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.

 

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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.

dsc_1612_sm

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.

Squares

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”

 

 

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.

 

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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