Monday, June 29, 2009

The Elephant in the Room

There’s an elephant in my living room. You know what I mean, something large and obvious that you do your best to ignore. My elephant is a warp weighted loom. It stands in the opening between my living room and my loom room. It has been standing there for a very long time.

The fabric on the loom is a plaid wool that was started as a class project. Perhaps foolishly, I decided that I wanted to put on a warp long enough to have a useful piece of fabric when I was done – 5 yards to be exact.

As a learning experience it was very successful for me (even though I was one of the teachers for the class!) – I learned that it is possible to pack the warp into the tablet woven header band way too tightly. So instead of the recommended sett or 20 – 28 ends per inch for plain weave, I have a sett of 36 – 40 ends per inch. This means a couple things. First, the fabric is warp faced, very warp faced. Second, it’s a bit of a struggle to get a clear shed. Third, the warps sticking together causes abrasion and breakage.

Now it takes a while to weave on a warp weighted loom – longer than on a floor loom (there is a reason they invented those treadles). When it’s hard to get a clear shed it takes even longer. And you’re standing up the whole time. So, are you surprised that my loom is an elephant?

I’ve made a promise to myself. I will finish this project by the end of the summer and nothing goes on the floor loom until the WWL comes down. Stay tuned to this channel for updates.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In Praise of Ordinary Time

“There is a very fine line between a groove and a rut”
--Christine Lavin

Ordinary time is underrated. You know the time I mean, the days that are routine - work, house-work, school-work – whatever your routine happens to be. A block of days where one day melds predictably into the next, busy, yes – these days who’s not? – but busy in a predictable way.

I haven’t had very much ordinary time lately. In the twenty years that I’ve been weaving, weaving these stoles has been the most intense project I’ve undertaken. I had a very tight time frame – just five weeks from start to finish. Five weeks to plan, order, then dye the yarn, warp the loom three times and weave four stoles. In the middle of this, I had a clase to prepare for and teach at the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat.

Under normal circumstances, I greatly enjoy the Fiber Retreat, held annually at Camp Verdugo Oaks just north of Castaic in the Tehachapi mountains. That would have been true this year, too, but I arrived and promptly started developing the symptoms of a cold that promised to be serious (I still have congestion and a nagging cough). So, unfortunately, I had to come home from the retreat a day early. There are some great blogs about the retreat - here's one at Mixed-Up Melange.

With all this going on, it’s small wonder that my days were anything but ordinary. My house has descended into chaos, my vegetable garden is over grown (I think there might be a zucchini out there that is large enough to qualify as small planet), and my family hasn’t had a home cooked meal in six weeks. I’m anxious for some ordinary time.

The green stole (for ordinary time) wove up faster than all the others – the shadow weave design, a gothic cross pattern from A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns, did not require a tabby thread, so there was less treadling.

So all the stoles were finished in time, with a couple of days to spare. Pastor Walt was thrilled with the gift, and it was a joy to see him wearing the red stole last Sunday (the red one is my personal favorite).

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Too Busy Weaving to Write

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been too busy weaving to write about weaving. The red stole and the purple stole are now completed. I’m taking a break from threading the heddles for the green stole. Here’s a picture of the red and purple stoles:

And a close-up of the diamond pattern in the purple stole:

Purple is for advent and lent – the days of penitence and preparation (which are two sides of the same coin).

To prepare for the weaving of these stoles, I used several resources. For my patterns, I used A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns. I put the designs I chose into Fiberworks PCW. This gave me working copies of the threading, tie-up and treadling, and figured the number of heddles needed for each shaft. I used my own Excel spreadsheet to figure the warp and weft yardage requirements for the 20-2 silk and 120/2 from Treenway. I consulted the notebook created in the SOAR workshop with Sarah Lamb to pick the colors I would create with Sabracron F dyes.

Before I undertook any of these technical aspects, however, I turned to everyone’s favorite new research tool for inspiration – the internet. There are lots of fiber artists making unique and beautiful liturgical stoles out there. Not only hand woven, but quilted, appliquéd, painted and embroidered. I found some that I’d like to share with you:

Heavenly Threads is owned by a fashion designer and pastor - now there’s a combination I can get behind!

The In Stitches Center for Liturgical Art uses dye, quilting and appliqué in their contemporary stoles. They also conduct workshops.

Sandra Briney makes elegant handwoven stoles using the Theo Moorman inlay technique.

Prayerful Creations is the work of a hermit who lives in silence and solitude and supports herself by weaving. Wow – weaving without the distractions of dogs, cats, phones and garage bands! I wonder what that would be like?

Weaver Andrea Williams of North Carolina uses a variety of weave structures in her colorful stoles.

And finally, The Shower of Stoles Project is a collection of liturgical stoles from GLBT clergy. Some are simple, some elaborate, but all represent the faith and service of these disciples.