CLOTH#20

This time last year I was at the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, taking part in CLOTH#19. This year I was planning to repeat the excursion for CLOTH#20, but… we all know how that story goes.

Instead of packing up and going home, however, CLOTH has gone online and international. So now you don’t need to be in Edinburgh to visit – though there is a small exhibit at the Dovecot if you can get to it – but can drop in and say hello from anywhere in the world. There’s an amazing line-up of textile makers at CLOTH Online and I’m honoured to be part of it.

I’m also extremely relieved. The event is linked to my Bonny Claith website, where I sell my handwoven scarves, and it failed catastrophically earlier this week (taking my relationship with my hosting company crashing down with it).

By Wednesday I was getting desperate, and decided on a drastic plan B. I pressed the big red button on the old site and started over with a new domain on a new hosting provider. Thus for the time being, my site is a .com rather than a .co.uk – and you can find it here – but the old link will also take you through to the new venue. I may well end up keeping both.

This site, however, is still with Old Host. I need to work out what I am going to do about that, once my stress levels have returned to baseline. If you tried to access it this past week then you may have noticed it was acting strangely. On Friday they did finally apply some remedial action, so at least I am able to come here now and write this post! Do head over and take a look at CLOTH if you can. The directory will still be there after this weekend, so you’ll know what to bookmark for your Christmas shopping.

CLOTH#20” was posted by Cally on 22 August at https://callybooker.co.uk

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Sandra Rude

On Friday weavers around the world learned the very sad news that Sandra Rude had passed away in the early hours. She was a lovely person, an excellent weaver, and an inspiration to many of us. Sandra’s articles on interleaved threadings in the Complex Weavers Journal were a foundational resource for me, and she was always so generous with her knowledge.

Back in January 2011, when I was recovering from a badly sprained ankle, I took some photos at a local reservoir which was frozen over.

Sandra contacted me to ask whether she could use these images as the basis for some Jacquard weaving. She was a year or two into her Jacquard journey at that time, and was exploring different approaches to design and to finishing. It was fascinating to follow the transformation from photo to weaving as Sandra documented it on her blog. You can see the completed work here.

The original piece was sold, but the last time I saw Sandra in person she quietly handed me my own woven image as a surprise gift. It was one of the other photos in the series and I hadn’t even realised she had woven it. It is a beautiful work and something I treasure.

Quiet generosity, exceptional weaving. This little story sums up my experience of Sandra. I will miss her.

Sandra Rude” was posted by Cally on 5 July 2020 at https://callybooker.co.uk

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Fortunately Unfortunately

Do you remember that game? You take it in turns to tell a story round a group of people, and each contributor has to begin (alternately) with ‘Fortunately…’ or ‘Unfortunately…’ The story rapidly becomes quite surreal as our hero lurches from catastrophe to rescue to disaster to triumph to failure to intervention and on and on.

These days, whenever someone asks me how I’m doing, I struggle to frame an answer that doesn’t sound like a round of Fortunately Unfortunately. On the one hand, I am acutely aware of all the good fortune I enjoy: a safe and comfortable home; my favourite human and feline companions as my lockdown buddies; a loom and a project to work on; ability to connect with friends and family around the world. But hot on the heels of the fortunately, comes the unfortunately: all the things that are unravelling, both for me personally and in the bigger picture.

Lately, for instance – as if they are feeling the pressure too – random household appliances have started breaking down, just as repairing them has become a wild game of chance. Even in easier times, I am not a person who likes to buy a new thing (other than a new loom, of course) when I already have an old one. Indeed, I consider anything under twenty years old to be the ‘new’ whatever-it-is, and was startled to realise that my Kenwood mixer (RIP) did not in fact fall into that category. The jury is still out on what will happen re the mixer. In the meantime we have established a way of holding the oven door shut with a stick, but we did draw a deep breath and order a new printer to replace the inert lump of plastic that was sitting next to the computer, because neither of us could get our work done without it. My hope is that we can get the older ‘new printer’ repaired later for use in the studio – if I still have a studio, in the post-covid world.

Under the ‘Fortunately’ heading, I can at least file my current weaving project. When I last posted about it, I was still working out the details of the design. It took me a long while to pin down exactly how to proceed, so finally getting started at the loom was a big relief. I don’t know about you, but I find I think much more clearly about weaving when I am weaving.

The knotted pile makes this a slow weave: I’m giving myself the routine of weaving about 18 cm a day. The pile doesn’t cover the whole piece, but tracks across the fabric in long lines. It looks a bit mad, but it’s madness with method in’t. You can trust me on that or not as you choose!

Fortunately Unfortunately” was posted by Cally on 25 April 2020 at https://callybooker.co.uk

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Lockdown WIP

Things have changed dramatically even in the short time since I warped up the Eeva, ready to start working on the Shift Canada project. Lockdown has thrown everyone into a world we don’t quite know how to navigate, and it has taken a few days for life to fall into new patterns.

I’ve learned that, although I am accustomed to the shapelessness of working from home, I depend on the regular to-ing and fro-ing of S to give my week its rhythm. Now that we are in shared confinement, I mostly have no idea what day it is.

As for socialising, though, my life has lurched in the opposite direction. My usual solitary state has been overturned as my diary has filled up with scheduled coffee break chats with friends and colleagues. Online meetings have also been in greater abundance as projects need to be reconsidered and deadlines renegotiated. This has inevitably involved more grieving for plans that cannot be realised as intended, but also a strong sense of solidarity and shared gratitude that (i) we are safe and well and (ii) we have opportunities to do things we weren’t expecting.

It’s all kept me pretty busy and I haven’t been at the loom as much as I expected. However, there’s obviously no need to rush…. I mentioned that the Shift Canada deadline was approaching, and it still is, but from a much greater distance. This has given me more time to develop my ideas in detail using Photoshop, a process which is still quite new to me.

I’ve already completed a sample warp and know a lot about how I want to continue. The final piece will involve rya knotted fabric scraps (which are themselves the product of a recycling process) and I have determined how dense I want the knots to be, and hence where they will need to be worked into the structure. The ground cloth itself will be woven in a broken twill, which I like for its integrity and the contrast between warp- and weft-faced variants. So that the piece will be suitable for the next stage of the project, I am planning to use warp- and weft-faced broken twill to create a background ‘grid’ in the cloth.

The grid will be completely independent of the pattern made by the knotted fabric, and this is where I have been using Photoshop. As I am not used to working at these two different scales simultaneously, I am doing quite a bit more planning than usual, and in more detail. I need to develop the liftplan for the ground cloth, but also to visualise the layer of pile over it. I was drawn to using a honeycomb structure, so I made an attempt at a few different versions of this, from strictly geometric to more organic hexagonal shapes.

I really like the textured weave this creates, but it is not right for this project. I’ve gone back to an earlier and simpler idea, which worked well in the sample warp, and have been putting in the Photoshop-hours to really nail it down. Eventually I’ll get back to the loom…

* This hexagonal grid was created in Adobe Capture, which is one of my favourite apps for messing around. The base image is literally a photo of the back of my phone’s case, folded back and pressed over the camera so that the light just seeps in at one corner.

Lockdown WIP” was posted by Cally on 28 March 2020 at https://callybooker.co.uk

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Reflections on loom choices

Several people have asked me why I chose the Toika Eeva rather than any other loom. This post is for you, and for anyone else who hasn’t yet asked but would still like to know – which is probably most of you weavers, isn’t it?

Firstly, once you are thinking about 32 shafts, there are not very many options to choose from. If there were a local option, that would be the obvious choice, but there isn’t. However, I could narrow it down to Europe at least, so – somewhat regretfully – I ruled out AVL. This left me essentially weighing up the Louët Megado against the Toika Eeva or Liisa.

In the UK the default option for a while has certainly been the Megado, and I know many people who weave on one. Including, as it happens, myself. I don’t have a 32S computer-driven Megado, but I continue to work very happily on the 16S mechanical dobby Megado which I bought from Ans ten years ago. I really enjoy weaving on this loom, and know it well. By contrast, I had only had one shot at weaving on an Eeva and none at all at weaving on a Liisa. For both makes, I know weavers who have them and love them.

Questions of size

The Megado comes in several weaving widths up to 130 cm, the Eeva and Liisa in a completely different range of options up to 150 cm. Irrespective of weaving width, though, the Toika looms are physically bigger. They are deeper and taller and occupy a great big chunk of space. Now my home is in a building that was built in the 1860s and the rooms are large. We don’t have so many rooms that we can do anything and everything we might like to, but we do have the volume to accommodate a large loom if that’s how we choose to live*. Hey, we may never see our friends again anyway, so who needs a big living room? Seriously, though, this would not be a viable option in many newer houses. Have we finally discovered the one advantage of living in a drafty old conversion? It is, in other words, a genuine choice.

Features and functions

There are many different things I want to do on this loom, and they will involve (not necessarily all at once)

  • weaving wide pieces
  • complex multi-shaft threadings
  • warps made sectionally
  • supplementary warps

These are things I already do, but couldn’t do all at once because I didn’t have one loom that could handle them all. Both Toika and Louët have made provision for them. Both looms have a single-box fly shuttle (only the AVL offers a double-box, alas, in spite of much pleading by European weavers), and both offer sectional warp beams, for instance.

However, I have increasingly been working with supplementary warps, and this is something that Louët doesn’t do so well. I added a second warp beam to the Delta many years ago, and to the Megado more recently, but it frustrates me that it is not connected to any braking mechanism at the front of the loom. It could be converted to live tensioning, I guess, but why not supply it so that it is integrated like the main warp beam?

The second warp beam on the Toika is fully integrated so that the weaver can manage the tensioning and the warp advance from the front of the loom, and this was a big selling point for me. I have one sectional and one non-sectional beam. So far I have only made single warps, but I have a genuine choice about which beam to use since both are equally operable from the front. The cog wheel tensioning system has actually surpassed my expectations, because it allows very subtle adjustments. I had no idea I would get so much pleasure from advancing the warp! You might not think that warp beam mechanisms were something to get excited about, but for me, this was the clinching argument in favour of the Toika.

Niche concerns

However, I was also swayed by a couple of other points. Possibly small points, but in the greater scheme of things aren’t they all?

One is the openness of the structure and access to the shafts. I have had to add and to move heddles on the Megado several times, and not even the coronavirus could make me do it again. It is a nightmare to get in there and release the shaft, never mind fixing it back in place. For a few years now I have had the heddles distributed in a way which works pretty much optimally for the sorts of weaves I do, but I have to be continually alert to this issue when designing. I would rather change the design than ever add another heddle, and that’s what I do. It works, but it’s a relief that it won’t be challenging-to-the-point-of-deterrence on the Eeva.

Another is the option to have a hanging beater. I am accustomed to weaving with a standing beater, but I’m keen to broaden my horizons and am already enjoying the ease of the swing. Although working with the fly shuttle is that bit more terrifying than it was on the Delta, I reckon I can get to grips with it. And I’m vaguely aware at the corners of my vision, that having a high castle with a hanging beater means I can rig the fly shuttle to work with a floating selvedge, in a way that proved infeasible on the Delta. I have yet to attempt this, though, so don’t hold me to it.

The main trade-off that I am aware of is that the Toika’s computer brain is a bit less subtle than that of other computer looms. That might seem like quite a major concern, but it does also have the reputation of being a very reliable computer brain, which could be seen as a major issue too. And as all computer loom brains are equally new to me, I can learn to work with this one.

Shafts, really?

I’ve also had several comments about the TC2, which seems to be the loom people expect to arrive in a crate from Scandinavia, so I will just add that it was never under consideration. Even if I had the budget, to date I have no interest in jacquard weaving as something that I would do myself. I love that other people are doing it, and I love seeing the diverse work of other weavers, but no thank you. Shafts for me.

I consider myself an exceptionally fortunate weaver to have access to a loom like this and a place to work on it. The Eeva was my choice because it addresses some very specific points that I prioritised, but I just want to add that I would be delighted with any of the above. They are all fantastic looms and I’m anticipating years of happy weaving on mine.

 

* I’m using the royal ‘we’ here, of course. S knows the score.

Reflections on loom choices” was posted by Cally on 19 March 2020 at https://callybooker.co.uk

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