. Anybody know why they’re named such? Just curious.
What I’m really excited about though is the ability perhaps to teach you all something…me teaching you, for a change. Many weavers might already be familiar with “fringe twisters” but in case there are some newbies who are not, read on.
3 Clip Fringe Twister
These magical little thingies are a life saver when you need to make lots of fringe. I first spotted them at the many sheep and wool festivals that I attend. Again, I guess they’re more of a fiber thing. Smart knitters use them regularly to assist in the tedious chore of finishing the fringe at the end of scarves. The most popular ones I believe are made by Leclerc although there are other brands. (http://www.leclerclooms.com/twister.htm). They come in various sizes and run about $25 depending on the size. Trust me, they’re worth every nickel. The one shown here is designed to make a three-strand fringe however if you only employ only two clips, as I do here, you can use it for the two-strand fringe necessary for this bracelet.

The how-to? Simply insert each strand of fringe into its own alligator clip. Turn the handle in the same direction as the twist in the thread/yarn. Count you turns until you’ve reached the desired crimp. Next you must place all strands into the same clip and turn in the handle in the opposite direction. Again, you should count the revolutions to maintain consistency between all fringes. When the twist in the resulting rope is to your liking release the strands while holding the ends together and knot. That’s it. (It takes longer to explain than actually do).



Perfect fringe, every time!



What’s wonderful about this tool is that you get tight consistent fringe every time. Although I was initially unsure if it would work on such a tiny scale as these bracelets, I was thrilled to learn that it works perfectly. No more twisting delicate fibers between your fingers or accidentally letting go. It’s really almost hands free and takes a fraction of the time as traditional twisting by hand.
(Note to Claudia & Elena: you should stock these babies. Very useful).
Off to the beach again. When you live on Long Island, you go to the beach. And haven’t you heard? Summer’s almost over. (sniffle sniffle)
xxx, Karen  

Bead Weaving: A Love-Hate Relationship

Craftsy Class 5: Affinity Bracelet Variations
 


The second Affinity Bracelet variation uses 4mm crystals & hex-cut beads. Besides being entirely bead woven, it employs the technique of substituting a larger bead for two smaller ones in specific rows. As Claudia explains, one can always replace any two smaller beads with a larger one if the larger one is exactly twice as long and wide as the two smaller ones. Pretty cool concept if you think about it and it opens up a world of creative interpretation using a variety of beads. Of course now I can imagine obsessively trying to measure all kinds of itsy bitsy roll-y beads. (Thanks, Claudia). Then again, I suppose I can just eyeball them and hope for the best which is really much more my usual m.o. anyway. 

I admit to starting this project with a little trepidation. With all due respect to the fabulous bead weavers reading this (you know who you are. I won’t mention my fellow blogger, Brenda’s name here), I’m just not a big fan…not for myself, at least. Lots of blinding work weaving with microscopic beads and where’s the fiber anyway? By know you must know that I always need my beautiful fibers. For this reason, I predict that I will be more of a tapestry girl. I can’t wait to begin the Tapestry Cuff but I really must complete the lessons in their proper order and that one, sadly, is last.


Several missteps thwarted my initial attempts. I kept splitting the bead thread and piercing (or missing entirely) the warps. Very frustrating. The ability to count to six posed a problem as well. (Hey it was after 10PM when I started…first mistake). The other thing I learned about bead weaving is that you need amazingly good light. In fact, more light than I have in my entire house- at least at that late hour. Note to self: must save these projects for daylight hours only or suffer the consequences. Still, I forged ahead…straight through David Letterman. As Dave said goodnight, so did I. With a mere 16 bleary-eyed rows completed, I called it quits. “G’night folks,” as Dave says. Yeah, I’ll say.



Stealing some time from my lunch break the following day (who needs to eat anyway? Not me lately…but that’s an entirely different blog post topic), I took my loom outside and was able to finally make some serious progress. I really love how the beads line up in this pattern and my choice of lime green silk warp matches my green 4mm beads to perfection. (Almost like I planned it but we know better). The four row pattern repeat, as we knitters would call it, is an easy one to remember and after a short while comes quite naturally.



I find that the near-instant results seen in these bracelets are incredibly gratifying. Within a very short period of time, you’ve completed another little work of art. Fabulous!

As I’m beginning to expect from Mirrix, this bracelet has turned out to be another winner. This really is becoming addicting.

xxx, Karen

Gold, Gold Everywhere!

Craftsy Class 4: Gold Thread & Hex Bead Bracelet
If I thought I loved the hand painted silk floss introduced in Class 3, that was before I discovered this gold plated “wonder thread” in Class 4. What IS this fabulous stuff? Claudia describes it as a silk base with real gold fused to it. Whatever it is, it weaves up fabulously and really does in fact look like the real thing. That’s the good news. The bad news: Don’t let this happen to you:
Gold Thread…Before



Gold Thread…After



Really, I should have known better. After all the various yarns I’ve wound, skeined, unwound, untangled, got-so-frustrated-and-thrown-away, over the course of so many years, you’d think I would have done a better job with this one. And it’s not that I wasn’t prepared. “It’s got a mind of its own,” Claudia warns. Yep, it sure does. (It’s like letting a tightly wound spring out of a small box). And it surely is one of the finest threads I’ve ever encountered- it’s nearly invisible. So now I’m warning YOU: take your time and be patient with this stuff because it is all so worth it. Once you do get it wound and threaded on the needle, it’s a breeze to weave with. In fact it practically weaves itself. And it is also very forgiving as it fills itself in almost magically. Just be sure to keep those six plies together. As far as the hex beads are concerned, after using the larger size 8s for the Affinity Bracelets, these smaller beads seem a bit more challenging but you’ll see that it’s nothing unmanageable. Of course, I had to add my own personal spin to the finished product by adding a little bit of purple/pink mulberry silk between the gold and the beads. I kind of like it, what do you think?  



The finished bracelet



Weaving at the beach…the best of all possible worlds!



So, Class 4…Just stay calm, keep at it and you’ll get a truly beautiful result. And be prepared for lots of requests from friends for this one. It’s a stunner!
Now onto Class 5. See you there.
xxx, Karen

Mirrix Goes to Montauk

As it happens, my Mirrix loom arrived the day prior to our little holiday in Montauk. (I know you’ve heard of Montauk Point. You know, at the very tip of Long Island, NY?)  Well, I couldn’t leave her home alone, now could I? Certainly not with all that fabulous fiber haunting me from afar. So, unbeknownst to the family, I sneakily stuffed her into yet another canvas bag and she made the two hour trip to the beach. Here she is on the deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean looking rather majestic, don’t you think?

Craftsy Class: Introduction & Looms

Claudia’s introduction, besides doing a great job of whetting one’s appetite, speaks for itself. Not much need for comment, I believe. The second “lesson” concerning various looms is significant particularly if you are not yet fortunate enough to own a Mirrix. (Notice I say yet. Don’t worry, you will). Prior to receiving the Mirrix, I fiddled with both a $10 craft-store seed bead loom as well as my Cricket, both with excellent results. They really do weave beautiful bracelets. However, tensioning problems as well as awkward warping renders them less than perfect. Learning to warp a Mirrix is a snap and the tensioning is a dream. I think the Volkswagen/ Mercedes analogy applies here; there’s simply no comparison. If you can, by all means, get a Mirrix!
  
Craftsy Class Lesson: The Silk and Bead Affinity Bracelet

I have a thing for silk… always have. It is by far my favorite fiber to work with, be it knitting, crochet, sewing or weaving. I love the tiny little crunch it makes when you fondle it which I confess I do. The vibrant colors that Claudia has created make all the difference in the final product, I can assure you. Not wanting to waste the precious silk, I practiced my first few Affinity Bracelets using lesser fibers- some pedestrian embroidery floss and even some commercially dyed silk floss. I can tell you that they can’t compare to the subtle color variations of Mirrix hand painted silk. (Pssst, Claudia, have you considered offering a silk dyeing workshop? Hint hint.)

I wish I could write about some problem or difficulty that I encountered while attempting to weave but honestly, it is so simple and enjoyable that I cannot find anything to critique. Ok, my selvedges are less than perfect and I probably could use a pair of magnifying glasses to thread that blasted bead needle but that’s about it. Come to think of it, I’m not crazy about that peyote stitch yet either but I’m sure that will improve with more experience. Heaven knows, I’ve got a long way to go.

When one chooses to forego an afternoon at the beach in order to stay back to weave, I think that’s really saying something. Here are my results. Whaddaya think? Not bad, eh.

xxx, Karen