Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer is Dyeing Time!

Last weekend I taught a cotton and linen dye class and amazingly enough we had two days of fabulous weather. Here are Marsha and Alison getting the indigo vat ready to go. We set up two different the personal favorite ....and the other was the copperas-lime vat. That vat is especially good for dyeing cotton and linen a very dark blue without having to dip too many times.
Here is the lye-hydrosulfite stock solution all ready to go.....the color of a nice homebrewed ale!
Marsha's first dip of her cotton yarn in the hydrosulfite vat. Since the temperature was in the 80's this vat was working like a charm. We dyed many pounds of yarn plus a few other things....
Alison's tank tops with a little tie dye effect...
and even Peter got in the act with some new white tee shirts!
Here are some of the colors that we had by the end of Sunday afternoon: some great reds from madder and cochineal, lots of blues and greens from the indigo vat, yellow from osage orange and fustic, a gorgeous brown from cutch, and some interesting oranges from iron buff.
My favorite palette of linen skeins! Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the great urine vat collaborative. It's almost ready to go.....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Galons and Trims

Last week we had an almost constant week of rain here in Vermont and since there wasn't much to do in the garden we took the time to finish up some lingering weaving projects. Here is Alison working on the weft-faced galon for a tapestry restoration being done by St. John the Divine. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine has a wonderful conservation lab that is quite well known for its work in restoring medieval tapestries. I have been weaving the "galons" ...the trims attached to the edges of a tapestry... for almost 8 years now and it has been quite a learning experience.
Each tapestry requires about 16 yards of galon...half of it a weft-faced structure and the other half warp-faced. Each new job has to be meticulously sampled for the right end and pick counts to match the originals and all the yarn is custom dyed as well. Most of the galons are 2 -2.5" wide and the weft-faced pieces have pick counts in the 50 ppi range. I use a fine 2 ply worsted for the warp faced warp and a heavier 2/8 worsted for the weft faced. I've experimented over the years with different looms for the weaving and have finally found that a small 24" jack loom works the best. In my opinion, weaving narrow trims is one of the most exacting weaving skills to master in keeping the width consistent. I often wonder who the galon weavers of the 16th C. were and what kind of loom they used.
Besides the galons for St. John, I have been working on a worsted silk trim that will be used to upholster a wing chair. I originally wove this design for a chair that was being restored by the conservation department at the Met, and I have always loved its simple elegance. For this trim I am using a Crompton & Knowles dobby loom that I had retro-fitted to weave narrow widths. Weaving on this loom is a little hard on the old knees, but it sure beats dealing with 12 treadles!
For more information on the textile lab at St. John check their web site:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rugs and .......kittens

The past few weeks there has been a flurry of rug weaving going on here at the school. The first was woven by Lynnette using the leftover warp from a baby blanket project using some wonderful Liberty of London fabric samples that were given to me by a friend. My young apprentice, Lila, was so inspired by Lynnette's rug that she decided to weave one for herself. We used a natural colored 8/4 linen warp and she wove a strand of 8/4 green cotton in between each rag.
The next project was woven by a new local student, Claudia Clark, and we dyed six beautiful colors of my custom spun English wool carpet yarn (I have more of this for sale if anyone needs a great carpet yarn!). She chose a four block rep weave pattern and did two different rugs by changing the treadling combinations. Gorgeous, aren't they?
Another rug was started just this Thursday by another local student, Susan Osterman; she had made a warp for a rag rug but changed her mind after finding the tedium of cutting rags too much for her busy schedule. Instead we decided to use up some of my leftover carpet yarn and have her weave just a weft-faced stripe.
And now for the kittens.....
In this past week there have been four kittens who have mysteriously shown up on the doorstep of the weaving school studio. We are right down the road from a working dairy farm with their share of feral barn cats, but for some reason it seems that some of these cats were used to being around humans and were possibly from a different source. The first to arrive was an all white male who was dreadfully dirty and matted and absolutely starved for both food and affection. We named him Bobbin ...Bob, for short....and he was the dearest, most loving cat I have ever met. It turned out that he was born deaf and wanted to be around people all the time, so I found him a new home with a friend in Montpelier.
On the day after Bob left, a grey striped tiger arrived...very wild and not at all used to humans and he disappeared again after a day. Then lo and behold, when Lynnette arrived to work, there in Bob's old bed were two almost identical twin ginger colored tigers. These two have now officially become our studio "Barn Cats" and Lila named them Rosie and Izzy...short for Rosamund and Isabel.....or collectively, as the Ginger Sisters. They must think that they have landed in kitty paradise for all the affection that they receive and all the great places to play, amongst loom treadles and spinning wheels. I'll definitely be posting more about them, as well as future weaving projects.