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!”

Slow Art/Craft

I am going to start off this post the way I originally planned to start it which is:  Looking for a quick and easy project to give away as a gift, something you can make in an hour or two and make a whole bunch of?  Well, then this project is NOT for you . . .

That’s the way this post was supposed to begin, but now I am forced to digress madly. Recently, my job at Mirrix has been to make things.  Elena thinks I should be designing projects every waking moment (in between the basic stuff of running Mirrix).  If she had her way I’d be designing a new kit every other day!  But am I complaining?  I wrote down a bunch of our ideas and then while stewing about them I randomly decided to weave a long strip of hand-painted silk just because I wanted to.  In fact, it will be two strips because I wanted to weave it on the eight inch loom, I wanted it in my lap sometimes and I didn’t want to use the loom extenders with the 12 or 16 inch loom because I wanted that “in your lap intimate” experience.  Even before I started weaving the strip I realized I could use it for a strap for this “failed” tapestry that became a purse but whose strap had gone missing.  I don’t think it was a very good strap but the purse . . . well, as I said, it was a failed tapestry but it was one intricate piece of tapestry.  Not the kind of thing you would ever weave to make a purse.  Oh, darn, now I have to photograph it.  Wait a minute while I do that.

Okay, just took a couple pictures of the purse (and please pardon my photographs . . . my photo tent is officially dead and I am waiting for the new one to arrive. . . so it’s hard to get the light correct but I am too impatient to wait for the ten to post this blog post!) . . .

This is the front.  I think the tapestry was going to be a garden of sorts.  It was a very long time ago that I wove it and I only just discovered the purse hiding underneath a pile of tapestries that hadn’t met their goal.

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This is the back.

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Don’t want to lose my thread here.  So while contemplating new kits I, as I said, decided to weave this strip which I then realized I could use as a strap for above purse.  Let me show you the strip:

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I didn’t use the shedding device.  It’s not done yet, so I should put that in the present tense.  In any case, I needle weaving it because I wanted to feel that very rhythmic movement of under and over with a needle.  There is something very primal about that. But I had promised Elena I would come up with a Christmas ornament, which leads me to another digression because she asked if I had every made one before and I replied:  “Yes, I made one for the White House Christmas tree when Clinton was president.”  I think she was a little surprised by that answer.  The deal was, members of the NH League of Craftsmen were asked that year to make an ornament for the White House Christmas tree, so I did.  I have no photographs of it and I can’t even remember what it looked like.  But I do know I made it and I do know it hung on the White House Christmas tree for at least one season and now is probably buried in a box somewhere.

After we spoke I warped an eight inch loom with shedding device.  The warp spanned about two and a half inches.  The idea was to weave a five inch strip and then fold it over.  Elena wanted me to weave in some standard Christmas image, which I knew I would not do and she knew I would not do!  I loved weaving this piece, but before I even show you the pictures, I need to return to my original theme:  Slow art/craft.  After I wove the ornament I said to Elena:  there should be something called “slow craft.”   I thought I had just made up a new trend and then this morning I found out courtesy of the internet that indeed someone got there before me.  Well, in reality it is an old theme.   It’s the theme of tapestry weaving essentially.  I mean, you just can’t rush a tapestry and if yo are sitting there counting your hours while you weave because you want to actually make money by selling it someday . . . forget it.  Tapestry isn’t like that.

I think there are two ways to approach craft/art, whatever you want to call it.  There is the quick easy approach.  The “I want to make a dozen of these things to give to friends and family at Christmas or to sell at the local craft fair or even in some high end gallery . . . the point being, the final object becomes almost more important than the journey.  Sure, you may still have fun making it, but that is not the entire goal.  With my strip though the goal was to enjoy making it.  The goal was not to rush.  The goal was the experience itself.  Hence the thought “slow craft,” came to mind and clearly it came to other minds as well!

I decided the Christmas tree ornament was going to be a slow craft too. I wanted to play with my hand painted silk.  I wanted to see how it would weave up in a wider strip.

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Before I folded the piece together, I embellished each side.

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I then sewed up the sides, embellished with beads, added a braid to hang it . . . eight hours later I had my “slow craft” Christmas Ornament. I imagine I will only make one because my next project is to make a “slow craft” eyeglass case, again out of hand painted silk.

In short, I am on a slow craft adventure.  I have done my time making work to sell in galleries.  I know I owe several wrap bracelets to one gallery and even though I love making them, I don’t know if I am in the mood.  I am in the mood to slowly and patiently weave row upon row of hand painted silk and then turn it into something that can be used or seen.  I want the experience itself.  And when you want that, you often don’t even want it to end.  I always mourned the finishing of a large tapestry.  What would be next?  My life had been somewhat regulated by this constant theme of a large tapestry in progress and then when it was done I had to find something to replace it.

So . . . slow craft, slow art.  Even if I didn’t make it up, I am going to be talking about it a lot.  Next post is going to be about my “slow scarf”.

Intro to Tapestry Class: Pick and Pick Combination Plus Chevrons

This week in the CraftArtEdu Introduction to Tapestry Class I took on a combination pick and pick plus hatching technique, along with geometric chevrons.

Pick and Pick Plus Hatching and Warp Interlock

This is the first time in the class that we combine techniques to create an interesting effect.  We’ve already covered basic pick and pick, but now we’re adding the color blending technique called hatching as well as a new way to create the boundary between colors by using warp interlock.

I started out with pick and pick, using blue and black yarn. Because I started these wefts initially going in the same direction, I wove the blue yarn one extra time. This put the wefts in opposite directions, which is required for the next technique, warp interlock.

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Warp interlock is similar to weft interlock, which we used earlier in the class, except that you wrap the yarn around a shared warp, rather than around each other.

Here’s my first warp interlock, at the center of the tapestry between the blue and black weft yarns.

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We’re using this interlock to begin the next technique, which is called hatching. With hatching, you blend one color into the other using a series of partial horizontal lines. Hatching can be simple, like we’re doing in this tapestry, or it can be very complex and used to create subtle artistic effects.

Here’s my piece after several rows of even hatching with the blue and black.

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Next, we move into some pick and pick, eventually adding in some purple yarn. Notice that the black vertical lines are on different warps than they were the previous time we did pick and pick.

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After several more rows of purple, it was time to advance the weaving, which means to move it down on the loom to free up space on the warps at the top. To do this, you need to loosen the tension and then pull the warping bar on the back of the Mirrix loom upward.

In this next photo, I’ve advanced my weaving so that much of the already-completed tapestry is now facing the bottom and back of the loom.

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After advancing the weaving, it’s a good idea to check your top warp spring. I find that mine often pulls down out of its bracket while advancing and needs to be pushed back up.

Chevrons

At this point in the class it was time to make chevron shapes. I had never made these before. Although their principle is simple, I struggled a little with keeping my wefts in the proper sheds.

You start by marking the boundaries of the bottoms of the chevrons with short lengths of yarn, just like we did for slit tapestry. A note here: although the class calls for seven warps between markers (if I’m interpreting it correctly), I actually found that I needed eight warps between markers in order to have the correct number of color blocks.

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Next, you need to lay in your different colors of weft yarns in opposite directions. This is also like we did previously with slit tapestry. Just like back then, I had to watch my pattern of hills and valleys, but I can tell I’m gradually getting better at this.

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I should point out that we are technically using slit tapestry here, but instead of making blocks with straight borders, the borders will create chevron, or zig-zag, shapes. To start making them, you need to shift over by one warp with each of your colors. For me, this is where the technique got a little complicated. I’m sure I made a minor mistake here and there, but overall I was able to keep the chevron shapes looking relatively even as I went along.

Here are the first two shifts toward the right.

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And here are all of the rightward shifts completed.

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You may notice that not all of my wefts are running opposite to one another anymore, darn it…. Still, I was able to fix things enough to proceed. The next step was to start shifting back in the opposite direction for the top halves of the chevrons. And here they are.

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Pretty cool, eh? I figure it’s not bad for my first attempt. After the last row, I went back and made sure all of the yarns were in the same shed so that I’ll be properly set up for the next technique. Stay tuned for my next post to find out where it takes us.

Chris Franchetti Michaels is a bestselling craft book author and designer. Visit her blog at http://www.beadjewelry.net.

Getting Started with the Introduction to Tapestry Class

ImageThis month I begin working my way through Claudia’s Introduction to Tapestry Techniques class on CraftArtEdu. I’m especially excited about this course because it covers the most useful tapestry weaving techniques, and because the sampler you get to make is an actual tapestry wall hanging.

Even though the class is suitable for absolute beginners, I’m coming into it with a few months of tapestry weaving experience. So far I’ve made several bead and tapestry bracelets (I previously completed the Bead and Tapestry Cuffs class on Craftsy, which I highly recommend), plus three small tapestry panels as practice pieces. I’m hoping this new class helps me perfect a few methods that are slowing me down and allows me to get more creative. Starting today, I’ll be guest blogging about the class. Feel free to post any questions in the comments as I go along.

First off, a little about CrafArtEdu. It’s a website devoted to making online craft and fine art classes accessible and convenient to everyone. They currently offer over 400 courses for all experience levels, in over 40 categories. The instructors are all highly experienced and well known for their work and teaching abilities.

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Once you create an account on CraftArtEdu and purchase a class, the class remains available to you indefinitely. You can stop it, restart it, or replay it as many times as you’d like. You can also create your own member profile and share photos or videos of your work, as well as network with other members.

The six tapestry class videos, called “broadcasts,” are composed of lots of photos with close-up views of techniques, helpful lists and information in text, and audio of Claudia walking you through everything step by step. It’s easy to stop and restart, and you can jump around and replay key parts anytime.

Part 1 of the class covers warping the loom. I’ve warped my Mirrix loom a number of times now, so this part was easy. Here’s a look at my 16-inch Mirrix loom before warping, sitting on my corner work desk.

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It has a couple of features that may look different from your loom, especially if you’re just starting out. First, there is an extra, black plastic clip on the vertical copper bar on the right-hand side. My loom originally came with two wooden clips, one on each side. (You can see the second one scooted up above the black clip.) I’ve added the black clip so that I can use the add-on treadle.

The second difference is that there is a black plastic strip with two metal knobs on the bottom horizontal bar. It’s part of the add-on bottom spring kit. For the class, I will be using my treadle, but I won’t use a second warp coil.

For the class project we’re using every other dent in a 14-dent warp coil (for a total of 7 dents per inch) and we’re using a total of 45 warps. Here I am (below) counting the dents — or spaces between spring coils — in my warp coil to make sure I’m using the right one.

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I’m using a beading awl to help keep my place as I count. Alternatively you could do this with a tapestry needle.

Although the completed tapestry should be about 6 inches wide, my warps are closer to 6.5 inches. I think this is because my warp coil actually has closer to 15-dents per inch. However, there will probably be some pull-in on the sides of the tapestry which may bring it closer to 6 inches.

Here are all 45 warps wrapped around the loom.

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The next step is to attach the heddles. These are little loops that wrap around the warps and ultimately create the shed, which is the horizontal space between sets of warps where you place the yarn when you weave.

Here’s a look at my heddles attached to the heddle bars on my shedding device.

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I made my heddles using cotton crochet yarn and this handmade jig.

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Alternatively, you can buy pre-made Texlov heddles. If you make your own, I recommend using something relatively strong that also holds a tight knot. You can test this by cutting a short length of the material and tying together the ends with a square knot. Then pull the ends away from each other and see if the knot slides. If it does, look for something more grippy.

Finally, here are side views of the shed when it’s closed versus when it’s open.

Closed:

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Open:

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You’ll normally attach the shedding device handle and use it to turn the bar to change the shed from one open position to the other. For the photo, I just turned the bar with my hand because I’ll be attaching the treadle to the loom instead of using the handle. In my next post, I’ll show you what the treadle looks like attached and we’ll get ready to start weaving the tapestry.

Chris Franchetti Michaels is a bestselling craft book author and designer. Visit her blog at http://www.beadjewelry.net.

Ask Elena: Warp Coil Woes

You may have heard the terms “warp coil” and “spring” thrown around our website. Maybe you understand the references, but maybe you don’t. This post is a little primer on warp coils (or springs, they’re the same thing) including HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH WARP COIL TO USE and HOW TO MODIFY A WARP COIL TO FIT YOUR NEEDS.

WHAT IS A WARP COIL AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

A warp coil is a spring you put at the top (or bottom if you have a bottom spring kit) of your loom to organize you warp threads. When you put the spring on the loom and you measure an inch, the number of DENTS (spaces in the spring) should equal the numbers in the name of the spring. An 18 dent spring should have about 18 dents in an inch. Easy!

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The warp coil spaces your warp threads correctly. If you’re using larger beads, you want your warp threads to be spaced further than if you were using smaller beads. The same goes for tapestry. If you’re using thicker yarn, you want your warp threads spaced out further than with a thinner yarn.

What springs come with the loom:  8, 12, 14 and 18 dents per inch.  As you can see, this pretty much covers all your needs except when using tiny beads such as 15/0s or when weaving a wide piece with size 11/0 delicas, which work better with a 16 dent coil.

For beads: Since the springs are even measurement and the beads per inch are sometimes an odd number and because you have to factor in the thickness of the thread in between the formula is not exact.  If you don’t have the correct spring, but one that is close, and you are doing a piece that is not very wide, you can use a larger spring and squish it together in the middle and put under tension. For a wider piece (three inches or larger) you really want the correct spring.

HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH WARP COIL TO USE

How do you know what warp coil to use for bead weaving:

Place the beads you plan on weaving on a needle and measure an inch. Then, count how many beads are in that inch. The number of beads minus one is the warp coil that will be used. For example, if you are using Delicas you would find 19 Delicas are in one inch, so you would use the 18 dent coil. There is some leeway in this, and depending on the beads you are using, it might not work out perfectly (numerically), just close. Using a smaller (lower number) coil is better than using a larger (higher number) coil.

How do I know what warp coil to use for tapestry?

This is something you have to experiment with as a tapestry weaver. For finer weft, you will want to use a warp coil with more dents per inch. For thicker weft, you will want to use a warp coil with fewer dents per inch or even warp every other dent. (For example, an 18 dent warp coil every other dent is equal to a 9 dent warp coil.)

The basic thing to remember is to make sure your warps threads aren’t showing and you must consider the warp set (how far apart your warp threads are, or what warp coil you are using), how thick your weft is and how thick your warp is. One way to determine your weft size is to put your weft in between your warp threads vertically when your loom is warped. If your weft threads are much thicker than the space between the two warp threads, then your weft is probably too thick and if your weft threads are much thinner than you know your weft is too thin.

DO I ALWAYS NEED A SPRING?

The answer is: in some cases you do not want a spring.  For example, when weaving a bead soup bracelet with lots of different size beads, the beads will set the spacing.  Also, when weaving a thin piece, you can usually skip the spring if you don’t have the correct size.

HOW TO MODIFY A WARP COIL TO FIT YOUR NEEDS

Sometimes you don’t have the right warp coil on hand. Maybe you’re making our Tapestry/Bead Cuff and you need a 10 dent spring and don’t have one, or maybe you have an 8″ Lani Loom without the shedding device and you want to weave Delicas (that loom comes with only a 14 dent spring). You can always buy new springs on our website, but you can also modify springs to fit your needs. Here’s how: (Note: as we mentioned earlier, this is only recommended for pieces thinner than three inches)

-Warp your loom like you would normally. When thinking about width, take into consideration that you’re going to change the spacing slightly by stretching or smushing your warp coil.

-Take out your measuring tape and measure an inch. Count how many dents (spaces in the spring) are in that inch and then stretch or smush your spring to make that amount of dents in an inch equal how many dents you need. For example, if you have a 12-dent spring, you will want to stretch it so there are only 10 dents in an inch, not 12. Keep stretching or smushing your spring to make sure there are the correct amount of dents in an inch over the entire width of the piece.

-Then, while holding the spring at the amount of dents you want it (remember, just in the place where you have your weaving), tighten your tension. This should secure your spring at the correct dents per inch.

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Or…

What happens if I am all ready to weave a wide piece with 11/0 delicas and I don’t have the 16 dent spring and I want to weave it this very second?  You can sacrifice your 18 dent spring.  Do the math:  For a 16 inch loom, the spring spans 13 inches and a tad.  You would need to remove 2 times 13 dents from your 18 dent spring.  26 dents.  Count 26 dents and cut at about 24 so you can create a new loop.  Or just put the 18 dent spring on the loom and stretch it so that there are 16 dents per inch.  Cut a few coils  past that to allow for a new loop at the end.

WHERE TO BUY MORE SPRINGS

Buy more springs: http://www.mirrixlooms.com/store/warpcoils.html

WHAT THE HECK IS THAT BOTTOM SPRING KIT AND DO I NEED IT?

The answer is not that simple. But there is an answer, never-the-less.

First let me answer the question:  why don’t all the looms just come with a bottom spring attachment?  The reason it doesn’t is about half of Mirrix users do not want one or use one and it would get in their way.  For example, tapestry weavers who weave at the wider setts (the number of ends per inch) usually don’t use it.  However, we find that weavers who weave small format tapestry love the bottom spring kit because it helps get all those pesky threads all neatly lined up and in order.  For those folks we created the bottom spring kit with two 20 and 22 dent springs, one for the top and one for the bottom.  Usually these folks are warping with material that is about as thin as beading thread so you can see where organization on the bottom of the loom could be very helpful.  We have relied heavily on the opinion of Kathe Todd-Hooker who is the Queen of small format weaving and loves the bottom spring kit.  In fact, we made the 20/22 dent spring package to make her happy.

Now for the bead answer to this question.  If you are weaving thinner bracelets or necklaces it’s really easy to organize your warp threads at the bottom of the loom.  And since the first row of beads sets the bottom sett, once you’ve got that row in, a bottom spring has no use.  However, when weaving wider pieces and especially wider pieces using the shedding device where there are pairs of threads between beads that have to remain paired correctly, that bottoms spring kit certainly helps to keep those pairs paired correctly and the threads not crossing at the bottom.  So in the case of wider bead pieces (more than four inches) it will test your patience less if you do have the bottom spring kit.

We offer the bottom spring kit with all the springs that come with the loom as well as the one mentioned above with two 20/22 dent springs.  We al so offer the bottom spring kit with two 16 dent springs.  This is designed for those weaving wide beaded tapestries with Delica beads since the 16 dent spring for some reason works better than the 18 dent spring in this situation.

You can buy just the bottom spring kit (it’s a tray that holds the springs) and pick just the springs you want.  For example, even though the looms (except for the MiniMirrix and Lani without shedding device) come with size 8, 12, 14 and 18 dent springs, you might only be weaving size 11/0 seed beads which require the 14 dent spring.  There is no need to buy the whole set.  Just buy the bottom spring kit and that particular spring.  You can always buy others later.  But then there are those of you who might be weaving a whole range of beads or might do so and it is cheaper to buy the whole package.

In any case, before you jump in and buy a bottom spring kit, carefully think about what your weaving future might hold!

BEAD WEAVING WARP COIL CHEAT SHEET:

Delicas:

8/0- 9 per inch. Use the 8 dent spring

10/0- 14 per inch.  Use 12 dent spring

11/0- 19 per inch.  Use 18 dent spring except when doing very wide pieces, when you can use the 16 dent spring.

15/0- 25 per inch.  Use the 22 dent coil just in order to space the beads.  That is the largest coil we can make.

Seed Beads:

15/0- 24 per inch.  Use 22 dent spring.

11/0- 14 to 15 per inch (size vary slightly depending on finish and manufacturer).  Use 14 dent spring.

8/0-12 per inch.  Use 10 or 12 dent spring depending on what size warp you are using.  For example, when using the bead cord, because it is thicker, you will use the 10 dent spring. But if just weaving straight beads using beading thread as warp, you would use the 12 dent spring.

6/0-8 per inch.  Use the 6 dent spring.

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!

What is a Shedding Device?

The Mirrix Shedding Device can seem a puzzling contraption to those unfamiliar with weaving. Today, I hope to clear up what a shedding device is and why you might want one.

sheddingdevice

The Mirrix Shedding Device

Called: Shedding Device
Not Called: Shredder, Shredding Device, Shedder

Shedding devices are devices used to lift warps in order to pass fiber or beads through them more easily. The space between the warps is called the SHED, which is where the term SHEDding device comes from.

On a Mirrix shedding device, when you change the position of the handle, the shedding device shifts position and opposite sets of warps are raised, securing your beads or weft between the warp threads. The wooden clips hold your shedding device on the loom, but also serve to hold your warping bar in place when warping your loom (and before you install the shedding device).

shedding device

By changing the position of the shedding device using the handle, you change which warp threads are raised or lowered

When weaving tapestry, if you do not use the shedding device, you must weave each piece of fiber under and over the warp threads.

photo copy 3

By using the shedding device, you can lift half of your warp threads all at the same time, so instead of weaving over and under, you can just place your weft (the thread you are using) between the raised and lowered warp threads.

shedding device

The shedding device is attached to the warp threads with heddles. These heddles pull up on the correct warp threads when the shedding device is engaged.

heddles

The shedding device engaged in one direction, picking up half the warp threads.

When weaving beads with the shedding device, you string up a row of beads and then place them between the raised and lowered warp threads. Then you change the position of the shedding device, securing those beads between the warp threads.

bead weaving

bead weaving

On a Mirrix Loom, using the shedding device is recommended for tapestry weaving as it makes the process much faster and easier. For combining beads and fiber, a shedding device is also very useful. For beads, both the traditional bead weaving method of placing your beads behind your warp threads and then sewing through and the method using the shedding device and placing the beads between raised and lowered warp threads work. The method using the shedding device takes a little more time to set up, but once you get the hang of it it’s a fast and fun way to weave beads!

Do you still have questions about the Mirrix shedding device? Ask in the comments!

More Tapestry Artists

Janet Austin

Blog:  http://www.austintapestry.blogspot.com/

Janet Austin’s Biography

I got hooked on weaving in 1972, at Massachusetts College of Art. For 8 years I wove functional items for sale, focusing on color and texture.

Feeling trapped in the horizontal/vertical grid, I earned an MFA in Painting at the University of North Carolina at Greenboro; almost accidentally the weaving and painting came together in 1983.

“Out of Chaos”

from  her “Chaos” series

more from the “Chaos” series

Joan Baxter

http://www.joanbaxter.com/index2.htm

Joan Baxter’s Biography

After studying tapestry at Edinburgh College of Art and Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts during the 1970s, Baxter spent eight years working as a weaver and trainer in commercial tapestry studios in the UK and Australia, notably working on the Henry Moore tapestries at West Dean Tapestry Studio. She has been an independent tapestry artist since 1987, regularly exhibiting her work in solo and group shows. Among her many commissioned works are pieces for churches, corporate and private clients.
Moving to the far north of Scotland in 2000 to the place that has inspired so much of her output, marked a new chapter in Baxter’s personal work. A Scottish Arts Council Personal Development Grant in 2002/3 allowed her to expand into less traditional approaches to her medium. Although continuing to weave tapestries in the narrative style that she is known for, she now also makes more experimental pieces alongside them. Her imagery has become more abstract, the interpretation more deliberately weaverly, and the materials more varied. This has resulted in a collection of work that pushes boundaries but does not compromise the beauty and expressive power of the traditional tapestry form.

The first in a list of tapestry weavers’ websites

This begins a list of tapestry weavers’ websites. I will provide their website URLs plus some images.  I will keep posting these until I have exhausted the list.

We begin with:

Sandy Adair’s website: http://www.fibredesignsandyadair.com/  “Fiber Design
Originals”

Sandy Adair’s Biography

A USF graduate, I apprenticed with Dr. Force at ASU and also received two scholarships to Penland School. Affiliations: Southern Highlands, Piedmont Craftsmen, Handmade In America, and American Tapestry Alliance, I represented the Biltmore House during their “Year of the Tapestry”. Participating in 30 invitational and juried exhibitions, I have received a dozen ribbons and numerous purchase awards.

1000 Textile Images, Fiber Arts Design Book V, Making Amazing Art, Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful and Southern Aviator Magazine have featured my work. My weaving “Appalachian Sunset” appeared in film “28 Hours”.

Originally, a mountain family endeavor, my Mother and youngest daughter Erin assisted me early on. My Mother, a great inspiration and help to me, has since passed away and Erin is now a designer in NY.

 

Winterscape II

Hovis View n Waynesville

Jordan’s View in Mt. Gilead

Patricia Armours’ website is:  http://www.tapestryartist.co.nz/artist/patrarmo/Artworks/

Patricia’s Biography:

Patricia Armour’s Biography

Trish is based in Wellington , New Zealand and has been weaving tapestry for over 20 years. She has exhibited in New Zealand and the United States of America . She has worked in collaboration with leading NZ Artists and has work in private collections in the USA, Japan and New Zealand, including a collaborative work being part of the Rutherford Collection, now held at Te Papa (the National Museum), Wellington. Trish has studied tapestry in New Zealand with leading international tapestry weavers and in 1994 attended West Dean College in Chichester , UK (with the assistance of a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council grant for overseas study).

Trish’s tapestries convey a sense of space, light and atmosphere to create a haunting mysticism in which the viewer can read poetry into the work or see something emerge that may or may not be there. Her work varies in size from fine miniatures to large murals. The time she spent at West Dean College in the UK , and inspiration from haunting neolithic sites and the great tapestries of Europe . Greek mythology, Celtic legend, her own spirituality and ancient history also have a strong influence in her work.

 

Pagan Spirit

Peace of the Running

Ethereal Flight