28 May 2013

A Bit of Napkin History!

The napkin history I was originally thinking of included my own personal pieces of handwoven cloth. From the log cabin dishtowel that brought a red ribbon home, the twill in golds that has covered many a pie, the fun purple ones with spots of Atwater-Bronson Lace that are often folded, and protecting my favorite coffee cup from the tile, to the large, blue and red striped ones that have gone on many impromptu picnics, they have all been part of special times.

So I thought I'd check out a little bit of napkin history. And this is why I must weave napkins, they are fascinating. Did you know that the first napkins in use by the Spartans were lumps of dough, rolled and kneaded at the table? Each time I've covered a homemade pie crust with one of my pieces of cloth, I have, in essence, laid a napkin from one time, on a napkin of another time! This is something that truly amuses me.

Dough napkins were eventually replaced by pieces of bread for wiping hands on -- this only makes sense of course. Then onto napkins of table size, where you wiped your hands and mouth with the hanging edges, and into the late Middle Ages when the communal napkin came to be no larger than our modern bath towel! That's a lot of weaving.

And it doesn't stop there, by the 1700's there were napkin protocols! Some pretty funny ones, too.
A bit of napkin history.

So now, whenever I wonder which handwoven things make me personally the happiest, it has to be the napkin, a purposeful piece of cloth with a long and fascinating history. And I like to weave them.
Plying the weft for the last of the Picnic Napkins.

14 May 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen, we have cloth!

And this is why I weave. I have pieces of cloth that I wove over a decade ago still in daily use. A dish drying towel that for the first 5 years of its life I thought was too nice to dry dishes with because it won a red ribbon at our County Fair, but today always have handy in the kitchen. There are samples of fabric that I've woven over the years, now used as coasters for drinks. And cloth napkins are everywhere... oh the napkins! At one point I was weaving 14 yards of fabric at a time for napkins.

A cloth napkin is a thing of beauty, a daily reminder of a quieter, more peaceful, less disposable time. A time for tea, and for luncheons, and for picnics outside where the cloth is large enough to wrap up cheese, and fruit, and some bread maybe.

This is the napkin that I cut off of the loom in time to give to Mom for Mother's Day. The verdict? She likes it!

And now onto weaving off the remaining seven napkins. This is the best part of weaving, throwing the shuttle and watching the cloth almost magically appear. I'll post photos of several napkins together next week. It is fascinating to see how different each one looks, yet is bound to its companions by the same warp threads.

The next napkin.

07 May 2013

Showing Up

If all else seems to be blocking you from posting, I recently advised a friend, just put up a cute dog photo. Show up. Here is my funny girl with an expression that I can't quite describe. It might be a questioning look, "Where are those napkins?" or maybe just a perplexed "When do we eat again?" It's hard to tell, but she is the best opener I've got today.

The napkins are now sleyed and threaded! This has been a much bigger deal than I expected. Stuff, life, and more life stuff just keeps getting in front of the loom. I know I only need to show up every free chance I get, and things will get done. I don't always do that. I have done it more this time than in the recent past though! That is also a pretty big deal. 

480 threads are in 480 heddles, and tied on to the back rod. Those threads will then wrap around the back warp beam, which will hold everything nice and even for weaving it all off. You'll notice from the pictures that my Texsolv heddles are color coded. That became almost too funny, when I realized what a mental mess I was going to be every time a yellow thread ended up in a blue marked heddle, and a blue thread ended up in a yellow marked heddle... then reversed! A yellow thread was in a yellow heddle, and a blue thread was in a blue heddle. I thought this is what stark raving madness must be like. 
But it is done! 

A close up of the madness. The plan is to start weaving tomorrow.   

30 April 2013

The Picnic

This is me 25 years ago. This is my Great Aunt Mag. She was also called Alta. And when I was very young I got confused for a day and called her Buckwheat, that was the cat's name. She was my Grandma Pansy's baby sister. My grandma was also called Fern. I never called her anything but Grandma.

Every year on Memorial Day they held "The Picnic". I'm not going this year, and I didn't make it last year, it's over 2000 miles away. The older ones are gone, and their kids are the older ones now. I think The Picnic started in the 1930's when Pansy Fern had two young kids. Each Memorial Day, she and her sisters, and one baby brother, would bring their families to Mag's house for lunch, and to watch the Indy 500 on TV later in the afternoon. But first we'd all go to the family graves and decorate them with flowers for Memorial Day. We'd hear the same family stories every year, and no one wanted to miss meeting at the graveyards. It was a heartwarming tradition, followed by fresh strawberries and picnic food at Mag and Pete's farm. I would grow up again just to be able to go back there. Today the kids keep it going at a small local park.

I'm thinking a lot about those times while I work on the picnic napkins. Cloth napkins were not used then, but Grandma and Aunt Mag would have been tickled to have something I made. They were both quilters and all of us have some of their work.

These are going to be hearty sized napkins! 18" x 18" and I hope with a very nice hand... a finer cloth, but not a fancy cloth... something that you can take outside and really use!
I decided not to go with the stripe pattern from last week. Instead I did a wild and wooly wrap on the warping board... 5 strands of different colors for 480 ends. It could be wild and fun, or maybe just mind numbing! But I am hoping that by using different wefts, I will get 8 very different napkins that are all still united by the same warp. It always amazes me to see one warp produce so many different designs.

I finished sleying the reed, 2 threads of 10/2 for every dent in a 12 dent reed. Or 24 ends per inch. (24epi)
Tomorrow I will start threading. Come see what it all looks like next week!

23 April 2013

This Is Not A Rug

 This is not even enough threads for the 18" x 18" picnic napkins, but this is a challenge for me... this is for a SAMPLE! I avoid making samples. Smart weavers sample.

Lately I  have been thinking about putting on 7 yards of a striped pattern in green, gold and purple for the picnic napkins. In the past I would have decided on the stripe,and sat down and wound 7 yards right then and there. But not today. Today, because I said I was going to make a blog entry, I made a sample, so I would have something to write about! And what a good idea making a sample was!

I'm not really sure I like this stripe. But what I did discover, is that some leftover threads from the recent scarves I made, works beautifully as a weft! Can you see the difference in the two green areas? The top one appears more painterly to me. I like the wavy quality. The weft used in the top green area is composed of 3 threads spun together on the spinning wheel first. So the good news for me is that I can spin, as well as weave, for these napkins. They are going to have a very special purpose, and having my spinning wheel involved too just seems right.
I've got to go... I said I would post an entry, and I also gave a 6p Pacific Time! See you next Tuesday!

22 April 2013

Ladybug Never Saw It Coming!

This is why my back still hurts today. Spinner is a merciless player of tug. She tugged, I pulled, the toy came loose and flew through the air, she dove, and I swooped. Swooping motions, especially, furiously quick swooping motions, are listed in the "Do Not Do This" Back Care manual. I can't pull Harry away from the wall, and now I have to admit that I did not start warping earlier, as intended.

But, I can still wind a sample warp for some 10/2 mercerized cotton napkins in green, gold and purple. I want to see if the sett is a good one, and if I really like the stripe pattern when it's woven.
That will be Tuesday's post!

16 April 2013

Introducing Ken!

This is Ken. He's been with me since last summer, he is my first! He is a Kenmore Model 158, a solid metal beast. I'm already very fond of him, and a little embarrassed to say he has been neglected.

I thought today's post would be about how far along I was on the rag rug that I gathered materials for last week. But, during the week, I chatted with a friend about how both of us felt we were not paying enough attention to our sewing machines. Because of that conversation I couldn't help but pull Ken out from under his cover and reintroduce myself! I also started thinking about how I could tie him in with the weaving of the next rug. 

When I first got Ken, I sat down and immediately started making table runners out of upholstery fabric I already had on hand. I made two runners and a small square for a teapot, then promptly stopped sewing.
I should say right about here, that I don't really know how to sew, and my mom just shook her head when I said my first project involved upholstery fabric. But, I was always told that if you can read, you can learn just about anything (thanks mom) and Model 158 has an awesome manual. Mom did show me how to poke out the corners to get them nice and crisp! 

So how will I tie Ken into the making of the rag rug? Well, instead of cutting fabric strips out of several pieces of fabric, then choosing which one to place next in the rug, I am making one very large piece of fabric! I will then turn that into a tube, by sewing the right selvedge to the left selvedge. This makes a huge piece of fabric, and if cut with care, will give one long continuous strip. Depending on how the pieces are sewn, and then cut, there will be geometric patterns that show up in the rug. A big surprise! -- Especially if you are me, and not exactly sure how this works just yet. There are great instructions in many of the rug reference books. I believe it is very similar to the way variegated yarn works, where a pattern shows up in the knitted item.

Below is a photo of the first 3 panels of fabric sewn together. There will be at least one more plain blue panel added, maybe another smaller patterned panel too, but it is tricky to work with such a large piece! There is a way to do it so that diamond shapes are the end product. But this time? We'll just have to wait and see what we get.

09 April 2013

Pieces and Parts All Gathered

Today has been a day! My idea was to spend yesterday and today warping Harry -- he is the beast of a loom against the wall. But today, Harry is still naked. Slowly, the pieces and parts needed to clothe him are coming together. What you can't see to the right of the frame is a brand new toilet still in the box. That was today's thing of importance, yesterday's was a house I am watching, a house with no water, a city water department mistake. All water issues. A toilet going bad slowly, a friend's place with no water, and a dream that won't go away of water pooling on my floors. My dearest friend told me that water dreams are dreams of birth, new birth. I like that. I think there is a newness emerging in my life right now, and I like that too.

Things are getting done! Remember last week and the tiny tree tapestry? My mom lined it for me. How great is that? Talk about support. She said that it was something she knew how to do and that my learning curve would be steep for just one, but that when I had 20 tapestries to line she would show me how. 20 tapestries! I know she believes in me, but that made me laugh. So, if I decide to keep lining the small tapestries I probably have 5 years before I have to line my first one.

She also went with me to shop for a toilet today. My mom bought me a toilet! Again, how great is that? Nothing says love like a new toilet. She said my dad would have gone out and bought me one.
He passed in 1985.

So, Harry is not warped, and I did not weave today, but I feel very good.

I did gather up the fabric, and carpet warp, that I would need. That's about 5 pounds of sheets on the bench right next to the tension box that will help to put the warp on the sectional beam evenly. I picked blues and greens because the friend that told me what she believed water dreams are about, loves blues and greens.
So come take a look next Tuesday!

And just because they are adorable, and I love them, and I displaced them when I started messing around the loom... here are the pups!

04 April 2013

Autumn Tree in April

Hemmed this little one today. The tree started last fall as a "T" for Tori, my dear cousin who feels more like a niece, but I would gladly pretend is a daughter. Thank Goodness she's already got a great set of parents! Really wonderful young woman. Tori's great grandma was my great aunt. Aunt Mag loved that little great granddaughter of hers, and I loved Aunt Mag. Full circle is nice.

This is a small piece only 4" x 3.25" and I pretty much made it up as I went along. How elaborate does a cartoon really need to be for a "T"? I did realize, almost immediately, that the long slits running up the trunk were going to take me even longer to get around to sewing up than I suspicioned it would take to get the silly little thing hemmed and lined. (I should mention here, for non-weavers, these are not horribly hard jobs, hemming and lining and sewing of slits, just those things that always seem to get put off after the fun weaving part is over) So I joined the trunk to the background. There are little flecks of brown that can be seen in the blue, but no open slits! The next thing to do is line the back with a piece of linen, and add a velcro strip to hang it.

Maybe Tori will get it when the leaves come 'round to this color again!

13 March 2013

Hello Everyone!... anyone? I see that it has been a year. I am going by the seat of my pants here. I have set my timer for 30 minutes, and have Gipsy Kings on LOUD in the background! I will post, even if it bores dear reader to death, my apologies.

I left off with a series of scarves in blue. I bemoaned the fact that I knew better about making them in twill, well... guess which ones I've sold a few of? hmmmm.  The above green scarf was made a for a man. The twill gave it a very nice, 'hang around the neck with substance' feel. I sold a number of plain weave scarves over the Christmas holiday, and that sparked my creative need. Then, I became almost predictably sluggish. This post is the wading out of that molasses mess.

Another little tidbit to share is that the guitar that you see in previous posts has stopped being only a prop with a beautiful neck for scarves, and is now doing guitar work! Yes! I am learning to play. I am into 3 weeks and a handful of days so far, and the chords D, A and E are coming around clearer for me everyday. The next plan is to learn changing between them. There is a wonderful site on-line that I heartily recommend, http://www.justinguitar.com/   

Thanks for stopping back in! The following photos show my small loom, Penny, getting ready... and Pokey at the finishing hemstitching (he lost Gumby at about 7" in!).