Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Elegant Threads Show and Sale 2012

Our annual guild show and sale took place in Qualicum Beach from Nov 30 to Dec 2nd this year.  This event inolves all the guild members.  It is a chance to show off the creative efforts of the past year.  It is also an opportunity to earn just enough money to justify spending way more money on yarns and fibres.  Most of us have given up any pretense of "breaking even".
The sale committee never knows how many items will show up or what they will be.  Dressing the display can be a real challenge.  Part of the fun is discovering what other members have been up to or how they have interpreted an idea.  I love the bags that are an inventive use of small pieces of woven cloth.  They are the collaborative effort between a weaver and a sewer.
The items reflect our different interests in working with yarns and fibre so one can expect to see items that are knitted, felted, woven, or twisted.  The materials use can range from yak to kelp.  If it can be worked with a knitting needle or our hands or woven around a warp then we will use it.

Some of the pieces involve an incredible investment in time.  Take for example some of the garments knitted out of hand spun yarn.  Fibres were dyed, blended, prepared for spinning, spun then plyed then knitted.  It is no wonder that it can be difficult to part with our creations.  In many ways they are like puppies that we have nurtured and grown attached too.  We know their special attributes and we want them to go to a good home where they will be appreciated.  We want the new owner to read the washing instructions, refrain from wearing the tea cozy as a hat (inside joke) and actually use the tea towels.
Many of our items will be wrapped in fancy paper or stuffed in Christmas stockings.  I was told the tea towels are easy to pack in a suitcase and won't break during shipping.  Hand spun yarn will give hours of pleasure.  Hats and mits are always needed.  Sweaters, wraps and blankets are a cozy reminder of the person who gave them.

At this time of year the weather can have a large impact on attendance at the sale.  Living on the wet coast of Canada we can anticipate precipitation of some kind.  It can range from intermittent light showers to torrentail and never ending rain and even wet road clogging snow.  This year we were blessed with intermittent torrential rain but still folks managed to make their way to the show.  We thank them and hope they enjoyed visiting with us and will enjoy their purchases. 
Here we have a satisfied customer sporting her newly acquired Hapi Wrap.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fun with Flowers, Fruits and Rusty Nails

We all seen our favourite piece of clothing fall victim to a food related stain.  Oh the disappointment, as we rush to wash out that spattering of black berry juice or watch the cranberry sauce spread across the table cloth.  Who ever thought that deliberately crushing black berries into a silk scarf would create something beautiful!

Our guild recently held a dye workshop that would have horrified my mother.  It went against all those lessons about how to avoid splashing the beet juice while peeling beets, removing grass stains from the knees of pants and adding a napkin underneath the bowl of cranberry sauce to avoid spills.  The pigments for the dye workshop came from the woods, the garden, the pantry and the shed.  The sources included leaves, flowers, berries, vegetables, fruit, and tea bags.  Rusty nails, pennies, alum and assorted other metal items (including sometimes the dye pot itself) provided the mordants as well as creating distinctive colours and patterns.  Add some salt to the mix and you can create magic.
In the pictures shown, silk scarf "blanks" were used but some members used cotton with equal success.  The silk blanks were pretreated with alum.  The dye materials were layered onto the cloth then the cloth was folded and rolled using various techniques.  Finally it was tied to keep the dye material in contact with the cloth.  The bundle was heated in a dye bath containing salt, more dye material and more metallic objects.  Everyone created their own dye bath so no two finished pieces were the same.
This picture shows a selection of the scarves that resulted from the workshop.  The colours were subdued browns, gold and rose.  The dark lines in the right hand scarf are due to rusty nails.  Where copper pennies or other copper items were involved the scarf often had a blue green cast. 

The photo to the left is a close up of an open cotton cloth showing a pattern of red and purple. 
 From the workshop we learned that the method for folding, rolling and securing the undyed cloth would effect how the pigments in the dye bath penetrated the cloth and how even the colours would be.  Many of the techniques from shibori dyeing could be applied here to create distinctive patterns. 
Although green leaves and other materials that appeared to be green were used very few of the pieces showed the typical greens that we are familiar with from other natural dye sources.  Possibly our plant materials reacted as they did because they were collected late in the year.
Such is the mystery of natural dyes and the variability that gives natural dyeing it much of its charm.  You never know what the final result will be.
For what is left of November our guild is counting down the days and madly finishing off pieces for our annual show and sale, Elegant Threads.  This event is our once a year opportunity to show off our works.  It is also our major fund raising effort as a percentage of the sales goes towards guild activities.  We will be at Rotary House in Qualicum Beach from November 30 to December 2nd.  Rotary House is located on the corner of Beach and Fern in the downtown area.  We would love to see you there.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weaving and Spinning in Colour

  Colour is often the first thing that attracts us to a piece of fiber art whether it is handspun yarn, a knitted item or a woven creation.  Texture and pattern are fundamental to the overall design of a piece but if we are not attracted to the colour of the item we may never look close enough to appreciate the finer points.  The photo to the left may look drap except for the bright gold center of the cone flowers but a closer examination would show curving lines of green, pink and dark purple in the background.
Even experienced weavers and spinners are continually exploring colour in their works.
Colour has special challenges for those that work with fiber and yarn.  We cannot mix pure colours on a palette or obliterate an undesirable colour spot by painting over it.  We work with dyed materials and have to content with variability including dye lot variation in commercially prepared yarns, natural dyes that have a high degree of variability or uneven take up in the dye bath you prepared yourself.  Variability of colour is charming in some situations but it can be a disaster in other situations.
  Weavers have to consider how the eye will see the colour resulting from the interaction of the warp colour with the weft colour.  The products from a single warp may look quite different depending upon the colour of the weft thread.  The structure will also play a role in the final colour as it can alter the relative amount of warp colour showing through the weft.  Linda's four towels are a great example of how the weft material alters the final look.  These four items are based on the same warp.
In the blanket, the lovely multicoloured warp is altered by the dyed blue weft and twill structure.  The bright warp peaks through in places to give the piece greater depth.

Spinners come the closest to mixing paints when they blend fibers with a carder to achieve a final colour.  They also have the ability to vary colour along the length of the yarn as they spin it and finally they have options to mix two different yarns when they ply them.  They can also change the reflective properties of the yarn by adding fibers that shine or sparkle.
The reflective properties of the yarn will alter how the colour is viewed and given the right combination it can lead to iridescence as with this scarf woven with a painted bamboo warp.  There are many variables to consider before you even begin to think about the overall colour design.  It is no wonder that colour is a popular topic for workshops and study groups.
Earlier this year, Mary challenged us to explore colour by creating a single piece of weaving that has a minimum of 3 warp colours and a minimum of 3 weft colours.  At our october meeting, she brought in an example, a double weave place mat with coloured "windows" and black "window panes".   It has inspired us to start a group to study colour in weaving. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Children's Day at the Museum

The Qualicum Weavers and Spinners last demonstration of the season took place at the Qualicum Beach Museum and Archives this past weekend.  This event is primarily for children but as always curious adults were also entertained.  In keeping with the museum theme, the emphasis was on the past and how our great grand parents would have lived.
Our luck with the weather continued so the event was well attended and we remained dry (an important point here on Vancouver Island).

The space under the tent is quite small.  Once you include looms and spinners there is not much room for displaying items.  We used a clothes line to create a cozy space and to make room for hanging light items.  Here our tea towels separate us from the booth next door.  We also included a small table display of handspun yarns, knitted and woven items.  My apologies for the photo to the right as the light reflecting off the tent has altered the colours.

We introduced a number of youngsters to the arts of spinning and weaving.  Some showed great patience in mastering the drop spindle.

  Our demonstration loom has been so popular that we finished one warp and have started a second one.  The variegated yarn was a good choice for our latest crop of beginner weavers as they could see the colour bands forming.  Once they had mastered the simple concept of weaving tabby, they were fascinated by the patterns that Myrtle could create on her four harness loom.
As the afternoon progressed the temperature began to drop.  The children did not seem to notice but those of us who were less active began to feel chilly.  Mary solved the problem by wearing the lovely blanket that she had brought for the display.  In doing so she became a featured item in the display.  Many people were envious.  It looked so warm and cozy as well as beautiful.  I also think it looks very authentic for the museum setting.  Can you imagine how chilly it must have been before central heating and how important a warm blanket would have been.
 This event is our final display/demonstration of this year.  Myrtle has faithfully brought her small loom to the demonstrations and in spite of numerous distractions she has worked on a scarf for her grand daughter.  We have watched the black and gold creation gradually take place.  We are happy to report that she finally reached the end of the warp and took it off the loom.  The scarf is two-sided, with warp dominating on one side and the weft on the other.  It will be interesting to see after it has been wet finished.
  Our next event will be our annual show and sale, Elegant Threads, which takes place the last weekend in November at Rotary House in Qualicum Beach.  We hope you will come by and see our display, chat with our members and pick up a unique gift for someone.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Weaving and Spinning at the Fall Fair

Long live small communities and fall fairs!  They celebrate the domestic and agricultural arts and remind us that people can still bake a perfect chocolate cake from scratch, grow vegetables and turn just about any edible item into relish or chutney.  Many of the fall fairs include weaving and spinning in their categories for awards.  If you have a fair in your area consider entering your weaving or handspun yarn.  It is another way to keep these crafts alive.  Congratulations to Margaret and Amanda who took home ribbons for their work.

The Qualicum Weavers and Spinners were invited to take part in the Lighthouse Country Fall Fair that took place this past weekend.  This is an event many of our members look forward too including Jude who is sporting her volunteer Tee shirt.  The weather was perfect, no rain, loads of sunshine and warm.

  In keeping with the event we decided our display would have a garden theme.  We added pots, rakes water cans and even old garden tools to our display.  We also included examples of vegetation, including scotch broom, that can be used to dye wool.  Check out Dyes From Plants by Seonaid Robertson for a recipe.

We shared our exhibit space with Dashwood Meadows Alpaca's and were pleased to include Amanda's samples of alpaca yarn dyed with natural materials.

The shawls in the photo were hung from old leaf rakes that are sitting in upturned clay pots

While our display draws interest, it is the demonstrations that engage people in a way that a static display cannot.  The demonstrations give us an opportunity to explain the art of spinner or weaving.  Yet again, our demonstration loom got a good work out while our spinning circle attracted a curious crowd.
Myrtle's blankets

Linda's yarn
  One of our younger visitors was kind enough to pose for me so I could take a photo of her butterfly face.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Qualicum Beach Art in Action

The Qualicum Weavers and Spinners were invited to take part in "Art in Action", an event organized by The Old School House Gallery (TOSH) in Qualicum Beach.  This event was part of the anniversary celebrations for both TOSH and the town.  It involved many of the artisan groups that are active in the area.  There were fiber artists, potters, painters, wood workers, a blacksmith and musicians.  The groups were encouraged to demonstrate their craft as well as displaying finished items. 

We decided to show folks how a utilitarian item such as a tea towel can still be a work of art so we "hung out the wash" along one side of our booth.  The fluttering towels attracted a lot of attention and many questions.  The most common being, "do you actually use them to dry dishes?"  The answer was yes but we also hang them on the handle of the oven door as camouflage if it is a particularly messy oven.
Our members have diverse interests that grow out of spinning and weaving so our exhibit included baskets, felted items, tapestry, hand spun yarn and fabric.
While people admire the displays, it is the demonstrations that create the opportunity to engage the public.  It is lovely to see Audrie's finished Zebra but it comes alive when you can actually see her working on a piece.  Demonstrations are important to show the amount of time and the skill involved in creating a unique piece.
The visitors that came to our booth did not hang back when it came to asking questions or trying things for themselves.  Our demonstration loom was as popular as ever with the younger set.  This time we had an inkle loom along with the harness loom and so we were able to show how the harness loom developed from a simpler device.  Even the adults were intrigued by the loom mechanism.  They left our booth with a new understanding of the term "warped". 
   The spinners drew quite a crowd.  We had high tech and low tech demonstrations and were even able to persuade a few visitors to try "spinning" yarn with a stick.  There were an extraordinary number of photographers at this event so the spinners have been immortalized many times over.  I suspect the photos taken were better than these.   
Later in the afternoon as the sun moved to the west and the blacktop got a little too warm our thoughts turned to shady places, ice cream and a comfortable chair. 

If you missed us at the Art in Action event look for us at the Bow Horne Bay, Lighthouse Community, Fall Fair on September 1st.  This is a real old fashion country fair with corn on the cob as well as the weavers and spinners.