Friday, June 27, 2014

James Koehler Weft Interlock Video

James Koehler was my teacher for many years before his death in 2011. He used a particular weft interlock join in his tapestries which I have called the James Koehler Weft Interlock (how original am I?). This join is set up a particular way so that when you are making the join, the interlocked wefts are snugged against a raised warp which helps keep the interlocks straight and uniform.

James most often used this join every other sequence for long straight verticals. His technique created a very flat join which you can see in this detail from his Ceremonial Masks pieces which are on display at the New Mexico State Archive in Santa Fe.
James Koehler, Ceremonial Masks, detail
These pieces are in an atrium with various light sources and are covered with plexiglass so they are very difficult to photograph, but this photo gives you a peek (just in case you're not bumping around Santa Fe right at the moment).
James Koehler, Ceremonial Masks
I recently made a new video about how to do this join and you can watch it! Sign up for my bimonthly newsletter in the boxes directly below and I'll send you an email with the link to the video within the hour.

And if you're already a subscriber, I sent you a newsletter today with this video in it. But even if you sign up again, my mail provider gets rid of duplicate addresses, so you're safe from the inbox overflow. And thanks so much for following my shenanigans! For the best shenanigans, take my online class!

UPDATE 1/19/15: I'm adding the video for everyone to see here. It is too hard to reference for people who are already signed up for my newsletter and haven't thought to look at my YouTube channel (you can do that by clicking HERE). Please still sign up for my newsletter below though. I send two a month with updates about my classes, thoughts about weaving, and sometimes videos I don't put on the blog.

Here is the James Koehler weft interlock video.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Zombie weaver

Some days it is all one can do to get out of bed. Eventually the fog clears and events start clicking again. Some days when there are tables full of yarn to dye and handouts and lectures to prepare, going back to bed seems particularly attractive...

I have felt especially sluggish today. So uncharacteristically sluggish that when I was forced to leave the house to get a propane tank filled for the yarn dyeing, I stopped by the studio and brought home the stack of books I need to finish my handouts for the Convergence classes. So uncharacteristically sluggish that I threw them all on the couch and myself right after. And then I was very hungry. And I warmed up some pizza left over from yesterday. And just as I was eating the last crust it hit me. The guy who took my order at the pizza place didn't give me a gluten free pizza. I thought it was weird that he asked me what size I wanted (GF pizzas pretty much only ever come in one size). I said at least three times, gluten free. But I couldn't really understand him and my Spanish isn't good enough to try it that way and I just went with it. This is why I am unreasonably, uncharacteristically, crazy I-want-to-go-back-to-bed-for-a-week tired. When you have celiac disease and you get served something with a lot of gluten in it and you haven't been eating any gluten for years and years, this is what happens. And I thought it was just because I've been working 7 days a week!

The good thing that happened which I can enjoy from my station on the couch is this!

I got a package. From the most awesome cousins in the world. It was full of artwork. Remember Bill from THIS blog post? He and his sister and his mother sent me a package of art they made themselves. My cousin is a talented artist and illustrator as well as an art teacher in the public schools in inner city Detroit (now THAT is saying something). She is one amazing woman. Her students make amazing art. And they win awards. And she gets them participating and wanting to achieve things.

This piece is getting a prized place in my studio.

Molly McNeece, Cousin Trapped, 8 x 10 inches

Awesome, right? She is illustrating some books her husband writes for teens and zombies are the current theme. I think she nailed how I feel right about now! And one day I hope I can be just as much of a bad-ass as Molly McNeece... but it might take me a week or so to recover from the gluten.

(Note to self: learn to say "I need gluten free food" in Spanish and as many other languages as possible. Maybe I should learn, "if I don't get gluten free food I will have a seizure and potentially die right here in front of you and won't that make you feel bad? Gluten free please. It is really important. It isn't a fad. I have a disease. I can show you the intestinal biopsy. I'm not just trying the latest diet. Really." There is no chance I'd actually die on the spot from eating gluten... but it doesn't hurt to put the fear of god into someone fixing your food. I didn't used to be this way. And then I got tired of being sick because the server thought my diet was a fad and it didn't matter if the bread came on top of the salad. Whew. Is that a soapbox or what?)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Golden weaves!

I taught a beginning tapestry techniques class in Golden, Colorado last two weeks ago. This store, which has been there for more than 30 years, is a great new find for me. They have a marvelous stock of both weaving and knitting yarn and they have outstanding teaching facilities. The Recycled Lamb just moved to the top of my "great places to teach" list!

It is one of those places that sucks you in. The yarn is beautiful, there are patterns and samples everywhere, and in every corner of the store there is another inviting space to sit and knit or weave or take a class.
They have a great front porch complete with yarnbombed pillars which I greatly enjoyed sitting on every day for lunch.

The class I taught was Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry, my in-person (and much shorter) version of the online tapestry techniques class.

The students worked hard and they did a great job with all of the techniques.
We did a lot of work on bubbling and weft tension and hatching and meet and separate.

My drawing skills might not be the best, but they did figure this one out.

The people who rented looms from me had to cut their pieces off before we could leave. I was unsuccessful in convincing the rest of the class to cut their pieces off and they went home with their work still on their looms.

One of the students in the dye class which was going on at the same time brought her James Koehler piece for us all to look at one day. Amazingly, not only was it the day we were learning the particular weft interlock join he used the most, but it was one of the few pieces of his pictured in my Powerpoint presentation.
James Koehler, Harmonic Oscillation XL

I'll be teaching at The Recycled Lamb again October 16th to 19th. This time around the class will be Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry. Contact the shop to sign up as it isn't on their website yet and it is filling fast.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Warp and weft enters a time warp... Timeline for all classes extended. A lot.

As I have watched the first class move through the material of my three-part online tapestry techniques course, I have learned a few things.
  1. These ladies are really funny. (I am waiting for you men to show up. I know you're out there!) They laugh at my goofiness and they sometimes make me snort into my morning cup of tea as I'm looking at the first set of questions of the day.
  2. You weave where the light is best. And if that means propping the loom against the bathroom mirror under the skylight, so be it! I have photographic proof.
  3. If you're from Australia, you can buy a Mirrix loom without paying international shipping (Sydney!) or apparently even riding a kangaroo across the desert. (Admittedly my knowledge of Australia is slim, but I suspect they don't ever ride kangaroos).
  4. Color is spelled with an extra vowel in Canada, but they'll forgive you for being from the US and spelling it wrong... usually.
  5. There are some really creative people out there who can take a very simple exercise and make it into a beautiful tapestry example (I suspect these people have way more tapestry weaving experience then they are admitting to. See Betsy's demi-duite sampler below and you'll understand what I mean.)
  6. Three months is not enough time for a sane person with a job or a dependent or a need to leave the house to get groceries to really experience the material I present in the three parts of this class.
Points one to five are educational, but #6 I can do something about. I have extended the time frame for this course to a full 6 months from the start of Part 1. This gives everyone time to do more practice projects and have access to all the material for review while weaving their first real tapestries. And who wouldn't want to practice tapestry, right? Especially when you have the added advantage of more time to see me do dumb stuff and rotate my Eddie Bauer outlet-inspired video wardrobe.

Betsy Szymanski, demi-duite queen

Registration announcements:
  • All-in-one and Self-directed classes start June 23rd! Get in on these because they won't be offered again for awhile. Access to this material goes until December 31st.
  • Part 2 registration starting July 8th is now open.
  • Part 3 registration starting June 23rd is also open.
For more information about the classes with all the dates listed, see my website at You can register from there or you can go directly to the class site to register:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Collation station

I'm heading off to teach a live workshop version of the Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry class. I spent yesterday making sure everything was ready to go.
I had fed my last $20 to the copy machine monster at FedEx Office and the money counter on the machine was falling faster than the pile of paper left to copy. After waiting in line to get a machine, I was loath to leave to get cash and have to wait again just to copy the last three pages. I scrambled through my purse hoping for another $20 stuck somewhere, but came up empty. As a last ditch effort I fed some ones into the thing, but it wasn't enough. Sadly I picked up my pile, considered not giving the class the resource list, decided it was important, and drove to the nearest ATM for more cash.

Sure enough, upon returning to FedEx I had to wait with a woman in spike heel's 6 year old who was crawling under the rolling tables looking for loose change and dead bugs. I declined his invitation to look myself. But his mom finished faster than the lady copying large architectural drawings or the two ladies who were clearly confused by the masses of paper piles they had created, so eventually I got to copy my last three pages. Upon getting up to the copy machine, sadly I realized I could have just put my credit card in originally and kept right on copying.

Fortunately the handouts are ready.

The yarn is packed.

I finished warping four Mirrix looms today.

Someone else is driving me up to Golden, Colorado.

All I have to do is find some knitting to occupy me on the 7 hour drive through the Rocky Mountains.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My newest loom makes rainbows

I have to constantly resist new looms. People write me all the time asking if I know anyone who wants to buy their looms. I have to swallow the "Oh, I could use that one! What a good deal!" reflex undoubtedly installed by my Dutch ancestors and reply, "I don't sell looms, but perhaps you could list it here..." It is hard to turn down a good deal, but the fact that I'm tripping over piles of projects in my studio right now means there isn't room for another loom.

But I did buy this one recently. Actually, I bought it while I was still doing pediatrics at the hospital which, unbelievably, was only a few months ago. I have had some collaborators in this particular loom project. They are all a fraction of my age and all much more talented at this than I... I aspire to Bill's proficiency especially.
I knew a second grader who loved this loom. He wouldn't do anything else for weeks and weeks except make bracelets on this thing. I ran out of black then I ran out of yellow. You can see here he was eventually reduced to pink and he STILL wanted to make them. (He could also draw an amazing dragon--that kid needs a lot of art mentoring and room to fly.)
Admittedly, the hospital owned this particular loom and when I left, I went straight to Michaels and bought my own. I don't regret it one bit. It is certainly cheaper than the 72 inch Harrisville rug loom that is on my wish list, even when you consider the massive pile of colored bands I bought to go with it.
I have a cousin in Detroit who is similarly into this loom. However, this kid, who is 8 years old, clearly has no motor skill deficits. Look at the stuff he can make!
His name is William and he goes by Bill and I think the fact that his shirt says, "I'm just a Bill!" is awesome.
And lest you think that my support of this little rubber band loom is crazy, look what it led to! Bill's grandmother gave him this weaving loom and I sent him a box of wool and a book, and he is now a weaver.
Nature versus nurture must be debated here as Bill is the child of my first cousin from my weaving-grandparents side of the family. Does he weave because his mom is an art teacher or does he weave because weaving is in his blood?