Monday, October 10, 2016

Weaving Rag Rugs

Last Spring, in addition to our Tuesday evening study group, the weavers began a daytime Rug Study Group and began the first project: Rag Rugs/Runners

The 12 or so weavers involved selected a common pattern and color way. As a group we warped the two looms upstairs, one for runners using the same structure but on a differ scale, and the other for rugs.

Oh, my, what a adventure it has been. It was a challenging learning experience from the get-go. I really did learn a lot. I did learn to carefully count when using the warping wheel (that wheel goes around really fast), and to read and reread the threading count prior to winding day.  Selecting the fabrics to use lead us to discover that some color combinations don't work. The fabric weight and printing method(as with batik or silk screening) differs among fabrics and that difference impacts the compression of each strip.  Thus, the width of strips necessary may differ.  Hmmm, there's that nasty word...SAMPLING is essential. And NEVER, never, never precut all your strips. We learned how to repair a brake on the vintage Tricks of the Trade loom. We learned a temple is important and purchased a new type for the rug and learned how to use it.  And yet, with all the snafu's and challenges, we all completed our rug/runner project by the state fair time! Some even submitted their projects and two won ribbons.

All that being said, it was a wonderful experience, even to those of us who wove in the intense heat of last summer in the attic room that houses our looms. We're off and running again. This time we are warping and threading for Rosepath.  Each time I begin these projects, I think I have so much to learn. Experiential Learning is often the way to cement the process into the brain. Personally,  I just wish I didn't always learn it the hard way by messing up and having to unweave. Oh, well, Let's see what I can learn this time.

Just an FYI: Janet Meany's classic rug book, "Rug Weaving" and Tom Kinsey's "Weave a Good Rug" Video are great resources.

Anyone interested in Rug weaving, contact Cathy Willoughby at the guild for the specific information.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Spinners to study "Local" fleece.

Spinners gather with drop spindles and wheels to share their craft
 Exciting plans are underway for the spinners group. Greg announced that there will be two workshops and we will be studying "local" fleece this year. Local refers to fleece from animals raised within a two hour radius. He's so thrilled, he's already found quite a few. "My garage is full of fleeces,  I cannot wait to get my fingers into them." Similar to last year's breed study, he will distribute samples of each breed to "play with".  There will also be a spring workshops, April 8 & 9 at the Solon library, on the uniqueness of and the expectations for spinning specific crossbreeds and purebreds.  Each day is $110, and limited to the first 20 sign ups. Contact Greg if you weren't at the meeting if you'd like to be included in either of the workshops or the local breeds study.

Folks have been busy, spinning up last year's samples from the breeds study and other fleece found at the sheep and wool shows last summer. As we all know, spinning takes time and practice, yet amazingly, we see results. We do tend to be our own worst critics and fail to see the beauty and success of a not so perfect yarn. I often take my wheel camping. It sits proudly in the passenger seat, all buckled in, ready to ride to wherever our journey takes us. It doesn't care if it's raining, cold, or the campsite is less that ideal.  However, I do use a large mat under my wheel and basket after I absent-mindedly added leaves to my yarn.  It really wasn't a great disaster, just not fun picking out the leaves rather than spinning. Thankfully, spinning is an addictive and soothing activity in which perfection is not always the goal. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Weaving at the Iowa State Fair

Over the years, the Craft Guild of Iowa City has had a strong presence in the fibers and threads exhibits. This year, in addition to many entries, many ribbons, we had weavers demonstrating the fine craft on handweaving from 10-3 daily throughout the fair. 

Every day weavers worked at the loom, answering questions and hearing stories of parents and grandparents at their looms. One gal said her mom never bought a wedding present, but instead wove a rug for every couple. Handwoven rugs last forever. Another couple stopped by asking how to fix a long standing problem with a warp. Some just stood there and watched. 

A child asked,  "how's is that done, its string and then its cloth."  One little girl was delighted to help one of our weavers weave. "Mom, she says, look, I'm making colors". The joy and excitement we feel as weavers when it comes together as a towel, rugs or scarf, was obvious in many a child's delight.  I think we had as much fun as the fairgoers did. 

One weaver, Stephanie,  summed it up best. "...Love sharing my skills  and hearing the stories of our fiber history  💕💕" 

Monday, July 11, 2016

OPEN HOUSE: September 11, 2016

Come by and see all the work our members have been doing over the past year, renew your membership or simply to enjoy the cookies, comradery and members  demonstrating their various crafts

Historical 200 yr old Woven Coat Found

Historically, Independence Day reminds us with patriotic excitement, what challenges and struggles have been overcome in the last 200 years ago, a step back into time, a glimpse into the past. A glimpse into the past became most interesting to one of our guild members who came across a trunk that hadn't been open in at least 100 years.  The key had been lost and it had been passed down through the family, the inside of which ne'er to see the light of day.

And then...She says with a pregnant pause.  I will not be swayed, I will open this truck. We tried every key anyone had, we tried to jimmy the lock, and we even tried to pick the lock. But she did refuse to cut the lock off or cut the hinges. Long story short through perseverance, a emailed picture, a pencil tracing of the lock and all the numbers found anywhere on the truck, a locksmith was found in Pennsylvania who thought he had just the key.  AND HE DID.

She had it open, a grand unveiling. Inside were vintage clothing, furs, and newspapers from the late 1800's.  Amazingly, the clothes were a little dusty perhaps, but largely in good condition.

The pi`ece de re`sistance was a coat which had a note in the pocket, dating it to approximately 200 years ago.   "This wrap is about 200 years old.  The material in the wrap was woven by Mrs. K........'s great grandmother."   

Always curious, she started to research its origins.
Usually, this items would have been passed down through the women in the family and it is believed to have come to this country in 1866 with Birgitte who was born in 1835 and would have been the weaver's granddaughter.  The weaver (Maren) was born in 1751 and had her first child in 1777 and the mother of Birgitte in 1790.  Googling Orum, Hjorring, Denmark history says the town was begun in the 1250s and was a trade center among other things.  

This suggests that it is possible some of the materials for the coat could have been purchased but also suggests that knowledge of weaving may have come in as well.  The coat lining appears to be silk, woven in a damask pattern.  One would first assume that it was purchased although could a draw loom have been used?  Also in the history, a report of fire in the 1820's may have destroyed relative information. She has also contact a fiber center in Denmark and is awaiting their reply. 

There were other items in the trunk, a suit ensemble obviously designed for a pregnant women, a gentlemen's evening coat, a beaded cape, a fur coat (you could still feel the oils of the animal) and several other items. I must admit we were like little kids reveling in the "what could this have been?" and "how was this made?" 

The coat was shared at the recent weavers meeting and as she moved around the room, the weavers fingering the fiber, examining the weave structure, and oohing and aahing a fine piece of craftsmanship. 

Anytime we step back into time whether it's through a holiday remembrance or a trunk in the attic, there is a story to tell, a time to research, a history to be learned. 

Even as she cleaned the clothing (with careful archival instructions from her fabric designer granddaughter) and returned them to the trunk, the quest for the coat's history continues. Stay tuned, Denmark may just add more to the story. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pottery or is it Ceramics?

As we gathered for our annual meeting, I became aware of the talent that shares this space. I am a weaver, a spinner, a quilter, pretty much anything to do with fiber, but I know nothing about pottery. And yet, the potters are clearly alive and well amid their fiber friends.

Our guild has a sizable group of potters,  not only in workspace, but also in wheels, kilns, clays, paints and stains. Often as the kiln is loaded and another firing begun, I realize my love for winter pottery stems from the warmth radiating from even as it cools. Throwing clay and designing its shape upon a wheel is mesmerizing, and yet, I still know nothing. I understand that a glob of brown, tan or grey becomes something recognizable with human contact and skill.  Yes, we all remember the "Ghost" scene with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze.

I get confused in the distinction between ceramics and pottery because they are made in a similar fashion. The creation of any piece typically begins with the mixing of clay, formed into a shape using a potter's wheel or mold and then left to dry out. A kiln is used to fire or bake the clay in preparation for the decorating and finishing. Items are painted, stained or glazed before a second firing sets the work. It seems that the distinction lies in the meaning people place on the item. Fine Art pieces are thought of as ceramics, where as items with a function is pottery. The art form as a whole is often referred to as ceramics, whereas pottery is a subgroup.

I know as I have tried to explain pottery/ceramics, I am lacking. What I do know is that having the pottery punch bowls for our open house punch, platters and mugs to display our wares, and the basic esthetic beauty of the pieces created by our members is exciting and visibly dynamic. The piece above was thrown and glazed by Craig, one of our member potters.  Outstanding, isn't it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Finding the Perfect Fiber for Every Purpose...The "S" Word.

Beth Smith enjoying the day
The spinners took time out from their British breeds study to participate in a weekend workshop on American Breeds and the hows and whys of fleece preparation with Beth Smith. It was a fun weekend in Solon.  No, that apron doesn't mean Beth is one of the 'housewives of Solon',  but we did make a mess and we did have a lot of fun. We laughed, carded and plied, and laughed, combed and plied and flicked and plied some more. And Laughed some more.  Amazing how different the same fleece looks based on which preparation I used prior to the spinning. And Beth did use that "S" word ALOT!.

Shocking I know, the "S" word. As weavers, spinners, knitters or quilters, we don't often like the "S" word. SAMPLING, that is.  We think it's just more work and just too much time. WELL, I'm going over to the dark side; sampling really did make a difference. There will be significantly less wasted time, less wasted fiber and more successfully completed projects. You do spend time up front planning and sampling, but then you can simply fly. All the bugs have been worked out, no surprises, no bumps in the road and I have to admit, when a project comes together just like I wanted,  I love what I do. When it doesn't, not so much.  The "S" word, SAMPLING,  hmmm, maybe a pseudonym for success.

Hand combing
Each type of prep is based not just on what kind of fleece, but also what is the project this fiber will be used for. Each fiber is best suited for a specific project after a specific prepping. For example, some preps create fluffy or fuzzy fiber, which is not the best fit for lace.

Vicki using the long draw to spin

Linda is using hand coombs
Bev using her hand to wind off prior to plying.
Julianna checking out a resource in Beth's book
 Beth has authored a intriguing guide to spinning entitled The Spinner's Guide to Fleece. It describes the how's and why's of spinning and then catalogues individual breeds. It serves as an excellent resource for many of us novice spinners.

 On the second day of the workshop, she discussed several American Breeds. Samples of American Jacob were prepared and it will be interesting to compare the American Jacob with that of the British Jacob (Part of our British breeds study) We know there is a size difference, but are there any other differences. All I can say is stay tuned.

A Handwoven skirt Beth made from her Homespun wool

As the week end came to an end, we left tired, enthused and excited to try yet another fleece.  Happy spinning.