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.

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.