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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

29 August, 2010

Take time for a soliloquy!!

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , — admin @ 11:16 am

Ok, I admit it….  I’m showing off!!  But blame it on the music, as they say (who are ‘they’ and why do we take notice of them anyway…?) 

Seriously though (awww!), you really can blame it on the music!  As a music student one of the pieces I played as a teenager – round about grade 2 standard – was entitled Soliloquy.  The first time I saw it I though, ‘OK, better check that one out before my teacher asks….’ and I dived for the dictionary. 

Boiled down to a simple one-word explanation, a soliloquy is a day-dream!  But doesn’t it sound so much more impressive when you are having a hard time with someone who is challenging your attention span when you can say with dignity “I was soliloquising!”.  I used it to great effect at school – but could only get away with it once for each teacher!!  My English teacher was so impressed, she set me an extra homework task to pontificate for 3 pages on a soliloquy!! (Damn – that one backfired!!) 

Anyway, this week I was listening somewhat abstractedly to Classic FM - a lovely radio station in the UK which plays classical music in bite-sized chunks – and this particular piece of music came on and took me back to my not-so-happy school days.  Remembering this particular essay that I had to write, I also recalled that I used it to explore the word and say it out loud a few times, rolling it around my mouth.  (Does anyone else do that?)  That essay got me thinking about day-dreams in a way I never had before, and I realised just how important day-dreams are in the big scheme of our lives.

If we don’t take time to day-dream, to be taken unexpectedly along a different thought path, to relax our minds so that they flit from topic to topic, to allow our minds to go totally blank and to stare with unfocussed eyes, to give our minds a breathing space in our chaotically busy lives, how can we recharge the batteries? 

Of course, there are times and places to day-dream.  I wouldn’t recommend it whilst driving the car on a particularly busy road, or anytime whilst driving the car, actually – although sometimes you find that you’ve driven a large stretch without remembering anything about it! 

But time to just stare without focus, to sit without doing or watching anything, to lie down without the intention of going to sleep, to lean on a gate or a wall and just gaze without definite thought, is so important to our well-being that it should really be taught in school! 

Even if it’s only for 5 minutes – just fit in time to day-dream today and you’ll find yourself refreshed and more relaxed.  Here in the UK we have a bank holiday tomorrow.  Why not just take some time to allow yourself to detach from the pressing day-to-day minutia of life and soliloquise for a few moments? 

And anyone who interrupts you will be so impressed with the word, that they will leave you alone again!!

25 August, 2010

Waffle weave for texture

Filed under: Teaching,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

This versatile float-based weave has lots of different uses.  More often used for tea-towels for its ultra-absorbency, and blankets for its warmth-trapping cells, it can also be used effectively for scarves and for texture.  Moreover it’s a fun structure! 

Using 5 or more shafts works best, as it needs a stitching element as well as the floats, just to keep everything secure.  In this scarf, I have used it on lots of shafts because I was using very fine silk warp (120/2), but with a thicker warp thread, you could use it on 5 or more. 


The detail above and the wider view on the right show the variegated weft yarn that I used.  It was a fine singles cotton.  Waffle is stretchy weave structure so you have to weave a much longer piece so you end up with the length you want after you take it from the loom. 

This is what this all-over waffle looks like in a draft. 

As shown in the draft, you usually weave waffle on a point threading.  However, you aren’t restricted by this, as this next piece was woven on a straight entry threading.  You can clearly see the stitching element which is part of the appeal of waffle weave.   

  The warp was again a fine 120/2, but this time, I used a fine cashmere weft for the floats and used the waffle weave in stripes on a 24 shaft straight entry warp.  The waffle element was over 12 shafts, and the draft would have looked something like this…..

The fun element in this waffle is that the waffle creates a little shrinkage and puckers the plain weave stripes in between the waffle, so making it soft and spongy but firm which is an unusual texture and a pleasing effect.  Having a cashmere blend also helps with the shrinkage element. 

One other way I have recently been using waffle is as the back cloth in stitched double cloth, but I’ll talk more about that in another post. 

What I enjoy about waffle is that you can create it in non-traditional ways and make it an unusual feature with some amazing insulating properties and textural qualities that no other weave can give you. 

Why don’t you have a play with waffle and incorporate it into other weave structures to see what it does?  I doubt that you’ll be disappointed with the results!  And if you do have a go, do please let us know what you’ve achieved! 

Next week, I’ll show you some overshot for texture…. In the meantime, have fun with waffle!

23 August, 2010

Lumps, bumps ‘n’ waves – weaving with shibori

Filed under: Life — admin @ 9:06 pm

Firstly, may I apologise for putting this in the wrong place last week.  I created a new page instead of a new post, so you can find it if you search for shibori, but otherwise it wasn’t in the normal blog page!  You can imagine my perplexity when I wanted to check something, and couldn’t find it!!  So I’ve published again so it appears in the right place! 

Shibori for texture is something that I really discovered at Kay Faulkner’s shibori class in the UK in December 2008.  I had read the Woven Shibori book by Catharine Ellis that has a chapter on supplementary warps written by Kay that uses shibori in the warp, and her workshop was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

Weaving for shibori entails 2 warps, or 2 wefts, or both.  In warp shibori, your main warp is woven plain weave in something like a cotton yarn which has plenty of body but not too thick.  I use 3/18 or 2/12 usually.  The shibori supplementary threads in the warp are placed in a ratio of your choice.  We used 6 plain weave ends to 1 shibori end  For a short sample warp, you don’t need to beam them separately, but for a long length, it is advisable to use two warp beams, or a separate dowel that you can weigh to separate the two warps.    For your shibori warp, it is best to use something a bit thicker than normal and very strong.  Mercerised crochet cotton is good, and Kay uses fishing line.  You don’t want it to break when you are pulling the fabric up on the shibori warps, and you need to knot it securely so that the puckers are held in place when you are finishing the fabric (or dyeing it – after all, shibori is mostly known for its dye resist capabilities!).

The plain weave can be threaded onto 2 shafts if you have an 8 shaft loom, or over 4 shafts if you have spare shafts.  This helps to ease the burden of lifting on just 2 shafts, and can be kinder to the warp threads. 

Keeping the threading order going, thread the shibori warp ends in a point order on your remaining shafts. 

To create the lumps n bumps, you do a point lifting too, creating diamond shapes with your supplementary shibori warp threads, like this…..

You can vary the size of the diamonds, if you like. 

The simpest stuff works the best, as with so many things. 

Here are the visual results after the shibori ends were used as pulling up threads, and the fabric bunched up and then knotted.  I used a polyester weft, and then the fabric was steamed (it got a little scorched on the steamer!!) so the polyester held its shape after the shibori ends were removed.  NB Allow the fabric to dry fully before trying to pull out the shibori warp threads.  If you don’t, it’s really hard work!!  (How do I know????!) 

  Front side      Reverse side

I also used alternate shibori warp ends and create square blocks or blocks on odd shibori ends versus even shibori ends.  Try it and see what the results are.

I have a thing for water, waves, ripples, that kind of thing, and it was oh so simple to create waves and ripples with this technique.  Here are the waves I did in the workshop, and they were created by weaving only half of the diamond shape and then repeating the same element again and again, with different amounts of plain weave for each block. 

  Front side   Reverse side

That was the start of my explorations in shibori.  I’ve done loads more since and had a lot of fun.  You’ll be able to see some of my results in a few weeks time, but until then, I’ve some more texture techniques I’d like to share with you.

Next week is a waffle weave that is really delicate…. 

Until then, have a lot of fun weaving!!

22 August, 2010

Swarms and human behaviour

Filed under: Life,Philosophy,Psychology — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:20 pm

I was watching an ants’ nest that had been disturbed in my garden during our most recent renovation activity.  The ants were scurrying around seemingly at random, running here and there without apparent purpose, until I realised that there was indeed a very methodical method in their running.  To me, the ants are identical, but I guess to ants, humans are identical.  I couldn’t recognise individuals but I could recognise patterns of movement that emerged as I took the time to watch what happened.

There were obvious patterns and tasks that were allocated to specific individuals.  You’ve probably read about the information that bees pass on to each other about locations of food sources through their dances.  Well, information of some sort was being passed around the ants with resultant changes to their behaviour when an obstacle was put in their way. 

That got me to thinking about how that relates to human behaviour.  We like to think we are all individual with our own choices, and independent behavour patterns, but we are also swarm animals.  Whenever we are together in big groups, you can see that behaviour emerging.  Just watch behaviour patterns at airports when there are flight delays or cancellations.  Watch the crowd at a sports match.  On occasion, and for the sheer fun of it, I’ve stood in a busy area and looked up a the top of a building, or the sky, and waited to see how many people look up too.  It’s quite funny!  Once one person looks up, another will do so and on and on until most people glance up just to see what everyone else is looking at.

The same kind of reaction can be generated by businesses looking to sell things.  If you can get people to think that everyone else is buying the product, then the swarm behaviour kicks in.  Just think of the January sales!! 

Swarms also have impacts greater than the efforts of the individuals involved.  If you can’t solve a problem on your own, and you ask a group of people for help, other people’s different approaches to the problem can help all of you solve the problem.  That’s called collective intelligence and nature uses it frequently.  So do the armed forces and rescue services. 

I love that we just have to look at what is happening in nature to see what happens in human experience.  We like to think that we are superior beings but we march to the same tune as everything else!!  We can express ourselves perhaps in more diverse ways, but really we are all related to everything else and that is a fact we should never forget.

15 August, 2010

Creative downtime

Over the last few weeks, I’ve indulged in some creative downtime!  After the hectic scheduling of Complex Weavers and Convergence, Agnes and I headed off for a road trip (aka Thelma and Louise – without the dramatic ending!!).  Agnes was in charge of itinerary, and we headed out to Arizona, aiming for Page, via the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.  We took two days to get there, so we could take in unscheduled photo-call stops along the way.  Once at Page, after a day to get our bearings, drive around and see what was available, stopping in for quite a while at the lovely little Powell Museum in Page, each day we scheduled somewhere to visit in the morning, and then chilled out for the remainder of the day.  It worked well with the weather (thunder storms most days in the late afternoon and evening), and gave us some downtime to process everything we saw and experienced.  We both journal to help that filtering process, and we both took loads of photos, sometimes of the same shot, sometimes completely different things. 

Over the 10 days we had, we visited the Grand Canyon twice – the north rim was amazing both in sunlight and in cloud and rain – Bryce Canyon (which was simply amazing!), Antelope Canyon, took a ride down Glen Canyon, and came back to New Mexico via Monument Valley.  I haven’t got round to sorting out my photos yet as I’m teaching non-stop until September, but as and when I do, I’ll post a few with my Sunday blog. 

People had told me previously that these places are not appreciated until they are experienced, and I can wholeheartedly endorse that view.  The feeling you get when you are standing near the edge of any big canyon, especially when it is shrouded in mist and rain and you can’t see the edge (!), and suddenly the mist rolls back, the rain lifts and a peak is illuminated by a shaft of sunlight and glows a rich red is breathtaking.  This is when you appreciate the wonders of nature firsthand, and realise your place in the big scheme of things and acknowledge deep in your soul how small you are and yet how integral a part of the whole shebang.  It is a salutary experience and worth remembering when back in the hum-drum of everyday routine.  What food for the brain and visual stimulation for the eyes. 

Agnes and I had a ball!  We are both still friends <G> and found we have more than weaving in common.  We think in a similar way, so we appreciated the wonders of everything we saw, in both nature and in the people we met along the way.  We now have brains full of inspirational images and ideas that will, at some point, find their way into our different forms of weaving.  We’re now waiting with baited breath to find out where the next Convergence and Complex Weavers Seminars will be – so we can plan our next road trip in the US!!

11 August, 2010

Shibori for texture

In my last texture blog post in July, I was talking about honeycomb.  At the same lecture that I gave at Complex Weavers Seminars on honeycomb, I also showed the results of shibori and seersucker techniques in creating texture in single cloth. 

Shibori is usually associated with tie-dyeing.  There are two fabulous books on Shibori that have been inspirational to many people.  These are : 

1)  “Shibori – the inventive art of Japanese shaped resist dyeing” by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice and Jane Barton.  The book covers tradition, techniques and innovation. ISBN is 978-4-7700-2399-5. 

2)  ” Memory on Cloth - shibori now” by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada.  ISBN is 978-4-7700-2777-1.

I started reading these with interest, but no real thoughts of applying this to my texture research, until I came across some images that showed the resulting fabric in physical textural relief as a result of the shibori process.  Many of the designs created visual dimensionality on the 2D surface, but these few actually showed the 3D potential of shibori.  This piqued my curiosity and I decided to focus on this as a method of obtaining dimensional effects in my fabric. 

I also had “Woven Shibori” by Catharine Ellis, ISBN 978-1-931499-67-5 and decided that using loom-controlled shibori effects were what I was particularly interested in.  The chapter written by Kay Faulkner on warp-controlled shibori got me thinking deeper still, and then I attended a workshop given by Kay in December 2008.  Whilst the focus of the workshop was on the dyeing effects created through the warp shibori technique, several of us were fascinated with the textural possibilities. 

Back at home, I started investigating all the books in greater depth, teasing out the textural applications and then exploring.  These explorations are going to be included in a monograph that should be available in mid-October, but I’d like to share with you a few ideas from my lecture to the Complex Weavers!

There are several ways to create the supplementary warp that is the shibori warp.  You can use a shrinking warp yarn for your shibori ends so that you don’t have to remove them from the warp in order to create the pulling up.  You can also use a thicker yarn such as a 3/2 or 6/2 cotton, so that you can bunch the fabric up easily on your shibori ends in order to create the puckering you want.  Kay Faulkner uses fishing line or monofilament that is very strong and very slippery.  (NB: don’t use a cotton that loses its dye when washed or steamed at hot temperatures!! – How do I know?!!!)

If you are using supplementary wefts for your shibori pull-up, then you can use fishing line/monofilament or strong cotton (crochet cotton does a good job as well) again.  However, I found that wool didn’t work as effectively in the weft.  However, if you tried elastane or Lycra, that might give really good results…. 

For your main warp yarn, use a non-shrinking yarn.  I used 18/3 cotton because I had a lot of it!  But any good cotton, or maybe linen, would give you a great result.  You can also use worsted or superwash wool, if you prefer. 

Next week, I’ll explain how you can create simple ridges and bumps with a few shafts, and some simple wave shapes.

Beneath the Surface Resources page available

I promised to send attendees at my seminar “Beneath the Surface” - textures in double cloth, that I would send you the Resources page of my presentation.  If you would like to receive this, please email me at stacey@theloomroom.co.uk and I will email it to you.  If you have a problem receiving it (sometimes US isp’s block UK static addresses, let me know and I will send it via a web-based server. 

Thanks for attending my class and I hope it piqued your curiosity (pun intended!!)

Deeper Beneath the Surface 8 shaft pdf now available.

Filed under: Life — admin @ 10:21 am

For those participants in my Deeper Beneath the Surface seminar at Convergence who wanted a copy of the 8 shaft pdf on pique and matelasse, you should already have received it by email.  However, as I know that some US isp’s block UK addresses, you may not have received your copy.  Comcast.net is one of those that regularly blocks UK static addresses.  If this is the case for you, then please email me (I can receive emails from US addresses no problems!) on stacey@theloomroom.co.uk and I will send it via a web-based server. 

Thanks so much for signing up for my class, and I hope it has interested you in creating dimensional texture in double cloth.

8 August, 2010

Old Friends and New Friends

Like many other weavers, my blog this week is about old friends and new friends.  After visiting New Mexico for the Complex Weavers Seminars and HGA’s Convergence 2010, in Albequerque, many of us are buzzing with new techniques and information that we’ve learnt, and ideas from seeing others’ work and the surrounding areas in New Mexico.  The art galleries that have been visited, the different approach in cultural terms that we have absorbed, and the camaraderie that we’ve shared are all food for our brains, our eyes and our souls.

On stepping out of my taxi at 11pm after a very long day travelling the first person I saw was my room-mate for 3 weeks, Agnes Hauptli from New Zealand.  Agnes and I first met at the last Convergence in Ruby Leslie’s workshop, the 3Ds of 3D.  Then last year, Agnes came to me on a bursary to study jacquard weaving on my old card-driven jacquard sample looms, and then we met up a week or so later for the European Textile Network’s conference which was held in Haslach, Austria with the theme of jacquard weaving.  On the strength of getting on well together, we decided to be room-mates at the two Albuquerque conferences and then to go on a road trip together (more of that another time). 

The next day it was wonderful to meet up with lots of Complex Weavers I’d met before, and lots of laughter and hugs abounded!  The fashion show was good fun, although I didn’t really get to take a close look at the wonderful garments and scarves that were paraded round as I had to read out all the technical information on each item, but this has to be one of the great parts of the Seminars.  The work is outstanding and the reception of each item was warm and admiring.  The weavers’ handshake (going up and feeling someone’s handwoven item) was very evident and this is one of the few occasions when you know you aren’t going to get funny looks at the mildest, and a slap on the face as the most extreme reaction! 

At each meal-time, we try to sit at a table which has people we’ve never met before and have a chat, and the atmosphere is so congenial.  Every meal is a time to enlarge our friendship pool and find more soul-sisters (and brothers!!) 

The seminars are all given by the knowledgeable CW members and what a variety!  From historical techniques to cutting edge techniques, from kumihimo to shibori, and everything in between, it is a feast of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm!  Also I just have to mention the Lillian Whipple Retrospective and the wonderful surprise event of an animated weaving movie created by Alice Schlein with the woven help of many of our most respected weavers!  It was awesome!! 

There’s loads more I could say but I’ll run out of room to talk about Convergence if I don’t move on now.  Convergence had a wide range of classes of various lengths, from 1 1/2 hours to 3 days, some practical hands-on, some lectures.  The vendors hall was busy and there seemed to be more booths there this year than on the previous occasion, at least to my eyes.  There were so many wonderful, delicious yarns and gadgets to drool over, and looms to try out and covet!!  There were lots of events going on in several places and it is my one regret that I didn’t have the time or the energy to go to them! 

My heartfelt thanks and congratulations go out to both the organising teams for their wonderful skills in pulling off two excellent conferences.  Meg Wilson and her team at Complex Weavers broke new ground in setting up this Seminar, and Candy Burbag and her team had a huge task (usually thankless!) in putting on Convergence.  Thanks guys for a wonderful, inspirational, heart-warming, friendship-enhancing time in Albuquerque!