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Archive for August, 2010

Summertime and the weaving is easy

All looms have a story . . . some are more remarkable than others, but all looms do have a story.  I recently purchased a four-shaft Harrisville loom.  It’s 22″ wide with a four-treadle direct tie-up.  I purchased it from one of the men I know from the ice rink I skate at every week.  Less than three weeks ago, he mentioned to me that he owned a loom and was thinking of getting rid of it.  Surprise surprise!  I didn’t even know he wove . . . frankly, most of our conversations at the rink have to do with ice skating.  Anyway, he didn’t really weave . . . but, he had purchased this loom brand new in 1980 and recalls weaving on it once . . . maybe, twice at the most .  Other than that, it was reported to be in nearly new condition.

I brought the loom home less than a week after he told me about it.  It’s so convenient that Harrisville is still around and I ordered new cables for it.  Even though the loom had not been used, it still had the original leather straps and they felt a little stiff.  I also ordered a sectional beam for it.  I set the loom aside until everything arrived and I could put the new parts on it and give the loom a good cleaning.

 The box arrived  yesterday and after unpacking it, I decided today would be the day to bring this little loom back into the wonderful world of weaving.  After removing some of the parts on the loom, I started cleaning it.  Even though the loom had been stored carefully over the past 30 years, it had areas that needed to be cleaned well . . . plus, nuts, bolts, and screws that need to be tightened up a bit.  Much of it is normal loom maintenance, but on a new-to-you loom it’s like meeting someone new at a guild meeting or conference.  I know we have something in common, but there’s still an acquaintance to be made and opportunity for discovery.

It was such a beautiful day that I decided to move the loom outside into our backyard (one of the many things I love about small looms . . . their portability!).  While cleaning a loom, one makes a rather intimate connection with it . . . you start noticing the grain of the wood and those few small areas where the grain looks truly remarkable . . . and it tells you of a moment in the history of the tree the piece came from . . . or the little ding in the wood from a mysterious impact with an unknown object.  But, what this loom told me about itself more than anything else was of its limited use.  There were no areas that showed wear-and-tear like so many of our well-used looms have . . . It told me of 30 years of quiet existence.  Well, as of today, those days are over!    The loom is cleaned, reassembled with new parts, and ready to be warped . . . perhaps tomorrow if I can decide what to do on it first.  But, for right now, it sits beautifully by the pond in our backyard.  Before evening sets in, I’ll move it back inside and give it one more night before its new life begins.


Ties Ties and more Ties (plus, the AVL “bird perch”)

I’m in the early stages of project and I’m currently taking apart a lot of men’s ties . . . about a 100 pounds of ties!  One of my local thrift stores had five 20-pound bags of men’s ties for $2.99 per bag and I bought them all.  I’ve been fascinated by men’s ties since I was little and was captivated by the ties my father wore.  Later on, while working in Corporate America, I found them interesting and wondered what they said about the wearer.  Unfortunately, living in the Seattle area, the presence of ties continues to dwindle as ‘business casual’ attire increases.  Men may not miss wearing them, but I really loved them for the beauty and complexity as a textile.

Tie fabric and patterns can be rather extraordinary.  Many even feel great when you touch them!  For obvious reasons, I’m pretty much limiting myself to taking apart only the silk ties . . . although, there are some that were just too remarkable not to keep because of the artistry . . . ties in cotton, wool, and even polyester can make a statement.  Labels even reflect that some are made from handwoven fabric.  Woohoo!

I’ve taken apart about 70 pounds of ties so far . . . separating the wonderful fabric from the interlining.  I’m also removing the labels and keeping them in a small container.  I’m doing this for the fabric, but the interlining is great for inserting into a sleeve cap on a jacket to give it a better shape and some people in the garment-oriented ASG Neighborhood Group I participate in have asked me to bring the extra interlinings instead of disposing of them.  Some of the labels crack me up . . . especially the ones that read “Can be worn with blue suit, brown suit, or olive suit.”  Were/are there men that need their ties to read like Garanimal tags?  I don’t know, but I do think it’s funny.

While I was still working in Corporate America, I remember reading an article about the ultimate “power” tie and it was reported the best power ties were yellow.  I would have thought it was red.  Don’t politicians often wear red ties when they’re campaigning?  Anyway, out of the 100 pounds of ties, there wasn’t one yellow tie!  Perhaps this indicates something.  It could mean that yellow is a good power tie color, but few men buy yellow ties . . . or, if the article is true and yellow ties are the ultimate power tie, then perhaps the men that wear yellow ties rose to positions of power and authority and were the ones that were able to retain their jobs during the recent economic downturn . . . and the yellow tie is similar to Dumbo’s feather . . . he could fly high as long as he held on to it.

Here are some of the thoughts that have crossed my mind while taking the ties apart:

  • The weaving that goes into the fabric of some ties is amazing.  Sometimes the most incredible weave structures are subtle because of the printing on top of it.
  • Many ties with a Nordstrom label were made in the USA (although, the fabric often came from Italy) . . . Yeah!  I like to see Made in the USA on a tag!
  • Silk from Italy prevail as the most frequently used fabric; however, there are quite a few ties from Canada.
  • Some ties tell stories . . . from the Christmas-themed tie with the big spot on the front . . . to the ties that were probably a favorite because how worn and threadbare they had become of the years of wear.
  • The ever-changing width of ties really affects the amount of fabric required . . . There have been more than a few ties that were so wide that they looked comical in their own way
  • Lots of designers do ties . . . I’ve dissected ties with labels like Armani, Valentino, and Christian Dior.  Oddly enough, the biggest surprise for me was the Lanz tie . . . when I was growing up, my grandmother gave me a Lanz nightgown for Christmas every year . . . and the Lanz tie seemed odd . . . I didn’t know they did ties for men and looked like it could have been cut from the same cotton material as one of my childhood nightgowns.
  • The hand-sewn ties are infintely easier to take apart that their machine-sewn counterparts
  • A lap covered in silk ties gets very warm and not a great idea to do in summer weather with the rising temperatures.
  • The fabric from 100 pounds of ties takes up very little space . . . the bulk of the tie is in the underlining.  Thank goodness!  It means I need only a small amount of space to keep them after I’m done taking them apart.

On a different topic .. . Our parrots, Pepper and Rosie, the other day decided to hang out on top of my AVL loom . . . it’s not only a great loom for weaving, but serves nicely as a bird perch too . . . as long as I’m not weaving on it.

Convergence 2010 – Albuquerque, NM . . . What an adventure!

Few things excite me as much as Convergence, the bi-annual conference organized by the Handweavers Guild of America (HGA).  Like a child anticipating Christmas, my heart rate and pulse quicken as the event approaches.  It has now approached . . . and, alas, is now over.  But, what an adventure!  It exceeded my expectations and I’m already looking forward with tremendous anticipation to Convergence 2012.

While driving slightly more than 1,500 miles to reach Albuquerque, I was treated to to some truly beautiful scenery.  Across the Cascade Mountains, through a bit of NE Oregon and SW Idaho, I entered Utah to see sights worthy of a movie set.  Geological formations jutted up out of the Earth for some spectacular sights . . . then through a little corner of Colorado . . . and finally into New Mexico.  Once I got beyond the Cascade Mountains, I was reminded how ominous the landscape becomes without  trees to obscure the view.

I was a bus captain for the Focus on Fiber Tour . . . a chance to visit the studios of three textile artists (James Koehler, Rebecca Bluestone, and Jennifer Moore) followed by a tour of the Santa Fe Opera House, including a visit to their costume vault.  Everything was amazing . . . including the fact that I didn’t pass out while running nearly as fast as I can to chase down the bus on two occasions to tell the driver where we needed to be picked up.  Running, per se, may not seem like a major effort; however, when you live at nearly sea level and find yourself running at 7,500 feet elevation, I was proud I didn’t embarrass myself.

I started teaching at Convergence with a three-day workshop Pictures, Piles, Potpourri & Perplexing Curiosities, a workshop for intermediate-to-advanced weavers that covers a wide variety of weave structures.  There were a total of 31 students in the workshop (the picture below shows the majority).  It was a wonderful group and I was sorry to see the workshop come to the end.

After the workshop, I taught four seminars, two on Saturday and two on Sunday.  Plus, I did a one hour ArtSparks class in the vendor hall.  I loved every minute of of it. 

One of the most exciting moments for me was the fashion show.  I was matched with Susan Lazear for the Design Challenge, an opportunity to collaborate on the design for fabric for an outfit for the fashion show.  I’ve included a photo of the outfit’s photo shoot . . . and hope to include more details images of the outfit in the near future.  I was extremely fortunate to have been matched with Susan, not only was she the featured keynote speaker for Convergence, but she was one of the judges for the fashion (BTW, garments for the Design Challenge are not eligible for any awards).  Collaborating with Susan was one of the most exciting and inspirational opportunities in my life!

After everything was over, I started heading home.  I enjoyed the scenery so much when I drove to Albuquerque that I chose to return home via the same route.  It was an easy drive that I did over two days . . . and then, just two hours from home, they temporarily closed the highway I was on right before I crossed the summit on Snoqualmie Pass.  I stepped out of my car to take the picture below.  At first, I was disappointed to be sitting there when I was so close to being home . . . but, then I stood there inhaling the fresh evergreen-scented air  . . . and then I remembered I had purchased a couple of books during Convergence and wouldn’t have to wait until I returned home to start reading them.  I happily sat in my car engrossed in my books for over half-an-hour while the highway remained closed.  In some ways, I was almost sorry to see they had reopened the highway . . . it meant the next stop would be home and that my Convergence 2010 experience would have come to an end.

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