Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Me and My Shadow

More Tri-X from the archives...
I seem to have an ongoing fascination with my shadow. 

Maybe it has something to do with being born on Ground Hog's Day.

Digitizing the Archives

Mollie in Alpha, Circa 1976
One of my all time favorite photographs. 
(Something about a monkey, a typewriter and Shakespeare comes to mind 
I bought Tri X in 100' rolls back then.)

Monday, June 29, 2009


A new concept has begun to emerge in my thinking, Artistic Collaboration. 

About three months ago I showed HB a photo in an old Handwoven Magazine of a stenciled rag rug. "We could do that." And we did. I wove a simple rug out of a high thread count bed sheet from Goodwill as the 'canvas'. HB bought a set of permanent fabric dye markers from Hobby Lobby and got out one of her favorite stencils. HB & Me have worked together professionally for most of our careers, but creating together is much more fun.

About three weeks ago I sent one of my recent photographs to a long lost, newly found friend, Robin - she liked it. 

Having experience collaborating with others, she asked if should could use my image in a collaboration. Who me? Duh, why sure, I'd be honored. 

My interesting, but rather monochromatic photo has been totally transformed and given new meaning . Visit Image and Spirit (June 29, 2009 - Breaking Locks) to see the finished collaborative work and other inspirational art and collaborations. Also check out Gramercy Digital Diary to see what Robin's been creating lately.  

Kid's Stuff

Rug mugs woven by kids in the ACA summer art camp last week.

Notice the symmetry on the ends. Nice touch.

Even one strip of the same fabric can be interesting. 

Done on a larger scale, this would be pretty impressive.

You can see these and more and maybe even meet some of the young artists at the end-of-camp show in August - watch the paper for details.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Next Rag Rug Workshop at ACHM

I hope you can join me on Saturday morning, July 11 (10 ~ 12) at the Aiken County Historical Museum for our third Tatter Party & Rag Rug Workshop. It's FREE, and in a very "cool" place to be for a few hours on a Saturday morning. Everyone is encouraged to bring any rag rugs you may have for show & tell. We'll talk a little about the history of rag rugs. (Do you know why few if any rugs were made from rags before the mid 1800's? Clue: the demand for paper. Curious? Come hear the whole story.) You could also bring along a colorful old bed sheet, if you have one, to tear into tatters. Everyone gets to help prepare rags and spend some time weaving on our old loom. 

For this workshop I'll be taking us beyond the classic "Hit & Miss" design approach where the length and color of the next strip to be woven is totally random. Hit & Miss does make for an interesting and colorful rug, but we're going to go beyond interesting - to fascinating! We'll be cutting uniform lengths of two fabrics (recycled cotton sheets) and looping them together in an alternating sequence. If all goes according to plan, we should see a series of criss cross diamond patterns that drift back and forth accross the rug, something like the little mug rug sample below. It will be fun to see how the pattern develops. 
Call the museum at 803 642 2015 to let them know you're interested and are planning on attending. It's still free.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gary Goes to Art Camp @ ACA

I spent most of the day yesterday at the Aiken Center for the Arts 
helping a super pro art teacher introduce weaving to her art camper kids. 

The kids had a good time learning to weave rag strips into mug rugs. 

I learned a lot about teaching kids - the pros make it look so easy. 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seeing things the same way

Yesterday, UPS brought me new toys,
 I arranged them like this.
This afternoon a perfect zinnia stopped me cold. 
What a coincidence?

Gotta be warped to weave

So, we start out my measuring out 7 yards of 8/4 Maysville cotton warp on the the back of my Harp rigid heddle loom. As it turns out 7 yards is just about all you can put on the Artcraft looms I'm working with. I love it when serendipity befriends you. 

You use a simple finger crochet technique to 'chain' the warp off the warping board. I love handing multiple strands. The warp is designed to be 6 inches wide and 8 ends per inch = 48 strands. 

With the open 'cross' in my hand, I sley the reed and thread the heddles. 

Though the looms have 4 harnesses, I'm only using 2 for the kids summer camp projects - don't need to be complicating things when there are so many variables to explore with 2 harnesses. 

Group the warp ends into groups of 8 and tie a simple overhand knot to secure them.  

Loop the knotted warp ends over the warp beam stick and secure them with a simple overhand knot. Simple, but it works amazingly well. 

Then a miracle happens and the warp is tightly wound around the warp beam and you can tie it off to the cloth beam stick with a tie-your-shoe bow knot. 

Weave in some waste rags to spread out the knotted warp threads and put in a mini blind 'spacer'. We're now ready for the kids to start their first project. 

I measured out another 7 yard warp using black thread and prepped loom number 2. 

Then I measured out anther white warp and ran out of time. We'll put that one on loom number 3 at the Art Center tomorrow. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mug Rug Samples w/ Black Warp

This series of Mug Rug samples uses a warp of black Peaches & Cream cotton sleyed at 6 epi. (The Artcraft looms from the Aiken Center for the Arts all have 8 epi reeds, i.e., sley three, skip one.) 

After measuring the warp, I had a little help from a water bottle to keep tension on the warp as I wound it. 

I use sections cut from old mini blinds as warp sticks to keep the layers of warp separated. They are cheap (~$3 at Goodwill) and they work great!

All tensioned up, tied up and weaving. I wove five samples. You might be able to get six or seven on the cloth beam before you have to cut it off and tie up again.  

Honest, I'm working on a project that will use up all that crochet thread in the background. 

I use the mini blind warping sticks (made available as you advance the warp) as spacers between samples. I simply machine stitch the leading (or trailing) edge of each sample on the series to stabilize the edge. Unless you have time for a whole lesson on tying fringes or hem stitching, this may also be the most efficient way to deal with edges and fringes for a kids program project.  

After the edges are stitched, you can cut between the mini blinds and get an incredibly even fringe. If you would like a fringe long enough to know or braid or any more elaborate treatment, simply put more spacers in between projects.  

Five samples, left to right: 
1. one inch cotton fabric strips (with red P&C edge) ~ 5 ppi
2. P&C variegated cotton, totally weft-faced ~22 ppi, simple and quite nice. 
3. P&C, red & white double stranded, almost tabby ~ 8 ppi, fast and easy. 
4. P&C, red & white two shuttles alternating, classic pick & pick ~24 ppi, not hard, impressive results. 

My favorite! I've been playing with this idea for months now. It's a take off on what's been referred to as the "tube" method. You sew panels of several different fabric together to make a cylinder or tube and then cut spiral strips around the tube and weave the long strip to get various patterns. Since my tube would have only been 12 inches in circumference, I used the slit & loop technique we unvented in last rag rug workshop at the county museum. Fabric strips (1"x 6") are slit on the ends and looped through each other. Details to follow.  

Three Looms for Art Camp (cont.)

Besides being dusty & grimy, the three little Artcraft looms had some serious rust issues. Most were cosmetic, but a rusty reed would have been a problem - lots of friction on the warp threads and the likelihood of permanent rust stains on any fabrics produced.

First, I brought out the guy tools to do the heavy lifting. I followed up with a rolled up piece of 220 grit sand paper to do a little "flossing" around the top and bottom.

When I had everyone brightened up a little, I gave everybody a couple of coats of Johnson's Paste Wax. It's a trick I learned in wood working to help keep moisture off metal surfaces, and it also acts as a lubricant. (Just ignore the glass of G&T lubricant in the picture.)

All together now and ready for warping. Everyone knows you have to be warped to weave. (Big shout out to Syne at WeaveCast who started me down this twisted path. Listened to every single podcast - just look at what you've done. )

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A sense of accomplishment.

I feel like I'm making real progress. 
They might be old looms, but they don't need to look shabby. 

Also, I showed my first mug rug samples to Kristen and Cathy at the Art Center yesterday and they liked them. So much so in fact that they were brainstorming other opportunities to introduce them into their educational programs. Could I possibly have the looms ready to go week after next vs late July? No problem (for a kid in a candy store). Very exciting!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mug Rug Samples

The first series of mug rug samples was done on my Harp at the same (8 epi) set as the reeds on the Artcraft looms. I used 8/4 Maysville warp (natural) and good old Peaches & Cream cotton for weft on the first four (plain red, variegated, variegated + plain blue and clasped-weft tapestry) and one inch rag strips on the last two. They took about 20 minutes or less actual weaving time, the simple rag strips less than 15. This is going to be a great way to test drive rag rug design concepts - in miniature. 

Three Looms for Art Camp

My my, look what the cat just drug in! Three baby Dick Blick Artcraft looms that had been collecting dust in a storeroom at the Aiken Center for the Arts for the last few years. 

The Art Center staff would like to use them in their summer art camp program in July and asked if I could help them out by setting up the looms. (I'm thinking, how cool is this, I get to drag three old looms home to play with and maybe even sneak into summer art camp for a few days, pinch me!) First order of business is to knock off some dust & rust, these baby's are pretty nasty right now.

Second order of business is getting some feed back on what kind of projects the kids (~ 6 to 10 years old) might be weaving and how to set up the warps. One of the looms was set up for weaving a red, white & blue book mark with ~ 20/2 cotton. I'm thinking it would take at least a couple of hours to do (attention span issues), any glitches or goofs would be pretty obvious and, I'm not sure how excited 8 year olds are going to be about book marks in general.  

I'm going to propose setting up the looms to make mug rugs. They may not sound too exciting either, but I think they allow a lot more creative freedom along the way. The kids could use almost anything for weft - lots of creative options, stick in some fur or a few feathers. And, it takes less than 20 minutes of weaving time - they can make several, all different, each exploring and experimenting with what they learned on the last one. Acquiring and preparing an interesting array of rag strips could be an adventure in itself. 

My inspiration to go down the mug rug path came most directly from an Sept/Oct/86 issue of Handwoven Magazine. Jean Scorgie uses a clasped weft technique to make her Southwest Collection of mug rugs and a table runner. Her drafts were recently reissued in one of the Best of Handwoven collections titled Weaving with Rags. I'd first picked up on the clasped weft trick in Peter Collingwood's Rug Techniques book and had used it to make a pretty neat kitchen towel out of P&C cotton. If I can do it, I'm betting a 10 year old could too, maybe we'll find out. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rag Rug Workshop #2

The second rag rug workshop and tatter party at the Aiken County Historical Museum was a huge success, largely due to the enthusiasm of returning rug weavers from the first workshop.

Fred was first up and couldn't seem to get enough time on the loom.

Louise gets in on the action. 

Susan takes over for a while - she's likely to become a serious weaver.

Louise & HB tatter & prep a few more rags. 

We tried a new technique this time for joining strips instead of sewing. 
Worked like a champ - the 'knots' were no problem at all.

There's more to it than weaving - good times & stories were had by all.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hobby ~ 33 Birding

Just back from a 3-week Roadtrek-Trip spending a little time with family & friends and a lot of quality time with HB and mother nature. The catalyst was going to my nephew Matt's wedding in Ohio. 

Notable attendees included g-bby Callopie Jynx, papa Josh, 
moma Mollie (OMG, that's my baby girl) and g-mama Donna.

We then birded our way across the north shore of Lake Erie. Spending a couple of days at the spring warbler migration mecca of North America, Pelee Point, Ontario. 

Typical tourista picture, but we have proof we were there!

This was our best Peele birding picture - maybe size really does matter. 

We rediscovered the joys of bicycling and found bike-birding on our new Electra Townies to be very rewarding on Pelee Island.  We circumnavigated about half the island and added several birds to our trip list. 

We visited the Mom in NJ for a few days doing some fix up, tidy up projects and hauling out some "junk" that was under her saddle. And then, ahhhhh, we scooted down the NJ Parkway, took the Cape May Ferry, hit the LL Bean Outlet store in Rehoboth Beach, and spent one whole luxurious week at the Green Heron on Chincoteague Island, VA. Our little place in the marsh. 

HB & Me went to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR), home of the Chincoteague "Wild" Ponies every day, sometimes twice a day. 

This little guy couldn't have been more than a day or so old.

Chincoteague has it all. 

We added new birds to our trip list every day we visited the refuge.  The last evening HB spotted this Black-Crowned Night Heron that pushed our 3-week trip list to 140 different species birds. With the couple of new warblers we picked up in Ontario, our life list now stands at 403.