Handwoven Pouches

Even after finishing that alpaca jacket (by the way, did I mention that got a FIRST PLACE at the NC State Fair?!?! Okay, done bragging, back to the point) I’ve still had a bit of fear of sewing with my handwoven fabric. For months now, I’ve held onto a stack of samples I did for a different project. These were woven of super lovely organic cotton yarn, and so soft and textured. But it was just few inches of this pattern, a few inches of that color. There wasn’t enough fabric to do anything serious with, but just enough to cobble together some simple zippered pouches. I figured this project would be the perfect way to ease myself into sewing with more obviously handwoven fabric.

I picked out some scrap fabric from my extensive stash of bits that were too big to throw, and a coil of leftover zipper. I also had on hand some scraps of leather that I purchased by the weight at a local place that re-sells the bits leftover from manufacturers.

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I meant to take more photos as I went along, but to be honest this project was so easy and fast and fun I was practically done before I remembered.

I cut two rectangles of handwoven fabric, and two identical rectangles of lining fabric. I sandwiched the zipper between one of each, and then added two tiny rectangles of leather at each end of the zipper to act as stops.

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Putting rights sides of handwoven against handwoven, and lining against lining, I went all the way around the edges. Then I “cut in” on the corners to give the pouch more depth and shape.

And – TA DAAA – I had a ridiculously gorgeous handwoven zippered pouch. I mean, I fell in love with this one instantly. It’s the occasional problem with deciding to become a professional maker and artist, I occasionally fall in love with one of my items and can’t bear to sell it.

This pouch is now the home to my “weaving planning” notebooks and pens. I love the small little Field Notes notebooks because they’re pocket sized, and come with graph paper, and make planning not to intimidating. And now I can keep it and my GLORIOUS new fountain pen together with other bits and bobs I use to keep track of current projects.

Don’t worry though, considering this project was such a gratifying success, I’ve been making a lot more similar pouches to sell. I’ve got plenty of more weaving samples and leftover fabric scraps to use up.

You can check out my etsy store or square store to see what unique recycled handwoven pouches I’ve got in stock!

Spring Rain Woven Window Panel

I was super excited to finish this piece, as it is one of my first projects that is completely non-functional. Don’t get me wrong, I love art that serves another purpose, be it wearable, or usable in some other way. But there is also something satisfying in making a piece that has utterly no function what so ever. I found it freeing to not worry about how this will fit, or wash, or be used. It won’t be used at all, except to hang on a wall and look pretty, and that’s okay!

 

This piece was woven with 12/2 cotton, a very fine thread-like yarn. I sett it fairly loose, because I really wanted to exaggerate the diaphanous transparent areas created by the ondulé weaving. Ondulé is a style of weaving that intentionally encourages the warp threads to bunch and spread in a specific pattern, creating areas of densely woven threads, and areas of spread out and sparse threads. This also causes the warp threads to bend and curve, or “undulate” (hence then name ondulé, which is translates from “wavy” in french). I chose to exaggerate these curved lines by painting short segments of the warp threads in charcoal and grey, and also by inserting supplemental warp threads of a heavier black yarn. These threads were trimmed long and left loose on the “front” of the piece, because I liked their natural and somewhat random curl. They squiggle and drape themselves down the length of the fabric, interacting in ways you don’t expect, catching the eye.

On the other hand, the back of the piece is also really lovely. When the black threads aren’t seen dangling, the piece has a much cleaner appearance. Instead of getting caught up in individual curls, your eye falls naturally every downward.

 

I’m biased, but I love both sides of this piece. My favorite way to display it is actually to hang it where both sides can be seen, especially if you can also catch light through it. So right now it’s hanging in the window nook in my studio. This is where I was imagining it as I wove it. The thinly woven “bubble” areas shape the light, like droplets of water on a window pane. The painted threads and black yarn create trails, like a droplet of rain that has traveled down glass.

 

As I was planning this piece out, I had countless ideas for other “window” designs. I hope to continue the series with other things I see as I look not only through my window, but at it.

New Notebook Box

This post is mostly just eye-candy for a gorgeous box I acquired recently. I’m always a fan of craft-trades, and I was able to commission this hand carved box in exchange for a 100% silk reflective scarf. The artist was Katie Allen, a good friend I always turn to when I’m looking for beautiful woodworking.

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The box turned out even more beautiful than I could imagine. I love the detailing of the stripes on the sliding lid, and the corners. The grain of the wood is beautiful. The artist even wood-burned my art portfolio logo on the top.

I’ve taken to keeping notes on my weaving projects in tiny memo books. I like that they’re small enough to not be intimidating, plus they fit easily into pockets or bags or whatever. And graph paper is super useful when brainstorming drafts. Of course, since they’re small, they fill up fast and they were starting to pile up.

This box is designed to fit the notebooks perfectly, so I can easily organize my filled up ones and my empty next to use books. I love it. Keeping my notes in this gorgeous box helps inspire me.

Salt and Pepper Transitions Scarf

I’ve mentioned many times how much I love commissioned projects. Not only for the ego boost, but because it encourages me to try things I might not have done on my own. Even if the request is pretty open ended, it will likely send me in a direction I wouldn’t have otherwise. Basically, I think of some commissions as free inspiration.

This woman who requested this scarf wanted a gift for her friend. Her friend had decided to stop dying her hair and start embracing the grey hairs. So she wanted to give her friend a black and silver reflective scarf in honor of that.

I really enjoyed thinking about that transformation as a concept; the transition from solid black, to mixed “salt and pepper,” to solid silver.  What would that look like in a weaving? How would it look around someone’s neck?

To achieve this look, I set up the warp to be solid black on one side, and then start alternating silver, until it ends up solid silver on the other side. Then, I used the same method to change the weft from black to silver in the same way. This gave my an asymmetrical scarf, with one end thats black and mixed and the other that’s silver and mixed.

I like that the scarf shows the combination of colors every step of the way through transition. From the first scattering of fine threads, to the dense mixture. And of course, with the twinkle of the reflective light all the way through.

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And of course I couldn’t resist doing one of these:

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If you’d like to commission a scarf, please don’t hesitate to contact me. 🙂

Sea and Sky Scarf

I had a lot of fun recently working on a commissioned scarf for a woman in France. She wanted a scarf in her favorite colors, dark grey and blue. One of her favorite memories is of looking at the sea one day, and where it met the sky, and seeing so many shades of blue and grey together. I didn’t have yarn in the specific shades she was looking for, so I had a lot of fun dyeing it.

I dyed the yarn while it was tied up in “braids” specifically to get an “uneven” dye effect. I like that there are areas that are lighter or darker. My favorite yarn is the one that is part blue and part grey. I first dyed it in the same grey bath as the warp, but removed it early. I then unbraided it and re-braided it to expose different areas of the yarn. Then I partially dip-dyed it in the same dye as the blue. This created lovely randomness in the transitions between the blue and grey.

I’m definitely pleased with how this scarf turned out. It was lots of fun to sort of spontaneously dye a whole lot of yarn and just see what happens!

Penland Project – Ondulé Weaving

I wrote before about my experiences at Penland this summer, but I have yet to show off what I actually made! If you’ve been waiting, I finally found some time to take good photos of my projects.

I attended the Ondulé Weaving class, taught by Amy Putansu. Ondulé is a very special weaving technique I was super excited to learn about. Ondulé – meaning “wavy” or “corrugated” in English – weaving is done by using a special reed to create curved lines in the warp threads. Most loom weaving is considered very grid like. You have vertical (warp) threads and horizontal (weft) threads that always meet at 90deg angles. There are techniques you can use to create the illusion of curves in a woven piece, but the threads themselves are always straight and parallel; except in ondulé weaving!

Weaving on a floor loom uses a piece of equipment called a “reed.” They are usually made of stainless steel in these modern days, and consist of many tiny bars of steel set evenly. Each thread in the warp goes in between these bars to keep them evenly spaced across the width of the cloth. The reed is also used in conjunction with the “beater” to “beat down” each weft thread as it is cast. The bars in a standard reed are always parallel, and always evenly spaced – that is the point! But an ondulé reed, often called a “fan reed,” is different.

As you might have guessed from the name, the bars in a fan reed are set into fan shapes. They are not parallel, but instead group together in crammed and spaced areas. By raising and lowering the reed, or the warp going through the reed, you can control how the individual warp threads are crammed together or spaced apart. By carefully orchestrating where in the vertical space of the reed you beat your cloth, you can create “undulations” in your weave structure. The warp threads are being guided back and forth in a wavy shape, sometimes squished together and sometimes spaced apart, and held in place by each successive weft beat.

I was so thrilled to take this class. It was something I’d come across in passing, but could never find more information about. How do you weave ondulé? Where do you buy equipment? What’s the magic sauce? Are some fibers better than others? How can weave this?!?! Ondulé weaving is something of a mystery, there isn’t a lot of information out there about it. Very recently, in fact after our class ended, a book about ondulé weaving was released by Schiffer Publishing: Ondulé Textiles. It’s a great place to go for more inspiring photos and some of the history of ondulé weaving.

Amy Putansu was a pretty amazing teacher, and she taught a great workshop. We were at Penland for a full 16 days. The first week of the workshop, Amy had organized a “round robin” style rotation on the looms. Each loom was set up with a different size of fan reed, and different fiber-type yarns in different arrangements. The idea was that we could learn the basics of how to manipulate the reeds and our yarn, while also experimenting with all the different looks that can be achieved. This was an amazing way to learn and experience some of the possibilities, without having the anxiety attached to also trying to plan a full project start to finish before even knowing how ondulé works.

In my first penland post, I shared these photos of a set of greeting cards we made for the end-of-session auction. Each card features a different sample of fabric woven by one of us in that round robin part of the workshop. This gives you an idea of the different yarns and setts and colors Amy had prepared for us, and how much we all enjoyed experimenting.

 

After the round robin was completed, we spend the final week of the workshop planning and creating our own project.

Planning and ondulé project was pretty intimidating for me. Thread “sett” is a very important concept in weaving, and is basically a way of talking about the density of your yarn. You can imagine that the weight and fiber type of a yarn is important and impacts how many warp threads per an inch you’ll want to set up in your loom. With ondulé weaving that becomes even more important, because at some points in your cloth your warp will be very dense. At the “bottom” of some fans, you can see how close the reed will push your threads together. And of course, at the other side of the fan, your threads will be very spaced apart. The angle of the fans is also important, because that impacts how dramatically the warp threads at the “outside” of each fan area will be forced to curve. Those threads will have to travel more distance, curving in and out constantly, than the threads in the “center” of each fan which don’t curve at all. This means that your chosen yarn must be strong, and be able to handle differing levels of tension. All of which is a lot of words to say: ondulé weaving is hard! And I was very glad to have an experienced teacher there to help guide our choices.

I ended up completing two projects in the time we had. For my first project, I chose something based on one of my favorite experiments I had played with during the round robin. Not only did Amy guide us in the basics of onudlé weaving, but she also used the round robin as an opportunity to show us countless other fascinating weaving and fiber techniques. Everything from dyeing, to felting and felt resist, to warp painting, to devoré (burning out select fibers with acid or base solutions), and more! One of my favorite techniques was the warp painting we did with dye-na-flow. I intend to write an entire blog post about this one technique eventually, but for now just know that it consists of painting your warp threads while they’re on the loom. This simple concept blew my mind. I could make it up as I went along? I could just go with it, splash down color wherever and however I wanted? This was my kind of fiber dyeing!

Like I said, ondulé weaving is hard! It takes a lot of work to achieve that “undulating” warp, and so usually the weaver wants to choose a design that really shows off the curved nature of the fibers. For my first project, I chose a simple solid white rayon warp and used the same yarn for weft. Everyone in the class looked at me like I was crazy, until I explained that I wanted to really exaggerate the curves in the threads by painting them as I went. And of course, knowing me, I couldn’t do it without also including some reflective threads! I don’t have a whole lot of photos of the scarf in progress, or after completion. I ended up donating this piece to the end-of-session auction. I was super proud of it though, and hope to complete another one on my home loom eventually.

 

After my success with that scarf, I wanted to experiment with something a little more exciting than white rayon. I’d been holding onto some absolutely gorgeous malabrigo silk-alpaca blend yarn for awhile, just waiting for the right project. I was pretty sure it would be great yarn for an ondulé project.

I used two  colors of yarn for this project: a solid teal-blue color (called “teal feather”) and a variegated yarn that transitioned between spring green and hints of violet and blue (called “indicieta”). I planned out my warp carefully, because I wanted the two yarn colors to create noticeable stripes that would highlight the curved nature of ondulé, but I also wanted to show a transition. I was inspired by watching the mountains that surrounded the school. They were never the same color twice, morning or afternoon, foggy or sunny, always changing every time you looked at them. I wanted to capture some of that feeling, of staring at verdant mountains in summer. I used the same transition effect in the weft. Each fringe end of the scarf emphasizes the teal yarn, while the center portion emphasizes the spring green indicieta yarn.

This scarf is my favorite hand made item I’ve ever made. It uses a unique skill I spent a lot of time learning. It’s in my favorite colors. The undulating shapes in the weave remind me of the mountains where I grew up, and that surrounded the school where I made it. The colors it uses also surrounded me during those weeks at Penland – vivid summer greens, with hints of blue and purple twilights and pink dawns. I’m so excited that its finally getting cold enough to wear it!

 

I will absolutely be weaving more ondulé in the future. I hope to eventually document the technique that Amy taught us, because such a wonderful and unique style of weaving shouldn’t be lost or limited. I am very grateful that Amy chose to teach us, and that I could attend her session at Penland. I heartily recommend her as a teacher to anyone who gets the chance to learn from her.

Zarzamora Silk Scarf

It was 97 deg F outside today as I took the photos of this scarf. I finished weaving it last week. It felt silly to make a scarf in the middle of a southern summer, but I wanted something simple and fun to work on. It is a 2/2 twill with the yarn at 24epi.

I have never worked with Malabrigo yarn before, but after this I definitely am again. This is their Mora line, spun of 100% mulberry silk. Expensive, yes, but absolutely worth it. The color is so vivid and beautiful and somehow dynamic. Silvers and greens and blues and browns wend their way through the wisteria like purple. Yes, I’m feeling color sentimental-y, but the dye name is “Zarazamora” which apparently means “blackberry” in Spanish and I love it.

The softness and the drape of the scarf is hard to capture in these photos, but it was waaaay too hot to drag out the body form. I’m sure I’ll find a way to take more later. Just know that it is a scarf you want to touch.

 

I also had a lot of fun documenting some of the steps of weaving this scarf on instagram. While the video snippet quality isn’t the best, its something I enjoyed and am going to try to keep doing. Follow it with #watchmeweave if you want! 

Summer-Winter scarf as Spring approaches

This scarf came from another commissions conversation, but has been something I’ve wanted to try ever since my success with the summer winter block pattern scarves.

Summer-winter drafts are weavings where either the warp yarn or the weft yarn becomes dominant, and so one color can take over. In the block drafts I’ve done before, this isn’t super obvious because the blocks alternate colors anyways. But I really wanted to see what a scarf would look like in a summer-winter pattern without blocks, where one side of the scarf would be a noticeably different color than the other.

This scarf was warped with burgundy tencel, and I used cobalt tencel for the weft. I absolutely love the color effect where one side is burgundy with hints of blue, and the other is blue with hints of burgundy.

The effect of the two colors turned out so well I’m going to have to try this again. And of course I included some of the reflective threads as well.

 

 

Weaving with silk

Silk is an intimidating fiber no matter what you’re doing with it. It took me awhile to sew my first garment out of silk, and weaving was no different. Especially when the yarn I got my hands on was so beautiful. This is a silk-wool blend yarn that is hand dyed in a set of matched colors.

Part of my timidity with weaving came from the fact that I felt the yarn was too delicate to use as warp threads. It is loosely spun and with a slight “fuzz” that I knew would catch and fray on my wire heddles. So I needed the perfect yarn to pair with these beautiful colors.

Eventually I found this incredible dark-purple colored 100% silk, and I knew it would be the yarn to work. It is smooth and strong, and even though it is super-fine I knew it would hold up with the wire heddles.

I chose a simple twill tie-up for this scarf, as I really wanted the yarn to be the star of the show, and not my fancy treddling. I had a lot of fun blending each color of yarn into the next, creating what I hoped would turn into a smooth gradient of color bleed. It worked better for some colors than others, but still turned out lovely.

Fulling this scarf was about as scary as anything else. I’ve done two other wool projects, but never a silk-wool blend. I wasn’t sure how the fibers would really react. In the end, I floated it on a couple of inches of luke warm water in the bottom of the bathtub. I’m usually pretty rough on the rayon and tencel scarves I make, I want them to be able to take a lot, and I know the yarn can take it without warping too much. I twist and wring them out to really get them saturated and move the thread about. I was a lot more gentle with this scarf, I pressed it flat to the bottom of the tub, and shifted it a bit, but I didn’t twist or wring it as I didn’t want anything to shrink unevenly. I stuck it in the dryer on a cool air-fluff for a few minutes, to beat some softness into the yarns. But I removed it quickly and let it air-dry for the remaining time. Over-shrinking this scarf was my biggest fear, but it all turned out well in the end.

 

When making this scarf, I decided to measure the warp for about twice what I needed. I figured if I was going to play with silk, I might as well learn something while I was at it. So I did another scarf that was 100% silk in both warp and weft. The warp is the same as the one above, and the weft is another silk yarn that I purchased while I was hunting for the mate to the yarn above. This weft was a little bit slubby and un-even in how it was spun, which is why I ended up moving away from it for the warp to go with the gradient wool blend. But it was perfect as another weft. In color it was a slightly darker raisin color that really created a nice effect with the warp. I like describing this scarf as “dark chocolate raspberry.” It is almost brown in some light, but berry colored in others. The 100% silk in warp and weft is smooth and crisp and is probably the most luxurious scarf I’ve made yet.

Weaving with silk was actually a breeze. Its a super strong fiber, and less prone to tangling. It was easy to keep the warp strong and smooth and straight. The wool-silk blend stretched a little bit, which made it harder to keep the selvages tight and straight. But the 100% silk worked perfectly as the warp to compliment them.

I’m very proud of these two scarves. They’re the first things in while that I really feel like I took a risk on, or learned something new. Don’t get me wrong, its fun cranking out a rainbow plethora of rayon scarves in arbitrary combinations and ideas. But it also feels good to really try something new, and be worried that you’re doing it wrong, and in the end find out that it’s all okay and it turned out great!

Silver Stars Scarf

A dear friend wanted a scarf this winter, and while it may have taken a couple of tries I finally found something that worked and that I thought she’d like. I had several failures along the way, which subsequently led to some beautiful scarves, but not ones that were meant for her. This one finally fit the person…

This scarf is actually quite similar to the very first scarf I wove on my own. It uses the same tie-up, and the same sort of “gradient” effect. But I worked in the reflective threads I find myself using more and more often, and changed up the color scheme and the thread density.

It uses an overshot tie-up pattern. This means that the direct pattern has areas of long floats, weft threads that hang over a lot of warp threads. Normally, that could cause problems with the stability of the weave, or be a potential for “caught” threads that snag and pull. However, with overshot patterns you alternate each pick of the pattern with tabby (the classic over-under basic weave.) This adds stability and density to the cloth, making more complex patterns possible with only four shafts.

The lavender fields scarf is also an overshot pattern.  I’m becoming quite fond of this style. I think because I like the almost “picturesque” complex patterns that can draw larger shapes and designs. This particular tencel yarn needed to be set at 30 epi (30 threads per an inch) which was one of the the tightest setts I’ve had to do yet. But it really made a beautifully smooth and drapey scarf.

This scarf uses overshot to silhouette dark stars on a silver background, interspersed with light reflective threads that sparkle and shine like stars in the sky.