Saturday, July 15, 2017

Getting ready for MAFA 2017

8-H 4-color double weave parallel ovals

The countdown has begun

The MidAtlantic Fiber Conference's (MAFA) biennial weekend workshop is days away and my mind is full of plans and preparations. 

In large part, that's because I'm one of the volunteers working to make this a memorable event. MAFA is an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization and dozens of people on its Conference Team has been working for two years to make this regional event the best ever. Yes, planning started when the last conference ended. I know there will be unexpected complications, but it won't be for lack of effort.

Have loom, will travel

I'm also preparing for my workshop, Weaving in a Parallel Universe, with Linda Hartshorn. I expected amplified craziness preceding the event, so I warped my loom last month. And then I prepped my loom for travel. 

Reed secured in beater.

I have a vintage 8-harness Schacht table loom with a 24 x 26" footprint. We all know that most table looms--especially the vintage variety--are portable, but portability is not their strong suit. Here's how I have made my table loom ready for transport.

My husband outfitted my table loom for transport by attaching a handle on one side of the castle. That helps with picking it up, but when it's warped and ready for weaving, there are other concerns.

For transporting a warped loom like mine, I see three primary points that need protection: The reed, the warp, and the beater.

Stabilized warp on back beam


  • To secure the reed in the middle of the beater and protect the warp, I use a strip of soft knit fabric. I fold the fabric in half around one side of the beater and twist the fabric several times on each side of the reed before securing it on the other side. 
  • I often use such strips of knit fabric for headers, any fabric, rope or even a bungee would work.


  • I use the soft knit fabric to keep the warp from moving on the back beam--and on the front beam if there is nothing woven to stabilize it. 
  • I made a cover for my loom, but the underside is still open. I will stuff some soft plastic dry cleaner bags around the vulnerable beams. No cover? I'd use a blanket or a soft plastic sheet over the front and back beams to protect the warp during travel.


  • I use two small or one medium size bungee to secure the beater against the castle. (I used one in the photo below.)
Beater secured with a bungee
Loom covered and ready to go

I'll also bring my stand, which my husband also made, and a stool that puts me at the right working height. And I'll bring a utility cart to move it from my car to the workshop location. 

And there it will stay until it's time to go home.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Welcome blankets

Welcome blanket

July 4th, roots, and refugees. 

Unless you are an American Indian, you, like me, are the daughter or son of immigrants. My family's immigration story is lost to time. No stories exist of their struggles and difficulties. But I have no doubt that they were real. 

I have no delusions that I am related to royalty or some rich and famous person and, frankly, I find most claims silly. I cannot believe that my ancestors came for the joy of it any more than I can imagine that I am a descendant of Lord So-and-So of Castle Wherever.

My ancestors most likely came to this country for opportunity, as many people still do. But currently too many people aren't leaving their homes because they want to. They're leaving their homelands and families to escape tyranny, hunger and war.

Which brings me to the current refugee crises. I don't know the answer to war, hunger, and despotic lunatics, but I can help support what is surely a difficult transition. One way is through the Welcome Blanket Project.

The Welcome Blanket Project

"The Welcome Blanket Project aims to connect people already living in the United States residents with our country’s new immigrants through stories and handmade blankets, providing both symbolic and literal comfort and warmth. At the same time, the project offers a positive, hands-on way to understand the scope of a 2000-mile border wall and to subvert it from an idea of exclusion to one of inclusion. By participating in this project, people will also come together to talk about immigration policy and how it affects real-live people."
Project leaders wondered whether, instead of thinking about a wall to keep people out, "what if lines of yarn became 3,500,640 yards of blankets to welcome people in?"

They have invited knitters to make a 40" x 40" blanket. By their estimation, a blanket that size would take about 1200 yards, thus requiring about 3,200 blankets to stretch over 2,000 miles. The project provides patterns, a tutorial, and sample 'welcome notes' online.

The project is keeping track of yardage, too. In addition to sending a blanket, knitters send a tag with care instructions and yardage used in the blanket.

Contributors are also asked to enclose a note that welcomes a refugee, shares  their family's immigration story, and offers words of welcome and advice about living in the United States. 

Blanket ready to mail
Here's what I wrote about my family:
Dear Receiver of This Blanket,
This blanket was made by Charlene Marietti, Medford, NJ
My family’s immigration story: 
My ancestors originated in Northern Europe—England, Scotland, France, Switzerland and Germany—and moved west from the Mid-Atlantic region into the Northwest Territory when it opened for settlement. Many were early Ohio pioneers who fought for freedom in the American Revolution and the War of 1812 and took advantage of offers of bounty land granted for military service.
My husband’s Northern Italian ancestors left hunger and the threat of war in the late 19th century to join paesani in western Pennsylvania. Few intended to stay, but they did. They quickly moved to Northeastern Ohio, where most of their descendants still live.

The knit blankets will be displayed in an inaugural show at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago beginning July 18 and running through December 17. After the show closes, the blankets will be distributed to refugees and other immigrants though resettlement organizations. 

My contribution goes in the mail today. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sharing love and history

Kids love the beating part of rug weaving

Weaving through a historical lens

If you have ever spun or woven in public, you know that there is little to no understanding of either craft among the general public.

Not unlike the lack of connection between farm production and supermarket displays, the public in general has little to no concept of fabric construction. Industrialization separates us from understanding some of the essential building blocks of humankind.

I recently spent a day weaving at Walnford Day at Monmouth County Park System's Historic Walnford House in Upper Freehold, N.J. That's somewhat of a misnomer as I spent most of the time talking about historical precedent, how and why weaving was important to colonials, and helping the public, many of them children, weave a few shots. It was a really good day and I loved it. 

Newcomb/Sears Fairloom back view/sectional beam
There is no evidence that the owners of the Walnford property owned looms or wove themselves, they operated a fulling mill along with a grist mill and lumber mill, so it is safe to say that there were plenty of weavers in the area.

Historic Walnford has three operating looms that have been gifted to the property, none of which is period. The vintage Sears Fairloom, which was made and sold by Newcomb Loom Company as its Studio Art loom, is warped to weave rag rugs and used for education and sampling by the public. 
Newcomb identification number
Although the Newcomb Loom Company, which was established in Davenport, Iowa in 1889, ceased operations in the 1980's, Newcomb looms are still being used by weavers. If you have one, you can add it to the registry hosted by Weaver's Delight for a very modest fee, find parts and order a copy of the original instruction manual.
For Walnford Day, it was a time to introduce people to the frugality of former times. I took along strips of cotton fabric for the rag rugs and they served as a great conversation starter. As I talked about colonialists' frugality and how they repurposed as much as possible, I asked what they thought the fabric was from. (It was from an old bed sheet.) Surprising even to me was how many people didn't even know where to start. 

No fancy dress, thank you

Dressing in period costume was not required for the day. I don't have costume, so obviously, I didn't. But some presenters did. The spinner, for example, had a lovely outfit complete with a charming little hat set sideways just so. And it got me thinking about period costumes for history days like this. 

Here is my problem: Spinners and weavers don't dress in lovely outfits to perform their work now--and they never did. They need to move. They're engaging in physical labor. Weavers, even more than spinners, need to throw shuttles (long sleeves would interfere) and to crawl under the loom (unless they're production and have a loom boy, i.e., child labor). These are not jobs for ladies sitting in parlors with an embroidery hoop.

The dressing up in Sunday bests for the middle and upper-classes is colorful and fun, but it does not convey the hard lives that most people lived.

If I were dressing to weave or spin in a historical context, I'd wear a coarse cotton or cotton and linen shift-style dress in a natural color. If a head covering were needed, it would be a simple scarf.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Show and Tell

Inspiration, ideas and know-how
Five multi-harness twill tea towels

When fiber artists share their work, it's a bonanza for everyone. Over the past year, the weavers' study group in the South Jersey Guild of Spinners and Handweavers wove towels as a project. The object, I learned too late, was to use a draft such as huck or M's and O's. 

As I see it, there are two major upsides to show-and-tells. The most valuable is sharing knowledge and experience when fiber artists discuss not only what they made, but they made it. It's the time to talk about the surprises and the disappointments that inevitably accompany the creative process.

Color insight

At this sharing session, one weaver discussed the diluted color effect in her towels. On the bobbin, the reds and greens were bright, but when surrounded by neutral colors in the double-faced honeycomb weave, they are significantly subdued.
to a softened green--all in the weave
From bright kelly green.....

My project work is visible in the two stacks of towels to the left of the large basket in the center of the photo. I shared my project work earlier this year in my "Tea Towels" blog, but after weaving six towels, I had cotton left over. So I warped it on and wove more towels. I not only had fun weaving five more multi-harness twill weave towels (closeup: above, right) them, I was getting better acquainted with my new-to-me vintage loom and working out its strengths and weaknesses.

Diversity in Show-and-Tell items
As the name of the guild implies, not everyone is a weaver in the group and the shares included knitted items, a latch-hooked wall hanging, baskets and fractal spun yarn.

Handspun 'fractal' yarn 
Latch hooked project

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Shuttle talk

Finding the shuttle that's 'just right'

Schacht end-feed shuttle w/tension device
First there were LeClerc boat shuttles with bobbins and paper quills, mainly because my first loom was a LeClerc. More recently, along came a Bluster Bay traditional end-feed boat shuttle with hook-and-eye tensioner. Then came an Ahrehns & Violette (now Chico, Calif.-based AVL) end-feed tensioned shuttle along with the AVL 12-shaft dobby loom. 

Above: AVL tensioned end feed shuttle. ca.1981 w/pirns
Below: Boat shuttle w/paper quill
I was recently weaving cotton towels for a guild project on the new dobby loom. As I was evaluating the loom, I also began experimenting with the two end-feed shuttles. The 15" AVL, which was almost certainly made for the loom (They share the same inventory number from FIT), works beautifully, but feels too big and too heavy in my hand and for the 34' dobby loom. 

Above: Bluster Bay end-feed shuttle w/hooks and eye
Below: Boat shuttle with bobbin
I swapped out the AVL shuttle for the 11" Bluster Bay shuttle. Nice. These are beautiful shuttles. The quality of workmanship is excellent and they are a pleasure to work with. But I found threading the hooks and eye very fiddly and hard to replicate if I lost the end of the prior pirn's thread. Its size also felt a tad small, but the difference in weight  with the AVL may have contributed to that conclusion. (See weight comparisons below.)

I was using two colors for some of the towels and that gave me a good opportunity to evaluate the shuttles against each other. 

Ideally, I'd want two shuttles of the same weight and balance for a project--and the end-feed shuttles I had were too different to pair. So, I tried using a traditional boat shuttle and bobbin with the Bluster Bay, only to be reminded how much I hated the rolling bobbins that either pay out excess weft or hold onto it so tightly it pulls the selvedge too often. A paper quill was better, but couldn't replicate the selvedges of the Bluster Bay. 

I longed for the 'just right' end-feed shuttle.

Path to purchase

I had purchased my first end-feed shuttle--the Bluster Bay--at a conference on recommendations from others, but hadn't really researched available products. I love the shuttle, but cost is always a consideration. Much as I love working with the elegant shuttle, the cost for shuttle with a metal tensioning device is one-third to one-half again the cost of other brands. 

I needed more information. I weighed my shuttles--with and without pirns--and collected  specifications for end-feed shuttles with metal tensioning devices on the market. Then I  consulted with weavers on Weavolution, where there had been a lengthy discussion a few years ago on the topic. 
Schacht end-feed tensioning device, detail
After listening to what others had to say about their experiences, I balanced what I needed against cost. I bought a 12 inch Schacht end-feed shuttle.

I have been using my new shuttle and I love it. It's not as beautiful in the hand, but i's a snap to thread (no hook needed!) and the metal tensioning  pads are easily adjustable. 

No, I don't have a matched pair, but the Bluster Bay and the Schacht work pretty well together. At least for now. 

And now I have only myself to blame if my selvedges are less than nice.

Here are some specs used in my decision-making process. 
Ahrehns & Violette 
(Chico, California)
Bluster Bay
(Sandpoint, Idaho)
(Boulder, Colorado)
Length 15 inches 11 inches 12 inches
Type pirn Wood Cardboard Wood
Weight (with/without pirn) 7.8 oz/5.8 oz 3.7 oz/3.8 oz 4.8 oz/5.4 oz
Tension type Metal tensioning pads Hook and Eye Metal tensioning pads

Note: End-feed shuttles require pirns to match. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sharing love of fiber

Tabby, kilim slits, rya knots, and
shaping techniques

Teaching as an art form 

Although the subjects have varied over the years, the rewards of sharing knowledge never cease to give me joy. Thanks to The ARTerya new arts-focused business that has just opened in Medford village, I am now looking forward to sharing my love of threads.

One of my classes will focus on weaving a small wall hanging. Participants will learn basic tapestry techniques and leave with a unique 'wall art' ready to hang.

The classes, which are project-oriented, target those with interest, but with little to no knowledge or experience. As it's a near certainty that prospective students don't have equipment, the challenge is to get people interested with an inexpensive cost of entry.

In this case, the goal was to find an inexpensive table/lap loom. And The ARTery owner, Karen Walker, did just that! But before I taught with it, I wanted to work with it--find what it would do and what are its limitations. I ordered one from Target. 
Two types of dovetails with roving for dimension

The only real issue with it is that it needs glued together for stability. Another potential downside is that beginning weavers may be confused with two sets of visible threads as the loom is constructed to be warped around the loom length. (I'll take some cardboard to insert in the middle of the loom to cut down on distraction for new weavers.)

Glued up and ready to play

And play, I did. I had a ball! My goal was to develop projects that were easy to do and could be completed in two sessions--but varied enough to give people ideas. The yarns had to be forgiving and the techniques restricted to just a few simple processes. In addition to tabby, I wove examples with interlocking dovetail joins, kilim slits, rya knots, shaping and fringes.

The ARTery's grand opening is Saturday. The weavings are there now and I do look forward to teaching there!
Simple two-color tabby techniques
Variegated yarn effects

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Brainy Beanie

A hat to celebrate scientists and independent, analytical thinking!

Brainy Beanie hat: View from top
The March for Science is scheduled for April 22. What to wear?

We had pussyhats for the Women's March in January, but scientists need something a bit more...brainy? A little more 'smart' looking?

The Brainy Beanie was a concept hatched brain... and proven in the making!

Using both knit and crochet techniques, the hat features a highly textured knitted brain-like design secured on a crocheted mesh-like skull cap. The open-work cap makes for lighter weight headgear that is also cooler and more appropriate for typical late April warmish weather.

For the same weather-related reason, I chose an acrylic yarn, Caron Simply Soft Party, Platinum Sparkle, which has metallic strands. The glinting strands highlight scientists’ sparks of genius and creativity.

The hat components are fast to make--and not difficult. You only need to know the simplest of crochet stitches and how to sew with a needle and thread. And the knit part? If you use a spool knitter, you don't even need to know how to knit.

Brainy Beanie, showing roundness and depth
Intimidated by yards of cord? Don't be deceived!  It is quickly knit on a very inexpensive spool knitter, such as the Caron Embellish-Knit! Machine, which are readily available at Jo-Anne Fabrics (use a coupon!), Amazon and Walmart--to name three sources. I bought mine for $15.

Don't want to buy the spool knitter? You can hand or machine knit the iCord.

Fair warning: Although the cap and the cord are quick to make, placing, pinning and securing the cords to the cap are where the time goes into making the hat.

Some people have questioned why I made this in gray. Well, for one, brains are commonly referred to as 'gray matter,' but the real reason this is gray is simple: I made this for a marcher who preferred the color gray. I'm looking forward to seeing one made up in pink, which by consensus seems to be the alternate choice.

I had fun making this--and it's pretty cool to wear, too. So I wrote up the pattern and posted it to Ravelry, where it is available for download. In the spirit of the March for Science,  all proceeds from the sale of this pattern go to the The Sierra Club.
Crocheted skull cap in progress, end of Row 12
Brainy Beanie, as worn