Archive for August, 2012

Untempting temptation

Last night, after dinner, my friend XiaoNing took me to meet a friend of hers and fiber arts business woman who specializes in needle felting. She does designs, felts, and markets both designs and felting. I saw a fabulous bag, unfinished, that I want to purchase.

Her business is conducted out of an old apartment building. Communist butt ugly on the outside, but spacious on the inside with the usual cramped kitchen and porcelain hole toilet. Her workroom will occasion sighs of envy amongst needle felters everywhere. Here’s what the floor-to-ceiling shelves alongside one wall of the room looked like, and there was more in the hallway.


The wall is about 12’ long. Each of those bags on the shelf contain 20 kg/approx. 40 lbs. of 100% wool rolags, some from OZ and some from NZ sheep. The rolags come pre-dyed, and cost about 160 RMB/$26.50 USD per kilo or 2.2 pounds. So, each bag costs 3,200 RMB/$533.

Anyway, I was offered a needle felting kit and turned it down. Once upon a time, I would have taken it, tried it out, and distracted myself. That was then. This is now. All my passion is for tapestry weaving, and there’s no reservoir for passing fancies.


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So, the loom was all dressed to weave The Banana Seller in the Putong De Series. The bobbins, yarns, scissors and such were laid out as precisely as a surgical tray. Then, whaddaya know?! Guess who stepped up? The Conversation, another tapestry in the series. This one is about two men standing, in the gloaming, here in Nanning, eating something and chatting. I liked the position of their bodies in relation to each other, how they stood relaxed, at ease, friends.

The loom is set up with 12/6 Bocken’s warp at 14 e.p.i. The weft is a silk-wool blend which feels really delicious to the touch.

The Conversation is being woven in various shades of grey, white, a few touches of black, and will look like this:


It will lead naturally into The Banana Seller which will be a study in line in tapestry, woven almost entirely in black and white with a few greys.

There you have it. The Conversation pipped The Banana Seller at the post. Who cares? It is as I told my Chinese friend: there is beauty in the ordinary, everyday things in China. I don’t need no stinkin’ cherry blossoms or dragons or images of traditional dress. All I have to do is look around and see people doing everyday things.

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Having an aversion to fringes, I was at a bit of a loss about starting and ending a tapestry so the wefts would be secure after the tapestry was cut down.

Sure, I’d read about looping and such, but something Marilyn Rea-Menzies taught me have been extremely effective and weft-slippage is something I no longer worry about.

The first line of the hem consists of a double Greek soumak knot on each warp thread. Here’s an example of what I mean.
Knot 1:

Knot 2:

Here’s how you start it.

1. Pass the tail end of the weft thread under the first warp on the left side.
2. Pass the bobbin or tapestry needle under the same thread. Leave a loop.
3. Pass the bobbin/needle back through the loop and pull, keeping a finger on the knot to hold it tight.
4. Pass the weft around the thumb of your left hand to get it out of the way, then pass the bobbin/needle over and under the first warp and pull tightly to the right. Use your finger to help keep things tight.
5. Pass the weft over the next warp, then under, come up to the left of it, and pull right
6. On the same warp, pass the weft over, under to the left, and pull it out into the loop caused thereby, and tighten.
7. Go on to the third warp and continue this way until you reach the final warp on the right.

In between knots on each warp, make sure the weft is held taut. Also, make sure each knot is pulled tight. When you have finished a line of these double Greek soumak knots across the warps, you will have a secure baseline for your tapestry. In fact, to ensure your line is straight, insert a thin 1″ cardboard weft against which to hold the Greek soumak knots.

That line of double Greek soumak knots on each warp is how I start and finish a tapestry to secure the the weft at the beginning, before the hem is woven, and at the end, after the hem is done.

Finally, I start and end as follows:

1. A tight line of double Greek soumak knots on each warp to prevent weft slippage.
2. Weave .5” to 1” of hem. The bigger the tapestry, the closer the hem size comes to the 1” mark.
3. Weave two rows of continuous Greek soumak knots to mark the end of the hem and the beginning of the tapestry.

These two rows of soumak are different from the double Greek knots because there’s only one knot be warp going up and down.

The finished row should look like this: (<;<;<;;>;>;>;), depending on which side you begin.
4. The order of ending simply reverses the process: tapestry, soumak, hem, double Greek soumak knots.

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New Tapestry

After several days of drawing a blank and silence from Vanity of Vanities, I decided to move on. Actually, I was going to hang in until Vanity agreed to be woven on the Freja. It hasn’t. However, a new design is on the horizon.

I was at my friend’s place of business yesterday when a vendor appeared on the scene. Tall woman, slim, great facial bones, powerful colors of clothing. She was a fruit seller, and over her shoulder was the traditional bamboo slat with a carrying basket on each end.

Amazed, I watched her approach and pass by before my brain and camera clicked into gear. Then I hustled after her and was able to get a shot off, a good and dramatic one, too, before she made her objection to being photographed. After years of being photographed without my consent here, I say turn about is fair play.

The shot showed up beautifully in photoshop, and there’s the next tapestry. The first of the China tapestries series called Putong De, meaning ordinary things. In China, I see beauty in the ordinary things that the average Chinese take for granted or disdain. So, The Banana Seller is the new title. It’s the one that speaks now but may change its voice later on.

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New loom

A friend gave me some hard board–I have no idea of its composition, suffice it to say, it is not wood. Anyway, with the newly discovered “office pins,” I made a small loom, 5.5″ x 6.75″, out of a portion of it. Here’s how to make such a loom:

1. Measure off 1/8″ segments across the top and bottom, making sure there are an odd-numbered set of marks.
2. Insert the pins at the marks along the invisible centerline of the narrow top edge. Make sure none of the pins protrude on either back or front side. If they do, reseat them in the same hole centering them.
3. Wrap the finished loom in duct tape or whatever you fancy to give it a bit of a finished look.
4. Tie a slip not around the first pin on the left side first pin and begin warping the new loom.
5. If the loom is long enough, weave in a couple of flashcards against which to weave a straight line hem.
6. Tie soumak knots on the warps, to prevent weft slippage when you cut off the tapestry, and begin weaving the hem.
7. Happy weaving.



So, I’m just using it to review structures and techniques. Now, I can weave wherever I go, on the bus, sitting around waiting for someone, while students are busy working, wherever. More importantly, now I can experiment without tying up Freja.

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Simply Warped at Etsy

I’m setting up Simply Warped to sell yarn, yarn, and yarn over at Etsy.

What kind of yarn, you ask? Right now, uncarded white silk batt, carded silk, silk yarn. What I have right now in 2.2 lb./1 kg cones is this:

100% 2/15 silk
75%-25% 2/15 silk-cotton blend
100% 2/24 linen

The uncarded silk batt and the carded silk come in one pound weights.

Later on, I will have other wool and wool blend yarns, camel, rabbit, marten, and whatever I can purchase for resale.

Though Simply Warped over at Etsyisn’t up and running yet, I can entertain orders and requests if buyers want something I have or want me to obtain something.

Remember, i am presently in China, so for the time being, once a week, all orders will be shipped, express, in bulk from China to the USA, where individually pre-packaged orders will be mailed out to the buyer.

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That’s the question!

Nothing I’ve thought of laying down on the warps is sticking. Nothing, I tell you, nothing!

So, I unpacked and repacked the vacuum-storage bag I’m using to store yarns, rifled through the two iOmega HD’s that accompany me on my peregrinations. There, I found the photoshop I’d done of Vanity of Vanities, and kicked myself that I never got that version of the image printed up large before flying out.

What’s so spectacular about this image? Well, the artist’s drawing of Solomon is colored according to his vision. In fact, he called the drawing Solomon. I don’t. If I were to lay down the weft according to his vision, I’d make myself a stenographer in yarn. That, I am not.

So, the question was then, what do I see when I look at the artist’s depiction of Solomon. In his drawing, Solomon is an old man seated on his throne, surrounded by the implements of music, wisdom, wealth, and such. However, he is not joyful. Instead, he looks depressed, morose, burdened by the cares and excesses of his life.

What I heard when I looked at the drawing, done in various shades of gold, with slight touches of rose, green, and darker colors, what I heard was vanity of vanities and vexation of spirit. Ecclesiastes 1. Immediately, I knew there could only be one name for this tapestry: Vanity of Vanities.

So, for a long time, I knew what the tapestry was about, what the name of it would be. I also thought I knew what it would look like. Wrong.

The absolute value of the drawing had to remain constant. That means, in order to weave Vanity, I could and would not alter a single line of the drawing but would attempt to depict each line faithfully. Stenography? Yes. However, the artist drew Solomon, but I perceived Vanity of Vanities, character versus spiritual condition. Immediately, there is the demarcation line between the original artist’s vision and mine. The difference in perspective creates the line though we both agree on the absolute, and quite likely would on my vision of his work.

So, then, to weave a tapestry of the absolute value of the artist’s vision reconciled with mine, I had to alter the work to reflect my vision while leaving the absolute value, the lines, untouched. Therefore, I went into Photoshop, everybody’s best friend, fiddled with the image, and finally settled for an inversion of it.

There it is! There! The inversion altered the colors and gave Solomon an insubstantial quality while retaining his dark spiritual condition, and bringing every line, not quite seen in the original, into sharp relief. Then I flipped it horizontally, just because I could. The alteration of the colors, combined with the pose in which the artist drew his creation, brought about the marriage of the two visions that results in Vanity of Vanities.

Now, if only I could get the Mirrix here, for, now that I’ve found that inverted image and scrutinized it, and thought about it, and looked at it from various angles, Vanity, while it has not yet broken its self-imposed silence, has begun to hum in the background.

Maybe I should just go home and weave Vanity on the Macomber!

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