Saturday, January 16, 2016

Overshot, How do I love thee?

Overshot is a traditional American weave structure. It was used for coverlets (bed coverings) in Early American times. The warp threads are of a fine cotton (or linen) thread and the pattern weft is made of two threads, one cotton (or linen) for the background and the other usually wool. It is supple, lightweight and warm. The pattern varieties are endless! They are some of the most coveted pieces in museums that deal with Early Americana.  This is a structure I have dreamed of weaving since I began my foray into weaving 21 years ago. Bucket list, check.

Overshot, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! 

Now before I begin listing what I love about this historic weave structure, let me just say that weaving a new structure is a lot like dating. You make plans, decide to 'do a project together' spend a lot of time preparing and getting ready, and then you jump right in and either fall madly in love, or run the other direction. I am glad to say that Overshot and I are getting along quite well, after just one day of weaving! (Shh...don't tell my husband!)

The prep process was pretty painstaking. The 10/2 cotton yarn (thread, really) was stickier than I expected and darker than I have warped in a while, (which I hate to admit, is harder to see with my aging eyes.) However, after winding 220 warp threads, lashing on to my table loom, and threading heddles and reed, I went to my Saturday class prepared for my date with said Overshot sampler. (I am making a sampler so the table loom will use less yarn and therefore waste less yarn than the floor loom.)

Little did I know that Overshot would literally blow my mind! I have been weaving plaid for so long that I don't know how to do anything but balance numbers in my weaving (multiples of 2 are the norm with designs in plaid.) Suddenly, Overshot has me going rogue. Patterns end on either side of the loom while weaving, not always on the same side. Nothing seems as neat and easy as with my dear, familiar, plaid. (To keep with the dating was like the guy who picked me up for our date brought a motorcycle, when I am used to riding in a 4-door sedan.. Hmmm. This is going to take some getting used to, but how exciting!)

Overshot's weave structure has a tabby weave background that holds the Overshot pattern floats in place. In this case, the blue threads are literally holding the cream colored threads neatly in the fabric structure, but the cream threads are the pattern. So in actuality I am weaving two separate fabrics simultaneously. Or 1 1/2 if you want to get picky, as the cream threads wouldn't really be able to hold their own in shape, without the skeleton of the blue tabby.

The design I chose to thread was one of Bertha Gray Hayes Miniature Overshot Patterns called, Stars of Victory. It is a lovely pattern with what looks like a pointed star in between a butterfly shape. It sort of depends on how you see, which part of the pattern will stand out to you! I have chosen not to weave in three colors, as the sample from the book Weaving Designs by Bertha Gray Hayes has shown, rather, I want to see a more traditional Early American coverlet style in my sampler, so two colors seemed the better choice.

The pattern repeat is 48 threads wide. That was a lot to keep track of for me, after doing mostly twill threading for plaid. (Twill is threading 1,2,3,4 over and over)

The treadling (order in which the harnesses are raised for pattern) was where the wheels nearly fell off the wagon (or should I say that I almost didn't get on the motorcycle for that date) but I jumped on and I'm so glad! The treadling has a huge repeat. The book has it at over 80 maneuvers. Quite a feat to keep it sorted when you realize that those maneuvers are all in between throwing the shuttle for the tabby weave. So that means I have to throw the shuttle twice, once for blue and once for cream, on each pass at the loom, from side to side. That is double the throwing for a normal twill, like plaid.
Lucky for me, I have one of the best weaving teachers, and she suggested a stick note to remind me which harnesses to raise for the tabby on each side of the loom. Now at least one part of my pattern is easy to access. And now that I am weaving along, that portion is becoming second nature!

So here I go with my first Overshot sampler. Not quite done with one treadling repeat at this point, but I am happy to say that there are no threading errors and the pattern is quite lovely.

Admittedly, I cannot imagine weaving a bed-sized coverlet at this point (gold star to the Colonial weavers....maybe if I didn't like watching historical dramas on TV so much I would just make one with all that time) but I am glad to bond with the weaver's of the past in my pursuit of a beautiful, versatile weave structure. But never say never!

Warm and inviting, yet complicated and exciting, I am glad my date with Overshot has lived up to my expectations!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shaking off the Cobwebs

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   I am shamelessly stealing my cousins words for my blog title today! She is an artist of note in Michigan, a potter, a painter, a gallery owner and one of the creative people that inspires me! When I mentioned my foray into a new discipline this fall, she mentioned that she is 'shaking off the cobwebs too' which I thought was a wonderful metaphor for what it feels like to attempt to infuse energy into one's creative process! And that is exactly what I have wanted to do for the past year. To shake off the cobwebs from a less than ideal time- a time with a creative void that needs to be plowed through!

     Despite the fact that it was an odd summer of lack-luster creativity for me, I have been knitting and weaving all year until now--just not with the passion and enthusiasm I remember! Perhaps it was the change of having so many of my kids grow up and move on to their own lives last year that prevented me from taking the big leap last fall, but now I am ready to do what I have been waiting to do --for 24 years-- to go back to taking some college courses in Art History. When I graduated from college (with two small children in tow) I considered Grad school in Art History & Film School at the American Film Institute, but it just wasn't to be, with so many responsibilities! Add two more children to the mix over the years and I no longer wonder why I waited so long to look inward to myself....

     So this fall I am getting my feet wet again with a two undergrad courses, to round out my transcript, as well as my first Calligraphy class since High School! This time I am not taking Italic, rather I have jumped into Copperplate Calligraphy, the ornate and beautiful script used to write such things as the Declaration of Independence! 

The history fanatic in me loves every minute of learning to hold the oblique pen-- the tilted desk, the mixing of ink crystals and constant dipping of the pen. The artist in me sees the challenge in every stroke and line, from hairline to rounded curve with volume. (Now I am just missing my 18th century shift, bodice and skirt-- and my pony-tailed, three-cornered- hat husband! They must be downstairs next to my spinning wheel....)
  Classes began about a month ago. We have gone from learning to use the pen to using it with a more sensitive nib (one that flows with less pressure, but in the end can be harder to control on a stressful day.)

     And I am hooked!!! I find myself fantasizing about working on my Copperplate while reading my Art History chapters or when trying to fall asleep! For example, I will be practicing the lines in my head for a letter, like miniscule (little) s.....thin line up (no pressure) above the mid line, lift pen (pressure down, curve out) thin line back, add the fruit, lift pen, thin line connector stroke...

     Then I find myself wondering what I will learn about the history of art at the time of Copperplate Calligraphy next semester, when I take the second half of Western Art History (we won't get past the Reformation this semester.)

     Combining these two disciplines,  I now have a great deal of new appreciation for Chinese Art. The Non-Western Art History course I'm taking spent a great deal of time on the use of Chinese Calligraphy within scrolls and artwork of that culture--a combination of poetry, verse and art that amazes me! Why do we not write poetry next to all of our visual arts?

     Which leads me to a sad thought, as the art of writing seems to be dying in the U.S. (and by that I mean that they are not teaching handwriting in many elementary schools anymore.) I wonder what affect this will have on the world of art in the future, if children do not learn something as basic as line and curve of the handwritten word? How many children will have trouble reading, or drawing, or painting in the future if they do not have a time in their lives where they learn to use their eyes and hands to make shapes and words? How many children will never take up a Calligraphy pen in the future because they have never learned to write letters in a beautiful way in the past? How short sighted we are in this computer age! It makes me want to create a place where beautiful handwriting is remembered always. A museum perhaps? I wonder if one exists in our country today?

     But I digress from my personal journey-- I am reconnecting with a part of my brain that hasn't been used in a while, save editing my kids High School papers. I am thinking and writing about Art in an academic way for the first time since my Film Textual Analysis classes in college. It has been invigorating and also enlightening. I am considering diving into some studio design classes in the spring-- because maybe I miss making things too much to be an academic. I am considering how to connect the dots on a very creative, yet discombobulated education, both in and out of college. 

     Today I am inspired and reminded at the potential of making things by my cousin in Michigan. I watch as she posts her latest sets of thrown bowls with beautiful sayings incised and think-- a working artist?!!! I wonder if I could find a way to do what she does? To spend my days making and taking what I see, the knowledge from Art History and all of my skills in media, fiber, Calligraphy and history, and make a creative life that fulfills.

     The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, does it not? I am grateful for the chance to sweep out the cobwebs this fall. I am excited to gain a more formal education in art and design. I can't wait to see where these first steps take me. I have to remind myself that patience produces a better result in the end-- take my time and don't rush it-- just as in Copperplate Calligraphy, make each stroke with intention and patience and beautiful results will follow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Take Joy! -- Mad about Plaid and Puppies

It is the heart of winter here in Minnesota again, which means it's the perfect time to get back to my  loom! The holidays are over, the kids are all back where they need to be, and I am busy in my studio space with all shades of purple and grey. I am making a lupine bleu plaid blanket for the couch in my studio space. What a treat to weave something for me this time!

I have been weaving plaid for a few years now. The last plaid blanket that I made on the loom was 2 years ago. It was my dad's 75th birthday present- a patriotic red, white, and blue- and it turned out beautifully (if I do say so myself....) It seemed time to tackle another large piece of doubleweave to keep my skills sharp. This blanket will be about the same finished size as the last,  5 feet by 6 feet. Big enough to wrap myself in when I am knitting or reading or planning another weaving project in the future!

 I began winding the warp way back in September--and then put it away for a while-- so it was a bit of a challenge to put the warp threads on in the correct order. A few weeks of threading heddles and a few errors threading heddles later (which I DID fix ) and the project has finally begun to fly forward at a decent speed. I am weaving!

I love the rhythm of weaving, the movements of the foot treadles, the throwing of the shuttle, the breaking of the yarn to change color, and the magic of the pattern appearing in front of me! Though weaving is the fun part, it is by far the shortest section in a handwoven project. Winding yarn, warping the loom, threading the heddles, threading the reed, tensioning the threads, and weaving in waste yarn for fringe all have to be done before one can even begin to see the pattern. And don't forget the time finishing afterward-- securing the ends, making the fringe, fulling the yarn into a large piece of fabric. But today I am weaving.....

In the heart of winter I enjoy the change of light as it hits the yarn from morning, to afternoon, to evening. The cycle of advancing the warp here and there throughout the day gives me such a sense of accomplishment and joy! I am reminded of Tasha Tudor's love of the saying to Take Joy! when I am weaving.

 And there is another reason to Take Joy! in our house at the moment-- we have a new member of the family giving us a run for our money these days-- Mr. Bingley, our new Smooth Fox Terrier puppy  (who we were lucky enough to rescue through American Fox Terrier Rescue) has made things quite exciting! He reminds us of our beloved Smoothie, Louie,  who we lost a few years ago, but he is his own special boy. And our Corgi, Cora has decided he can stay too-- though she really wonders at his incredible, puppy energy.

So I am reminded of the many reasons to enjoy this cold season, before the spring arrives in May -- and I am thrust into the garden and a crazy baseball schedule and slathering sunscreen on each morning becomes the norm. Winters aren't cold in Minnesota-- they are perfect-- perfect for Taking Joy! in weaving and yarn projects and cozy new puppies too!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Hat from ****

If you are a knitter, you will know exactly why I am so exasperated today!

My daughter asked me to knit her a new hat for Christmas this year-- so of course I obliged. I love knitting for her-- and I love that she loves for me to do it-- especially since she is 18 and away at college!

I had just finished knitting an old Fiber Trends Felted Slipper pattern (at the request of my oldest son) and decided that I would wait to knit the second  pair (requested by my youngest son) until after I finished this very, very, EASY-to-knit, cabled hat.
"Why not get that done first since it's so easy?" I thought to myself.
About now you should be sensing the knitting drama that has unfolded this week.

I found some lovely Blue Sky Alpaca Sport Weight yarn in my stash. Doubled, it should just about give me the right gauge for the Interweave Knits pattern that I downloaded onto my ipad. Two of the skeins had already been wound into balls.
"This is gonna take like a day!" I say to myself.
Then I sit down in front of the big screen- with the Roku- and find an interesting series by which to knit. Masterpiece Contemporary from the BBC strikes my fancy. Benedict Cumberbatch is the lead role in this older drama. "Yes," I think to myself. "Benedict Cumberbatch. That is the one to knit by. He's pretty easy on both the ears and the eyes." As knitting requires one to look away from the TV a great deal, this seemed to fit my needs quite well.

And so it began. Cast on 80 stitches. Divide amongst four needles. Join and Do NOT Twist. Check.
Knit 8 rounds of 2/2 rib. Begin charted row 1. Knit Charted rows 1-4  five times before beginning decreases. All easy enough.

'Oh look, there's Benedict Cumberbatch."

"Hmm this show is about some weird futuristic data collection with people. I am not really understanding. Oh now people are dying. Wait-- why is Benedict Cumberbatch being naughty with his recently dead brother's widow?"

"Oh-- look at my pattern. Why is my pattern wrong in 5 of the 8 repeats. I had better rip back."

So this went on for two nights. Knit forward, Rip Back. The pattern should have added this caveat for ME apparently. And it clearly didn't say: "Please don't take your eyes off of the ipad for so long that it goes black and you have to stop knitting-- to put the chart back into your viewing area-- while you are still trying to knit AND see why Benedict Cumberbatch is running down a hallway." It didn't, but it should have.

So after two nights of knitting my one evening hat, I ripped back ALL five repeats to the beginning ribbing and began again. Two hours later, at 1am, I had finally successfully knit two rounds of the cable pattern's FIRST repeat.

I know.
I suppose I should mention that I also FORGOT about the large pile of two-strand yarn that sits precariously on top of the CORGI--sitting beneath me, near the couch. She was lying there, sleeping, while I ripped back 20 rounds. That's right. The dog is asleep under my pile of ripped out yarn.

And it is time for bed. I don't mention the pile earlier, because frankly, I didn't know the dog was sitting there. Or I forgot. I click the TV remote, the TV makes a sound as it turns off, and the dog jumps (as she always does) to run upstairs- so that we cannot put her in her kennel for bedtime.

I watch as my knitting needles start chasing the dog-- and my pile of yarn-- across the family room floor. I do what any sane person would do at this point-- I scream at the dog. (Clearly she should know that she is wearing my project and behave completely differently tonight.) All the while my husband is laughing, doubled-over, as he has been witness to all of the ripping back, swearing, and stress of this one night project. No wonder I can't get  him to take up knitting.

But it all turns out okay. Or at least it is all at a point where I can stop and start again tomorrow. At this point the yarn is safely piled on top of the arm of the couch and the project sits on the foot stool. Now my only issues are that I cannot possible take the project anywhere, as the yarn would become hopelessly tangled, and the fact that I am going to have to knit FASTER now, as my Christmas projects are piling up and time is ticking. It is only 20 days to Christmas now.

But I know this will only take ONE night now. You see, I am done with the Benedict Cumberbatch series. Now I will put on something I have seen a thousand times, like Pride and Prejudice. Something I can listen to without looking up, because I know it so well.... Except for that one scene that is....the one where Mr Darcy comes in to apologize and gives her the letter......and the other, where she walks around Pemberly in shock of what could have been hers.....and the end, where he walks over the hill in the sunrise and he proposes....

Oh I guess I had better be prepared to keep ripping......

A one night Hat indeed.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ode to the Inkle Loom

 Such a busy year.....that this post remained a draft for months and I just found it today!

 I will be posting photos of the decor and styling of  my daughter's wedding day soon--but until then, here is a little taste of other weaving that happened over the winter!


March 2014:

How the months have passed since my last post is beyond me. You would never know it is March based on the weather we have had this winter in Minnesota! It has been -10 to -20 more than I can ever remember. We broke some kind of historical record with 50 days below zero. No wonder I haven't posted. I have been HIBERNATING.

Actually, it has been good for making things in my little studio. After tackling all of the crochet for the upcoming summer wedding (which I DID get done-- high-five) I veered off into weaving again. This time I decided to pull out my Inkle Loom and start to weave bands. The original band that I made was intended to be a Handfasting Band for my daughter's wedding. However, she has decided that she wants to use a different tradition and is not in need of a band. So my first, very patriotic colored band is adorning my craft table until I decide what to do with it. The second band was made in an opposite color scheme. These little bands are addictive to make. I just might have to make some more!

Post Script, October 2014:
These bands are now listed on my etsy page for sale: look for my shop on etsy:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's Gonna Be one Heckuva Year of Crafting!!!!

To say that this is going to be a busy year in our household is an understatement! We have three graduations, a high school grad party and a wedding all within the calendar year, most of it between May and July.....

I am not quite sure how I will survive all that I have to do, but I do know that a LOT of it will require me to do what I love most: design and make cool stuff for each event!

My eldest daughter (who's wedding we are planning) was home for three weeks this Christmas break of her last year of college. We had a chance to make a few decisions regarding her color scheme and decor choices for the big day. Her wonderful, kind and very amazing Air Force Pilot fiance has been a bit of an influence on their day! The event will be all things red, white and blue--Americana! Not a stranger to the decorating scheme in our home already, we have a number of fun items we have chosen to bring with us, ripping them right off of the walls at home! Lucky for mom.....

I do, however, need to spice up the table settings for the 'Up North' wedding -at the lodge our family loves. (I am getting excited to spend time with all four of our children on the Big Lake (Superior that is) where my husband and I spent our Honeymoon 23 years ago--and many important events since!)

We are using the lodge's white linens and I really want to make sure something pops on the tables, because we are reusing some clear Ikea milk vases from our son's rehearsal dinner last year. Luckily my yarn SABLE (for you non-knitters that is Stash Aquired Beyond Life Expectancy) holds a lovely bag of red and blue Rowan Wool Cotton -back from the years when I was designing hand-knitting patterns. So I came up with this!

Now they haven't been blocked yet, so the edges will look smoother and more refined at the wedding, rest assured! I will be making nine more of the large and two more of the small (the small are for the sweet head table for two.) The secret to all of this though, which you cannot see, is the very fun decor that will go on top! I am posting only a PART of the decor the other pieces aren't ready yet. Besides, we need to make sure there are a few surprised on the big day for the guests!

So in case you are like me and are busy trying to decide what is going inside and what all of this years crafting is going to include....I will give a clue. I had to order a ton of Americana paper! That should get a few mouths watering for a future post about what is happening with the wedding crafting this year!

Now onto making another list, planning another party on this snowy January day in Minnesota--no,
maybe not. Maybe it is a good day to snuggle up on the couch with a crochet hook and some Jane Austen and get some of THIS work done :)

After all, I need to try and control my ADKD (my affectionate term for not being able to finish one project at a time....Attention Deficit Knitting Disorder!)

And I have such a good start, wouldn't you say?!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Little Handwoven Critters

After having spent the past year, off and on, weaving plaid, twill blankets, runners and other F.O. (finished objects) I decided it was finally time to design and weave something a little bit different, but on the same starting page. I created a weaving draft with a larger repeat area,with the intention of using the fabric to cut and make items, like little critters. I had a suspicion that my fabric might not be the easiest to work with once woven, due to the 12 e.p.i. that might make it unravel -if not truly fulled in the end. I was right on that account, but I am still happy with having tackled the project of making my first fabric for sewing, after weaving.
     There is just something about knowing you are going to cut apart your design that has sent chills down my spine in the past and has kept me from making fabric for cutting. After all the hard work of measuring, warping and weaving, the idea of cutting it all apart again felt so-- so-- wasteful. I guess having spent a year on the same type of fabric is what finally made me decide it was okay to cut some of my fabric! Patterns and fabric aren't as precious when you know you have the skills to make more!
     So here are the first two items made from cutting my handwoven fabric-- an X-mas Stocking and my favorite, Little Owlie. Neither one is perfect. Both have shown me what frightful sewing skills I have! But the process has allowed me to grow as a weaver. I cannot wait to find a source for traditional Scottish yarn for weaving plaid, so that I can full and cut a finer cloth in the future!

And though I tend to give most of my handmade items as gifts, this little guy was just too cute to part with. He now sits on top of my mantlepiece in our bedroom, making me smile!