Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Deb Robson: Primitive Breeds and Crossbreds workshop

For Spinners- the virtual Encyclopedia of Fibers
Deborah Robson
 This weekend, the spinners were delighted to have Deborah Robson conduct two workshops. On Saturday, Deb presented the historical information about primitive and improved breeds, shared samples and the insights of each with those gathered. On Sunday, she continued our fleece study in crossbreds/purebreds.
It was humbling to be with Deb, she is so low-key, a skilled spinner and yet so very knowledgeable about the breeds and her craft.

DAY One: What exactly is a primitive breed? An improved breed? Thus began the crux of the discussion with Deb, a consummate researcher leading the way, addressing the criteria used, the data available and the confusion in the labeling of each. We were fortunate to experience, that is to say, feel, card, comb and spin the fleece from some of these breeds. In my former life, I spent a great deal of time researching Native Peoples, so the Navajo Churro jumped off the page of her handout. Navajo weaving has long a passion for me, but I must admit I just took for granted the wool I used. I understand the native practices embedded in the process of weaving and the sacredness of the sheep providing its wool, but never considered the historical significant of the sheep. So much to learn.
Day one: sheep to sample
Deb also introduced a documentation system. As spinners, we attend workshops and guild meetings trying out different fleeces or fibers. Only to think later...oh, what was that fabulous fleece Greg loved during our British Breeds Study and simply not have a clue. Record-keeping, or the simple making notes, clear concise storing of information that YOU gleaned from an experience is crucial. Yes, it's homework...Ugh. It's like the S word, sampling, Double Ugh. However, both are important in developing your skills and your satisfaction in your craft. I know of many a tine I thought I could skip past either of these, only to attend the court of regrets in regal fashion.

Purebred sheep...NOTE the smiliarities 
Crossbred...NOTE the distinct visual differences

DAY: Two

Purebred sheep are bred to maintain a specific size, color, fleece type, behavior and adaptation to their environments.
Crossbred sheep are bred often to increase a specific quality desired, whether it's increased lamb production, changes in muscle mass for meat production or in fleeces for the commercial industry, or simply to facilitate adaptation to a new environment.

sample fleeces of the purebred and crossbred

We had the opportunity to spin each of the purebred fleece and then its crossbred, i.e, Coopworth, Dorset; then Coopworth-Dorset. There was a definite difference in the feel, texture, or color of some, but in other, those differences were less apparent. I have not had the opportunity to spin each of my samples, but my hands are itching to start and I think I'm praying for rain...no outdoor spring chores this week. 

Deb demonstrating Navejo Plying

This was a weekend well spent. Deb was able to run the gauntlet of the very experienced spinners to the very novice with an expertise I personally found thrilling. I am that novice with much to learn, but I believe we all took away something of importance.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Jan Friedman, A Glimpse Inside the Weaver.

Last month we had the privilege of our own private showing of the exquisite tapestries and other weavings of Jan Friedman. She has been a fiber artist for more than 40 years. Her tapestries and collages use hand-dyed wool, cotton, rayon and silk and well as many other natural materials.  I see  sticks and twigs, rocks and pebbles as yard work. Jan sees those same sticks and rocks as elements in her Art.

There is an inherent beauty in a leaf, a tree, a rock, all of which inspire her. Often using nature as a theme, she employs a gradation of color in her fibers that reflects light and color in much the same way as a painter uses watercolors. Her samples of the materials used in her collages drive home the point that a collage, while carefully thought out, has a life of its own and creates itself, albeit guided by deft hands. 

In the beginning of her career it was mainly tapestries, however she shifted to framed fiber collages to us a variety of materials. This is her life, but it is also her job she does many pieces on commission. Her works can be seen in hotels, office building, schools as well as private homes here and aboard. Thanks, Jan for the glimpse inside your world of sharing your passion while earning a living doing so.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Beginning Weavers Learn about Weaving with Wool

Our beginning weavers joined the larger group to lean about "Weaving with Wool" at the monthly weavers meeting. Wool, like every fiber, come in different weights, twists and texture. It is recognized as a good insulator, dyeable, resistant to wear, is flexible, absorbent and elastic.
A handwoven vest with interplay of patterns

Woolen or Worsted, each having its own set of characteristics and which works best depends on the final purpose, the weave structures and finishing. Finishing in weaving is more about blocking and washing/misting of your woven product than just the completion. There are a lot of pre and post weaving decisions to make, especially so when the fiber is wool.
Finished vs Completed 

When fabric is handwoven, the finishing helps the fiber to bloom, to intertwine & fibers connect, thus determining the texture, strength and size of the completed fabric.  There are resources to facilitate your weaving with wool, check out the weavers' library.  This all seems complicated, however, like any learning experience you break it down into manageable pieces and focus on learning the simple before jumping into the complex experience.  We are all learning everyday...beginner, intermediate and expert weavers alike. 
Handwoven vest

Each fall, the weavers hold a beginners weaving class. Cathy, the primary course instructor determines the schedule, usually beginning in Mid-September after the Open House and finishing near the end of October. Sometime after the first of the year, there is usually a sample style workshop in which the new weavers get to experience multiple weaves while only warping one loom-a sampling of the complex while mastering the small piece.
Excited beginning weavers show their first fabulous runner. 
The instructor tries to link each new weaver with a mentor to reassure them that help is only a phone call away. I must admit back in the day I viewed it as a lifeline, a way to continue to learn the process without frustration.  Today 15 years later, I still pick up that phone and ask "Vicki, Are you busy, I have a question." Weaving is a dynamic experience, as you master one technique, there is always another one of interest.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Spinners Tools in Everyday Life.

The January gathering of the spinners choose to celebrate more than just their spinning prowess. The spinners were asked to share alternate uses for their spinning tools or household tools for spinning use.  We've all used those rake combs to detangle yarns ends, or the freezer to prevent moth infestation, but here are a few novel ideas that are simple to use and readily available.
Terry is demonstrating the use of a lazy susan to assist the    winding of your spun yarn. 

Greg has taken landscaping tape and a indelible marker to use as waterproof labeling of skeins of spun yards for dyeing.
Two different drop spindles are used to wind string for later use in bundle-tying of yarn prior to washing/dying.

And lastly we all struggle with tangled christmas lights, Colleen suggested try using a nitty-noddy to organize them.
It was a fun night of spinning, knitting, laughing and all those fun things that happen 
when spinners gather.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Krobragd Weaving

This season, our weaving study group topic is Scandinavian Weaving. Krobragd is a boundweave structure that is usually woven on 3 harnesses, using a point twill with pickup draft. This resulting weave has floats on one side and a tighter weave on the other.   Danish, Norwegian, Swedish versions are similar but there remains some distinct difference in the design patterns. Historically,  these weavings served a functional purpose, and only the wealthy used them exclusively for decoration. My limited knowledge is showing. All I really understand is they are awe inspiring, whether a wall hanging, a rug or a coverlet.  In early December, Dorothy, one of our weavers,  completed this marvelous piece of Krobragd.

She designed it using the patterns and colors of her ancestors as a gift to her son. She shared that it was a fun, rewarding and sometimes challenging project that took a little time (I believe that's an understatement), but so worth it to hear her son's appreciation in his  "Thanks, Mom."

Friday, December 9, 2016

Kitten Approved Quilting

Hmm, this was an interesting morning. The quilters gathered to share their latest work and to seek input from the group. Marilyn shows her almost completed mystery quilt and its wonderful machine quilting. However, looks like we have a little lady checking out Marilyn's handiwork up close and personal.  She seemed to voice her approval,  purring away as she nestled in for a a scratch behind her ears and a lap to nap on.
Thanksgiving is behind us; the true test of an Iowan is upon us. And yet, when those winter winds blow and snow envelops the landscape,  it is this love of fabric and fiber that keeps our minds and bodies happy.  A warm fire, friends around, a quilt in progress and a little love from a wee one...what more can we ask. Happy Quilting

Monday, November 21, 2016

What to do with sampling fleece?

Last year, the spinners group decided to study various British breeds. We each received a sample, took it home, spun and plied it, and thought,  Hmmmm, now what am I going to do with this small amount of yarn. 
Terry, one of our members, proceeded to envision clothing for an American Girl doll. She wove the fabric for the hooded cape, knitted the sweater, skirt, socks, tam, and felted the shoes. Each breed was highlighted in some piece of clothing.  Last Fall,  her creativity and handiwork was the focal point of the Coralville Library Display.  Outstanding, isn't it?