Monday, September 29, 2014

Circling Around

As usual when we work on the outside of the house its decided to rain. But, the colours are right! The house is a light turquoise the studio darker both with plum coloured trim and and beautiful blue doors for luck. The metal gatesDSCN5387 will each be a different colour.
I have so much to do this week. I have a student coming to stay a week in the studio for tapestry lessons-exciting one of my favourite things to do.
I am working on a new piece about my two radically different Grandmothers. I am also trying to get together a book called--- of course--
 Soumack and friends.
When my student  leaves. I leave the next day to teach in Prescott Arizona at Mountains spinners and Weavers guild. I understand there are still a few spots open.  Then I’ll spend several days weaving with DSCN5378friends in Santa Fe and move on to the next weekend teaching at Village Wools in Albuquerque, N. M. I am teaching a class called Soumack and Tapestry Friends.  Yes it does deal with using Soumack architecturally to control angles and curves and circles-well any geometric shape.It’s one of my favourite classes to teach-I think because it has so much to do with drawing in tapestry. I love making lines go any direction I want, the architectural nature of soumack and friends,  and of course, rya and related techniques.
DSCN0214I have been asked several times if I will ever teach an on-line class on these techniques. My answer is no. I don’t enjoy teaching on line and there are others such as Rebecca Metzoff that enjoy it and do it well. I doubt she will offer this specific class, but I am sure she has many fine classes. I just prefer to do it in workshops, one on one, and face to face. So if you want to take this class from me you’ll need to travel to a workshop or my studio. I am offering this class on Valentines day in my studio in Albany, OR. Private students can even stay in my home while they study at the studio. 
Okay- here’s my promise kept on writing about circles and stuff. . One caveat there is much more information in Tapestry 101. Much more about trouble shooting circles and more about technique.
First a couple of Caveats-There are two things I tell my students constantly.
One- there are no tapestry police.
If you do something oddly or differently no one is going to take your loom away and tell say you can’t weave tapestry. There are a hundred different ways to do most things and none is right or  wrong if it gets the job done and you like the end results. BUT,
Secondly don’t dumb down and make design decisions because you think you can’t do something.
If you want to simplify a design  or misshape something, do it because you choose too. Not because you have to!  Figure it out and weave what you like. Look up techniques, ask questions, but don’t say-o, well, it’s just the nature of tapestry. It’s not! Tapestry is about fooling the eye. Tapestry is all about how  to weave DSCN5374your design and make it look like what you want. If you want round circles without stair steps it can be done.
don’t make or justify decisions by saying it’s kelimesque or that your copying another cultures design sensibilities to make up for mistakes in the design and weaving-especially when it comes to circles that culture very seldom if ever uses. Very view kelims have circles-ever.   Own up and fix it and then choose to it the way you want to make it look!
That said, I want to write about circles, curves and angles without teeth or stair steps.
1. Know the geometry of the shape or curve  or angle you wish to weave. If you need to draw the shape out on graph paper. Do it! It’s not cheating!  Because you are afterimg068 all weaving on a grid. Once you reduce a geometric shape to a drawing on graph paper you become aware of how it works if you weave straight passes. You’ll see the stair steps and the sizes they need to be.
Lets use a circle as an example. Use a template to draw aimg069 circle on a piece of graph paper. You’ll see that the sides raise with a variety of different sized stair steps and pass widths.
Quarter the circle . You’ll have 4 pieces of a pie. What you’ll find is each of those pieces equals the other the other 3 pieces of the pie.  AND, will be almost identical in the way they ascend  or descend in stair steps.      You also should note that because your working on a grid that there are 4 areas that will  be basically flat-top,  bottom and DSCN5377the two sides. if you look carefully they each equal about a third of the width AND/OR length of the circle.      
 Then, look again, the next step over will be about one/ sixth of the flat area. The steps become smaller as you move over and up.  At about one half the the climb of the first quarter of the pie you start to duplicate in reverse the sizes of the stair steps of  the climb until you are matching in the rise the size of the beginning stair steps. The last stair step before the side flat area on each side is 1/3 of the the bottom and side flat areas. The two bottom sides of the circle are identical.
Each of the 4 pieces of the pie will be woven in the same way with the simg071ame number of stair steps and overs. The possible exception  that one passes dimg074oes not always equal another pass in a turn. IF you turn on a hollow thread it will take more passes to equal those then turns on a full thread.(Hollow or Valley thread and full and hill are often used interchangeably when describing this Phenomena)
The top half of the circle is usually woven about 5 percent higher so that as the circle is beaten on and over it doesn’t squish the circle into an oval. In a perfect world a circle would always have an uneven number of warps. But the world isn’t perfect so just remember it might take an extra pass occasional on a hollow or valley thread.
Now that you have a fairly good idea of what makes a circle works. It’s time to weave the circle.
So, to begin. It’s always a good idea to ink the circle on the warp. Ink at the last minute. With the types of warping processes that most of us are using if you ink to soon the img072ink circle can become distorted as the warps shift and turn in the weaving process. So,  keep the cartoon close or make a template that you can check the circle against. Also, there are right ways and not so good ways to ink. You always want the finest line possible and the ink to go all away around the warp. Use a very sharp pen-hold only the very tip against the warp and turn the warp in your other fingers to get the ink around the warp. Do not use a juicy pen as the ink and wick up or down the warp. Use only tested water proof markers.
To begin to weave- Weave the base half way up each side of the circle and stop. Make sure that you use the same pattern of turns and stair steps on both sides. If you change the number of passes using fewer or more the circle will no longer be round.
Now you have a couple of decisions to make especially if you don’t DSCN5376like stair steps or teeth in your circles. You can chooseimg069 to split the weft or use soumack to smooth everything out. I generally use soumack. My soumack weft is usually one half of the weaving  weft bundle because I don’t like ridges on my tapestry. You caimg073n choose the weft to be in the colour of the base colour or the colour of the circle. If need be to continue the coloured soumack weft one can lace up the sides of the slits. But,  One can only soumack so far up the sides and across the bottom before the distance the soumack weft travels  across the warps and up begins to look loopy.  At this point I stop the soumack and then pay attention to full threads and hollow threads as I weave. I often jump up with the weft img070turns to pull offimg071 the tooth. I weave the first half of the circle.
To end the circle or do the last half one weaves the inner circle in the same way or reverse the stair steps-BUT it is the same pattern of climbs that
I began with the first half of the circle.
I will also weave the circle slightly taller. About 5 percent above the cartoon to take into account the squish factor. I then outline the circle in soumack and fill in the out side bases of the circle paying attention to the hollow and full threads as I ascend up the sides   and over the circle. Once the soumack happens at the top  it will round the circle and get rid of any teeth or stair steps.
DSCN5375A couple of things to be aware of  as you weave and beat the bottom part of the circle it will have a tendency to widen out while the top of the circle will have a tendency to pull the warps in. Once you reach the top half of the circle you no longer have the base or out side to follow. You will be dependent on the cartoon and inking to keep the circle round.
Don’t stop checking the circle.  Trust your eye rather then your markings which can shift and stretch as the warp relaxes from being worked. Generally weave slightly over the the inking. The other thing-- this is not a good time to tighten or mess with the tension of the loom. Begin with the tension being tight.
The other thing to remember is that circles have a tendency to loose height when the tension is taken off of the weaving so compensate accordingly. Remember that circles do have a tendency to pull in as the top half is woven. Watch for consistency in the bubble of the weft while you are weaving. Use more weft if it starts to pull in. Less weft in the bubble in the areas next to the area that is pulling in. A major error that I see all the time is as it begins to pull in the weaver suddenly begins to use way to much weft in the pulled in area and they get vertical ridging, If this happens use less weft in the weft bundle and more in the areas next to the pulled in area to it will correct easily. Those vertical ridges will not go away with ironing etc. And if you can get them out they leave a blister or bubble in the tapestry.
Weaving circles is much more detailed in my book tapestry 101. In my Tapestry 101 book I actually describe several other methods for weaving circles without stair steps  and teeth.  There are also some DSCN5382weaving corrections for making circles rounder by using the inside or circle weft passes in different ways to force the circle to be more round. The illustrations in this book were done by Pat Spark. Please do not abuse the copy right of these pictures.
Guess that’s all for now!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My summer of reconstruction and other things!

DSCN0549This is about the 3 summer  months

that I decided to have a tune up. This is also the last of the reconstruction onDSCN0562 the house. Gale is busily painting the house and the studio and hanging the last 3 doors. I have been spending a lot of time reorganizing the studio,painting floors and reorganizing yarn, storage and gifting my DSCN0561unused larger yarns to friends and students. I will be done with that in the next day or DSCN5351so.  

Every so often one needs to have one or at least a time of reassessment. This has been both for me-Cataract surgery on both eyes, wrist hand surgery and a few other tweaks that should produce some lasting great results. The cast are off. I 340have 20/20 close up vision, but will need glasses for distance. I even get to start driving again on the 20th.  My colours  back to what they should be-no more grey staining the colours that I see... I am now off insulin. I am back to my Better Bones and balance. I have added tai chi-maybe- depending on the nerve in my leg and the PPS. Perhaps, I have done enough reconstruction to make it work. We’ll see. So all that said….It’s time to weave and write. Not that I ever quit-Just fewer walls to go up, over and/or  aroundDSCN5370d.

I finished weaving my Grandfathers piece yesterday-except for the finishing. I am not in a great hurry to finish them up as I am trying to come up with a new body of work for an exhibit I am have next June at ETC in Eugene, OR. My next piece is started even as speak. I am in the process of laying it out. The drawings take time. I can only use drawing utensils  only so many hours at a time. Just like I haven’t been able to use bobbins because of having worn the cast for so long.

These are my new best friendballss as I try to reclaim the muscles in my hand and forearm that were forced to hibernate and atrophy from lack of use. The nerves become less numb day by day and the hand stronger and less prone to shakes and charley horses.

3 Promises to keep-


An announcement that I hope everyone will consider and write for. I think that it is really important that small format/small scale  tapestry weavers step up and make themselves known. So I am looking for writers about small format/small scale tapestry that can help to document the process of our being accepted as tapestry weavers in the tapestry world.

Tapestry Topics

I am seeking articles for the American Tapestry Alliance Tapestry Topics
Small Format/Small Scale Tapestry: Subversive, Destructive, or...? Deadline: Jan 15, 2015
What is small format/small scale tapestry? Is it "tapestry," or isn't it? Why are so many people weaving
small format/small scale at this particular time in the history of tapestry? Ideas to think about:
The history of small format/small scale tapestry past, present, and the future....
What excites you about small format/small scale tapestry?
What can the format do? What can it not do?
What are the technical advantages, or restrictions, for this format?
Coptic weaving, K'o-ssu, Kesi, 16th century lowland small format, devotional tapestries
Exhibits of and about small format/ small scale-past, present and future.
If you plan on submitting an article, please contact Theme Coordinator,

There's got to be a orning afterAThere's got to be a morning afterA


as promised!




These two pieces together  on my blog. There’s got to be a morning After part A and B.

Which in away lead to this post card and exhibit and catalogue-img055This was the tenth exhibit small format exhibit that sprang from The It’s About Time exhibit inimg059 1996 in Portland, Oregon. this is a great catalogue and I think can be purchased from ATA.There is another coming up. Hope you all will start planning for the next one!


LESSONS LEARNED ABOUT WEAVING WITH A CAST! No bobbins and placing the weft

I have learned and reinforced  a lot of information  about weaving with and without bobbins. I am not fond of the chaos created by not using bobbins even played with using butter341flies to keep down some of the chaos-339never again. Butterflies are two fragile. So, the solution was to use fairly long weft bundles-18-24 inches and tie an overhand knot every6-8 inches. Biggest lesson was to make sure that there were no loops in the end of the tail below the last knot. Leaving them in always created a knotted chaos of caught threads every time I pulled the knot through the open shed. I have gone back to using my smallest brassy bob’s that are about 3.5-4 inches long. At this point they are easy to hold in my hand,leaving the point out just enough to use as another finger- but, I am still using long wefts at this point. My hand tires too easily form putting the nob through the shed.

Since I was unable to use the side tip of my bobbin to scrape the yarns in I usedDSCN5374 the tips of my fingernails to beat in the yarns. My nails started looDSCN5373king like some one had taken pinking shears to the tips.(OOPS, I am dating myself-does any one use pinking shears anymore?)  My manicurist made a bundle applying gel nails as I wore down into the nails with the tight warps. I was able to get about 2 weeks from each application and replacement of a gel nail. After talking to my PT specialists I was able to come up with a solution they would damage my nail beds. The Japanese weavers have used this solution for hundreds of years. Most all of my instructors had told me never to use my finger nails to scrape or beat wefts into place because because the pressure of the beating could lift the nails from the nail bed or quick. This is true if it’s done wrong.

THE MIRRIX  SPENCER-Another new best Friend!DSCN5348One of the things that made weaving so much easier during this time was that I switched from my regular titter totter treadles to a a new Spencer treadle. It has a sort of  neutral that holds the shed open until I step down and change the shed. Notice the DSCN0552difference in size between my old treadles and the new Spencer which is under my foot.  Not only does it take less effort the neutral that holds the shed open is really great. So I purchased a second Spencer. It will be so much easier to travel with and pack. I am not getting rid of my old treadles either. the only draw back is that the Spencer needs to be plugged in to electricity, which sometimes isn’t possible  in some of the places I teach.  Perhaps, some one could design a battery pack or a a solar system for it-pretty please!


I think that I have finally come up with an easy solution to what I DSCN0567call Spring DSCN0570Spread on my mirrix. This is a problem that drives me nuts…Spring Spread is what happens when the springs become older and start to fatigue. One can go from weaving 22 epi to 18 as the spring spreads. The problem with this is it can cause the tapestry ridges to spread and in some cases shrink. It also makes it very difficult to control the edges of the tapestry. DSCN0564Note the bulges on the two side edges that I was constantly correcting.

So the correction for Spring thread is easy. I always twine when I begin a tapestry and tie a knot at the end at the exact width I want the tapestry img061to be and then space the warps accordingly.So now I am just doing it at the top of the mirrix directly under the spring. I larks head on to the first thread, twine all the wayimg062 across and tie the ending knot at the exact width of that spring should be or end.Please note that the loom is balanced up side down to do this. Makes it much easier.If you look closely you can see my two twiners.  If I want to turn the warp around the loom then I just pull everything down and around. I can theDSCN5376en beat the twining at the top back into place along the bottom of the spring channel. Solves the whole problem was Spring Spread!


Guess this is enuff for now. Chene is trying to tell me something important and grabbing papers!


Cheers and all,