Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Sisterhood Hat

The Sisterhood Hat

A symbol of shared goals

I planned to knit a plain squarish hat, but thought the flat and back tableaus would be much more interesting with a pattern of some sort. As I 'played' with texture and patterning, I found that by making some changes to a classic cable pattern, I couldd create the female symbol. And not only the symbol, but interlocking symbols. It was a symbol of sisterhood.

I rushed to chart the design and share it on to Ravelry, but my software program seemed to buck me all the way. It certainly wasn't working properly, so I made the chart in whole. That is, four interlocking symbols.

Make it once, if you prefer, for the design on the front. Repeat it on the back for the design on both sides.
The Sisterhood hat, as worn

The design uses different size cables--3/3, 2/2, 2/1, 1/2, and 1/1 cables. The larger cables (3/3) run up the sides of the hat for structure. and the others create the circle. There is only one increase row--to add the stitches necessary to make the circle, and one decrease row at the end of the circle. 

The software was also doing some strange things with the text output, too, so it took me longer to find and correct the written directions. I've counted and recounted and am confident that they are good, but always welcome someone else's input.

I knit the prototype in JaggerSpun worsted lambswool and then knit another in Red Heart Comfort Sport yarn to test both the pattern and the yarn. 
Side structural cable on
the Sisterhood Hat

Although it was time-consuming to work up the pattern, I considered offering it as a free download. In the end, I  decided to use hat sales to benefit an appropriate cause. 

All proceeds from pattern sales go to Alice's List, which supports candidates running for office in local New Jersey elections and who support and empower women to bring them into full political, financial, and social equality.

I really had fun with this project and hope others do, too.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rug abuse

Rug: Wool w/linen warp
Charlene Marietti

I confess. I abused a rug. It went like this.

I put a linen warp on my Harrisville rug loom, wove about two-thirds of the planned length, then stopped. I didn't mean to stop. Life got in the way. Specifically, a full time job. When I got home at night, I really had little creativity and little to no energy.

The partially woven rug sat on the loom. It sat a long time. Years. 

When personal time opened up and I had cleared the clutter and reclaimed my work space, I uncovered the rug. I wrote it off. It had sat too long. I would cut it off and start a new one. 

But when I sat down, scissors in hand, to cut off the rug, I found that the warp was as good as when it was put on. What? How could that be?

Now if you've ever woven with a linen warp, you know that linen is not very friendly. Try as I might, every linen warp I have ever put on had some slush. It seems inevitable despite dozens of warping sticks. And when the tension is even a little bit off, the warp shows it. Except with this loom.

My loom is a Harrisville rug loom with shaft-switching device is a fantastic loom, but in this case the winner for utility goes to the warp extender. Functioning as a second beam, the warp extender overcomes the tension problem because once the warp is threaded and tied on in the front, there is no need to unwind the warp from the back beam. 

A vertical solution to weaving on a warp that is stationary, that is, not wound on a back beam or equivalent, the warp extender can be raised nearly to the top of the loom, allowing the weaver to put up to seven feet of warp under tension and not worry about changing tension with the advancing warp. 

Does the innovation belong to Peter Collingswood? Maybe. An early 1990's technical preview of the Harrisville Rug Loom notes as a special feature, "The new TENSION EQUALIZER is an innovative mechanism that Peter Collingswood incorporated into his own looms."

Instead of unwinding the back beam, the weaver advances the warp on the warp extender by lowering it. Couldn't be easier. And now I can report that the warp extender saved a rug. 

I wove that rug to the end and finished it with a Taniko edge. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Just plain tabby

Plain weave w/three types of thread

Tabby? Really?

I wasn't very excited about the focus for the upcoming workshop and sample exchange, so I hadn't signed up. But I changed my mind--and am so glad I did.

The backstory: To complement its March 2018 program, Hands-On Workshop: “Plain Weave Isn't Plain Anymore,” the New York Guild of Handweavers set up a sample exchange. Again, plain weave, aka tabby, which can be woven on any type of loom, including a rigid heddle.

If you've never participated in a sample exchange, it works like this. Sometimes there is a theme--in this case, it's plain/tabby weave--but not always. Each participant weaves and prepares a sample and documentation of relevant details--fiber, sett, finish, etc.--for as many people as are in the group. At the exchange, weavers share samples and experiences . 

These exchanges are an excellent learning tool and provide resources for years to come and I like to participate whenever I can. In this case, I wasn't the only one slow to the gate. At the meeting time, only a few had committed to the project.

I admit that a guilt feeling figured in my change of mind, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would be a good exercise. I'd been wanting to do some exploration in structures such as collapse weave, which uses various types and sizes of fibers to achieve variation in texture. I'd also been thinking about incorporating my handspun into weaving, so that was a 'maybe.' And I imposed one more rule on myself: I had to do it from stash.

My mind went into overdrive.

The playground

First I did a wrapping, as I usually do when combining colors in a warp. Wrappings don't provide full information on the interplay of colors as there is no accounting for the color effects for the weft, but they're a quick and simple starting point. (I like to play with weft colors with the warp on the loom so usually add an extra foot or so to the warp length of that purpose.) 
Color wrapping, sampling balance left to right

For this exercise, I decided to build the color warp around a two-ply Coopworth handspun yarn hand-dyed a dark red with brown tones and color variation. The yarn wouldn't win any prizes in a skein competition, but the variation and slight differences are interesting.

First I tried the lavender rayon with the handspun, as at the left of the wrapping. Yuk.

Then I wrapped a fine two-ply (2/20?) dark cranberry yarn and added a gray rayon thread used for machine embroidery. (Please don't ask how it happens to be in my stash. I don't know. I don't do machine embroidery.)

By the time my wrapping reached the right side of the cardboard strip, I liked where I was headed . So I warped up my loom with the three very different threads. Different weights. Different textures. Different twists. Different spacings.

And I started weaving with two shuttles, one carrying the cranberry yarn and the other, the gray rayon thread. 

I was delighted with the outcome after just a few inches of weft. It was such fun playing with thread watching the changing effects. What better fun can there be?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Who is not inspired by nature?

Nature is an endless source of inspiration

For hundreds, if not thousands of years, nature has been a source of inspiration for artists and designers. Leonardo da Vinci is to have said, “Those who are inspired by a model other than nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain.” 

Nature has always been a deep source of inspiration for me. Last week, I turned to scrapbook of images I've collected over the years for use in color and sensibility inspiration. Not all, but many, many are nature shots. Colors. Textures. Lines. It's all there.

L: Natural Dis-Tinction, Un-Natural Selection.
Spring 2009 collection. R. Plato's Atlantis dress, 2010. 
Alexander McQueen.
So when I saw "The Force of Nature" theme of the current exhibit at The Museum at FIT, I knew I had to get there. The exhibit encompasses a nature-inspired fashion from a wide range of sources--from the more usual plants and animals to ocean life, microorganisms and weather.

When I got home I found that I had three photos of fashion with feathers. All highly dramatic and certain to be the center of attention in any social setting. 

I love the colors and designs of feathers, but I don't need to use them other than as inspiration. I pick up interesting ones and pin them to my 'important' board above my desk. 
Cape and hat, pheasant feathers
Bill Cunningham. 1960s

The two dresses (at right) by Alexander McQueen, known for  his dramatic designs, can be best described in his own words: "I have always loved the mechanics of nature, and to a greater or lesser extent my work is always informed by that." 

The Museum at FIT is on Seventh Avenue at 27th Street in New York City and free to the public. This exhibit runs through Nov. 18, 2017. More information here.

Other quotes on nature's include on art and fashion

FIT's exhibit guide leads with da Vinci's quote, which is widely attributed to him and sounds like something he would have said. Although I have failed to find the source, I found other good quotes, which are highly appropriate and too good not to share.
"No form of Nature is inferior to Art; for the arts merely imitate natural forms." Marcus Aurelius 
"To the artist there is never anything ugly in nature." Auguste Rodin
And then there is this witty--and withering--assessment of fashion:
"Change in fashion is the tax which the industry of the poor levies on the vanity of the rich." Nicolas Chamfort

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Weaving and catching up

Echo weave samples, L. Hartshorn

Better late than never

I focused a great deal on the MidAtlantic Fiber Association (MAFA) biennial conference before the event, but dropped the ball in following up. That had nothing to do with the event and everything to do with me. Lots of catching up--and lots to prepare for the fall shows. 

Polychrome turned taqueté samples, L. Hartshorn
First, the MAFA conference was outstanding from opening evening with Madelyn Van Der Hoogt's keynote to the very last lunch. Yes, the hot weather created some challenges, but I remember the days of no air conditioning. It was nothing humans haven't been coping with for eons.

Second, my workshop was excellent.
Complex doubleweave samples, L. Hartshorn

Networks in weaving

During the time I was away from weaving, network drafting, echo twills, and taqueté techniques entered the weaving vocabulary. I had read the seminal book on the subject, Alice Schlein's Network Drafting: An Introduction, as well as Marian Stubenitsky's Weaving with Echo and Iris, but wanted more insight and some hand's on experience. Linda Hartshorn's workshop, Weaving in a Parallel Universe, delivered both.

The workshop was a round robin, which means that each participant weaves on each of the prepared looms. Each person brings a loom with a different warp and threading (and tie-up with a floor loom) that have been assigned by the instructor. In the class, everyone takes a turn weaving on each loom and labels his or her section. (The labels are visible in the photo of student samples below.) At the end of the workshop, the samples are cut apart and each weaver leaves with a sample of each the weaves.

Although some techniques are possible with on 4-shaft, eight-shafts is really the jumping off point for exploration. This workshop was for 8- or more shafts. My table loom has 8-shafts, as did most of the looms in the workshop.

I came home with a nice sample book--and with plans to weave some of them. Some really aren't practical for me. Even though I have a 12-shaft loom, patterns with very long treadling patterns would be all but impossible with my limited number of dobby bars on a strictly mechanical dobby loom.
Student samples: (L) Complex doubleweave. Note the difference in color effect on the sample in the middle. (R) Echo twill weave

Friday, July 28, 2017

Welcome in blankets

Oh to be in Chicago

The Welcome Blanket exhibit is open at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago.

The crowd-sourced installation, which is by Pussyhat co-founder Jayna Zweiman, focuses on political activism to confront immigration and refugee resettlement issues.

Anyone can be part of the exhibit. I did. And I'm so pleased to be part of the project.

All that's required is to send a handmade blanket to the museum, along with a note to an immigrant or refugee. Although the first call emphasized knit blankets, the blankets only need to be handmade They can be knit, crochet, quilted, woven, whatever.

The exhibit is fluid and ever-growing. The Hyde Park Herald has posted some photos of incoming blankets here.

According to the museum's website, the exhibit opens in an empty gallery, which will serve as a receiving station to sort, document and store donated blankets. Over the exhibit run, blankets will accumulate in the gallery transforming the space from a sparse, empty space into a visually exciting installation of the handmade blankets.

Visitors to the museum are invited to spend time knitting in the gallery, as well as to attend a series of public programs focused on human rights, immigration and artistic activism.

When the installation closes in December, the blankets will be distributed through community partners including immigration organizations and refugee resettlement agencies.

 It's not too late to submit a blanket. The mail-in deadline is September 5.

Directions to participate, as well as patterns and mailing instructions are here.

And if you're near Chicago, please visit. Take some pictures and share them. Admission is free!

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.