Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The cutest little loom you ever did see

I'm teaching one of my favorite classes at YarnFest next week. It is an introductory class called Tapestry Answers and it is all about why you might want to be a tapestry weaver.  The class includes being able to try out a wide variety of tapestry looms. I've been wanting to add some different looms to my stash for students to try for a long time and so yesterday I made a trip to a couple hardware stores for the parts.
I was inspired by a recent post by Tommye Scanlin on her Tapestry Share blog where she built a tiny galvanized pipe loom.
And before that I was inspired by seeing Sarah Swett's little pipe loom in a workshop and her subsequent posts about looms on her blog.
And before Sarah Swett introduced me to the tiny pipe looms, I read about all manner of looms in Kathe Todd-Hooker's books So Warped and Tapestry 101.
And I would dare bet that all three of these tapestry artists got a lot of their information straight from Archie Brennan.
Sarah Swett weaving on a small galvanized pipe loom she made
I have been influenced by all four of these sources and the links to their work are below.
To paraphrase something Archie says in his DVD series, hardware stores stock looms! You just have to know how to put the parts together.

Yesterday I set out with the intention of getting parts for two looms: a very simple copper pipe loom, and a tiny galvanized pipe loom.

I have been asking about 1/4 inch galavanized pipe at hardware stores here in Fort Collins for at least six months and not found it. But after seeing the photos on Tommye's post, I had a better idea of what I was looking for. The first hardware store had the copper pipe and elbow joints, but they didn't have the steel pipe I wanted.

The second store had a row of dusty boxes labeled 1/4" nipple... and that was what I was after. I bought almost their entire stock and judging by the layer of dust on these parts, they aren't restocking. For a complete list of parts, see the Tapestry Share blog post linked below.
All the steel parts were in the shopping cart. I'd already bought the copper at the last store. All I needed was threaded rod. In case you hate wandering around a big box store pushing a gargantuan cart as much as I do, look in the vicinity of the hardware first. The big orange box had the rod I needed for both looms as well as wing nuts and hex nuts.
The galvanized pipe loom was pricier than I thought it would be. The copper pipe loom parts were definitely cheaper and I even bought the special locking corner joints so I don't have to solder. I'll give you a price comparison when I get the second loom done.

This is what two looms look like when you're hunting in the hardware store.

Links to make your own pipe loom:
Tapestry Share post by Tommye Scanlin
Sarah Swett's post about pipe looms on her blog, A Field Guide to Needlework
Kathe Todd-Hooker's website: Tapestry 101 has a great description of how to make a copper pipe loom and So Warped shows you how to warp a million kinds of tapestry looms.
And Archie Brennan's legendary loom plans can be found on his website.

The galvanized pipe loom goes together in a snap. I spent much longer shopping than assembling it.

I'd put that second loom together right now, but I have about a foot of snow to shovel first.
Yesterday I put the little loom pictured at the top of the post together on the back deck in the sunshine in a T-shirt.
This morning, this is what I woke up to. Welcome to spring!

I am pretty sure the garbage man is not going to pick up our recycling today. I am off to find the sidewalk that is under that drift. The daffodils are going to have to fend for themselves.

P.S. I still have spots in my color class at YarnFest. Live close enough to Colorado to come and hang out with me? I'd love to see you. 
P.P.S. I thought my Tapestry Answers class that I am using these looms for was full, but it turns out it isn't. You can still get in. HERE

Monday, March 21, 2016

When what you make doesn't feel so great.

I've been thinking about finishing today. Perhaps that is because I just cut a big piece off the loom last night and it feels pretty good to have the weaving part of it done.

This Ira Glass quote turned into a 2 minute video came across my desktop today and I thought I should share it with you. Ira talks about what happens when you begin. How when you start making things and you're learning a new skill, what you make isn't that good. It is easy to get discouraged and give up. But people don't fail because they aren't good at something. They fail because they stop trying.

So if you're weaving your first set of tapestries and you aren't all that happy with what is coming off your loom, keep trying! Give yourself some credit for working at it. The practice will pay off. Notice what you love about the piece even if it is something as small as a specific color or yarn choice. Notice that thing you like and write it down. Use that bit of information in the next iteration.

And then start again. Because you'll only get better by practicing.

(Please click the link below the image. Blogger doesn't allow photos to link.)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

El Capitan and the luddite

Okay, I am far from a luddite. I love my Apple machines very much. But I love my wooden fiber tools even more. Those wood and metal tools constitute much of the range of my post-apocalyptic survival skills.

I am committed to pushing my machines as far as I can. The iPhone 4 lasted four whole years. Apps started dropping off about a year ago. They were simply unusable and unable to be updated. Who needs Facebook on your phone anyway? It is more interesting to talk to the eccentric lady with the poodle in a bag in the post office line than scroll. But when my bank app was unable to be updated, that was the last straw. A new iPhone was in order. Fortunately when you go years beyond your last contract, it doesn't cost that much to get a new one.

The results of waiting did become apparent fairly quickly when I brought the new phone home and tried to load the information from the old one from iTunes. Because my computer is also four years old and I hadn't updated the operating system, well, ever... my MacBook couldn't talk to the new phone.

So overnight, Lion was replaced with El Capitan. That is a four generation jump in operating systems for the Mac (Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan). It has challenged my brain--remembering all the different passwords you need to update everything, hoping against hope that it all wouldn't go up in an ephemeral cloud of 0s and 1s. So far so good. A few programs are still stumping me, but I'm returning to some baseline function here. I'm just proud that I realized the initial problem was my operating system and not some unknowable electronic mystery... and that I could fix it myself.

Isn't that what we do when we create things out of fiber with wooden tools? Figure out how to do things ourselves? The electronic gadgets are fun and very useful, but I'd give them all up to keep my Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel or Harrisville Rug Loom. After all, in the apocalypse, I won't be able to charge that iPhone anyway.
Turkish spindle or iPhone? Or both?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Maggie was right... knitting with handspun

I have been spinning for about a year. Maggie Casey is my teacher.

If you know her, you won't be surprised to hear me say that Maggie was right. She told us from day one that we had to actually use our handspun, but I have been blithely ignoring her for about a year now. I have used some of it in tapestry, but when you pack the yarn into a weaving, the exact character of the yarn might not be quite as important as when you're knitting a garment.

I had some balls of handspun piling up, so I have had to institute a personal policy of no yarn store stops. A visit to one of the great yarn stores in Fort Collins is something that I am always tempted by if I'm having a rough day. But, the balls of handspun...

So I started my first project with a Malbrigo braid I spun during Spinzilla last October. That braid was hard to spin. But I didn't know it then because I was such a new spinner. I thought the drafting was supposed to be that difficult. So the yarn is dense. It is heavy. This hat is going to weigh quite a lot.
Spinning this yarn last October
The pattern is Wurm. It is a hat with a lot of yarn in it.
Heavy it will be.
I have 8 ounces of it... what to do with the rest?

I'll let you know how it comes out.

So Maggie was right. I didn't realize how dense this yarn was until I started knitting it. I think it will make a fine hat for the mostly moderate weather in this part of Colorado. But if I wanted a very warm hat with perhaps fewer hair-crushing properties, I would definitely work on a long draw or more woolen spun preparation. This yarn ended up dense because the braid was so difficult to draft. Had I knit this up before spinning ANOTHER 8 ounces of the same fiber (in red!), I would have known that.

From now on I will try to listen to Maggie sooner.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The land of Garrison Keillor... crankers and all

I've spent the last four days in Minnesota which I affectionately think of as "the land of Garrison Keillor". I haven't seen much of the city except for the airport terminal, the Textile Center, Pizza Luce, and Bobbin House Studio. But I feel that was enough for this go-around.

I met a dog named Huey. He came with a marvelous introduction to both an Aino Kajaniemi tapestry and an Erlbacher knitting sock machine. I'd take all three home if I could. Unfortunately I took no photos of the tapestry, the dog, or the knitting machine.

My trip started with a very very close call on I-25. I was within a breath of being rear ended badly and the quick thinking of the school teacher in the car behind me (I pulled left, she pulled right) saved me that. She was rear-ended by a big truck and her day went much worse than mine did I am sure. (Little reminder that life can change in an instant... be grateful for every moment.)

I made it to Minneapolis, gave my Sand in my Shoes lecture, and met some fantastic fiber people. There was a three-day Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry workshop to follow and some lovely time in the best little vacation rental I've ever seen. Bobbin House Studio comes highly recommended by me and everyone else who signed the guest book.

The Textile Center completely blew me away. I've never seen such a marvelous resource just for fiber. They have a couple galleries, a big space rented by the Weaver's Guild of Minneapolis (for whom I was teaching), meeting space, classrooms, and an amazing dye lab. All of that was incredible, but it was the library that really impressed me. They have a huge collection of fiber books--bigger than I've ever seen. In case you don't believe me, here is a photo for evidence. All of those books are about fiber. All of them! And it is a circulating library. If I lived there I could have taken some of these treasures home with me to read at my leisure.
The Textile Center library, Minneapolis
Here are a few more photos of my Minneapolis tapestry adventure.
Textile Center of Minneapolis
I bring as much yarn in as many colors as I can fit in two huge suitcases. This is especially important for classes like this where we are working on value and gradation.

We had Mirrix looms, a Glimakra, a Schacht tapestry loom, a Schacht Baby Wolf, some copper pipe looms, a picture frame loom, and a Louet table loom that made me change my mind about my "all table looms are bad for tapestry except that great one I saw in Michigan" stance. The Louet Kombo definitely holds its own in the tapestry loom department. (FYI, the Michigan loom was a Kessenich.)

Some of my samples including warp size samples, simultaneous contrast sample, vertical gradation samples, and a new thing I'm working on with four selvedge and shaped pick and pick.

Kaz and Carol concentrating on their weaving
The Glimakra loom. Despite the small beams, this loom works great.

Kristin's beautiful hachure piece. Isn't the blending of the orange and salmon colors lovely? Value people, value.
Just some of the colors I brought.
You can find many more photos of the workshop on Robbie LaFleur's blog. Thanks for this wonderful post Robbie!

I stayed at the most wonderful place, Bobbin House Studio. I loved this place. It was so comfortable and my hosts Tom and Steve taught me so much about fiber and art in Minneapolis!

Bobbin House, sculpture by Tom Skogstrom
One of the most fascinating things I learned about from Steve Pauling was knitting machines for socks (there are a few photos on his website). One of Steve's many fiber pursuits involves repairing sewing machines. He is the best of the best at this. He also repairs sock knitting machines and is a sock machine knitting aficionado. He has an Erlbacher that he uses himself and he let me crank it. It was marvelous. What a beautiful piece of machinery. I would love to have one of these and I don't even like knitted socks that much. It was just so mesmerizing to see the little hooks do the wave around the canister.

I had no idea that there were whole groups of people called "crankers" who were into sock knitting on machines. They congregate in places with lots of sheep and fibery stuff going on. I'm fairly sure there must be such a group somewhere in Colorado given the high sheep numbers and the high population of fiber folk here. Crankers.  (giggle)

I managed, once again, to maneuver this luggage through a rental car return and into the airport and then back to my own car in Denver. I have to figure out how to teach classes that don't require me to bring any materials. Ah, who am I kidding. I can't imagine teaching a tapestry class where I didn't bring at least some of my own hand-dyed gradations for students to use.

My next teaching gig is at YarnFest in Loveland, Colorado. I still have a little room in all the classes. If you're going to sign up, now is the time! I'm finishing up the samples for the Simultaneous Contrast color class this week. The yarn table is going to look even better than the one pictured above if that is any temptation at all.

More info on my website here:
and in a set of blog posts linked HERE.
See you there!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Is it procrastinating if you're waiting for an electric ball winder?

In my last post I talked a little about Steven Pressfield's book, The War of Art, and the difference between Procrastination and Resistance.

My question today is, is it procrastinating if I'm waiting to ball that pile of yarn because there is an electric ball winder on a FedEx truck somewhere headed my way? (Did you catch my use of the word ELECTRIC?!!) I have been working with one ear alert for the thunk of a package hitting the porch. You see, I have to have two suitcases of yarn ready to go for a date with a plane to Minneapolis on Thursday morning. If the ball winder was here now, the last balls could be done in a flash. But alas, FedEx tells me that its last known location was somewhere near Barnhill, Illinois which is, in fact, nowhere near my doorstep.

It will be here tomorrow. How far can I push the procrastination waiting?

Perhaps the best thing is to start with a survey of what is actually wound. My dear friend and helper was here last month making balls and it could well be that she nailed this workshop and the pile sitting beside the swift downstairs is the lot I have reserved for my YarnFest workshops the end of March.

I'm going downstairs to see...

Ugh. The pile of skeins was so big!

I really thought I had a whole collection of yarn balled up and ready for this workshop. I spent ten confused minutes wandering around the studio and house wondering where I might have left the yarn or perhaps my mind. Finally, it hit me.

I put the yarn away after the Atlanta workshop. As in, on the shelf where it belongs.
Once I inventoried that stash, I only had twenty or so balls to wind. I think I'm going to make it.

Oh, and the answer to the taxes was that it took me a day longer than I'd hoped. It was 10:27 pm Monday instead of the 5 pm Sunday finish I was hoping for. I reached the point where I was spending hour after grumpy hour trying to figure out how to deal with a couple issues. Finally Emily convinced me that unsnarling the things I just don't understand about accounting was actually the accountant's job. I believe that is called wisdom (or perhaps she couldn't take one more minute of the grumpiness).

It is a Nancy's Knit Knacks electric ball winder with yardage counter. Tomorrow it will be here. Never again for THIS: