My Summer of Weaving Part II

Luck or Fate allowed me to move from the waiting list to active student for Vavstuga Weaving School’s Basic class.

What a wonder THAT experience was!  I didn’t take nearly enough pictures to convey the experience and the atmosphere!

 If falling into the basics class wasn’t cool enough – just before it was about to start, I got a Newsletter that mentioned the Linen class had an opening. Since I was already signed up for Basics, I could take the Linen class. OK – How could I pass up this opportunity??? Everything I learned in basics would be reinforced in the next class.

My Personal Favorite - made with my hand spun Linen
My Personal Favorite – made with my hand spun Linen

MyLinen

Linen from Seed to Cloth Vavstuga Weaving School

The Linen class was everything I had hoped it would be.  We traveled out to Shelburne Falls, MA – got set up on Country Aire campground (using our super spiffy Winnebago View) and had a lovely dinner and relaxing evening before the WEAVING marathon!

Just to get you started, look at a few of the photos of finished Products to give inspiration.

Note: when you go to Vavstuga, you will work and you will weave, weave, weave. You might want to train for this intensive activity. Make sure you are up for it! You will use all your powers of concentration, coordination (feet!) and rhythm while working on these wonderful looms. By the end of each day you WILL be tired, but you will also feel content and happy.

Day 1 This is a flax plant!

We took dried flax plants and rolled them with a marble roller, shook them and rubbed them to harvest the very small, flat, dark seeds! You NEED these seeds to plant more flax! 

Harvesting seed — these pictures were from the first and last day.  On the last day Becky spent time filtering out the seeds from the other material created by rubbing and rolling the flax heads, while we worked on displaying all of our hard work.

Then we took a field (haha) trip to the Flax house. Everyone had a strick of flax from Sweden to work with. Becky taught us how to use 3 grades of flax hackles to comb the tow out of the stricks and prepare them for spinning. These stricks didn’t really need to be hackled, but it made them nice and fluffy and gave us some tow to spin. Spinning tow is like spinning wool – BUT you have to fluff it up really nice before you begin. We spent the next hour or so spinning our tow. The afternoon was spent weaving on our projects, of which there was a total of 6.

These pictures show two separate days when we used the flax house for hackling our stricks.  I liked to come early in the morning and spend an half hour or so just spinning and enjoying the morning light streaming through the windows of the flax house.

Day 2 Dressing a distaff.

Now that we had tow, we also had line flax – this will be spun into line linen, for that you need a distaff. You can dry spin line flax, but – you should really wet spin it, which means that you wet your fingers, preferably with your saliva while spinning. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this, but it’s no big deal! If it makes a better product, I’m all for it.

These are pictures taken after the instruction — sorry I was so wrapped up in paying attention to this new skill that I forgot to snap a few pictures!

Later we talked about dew retting as opposed to water retting. In order to prepare the plant for hackling and then spinning, we needed to separate the fiber from the straw (the core of the plant – is like a skinny straw and it’s in the middle – we gotta get rid of that part). The trick is controlled rotting. Dew retting is just letting the plants lay on the grass and have dew and sun help us out a bit. Water retting is all about putting the plant in water which gets nice and warm – promoting a different kind of bacteria to break down the plant. Water retting gives a nice pale color, dew retting gives rich darker colors.

The rest of the day was spent weaving, using some of our handspun tow in the rustic runner and/or in the overshot project.

Day 3 Braking and Scutching

To separate the retted flax straw from the fiber you have to CRUNCH it and SCRAPE it – crunching is called Braking and you use a Flax Brake. Scraping is called scutching and you use a scutching knife and a scraper. It’s all about braking the fiber away from the core and getting rid of as much of that straw as possible before hackling it. There were a few farm chores – flipping the dew retted flax, and emptying out the water for the water retted flax.

Once the flax chores were done it was back to the barn and the weaving looms. What’s it like to weave with Single Ply linen? It means that you MUST pay attention to the warp and not just the pattern you are weaving. Look at the shed – are there gaps? Look at the warp passing through the heddles – is fuzz beginning to build up – why is that happening? Look behind the heddles – are there any warp threads hanging down?

With single ply Linen, warp breaks, it’s just a fact of life. Learn how to properly fix a broken warp thread and you will weave on with confidence and you won’t try to avoid finding those pesky broken warp threads! The sooner you catch them, the better off you’ll be.

Day 4 More spinning More Weaving

Finish up any spinning you wanted to do and finish up your weaving projects. Everyone was really keeping up with the projects and the spinning time was very relaxing. I was sure I would not like spinning line flax, but I was totally enraptured by it!

The water retted flax needed to have 1/5 of the water replaced and this would continue for a few more days, until the flax plant showed signs that the fiber was beginning to separate from the straw.

The afternoon class was a wrap up of the flax processing cycle and a show and tell of all the different colors of Flax that you can get! It was a pretty cool class.

Day 5 Wrapping it all Up

Time to finish weaving, cut off all our pieces, show them off and wrap up any other chores to be done before going for lunch in town.

Wrapping it up

Displaying our work

Becky thought it would be nice to take the table top outside against the side of the barn and display our work there.  Emily and I (I’m the older one — on the left) held the draw loom projects — as a single length of warp for all to admire!

OUR Weaving Projects:

Draw Loom – you could design your own project for the single unit draw loom, or use one that Becky set up for you.  This project used 16/2 linen for warp and 8/1 Tow for weft.  It was on a Single Unit Draw loom in 6 shaft satin with 140 units.

DrawLoom

6 Shaft Basket Weave Table Runner – I LOVED this project and plan on recreating it as a full sized table cloth. Warp and weft are 16/1 Tow linen.  Colors are Red, Gold, Bright Green and Blue.

DSC_0003

Rustic Runner – The idea here is to showcase your handspun and/or use various weights of commercial linen tow and line, weave structures could be plain weave, basket weave, twill or any combination of the above. I pretty much stuck with a very open plain weave.  The warp is 12/1 Line Linen — unbleached.  Weft is various weights of commercial and handspun.

RusticTableRunner

Overshot Runners– There were 2 of these using different warps. One was Daldrall Krus Och Rand with 12/1 Line linen warp and weft (or you could use handspun) The other was Leksandskrus Daldrall in 20/1 white line linen – it was really delicate and beautiful, well worth the occasional broken warp thread.

Overshot

Twill Sauna Towel – the was a 4 shaft twill – nice and easy yet elegant with an occasional pair of bleached warp threads between twill sections. It used 8/1 Tow Linen for warp and weft.

Saunatowel

8-Shaft Fancy Twill – this was the only project (besides the Draw Loom) with 2 ply warp. The warp was 16/2 black and the weft was the color of your choice in 16/1. The design was totally fun and the treadling fairly straight forward.

8 Shaft Fancy Twill
8 Shaft Fancy Twill

I can’t go without telling you what a wonderful environment the Farm House provides for spinning and weaving.  It was beautiful and peaceful; a true etheric delight.  I tried to take a range of photos that would give you a taste!

The Farm

 

I was inspired again — now what to do for a distaff — I saw a picture on the BridgeLampDistaffinternet of someone who used an old bridge lamp — glorioski — I HAVE one of those!

I shook out my braid, spread out the fibers and used one of my cotton ties to gently attach it to the top of the bridge lamp.

 

 

BridgeLampDistaff-001

 

Now I can place my “distaff” wherever it is best for me and my wheel!  DANDY!

 

My Summer of Weaving – Part I

I have had the best Summer of recent history THIS year – the Summer of 2017. This was the year I retired and turned 60. I have always worked – since I was in 7th grade. Not full time, mind you, but I always had some kind of job. My last job was as a High School computer science and math teacher. I was REALLY ready to retire.

In the first month of my last year of teaching I bought a Glimakra Standard 120 cm Vertical Countermarch loom. I knew after doing a little research that this was the loom for me. I sold a LOT of equipment to pay for it, and to pay for the Basics Class at Vavstuga Weaving School in Massachusetts. You don’t HAVE to have a Glimakra loom to benefit from this class, but if you DO have one, well ….. it’s a godsend, since all their looms are Swedish style looms. Even in January, it was too late to sign up for the Summer classes, but I asked to be put on the waiting list for any August classes that opened up. Much to my shock and surprise I was contacted in June – an opening had occurred in the July 31 – August 4 basics class – how lovely – starting on my birthday, and ending on my first born son’s birthday. Isn’t fate lovely??

If you are a weaver, if you want to be a weaver, if you have dabbled in weaving you NEED to go to Vavstuga! You will have a week long, intensive experience that will change the way you think about weaving.

Where did I put my school projects??

Basics Class at Vavstuga Weaving School

In order to take most of the classes, you have to take the Basics class, but don’t poo-poo it! I have been weaving for over 15 years (off and on) and my mind was exploding with all the great information I gleanedBasicsClassProjects from this totally awesome class! There were many “aha” moments, and many more “why didn’t I think of that??” moments as well. Becky Ashenden is a great teacher — very organized and focused, but she is also just a Hoot and TOO MUCH FUN!

We had students who had Swedish Looms, Jack Looms and even a Rigid Heddle loom! EVERYONE learned skills that they could take home and apply to their chosen weaving tool.

We wove a small wool blanket, a Cottolin/Cotton square table cloth, a Cottolin/Linen towel with a hanger band (made on the band loom) and a Linen Block Weave Sample (nice for the center of a table) on all 8 shafts.

Each of the looms was in a different state of readiness for weaving. Two looms – with cottolin/linen towels were ready to go. Two Looms – Cotton/Cottolin Table cloths needed to be threaded and tied on and have the Tie up done. The two looms with linen warp and weft were ready to be threaded, tied on, tied FirstDayup as well – these were reserved for dressing the loom with a buddy! I think I’ll have my friend Shelly come and buddy warp with me from now on – it’s pretty fun.   The two looms that would become the lap blanket had to be dressed from scratch, wind the warp (using a warping mill), beam it (using the trapeze method), thread it (with a buddy) Tie it on and do the Tie up (heddles/lamms/treadles). By the time you were done – you KNEW how to dress a Swedish loom!

The rest of the week was spent weaving, half of the second day through the morning of the fifth day. Most of us were finished on Thursday evening and spent the morning in our fringe twisting party on the porch.FringeTwisting-001

EACH day there were also morning and afternoon classes on reading and creating pattern drafts, planning projects and analyzing weave structures from woven cloth. The days were structured and JAM packed with information. Lunch was also included in the class fee and they were wonderful! Kim is a super cook and meal planner.

We also had a traditional Swedish diner at Becky’s childhood home – the Farm house. It was a very special evening. The food was wonderful and we all had a lovely time chatting around the large dining table. Of course, everywhere you go, whether it is the water street studio or the farmhouses, there are fabulous woven household items; rugs, placemats, tablecloths, curtains, blankets, napkins, hand towels. Just hanging around either studio is inspirational. I am looking at my home AND my RV with an eye to adding hand woven items! After dinner we had a tour of the MANY looms in the house, all dressed with projects. Most of the looms at the farm house are draw looms, individual draw or shaft draw, and Becky treated us to a showing of her many finished projects – mostly done on draw looms. A life spent weaving is full of beauty.

FromTheDrawLoom-004

The week SPED by — I couldn’t believe how fast all this fun ended!

I was SO inspired by my experience that when I got home (2 weeks down time before heading off again) I dressed my loom with a project called the Country Kitchen Checked Cloth – a 40.5” (width in reed) 58” table cloth made from Cottolin (Bleached, Unbleached, Brown & Red). It has 976 ends and took me 4 days to dress the loom. I warped for 2 table cloths – and they are going to be fabulous.

CountryCheckedCloth-001

ALL the pictures:

Migration!

Don’t you just love computers, servers, websites, hosting???

I DO NOT!  Every time I have to make a major change — it is total chaos.  I share my hosting space with a few friends, and at some point one of them was having problems because my host was designated as a “spam” provider.  Major upset!

So I found a new hosting service and transferred all but one site over.  Everything seemed fine, and we were happily swimming along in the pond, until — problems, problems, and more problems.  At least twice a month, I was trouble shooting some lack of connection issue.

So — switch back to the original provider, right?

Well …. I am still trying to figure things out!

::super frustrated, angry, sad, bummed::

Thinking of joining the “Flat Earth Society”

Tapestry is FUN — especially when you have a Teacher

Finally – I warped the loom, wove in some TP to spread the warp threads, and then just admired it — without a clue as to how to proceed.  I suppose I could haul out the 3 or 4 tapestry books that I collected a few months ago.  Somehow, though reading about what to do was just not helping me VISUALIZE it!

I had heard about Rebecca Mezoff and her online classes, but I was a tad skeptical.  How was THAT going to work out???

I emailed Rebecca with my LIST of questions, and she gave me several options.  One of them worked perfectly for me.  I started the 6 month Self-Directed, All-in-One (parts 1, 2 and 3) class.

I have to say that this was the BEST decision!  The videos are so professional, informational and even, entertaining. I am making progress, and have even worked up a small design that will help me learn vertical slits and irregular hatching — I feel like such a pro.  The program Rebecca uses is called Pathwright and it is a very cool interface, and keeps track of all of your lessons.  It always lets me know where I left off (which is good for old gals like me, who can’t seem to remember ANYTHING!)

I even arranged my studio space to make it more convenient to weave on the vertical Loom, bought a LOT of Harrisville designs Highland yarn (I am also selling this yarn in 50 yard skeins, AND purchased a Mirrix Zach loom — 22″ width.

I am SO EXCITED.

In my Mind’s Eye

Ever since acquiring the Crisp Ruthie Tapestry loom, I have had visions of the paintings I would make.  They come to me at odd times, sometimes while swimming, sometimes just as I awake in the morning.  I see the colors and textures of the different yarns in my GROWING collection of handspun intertwining into a beautiful, abstract expression of form and color.

DSC_0002It is Now February 2015 and Ruthie came to live with me in the beginning of April 2014.  I have been “dreaming” an awfully long time!  What has caused this prolonged contemplation?  Who knows.  I find that as I have aged that my ability to procrastinate has greatly improved.  In my early years, if I was anxious about something then I would plunge headlong, both feet in, with Gusto!  I seem to be lacking that kind of confidence these days.

I wound 172 ends of linen/cotton warp months ago — September I think.  Thank God I labeled it (# yards, #ends) because looking at it the other day, I was at a complete loss as to its measure.  I work in Chardon, teaching Geometry, and we have had EXTENDED snow days due to the extreme cold — what do they call them — ah Arctic Blasts, or Arctic Vortex (which sounds MUCH worse).  Anyway,  I organized my work spaces, wrote to a friend for instructions on how to warp a vertical loom, finished up a spindle project, putzed around, and finally decided that Saturday would be the day to dress my poor naked girl (Saturday being the warmest of the most recent Artic Vortex days).

ruthieI feel silly,  it was absurdly easy to dress this loom, even winding the ends onto the back beam was a breeze – though I did enlist hubby to supervise the weighted ends, and lend moral support.  The reed was horizontal, so sleying it was easy, no tool needed, and no sore muscles afterward.  I threaded and tied to the back rod in groups of 8, again, easy and pain free — I did this from a standing position, taking an occasional break to WARM up by the fire.

After tying on to the front bar, I “wove” in a header of toilet paper to space out the threads, and then some pearl cotton.  Now she is ready.  The dreams I have had can find expression in the form of this simple device.  Somehow I must recall the energy and fearlessness of my youth and plunge forward, bobbins and yarn in hand to Create!