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.

 

Samples

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.

 

Yarn Stash – part 3: Bulky Heathered Yarn

Is that what you call it?  I don’t know.  It’s really less a heather than it is kind of a random mix of things.  Not even sure how I acquired it.  Made for a pretty nice-looking rug, even if I do have some concerns about how well it will wear.

Bulky yarn rug

There were flecks of different colors throughout the yarn that gave the finished product a sense of texture and depth.  On closer examination, it started to look like someone swept up everything that was on the floor of the mill – and I do mean everything, fiber or not – and spun it into a super bulky, fluffy yarn.  I’m not even sure it’s all wool. There were what might be feathers, cotton, bits of string, plus a generous helping of burrs and pokey stickery things.  Although, to be fair, wool is known for having leftover “vegetable matter” from whatever the sheep were rolling around in before they were sheared.  Typically, some of that gets missed in the cleaning of the wool.  And things inadvertently get sucked in the the spinning process – I once pulled out a long string of plastic several inches long twisted into some yarn.  But for this yarn, there was more than the normal amount of VM so that while weaving, I kept a pair of tweezers handy to pick out anything that might stab someone on their delicate bare feet.

removing the burrs

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Yarn Stash – part 2: Herdwick Wool

This rug uses Herdwick wool yarn I bought in Cumbria, England when Mrs. Daylight and I were visiting in 2006.

Herwick Wool Rug

It is from the Herdwick breed of sheep.  I never used this yarn because I kept wanting to save it for something special, or that I deemed myself not yet worthy.  So I finally decided to just make something with it already.  The wool is tough and somewhat bristly, and maybe not so good for a scarf, but great for a rug.

Herdwick wool texture

While the colors are obviously dyed, the light and dark grays are the natural color of the wool.

Herdwick wool colors

Hand dyed yarnI used a plain weave because that’s what’s was ready on the loom, and because the design can be simple, highlighting the texture of the yarn.  I did add a section using a tapestry technique called “clasped wefts” and a simple design element.  I have to remember that curves and clasped wefts are not friends – I had to un-weave about 2 inches of rug and re-weave it to get it just how I wanted.

The yarn is probably hand-dyed, as you can see the variations in color in the orange section.  To me, that makes it more personal and unique.

Detail of the curve section.  Subtle, but I like subtle.

Clasped Weft detail

Next Up:  probably another rug.

Yarn Stash – part 1

I might have mentioned I have a lot of yarn. I have everything from miscellaneous balls of yarn to mass quantities of industrial yarn on big cones, super thin to super chunky. Ok, not really, but I do have quite a bit and quite a variety.  Much of it I keep in bins with some sort of labeling so I at least have a vague idea where things are.  Other stuff is just kept on the shelf.

DSC_1422    DSC_1423

So, when I’m designing a rug, I start by just browsing through the yarn I have.  In some cases, I’ve written a list of projects that I would like to do based on some of the yarn I have.  Other times I see what I think will go together and work from there.  One set of yarn I came across, was a series of commercial skeins of yarn whose labels read Old Mill Yarn in a sort of old west font, from Eaton Rapids, Michigan.  The yarn was thick, a little coarse, and with a tight twist to it. It looked like there was enough to make a rug, but I was a little skeptical about the quality of rug it would make.  However, once I began, it really started coming together nicely.

Rug 39.08    Rug 39.06

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Plain Weave Continues

This is the second of a series of plain weave rugs.  I have three more rugs to this series, one off the loom and almost complete, one on the loom now, and one whose design is still to be determined.

This rug is similar to the other color-blending rug I finished back in May, but a little more subtle.  In the other rug, I was trying to use up some of the blah colors that I have.  For this rug, I was trying to use colors that I see during a sunset or sunrise, or in this case, maybe both?

Rug 38.05

Here it is under construction.

Rug 38.01

I was really excited when I started, and for some reason less so as I went along.  Once I took it off the loom, though, I was happy with the result.  I think maybe I get focused on just what’s in front of me while I weave, and don’t envision the work as a whole.

Up next:  fancy yarn. Well, different anyway.