My local group had our annual retreat in early September. We go out to a lovely lodge on Little Bitterroot Lake and spend a couple of days creating and playing with art stuff. This photo is from sometime in the past. Sadly, this year, the air was full of smoke and you could barely see the mountains across the water. This year, our activities included deconstructed screen printing, making a book and creating some “faux” rice paper.
These are a few of the paper prints that I created. Deconstructed screen printing is done with a previously prepared screen in which the thickened dye has been left to dry. Then you use more thickened dye or plain print paste to release the dried dye from the screen. It is a serendipitous process and you are never sure what you will get in the final prints. I teach this process on felt in my online class.
I usually use fairly thick paper so that I can wash out the thickener that is left on the paper. That way I can do other processes on top of the paper without it running. These are similar to some of the papers that I used in my recent collage challenge.
One of the fun things about the paper is that you can end up using either side. The photo on the left shows the front side of the printed paper and the right photo is the back side.
Here are some of the fabric pieces that I printed. If you click on the individual photos, you can see what type of fabric I used. The little scraps on the top left photo are what was left over after I used a piece of printed hemp canvas for the cover of my book.
These prints are all on silk. The left side is silk habotai, the middle is silk organza and the right side photo is the silk organza layered over the habotai. You could print on many types of silk and this would be a great way to create your own fabric for using in nuno felting.
I will be using these for my upcoming classes that I am taking as backgrounds for stitching, in collages and wherever else suits my fancy.
Next time, I will show you the book that I created while at the retreat. It’s not entirely finished but you will be able to see the deconstructed screen printed canvas as the cover and a piece of printed paper as the inside covers.
It’s summer time here in Ireland and the living is, well, slightly more laid back than the norm. Having decided to metaphorically kick off the shoes for the month of July, I thought it might be nice just to “see and share ” rather than “do” and this forms the basis of my post.
Before I start on the main focus of this post (my holiday in Italy), I just have to show you a beautiful piece that totally blew me away. Before heading off, I visited Dublin’s Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1795, it is an oasis of calm for any visitor and I would highly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the neighbourhood. While there, I noticed that there was a patchwork exhibition happening in one of their exhibition spaces. This piece just caught me, so I want to share it with you. The artist is Ethelda Ellis and the piece is called ‘Aoife’s View’. The curator told me that Ethelda is a medical doctor by profession. If you would like to see more of Ethelda’s beautiful creations check out her blog: http://ethelda.blogspot.com/
Now, to the Italian holiday. We headed to Como mid-July and, in spite of the heatwave, spent our time sightseeing and eating! Our base was Como which is to the north of Italy, right beside Switzerland. Lake Como is totally dwarfed by the Alps – a really beautiful place.
We called into the Cathedral, the Duomo which was magnificent internally and externally. I reckon that to appreciate all its beauty would take months observing 24/7! I want to share with you a small area of a tapestry which was made in 1610 and which underwent restoration in 1990. It was impossible to get a good photo of the entire masterpiece as so much detail would have been lost. So I settled for a little!
One of our tours took us to the tiny picturesque village of Orta which is situated on Lake Orta. It was recommended that we visit the interior of the local church which was situated at the top of a steep street.
My journey was interrupted by the sound of a piano recital and when I investigated I discovered a rather special textile exhibition happening in the same building. The works exhibited were by Sergio Cerini. The artist merges his early experiences in the Italian high fashion industry with his current artworks, producing beautiful pieces which are in essence a mix of paper mache and textiles. The description does not do justice to his widely exhibited pieces and he was reluctant to allow me to photograph his work. He did, however pose in front of one of the pieces and others can be viewed on his Instagram page @sergiocerini
Since the 1800s, the city of Como was historically the main producer of Italian silk. When ultimately production was outsourced to China, the area was in danger of losing connection with its cultural heritage. The large factory was bought by the Hilton hotel chain. These photos show early paintings of the factory, what it became at the height of the industry and where it is now (apologies for the reflection on the glass):
Rather than allow the old machinery to be lost to history, a wise decision was taken about 10 years ago to set up an Educational Silk Museum to preserve these beautiful machines. Along with displaying the machinery, some of which dates back to the nineteenth century, the museum offers interactive videos and exhibits of high fashion clothing. Unfortunately this section was not open during my visit but I thought it might be fun to show you some of the many machines featured. So please, grab a cuppa, sit back and I hope you enjoy the show. I have included captions for ease of reference.
Sorry to say I have been too busy to felt again. I am hoping to have a little more time now my mom’s house is in possession of the new owners. I thought people might like to see this post I made in 2012 about dying silk blanks with MX dye. this method works with big things too. I did a dress for my much skinnier self once and some boxer shorts. something else I learned since I posted this the first time is that you can use these dyes as acid dies by using a mild acid and heat. the colours aren’t quite as vibrant but if you can only get one kind of dye this will do double duty for you.
I dye my own silk and one of the ways I do that is with MX dye. MX Dye is a fibre-reactive dye and works on cellulose or plant fibres like cotton, linen and hemp. It also works on silk. As far as I know, silk is the only fibre that you can use both weak acid dyes that are for protein fibres and the MX dyes.
I like to use the low water dye method. With this method, you use a jar and just a little water. What I do is scrunch or twist or pleat up my silk to be dyed. In this case, they are all about 2 feet wide and 8 feet long. Then you pack it into the bottom of a jar that is big enough to hold the silk and the dye (1/2 a cup) and the fixative (1/4-1/2 cup). It is important that it be a snug fit for this method to work.
I mix up 2 colours of MX dye in 1/4 cup of room temperature water. Pour them over the silk in the jar one at a time making sure the silk is covered with liquid. If it floats, as you can see a couple of my jars did, you need to carefully weigh them down with something non-metal. Metal will affect the dye. This is another reason you want them tightly jammed in the bottom of the jar but sometimes it happens anyway. Once the dye is in the jar you don’t want to disturb them. You don’t want the dyes to mix completely and give you a solid colour.
I am very impatient. So I usually go do something else for 20 min to an hour then I come back and add the fixative. With MX dye you have to raise the PH to get the dye to stick. The cheapest thing for this is PH up from the pool store. You can use washing soda not baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) or order it from your dye supplier but pool chemical is cheap, especially at the end of the season. I add a tablespoon for each cup of water including the water you’re mixing with. Stir to dissolve and then pour it into the jar. You should leave it for an hour to react but I am impatient as I said and usually dump everything out after about 20 min. Rinse the silk in cold water then hot soapy water then one more cold. Here are some results.
I am sorry the pictures aren’t better but the wind wouldn’t cooperate. They were dry in about 10 min.
Here are some others I’ve done over the years. It is a really fun and easy way to play with dye. You should give it a try.
I told you there would be another small picture. I wanted to do a night scene with water and a moon reflection.
I searched up lots of moon on water pictures. I won’t share them because even though I put public domain pictures in the search, I am sure they are not all in the public domain. Once I had done that, Pinterest sent me some more, some in weaving and other textiles.
I had this small offcut. I put my fingers in the shot so you can see the size.
I knew I had a nice really dark purple merino to make the sky but I had to ask Jan for some navy blue. She had some nice dark BFL, so it had a nice shine, perfect for water. This is the best picture I got of it. I had to fiddle with it because my camera on my phone wants the purple to be red and it’s more blue. Jan got some pictures for me too but her computer has died so I am afraid you’re stuck with my pictures.
I divided the picture into 1/3 sky and 2/3 water. I tried to keep the navy fibre running across the picture to give it a better water feel, like tiny ripples on the water. the hardest part was making the horizon straight and level.
For the moon, I made a disk separately and then added it. I think it makes it seem separate from the sky and closer than the sky. I then added the thin glow around it. the glow looks more transparent in person. I thought I had a picture of just the moon but I accidentally took a movie of it and I can’t figure out how to save one frame.
For the reflection in the water, I used silk. I tried throwster’s waste, some fluffy silk ( I think from silk hankies) and some top, it was a little yellow.
The throwster’s waste was too stringy
The fluffy stuff was too hard to work with. It wouldn’t stay put.
The top worked wet. and even though looked yellow as a blog of silk once it was spread out a bit it was good.
I laid it all across then needled the pattern I wanted and trimmed it then needled some more.
I like it, it’s ok but not great.
I tried adding some grey for clouds and some silk at the edge for reflection. I just tacked them down, I am not sure. It may be the silk reflections on the clouds that I don’t like. Maybe white wool would be better.
so I asked my son. He is more artistic than me but also observant. He said well the moons to big. So I showed him my examples and with the slightest glance says well they’re all photoshopped, to make the moon more magical. So much for that. I guess once I did it, my brain knew it was wrong. I will try thinning the glow and shrinking the moon and the reflectins and see how I like it. the trying may mess it up beyond repair and it will have to become dryer ball innards. I will let you know how it goes.
I managed to fiddle with the picture last night. First I pulled up the edges of the reflection and tried it back then I pulled the moon haze off and made it smaller and more transparent. I think it is better. not great but it will do.
A while ago I bought some fine mica. the kind they use in cosmetics. I got this set and a blue set. I wanted to try adding a little blue to water in a picture just to see what it looks like. This water was far darker than the blues I bought but I thought the moon could use a little shine. You can see how fine it is. I left my fingerprint in it, from just a light touch.
I took a close-up of the moon. I think the camera picked up some of the sparkle.
The saga of our group silk purchase continues. I was part of the purchase along with Ann and Jan. I am a silk junkie so had to be very, very careful this time. I only purchased some really new-to-me silk called peduncle. As described by the vendors – “This is one of the most unusual spinning fibres we’ve ever encountered. It looks like pewter in fibre form. It has a stunning luster, and the brownish-grey colour is breathtaking. Peduncle tussah is fibre from the pedunculus (foot) of the cocoon, which is the little stalk the silkworm makes to attach itself to a tree branch.” “Like all tussah spinning fibre, this one has “tooth” that makes it easy to spin. It’s a rare and spectacular spinning fibre.” I’ve been clearing out my stash and found a wonderful bag of grey with globs of coloured wool and thought it would be a perfect time to give tweed a chance.
I needed to do a test spin of the silk on its own to see how it feels, to be sure it would work with the wool. I wanted the colour, but I wanted the lustre and strength too, so two small samples were done. One is pure silk and one is a mix of silk and some wool.
Because I tend towards very, very bright colours working with heather tones is going to be a real challenge for me. But I have been asked by a couple of people to at least give it a try to find some sort of earth tones that are complex to make into a yarn. So this is my first shot. I dug through my stash and found a large bag of gorgeous wool, unknown breed and origin, but washed and ready to go. It even had interesting colours added to the wool.
The best part for me was that the wool was washed. This was a major time saver for me, especially at this time of year. The colours in with the wool are some of my favourites, little bits of teal, brick red, olive green and the occasional dab of yellow or hot pink. I was certain the silk would really work well with this mix. The wool was teased apart into gorgeous clouds of wool. And then run through the drum carder for a preliminary mix. This mix was weighed into 250 gm lots, that were split into 16 units, mixed and recombined into a final group of 16 batts. This would give an even colour blend, but not a total mix. The batts were only put through the carder four times.
I decided to keep things as simple as possible and weighed 250 gm of the wool blend to which I added 25gm of silk. I’m saying this is 10% silk. I suspect the percentages are not accurate, but so be it.
It’s really easy at this point when you need to add a weird weight to just divide the roving into equal lengths to suit your purposes. In this case, I was going to do half of the 16 batts with the silk and the other half without, so I divided the silk into eight equal lengths.
I started the blending process on the drum carder and was surprised at what a difference adding the silk didn’t make. I really thought there would be much more lustre, more glow. I was certainly expecting more bang for the amount of work going into this.
These are examples of the two final products. The top batt is 10% silk. It is slightly more brown, and that’s about the best that can be said for it. The batt at the bottom of the picture is the original before adding the silk and it has a slightly more blue tint, which I like. I am not giving up on this silk. While stash diving I found some other earth tone wool. The strong pewter-tone of peduncle really is great and I want to find the right wool to pair it with. I’m sure it’s out there. Experiments are always a way to learn something, so they are never a waste of time. I never knew that making a really dynamic heather/tweed could be so challenging or so interesting.
You saw Jan’s post about the group silk order our guild did after we had a presentation about silk at a meeting. If not or you need reminding it is here: https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2022/02/05/group-order-of-sanjo-silk/ I have not seen her silk yet. I hope I get to see it the next time we are together. Perhaps she is hiding it from me, afraid I will try to make off with it after seeing what I got.
I have lots of nice silk so I decided to go the other way, I bought the strange stuff. It will be interesting to have at demos.
I got these Tussa silk cocoons. They aren’t like the regular ones you see. These are from wild silkworms and are much bigger than regular ones. I have never seen them for sale before. This is what the site says about them:
If you think Bombyx cocoons are fascinating, then you’ll be gobsmacked by these. The Tussah silkworm is wild, which means it eats in the wild. The cocoons are harvested from the forests where they feed. They’re huge compared to Bombyx cocoons; each one is about 1 1/2″ (almost 4 cm) long, not including the pedencal stem. This stem, with the ring at the end, is what the silkworm attaches itself to the tree branch with. Each of the cocoons has been cut, and the pupa removed.
I also got some of this, Kibiso. It might be interesting to use. I am not sure how but we will see. It feels very much like skinny carrier rods if you have seen those or paper. The website says:
100% Silk Kibiso, which is the outer part of the bombyx cocoon, the less refined part. It’s a bit like Excelsior, which is the woody fibre used in Easter baskets, but this is 100% Silk. It’s a nest of fibre, unprocessed, stiff, and lofty. It takes dye spectacularly,
Last is strangest. they’re 2 thicknesses of the same I am not sure why I got both. The excitement of the moment perhaps.
The finer stuff it says:
This yarn is 100% Silk – Tussah, which has been cajoled into this wonderful yarn. It’s stiff, quirky, and will add lots of texture and personality to your creative pieces. It can be woven and knitted – think about 3-dimensional pieces. Use it along the edge of a knitted piece. Incorporate it into your weaving to add body and texture.
And the thicker one says:
This is the yarn that gets the most attention when seen in person. In a whole display of beautiful, luscious silk yarns, people will zoom in on this one and say, “Wow, what is THIS???” It’s 100% Silk. We call it dreadlocks because that’s exactly what it looks like. It’s thick and glorious. It’s quite firm when you get it, but it softens a bit when soaked in warm water. This is a yarn that requires imagination. Think about 3 dimensions when using this yarn – it’s thick, has loads of body, and has the most intriguing texture. Make baskets with it. Wall hangings. Sculptural pieces. It’s truly magnificent.
“Yarn”., I put that in quotes because it is technically yarn but would not say it was spun. Looking at it I would say someone rolled some wet gummy scrap fibre in some mud or a barnyard and called it done. Calling them dreadlocks is an insult to dreadlocks and calling it glorious or magnificent, is just wrong. Interesting, intriguing, sure but glorious, no. I can’t help feeling like there is someone somewhere havering a great laugh at my expense. I can’t say I blame them. LOL
At some point, I will soak some in hot water and some with hot water and soda ash to see what happens to them. What would you do with them?
The January Meeting of our local Weavers and Spinners guild had a Zoom presentation on silk from the owners of Sanjo Silk (B.C. Canada). They talked about the different types of silk, about some of their acquisition trips to buy silk and showed us some of what they had in their store. It was all quite inspiring with the silk giving lots of ideas for future spinning or projects.
1 web page of Sanjo silk showing some of the silk they offer (Fiber, Yarn and cool odd stuff)
After the meeting, there was an inquiry if there would be interest in a group purchase to reduce the cost of shipping. Their website offered free shipping over $200.00 Canadian (before taxes). There was another discount if we had a higher number too, but we doubted we could spend that much. We had a small number of enthusiastic shoppers express interest and our new Yarn Convener set out to organize our shopping.
We perused the website www.sanjosilk.com/ and selected our drool-able lists. We then added the costs up and each sent our list to Deborah. She collected our payments, tallied the master list and sent out the order. She organized it all through E-Transfers, (I had never sent money by an E-Transfer, it was all very exciting!) She even organized E-refunds when we had collective spend enough for a further price reduction!!
Deborah had some cool stats that may interest you.
After not very long a LARGE box arrived! Deborah did a sort of the loot into each of our lists then dispersed it among the group.
2 the box arrives!!
3 our combined loot out of the box
I had a specific interest in my acquisitions; I was interested mainly in some of the colours that silk comes in besides white. I chose 3 options for further investigation. (Tussah, Muga and Eri)
4-5 Mr. Mer helps me set up for the fibre photoshoot
The Peduncle tussah silk was a silvery brown. This is fibre from the pediculus (foot) of the cocoon. On their website, it is described as Pewter in fibre form, with a stunning lustre of Brownish-grey. It was the least expensive of the three coloured silks I selected at $11.25 for 50g. I am sorry I did not get more it would be exquisitely blended with fine dark wool.
6-7 Peduncle tussah silk
The Golden Muga silk was a blond colour. This one was described as “liquid gold”. They did warn that there is a lot of natural variation between batches they receive. The differences are caused by variations in diet and environment for the silkworms. They suggest you get enough for an entire project at once so you don’t have variations within the colour range by getting different batches. This one was $16.90 for 50g. I think I would like to see what variation is available so may order again and hope to get it from another batch.
8-9 Golden Muga silk
The Red Eri Silk was a Fox colour orange/gold. Their website described it as a deep Orange-butterscotch, soft Luxuriously lustrous and long staple-length fibre, prepared in a thick roving. I am wondering if Mrs. Mer would like some of this blended with another fibre for her hair and possibly some fishy body highlight. This was $18.80 for 50g.
10-11 Red Eri Silk
While browsing I spotted the oddest looking “cocoons” I have ever seen, full of little holes and in a golden colour. I had to add them to the list! They were listed as Gold Cricula Cocoons (wild) from Indonesia. They further explain that this is the outer part that attaches to the tree branch. The strong gold colour is from the Sericin, if it is removed the silk will be a pale yellow. It was suggested that you can “soak your cricula cocoons in water (with a dash of pH-neutral soap); reshape them, enhancing their dome shape with your fingers; let them dry. Or iron them flat for use in 2D projects”. My brain immediately started thinking about a top for Mrs. Mer!! I am sure that you will think of much more exciting things to try with this cool cocoon attachment! A bag of 5g (a large handful) was $7.00.
12-13 Gold Cricula Cocoons (wild) from Indonesia
The next two selections were similar to each other. The first was 100% Silk Carrier Rods (7 casings for $6.00.) the description was that “they’re actually part of the silk-reeling process. These carrier rods are stiff, strong, and smooth. Some are straight, some curved – they’re very sculptural. And they dye beautifully. (Also see our Silk Casings, which are thinner and finer.)”
14-15 Silk Carrier Rods
Yes, I got the bag of the 100% Silk Casings too, they were priced at $6.00 for 14gr. Their description was; “Although these curious items look a bit “insectoid”, they aren’t. They are bi-products of the silk spinning industry. Each one is unique. They’re similar to the Carrier Rods we also carry, but they’re thinner, finer, and more pliable. Some are ridgey and corrugated, some are not. Each package is a variety of shapes and configurations. Use them for jewelry, to embellish art pieces, or just enjoy their stunning good looks.
16 Silk Casings
From the meeting, I remember they described both as waste products of the silk reeling industry. It is good to have what was considered waste be available to us, I am sure we will find a use for it! I had considered from the web picture possibilities for horns but I don’t think I have enough of the ribbed shape to do that. It is still weird and will likely percolate many odd ideas in the future. In the meantime, I will just enjoy their oddness and may add a few to my demo stuff. Oh, note that they have been cut off so the length of the fibre if separated would be short.
Lastly, I did get a white silk blend with Linin, I think this was a mill end, 97% Eri Silk and 3% Linen (trace amounts). The mill that made this has some debate as to exactly how much linen is included but it will be 3% or less. I seem to have a section where I can’t feel or see anything that looks like Linin. Oh well, it is still gorgeous! The Erin is a shot-stale fibre because the silkworm is not killed but allowed to break and leave its cocoon,( aka; Peace Silk). This fibre has been prepared using a woollen prep. It is described as having a soft and lofty character. It is also described as similar to cotton sliver fibre prep. 100g bag (about 3.5 oz.) was $15.60
17-18 97% Eri Silk and 3% Linen
If we order again, I may try a similar option of 65% Bombay Silk 35% Linen (flax) Spinning Fibre, it was slightly more expensive but had more Flax fibre content. That one is 100g for $19.00.
It is nice to have a selection of fibres to inspire you, or have just the right option available as you are in the middle of a project and just need a bit of something. Being part of a guild and thus easier to organize a group order (we saved a lot on shipping and got a bit of a discount too!) was a great help. Deborah did a fantastic job getting us all organized. I hope we did not overwhelm her and we can try this again! I would like to be able to shop locally (we should be out of partial shutdown by the time I post this, I hope!) but in the meantime, let’s enjoy the bits of fibre shopping we are able to do and live vicariously through looking at each other’s acquisitions.
Did you have a flash of inspiration looking at casings, cocoons or rods? Are you thinking about foxes after looking at the photos of Red Eri Silk?
Now a word about felting
Remember if you are wanting to felt with silk it is not as narcissistic as wool, so it won’t want to stick to itself the way that wool does. Using a tiny wisp of wool over the silk to help lock it in place or blending it with wool as you are preparing your fibres will help it stick. Silk can be used to add a lustre or pop of colour amongst the wool. Ann has applied it on the outer surface of vessels then used a razor to save back the wool and expose more of the silk to great effect. I have used silk fibres mixed with other fibres like alpaca or Icelandic tog as part of the outer coat of some of my animal sculptures to keep the hair/pelt from felting or matting to the body.
If you are going to be working with silk it’s a good idea to start moisturizing your hands a few days before you start. I also use extra-fine files for my nails. Silk, even though it is reluctant to felt when you want it to, will cling to your fingers and anything else you didn’t want it to stick to. Bernadette, who also posts blogs here, has done a lot of spinning with silk and silk blends she may have some good suggestions for you about keeping it under control!
The idea of upcycling and recycling is enormously appealing given the situation we all face. But going back and undoing work from others’ hands is challenging. For those of you who have come late to my adventures in recycling, I am disassembling worn out silk kimono to weave into more modern type of jacket, still with an Asian look, but done in a rag weave. This is part of the Japanese tradition of using materials to their utmost, so I don’t feel too bad about taking these garments apart.
The process of tearing or cutting the fabric is boring, boring, boring and just for a change of emotion it’s frustrating too! I have dulled blades on fabric cutters, dulled scissors and now I’m trying a combination of rotary cutter and ripping, but still I’m not having great success.
Sometimes the silk tears perfectly and the strip can be used exactly as it comes off the fabric, then the next strip goes completely haywire for no discernible reason. These are really old kimono so my suspicion is that they have started to shatter, but that should be working in my favour when ripping, so I’m at a loss.
I have pressed and folded the silk and laid it out on the quarter inch. This is when the straight edge and rotary cutter come out. The silk used here is very fine, from the lining, so the width of the ribbon is a little more than the quarter inch. The poor rotary blade was starting to sound pretty grim after eight deep cuts. I’ll look for a small sharpener to try to extend the life of the blades.
The ribbons are joined into one long ‘thread’ using a split knot. A small cut is made in each end of the ribbon about a quarter inch from the ends.
The right hand ribbon is threaded through the slit in the left hand ribbon.
Then the very end of the left hand ribbon is threaded through slit in the right hand ribbon.
And finally, they are gently given a slow and gentle pull until they come together in a little butterfly knot that will be a design element of the weave. It will be random and just pop up here and there on the fabric.
I find doing this hour after hour nearly mind numbing, and can only do this for a few hours a day or two at a time. I really want to finish this kimono project but it’s getting to be a slog so I have to take breaks. I will finish it, but not in the original time line. What do the rest of you do when you have a project that starts to pale as time goes on?
This time boredom prompted me to crack out the dye pot and do something vivid and cheery for a November day.
I spun a single first, naturally. It took a little bit to get used to the silk. The silk is much harder to draft but mixed with the wool it wasn’t too bad. You have to accept you are not going to get a really smooth yarn. You are going to get a great texture.
Next, I did what is the most meditative part of spinning for me. I made a center-pull ball by hand. If you are in a hurry or you have lots to do then a ball winder is the way to go. But I really do enjoy this part. I use a little piece of painter’s tape to make sure I don’t lose the center yarn, while I am winding. Do you enjoy doing something that other people seem to dread doing?
Then the fastest part, plying.
It’s interesting that when it was a single I thought it was a bit dull and muddy but after plying it seems to be brighter and shinier. I really like it. It has lots of colour and so much texture. it will be great as an embellishment on my felt.
I haven’t decided if I will make it into a center-pull ball or a skein for storage.
A few weeks ago our guild was offered the estate of one of our more noteworthy weavers. She had stipulated that all her weaving supplies and equipment were to be sold and a scholarship be set up to help educate and promote weaving. We were deeply saddened by the loss of this talented woman, who was also a great resource for our guild. Her generosity set a high bar for all of us. I did participate in the fundraising efforts and purchased a cotton warp to encourage me to get back into weaving.
There was only a small problem with the warp; it no longer had a cross. The cross in a warp helps prevent the threads from tangling. This was going to be a huge challenge but one I wanted to tackle along with two other learning challenges.
Because I am self-taught there are huge gaps missing in my weaving knowledge. Some are very basic techniques. I desperately wanted to learn how to make a weavers knot. This is a knot that almost everyone involved in fibre seems to know how to make. Not me. I wanted it to become muscle memory, so I wanted to make lots and lots of knots. Then when the need arises it will be so easy for me to just – poof – make this non-slip permanent tiny little fastener.
Now comes part two of my learning challenge – reusing a threaded warp. If a weaver is careful and doesn’t remove the remnants of threads from the loom, and if they are long enough, they can be used as a labour-saving tool when threading through the heddles. The heddles are the little eyes on the loom. Threading heddles is a bit like threading very big needles and I really don’t like doing it.
I had preserved the previous warp. I knew it was narrower than the cotton warp I wanted to add, but I didn’t know how many threads were in the cotton warp. There is only one way to find out, count them. There are 225 threads by the way.
So I estimated I would need to add three inches of cotton on either side of the existing warp.
Then came the knots. First I just did overhand knots, but I really didn’t like them. They were thick and didn’t look like they would pass through the reed with ease. Then I started working on the weavers’ knots. Online demos are really interesting, but by the time I got back to the loom I’d forgotten how the loops worked and which way the thread wrapped around and it was all very frustrating. Finally, after a bit of digging, I found a printable diagram and that worked like a charm. My biggest concern is that I may not have a true weavers knot. This works, so maybe it doesn’t matter.
I had to thread the cotton through the heddles and Because the cotton along the sides was going to be a little shorter than the wool cotton combination in the middle I added a bit of an extender, sorry I didn’t get a picture of that.
And then it was time to start gently getting everything through the reed and the heddles. This was all done very slowly and carefully so that none of the threads would break. The weaver’s knot worked like a charm. The overhand knot was a bit thick and need some gentle nudging to make it through, but all in all, it worked.
Once the cotton was safely warped on the back beam it was a matter of untangling the threads and winding, untangling and winding. At some point, I was very tempted to just chop it all off the loom and throw it out. It was really getting to be a terrible mess, so discouraging. Then I would look at the back of the loom and see how ordered it was. Everything was coming together as it should, everything was aligned and going onto the beam the way it was supposed to, so I would take a break and come back to it a little later.
And then fairly quickly it was all done. I was a little surprised and definitely delighted.
All this time I had no idea what I was going to do on this warp, not a clue. Maybe make a table runner or some cushion covers. I have some really nice linen to use, some great thick and thin cotton or wool. Then last night it came to me. This lovely textured cotton warp with all its thick bits and thin threads, its ideal length of 4.5 yards (4 m) precise width of 18 in (45cm), it’s ability to take colour like a sponge will be perfect for the recycled kimono project!! Can hardly wait to get started.