Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who Teaches Who?

I had a wonderful two days working with Betty Vera, who is an accomplished artist with a clear sense of her own direction and needs. Working one on one is such a give and take that I often wonder, who is teaching who? I like to think we are explorers together rather than mentor/mentee teacher/student or any other dichotomy. I knew both Betty and I had done extensive work using painted warps, but in very different ways, and it was fun to learn how often our lives unknowingly dovetailed. I am sure we have been in rooms together before but just didn't know each other. 

Betty Vera discussing her lampas study

detail of Betty Vera's lampas study

The first day we spent going over the process of designing for Beljen Mills, which is also discussed in The Woven Pixel in detail. Betty is such a good colorist and it is going to be interesting to watch how she works with their warp tapestry setup which allows for pixelated abstraction in the imagery and color principles derived from pointillism. Since she has already done some work with this mill and others, she had a good grasp of what she needed clarifying. We made a set of weave structures using the black warp as the main color, running through all the possibilities of using it with other colors as binders, as well as the variations using dark and light wefts. In her own studio, she is now going to work on her 16-shaft loom to do some structure tests that she can incorporate into jacquard cloth.

Betty Vera's Double Plain Weave studies

The second day we worked with Photoshop and the TC-1 using The Woven Pixel processes. We took one of her images, a very diffused soft image with extreme pixelation of many colors and worked it into two variations that were woven using the ten structures I discussed recently for Double Plain Weave. I wasn't sure how the single pixels would work but was thrilled as her weaving progressed at the loom. I loved the cloth, and realized that she was creating an effect with solid black and white threads that was quite similar to one I had created by braiding black yarn and discharging the color. You can see details of Betty's cloth below, and one of my braided discharged pieces below that. 

detail of Betty Vera's double plain weave study

detail of lampas weaving by Bhakti Ziek showing braided and discharged warps

After weaving the double plain weave, we returned to the computer and designed 10 lampas structures using three wefts (one ground and two pattern wefts). Because the TC-1 loom is set-up with an end and end, black and white, warp, I realized we could make 1:1 (1 ground warp to 1 binder warp) structures that sometimes brought the white warp up as either a warp-faced or weft-faced satin ground, and two more structures that could bring the black warp up as warp-faced or weft-faced satin ground. Then using the two pattern wefts, we made a 1/3 twill that showed both wefts together, one structure using the white warp as binder, another using the black warp as binder. Then four more structures, one that showed the first pattern weft alone in a 1/3 twill with the white warp, another with the black warp; another structure showing the second pattern weft alone in a 1/3 twill, first with the white warp then with the black warp. The beating of the wefts is such that three picks end up sitting on top of each other, so on the face of the cloth you will see pattern weft one alone, pattern weft two alone, the two pattern wefts together, the ground weft alone, or the ground warp--five variations showing black warp as ground, white warp as binder and five variations showing white warp as ground and black warp as binder. A detail of Betty's study is at the top of this post. Click on the detail to see the image enlarged (you can click on any image to see it enlarged--did you know that?).

So, although I get the credit for being the teacher these last few days, Betty's inquiries led me to new places and new insights. I am so enthusiastic about the cloth coming off my TC-1 these days that I honestly don't feel there are enough hours in the day to get my work done. Though I often suffer from lack of direction, this is a fertile time where there are too many ideas springing up. They come directly from the work. They come so fast that I forget to write them down in my notebook--to remind me what to do when the dry spell hits again. I guess when it does, that will probably be a time when the work has gotten interrupted by other life necessities. So if it happens, and I forget that I just need to get started working again, maybe one of you will be kind enough to write me a note reminding me that the work will generate its own ideas and paths--just get started.

By the way, that cake I mentioned last time, it did turn out to be perfectly delicious. I usually make it as a strawberry shortcake, but this time I used blueberries in the center and blackberries on top. It is all gone now and I am suffering from deprivation.

Delicious Genoise Cake

Sunday, April 26, 2009


detail of warp-backed study woven at 60 ppi (though it says 70 ppi)

I just finished weaving a warp-backed study that will be a comparison between this type of cloth and a double weave fabric. Both structures use a 12-shaft satin as the root structure. The warp-backed study has only one weft, but sometimes I changed color. I began the weaving with a red 10/2 tencel weft, then changed to purple to weave a small "interruption demo" at the luncheon the other day. Originally I thought the cloth would weave at 70 ppi, and wrote that into the image (as you can see above), but in fact when I counted picks in the cloth, it was really 59.9 ppi. So I modified the image accordingly and wove it, again with red weft. When I measured at the end and did my math, it turns out that it wove at 57.61 ppi. Not a big difference, but i wanted to indicate it in my chart, so I added a "note" and wove it at the top, using purple weft to distinguish it (see image below). 

detail of Note added to warp-backed weaving stating true ppi of 57.61

I was thinking that if I wanted to add footnotes to my weavings with the correct data obtained from the actual weaving, I would have to rotate my images and weave them from top to bottom. It is fun to consider these possibilities, and decide what to do, like adding the top note, since I couldn't go back and unweave the original number 70. In the past I have woven a new strip and sewed it over the wrong information. I guess this is similar to someone having a tattoo that they no longer want, isn't it? 

I am going to be busy for the next two days tutoring. I want everything to go smoothly, so I am very nervous, and at the same time I am so excited because it is an unchartered journey and anything can happen. Each student coming to me is so unique, and it is a wonderful challenge to try and find what works for their needs. Right now, though, I am going to bake a cake for dinner. I have confidence that it is going to turn out perfectly.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Colloquy 2009, Books and Friends

I have been invited to be the featured presenter at Colloquy 2009, which meets at the St. Meinrad Archabby Guesthouse (Indiana) from October 12-15, 2009. Originally established by Ken Colwell in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, it has been held for many years at the Archabby, where Brother Kim Malloy is the weaver. Kathy O'Neal is the contact person for information, and you can find her contact information in the sidebar of this blog. The gathering is small so if you are interested in attending you should sign up soon. I have heard wonderful things about this gathering from Laura Foster Nicholson who was a presenter in the past, and look forward to several days of intense conversation on textiles with others as equally obsessed as myself.

One of two new bookcases

Lucky me! Mark just finished building two new bookcases for our front room. Not only am getting the stacks of books off the floor of the office/guestroom, but there is actually space to add books. I have been quite good lately about not buying books (practicing fiscal responsibility) but I think those empty spaces are going to undue all my restrain. It is going to be fun for my tutorial students to go through my shelves. I suspect some of them will get tempted to sit and read at night rather than weave. Actually, it will be a good way for them to rest a bit, and get inspired at the same time.

Trudy Otis showing her twisting machine

I keep raving about Vermont in this blog, but that is because it is a terrific place and keeps surprising me with new wonders. Yesterday I hosted a small pot luck luncheon for some weavers who I thought would be interested in seeing my TC-1 in action. Ann Levy came from the northern part of the state, Dena Gartenstein Moses from the south, Edith House and Trudy Otis from north central Vermont, and Susan RockwellDee Goulding, and myself from Randolph.  I first met Ann Levy (sorry, not shown in any of the photos because my picture-taking was poorly done yesterday) at the first North Country Studio Workshops in 1993. As soon as she heard I was moving to Vermont, she emailed me. She has been studying jacquard by going to The Centre for Contemporary Textiles in Montreal, working with the incredible artist and teacher, Louise Lemieux-Berube. She brought some of her work with her to show us, as did Trudy Otis. Trudy also demonstrated the twisting machine, shown above. I really want one of those! If any of you readers have one you aren't using, please send it to me. I hear they are sometimes available on e-bay but I don't have the patience to check that out.

Dena, Susan and Edith (left to right) watching Trudy

Besides having a wonderful lunch (and people were kind enough to leave enough for our dinner too), it is thrilling for me to find so many fine weavers in the state. New Mexico was also full of weavers, but most of them were tapestry weavers, following a different interest than mine. It feels as if there are more kindred weavers for me here. Trudy's scarfs are such a delight of color and structure and perfect finishing. To me the lunch was a mini-version of what I expect to find at the Colloquy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Double Plain Weave

Top and Bottom of Double Plain Weave Study

I am high on double plain weave. Before doing a study of the double weave 12-shaft shaded satins, I thought I should do something with double plain weave. You know, start at the beginning. Thinking of my warp colors (you know by now, starting from the right, they are black, white, black, tussah; repeated to 880 ends total) I came up with 8 structures, all plain weave, none stitched. The top layers of each would be: black warp, black weft; white warp, white weft; black warp, white weft; white warp, black weft; end and end black and white warp, pick and pick black and white weft (giving horizontal stripes, i.e., log cabin); end and end black and white warp, pick and pick white and black weft (giving vertical stripes, i.e., the other part of log cabin); and these last two repeated using black and tussah warps. Then i opened up my copy of Paul O'Connor's book Loom-Controlled Double Weave and realized I had forgotten two. So then I made black warp, pick and pick black and white weft; and white warp, pick and pick white and black weft. 

I turned a digital image taken on a walk in the woods of West Brookfield, Vermont last summer into ten shades of gray and assigned the double plain structures to the colors. I knew that some would appear very similar, but i wanted to use all ten in the image. Then I wrote my data on top, and included little swatches of each color as well as images of the structures. I was so excited by the idea and with each weaving, it becomes clearer to me that this is shaping up into a series of weavings that I can call The Weaving Lesson. Isn't it wonderful when you can conceptualize what you are doing, and still keep doing exactly what you are doing, as you want to do, but now you have a construct that legitimizes it in a more respectable way? The Weaving Lesson: Double Plain Weave. Yes, I like that title.

The Weaving Lesson: Double Plain Weave - detail

Paul's book (if you haven't checked out his latest project, a CD made with Marg Coe called A Tale of Two Tieups, I suggest you do) and Ursina Arn-Grischott's Doubleweave on Four to Eight Shafts are both excellent resources for information on double weave. They are very different, published 7 years apart, one in black and white, the other in color. Read together they are sure to inspire you to try this type of weaving. Of course, there is also an excellent chapter (my unbiased opinion) on double weave in The Woven Pixel.

Right now I don't want to do anything except design in Photoshop and weave on my TC-1, but life (laundry, cooking, cleaning the house) is getting in the way. Tomorrow is Mark's birthday so today I am going to cook (mushroom/spinach empanada roll; pasta with scallops; salad; and a birthday cake). He doesn't want to celebrate his birthday, so tonight we are having a This Is Not a Birthday Dinner with the Sacca/Billings. Some friends have written that Vermont seems to suit me--and I think they are right.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Response to Comment and Double Weave Beginnings

Detail of End and End Warp-Backed 12-Shaft Satin Study showing the one weft (blue) shows in all areas of the cloth

Often when I am posting to this blog I think "I am talking to myself--in a public forum--how narcissistic can I get!" but then I get private emails or public comments that encourage me to keep being public with my thoughts and activities. Sandra Rude, a weaver I have never met but who I greatly admire and know through magazine articles and her wonderful blog, has posted a comment to the last blog asking two questions. First she wonders if my column headers odd and even in my weaving refer to structures that raise the black (odd) ends and the white (even) ends. Yes, that is exactly right. It brings up the issue of labels and categories and talking to each other. When I start a class, I always spend the first hour going through my descriptive words, so that everyone in the room will share a common language. This sort of goes back to the discussion in a previous post about the word tapestry--a word that has different meanings to different groups of people. I like to keep my descriptions as close to conventional structural terms as possible, but sometimes, especially with complex structures, I find I have to wing it. Since I am "talking to myself" in my own studio, I try to write descriptive titles for structures that I will understand in the future. The truth is, I often forget myself, and probably remake structures because of this, so right now as I make these warp-backed, and now double weave, structures, I am putting notes into my notebook about what I am doing. That brings up the issue that I will have to remember the notes are in the notebook, and open it in the future....

The other question Sandra had was about weft and wouldn't using alternate colors in the weft create areas of solid black and solid white. I thought about that too, and that's when I started contemplating weft-backed warp-backed structures, which led me to conclude that I needed to design double weave structures to accomplish this. Below are two structures, the top one is a warp-backed structure and the bottom is a double weave structure. Note that the warp-backed structure is created on 24 ends (width) and 12 picks (height). Every pick of the cloth interlaces with both the front warps and the back warps. I have made the back warps pink so they will stand out for you to see. The back warps are interlacing as a 1,11 satin, and their raisers are placed so they are hidden by the floats of the front warp structure, which is an 11,1 satin. If I use a black weft, the areas that show this structure will appear solid black, but in the areas that use the structure that raises the white warps to the top, you will see the black weft. If I used a white weft, those areas will appear solid white, but then the areas woven with the structure below will show the white weft with the black warp.

2WarpB11,1satinOdd (which means to me, 2 warps weaving a warp-backed structure that brings the odd ends up to the top in a 11,1 satin; and the count of ends starts at the right, same as my loom, where thread 1 is on the right and thread 880 is on the left)
Now if you look at the structure below, which is for a double weave using two wefts (24 ends by 24 picks), you see that the pink raisers, which represent the back structure, only appear on the even picks. On those picks, all the warp ends for the top layer (the odd ends) are always raised, to keep them on top, but the back weft really only interlaces with the even ends (pink in the diagram). With this structure and variations of it, I will get areas of true black and true white if I use black and white as my weft colors.
2DW11,1satinOdd (which means to me, a double weave with two wefts, with the top warp, the odd ends, weaving an 11,1 satin; again the count of warp ends starts at the right with 1, odd, being on the right and 880 would be on the left edge)

On one of my 8-shaft Macomber looms I have a narrow warp set up end and end and I am handpicking images in it, interspersed with horizontal stripes. It has been on there, not progressing, for a long time. I wanted the ability to test 4-shaft structures in each layer, so the warp is not threaded in blocks. I use to love handpicking and brocade and the freedom it gives you to make any motifs, anywhere in the cloth--as long as you are willing to do this slow, laborious process. I would bristle when people implied it was tedious, because for me, it was this need to focus and pay attention to the cloth that made it interesting. I suppose I would be more tolerant of the process today if I didn't have a TC-1 loom that makes the handpicking unnecessary (though I can do it the TC-1 too as described in The Woven Pixel Chapter 14, Supplementary Brocading in the Warp and the Weft). I also think youth had a part to play--when I felt I had all the time in the world, I was more willing to watch my fabrics grow slowly. Speaking of youth, while taking a walk the other day I slipped on gravel and scraped my knee, just like I used to do as a kid. It still hurts, but I guess I am grateful that I can do anything like a kid anymore.

Hand-picked double plain weave on loom

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shaded Warp-Backed Satins

Warp-Backed !2-shaft Satin Sample

My neighbor Kelly Green stopped over today to see how the TC-1 loom works. I quickly made a small file in Photoshop to show her how the design process goes, then we went upstairs to the loom and wove this strip. She had never woven before, but had no problem starting at an advanced level. She also showed me a large quilt she is in the process of making--beautiful small hand-stitching. Maybe she wants to give up law for textiles. It really is my good fortune to have landed in this house in Randolph, surrounded by wonderful and interesting neighbors.

Yesterday there was a meeting of participants in the Vermont Open Studio Weekend. Since this will be my first year doing it, it was helpful to listen to the experience of others. Each artist is to have an educational component, and of course I will demonstrate the TC-1 loom. So it was also a good experience for me today to do this demo for Kelly. If all the people that visit my studio May 23 and 24 are as quick to understand as she was, then surely I will captivate at least one convert to weaving. 

I was also able to count the picks per inch in the little study (almost 60) so I could design the following weaving close to the correct aspect ratio. The advantage of a warp-backed weaving is that you use one weft and can have distinct areas of the warp colors--in my case there are two, black and white. So in areas that primarily show the black warp, each pick will have most of the black warps raised and only one of the white warps (and that usually gets hidden behind floats of the black warp and is not visible). Just the opposite will happen in areas where the white warps predominate. I started thinking about the combination of warp-faced and weft-faced structures in one study, and decided to try a series of shaded warp-backed satins. So using one weft color, I would get variations of it mixed with the black warp and variations mixed with the white warp.

Sample of Shaded 12-Shaft Warp-Backed Satins on the TC-1 Loom

I used a 12-shaft satin as the root structure for this study. The differences are often subtle but they are there. Maybe I will try this again with a 16-shaft satin and see if I can get a greater range of tonality. The sheen of the tencel is quite nice in the weft floats.

Detail of Warp-Backed Shaded Satin Study

I want to take advantage of the fact that my warp is end and end, and can cause a weft to look lighter or darker by using the light or the dark warps, and I want to use more than one weft color. I almost began to turn the warp-backed shaded satins into weft-backed warp-backed weaving, but realized I really am entering the realm of double cloth. I don't know why I have been avoiding it--it is the logical beginning with a two color warp--but I really didn't want to start there. Anyway, I think I am going to begin now. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sampling is my Art

Bhakti lecturing to high school students

Yesterday I went to Randolph Union High School for Career Day and lectured to two groups of students in the art room. I brought lots of studies and tried to broaden their concept of weaving and textiles. Most young people know fashion designers, but never consider who actually designs the cloth. I don't think most adults think about this either. One of the things I love about textiles is that the field encompasses so many ways to work within it--textile conservation, textile design, textile art, textile writing, textile teaching. I hope some of these students will look at cloth a little differently after hearing me talk.

I spent two days redoing my compound warp and warp-backed structures and then made new versions of the tests so I could be sure they were correct. This time I used aspect ratio for each section, based on the information from the first studies, and made them approximately two inches high. When I wove today, I used white weft instead of black, which I used in the previous studies, so I could see the affect of weft color. Doing these studies, and going through boxes to find examples to bring to the high school made me realize how much of my work has been sampling, and how much I enjoy this kind of exploration. Someday it would be nice to have an exhibit of just my studies, because these are really my most valuable fabrics. I think it is fair to say that sampling is part of my art.

Second version of warp-backed studies on the loom

I first became aware of compound tabby and compound twill while a graduate student at Cranbrook Academy of Art. I had just purchased a copy of John Becker's book, Pattern and Loom, and used it to try and find an appropriate structure for the narrative textiles I wanted to make. Below are five studies I did at the time--all woven on an 8-shaft loom with the imagery hand-picked. The two studies on the left had a rotation of three colors in the warp, and the next three had two colors. After these I found lampas, which became my structure of choice for many years.

Five Samplers

Two details from the samplers above

One of my favorite weavings I made was called Lucca Math. It had a damask ground based on an Italian textile (14th or 16th century, I don't remember now) and imposed on that were sketches of pots I drew in Florence, as well as the pages of math that i generated when trying to figure out this textile. Woven on an electronic jacquard loom, the writing became the "hand" of the piece. This weaving had the sense of abandonment that I like about my samplers. It is didactic and at the same time illegible; it is like a doodle but in fact it was very considered. I sold the piece but have retained a sampler for my own pleasure.

detail of Lucca Math

Friday, April 10, 2009

Studies Continued

End of Warp-Backed Studies

I just finished weaving the rest of the warp-backed studies. Actually, it also has weft-backed structures in it, which show up where the cloth turns from black and white into color. Where it says "weft-backed 9/1 satin" it should read "weft-backed 1/9 satin." I wrote it correctly in my notebook. I have to continue with these until I find something I like. You can see in the detail below that the top section combines both warp-faced and weft-faced structures. By using two wefts that are different in color to the warps, I have four areas of color. Although the dotting pattern of the two wefts is lively in the warp-backed structures, I am going to ponder how to have just one weft show. So stay tuned. I know my detailing of structures is not every one's cup of tea, but this mathematical game of possibilities really gets me going.

As I was weaving I was overcome with emotion at the fact that I could be working in my studio on my very own jacquard loom. By now I should know better than to say jacquard, since the TC-1 is its own entity, but as Alice and I said in The Woven Pixel (page 17), 
"It will be interesting to see if historians and other manufacturers come to a consensus on a name that will separate 19th century technology, the jacquard, from 21st century technology, the Thread Controller, the Unival, and other hand and electronic warp controlling mechanisms. Meanwhile, we will continue to use the generic term jacquard in this book."
So I guess I will do the same in my blog.

detail showing warp-backed and weft-backed structures

There was a college fair at the gym the other morning, and a nice woman from SCAD gave me a free notebook and pen. It is the perfect size for carrying around and I wanted a new notebook to start writing up these studies. I measured the cloth under tension on the loom, and now I will figure out the picks per inch for each section. Still, when I go to do a real piece, I will have to weave an inch and measure, and if necessary, resize my image. Doing this in Photoshop, as described in the book, is so easy. I still like having a sense of the correct ppi when I design, but these studies were all designed with square pixels. 

Notebook of data about the woven studies

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Sampling Compound Structures

I started weaving today. I think many weavers when confronted with an end and end warp (i.e., alternating colors of thread) would think double cloth, but I am beginning my tests with structures that show both warps as defined colors but use only one weft. My first four tests are of compound structures. Compound tabby and compound twill (usually a 2,1 twill) were used by Han weavers as early as the 2nd century B.C.E. You can see I just used the name of the structure as the image for each of the four tests. I realize my weaves show up in the opposite place than I expected because I made my structures thinking black, white, black, tussah going from left to right, but on my TC-1 loom, the first thread is at the right, and it is black, so my structures, from left to right, should have been designed thinking tussah, black, white, black. They are weaving correctly--I just need to rename them so I know which threads they bring to the top.

detail showing compound tabby below and compound 2/2 twill above

Then I started weaving samples of warp-backed structures. As in the compound weaves, the colors are showing up reversed from how I planned due to the warp color rotation, but I am getting the information I need. Each strip is 100 picks, so the fact that some studies weave longer than others shows that the picks per inch are affected by the use of twills or satins and which satins. I like the warp-backed cloth better than the compound studies. I will finish this tomorrow and then design some other studies. Chapter 12 of The Woven Pixel is called Compound Tabby, Compound Twill and Other Warp-Backed Structures. So if you want to know more, and you own the book, start at page 229.

Sampling Warp-Backed Structures

detail of study showing warp-backed 3/1 twill below and warp-backed 4/1 satin above

And here is proof--it must be spring in Vermont!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Threading Break-Time

I am almost done setting up my TC-1 with a new warp. I was worried about redenting from the original reed (30 dents per inch) to a new one (15 dents per inch) but when I started, I realized I could stand the new reed up in the top grove of the bar that sits at the top of the reed--and everything went smoothly. I have designed some warp-backed and compound warp structures and two test files and will begin there--as soon as I tension the warp.

Threading New Reed Sitting on Top of Old One

I had the best break-time reading a travelogue of my friend Chad Alice Hagen's recent visit to England. Since i don't have a Face Book account, I couldn't read her posts there, so she kindly sent the written pages to me through email. I had one window open to her account, and another window open to google maps and I was able to follow her journey. At the end I realized I could also click on pictures of the towns and see what they looked like. Chad is a brilliant artist/feltmaker/observer of life, and I returned to dressing the loom refreshed and energized. 

Coincidentally, my friend and neighbor, Sara Tucker, who writes a wonderful weekly blog, The Aggregator, for Conde Nast Traveler, had a post today about google streets, a new feature where you can see photos of the streets, with their buildings, and actually feel like you are walking down them. So once again I was back online, looking at maps, this time exploring Boston. This feature is new and not available for all areas, so I imagine it will be quite awhile before a small town like Randolph is added. Sara's blog always introduces an interesting topic, and then takes you in many directions through links, so a small paragraph can really encompass the world. I joke with Sara that she also happens to be my own personal trainer--she not only gets me to the gym each morning (days she isn't going, I just don't seem to have the will power to go on my own) but she has been terrific at showing me how to use the machines, do exercises in the water, and recently introducing me to exercises for my abs. I think for break-time I prefer her blog and the Internet.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tutorial Teaching

Maybe you noticed on the right sidebar of my blog that I mention tutorial teaching. Some people have asked about it, so I will talk about it here. I taught weaving and textile design full-time for many years at several universities, and I also have done workshops at various summer craft schools. I think I have a gift for explaining the process clearly, so students absorb the knowledge and can really think through their ideas and move in their own direction. Unlike most people, I feel I started out as a great teacher and slowly became worst (most people I know get better with experience). When the term arrived and I no longer wanted to start from scratch with my syllabus, it became clear to me that I should leave academia. There is always a fresh group of people interested in teaching, and it was time for me to hand over the reins. But I do love teaching, watching as people's eyes go from confusion to clarity and joy (learning is joyful), so I began to think of a way in which I could do my own work, but also do some teaching. When we bought our house in Randolph, I felt this was a place I could make into a studio where I could invite others to come and learn--but on a very limited basis.

Over the years I have seen what others have done. I always remember a wonderful visit to Norma Smayda's Saunderstown Weaving School in Rhode Island. I am still envious of her sea of looms. Here in Randolph we have The White River Craft Center, a wonderful place headed by Kevin Hardy, a skilled woodworker and person of great compassion. Susan Rockwell energetically runs the weaving program, and many beginners go to her to learn. I knew I didn't want to have an open door policy, where students would use one of my looms over time, and I didn't want to set myself up in competition with The WRCR since I admire what they are doing. I also knew that I wanted to keep my teaching very contained. So I conceived of this idea of Tutorial Teaching where students came to me for a short period of time and I tailored each program specifically for that person.

Section from dobby weaving study by Bhakti Ziek

Although many people associate me with computerized jacquard weaving, and the book I co-authored with Alice Schlein, The Woven Pixel, I also wrote a book on backstrap weaving, published in 1978, co-authored with my mother, Nona Ziek. If you read my early posts, you know I own three Macomber floor looms (2 8-shaft and 1 10-shaft), two 24-shaft dobby looms (a small Louet and a 40" wide AVL), and one TC-1 loom. I also have lots of sticks for backstrap looms--so really my teaching can run the gamat from backstrap to digital jacquard. Teaching beginners is one of my favorite things, but so is going through complex structures for jacquard. Probably the only criteria I need for enjoying teaching is having an engaged student.

I am interspersing images from a dobby study I did this summer on my 24-shaft Louet to illustrate this post. I used the instructions given in the dobby chapter of The Woven Pixel to design and make my peg plans for weaving. Then I brought bmp files from Photoshop to PCW Fiberworks on a different computer, which ran my Louet loom.

detail of dobby study

In early May, Tommye Scanlin, an accomplished weaver and teacher in her own right, is coming to study with me for four days. In one of her posts on her blog, she mentions how annoyed she has been about the use of tapestry in relationship to jacquard fabrics. Although she comes from the traditional weft-faced tapestry tradition, and I am coming from the digital jacquard world, I share this annoyance and look forward to many hours of interesting conversation over the four days she will be here. Personally, I always like to say "warp tapestry" when referring to the structure used by jacquard weavers who use compound warps of multi-colors to make "pictorial tapestry" works. Words like tapestry have many definitions, but I still always think, without a modifier, it means a weft-faced plain weave, usually with discontinuous wefts. Anyway, Tommye has done some jacquard work at a mill, and it will be interesting to get her started with some weft-faced structures, like samitum or taquette, on my hand jacquard, TC-1, loom. 

Section of dobby study by Bhakti Ziek

When people come to study with me, they have a choice of staying with Mark and me (and the two cats and one lovely dog) or staying in local accommodations. There is a B&B half a block from us, another within walking distance, and an inn on the other side of town (not far). I always provide lunches, and all meals if the person stays with us. Of course I will cook according to a student's needs (i.e., vegetarian, sweet addict, localvore). I have learned I must make boundaries, which is good for the student as well as me, since I can be very intense--so basically my teaching policy is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an hour break for lunch. I try to put a walk in there too, and if someone wants to go to the gym, I can take them as my guest to use the pool or use the fitness machines. In the evenings, students are welcome to use my looms or read my books (Mark is making shelves for the stacks that are filling the floor of the office/guest room right now), and I am available for help, but not too much. A good conversation and a bottle of wine is not too much.

detail of dobby study

If someone spends the money and time to travel here to study, they usually want to work with me for four or five days, but some students who live closer have come for two days. Since my fees are high, most people just curious about weaving, not sure of their commitment, would do better to find a local school for lessons, but of course I do think you couldn't find a better first teacher than me. As I said, I can work with you on any topic from backstrap to digital jacquard, and it can be focused on computer work too, i.e., using Photoshop for woven design. If you want more information, please email me at Since I need to balance out my own studio time with teaching, I can only take a limited number of students a year. So far, they have all been exceptional people. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Technical Information

I noticed that Alice Schlein has a post today about her beginning weft-backed studies. So it seems timely to post an image of the study I did after I completed Intertwined. Of course it would have made sense to do this study beforehand. You can see that I took the same area of design and repeated it four times. Each section had 208 picks total, and was designed thinking there would be 104 picks per inch (ppi). The bottom strip used the same structures I used in Intertwined. The one above that changed the ground structure to a 12-shaft satin that was not a weft-backed structure. You can see it caused the ppi to decrease, elongating the circle. The third study used weft-backed structures where the back wefts are all tacked by the same warp end, and the ground also tacks this way; and the top study uses the corrected incremental tacking and a variation of this for the ground.

Study to compare structures and picks per inch

The detail below shows an area in the first study at the top and a similar area in the last study at the bottom. The ground structures, which show the blue warp, are different structures, but the only difference in structure in the white/beige area is that the bottom structure had the ties slid over--as I showed in my corrected structure on March 29th. It was clear while weaving that the wefts could pack tighter, and this was proved when I counted ppi. At top the ppi was exactly 104, but the bottom study wove at 111 ppi. I think you can tell also that the wefts at top were moved out of line to adjust to the tacking points that were adjacent (see structures from March 27th post), where they lie smooth and horizontal in the bottom study.

Top are original structures, and bottom are corrected ones

Today I wound the new warp--10/2 tencel, end and end (actually black, white, black, tussah). I use a warping mill and paddle when I make my warps. I have a small mill which I usually use, but today I used my big one since the warp is 14 yards--which is a very long warp for me. Tomorrow I will start tying knots--this warp tied to the old one on the loom. All day I have been fussing about the reed. Right now I have 20/2 tencel on the loom, 2 per dent in a 30 dent reed, but I think I will change it to a 15 dent reed and put 4 ends per dent. I am trying to think if there is some easy way to change reeds, but so far I keep coming back to tie the ends, wind the warp back through the old reed and then redent into the new reed. If you have a better suggestion, please add a comment or send me a personal email.

Warping Mill Using Paddle and 4 Threads Simultaneously

I was feeling lazy and wound directly from cones to the paddle, so I wound 4 ends at a time. This meant 220 times to get 880 ends. As soon as I began I regretted not doing 8 ends at a time, and I am sure if I did 8, I would have thought I should have done 12. Still one quarter the time was a big saving. I know that paddles can be a bit awkward at first, but once you understand and are comfortable, you never want to return to single ends. I have friends who work with multiple strands and make the cross by hand each time, but really, using the paddle is so much easier. I tried to take a picture to show you (below). It is just like a rigid heddle with eyes and slots. The threads in the eyes stay put and the ones in the slots can move up or down, creating the cross. (Sorry non-weavers, I did title this post "Technical.")

Paddle Making Cross

Look what I found out in my front yard!! A sure sign of spring. My neighbor has several flowers in bloom. Such joy to welcome a fresh season.

Sign of Spring