Thursday 31 December 2009

Christmas Decorations

We have a collection of Christmas tree ornaments which have been collected over the years. The ones I like are the embroidered or textiley ones. Top left were bought in Los Angeles Chinatown in December 1980!!! They are still as sharp-cut as they were when bought. The three doves at top right were bought in Circencester when my daughter, Anne lived there which must be more than 12 years ago. The blue doll with violin was bought in Munich many years ago and the straw doll was acquired at a craft Market about 10 years. But just to show that not everything we have is a dusty antique, the peacock which is 8 inches long was bought in Cheltenham in December 2008.

These thoughts were triggered off by seeing photos of vegetable decorations including garlic. I have never seen anything like these!! See for yourself

I am working on the 'Rainbow' and have generated 2 pages. I think there will be 9 or 10 in all.

Wednesday 30 December 2009


The weaving is just going ahead. The sample had its photo took - Michael was practising and it must have taken 2 hours - setting up lights, no that won't do, how about the halogen light? Much shifting of furniture. Holding up a huge sheet of white mount board as a reflector which helped. Getting the colours right and the weave properly focussed is the trick - which we did not bring off. So we restored the house to order and Michael went off to think. He tells me he has discovered an error in the manual and we need to try again. Well maybe but not for a day or two.

The sample was 24 inches wide in the reed, 22.5 inch off the loom and slightly less than 22 inch after washing and ironing. The length reduced from 37.4 to 37 inch after washing. The off-loom width of 22.5 inch is in spite of using a temple which stretched the fabric to just less than 24 inches. The sample seems sound enough in weave. It is worth mentioning that this piece of fabric weighs all of 57 grams (about 2 ounces)!

In the gaps of weaving, I have been thinking about my project for a Japanese style book.  The text is the poem 'Rainbow' by John Agard. I am not a great reader of poetry - except Caribbean poetry and only recently I realised the reason for this.  I am a very fast silent reader and I don't read out (silently) a poem to my self so I miss everything but, with Caribbean poets, the language style is not familiar to me and I have to read it aloud to myself. So, in this household, I buy John Agard and Derek Walcott - while M has shelves full of Keats, Rimbaud etc.  See here for the text of Rainbow. I was introduced to the work of John Agard by Anne Brammer at a Midlands Textile Forum meeting who concluded her talk on ply-split braiding by reading Rainbow!!! If you want a print copy, you need to buy it here.

So it is about rainbows. I started out with photos of rainbows from the web which I doctored but the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of using someone's photos. The chances of taking my own photos any time soon seems remote. (Dangerously heavy snow was forecast over the last 36 hours. Instead we got buckets of rain and 5 mm of snow over night. It shows a bit on the grass. Bah!). 

To return to rainbows, it seemed unlikely that I could do anything from scratch in Photoshop, what else could I do? I do have Solidworks which is a 3-D modelling program which I use for generating drawings for manufacture. 

This is the business end of an antenna for a weather satellite. Surely I could create something useful here?

So here is the starting point, a series of coloured rings on a flat plate. I changed the baseplate material until it looked suitably grey and stormy (Aluminium 2014 Alloy, if you must). This was imported into Photoshop as a jpeg file.

As it appears in Photoshop, cropped to show only the upper half. Sky is okay but I have ended up with black lines between each ring.

After using the smudge tool set to 200 which gets rid of the black lines and blurs the colours nicely.

And after playing with the blur tool and the paint bucket. So now I have the beginnings of  a design for the book. I have created a template in Framemaker for the whole book.
Did I say that I have conquered Inkscape which writes text on curves? Here is one with a different rainbow with the last three lines of John Agard's poem on it.

Monday 28 December 2009

Woven sample

This is a pastel done by Michael of me threading up, totally absorbed - probably cursing! Note the thick sweater.

I have woven about a metre of fabric and cut it off, repaired the ends where needed and washed it. Some dark colour came out which is probably okay. It looks like it is from the very dark blue yarn. It is hanging up to dry now and won't be long. The fabric is very light and fine. I intend to iron it when damp.
I finished off the sample by  weaving 10 rows with a 2/20s cotton, then weaving 2 inches of the pattern with grey silk, then inserting two sticks using tabby - to make sure the take up is the same in all threads. then wove 2 inches of pattern with grey silk. To cut it off, I cut through the centre of the green cotton rows. The first stick was then tied on to the breast beam using bootlaces. All carefully aligned using a ruler and centre square to make sure the warp threads were at right angles to the reed and the first stick was at a constant distance from the breast beam.

While weaving the metre-long sample, I made various changes.
- I increased the tension in the end-delivery shuttle
- I inserted floating selvedges. This made the left selvedge much better but the right one still looked bad.

So when I tied on the stick as above, I set about re-threading the right-hand end section and put 6 threads in each dent at the right hand end while keeping 1 thread per heddle. I also weighted the floating thread a bit more and put extra tension on the 30 warp threads nearest the right hand end. This seems to have done the trick and now both edges look much the same.  I use old film canisters weighted with glass marbles for weighting. They have clip-on lids and you can catch the warp thread under the lid. I don't recommend this with silk singles!! The lid cuts straight through the thread.

We are waiting for the snow to arrive. It is due over night.

Saturday 26 December 2009

Warped Up

I re-tied the warp, wove a few inches with 2/20 cotton and then set out with a grey silk weft. I wound a pirn according to the instructions and here it is, installed in the new Bluster Bay shuttle. I had to loop the thread round all but one of the hooks to get a good tension.  It does very nicely although it is much bigger than my ordinary boat shuttles at 12.5 inches as against 8 inches.
It is also higher by 0.25 inch. This lasted me for 6 inches of weaving but I had not filled it and the second one I filled a lot more.

After one pattern, I had to revise the draft - there was an error which was very visible. In general, I do not see how I am going to pick up any errors in threading unless they are very obvious.

This is the selvedge - remember that it is 60 threads to the inch so this is a tiny section. The selvedge does look better than usual and I am happy about this.

There was a lot of draw-in and I am using a temple but it is leaving holes in the selvedge.  I intend to weave a yard, cut that off and wash it. If the holes do not disappear I will have to think again. The Megado is not built so that a sideways weighted system would work - not without extra supports on the sides.

Here is what a bit of the cloth looks like on the loom - again this is a tiny section, only 4 inches across.  I don't know how we are going to photograph the whole thing and do it justice. It shimmers if you move your head slightly which is what I intended.  This photo looks dull compared with reality.

My other worry is the tiny bits of fluff I can see. I hope this is not going to be a problem.

Back to Bookbinding

My son-in-law, Robin, gave this to me as a Christmas present - it is a fat blank journal book with a cloth cover saying 'Malaysia'. It is to be used next time I visit Kuala Lumpur! The pages are A5 size and the paper is good thick stuff you can draw on, possibly paint on.

What was also interesting was the paper the journal was wrapped in. It is actually cloth. I think it has been slightly plasticised and backed with paper. It would make a good cover for a book and there is enough of it. I am told that it is very easy to get in KL and did I want some? The answer of course was yes please. The cloth is a stout cotton  and the biggest flowers are about three inches across. I can see it as a book cover already.

And if that was not enough, a friend gave me a present of a book of wrapping paper based on designs for Japanese kimonos. The example shown gives the flavour of the book. I doubt if any of it will ever be used as wrapping paper! That would mean giving it away! It will make wonderful end-papers for books and I am going to be making some more blank books in my bookbinding class starting in January. The tutor thinks we need at least two books on the go all the time because of waiting for drying/pressing etc etc. All this thought reminded me that I have not been happy with my choice of paper for the last course. All the books were an assortment of handmade and fancy papers and I did not like the handmade paper.  I suddenly remembered that I lashed out at a sale in Tesco's last spring and bought a lot of watercolour pads for Michael which he rejected as too textured for him. So would they do? Once I had tracked them down, I found I had five of a make called Galleria which were 180 gsm and they are very suitable (cost me £3 each and each holds 24 sheets). A4 size spiral bound which I can trim. I also have two pads of Tesco's own but they are a different colour of white and a different weight.  There must be enough to do 4 books with those supplies.

I also have complicated plans for a Japanese style binding because I want to make an illustrated book in a landscape format. I need to discover how to use a program called Inkscape in which I can write text on curves of my making. So far it is okay except that I can only produce a PovRay file and what do I do with that? (Memo to self, ask the resident guru when he has finished sorting out the laserjet which is printing unwanted coloured lines at the moment). I have bought rather grand paper for the project. Upstairs we have a highclass Inkjet printer and I have bought some Bockingford paper especially for it - not cheap and I will use our normal 80 gsm for trials. The Bockingford is double sided and 190gsm. The whole book will be printed which means that I can make more than one.

I have started reading Hannah Hinchman again. I do this every six months. When I discovered her, I could buy a couple of books in the UK but soon found out that she had written more which I could get from the States. She does not appear to have her own website but you can google her and get a lot of comments. I am not going to bother with adjectives - find out for yourself. But I can't get enough of her.

Friday 25 December 2009

Christmas Day 2009 and a Patola Sari

I am so excited! My daughter, Ruth, works from Kuala Lumpur  but is in India a lot. She asked me some months ago if there was anything I wanted from India and I said 'Yes, a sample of patola'. I said I thought she could get a hanky-sized piece done for tourists. So she trailed round Delhi for hours and ended up in the Gujarat Government Crafts Shop which appeared to be the only place in Delhi selling patolas but only saris. And one was my Christmas present! Ruth said that the shop had about 30 of them and she insisted on inspecting every one of them. Mine is dark green with a pattern in red, white and metallic gold with a plain gold border. The pattern photo above is about 12 inches by 16, with each complete pattern about 6 inches square. It is fantastic - wonderful and a stunning example of warp and weft ikat in silk.  I shall not be cutting it up! I will just gloat over it.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Still Warping Up

The warp is sleyed and tied on. This is the view from the back of the Megado. The eight repeats with their coloured heddles are clearly visible

And this is the front view.  Since taking this photo I have uncrossed four or five crossing threads in the reed and sorted out the tension. I think I will re-tie it. The heddles are crammed together because of there being 60 ends to the inch and the advancing twill pattern which means several threads on the same shaft are close together. Doing repairs is no joke when the threads are so close together.

Apart from this, I have cooked, organised the family to do the Christmas tree, hung up the Christmas cards, finished the present wrapping and started the brioche dough. Brioche stuffed with oxtail tonight. Oh and I helped my son-in-law, Robin, to make sausages. We tried them for lunch - excellent.

I had a Christmas present today - three samples of donsu which is Japanese polychrome silk damask. It is so fine, it is nearly transparent. When Christmas is over, I shall examine the samples with a microscope and work out how they are done. The one on the right has gold thread in it. This was obtained from 'Tea Passage' , a tea ceremony company in the States who sell the Japanese wherewithal to make some of your own things for the tea ceremony. These samples are intended for creating shifuku which are little bags to hold the tea caddy in. I failed totally in my attempts to buy some donsu directly from Japan but I am happy with what I have acquired as it will help my researches.

Now I must make the gravy for tomorrow's lunch and check out all the other food. I hope everyone reading  this is enjoying a domestic celebration though I fear some others may not.  I always make sure we support the Salvation Army at this time of year in the hopes that some homeless are helped as a result.

Monday 21 December 2009

Warping Up (6)

Anne and family have reached their destination not without trauma. Their car broke down within 15 minutes of their destination and they ended up taking a taxi. However there they are, hopefully warm. The Kuala Lumpur lot have moved up their travel plans and are arriving a day earlier (tomorrow). So I turned out the spare room yesterday. And our car had to be taken into the garage this morning but all is now well.

Although all is not well on the Megado front. I need to describe what I usually do and the implications (only apparent yesterday) of the method used on the current warp. Up to now, I have occasionally used only the first few shafts but mostly I have used a point twill over all 32 shafts. Even with the double stitched cloth, the back cloth was on Shafts 1 to 4 while the front cloth was point twill on Shafts 5 to 32. I  threaded up either a whole point (60 threads) or a half one if doing double stitched cloth. Then I tie them up. But this automatically includes thread(s) on Shaft 1 so the tie up hangs free at the front. This time, a repeat is 172 threads on 32 shafts and each section is 20 mm wide, holding 44 threads. A bout for each section is therefore sensible and there are 4 bouts to a repeat. But this means only one bout has any Shaft 1 threads in it. The other three bouts are hidden in the middle of the shafts. I did not think about this until I had threaded up two whole repeats at which stage I decided that I would include a dummy on Shaft 1 in every bout and then the tie-ups would hang freely at the front as above.

I finished all the threading yesterday and started sorting out the bouts, discovered that the six 'hidden' bouts, that is, those without any Shaft 1 heddles, were in an awful state. The tie-ups had been rubbed by all the shaft-lifting , there was quite a bit of pilling and two of the six bouts had monstrous pilled knots of 44 threads.  By putting on Michael's jeweller's headgear and using the point of a needle, I got them sorted out with only one thread broken off short about 6 inches from the end and that was easy to lengthen. I must check the threading in those bouts because I may have unthreaded the odd heddle in the disentangling process. Then I can sley it at 60 epi in a 20epi reed.

The moral of all this is that each bout needs a Shaft 1 in it.
This photo shows how easy it to check the threading. The draft is an advancing twill so each shaft is one up or one down on the previous shaft. All my heddles are colour coded. The colours run in four batches of eight, white, pink, orange, brown, yellow, green blue, violet. After years of usage, I don't even have to think about what colour comes next.

Daryl Lancaster has pointed out that her yarn that I admired is from Cherry Tree Yarns who have the most scrumptious yarns. UK suppliers are The Woolly Workshop,  
and I Knit London (who have a shop near Waterloo). The yarns are knitting yarns and I would have to see and feel before buying for weaving but the colours!!

Sunday 20 December 2009

Anne and the Weather

Anne and family escaped from Dover. She said the motorways are closed around there as the police are using it as a lorry park. They made it to Portsmouth in plenty of time and were very pleased I had suggested a cabin as the children fell on the bunks and went to sleep immediately. They booked a hotel in Caen - again the wonders of the Internet. The only problem is that the Sunday forecast for France is dreadful. I am glad I am not going anywhere this Christmas.

Yesterday I got up to 26 sections of threading and propose to do at least 2 before breakfast. I will make a cup of tea first.

I 'wrote' the first verse on the front end-paper - quite pleasing but not entirely happy about the font. This is the only cursive font Photoshop has.

While doing the grocery run, I chewed over the back end-papers and wondered about this. Not sure and I think the wineglass photo needs replacing. I have no doubt Michael would drink a glass of red wine for me to photograph! Certainly it is more in keeping with the front paper. I think I shall use some variant of this.

The almond parfait is made as is the pheasant pate and the sausage meat. I must turn out the spare room today and finish wrapping the presents.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Exciting colours

I have been reading Daryl Lancaster's blog for today in which she talks about colour and in particular the current fashionable colour schemes. There is a marvellous video clip on Pantone
which is worth watching. Make sure you have sound on. Daryl's own dyed colours are very much to my taste , especially the first reddish-brown one.

I am fired by enthusiasm but the garage is unheated and I have just warmed up after doing the weekend grocer run. I am not weaving fast enough!! Cry of despair.

Warping Up (5) and the Weather

Yesterday (Friday) I got to 17 completed sections which was quite good considering that I spent the morning in Worcester Royal seeing a cardiologist (yes there is something wrong, no it's not life-threatening, have these pills and we will set about testing you in January). Oddly enough,  I felt very cheerful after that. The consultant was female about 35 and quite impressive.  We finished off the Christmas cards in the afternoon and posted them all too.

So the plan was to thread at least 8 sections today and finish the threading tomorrow. To which end I was going to get up early and do two sections before breakfast as I must do some Christmas cooking today. However something or other about best-laid plans for mice and men - and women too. I was rudely awoken by the telephone early this morning. This was our Anne (youngest daughter, the finance wizard at Npower) - stranded in Dover plus car and family on their way to France for a skiing holiday, using the tunnel. The tunnel is shut indefinitely with 2 broken-down trains inside. The North of France is snowed up, The Port of Calais is shut and, as a result, so is the Port of Dover so no ferries. So what else could they do? Both Michael and myself were on the web searching for open ports with ferry crossings to Europe available today. And remember that South East England is snarled up with snow and traffic. (Personally I think Scotland manages these things much better - the English go into panic mode when it snows and that makes things worse - but then I am Scot). So after considering Ramsgate, Newhaven and so on, we ended up by booking them on to the afternoon Portsmouth/Caen ferry.  And they are on their way.

This seemed to involve endless web searches to find a good route from Dover to Portsmouth. The M20 is closed as it is being used as a car park for Europe-bound lorries. So they are going to Portsmouth by way of Canterbury, M20, M25, M3 which should all be cleared of snow.

We do not have any snow here but there has been a hard frost. I feel as though I have been up for hours and it is just after 0800 hours. So I think I will go and do the grocery shopping.

And just to show that I sometimes think of other things, here is the end paper for the book I am going to bind in leather in January. The book is Omar Khayyam and belonged to my father. It has his signature inside. He was very fond of this work and I have already replaced the board covers but I would like to do him proud and intend to cover it in green or blue goatskin. The book is slightly smaller than A5 and I thought I would create my own end-papers based on the first and last verses. This is the one for the front end-paper and is A4 size and will need trimming. I cannot quite decide whether to write the verse on the end-paper as well and I may try it out. It might spoil the effect. Fitzgerald's translation of the first verse is

Awake! for Morning into the Bowl of Night
Has flung the stone that puts the Stars to Flight
And Lo! The Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Tower in a Noose of Light

 This is the basis of the back end-paper - a photo I took at Hardwick Hall. It will have a glass of wine superimposed.

And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scattered on the Grass
And in thy joyous Errand reach the spot
Where I made one - turn down an empty Glass!

I have put a wine glass on top of this using Photoshop but it was a photo off the web and it is not entirely suitable so I intend to take a photo of same!!

Two points for consideration. Firstly do I put the text on? And secondly the styles of the two end-papers are very different. Do I mind? I think I do. I am loathe to change the front one so maybe I have to rethink the back one. But as yet I have come up with no viable ideas.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Not weaving

On Monday I got 2 sections threaded up. On Tuesday I did another 8. But I have been away since then. I am threading up using a method which someone (thank you whoever it was) described some time ago on the Weavetech Group. You take your draft with the wanted warp threading, turn it into a liftplan and do trompe as writ for the weft and save as a new draft. Then use that draft to drive the computer and the shafts are lifted in the correct order.  I have done too much 32 shaft point twill which is easy to thread up. But this is a repeat of 172 threads with a complex structure. The new method works a treat although I cross-check every 10 or so threads. It is all looking good.

But also on Tuesday, I turned out all the hardware and electronics items I own for the business and sorted them out. One local engineering friend came round on Tuesday afternoon and removed masses of metal work which he can re-use. The rest was packed into boxes ready for Wednesday when it was all put into the car. Even with the back seats down there was hardly enough room. We then drove to West Sussex where we unloaded the lot at the factory of an old friend, Richard Wylde. Now he has just knocked down his factory and rebuilt it. His proud boast is that they never stopped earning money while this was going on. He is a tool-maker/scientific instrument builder so the machinery is large, complex, highly accurate and very heavy. Last night, he had a formal opening which was one of the best parties we have ever attended. Unlimited champagne and the most fantastic nibbles (tempura for one thing).  They had a very interesting way of offering the food. Imagine a perspex box about 18 inches square and 4 inches high sealed up and with Christmas baubles inside! then the food put on the top surface. A highly original tray. And the technical exhibitions were first rate.

When  this was all over, there was a dinner for the guests - a special one for 20 guests (including us) and another one else where. All very splendid. The reason for us being there is that the firm has built practically all my hardware for more than 20 years.

This morning, I went back into the factory at 8 o'clock to do a teach-in on the electronics I had delivered. By 0930, we were on our way back home  which we reached at 1315. Somehow it is the end of an era for me. But I am not sorry I retired.

And now I must do the works Christmas cards - saying goodbye to everyone

Sunday 13 December 2009

Warping Up (4)

The 34 sections are all on. I made changes to the colours around number 30 (numbering from the left). The original plan had several sections of indigo here as at the left-hand end and I decided this was too much so left one section indigo and replaced the next three with two blues, a mid-blue and a gray-blue. I also added extra threads to the right as I don't trust my counting.

And here is it with the lease sticks in and checked, the ties removed and the ends cut to be even and a general tidy-up.

Tomorrow should see the start of threading.

Today it stopped being very foggy and the sun came out so, after lunch,  we went to the Bevere Gallery  which is on the northern out-skirts of Worcester. They were holding their Christmas exhibition with lots of lovely ceramics including some very fine porcelain pieces. Every third piece we saw seemed very desirable. So we had a cup of tea and discussed the paintings of Bewdley in the cafe with the tea lady (that is not a situation you meet very often). Then we inspected everything again and I bought Michael his Christmas present which was a tall porcelain vase. We also acquired a silk flower arrangement of arums - very avant-garde. 

This coming week is full of events. They had better not take up valuable weaving time.

Warping Up (3)

Progress is definitely happening despite setbacks. On Friday morning, I had reached 12 sections. By Saturday morning, this had risen to 21 and by Saturday night to 28 with one disaster. The small raddle on the warping wheel has a sharp edge which I have been meaning to do something about. The raddle has to be moved when the warp is finished on the wheel so that the section can be wound onto the loom. So you put a cap on the raddle and move it. For Section No 26, two threads had got caught on the sharp edge and, in my attempts to  free these at the moving stage, the raddle left the cap and fell on the floor. I was left holding on to the threads and the cap, uttering very unladylike language which was so pronounced as to bring Michael rushing into the room to see what was up. When I had calmed down and he had picked up the raddle, I decided I would try to wind this section onto the warp beam and placed the threads back in the raddle as carefully as possible - but not carefully enough as there was a multitude of snapped threads. So that section was cut offoff, thrown away and a replacement wound.

Six sections to go. The colours look great.

Oh, by the way, the sharp edges are now taped up. 

Friday 11 December 2009

Warping Up (2)

Progress is good. I got up to 12 sections yesterday and have done one this morning before 0730 am!  Time varies between 20 and 30 minutes per section depending on how many colour changes there are in the section. The cross ties are yellow cotton. The pieces of paper are paper tape to stick down the thread ends securely. I worry all the time about the colours. Have I really got these right? A lot of time is spent scurrying back and forth between the loom and the office checking.

Maureen asked for a clearer photo of Michael's helpful device for aligning the warp as it comes off the warping wheel. The picture shows it on the loom back beam. The prongs are at lower left. You can just see the cork lining under the top piece of wood which acts as a friction brake.

Here is a photo of the device off the loom. The vertical piece of wood sits below the back beam and is cork lined. The prongs fit into this piece of wood. There are two other pieces of wood below that which you can just see peeking out and a block of wood between each of those and the two pieces on the upper side. Michael put it together from bits of scrap in the cellar.  Bluster Bay it is not but it works very efficiently.

I do do other things as well as worry about the warp colours. Yesterday I got round to winter pruning the peach tree and the pear cordons. The pear cordons are 25 years old and are suitably gnarled. Some of the gnarliest bits have now been cut off. I did the pear stepovers too.  When the pruning was done, the peach was sprayed with copper fungicide and the pears along with apple cordons  were also sprayed. The peach tree is my pride and joy - closely followed by the quince tree. After living in this house for 15 years, I suddenly realised we had a one and a half story blank wall facing South. Perfect for a peach tree. Now most peaches in this country are hard and tasteless. So I spent a year researching this and went to Wisley to look at their peach collection in February and late August. The question was which variety flowers late and ripens early and is said to have a good flavour. I came up with the Duke of York which we bought from Deacons in the Isle of Wight. First year this very small tree was covered with blossom - and then had 6 enormous peaches. And they turned out to be white peaches with a fantastic flavour.  It has never looked back. It fruits for the whole of August and some years I am reduced to making peach jam! The only year which was an off year was 2008 when it rained all summer and what peaches did ripen, were watery and tasteless. Moral: peaches need some sunshine just like me!

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Warping Up

So here is the sectional warp beam on the Megado. Yesterday's faux pas has been removed. Section 1 has been done - took 40 minutes. Section 2 is being done in the photo. It took 35 minutes.

The photo shows the Megado's metal hoops which separate the sections. The ribbon of yarn comes from the warping wheel and over the back beam.   The wheel is off to the upper right.  This arrangement leaves the yarn with a big distance between the back beam and the sectional warp beam in which to wander about. So Michael made a wooden fitment which friction clamps to the back beam and can easily be slid along the back beam from section to section. The two rods are brass rods which are the same distance apart as a pair of hoops and just a little short of touching them. This allows fast winding on of the warp ribbon from the wheel.

Here are the first two sections side by side with the variation in colours clearly visible although these are quiet compared with what is to come!

This is Michael's other helpful gadget - a cross-maker. Lots of people report in Weavetech that they lay the end of each section and just pick off the threads. Me, I am a belt-and-braces person and ask what if   - - . So I have a cross maker. I think AVL has started selling one of these to go with the warping wheel but they didn't offer it when I bought mine. My cross-maker consist of two brass rods inserted just above the clip. What you see in the photo is when the warp is being wound on the warp beam. The four ties are quite clear on the cross.

When all the sections are wound, I pick up all the crosses on the lease sticks and we're done. It works.

Now to wind another section.

Jacket and the New Warp

I have finished my jacket apart from the buttonholes. Dixie Nichols' buttons have arrived and so I might try sewing sample buttonholes tonight. You can see the yellow machine embroidery on the lining of the jacket just by the lapel in the two photos. The lower photo  also shows the lapel cut on the cross. The jacket fits well and I will post a photo when the buttonholes are done and the buttons attached. Husband thinks it is the best thing I have ever made. I think he is prejudiced in its favour by the fact he likes the cloth.

Last night I started out warping up with my multi-coloured warp. This single section was the first and is wrong, wrong, wrong.  The colours look nice and that is about all.

Firstly the counter on the warping wheel gave lots of trouble - like not counting at all. It is working at the moment but there was a flurry of emails to AVL who were helpful but have not yet come up with a solution - except buy a new one. I do not mind that. But I do mind waiting till it gets here!

Secondly I was not careful enough in making sure the next colour to be tied was the right one. However I have worked out a more foolproof method for future sections.

Thirdly, although I thought about it carefully, I have managed to get the colours wrong left to right (nice colours though).

Fourthly I put this  section on to the warp beam back to front. How stupid can you get? My husband said 'Why can't you unwind it and wind it on again?' Well because it has the colour reversal error anyway and,  even if it didn't, I don't think the rewound section would be properly tensioned.

So the day-job can wait. I am going to cut off that section immediately after lunch and wind more sections. That first section took me an hour. I hope I can get the time down as I have 34 sections to do.

Monday 7 December 2009

New Shuttles

My new boat shuttles have arrived from Bluster Bay Woodworks!!! The front one is leopardswood and the back one is curly walnut.  They are both end-delivery shuttles which I have no experience of. But I hear such good things about better selvedge and faster weaving that I lashed out on these two and a dozen pirns. I just have to learn how to wind a pirn properly and get the tension right. Well actually I just have to warp up the Megado with 34 sections of 41 threads each. I have printed out the threading from Fibreworks at one section to a page. As I do each section, I will identify the correct colours for each thread and write it on the print out. Each cone is already marked with the identifying number from Fibreworks. I can see this being a slow process.

I don't have to have much encouragement to buy another shuttle from Bluster Bay. I have five ordinary ones acquired over the years.  I also have three other boat shuttles of different makes. The Leclerc is okay but the two roller shuttles are a real pain with fine silk. I was very taken with a recent photo in Handwoven - see Page 34, bottom right in Issue 147. This shows Robin Spady's collection of boat shuttles. My first reaction was 'What does she do with them all?' My second reaction was to realise that I was green with envy.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Bluebell Wood

 I mentioned in Playing Hookey that I had bought something and was fetching it from Birmingham today. Here it is - Bluebell Wood by Jennifer Hall of the Midlands Textile Forum. I also mentioned it when I reviewed the MTF's 2009 Exhibition in Birmingham in November. I thought about it for a few days after seeing and then  succumbed and inquired about buying it and was successful. It has come recessed into a box an inch deep which is lined with a green fabric. The whole is framed with glass. So it is well protected. This photo is taken by Jennifer herself. I can see the box lining in the back ground so it must have been taken before the glass was put on. I think if I photograph it now, there will be too many reflections from the glass.

 I took the train up to Birmingham New Street. It was already packed when it arrived at Malvern and, when it pulled out of Worcester, it was standing room only to Brum. The German Christmas Market is on in the pedestrian precinct and there was something on at the Arena as well. So Brum was very busy. I walked through the market  stalls and came to a standstill by a stall which was selling German cakes - listed in English. Now if there is anything I am partial to, it is kasekuchen - not the inferior English product but a true German one. So I asked if the cheesecake on their list was really kasekuchen and could I see it? And yes it was so, we have kasekuchen waiting for suppertime!! The other real oddity is that they had a singer and a band at the top of the Town Hall steps, right by the Floozy in the Jacuzzi and he was belting out Der Tannenbaum with a lot of oompahs from the band.

One result of rearranging the book collection is that I have come across several books I had forgotten about and have put aside to read. So I read The Mediaeval Manichee on the train. I remembered visiting Mont Segur, the last stronghold of the Cathars in France where hundreds of them burnt themselves alive in 1244 rather than be taken prisoner by the Catholics. It is in the middle of a forest. The sort of thing we don't have in the UK any more, miles and miles of rocky hills covered in thick forest. When we got there,  Mont Segur is on top of a high rocky outcrop where no trees can grow and you have to clamber up a very steep path to get there. So we got out of the car (no one else there at all) and looked vertically up to the fortress. All around were hills covered in  forest. No other sign of any people at all, no houses, no cars. And what was worse, it was totally silent. No birds sang. As if the land could remember the calamity and was still weeping for it.

Friday 4 December 2009


I am very taken with buttons and have a collection bought in all sorts of places.  I have been thinking about buttons for my new jacket. Examining my stash, I had nothing suitable and, although I looked at Dixie Nichols buttons,  there was little left for sale. She puts a new set on her website four times a year and you have to move fast to get a set. I had not realised she was running behind until yesterday when I got an email saying she was sorry she was late but here was another offering. So work was abandoned while I investigated.  There were three sets I thought were suitable and I bought what is shown below.

It is worth saying that, when I looked this morning, half the sets had been sold.

I once went to the Kennet Valley Guild wearing a newly made jacket which I was  very proud of. It is woven of handspun merino (spun by my  friend Linda Scurr, Thank you, Linda) and silk. Someone rushed up to me and said 'They are wonderful. Dixie Nichols?' and some one standing behind her turned round and said 'Dixie Nichols? Where? Let me see!!' Not a word about the jacket! It turned out that they both just bought sets they liked and hoarded them. Anyway I am a happy bunny.

Playing Hookey

I 'retired' in October this year. The trouble is that lots of customers are paying no attention to this fact. So over the last two weeks, I have been working very hard. Helping out with a proposal which means asking all the nasty technical questions and telling the potential customer that there is no way he is going to get these for fifty pounds each unless he downgrades the spec considerably, answering questions for a job completed five months (Why don't they read reports a bit sooner?) and generally providing information. I have done very little textile work in the last two weeks and finished up yesterday by being quite miffed. So I played hookey today and they are going to have to wait.

Today we went to Ledbury, primarily to see a textile exhibition but, of course, to visit our Mr Waller, the butcher, and buy a piece of beef for the family who are descending on Sunday.  And of course have coffee and almond croissants upstairs at Ceci Paolo and visit various shops for Christmas shopping and - - . So I am much happier especially since the textile exhibition, UNFOLDED, was quite the best exhibition in the Weaver's Gallery I have ever seen there. The Weavers Gallery is the upstairs of a timberframed building a few yards from Ledbury's famous timber-framed Market Hall. Most of Ledbury is timber framed (14th to 17th century) but a lot of the shops had a Victorian facade put on. You get inside the shop and the roof is held up by oak timbers with carving on the ends (typical of this area) and the infill walls are wattle and daub (interwoven willow plastered up).  The  Weaver's Gallery holds exhibitions of art of all sorts. I have seen  watercolours there, acrylics, embroidery, quilting. This was labelled as mixed media. There were three local artists. Anne Weldon uses Reverse Applique and produces tree scapes in winter. Very details and quite large and all in black and white. For me, the best was a row of rooks on branches. I am inspired by this. I can see a picture weaving coming on even though I said a few days ago that I would give up picture weaving. She does not have a website which is a pity.

Liz Brooke Ward does complex embroideries, several of which are based on lichen or algae. The fine detail of the embroidery is lovely. This is from a card of hers I bought. Naturally the copyright is hers. She has won several prizes and I am not surprised. It is not only the workmanship but the colours and design which are firstrate. Colours for the lichens are blues, greens, yellows and purple.

These leaves are intended as bookmarks!! or small hangings - they have a ribbon attached. They are by Di Wells and I couldn't resisted buying a few as Christmas presents. They are about eight inches long. Much of her work is buildings. I noted a row of multicoloured bathing huts and a town or two. I loved the bathing huts. As you can see from the photo, she has a good eye for colour, or rather, I like her choices of colour. In fact, I rather regret not buying one for me but the rest are all mentally bespoke.

I was very tempted by the rooks but I have already bought a textile piece which I am collecting tomorrow - more on it then. The people at the Weaver's Gallery were telling me about Linda and Laura Kemshall's  show in Hereford, SIX-STRUCTURED. It is on till January 9th and I must go.  My tutor for the City and Guilds in Creative Sketch Books is one of the six.

And now to do more on my jacket.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

The Last Book

I have completed the fourth and last book for this term. This is very large, slightly bigger than A4  which I have not bound before. I think it is a mistake. The endpapers do not line up right and it is difficult to deal with because of the size. It probably was not thick enough.  The fabric is white and yellow striped silk this time; the other three were various weights of cotton. The silk was stamped with a sort of seaweed pattern in groups of three in blue, then overstamped occasionally in gold paint. In two places, one on each face of the book, I laid on a rectangle of copper foil and stamped on top of that. The greyish colour is just that, a light coating of silver paint.

The end papers were cut from a sheet of dark blue paper decorated with gold which I bought from Fibrecrafts. They have a large collection of different papers and, last time I was there, I was allowed into the stock room. This was one of the finds. There is not have much left but it would do nicely as a paper on the outside of a book. I will try to get some more.

I still have one piece of fabric big enough for an A4 book but am not happy about this. The reason why No 4 book was bigger than A4 is that I folded several different types of handmade and fancy paper together and these turned out to be bigger than A4. I did not trim or cut the edges as I like the deckle effect and, in any case, some of the sheets would tear rather than cut tidily.

The dark blue jacket is coming along, the body is complete and the roll collar is attached and completed. The sleeves are cut out and had lining fused to them. I remembered at 5 o'clock this morning that I had forgotten about the shoulder pads and fell out of bed to order some from Jaycotts as well as some other haberdashery I need. We had a great shop on the main street which sold everything you could possible think of in that line but they closed up and became a webmail shop for fabrics only. The nearest one now is in the middle of Worcester  which has discouraging car parking facilities.

On Saturday at the Guild meeting, I collected my 12/2 cotton yarn for weaving up Michael's enamels. It is going to resemble a Biblical breastplate when it is finished!

Which brings on to my philosophical musings. Some weavers I know have one draft which they happily weave for ever. Others put on a different draft/yarn every time. I am not quite in the second class but approaching it.  I do wonder if it would be better to stick to one yarn/draft for a bit, say, 3 years. One might get very good at it and yet, I am sure I would  be bored.  I really must stick longer to one thing. Which reminds me that we have three acrylic boxes in the sitting room and looking at them, I realise that the 'seedheads' one in Annuals VI would make a lovely book cover. I wish now I had not been so hasty in taking off the remnants of the warp.

Monday 30 November 2009

Silk Double Cloth

I still have a piece of  double cloth on the Voyager which is white silk with squares of dyed silk in various bright colours. I went back to that last night to finish a sample to be washed. I think it is a little stiff as double cloth with warp and weft interchange can be and I would like a softer feel and drape. So I will re-sley it if it does not soften up in the (hand) wash.

You will notice that the second coloured square from the top looks different. It is. I transferred the shaft lists to a post-it note  and stuck it on the Voyager to speed things up - and I copied it wrong, didn't I? It is corrected in the top square.  Quite a nice effect, though

In weaving along, I discovered two nasty facts. The Voyager is very small and there is not much space at the back, so I had put the replacement threads for the abandoned lurex warp on weights, two at a time. This is a mistake as, in three cases, one thread has become  much slacker than the other. I will replace each of these weights with two weights. A nuisance because the Voyager is so small that the weights have to be adjusted every time the cloth is wound on.

The other nasty and startling fact is that the draw-in is tremendous at 260 mm in the reed to 235 mm off the loom. As a by-product, the edge threads are beginning to look fuzzy. I am not keen on a temple with silk but I think I have to try. After all, the warp silk is 8/2 and should be able to take it.

Sunday 29 November 2009


This is Book 4 bound in light blue bookcloth with two rectangles of fabric appliqued to front and back.
I have been experimenting with taking photos of books. Previously my books were much the same front and back, so a photo could be taken with a book lying on a desk. The recent books have been different back and front and I have been experimenting. I have been reading (re-reading, reading over and over again) '500 Handmade books' selected by Steve Miller (Lark Books, 2008, ISBN 1-57990-877-2). This was one of the books bought at the MTF Symposium a few weeks ago. There is at least one photo of every book. And one way of photographing is as shown here. Another way is to make two identical books and take a photo of the two together. But that is going too far.
The last book has its cover made and is, at this moment, being pressed in the cellar workshop. So far it looks good.

Yesterday was the Kennet Valley Guild Christmas party to which I took Michael. He asked what would be happening as we drove there. 'A lot of eating and gossiping and several exhibitions' I replied which turned out to be no exaggeration. A lovely collection of Christmas baubles and another one of completed projects based on yarn or fibre dyed by the maker. Stunning scarves in silk and in wool using a chained and space dyed warp with acid dyes as well as socks knitted with space dyed yarn. There were some staggering jumpers and a rug in handspun in natural dyes by one Mary Knipple. Her colours have not a hint of sludge about them, clear fresh yellows and reds. I could not get over the colours and asked Mary about her work. 'I always use alum as a mordant, nothing else' was the reply. And there was an awful lot of lovely food.

I have been good this morning, found all the Christmas presents, wrapped them up in nice paper and worked out what I have left to get. Not a lot. I do have a habit of buying nice things during the year and found one or two things I had forgotten. On the downside, I know that I bought some lovely fabric and cannot find it. Cue for funny story.
P:- 'I have lost that nice Swiss fabric I bought'
M:- 'How?'

I was quite indignant about that. 'How?'. 'How do I know?'

Now I shall get on with my jacket.

Friday 27 November 2009

Donsu (2)

What's this? It came in a parcel yesterday.

Oh, it's my gold thread from Japan!! It is paper gold thread. A sheet of paper about 40 inches long and 24 inches wide has had gold leaf applied . It is then slit into sections each about 1 mm wide but the slits stop 1 inch in from each end so that the threads are held together tidily. This can be used as the warp for Naganishiki which Linda Bowden weaves (superb, stunning, gorgeous and very slow) or you can do what I am going to do with the thread which is to weave donsu (Polychrome damask) with the gold thread as weft.

Here is a picture of Linda Bowden's loom. You can see the  warp clearly and the lease and pickup sticks. This photo was taken by me at  a class at Tampa Bay Convergence 2008.  And the final weaving is amazing. I wish she had a blog or a web site so that you could look at more of her work. If you could only see it. Apart from anything else, it is flawless weaving.  You can see this thread used in  Kinran.

And now back to now. Bookbinding and dress-making call.


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About Me

I am weaver and - -. I dye my yarns with acid dyes, I paint my warps, put fabric collages and stencils on my weaving. I have three looms, a 12 inch wide, 12 shaft Meyer for demos and courses, a 30 inch Louet Kombo which is nominally portable but has a stand, two extra beams and a home-made device containing a fan reed. And last a 32 shaft Louet Megado which is computer controlled, has a sectional warp and a second warp beam and I am the proud owner of an AVL warping wheel which I love to bits and started by drilling holes in. I inserted a device for putting a cross in. I have just acquired an inkle loom and had a lesson from an expert so I can watch TV and weave at the same time. I am interested in weaving with silk mostly 60/2 although I do quite a bit with 90/2 silk. I also count myself as a bookbinder with a special interest in Coptic binding.