Category: From the studio

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? 

Milestones 

Boy, it has been a week! And it’s only Thursday! This week has brought lots of firsts! And like most new things, they are exciting and terrifying all at the same time!

I was asked to be a vendor in a new store opening up in Detroit and the owners asked me to provide them with a line sheet. Now, in true entrepreneurial fashion, I said, “Of course I can provide you with a line sheet!” And I promptly opened up Google to find out what the hell was a line sheet!

I knew it was a tool used in wholesale, but had no clue beyond that! So guess what? I now have a line sheet!! Thankfully, I had been paving the way for this to happen prior to this week. Ultimately, I just had to sort out the format. I was ready with most of the information already! This was the first big mile marker of the week.

Next, I have been talking about creating pillows for awhile now and this week, I got the first samples! With any new product, there are usually lots of decisions to make and hiccups to work around. But, I’m very happy with the road we’re on and it’s going to be a mighty fine place to start!

I’ll have an official release for the pillows and other upcoming homegoods soon! But for now, I simply wanted to share the good news that more cool woven stuff is coming!! Whew!!

Stretching yourself in so many directions at once is thrilling! But a very strong part of me wants to just sit down and thread some yarns through the loom to balance it all out! Throw in more known elements to counteract the many unknowns, if you will.

It’s so exciting to grow the business! But, I’ve always been the girl who’d rather stroll down the hill versus ride my bike at top speed with my hair on fire. So balance is the key. Along with the support of great friends and family. Oh – and lots of faith!!

What big milestones are you working on this week?

Workaholic 

Are you a workaholic?

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? 

Always learnin' 

Many years ago (when I had just started the business), I picked up a book called, “The Creative Entrepreneur” by Lisa Sonora Beam. My friend Laura mentioned that she was interested in working through it, too. So, we both read the first chapter, did the specified activities and called each other on the phone to discuss. Little did we know what we had started! 

Since that first book & first phone call, we’ve read our way through an impressive stack of books! Mostly business topics or ways to improve ourselves (we did a book on organization once – very helpful!). We’ve tackled Jack Canfield’s “Success Principles”, Brian Tracy’s “Goals!”, and a number of Jeffrey Gitomer’s “little books”. We’ve spent hours and hours reading, discussing and learning! 

Some books were game-changers and some didn’t really resonate. But through it all, we have kept at it! My Ma once said that she figured our years of work had to at least make up an MBA by now. Well that’s sweet, Ma, but probably not quite accurate! Truth be told, I’m not after an MBA – just a better understanding of how to tackle the many daunting tasks of being an entrepreneur! 

Along the way to business enlightenment, I found a steady, smart, funny, challenging voice on the other end of my phone who keeps me reaching for the next book. Laura and I have learned so much about each other and ourselves while figuring out how to sell a handbag! We gleaned early on that our discussions must take place over the phone, because if we get together in person, we have WAY too much fun! Staying on target becomes immensely more difficult! 

Laura has learned that I can only handle a max of about 3 things at a time, and I’ve learned that she works much better when colored pens & post-its are at the ready. We’ve learned how to discuss very personal  topics and when to call each other on our bullshit. We’ve both taken risks and taken breaks. But through it all, we’ve made it a priority to keep reading, keep working and keep doing it together. It’s an amazing partnership and I’m really proud of us! 

Our latest venture is a book called, “The Right Brain Business Plan” by Jennifer Lee. And so far, we are really enjoying it! It is challenging us to take a good look at our businesses and express our goals in a colorful, creative way! (Love this idea!) And the truth is, I could easily read the book on my own. But, it wouldn’t be a quarter of the experience I’ll have learning it with Laura! She’s my safe place to feel dumb, be brilliant, and just think out loud. And every book is better knowing I get to discuss it with her! 

Do you have a Laura? I highly recommend having a friend to learn with!