Cranbrook Loom

I finally got around to putting the Cranbrook loom to work.

I had started off this past fall with a simple scarf, or at least what I thought was simple.  I figured I would use the loom’s full ability and set it up for an 8-shaft pattern.  First off, I would have to finally figure out the tie ups for the treadles.  How hard could it be?

Well, it turns out to be a rather complicated process of finessing just how much to adjust each treadle.  And each treadle has to both pull up the shafts in use while simultaneously pulling down the shafts not in use.  That is not technically the right description, but it is something I’ve not done before, so was a little strange for me. Then, to make it more complicated, each time you adjust a treadle, it changes the other treadles that you just got done adjusting.  Several times I lost track of all the adjustments, and just started over again.

One popular thing that owners of the older Cranbrooks do is to replace the chains that control the loom with “easier” to manage nylon ties.  My Cranbrook is one of those older ones that a previous owner had updated.  After hours of work, I could not get the newer ties to work properly as the pins that are supposed to secure the ties kept falling out.  Fortunately, the loom came with a box of the original chains and I decided to try them out.  They were a huge improvement, both in my ability to make adjustments, and the extra weight they put on the treadles and keeping the shafts properly aligned.  I eventually got the loom ready to use.

I started my scarf using some of Mom’s old alpaca yarn.  It turned out to be rather brittle and possibly moth-eaten, so that the yarn was continually breaking.  Also, in writing out the weaving instructions, I inadvertently missed some treadles in my treadling guide.  All the threads in a certain group were getting tighter and tighter.  Suffice it to say, I used some sort of treadling pattern that eventually made the continued weaving of the scarf impossible.  So, between the uneven tension, the yarn breakage, and frustration, I ended up just cutting the rest of the yarn from the loom.  On all counts, it was a complete failure.

Other work distracted me for a couple of months, and I think I was avoiding the loom altogether, and pretending not to see it, even though it is the largest item in the studio.  When the frenzy of Holiday sales venues were done, I relented and decided to do a couple of test rugs.

The first was a simple plain weave rug, and what started as a sample turned out a very nice little rug.  Also, I’m a sucker for red and black.

For the the second rug, I used a 3 color twill pattern.  Unfortunately, I didn’t wind enough on the loom and had to cut the sample short.  And it really was too bad, since it would have made a very fine little rug.  So now it’s just a sample or maybe a dresser top lamp rug or something.

It was another one of those instances where I decided to use colors I wouldn’t normally use.  But it turned out so well that I’ll have to keep these in mind for a future rug.

Then a local artist approached me and wanted to commission a rug made.  I thought I would use the Cranbrook, and have the Gilmore still available for other production rugs.

The client wanted green, blue, grey and red.  And she wanted a particular weave pattern I had done on a rug a couple years ago.  It is meant to hang on a wall next to a collection of swords.  I think it turned out pretty sword-worthy.

Even with the color scheme, the idea of the same pattern for the entire rug seemed a little boring to me.  Plus, I didn’t have a good way to incorporate the red.  So I did a tapestry weave section in the middle where I could do a rug within a rug.  The different yarns gave it a little wavy effect, which, even though it suggests some technical problems, gives it an organic look.  Of course the circle was nothing but trouble, but after a couple of do-overs, one of which involved cutting the several hours of work off with scissors, it actually resembles a circle. 

The background weave pattern was a skip twill, which in this case was a normal twill threading, but skipping every 5th thread.  The skipped threads give the weave pattern those ridges running the length of the rug.

The Cranbrook loom has a nice action without having to press too hard on the treadle with my feet, or having to hold down the harnesses with my hand just to get a good shed to fit the shuttle in.  There are a couple of modifications I would like in the future.  The first in a sectional beam.  For you non-weavers, the sectional beam allows me to wind the warp threads on the loom a small section at a time, getting a more consistent and even tension.  The other modification is not so much for the loom, but some way to keep it from scooting forward as I weave.  For the Gilmore loom I attached blocks to the floor, so maybe something like that.

It will take a while to get as comfortable with the Cranbrook as I am with the Gilmore, but despite its fussiness, overall the new loom worked better than I thought.

Next up:  Rio Grande yarns.


Production Backlog

Back in October, I had made a series of plain weave rugs on the Gilmore loom for sale at the holiday markets.  Of the five, I sold two in November and one in January.  I thought I should probably take photos and share before they’re all gone and I have no record of them.

The first is a rug similar to an earlier one with what I was calling tie dyed yarn.  This one uses some green/yellow/brown yarns plied together that created a grainy effect.  Nice rug, if you like yellow. The rug also uses a design scheme that I have use a few times before and I think the proportions work well.  One of the sold rugs used this same design, but with red and black stripes and a black and orange tie dyed yarn.

rug yellow black stripes

Yellow black stripes - detail

The fringe features my go to finish, the Celtic braid.  I know it’s not, but a neighbor once it looked like some kind of Celtic knot, so for lack of another name, that’s what I call it.

Yellow black stripes - fringe

rug yellow black stripes

The other one features some simple stripes using a rustic, bulky yarn.  rug brown stripes

This one has no fringe, which usually doesn’t work well with a plain weave rug.  But in this case, the yarn was bulky and fluffy enough that it could stretch and accommodate the fringe threads being darned back into the rug.  rug brown stripes detail

rug brown stripes detail

I’m still playing around with developing a good setting for photographing my work.  For some past works, I have just laid them on the bare studio floor, which is vinyl but painted over.  I have nothing against it in principle, but really, who paints a floor brick red?  Ugh.  This set features a white table cloth on the floor.  Mrs. Daylight had the idea of stretching it tight and holding it down with weights.  Overall, it worked out well.  There are skylights and lots of windows in the studio and the light is generally pretty good.  But it was cloudy and getting late in the day, so my background ended up with a blue tint.  Even so, I think the rug colors are pretty accurate.


Next up: from the Cranbrook loom

More Twill

Work is moving along and Burning Daylight Studios is keeping me plenty busy, and is proving to be a suitable home to Daylight Weaving. I know it sounds confusing, but I really like both names, so I kept them both, on for the physical studio, and one for the business. My goal here is to try to post at least a couple times a month, so stay tuned.

Last we met, I was finishing a series twill rugs.  This is just a short post as an excuse to share photos of the last in that series.

Twill weave rugI used some random grey yarn that I had lots of, but it turned out to be rather a pain to weave with.  It didn’t behave well – kept getting tangled and didn’t pack down consistently – but it did create an interesting ropy effect.  And I have to admit, it took me a while to warm up to this rug. I had it hanging in the studio unfinished for months because it had so annoyed me while weaving.  I have come to think of this rug as being inspired by the sea. The pattern in the previous rug had a wheat shaft look to it, whereas this rug’s pattern reminds me of seaweed.

Twill weave rug detail

I finished it with a folded hem.

Twill weave rug end detail

Twill weave rug detail

In all, it ended up as a nice sturdy rug that will make the right person happy to walk on in its new home.

Up next: Production work


Crazy Twill

Wow, has it really been that long?  It’s been a busy Summer and Fall, full of visitors, weaving experiments, the County Fair, apple harvesting, and generally preparing for the winter months.  Also – Hey, I’m a business!  Daylight Weaving, I call myself, complete with business cards, my first cell phone (!), and a new website.  I even had a booth at the Summer Art Festival.  That was pretty exciting, since it was the first time for me selling my work.

I started my summer thinking I would try something new.  I saw a picture of a rug and, as I often do, thought how on earth did they do that.  After several days of playing around with designs and different loom setups, I had something I wanted to try out.  Of course it was nothing like the thing that got me on the path to this experiment, but I was ready to try this new idea I had come up with.  I won’t bother trying to explain what I did, since I’ve tried to explain it to other weavers without success.  Suffice it to say that it is a 2/2 twill weave pattern using a block design.


Closeup of the pattern details:

dsc_1615_smdsc_1610_smIt’s one of those designs that I could have done all kinds of crazy things, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should – each looked more eye-crossing that the last.  I eventually narrowed it down to three different designs, but in the end, just used one. The second one, was the same, but with blue instead of red, resulting in a very different look.

dsc_1618_smdsc_1621_smFor the third rug, I used a repeat of some of the simpler elements or the original pattern.  I thought I’d try three colors this time, which gave it a 3-D effect.

dsc_1642_smAnd no fringe this time.

dsc_1650_smApparently, the judge at the County Fair liked it enough to award it Best in Show!  They have scribes write down the judges comments.  She actually used the word “inhuman” in describing the selvedges.  Considering some of the other entries in the Fiber Arts exhibit, I have to say I am quite humbled.

img_5429Those three rugs took all summer.  As I had more warp left on the loom, I made two more simpler twill rugs.  Here’s the unfinished first of the two. They are based on a traditional pattern I found in The Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing Book, by Rachel Brown – out of print, I think, but well worth finding at a good used book store.  Mrs. Daylight calls it the wheat shaft pattern.  The gold and reds I dyed myself.

rug-50 The second is similar and still waiting to be hemmed. Photos maybe next time.

Now that I’ve committed to being a professional, I have to get busy and make more product.  And in the mean time, I’ll make an effort to keep my faithful readers updated on what goes on here in the studio.

Spring Break

It wasn’t the kind of spring break where you go somewhere fun and lie on the beach. This was more of a forced break.  About mid-April, I cut my finger while cooking.  I’ll spare you the details, but it was the left index finger and it needed nine stitches.  All will eventually be fine, but it was pretty bad.  And not just physically.

Sitting in the emergency room, I started to panic. I had earlier injured my elbow and developed tendonitis.  That injury required that I try to not do the things that made it hurt, which seemed to be pretty much everything involving my right hand.  In a rural setting, where there is always some sort of labor to be done, it was particularly difficult.  I could do some things, and thankfully, I could still weave with some modifications to how I move about.  But so many things – gardening, cooking, getting dressed in the morning –  aggravated my injury and it seemed to not be getting better at all, and often getting worse.  I panicked because now I had two hands I couldn’t use and so many more things I wouldn’t be able to do.  And how permanent would it be?  Would I be able to tie tiny little knots anymore?  Would I be able to do all the things I need that finger to do?  I foolishly quit my day job for this and now there might not be any “this”.

The surgeon explained that the finger would heal.  He probably said some other stuff, too, but I kind of stopped listening after that.  All I could think of was how relieved I was.  I could feel the tears of relief running down my face, and I felt a little embarrassed crying in front of the young EMT assisting with the surgery who had just started her first week of work.

Of course the first few days were difficult, but I managed and did get better.  I learned to type with nine fingers – boy, that really confuses your brain and switching back to regular 10-finger typing was nearly as confusing – and I did everything with that one finger bandaged and pointing at nothing in particular.  I eventually continued working on unfinished projects, and starting some new ones.  I wasn’t as productive as I had planned to be, but I did manage a couple of major milestones with the studio to kickstart my still seemingly new life as a weaver.

At the end of April, I had an open house at the studio.  The open house was really just about inviting friends and neighbors over and formally introducing myself as a new artist in our community.  I got to show off my work and had a lot of fun chatting and visiting.  And since it was my party, I could eat as much cheese and crackers as I wanted.

Snacks! And Booze!

It also got me to organize and clean the place.  In addition to rugs hanging on looms, I installed some racks on the back wall to hang more rugs.  The rest were stacked on tables in the studio and the back studio to leaf through.

Studio Open House

Also new this spring is the new loom, documented in an earlier post.  I finally warped some yarn, wound it on the loom and started a test project.  It has it’s own quirks and complications, but I’m slowly learning to adjust things and generally getting it to work.

The other big thing for me is to start creating a way to sell my stuff.  I have a big plan to create a web site, take online orders, and all that.  It’s pretty daunting, so I’ve been procrastinating heavily.  So I finally, as a temporary solution, opened up an Etsy shop.  I don’t expect a whole lot of business from it, but it’s easy and cheap at least a little better than nothing.  In the mean time, I’ll continue weaving.

Up next: crazy twill




Today, I finally got around to taking photos of one of my more recent rugs.  It was kind of an experiment, and if it works, I have two more in the queue that may get the same treatment. The studio generally has excellent lighting.  So, when it comes to taking photos, light isn’t a problem.  And, I have a pretty nice camera, a tripod and other equipment.  Even so, I can’t seem to get good photos of my work.  I see pictures of other weaver’s work all the time, and they tend to look great.  Let’s just say that mine kind of have that homemade look.  The problem is partly colors and surface textures.  My work table has a semi gloss finish on it, so I always have to work around reflections and glare.  The floor produces some glare, too, but not as bad.  The problem there is the floor is a sort of brick red.  Modern cameras always want to assist you by helpfully correcting the colors for you and that red really messes up all the other colors.  Although I finally figured out how to overcome the camera’s helpfulness, the red just doesn’t look appealing as a photo background.  The mosaic studio next door has white vinyl flooring.  It’s a fine floor, but it’s pretty shiny and looks kind of sterile in photos.

Back at the house, we have traditional wood flooring that is fairly neutral.  In addition, we have an eclectic mix of funky and sort-of antique furniture that might make for a good setting.  I rolled up the carpet and set up a nice chair with a bookshelf as the background. Now, that’s a photo.  Probably not professional level, but it suits me fine.

Rug with chairThe globe wanted in the action, so I put him in there, too.  Normally, the sun would be beating through, but today was cloudy, so that I had perfect conditions.

This rug is a full-blown version of one of the samples I did back in February and has worked its way up the the top of my favorites list.  It uses a tapestry technique called compensated inlay.  As with many of my projects, there were problems along the way and I had to un-ply about a hundred yards that I had previously wound together.  But, it would have added more colors to the background, and I particularly like the rug as it is.  So, extra work, but better results.

Rug 44 square

Rug 44 Fringe


Up Next: my Spring “vacation”



Sunrise and Sunset

This is about two rugs.  Both were inspired by colors in the northwest sky, and both have a very similar look, but they developed in very different ways.

The first rug is very much like one of the previous rugs.  In fact, it’s the same colors, same yarns, except for some minor tweaks.  I just wanted to try it again.  I started by using yarn colors that alone are not that exciting, trying to put them together in some sort of meaningful way.  After laying out all the yarn I wanted to use, they kind of reminded me of the colors in the night sky after the sun sets, as dusk progresses to dawn.  Not so much a snapshot in time, but more of a time lapse image, if that makes sense.  Kind of in the same way that Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase represents more than one moment in time that you see all at once.

Rug 42

The rug is the second one like it, so I guess there is something I like about it, even if it isn’t really the colors one actually sees in the sky.

The design for the second rug came about very differently.  I was coming home on the ferry last fall around sunset and we watched the sun going down from the deck. I took this photo:

SunsetYeah great, beautiful sunset.  But then I tuned around to the east and saw this:Back Sunset Like a lot of people, I normally watch the sunset facing west, not the “back sunset”, or whatever you call it.   The western view is the usually the crowd pleaser, but this time the back sunset was really what intrigued me.  The subtlety of the colors really struck me – the gradual fade from blue to pink and the more sudden jump to blue-grey.

When I got back to the studio later, I saw a lot of those back sunset colors in the yarn on the shelves and thought I could make a rug with this new color palette.

Rug 43The colors might be a little more vivid than the original, but for the most part, but it kind of worked.

Up Next: some new takes on some old designs.





New Loom

Did I mention I got a new loom?  Cranbrook made by Norwood Looms, 8-shaft, 60″.  This loom is famous for being designed for Loja Saarinen at the Cranbrook School in Michigan.  Its design has since been passed on to two other loom makers.  (You can read more about the Cranbrook Loom’s history here.)  It’s nice and sturdy and suitable for the heavier weaving that I tend to do.  It’s been stored unassembled for the past two months and I had to completely rearrange the studio to accommodate it, but I finally got it set up.

Cranbrook LoomFor quite while now, I’ve been having trouble rug weaving on the Gilmore loom.  By “for a while” I mean “ever since I started weaving”.  While weaving rugs, it helps to have the project under high, even tension in order to pack the yarn down and keep the rug straight.  Whereas the old loom required a lot of fussing and fixes to get things to work right, the new loom is designed differently, so some of those problems don’t occur.  The old Gilmore loom is a great loom and I’ll be keeping it for other types of projects since it has some features the new one doesn’t have.

After a lot of research, I narrowed down my wishlist to three looms.  I also decided that a new one of any of these looms was just not in the budget.  So, I waited for a used one to come up for sale.

After a few months, I saw a listing that was a little more than I expected to pay, but pretty much what I wanted.  I could live with that.  In Bend, Oregon.  Oregon’s not that far away, right?  Ok, it would now be a 2-day trip, but I think I could do that.  Also, everything in Oregon is separated by mountains, and since this was January, there would be snow and tire checkpoints.  For those who don’t drive in Oregon, they have these really strict winter tire rules there.  I don’t really have a lot of snow driving experience, but I think my Subaru is equipped to handle that.  Oh, and the loom won’t fit in a car – I’ll need a truck or van.  Luckily, our little island car rental place had a van.  These little compromises just seemed to keep mounting, but none was a dealbreaker, so I gave in on all points and committed.

I drove the van, with it’s not-rated-for-snow-driving tires onto the ferry, through Washington and Oregon, and by detour around the worst of the mountains, hopefully avoiding any tire checkpoints.  I planned to get there around 3 pm.  I got there around 6 just as the rain turned to snow.

We took the loom apart and loaded everything in the van.  By the time I was ready to go, the snow had stopped, leaving about 2 inches on the ground.  Not too bad.  But even better, the formerly wet pavement underneath was now solidly frozen.  Other drivers could tell I was from out of town by the way I skidded around, barely in control.  They all just politely stopped a safe distance away and watched as I struggled – are you supposed to turn into the skid or the other way?  I stayed in Bend for the night as I didn’t dare do any more driving until morning.  I eventually made it back the next day, but not before some rather harrowing, white-knuckle driving over unplowed remote roads and 30 miles of fog so thick that I could only see about two car lengths in front of me.  Not really something I ever want to repeat.

When I got home, I had to put the new loom in storage so I could finish some already-planned projects.  So, at the beginning of April, I spent a week painting, cleaning, moving furniture around, and setting up the new loom.

Cranbrook Loom detail

It is pretty massive and is held together with these wedges that you pound into slots with a mallet.  Instead of crank handles to turn the beams, it has these pirate ship style wheels.  (Special appearance of Rug No. 1 in the background.)

I have yet to weave anything on the new loom, and I admit I’m a little intimidated.  I had buyers remorse that lasted for about a day – It’s new, it’s different. But I’m sure I’ll learn and adapt. Right?


No Eulogies, No Poems

I was a long and hard winter.  This winter seemed to be a season of loss for loved ones.  Or maybe with the loss of my own mother in January, I’m just hyper-aware.  In any case, it was a winter that, emotionally at least, I want to put behind me.

This isn’t a eulogy or memorial.  In fact, she expressly forbade that.  Her written last wishes declared that she did not want a ceremony, or memorial, or service of any kind. “No Eulogies and No Poems,” it stated.  It was the only part of her final wishes that was actually printed in bold.  I don’t know if she intended it, but that part still cracks me up.

I am glad I was there, however sad it was helplessly watching her deteriorate.  But no matter how much pain she might have been in, I do know that she was happy to have us all with her.  And I am thankful that it was mercifully quick – she lasted about a week from terminal diagnosis.

Even so, in her style, my last conversations with her were not about her or her illness, but about my weaving, my new loom, and what was happening here at the new place.  She always had encouragement and support for whatever I happened to be doing in my life.  And when I expressed an interest in weaving at the age of 40, she kind of went into overdrive.  For that, I am grateful.

Cranbrook loom turning wheel

Close up of the new loom.  The rug in the background is Rug No. 1 – the first one I made back in 2007.  In addition to encouragement, my mother gave me the yarn for this rug – wool yarn for the weft (Monte Tate yarn) along with the cotton warp.  But more than that, the loom, the shuttles, and even the books I used as reference (most notably Peter Collingwoods “Techniques of Rug Weaving”) – all the equipment needed to make this rug – came from my mother.  When I was done, I gave her the rug and she proudly put it in a place in the family room where everyone walked on it for almost 10 years.  My step-father thought I should keep it.  I only hope that its new prominent position – on the direct path to to the bathroom – will live up to its honorable past.  I think that would make Mom laugh.

Coming up: Back to work.



It’s been a hectic winter involving lots of traveling, new equipment, and family business.  But I’m finally back home for a while and ready to get to work.

In the studio, I spent the winter trying out a few new weaving techniques. These are techniques I had read about, but never got around actually using. So I created a series of small sample rugs. Samples are nice because you can try out different weave structures or designs without committing to a full-blown work. Though they should be fairly quick to complete, my samples took me almost as long as complete rugs.

I’ve done samples in the past and it was usually random – try this color, now that one, then a different pattern, and move on once I get the idea. I would also tend to use colors and yarn I don’t like much, figuring that they weren’t much use otherwise. The result was usually not that attractive – random patterns and ugly color combinations. This time I was determined to make something I can use for inspiration, hang on the wall, or just show off. I planned out each miniature rug as a stand-alone piece and ended up with some rather nice little samples.

For all of these samples, my resources were Peter Collingwood’s “The Techniques of Rug Weaving” and “Rug Weaving Techniques: Beyond the Basics”.

The first sample involves what is called crossed wefts.  It has to do with the order of the different weft colors and how they change in the middle of the piece.  The technique allows the weaver to, among other things, weave horizontal and vertical stripes side by side. In this particular variation, there are limitations to what can be done, which I discovered only after I began.  I tried out some different braids for this sample, too.

Crossed weftsThe second sample used a similar technique, but a variation that allows a little more flexibility.  In this example, I created two different styles of dotted patterns.

Crossed wefts in parallel motion

The third sample uses a method called compensated inlay.  It is not quite a tapestry technique, but is sometimes used in tapestry work, if that makes sense.  One of the features of this technique that I particularly like is the ridge that runs along the left side of the design pattern.  The reverse side of the sample looks the same, but without the ridge.

compensated inlay

The first three samples are all plain weave.  The last sample is a twill weave that provides a different set of design possibilities.  This is not my design – it is pretty much straight from Collingwood’s book.  But I really like the three-dimensional effect.

crossed wefts in parallel motion twill

Up next: A second set of samples yielded one interesting piece – I’ll share once it’s all tidied up.