I’ve been shopping! (And where that led me.)

Is it wrong to like shopping for stationery more than for clothes?  I have infinitely more patience for it, anyway.  I’m always amazed by the bargains you can pick up in £1 shops, too.  Anyway, I have returned home with a bag full of ‘essentials’, such as different-sized envelopes, paper clips, thumb tacks…  Add this to yesterday’s haul of a long-reach stapler, felt, and a glue runner, and I’m in seventh heaven!

You may notice that none of the above are, strictly speaking, relevant to weaving or needlecrafts.  They are, but only inasmuch as that in putting kits etc together, my inner craft setting defaults to papercrafts.  With the DIY Weaving Club ready for its first mail-out in a month’s time, I have lots to prepare!

Why is it that I am incapable of typing up a set of instructions onto plain A4 paper, then simply popping them into a grip-seal bag, along with any extra bits?   Aesthetics, I suppose.  I could, quite easily, do exactly that, and I guess it would diminish my preparation time by at least 50%.  I don’t think I’m overly elaborate; I like using simple, recycled (wherever possible) materials, and I don’t go overboard with decoration, but the presentation is important.  In fact, I try to make my packaging as functional as possible – either re-useable in some way, or with custom pockets/sizing to suit the product.  It does take more time, but I think it’s worth it.  More to the point, I enjoy the process, and I appreciate the end product.

I guess that, actually, is what being a genuine cottage industry is about – the personal touch.  Another manufacturer could give you the same instructions, but in an entirely impersonal, mass-produced manner, and (for me) remove almost all of the charm.  I don’t spend time on the packaging because I have to, but because I enjoy it.  If I just sold instructions packaged in a grip seal bag, I would lose enthusiasm immediately.  If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it, and that really is the end of the story.

Bizarre Bazaar (not really, but it was fun!)

Well, the Bazaar has finally been and gone.  I’m happy to say that although this last week has been a bit of a mad rush, essential materials didn’t arrive until the day before, and I didn’t manage to finish a lot of the things that I had planned, I had a really good day.

I had hoped to have more finished woven pieces, and a wider range of kits available, but time went against me, and I was still finishing things off as I was sitting at the stall.  It would be fair to say that I felt very much as though my stall was a work in progress!  However, I in response to what I had managed to finish, I received a lot of positive feedback from both the public and other vendors, which made me feel very positive about continuing in a similar direction, further developing the ideas I didn’t quite have time to see through this time around.

I was also approached for a potential commission piece.  It would involve working to a much larger scale than my usual work, but it could be a lot of fun, and I have had various ideas that I would like to explore, already.

All in all, I really enjoyed the Bazaar experience.  The footfall could have been higher, and I think most of the vendors felt the effects on spending of the current economic climate.  But the Bazaar visitors, as a whole, were very interested in what individual vendors were working on and with, and the conversations I had with those passing through were as valuable to me as anything else.

I’m looking forward to the next event, already!

Weaving ATCs

ATCs (Artist Trading Cards, to the uninitiated!) are something that have intrigued me for a while.  The concept is simple: an artist decorates a card (specifically sized 2.5″ x 3.5″), adds their contact details and any other information they want to, to the reverse, and then trades (never sells) this card with other artists.  It’s a highly personalised business card, in a way, building a community feeling among artists.  But also a huge online community has sprung up, creating and trading ATCs – and just in case I’ve given the wrong impression, this is a world open to any crafter/artist, not just ‘professionals’.

I think ATCs are a wonderful creative outlet.  They allow you to try out different techniques on a small scale, and the mixed-media cards I’ve seen can be quite stunning.  It’s one of those all-encompassing ideas that means whatever background you have, or medium you work with, you can play, too!  But I guess it’s the fact of communication, and the fact that it’s a personal, not mass-produced/commercial thing that makes it feel like a little oasis.

Although not commercial in the sense of trading rather than selling the cards, an industry has sprung up selling related materials to decorate and store your ATCs, and cool stuff like labels and rubber stamps to add your details to the reverse.  Being me, of course, I just look at the labels and then make my own.  I had the idea for a woven ATC, and while working on a design for the reverse, came up with a way to make a loom directly out of your ATC blank.  As I speak, I’m having rubber stamps custom made.  At the craft fair, I will have funky little (alterable) tins containing an ATC kit, with ATC blanks,  2 different ATC backs, needle, ‘shed stick’, instructions, etc.  You may have noticed, I’m really pleased with this idea.  I just want to get people weaving (another post will be coming shortly with more DIY ideas), and ATCs are a brilliant, sample-sized way to get people hooked!

This was my prottype ATC. I also have a slicker image as an option for the reverse, eradicating the tape measures.
This was my prototype ATC. I also have a slicker image as an option for the reverse, eradicating the tape measures; and a far simpler, more meditative weaving, currently half-complete.

In addition to the ATC kit, I will be (literally) giving away an ATC loom as my business card – the front has all my contact details, the back has instructions to turn the card into a loom.  The weaver, of course, is not obliged to mke an ATC, if they don’t want to; they also have the option of just slipping the weaving from the (re-usable) card once complete, and framing/mounting as they choose.

I can’t claim that weaving an ATC is an incredibly original idea, but it’s certainly not common.  Putting the concept out there in the hands of a wider audience of creative types, though, opens up all sorts of possibilities for combining weaving with ther media.  I think it’s just something that hasn’t really crossed people’s minds, but once the idea is there, it’s a very viable, adaptable option.  I’ll leave it up to the ATC community to explore further…!

The only person I currently know who is experimenting with woven ATCs is artist/tapestry weaver Laurie o’ Neill.  You can see her processes and some completed cards here.  I love this idea for using ‘thrums’ Jazzcat Thrums as an ATC background.  I’ve been using thrums to stuff the little Oddballs I’ve woven for the fair.  I think this is a far more decorative use for them, though, and you can still be just as creative with exploring colour combinations.

More ideas

5.  Haiku Tins (photo to follow).  I found a good source for tins with aperture lids recently, and have woven several freeform pieces to fit the different sizes.  For the smallest tin (pencil box-sized),  I tried something a bit different.  Using beautiful yarns in graduating variegated shades, I wrapped the yarn, rather than wove.  This is a ridiculously simple thing to do, but because of the blending and shading in these particular yarns, really very effective in the end result.  I think of them as meditations on colour, which led me circuitously round to haiku.  After reading quite a lot of haiku, and being aware of them as a source of strong natural imagery, I decided that they suited these wrapped tins perfectly.  So I have bought some recycled fibre paper, onto which I will print individual haiku, and a little collection of these printed slips of haiku will fill each tin.  (Obviously if someone has an alternative use for the tin, they are welcome to remove the haiku, once they have bought it!)  If you like haiku, can I strongly recommend ‘Clear Light’ by Alan Spence?   The Haiku Tins will contain a mix of traditional and contemporary haiku.

Night swallows dew-damp meadow / casting velvet shadows / that will pass
Spring evening

6.  Meditations.   I’ve woven a few freeform pieces for the craft fair, and while they evolve quite naturally, I also find that after weaving one, I tend to want to go back to basics, back to the basic, essential flow of weaving.  The wrapped Haiku Tins gave me the idea to just weave a very plain block, allowing the colours of the yarn to do all the work for me.  This allows me to really get lost in the rhythmic, soothing process of weaving, and becomes a meditation on both the process and the random evolution of the colours.  The pieces you see to left and right are examples, unframed thus far.

Muddy fields
Muddy fields

My idea is to frame them, individually, in very plain, simple wooden frames.  Within the frame will also be a handwrtten haiku, composed by me, relating to the images evoked by the weaving.  I love the clarity and economy of haiku, the condensed images retaining a simple appreciation of the mysteries of the world around us.  I think they work perfectly with the meditative process involved with the weaving of these pieces.  I’m in no way claiming that my own haiku compare with the masters of the genre; but the pieces are personal to me, and using my own poetry makes them even more so.  I guess it gives the viewer of the work an insight into my own perceptions, whether they agree or not.

Fading autumn sunlight,
glowing
over muddy fields

Night swallows spring evening,
casting shadows
that will pass

Awesome easy quick (no-sew!) tapestry finishing technique!

Okay, perhaps everybody else has already come across this idea and I’m just behind the times (wouldn’t be the first time!); or perhaps it’s just because I work on a smaller scale than the majority of tapestry weavers and it wouldn’t work for larger pieces.  Anyway, I had this idea, tried it out, and was SO impressed that it worked brilliantly!

Anyway, once you have finished weaving, here’s what you do:

1.  Tie off all the warp threads into tassles.  It doesn’t matter if they’re looped or not.

2.  Take a piece of hessian AT LEAST the same size as your weaving.  If using a larger piece, centre your weaving aginst it, so that there is an even border (or as you prefer).

3.  Once you have lined up your weaving, use a needle to prod or thread the top left  tassle through the hole in the hessian ‘grid’ that aligns with the top left corner of your weaving (before tassles begin).

4.  Pull the tassle so that the knot pops through to the reverse side of the hessian.

5.  Re-align your weaving, laying it flat against the hessian, and working along the row where your first tassle is pushed through, use your needle to prod/thread the next tassle through the hessian (and the next, etc).

That’s it.

The hessian needs to be pulled taut against a picture frame back, or weighted with a dowel rod to keep it straight. A you can see from the picture, I have not done this, yet!
The hessian needs to be pulled taut against a picture frame back, or weighted with a dowel rod to keep it straight. As you can see from the picture, I have not done this, yet!

The knots from the tassles provide sufficient resistance that they will not slide back through the holes in the hessian.  Of course, it my take trial and error to ascertain what thickness of warp thread can work with what gauge hessian.  If unsure, try knotting different thicknesses of warp thread and push them through different gauges of hessian until you find the right match.  (Do this before warping your loom!)

Depending on the weight of your weaving and/or your preference re appearance  of the finished piece, you may want to push the bottom row of tassles through the hessian, also.  This will alleviate pressure on the top row, and prevent gradual slippage.  If you prod in the lower tassles, make sure your weaving is lain flat against the hessian as you ascertain which row to prod through.  The weaving will bow forward if you prod the lower row in too high.  The hessian will rumple and not lie flat if too low.

You may want to add a few discrete stitches down the reverse of the sides of your weaving, giving the hessian greater support, and preventing bowing.  This is also an alternative way to prevent gradual slippage of the top row of prodded tassles, and would facilitate use of the technique for larger pieces.

Once tassles are prodded through, your weaving will have a lovely rustic border/backing, and can be mounted on rod or in frame as preferred.

Although I have lots of background in embroidery, actual practical sewing terrifies me.  I also get put off working pieces if I know the finishing processes will be slow and tedious.  In addition, I don’t really want all of my work bordered with tassles.  All in all, I’m very pleased to have discovered hessian backing!

More looms. There are, quite simply, always more…

I was harping on about the copper loom, and the Archie loom a couple of posts ago.  Well, I have just stumbled across another site, where you can buy a loom based on the same principles:Loom in a Tube.  This one is not copper, but is still aesthetically pleasing.  The text does not specify what it is constructed from; not being an expert, the best I could guess is that it looks ‘brassy’!

The additional novelty of this particular loom is that – as the site name suggests! – it comes in a tube, and (apparently) you can roll a partially complete weaving up into the tube, for easy transportation.  The only other loom I have seen that works on this premise is the Journey Loom from Weaving a Life.  The Journey Loom is wooden and comes with a whole spiritual ethic, so has its own charm, but the Loom in a Tube has a tensioning device, and the tube is far sturdier and thus more protective than the Journey Loom fabric case, so at $95 seems far better value to me than the Journey Loom ($88).   Each to their own, though!  I do like the philosophy behind the Weaving a Life site, even still.

But back to the loom in a tube: it feels as though it was designed for me!  At 12″ x 20″, it is exactly the same dimensons I had planned out when I was contemplating buying all the copper piping and constructing my own pipe loom.  I usually weave smaller pieces, it’s true; but it’s nice to have the option to work to a slightly larger scale…

I also like the books and kits provided on the same site.  The projects are all available as either book OR kit, to suit individual requirements and a lot of them incorporate beads as well as threads/yarns – something I have yet to try out, but is suddenly calling to me…!  One of the kits also introduces ‘eccentric weft’, a term I do remember once coming across in one of my vintage weaving books, but is in essence what you will find me referring to in my own work as ‘freeform’.  I really like to see that somebody out there is encouraging creative exploration in tapestry weaving; because  if you’re not into stripes, the majority of other tapestry kits available are simply not going to appeal to you…!

Well, I’ll let you know if and when I try any of these fun things out.  In the meantime, please post a comment if you have tried any of these looms out and/or have any advice!