Thursday, January 18, 2018

St Distaff Day: A Celebration of Spinning

St. Distaff Day

Partly work and partly play
You must on St. Distaff's Day.
From the plough soon free your team, 
Then come home and fodder them.
If the maids a-spinning go, 
Burn the flax and fire the tow.
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maiden-hair; 
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men. 
Give St. Distaff all the right:
Then bid Christmas sport good-night, 
And next morrow every one
To his own vocation. 
Robert Herrick (, 1/7/12)

What pray tell is St. Distaff Day?

St. Distaff Day is an ancient holiday, observed on January 7, after of the work of Christmas was over. After celebrating, they returned to their normal chores of daily living. The women tended the home and the spinning; the men tended the land and the plows. The name Distaff comes from the tool used in spinning fiber into thread and was a symbol of female industry.
The distaff stores the thread spun with the spindle.

Wheel from Wales, Note the distaff.
Karen's Welsh wheel has two flyers
The Spinners from the Craft Guild of Iowa City gather together to rejoice, "We Are Spinners."  Unlike in ancient days, this is not labor per se, but a labor of love. Our celebration this year was an equipment rodeo, shared repast with that tasty dessert ending. Check out these example of equipment. It was a simple sharing of good times at the wheel or the spindle. 
Grace using the spindle cradle. 
And a merry time was had by all. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Quilters' Restoring the Past, Memories Embeded in the Stitching.

Quilt #1
One of our quilters while looking through her mother's things, trying to decide what to throw and what to keep, what to recycle and what to treasure, came upon three vinage quilt tops her mother and grandmother had pieced. Lois could identify some of fabrics; it was like a walk down memory lane through the eyes of her mother and grandmother. The quilt tops had been pieced by hand, had considerable dust, wear and tear, and had not been made into quilts. Was this worth salvaging? Was it worth the cost and effort? Were the memories intertwined in the quilt top important enough to make quilts from the piecings. And even it it was worthy of restoration, how do you salvage history in cloth?
Quilt #2
One of our guild members, Katherine stepped up with ideas and knew a little about restoration. She took the tops home and with careful attention to the age and condition of the fabric, handwashed and throughly cleaned the tops. She examined them for worn or tattered spots as well as stitching in need of repair and set out to do those things. Next became the decisions. Hand-quilting vs machine: hand quilting was chosen in that the age of these fabrics could be as old as 75-100 years and possibly too fragile for machine quilting. Batting-wool, cotton, poly; a cotton/polyester blend was chosed for its ease in hand-quilting. Backing was it to be simple, cotton, or what?? A plain cotton fabric was chosen to complement the simplicity of the top. Next was the decision what type of stitching should be used.In the ditch, shadow, or design. Maybe the Amish quilters will know.  The decisions made, off it went to be hand quilted in our local Amish community. This group of women have a reputation for excellent hand quilting.
Quilt #1 Border Hand Quilting
Quilt #2 hand quilting

As you can see the first two were completed to given to the sons of our quilter,  to be passed on to future generations. It's just a quilt. No, not really, it's a quilt of love,  passed down from the mother to her daughter, to her daughter and now to the son. Each adding their own hand, their own moments of caring, of memories, of family. What a treasured gift these quilts are! What stories they will tell.

How can we restore old quilts? One resource I found which may help is a book entitled Quilt Restoration: A Practical Guide by Camille Caplhond Cognac. Another is to contact your location quilt guild for individuals who might know about achival quilts. Personally, passing on the memories of one life to another is always worth the work. Beautiful Job, Lois and Katherine.

Monday, December 4, 2017

That Joyful Beginning: Students' First Scarves!

New Student Scarves:  Pat, Leslie, Carolyn and Lois
Almost every fall, the Guild Weavers offer a beginning weaving class. Students spend 3 months learning all the how's and why's of weaving. They are mentored by more experienced weavers and there are opportunities to practices those teachings. The lastest group of new weavers are finishing up their classes and will be participating in their first round robin color and weave workshop in January.

Check out these scarves!! Fantastic weaving!! I remember my first scarf, I planned it, warped it, wove it,  I swore at it, all with much apprehension and the thrill of watching it come alive. I still have that scarf and it's in a place of honor.  It's not perfect. I can find many, many issues...with my beat, with my tension, oh, well, pretty much everything. I was so proud of that first scarf and STILL am. It was a wonder, something I'd never even thought possible.

New Student Scarves: Jenny and Micheal

These students are obviously head and tails above my skill set. Congratulations to Pat, Leslie, Carolyn, Lois, Jenny, and Micheal on that beautiful and well done first scarf.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Name Drafting: What's in a Name?

(Figure 1) Sampling for Wedding Runner: Name Drafting 

As weavers, we often try to make gifts personal, meaningful to the recipients. Name drafting, based on overshot, does exactly that. This piece (figure 1) was a wedding gift for my daughter from a treasured friend. The overshot pattern is based on the bride and grooms' full names and the date of their nuptials. Even though my daughter is not a weaver, she oohed and aahed over the runner.  She cried when she found out how it was designed, knowing she will have a forever remembrance of that day and of that incredible weaver. 

What is Name Drafting? Recently, Vicki Tardy presented a program on Name Drafting to our guild. A reference which will assist you to understand name drafting is Peter Mitchell's article. "Name Drafting: an approach to a better understanding of overshot drafting principles" (Handwoven. March, l982, pp.34-37). I am not an expert, but I will share what I have gleaned from these two resources. 

Name drafting is a technique used to create an original draft/pattern in overshot. Characteristics of overshot include a repetitive sequence of twill blocks, blocks overlap, an even-odd alternation in threading and it uses two wefts, one for pattern and one for tabby. 

Name Drafting
Step One: Assign a shaft to a letters in the name. The following is a commonly used assignment grid for a 4 shaft loom. 
Shaft 1: A, E, I, M, Q, U, Y
Shaft 2: B, F, J, N, R, V, Z
Shaft 3: C, G, K, O, S, W
Shaft 4: D, H, L, P, T, X
Example:  Billy Bob Jones is 21441 232 23213
Step two: Overshot is a pattern/tabby weave. In order to maintain the background cloth, the threading follows an odd/even progression and adjacent numbers must not be assigned to the same shaft. An incidental is added to maintain that progression. Rewrite your assignment pattern leaving spaces for those incidentals. 
Examples: 214*4123*2321*3
Step three: Place shaft assignments in draft form (figure 2) to help identify the incidental needed and to evaluate symmetry. 
Figure 2: shaft assignment in draft form.
Step four: Fill in the incidentals (* in figure 2). You can mirror image your threadings, add a selvage,  and identify block and make adjustments. As I write this, I realized that even "I" could see a 
pattern, a symmetry. Now that I've gotten you excited about a new challenge. There are a few more steps in the designing process and I encourage you to read Mitchell's article to develop your own draft.

Our guild challenge this year is to use name drafting (could be based on a name, music, or a poem) to design and weave something based on this technique. Check back in the spring to see what we accomplished. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Spinning Flax and other plant fibers

The spinners this year have undertaken the spinning of "plant Fibers" If you're interested, let Greg know asap. The cost will be $20, and there's some good stuff coming.  How about banana fiber??  Or that cotton/milkweed down blend??

Their study began with a 2-day journey to spin flax into cotton with Stephenie Gaustad.  There was probably a little of the "act the way you want to feel going on."  Greg's friend  from Kansas City, who took the workshops, whilst spinning flax, repeatedly said, through a fixed smile and somewhat gritted teeth, "I love spinning flax." It's that love-hate relationship of a challenge, but on the whole everyone learned a lot and had a great time.  Stephenie is a great teacher...if you ever get a chance to take a workshop from her, do it.

Sharing their summer fiber journey,  check out these two show and tell wonders. Greg made this at a workshop in MN this summer. A Shetland fleece that is felted on one side.

It's kinda like a sheep skin but not. Could be used as a cover for sitting in front of the fire or on your bed....
Stephanie spun the many yards of these yarns and wove this rug over the summer at the Guild house. 

The spinners have another exciting years coming up. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

OPEN HOUSE September 10, 2017, 1-4pm

We're tidying up the place, laying gravel for a new parking lot, and inviting the community and members to an open house
Craig, Michael, and Lois spreading gravel
Come see what the Craft Guild is all about and see some of our fun projects and state fair entries.

The Pottery/Ceramics group display their wares,

 a quilter shares her mystery quilt.

A weaver shows her Krokbragd

A spinner's freshly dyed fleece ready to spin.
Everyone's ready, we have COOKIES. 

Weaving with Chenille, the Caterpillar That Becomes a Butterfly

When you see this piece, its hard to imagine Chenille being anything but gorgeous and yet weavers have a love/hate relationship with this fiber.
 Chenille in French means "caterpillar", that worm-like insect that becomes a butterfly. Most caterpillars are small, and covered wth short hair that give them a fuzzy look. Chenille yarn is quite the same, which is soft and fuzzy. Chenille is manufactured by wrapping short lengths of fabric, called piles around a tightly wound core, thus producing its softness and characteristic look, often having an iridescent look.   

Weaving with chenille can be a challenge in that if the sett is not perfect the yarn "worms", wiggles out just like a caterpillar. Experienced weavers say don't change anything, the tension, the way you throw your shuttle, or how you wind your warp. It is the sett and most suggest 12 e.p.i, weaving at 12-15p.p.i. And that ugly "S" word is mentioned often...sample, sample, sample.  Use your own judgement as to which you prefer. (
This year our guild challenge was to produce something from Chenille. These are photos from the challenge. All are luxurious, colorful and dynamic pieces.

This jacket has an almost velvet look and soft texture of velour.

There are no caterpillars here, only Magnificent Butterflies.