Fixing things, making things, hanging things

Time marches on too quickly! Oh boy, have I been busy.

After house and pet sitting for a couple of weeks, I slept for a couple of weeks. I finished the grey towels – more to come on those. Then I discovered that I had a sticky brake caliper on one side of my car. Drat! Having come from a family that just fixes things and has most of the tools to do it, my brother came over and we replaced rotors and pads on both sides, and the caliper on one side. (It goes so much faster with two people.) After a long afternoon, I have fully functioning brakes now! Woo!


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My friend Lee has asked me to weave a blanket for her out of bamboo yarn. She bought some yarn for a sample, and I doodled. It’s not great – there are so many mistakes – but the point of a sample is to find out how to work with the yarn, how it compares with other yarns, and what the end texture/weight/hand of the piece will be after wet finishing. I was not at all sure I liked it the whole time it was on the loom. It seemed to behave like a yarn somewhere between mercerized cotton and tencel, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it would just stay stiff and, well, like a kitchen towel. I don’t think I’d like a blanket that draped on me like a kitchen towel. But after washing, whoa nelly! It became a buttery soft cloth with the most amazing drape. Of course, it’s a kind of rayon, so I would expect fabulous drape, but I didn’t really expect the texture! It’s awfully close to resembling the hand of silk.

The yarn itself is a bit too light for a blanket, so we put that sample aside, and I’ve purchased a couple of cones of heavier yarn for another sample. I have enough of this new yarn to weave a sample that may also be useful, like a scarf. Stay tuned!


So there’s this international event that happens annually called Spinzilla. Basically, it’s a contest to see who can spin the most yarn (regardless of quality) in a week. There are teams and just random single people competing, and they just sit at the spinning wheel or carry around a drop spindle and spin spin spin. A friend of mine who has been participating since the very first Spinzilla encouraged me to join a team she was on this year, so I did. I even took a couple of days off work in order to have more time to spin, because that is the kind of person I am (coughcompetitivecough). I bought fiber for this purpose (which was REALLY silly – I had fiber). And I worried immensely about not having enough of my lovely fleece combed to spin (also silly – did I mention I had fiber?). So I combed wool.

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I still can’t believe how soft and luscious this wool is!

I combed a lot. 3-4 hours in one sitting for a couple of days. My shoulders really ached after the second day. And while I was combing, I suddenly remembered that I might have some roving around that would be easy to spin and I wouldn’t have to comb so much wool…

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Yeah. I found some fiber I had forgotten about. So much fiber. So. Much.

Okay, so fiber like this squishes, and I had quite a bit squished in a bin or two. So I stopped combing and started spinning. And ended up with this:

Left: wool/silk blend (colors), Southdown breed blend (white).

Middle: wool/silk blend, two batches, spun and plied. (These need to be plied a bit tighter/with more twise, so I’ll be running them back through the spinning wheel soon.)

Right: All the wool I spun in a week! One of the white skeins is more tightly plied, and it shows – that one is okay. The other will have to be plied with more twist.

In the end, I was VERY pleased with the amount I had spun and what I had learned. I also realized that I probably should be more social than I am because being with a group of people felt…kind of weird. But I did also come away with some very unhappy upper back and shoulder muscles. Sigh. No, Kate, you should not comb wool for hours and hours, and then spin for hours and hours without getting up and moving around after not having done it for a year.

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So happy with this! I learned a lot.

I’m especially happy with the combed wool I spun. The picture above isn’t a good one (sorry), but it records a pretty well plied two ply worsted yarn – this is the stuff I’d been combing in the pictures above. This close up above is before I washed it, so it looks darker and stiffer than it turned out after washing. The goal for learning to spin this kind of yarn is to be able to weave a good, hard-wearing cloth from it. I have plenty of wool to spin, so lots of practice with. This is from a lovely sheep living in Greenfield, MA (I hope he’s still there!) who I’m pretty sure was a Romney, but probably has other breeds in him as well.

And, by the way, I am very happy to announce that the team I participated with – Team Webs – scored second place with a total of 131,008 yards spun. Yay!!


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Harlequin. Shot in September 2018. I love this one, and I want to print it again so much larger.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been sort of getting ready for a photography show. It’s very informal – the photos were to hang at a local bakery in Amherst, MA. I had some photos already printed and framed, and needed to get others printed and framed – I went to a local print shop for the printing, but I framed them myself. On paper, this all seems pretty straightforward, but one can never properly account for how much time it’s going to take: LOTS.

I am kind of in love with some of the recent shots I took over the past couple of months. I love the paper they’re printed on, I love the colors, I love the clarity.

The end of a long push forward came earlier today when I hung eleven of my photos at Henion Bakery in Amherst, MA. I cannot describe how delighted I am to share them with other people, but in the same way I cannot describe the equal amount of terror I feel over sharing them with other people. Perhaps all photographers feel this way? I don’t know – this “hanging art” thing is very new to me, and wonderful, and deeply scary.

Prints of all of them are for sale. Most of the framed pictures in the bakery are also for sale. Stop by if you’re in town, grab a cuppa and one of Henion’s out-of-this-world pastries (seriously, try them – you will not be disappointed!), and check out the art hanging on the walls. They’ll be up until just before Thanksgiving.

 


I have also made a huge push to get an online shop going, which has been much more complicated than it at first seemed. I did get it done, and while there are still many tweaks to be made, I have an online shop at last! I have called it Waldenweave Studio. Currently, there are handwoven kitchen towels for sale, but I do intend to get my photography on there, and probably some of the little books I’ve been binding. There is also always the possibility I’ll put some other doodle or two up there – I may have to change the webpage up a bit to accommodate so many categories. Evolution will likely happen, as it tends to with everything!

So, the grey towels:

All done and I’m very pleased with them. You can find them in my shop – if you’re in a country other than the United States and you’d like to buy one, let me know at kate@waldenweave.com or via the contact form at the shop. I haven’t got a chance to investigate shipping rates to anywhere else, so I haven’t added that to the shop yet.

Please stop by my shop and let me know what you think! I will need to investigate sales and coupons, too. 🙂 I feel like readers here may appreciate a coupon.


In my other spare time, I have been trying to measure out this new warp. It’s 100% linen, and really my first time weaving line linen, so I chose a slightly thicker-than-usual-for-me yarn to start with. I am pretty excited about this, though. Linen is a really wonderful fiber, and you don’t see a lot of quality linen cloth in this country. Most of it seems to be from China, and seems to be woven from the tow (short fibers, nice, but not as strong) rather than the line (long fibers, up to three feet long, very strong). The tow is nice, don’t get me wrong. It becomes soft and lovely, and still has many of the wonderful qualities of linen (breathable, anti-microbial, holds an awful lot of moisture before actually feeling wet to the touch), but it also sheds lint like crazy. And that means it’s much shorter lived than line linen. Line, I’m given to understand, will also get crazy, deliciously buttery soft, but will not shed lint, will last longer, and has a lovely sheen to it. Like antique linen sheets, if you’ve ever seen them (and by ‘antique’, I mean 100 years old – yes, you can actually have sheets that are 100 years old and they’re still good – welcome to linen).

This warp will hopefully become a couple of kitchen towels – I make a lot of those, but honestly, for samples of cloth, they’re pretty handy. You can beat them up and see what happens, you can wrap things in them, you can dry dishes, you can use it as a napkin, you can use it as a place mat, you can dry your hair with them…all kinds of stuff. Of course, if this works as well as I think it might, I have ideas about making some overshot linen things. Rugs maybe? Runners? Just cloth? Hmm. I could absolutely use a linen overshot rug in my life…

What about you?

 

 

 

Summer has come

It is well and truly summer now. For those who don’t know, summer in western Massachusetts can be brutal. Temperatures can linger in the 90s with 80%+ humidity and a dewpoint of 75F-80F. It means you sweat constantly. Yesterday here, it was about 98F or so. The house where I live is under a lot of trees, so it’s a tiny bit cooler, but the trees also block out any breezes, and they keep in the humidity.

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99F at 4pm is, needless to say, kind of awful. It got down to 74F sometime in the wee hours of the morning (85% humidity, 78F dewpoint) but the house stayed at 80F. I do not complain about this lightly – I have one fan. The house I live in has casement windows, which cannot accommodate a window air conditioner without a lot of nonsense and money I don’t currently have. This heat wave is supposed to last until Thursday – Friday will be ‘normal’ again. It’s going to be an uncomfortable week.

Practicing the cello in this weather is challenging.

In other news, I scratched the bookbinding itch. I don’t get a summer break working a 9-5:30 job M-F, but apparently I needed to do something other than weaving for a bit. So, following that persistent voice in my head, I had collected a stack of books from the library on bookbinding, both on artsy bookbinding and on very technical bookbinding and Read Them. It turns out, to bind a basic book, you don’t need much, and there’s a lot of crossover with sewing, so I have tools. I’ll likely get a couple other things specifically for working with paper and making books (folder, scorer, a bookbinder’s awl, beefier linen thread, etc.), but not just yet. I’d really like to be able to make a case bound book (the kind of book you think of when you think ‘hard bound book’), but I’ll need a couple more larger, more expensive tools for that. I’ll just have to save my pennies. For now, it’s Coptic stitched books!

 

I already had a plan for a 4″x5″ book, and had purchased three large sheets of really beautiful off-white cotton paper from our local art shop. It’s a dreamy kind of drawing paper that feels so…textural, but without actually having a lot of texture. I love this paper. (I feel the beginnings of an itch to get out some charcoal and draw again…) I also bought a single sheet of sea green lokta paper, with the intention of using that on the signature spine as well as inside the cover boards.

Above, you can see the 4″x10″ sheets cut, and some folded already. Once those were all folded, I nested them together with three pieces of paper to a nest (called a ‘signature’). The result was five signatures. But then, I had smaller pieces of paper left over, and I thought, “Oh, I could make a wee book!”, and of course crafturgency took over. Those sheets were cut and folded. Another trip to the art shop, and I discovered the scrap paper bin (five pieces for $1!). That’s where I found this cherry blossom paper, which I adore. I got another sheet of lokta paper in the dusty pink to match, brought it all home, and after a couple of hours fiddling with glue, weaving yarn, a couple of needles, and beeswax, I had a wee book! I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but I sure to think it’s adorable. I learned stuff while making it, and felt more prepared to tackle the larger book.

But wait. There’s more.

Because, while I was hunting around through my weaving cut offs and samples looking for a suitable book cover cloth, I came upon that beautiful yellow overshot stuff I made a couple of months ago. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. It should become something wonderful to be used, or else it’ll just stay a piece of cloth in a box somewhere, you know? And then I was making that little book, and I thought that lovely square overshot pattern would be pretty perfect.

 

From the same bunch of scraps of paper that I got at the art shop, I had enough gorgeous drawing paper (it’s really nice, watermark and all) to make four small signatures. And I found a piece of mat board in my photography stuff that worked great for the covers.

The actual cloth cover? That was hard. I ended up staring at the piece of cloth for about 45 minutes before I decided I’d cut it. But I didn’t cut it. I waited. I procrastinated. I did the dishes and tidied up, coming back over to the table to look at the cloth. (What is my problem? Honestly? It’s CLOTH, and unless it’s going to cover a table or be a blanket or hang on a wall, it is going to have to be cut eventually. And it’s just CLOTH! I can weave more – it’s not like I can’t just weave more just like it.)  I went to bed.

The next morning, I got up, made tea and steeled myself to cut the cloth. And then I did. And it was fine. The sun didn’t disappear. The seas didn’t boil. There were no earthquakes. Five minutes at the sewing machine, and then a little trimming, and I had a book cover. This one is removable, so when the book is all used up, the cover slips off and can go on another book. (I am debating about sewing on tiny ribbons so it can be tied shut.)

Once over the fear of cutting cloth, I got to work on the larger book’s covers. Those have to be made in order for the assembling and sewing to happen.

 

The covers are black mat board (I think – I bought it years ago). The cloth is the leftover from a napkin project for my friend K in New Hampshire. I am very happy with how the covers have turned out! They spent most of the day yesterday drying – it was so humid, the glue took ages to dry. The signatures have sewing stations punched in (the holes you sew through), and I cut a strip of lokta paper to use on the spine. It’ll be sewn with the blue weaving yarn you can see in the background.

I’m REALLY happy with how this is turning out. Now I’m thinking about different patterns of cloth to weave specifically for book covers, and about different methods of binding. Case binding may have to happen sooner than I expect, but we’ll see. Perhaps I need to practice Coptic binding for a while to get it down pat. Not to mention, there are many variations to it and embellishments yet to learn.

In other, other news, I’ve also picked my camera up again.

 

 

At least one of these (possibly both) will be for sale in some form or another. The originals are large, and can be blown up to about 16″x24″. It’s also entirely possible one (or both) will be hanging in a restaurant downtown Northampton, MA this summer for a short period of time.

I do need to get back to weaving. For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to finish measuring out the fine blue cotton for that napkin project, but my heart just isn’t in it. I really do want to weave napkins for Dan! (Dan, I do! I do! Honest!) But omg it’s so fine, and there are a bunch of other projects I want to get going with, so I might put the blue to one side for now. There is the wedding present for John the Finder of Dinosaurs and his new wife. There are the towels for (person undisclosed because they read this probably) as a surprise. There’s the blanket that Lee is commissioning from me. There are the towels my own brother asked me for – he has spent months redoing his kitchen himself, and it’s got a new color scheme. He loves the towels I wove for him a couple of years ago, and instead of buying new ones, came right out and asked me for new ones that will match his kitchen. OF COURSE I will weave him stuff! And then there’s the stuff I have jumbling around in my head that needs to come out so I can gain some small bit of quiet again.

This week, my goal is to get some test prints made of the photographs to see how they come out on a couple types of paper. I also have to figure out framing (museum glass is magical stuff). Honestly, I am nervous about hanging my photos – please, if you see them, be kind. But also, please, please be honest. (I feel like such a fraud.)

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

 

EDIT: Those photos will not hang in that restaurant this summer, but rather for the month of January 2019. EEP!