Friday, June 13, 2014

Tapestry Weaving - The Beginning

Some weaving exercises hanging out on my board. 
I've been playing around with weaving for quite some time and have been very drawn to tapestry weaving. I made the decision to seek out some tapestry classes so that I could learn the techniques properly and start from the beginning. A quick search led me to Ixchel Suarez and her amazing studio. 

In addition to being a renowned weaver, Ixchel runs a small art school called the Oakville Arts Studio. I was excited to see that it was close by and went to visit the studio that very same week. I knew when I entered the studio and spoke with her that she was going to be the teacher for me! She started me on a "weaving journal" - several small weavings that go over the basics of tapestry weaving. 

I started with basics, joins, decreases and circles and moved on to colour gradations. Now, I'm working on texture (my personal favourite)… 

I'm having so much fun and learning a lot. I'm so glad I the studio and get to go once a week, learn from Ixchel and be around all the other artists working on their own projects. It's just such a wonderful community and I'm so inspired every time I go. 

Colour gradation and basic techniques.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Two crochet techniques I need to use more...

I love crochet - a lot. When I'm crocheting I feel cool, I can go fast and make fancy patterns and it just makes sense to me. I've been crocheting for much longer than I have been knitting. When I first started to crochet it was for sculptural purposes - elements to add to my artwork. Now, I crochet garments and still use it in my artistic practise.




The Cloister 

The first technique that I love and want to do more of is Tapestry Crochet (also called: Mosaic Crochet, Jacquard Crochet, Intarsia, Fair Isle and Hard Crochet). It's a technique where you carry and use different colours to make patterns within your work. Much like colour work in knitting. I was first introduced to this technique by Danielle Kassner who is just amazing. I started working on her pattern for fingerless gloves called, "Cloister" during her class and never finished them. They went into my "unfinished" pile, not sure why because I was enjoying making them so much. I think now that I have more experience doing this technique, I'll make them again. It takes awhile to get your tension right. Another pattern I'm almost finished is another from the same designer called, "Camino de Santiago". It's an infinity scarf.
I got super inspired when I went to the David Bowie show that was at the Art Gallery of Ontario late last year. I saw all his wild knit "fair isle" patterned costumes and immediately wanted to make some of my own patterns BUT in crochet not knit! The costumes I am referring to were designed by Kansai Yamamoto.
The Camino de Santiago

The second technique is Broomstick Lace (also called Jiffy Lace). This techniques uses a very large knitting needle that the stitches are hooked around, you then remove the needle and catch the loops in different configurations to create a very unique and lofty lace. It was traditionally done on a broomstick and was called Jiffy Lace because you can create something rather quickly compared to doing other traditional lace making techniques. I wouldn't necessarily agree with that, as I'm making a shawl and it's quite awkward as it's increasing and the stitch count is growing…  I learned this technique the old fashion way - sitting down with an old book and my friend Tamaralda who was taking the Crochet Guild of America's Certification Program (I learned lots of different crochet techniques that year!).


Maybe I'll write about those techniques another time...

Not the best picture, but you see the large knitting needle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blending Board Fun!



I have a fun new piece of fibre processing equipment, it's been sitting in my studio for a while. It's called a blending board, or, blending palette. Mine is made by Fancy Kitty. Basically, it's like a giant flat carder that you can place fibre on in any pattern you like. It's great for using up bits and pieces and you can make some really cool rolags. Get into playing with blends and also processing for colour repeats. I felt I could be very creative with it.

I finally got to play with mine when my Spinning Guild had a "Blending Board Party". A bunch of us got together and just played for an afternoon. 
























I focused on making vertical stripes and used colours that would usually not blend well together. Because you can be so precise with how you lay your material down, you can do interesting things like that and maintain the colour separation as you spin. You can really pack a lot of fibre on it and I ended up pulling three rolags off for each palette I filled.
























I spun them up and really enjoyed the results. It was a little challenging to spin because I really used a lot of different types of fibres, some of which are much easier to spin. All in all, I really love the results and can't wait to play with it more! Now, I just have to decide what to do with the finished yarn… hmmm….

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Year-Long Sweater...


 What goes in to making something?  Creativity? Satisfaction of a "job well done"? Skill? Yes, all these things and much, much more. 

I'm going to focus one year and the sweater I made from my own hand spun yarn. 

As a lot of good things, this particular venture started in October at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival AKA Rhinebeck. In 2012, I decided to purchase enough roving to spin yarn for a sweater. I wanted the sweater to be crocheted (because I love crocheting) and I wanted it to be done by the following year when I would attend the festival again.
Jill Draper, Cal Patch and myself.
For this, my first entire sweater made from my own hand spun, I needed a special tool. So, I paid a visit to the Willette's booth. The Willette's hand-make tools for creating textiles. They are beautiful. I believe in the resonance of the maker on an object, so I was starting this project with all the care and attention that this couple puts into making their tools. I was also using roving that had been grown by a wool grower - someone who cared for their sheep. The sheep's gift in return, a lovely fleece. The care it took to process and dye this roving was also imbued in the wool. A lot of hands had already been involved in the process of making this sweater and I had not even started my part yet!
Mr. Willette hard at work.
I returned home and the year went on. 

I started spinning in November…. My idea was to create a multi-coloured yarn that didn't repeat and had short sections of colour. I decided I would randomly spin the 5 colours of roving into my singles and then chain-ply them to retain the general look of changing colour repeats.
 


















The winter went by and in addition to spinning for this sweater I was working on Holiday gifts and other stuff.

In April, my nephew Finn was born… I continued spinning with the joy of now having another little one in my life.
Proud Auntie!
In May, I started my third year of school (the "hump-year" for the OHS program) and I spent a lot of time over the next several months spinning, sampling, dyeing and writing in preparation for handing in my homework. I took a break from my personal spinning at this point. But, it was there, a few skeins and a nearly full bobbin. I saw it and I ruminated and my skills improved because of school.

June was a big month. I got a chance to go to the beautiful province of Newfoundland. It was for Boomer's 40th birthday - a milestone in itself. In addition to the beauty of the east coast of Canada, I was struck by how wonderfully supported crafts people are in the province. I got to visit many studios and galleries and was greatly inspired.

This inspiration was tempered with grief as news of the passing of a close friend. I now was working on this project in reflection of his life and how the loss affected those left behind. It became more meditative and less intentional.

July brought a huge life change - Boomer and I purchased a house! I never thought this would be possible in my life. The thing that struck me most about the house was the room that has become my studio. Spinning in the bright sun coming in the windows and listening to the sounds of our new neighbourhood was refreshing and healing after the loss of the month before.

Early in September was a chance to say, "Cheerio" to my friend with some wonderful people in my life. We celebrated his life by taking a Scottish themed cruise around Toronto on a tall ship and letting some origami cranes float away. This would have been close to my friend's heart and we were able to grieve and celebrate. By now, I was finished making all the yarn I needed and was ready to swatch.

In mid-September I was lucky enough to attend the Wolfe Island Fibre Festival with my friend Andie of Well Turned Out Fibre House who was selling her hand-dyed and processed fibre. I started crocheting in the autumn sun surrounded by "fibre people".
Shadows on the beach of Wolfe Island.
 























Here we are back to October 2013. I finished my Violaine just in time to wear to Rhinebeck.
Some fun puppet friends at Rhinebeck 2013.
So, you see… A lot goes into each step of making something. Joy, sorrow, reflection, planning, pride. All of these emotions and factors are reflected in the spinning and in the stitches. The yarn isn't perfect and there are things I would do differently next time. However, the alchemy and memory of everything that happened over that year will remain in the fabric of this sweater. And, every time I look at it, feel it, or wear it, I'm reminded of how it grew to become what it is. It may not be visible to others, but to me, it's all there - in every last stitch.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Possible


Being in California was such a time of recharging and inspiration. One of the very best things I had the good fortune to do, was visit the Berkeley Art Museum and the ongoing and amazing interactive exhibit, The Possible. 
To call it an "exhibit" is kind of the wrong word, it's more of a learning experience facilitated by many artists, musicians and craftspeople.
Group indigo dye dip.
The weekend I was there, there were several things going on. A giant rug was being worked on by the artist (Fritz Haeg) as well as the public, there was a group indigo dye session in full swing, participatory print making area, beeswax candle making and some weaving going on. The music studio was set up and people were there making sounds and videos, the library was set up for people to peruse and use to make zines. 



I cannot describe the full extent of how I felt on my visit, because it was a full sensory experience, one that is not easily described in words. Please look at the information and videos on the BAM website
It was really a learning experience, a place to make and leave a mark. As pieces are created, they are moved to a growing and changing exhibition space which will house the culmination of The Possible as the weeks go on.
Print making station.
It felt so good to participate and I left feeling inspired and less scatterbrained about being very multi-diciplanary in my own work. 
I was happy to be accompanied by my creative cohort Jenne -  it was wonderful to experience this together. I got to watch her remove her cute handmade dress and give it a dip in the indigo vat. 





















We also got to visit artist and nature dyer Kristine Vejar's indigo vat after we had spoken with her about it at her booth at Stitches West (I also got to visit her dreamy store A Verb for Keeping Warm on the same day). 
Driving back to the South Bay from Berkeley that day during California's "magic hour" and sipping on our Arnold Palmers - Jenne and I were on cloud 9!


Kristine and Jenne at Stitches West.

Happy as can be at A Verb for Keeping Warm.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Saori in Santa Cruz

Someone LOVES Saori weaving.
A small collection at an amazing studio.





















Wow! I just got back from an amazing visit to the bay area. It was so super so visit with my amazing friend Jenne and her family. We did so many amazing things, there will be several posts to reflect my adventures…
Tea, inspiring stones and magical bobbins all ready for our workshop.
The first thing I would like to share is our Saori weaving workshop. We met Jill of Saori Santa Cruz and got to try out Saori weaving in her beautiful studio surrounded by redwood trees.
Getting down to business…


Saori weaving is a way of weaving that allows the creator to be completely free and open to what they are creating. It took me a while to "get into" it. I tried really hard to enter the studio with no expectations or ideas of what I wanted to produce and just let myself be inspired by the materials, atmosphere and my lovely friend - and of course Jill!
Weaving away.
Weaving away on another loom.
Up close.
Pleased with the results!
 We also got to try out this new amazing spinning wheel from National Custom Spinning Works. The man who makes them used to do custom cars and you can really tell by the aesthetic and materials!
Jenne trying out a cool new wheel while Jill looks on.

Tea Break...
Jill was nice enough to write her own blog entry about our day, please take the time to read it too. 
Jenne inspects one of Jill's amazing creations.