Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Studying with a Rock Star of the Weaving World

This weekend I had the privilege of taking a 3-day workshop on twill rug weaving with Jason Collingwood.  Old time weavers may remember his dad, the late Peter Collingwood, who was famous for his rugs and "Macrogauze" hangings.  Well, I can't say anything about Peter, having never met him, but getting to study with Jason was a pure delight.  Except my brain still hurts.

Jason Collingwood at the Whiteboard

The organizers were my teachers and friends Gail, Kathleen, and Michelle of the   Studio 66 Fiber Arts Retreat.  As usual, they did a first-class job planning everything from the placement of everyone's looms, pre-measured warps and beautifully dyed weft materials, to a delicious lunch and snacks every day.

To be honest, I wasn't really interested in rug weaving -- just signed up for the class  because I have enjoyed the camaraderie of my weaving colleagues so much and didn't want to miss a fun weekend.  I still don't much like the idea of putting so much effort into something that people will walk on.  Any more than I want to put my heart and soul into dishtowels or washrags.  But the twill techniques we learned could be applied to lots of textiles, not just rugs, and I'm already mulling over some ideas...

In just three days' time, Jason shared a lot of information about rugs in general, loom construction and adaptation, and we tried some basic techniques:  building up the selvages, twining, starting, joining, and ending the weft so as to keep ends from showing. Jason taught quite a few different (mostly) twill patterns:  diagonals, diamonds, triangles of different sizes, lightening bolts, broken twill, zig-zag, changing the direction of twills, undulating twills, skip twill, krokbragd, crossed wefts, contrary motion, clasped wefts, changing the direction of twill in a block, and I'm sure several things I've forgotten.  This is why my brain hurts.  As a fairly beginning weaver, I was already familiar with basic twill and had done a few easy patterns, but had never done the more complex techniques.

To Jason's credit, he did such a great job explaining things that I was able to follow pretty much everything except the crossed wefts with contrary motion business.  But by the time we got to that part, I had absorbed so much information already and had so many ideas buzzing in my head that I pretty much shut down.  Note to self:  staying out late dancing for a few  hours after day one of a three-day seminar might not be the brightest thing to do (but it sure was fun!). 

A few of the techniques I tried:

Top (red and cream): This was clasped wefts in straight twill.  A fun technique, but it took some time to get the hang of deciding where to put the joins to keep the center diagonal block lined up straight.  As you can see from some of my oopses.  On the bottom (brown and navy) - undulating twill.  Jason gave us the directions for weaving through most of the curve, and challenged us to figure out the rest.  I was able to get back to the start of the pattern, but came to a point and was back on my way into another curve before I figured out I could have kept the undulation going just by doubling some of the lines I added.

Top:  Krokbragd.  Probably my favorite technique from this workshop and something I will definitely explore more.  Middle - broken twill.  A bit hard to see, but a really cool pattern.  Bottom - another attempt at broken twill just alternating colors.  Yuck.

  Some samples I wish I had woven.  The bottom one in gray, red, yellow, and a little white is more Krokbragd.  These were just a few of the samples Jason brought along.

Bottom line:  never pass up a chance to learn from a legend (or future) legend from the fiber arts world.  Three of the three superstars I've had the privilege to meet (I'll save the other two for future postings) were amazing teachers and surprisingly down-to-earth, considering how much adulation they receive.  Even though all three discussed some things that were beyond my skill level, I still came home with lessons learned and some memories that I will treasure.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cotton,cotton, cotton, part 2

Checked my cotton seedlings first thing this morning, and all but two seeds have sprouted and outgrown the germination station!  Was forced to visit Harbor Freight (one of my favorite stores) and buy them a portable greenhouse.

Why is it that a do-it-yourself assembly makes me feel so accomplished?  Even when it's simpler than the Lego toys I played with as a little girl?  Anyway, I assembled the greenhouse all by myself, didn't break any parts or have any bits left over, and I'm unjustifiably proud! 

The aluminum plant markers came today, so each jiffy pellet has its own numbered label cross-referenced to my seed list.  The germination station looked so lonely with only one jiffy pellet left, I decided to start some new seeds -- four each of Judy's brown and Kathleen's white cotton.  Decided to live life on the edge and put two of each in the station, and try the rest directly in the greenhouse.  Would try some right in the ground, but I know the birds would eat them as soon as they popped up, so won't even bother.

Once they start to appear, the seedlings grow so fast you can almost see them getting taller before your eyes..

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cotton, cotton, cotton.

My current delusion:  that I can create a useful object from seed to finished product.  Why, when I can go to the store and for a few dollars buy a shirt/sweater/shawl/whatever that looks perfect, wears forever, can be tossed in the washer, and hung to dry without ironing, do I NEED to invest money and energy in this project?  Mainly to prove to myself that I CAN!

It must be some ancestral memory deep in my genetic code that drives me to pretend that I can be self-sufficient, live off the land (with a little help from Pizza Hut and the corner grocery store) and provide clothing for me and mine.

So my current obsession is growing cotton.   I would much rather spin wool with my limited spinning experience, but a few little things keep me from having sheep, llamas, or other cuddly critters.  One is that I doubt my zoning laws would allow me to keep wool-bearing animals on my city lot.  Another is that animals have a bad habit of eventually dying.  I'm still mourning my pet lamb of my long-ago childhood.  That's a story for another time.  But the point is that people who get too emotionally attached to their animals probably shouldn't be keeping herds of livestock.  Not to mention that they have to be cleaned up after.  A lot.

With my vast experience at killing just about every plant I've ever tended, I don't get too sentimental about them.  Except for maybe my grandmother's rose garden and my grandfather's orange trees. Oh, and Dad's avocado tree. And Mom's magnolia and crape myrtle trees.  Uh-oh.  Beginning to see a pattern of excessive bonding here.  But I've promised myself I won't shed tears over any new plants. 

So Renaissance Woman has planted herself some cotton seeds in those cute little jiffy pellets.  Started 1/30/12 with ten seeds from my friends Kathy and Sydney.  Just soaked the dried disks until they expanded, plopped a seed in each, and left them in a casserole dish on the kitchen counter to get a little sunlight.

After a few days, nothing appeared to be happening, so I ordered one of those germination stations (a flimsy but large plastic box with a heating pad.  In hindsight, I could have poked a couple of holes in a box I got at the salad bar yesterday and set it on a heating pad I already had, but those don't have neat gardening stuff printed on them or pre-cut vents that actually open and close.

Wanted to grow colored cotton too, so I ordered several packets (5-6 seeds each!) of different varieties of green and brown cotton.  Then at Saturday's guild meeting, a generous and talented lady named Judy had brought a big bag of seeds from her brown cotton plants and gave me a big handful of them, which I promptly stuck in one of the pockets of my spinning wheel bag.

Wouldn't you know it, on the morning of 2/6/12, I checked the dish and there were sprouts!  That afternoon, the "station" was delivered.  Don't you just love amazon.com?  That night I started some of the precious store-bought seeds -- one each of Reimer Seeds' Arkansas Green Tint and Erlene's Green, and MRC Seeds' MSB Green and MSB Brown.  That's right - just one each.  I'm going to see how these do before I start any more.  I know, I know - directions say to plant two or three seeds per pellet and cull (kill!) all but the strongest seedlings.  I could no more kill a seedling on purpose than I could drown unwanted kittens.  Seriously!  Could not for the life of me find Judy's seeds.  I obviously had put them away someplace safe.

 The "station" on the morning of 2/7/12

 And the first sprout to emerge!

  Next morning, eight of the ten original Jiffy pellets had visible sprouts.  I'm so proud!

Evening of 2/7/12, I found Judy's seeds at spinning class while searching the pockets of my bag for scissors (which were not there).  Ran home and planted a seed.  Now I have fourteen potential cotton bushes being kept warm in the corner of my dining room.  This morning several of the seedlings are touching the top of the container.   What do I do now?

Note to self:  next time you plant seeds, have some kind of markers ready IN ADVANCE if you want to keep track of which seeds are which.  I used several different colors/textures of yarn to mark the Jiffy pellets and made a legend in my spinning sample book.  Pretty sure I can still tell them apart but they're getting pretty yucky.  Was forced to order those neat aluminum markers that you emboss with a heavy pen or stylus.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why Distaff Delusions?

Why Distaff Delusions?


noun \ˈdis-ˌtaf\

1 a : a staff for holding the flax, tow, or wool in spinning  
   b : woman's work or domain
2    : the female branch or side of a family

Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf, from dis- (akin to Middle Low German dise bunch of flax) + stæf staff
First Known Use: before 12th century


noun \di-ˈlü-zhən, dē-\

1    : the act of deluding : the state of being deluded
2 a : something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated  
   b : a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary; also : the abnormal state marked by such beliefs
— de·lu·sion·al adjective
— de·lu·sion·ary adjective

Middle English, from Late Latin delusion-, delusio, from deludere
First Known Use: 15th century

And there you have it.  Plus all the neat plays on words like "Woolgathering" were already taken.  Drat!