Saturday, April 29, 2017

Basic and Beautiful

Ikat technique
Today hand spinners and weavers have a wide array of tools and materials at their disposal.  Many of those tools save time and physical effort so we can produce more products with enhanced consistency.  Consider how efficient a drum carder is compared with using hand carders  Other tools, such as design software, support an advanced level of complexity in our designs.  But modern tools can't replace good design and excellent technique.
Maybe that is why we tend to have a deep appreciation and a sense of awe when we see a master work created by hand using simple tools and techniques.  Maybe that is why so many fibre artists feel compelled to help preserve or revive skills that maybe lost in the name of efficiency or advancement.


Salish Blanket

The first nations people of the pacific northwest were noted for the fibre arts.  They worked in cedar, mountain goat and dog hair.  Blankets and other woven items were used in commerce as well as for personal or ceremonial use.  Fibre art is an important cultural heritage for all people.  We are lucky that it is being preserved, revived and in some cases reinvented without loosing its meaning.

Salish blanket 
 The photograph above shows a typical but newly minted Salish blanket that was created on a large frame loom that we refer to as a "Salish loom".  Many of us tried weaving on a "Salish loom" in the 70's and can appreciate the skill that it took to create this piece.
Traditional patterns have been used in the border of weft stripes.  As with other forms of traditional weaving the patterns have meaning and would tell a story about the blanket if we knew how to read it.

The thick yarn is spun using a large headed spindle attached to a wheel but in the past a spindle would have been used.
jewellery set









The set of pendant and earrings is a fine example of modern Chilkat weaving.  The same technique is used to create large ceremonial dancing blankets.  It is hand worked in on a simple loom using a complex combination of twining and weaving.  Traditionally the warp would have been a blend of cedar and wool.  The yarn would have been spun and plied without the use of a spindle.  
Salish weaving in progress on loom
The colourful photograph shows a "Salish style" weaving in progress.  It is being woven on a small frame loom.  The warp is thick hand spun yarn that has been plied to create a multi-coloured yarn with a lumpy texture.  The piece is a riot of colours that are anything but traditional but it is being constructed in keeping with the traditional techniques.  A very nice example of the artist expressing their own personality while keeping in touch with their heritage.

If you are interested in the Chilkat weaving you might want to check out "The Chilkat Dancing Blanket" by Cheryl Samuel, Pacific Search Press, 1982  ISBN 0-914718-69-X






Thursday, April 13, 2017

Exploring More on Crackle

There are several interest groups within the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners Guild.  They meet at intervals to work on their shared interest and periodically they share what they have learned with the larger group.  The photo shows the Exploring More Group in our resource centre at the Train Station, in Qualicum Beach.

The Exploring More Group is studying "crackle".  This is an older weave structure that is highly versatile.  It can be used very effectively with just 4 harnesses or with a higher number of harnesses.  It is adaptable to almost any fibre and colour combination and so it can be used to create a variety of items. There are numerous references to crackle in weaving books and magazines.

crackle with glitz
crackle wool rug sample

The weave structure is based on a 4 thread unit that at first glance resembles a lopsided point twill threading with one arm longer than the other.  There are rules for creating a crackle threading that can appear quite complex at first.  When paired with a 2/2 twill tie up this threading produces 3 thread skips. On a 4 harness loom there are 4 possible threading combinations which gives 4 pattern "blocks" for designing.


 Another interesting feature of crackle is how warp and weft threads combine to produce tones and half tones as illustrated in the green crackle table mat.


crackle table mat


Traditional crackle designs often involve either diamond shapes or blocks of different colours.  The photo to the right shows the detail from a scarf that uses alternating blocks in a thick pattern weft to create an all over design of chevrons.  By contrast the table mat is a large graphic design.

crackle blocks








There are many different ways to weave crackle.  It can be woven with a tabby weft and a pattern weft as in Summer and Winter or Overshot.  It can also be woven as a twill or twill blocks, as drawn in without a tabby weft or in a poly-chrome fashion.  The possibilities are endless.

crackle treadled as twill in fine threads
When woven as a simple twill the effect is a small overall pattern with distinctive twill lines that can mimic texture if the colours are muted.

Summer&winter treadling

as drawn in blocks with tabby

Both the peach on yellow diamonds and the brown on yellow pattern were woven on the same warp using different treadling sequences.  One is reminiscent of overshot and the other of summer and winter.  Both have a tabby weft and pattern weft but the effect is quite different.  Both still have a "blocky" appearance as the treadling is repeated to build up the pattern.
crackle scarf

Non-traditional crackle designs may involve long pattern repeats, oval motifs and delicate lace like patterns.  They are less "blocky" and more flowing in nature in part because they are woven as drawn in without a tabby weft.  The cloth also tends to drape well and has a good mix of plain weave areas and twill like areas.  It is a good structure for rayon yarns or other slippery threads.

based on a random number threading and treadling


non-traditional crackle on painted warp
Having just scratched the surface on the topic of crackle, the next challenge for the Exploring More Group will be poly-chrome crackle.




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Get Creative!

towels from show and tell session
Spring is advancing at a slow creeping pace this year giving us a chance to get creative in the studio before we feel the urge to get out doors.
Our studio at the old Train Station in Qualicum Beach is buzzing with creative efforts.  The studio looms are warped for tea towels and  in one area our ANWG booth is taking shape.  The theme is west coast wild.  We are lucky to have space where we can bring people together to share experiences and work on group projects.  The Town of Qualicum Beach has been very supportive of the creative arts and of our group in particular.  This area is noted for its rich cultural climate.

At our last meeting we learned about shuttles.  Who knew there were so many to choose from?  Lynnette took us through, stick shuttles, boat shuttles, rag shuttles, ski shuttles, end feed shuttles and many many more.  We learned that picking the right shuttle for the job can make a tremendous difference to the quality of the work while reducing the effort.  That seems to be in keeping the the concept that it takes more effort to do something badly.

     
nuno felted jacket
This year our guild decided to set a challenge for guild members as a way of stimulating creativity and exploration.  The challenge is based on the work of Ann Sutton and is often referred to as "weaver's card game", "weaver's poker" or "weaver's challenge".  The purpose of the game is to stimulate new ways of looking at weaving designs.  Participants are challenged to design a piece that has a random mix of unrelated features.  There are many versions of this game.

In our version, participants were given 5 categories of cards, colour, weaving technique, materials, design and embellishment.  Within each category cards have different instructions.  Participants randomly pick one card from each category and they are asked to take some time to consider how to design a piece that incorporated all 5 instructions.  For example, design a weaving in shades of grey only, using a supplementary warp, boucle yarn, incorporating texture and finally using Danish Medallions as an embellishment.  We decided that some combinations might be next to impossible to deal with so participants are given the option of dropping one of the five cards.
graded stripes and twill


This will be a year long project with designs or better yet a finished product due in December.  We will report the results at the end of the year.




Our next meeting takes place Monday April 24.  Guests are always welcome.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Just Playing Around


stump with shells
Now and then we all need to spend some time "just playing around" with no plan, no purpose, no deadlines, and no particular end point in mind, like the person who randomly added clam shells to this driftwood stump.  They enjoyed a relaxing time at the beach using the materials at hand and placing them where ever they could find a perch.  Maybe the result isn't a lasting masterpiece but it certainly shows off the old stump in a new way.
Just playing around can lead to new discoveries.

Some people find it easy to start producing without having done at least some planning.  They may even find it difficult to follow any set direction with the result that projects, if they are finished at all, may be a total surprise to the maker and not always a good surprise.
Eleni's runner
On the other hand some people cannot bear to start working without having a detailed plan which they follow without any deviation to an ending with no surprises.  Of course the ideal is a mix of both.  Just enough planning to execute a project but enough flexibility to take advantage of serendipity when it happens.

Playing around can be a stimulus for creativity.  If you are a planner then you can plan a non-project by putting on a long warp and just playing with what ever yarns you have on hand like this long runner made from a mixture of wool yarns, with stripes, twill zigzags, and inlay in no particular order.  You might find areas of the yardage that are appealing and could form the basis for a new piece.

Pat's experiments with spacing
Pat's scarf experiments
The scarf with open areas is another example of playing with yarns just to see how they will behave.  This piece is one of a series using different setts and denting ratios to create a light open cloth.




Of course, spinners can also play around with various fibres, natural or commercial.  The photo is a close up of a knitted shawl showing the hand spun yarn with coloured tops and varied thicknesses.

detail knitted hand spun shawl

Eleni's hand spun yarn
variegated yarn

With hand spinning the variations are unlimited.  Half the fun is seeing how the colours develop from the dyed fleece.



Terry's tea towel
Tea towels are a weavers favourite model for experimenting.  They involve some planning in order to come up with a suitable size and weight but there is a wide scope for playing with pattern and colour.  They are a good frame work for letting your creative side lead the way.  A white tea towel warp is like a blank canvas. There is the added bonus that if you don't like the results you can still dry dishes with them.

Check the Member's Works, to see more of our monthly show and tell session.

Our next monthly meeting will be held on Monday, March 27 at the Baptist Church on Beach Avenue in Qualicum Beach.  Meanwhile we are continuing to work on the display for our guild booth, there are plans for more group projects on our studio looms and our study groups are active.


                       

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Busy Hands

snow drops in January
By late January the urge to get busy overcomes most of us.  The first symptoms usually involve removing holiday decorations and eating up all the leftover goodies.  The second stage involves remorse for eating up all those goodies and a need for activity to counter act the remorse.  That can escalate into a cleaning frenzy, coupled with a strong desire to discard something.  The fourth stage emerges as the cleaning frenzy subsides.  It is the need to make something (that does not involve baking as we still remember where that led us).

And so by early February most of us are back in the studio or looking at yarn or fibre samples the way a gardener looks at seed catalogues.



At our first guild meeting of the year we saw what some of the "busy hands" in our guild were up to.
Anita's hat
The knitted hat with dots of colour is a reminder that it isn't spring yet in spite of the hardy snow drops.  It was inspired by the passing of a dear friend who used a similar technique to knit mittens.  The colours dots look like gum drops.

ikat style shawl
The ikat style shawl in the photo was acquired during a winter holiday in a warm climate.  What will it inspire in the future?


fancy twill scarf
The lovely tencil scarf was woven using a fancy twill draft.  The central motif has a "rose" like appearance, as if the scarf was dotted with flowers.  It is most appropriate for a valentine.
 
crackle sample
The Exploring More Study Group are learning about Crackle, a versatile weave structure that can have many different iterations.  The sample shows a traditional approach while the shawl is not traditional.  The threading was derived from a random approach that might be similar to creating a name draft.
non traditional crackle shawl

The final photo shows a derivative of honeycomb that was woven with miscellaneous bit of yarn as the pattern weft.  It is a history of thrift shop purchases that were never used up.
honeycomb scarf
Our guild efforts are now concentrating on finishing the work on our guild booth.  Our studio looms are warped for "trees" and the felters are busy with rocks and we have a sea gull in the train station loft.  Sounds weird? It will all be revealed at ANWG in Victoria.

Next meeting is Monday February 27th at 10:30 in the Baptist Church across from the Train Station in Qualicum Beach.  Visitors are welcome.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Plans and Resolutions



sampler quilt


The cold dark days of January are a good time to consider what you would like to do with your craft this year.  If you are a planner you probably already have a tentative to do list.  Lists are great for helping you focus your efforts and it is true that items on the list are more likely to be accomplished.  The downside of course is that you might miss an opportunity to do something remarkable unless there is enough wiggle room in your plan to allow for the unexpected.





unsuccessful project
Likely you've made some resolution to use up that horrid pink yarn or finish that project that has lingered too long in the unfinished bin. Or better yet you've decided it is best to just dispose of the yarn or project.  It is ok to admit defeat now and then.  Your time and talent are probably better spent elsewhere.

hand spun disaster 





This year your focus might be to learn something new from an on-line source, a book or a class.  If you live in the Pacific North West you might want to check out the conference of the Association of North West Weaving Guilds.  There is a link to their site on the side bar.  The conference takes place at the end of June.  Registration opens January 17th.

 Our guild is busy working on items for our guild booth at the conference.  We have been spinning, weaving, felting and constructing.

felted sea creature for booth

Perhaps you would like to work on your skills or your approach to projects to improve the outcome. Would sampling before you begin a project improve the eventual outcome?  Take a look at the quilt photo.  What an imaginative way to use samples!  You can learn a lot from exhibits of related or even completely unrelated artistic pieces.

 The Qualicum Weavers and Spinners will reconvene on Monday January 23rd.  The meeting will be held at the Baptist Church on Beach Street in the town of Qualicum Beach at 10:30.  You are welcome to join us.