Category: Art

My love of cotton

One of the advantages of developing your own style with one specific technique is really spending quality time with your materials – learning them inside and out. 

I’ve been weaving for about 12 years now and somewhere in the first 3-4 years, I did a placemat project that called for carpet warp (sometimes known as rug warp). It’s a tough cotton typically used for rugs. I loved it! 

This type of yarn comes in a million colors and won’t break the bank. And as an added bonus, I have a great resource close by in Kalamazoo, Michigan! Great Northern Weaving offers lots of options for me and in a pinch, I can get in the car to drive the hour & a half to see the yarn in person. It’s a great arrangement! 

Working with the same fiber for so long has given me an appreciation for what it can and can’t do. Carpet warp is a work horse! I think in the many, many projects I’ve done, I have had a yarn break once. It’s so durable and sturdy – perfect for handbags! 

On the flip side, I’ve discovered that because of its sturdiness, it’s not ideal for wearables. It just doesn’t drape well or soften up enough. It’s also not ideal for fringe – it doesn’t keep its shape. If I am weaving a table runner, I either hem the fabric or twist the ends. That keeps the finishing work looking clean. 

One of the other considerations is the amount of shrinkage. For a plain weave/twill weave structure, it can easily shrink 10% in both directions. What is crazy is when you do a little Rep weave (Ripsmata), it can go as high as 20-25% for the length! I don’t find this to be a pro or con, it’s just the nature of the beast. 

I tend to use carpet warp for all my warps. The wefts will vary, depending on the desired end result. But I’ve found it to be very versatile and crazy colorful, which works perfectly for me! 

What are some of your favorite fibers or materials? 

What's weavin'

My latest project du jour is a hybrid fabric – part traditional yarns, part recycled neckties. I started off the bolt with a custom portion. I really love the challenge of custom work! “Here are 12 of my husband’s ties – create something!” It’s like a puzzle! What common colors run through each tie or will pull it all together? 

In this case, I decided on a red/blue mix for the warp yarns (yarns running through the loom). They will provide a very cheerful platform for the unique variety of ties – hopefully without looking too patriotic! 

Then once I clear the number of inches needed for the custom bit, I’m off and running with my own portion! I’ve become a bit of a spontaneous weaver, which surprises no one more than me! I’ve gotten in the habit of carefully planning the beginning of a project and when it comes time to weave, letting the wind blow me wherever it pleases! And so far, it has served me really well! 

For my portion of the fabric, I’ve been working with black & gray ties, keeping the colors simple. Then little by little, I am tweaking the weft yarns (yarns in the shuttle) underneath them. I gotta say, it’s coming together well up to this point! There’s still a lot of inches to go and there’s no telling how it will play out! But, I’m happy to share my progress to date! 

Handwoven
Handwoven
Handwoven
Handwoven
Handwoven

(I’m having technical issues with my captions, but the top 3 are the custom portion & the bottom ones are my portion. The string is what I used to measure the correct number of inches and the shuttle image is a reminder of what not to do – that is, overstuff the shuttle!) 

What are you working on this week? 

What's weavin'? 

When I first started the blog, I only focused on my weaving projects. And these days, I’m branching out to include “day in the life of an artist” types of stories. But, I don’t want to cut out all the fun weaving going on simultaneously! So, I think the plan will be to sprinkle projects in randomly, providing much needed color/pattern/texture into our lives. Yay! 

Last week, I wrapped up my green project on the demonstration loom. I had originally set it up for the American Craft Council Show in Atlanta in March. But, it’s been sitting around looking pretty ever since! So, I finally finished it! 

Birdseye view of green project
Cutting off the project

I am about halfway through dressing the floor loom with a new project, which is always exciting! It’s a little red & sky blue action this time! 
Red project on the warping board
Adding choke ties before I take it off the warping board
Sleying the reed
Ready to go into the floor loom

And that, my friends, is what’s weavin’! I’ll keep you posted on how things progress! 

How are your projects going? 

Road Trippin'

As you may have read earlier, I just participated in the American Craft Council Show in Atlanta last weekend – a very big deal for me! So many good things came out of the experience and I’m very grateful I was selected! Being there really helped affirm the direction I want to go and the crowd I want to associate with. 

Doing bigger shows such as this are going to require more travel. Thankfully, I’m good with that! It got me thinking about road trips and all the quirky aspects of them. For instance, the older I get, the more often I stop. Stop for tea, stop to pee, stop to stretch, definitely stop for lunch, etc. You get the picture. I’m much more of an enjoy-the-ride kind of girl, rather than a how-fast-can-I-get-there type. And as long as I don’t have an antsy passenger, it works out great!

I get serious Cracker Barrel cravings the moment I set out on a long trip – it’s so weird! I never eat there otherwise. But it has become quite a Pavlovian trigger. Set the GPS for anything longer than 3 hours and I instantly crave fried food and a cornbread muffin! Go figure!

While driving, I get a bit obsessive about gas prices – it’s like a game! (The fuel light isn’t on yet, but I don’t think gas will get cheaper than that station… or will it?) Plus, I always try to have a plethora of music & audiobooks on hand to pass the time. But, I can be a tough critic! If a singer or narrator doesn’t grab me quickly, I’m on to something else. This means tall stacks of entertainment occupy my passenger seat at all times. 

When I prep for an event, I always pack snacks & water/tea. But inevitably, I find something to munch on at the show. What I’ve discovered is if there is a bag of Fritos anywhere remotely close, they end up back at the booth with me. This is particularly ironic because greasy fingers are not ideal when weaving. Doesn’t seem to matter! 

Thankfully, I really enjoy being on the road seeing new places and meeting new people! So imagining a future with more travel is very exciting! I have no doubt more idiosyncrasies will pop up the more I drive. In the meantime, I better start stocking up on Cracker Barrel gift cards now… 

What’s your take on traveling? 

Flying blind

I think one of the biggest skills you can learn as an artist with your own business is how to deal with being uncomfortable. No one enjoys feeling uncomfortable, unsure, flying blind, being out of your element. Lately, it seems to be a theme with me – which ultimately is good! But not always fun. 

You see, I’m the oldest child – responsible, organized and not willing to make a move until I’m good & ready. (My family can tell you many a story!) I’m not naturally wired to spontaneously jump off the high dive because someone else was doing it (that would be my younger sister). Nope, I have to take stock of the situation, analyze it from many angles & then once I decide it is a good plan, I’m all in – avoiding as much uncomfortableness as possible! 

But, building a business as an artist doesn’t always allow me that luxury. One of my goals for the year is to become a better businesswoman. I am working with some very talented, successful people to help me get on track. They are brilliant at business, which makes me keenly aware that I’m not. 

And while I know in my gut it is the right path, it’s still very challenging to make it through a meeting unscathed. Typically, I walk out afterwards and just start chanting, “I’m a damn good weaver” over & over again. To willingly place yourself in a situation where you know you’ll be uncomfortable and vulnerable is tough, no doubt about it. But, the benefits can be huge! My goal is to learn to be a brilliant business owner – which I figure I’m smart enough to do and I’m putting my trust in the right people to help me! 

This coming weekend, I am heading down to Atlanta to participate in the American Craft Council Show. It’s not my first indoor show & it won’t be my first time at this location. But, I’ve never done this caliber of show before and it makes my tummy gurgly when I think about it too long! 

I don’t have any crazy plans to do anything drastically different than I normally do. But, there are always unknown variables and that can freak out the best of us. The cost of the show is high, the talent of the other artists is amazing, people will definitely have more experience than I will, etc. Ugh! It’s an ugly downward spiral if you choose to get on that ride. 

But because I have put myself in new and uncomfortable situations in the past, I know how to put together a good display. I know how to interact with a customer and talk about my work. I know how to share my passion with friends – new & old. (And of course, I know that I’m a damn good weaver!) 

So, the plan is to be as organized as possible. Then smile, be friendly, & roll with the punches! Anything I don’t know, I’ll simply ask. The uncomfortableness will pass. And no matter what, it will be a great experience because I have decided it will be. I can do it! We all can do it! It’s just a matter of forging ahead – even if we’re uncomfortable. 

What new things are you trying that make you feel like you’re flying blind?