Archives for category: Weaving


weaving, wool

JUST cut off the loom in time for the guild meeting.

In an earlier post I was fretting over a looming deadline and a skein of yarn.

Once I had chosen a palette and yarns from my stash I had to decide what I would weave… a shawl, a scarf, a blanket? I decided a large shawl would be a safe bet and an interesting project. I was pretty sure I had enough yarn.

I used my warping board instead of the mill, winding three small warps of varying sizes. It was my intention to create a harmonious blend without being totally symmetrical. There are lots of subtle shifts of colour.

I pre-sleyed a 6 dent reed and intended to use a jerry rigged trapeze to wind the warp on to the back beam but discovered to my amusement, my clever gizmo was at the wrong end of my loom! Sometimes I just crack me up!

Winding it on, I was falling in love with the colour and pattern but a thought was niggling at me. I felt I wanted a twill, nothing too complicated to overpower the warp, especially since my weft was a deep, rich brown. What to choose?

I decided on a 2/2 twill on 4 shafts. It was a simple straight draft. Great! But did I do that? Nope. I threaded the treadling. It wasn’t on purpose but it was a happy accident because I treadled the threading which made the tie up MUCH simpler. Side Note: The tie up is my least favourite task. The simpler it is, the less time I spend in contortions under my loom!

weave structure

A twill with a difference. I reversed the threading and treadling

The last step prior to weaving was to sley my intended reed and tie on the front beam. I did the math and decided on a 10 dent reed as the appropriate choice. When I was approximately half way across I could see the reed was too coarse. I tried to cheat by shifting its’ position in the beater, but who was I kidding? After threading a few more dents I could see I solved exactly nothing and pulled out the reed. Rather than go with a 12 DPI reed, I used my 6 DPI again, sleying 2 ends per dent. I felt the 6 would be kinder on the hand spun. It was a good decision as my warp was now running in a straight line from back to front beam and only one thread broke at the end of my weaving.

detecting weaving errors

After transferring the cross from front to back I could see a few threads that were not captured in the cross. Fixing them now saves heart ache later.

And that looming deadline? Did I make it? Just by the skin of my teeth!

I cut the fabric off the loom at 6:03 PM. Elizabeth picked me up at 6:05 PM and I proudly arrived at the guild pot luck with my project… but left my contribution in the fridge.

*slaps forehead with hand*

What’s my take away from this project?

  1. When working to a deadline, keep things simple. I put the complex part in the warp, not the weaving.
  2. Don’t cut corners. I fixed the problems prior to weaving.
  3. I really enjoy improvising!

I had planned to write about other things today but with Thailand’s military announcing the country is now under martial law, my thoughts are with the wonderful people I met only a few short months ago.

On my second day in Bangkok, I made my way to The Jim Thompson House, hidden at the end of a quiet soi in the heart of Bangkok. I had heard the story: he came to Thailand as a GI, fell in love with the people and culture but most importantly, saw an opportunity to bring Thai silk to the western world.

The compound consists of six traditional Thai houses cobbled together without a single nail! The garden is more a jungle with paths – the scale of the foliage is huge.

The tour guides took us through his living quarters, beautifully decorated with Asian antiquities he discovered during his travels. Unfortunately, he mysteriously disappeared in 1967 on a trip to the Cameroon Highlands; went out for a walk and was never seen again.

Eight families wove the silk for Jim Thompson. They lived on the other side of the canal in a small Muslim community called Ban Krua. I was interested to learn the community still exists on a much smaller scale.Following the signs to Ban Krua

The reality is that hand weaving in Thailand is a dwindling business. I spoke to a few women who previously worked as weavers but could earn more money doing other things.

Luck was on my side, however. I made it back to the area on my last day in Thailand. This time crossing the footbridge to Ban Krua and following the signs to the weaving community. As far as I can tell, the “community” is now one family with two looms in a crowded back room.

I walked in the open door to find an elderly, shirtless gentleman asleep while a young child watched television. Where were the weavers? I was horrified that I had just barged into their personal space!  It didn’t matter. They welcomed me and showed me pictures of the family with Jim Thompson, led me to a room filled with silk scarves and shawls  but best of all, I got to meet the weaver and see her in action!

It’s a humbling experience to watch her weave. She is working with two shafts and the finest silk thread, creating simple, beautiful fabric. And at lightening speed!

I think simplicity is where it’s at.Saying goodbye to my host

Japanese Calligraphy


Some experiences loom large in my life and stay with me a long time. Last night was one of those magical experiences. I went to  “Kigami and Kami-ito: A slide lecture and paper thread-making demonstration by Hiroko Karuno” at the Japan Foundation. Social magic happened, from the moment I entered the door I ran into friends and acquaintances. A bunch of us happily scooped up front row seats!

I have always had an affection for and attraction to Japanese culture. A few years ago I took a workshop to learn the basics involved to spin paper into fibre. It attracted me on a number of levels. First of all, I was intrigued to learn what else I could spin on my little spinning wheel. Secondly, I liked the idea of creating fabric from paper in a way that could be cut and sewn into wearable garments. The idea of taking something that would otherwise have to be recycled or end up in landfill and give it a new life is very attractive to me. But interestingly, I had no knowledge of the long history of traditional Japanese paper making – Kigami, Kami-ito, Japanese paper spinning or Shifu – Japanese paper weaving. And so my education began!

As we watched Hiroko’s beautiful slide presentation we learned the 6 rules of traditionally made Japanese paper. In order to be called Kigami the fibre must be locally grown. Kozo is typically used. They use only one of the three layers, the white inner bark. Traditional bleaching methods are used. The fibre is cooked in a mixture of wood ash and water to soften and a root called nevi (sp) is added. I didn’t catch exactly what function it serves.

The paper is only made during the winter months of January to March after which layers of paper are left to dry on a board and then aged for two years!

Traditional Japanese paper differs dramatically from pulp paper as it doesn’t dissolve in water. Hiroko recounted that as recent as the Meiji period people would throw their account books down the well when cities were threatened by fire!

We all leaned in to learn how Hiroko prepares the paper  for spinning. She made it look so easy as she went through the many steps. Having taken a workshop, I know it’s not as easy as it looks. You can see my attempt next to Hiroko’s for comparison. Fine paper thread spun by HirokoNot so fine paper spun by me

My senses were truly blown when we were able to handle the finished skeins and woven cloth. Hiroko used natural dyes to infuse colour to the fine threads. My brain had a hard time registering “paper” when holding such finely woven fabric.

If I were to use only one word to describe last nights experience I would choose “Zen”.


Hiroko Karuno demonstrates paper spinning


The Skein

The clock read 5:09 AM. I was awake and thinking about a single skein of yarn. I’m reading your mind – you think I’m very disturbed!

This is the story. Back in December of last year my guild, the Etobicoke Handweavers and Spinners Guild had a challenge – bring a skein of yarn from your stash and choose one donated by another member. The challenge? Weave a project using that skein and ONLY yarn from my stash and present the finished project at our June meeting, the last meeting of the year.

So far so good except, as you can see, the wee skein is still a skein and the months and days have flown by. I have three weeks to do this.

As the birds woke up I pondered my stash and thought the perfect yarns to complement this skein are probably living among my hand dyed and hand spun yarns.

I’ve pulled together a selection that could work: 2 skeins of hand spun wool and mohair in a heathered pink, 2 skeins of hand spun brown Shetland wool that I over dyed with cochineal ( I also over spun it to create a bouclé yarn) and 2 skeins of commercially spun yarn dyed with logwood.

The Palette

I like this palette but will wait until tomorrow night to wind the warp ~ This evening I’m off to the Japan Foundation to enjoy “Kigami and Kami-ito: A slide lecture and paper thread-making demonstration by Hiroko Karuno”

It was the perfect time to weave the last bit of linen warp on the table loom. Linen is notorious for not playing nicely… unless you know what it likes! Two things I keep in mind: linen has no stretch and it loves water. So I opened the windows wide to the spring rain and glorious smell of green things growing and wove away!

Aside from an awkward grouping of threads in the middle of the warp, all is good!

These are hot off the loom and will transform with finishing into lovely little mats.


Aside from an awkward grouping of threads in the middle of the warp, all is good!

It was just a small warp – 3 yards, to test if I truly learned what was taught at a recent linen weaving workshop. Jette Vandermeiden is my all time favourite weaving teacher. She offered a 3 day intensive workshop on linen. She stressed that it was process oriented, don’t worry if you only weave a few inches. The only problem was that I was coming down with something and my brain turned to mush. Try as I might, I created one mistake after another and created an ungodly mess!

By mid-morning on day three, exhausted and feverish, I felt the rush of tears as I saw my warp dissolve into a pile of linen spaghetti. NOooooo…

Jette, The Weaving Fairy, came to my rescue. I went outside to visit the sheep. In the end I was able to successfully weave my sampler but I wondered, could I do it again?

Now I know the answer is a resounding YES!

These are hot off the loom and will transform with finishing into lovely little mats.