Linen Tea Towels

Linen Tea Towels

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Days are Swifter than a Weaver's Shuttle

I have a card that says that and it is true.  My days fly by and I wonder what I was doing...Did I get enough done?   What did I forget?  How can I catch up?

Actually my month has been pretty blog is one of those things that didn't get done before the time slipped away.  I have been working hard on two things...get some weaving done to add to the products to sell at the Garden Sale and empty some looms that I have warped up.  I did pretty good at both of them.

I managed to get some towels finished for the sale.  The block twill towels are hefty and will dry dishes very well.  I may have chosen colors that are a little soft, but that is the colors that I like to use.

 The second set of towels are huck, I saw this pattern on the Weaving Today site and loved the look.  I think I will do them again in another color way.
These were a much brighter color and I sold several of them.  I had a big cone of the gold, so that is how I decided to use it.  All the changing of colors in the weft really slowed down the weaving, so these towels took longer than I would prefer.  But I like them and tried several variations to add variety.  I like the ones with the stripes on the ends, but I didn't care as much for the white one that is all one color.

I also painted and wove another run of scarves using the cotton/rayon slub yarn.  I loved the blue series of scarves that I wove before, but I sold all of them.  This time I will pick out the one I want to keep and not put it in the show.
Maybe I'll keep this one.

The sale in the Garden did not have as much traffic as I had hoped it would.  They usually have art and paintings at her garden sales.  This was the first time for textiles...but they are willing to do it again next year and I want to participate again.  We will just have to see if we can get more advertising.  My table looked pretty good, but when it got dark there was not enough light to see the work.

The Garden is a beautiful place to spend some time in.  I got to spend two weekends there, first for the sale and the next weekend for a meeting that was held there.
She has fountains, plants, flowers and art everywhere.

The house and fences are covered with art and mirrors.
The fountain next to my booth.

And I managed to empty three looms. 

My Baby Wolf was used to weave the three warps for the sale.  She is getting a rest now. When next month's workshop is finished and the classes slow down, I need to do some repair and cleaning on that loom.

I also emptied my sweet, little Mountain Loom.  I had put a test warp on the loom when I got the it last year.  I put on a warp of handspun yarn, using a plaited twill.  I want to use the fabric for a kimono jacket, but I will need to weave some additional fabric to extend it.  
Plaited twill started on my Mountain Loom
End of the warp.
The last loom emptied gave me some problems.  This is the 50" HD loom in the weaving class room.  The yarn is the same as I used on the blue hand painted scarves up above, but it really reacted differently on this loom.  I had several pounds of this yarn, so I tested it at several setts to see what I could use it for.  When I put it close enough for towels, I didn't like the way it looked, so I decided to make some yardage.  I put on a 10 yard warp and started weaving. 

I had problems with the warp breaking right from the start.  I only managed to weave about 20 inches in the first three hours.  I was repairing broken threads and they were breaking at a strange place, on the heddles.  The heddles on this loom are inserted eye and are very smooth, so I was at a loss to figure out what was happening.
Here is the start of weaver's hell.
Because it was breaking at the heddle, I had to weave about 10 inches before I could put the original warp back in the web.  This picture shows the start...I ended up with about ten repair weights hanging down from the back of the loom.  It was not a pretty sight.

After I thought about the problem, looked at the loom and warp carefully and slept on it; I figured out that the shed on this loom is so big that it is straining the warp at the weak spot (the slub).  I could change the level of the shafts, or I could just weave pressing the treadles half way down.  This is a technique that is common with counter-balanced and counter-marche looms, but I am not used to weaving this way.  But it worked I managed to weave a yard without breaks.  The problem was as I wove faster and got into my rhythm, I started pressing the treadles down more...that is how I usually weave.  So I placed a board under the treadles to prevent me pressing them to the ground.
Board added to prevent treadles from full lift.
With this fix I was able to weave about a yard or so an hour...a little slower at first because I was still working in the broken ends.  The last eight yards of fabric probably had only three or four breaks, a vast improvement over the first yard!

Yardage in my new basket.

Now I have some burling and repairs to do on the two pieces of yardage, but I can work on that listening to music or TV.  

Here's a better shot of the my new basket with legs.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Some Weaving, Some Travel

I have been weaving, but I have not been writing about it.  After getting back from the wedding in Texas, I had a two day turnaround and I headed to the Intermountain Weaver's Conference in Durango, Colorado.  

I have attended this conference for years.  I have been on the board (the group that does the basic planning of the conference) a couple of times (in fact, I was on the first board for the first conference).  I enjoy this conference, it's not overly expensive, we attend a 3 day workshop with national and international teachers, and there are vendors to buy great textile stuff.  Some years my workshop is better than others, but I think that is common for all conferences.  This year I tried a new thing...they had one day workshops...I took three of them.  I had lots of fun and learned some things and learned some things about teaching my students.

My room mate, we have been going together to this conference for years, was on the board this year, so I ended up being in Durango for more days than usual.  I decided to play tourist and see the sights.  I had not taken the Durango to Silverton train for 30 years, so I signed up.  This is a slow moving steam engine going up a beautiful canyon to an old mining town.  I had a great trip and the sights were great.  
Train Engine going around a curve.

I was in the last car, so I only got a few pictures of the engine.  But the chugging and the smoke was great to see.  When I washed my face in the evening, the washcloth was grey from the smoke!

Animas River
We rode up the canyon made by the Animas River...yes the river that turned yellow orange the next week because of the contaminated water spill from the old gold mine.

Contamination at the top of the river.
Just as we were leaving Silverton, you could see the contamination from the years of small amounts of the leakage from the mines.  

Mine tailings on the hill

Beautiful downtown Silverton
On the mountains behind the city showed the remains of mines.  But the town was set up for buildings, stuff to buy and restaurants.  I had a fun time walking around the city.

I spent the next day helping set up for the conference, then three days of classes.  

I got to work on needle felting and made a head and figure.  I did not get it put completely together, the head is separate and the body is as yet unclothed, but I was impressed that I could do a face that small and get hands with fingers.
Some of the Felt figures
I wrapped some blue roving around my figure's body, but I was amazed with how well I was able to do the face.

My second day was with Anita Mayer.  Just playing with various dye techniques.  There were several stations set up around the room and we moved from one to another.  We dyed fabric, discharged fabric, applied paints and foil.  We had lots of fun and got great ideas for adding layers of design on fabric.
All of us busy at the stations
Anita's clothing was an inspiration for our experiments
My last day was Rigid Heddle weaving with Jane Patrick.  I teach rigid heddle weaving and I decided what better way to improve my teaching than working with the master.  Jane demonstrated many of the "pick-up stick" pattern that can be done on a rigid heddle loom to give more pattern possibilities.  We have her book for reference and getting the information from her will add to my abilities in teaching it.
Spanish eyelet variations
 She had great examples of several techniques that I have trouble with and want to improve...and often they were techniques that she really enjoyed and loved showing me the possibilities.

Shawl from Schacht Newsletter
She even had the shawl I saw in the newsletter and that I have already bought the yarn to make.  I can't wait to get it on the loom and do it.

Overall I had a great time at the conference.  I met new people, enjoyed evenings of wine and talk, and arranged to go to a workshop in October.  Lots of great new ideas to try and new work to so.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Weekend in Texas

My niece was getting married in Texas.  My Mom (Grandma) wanted to go, but couldn't travel alone.  I am no longer working, I have never been to Texas. I over booked July without noticing and I did not need to add another weekend out of town, but Mom wanted to see the wedding and I wanted Mom to see it.

I always thought of Texas as desert, hot and dry, but I was in the south of Texas and it is HOT and WET.  The temperature was about what we were at home (98 to 99 degrees) but the humidity was unbelievable.  I am used to humidity of 15-20 percent and we were in 85 percent.  I could hardly breath when I first got there.  And I am not used to feeling the air laying on my skin.  Luckily we found plenty of air conditioned rooms for Mom to relax in (and me too).

The bride looked beautiful.  Her dress was, as she put it "awesome."  Even better, I had helped fit the dress to her.  She needed the bodice shortened and I was glad I was able to do it.  We had done the dress changes a couple of months ago, before she left for Texas.  I was so happy to see how great she looked in the dress.
Here's the beautiful bride with Grandma
It was a wonderful thing to share this occasion with my sister, my niece and her family.  I also got to meet the groom's family and enjoy a great dinner and party afterword.

I'm sure the professional pictures will be much better.

The day after the wedding, we got to go to South Padre Island and play on the beach.  Mom and me got to put our feet in the Gulf of Mexico.  There was a nice breeze coming off the water, so we felt great, until we had to walk back to the parking and humid!
Mom, Daughter and Granddaughter at the beach.
All in all, we had a great time, but we also had an adventure coming home.  

My Mom carries a little Swiss army knife in her purse and she had not flown for several years, so did not realize the problems that would cause.  I managed to get it in the checked luggage on the way down, but on the way back she put it in her carry on instead of the checked in luggage.  She knew not to put it in her purse!  I did not catch it, but TSA did.  When they took it, Mom's face showed how upset she was and they suggested that we go back to check-in to see if we could put it in the suitcase.  (This is a small airport, and there was a chance.)

Alas, it was not to be.  Mom was upset and said we had better just turn it in.  We went through the check out again, I gave the knife to another TSA agent and he saw how upset Mom was...She had bought the knife in Switzerland some fifteen years ago, and it had her name engraved on it.  He suggested that we see if the airport office had a box or envelope that we could mail it home. (Like an idiot, I did not have the phone numbers for any family still in Texas that could pick up the knife.)  

We went to the office and asked about a box or envelope.  The gentleman there said to Mom, "You must be Barbara."  The story had already got around the airport! I said it is a small airport.  He sent the office manager to find something, he had a business envelope and I proceeded to tape the knife securely to the side of the envelope, and tape my address to the window in the envelope.  The he told me there was not post office and they did not have stamps...I remembered a couple that I had stashed in my wallet and put them on.  All we could do is hope for the best.

When we left the office, the TSA officer that had suggested we try to mail the knife, met us and said that he would take care of getting it in the mail.  Mom was so pleased that she wanted a picture with him.  We went through check out a third time and relaxed while we waited for our flight.
Mom with TSA.
Small airports are able to be a little more personal than the big ones that handle so many people and bags.  We were lucky to have the help that we did.

I do understand the worry of people with knives on airplanes...I'm glad that TSA is there to keep us safe.  But I also understand and agree with the man in the airport office.  As he said, "I can't see an 89 year old woman running down the airplane aisle with a inch and a half knife, yelling Take me to Switzerland or I'll do your nails." 

There is, of course, a good ending to this story.  Four days after I got home, the knife came in the mail.  The envelope was crumpled and slightly torn on the back...but the knife was safe and it is back in my Mom's purse!
Mom's knife came through the mail in one piece.

Gratuitous weaving picture

I had to add a picture of the 3 shaft bound weave I've been doing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


I spent May out of the country, and June trying to get my head back in place.  I have had a hard time coming back up to speed.  
May was wonderful in the South of France.  We took classes, ate great food, traveled around the area, welcomed our kids for a couple of weeks and relaxed.

I have had a hard time coming back to earth.  I still am not sleeping well...but last night was an improvement.  My classes have started and I am enjoying teaching.  I finally got to some weaving.

I was able to get some old know...when they used to make a really great smooth linen.  This was Bernat Linen Special, about equal to a singles 20 linen (20 lea). I needed to weave some samples for exchange, and decided I could use this yarn.  I got one tube each of several colors and wanted to make a mixed stripe warp and an over twisted weft.  I decided that I could weave the samples to test the collapse, then weave a collapse scarf.  I was really thinking about a summer scarf that is light and airy. 

It turns out that the yarn is all very similar in value.
I didn't think it would make the mixed warp look that I wanted.   

I had read a blog talking about using three colors in 60%-30%-10% of colors to make a good balance, so I decided to try that with natural, blue and yellow.  I still wanted a random stripe, so I wound 10% of the ends in yellow and put them through the reed in a random stripe.  I wound 30% of the blue and added that stripe sequence to the reed, then I wound 60% in natural to fill in the remaining dents.  I know that warping front to back is not a good idea with singles linen, but it is only a 5 yard warp and I figured I could wind it slowly and all would be well.

all yarns in the reed
I didn't have that much trouble winding it on, and I liked the random stripe I had designed. Because of the trouble with the selvedges I had on the last linen warp, I used 40/2 linen for the last two ends on each side for strength, this worked very well.  

For the over-twisted weft, I used a technique that I learned in a workshop with Theo Moorman.  She used to combine yarns to make a boucle like yarn for areas of her tapestries or to blend colors for her technique.  She showed us how she twisted the yarns together as she wound them on the bobbin.  I used a single ended hand winder to add twist to my weft as I wound it on the bobbin.  

You add twist like a spindle, or walking wheel, holding the yarn at a slight angle off the tip of the spindle.

After I added the twist, I used ten rotations of the handle for each 18 inches, then I put the yarn perpendicular to the bobbin and wound the yarn on.  This method, mostly, keeps the yarn taut so it doesn't back twist.  I wet the bobbins and let them rest overnight before weaving.

I wove up the lengths for the samples I wanted to send.  I decided to send a washed and an unwashed sample to show what happened with the yarn.  There was not as much collapse as I wanted, but the samples worked out well, and I got them in on time which really made me happy.
Before and after washing
For my scarf, I decided to twist the yarn a little more on the spinning wheel.  I still counted the twists that I added...I probably varied some, I did it watching Netflix.  (It was a lot like plying a yarn, nothing interesting, just treadle and let it go on the bobbin....boring)  The scarf wove up quickly, but every so often, the yarn would double back on itself and I would have to stop and untwist it to continue.  I had no problem with breaking and I kept the tension slightly loose so that I could get an even, very open beat.

The only problem, besides the back twist, was when I wound on the cloth beam.  I usually use a length of one sided corrugated cardboard to eliminate the bumps from the tie-on knots, but my cardboard was old and too soft to do the job.

I noticed after I wound the first wrap, I got an open space in my weaving.

I actually got three of them where three knots did not get smoothed over.  One on each end and one in the middle.  Since I was planning on the weft shifting in the wash...all I could do is replace the cardboard and hope for the best.

When I finished the weaving, I decided to twist the fringe to control it and trim it off to about two and a half inches.  After the first wash, the collapse was great, but the linen felt stiff.  I used a rolling pin to flatten and soften the linen a little.  I washed it a second time, then rolled it up wet and put it in the freezer.  I had read once that freezing and putting in boiling water softened the linen.  After a night in the freezer, I dropped it in boiling water, then hung it out to dry.  It softened up a bit more and I took some pictures.
After two washes and freezing.

On the close-up, you can see the crimp and the slight shift in the weft.  I think I will throw it in a wash a couple more times to continue to soften the linen.  I am pleased with the results and now need to get some towels on the loom.

View of Gordes I took on vacation

Friday, April 3, 2015

I Emptied a Loom

I am so excited...I emptied a loom. Not just any loom but one that has been hanging over my head like the "sword of Damocles".  I started some linen towels as gifts, and was very pleased with the window pane check of gold on the natural towels.  I planned lace centers on the check and also in the windows.  It started out so well.
Nice lace and color pattern planned.
I chose some singles #10 linen and there were a few problems at the first, I had fuzzy bits that developed at the lease sticks.
I really started watching the cross.
The warp was about seven yards long and on the second towel, I started breaking the edge threads.  Not the very edge but the second or third thread in.  I spent a lot of time adding temporary warps, then when they broke, and I added the original edge thread back.  I tested several methods to keep the edges better, and wetting the warp and weft seemed to be the best.  
Dry edge, fine thread for hem, and wet edge
As you can see the wet edge and wet weft made a much better edge and the warps were breaking less.

Other things got in the way and I stopped weaving on this loom.  I think I was tired of the mess and repairing the warps.  The loom reached a sad state of affairs and became a place to put stuff.
At least I did not put anything too heavy on the warp.

The warp had been wound on the beam with cardboard so long that the warp had "crimped".

Crimped warp at the back of the loom
This week I "cracked the whip" and got myself weaving.  The first day I managed to finish one towel, it was number seven.  The second day, the second towel turned out to be just a square mat...but it will look good on my table. 

I ended up with some tension problems, which was probably part of the reason that I quit weaving and had a hard time getting back to it.  Because the lace was only on a portion of the warp width, those areas loosened up slightly and I'm afraid that my last couple of pieces will have some uneven sections once they are washed and hemmed.  I only did plain weave on the last two pieces just so that I could get them done.  
I you can see I only had inches to spare.
Anyway the towels fresh off the loom look good.  I need to repair, hem and wash them now.

I actually emptied two looms this week.  I finished the warp on the PCH loom...and I have another seven towels to repair, hem and wash.
The picture is much bluer that they really look

I really am happy with this week's work.  I probably should be ashamed, I looked up in the notes and the linen warp went on in December of 2013!  But I will not let that dampen the thrill of having it off the loom...!