Thursday, December 31, 2009

Celebrating the New Year

My scarf is out in the yard, celebrating the start of a new year!

It looks better close up, right?

Don't worry - the scarf isn't standing on its own due to extreme cold or a too-stiff hand.

There were a lot of pictures like this in our photo shoot (on a day with below 0 wind chill.)

Bailey thought throwing a scarf in the air was the best game ever, and he'd attack when it reached the ground.

But there were a few cool photos like this....

Happy New Year!!!

My just-finished scarf will debut tonight at a New Year's Eve party. I cannot wait to wear it!!

Wishing you all the best in the New Year!!! Thanks for visiting my blog and making 2009 much more fun for me!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of 2009

This week's assignment at Digital Photography School is to choose my best photo of 2009.

You may have noticed that I have trouble choosing the best of something. I often put many pictures in a single blog post because I can't decide which I like best.

When I went back through my photo albums for this year of blogging, these pictures were my favorites.

I was somewhat handicapped by not owning our good camera, so when we were in the Rockies surrounded by beauty, the camera was in Jim's hands. I'm not counting his pictures toward my best. (But next year, now that I'm the owner of that camera, I will have more outdoor photos to choose from!)

My favorite is the blue hydrangea photo. Something about the lighting, subject and color really hits the spot for me.

In addition to my weaving resolutions, I'm adding a couple of photography resolutions:
  • Learn to shoot photos at night
  • Use our tripod
  • Learn to use our remote control shutter trigger (or whatever it's called)
What was best for you in 2009??

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winding Quills

Last week, when I blogged about Vavstuga, I mentioned that I brought Becky's quill winding technique home with me. A few people asked me to here's my attempt.

My raw materials: yarn, a cardboard quill and a quill winder.

I got started using quills because bobbin and quill winders were really expensive to my newbie weaver self. I found a website in Swedish that sold winders at a good price (helped by a favorable exchange rate for me at that point). Since I was ordering in Swedish (a language I do not speak), I ordered shuttles and quills at the same time asking that they choose what would work together.

I ended up with Glimakra shuttles, cardboard quills and this winder.

What I've been doing for years when I wind is just letting the yarn hang and loosely guiding it onto the quill.

Not any more!!

Becky advised us to keep firm tension on the yarn as we wound, by resting our arm on the table and pinching the yarn between thumb and index finger.

I'm a little contorted in these photos because my camera wouldn't focus up close, so I had to keep leaning back. Your arm and hand should be in a comfortable position, and you should be pinching the yarn fairly close to the quill or bobbin.

Just guide the yarn smoothly to within about 1 centimeter of the end of the quill.

Then head toward the other end and get within a centimeter there.

For the next pass, don't go quite as close to the end of the quill. So with each subsequent pass you're covering a little less of the quill.

When the quill is wound, it should feel quite firm if you squeeze it. At Vavstuga, Becky passed around the full quill for us to all feel and remember.

(I didn't wind a full quill because I'm reaching the end of my secret Christmas project - which is now a Christmas 2010 project - and I didn't need much more of this color.)

Winding quills this way makes weaving smoother and easier because the yarn comes off the shuttle more evenly. It's possible that it also improves selvedges because the yarn is being dispensed evenly.

If you want to watch the Vavstuga winding video again now that you've heard my commentary, here it is.

I'm definitely in no position to be teaching this - I'm just trying to share this tiny bit of what I learned at Vavstuga since it has worked for me well since then.

Here's an article from Handwoven about winding quills or bobbins, and other useful techniques.

Related posts:
My Day at Vavstuga
Runners from Vavstuga

Monday, December 28, 2009

Weaving Resolutions

You may have noticed by now that I love plotting, planning, thinking, designing.

Of course, New Year's is my holiday, with all the talk of resolutions and the feeling of a fresh start. (And the parties).

Not to mention that the frantic, dark, harried pace of December slows down to the nice wide, white, open expanse of January. January is a peaceful time where I live. It's snowy, cold - a great time to turn inward.

Resolutions & Me

Some years I make lots of resolutions or set lots of goals. I started running 9 years ago (after a hiatus of about 12 years) as a New Year's resolution. That one definitely worked!

Last year, I just picked four household projects that were driving me crazy. I thought I could knock them each off in a week in January. That's not quite how it went, but I did finish 3 of the four projects. (The other one lingers on my to do list.)

This Year

This year, I'm thinking more in terms of areas I want to explore in weaving. And about how I'll continue to incorporate time to weave in my life.

Weaving areas of interest for this year:
  • designing my own projects
  • block design (summer and winter, overshot and more)
  • doubleweave
  • blankets
Making Time to Weave

For the rest of the winter (which, for the sake of this discussion, lasts until the end of May), I'm going to stick with my 10 hour a week weaving schedule. It's working well for me.

Summer is a huge challenge for me. I look forward to summer every year. I love warm weather and the outdoors. Last year, I knit two lobsters, one scarf, and wove two scarves on my rigid heddle loom.

I didn't weave at all on my baby wolf or my Toika. The Toika sat naked all summer after a quick burst of weaving in spring. The baby wolf had a huck towel warp on it all summer., sitting, waiting patiently, for a weaver who was playing outside.

This year I want to strike a better balance between enjoying all that summer has to offer, and maintaining some weaving momentum.

Ideally, I'd head into summer with several projects designed and ready to I could do more weaving and less thinking over the summer. The early morning schedule that I've been using, of heading to my studio first thing, has worked really well, and should work in the summer too. All of that early morning light is a beautiful time to be awake. (I am definitely not a night owl!!)


I'm also considering two classes through the NH Weaving Guild that have a spring meeting and a fall meeting. That way I can get instruction at the spring meeting, do the weaving homework over the summer, and bring my samples back to the fall meetings.

The two classes are in lace weaving and Theo Moorman technique. Those topics aren't necessarily huge areas of interest of mine, but I know they'd be great to learn about, and I'm hoping the structure of a class will help me stick with it over the summer. (It is fair to remind me of this next fall when I'm staying up until midnight and complaining bitterly about deadlines!!)

You, my delightful readers, are great at reminding me how many weaving resources and opportunities surround me in New Hampshire!

And You?

What about you? Do you make New Year's resolutions? Do you have weaving plans or directions that you'll explore in 2010?? I'd love to hear about them! (Non-weaving resolutions welcome too!)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Got Lists?

Get gubb!!!

Gubb is a free, online tool for creating lists.

You can make a bunch of lists, in different colors and have fun checking things off!

I've been using Gubb to organize my life since summer, and I love it!!

Doesn't this make you want to think of New Year's Resolutions? Or a grocery list? Or a list of cool weaving ideas to try?

If you like making lists, I really think you'll like this tool! (Not a list person - that's OK.....I'm married to a non-list person.....I understand and support that way of being. I am, however, a list maniac.)

That is back to our regularly scheduled Sunday.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Do We or Don't We?

I've been stumped by whether or not we have a Christmas tree. I keep telling people we don't, but then I think maybe we do.

I don't think of us as having a Christmas tree.
  • We don't cut down or buy a tree.
  • We put up only 18 ornaments.
  • We don't put presents under the tree.
  • We don't gather around the tree during any part of the holidays.
But, in the corner of our living room, we do have a Norfolk pine, that's present all year.

We do put our 18 subtle ornaments on it.

So maybe we do have a Christmas tree?

Details on the tree:

Age: 22 years since it was purchased from a plant store
Height: 72"
Watering: once a week
Temperatures: Our house gets down to 50 most winter nights, but stays over 70 most of the time in summer
Relative Humidity: Our winter humidity is very low - like a desert - and this plant is still OK.
Special care: Likes to take summer vacation on the porch or shaded in the woods
Light: Eastern & southern light
Diameter of pot: 14"

Lower Branches: If your Norfolk pine is losing its lower branches, move it or repot it or otherwise correct the situation. Once it lose branches along the trunk, it won't sprout new ones from the bottom - it will just keep getting taller and more spindly.

Too tall? I've never had to do this, but if the tree was growing too tall, it would be easy to just trim back the new growth at the top of the tree.

One of my friends with a green thumb has two very large indoor Norfolk pines that she decorates with lights and ornaments. She does water them more often than I water plants, and they're in very large pots. She also mists them. She says the key to success for her plants is their summer vacation outside.

Now that I've blogged about the tree, perhaps it's time to de-decorate!? Or rest and regroup after holiday festivities.....or weave....

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

From Portsmouth, NH, I want to send out a Merry Christmas to all of you!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Decorations

Jennifer, of Finding the Real Me, posted a Christmas challenge.

Blog about Christmas decorations that are special to you.

I'm a Christmas minimalist. I do have boxes of family heirloom ornaments in the attic for the rare years when we get a Christmas tree.

Most years, I have a box on a high shelf that contains certain precious decorations. I grab the box and decorate.

Stained Glass Angel

I decorate the Norfolk pine in the living room with ornaments I bought at Tuttle's my first Christmas in NH. (I've had the pine since then too - I brought it with me from home to my very empty apartment!)

I found this wooden pine at the Collector's Eye in Stratham the first year we didn't decorate a big tree.

The wooden carved Santa was made by a carver and painter in Newfoundland. I brought it home, along with sock yarn, as a souvenir of our trip there in 2004.

German Christmas pyramid which I've had for many years

Isn't the tiny tree precious? It's about 1 inch tall.

Looking over the angel's shoulder, you can see she's singing Stille Nacht (Silent Night).

Matroyoshka from our visit to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1996

Christmas cactus putting on a show

Visit Jennifer's blog to see Christmas ornaments from around the world or to participate in the challenge yourself!!

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Runners from Vavstuga

Here are the two warp-faced runners I wove at Vavstuga.

This fabric is densely sett. It used 4 shafts even though this is plain weave. Dividing the warp among shafts reduces abrasion and friction, making it easier to get a clean shed.

Woven in 16/2 linen (both warp and weft).

Close up of section at the start of the warp where a stick had been woven into the cloth

Rep folded in half

I wove this warp rep thinking it would make an excellent tote bag. (Can't you picture me taking that to the beach or around town?)

One of my weaving buddies saw it and thought that I was crazy for wanting to make it into a tote - even though she makes lots of rep bags.

Detail of the hem area and the string yarn used for the thick sections

It does look very pretty on my kitchen table.

Decisions, decisions....

Thanks so much for your comments and questions about Vavstuga!

I was concerned when I published that giant post that it might be too much for this week when so many people are so busy. However, I really wanted to share the details I would have liked to know before my visit. I'm going to research a couple of the questions and provide answers in a later post.

Related posts:
My Day at Vavstuga

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Day at Vavstuga

Vavstuga is a Swedish-style weaving school about 2.5 hours away from my house.

Short version of this post: A friend and I visited Vavstuga and learned a few things. Read on if you dare....this gets long.

Last winter, a weaving friend and I planned to take a day-trip for one of the "Vavstuga Days". We got snowed out last year, but this year we were in luck!

Several times a year, all 12 looms at Vavstuga are set up with different warps. Weavers, experienced or brand new, can come and weave for half a day or more.

Our plan was to wake up super early, drive down, and weave for the whole day. We figured that we'd be able to complete whatever project we were working on if we allowed a full day. We made a reservation - which was a good thing. The entire week was booked by the time the week started.

Look at just some of the weft yarns for use in the studio!!

When we arrived, the looms were waiting, all dressed and ready to go. Each loom had a different Christmas item. (Other times of year, Vavstuga Days doesn't have a holiday theme.)

Choosing among 12 Projects

Each student chose a project to work on from a selection of towels, runners, napkins, placemats, a tablecloth, and possibly other items.

When I learned to weave, I was in a similar group setting and my project for the week was something I hated. I find it hard to get excited about weaving if I'm not working on something I love - I was fortunate at Vavstuga to be able to work on warps that I loved.

Becky did a quick demo of her method for winding a quill. (I'm a convert to that method now. I like it better than what I'd been doing before. To me, it seems like the yarn comes off the quill more evenly and smoothly.)

My Morning Project

For the morning session (from 9 - 1), I selected this linen warp-faced runner in 16/2. There were samples next to the loom of the runner with different wefts. I used 16/2 as my weft also.

It was my first time weaving with linen. I was pleased that it wasn't especially tricky. I paid attention to my selvedges and made sure to pull the linen tight. Otherwise it tended to leave a loop at the edge since linen is so stiff.

Both of my projects that day were warp-faced. The instructions were to beat with the shed still open, then beat again with the next shed open - so use a double beat for each weft pick.

You can see that there are steady loom feet on these looms. Some looms still moved while they were in use. Mine didn't, so I'm not sure if it was the loom or the weaver that caused looms to walk. The feet help protect the hardwood floor, but they're not perfect. The floor can still get scratched. (I've been curious about these feet in case I move my Toika to my living room some day.)

On this loom, we kept one foot on each treadle to keep the heddles taut - otherwise things could get caught and sheer off whole groups of warp threads. I think that's because this warp-faced project was very densely sett. I was fortunate not to break any warp threads during the day.

Loom Fit

This loom was one of the only countermarche looms on the floor. It had the very nice feature of being open on the side, so if anyone needed to adjust the lamms or treadles, they could walk into the loom from the side. (I have to crawl over a beam and under a different beam to get into my Toika.)

This was my first time working with an overhead beater. I found it hard to get used to.

This loom also did not fit me very well. My legs were too long (crammed against the knee beam) and my arms were too short (tired shoulders from reaching out too far for the beater).

I'm lucky that I've never experienced weaving on a loom that didn't fit before. Now I realize why everyone always tells you to try a loom before you buy it. This loom probably could have been adjusted to fit me better, but I'm not sure about the distances from the breast beam to the beater and the knee beam - they don't seem adjustable and they were what gave me problems.

Better Technique = Better Selvedges

One thing I learned during the morning is that improving my technique at the loom improved my selvedges. Specifically, Becky gave me pointers on throwing the shuttle and reminded me several times to keep my hand in the center of the beater. (At home, I swear my hand is always on the center of the beater - but I wonder if it's just that when I think about it - it is, and if I'm not thinking, sometimes it isn't.) When I focused on weaving as instructed, my selvedges were noticeably improved. I even got some of my first selvedge compliments when I showed the finished product to my weaving group - and they are first rate weavers!

This warp was extremely tight. I could pull as hard as I wanted on the weft without any draw in. At first, the warp was so tight I could barely release the brake to advance the warp.

Another warp waiting for a weaver. We had a full house for both sessions.


I worked on the runner until I felt like it would fit my kitchen or dining room tables. By then, I was pretty stiff from the loom, so I was ready for a lunch break.

We took a short walk to a sandwich shop and brought food back to the Vavstuga dorm. There's a communal kitchen, with handwoven towels and napkins. We ate in the kitchen with its view of the river.

It would have been fine to bring lunch also. The day we visited, there were several students staying overnight, several students with a friend or two along, folks on their own and students who were only there for half a day. It wasn't a big group lunch scene because some people were weaving up until the very end of the morning session. (9 am - 1 pm)

Afternoon Rep Weave

For the afternoon, I worked on this rep warp. This loom was much more comfortable for me.

I've never woven rep before and didn't really know how to do the selvedges.

For warp rep, you alternate a thick yarn and a thin yarn. Vavstuga sells 3 types of string yarn: Mini, Midi, and Maxi. They come in a variety of colors and are groups of cotton threads, not really plied together.

I had to pay attention to which shuttle I was throwing and how the shuttles interacted at the selvedges. In addition, to get a smooth edge I needed to twist the string yarn at the selvedge.

This was slow weaving, but I wove enough to make a runner or a tote bag. I can't explain how I managed the shuttles, but I'm pretty sure I could do it again. Resting a shuttle on the cloth or on the breast beam was key to keeping track of everything.

Best Thing I Learned

For me, the very best thing about my trip to Vavstuga is a little surprising. At Vavstuga, one of my classmates told me to go ahead and advance the warp while sitting at the loom instead of walking around behind it. The looms have brakes similar to the brake on my Toika. I was hesitant, but I tried it and it worked fine.

Since I've been back home, I've been advancing the warp on my Toika the same way all week. It's worked absolutely fine. So what, you're thinking??? To me, this is big news, good news!!

Before I bought my loom, all the weavers in my weaving group told me the one thing not to do was buy a loom with a ratchet and pawl brake. But when I looked into Toikas, I just fell in love with my loom. And it has the dreaded ratchet and pawl brake.

Even the previous owner said she'd walk around to the back of the loom to advance the warp. So I've felt like that was a compromise I made when I bought my loom and I was OK with it. Not delighted, but willing to make the trade-off.

The great news out of Vavstuga is that at least on normal warps, I don't have to walk around behind the loom to advance the warp. I can stay seated and just move things forward. I'll be more cautious when I have a super tight warp just in case, but it doesn't seem like peoples' tales of horror of the whole warp beam unwinding out of control will happen as easily as I was warned it would. (Hopefully writing this doesn't somehow jinx me and doom me to warp beams unwinding catastrophically!)

Weaving Wide

For the first half of the afternoon, a speedy weaver next to me wove a tablecloth on this loom. (She was speedier than me, but not superhuman. I think most weavers could finish the tablecloth for a round or square table in a half-day session. Definitely in a full day session.)

I tried the treadles on this loom since it was set up for something so wide - smooth and easy to lift! That's one of the big advantages of countermarche or counterbalance looms over jack looms.

Jack looms require much more strength to live the shafts, both because the shafts and their metal heddles are heavy, and because of the physics of the loom.

I'd read that countermarche looms were easier to treadle, but this was my first chance to actually sit at a countermarche loom set up to weave something wide. (Big sigh of relief since buying my countermarche loom and re-finishing it took a lot of time in this past year!)

Before I purchased my countermarche, I tried a friend's jack loom set up to weave a 36" blanket and my hip hurt within 5 minutes. I am very hopeful that I won't have problems like that with my Toika countermarche.

Shuttle used for the tablecloth

I can just go ahead and add this shuttle to my Christmas list!! When I weave wide, I'll need bigger shuttles than the small Glimakras that I have at home. (Please note that I didn't make a tablecloth! I just loved sitting next to some one who did!)

One small part of the yarn shop

The shop also carries tools, books, and parts for Glimakra looms. It looks like a lot of the Glimakra parts would be compatible with my Toika, but I'd have to go in person to be absolutely sure - bringing Toika parts with me to compare.

Believe it or not, I was so tired, I couldn't shop. I guess that's a drawback of doing a day trip.

Plus, I usually weave for at most 3 hours in a day. I probably wove for about 4 or 5 hours out of our day at Vavstuga - and my shoulders were pretty tired by the end.

Wrap Up

Because I'm a frugal Yankee, I'm going to give you price details. My total for the day was $69.30. The black, red and green linen runner from the morning was $7.14 for materials (all linen I believe). The cotton rep runner was $25.14. The prices are calculated by weight, and the rep is of course much thicker and heavier than the linen. The remainder was the fee for weaving for the day.

I felt like that pricing was really reasonable. I'm including these details partly because I was curious ahead of time if I should find out about the relative costs of different projects.

I was pretty project focused during my day at Vavstuga. There are other ways to enjoy it also - enjoy the setting, enjoy the company of other weavers, learn from the many tools and books and samples available for study, ask questions about anything you're interested in or focus more on the looms and learn about them.

I was happy that we chose a whole day, instead of a half day session. That way we each got the chance to make 2 projects, and if we had selected something that can take a long time (like placemats) we'd have been able to finish in the full day. A half day would have been good too - since we wouldn't have been quite as tired, and we'd have had time to explore some of the other places of interest to weavers in the area.

I'll be back tomorrow with pictures of my runners at home as this post is getting quite long already. Sorry about that....I just want to record my impressions and the things I learned so I can remember them!!

PS: I can't believe I wrote this whole post and neglected to say great things about the Swedish cookie and cake spread in the afternoon. Overlooking the river, sitting at a table dressed in handwoven holiday linens, having a tea/coffee/cookie break was fantastic!! I'm not one to forget about cookies!

Related posts:
Runners I Wove at Vavstuga

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!!

Today is the winter solstice for the northern hemisphere.

We have 9 hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset where I live today.

By Jan. 21, we'll have another 45 minutes of daylight and by the summer solstice, a whopping hours 16 and 1/2 hours of sunlight.

Since I'm a little bit solar-powered, I look forward to more daylight!

(And I apologize to everyone north of me for ever thinking our days are short. 9 hours of daylight sounds pretty long to me.)

So the shortest day came,
And the year died
And everywhere down the centuries
Of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing
To drive the dark away
They lighted candles in the winder trees;
They hung their homes with evergreens;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
to keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
they shouted, revelling,
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
echoing behind us- Listen!
All the long echos sing the same delight
this shortest day
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks
and hope for peace
And so do we, here, now...
Welcome Yule!

- Susan Cooper (Excerpt from "The Shortest Day")