Thursday, October 28, 2010

Plant Dyes - Tansy and Queen Anne’s Lace

I picked my tansy from the side of the road, it grows about 4 feet high, and the leaves are sort of like a fern. What makes is easy to identify is its flowers – bright yellow buttons forming clusters. The flowers have the scent of camphor and rosemary, it can make quite a stink when simmering on the stove – go outside! Supposedly the flowers can be used as a mosquito repellant.
The tansy had been drying in its paper bag for almost 2 months before I got around to making dye with it. I’m not sure if the color would have been brighter if they had been used fresh. My dry plant material was twice the weight of the wool used.

As with most of my dyeing, I simmer the plant material the night before for about 45 minutes and then let the pot with the plant material sit overnight. I strain the plant matter from the juice; add my wool I have pre-mordanted in alum and heat to a simmer for about 45 minutes. I remove the wool from the pot, rinse thoroughly and take three bundles of yarn and put one each in a dip of iron, tin and copper, leave it to come to a simmer and remove -- 10 to 20 minutes -- or until the color has shifted . I again rinse out these samples and hang them up to dry.

The photo shows the final product, from left to right:

Tansy with alum, tin, copper and iron. Then Queen Anne’s Lace with alum, tin, copper and iron. These two plants gave very similar colors, except the Tansy with the tin is a much brighter gold-orange than the lace. The photo doesn’t show it well but the iron modifier turned both of these into a very deep olive green.

I picked the Queen Anne’s Lace from the land next to a freeway on-ramp. I knew the road crew mower was coming so I went back several times collecting only about a third each times. I wanted to get as many of the blossoms as possible, but still leave plenty to seed for next year before they mowed them all down.

The legend of Queen Anne’s Lace is that the queen was tatting (making lace) and pricked her finger, there were several spatters of blood and that’s why the flowers have a pink center.

The plant is closely related to the carrot, so when crushing the leaves in your hand or simmered on the stove, it smells like carrots. The root is supposed to be edible, but the plant also looks a lot like hemlock – yes, the very deadly poison of old. Both plants can also grow in the same place, so extreme caution should be used, make sure you have positive identification if you’re planning on using it for food. The leaves of hemlock smell horrible when crushed in your hand – don’t lick your fingers after trying this test, wash thoroughly and carefully afterward.

The Queen Anne’s Lace was picked in early fall, dried and wasn’t used until 2 months later. The dry plant material was one and a half the weight of the wool used.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I was just notified today that I will be showing in the Auburn City Hall Gallery in June 2011. (I’ll be sharing the space with a photographer.)

My art world is going great!

Last week I was notified that I would be having a solo exhibit in the Lynnwood Arts Commissions’ Gallery space sometime next year. Adding these to the solo exhibit I was scheduled for earlier at the University Unitarian Church for November 2011, I think I’m about booked for next year – who knows what group shows might be happening next year between the EDGE group and the Fiber 19 gals.

I got a lot of work to do…

In 2010 I got into a few juried shows plus was in 5 group shows with the above groups. My goal for 2011 was to get a solo show somewhere – coffee shop, yoga studio, I didn’t really care. But then I got the solo show at the church (found out about that in May), so I told myself I had to go to the next level and at least apply to some real galleries, thinking on the level of municipal spaces. Within the last month, I applied to 2 places and as of 2 hours ago have found out I got both – who could ask for more?

Photo: Bryce Canyon

Thursday, August 5, 2010


comes out of the dye pot green
We got into the indigo - a totally different way of dyeing. Forget what you learned the day before, this is vat dyeing. Put the stuff in a pot,, add stuff to take out something, add something else to take out the oxygen, and make sure the ph is between 9.5 and 10.5 -- picky little process! I'll definately have to go over my notes to get this all straight in my head, but it was fun!
turns blue reacting to the air
When you take your yarn out of the dye pot it's green and as it reacts with th air it becomes blue - totally magical!

Dipping our yarns dyed from the previous day did somewhat as suspected -- turned yellows into greens and reds into purples, but what a color range we created without much effort.

our beautiful range of colors

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mad Scientist

weighing fiber
It's "mad scientist" time at Convergence! The class in natural dyes is about to start, I hope it is very "hands on" and we get to take home samples. I've only done natural dyeing with plants I have gathered in the neighborhood. That beginning into the world of plant dyes has been very interesting and entertaining for the neighbors to watch, but I mostly get yellows, greens and browns. The class today will play with the materials to get reds and blues -- finally a whole range of colors from natural sources!

cooking dyestuffs
We got right to work, going over the basics and getting the amounts for mordant worked out for the different fibers. Moved onto straining the dyestuffs (that the instructor had soaked overnight.) and putting the samples into the dye. After alternating from info bits and figuring out percentages for more dyestuffs and taking out the samples and washing them -- a lot of juggling of tasks by the instructor to keep things moving forward -- we ended up with seven plant samples in wool and cotton.
chopping madder

Our dyestuffs are: Osage Orange (yellow), Sage (yellow), Madder (reds), Brazilwood (reds), Cochineal (reds), Logwood (purple), and Cutch (tan). Many of these plants are altered by hard or soft water, ph levels and temperature - I can understand how modern science could figure this out, but how did our ancient peoples figure all this out? Smarts and time -- passing down information for generations. Amazement and respect for those that came before us!
cooking the yarn

Tomorrow we'll put indigo and iron into the mix and end up with 42 samples plus whatever we do with the indigo.
samples drying


Friday, July 23, 2010

Wedge Weave

I'm at HGA Convergence in Albuquerque and spent the last two days in a class on wedge weaving. Wedge weaving is easy to identify by it's scalloped edges. It was originally done by the Navajos but possibly fell out of favor when interior designers equated straight selvages with quality. I had not heard of this type of weaving until reading about the class in the Convergence class catalog. I have been wanting to learn tapestry techniques and this was the closest I could come to at the conference. I googled "wedge weave" to find out what it was and looked at some traditional images (on right). I also checked out the instructor Connie Lippert and liked the contemporary way she was interpreting this traditional technique(below left).

Wedge weaving is unusual because the weaving is done at an angle, changing colors to create wedges, diagonals and arrow shapes. We all started out working on little cardboard looms learning how to begin each wedge, and how to change colors.

At right is my beginning cardboard sample.

We then moved on to our real looms and began our projects. I chose to go for the big shapes, minimal color, bold approach. I also used colors that were totally unlike me, I don't think I have ever used blue, red, and gray together.

Below is my beginning, middle and end of class project. I think I'm about half done after 10 hours of weaving. This did include some time for "unweaving" my errors and general slowness trying to figure out what to do next or begin the next section.

My weaving technique was in general, not great, but that would improve with practice. I also was using heavy yarn, which on one hand made the weaving go faster, but I also think it was harder to make it smooth and even since the three yarns packed differently. Or I could be making excuses...

I'm also including (below) the weaving starts from some of my classmates.

I probably won't get into wedge weaving in a big way, but the techniques are interesting and could see myself using this together with other tapestry techniques in my future work.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Artist Anniversary

It's been a year since our graduation show for the Fiber Arts program. What a year is has been! A perfect time to make note of accomplishments, check up on goals, and assess what has to happen next.

Artmaking has been a constant this year, I always have one or two projects in the works and think about what's next all the time. One person would say I am consumed and have neglected almost everything else and I suppose in a way that is true.

I have had four pieces accepted into three different juried exhibits. They were local, but I made the effort to get my work out there and get some feedback from people who weren't family or friends. I also had rejections, but that goes along with entering.

My fiber class has continued to meet -- Fiber 19 as we call ourselves. We have had one group show in a cafe and one more exhibit is booked for October.

I also graduated from the EDGE program (developed by Artist Trust, Seattle). A sort of a "business for artists" type class. We learned about grant writing, portfolios, marketing, taxes etc. We are having an exhibit that starts next week and runs for two months, and because of one classmate with connections, this exhibit will also go on to two more venues before the end of the year.

And finally: I have a solo show booked for November 2011 at an alternative venue with great space and high volume attendance. I'm excited about this! not only is it "all about me" but it's a great opportunity to plan how the whole space will look.

So I have succeeded in my goal of working toward getting a body of work together and showing my work to the public. My next challenge is to complete this body of work and get into higher level venues. I also still have to get all of the parts of the "art job" organized and my space functioning the way I want it.

Back to work!

Photo above is called "Goblin Valley" I visited this state park in Utah many years ago -- remembering the orange hoodoos that populated this valley.

- Posted from my iPad

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Move by heart or move by head

In about a year, I may be starting the next phase of my life. Full time employment hopefully will be in the past. I will be able to spend more of my time making art or exploring many other interests without having to squeeze them into the time leftover after working for someone else.

We're thinking about moving to CA for warmer and dryer weather. Two locations have been picked out. One town is on the Central Coast; it's small, the roads are quiet, close to the ocean, but that also means it's farther from the big city offerings including a vibrant art scene. I have not looked in depth to see what's there, but it doesn't look as good as what even Seattle has to offer (not counting the contacts and groups I already have in Seattle). But I "like" it there.

The other area is the east bay near San Francisco; the towns are big and numerous, the roads are busy - what would cycling be like here? The BART is nearby offering an easy way to get into SF and all it has to offer. Art - can it get much better? I already know of an art group I could possibly join and I'm sure there are more already established. With all those galleries, there must be many places to exhibit for established and emerging artists. But I guess I just don't "like" it as much.

I know I would be happy in either place.

I like the Central Coast because it's small. I like the East Bay because it's big.

Follow your heart? Or follow your head?

- Posted from my iPad

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shredding Burlap

What a beautiful day for shredding burlap. It warmed up to 60 today so I went to my favorite lunch place – the roof across the street – to eat, enjoy the weather and get one of the mindless art tasks done.

Shredded burlap to the right and cherry blosssoms to the left.

I always dye my burlap first, putting different colors in different areas, cut the pieces out of the layers and assemble it back into one piece. I also dye strips of burlap to use for the “fin” or contour lines on my map art. Part of the work for getting the “fins” ready is to shred some of the threads off so I have strings to poke through and tie on the back of the piece, this is how I get the “fins” to stand up perpendicular to the main fabric piece. Shredding is quite mindless, but a perfect task for relaxing out in the sun or riding the bus. Outside is definitely preferable because the fuzz tends to blow away rather than swirl around your nose.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Public Speaking

Last night was a success of sorts. I spoke in public (25 people) about my art and did really well. I wasn’t nervous. I pretty much read my speech, but was able to do it slowly, looking up at my audience much of the time and I think I appeared happy and relaxed. This is a total victory for me. I was able to get my thoughts about how my art came about and what it means to me. I got many complements that I will take to heart and use to build up my confidence.

I did have help.

This was one of our exercises, part of our graduation from the EDGE program developed by Artist Trust. The extra help may not have been fair, but I wanted to present well and after last Saturday’s practice run with my classmates, I felt it was the only way. During last week’s practice I had a total meltdown in front of my eight fellow students who I had been with for six Saturdays. After only one sentence my voice quavered, I stopped took a deep breath, but couldn’t get it together. I finally foraged on and got out some more sentences before bursting into tears. I stopped to collect myself again and again, and forged on. My classmates tried to be helpful; the old “find the friendly face and talk to it.” People who can get up in front of a crowd don’t understand there are no friendly faces; there is nothing but a black hole out there with an evil force, its total tunnel vision without the vision. Every nerve in your body is on fire and all you want to jump out of your skin and beyond. Your brain has shut down so long ago the only thought is “how -- why?” I did finish reading my speech, eyes never wavering off the page, tears streaming down my face, and finally being able to run to my chair.

This had to be uncomfortable to watch – at least I hope so (or else these people are sadistic). All I could think was - I had a tiny kernel of confidence before the practice session and now I had less than none. How would I get through the official presentation? For the rest of the class, the drive home and throughout the night, I would continually burst into tears at the very thought of the experience. Then the light bulb came on in my head – I have drugs! For years I have had know anxiety issues. I have pills for fear of flying, this is the same thing, they just smooth things out. You’re not drugged (sleepy, dulled) just calm, the nerve ends aren’t buzzing like high tension wires on crack.

It totally worked, I almost had fun, and I could see how some people like to be up in front with all the attention. How nice that must be, I’m envious. I’d rather speak without the “help” and I’ll work on it, but what was most important for me was to be able to say what I had to say as well as I could.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Exhibit at Cafe Solstice

Only 6 days until my Fiber 19 group hangs our show at the Café Solstice for the month of March. I know it’s just a café show, but we’re doing it. Our group came together last year as we took the Fiber Arts class through the U of W extension. The exhibit will be very eclectic. We all in different places art-wise in experience and commitment, our use of fiber in some way will be the only unifying part of this exhibit.

I’m continuing to make my topographical maps out of dyed burlap. The idea for the one in the exhibit started with a glimpse of a photo in a science magazine, I’m not sure what it was suppose to be, but as I recorded the image days later in my sketch book, to me it looked like a river with rocks in it. My colors again took over and in this case the river part looks like it has had some kind of bad industrial accident, so that’s why it’s called “Acid River”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Single Weft Interlock

I'm finally getting back to my goal to learn tapestry techniques in 2010.

This is the joining system that says “tapestry” to me. Both colors go around the same warp making a very durable weaving. The finished piece can be hung horizontal or vertical without any sagging or bagging. It is slower to weave since you have to keep all the colors in the same row or they won’t interlock, so you’re always picking up the next butterfly and moving across, unlike some of the other methods where you can take one color and weave just that section because it doesn’t lock with the color next to it.

I did notice that if you made a straight vertical line, where both colors twined around the same warp, because two wefts came together, it would start to bulk up on that warp. So I guess the trick is to not go around the same warp to many times or use a different method of joining.

In my little double square tapestry I was fairly happy with the way it turned out, changing from two wefts to three and back again usually worked out the first time, but sometimes I had to remove or add a half a row to make the weft fall the right order with the raised and lowered warp.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A guest at EDGE – Lanny Bergner

During our class on Saturday we had a guest – Lanny Bergner who showed images of his art that covered almost 30 years.

I loved Lanny’s artist statement: “By using hands-on processes of coiling, fraying, twisting, wrapping, glueing and knotting, I transform industrial screening, wire, silicone and monofilament into organic constructions. My desire is to create works that appear to have grown into being. I love the natural world and am constantly inspired by its beauty and infinite varieties of form. This, in combination with my fears, quirks and joys, results in works that celebrate the wonder of it all.”

It was great to have him explain how he creates his work and how it has evolved over time. He uses wire mesh for much of his work and because of this material; it has also lead him to be accepted into the fiber art and basketry worlds, which made his presentation more interesting to me. When he told about his making art, I loved the imagery of him sitting and shredding the wire mesh or twisting the pieces of wire together in “small repetitive motions.” He says this process very meditative and gives him time to think, but sometimes he twists wire does in front of the TV, maybe so he can be around the family(?). I could put myself in his place because I sort of do the same thing with my burlap; quietly shredding, stitching and constructing the 3-D parts for hours and hours, so sometimes I need to work in another part of the house to be near Bob or just be in a different place.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about an artist I follow on-line that is producing 20-some pieces in 7 weeks for a show, or the gal that does 50 pieces a year, or the guy who welds something in 2 hours and calls it art. Not that it has to take a lot of time to call it “art,” but I’m suspicious of “art” that can get “cranked out” in a short time, I would tend to put that in the “craft” arena. But in listening to Lanny, he said his work takes a lot of time, period; I don’t think he regrets that or really even thinks of changing it, it just is. He didn’t choose to create something that was labor intensive, that’s just what came out. Somehow this calmed my inner voice that was saying “you’ve got to find a way to make stuff faster, you need to get MORE done.” No I don’t, it is what it is, and that is the process for me. All I can do is keep working, steadily moving forward.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fiber 19

Groups are “interesting” (insert whatever word you feel is appropriate).

Last night I met with my fiber group. I expect it’s pretty impossible for any group to meld together perfectly, but sometimes this one has me laughing one minute and the next whacking my forehead thinking “what the..?”

We’re together because we took a nine month fiber art class last year. Like the classes before us, decided to continue to meet once a month for socializing and encouragement in our art endeavors – at least that was the idea. Going from having an instructor/ leader handing out assignments, to meeting on our own caused us to flounder at first. Socializing was the easiest thing to do, so we did a lot of that. The art making was not happening for many; they seemed to need an assignment to move forward.

I of course was appalled and disgusted with the non-art making part. I kept thinking, “we just left nine months of work, developing concepts and working in all sorts of ways with all kinds of materials, how could you not have a vision of what you want to do next? How could you not have ideas flying around in your head that you can’t wait to get to?” I had to settle down and keep reminding myself that we weren’t all in the same place; everyone has different priorities and time commitments. (But my head still does explode once in awhile with rantings of “what the..?) Time went on and the social part started to gel, so I figured socializing might be the main focus and I was ok with that.

Then someone came up with a format for our meetings; social for “x” amount of time while everyone shows up and gets settled, then the “business “part of the meeting, and then “show and tell." This gave us structure. We started from the beginning with discussions on why we were meeting and what did we want to do as a group. People started to settle into roles, we had a self-appointed “den mother” who always brought lots of food, took notes, and sent them out. We had people volunteering to look into places to exhibit – our number one mission, and others passing on information on how we could be a more professional group. As in any group, there are people who do nothing and the people that never seemed to know what is going on, but generally it’s working – and I keep telling myself we’re all in different places.

How long will the group continue? Who knows? Will it continue to serve my purposes? I’m not sure. All I know is that last night I had a lot of fun; we’re going to put an exhibit up in March one way or another. The show will be very eclectic and probably not very cohesive, but I guess that’s ok for now. I can only be responsible for my own work.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Grants and EDGE

Another Saturday with the Artist Trust’s EDGE program.
This week it was all about grants, we looked at different programs/types of grants, compared the sources we found on-line, and went over our GAP grant proposals. Our instructor went over the need to do our research to find out if a particular grant was a good fit for us, what the grant requirements were and how we should follow them exactly, no more – no less than what was asked for.
Why do we want to apply for grants? Recognition, money, support and development of your work, psychological, connections, and networking.

What type of grants are there? Nomination only, open applications, unrestricted funds and restricted funds for specific projects.

Why do these people want to give money? They want to support you, your work supports their vision/mission, and they have money, it fits their vision to support project.

So with all that in mind we went over our proposals. Because this is an Artist Trust program, we all wrote proposals for a GAP grant. We did find out that 75 – 80% of the proposal is based on the work you have already done, only about 20% on the actual words. Basically Artist Trust wants to support artists they think have promise and this grant (for up to $1,500) is to help fill in a need (like equipment, time, space, or project) to help the artist grow.
It was interesting to see what my other classmates wrote and to see how many of them really didn’t get it. They didn’t seem to read what they were suppose to do, or didn’t comprehend it and didn’t seem to understand what to ask for or how. Some didn’t feel “worthy” or what they wanted wasn’t important, or felt “funny” about asking for something for themselves. I felt the same at first, but then I to junp in, use it as practice – it was an “assignment” I didn’t really have to submit it. I was surprised at how well my proposal faired compared to the others. It at least covered all the areas needed, people seemed interested in it and it really only needed some writing help, tightening up some areas maybe making a few other things more clear. So I felt pretty good about that and who knows maybe I really will submit it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Weft Relays

Now we’re getting into what I would call real tapestry weaving. As “The Tapestry Handbook” says; Unlike wefts that are shuttled from selvedge to selvedge, discontinuous tapestry wefts travel back and forth within the contours of the artist’s images, either touching gently in the spaces between the warps or crossing securely in some manner. These interactions between adjacent tapestry wefts affect not only the structural integrity of the textile but the style of its design interpretation.

There are a number of techniques for creating the “discontinuous wefts” that will make up your design. The first one is called “basic slit technique.” The weft yarns don’t touch each other, but simply go around the ending warp for each color. This does tend to pull the warps away from each other creating spaces between the colors; the two wefts should “kiss” each other before going their opposite directions. If you were to create long vertical slits, these would usually be stitched together on the back side for strength. If the weaving were to hang horizontal in its finished form these slits would form baggy gaps over time without the stitching.

My little weaving has spaces between all the colors. I either pulled the weft too tight around the warp, or because the wide spacing between warps (about 4 epi) is almost impossible to fill the space. I did not create any long slits, but switched color width fairly often. Although not technically correct, I kind of like the little spaces, I could see incorporating these spaces into the design.

Monday, February 1, 2010

EDGE training continued

Saturday was another day of Artist Trust EDGE training; what I like to call a course of study about the business of being an artist. In the morning we continued to talk about portfolios and looked at a few examples and critiqued one of our classmate’s photos. Some were ok, but even the better ones we had comments on and our instructor indicated that they were of bad enough quality that it could give a juror reason to give it a pass – it seemed a little harsh to me. She said the photos in “American Craft” magazine should be our benchmark, -- perfection – if that is true, you absolutely need a good professional photographer experienced in taking photos of your kind of work to get anywhere. More $$, no snapping pics with your own digital camera. You would think they could get past a little imperfection and see the work, but I guess there is so much out there, they don’t have to.

We also went over out artist statements. I brought in the one I did last spring for our student show which I was quite happy with, but with more people looking at it I can see that it’s too long and I need to take the bio information out of it – more to do.

The afternoon was looking at grant proposals, concentrating on the GAP grant that Artist Trust awards. Mostly I think because it is somewhat attainable, small amount, and they give out quite a few each year, but there are also more applicants applying each year as artists find out about it. After discussing some dos and don’ts we looked at a number of past grants that had been funded, sometimes we shook our heads at what they gave money to, but apparently 80% of the award is based on your work samples, not what you’re asking for.

It was another tiring, but good day of information.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saturday EDGE class

Saturday’s EDGE class was a whirlwind of information. We have three sessions on the portfolio, Miriam Works presented two of them (morning and afternoon). We looked at some good and bad examples and discussed the why and what of each of them. We also went over what goes in the portfolio – great images, cover letter, artist statement, resume, optional bio, and supplemental materials. It was fun to pick apart the bad cover letter examples – and these were people who have done well in the art world – so it’s either not super, super important, or their art was so fantastic, the words didn’t matter, or these were first efforts before they figured it out.

Then we got to go through our portfolios, such as they are at this point. Considering we’re taking a class on how to figure this all out, for those that had something show, they were all ok. The biggest thing I need to fix is to get better images. One person who knows what my stuff looks like said the photos don’t do them justice. So I guess I’ll put that on the list of things to do (and pay for) along with business cards, art cards and more portfolio parts. (Along with getting more art done.)

I also need to spend time going around getting to know more artist and art people, the more people who know who you are and what you do, the better chance you have of getting a show and moving to that place we all seem to strive for.

Throughout the day there were also all kinds of tips and helpful hints, websites to look at, things to do, artist talks to hear around town – who has the time to do all of this? This Saturday we’re suppose to bring copies of our artist statements to review, I have something already that I did last spring in class, so I’m covered on that assignment, but I should probably look at it again and make some notes or updates.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I’ve started Artist Trust EDGE training through ArtsNow. I think of it as a how-to, business course for artists.

The official description: Become a successful artist entrepreneur after obtaining the important knowledge and essential skills taught in this nationally acclaimed program for visual artists. Artist Trust developed the curriculum and trained the instructors to give you 50 intensive hours in goal setting, business planning, portfolio development, marketing, funding, grant writing, and exhibiting. Program includes presentations, panel discussions, assignments, and peer to peer support and exchange with your cohorts.

We started out Friday night with the overview of the course (and passing out of huge binders). We then presented a fellow student to the class after a bit of one-on-one and learning what we each other wanted to accomplish. This was followed by each of us presenting our art to the class. I of course did terrible at that part. I don’t mind talking about my art, but hate to get up in front of a group. I can’t think straight and remember what I want to say. We also found out that we will have a group show a couple months later following the class – that will be fun! BUT it also includes a 5 minute art talk by each of us on opening night. This will be good for me, but unfortunately it is also all I will think about until it’s over. I’ll do my best, I’ll practice more than anyone, but it still won’t be half as good as the presentations by the people who love to talk.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another pick-and-pick

I did another sample because I really need the practice. Do you see the amount of draw-in on that thing? Way too much for a weaving that size. And do you see the big error? I don't know how I did not see that as I was weaving. I must have wanted to get this done. Yes, I did some stripes in the middle to use up space. I could feel my frustration level starting to rise and I think I need to move on to another technique and come back to this another time.

My buddy Carroll, the author, gives some tips.

If this is a reversible tapestry, because the methods above create ridges on the back, just forget all this and cross the side wefts around each other.

Sure sounds easier.

If there are an uneven number of warps, you’ll only have to deal with one of the selvedge methods, instead of changing at each selvedge.

That has a certain comfort to it.

The author says she tends to like the second method (when it’s down, go around) because it tends to lay flatter and not curl, but when she does pick-and-pick in the middle of a row, she likes the first method best, because she thinks it’s easier to go around a raised warp in the middle of a row.

There’s always something.

My conclusion: As I worked my second pick-and-pick sampler, I tried to change what I was doing more often. Trying to make a checkerboard type pattern was fairly challenging, figuring out how to introduce the yarn without making a blob of yarn or a hole. My sample is far from perfect. What I did like was carrying an unused weft up the side of the weaving and not having it show until I was ready to introduce it again. That was a nice way to not having to keep starting and stopping after using a color for only three rows.

I can see the possibilities for using this technique, especially the checkerboard type pattern for introducing subtle color and texture in an area.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


This is the tapestry technique where you use two different colored wefts going the same direction, but in opposite sheds, so to create vertical stripes. When I did this on my first sample I just twisted the two ends, one weft over the other, and started back across the warp. This created a multi colored edge which is not correct and doesn’t make a good selvedge. So to Carol K. Russell’s, “The Tapestry Handbook” I went and read the instructions.

If both butterflies are at one selvedge, the shed has been opened for weaving the next row, and the selvedge warp is raised, then the yarn of the next butterfly to be woven should be underneath the selvedge warp, and the other butterfly should be over the selvedge warp.

(Photo to right, example of bad twisted edges)

Ok, got it, I’m ready.

Carry the active butterfly over the yard of the resting butterfly, under the selvedge warp and into the shed. Tug slightly on the yarn of the active butterfly, causing the yarn of the resting one to slip around the selvedge warp. This maneuver also steers the yarn of the active butterfly over the second warp from the selvedge, its correct position for the row. Note that the active butterfly has completely avoided the selvedge warp. Bubble and beat this row.

Huh??? It’s a good thing there were some pictures to look at. I could see what was supposed to happen and when I followed the instructions it worked! It was really pretty slick.

(Photo to right, example of better/not perfect edges)
Change sheds, and weave the second butterfly. As this butterfly is carried into the shed, it automatically makes a second trip over the selvedge warp, compensating for this warp’s being skipped by the first butterfly. Bubble and beat this row. Observe the neat progression of vertical stripes. Each warp including the selvedge warp is neatly covered by only one weft color. (The reverse side of the tapestry will have a double-width stripe of one color along the selvedge, but the right side of the tapestry will be perfect.)

Well, that was pretty cool; one yarn doing a little snake dance and hiding underneath and the other covering the warp working perfectly. I can do this.

But wait, that’s not all…

The above instructions are for if the selvedge warp is raised. It’s completely different if the warp is lowered.

If both butterflies are at one selvedge, the shed has been opened for weaving the next row, and the selvedge warp is lowered, then the yarn of the next butterfly to be woven should be over the selvedge warp, and the yarn of the other butterfly should be under the selvedge warp. In these circumstances, the next butterfly to be woven should be the one covering the selvedge warp. First in order to avoid crossing the two yarns, place the resting butterfly out of the way on the woven surface – not the unwoven warps. Wrap the active butterfly twice around the lowered selvedge warp. After the second wrap, carry it through the shed, all the way across the row. Two wraps of the selvedge warp with the first color compensate for its being skipped by the second color. Bubble and beat this row, and change sheds for the next.

Who would have thought…

The second butterfly can be woven through the shed with no special manipulation. Notice that it completely avoids the selvedge warp. Bubble and beat this row.

This all sounds fairly simple, at least once you go through it and see that the words do make sense, but I had to continually look at the directions. I finally got a rhyme going for when the warp was lowered – “when it’s down, go around” (wrap the butterfly twice around the selvedge) -- but I never did think of a rhyme for “up” or “raised.” My selvedges are far from perfect, this will take more practice before I will know what to do instinctively just by looking at the situation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tapestry diagonals

A quick update on the self taught tapestry project; I completed this little one using three yarns across, changing the one in the middle for variety -- another rug ready for a dollhouse somewhere. Doing diagonals is pretty easy and fast. As your making the row smaller (or opening larger) for the next color, you can keep going with one color until it’s time to reverse direction, instead of going all the way across the whole row doing the rightmost color and going left, picking up the middle yarn going left and then the last color going left and then starting back to the right.

I was a little disappointed with myself, because even in something this small and simple I still made mistakes that I didn’t see until I was well past. Tapestry does take a lot of concentration and practice.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We went to see the Alexander Calder exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum last night – what a treat! I had not been to an exhibit of just Calder before, only single pieces in various locations and museums. Besides his mobiles (the ones that hang from above) and stabiles (the ones that have a base) I didn’t realize he also did many of them in miniature, some as studies for larger works and others just to stay small. He also created quite a bit of jewelry using many of his same iconic swirls.

Besides looking at the engineering and enjoying how they moved around, it was also a perfect visual for illustrating my “word for the year” – balance.

What’s a word for the year? It’s a way of creating change in your life. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions which never last for long, you pick a word to guide you throughout the year. A better explanation can be found on Christine Kane’s blog along with many other interesting suggestions.

So my goal with my “word” is to hopefully keep in mind all areas of my life (not counting job and sleep) and not let any one thing take over (and probably shed some things that aren’t really important). Lately I want to spend most of my time in the art area of my life - playing, exploring and making art, but I also need to get my exercise in and do my share of household chores.

Hopefully my word and I will march perfectly through 2010, see you on the other side.

The Calder art shown here were not on exhibit at SAM - no picture taking alowed at the museum.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fiber class January meeting

Our fiber class continues to meet once a month – it’s been six months now and  half the class is still getting together. Although our bond began by seeing each other every week for 30 weeks, it is definitely strengthened as we continue to get together.

This month during the social part of our meeting we found out how one member had gone through two major surgeries in only a few months. Another gal is nursing her husband back to health after a heart attack. Plus mixed in with the “I took a really cool class in metalsmithing” and “two trees fell on my house,” we found out that two out of the ten people there had been severely bitten by dogs when they were kids – the stuff you find out.

We talked about our upcoming show during the business part of the meeting – scheduled for the month of March at Café Solstice in the University District. The details are being worked out, everyone has a task, and most people know what they’re going to create. I think we’re on a roll.

Show and tell is probably the best part of the meeting – when we can show off what we’re doing. Nikki is starting a clothing business for plus size kids. Debra had a really cool leaf print/fiber/stitched piece that had wonderful color and a translucent/transparency quality. Kaylin is almost finished with her newest quilt of purple, magenta, orange fabrics in her tree motif she has been exploring. Barb is working with paper collages and trying to incorporate a grid and transparent fabrics in it. Tre showed a loom/card weaving project she finished, a double sided twill of her own design; it’s a twill on one side, but with very subtle coloring on the other. Louise is playing with leftover Christmas package ribbon – she has a lot – right now it’s stitched together into a fluffy, curly mat, she plans on adding spears to it for our equinox/solstice theme show. I showed more of my burlap landscapes, I had one that was finished, one that was well on its way and one that was just at the start (for the show). I think they liked the fact that they could see the different steps and how it evolves.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I can weave diagonals

I know this is a simplistic tapestry, but I’m LEARNING. After doing the first little weaving I decided I would do another practice piece of just diagonals, I now feel pretty good about this technique using 2 colors, I think I’ll go for three before moving on to another technique. My learning style for tapestry weaving seems to be “find ways to have small successes,” and for me finishing a 4” x 5” weaving seems to work. Someone told me I should felt them when I’m done, not a bad idea…

I’m also continuing to work on the burlap fiber pieces, they take a larger block of time than my tapestry learning. The burlap is into the 3-d building phase, this is when I attached the perpendicular pieces that will later be trimmed and coated with GAC-400 to keep them upright.

Photos: I shred the burlap, so I have some long fibers to poke through the burlap, the fibers then get tied on the back side and ta daa! They stand up on the viewing side.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stones into Schools

OK, this has nothing to do with fiber art in any way, but I just finished reading “Stones into Schools” by Greg Mortenson. It’s comforting to know something good is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than just the horrors we read in the paper. Greg Mortenson also author of “Three Cups of Tea” (read that one first) has been building schools in these countries for years – with the emphasis on education for girls, believing literacy will do more for peace than anything else. The work he is doing is astounding, but I will let the books talk for themselves as I cannot do them justice.

My favorite quotes are: an African proverb, “If you teach a boy, you educate and individual; but if you teach a girl, you educate a community.” According to the book in military parlance, girls’ education is a “force multiplier” – and in impoverished Muslim societies, the ripple effects of female literacy can be profound… Young women are the single biggest potential agents of change in a developing world. – WOW!

Another quote comes much later in the book when they have also started some classes for older women who lost out on the chance for an education when they were younger. “When women take charge, things start to get out of control really fast.” Talking about how whatever these women learned, whether it be how to read or use a cell phone the knowledge spread like wildfire, Greg’s men in the field couldn’t even keep track on how many women’s lives were being changed.

How lucky/spoiled we are to have been born in the U.S. of A. We can work, earn money and spend our free time making art. We can quilt and make “pretty” things to hang on walls; they don’t have to keep anyone warm.

What a luxury.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Secret places

I’m working on the computer at my day job, (actually I’m writing this) but thinking of stitching burlap. Waiting until I can steal time away during a break or lunch to work on my project. I usually go across the street to one of three buildings and sit in their lobbies, pull out my project and get to work. I try to rotate my destination so as to not always be in the same place at the same time. Technically these are private areas; I suppose I could be kicked out for loitering or not have business to accomplish in the building, so I try not to call attention to myself. They all have cafes in them, so at lunch I could have a reason for being there and hanging out in the lobby, but I’m usually not buying the food provided there. It was suggested that I should carry a glass or cup previously obtained so it looks like I just purchased…

I have one place at lunch that I particularly like, it’s quiet, a nice big space, has great light, and looks out onto a patio/open space; when I rains I can watch the drops plop into the water feature/stream right outside - perfect for stitching fabric. There's one exception, usually a security guard posted there. She doesn’t seem to mind that I’m using their space, but still, I don’t go there every day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First "tapestry"

This is my first “tapestry” as I attempt to teach myself something new. I glanced at my book, ignored the first instructions and jumped in. The bottom vertical strips were the first part to be done working with 2 “shuttles.” Basically the dark color is followed by the light color, both traveling in the same direction, when it comes to returning the other way I just did a twist of one color over the other and went on my merry way. In looking closely at my selvages I didn’t really like the way it looked and when I referred to the book, I had of course not done it the “best” way or the correct way according to the book.

Now this is exactly why I did not want to produce a “sampler” -- all the techniques in one weaving  -- while learning techniques, at this point I would be so annoyed that it doesn’t look nice that I would either unweave it and start over or procrastinate and slowly (very slowly) continue. But the way I’m doing it, I can completely start over putting the “bad” one aside; I can also do another variation to practice the technique. Maybe it’s easier for me to focus on one technique per project. Having something finished – yea! victory! And then move on to the next project. I also have “cute” little weavings suitable for a doll house or maybe coasters – never underestimate the “cute” factor on the satisfaction scale.
I did like doing the angled weaving part, I’ll do more of that for practice building up some confidence for when I get the nerve to do curves and someday a circle!