Yarn Trunk: Down 1 Cone – Towel Drawer: Up 5 Towels

I mistakenly thought that this batch of towels would quickly clean up my yarn stash. It’s a two-shuttle weave, and the pattern thread has some long floats, so I thought that would require pounds and pounds of yarn.  In the interest of finishing off a few cones, I stuck with only five choices of weft thread (instead of using little bits off lots of different cones).  But I only managed to use up one tiny cone of navy blue cotton.

And even with that, I totally underestimated how much was on the cone.  I thought it didn’t have enough to weave a one-inch stripe – it had enough to weave a 25-inch towel, and then some!

I know I could weigh the yarn, multiply by the number of yards per pound, etc., and figure out exactly what I could make with that amount – but for what I’m doing, it really doesn’t matter that much.  I like to start with a pretty plain warp, and just see what weaving variations pop up as I’m going along.

Off the loom, before being cut apart and washed.

Off the loom, before being cut apart and washed.

One warp, five weaving variations.

One warp, five weaving variations.

I always loved those swatch collections in Handwoven magazine.

I always loved those swatch collections in Handwoven magazine.

Close-up of the texture.

Close-up of the texture.

 

My daughter drew this of me, when she was five.  She showed the warp away from me, and the woven cloth close to me!

My daughter drew this of me, when she was five. She showed the warp at the back of the loom, and the woven cloth close to me!

 

 

 

 

3-D Printing and Handcrafts

The first time I heard about 3-D printing was on an episode of The Big Bang Theory, where two of the guys bought a 3D printer for $10,000 or something, and used it to create — a plastic whistle.  So I thought, “Obviously it will be years in the future before this is something I need to think about.”

But then I saw this practical and stylish cast made with 3-D printing, and then I saw a huge “tentacle” sweater on the cover of a ScienceNews magazine, and I started to get interested in the possibilities.

photo by Edyka Zwirecka

Not on the one on the ScienceNews cover, but close.  Photo by Edyta Zwirecka from Wikimedia Commons. *

photo by Edyta Zwirecka from Wikimedia Commons

3-D printers are being used for all kinds of amazing things, like prosthetic legs and arms, prosthetic beaks for injured eagles, models of Cro-Magnon man for museums, replacement parts for old equipment, whole houses, and guitars that look like they’re made out of lace.  Of course, they are also being used for all kinds of unnecessary or even evil purposes.  For this post, I am going to leave all of those fascinating alternatives to their insightful creators and your imagination, and just talk about the effect 3-D printers might have on my craft habit, and yours.

ScienceNews says personal 3-D printers cost about $1000 right now, for printers that can create objects out of plastic. Now, normally if you told me that a mere $1000 would get me a device to make my own weaving bobbins and shuttles, I would say, “That’s ridiculous!  I can get those ready-made.”

Shuttles aren't cheap, but I don't think I need a big expensive machine to make my own...

Shuttles aren’t cheap, but I don’t think I need a big expensive machine to make my own…

But after seeing some of the possibilities out there, I am already thinking, “But I could have a neon purple shuttle!  I could make what I want, instead of accepting a mass-produced solution!”

...But wait, I could have a shuttle like no one else's!

…But wait, I could have a shuttle like no one else’s!

This is why I weave my own towels and make my own quilts, right?  To get things the way I like them.

Wait a minute – will I even need bobbins and threads?  Can I just create textiles with 3-D printers?

Right now some sorts of textiles can be made, but the printers are still having problems with cotton and silk.  Everything that I have seen looks very plastic-y, and not very comfortable.  They’re either made of interlinking material, like plastic pot scrubbers, or of molded forms, that look a little like dish draining boards. One top I saw on YouTube took 170 hours to print, so it’s not even more time-efficient than making something by hand.

So let’s look 15 years in the future, and guess that by then the printers can easily handle either natural fibers or synthetics that are so good, you can’t tell the difference.  Let’s say I can afford a printer, I have learned how to work it, and I am convinced that the environmental impact of creating by printer is minimal.  Will I still make crafts by hand?  Or will I spend my time designing things to turn out on the printer?

Will I still take my loom to craft fairs to show how it was done in the old days?  Will there still be craft fairs?  When you can take an object home and have a computer replicate it for you, will there be a reason to buy anything from an experienced craftsperson?  Or will people’s individuality be so evident in their creations, that we continue to buy their work to capture the sparks that speak to us?

This new capability reminds me of the era when machine quilting was not accepted as “real” quilting.  But artists saw possibilities for expression and pushed machine techniques to astounding levels.  I imagine works of “additive manufacturing” will do the same – take quilting traditions in directions we can’t foresee, but will appreciate.

For myself, I am guessing this new trend will compare to my adjustment to digital photography.  I had a very nice film camera, and took a class to learn to use it, but switching to a digital camera made photography a much bigger part of my life.  Now I take hundreds of pictures in a week, and I edit them all.  I don’t print them out and put them in albums; I enjoy them when they come up on my screen saver.  And sometimes I put away the camera and just draw – it depends what result I’m after.

What I enjoy most about textile crafts is making things that capture my ideas.  So if a 3-D printer would capture an idea best, I could see using it.  But I think I would add that to my repertoire of crafts, but not give up the others.  I like the crisp look of the 3-D printed creations, but I wouldn’t want to be surrounded by only  those objects – it would feel too barren to me.  I would have to have some natural and handmade objects in the mix.  For example, I could see myself designing and printing a bedside table that is sturdy and fits perfectly in the tiny space beside my bed – but I would top it with a handwoven runner, an old book, a vintage vase, and an overblown rose.

What about you?  Will you welcome this technical marvel, or ignore it?  Or do you think it will turn out to be a short-lived curiosity?  Do you think more people will share the joys of creating unique items?  Or will they lose all appreciation for the effort that goes into creation?

More links:

3D printed cast – Wired magazine

3D printing in fashion –  NY Times

More 3D printing in fashion – The Guardian

Interesting exhibit – Science Museum, London – this exhibit is open until 2015 – I think I have to make a trip!

But is it green? - Michigan Tech News

“3D-printer-clothing-6531″ by EdytaZwirecka – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3D-printer-clothing-6531.jpg#mediaviewer/File:3D-printer-clothing-6531.jpg

It does not say on the Wikimedia page, but the EcoBrides website used this image too, and they credit the design to Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, who is well known for her 3-D printed garments.  If you would like to see more of her work, I would suggest just going to your favorite search engine and pulling up images – her website is very hard to navigate, with pictures that move around as you are trying to scroll.

 

 

Sneak Peeks

It’s been exactly a year since I wove some monk’s belt towels.  That batch did not use up my yarn stash as much as I hoped.  I still have just odds and ends of mercerized and unmercerized cotton, cottolin, and linen, in different sizes and colors.  Stripes are a great way to blend those yarns into useable textiles, so I am working on another batch.

Monk's belt in mercerized cotton.

Monk’s belt in mercerized cotton.

Close-up

Close-up

This is about a 6-yard warp – I have so many ideas about ways to vary the weft stripes that I wish the warp were twice as long.

Outside, there is one common persimmon tree that is covered with fruit (and about 100 with no fruit).  I will be experimenting to see if it works for a dye or mordant.  Last summer, before there was fruit on the tree, I thought it was a tupelo (black gum) tree – tupelos look very much the same, but their leaves are opposite instead of alternating.

I did one sample with the leaves, with alum mordant and an ammonia dip afterward.  It gave a gorgeous golden yellow, that was very lightfast.  So I have high hopes for these fruits!

Common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana

Common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana

 

 

Natural Dye Lightfastness Results

Last summer I did a lot of natural dye experiments,  I gave the samples a year to rest, and then put them out in the sun for a month to see how they would hold up.  Covering half of each sample retains the original color, and then it’s easy to compare the befores and afters.

These were the sunflower dyes, and they were very colorful when they were fresh.  They faded into nondescript tans, and most all of the other dyes did the same.

dye samples

Before the light tests, these sunflower samples showed a lot of variation. Afterward, they are mostly tan, with only the iron-dipped samples retaining color.

There were a few that held their color well enough that I will try those plants again, tweaking the process to see if I can get better results.

The pear dye was a lot of work - the twigs had to be soaked for days.  But this is a nice rosy brown, so worth the work.

The pear dye was a lot of work – the twigs had to be soaked for days. But this is a nice rosy brown, so it’s worth the work.

These yellow dyes, from waterleaf, dog fennel, parsley hawthorn, and persimmon, are easy to do, and the results are good even after a year.  Plus, I have a ton of these plants so it is good to find a use for them!

These yellow-greens held up pretty well.

These yellows stayed strong, but I think that's more the effect of the alum mordant.

The skeins that stayed in the house still show more intense colors, in more shades, and the same with the scarf I knit from them.

naturally dyed scarf

I might make something else for myself with those skeins – after all the final product would never be left outside in bright sunlight for 30 days straight!  But it will take a lot more experimenting to get yarns that are really colorfast.

The biggest benefit to me has been learning more about the plants that are around me, and the whole dye process.

Five Years on the Farm: Taking Stock

In the early 1970s, my husband’s parents built the house we now live in, as a week-end place.  A crew set the pilings, but everything else was done by my in-laws and their three teen-age kids.

In 1975, the happy crew poses on the newly finished house.

In 1975, the happy crew poses on the newly finished house.

Fortunately, I missed most of that work, because I didn’t get into the picture until ’76.

As the years passed, and all the siblings started families of their own, the house was “built-into” rather than “added onto.”

In 1988, the downstairs was partially built in, and my fashion sense was questionable.

In 1988, the downstairs was partially built in.  Work might have progressed faster had my “fashion sense” (seen here in a plaid romper) not dazzled the minds of  those working.

The house was essentially complete by 1990, and we all gathered here often for long weekends, but the focus was on having fun, not doing maintenance.

Our girls with their catch in '91.

Who can spend time on house repairs when there are fish to catch?

More years went by, and our young families got too busy to even visit the farm much.  And after my father-in-law passed away in 1999, the house just sat there for ten years.

So when we moved up in 2009, we had a lot to do.

A sturdy house in need of TLC.

A sturdy house in need of TLC.

We have now been here for five years, and we have made the house more pleasant than I ever thought possible.  (I really wanted to start over, and keep this house just as a huge art studio.) Painting the house was a good start, and I think the best improvement was replacing all 30+ windows with new energy-efficient ones.

farm house

It looked a lot better once we painted it, even though the color was a little too mint-y.  But to me, the  balcony and stair rail looked too heavy due to their dark color.

Last month I did a little project that gave me a big lift.  Our balcony color was too dark to match the house color, I thought.  I finally painted it white, and I love how it looks now.

white balcony

White paint on the balcony and stairway –  I can’t say that’s the finishing touch, but it’s an improvement.

kitchen before

We also turned this…

kitchen after

…into this.

We have done a lot of work inside too, as in building a whole kitchen downstairs, but for some reason the painted balcony is what feels like the tipping point for me — you know how construction crews put a little tree on top of a high rise when they have all the girders in place?  That’s how I feel now.  We still have plenty to do, but the hardest part is over.

When we moved to the farm, I thought the best way I could share it would be to document and preserve the nature here. Since it had been virtually untouched for 50 years, I thought maybe a greater diversity of species had managed to hang on here than at other nearby sites.  At first, I could only identify about 30 of the plants, and where those were on the continuum from endangered to invasive, I had no idea.  The same with animals – I knew there were rabbits, deer, doves, turtles, etc., but I didn’t know specifics, like: there’s more than one kind of dragonfly, hummingbirds migrate, or, some snakes can swim really well.

So over these last five years, I have learned more about nature and best practices for management.  I have joined some resource organizations, and my nature guidebook collection has increased exponentially!  I have documented over 200 species of animals, plants, and fungus, and I know there are a lot more out there.

Here are some of the ones I saw yesterday afternoon:

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With major work on the house behind us, I feel like I can take the time now to focus on the biodiversity inventory of this farm. I found a wonderful site for sharing observations, run by National Geographic, Project Noah. Here is my page on the platform, and I am also putting that link in my sidebar.  You can upload nature pictures even if you don’t know what you have, and experts will help you identify the species.  I have already used that feature several times.  I also love getting artistic inspiration from their mission, National Geographic’s Great Nature Project.

I started uploading wildlife spottings a few weeks ago, and one of my pictures has been chosen for Spotting of the Day, for August 25.  As Dre at Grackle & Sun would say, “Commence the Squeeee!”  :)

I have posted pictures of our pond here before, but I found this one from 1981 and thought it would interesting to compare.

The pond in 1981.

The pond in 1981.

The pond in 2014

The pond in 2014

I have been so fortunate to be part of this farm for almost 40 years.  Changes have happened all around us and will continue to happen, but we hope to preserve this spot of nature for the future.

 

 

Imps, Fairies, and Friendly Spirits

Imps, Fairies, and Friendly Spirits

During the day my kitchen looks like an ordinary place –

(doing a mouse-over will make the pictures more vivid)

collectibles

Just an ordinary kitchen shelf – come china, some cookbooks, some linens, some silver..

canisters

…some strategically located chocolate chips…

–but at night, I hear strange noises, and the next morning, things are out of place…

photo montage

“Here’s the one I’m looking for, Upton’s Standard Operas.”

It's opened to "Cinderella".

“Tonight we’ll open it to Cendrillon.”

Oh my goodness!

“It feels so good to stretch!”

book 2 a_e

“Good evening, ladies. Tonight’s refreshments are on the upper shelf.”

A helping hand.

“What do you mean, you don’t think I need any more refreshments!”

What is up there on top of that shelf?

“Come on up!  There’s plenty for everyone!”

 

"Chocolate and opera for EVERYBODY!"

“Chocolate and opera for EVERYBODY!”

For the 1 Day 1 World Project, we are up to the hour of 3:00 – 4:00 am.  Not much happens around here at that hour – fortunately Jude got me thinking in new directions with her ghost story.  I have always loved those old cartoons where the kitchen products come alive in the depths of the night and cause a little mischief, so I decided to create my own.

I was also inspired by Cindy Hickok’s fabulous Café de Musée, a thread-painted grouping of beloved figures from art.

My friendly spirits came from an old book about opera, and a Dover Book clip art book called Trades and Occupations.  I learned all kinds of new PhotoShop tricks from the book How To Cheat in PhotoShop Elements 12 by David Asch.

I had so much fun doing this!  I just hope I remember all the techniques I learned, the next chance I get to play around with photos.

When the People Are Away

This week I am going to cheat be creative with my 1 Day 1 World Project entry, for 1:00 – 2:00 am.

I didn’t do anything at all last week, and here is why – I couldn’t think of anything new to do.  I am often up til 2, and I could go outside and walk around and take pictures of toads and spiders and munching caterpillars, but I’ve already done that.

I hesitated to use these game camera photos, because they’re not from this week (and they’re not the most exciting game cam pictures I have, either), but to me the big picture of this whole project is to see what is going on around the world at a certain hour, so they fit that bill.  Here is what goes on out in the Hill Country of Texas between 1 and 2 in the morning.

whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

raccoon

Raccoon at water trough

whitetail deer

Whitetail buck in velvet at water trough

axis buck

Axis buck at feeder

When we go to visit our ranchito, it’s not uncommon for there to be over 700 pictures on one game cam.  We don’t have TV up there – instead we pop the camera chip into a laptop and go through all the pictures to see what animals have been taking selfies in our absence.  Some of the other species we get are gray fox, porcupine, feral hog, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, cottontail rabbit, and elk – going through the pictures is more fun than Christmas.

Sadly, it’s also not uncommon for some 4-legged someone to investigate the game camera and break it.  Here are some of those famous last shots.

animal nose

Elk nose, I think.

animal ears

Raccoon ears, I’m guessing?

deer extreme close-up

It’s all fun until someone breaks the lens!  :)

I love how these wildlife cams give me an effortless glimpse into these animals’ lives.

Textiles from Turkmenistan

Last week my husband had to travel to Turkmenistan for his job.  He travels quite a bit, but this country was a challenge.

Turkmenistan is mostly desert, located just north of Iran and Afghanistan, and it was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. So the population mostly speaks Turkmen, with a little Russian thrown in, and my husband was working with a Chinese company.  He doesn’t speak any of those languages.  But even though few people speak English, American dollars are one of the two currencies accepted.

It has a totalitarian government.  Reporters without Borders called it the second worst nation for press freedom in 2012, coming in behind North Korea.  About ten years ago, the former President for Life closed all the hospitals outside the capital city, this in a country the size of California.

So this was a little worrying to me.  If there was a medical issue, or if an official wanted to pick up some “auxiliary income”, communications could be a problem.  In fact, even before he left, my husband had communication problems – he couldn’t make definite arrangements for a way to get back from the work facility, to the closest city 2 hours away, and then from there back to the capital of Ashgabat.

Thankfully, he had an uneventful stay.  He had one day to sight-see a little, and leaving an open-air market, he saw a little old lady with a table set up on the street.  He went to check it out, and found the perfect gift for me!

hand-knit socks from Turkmenistan

Hand-knit socks and camel toy from Turkmenistan.

These are handspun and hand-knitted, I’m guessing from camel or goat hair.  They look rough, and you can feel little plant burrs and seeds in the yarn, but they are so comfortable.  They are so precious to me, because this is the kind of craft that disappears when modern culture comes on the scene.  They cost the equivalent of $8!

I wish I could talk to the little lady who sold them.  I bet we would be able to communicate with sign language.  I would love to know what animal the fleece came from, whether her family raised those animals, if she did the knitting herself, who taught her to knit.  From the little I have learned about her country, I cannot imagine the changes she has seen in her life, but I think we would find some common ground in textiles.

 

Photos from the Dark

For the 1 Day 1 World Project, we are at the hour of 11 pm – 12 am.

I had seen a photography idea of going out at night and shooting close-ups of plants with the flash, so I decided to try that.  (It’s not something that really represents my normal 11 pm hour, but I am using this project to do things a little out of the ordinary for me.)

caterpillar on pokeweed

The pictures showed a lot of detail, but I didn’t think they were very interesting.  But when editing them, I noticed this caterpillar chomping away at my pokeweed plant.  I use pokeberries for natural dye – but the caterpillar is welcome to the leaves!

caterpillar and pokeweed

 

Bayeux Tapestry – Books, Part Two

Reading about the Bayeux Tapestry made me want to know more background information on the Normans – where did they come from?  Why did they want to expand into England?  I mean, the north of France is a pretty nice place, why weren’t they just content there?  So here’s what I read:

1)  Norman Conquest:The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England by Marc Morris.  This is my absolute favorite out of everything I read. It is structured almost like a novel, with the chapters alternating between England and Normandy, and chapter-ending cliffhangers, but what I love best is its informal tone and pithy remarks.

If we had to sum this new society up in a single word, we might describe it as feudal – but only if we were prepared for an outbreak of fainting fits among medieval historians.  The problem with the word feudal, they will tell you, is that it is not actually a medieval word at all, but a coinage of sixteenth-century lawyers…(p. 48)

Morris quotes from different source materials, explaining who wrote them, when, and why.  Some are copies of the same book, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, kept in different monasteries and therefore, annotated by people of differing loyalties.  He builds these varying viewpoints into a rich, lively account of how the Normans conquered England and what happened afterward.  I particularly like how he personifies the source books:

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, having dealt with the murder of Alfred, thereafter maintains a studious silence on political matters for the rest of Harold’s reign, commenting only on ecclesiastical affairs and the state of the weather.  (p. 38)

‘We do not know’, says the D version of the Chronicle, ‘who first suggested this mischief’, not for the first time infuriating us by hinting that there was some wider conspiracy at work, but failing to divulge anything in the way of details.  (p. 120)

(I keep picturing the Chronicle books as looking like the little Geico insurance box character in the commercials, raising their eyebrows and whistling while they keep their politically-incorrect opinions to themselves.)

Morris’ book explains the importance of the Tapestry feasting scenes that I found puzzling – the Normans were raiding the countryside deliberately.  William didn’t want to have to march his men to London, and risk them being spread out to be picked off.  He wanted to sit tight and make Harold come to him. In Hastings, the people were Harold’s own tenants – he had a special duty to protect them, so he rushed off to do so, possibly without a full fighting force.

Some of us have problems keeping history straight, in part because the same names and places recur so often – Morris does such an excellent job of distinguishing between people and making them memorable, that I feel that I actually know all the people (not that I would want to – most of these people were horrible to each other!).

2) The Normans: From Raiders to Kings, by Lars Brownworth.  I’m not sure this book even mentions the Bayeux Tapestry, but it is a very quick and interesting account of the background of the Normans.  It also goes beyond the Battle of Hastings to tell about other Norman families who supported the Byzantine emperors, and ruled Sicily.

3)  The Handfasted Wife, by Carol McGrath.  There are only three women in the main body of the Tapestry – Edith, the mysterious Ælgyva, and an anonymous woman fleeing a burning house.  This novel combines that anonymous woman with the historical character of Harold’s first wife, and mother of his six children. When Harold becomes king, he puts her aside while he makes a better match politically, and yet, after the Battle of Hastings, she is the one called to identify his body.

I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t lose myself in it.  I felt like it skipped over the big events (Harold’s wife and mother are in a tent close to the battlefield the night before…and then it’s the next day and the battle is just over), while making sure to regularly include authentic details of medieval life, as if there was a checklist.  “On Wednesday, we ate pottage and drank ale, oversaw the mead brewing, went to Vespers services, and spoke to the woodcutter.”  (That is my own totally made-up sentence, but it sums up my impressions.)

However, this book had some interesting plot twists  – for example, after the Conquest, Harold’s mother, Gytha, retreats to her city of Exeter and defies king William, withholding the tax money.  I was absolutely sure that the author had taken liberties with history here, in the interest of creating a strong female character – but no!  All of that is absolutely true!  And I didn’t learn that from the non-fiction books on the Normans, so it was worth my time to read this book too.

4) Bonus Video – Battlefield Detectives: Who Got Lucky at Hastings?  You’d think, that with the enormous impact the Conquest had on history (for example, 20 years afterward, only 8% of the land in England was still in the hands of its original owners – about a fifth of the English population had died; 200,000 Normans and French had moved in, the English language was no longer used in official documents, and castles popped up everywhere), that there would be a plethora of videos on the subject.  In all of Amazon, and Netflix, I could only find one.

It’s from 2003, and I think their “experts” are a little questionable – a modern day horse-trainer, a woman who is stitching her own replica of the Tapestry, and a professor who thinks that Harold is shown with an arrow in his eye to reflect God’s punishment for perjury (because losing your kingdom and getting hacked to death are not punishment enough?)  There is also a corporate trainer with a PowerPoint comparing Harold and William to CEOs.

However, they do a very nice job of explaining what the terrain was like in 1066, and why it took place where it did, so it was worth the 49 minutes of my life to learn that.

So now I know everything I need to know about the Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings.  Except I just found a Battlefield Britain episode on IMDb, and I also found another novel by Georgette Heyer…