Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ring out the old...

Just a few pictures so I can squeeze in one more post while it is still 2013! They are things in progress that have been worked on over the past few months.

But first, a kitty picture. As of November 30, Beatrice has lived with me for a whole year. She is truly a different kitty than the one I brought home--she is affectionate and talkative, and has relaxed enough to be curious and sit on pieces of paper, and I can walk over to her and pet her and she doesn't skitter away--unless she has a reason of the sort discernable only to cats. This is the characteristic loungy kitty pose, in which most bathing takes place.

A tapestry sampler and an embroidery, both of which were started several archaeological layers ago:

Happy New Year!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Triangular Tidbit

A number of years back I became enthralled with Central Asian triangular amulets. Where did this all start? Reading "The Afghan Amulet: Travels from the Hindu Kush to Razgrad" by the intrepid Sheila Paine, and her book "Amulets: Sacred Charms of Power and Protection," not long after. Many of the triangular amulets I have spotted in pictures since then are really simple, barely more than triangles of fabric scraps. Some are more elaborate, and naturally I needed to make an elaborate one. I'm also quite smitten by mirror embroidery, so mine needed a mirror. And, lest the result be too stuffy, a googly eye. (Against the evil eye, get it?)

The mirror and the eye are attached with shisha stitch, and supplemented with smatterings of [uninspired] embroidery. At some point I produced a fingerloop braid to hang it by, and then it went dormant. It was in this stage for at least--yikes, maybe four years? Ladle Bug*** is observing:

(Seriously, Blogger? Why do you insist on rotating this?)

Recently I came across it--still miraculously in concert with its fingerloop braids and its assortment of cloves. Cloves were used on some amulets, and I had cloves, so I thought I should include them. The ones I used I believe I salvaged after making chai. While they were sodden, I stuck them on pins to make holes for eventual sewing purposes, and left them on the pins while they dried to prevent the holes from shrinking so small I couldn't get a threaded needle through them. So there were two or three straight pins full of dried cloves tagging along with the other ingredients.

Here it is--made three dimensional, cloves attached, tassels in progress. I wanted fancy tassel heads, and so I figured a bit of padding was in order (hence the black circles). Each bunch of cloves is on a short piece of wire with a rolled up loop at each end to stitch through. I think I would just use thread another time.

A close-up of buttonholing in progress, and a view of the tassel fringe. It is overtwisted and plied back on itself after a bead was positioned at the bend--so, no cut ends.

Linen is not satisfactory for this, being resistant and not having much body once you get done. Also, there has to be a better way to do it; I would love to watch a Central Asian woman make this kind of twisted fringe--they manage to do the overtwisting and beads AND incorporate that into a woven or twined band. I have to ponder a bit more and maybe do some experimenting. Or maybe I'm on the right track and the reason I used shortish lengths of string is why they change colors frequently...they are also using short pieces of string, because maybe it's just a pain to do.

Here is the amulet, finished:

And one more of the in-process photos, so you get the shiny mirror effect:

I think the only reason this remained unfinished for so long was that I got stuck on what to do with the embroidery. But this summer when I found it I decided--whatever, I just want it done, and I left the embroidery as it was. It is nicer done than waiting in limbo for a solution. It has been hanging by my desk at work for almost two months now; I cannot attest to noticing any effect. I think evil eye may not be a problem in Hillsboro, and this particular amulet doesn't seem to alleviate any normal work irritations--but I enjoy looking at it, so it helps in that way!

***Ladle Bug, aka Spoon Bug, joined my household a few years ago. I have a card saying, "Briana Kaufmann and Peter Neufeld."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Acrylic Interlude

Last Sunday, Kim and I attended the Open Painting session at The Loaded Brush. We had a really good time, and I have a new, completely-finished painting on my wall--and it's BIG by my normal standards, 16x20. I really need to paint more. It's so fast!

Curious how the last owl I made was also pink! Pink is not my favorite color, or even my second or my fifth favorite color. But it is cheery. Hot pink is pretty good, especially with orange. (This may be a side effect from having lived in New Mexico.) I think that's how this owl ended up pink--hmmm, the background is red and orange and yellow. Pink will match. Plus, I'm not very good with mixing colors, so staying reasonably analogous helps.

Here they are together for scale:

Before the painting class, I had thought, "Owl." Then, warm or cool? At the class, I got paint and went back to my easel...and I had red and yellow and white, so obviously warm was the choice. It will end up hanging in my studio, but for now it is on the much more accessible wall by my dining table.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Rose Tea & Velvet, Part II

On to the weaving! First, though, the allusion to rose tea is because that was the beverage of choice for the weekend afternoon velvet weaving sessions. Kim gave me some rose tea in December, and I was so smitten I bought more early this year. It's almost gone!

(Rose Petal Tea from Republic of Tea)

Okay, now really on to the weaving.

Once you're all set up, the weaving seems like a piece of cake. Basically, you weave three rows of ground weft (the same yarn as the ground warp) using both the ground warp and the pile warp. This will hold everything in position. Then for one row you lift only the pile warp and "weave" in a pair of thin brass strips. Then three more rows of ground weft with both sets of warp, then only the pile warp with brass strips. An authentic setup actually has a tiny (brass?) rod with a groove instead, but those are not commercially available. Quarter-inch wide brass strips can be found in hobby stores.

Three times...and then you are out of brass strips, because you only have three pairs.

THAT is when the fun really starts, because you take out a scalpel and slide it along between the brass strips, slicing your looped pile warp into genuine fuzzy pile. Ooh. Then you pet it, and weave the brass strips into the next spot. And on you go, with more fuzziness to pet each time you cut.

The worst striation is from tension issues with the pile warp--that is the main problem I will have to resolve the next time I try this. We had 1/2 ounce fishing weights, one per bobbin of pile warp, but those were actually way too heavy for what I needed, and I ended up taking them off and dealing with insufficient weight instead. It got pretty aggravating, but the results were better. Not fantastic, but better; with the too-heavy weights, the ground weft wouldn't stay firmly in place, and the tufts of pile didn't touch.

Why do you need weights anyway? Well, the pile warp weighs something. I found that I used about 10 inches of pile warp for every two inches of weaving...as you use up thread, the bobbins dangling from the cantra weigh less. The pile warp doesn't stay firmly wrapped over the brass strips, and it doesn't cut as evenly, even using the "hold your breath or exhale as you cut in one smooth pass" technique Barbara Setsu Pickett taught us. Next time around, I will try smallish washers as weight, so I can adjust it more incrementally.

As I mentioned, there is more take-up of the pile warp than the ground warp (i.e. you use more pile warp). If you had two back beams on your loom, you could theoretically wind ground warp on one and pile warp on another--except then you can't weave patterns in the velvet, because patterning means using different amounts of each warp group. To allow using different amounts, they really each have to be wound separately, and weighted so the pile warp is taut enough to behave.

I tried some simple patterning--sometimes weaving loops (called uncut velvet, when you just pull the rods out instead of cutting between them) or just not weaving pile at all in spots, which is called voided velvet. The blue square that miraculously appears from nowhere is a supplementary pile warp. I inserted it after the fact and let me tell you, it was very aggravating to weave! I could have improved it but it would have taken longer than being aggravated, so I opted for less time fiddling with setup and dealt with the aggravation since I only planned on a tiny section anyway.

With more harnesses on your loom (I only had four on the rented Rasmussen table loom) you can have several colors of pile warp to choose between, each threaded through its own harness. To switch colors, lift just the one you want to use. Next time I will *plan* to try it, instead of being spontaneous, and I will insert the extra set of warps in the beginning, and make string heddles to lift them (because my loom only has four harnesses, too).

Fun perspective:

And finally, off-loom velvet posing:

Pictures and info from elsewhere:
* Scroll down to see samples by Barbara Setsu Pickett with rods left in place.
* Adventures in Velvet Weaving by Suzi Gough; Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers 221, March 2007 (this is a cached pdf which will download for you to read) The author took a similar workshop from Barbara, and wrote it up in greater detail.
* Blog post by someone who was in the same workshop as me and who also took better pictures.
* Barbara Setsu Pickett is also leading a study tour of velvet ateliers in Italy, for the Textile Society of America (webpage inaccessible at the moment). It looks quite excellent; if you have a bunch of extra vacation days and an even bigger bunch of dollars, you should go!
* Barbara Setsu Pickett at the loom--check out the little velvet books she makes from her weavings!
* Lisio Foundation (Florence) - velvet and brocade weaving

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rose Tea & Velvet: Part I

In late April I took a workshop offered by the Portland Handweavers Guild: velvet weaving with Barbara Setsu Pickett. It was intensive and informative; if you enjoy lengthy preparations, slow progress, and sumptuous results, velvet weaving may be for you!

Woven fabric in a very basic form consists of a set of threads on the loom (the warp) and a thread that goes back and forth (the weft). The velvet structure that I wove has two sets of warp threads: a ground warp and a pile warp, which will become the fuzziness. You need LOTS more of the pile warp, so you can't just wind it on the loom with the ground warp.

Each pile warp is actually a bunch of threads. I wove what Barbara calls "macro velvet" which is a larger scale. The pile warp consists of a bundle of twenty sewing threads. There are six of these bundles per inch of weaving width; I needed twenty four for my sample. Each bundle is wound up on a separate bobbin (we used netting shuttles).

I brought blue thread. On a cone, since that has a lot of thread. My brain did not pick up on the fact that we needed twenty...or rather, I assumed I could just wind off twenty spools and wind my bobbins from that. Well, yes, but it takes ages and ages and even more ages. I wound my twenty spools--actually quills, pieces of paper wound into little tubes. And lo, the quills were too small to fit on the spool racks that were available. Fortunately Barbara had thread for us to use; I wound the majority of my bobbins from her thread.

But of course I absolutely refused to abandon the thread that I had so laboriously wound onto quills. At home that night I rigged up my own spool rack with an empty tissue box and an entire multi-pack of double-pointed knitting needles that I fortuitously had on hand, and I wound some bobbins. There is a fabric-covered brick at each end holding it in place (normally they are bookbinding weights) and I threaded the strands between several pegs on my warping board for tensioning as I wound.

It took ***exponentially*** more time to prepare all this than it did to wind the six bobbins I filled. I will not do it this way again. [The picture is not supposed to be sideways but that's how it loaded...]

All of these bobbins have to be organized somehow while you're weaving. That's where the cantra, or bobbin rack, comes in. The pile warps attach to the front of the loom along with the ground warp, and thread through the heddles that will lift them when required, and then each bobbin of the pile warp hangs over the cantra so they don't snag or get tangled during weaving.

I took the previous picture at the workshop before I put in the horizontal rod that brings the pile warp down to the level of the ground warp; you can see the rod added in this picture I took once I had this all set up at home after the workshop ended:

It is advisable to conceal this setup from cats.

[Drat, this picture turned itself around, too.]

As you weave and use up pile warp, the bobbins ride up. Pay attention or they wedge themselves into the cantra...unwind them to release as much more thread as possible, so you don't have to stop weaving quite as often.

This seems about long enough; the next installment will be about weaving, finally, after all this time setting up!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Settling In

Last Saturday was six months since I brought the sweet, terrified kitty home. She is a different creature these days! "Pet me now...but you have to follow me into the bedroom in order to do it."

A week ago Wednesday, Beatrice joined me on the futon for the very first time, hooray! She has since taken to sitting there by herself. "Why should I recline on the floor by you when I can sit on the futon?" Doesn't she look like an expert?

She is very snuggly in the morning, often curling up half on me, strategically situated to be sure I can pet her. And she doesn't automatically run away all the time anymore--sometimes she pauses and then stays put. Sometimes she flees to under-the-bed, and then pops back out. Not too much longer, and I expect she will meet me at the door when I come home, instead of sitting just around the corner in the bedroom doorway and watching intently to be sure it's me. Such progress!

And speaking of progress, there really has been textile stuff happening: velvet pictures are in the near future.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Stripy Valentine

Apparently this is my 100th post. It's not the topic I planned - and it's also much more delayed than I had intended!

I am pleased to introduce the new kitty of the household. Please say hello to Beatrice:

She came to live with me nearly three months ago. I adopted her from the Cat Adoption Team, a local no-kill cat shelter that evaluates their kitties for personality, to make it more likely that they will stay adopted. I picked the personality that sounded most like Princess, part of the reason being that that kind of kitty can handle being alone a lot. Next, the kitty had to look NOT like Princess - and despite how completely different Beatrice looks, it was still really strange the first week or so to have "my kitty" mean a stripy kitty and not a fluffy black and white one. Part of my brain was seriously baffled.

Beatrice spent most of the first week hiding in the studio bathroom. She was *thrilled* for chin scratches and excited for petting - and would hide behind the toilet if my sleeve made the softest whisper. Eventually she skulked out into the studio, but it was too scary out there, especially if I was there, and she would run back to the bathroom for petting. Darting behind the toilet was her "reset" button every single time she got startled. After two weeks I opened the door to the rest of the apartment: her first exploratory foray lasted nearly 30 seconds before she bolted back to the studio, not venturing forth for another day or more.

After a month of nearly daily practice, she relaxed when I picked her up - she had purred before, but stiffened. At some point she discovered Under The Bed, which is now her main hangout. By about a month ago, she'd gotten brave enough to sleep on the bed with me, and will join me almost immediately. Last week she tried out my pillow.

Sometimes I can walk past her without her bolting away; under the right conditions she will even come to me for petting. It is very endearing to see her lift her chin for a scratch...when she's too far away to reach! And it's downright funny when she loses her balance because she was expecting my hand to be supporting her, despite the fact that I can't reach her. She's *very* relaxed when I'm horizontal in bed, and requests petting verbally. She is exponentially more talkative than Princess. "I saw you move! Are you getting up? I want breakfast. Pet me!"

The living room is still not popular as a hangout; occasionally late at night she will lurk just around the corner, but it's mainly so she knows right away when I'm going to bed. Mornings, there is sometimes good bird television:

She's not yet performing full Household Kitty Duties, but she's come a long way since the sweet, terrified kitty she was in November. She is super soft and ought to be sooo snuggly; I will have to be patient.

Oh my, she just walked into the living room! I said hello, and she's still sitting there. At the beginning, she used to run off if I so much as looked at her, never mind saying anything. :) Now she is ambling off behind the futon. It's so good to have a kitty again.