Sunday, March 1, 2015

linen project

I have been back from another trip to Peru for a while and the writing bug in me had been a little slack and tired to say the least. However over the past couple of weeks I have been working on something exciting and inspiring.

Standing close to Viktoria, my very big Askov Lervad Loom

In late January (2015) I got a call from Patricia Bishop at Taproot Farms to inquire if I might be interested in weaving up a sample piece with some linen yarn - home grown by hardworking farmers at Taproot Farms in Port Williams and hand spun by fibre explorer/artist Jennifer Green.
Patricia  delivered the little ‘bundle of joy’ and I thought - ooops what have I gotten myself into.


The fact is I had gotten myself into a whole lot of thinking and considering of which way to approach this skein of 156 yards of handspun linen singles.

swift with skein, so 'small' it is hardly visible in the business around it.
I had several ideas as to how to weave up the yarn, on a table loom because it is smaller or a little square peg/nail frame because then I could needle weave it all - then I thought about where my little weaving frames were, and had no success in locating a particular one which was right at the top of the list of my ‘must use’ items. And it wasn’t that the store didn’t carry it, it was that it has disappeared somewhere underneath all my weaving and creating stash.

Through uneasy inner examinations of this possibility and the other possibility I ended up looking at my little swedish GlimĂ„kra loom. An excellent 26” wide loom with hanging beater and, most importantly, soft cotton heddles - as opposed to metal heddles which the other looms had - and then I set about to calculate the possible length of the warp.
warping board with 60 cm of warp
156 yards is very little when you have to dress a loom - the final thought and solution which took me to the starting point was deciding that the warp I would make would be about 8.5” wide and 60 cm long (the reeds I use for my looms are set in inches and so width when I weave is always in inches and length in meters/cm - brains are such funny instruments, they don’t mind whatever you do so long as you do it consistently)
The little skein was placed on my swift (see photo above left) and I wound the yarn onto two spools and then proceeded to build the warp on a warping board. Having first carefully measured which peg to start and where to end to get 60 cm of warp out of the skein. All of the usual precautions had to be taken, like securing the cross in the warp, which keeps the yarn ends in order two by two so the threading process is easier to handle and some good firm choke ties at either end to make sure that there was not a lot of slipping about happening as I was moving the warp from the warping board to the leash sticks at the front of the loom.
scarf warp ready to tie a close knot with the linen warp!
To start with I beamed a scarf warp on the loom which would use the same threading and tie-up and number of threads as the linen pieces -136 ends of yarn to be set at 15epi (ends per inch) this I hoped might leave me with a nice open but solid fabric - taking into account that the linen yarn was a single not necessarily as strong as a two ply yarn - and taking into account that the dents in a 15dpi (dents per inch) reed are pretty narrow I instead opted to use the 8dpi reed but sleyed the yarn two ends pr dent for 16 epi.

half of 136 knots done.
Then it was time to tie the little linen warp to the pre-excisting scarf warp. I had 136 little ends to tie with overhand knots, trying to make the tie lenght of the knot end as close to equally long as possible. Slowly and methodically I went from the right side of the warp to the left, two threads at a time all held in sequence by the leash sticks and the carefully placed choke tie around the cross.
Once the knots were tied I gently pulled each and every one of them towards the back of the loom, through the reed and back through the individual heddles to have the length of the warp stretched out between the back and the front breast beam.

looped bundles of warp with nylon lashing
At this point a soft nylon rope was leashed around the front tie on bar and through little bunches of the warp looms, allowing me to apply even tension across the warp. 
Then the weaving began. The pieces are done in plain weave, that is, over and under one thread repeatedly and with the threading of the heddles that I had chosen it was an easy weave in that I could alternate two treadles and so it was a straight forward part of the process once the weaving got going.


Hemstitched last part, and all those knots showing.
The warp was divided into two pieces, one which would be left ‘raw’ ie not washed or treated in any way, the other piece was destined to be soaked and rinsed and then mangled or ironed. Each piece was hemstitched on the loom to prevent unraveling. Thank you Laura Fry




soaking and doing its wet fibre water dance



The pieces were cut off the loom and one piece was put in water with a bit of detergent to soak  and afterwards the piece soaked in several bowls of clean tepid water.
Finally the wet finished piece was left out on a tea towel overnight to await its final treatment.
I chose to cold mangle the piece as best I could - traditionally in Scandinavia the linen has been cold mangled - that is rolled over either by hand or by machine with a very hard roller which flattens and brightens the fibres in the fabric.



Two pieces from one pod/warp
I don’t have a mangle pr se but I do have a some arm power and I also have a most excellent marble rolling pin and our kitchen table is quite hard. The piece was given a good rolling back and forth on both sides. The untreated piece still has its delicious dark woody colour and is very stiff
The washed and mangled piece is a bit lighter in colour and has a slightly softer hand. After many washes and manglings it will eventually turn quite pliable and soft. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A woven week

It is sunday and the sun is shining. It was cloudy and iffy looking at 8:30 this morning but now it seems like all has changed again. The air is warm and if you are in the sun it is time to put on a hat.
I have been getting acquainted with both an old and a new icon this week during weaving class with Apolonia at Apulaya.

 This red and purple one on one of the teacher/students warps was fun with the colurs, and a challenge until I had thought long enough about it. This moment in time I think I would have to go back to my graph paper to just check up and see that I really had a hold on the right end of the 'thread'
This one was a challenge for I had chosen to make a warp with four colours + the dark burgundy on the edges. Being mindful of your pickups and dots and keeping it all together is more challenging when one chooses to play with colour as well as pick up a new or long forgotten pattern.

What is important for me in this process is to stay focused. To not allow thoughts to go anywhere else but on the warp and the fibre in front of me.

There is for instance a flock of loros (little loud green parrots that will not fly still for a photo) that live close by. The neighbour has a most delicious tree with some orange flowers or fruits which appear most tasty to the little green free spirits. These loros (unknowingly) distracted me the first few days of the week.
 I thought that I would be fast enough to untie myself from the weaving, jump up, grab the camera, turn it on and get the big glass door in the studio opened before their flock had levitated from the delicious tree and made it both to, past and way past our weaving spot. Sadly this was a misconception.  I have now come to the realization that.....these loros are not flying past for my photo pleasure. They are there for their own joy of life, flying, talking and finding food. I get to joyfully observe their flight patterns as they cross overhead and also listen to their calls of encouragement and perhaps gentle banter.
This slim-waisted wasp I did get to observe closely though with and without the camera, for he/she was busy figuring out how to get past the window and I just had to get up (my camera right beside me from the loro attempt) and click the button.
It is time to head for the market. Out into the world and Calca we go to see what we can see!







Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Peru, Pisaq, again!

I am here again, in Peru, - going to school at Apulaya Centre for Andean Culture  in Calca, El Valle Sagrado de los Incas. The difference this time is that I have my husband here too and we are both learning and expanding our horizons.
We have been here for two weeks now and each moment is a new adventure and experience - like the day we went to Pisaq - as per usual with Apulaya we start at the top and after we had worked our way around the main pre-inca buildings we headed out on the path that would carry us down over the mountain, through all the other sacred spots and small temples in all their glory.
There is a tunnel, not a very long one, but a tunnel never the less. As I was about to enter from my end I saw a young woman come towards me - the moment she saw me she turned around and went back out. I didn't think more of it but continued, encouraged by Soren and Emerita coming up behind me. At the other end of the tunnel (which truly wasn't very long) the young woman was waiting.
She had the sweetest little boy on her back, his name was Johan and ........ she was very interested in selling us some of her weaving. Perhaps I was not super enthused to start with, but greeted her to the best of my ability in my new found Qeshwa as did Soren and then.....she asked if we would like for her to sing us a couple of songs? That was not to be refused and so we had our very own little concert of a medley of I think 4 or 5 different traditional songs in Qeshwa - and after that perfomance there was no way back, we did buy some of her weaving and we did make a million faces to the little person observing us over his mama's shoulder, his hat askew and his eyes sparkling above the toothless grin he bestowed upon us.
This is one little story - the walk that day did last from 10am to 6pm at which point we were downtown Pisaq - the sun dissappeared completely as we descended the last little piece of the way and as we got to the beginning of the now closed for the night Pisaq market we turned around to look at where we had come from and ........the almost full moon rose in the sky over the sacred spot of Pisaq. It was a most magic and beautiful experience.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

Summer Storm!

Hurricane Arthur or his tail end or front end, what do I know........the part of him which does not at this point seem to be as vicious as we were warned he would he would be.....is whipping around the poplars.......the poplars we planted twenty years ago when we moved into the house.
They were but thumb thick knee high babies when they were placed in their growing spots. Now they are taller than our two story house, they are so tall that where I sit about two meters in from the kitchen window they fill the whole window frame up.......a lovely multi green waving entity at the moment.

In front of the poplars are a few darker maples, not exactly as tall but never the less also waving vigorously.
And last but not least are the spruce trees doing more of a body undulation on the front row with their little prickly leaves so short and tightly set that they almost dance to a different drum.
One spruce by the way is very short......a month ago the horse was pasturing out by the trees, coming and going with his buddies the sheep.......and it was fly season.......horses have tender bellies and inner thighs .............as I was admiring all the trees, talking to a friend on the phone Buffy started rubbing up against the spruce trees.......and then he backed in over on spruce. It was considerably taller than him however in one smooth movement he maneuvered his butt into position, until the tree top stuck out under his tail!
Moving back and forth with slow determination his whole underside was now getting a most delicious rub, soft pale green new growth on the tips mixed with the mature rougher texture of the older parts of the branches.......ridding him of the winged pests which so eagerly find and chew his vulnerable spots.......from where I stood I could see the glee in his eyes........and then it was too much, the tree snapped and now it stands proudly tall only with its first two layers of branches, circular like a ballerina's skirt, the sister tree is oddly crocked........it has not been broken but it definitely has been given a good shove.

The wind comes and goes now, pretending to be done, but really it is only about another big breath being pulled in and then......yet another pile of powerful gusts whip around the house, making the trees dance still wilder.

And this is sort of a post script. The wind is back, the lawn is strewn with freshly ripped green leaves. One of our trees was down on the power line and I have to say I am infinitely happy to be back from the Wolfville Farmers' Market in one piece. There are many trees down, lots of outages.......haven't heard about casualties (yet) and I hope I won't.......one step at a time, thankful to be safe!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Magic Mega Blanket!



 One student........one large idea........three very full bags of balled wool, MacAusland's, Briggs & Little and who knows what else.
Point of order......no order shall prevail, other than.....this is a double woven blanket, ie...width on loom is 44" and when done it can be opened up to cover twice that, or a little less after fulling. And so the balls were lined up like colourful beads on the floor and the trapeze was engaged for the 4 meters of rainbow dreams.



The waterfilled bottles were hung for tension and the warp wound on, centimeter by centimeter, or yard by yard, meter by meter, layers of bristolboard placed strategically so no warp collapse would take place. Many times during the setup Virve (the most dedicated student) said - oh, this is taking a long time - and it did - for weaving takes time when you have to work your way through the planning, setup and execution of preliminaries....nothing takes just two mins.
Then the weaving began, randomly picking colours out of one bag.

 Once a spool was made, this colour was put aside so as not to be used in the weft again until all the initial colours used in the warp had been randomly woven into the blanket - the warp stripes were 1", 2" and 3" wide and the weft stripes were wider or narrower as Virve pleased. And she played, wondered and smiled bobbing along on the rainbow of colourful intersections she created throwing the shuttle, watching the weft move along from side to side, visible magic in the top layer, hidden wonders in the bottom layer.

And then the end was near.
It took  longer to create this piece than we had expected. I hadn't really thought about a time frame in depth, but knew as the setup progressed that....it would not be done in two hours! We added a couple of extra weaving days on our first time estimation and I had the privilege of weaving along on one of the other looms in the studio as Virve worked her way one pick at a time. Great was her joy when the last piece of bristol board fell away and we could see the loops at the end of the warp.





It was time to roll off the whole beautiful exciting piece......3 meters and 10 centimeters is what it measured right off the loom......and in a double weave that equals the number of picks you would have put into more than 6 meters of cloth woven in a 44" width!
On top of that I have to congratulate Virve....she had only one thread where the bottom had tangled into the top layer......she looked pleased and I was impressed with her stamina and determination.



And here it is...full width, the one glitch cut loose so the blanket could be opened up, all fringes and other tidbits got to be fixed in front of the Olympics.......and as it is, on cold days all 5 members of Virve's  family fits under the blanket on the couch........not to mention that she has found vibrant combinations in the blanket that she really loves and thus she can use this for a  colour sampler for future projects......Congratulations Virve on a wonderful piece of weaving!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Kale Princes and Princesses





 The day came when in my bag of unsprayed kale from a local green house I found one leaf completely covered in aphids! How joyful a moment that was..... as you perhaps saw in previous posts I had been wondering what to feed those no-longer-hibernating-in-the-wall-cracks energetic ladybugs that helped me cook every day......

One leaf full of goodness...... and not one little red black spotted bug in sight...solution was to return the leaf to the fridge and hope that the aphids would stay as fresh as the leaf in those cool conditions.

Preparing breakfast and looking out the window to the bird feeders I realized that there were 3 of my spotted guests wandering around on each their window pane.







I scooped them up, gently, gently and ..... produced the leaf from the fridge..... aphids were still intact....... but not for long........the ferocious aphid fighters went to work immediately and by evening the aphids were gone and the leaf had shrivelled up, the red coated workers had gone to rest in some obscure corner and I have been looking for aphids ever since, but have been plain out of luck!


So for the occasional ladybug I once again produce a piece of pepper, red or yellow or orange, strictly vegetarian for the next little while










Back to the loom, where there are still Andean Stars and slow moving leather back turtles in the warp - such a pleasure.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

guineapigs and llama meals/orno!

I am still weaving, mostly on my big looms but in my head and heart I am also practicing the weaving skills I learned in Calca. Soon two years will have passed since I spent 10 weeks in Peru studying and learning with the kind and knowledgeable people at Apulaya. These photos are from a meal we had just a few days before my stay was over.

The food is going into the 'orno', an outdoor clay oven which is filled with wood and left to burn until there are only large embers left.
Then the potatoes that grew behind the studio
and the sweet potatoes from the market (i think) went into the orno and the front opening and the side air hole was closed off with rocks and clay. The two roasting pans shared space with ...........
The guinea pigs which had been butchered and prepared that same morning,
The salad which came from the garden, with a fresh green taste and a smooth vinaigrette.
And finally my plate.... I did not get a full guineapig, but about half of one on my plate. It tasted deliciously - the 6 year old daughter of the house finished her guinea pig off in minutes and was she ever happy and hungry! I had seconds and ....... as it is I am looking forward to going back to Peru in the fall, again to spend time at Apulaya, and will bring my spouse this time.... he won't be weaving but I will, and he will be learning language (quechua with me) and looking at agricultural practices, music and enveloping himself in this new to us culture of food, language, laughter and people.