Friday, May 29, 2015

Branching Out to Chaos

I am very linear, which of course is a good attribute for a weaver. I like being involved in a big project, which gives me focus and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Long ago, when I owned and ran a restaurant in Panajachel, Guatemala, I understood that I liked knowing everyone and being friendly, but also that the responsibilities of the restaurant kept me too busy to do anything that wasn't involved with running the restaurant, and it kept me out of trouble. I suppose this is another way of saying boundaries can be helpful.

The keeping out of trouble refers to my own mind and my inclination to activities such as computer games and reading. Reading is okay, but that other thing..... Anyway, I don't have any big projects on my calendar right now and it is a perfect time to explore. Which if you have read my recent blog posts you know I am doing: card weaving, taqueté, tapestry, reading, and yes, that other unmentionable activity. So this story begins with my trip to Conway, MA to purchase a small Mirrix loom from Elisabeth (Lisa) Hill

Lisa Hill and some of her amazing fabrics
I walked into an old barn, with an amazing studio, and met the most wonderful enthusiastic woman who brought me across to her house filled with more looms and piles of incredible alive textiles. I wanted to touch everything, and if I had realized where I was going, I would have planned my day to have time with her. But I didn't, and had to rush away, loom in hand, determined to return as soon as possible.

Details of four scarves woven by Bhakti Ziek for Wild Hair Alpacas
One of the things I had to do was weave some scarves for Wild Hair Alpacas from yarn spun from the fleece of their animals. (Full disclosure: my brother and sister-in-law own Wild Hair Alpacas and have named most of their animals for someone in the family, so I never know if they are taking about a cousin or an alpaca when they say things like "Nancy isn't feeling well these days".) You would think that 45 years of weaving would make an assignment like this simple--but keeping track of my hours is almost the antithesis of making art. Also, the yarn I had on hand was limited, of different weights, and I knew probably not what they were having spun up for my use in the future. Still, it was a beginning and I do know that experience is my best teacher. So I wove five scarves, washed them, twisted the fringe and ironed them and decided to bring them to Lisa for some input.

Laurie Autio, Ute Bargmann and Lisa Hill--all three are master weavers with certificates from The Hill Institute
Lisa made arrangements for a power lunch with her, Laurie Autio, Ute Bargmann, and me. The three of them are Master Weavers with certificates from the Hill Institute. This is no small feat, and I was thrilled to be there with them. Ute's expertise includes card weaving and she brought a display of bands she had woven in conjunction with some historical research to be published. (You can purchase another book she contributed to on Amazon.)

Laurie showing some of her lace work (left and right); Ute in the center with her tablet woven bands, many of which are brocaded
Laurie Autio is a respected teacher of weaving who offers a study program for intermediate to master level weavers called Explorations in Advanced Weaving. This course goes on for years, and her students are devoted to her because of her kindness, clarity, and breadth of knowledge. She is about to start a new group this fall, so if interested (and you should be) contact her at <>. She also brought cloth with her and again time did not permit us to see everything--so there must be another luncheon soon. Laurie is going to be the newest TC-2 owner (maybe the loom has arrived by today) and I can't wait to see what she does with that loom.

Lisa Hill modelling alpaca scarves and a shawl woven by Bhakti Ziek
Even though we were at Lisa's house, we didn't have time to go to her studio and talk about what she is doing. Instead she modeled my scarves and an alpaca shawl that I made. They gave me good feedback, positive and helpful, and I felt encouraged. (Here is a plug for my work--it will only be available through Wild Hair Alpacas--which has an online store that includes felted alpaca products and children's books starring alpacas.)

Pilgrimage to Vävstuga Weaving School, next to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA and then to their offsite location where the drawloom class was in session
Lisa teaches at Vävstuga Weaving School in Shelburne Falls, MA. Since moving to Vermont I have meant to go there, even had it planned a couple of times but it never materialized. Becky Ashenden owns and runs the school (she's pictured in the two bottom pictures above) and she also has a fantastic store that will make you pull out your credit card (I know what I am talking about). So when Lisa made arrangements to take me there after lunch, and the drawloom class was in session that day, it felt like a pilgrimage. Which is sort of funny to me because I have actually gone to Shelburne Falls a couple of times to do ten day silent retreats at the Vipassana Meditation Center, Dhamma Dhara (that should have a line above the last a but I can't seem to make it happen here). If you can't make it to one of her classes there, she has many workshops scheduled around the country and maybe you can meet her there. 

First deflected double cloth woven by Bhakti Ziek, unwashed top left and washed, bottom right
As soon as I got home from that inspiring day, I set up my macomber with my first deflected double cloth. I am indebted to both Lisa Hill and Madelyn van der Hoogt for sharing information with me on this wonderful type of cloth. Madelyn, founder of The Weavers' School, editor of Handwoven, and author of many books, including The Complete Book of Drafting for Handweavers, which should be on every weaver's shelf, has been a hero of mine for years. I can pretend to be a beginner, and it wasn't hard while doing this scarf (I had no idea whether I was suppose to beat my weft loosely or hard), but the fact that I can send an email out to friends all over the country when i get in difficulty is a sign that I have been doing this for a long time. I will just say that all my scarves feel heavenly, and they probably will improve as I keep going, but the graphic quality of this scarf makes it really nice to wear.

Small sample of Bhakti Ziek's deflected double cloth but beaten tighter than the scarf
I want to keep good records of what I am doing but I barely had enough warp to do one scarf; yet somehow I did manage to get a small sample off the warp. I beat the weft much harder on the sampler and when I washed it the cloth came together in a way that I liked. Next scarf I should have enough warp to make it large enough to allow for shrinkage and a tighter beat.

Gilmore inkle loom--old style with weaving by Bhakti Ziek
Here's another branch to the confusion of my life. I wanted to follow up the card weaving study with an inkle loom band. I pulled out my old Gilmore inkle loom--can you see the faded ink label on the loom near the shuttle? I love that loom, maybe because it was the first one I purchased. It is so simple to use; a really smart tool. I looked online to try and find images of how to warp it because after all these years of disuse, I wasn't sure. I sort of knew but wasn't positive. I am surprised that I didn't find a good picture with the flap, which is for tensioning, and all the pegs. Finally I just bit the bullet and warped the loom, following draft one in Anne Dixon's book, The Weaver's Inkle Pattern Directory: 400 Warp-Faced Weaves. Guess who did the forward--Madelyn van der Hoogt! I started at one because I was thinking it would be nice to do all 400 bands. That was before I started. Now I think I will finish this and put the loom away. 

It's not that I don't think the process is perfectly wonderful. In fact, I am totally inspired by what Daryl Lancaster does with her inkle loom. She uses the bands for her incredible handwoven garments--it makes sense for her to make the cloth and the bands. And she has written a book on using the inkle loom that I plan to order (and when I was in doubt an email to her got an immediate response with a diagram of the old Gilmore loom like I have). But I feel fractured by all this exploring and long to return to my TC1 and the taqueté and samitum study that I have neglected (and to continue with the tapestry lessons). There are so many avenues one can go down as a weaver, but my birthday is next week, and I better start pruning myself so I am not just rambling around as I near the end of my 60s.

Dimity studies, above face and back of a study by Lisa Hill; below a study by Ute Bargmann
Oh, but I didn't mention the study of dimity that Ute Bargmann and Lisa Hill and others undertook, did I? It was Lisa's notebook of small swatches like the ones in the photo above that got me determined to return to her barn soon. These are three shaft weaves--or at least based on three shafts. Plain weave. Now three shafts and plain weave do not go together--so I am confused. Maybe it isn't three shafts? I really don't know. But I have to find out. So pruning some branches, but adding others. Weaving might be linear but it also is a mysterious web.

1 comment:

  1. Don't prune too much. Your branches are a treasure. I love what you're doing.