Friday, March 25, 2011

Has It Really Been Three Months?

Has it really been three months since Mary Margaret began her long-term study? It seems as though the time has flown by faster than any of us could imagine. She was busy during her last three weeks here.

The photos above show her working on a set of 8/2 cotton dishtowels in a turned twill using an 8-harness countermarche set-up. The basic pattern was derived from "Shaker Towels For the 21st Century" by Mary Elva Congleton Erf. It took a whole morning to rig the tie-up, versus an approximate half-hour for a counterbalance tie-up, as each harness is connected to the top and the bottom of the loom. Each treadle carries a piece of the very complex pattern to create different combinations of 4-up and 4-down to form the sheds. Four harnesses make one twill and the other four make the second twill.

Mary Margaret said she loved working on this project because there was so much more pattern potential. It was her first experience weaving with a countermarche set-up. Her towels are beautiful, are they not? Her color choices with this pattern made for a very striking fabric.

Two weeks ago she produced an incredibly handsome venetian carpet. You can see how rich her color and design sense are from the above images. The rep weave carpet was warp-faced with carpet wool, with a chunky cotton filler that Kate dyed a beautiful mottled umber, which set off the selvedge quite nicely without distracting from the brilliant color patterns in the body of the rug.

During her last week with us, she sat curled up in a sheepskin nest under a sunny barn loom and worked on her finishing...darning in all the hundreds of fine color & bobbin change ends on the summer blanket/winter sheet, darning in all the ends on her fine linen towels, & darning ends on her turned twill dishtowels. It gave us all an opportunity to admire her quiet diligence when faced with days-on-end of such tedious but necessary work, and to reflect on our time with her, which has surely been several months of coming to know better a serious, intelligent, funny, sweet, and very dedicated student with a great love for the traditional textile arts.

Here are Kate and Mary Margaret late Thursday afternoon, enjoying some welcome spring sunlight, surrounded by all of MM's beautiful work from the last three months. It has been a delight for all of us to work, and study, and learn with you, Mary Margaret! We will miss your presence very much in the coming weeks, we wish you all of the very best in your continuing adventures.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vermont Weavers Guild Meeting

Kate giving her presentation on the school and her textile business

guild members 

a sampling of textiles made by Kate's textile business

On Saturday the 12th of March, Kate travelled to Randolph, VT to give a talk and slideshow and a workshop at the March meeting of the Vermont Weavers Guild.

The event was well attended by many experienced weavers from around the state, who listened to Kate's morning presentation about the founding and history of the Marshfield School of Weaving, her subsequent apprenticeship to Norman Kennedy, the research she has pursued as an important adjunct to her work as Eaton Hill Textiles, and the recent re-opening of the school.

After a break for lunch, Kate continued the day's activities with a hands-on workshop where she spoke about the use of stripes in traditional textiles, such as calimanco, using many samples of her own work as examples, and then demonstrating the method she uses for building complex striped warps using large spool racks. This multiple spool method using a skarne is what is taught at the school as a standard part of learning to warp.

For more information about the Vermont Weavers Guild and their activities, you can visit their website here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Karen Sutherland's February

Karen working on her fabric

the blanket happened last fall during a couple of weeks

her first february project - the rainbow throw

the second one was all un-dyed neutrals except for a pale blue

the third project was a length of wool fabric

Karen Sutherland wound up weaving because she couldn't keep up with her output of handspinning by knitting and crocheting alone, and she had a huge stash she had processed and spun from local flocks that needed to be used.  She had also bought herself a loom, but had no idea what to do with it. Years ago she had dreamt of coming to the school when she lived in Kent's Corner and knew of Norman Kennedy. 

She first came to weave with us last fall and spent a week or so weaving a gorgeous blanket out of a wool-mohair blend she had washed, carded, dyed and spun herself. A lot of it was the same fiber, so it made  sense to weave it into a blanket because she had so much of it. It's quite wonderful, this blanket, very rugged, earthy and seriously warm, with a great heft and texture that commercially spun yarn doesn't really have. 

This first piece was merely an introduction to the process of weaving, so Karen made arrangements to come back and weave for the month of February in order to deepen her understanding of how to plan her own projects, build warps, dress a loom, and experiment with a few different weave structures. She had taken Kate's Local Plant Dye Workshop at Twin Pond Retreat in Brookfield in the summer of 2010 and was excited to use the yarn she had dyed there.

For the month of February, she worked diligently on three projects. The first was a rainbow stripe throw, using the natural-dyed yarns from the workshop. It's a bold piece in a herringbone twill with a natural camel-colored criah alpaca weft. The next was another throw, using a lot of un-dyed white and neutral colored yarns with a lovely pale blue as a color accent. We spent quite a bit of time working out the stripe pattern in the warp and all the direction changes on the color changes, so that she could have some further experience in designing her own work. The last project was a fine wool fabric she wove to make what she calls a "Common Thread Garment".  The fabric is subtle but beautiful, with a Gothic cross woven into the pattern. The yarn was a blend of long hair sheep's wool from Romania and lambswool from Sue Johnson in Hinesburg, VT, 
a hand-blended fiber that symbolizes for Karen the cultural exchange she has been working on with artists and musicians in a small village in Romania. 

Over the past five years, Karen has traveled three times to Romania, the first year with a group of folk musicians showcasing Vermont culture in nursing homes, schools and children's homes, and including on-stage theatre pieces involving spinning. Returning the following year with a group of high school students, she and other Vermont artists and musicians created a cross-cultural folk school. With each visit, Karen has brought back wool to combine with Vermont fibers and with the help of experienced weavers created a woven piece from the blend as a symbol of the exchange. Karen plans to use her newfound skills to weave a companion piece of "Common Thread" fabric at home and she says she has enough wool/mohair yarn remaining for at least another blanket.
Karen is a performer and teacher of voice and handwork. Her young student, 8 year-old Alya MacManaway is learning weaving, spinning, felting, sewing and singing Scottish songs and will be performing at this year's Young Traditions Showcase on May 14. Karen plans a field trip for Alya to the Marshfield School of Weaving sometime this spring.

For more information about Karen and her husband Pete's musical activities you can check out their website here

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fancy Bedcover Sample

herself at the loom

checking the hand-dyed yarn to finish the checked blanket

Kate offering some hands-on instruction

the red version on the loom

the brown version

brilliant red

Mary Margaret has been working on her fancy bedcover segment of training for the last week. She seemed to be having a great time threading this intricacy, and has become rather adept at threading fairly complex patterns and double-checking as she goes, the end result being accuracy and fewer mistakes needing correction later on. 

Her warp was a traditional fine cotton, wefts were worsted wool, one section a brilliant fire engine red, the other an elegant espresso brown. She wove a fairly small piece, as fabric to cover pillows with, to be used as a first experience with overshot, just to get an overall feel for the issues with threading and setup, and creating and maintaining the even beat so essential for being able to successfully tackle much larger projects, such as a pieced coverlet. 

She breezed through this project in a week, and is now contemplating her upcoming work for the month of March. She'll most likely be putting in several days working with Kate on finishing techniques, as she winds up the final tasks for her summer blanket/winter sheet, linen towelling, checked blanket, and pillowcovers.