Friday, December 1, 2023

Ikat class piece, lessons learned and another cautionary tale


I took Mary Zicafoose's slipped ikat class over Zoom through our guild in September.  FABULOUS class. Absolutely brilliant.

I made a "cartoon" in a spreadsheet then tied white 8/2 tencel and dyed it in Procion "Bronze" fiber reactive dye. There's some black tencel in there as well.  Weft is a 16/2 cotton fortuitously commercially dyed a close color, and it's woven in a straight twill reversing at the center. 

My intention was to have triplets of white, descending, on each side of center with small chevrons in the border. the three white stripes just below center came out pretty much as I envisioned, the rest did not. Design wise, I like the center although the two groups of three should be offset slightly more; and I'd prefer that the upper triplet be as concise as the lower. The space on the outside of the triplets could be slightly narrower. For the border pieces, I would either set them further apart or leave them straight; either way, though, they need to be more concise, the mud that is on the top border is just sloppy work.

What went wrong:

  1. The tencel had some worn spots on it; I think there was abrasion on a part of the cone; but I decided to proceed anyways, predicting the worst that could happen was broken threads.
  2. I'm pleased with the color but I'd aimed at darker; I had a limited window to dye and my scale wouldn't power on; futzing with the scale compressed the amount of time I left my yarn in the dye. Either the quantity of dye or the timing resulting in a lighter color.
  3. As I dressed the loom, I slipped groups of yarn then knotted the back beam side of the warp. In a previous piece I'd attached those to the back apron rod with string, so on this piece I tried looping the bout over the apron rod and securing it with the knot. I don't think this was a good idea.
  4. As I wound on, I realized that my alignment wasn't what I wanted it to be. I was torn between redoing it or declaring it a class learning piece, and decided to move on, threading the heddles and reed.
  5. At this point, I wished I'd fixed it and debated rebeaming. I wasn't sure the delicate parts of the tencel could handle rebeaming, so I left it and started weaving.
  6. About three inches into weaving, I realized the tension was really wonky. I examined the loom and found the locking arm that holds the back beam out was not locked on one side. There were bad words, then I fixed it and tied on again. I debated rebeaming but again decided against it. 
  7. About 12 inches into weaving the tension went to shit again. I debated tearing out the 12 inches and rebeaming it but threw some weights on the loose parts and kept weaving.
  8. The tension got worse and worse. At about 3' into the project I had a glass of wine and cut it off the loom.
  9. It's possible that the tension issues caused some of the misalignment, but I didn't analyze that.

What have I learned? All of my issues went back to the first item on this list, using material that I was concerned about.  I should have rebeamed by step 6 and risked the broken threads.  Not listening to my inner voice has been a problem in the past and it's a problem again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Getting ready to wind up the year a bit early...

Well, I'll be away from the studios for a few weeks so before I go I might as well share what I've been up to.

Inked up rubbing plate and brayer
First, I needed some holiday cards and couldn't come up with a design... but I flashed on the fact that I had ink, cards, and some clever rubbing plates from Dharma Trading.  The cards are crappy cardstock from Michaels, but it wipes out my stash of them (yay destash!) and I like the look. I even printed the envelope backs! Here are some of them.

The non-denominational holiday card

 I also did a test print of the linked figures (or dancing girls) but the plate needs a little more work before printing; and I want to figure out the registration tabs I bought. I suspect this will be next year's fun.

The rugs are also off the loom but I'm not pleased with them. The selvedges are wonky, the beat is uneven and I can't get the edges sewn under in a way that is pleasing to me. There's a lot to learn about rug making that does not come naturally just because you can weave other things and I fear that I am not the kind of person who can learn this from a book. I'm looking for a class and have identified a few locations but I'll have to travel and 2024 is looking pretty busy! Meanwhile I'm going to watch Tom Knisely's video and I'm stalking another online class. I'll post photos of the rugs in another post and I think we can expect more rugs in the future. Regardless of my disappointments, once they're on the floor they look good and they're squishy soft and warm to walk on!

On the other projects, 

  • What happened to the ikat? I'll give that little disaster it's own post later. Let's just say I rage-cut it off the loom when it became problematic so I have a piece of fabric, not a scarf.
  • I'm stalled on the table to figure out the background; I have a few ideas but haven't settled on any yet.
  • I'm part way through threading the Yarn Palace Graceful to do a test weave. 
  • I'm still knitting on Shiny, which will probably become vacation knitting.
  • The sheep shirt is still stalled.

I don't know if I've mentioned in this blog that I'm declaring 2024 a Stashdown year. That's where I use up as much stuff as I can from stash, adding as little as possible to compliment the things I have. I'll also try to complete some semi finished projects. I need placemats and runners for the Lodge, a few more rugs, maybe some tapestry, some towels, yardage, maybe a handspun blanket... I'd also like to work with some of the quilting fabric and some of the garment sewing fabric, and make a dent in my glass and tile stash. Let's see where this goes!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Calculating Sett from YPP for Graceful

A picture of a yarn ball is better
than no picture at all
I've been wanting to try to weave with The Yarn Place Graceful in my stash for YEARS but have been afraid to 'cause it's super thin. It's a "cobweb" weight yarn that very slowly changes color; looking at the colors on the ball leads me to think weaving it on itself would give me some splendid iridescence. I decided to give it a go as one of my looms is empty so I am trying to guess a sett based on YPP... 

The label says 1804 yards/100g (Why? Why? Why do they mix imperial and metric?) 

My rounded calculations gave me 8190 yards/lb, so I went to the Master yarn chart. It's between these two entries but obviously much closer to the 36/2. It's interesting that the recommended setts are the same.

36/2 wool; 8,950 yd/lb (18,025 m/kg); 24, 36, 45
28/2 wool; 6,880 yd/lb (13,885 m/kg); 24, 36, 45

Then I thought of the Ashenhurst formula? It's a way of finding diameters per inch (WPI) including a fudge factor for yarn squishiness...  Here's a couple of lightweight articles on it:

Then you calculate a sett number based on interlacements (i.e., closer sett for twill than plain weave as there are less interlacements). Or just follow the suggestions on either of those web pages.

I think I'm going to sample with a turned twill at 36 TPI, I suspect that'll show off the changes in the yarn color nicely.

Left is 30 EPI, plain weave over twill
Right is twill at 35 EPI
Updating with sampling results... I have a turned twill sample at 35 EPI, and turned twill and plain weave at 30 EPI. Both are soft, supple and very very light. DH's comment was "this would make a good summer or fall scarf". I wet finished both by aggressive rubbing it against itself in cold water with soap. The 35 is very appealing to me and the 30 feels just this side of sleazy (yes, that's a weaving term). I'm going to show the samples to friends and to my weaving group and make a decision from there.

I chose the twill to hide the color changes but I'm surprised I don't mind them in the plain weave.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Round poppy table, playing with options..

Poppy's progress
 I've been working on the round poppies table, to sit next to the grill... I finally got the side and edge pieces on and started adding poppies. They are not perfect but I'm pretty pleased with them; I just need one more.

My initial thought was to create an army of leaf shapes and to fill the complete background with that. I still haven't decided if that's how it's going to go or not... but I do want some type of gradient for the background as opposed to 2-4 shades of green put in willy-nilly. I've been thinking a lot about this, and finally decided I needed to mock it up, but how?

After looking at several drawing type programs which were much more complicated than I needed, I landed on just using the markup function from the photos app on my iPad. It won't give me a lot of detail, but right now I'm looking for an overall feel for the piece and I think I can get that with markups. Here's the current three candidates.

I wondered if dark or light was better around the poppies? I don't think I like the dark, it looks like orange flowers on a bush. All of the color fields would be mixed and the edges blended...

The concept here was more mixed, but fading from a light center to a darker perimeter.
The third was  pretty much opposite of the first.

Of the three, I don't care for the first; the second is my favorite; but I haven't ruled out the 3rd, although it'll be hard for me to get the dark center round enough to look right... 

I've got some decisions to make on color and and andemento and hopefully will start on the background later this week! I'm hoping to have the table done as the grilling season fades into the rainy season... Bad timing, I know, but at least I'll be ready for next year!

In other news, I'm 15 inches or so away from finishing the rugs, 1/3 of the way through weaving the ikat scarf from the Mary Z class, working my way through the Shiny sweater, and have carved the lino block but not test printed the "linked figures" ("dancing women"). The sheep shirt is stalled, I was confused about setting in the sleeve but I think I'm good to proceed now.

G&M visited as well and brought a Barbera that G had crafted; it won a Gold medal at a local prestigious competition. The Internet told me the best pairing would be wild boar ragu; I "hunted" some down (finally found some in Dittmer's freezer, labeled both wild boar and feral swine) and used a NYT recipe... served with a simple green salad and polenta. It was excellent. The wine was incredible. The pairing was solid. And such a joy to see G&M.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Where oh where has October gone?

 Somehow the month of October has evaporated... 

We spent a week in New Mexico seeing the Balloon Fiesta (AMAZING!), an annular eclipse, and a whole mess of family... then spent a few days in Santa Fe...  Atrisco at the DeVargas Mall had by far the best red chili we had all trip... 

We did see Meow Wolf and my first reaction is that they must have had a 6 figure epoxy budget! I think it could be interesting to revisit with some time to try to solve the mystery, find all the rats, all without the kid traffic that was there on a weekend afternoon. 

But back to work... 

  • I've been knitting away at Shiny, it's slow going (super thin yarn, and it doesn't get a lot of time, so I'm good with that!)
  • I skeined up the rest of the goat yarn I'd plied and am looking forward to finishing the plying.
  • I got back into the mosaic studio (it needs a good cleaning) and promptly bled all over the place while I finished the border on the table, set in the two already cut poppies, and cut 3 more.  I think the number of poppies will be 7? or 9? I had a plan for the non-poppy part of the table but I'm rethinking it...  Next step is to finish the poppies and to design the next project. Stepping stones or table top? Hmmm.... I can design while I finish the table. I do want to set some of the crash glass into a piece with regular stained glass and grout to see what it looks like. That might inform some of the design decisions.
  • I started making the sheep shirt. The double gauze is fussy and unpleasant to work with. I tried once more to do Ronda's method of not using a back collar facing and after doing it a few times, I just don't like it; mine always looks messy. So IF I make another camp shirt, I'll do a back facing. 
  • I started threading the ikat but have not progressed on it.
  • I'm still weaving the rugs but having a hard time with too little vs too much weft... So the first rug is unpleasantly either too sparse or bumpy. The second rug (I'm 1/3 through) is better and I think I'm finally getting it. I suspect after steaming and some use they'll be fine as next to the bed rugs but I'm currently not pleased.
  • I had done a drawing for a lino block; I need new cards; I think I mentioned the "linked figures" on the 6000 year old Persian vase that I'd seen in a museum in Boston; today I carved two of the figures (I call them dancing women) on lino and should be doing some test prints and cards later this week. I invested in a new setup for registration so that should be fun to play with.

I love this vessel

I realize I'll be heading out on vacation in about 6 weeks so will need to figure out what I can take with me, what I can finish before I go, what I can leave for when I get back. More on that later.

What I'm not doing is spending anytime with the images I capture when I'm traveling, and no time on analysis of the things that I see that intrigue me. That drove me to decide I need to do 3 pieces of art from the photos I capture this year; and I need to create a space for inspirations (photos and discussion). Kind of like an artists diary.

I spent some time with a lovely book of samples from the Complex Weavers "Cross Country Weavers group" and was awed at what they produced... I dutifully sent the binder off to it's next destination but realized as it left that I learned almost nothing from it. I would think that I could come up with a one pager detailing what I saw and learned... That would also be something to add to the inspirations space.

So there will be a few posts named or tagged inspirations where I mention some of the things that I see that intrigue or delight me! I'll start on the first one now.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Inspiration Post #1

 Here are some of the things that have delighted me recently...

This table runner at a AirB&B in Santa Fe. Yarn was relative thin, maybe 16/2, warp dominant to warp faced, thicker (red) weft, with bands of supplemental warp. It has a hand similar to rep but the yarns were much finer than I'm used to. The color progression is so happy.

I was/am inspired by the Cross Country Weavers notebook; the instructions that came with the notebook mentioned it was okay to take a couple of photos but I feel it would be wrong to post those to a public blog. Sometime in the future I'll talk about what I did photo and what it's meant to me as inspiration.

Kelly Mondola Koza talked to our Guild this month on textiles from Sardinia; it was a fascinating discussion. I captured a couple of images. from samples she passed around.  I like way these bursts of color are inserted, and the color combos are fantastic.

This was also from Sardinia... I didn't identify the weave but thought it would be an interesting block structure.

I saw this at Farm and Table in Albuquerque, and then saw a shy bird that looked just like it. I'd like to try to lino block this. I feel bad about copying someone else's image... but I'm not doing it commercially, just doing it for practice. I'd put this on the list of copying someone else's work to learn the technique. I'm betting it's a screen print, not a block print... I like the way the lines from the plant seem to flow effortlessly into the lines of the bird feathers.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Q3'23 finished things (7/17)


  • Two yards of 1/2" band
    Camp shirt from Kuala Lumpur batik
  • Camp shirt from paper yarn
  • Afternoon Tea Shawl 
  • Sample from Inge Dam class at CNCH
  • Card Woven Band
  • Knitted Cowl
  • Diversified Plain Weave sample for the study group.

I was listening to KQED a few weeks ago and heard an interview with  Jennifer Breheny Wallaceon her book "Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic -- and What We Can Do About It"

The talk focused the effects on our children of expecting constant achievement from them. What occured to me is that the people I'm in weaving classes with are likely the same parents she talks about. These are the people that expect to produce an expert piece the very first time they try a technique and who do not give themselves room for experimentation and the possibility of failure. This is just my opinion, not having read the book, but the same parents that are expecting this of their children are expecting it of themselves. 

Two key phrases resonated with me. One, that our "failures and setbacks become indictments of our worth to ourselves and those around us". The second was the affirmation that "I am not my achievements and I am not my failures."

I bring this up in the this blog because I am often paralyzed by the need to produce the perfect piece and I don't give myself enough room for experimentation. I'm not currently okay with mediocre or failed results, and I think that blocks my growth as an artist.

Given all of that, is counting finished projects on a quarterly basis toxic for me? I don't think so. Failed projects count the same and successful projects, and I need a representation of what I've been up to.  So I'll happily continue with this, but will also try to stop the dithering and get stuff done!

In the Queue for Q4 and beyond:


  • 2 rugs on the big loom.
  • The piece from the Mary Z class
  • A double faced cardwoven band.


  • Sand and Sunsets
  • Shiny sweater


  • There are a couple of quilts I'd like to finish. And I want to continue to explore continuous line designs with my embroidery machine.


  • Stash reduction (this would go better if I stopped buying fabric).
  • Sheep shirt
  • Shirt for Scott

  • There are mosaic and linocuts I'd like to work on. I've started on the dancing girls. And I worked a tiny bit on the table.
  • It occurs to me that I have a minimum of 2 nieces, their spouses, and 2 grand-niblings that live in cold climates. Maybe scarves this year? I suspect I'll also have to start thinking about a baby blanket...