May 2016 Virginia Olson Awards

A highlight of the May meeting is the Virginia Olson competition, named in honor of a longtime member who nurtured and encouraged others. This year the theme “It’s a Small World” was chosen by committee members Judi Langholz, Elaine Lawler, and Colette Ubben. Throughout the year, members were encouraged to explore techniques and fibers from around the world. The winner of each category was chosen by the votes of members in attendance.

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Each weaving entry used a technique from around the world and was labeled with the area of its origin.

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The members selected this Scandinavian Krokbragd rug woven by Becky Metcalf to receive the award for weaving.

The handspun skeins were to be made from a fiber from around the world using any spinning technique.

The handspun skeins were to be made from a fiber from around the world using any spinning technique.

The members’ choice was Karen Agee’s skein of Rambouillet wool dyed Abusson blue. The Rambouillet breed originated in the Domain of Rambouillet, near Paris, France. Karen’s fiber came from a full-blooded Rambouillet who resides in Iowa.

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Items in the dyeing category were hand-dyed using a technique from around the world.

Items in the dyeing category were hand-dyed using a technique from around the world.

Shibori is traditionally thought of as Japanese, and indigo originated in India. Mary Kay Madsen used both of these elements in her award-winning dyed fabric.

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Any fiber process inspired by your world experience could be entered in this category.

Any fiber process inspired by your world experience could be entered in this category.

The project chosen in the Any Fiber Process category was Becky Metcalf’s felted jacket embellished with beads. The origins of felt go back to ancient legends, and Becky’s beading inspiration was Queen Anne’s Lace.

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The Audrey Stevens Award in Weaving is presented each year for a woven item submitted to the Virginia Olson competition that demonstrates exceptional craftsmanship. This year’s recipient is Diane Davison. The colors used in her woven basket were inspired by Native American weaving.

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The committee thanks all the members who participated in this year’s competition. The quality of the entries made voting difficult with every entry receiving some votes.

Elections for president and vice president were held during the business meeting. Diane Davison accepted the presidency, and Gail Murfey will be vice president.

A big thank you goes out to out-going officers Karen Kitchen and Jan Gallagher. We appreciate your leadership and inspiration during the past two years.

 

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Mary Ann the Librarian

When the Northeast Iowa Weavers and Spinners Guild moved into our current building, we finally had enough space to house an actual library. Fortunately for us, one of our members was a professional librarian, and she was willing to take on the daunting task of turning boxes of books into a bona fide library. Since then Mary Ann Upchurch has worked countless hours assembling the Guild’s library starting with building the shelves.

Mary Ann, along with a group of dedicated volunteers, categorized all of the items, built a data base of the collection, and put together a card catalog. The work continues as new books are added to the library. The current collection contains 918 catalogued items as well as a large collection of periodicals.  In addition Mary Ann displays books that feature our monthly program topics, manages overdue books with diligence and tact, keeps books in order, and dusts the shelves. She does an excellent job of giving the library a welcoming climate that encourages members to take advantage of its resources.

Mary Ann will be passing the torch to a new librarian soon as her husband’s job transfer will be taking them back to Georgia. Her vision for the library’s future is to have an online searchable data base of the collection and continue to add books that reflect the wide range of our members’ interests.

We thank Mary Ann for her dedication and expertise and wish her all the best in the next chapter of her life. In her honor the library will officially be named the Mary Ann Upchurch Library.

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Using Space-Dyed Yarn

We all love our beautiful space-dyed yarns, whether we dye them ourselves or buy them at our local yarn shop. Sometimes one of those beautiful colors accumulates in one spot, which is not so beautiful. This is called pooling or puddling. Pooling sometimes occurs when the diameter of the knitting changes, for example, from the body of a sweater to the sleeves.

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Guild member Abi Hutchison of High Prairie Fibers, presented a variety of creative ways to avoid pooling for the April meeting.

Abi Hutchison presented the April program on using space-dyed yarn.

Abi Hutchison presented the April program on using space-dyed yarn.

To start her investigation, Abi knit samples from the same yarn using different stitches. She found stitches that rough up the surface of the fabric such as moss, cable, and seed stitches helped break up pooling. Alternating space-dyed yarn with a plain yarn  or knitting them together can also be effective. Another tip is to work with opposite ends, the inside and outside, of your ball of yarn.

Alternate two coordinating space-dyed yarns for an interesting result.

Alternate two coordinating space-dyed yarns for an interesting result.

Any technique that incorporates short rows such as modular or log cabin knitting can concentrate the colors of space-dyed yarns for dramatic results.

Modular knitting takes advantage of color changes.

Modular knitting takes advantage of color changes.

If you like the look of Fair Isle but don’t like the idea of changing all those colors, use a space-dyed yarn instead.

Use space-dyed yarn in Fair Isle knitting for color changes with no ends to weave in!

Use space-dyed yarn in Fair Isle knitting for color changes with no ends to weave in!

Mosaic knitting or other slip stitch techniques work well with space-dyed yarns.

An example of mosaic knitting using space-dyed and solid yarns.

An example of mosaic knitting using space-dyed and solid yarns.

There are many resources available for instruction and patterns to apply Abi’s suggestions. An Internet search or checking out our Guild’s library would be a good start.

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Of course space-dyed yarns can also be used in weaving, but that would be a different program!

Thank you, Abi, for delving into this topic and sharing what you learned with us. It’s time to grab some needles and yarn and get started. You can follow Abi’s High Prairie Fibers on Facebook.

Here are some links to free patterns:

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http://knitting-and-so-on.blogspot.ch/2014/05/seifenblasen-lace-scarf.html

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http://knitting-and-so-on.blogspot.de/2015/06/ojos-de-bruja-scarf.html

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Spring Open House and Sale

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March into Making Bags

The March program was presented by our very own “Bag Lady,” Ellen Sakornbut. (Her words, not mine 😊)  She enjoys making bags because they are very functional, and everyone likes and needs bags. In addition, making a bag can fulfill one’s artistic impulse. Ellen claims not to be an expert, but after seeing her work many of us might disagree. She has learned a lot through experience and making mistakes.

Ellen Sakornbut presented the March program about making bags.

Ellen Sakornbut presented the March program about making bags.

When making a bag we need to ask, “What question is this bag an answer to?” Do I want something to carry and protect my spinning wheel, rigid heddle loom, or smart phone? Do I need to have my hands free? Do I want to make a certain impression? Do I want a duffel, backpack, clutch, lunch box, or market bag?

Next we choose a technique to use. Bags can be knitted and felted, woven, crocheted, nuno felted, or sewn. We can upcycle materials we have on hand such as men’s suits, plastic bags, bailing twine, burlap bags, or denim jeans. We can purchase sturdy upholstery fabric or  Pendleton blanket ends.

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The form the bag takes is dictated by the its function. Things to think about include:

  • should it close on top?
  • how about adding a pocket?
  • zip or no zip?
  • cross body, shoulder, or adjustable strap?
  • what size?
  • structured or unstructured?

Most bags need handles, and Ellen shared her thoughts on various choices. Leather handles can be costly, but they may be worth it. They are sturdy and wear well. Wooden handles look nice but can get banged up. A bag frame with attached handles provides another option. You could weave your own handle on an inkle loom. Keep an open mind about what might make a good handle. The eye-catching handles on this bag are drapery tiebacks.

The handles on this woven bag were fashioned from drapery tiebacks.

The handles on this woven bag were fashioned from drapery tiebacks.

One helpful hint Ellen wanted everyone to leave with was how to make a box corner on the bottom of your bag so it is flat.

It's handy to know how to make box corners so your bag has a flat bottom.

It’s handy to know how to make box corners so your bag has a flat bottom.

Click here for a tutorial from the Creative Cloth blog on making box corners.

Here are other great ideas from Ellen:

  • Keep in mind a larger bag means you can carry more things. How heavy do you really want your filled bag to be?
  • Look to the internet for inspiration. Ellen likes to search Etsy and Facebook groups for nuno felting ideas.
  • You can create more space in your bag by adding pockets, pleats, and gathers.
  • Padding and fusable fleece may be used to add structure to your bag.
  • Choose a lining that is dense and durable. Good choices include cotton, satin, and silk.
  • Zippers for a top closure should be chunky. Avoid problems by sewing a bit of fabric at each end.
  • When using bulky fabric, zigzag pocket edges.
  • Flat-felled seams give more strength.
  • Use selvedge edges for seams when possible.
  • Purse feet, magnetic closures, grommets, rings, and clasps are also available for purchase to complete your bag.

Our thanks go out to Ellen for giving us ideas for more ways upcycle rather than throw away and to utilize our handspun yarns and handwoven fabric.

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Fun with Treadles and Shafts

Guild member Glenn Davison presented the February program on computer dobby loom weaving at home. When you think of computer assisted weaving, do you envision pressing a button, stepping back, and watching as inch after inch of fabric is effortlessly produced? According to Glenn this is the biggest misconception about computer dobby loom weaving. It actually is hand weaving.

Glenn started with a discussion about the two shaft loom. There are two possible combinations: the threads are up, or they are down. What happens when more shafts are added is rather amazing.

  • 4 shafts = 14 combinations
  • 8 shafts = 254 combinations
  • 16 shafts = 65,534 combinations
  • 32 shafts = 4,300,000 combinations!

(For those with inquiring minds, the mathematical formula is as follows: 2 to the nth power minus 2 when n equals the number of shafts.)

Glenn shares the possible combinations for an eight shaft loom.

Glenn shares the possible combinations for an eight shaft loom.

The addition of shafts to a loom allows for more variety and complexity in patterns. However, using foot treadles to lift the additional shafts becomes increasingly difficult, and the number of shed combinations is limited by the number of treadles and the tie up.

Around 1843 the mechanical dobby loom was introduced. It has no treadles; the dobby controls the warp threads allowing for all the shaft combinations to be available to the weaver. The dobby also keeps track of the pattern sequence.

Today the mechanical dobby loom has been improved with the addition of computer technology. The dobby is controlled by solenoids which raise and lower the shafts. A loom control screen shows where the weaver is in the pattern sequence as well as the past rows and the next rows. The weaver can save and come back to the same spot later.

This is what you might see on the loom control screen.

This is what you might see on the loom control screen.

Mechanical dobby looms are still available. Setting them up is labor intensive, and the patterns are limited to the length of a belt. They are relatively inexpensive but are cumbersome for the home user.

Computer dobby looms have endless program length and can store patterns. The user can design his/her own patterns or can import patterns. They do require a computer, software programs and drivers, and they can be costly.

Click on the link to see a 16 shaft LeClerc Weavebird computer dobby loom in action. The weaver tells the dobby to advance to the next shed using the two treadles. Computer Dobby Loom Video

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Glenn’s computer dobby loom is a LeClerc Weavebird similar to the one pictured above. It has sixteen harnesses and is forty-five inches wide. Weavebirds are countermarche looms meaning the harnesses move either up or down for every shot. This results in a good shed and reduces friction on the yarns. It comes with either a traditional or overhead beater and single or double beam. With a double beam, tension can be adjusted for two different types of yarns separately. The harnesses on dobby looms are slender and close together taking up less space than one might expect.

Here are some helpful tips for weavers from Glenn:

  • To improve selvedges, use an end feed shuttle with pirns. The tension can be adjusted, and the speed of weaving is increased.
  • It it helpful to have computer and mechanical knowledge to operate a computer dobby loom.
  • Find a spot with plenty of space and good light when placing your loom. (A remodeling project may or may not be required. 😉)

Our thanks go to Glenn for sharing his knowledge of  computer dobby looms with us.

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January 2016 Program–Overshooting the Mark

Each year guild members focus on a specific weave structure. Today Jan Gallagher introduced us to overshot.

History indicates that overshot was brought to the United States from Scotland or England. It was a commonly used structure up to the Civil War. For a while overshot was mostly forgotten except in regions of the Appalachian Mountains. Mary Atwell and the Colonial Weaver’s Association are credited for keeping overshot alive in the U.S.

Jan shared the introduction to Madeline VanDer Hooght’s overshot video. Here are some of Madeline’s insights:

  • Weaving can be used as a creative outlet and to releave stress.
  • Sections of overshot may be used for enhancing a fabric.
  • Generally a thick yarn is used for the overshot pattern and a thinner yarn is used for the plain weave.
  • Overshot is woven using two shuttles. One shuttle is for the plain weave background, and the other shuttle is for the heavier floats going over and under the background to form the pattern.
  • Overshot is a block weave. Some blocks appear to be the solid pattern color, some are the background color, and some are half tones.
  • Intricate patterns can be created with just four harnesses.

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Even those of us who have previously woven overshot patterns now have a better understanding of this weave structure.

A loom has been warped so members can weave their own piece of ten by ten inch overshot. If interested, please sign up to reserve your turn. The 10/2 pearl cotton is provided by the Guild, and the weft is BYOW. (Bring Your Own Weft) Jan suggested using a fingering weight yarn for the weft and estimated at least eighty yards will be needed. Please tag your completed project with your name.

Jan then shared an entertaining video she made as a tutorial for the project pointing out that the treadle numbers for the pattern are labeled on the front beam. The arrows on the beam indicate the direction the the tabby shot should be thrown.

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Marty Olsen wrapped up the program by inspiring us with three of her overshot projects. Marty’s advise: “Frame your projects!”

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Whether woven on the studio’s loom or at home, we are looking forward to seeing our members’ overshot projects. Perhaps some will be entries in the Virginia Olson competition coming up in May.

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