ICA Boston Fiber: Sculpture 1960 - Present

This week I took a trip into Boston to the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) to view their latest exhibit, Fiber: Sculpture 1960 - Present. Thirty-four artists were represented throughout five galleries. The range of color and material, texture and volume, was vast, and it took several passes through before I had taken enough in to be content with leaving. As a weaver, it was a challenge not to touch some of the pieces and bring my eyes within inches of others. I was so inspired that I purchased the book that was published to accompany the exhibit. Check it out if you can. The exhibit runs through January 4, 2015. You can also view a slideshow and other accompanying media by clicking here.

Fabric in the walls

We are in the process of cleaning our attic up to create a little reading nook. Part of this effort has involved removing tongue and groove beadboard ceiling planks to remove dirt, asphalt and dust that has accumulated over the years, most egregiously during a reroofing process. As you might imagine, this is a rather dirty job. I've been slowly removing one board at a time, vacuuming its surface and moving on to the next. All of the boards are in good enough condition to reuse, so they'll be replaced once everything is cleaned up.

 

Unlike the modern tendency to fill a house with lots of stuff and not so many people per square foot, our modest saltbox was built back in 1750 when the average household size was greater and they shared less space. It is evident that our attic was used as a room of some sort - likely sleeping quarters for the younger members of the family. There are layers of old wallpaper and pictures of horses and their riders cut and tacked up in one corner. Two beams run the width of the house about four feet down from the peak of the roof, separating the sections of beadboard. Original to the house and therefore rough in appearance, they were wrapped in a fine cloth with a stripe detail that results from several threads perhaps woven in the same heddle as a bundle. The thread is very fine - similar to a fine sewing thread, and at this stage the fabric is quite fragile. Underneath the fabric I found a reference to President Harrison. Not sure which one, but Benjamin Harrison's presidency ended in 1893, so I think it's safe to assume the fabric is at least that old. My plan is to try and recreate this fabric, though it will take a little bit of planning and will likely result in a narrow sample thanks to the number of heddles I have. A to do for next year.

Knotted Wool Rug

Last year a friend acquired a large box of wool strips meant for rug braiding. I was the fortunate recipent of the majority of this wool, yet after trying my hand at rug braiding and deciding it wasn't for me, the wool spent the better part of a year taking us space in my attic. And I mean for that to sound as though it was an annoyance. When you live in a tiny house, every cubic foot of space counts, and this box was using up valuable real estate and had no foreseeable future. And then I went back to a project I designed for Schacht Spindle Company back in May of 2011 - a rag rug made with tied t-shirt strips. Why not recreate this in wool, but bigger and better because I learned a lesson or two the last time around?

 

So here I am, about a foot and a half into the rug, and I'm already excited to get it off of the loom. Stay tuned for pictures of the finish project!

Spunzilla

Spinzilla is officially Spunzilla. The yardage is being tallied, and while I'm guessing Team Schacht Spindle won't come in first, it was a great week of spinning. I was a guest blogger for Schacht, goofy photo compliments of my four-year-old. I was reasonably productive, spinning 862 yards of two-ply wool. I finished up one fleece and began spinning another from the same flock. Their coloring is just a bit different, and I'm curious to see how they both take dye. Dye you ask? Dye wool that isn't white? Why not. I will keep you posted.  

Spinning, Schacht, Spinzilla

For some time now, I have been spinning up yarn from fleeces purchased in Maine and Massachusetts as part of my own little Fibershed initiative. The idea here is to support the local economy and be gentle on the earth, among other things. When Jane asked me to be a part of the Schacht Spindle Spinzilla team, I saw an opportunity to chip away at this project. Eventually it will turn into something larger, but for now I'm content to spin my yarn and dabble a bit in dyeing with plants foraged from my yard as well as around town. And now, back to my wheel!

Tiny Things

I love itty bitty things. If I had space in our tiny house for frivolous things, there would most certainly be a dollhouse meticulously outfitted with tiny furniture, tiny carpets, tiny linens, tiny food, tiny artwork. My four year old is not so into the whole tiny movement, unless we're talking marbles. So when I had the chance to make a birthday gift for one of his friends who seems to be an appreciator of tiny things, I couldn't resist. 

Experiments in Ikat

My weaving guild, NOBO Handweavers, hosted an ikat dyeing workshop a few weeks back. Our instructor was the talented Chelsae Murray. Chelsae guided us through the process of wrapping sections of warp to create areas that would resist dye. We used poly tape similar to this from Maiwa, and I found this video helpful as a reminder when I was tying my own warp at home in preparation for the workshop. 

 

Let's clear something up - how to pronounce ikat. There seems to be a bit of debate as to how the -kat part is pronounced, rhymes with cat or sounds like a Kennedy - kaht, I'll put this into the toh-may-toh/toh-mah-toh basket, but the i should be prounounced like ee, not eye.

 

I had a 300 end, three yard warp of Valley Yarns 8/2 in white. This unmercerized cotton warp was intended to be used at a dyeing workshop I took at NEWS five years back, but it came home unused. Having survived the trip to and from NEWS as well as a later move from apartment to house, it wasn't in perfect shape. I did my best to stretch it back out on my warping board to align all of the threads, but as this was somewhat challenging, even with the warp well tied, I decided that I'd go ahead and wrap groups of threads as best I could and hope for the best. Mostly I was interested in learning the technique on a practice warp, so I wasn't terribly concerned if my end result didn't look traditional.

 

I have to say, I'm pretty darn happy with the results - not particularly traditional, but interesting nonetheless. And so now I add resist dyeing to the list of things I'd like to do more of when I have more time.

I'm Dyeing Over Here

Slowly but surely I'm getting back into a bit of a creating rhythm. I've been thinking a lot about the example I set for my son. That it feels infinitely more satisfying to dry my hands on a handwoven towel or set my shoes by a handwoven mat than their storebought counterparts. That using the stuff between our ears to solve a problem builds confidence and makes us want to learn more. That sometimes the best solution is the simplest.

 

As someone who gravitates towards natural and more neutral colors, using color in my weaving has always been a fascinating challenge. I'm not sure that color is the issue so much as choosing the wrong color, which I seem to do well. After a recent ikat dyeing workshop where I went all out and dyed my warp bright orange because I had no plans for it whatsoever, I decided to take a stab at dyeing again. This time around, I wanted to use plants, specifically local plants that could be found in abundance and within the confines of our property. Simple and free. 

 

I discovered that Schacht's Zoom Loom is an excellent swatch maker if you're looking for uniform swatches. My swatches were woven using Harrisville Shetland. It's finer than I would generally use on the Zoom Loom, but makes for very easy weaving as the sett is loose. I used bits of yarn to code each swatch so that I'd know what combination of mordants I used: no mordant, pre-mordant with alum only, post-mordant with iron, and both alum pre-mordant and iron post-mordant. Here you can see the results of my dye baths, from top row to bottom, using hairy vetch (what a terrible name for a lovely wildflower), lavender, and spearmint. 

 

 

Where Does the Time Go?

Apparently I am due to give myself a mid-year evaluation to see where I am relative to the goals I have set for myself for the year. I have a little under two months before the mid-year mark, so let's see where I am at. Using the good china. Check! Most recently it held the dinner that I served up for Jane Patrick and Barry Schacht. Go ahead and be jealous. They are absolutely wonderful people, and Jane is my weaving mentor. If you ever get a chance to meet them or take a class with Jane, do it. Talking with Jane really made me miss Boulder.

 

Weave more. Check! Well, this little exercise is really starting to make me feel like I've accomplished something! Of course I still have a lot more progress to make in this particular category, but I am doing my best in the time allotted. Currently on my 15" Flip is a tapestry. Yes, a tapestry. My first tapestry in fact. It's looking a bit like a drawing that I might have created in second grade, and it's slow going, but I am really enjoying the process, and I want to learn more. I am also in the process of planning to weave some fabric to sew a garment for the 2013 NEWS fashion show. Mark your calendars now. July 11 - 14, 2013 at Smith College. At a recent trustees meeting, we discussed the list of teachers, and all I can say is wow. Wow. Wow. I am about to cut a couple of patterns to get a sample that's just right before I go ahead and start weaving. I am usually not this calculating when I weave, but I want this to be extra special. 

 

Learn to tat. Zero progress here. Time to get cracking! Plus I have some size 12 pearl cotton in a dozen gorgeous colors that I would love to use for this. Sort of along a similar vein, here is a link to a crocheted snowflake pattern from Aesthetic Nest that I hope to use to decorate the windows next winter.

 

I am also working on turning a full fleece into a fulled bedside rug for myself. I managed to wash the fleece last weekend, so we'll see if I can make any progress with fulling this weekend. One problem: vegetable matter. So many little bits, and I don't want to loose the definition of the locks.

 

And finally, Linda Cortright gave a wonderful lecture on Oman at our guild anniversary meeting last week. That woman amazes me. What a world she has seen. If you haven't checked out Wild Fibers Magazine, I would encourage you to do so. It is full of gorgeous and inspiring words and images, and Margaret Russell's rare breeds column is a must read.

The Makers Project

I love finding inspiration at The Makers Project. Jennifer Causey photodocuments talented people who make things, and I particularly love "the Designers" and "the Builders".