Lessons in Linen and Lace

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Class Samples

I spent last week in the greater Brisbane area attending a weaving workshop taught by Kay Faulkner, who is both an expert weaver and an expert teacher.

Over five days our group of four students learned the theory and practice of huck, spot Bronson, Bronson and Swedish lace using beautiful 18/2 Swedish linen.

Kay had warped the looms for us in advance and we rotated between them to make our class samples.

I enjoyed having the opportunity to compare an eight shaft jack loom and an eight shaft Glimåkra countermarche loom. The pressure was on though, as we had five days to make our samples and almost all of the information was new to me. Kay provided correction and guidance on technique. Apparently there is no need for a temple or stretcher when your shuttle technique is correct. All I can say is that my selvages improved over the five days.

Sadly for me every sample I completed had at least one mistake in it, the worst sample being the first I attempted and the one I named The Spot Bronson of Shame. That sample was the first on my steep learning curve and I came away from the course a more informed weaver with a thirst for more learning and more time at the loom.

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I would recommend Kay’s workshops to anyone wanting to intensively focus on developing their skills, especially if you have some weaving experience and your goal is technical mastery.

Rosepath Revisted in Dish Towels

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The first towel

My first attempt at rosepath didn’t yield the results I was expecting. The only thing to do was try again, this time with a series of four tea towels (dish towels) in mind.

I am using 8/4 carpet warp cotton for the warp and weft. The borders are 8/2 cotton doubled. I chose to use 8/4 carpet warp after reading Tom Knisely’s baby blanket project description in Handwoven Magazine (Nov/Dec 2016) where he describes it as a yarn that is cost effective and one that softens with use and washing. I used the 16 epi twill sett that is in the project notes and warped my loom using Osma Tod’s ‘authentic way of weaving rosepath’ draft, detailed in her wonderful book The Joy of Hand Weaving. Her drafts are written for a sinking shed loom and I was glad I noticed that before I started weaving on my jack loom.

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Effective but Ugly Pirn Winder

This project had brought different mistakes, new learnings and another first. I am using a boat shuttle for the first time, with paper pirns, wound using Tinkerer’s battery-operated drill. It’s an ugly solution but it seems to be effective. I bought a piece of 3mm brass rod to use as a spindle and am attaching the pirns to the spindle using a small piece of masking tape (painter’s tape.) I’m sure the purists will disapprove but it will do for now. One day I might have a fancy bobbin winder.
The weaving width is 18 inches in the reed and I am weaving each towel to a length of 30 inches under tension. The goal is that each towel will measure 17 by 28 inches after wet finishing and hemming but as I’m still weaving towel #3, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

By the way, the border element in the first towel pictured above has a mistake (one of many) that is visible if you zoom in on the photo. The second towel has no mistakes that I know of at this stage and the third seems to be coming along nicely.

The Big Design Market Melbourne

I visited the Big Design Market last weekend, mostly out of curiosity rather than with buying goals in mind, but I did make a couple of purchases.

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I bought this cute rope bowl to put thread ends in when I’m sewing. I had planned to make some kind of fabric bucket but this one was too lovely to leave behind and I was happy to support this Brisbane based maker who makes these rope bowls herself.

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design-market-melb-2016The market was held at the Victorian Melbourne Exhibition Building which accommodates a huge number of vendors and is always a treat to visit.

As the name makes clear this market promotes more ‘designery’ merchandise than handmade crafts. The production quality was high and tended to reflect large production runs and stock levels in the hundreds, with exceptions like a precious metal jeweller. The aesthetic was modern and urban, rather than folk or traditional.

Both sellers of handwovens that I visited had their wares manufactured overseas. One sold terry towels handloomed in Turkey to the vendor’s own design, the other appeared to be a reseller of high quality Indian pashmina type shawls.

The market was definitely worth a visit and would be a good way to source holiday gifts and support local designers.

Cross-Over Apron 

Front view of cross-over apron showing double bound finish

Front View

This apron was based on Kwik Sew 2311. I’ve been wanting to make a cross-over apron for a while and had been planning to draft my own, until I discovered the pattern in my collection.

I avoid using bias binding as the commercial product tends to be poor quality fabric and it’s almost always too narrow for my purposes. I usually make a hash of attaching it, too, so used a Hong Kong finish at the neck and along the arm and double binding on the back and hem.

The binding fabric is remnant from Spotlight, of Premium Cotton Sateen in Wedgewood colour, purchased for $1 when they had all their remnants on sale, but normally priced at $16.99 per metre. The binding fabric width was 127cm. I was only able to verify that the fabric was 100% cotton after taking it to the register and asking the staff to scan the bar code, which fortunately was still attached. The fabric seemed to have some spandex in it as it was moderately stretchy and I was able to cut my binding strips on the cross grain.

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Next time I would stay stitch the neck before attaching the binding. I might also play with the back shoulder component of the pattern to make it curve a little more, for a better fit to the body.

Modified Pattern

 

I omitted the button closure in the original pattern. Closures on aprons can so easily open at the wrong time, not something I want in my workwear. It’s easy to put on and take off without the button closure in the original pattern. I did test that before sewing the shoulder seam.

 

The East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use

Were you a child who treasured offcuts of wood, scraps of fabric, egg cartons and even empty toilet rolls for creative play?

I am old enough to remember when cotton reels were made of wood, giving them many more possibilities for re-use than the plastic cotton reels we have today. In fact wooden cotton reels were one of the most desirable items of ‘waste.’ My grandfather made spinning tops out of old cotton reels. I still treasure those spinning tops today.

Today I can’t help but save items that I think might be useful for children’s craft activities. I gather them until I have enough to pass on to a family or a play group where children will be able to enjoy them. I wish I had a Depot for Creative Re-Use locally, like the one at 4695 Telegraph Ave in Oakland, so I could donate these items. Their shop is a treasure trove of pre-loved art supplies, yarn, card stock, picture frames, patterns, books, magazines and many more useful items.

centre-for-creative-reuseWhen we visited the East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use we had a wonderful time hunting for treasures we could use for our craft projects. I resisted the temptation to buy some very well priced yarn in an attractive colour because I am trying to restrict my buying to projects I will work on immediately. My beloved found back issues of Fine Woodworking magazine for his reference library and was very happy with his purchases.

If I lived locally I would be happy to donate to the depot because I love what they do – diverting useful items from the waste stream and making them available to crafters, artists and educators who will put them to good use. Most of us crafters have one or two or more items that we haven’t had time to use or that reflect an interest we have moved on from.

The depot is located in an old part of town where coffee roasters offer espressos in shops that are next door to run down old buildings. I received some light verbal abuse from a homeless person for getting between him and the checkouts at the Depot for Re-Use, an experience that seemed consistent with the neighbourhood which has all kinds of people.

If you’re in the Telegraph Ave area you might also want to check out La Calaca Loca which has a well-deserved reputation for excellent grilled and fried fish tacos. There’s a tool lending library available to Oakland Public Library members, just across the road from the taqueria, adding one more fantastic feature to the area.

I am unaware of any places in my home town that offer similar services to the East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use. Do you have anything similar where you live? It’s a brilliant idea and I’d love to see more of them.

The Pub with No Beer

SPOILER ALERT -This post is about quilts, not about beer. If you want sunshine and unicorns, stop reading now. If you wish to read on you might want to listen to Slim Dusty sing his famous Pub with no Beer song.

Our visit to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles at 520 South First St, San Jose was badly timed. Two out of three exhibitions on the day we visited were wedding themed.

mike_mcnamara_3The only quilts being exhibited were by Mike McNamara and were described as being inspired by the traditional double wedding ring design. When I say inspired, I guess they mean loosely inspired. It was hard to spot the double wedding rings at all as Mr McNamara’s quilts were hung in a corridor, making it difficult to get enough distance to view their designs clearly. It was only after I reviewed my photos (taken with permission) that the double rings became evident. Each quilt was accompanied by pictures of the mostly same-sex couples that the quilts were made for.

While I support marriage equality, when it came to the artistry of these particular quilts I wonder whether support for same-sex marriage didn’t influence the curatorial decision-making. These quilts did not inspire me, though they did confirm that for me, wonky edges are not an acceptable design choice. And while I’m being controversial, when the vast majority of quilts are made by women, it rather ticks me off to see a male quilter’s work being the only quilts on display at a quilt museum.

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The technology in fashion exhibit did not hold our attention and the wedding dresses on display were historically interesting and were, I’m sure, carefully chosen from the History San Jose collection. The most interesting was a dress that was so tiny that the bride either had a developmental issue or, more likely, was well under what we would call marriageable age today. The age of the bride was not given, unfortunately.

My personal favourite was a checked gown, worn by Ann Elizabeth Smith at her marriage to Robert Francis Peckham in 1849, a time when a woman’s best dress had to serve on her wedding day and well beyond. There was no focus on weaving though there was a contemporary (1985) woven Moroccan wedding belt on display.

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Moroccan Wedding Belt – Detail

As for the outfits worn by two men on their recent wedding day, while I celebrate their love, I just can’t get excited about (almost) matching contemporary grey suits.

This was a disappointing visit, mostly because of the small number of quilts on display. As my beloved put it, “Oh well, we’ve given them $16, maybe they can go out and get themselves some quilts.”

However from their web site I see that the permanent collection of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles contains over 1000 textiles and includes historic quilts, contemporary art quilts and textile-based art forms, as well as garments and textiles from world cultures.

But the quilt collection is not open to the public, so you could call the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles the pub with no beer.

Dying Warp and Weft using Rit Dye Powder

This was an experiment in teal. According to the instructions on the box, one packet of Rit dye powder should be dissolved in three gallons of water (roughly 11 litres) and is sufficient for 3 yards of fabric.

I pushed my luck and dyed 155g of cotton warp, 2 metres of cotton fabric and a bit under 2 metres of undyed calico.

I prepared the fabric by scouring it for about 30 mins in pot of simmering water mixed with soap flakes and washing soda, with the objective of enhancing the fabric’s propensity to take up the dye. It’s what I learned when I did the shibori class.

My stainless steel dye pot has a capacity of maybe 9 litres. I followed the instructions faithfully other than the too small pot. The steps were:

  1. Heat a pot of water to almost boiling
  2. Mix the dye in separately in 2 cups of very hot water
  3. Add the dye mixture to the hot water
  4. Add 1 tbsp washing liquid and 1 cup salt
  5. Wet the fabric and yarn
  6. Stir for 30 mins or until the colour looks ok
  7. Rinse in warm and then gradually cooler water
  8. Wash in warm water with mild detergent and allow to dry
  9. Clean the pot with a solution of bleach

I skipped step 8 and did not wash the warp yarn as I didn’t feel like handwashing it and didn’t dare risking tangles by using the washing machine. As it happens, I got plenty of tangles anyway.

The results were good on the whole and for a first attempt. There  was a very small amount of spotting and streaking on the fabric and the uptake of colour on the warp was not as even as it could have been but it’s all usable.  I turned some ugly fabric into usable weft fabric. The photo, sadly, isn’t quite true.

I won’t be able to reliably measure the shrinkage on the 8/4 cotton warp but would guessimate it at less than 10%. Good thing I allowed for a bit extra.

What would I do differently next time?
I wound my warp into two skeins and bound each skein with several loose figure eight knots but the dye did not penetrate well to the threads that had been enclosed by the knots.  Maybe a looser knot would help or a double figure eight configuration.

How do you dye your warps?