Saturday, September 29, 2007

The What and Why of Turned Weft Ikat

Combining commercial space-dyed yarn with my ikat dyed yarn.

Every time someone asks me why I don't just wind warps and ikat dye them instead of ikat dyeing lots of skeins and winding the warp after the yarn is dyed, I have to stop and ask myself the same question. Why don't I?

I found when I tried winding the warp first and planning my design in great detail, I had a hard time achieving the results I imagined. It was hard and frustrating. Although my method is not particularly fast (It takes me about 20 minutes to wind an inch of warp), it seems so easy and so full of surprises. It's as if the threads themselves have created the patterns for me. When I am weaving an ikat piece, it's like watching a beautiful painting happen before my eyes.

I have hundreds of balls of natural dyed ikat silk I've collected and been using since the 70's. They were dyed by many different dyers over the years. I can still add them to a warp, use them for embellishment, or use them in my wrapped wall pieces. They are like tubes of paint that never dry out.

I enjoy the spontaneity of designing a warp directly on the warping board. When I design in this manner, all "figuring out" thinking happens before I warp the loom. Dressing the loom and weaving the piece become more of a relaxing meditative process.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Beginnings, Endings, Middles, More Beginnings

Beginnings: I keep forgetting to post this luscious yarn. It must be that I am covetous as this is Laritza's yarn, not mine. It is spun from a blend of wool and her own alpaca, and she dyed it to use in her horoscope weaving. I will keep you posted as will she. I apologize for being slow on the uptake. Go click on her name and read a detailed account of color selection and the dyeing process.

Endings: I have one side twisted. I hated to take this weaving down off the wall. Until I finish twisting the fringe, I don't have to think about the washing part. The background weaving is a linen napkin woven by Virginia West of the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore
I attended their 50th anniversary banquet. There was a handwoven napkin at each place setting, and we all got to keep our napkin. That was just one marvelous detail of a grand celebration.

Middles: Weave a little everyday. Panel #5 of the Big Commission

More Beginnings: Here I am starting a shawl using Woven Words and Turned Weft Ikat (I haven't wound these 6 additional chains yet) for the warp and recycled cashmere for the weft. I will give you more details as I progress. The warp will be 30" wide, sett 24 epi (Bambu 12).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Waiting for the Yarn to Dry

The greatest blessing and joy of being a virtual gardener is a trip to the farmers market. This week I went with my dear friend Rozie. We spoke about (among many other things) ways to be more creative in ones life. When she dropped me off, she said "Now I have to go home and deal with these vegetables." I thought I would have to "deal" with my vegetables as well. But when I took them out of my canvas bags, I was intrigued by this week's selection and decided to arrange them in an artful still life. Aside from the first harvest of tender spring greens, this is time of year most anticipated. After reading "Animal Vegetable Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, I have begun to eat vegetables and fruit in season and locally grown when I can. This meant no apples all summer. Those 2 honey crisp apples have been long anticipated. Honey Crisps live up to their name!
Another favorite of mine is Cranberry Beans. They are so much fun to pop out of their pods because each bean is unique and almost seems to be hand painted. Alas they do turn bean colored after they are cooked, BUT they cook in 20 minutes without soaking or anything. Of course, if I dried them I would have to soak them overnight and cook them for a long time. I freeze them, so I can enjoy fresh beans all year long. When I take a bag out of the freezer, they still take only 20 minutes to cook.

After I dealt with the vegetables, I decided to whip up a little bean, fennel, and corn soup. I didn't use any of the cranberry beans (I froze them). The beans on the left (I can't remember their name) I had never seen before. They were already shelled, so I don't know what their pod looks like either. They looked really yummy and mixed them with a little of the black beans.
I guess I should post a picture of the finished product since the soup is fabulous. I have plenty so I'll snap a picture at my next dinner.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dye Day #5 The Drying

The sun came out for a brief instant, and I caught this moment with my handy camera. Notice my sophisticated drying rack. I pulled the skeins inside this morning since they were still not dry. It's been 4 days now, but who's counting. I haven't turned on my heat yet, so I don't know how much faster it will be inside although they are predicting rain today. I can tell it rained during the night as well. The patio is covered, so the skeins were only exposed to the damp, no direct rainfall.

Almost dry and much lighter, I still can't tell which one is navy and which one is midnight blue. Any guesses?

The skein on the right is bamboo, on the left 8/2 cotton. I do know they were both in the same dye bath. What can I say, the bamboo takes the dye so much better.

And here is the black. I don't mind the gray, but I now understand what people mean when they say black is hard to dye. They must have been trying to dye unmercerized cotton.

Once the yarn is dried, I will explain my method of Turned Weft Ikat and why I don't wind my warps first and tie warps instead of skeins.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Cashmere Sweater Kind of Day

Who would have thought when I put it out to the universe that I would trade a scarf woven in
Turned Weft Ikat bamboo warp and a recycled cashmere sweater weft in exchange for 10 cashmere sweaters that I would meet a charming fellow who collects cashmere sweaters!

I know there is a knack for taking the sweaters apart before they are raveled, but I have not hit upon it regularly enough to be able to repeat the process. Usually it takes me about 8 hours to reduce a sweater to approximately a half a pound of yarn rolled into fairly tight balls. It is a sitting around chatting kind of job if you happen upon company that needs to keep their hands busy. Unknitting is quite satisfying if you haven't been the one to knit the sweater in the first place.

The only problem with these particular sweaters is they are in perfect condition. I am saved by the fact none of them looks good on me.

I won't go into the rest of my day because I have very little to show for it. I didn't even get out on the patio to pet my dyed skeins (or take a picture of them). I will try again tomorrow although I have a day full of meetings.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dye Day #5 A

I had all these good intentions to take lots of pictures, but I only took this one of the dyeing process. I figured most dye pots look alike. The only reason I took this picture is because the dye formed some kind of foam on the surface. The other 2 pots were fine. So far I can't tell there is any negative results.

I did three dye pots. I thought I would be smart I do one pot of Jet Black, one of Midnight Blue, and one Navy. This would give me a chance to see how these colors work with the 8/2 unmercerized cotton. I did toss in a couple of skeins of bamboo, however, because I knew I would have room. What I didn't do was pay attention to which of the blues I put into which dye pot. Tomorrow I will show you what they look like almost dry. I have them hanging outside, and it is not supposed to rain for a couple of days.
I got so excited to see how my masking tape experiment worked that I unwrapped one before I took a picture. But here is a black with one of the blues. I will tell you now that the masking tape is an unqualified success. So even though my back still hurts from 5+ hours of rinsing, I learned something. Well, I learned a lot actually and will sum it up tomorrow complete with a revelation, a realization, and the answer to the question, "Why don't I wind my warps before I tie and dye the yarn?"

I have not abandoned my Weave Every Day goal (although I was too tired after dyeing and 5 hours of rinsing to do any yesterday). I am inching along on panel #5.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dye Day #5 Eve

Here are 4 stages of Turned Weft Ikat, but not in any particular order. All the way to the right you see a bit of a cone of undyed 8/2 unmercerized cotton. The white skein is tied and ready to dye. Then there are a couple of dyed skeins (or what's left of them) resting on a finished Turned Weft Ikat towel. This picture has potential, but I will re-shoot it.

Once I got all of my wrapping supplies out, I realized this was what I was procrastinating about.
I just didn't feel like wrapping fifteen 2 oz skeins. Here we see my wrapping materials: Glad Kitchen Bags, Compactor (a stronger bag that works pretty well); Glad Tall Kitchen , Quick Tie (are a little too stretchy for me) ; the big roll is official Japanese Kasuri wrapping tape (I like the compactor bags better, but it is nice to have options); and pink carpet warp (good for detailed tying)

This is my reward. Some of my skeins are mostly white with just a few black accents. This means that I have to cover most of the skein in plastic. I have been having a hard time masking the majority of the skein without having a fair amount of seepage. I believe this is caused in part by the change in quality of the plastic bags. It had never occurred to me to use a coating of masking tape over top of the tall kitchen bag. I left some of the bag exposed on the left skein to see how much more or less seepage will occur.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Creative Procrastination

1. Go to the Saturday Farmers Market and purchase attractive vegetables. I don't usually take pictures of provocative vegetables, but this radish was too good to ignore. The squash is pretty interesting too.
2. Take pictures of my vegetables.

3. Look at the warp I wound yesterday.
I wound another towel warp, but I think I will wait until after my next Dye Day early next week. I'll have some additional shades to work with.

4. Weave just enough so I can say I wove today.
Somehow I lost the picture of my "weaving everyday". I'll catch you up with Grace in the next post. I must have been too anxious to move on to the real creative part of Creative Procrastination.

5. Start to clear the piles of stuff off the guest bed in my office.

6. Become distracted by a box of photographs made from my digital images.
Before my recent "Turned Weft Ikat" presentation to the Whibey Weavers Guild, I converted 47 digital images into slides. I decided to print out 4x6 all of the images and take them to the slide processing lab. Now that I have the slides, I don't really need the prints.

7. Crop pictures to show just weaving or yarn.

8. Spend an evening assembling and re-assembling little bits of colored paper.

Much to my delight, a new series of greeting cards emerged. I just happened to have a brand new box of 50 blank greeting cards (with envelopes).

9. Take pictures of the pictures of my weaving.

10. Plan to use a tripod the next time I take pictures.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Towel Exchange, Silk Ikat Kumihimo, Cashmere Weft

What a lovely array! The purple towel is brand new. I haven't gotten a good picture of the towel solo, but I will. By then I will have information.

As I was unpacking my samples after the Turned Weft Ikat presentation, I came upon this piece of kumihimo I made about 20 years ago. It is one of the very few I have left because it was always a favorite. I'm not even sure what braid I used, but I love the way the ikat works with kumihimo. I just looked in my Catherine Martin book: Kumihimi Japanese Silk Braiding Techniques to see if I could identify the braid. I think it is Mitake Gumi, but I'm not sure. I haven't braided for many years now. I try to curb my tendency to master every craft that I admire. I know you know what I mean.

I just like the look of this. The colored yarn is some of my 20/2 cotton. The big white cones are the 8/2 unmercerized cotton I'm using for my towels. The two baskets contain the cashmere I will triple and wind onto the shuttles. Here is my collection of 22 stick shuttles. I actually have 26 shuttles, but only about 10 of them are mine. I borrowed 16 of them for a project (I'm embarrassed to say maybe 5 years ago!) Periodically I ask the owners if they need them back, and they say "eventually". AND I am still using them for a project, although it is now a different project. Those white ones on the left were made from old venetian blinds.

I am gearing up to begin panel #5 of the Big Commission woven in the Saori philosophy.
I am also gearing up for another Dye Day next week.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Washing Tencel

Here are some answers to the question: How do I launder my tencel weaving?

The first answer comes from Diane of Just Our Yarn.

I usually fill the washer for a small load (cool to warm water) and put the piece in and agitate on the
delicate cycle with a little soap (usually ivory but anything works) I don't usually let it go the full
cycle--just 2-3 minutes. spin, rinse, spin, rinse with fabric softener, spin, rinse again and spin out.
The fabric softener will make a big difference in the hand. Then I usually throw it in the dryer for a
few minutes taking it out when it's slightly damp. Give it a hard press with lots of steam and it'll be
even more beautiful.

The next answer came to the previous blog entry by BJGVET.

I have woven extensively with Web's 8/2 tencel. I always finish (based upon their recommendation) with a hand wash in warm water with mild detergent, rinse, then roll in a towel and hang to air dry. Once dry, I steam iron the piece with a moderate plate temp (lower end of the steam zone). I have had excellent results, never any bleeding or puckering, and absolutely no loss of its beautiful light catching sheen. Barbara Elkins (of Webs) also says that Tencel tolerates very hot water well, and recommends washing in the hottest tap water you have if you have had problems with pulled threads during wear you are trying to coax back into position, or a slightly looser sett than ideal. This will cause some shrinkage, but it is even, and causes no damage to the actual fiber. I have also tumbled my already dry Tencel pieces in a warm dryer with a sheet of fabric softener to further soften the drape with very good results. Dry cleaning is also an option if you want NO CHANGE whatsoever in your finished piece, but I have never tried it.

The third answer comes from a book on wet finishing handwovens by Laura Fry by way of Laritza.

It is fiber made from the wood pulp in a more environmentally friendly process than Rayon.
Finish Tencel with warm water, light soap of detergent, agitation and hard press. This will give it a lovely sheen and drape.
That is all she says.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Having Woven

I used to believe the best part of weaving was "having woven". With this piece, I never wanted it to end. I wove as slow as I could.

But with all things, the end finally happened.

This isn't the best picture, but it is hot off the loom. The threads are still warm. I just wrote to Just Our Yarn to see if they have any hints and tips connected to laundering tencel. I have never washed tencel, but I have heard a few "stories". I wasn't paying close attention to the tales because I wasn't using tencel at the time. I am not in a hurry to wash this because I plan to twist the fringe first.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Whidbey Afterglow

As a virtual gardener, I am thrilled to display this picture sent to me by my very dear friend in Montana. She was in search of a ratatouille recipe which I supplied out of the Moosewood Cookbook.

I sure am loving this weaving! The only problem (and I am not certain this is really a problem) is I want to slow down and savor every pick.

One of my favorite things about Turned WeftIkat is the never ending kaleidoscope of painted and dyed yarn that dances along the warp beneath my hands. The threads create a symphony of color, and I am the orchestra conductor.

This is the beginning of a new project. At this stage, the only thing I know is I will need 16 colors. I also know I am using bambu 12, so I am somewhat limited in my color selection. I have 21 colors of bambu 12, so I only had to subtract 5. We shall see what evolves from this yarn.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wow, Another Towel!

I tried to upload a little movie of the members of the Whidbey Guild, but I was unsuccessful on the first try. The next time I have Bernie, my computer wizard and friend, over I will have him give it a try.

Every time I go to Whidbey Island, I come home full of dreams of living there. I know I am too urban for island life, but still.... Whidbey Island is a world class weaving mecca.

My talk was really good. I told a new story: How Easy Ikat evolved into Turned Weft Ikat. Beginning plans were made for a future Dye Day and a Towel Project. Here is the funny part: I used up most of my time during the slide lecture, and I didn't have time to show the guild my collection of samples! I did get to display my finished examples and the blanket panels which seemed to be enough. Maybe I should make a quilt out of the samples? hmmm. I'll put it on my to do list.

After my talk during "show and tell", Paula, who described herself as a new weaver, showed her natural undyed cotton towels. I was so struck by their look and feel I didn't pay attention to her description of the weave structure, where she got the yarn and how she finished it. Actually I do recall hearing Paula say she poured boiling water into the washing machine during the washing process. And the towel is so soft, I am sure it will be extremely absorbent. I just emailed Paula to ask her for the details. I will add them as soon as she replies.

Paula's reply: I got the yarn about a year + ago from FoxFibre. It is natural cotton and "Colorganic Yarn". It came with instructions that the colours would deepen as washed, especially in boiling water (that's why I added about half boiling water to my washer when I
washed them when they came off the loom). I bought 2 colours: dark & medium
green in 10/2 weight. I then added some older natural cottons labeled K.N. 6/2 25% green & 50% brown. I used a Swedish Lace pattern from Marguerite Porter Davison's A
Handweaver's Pattern Book Traditional Lace Unit page 94. I used a 14 dent
reed doubling up on the 10/2 cottons and using the 6/2 cotton at about 1 per dent, threading a few 6/2's at 2 per dent regularly and periodically to get the correct epi. I eventually wove all 3 treadling options, some with variations for my eventual 6 towels.

I have another blog friend, Ames, who weaves undyed natural colored merino wool blankets. (in the same spirit as the cotton)

Here is a particularly exciting patch of warp with the 10/2 tencel from Just Our Yarn
The only bad part about having such a luscious warp is that I want to weave slowly in order to revel in the luminous color.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Turned Weft Ikat goes to Whidbey

I am getting ready to speak at the Whidbey Weavers Guild on Thursday. I just finished putting the slide show together, and now it is time to put my "show and tell" together. It turns out I have ikat samples dating back to 1975. Rather than keep notes, I always "tried" to weave an extra 12"-36"to keep as samples. Here are some spread out on my bed.

I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to snap a few pics. I don't have time to describe the fiber, dyer, sett, year; but I will be happy to answer any questions.

Fibers I have used are silk, cotton, wool, chenille, bamboo, and now most recently tencel.

Using white as a color is always a challenge. Again, weaving with white and black after working with intense color is always refreshing. This picture is rather dark, but you can see the details well. I'll have to play around with the exposure.

Sorry for so few words. I'll have something good on Friday.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Weave Every Day, 4

I thought I would wow you (and wow myself) by finishing this piece, but it was a holiday weekend. I did manage to complete deadline #3 of 4, though, and I have been weaving everyday. I'm sorry the color isn't really good in the above picture. The detail is closer to what it actually looks like. Radiant!

I have to say weaving with this yarn is totally splendid. I love the look and feel of this 10/2 tencel. One of the great things about weaving ikat is watching it all unfold. Each pick is a surprise.

I think I mentioned that I am using 50/2 silk for the weft and the warp is sett at 32 epi. It is also a treat to use my 16 dent reed. For the first 20 years of weaving, I had only a 12 dent reed which seemed to work just fine. It may have been that I selected yarn that worked with my reed. Now that I have a 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, and 16 dent reed, I keep thinking I should have a 9. Funny how that is.....