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Weavers, warps, weaving

winding a warp

Winding a 3 metre warp

Warps for the new year are starting to appear in the studio and learning to wind a warp is the most exhilarating adventure of all.

Yes, pre-wound warps are wonderful but winding your own has the ultimate colour and texture option especially designed with your own mood.

Cheryl has been in the studio learning the process and she learnt the five at once method and the one/one method. There are so many ways to enjoy warping and so many methods. The main thing is that it should be evenly wound in tension,  have a least one cross in it to organise the threads and there is a firm choke tie around the 1 -1.2 metre mark from the cross. You should add more choke ties every metre or so especially on a long warp. The route around the pegs must be identical except where the cross is made. No shortcuts here and there. This is for a warp that will be threaded from front to back on the Saori loom. This means the reed is threaded first, followed by the heddles then tied to the back rod and wound (beamed) onto the back beam. Sounds very rule like doesn’t it. But the warp has to be right so everything will fall into place and you’ll enjoy weaving sooner rather than battling.  When you start to warp I think it’s a good idea to wind several of them, one after the other.

warping on a warping board

Cheryl making the cross on the warping frame.

The Saori warping frame with legs is a great height to work with and it is a little different to conventional ones. It has slanted pegs and supports for up to 5 cones of yarn. Sometimes various cones won’t fit on the support and they need to be placed on the floor and the yarn taken up and threaded through the hooks at the top. Yarn must always be free to unreel without any impediment.  Cones or kiwaku work the very best.

The Saori warping board has straight pegs and can be hooked onto a wall and will work well too. Cheryl chose a nice mix of straight and textured cottons to work with and carried the colourway to the weft. You can see here the completed weave which really makes a nice story about how the colours start out so raw and separate then become a fused cloth. Woops, yet another life analogy. They’re all over the place.  Thank you Cheryl for cheering up the studio and sending on the mission completed pics.

Another ongoing weaver at the studio is Dominique.  She is quite amazing in her productivity, inquiry and passion for delving further and further into the world of woven cloth.  Her 4 shaft kit hasn’t had a rest since she acquired it and the tasks I set are completed and pushed to new limits of experimentation at every opportunity.  We had been looking at Margo Selby’s book, Colour and Texture in Weaving.  It is a beautiful, inspirational book. It is clearly set out but rather unconventionally and you really have to read up on how the pattern keys are set up. The BAM pattern was an interesting one and you can see here that Dominique made great use of handspun to show it off. Her experiments amounted to a number of creative and adventurous samples for future work. I think 2016 will be a great year for these two.

threading the loom

Threading the heddles after threading the reed.

Cheryl's completed weave

Photo courtesy of Cheryl B. Finished weave

Bam pattern

Dominique’s beautiful experimentation with the Bam pattern

Stitching things together

Sewing blocksSeems cathartic that I’m gravitating towards stitching and sewing at the moment.

I’ve been sorting through my collection of clothing blocks that I’ve drafted though the years.  To me they are like photos of my family. Blocks which capture the changing shape and size of bodies important to me.  There are blocks from size 000 all through my daughters’ childhoods -2- 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11,12 year olds. We are having a very challenging time at the moment in our family and I’m glad that I had these to remind me of the passage and value of time and the lovely humans I shared it with. Each block signifies an event in our lives where clothing was needed. There was Teresa’s year 6 farewell in silk taffeta to my own design and Michelle’s purple fluffy pants in year 10, which she had to have. These blocks mean more to me than photos. They’re unposed and real preparations for a labour of love which surely making clothes is. Even before my first daughter arrived in 1982 I had quilts, crochet rugs, jackets and many other things sewn up ready. Although this seems normal for most people expecting a child over the 9 months gestation, it was much harder for us in adoption which is basically a phone call today and baby daughter tomorrow. (this doesn’t include the many, many interviews, investigations etc etc)

Book example

In the spirit of stitching things together, this week I’ve taken some woven silk cloth and tried out the possibilities of this pattern from Fuku no Katachi ni Suru  It’s pattern 25 on page 72. I liked the neckline and flow of the garment and it’s pretty easy to stitch up. But as with all of the patterns in Saori inspired books much depends on the fabric you use and the fit you are comfortable with.

Well it ends up that I wasn’t so happy with the flow after all and it required substantial adjustment.

The neckline needed a bit of refinement to sit right although I probably didn’t cut it as low as the instruction. After finishing, I just folded it over and stitched a narrower look. I added a ‘princess’ line darting from shoulder to hip on the front, to contour the shape and also re-shaped the side seams. In re-cutting I bound the raw seams for a nice and secure look on the inside of the garment. The woven fabric is a beautiful 100% silk and it was amenable to such re-stitching. I’ve found that Saori woven cloth is far more un-ravelly than it looks. The uneven hemline is very nice and easy to cut. It also swings well with the style. But still I wasn’t 100% happy. So I thought about other solutions, then added ties for the back above the waistline and now I am very happy. This tie ‘hack’ is a good option is you want the flexibility of some extra shaping.

Flat pattern of topI read somewhere that “if you don’t know what to do, do what you know” Weaving and sewing is what I know and it doesn’t solve any problems in itself. But I can use it to restore a kind of faith that stitching and modifying might have a value in other life issues. I really don’t know but it’s the best I’ve got.

In working with the neckline in this pattern I found that tear away vilene is very helpful. As a total convert now, […loud voice] I believe it is a must when cutting out armholes and necklines in our Saori woven fabrics. It’s best to actually trace the neckline directly onto the vilene then sew around. This will prepare for cutting shapes out of the cloth and stabilise it. The vilene can then be torn away once the collar or cutting is underway. Keeps everything in order.

using tear away

I’ve placed the pattern on the tear away vilene. But you can directly trace the pattern onto it.

stitching tear away

Stitch on the stitching line so you can cut out the neckline safely and easily

completed saori top

This is the completed top with the mods. It’s a keeper.

The heart needs help

EastTimorHeartsFund2016It turns out there is a little we can do as weavers to make the world a better place. Little can bring enormous to others and I’m pleased to donate 1% of all sales, from you,  in 2016 to the East Timor Hearts Fund. This organisation really does save lives and after reading the ABC story I realised it ticked all of the boxes to help make the world a better place for a few.

East Timor is home to some of the greatest and highly skilled weavers in the world. See a previous blog entry about the newest nation. Highly complex weaving is still done within communities there. The fact that the fund assists hearts is also significant. The heart is a great source of the human spirit and is capable of loving and being broken…both physically and metaphorically. It is the source of many of our decisions and the human organ that needs the most protection throughout life. It makes us live and can give a reason to life. It is why we weave and is often used to describe how we approach Saori free style weaving.  I hope you’ll join me in weaving to save hearts in East Timor.

The East Timor Hearts Fund is a medical aid charity dedicated to providing life-saving heart surgery in Australia for young people from Timor-Leste.

New year and all that


Down under textiles 22
I’d like to wish all readers and customers a very peaceful, health filled and interesting new year. Life can be very hard indeed and it breaks my heart that so many people suffer so much in our world.  A friend said to me some time ago that I was lucky I have weaving. And yes, I am lucky to have weaving, but I always weave best when the planet is on its axis and my family is intact and connecting together in life.  When this isn’t the case I could nearly break a loom with my heavy beating! Well not really, but weaving sails along better when there is harmony in other areas of life. I know this is an unlikely introduction for a new year but there it is and mostly there is little we can do about most things but just watch situations unfold. Gone are the days when I even pretend to have control over directions in life! Lucky I have weaving and there is some control in what yarns, colours and patterns I can use. I sincerely hope your year is one where things get better and more joyful and create renewed energy and…weaving.

On a lighter note you must check out issue 22 of Down Under Textiles. I’m very happy to be a columnist for this very inspirational mag. This issue holds “Fruits of the Loom’ P12-13. All about my attraction to little weaving which naturally grows into more! Really love writing about weaving and more. Next issue will feature finding your textile ‘tribe.

woven towels

warp being wound onInspired by Dominique’s towel weaving I got weaving on some of my own. With my stash of 22/2 cottolin I worked up some stripe magic and went to work on the four shaft Saori loom. The loom is perfect for this type of weaving. I used a plain weave threaded over the four shafts. With this type of work I like have the option of four shafts to introduce twill patterning here and there. This is a pretty conventional type of weave but so much fun to do and satisfying to complete and give as gifts.

New Warps

If you are after some pre-wound warps for a dream run on your loom, check out the new collection in stock. They normally go very quickly as I only get a few of each. The white warps are very nice and perfect for dyers and I’ll be using one to create more freestyle woven shibori.  There have also been a few price increases and decreases in the Saori catalogue for 2016.  All looms have risen in price, however the cost of the WX60 (unassembled) at $1825.00 will be fixed until the current stock of looms are sold.

JapanJapan Textile Tour 2016

The other very exciting news is that I’ll be leading a  Textile and Crafts tour to Japan in September 2016 for 14 days. It will be a comprehensive and rich saturation of Kyoto, Nara, Okayama, Naoshima Island, Osaka and Okinawa Island. It will include three hands-on workshops of which one day is at Saori no Mori. It will be a great mix of the ancient and modern which sit together so easily in Japan.  Australian and international travellers are welcome. See here for more information.

Last in house workshop for 2015 :(

Love to weave

The young dance of the creative!

Does it ever end. This thrill of weaving and looms! I think not.

Another workshop completed in the studio and another very happy one. With so much sadness and agro in our world it’s nice to remember that good, happy and meaningful life filled get togethers do exist.  In bringing a collection of previous ‘strangers’ together we get to know a snippet of our lives and share a reason to work together, albeit briefly.

I had a beautiful 12 year old weaver, Mirielle, who  struck up the most wonderful adventure on the loom immediately and completed two full scarf lengths. Worth a dance!

red saori cloth

Red upon red, super rich monotone weave

Jan worked  on a red monotone weave. I don’t find this type of colour intensive easy to do and so greatly admire the skill of subtlety that she used.  Each tone of red is slightly different and you need a very good eye and acuity to use the various shades of the same hue.

Most of the weavers got to experiment with a couple of completely different cloths in some way. Kate was a colour girl and wove both a cool coloured and warm coloured cloth with a very delicate colour selection.

Kate's cloth in red and purple

Kate’s warm jeweled cloth

As usual each of the colour selections are inspirational for me and provided lots of ideas for how to work proportions of colours in ways that really work.

Phillip tried every technique I reviewed in the workshop pulling it all together into a very impressive design. As a photographer he had an eye for placement and used a restricted and repeating colour palette.

If big is best then Vivian won the day, steadily weaving and completing about 4-5 metres for a coat.  The cloth had lots of techniques including leno lace, texture and clasped weft. A really lovely cloth which will fall well for the coat pattern.

I have one more travelling workshop to Maitland this weekend and then a short break until next year. New workshops will be listed when I date them up…  Thank you so much to every workshop participant this year. You’ve allowed me briefly into your ‘secret’ weaving lives and the one you are living.  Thank you to Mirielle, Jan, Vivian, Phillip and Kate for your insights, creative vibe and companionship over the weekend. Read more

Rocks and Cushion Bushes of the Great Ocean Road

Bells beach

Bells Beach, Victoria

Well my short trip along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria was inspirational to say the least!  I knew it was down there, and others have been, but it’s not until you see it yourself that it truly bowls you over.  The landforms of the Great Australian Bight are so powerful and secretive. Every stop along the way held more surprises.  I can no longer cling to the smug satisfaction of an armchair traveller as any photography is a poor substitute indeed.

There were two times when my breath was literally taken away. The first was seeing the legendary surfing beach – Bells. You see the surfing competition and all the people on TV, but you imagine that the take away shops, grot and main road traffic is just beyond. But it’s NOT.

Great Ocean Road scenery

The Great Australian Bight

Bells is quite secluded and a totally natural and high coastline. The high vantage point on the cliffs was sprinkled with people in a hushed reverence for the enormity and exquisite surfing breaks  of the famous beach.

Next stop was the 12 Apostles, which are remaining rock structures along the coast. The bight is so special that I can’t think any mining of the area would be a good idea in any form as it seems to be quite vulnerable in its enormous stature and beauty. Mining company people must see an entirely different thing to what I saw!

It’s wasn’t only the ocean ridges that are remarkable and new to my NeSWelsian eye.The cliff vegetation, the colours and textures are astounding and of great interest to handweavers. I couldn’t get enough of the cushion bush. When I got back home I subconsciously warped up all my green silks and went for it on the loom.  Most times it helps me not to consciously think about what I am designing then link up what has happened when it comes off the loom. Always a giant leap of faith in yourself.

Cushion Bush collection

Cushion Bush Collection

To be honest I didn’t take many photos and just let the sights and sensory happenings sink into the moment. Sometimes purposeful photography and memory curation stop me absorbing the actual reality of a moment I’ll never get back again.  Back home nobody is really interested in seeing photos of what you have experienced because you have to do it all yourself.

Now to get ready for my last 2015 Workshop in the studio. Looking forward to it!

Weave a Saori Inspired Cloth

Saori textileFinally today my article in Down Under Textiles has been published! “Weave a Saori inspired cloth” This is the forerunner of a regular column  I will be writing which explores textiles and in particular woven works. I’ll be looking at how to begin and continue weave textile journeys, new ideas on the horizons and established traditional ideas and techniques that continue to inspire and work for us.

Although I’m always a fan of web publishing and the tools it offers there is still something tactile and keepworthy with print. It’s more difficult to offer links and knowledge trajectories to others but has an authority and intimate focus that the web still struggles with. I’m delighted to write for Down Under Textiles. Read more

September Spring Saori

SeptemberAnother workshop is over and I’m still thinking about possibilities and styles that were initiated with the group. Jute was a bit popular this time around.  You can’t beat that crisp fibre especially when it turns at the selvedges. This workshop was full of new weavers which is always great.  The unexpected and new is very expected!

Over and over again I am so impressed with how others use colours and textures. Even when they are tentative and unsure they come up with the magic.  Natural fibre and naturalistic colourings are taking a centre stage at the moment and as some weavers worked in analogous colours others went straight to delightful complementaries. Read more