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Here Be Dragons

Dragon tablet/inkle weaving loom

It didn’t occur to me until after I typed the title, but it refers to not only the dragon loom in the picture, but also to me. Our high school mascot was a dragon, so of course every student that has ever graduated from there is called, naturally, a dragon. Kind of amusing, but there you go.

The beauty in the picture came from Toplyfiberarts on Etsy. It arrived today, and I’m very happy with it. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the fact that it didn’t have a base; none of them do. So when it is freestanding, it leans on its pegs. That was what I didn’t like. So, immediately, the PIP and I headed out to a specialty lumber yard. The loom is made of African mahogany, and treated with linseed oil, and we wanted the new base to match the loom, thus the specialty yard. We found a nice piece of African mahogany there, although less figured than the loom itself, had it cut to the size we decided on, and then bought a quart of linseed oil before heading back home.

The PIP, as you’ve seen in the earlier post about my new shelves, is a fair hand with woodwork, so when we got home, he proceeded to sand all the edges until they were nicely rounded, then he put me to work applying the linseed oil. Initially, the wood we bought was a different color, but the addition of the linseed oil deepened the color until it matched the loom. Okay, I am certain it’s a dead match. The PIP, who is a perfectionist, to put it in polite terms, says it’s “very close”. What that means, in the language of the rest of the world, is perfect match. He is one of those people who will look at a shelf and say, “It’s not level. It’s off by .0004 millimeters.”  I am the person whose fingers, at that point, are itching to slap him silly. My usual response to such statements is to tell him that he is the only person in the known world who would even notice that. I can’t fault the results of his quest for perfection, but I can tell you that the journey is maddening to everyone around him.

The loom came with a warp already on it, and it’s something new for me. The warp itself is #10 crochet cotton, but the weft surprised me: I swear it is sewing thread. It never occurred to me to use sewing thread for weaving, but it works. As with anything where you want fine detail, smaller is better, and sewing thread definitely falls into that category. So the weaving looks fabulous, but I’m working it very slowly because I’m afraid to break the weft thread!!

Also new to me are the leather tablets that arrived already threaded onto the warp. Leather is about the only material I’d never used as a tablet before. I know they’re historically accurate, so it’s interesting to use them. Depending on how things go with the weaving, I may make some of my own. I’ll certainly be adding more thread to my stash to use in weaving!

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What Makes a Fiber Artist?

Beautiful, unwoven warp

As I was walking past my loom on my way downstairs, the warp caught my eye, and I thought how beautiful the unwoven warp was, just under tension and the strands lying so perfectly side by side, everything symmetrical, and suddenly my brain said, “What makes a fiber artist?”

I think the answer is subjective for everyone. For me, I don’t think the answer lies in how good you are at the art. It’s an “eye of the beholder” thing. It’s something as simple as seeing the beautiful potential in that warp, even though it hasn’t been woven yet. It’s the feel of the tools in your hands. It’s the excitement of looking at different types of yarn, thread, cord, and imagining what you’ll do with them. It’s the inability to walk into a yarn store and come out empty-handed, because even though you have more yarn than you have projects planned, you have an idea for that delicious yarn you just picked up and had to have. It’s realizing that you spend more time in your studio than you do anywhere else in the house.

I’m not a great weaver. I’ve got a long way to go before I reach that point, and it may never happen, partially because I have so many fiber interests, and I’m learning all of them at once. Partially it’s because there’s always more to learn. I may wind up just being competent, in the end, and I’m okay with that. But does that mean I can call myself a fiber artist? Well, let me answer like this:

In Sister Act 2, Whoopi Goldberg is talking to Lauryn Hill, and she says “When you wake up in the morning, if you can’t think of anything but singing first, then you’re supposed to be a singer.”

By that criteria, I’m a fiber artist.

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The horn tablets are a bit larger than the bone.

It’s very quiet in the house since Bandit crossed the Bridge. The boys seem to be lost, Vanir more than Thor. Bandit was who he latched onto when he joined the family as a puppy, and he’s been looking for her since she’s been gone. We all have, really. The girls are really devastated, but taking it better than the adults. Fourteen years of “Where’s Bandit? What is she doing?” doesn’t evaporate overnight. She was part of the family, and it’s hard not to have her here. I keep looking for her goofy grin. I even miss yelling at her not to eat the crap she finds outside. There wasn’t much she wouldn’t eat. If she could chew it, clearly, it was edible. The more gross, the better.

I don’t understand how it works. For the most part, when the dogs are inside the house, the older two were sleeping, and thus things were quiet. I don’t understand how it’s even quieter now. But it is, and for now, at least, we’ll have to get used to it.

As for my little weaving experiment, I’m not going to call it an unqualified success, because it’s still on the loom and not finished, but I’ve woven quite far on the DMC satin strap, and it’s continuing to do well. Nothing has snapped or begun to unravel (and now that I’ve said that, I’ve jinxed myself), and I really believe if it was going to, it would have already done so (now I’ve really done it). But as I’m weaving, the bone tablets work their way closer to me with each quarter turn, and at the end of every sequence, I’m pushing them back up the warp. And unlike cardboard tablets, obviously, bone is thicker and more abrasive to the strings, so I’m surprised, really, to see so little wear on the strings. Tablet weaving also requires the weft to be beaten into place more firmly than other types of weaving, and the satin has taken it all like a trooper!

So I’ll almost certainly continue to use the DMC satin for weaving. The downside of that is that it’s pricy, and you can’t get all the available colors in one store. They’re $.99 per 8.7 yard skein. The cost of buying enough satin is  going to be exorbitant. To buy 3 skeins of each color at DMC itself would be measured in hundreds of dollars. I’ll have to work on that slowly lol. But I think it will be worth it. And the way the floss separates on its own at the ends, it’ll be perfect for tassels at the end of the strap.

The horn tablets finally arrived today. Getting them here has been quite the adventure. They were sent once before, from the same company that sent the bone tablets. They made it all the way to Denver, got rerouted to San Francisco, and were returned to Germany, for no reason either the merchant or I could discern. So they sent them again, and this morning before the mailman ever got here, the tracking information said that they had already been delivered and left with someone at the house. Well, of course, the package wasn’t here. This began a round of calling the post office several times, trying to find out what had happened to it. I have been reminded how much I hate computer menus. It took two hours to get to a point where the computer recognized my request to speak to a representative, and then find out that I was going to be on hold for at least another hour. I was still on hold when I heard the mailman filling the boxes outside. I got down there in record time (for me), and found out that the package was in the box waiting. Yes!

Oddly, the bone tablets are a bit smaller than the horn, because according to my order, both sets are 4 cm. Weird. But I’m happy with both, so it’s not a big deal.

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Lighting a Candle (Bandit 8/29/2003 – 3/13/2018)

Bandit’s last photo, tonight.

Tonight, Bandit collapsed on us. She let us know it was time for her to go be with her sister and all of the pets that went before her to the Rainbow Bridge. Naturally, as she lived life her own way, she did death that way too. She never had any physical health problems that becoming young again wouldn’t have conquered. Never lost her appetite. Still occasionally roughhoused with Vanir. Always happy.

But tonight it was time.

It’s a decision I hate making, and it’s one that humans make over and over again for their beloved furchildren, and one I will have to make again soon for Thor, as well, who will be fourteen at the end of the month. And will I continue to have dogs, even knowing what I’ll go through at the end? Absolutely. I wouldn’t know how to live without a dog.

From the very beginning, Bandit did everything her own way. She was never a dog to lie around and cuddle with you, unlike her sister Smoky. She had to be out and about, regardless of the risks she took. We often said she was part cat, with all attendant nine lives, and would outlive all of us. She survived things we thought would be the end of her: rattlesnake bites, being hit by a car on one of her excursions. She was a young dog with the snake, barely out of puppyhood. She was already a senior citizen when she climbed the fence and got hit by the car. Her right hip was dislocated, the leg degloved, the ankle capsule destroyed, her skull broken, the pubis muscle detached, and she survived. More than that, she thrived. The vet thought that she would be in staples and splints for six weeks. She was out of both within three, and climbing the fence again two weeks after that. She was ten at the time.

She has given me more grey hairs than any dog before her. She has given us laughter and love. The day we brought Aneira home from the hospital as an infant, she tried to climb into the bassinet with her, and that set the tone for how she felt about her furless children. She adored them as much as they adored her.

She never so much as growled at anyone in her life. She got along with everyone, no matter the species. There was no one she didn’t love, and no one that didn’t love her back.

She earned her honorary silver harness, putting up with the shenanigans of her Arctic brothers and even encouraging them, joining in with the Siberian Furniture Olympics when they were all younger.

She hated water with a passion, despite being a Labrador retriever. If she wasn’t drinking it, she wanted nothing to do with it.

Bam-Bam, you gave us so much joy throughout your life. We are missing you so much. Wait for us, North of the Bridge, with your silver harness and your sister. We’ll miss you until we get there. We love you, baby girl.

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Busy Bee

My new bookshelves, built by the PIP!!!

It’s been a busy week. Bryony has a nasty cold and pink eye, Aneira has a stomach issue, and the PIP is complaining of the same. I’m afraid to get near any of them, because whatever they have, I don’t want it!

I also had the dubious honor of someone getting hold of my debit card number and emptying my account by placing an order on eBay in my name. Thank all the gods above and below that I check my email often enough that I saw the order confirmation before my address was flooded with emails from several different countries, in various languages that I don’t speak, or I never would have caught it. As it was, I had to jump through hoops with eBay, the merchant, PayPal, and my bank to get the whole issue resolved. I got my money back, shut down my old card, did the whole security thing, but it left me very pissed off. And, at first, I was also very confused. Why would someone place an order in my name and have it shipped to me? My bank answered that one: because whoever it was is nearby, with the ability to watch the house for a delivery truck, and snatch any package left on my porch. Nice, right? But I was able to contact the merchant, and they managed to get the package back before it got too far. So it won’t be coming here, and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for anyone that doesn’t look like they belong in the area.

In better news, the PIP was remarkably unimpressed by my eight-milk-crate-bookshelf, and as you can see in the picture, he built me the shelves that are now snugged between two of the pillars that run along the right side of my little studio area. The picture doesn’t do them justice; they are gorgeous, and he plans to add more shelving to the room, which I can always use. And every one of my craft books fit on the shelves, leaving room on top for my big guardian dragon!

And I found some adorable weaving tablets at another Etsy store, hipstrings, that are made from resin and beautifully etched. And she did a wonderful thing: she etched the edges of the cards too, with one to four tally marks, so you can keep track of your tablets just by glancing down at the edge. How awesome is that? And why has no one thought of it before?!

Etched resin weaving tablets. Gorgeous.

I’ve been reading Claudia Wollny’s book, Tablets at Work, the last of her books to arrive, and I was right: this is a tablet weaving bible. She included hundreds of patterns to weave, which is fun. One of the problems of tablet weaving is that nothing is standardized. One person does things this way, another does things that way, and still another does things the other way, so unless you get very specific information with a pattern, you could wind up with a completely different look than what you are going for, and that’s mostly been my problem. You need the pattern, to know if you should read the pattern top to bottom or vice versa, left to right or vice versa, the threading pattern, what directions the tablets or threads lie (S or Z), how many cards, what colors…that’s most of the list. And all of it changes according to the pattern writer. The lack of standardization makes it very confusing. But it’s worth it to learn!! For obvious reasons, I can’t post pictures of Claudia’s work, but if you Google her name or search it on Pinterest, I’m pretty sure you’ll find some pictures and see why it’s worth it. Her work is gorgeous.

Well, I’d better get back to studying before I forget where I am. Happy crafting!

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Could Be Worse

The satin band is on its way

The DMC satin floss experiment has its ups and downs. The thread itself is an “up”: it’s holding up to weaving as well as its regular counterpart so far, which is what I’d hoped for. The slipperiness of it makes it only a little harder to work with than regular cotton floss. Tying on, I discovered, is where it is most difficult. Normally I use a single surgical knot, but with this material, I had to double it so that the knots couldn’t back out. It helps that one thread on each card is normal crochet cotton.

The “down” has been human error. Specifically, my error. Since the pattern is actually reverse engineered from a picture, I wrote it out myself, basing it on a previous band that was a single diamond running up the center of the band. It was a simple 4 forward, 4 backward band, and I thought, well, it’s just a few more diamonds, therefore if I write it and diagram it exactly the same, just wider, it ought to be fine, right? Well, not exactly. I’m learning exactly what I did wrong, because it is a simple FFFF/BBBB design.

The first mistake I made was in creating the warp to begin with, on the warping board. The pattern is written from left to right, the same way you read. So naturally, the first strands on the warp were the ones on the left side of the pattern, and I worked my way across. But the way the Wave is set up, once the warp was on the loom, I realized that the warp was flipped. The orange that should have been on the left is now on the right, as you can see. This wasn’t a complete disaster in itself, because the colors are still in order, just reversed. I could live with that, but I should have warped the board from the end of the pattern first. Next time I’ll know better.

I also had the tablet slants incorrect, and after flipping them, then I had the wrong starting position, and it took enlisting the Facebook group’s help again to get it right. So the top of the band is what I was going for, the bottom is my mess of human error.

Aneira continues to do well. She has refrained from cutting, which is an accomplishment, and we had a meeting today about her medication, to see if dosages needed to be adjusted. After talking to her, it was decided to leave things as they are for another two weeks, and we’ll check again at that time. The downside of the meeting is that there are no after-school appointments available. There are a grand total of eight after-school slots, serving 325 patients. Needless to say, those eight slots are gone pretty quickly, so we did what we could and set the next appointment up for as close to the end of the school day as possible. I’ll have to pick her up early, but she won’t miss a full day of school.

Tomorrow she starts her therapy, so we’ll see how it goes!

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Warp is, for all intents and purposes, on the loom

The experiment has begun! The warp is mostly on the loom; all that is left is to thread the tablets and tie onto the cloth beam. And I have to say, never have I warped a loom so easily. It took me forever because it’s an 8 yard warp, but the way Gilmore makes this loom, it couldn’t have been easier! For once, I didn’t snarl up the entire warp. The way the lease sticks are set up really helped with the warping. They’re incorporated into the loom so that they’re anchored in place while you get the whole warp set up. It was amazing. Why did I wait so long to get one of these looms?! I’m really looking forward to weaving on it.

Closer pic of lease sticks

I separated the warp layers with cut up Venetian blinds. I actually went to Lowe’s a couple of years ago and bought two cheap mini blinds expressly for the purpose of cutting them up as warp separators. They work very well! I cut them into three different sizes for each of my Cricket looms and my Flip. Conveniently, the smallest size also works for the Wave. The search for creative storage around here is a never-ending battle. In this case, not being a particularly floral type of girl, I store large shuttles and all the Venetian blind pieces in a heavy brass vase that belonged to my mother. Hey, it works, and is heavy enough that it’s unlikely to be knocked over easily. The thing is a weapon in the right hands. Need to brain a burglar? This vase will do it rather efficiently, I think! Home defense at its finest.

Mom’s vase, complete with Venetian blind “flowers”

Anyway, I uploaded the pattern to one of the Facebook tablet weaving groups to make sure I’ve written it correctly. It’s essentially the same design I wrote for the other band on the inkle loom, hopefully written correctly this time. I plan to use the bone tablets on this one, once I’ve labeled them. I’m not sure that permanent marker will actually work on the bone; it might smear or be rubbed off, and I don’t want it transferring to the thread. I don’t know if a ballpoint or gel pen will work either. It may be that I’ll have to wait on using those tablets until I’ve got enough experience that I don’t need labels anymore.


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