Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spinning wheels

Spinning to learn. Spinning for fun.

My wheel with Corriedale yarn on the bobbin
Several months ago, I signed up for a two-day spinning workshop in Southern New Jersey. It sounded like a lovely way to decompress from a family wedding planned for the prior weekend. It was.

Although I've been spinning for years (and years and years), I am not a great spinner. I can spin. I like to spin, but it's not my sole focus. I tend to spin a little a lot of days and my resulting yarn is  "so-so." OK. Not great. So I'm always interested in improving my skills.

Third Star planned two workshops--weaving with Karen Donde and spinning with Beth Smith. I did Karen's workshop last fall--the exact one--so signed up for spinning. I knew of Beth Smith and had recently used her scouring method to process a fleece. (Heads up: She is on the roster at the MidAtlantic Fiber Association's 2017 conference next summer.)
Beth Smith wearing one of her many crowns

What a fun learning weekend! I did more with the fleece from a greater number of different sheep breeds than I ever have. We prepped--hand carded, combed, teased and flicked. We spun from roving, combed tops, locks, and milled roving in short forward draw, supported long draw and unsupported long draw. I learned....a  lot.

Happy 40th Anniversary!

The Guild was celebrating their fortieth anniversary with the workshops, but they also included public outreach in the mix. On Saturday evening, they held a celebration dinner, made a marbleized silk scarf and mounted an exhibit of guild members' creations. I loved their show and took a couple of photos (below).
Third Star Fibre Artists Guild Show and Sale: ( L) Various guild members. (R) Annette Devitt's work.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Extreme views

From the ordinary to the extraordinary

L. Ralph Lauren pantsuit, 2013. R. British mess jackets
The two exhibits currently a the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York couldn't be more different. One focuses on the influence of uniforms--school, sports, military, service industry--on mainstream fashion. The other focuses on one woman's collection of high-end couture fashion.

Both are excellent. And both are free.

Fashion inspired by the ordinary

The Uniformity exhibit, which is in the Fashion & Textile Gallery on the main floor, opens with two  British military "mess dress" jackets c. 1900. The  elaborate braid and soutache patterns, which once served as protection in hand-to-hand combat, continue to inspire contemporary fashion designers. One example is seen below in garments by Yves St. Laurent and Ralph Lauren.
L. Yves St. Laurent, 1967. R. Perry Ellis, 1983

With a focus on four categories of uniforms--military, work, school, and sports--the exhibit provides examples and detailed information to show direct relationships between uniforms and fashion. 

According to signage, Yves Saint Laurent began experimenting with military elements in the mid-60's. Re-appropriating the naval peacoat, his navy blue, double-breasted jacket became one of his signature styles. On a very personal note, his 1967 ensemble (left) is remarkably like the navy blue dress and jacket I made for my going-away suit (remember those?) in.....1967!

Most viewers will be familiar with each and every uniform as well as its vestige in modern interpretation. I think the personal connections make this an engaging show and well worth a visit. 

Uniformity runs through November 19, 2016.

Fashion as unique creations

Distinctly different and on the opposite end of anything derived from lowly uniforms are the extraordinary fashions from the wardrobe of √Člisabeth de Caraman-Chimay, the Countess Greffulhe (1860–1952). The exhibit, Proust's Muse: The Countess Greffulhe, is in FIT's Special Exhibitions Gallery. 

Based on a Paris exhibition organized by Olivier Saillard, director of the Palais Galliera, Mus√©e de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, which is the repository of the countess's wardrobe, this exhibit is a collaboration of Saillard and Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT.

Unfortunately, no photos are permitted in the exhibit so you'll have to make a trip to personally drool over the truly spectacular garments.

Proust's Muse: The Countess Greffulhe runs through January 7, 2017.

Can't possibly make it in person? Check out the museum's online virtual tours at Uniformity and Proust's Muse: The Countess Greffulhe.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Saturday in Brooklyn

Celebrating five years of friends and fiber

River Valley Farm's paper sheep took shelter from the rain
This was the fifth year for the Kings County Fiber Festival. Held in Park Slope in  Brooklyn, N.Y. on the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend the festival is now a part of family history. Son Steven connected Maxine de Gouttes, organizer of the event and then owner of Stitch Therapy knitting shop in Brooklyn, with his sister Kris of Winter's Past Farm who became part of the first group to participate in the festival.

Each year, more people attend the festival and there are more group activities at the historic Old Stone House in the park. The park is also the site of a children's playground so the area buzzes with activity.

Spin City spinners and weavers
practice for competition
It's here that the Spin City Shawl Team does a practice run for Rhinebeck's Sheep to Shawl competitions. Unfortunately, I'll miss not only the competition, but the group in full costume when they go head-to-head with other sheep-to-shawl teams from the region. (Few things interfere with fiber festivals, but this one takes precedence over everything else. My son is getting married.)

Knitting with hands

Also at the Old Stone House was a large group learning to knit without needles. Lion Brand Yarn donated the yarn--and bags to hold the creations. People of all ages took advantage of the opportunity and some made some pretty large shawls!

Winter's Past Farm booth ready for business

Most of the day was just about perfect for being outdoors. It was cloudy but comfortable until about 3 p.m., when it started to drizzle. Not enough to bail but enough that we needed to make the booth into a three-sided plastic cocoon. By the time it was raining steadily, it was time to pack up. 

It was all great fun!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Warp to weave

Where to begin?

There has been a Weavers' Study Group in The South Jersey Guild of Spinners and Handweavers off and on for years but there was concern that enthusiasm was flagging. The community is great. Study and growth, not so much. 

The study group leader, Helena, and I wondered why. To find out, we surveyed guild members who had indicated interest in weaving. We wanted buy-in and we wanted to know what the weavers wanted to do. And to help plan a program, we also wanted to know what kind of equipment is in use? What are the levels of expertise? What are  comfort levels reading a draft and warping a loom? And what kind of project are members most interested in pursuing?

As expected, we found a wide range of interests, equipment and abilities. So where to start?  Several people didn't feel comfortable reading a draft or warping a loom by themselves and certain, we settled on a program that started with the basics--reading a draft and warping a loom. A weaver can't do one without the other. 

Weaving Basics: Warp to Weave

The resulting program started with drafts and progressed through warping a loom. Helena  walked everyone through reading a draft. She included both commonly found types of drafts, American and Swedish. Then we moved on to warping.

We talked about nitty-gritty preparations ranging from how to calculate uptake, etc. through winding a warp, tying a cross, and securing the warp. And as we talked, we did it. 

An interesting point of discussion centered on calculations and was a repeat of a conversation between Helena and me: How to calculate for take-up and shrinkage in a project's width. For years, I've simply added about 15 percent. Online calculators such as Weavolution also use what I'm calling 'the add-on' amount. But another way of calculating the width is to consider the desired width as 85 percent of the total, which would calculate take-up and shrinkage by dividing the total width by 0.85. 

The numbers don't differ a great deal on smaller items, but on a wider piece could be significant. Of course, these calculations aren't necessary if the diligent weaver has made a sample and processed it. Raise your hand if you always do that. I didn't think so.

When it comes to warping a loom, several participants seemed relieved that the process is not an 'either/or.' In fact, there is only one absolute to warping a loom and that is to maintain control of the threads until they're threaded and beamed. 

Personal preference guides whether to warp back-to-front or front-to-back, too. Experienced weavers more commonly start at the back of the loom but that doesn't mean starting at the front is wrong. It's not. 


As weavers share, each of us constantly picks up tips or a little trick to make the job easier. For me, it was shoelaces. Tying them on the front beam and using them as connectors makes it easy to adjust tension. Great tip. Thank you, Helena. (Click here to see how one weaver explains it.)

We moved on to demonstrate warping the loom. I had an undressed loom and a wound warp and Helena had brought a loom that was mostly warped so we could move from the getting it on the back beam to threading.

If you're in the South Jersey are, join us on the first Saturday of each month. And if not, look for a guild near you.

Click to access the Warp to Weave handout, which also has links to online resources, including one to a video on warping a loom back-to-front.