Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rag Rug No. 2

Working on the second rag rug. A labor intensive project; there is an historical reason that quilts and rag rugs and re-use of previous products for new crafts is linked to lack of television, a life on the prairie in the nineteenth century, and possibly, large families.
Still, once you find enough old sheets at the Goodwill, rip them into strips, sew those strips back together, end to end, warp the loom, wind the shuttles, and start weaving, things move fast. I wove about 50 inches yesterday, while listening to an audio book version of Christopher Fowler's Ten Second Staircase (a Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery).
I warped the loom with Maysville carpet warp, 125 inches long and 38 inches wide. The pattern is again Finnish Bird's Eye. But this time, I played with color and did Fibonacci-based stripes of eggplant, red, and dark purple carpet warp bordering a wide center of dark purple. My inspiration was a homey kind of Oriental rug. What I've learned is that the sections where you can see the contrast of the warp colors works better than the places, such as the navy blue you can just glimpse in the next picture, where the dark purple fades out against the blue and there's an imbalance of places where warp is visible/or not.
I need to crank this out so that I can get a new warp onto the loom. My study group in weaving guild is presenting in two weeks, and I'm supposed to have at least a 7 by 10 inch sample of some hand-manipulated lace weaves ready by then. Good luck to me, on that one!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Banana Cupcakes

There is no chocolate in the house. No ice cream. This cold weather is creating cravings for fat. And, oh, some sugar. Yesterday, the low temperature was one degree above zero. And dry.

But there are cupcakes...Banana Cupcakes. And today, maybe some chocolate frosting to go on top.

If Martha Stewart had done nothing else, she's made some great cupcake recipes. Dayenu, as we say at Passover: It Would Have Been Enough.

(You can find 21 cupcake recipes on the website, for free. One important difference, at least in the cupcake territory, is that the cookbook tells you to fill the cupcake liner half or two-thirds full - very helpful so that the batter doesn't spill over the top while baking - and at least the Banana recipe online does not.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

This Time I'm Getting the Kid's Mitten Clips!

My second pair of Fiddlehead Mittens. Much to my sorrow, I lost one of the first, beautiful mittens at the movie theater. I curse my bad luck, and the fact that I had made an I-cord - a semi-adult version of those strings that baby mittens are attached to, so that they can snake through the sleeves of the bunting and not get lost. Then, feeling that it was cumbersome, I cut off the I-cord and somehow lost one somewhere between the front door of the multiplex and exiting from Avatar.
I'm knitting the outer shell of this pair from Jamieson's 2-ply Jumper weight. And the colorway is in debt to my friend, who came with me to the knitting shop, found a copy of Ann Feitelson's The Art of Fair-Isle Knitting, and sat with me on the floor, hunting through what seemed like hundreds of tiny skeins until we found those that matched Feitleson's extremely helpful illustrations of different approaches to color. Unlike other books, she uses actual yarn swatches to illustrate how complementary or analogous colors work together; you choose the swatch and then try to find yarn that echoes her choices.
If anyone knows of a source for those mitten clips that one used to use to attach mittens right to the coat sleeve (maybe they disappeared with 50s tv shows and aprons), please let me know. Otherwise, I'll be hunting them up on the Internet. And if you see my missing mitten, please send it home.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some More Color

Remember the hand painted 8/2 cotton warp on my loom a few weeks ago?
The fabric. Unintentional seersucker, perhaps the result of an unmercerized cotton warp and a mercerized cotton weft (which shrinks less when finished in the washing machine and dryer.) Below, the sampling, which included some twill sections in a 10/2 cotton and some plain weave with an 8/2 cotton weft. Colors are accurate in this photo:
And the finished fabric, showing the hills and valleys of the surface of the cloth.
I learned several things with this project. One is to work with narrower widths of warp chains when I do the warp painting. Then, when threading, I'll alternate the hand-dyed sections with narrow sections of a more solid color. In this trial, I did three wide warp chains, and there is a bit too much contrast between each section. Also, I'll try to be more consistent with the dyeing, so that the finished project has some symmetry within the gradual color changes that are an effect of weaving a hand-dyed warp.
Haven't decided what to do with the cloth, yet. The crochet thread warp makes it too harsh for pillowcases, not quite thick enough for kitchen towels. I'm going to let it sit for a while and ponder.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cupcake Update

Highly recommended: the coconut cupcakes. Second best so far: Ginger and Molasses. Just okay: Chocolate Spice.

We have been baking so consistently that on the days that there are no cupcakes, it feels as if something vital is missing.

Also, highly recommended: the black bean soup with coconut, chile, and lime from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. Everything that I've tasted from this cookbook has been multi-layered: you get a level of this flavor, then a deeper aspect of that flavor, then perhaps something crunchy or salty which works in opposition to something smooth or stew-like. Easy to follow recipes with great results.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


We're planning to cook our way through Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.

No pictures yet, but the Coconut Cupcakes are baked and waiting for frosting. They have been barricaded by a Dutch oven on one side and a tea kettle on the other, as defense battlements against the dog, who helped himself to some pumpkin pie off the counter at Thanksgiving. (This is such a habit amongst Labs that there's even a term for it: counter-surfing.)

We've halved the recipe so that we can quickly work through those (someone has already analyzed that we get 3 cupcakes a piece). We will then move onto the Ginger and Molasses Cupcakes, which contain 9 ounces of fresh ginger in the full recipe.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Color Study 2

A look at some local sources for inspiration for color combinations in my weaving.

This is one of my favorite bracelets: lots of color, turquoise, lapis lazuli, tiger eye, mabe pearls, moonstone, amethyst. All in cabochon cuts so that it looks crafted instead of designed, old-fashioned rather than modern. I found it at a Tibetan shop next to a restaurant in Minneapolis. We were waiting for a table and went next door to shop. Behind the shop was the family's living room, where kids were watching TV, and then, somewhere, a connection through to the restaurant kitchen. Sadly, the shop is now gone. But I love the color and heavy silver of the piece. What about a scarf or shawl that combined those colors?

Below, my other most favorite bracelet. From a shop in Chennai. Again, a variety of stones and colors: rubies or garnets, amethysts, maybe citrine, something else that looks like yellow diamonds but isn't, and a lighter shade of amethyst. This one has a regularity about it, a more organized repetition of colors. You can see, slightly in the picture below, how it moves from maroon to chartreuse to dark purple to yellow back to maroon. The final choice of colors will be used for a scarf of Bambu 7.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Color Study

Color makes me feel a bit drunk. I quickly feel overwhelmed by choices.

Am I a purple person? I look best in reds, but when I try to get myself to weave with warm colors, it feels like too much. I wear a lot of black and grey, but knitting with neutrals, especially in the winter, when we are surrounded by an absence of color, seems unrewarding. If there's no color in the landscape, wouldn't I want to import it into my craft work?
And I love the look of Scandinavian textiles - soft yellows, gentle and clear blues, whites and creams and black. But having painted two rooms in my house yellow and now considering a third room, wouldn't it make sense to try to bridge out from this family? In decorating, I tend to gravitate toward soft blues and pinks and greens. Here's my dining room wallpaper, which I noticed is the same color family as the duvet cover on the bed of my yellow bedroom...
I decided to try to focus by tearing out photos from magazines and my last year's Audubon calendar. The goal is to let my eye lead me, instead of my analytical brain. (However, as I tell my yoga students, even if our customary patterns sometimes make us a bit nuts, the fact of the matter is that we spend years honing these patterns, and you don't want to just throw all that effort out the window. Analytical brain, still good, just maybe not for choosing color.)
Here's an orange, yellow and forest green needlepoint pillow based on a painting by Gustav Klimt.
And my favorites: blues and whites and greens. Pictures of water. Puffy, white clouds. I kept gravitating to these photos in the calendar.
Not sure yet how this will translate to my weaving, but the process helped allow my instinct to talk into my brain a little bit louder than the intellect.

Friday, January 08, 2010

More Inspiration: Bonnie Tarses

Look here for the beautiful, thoughtful work of Bonnie Tarses. I hope that someday I'll be able to do a little bit with color like this.

And weaving with a cashmere weft? Ah, we need this in Chicago.

And Bonnie has a method of creating an ikat effect, called Turned Weft Ikat that I want to investigate.

Weaving Inspirations: Syne Mitchell, WeaveZine, and Sara Lamb

Look here, on WeaveZine, for a great tutorial on using handpainted yarn to create the look of a hand-dyed warp.

Even if you're not a weaver, WeaveZine is worth looking at (and listening to the podcast.) This is a wonderful product and a great model for an online fiber art magazine and community. Articulate, smart, practical.

And look here, at Sara Lamb's work, for the effect in hand-dyed woven fabric that I am craving. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the gorgeous kimono fabrics and shawls. Vibrant colors...much closer to what I meant to do with my handpainted warp. I'm thinking that I need to try the next warp with no fear in my heart in applying deep, bright colors. (Thanks again to Syne Mitchell and WeaveZine for pointing Sara's work out to me.)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hand-dyed Warp

Hand-dyed 8/2 unmercerized cotton warp, dyed with random combinations and dilutions of Procion MX (when I ran low on a particular color, I added more water) of orange, lavender, pink, and yellow.

Threaded for a twill pattern, but set at 18 ends (or warp threads) to the inch, the fabric was flabby. I switched to plain weave and after several tests at the beginning of the warp, I settled on Aunt Lydia's Crochet Thread in Copper Mist from the local Hobby Lobby as the weft. The color is a warm blush-brown color, and it highlights the painted warp without dominating it. The weight of the thread seems to be somewhere between a 10/2 and a 3/2 mercerized cotton.

What I've learned so far from this project:
  • tie any restraining yarns (used to keep the warp in order while dyeing or putting it onto the loom) very, very loosely. Above, you can see the white spots where the ties formed a resist. In some cases, a design feature, but here, not so intentional.

  • sample, sample, sample. If I'd done a test, I would have known to set the warp much closer, and then could have gone with the twill pattern I was planning. My mantra for this year is going to be PROCESS (versus product).

  • there must be a way to get those lovely narrow handpainted warp stripes that I see in lots of beautiful pictures of scarves and shawls on the Web, but so far, I can't seem to find any information other than pictures of people dyeing their warp and then the finished product. I'd like to find something that gives help with weave structures that work best with handpainted warps, and how long to make a color repeat, and whether to make several narrow warps - or - one wider warp that you then split into smaller groups as you warp the loom.

(Note: An earlier version of this post was captured by the scrolling meanies of the Internet; that version is now deleted, if you've been pointed to it.)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Someone Made a Mistake...

We were supposed to change over to a new internet service on December 31st, once we'd received the modem. Unfortunately, someone didn't realize that UPS does not deliver on New Year's Eve day. Oops.

I'll be back once the modem arrives.