Friday, April 29, 2011

Susan's Linen Project

Susan Osterman threading

Remember we did a post about Jerry Osterman and his spinning a few weeks back? Well, this is Susan, Jerry's wife, who is one of our local students from Williamstown. She's been painstakingly threading this linen project to make sure that all the stripes come out just right in the pattern, not to mention the fact that linen is a bear to warp and beam on.

She's wanted to weave herself a set of linen sheets, something that no one else at the studio has attempted yet (except Norman, of course!). It's a pretty ambitious endeavor. So to warm up to the linen and get a taste of what a sheet project will be like, she's making a set of pillowcases first.

Her warp is a 2's/40 normandy linen in white with brown stripes (2's/30 linen hand-dyed with cutch), weft in white.
It's a plain weave, because Susan liked the look of that more than weaving it in a twill. I'll update as she progresses.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Setting Up For a Museum Exhibit

winding spools to build the warp

A sweet little collaborative project came our way in recent weeks. Kate was approached by the Old Stone House Museum in Brownington, VT to set up a loom for a year-long active exhibit on-site. We will be reproducing the fabric for a piece in their collection. The finished product will be a 2/2 twill in wool singles to make a man's frock coat with.

First I skeined several pounds of wool singles, and then dyed it a deep indigo in a two-day process. Next, the warp was built, with the same indigo and a natural wool, which was a great experience in getting more acquainted with using a tricky yarn and multiple spools coming off a skarne, something I am getting more comfortable with, project to project. There are specific hand movements and grips which facilitate greater ease and efficiency in handling the tension and the 'stickiness', and while watching Kate do it has not always made so much sense to me (the precise way she uses her hands and fingers), I am finding, on my own, that each of these maneuvers has its purpose, and that it really works and can actually make skarne warping with many spools fun!

We dressed one of our looms and will do all the threading at our studio, then take the whole assembly off our loom and bring it up to theirs, where we will get everything set up for their demonstration of weaving. It sounds like a wonderful exhibit, and I hope I get a chance to do a bit of the weaving, as the fabric in their sample looks lovely.

It sounds like they have some great things going on up there. I'll try to find out more about how this weaving piece fits into the whole exhibit. Stay tuned for more developments on this.

And for more information about the Old Stone House Museum, you can visit their website.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sylvia and Sally Here For An Extended Stint

Sylvia and Sally came up at the end of March to weave for two weeks. 
Sylvia threading up her second project

Sally threading her first project

Kate fine-tuning the threading in Sylvia's dishtowel warp

Sally threading her venetian carpet

Sally's fine herringbone clothing fabric

Sylvia working up a draft

Sally's first project finished and hemmed

Sally's venetian carpet on the loom

Sylvia decided she wanted to come up and weave for a couple of weeks, and talked her friend Sally into coming up with her. Sylvia's from Easton, MA and Sally is from Bozrah, CT. They wanted a good stretch of time to weave intensively on a few projects and to work with Kate about understanding pattern drafts a bit better. And of course, on the way they were introduced to Kate's efficient very method of warping and beaming on single-handedly.

Sylvia's first project was an 8/2 cotton warp for dishtowels in a rosepath twill pattern, with what she affectionately called "very ecclesiastical colors". She sampled four different treadlings to show several variations of what could be accomplished with a single threading and tie-up. The effect in each towel was very different, very fine and delicate overall. I'm sorry I don't have a photograph to show you of that project, as it was lovely.

Sally worked on a fine wool baby blanket in a huckaback pattern, with very handsome, classic colors...white and evergreen. Before we knew it she finished up and had hemmed her work.

Sylvia's second project was a fine herringbone in 2's/20 wool, to be used as fabric to make a shirt for her husband. She had an interesting time figuring out the thread color sequence in the warp as well as deciding on the weft color, to try and create the overall effect she was looking for. It was something she had long wanted to make, but hadn't tried before due to the fineness of the warp and weft. But her fabric was beautiful, and she learned more about repairing broken warp threads (which happen to everyone), and really enjoyed creating such lovely and useful cloth of this type.

Sally's second piece was a lush wool venetian carpet, after the Silas Burton patterns. After getting accustomed to putting in every shot with the aid of a sword, she was off and running, and although I wasn't there to see the final product off the loom, I know she finished up quickly because her loom was empty when I returned the following week.

These two weaving friends were a delight to work with and to have with us as a part of our little community for the duration of their stay. We exchanged many stories and shared much information, and we hope they will return to spend more time with us in the future. Sylvia, Sally...thank you!

Friday, April 1, 2011

In Her Own Words...Deborah Livingston-Lowe

My first visit to study with Kate Smith at the Marshfield School of Weaving was in 2006. She was recommended by the most knowledgeable and skilled weaver I know, Rabbit Goody. I attended a workshop by Rabbit on 19th century textiles at Camilla Valley Farms, just north of Orangeville, Ontario. When I expressed an interest in learning more about weaving using 19th century techniques, Rabbit told me about Kate. I was so thrilled to learn about Kate’s work with 19th century barn frame looms and made plans to journey to Vermont from my home in Toronto. I was particularly interested in becoming more knowledgeable about the workings of the barn frame loom.

I learned more about weaving with Kate in those three days than I had learned in my entire experience weaving, which went back to 1983. The foundation that I had in handweaving was slow and inefficient. Kate taught me, in addition to many things, how to use multiple threads when warping, threading, and sleying. All of these techniques, while ideal for the barn frame loom are easily transferrable to a modern loom, which I use at home. Now using Kate’s techniques, I think nothing of setting up a warp because it is so efficient. I felt so welcomed and enriched by Kate and Kate’s teacher, the multi-talented Norman Kennedy. Norman is so generous with his knowledge. I felt like I was getting two courses simultaneously from Kate and Norman. That year, I did a floatwork sampler from "Keep Me Warm One Night" and a rag rug sampler. I learned the proper proportion of warp to binder and pattern, making my work more consistent with 19th century examples.

The next year, I was ready for more. This year my focus was linen weaves, linen singles and warping multiple colour setts such as plaids and checks. We picked a linen pattern from "Keep Me Warm One Night" and I wove a 6’ runner. I also learned how to size singles linen using a historic method. The sizing of linen is essential when using singles, otherwise the linen shreds as you weave. The look and feel of woven singles linen is incomparable and worth the bother. Kate had some beautiful indigo dyed linen which I used with a natural linen. She taught me to warp a plaid pattern using the 15 threads of the repeat in proper sequence. This has been a technique that I have used often since that time. I took that warp home and wove it on my loom.

M's and O's linen

singles linen

In 2008, I wanted to learn the countermarche system. Kate and I set up the treadles and the lamms from start to finish. Kate is a wonderful instructor. She provides just enough guidance while allowing you to have your own hands-on experience. That summer, I also wanted to examine different styles of old drafts. Kate has a wonderful collection that we studied. I settled on an 8-harness twill diaper which I wove on the countermarche loom. Kate has many local students who work on study pieces. They had been investigating double weave when I arrived. There was a little warp left over and I was able to weave a piece for myself.

double weave

twill diaper

The next year, I was interested in reproducing an ikat Venetian carpet and a fine woollen shawl from "Keep Me Warm One Night". The ikat carpet required quite a bit of planning. We had to determine the colours and the width of each stripe. Although the Burnham book is in black and white, the colours are provided in the description. This carpet had several ikat stripes: one set in red and white and the other in green and yellow. Kate has a great dye facility where we dyed the ikat stripes and some of the other colours in the carpet. After dyeing the wool, we set up the complex array of colours and warped. The colours were fabulous and looked amazing on the loom. As I wove the carpet, I felt that I was recreating a bit of 19th century textile history. Ambitious me, I also planned to do an amazing blue and white shawl. I was able to warp it, but didn’t manage to weave it. It is still a project that I have to finish.

ikat carpet on loom

ikat carpet detail

In 2010, I was so enraptured by the wonderful ikat Venetians in "Keep Me Warm", that I planned another project. This time the ikat technique required the ikat to be done after warping. I wound the warp for the borders separately and then the ikat warp for the middle. We wound the warp on and it looked absolutely fabulous. In one week, I dyed, warped and wove 13 yds. Of course, I can’t take all of the credit. Kate’s knowledge and direction really speeded things along. I must also give credit to the kind fairy folk who would slip in after I had left and fill my shuttles, so they were ready to go when I arrived at the break of dawn (Thanks again, Norman. Mòran taing, a Thormoid).

ikat venetian carpet on loom

ikat venetian carpet detail

I have learned so much and have done so many amazing textiles under the expert teaching and care of Kate Smith. I can definitely say, that I wouldn’t be as confident and skilled if I had not had the good fortune to have studied with her. I also have benefitted enormously from Norman, who can hardly utter a word without it being useful and sage.