Winding a Warp – Towel exchange

Towels_warpHello again. It’s been a busy almost 2 years since I last posted here. In the meantime, I started an e-newsletter and have been posting on my Facebook page, so my writing efforts have been appearing in those venues. Part of the reason it’s been so long is I ran into the proverbial writers block in my art story. Time to start on a different theme.

This coming September I will start teaching weaving at the Swedish Club in Seattle. I have been thinking about doing a series of posts on fiber processes so I decided to start with a few on weaving. These posts can be an introduction and a resource for my students.

The other kick in the rear I got is recently my husband’s cousin told me she has plans to start a sewing blog. We challenged each other to post something before our next family gathering in mid September. So here we go.

A couple of years ago I participated in a handwoven towel exchange project through the Seattle Weavers’ Guild. Having had the idea of writing a series of ‘how to’ posts, I’ve occasionally been taking process pictures of the projects I’m working on. The series of photos from this project includes most of the steps for setting up a loom.

I started with these 2 cones of 8/2 matte cotton yarn.

I started with these 2 cones of 8/2 matte cotton yarn.

So what is a towel exchange? Each participant wove a number of towels and brought the finished towels to a meeting. We drew numbers and took turns picking out other weaver’s towels. We all went home with the same number of towels, just they were ones woven by someone else.

Setting up a loom – Step #1 – Winding the warp

The warp are the lengthwise yarns that are under tension on the loom. After you decide the size of the finished cloth, you calculate the number of warp threads (or ends) and the length you’ll need. This project needed a total of 480 ends, each 12 yards long for a total of 5,760 yards. Which for this yarn was about 1.7 pounds.

Towels_warping_board

Warping Board

In the photo above and the video below, you see the threads being wound on a warping board. The pegs are 1 yard apart making it easy to get the length you need. Towels_warp_cross

At the top are two extra pegs that allow you to form a figure ‘8’ called a ‘cross’. A yarn is tied through the spaces to maintain the ‘cross’ which helps to keep the threads in order while putting them on the loom.

Towels_partial_blue_cone

The blue warp threads have all been measured and cut but none of the white warp has been wound yet. Used over half of the cone.

After you finish winding a section of the warp, in this case 2″ worth, you need to chain the warp bundle. It’s done the same way you make a chain in crochet, just using your hands. Start at the end away from the cross and continue until you have “chained” the warp to the tie for the cross. This will keep the warp threads from getting totally tangled up.

Towels_warp_chains

The warp is chained and now ready to be put onto the loom. Note how much yarn is left on the cones.

So if you are inspired to learn how to weave, my beginning weaving class starts Tues. Sept. 13th and meets from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The registration form is available HERE.

Next post will be about threading the loom.

 

“Pulling Spirit into Daily Life”

It was the third and last quarter of the certificate program, and time to start on our final piece that would be in our class show. After the harsh critique of my last piece, I wanted to ‘redeem myself’ and make a better one. Rather than starting with a new concept, I decided to continue working with the same subject. The second result was way more successful in expressing the ideas I had. During my meditations prior to the first piece (along with the words “pulling the threads of spirit into our daily lives”) I saw the juxtaposition of two different types of textiles connected with threads or yarn. The felt would represent the spirit world that is often only sensed with an intuitive feeling. The woven piece, with it’s gridded pattern, would illustrate the regulated structures of daily life and the human penchant for categorizing and labeling everything. Adding the connecting threads would open the possibility to begin merging the two worlds.
Pulling Spirit detail 2smOne of my goals for the certificate program was to find a focus for my work. While working on this piece I realized that I had found it. A lot of artists focus on a specific technique and/or subject matter. For me it’s the concept and ideas behind the piece not the technique that is my focus. And overall, it is the Spiritual aspect that has become the primary focus for my work.
This piece is the second in what will eventually be a triptych. The third piece will be “The Spiritual Life”. Looking back, these pieces were representative of my own journey. I needed to make “…Awakening to Spirit” first, as it reflected my past. When I made “Pulling Spirit…” it showed where I was on my path at that time. I started to prep the fleece for the base of the third piece, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten on it. The compelling need to work on it again hasn’t happened yet. I’m still pulling those threads of Spirit into my daily life. When it’s time, I’ll make that third piece.

“Daily Life Awakening to Spirit”

It was the beginning of March 2010 and the end of the second quarter of the certificate program. The major focus for the quarter was “Conceptual Strategies in Fiber Art” and looking at the creative process in general, and our own process in particular. Towards the end of the quarter, we were to reflect on an old piece, and use it as a springboard for a new piece, our final piece for the quarter. Since I couldn’t decide which piece to reflect on, I looked at two pieces, “Shamanic Connections” and “Finding the Patterns in the Puzzle of Life”. Working from those pieces and another idea that I got during meditation, I started on my piece “Pulling the Threads of Spirit into our Daily Lives”. I finished the piece the night before class, mounted it the next morning, wrote the reflection on it in the afternoon, and headed to class that evening.

For those of you reading this that have taken art classes, and have turned in work for critiques, you know what a challenging experience they can sometimes be. I had one of “those” critiques that night. In class we were asked to say whatever we wanted to about the work. I felt unprepared, and unsure of what to say. I started rambling on about unimportant details, because I couldn’t bring myself to talk about my personal angst issues which was what I had been thinking and writing about in my original reflection.

This is part of what I wrote:    “The experience of doing this piece was both fun and challenging. The fun part was doing the work. When focusing on the tasks at hand, I would lose track of time and get absorbed in the processes. The challenging part was mostly on a personal and emotional level. This program has been helping me deal with all the issues that stopped me making art 20 + years ago. Working on this piece brought up the issues I have with the fundamental value of doing this type of work. The questions of; is it worth doing, is it a waste of time/money, etc. are staring me in the face. Making this piece, or any finished work, brings these issues to the surface where I have to deal with them. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone.”

Back to the critique that night, the one positive comment I remember is someone liked the fact that I used a rectangle instead of a square which had been part of my original design. The one that really got to me was the instructors question and comment: “Is that blue blobby thing supposed to represent spirit?” to which I said yes, and he replied “It’s not really working for me”. Right… now what.Daily Life Awakening to Spirt

So that night after class I stayed up very late, and thought a lot more about the piece. So once I had gotten done “wallowing in my emotional stuff”, I was able to look at and think about the work itself. I liked the piece and it felt right when I was done, but there was something bugging me about it as well and I was unsure what it was. The piece didn’t say what I had intended, so in that sense it didn’t work.

Visually, the woven part looked “plopped” down, and didn’t relate to the background. The felt background is very subtle and indistinct. Was it too plain? There wasn’t enough connection between the hand-spun yarn in the woven part and the felt background. The woven portion dominated the piece visually while being smaller than the background. It felt uncomfortable, tentative and unresolved. It was very unbalanced.

Then I asked myself what did this piece have to say, and this is what I came up with along with a new name for it:

“Daily Life Awakening to Spirit”
Dominating the piece is the woven portion representing daily life. It floats above the surface, removed and separate from the spirit world. The felt background resembles how spirit is viewed from this perspective. It is very hazy and indistinct. It’s unknown, you can only see things in that world if you look closely at it. The hand-spun yarn becomes spirit beginning to weave itself into our daily life but only in places, a bit at a time. The piece feels disjointed and unbalanced because this can be a very disconcerting state. You know that something is not right, that things are changing, shifting, but what and how is not known. It requires an enormous amount of trust to reside in this place and even more to continue on the journey to discover and embrace Spirit.

The following were my final thoughts about this piece and the experience of making it:
“Working on something this nebulous and intuitive requires an enormous amount of trust. I know that I’m not entirely in control of the process, and the work (or any given piece) can seem to take on “a life of it’s own”. This piece seems to have it’s own message and said what it needed to say. I need to pay better attention. So, hopefully I’m back on a productive path, doing something worthwhile.

The next quarter I did a second piece, the one I had intended to make, “Pulling Spirit into Daily Life”, which will be the next post in my Art Story.