From Waste to Wonderful: ScrapHappy

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From April to June.

From string to fabric.

From threads to towels.

From waste to wonderful (if I say it myself!)

I wrote in April about my weaving project that began with miles of leftover thread from previous projects. In fact, I used up almost two miles (or 3 kilometers, if you prefer) of thread that otherwise would’ve been considered waste!

From that, I got 4 thirsty kitchen towels, each slightly different. (You can click on the photos, to see the differences clearly.)

I also wove a small band from my leftovers, to make hanging tabs for each towel.

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And, because I wanted to leave pretty striped fringe on one piece, and fringe doesn’t really suit kitchen towels, I made a table runner, as well! Hemstitching secures the fringe.

I liked everything about this project and am unabashedly thrilled with the product. Once again, scraps make me happy.

Do they make you happy, too?

You might want to contact Kate and get in on the fun of sharing your creations!


From Kate: ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn,  Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren, Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon and Hayley

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Scrap Happy Weaving

Scrap happy? 

What’s so happy about scraps?

Scraps are just unwanted leftovers, right?

Not so fast, my friends!

For a substantial group of people scraps are the source of great happiness. Blogger Kate, from Tall Tales from Chiconia, has provided a space for happy scrappy crafters to showcase the ways they make beautiful things from bits and pieces that others might consider trash.

Why do scraps make us so happy?

Some of us are frugal and scraps used represent money saved.

Some of us are committed to sustainability and limiting our use of raw materials to make new when we can make do.

For some of us, scrappy is a preferred aesthetic. We like the look of a casual, unpredictable mix of colors and patterns, nothing too matchy-matchy and fussy for us.

And sometimes, using scraps solves a practical problem.

My scrappy project, a set of kitchen towels I am weaving, could be said to fall into all of these categories but it is primarily motivated by the last.

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The section at the bottom is woven with sewing thread and will be folded up as hem. This towel has small chevrons in the stripes.

Weavers deal with warp and weft threads. The warp is composed of long threads that are attached to the loom and the weft is made up of the horizontal threads that are interwoven into the warp. This interweaving is done with bobbins of thread placed in a shuttle. Each color thread uses a bobbin.

The amount of thread on the bobbin does not always run out at the same time the warp thread does.

We have dozens of bobbins here but, with two weavers weaving and leaving leftover thread on bobbins for nearly four years now, all the bobbins were used up! 

I could either buy more bobbins or free up some of the ones I had by using up the scraps.

My towels are made up of those scraps. Each warp stripe is 6 threads wide and I used scraps of colors interspersed with scraps of neutrals. All the threads are cotton or linen or a blend of the two.

Each warp thread is over 7 yards long and there are about 450 warp threads so my project used a lot of scrap!

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This is the warp, ready to go on the loom. Each thread is about 7 yards long.

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There are 24 ends, or threads, per inch

And I freed up a lot of bobbins and even a few cones.

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Empty bobbins mean potential weaving!

I should be able to weave 4-5 towels from this warp but may make a table runner with part of it. I’m doing the second towel now.

I quite love the look! I’ve learned that I must lean toward fairly subdued colors that are sort of “grayed”—my scraps contained very few clear bright colors and very few pastels. I have a lot of scraps of neutrals but more were unbleached or natural than pure white.

I dressed them loom with a very simple twill structure and I can change the look of each towel a little by the way I press the treadles. The towels will be first cousins, not identical twins!

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The first towel had little chevrons in the stripes. This one has little florets.

I will admit, I love getting a big box of new weaving yarn in the mail. I like planning a project and then purchasing the colors especially for that project. 

But as happy scrappers the world over know, there is something even more satisfying, and just as lovely, that comes from using what we have.

Are you, too, a happy scrapper? You might want to contact Kate and get in on the fun of sharing your creations!


From Kate: ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn,  Lynda,

Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,

Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys and Claire

Crafting for Comfort or for Challenge?

For those of you who make things, or garden, or write, or bake, or even take walks in the great outdoors, do you tend toward challenging yourself in new directions, pushing yourself to do more and more difficult? Or do you choose familiar, comfortable techniques and projects and paths to soothe you?

For most of us the answer is probably, “It depends.”

It depends on mood, other stressors in our lives, the time have available to work on a project, and maybe, basic temperament.

My basic temperament leads me to the familiar, the soothing, the comforting . . . the easy.

I don’t especially like fussy, complicated designs that seem, to me, overwrought. And I seem to have enough tenseness in my life without looking for more stress in my crafts. So I very often do more of the same, return to the familiar, make more of what I’ve already made, just variations on a theme.

But even I, sometimes, feel the need to push myself a little. My two most recent weaving projects, while not at all, in the least, wild and crazy, were forays into slightly different techniques.

And what I learned was that, even though I was moving away from my comfortable, known weaving, I was moving into weaving that was, almost immediately, as comfortable and manageable.

In other words, just because it was different, it wasn’t hard or stress producing or uncomfortable. And that was important for me to learn.

One project was kitchen towels. Nothing new and different about that! Kitchen towels, made of cotton and linen are, by far, my favorite weaving product. What made these towels a little bit of a walk on the wild side for me was that I used a weave structure I hadn’t before—called false damask—and I used 8 shafts, not for the first time but I haven’t used them too often.

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Many (most?) floor looms have 4 shafts—when you add more shafts, you can achieve more complex designs. My loom actually has 12 shafts but I’ve not used all 12 yet!

The thing that drew me to this particular weave structure, was the way the checks on the towels look like they are made of interwoven bands.

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For weavers, this pattern is #246 from A Weaver’s Book of 8 Shaft Patterns, edited by Carol Strickler.

IMG_1793I honestly wouldn’t’ve looked at this draft twice if I hadn’t received email from my prolific weaving pal, Joan, with a photo of her towels. They were so fab, I had to do my own!

The details: 8/2 cotton warp in white, with narrow navy stripes; 24 ends per inch. Weft in varying colors of 8/2 cotton and narrow navy stripes.

I like the yellow one best! And I wove coordinating tabs on my band loom.

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My other recent project was two scarves from one warp.

This structure is called Atwater Bronson lace and, honestly, it couldn’t be much easier! But it achieves this pretty lacy effect.

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For weavers, this pattern is straight out of Next Steps in Weaving by Patty Graver. Her project is for a table runner in 3/2 cotton. All I did was substitute finer, 8/2 rayon and Tencel, which achieve the narrower width and a super silky drape and feel.

I used warp stripes in both a deep teal in Tencel and a variegated rayon thread that included teal, purple and turquoise.

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I lined the lace “windows” up with the warp stripes so, when I wove the pattern, the windows alternated between the plain stripes and the variegated.

For one scarf I used the same deep teal as weft and, for the other, I used navy blue. I was surprised that I liked the effect of the navy better—it makes the brighter colors glow. The only other difference between the making of the two scarves is that the windows are shorter in one and quite long in the other.

 

 

Both of these projects were a joy to weave. I expected them to be difficult and to create agita but they were both manageable and  . . . really easy.

I was avoiding branching out because I craved comfort and reassurance yet I found just those things by taking a baby step outside my comfort zone.

And I achieved a different kind of comfort and reassurance in knowing that I was becoming the kind of weaver who could branch out, who could attempt new approaches, and could be successful, without drama.

A lesson, perhaps, to apply to other aspects of my life  . . . ?

My Weaving Ways (Winter 2018)

I’ve just realized that I have not written anything about weaving since mid-November!

That’s kind of crazy, really, since I weave almost every day and miss it when I can’t. I love weaving and when I’m not weaving I’m usually thinking about it, reading about it, wishing I could spend more time at it.

I guess I haven’t written about it for a few reasons.

Some of what I’ve woven hasn’t seemed that noteworthy. I wove a lot for two craft shows we participated in and, while the things I made were pretty and well crafted, they weren’t difficult or technically impressive, by standards of accomplished weavers.

Sometimes I’ve thought about a post about weaving but would think, “Oh, I’ll finish this project first and then I’ll write about it.” But then, I’d finish and immediately start a new project and the cycle would begin again.

Sometimes I’ve thought about a post about weaving but, honestly, resisted writing one more post that is nothing more than, “Hey, look at what I made!” That’s not really what I ever intended this blog to be, simply, a place for me to talk about myself and do a perpetual show-and-tell.

So, why am I’m finally writing the show-and-tell, catch-up-on-weaving post?

Well, since I spend SO much of my time at it, if I don’t write about weaving I’m not sure what else to write about. And I do want to stay in touch with you, through the blog, and I do want the blog to reflect where I am in my own “loving hands at home” world.

So, here goes nothing:

I’ve made a few scarves and have more on a loom right now.

I made several sets of these chunky placemats and similar coasters. These have been very popular and I should really make more . . .

I made a zillion coasters because Don wound a warp for coasters before he hurt his ankle. I decided to do the weaving, to free up the loom. He said the warp would make 15 coasters . . .  but 36 coasters later, I finally got them off the loom!

And I’ve made a LOT of towels. I continue to like making towels best of all.

There! After waiting so long to do this, I have to admit it’s kind of fun to see all the weaving in one place. Thanks for indulging me . . . it’s great to have friends with whom to share!

Someday . . .

Someday I’ll get caught up.

Someday I’ll tell you about the craft show and the trip to Florida and autumn in upstate New York (except now it’s over . . .)

Someday, I’ll update you on a lot of weaving and hand sewing I’ve been doing. Someday, I’ll be a regular correspondent here . . .

But not today.

Today is full of outside errands and chores, helping my mom adjust, keeping up with the basic details of family life.

So, today I’ll just show you a couple of photos that makes me happy–handwoven Christmas towels!

They started here.

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And now they’re done.

 

Our New Roommate . . .

I was delivered in late fall, in the mid-1950s. She was delivered two days later; we’re almost exactly the same age.

She lived her whole life in Vermont while I left upstate New York for many years, only to return and make my home here again.

Lately she found she needed a home so we invited her to live here. But she had to be willing to live in the garage until we found a place for her inside.

Does that sound mean? Making an older lady live in our garage?

It’s okay–she’s tough, and she’s happy to have a home where she is appreciated and can feel useful.

Our new housemate is a Macomber Add-A-Harness loom. Yes, another loom.

The Macomber company, started in 1936, is still in business and they could tell us that the serial number on our new loom meant the loom was delivered in late 1955 to Mrs. Maurice Jones of Montpelier, VT. Mrs. Jones, Jean, died at the age of 88 in 2013.

Her husband, Maurice, died just last year, at 93. When his belongings were dispersed, Jean’s loom sold at auction and we found it on Craigslist.

It’s a wonderful loom, sturdy and clean. It has 4 shafts but, as its name suggests, 4 more can be added, since the company is still going strong.

As often happens, the loom was sold with “extras”—when someone stops weaving, they have no need for the arcane tools of the trade.

And as much as I love the loom, it’s these extras that have really fascinated me.

Mrs. Jones went all in when she chose weaving as a hobby. She got books and magazines, some nice tools, and quite a lot of pretty thread.

In the 1950s, when a person wanted to buy weaving yarn, she couldn’t go on the internet and look at pictures or ask for samples. Mrs. Jones had to write to companies and request samples.

And she did. And she kept every sample she received.

Yarns from Lily and Butterworth and Troy and Golden Rule. If none of these names are familiar, it’s because the companies no longer exists. The Lily yarn you can currently buy has nothing to do with the Lily Mills of Shelby, NC, and though Troy still exists, the company now sells quilting cotton fabric. The others . . . all gone.

Mrs. Jones records are a mini-museum of weaving in mid-20th century America.

Did she become a great weaver? The evidence suggests she did not.

All of the requests for yarn sample are from 1955 and 1956.

The magazines are from the same years.

The items were all stored in newspaper-lined boxes, and the newspaper was from 1967.

Mrs. Jones’s obituary mentions that “Jean enjoyed flowers and gardening, her berry patch, mowing her acreage on her ‘Jean Deere’ tractor, bowling, square dancing, hand work, cooking and entertaining,” but says nothing of weaving.

It may be that she wove for a while. The man from whom we bought the loom remembers that, at the auction, there were hand-woven items and the auctioneer speculated that they were made on this loom.

Or maybe the weaving bug, that old arachnid, never really bit. And maybe the loom has been quiet for all these years.

I’ll keep Mrs. Jones records because I don’t know what else to do with them—I can’t just throw them away.

And all that yarn? Will we use it? That’s a tough one. When that yarn is gone, it’s gone forever, just like the once thriving textile industries is the United States . . .

But the loom will be quiet no more! Don has big plans for her.

She won’t live in the garage for long—at 60-something, she deserves better.

 

The Vavstuga Way

 

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My husband and I spent last week at a most special weaving school and were introduced to the Vavstuga Way. Vavstuga was founded on the Swedish and Scandinavian styles of weaving and teaching, and offers a number of really cool workshops each year. We were there for Weaving Basics.

What is the Vavstuga Way? Well, by the numbers:

One excellent school, in two locations, in one small town in rural Massachusetts. One pretty river runs through the town.

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One incredible teacher, Becky Ashenden. Becky is the founder and the heart, the soul, the electricity, the flame—choose your favorite metaphor to convey “life force”—of Vavstuga.

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Eight students in a Weaving Basics course. Six women, two men, some very experienced, some completely new to the craft. All congenial and happy to be sharing the week together.

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photo by Bettie Zakon-Anderson

Five days of weaving, for 10 hours a day.

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Eights looms. Four projects for each of us to finish—two towels, a small tablecloth, a wool throw.

 

Three times a day the bell rang, to announce yummy meals provided for us.

Swedish fiddlers—two; dancers—several.

 

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Almost too many to count:

  • Lovely handwoven items to use and learn from
  • Choices of colors in threads of cotton, linen, and wool
  • Tools and gadgets to purchase
  • Books to peruse and inspire

Innumerable

  • Mistakes made by students and fixed by Becky
  • Confused looks during drafting lessons
  • Laughs
  • Aches and pains
  • Doubts about finishing
  • Sighs of relief at finishing
  • Thrills at bringing our work home

The Vavstuga Way, by the impressions:

Maybe there are really two aspects of the Vavstuga Way. One is based on the use of a specific kind of Swedish loom and the details of using them—setting them up, adjusting them for ergonomics, weaving on them successfully.

My husband and I don’t have this kind of loom at home so some of what we learned will go unused.

But far more important than the specifics of looms and loom dressing is the other aspect of the Vavstuga Way. I see it as an attitude toward weaving.

I brought these lessons home:

  • The equipment and materials should be treated with respect but not awe. We learned to be less obsessive about each tiny detail of weaving and to focus on the larger process—good technique, quality materials, solving problems in ways that work for each of us, and our individual styles.
  • Natural is better. We used only the sorts of natural fibers that have been used for millennia—cotton, linen, wool—and to fully appreciate the qualities that have guaranteed that longevity.
  • Simple is beautiful. We did some of the most straightforward kinds of weaving possible and used color and thoughtful, consistent weaving to make lovely items.
  • Upbeat and energetic saves the day. Becky, our instructor, taught by example. Nothing fazes her; no mistake can’t be fixed; no frustration can’t be leavened with a quick joke and positive action.
  • I will worry less in the future about weaving the “right way” and using my loom the “right way.” I feel much more willing to re-think my system, to see what works for me, and be creative about what doesn’t.
  • What we make is meant to be used. We slept under handwoven coverlets, wiped our hands on handwoven towels and napkins. Every meal featured different handwoven table settings, each lovelier than the last. The curtains at the windows, as well as the tieback ribbons, the cushions on the benches, the rugs, our teacher’s clothing . . . all woven by hand, all being used with respect and enthusiasm.

Our intense week at Vavstuga is over and neither my husband nor I have touched a loom since we got home. But we spent much of the drive home and our time since talking about weaving, thinking about it, planning for more. And we’ve admired our work repeatedly!

And, of course, we are already thinking ahead, looking at the course listings for more advanced weeklong workshops, to continue our exploration of the Vavstuga Way.


For more information about the Vavstuga Way, visit their website and the blog Tammy Weaves, written by a member of the inaugural session of the Vavstuga Immersion program.