Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Paris Journal: "Tai Tai": textiles in the city, aka my new favorite place

The amazing thing about cities is that you can turn the corner and find a treasure of a store, one you never noticed before (or wasn't there the last time you walked this particular direction). Right there in your proverbial backyard!

I went to buy yarn this morning at my somewhat local yarn store (LYS) Chatmaille in the Marche St Pierre area. I wanted to buy an alpaca sock yarn, but they didn't have change for my 50 Euros, so I left and went looking for change. I can't call them my LYS since they've never really been very nice or welcoming and this morning's visit was no different.

I walked down rue Andre del Sarte and found Tai Tai Boutique. This store is a treasure trove of finds! Tai tai means little sister in Mandarin.

This is where you can toe socks to wear with flip flops! Forget the sock yarn....no knitting required.
A selection of handwoven hemp fabrics in natural and indigo.

Reversible, indigo dyed, cotton batik yardage 

Xiao Hua Albert showing off an exquisite iridescent Miao fabric
The selection of fabrics here is very impressive. The Miao are an ethnic minority in China. I have only seen the Miao iridescent fabric once or twice before and it was so prized that it was not for sale. The sheen comes from repeatedly beating the eggwhite-coated dyed fabric against a stone slab. The depth of such luster pounded into the fabric is really amazing.

All fabric is sold by the meter and very affordable!
Beautifully decorated boutique, all for purchase!

Clothing for fancy and casual wear.

Photographs from Canton, China, lining the walls.

Covet-worthy display of fabrics and embroidered Mary Janes
The Panda table!

Little books and other treasures for everyone on your gift list.

More socks and coin purses in great fabrics. 

They have supplies for Chinese calligraphy and painting

or you can buy the art itself!
Tai tai is really a gem of a store. I am so excited to have discovered it and bought some textile treasures.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Dovecot Tapestry Studio

I was so lucky to be in Scotland and visit the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh. The tapestry studio is housed in a building that was once a Victorian swimming pool/public baths.

The airy entry has a nice selection of books, supplies and fiber-centric gifts.

Kon-Tiki Guys, tapestry woven by Freya Sewell (former apprentice)  and  WRRTBCHT, tufted rug by Dennis Reinmuller

The weaving studio entrance (closed to visitors).

Studio through the window.

Some tapestry education before the entry to the viewing balcony.

Imagine it ....the viewing balcony runs along the perimeter of the studio space which is where the pool once was. Truly spectacular. Every weaver wants a studio like this!

That's a ginormous frame for rug tufting...and the scaffolding for the one who is tufting!

In addition to the weaving studio and gallery, there is also a cute little cafe that I long to spend more time in.

A great rug in the cafe, described below.

It is such a lovely, wonderfully-renovated building, well worth the visit if you're in the neighborhood. If you can't make it there, the Dovecot website also has a catalog of their tapestries for sale that is very much worth a browse. Especially fun to see are the tapestries that were inspired by Dovecot's swimming pool past.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Owning your work aka weaving that looks like it's yours

Last July, I was fortunate to take a tapestry weaving workshop from Sarah Swett in lovely Garden Valley, Idaho. What a treat! Sarah is a weaver of words, an imaginative powerhouse and an absolute hoot. The class focused on four-selvedge tapestry weaving and the value of value. Sarah weaves with a wool warp and weft and washes all of her tapestries. They have a really fluid, beautiful drape that really adds to the appeal. 

After warping our copper pipe looms following Sarah’s four-selvedge warping technique, our first exercise was to weave a small four-selvedge piece, paying particular attention to value…light to dark and vice versa. Sarah provided scrumptious hand-dyed and hand-spun singles yarns for us to work with and they were an absolute joy to weave.  After taking my loom back to my cabin at the Wander Inn and working on my piece in the evening, I returned to class the following day, shared my little tapestry and wondered aloud: “Why is it that everything I weave looks like I wove it?" Sarah laughed and replied, "Isn't that a good thing?" My short answer was that I didn't really know. 

My little value tapestry taking a bath.

I was reminded of this as I finished weaving my little tapestry for the American Tapestry Alliance's small format unjuried show, “Untitled/Unjuried”. My tapestry study group decided on a theme of "Virginia Blues", so I gathered up some variegated blue handspun and other tapestry yarns in blues, purples and greens and wove some windblown, leafy shapes. I had a loose idea of the shapes but didn’t really bother to follow a cartoon as I wove. Wouldn’t you know it, but it turned out looking like I wove it...and I’m still not sure that’s a good thing.
"So Bleu", wool weft on cotton warp, still on the loom.
Once off the loom, I decided I liked the green leaf on the bottom and flipped it for presentation.

Back of the tapestry, little stitches holding down warp threads. Archie Brennan taught me this technique.

Beauty shot. For the first time, I used a crochet chain of handspun to begin and end the piece. 

I have always admired the work of accomplished tapestry weavers whose weaving has such a specific voice and look that I am able to identify the weaver just by looking at the piece. These weavers have a body of work that expresses their individual style, be it in theme, technique or subject matter. I have long felt that this is what all weavers strive for.

Now that I am weaving what I recognize to be from my hands, I am left a bit conflicted. It is sort of like catching a glimpse of your reflection and thinking to yourself, “is that really me?”

I am having an especially difficult time with the piece that’s on the loom right now. What I see sure does look like I wove it and I am simply not happy with what I’m seeing. It is in time out right now. I haven’t done any unweaving yet, but that still might happen.  

There is a quotation from the singer/songwriter Bill Withers that I seek out at times like this:

"It's okay to head out for wonderful, but on the way to wonderful, you're going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, take a good look around and get used to it, because that may be as far as you go."

I've been on this road to wonderful now for the better part of a decade. My steering can get iffy and I might veer off onto the shoulder for a spell or even make a huge detour but I guess sometimes I have to be content to just be on (or in the vicinity of) the road. Cheers to others on the same journey!

“Untitled/Unjuried: small format tapestry 2014” will run until August 8 at the University of Rhode Island FeinsteinGallery, 80 Washington St, Providence, Rhode Island with a reception tonight from 5-9 pm. I won’t be there, but my tapestry will!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction

The Crownpoint Weavers Association holds a monthly rug auction in Crownpoint, New Mexico, every month. Here, Navajo weavers bring their rugs to auction directly to the public. 

Held at the elementary school in Crownpoint, the auction gives buyers the most direct access to rugs from the Navajo weavers. With no middle man taking a cut, the auction purchases benefit the buyers and weavers alike.

The drive to Crownpoint is one of the loveliest in the state.

Crownpoint Elementary School. Don't bother to arrive before 4 pm.
They really won't let you inside earlier than that. 

Weavers registering their rugs for the auction.
Each rug gets a lot number and is labeled with the weaver's name and where they are from.
Once registered, the rugs are then sorted by size and put on different tables for buyers to touch, measure, examine and admire.
Things are piling up on the medium-sized rug table.

Little treasures on the small rug table.

Inspecting the rugs. Canny buyers come equipped with measuring tapes to check size and notebooks to note lot numbers so they can be ready to bid when their desired rugs are on the block.

The XL rug table holds room-sized rugs that will become the centerpiece of any decor.

A contemporary design in a modern colorway is coveted by many.
The young weaver is there to tell her story and add some nice history to the rug.
More weavers waiting in line outside to register their rugs for the auction.

Buyers examining the rugs while weavers await the auction on the bleachers.

See anything you like? 

There's a style, size and colorway to please everyone!

The auction begins at around 7 pm and continues until all lots are put up for auction. The weavers put reserve prices on their rugs, so they are sure to get a minimum for their efforts or the rug is withdrawn. It's a lively Friday evening and worth a look for anyone who appreciates expert weaving and textiles.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Shifty, a saga

This warp has been on the loom for entirely too long. I wasn't happy at first with my weft choices and it sat until I found a weft that was thin enough to show the pattern well, but not too thin that the fabric is sleazy. "Sleazy" is a weaving term that is used to describe a fabric where the warp and weft relationship is too loose and the threads can shift, ruining the structure of the fabric. A sleazy fabric is not a sound fabric. My fabric is just straddling the sleazy/sound line right now. 

Shifted warp being woven with end-feed shuttle and pirn filled with thin weft.
Woven fabric on the loom

The weft is a very fine coned yarn of unknown origin that I discovered in my stash. It is probably a 30/2 unmercerized cotton. The color is a very pale lavender and I have a huge cone of it that weighs close to 7 lbs! It works to give a gauzy effect to the cloth that I am liking at the moment. And if I can use up some of that huge cone, I'll be happy.

Detail of spot "floats" on fabric

The weaving started okay and I like the effect of the Spot Bronson lace threading on the ikat pattern. But my tension brake on the loom was too loose and every time I beat in the weft, the entire warp would advance a little. It became very frustrating and I put a time out on the weaving until I found a solution.

Aerial view of shifted warp fabric, waiting to be woven

More spots on ikat fabric

I figured that I had to weight the back beam so that the tension brake would hold better. This is the temporary fix.

It uses ankle weights and an old antique iron tied onto and hanging off the back beam.  I have an antique loom in Paris that uses ropes and weights on opposite sides of the back beam to provide tension to the warp. This is a variation of that idea.

No, it's not particularly pretty, but it is effective. The weaving is going much faster! According to my notes, this is a 9 yard warp, so fast is relative in this case.