About Me

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Francestown, New Hampshire, United States
I am the owner of Mirrix Tapestry & Bead Looms ( and an avid tapestry and bead weaver, among other things. Needless to say, I love my job!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Orders

YES, we will expedite the shipping of all orders to get your order to you for the holidays.  The elves have hammered out inventory, so we are doing pretty well.  At some point, your order will have to be shipped second day in order to get there in time for Christmas.  Email us if you want second day and we will provide you the price.  Order as early as possible please!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

C-Lon Beading Thread

I am often asked what thread I use on the Mirrix Loom.  The answer is C-Lon beading thread developed and distributed by Caravan Beads.  Why:  because it's the best thread I've ever found to use on the Mirrix so I am sticking with it.  It doesn't fray, doesn't tangle.  I don't have to condition it.  It stretches just the right amount and it comes in some of the best colors including the pretty drab neutral ones I do tend to use as loom warp.

But let me shed some light on C-Lon because there has been a fair amount of confusion about the difference between C-Lon and S-Lon.  I am going to copy the blurb on the Caravan Beads' website that describes how the two came to pass.  I have changed only a few words to make it relevant to this blog.

C-Lon vs. Super-Lon: the world of knock-offs

Caravan Beads began to distribute C-LON® beading thread in 36 colors in December of 2002. Originally it was offered in size D; they later added AA as a second size.
In March of 2005, Beadsmith/Helby announced a "new product", Super-Lon beading thread. The story, briefly, is that Beadsmith/Helby (apparently using the name M & Y Trading Corp), found and contacted the factory that was then producing C-LON® and persuaded them to sell them identical colors and sizes of thread. That factory was purchased in 2004 by a larger company which now produces the thread.
Those of you familiar with both products will notice that the color names for Super-lon are the same Caravan has always used for C-LON.
Several customers have wondered if it is legal for one company to copy a product that is already being sold by another company. In the case of a product like thread, which can't be copyrighted or patented, it is completely legal.
Claudia's note:  it may by legal but it sure as heck is not ethical and I would rather pay the same price to the company that developed the thread then to the company who ripped it off.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Additonal Mirrix Loom Workshop

I have had a request for a one day workshop the first weekend in February (that's the weekend of the 6th and 7th).  This would be great for folks who live in New England. It could be either day.  The price would be $250.  If you are interested in this workshop, please send an email to:

Home Sweet Home

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mirrix Workshop

The last couple of days I had the pleasure of teaching (informally) beadwork to a couple of boys age 11. They were great and it reminded me how much I miss teaching and how much I love teaching, especially now when I've garnered a whole lot of new ideas that I want to share.

So, I've decided it is time to teach a workshop. And why not do it in my studio. It's a gorgeous space with tons of Southern facing windows (facing a pasture and a mountain range beyond). We've got some great Inns nearby. And my daughter has agreed to cater lunch and dinner!

Place:  Francestown, New Hampshire

It would be a weekend workshop. Intense, eight hours a day with great food in between. The project would be a woven band necklace with an off-loom created focal piece and/or a woven band bracelet with an off-loom created clasp. I will post the project on my blog when I get it finished. I do have some similar pieces there, but the piece I will teach has not yet been finished (blog:

What you will take away from the workshop:

How to:
1) use the Mirrix Loom for beadwork
2) use the Mirrix loom with shedding device
3) create spontaneous geometrical shapes
4) work with color to create a stunning piece
5) create a double-sided peyote stitch triangle to use either as a clasp for a bracelet or as an end piece for a necklace thereby burying the warp ends between the triangle layers
6) general finishing techniques
7) anything else you want to learn about beading on the Mirrix Loom including using fiber with beads.

What you will need: yourself and lots of creative energy

What we will provide:

A Mirrix loom, if you don't have one. If you do have one, you might want to bring it in case you want to go home with an additional project on your loom. If you use one of our looms and don't own your own, you can of course purchase it, but you do not have to. But who would not want to!

Lunch and dinner both days. We will find out what your food loves and dislikes are and create delicious and healthful meals to keep you fueled for the day. Although the actual instruction time will be eight hours, we will be taking breaks during the day to eat or chat or just stretch so the class will start in the morning and end probably a couple of hours after dinner.

Included in the price of the workshop will be a materials fee which will cover c-lon thread, Delica beads in the most delectable colors, needles, and a bead matt. If you would like to bring all your own materials you can subtract the materials fee from your tuition.

The cost including the four meals will be $500. If you bring your own materials, the cost will be $475, but you still have the option to buy the materials at the workshop.

Okay, so when? A weekend in February or March. I haven't pinned down a date yet because I am hoping to hear from you to see what works best for the most people. Class size will be strictly limited to eight students. We will run the class with a minimum of six students.

So when are you free and when would a workshop be best for you?  Please email me:


Mirrix Wonderful Home


Monday, November 9, 2009

Color Theory for Beadwork

What is your favorite color?

I don't have one. When I was a child the answer would have been a combination ofpink and red.  I was told early on though that pink and red do NOT go together.  Since pink is born of red, I always found that notion rather silly. I still do.  What I should have been told was:  fire engine red does not go well with pale pink but there are other reds that do! So I painted my room green and blue.  Green trim, blue walls.  The green was soft like leaves before they fall to autumn.  The blue was like a deep sky just after a rain.  I could live with it.

I live with favorite color combinations which have a tendency to grow and mutate over time.  But the themes do not change.  They are my personal themes.  I believe everyone who works in color has within them certain color themes.  It takes a lot of looking back into our heads to find out just what they are. I do have favorite bead colors (which is a combination of finishes and colors, since beads do not any longer exist in the realm of just opaque color) that I rely on as the base of most of my work.  You can tell which bead colors I love the most by the fact that they live in 100 gram packs.  The accent beads live in bead tubes.  By buying large quantities of the beads I love most I allow myself to freely use them.  Since I have a tendency to not want to use up what I love most, this trick is imperative for me to freely create.

The worse decision to make when trying to pick what color bead to use in a piece is the one based on:  gee I've got a lot of these beads I really should use.  I don't think I've ever successfully produced a piece on that decision and I can tell you about a whole lot of pieces I've cut up and returned to the bead box after having done so.

The Choices You Don't Make

Trying to decide what bead not to use is more important than the ultimate decision of what bead to use.  You've got your stash or your color card or you are standing in front of a display of what seems like five billion beads and you are trying to pick out a limited number of beads to make, let's say, a bracelet.  What you are actually doing in this process is eliminating the beads you won't use.  "Nope, won't use that bright yellow.  Negative for that matt deep red.  Not in the mood for metallic blue-green.  Well maybe, because it might look great with that amazing palladium silver.  And if I add that matt metallic green.  No.  No.  Not the matt metallic green.  Gotta go somewhere else with this.  Yes, the pink gold!  Nah, not the pink gold."  And so it goes for what can take a very long time.  I find standing at a bead display in a store very daunting, although not as daunting as it used to be.  I have been on my bead journey for quite a while now and I've figured out what beads compromise my personal "bead theme."  Sure, I can break out of it, but there is a ground work there.  And because of that, I usually have some idea of what needs to end up home in my bead basket.  That's not to say I am in a rut, I just know what I love.  And it was something I could only figure out.

The most important choice you make in beadwork is color.  Sure, the design is important but bad color choices can ruin a piece more than a not so great design.  A not so great design with great colors might survive the scissors.

Woven Color

The next problem when choosing color is that those beads in their tubes or even in piles on your bead board don't necessarily speak the same language they ultimately will when woven together.  In other words, that kind of weird brassy green you didn't choose might have been perfect in a tiny quantity with the colors you did choose.  The only way you can find out is to play.

In a perfect world, our studio would look like the walls at Caravan Beads and we could experiment until we needed a new glasses prescription.  We could grab that brassy green, spill out a few beads, and see if it sings with the rest of our palette.  Taking the plunge and buying that brassy green can be daunting and even impossible.  Who wants to buy colors they might only use two of or might never use at all?

However, a lot of us have colors in our bead stash that we don't much use.  I know I said not to ever choose your colors by trying to use up beads in your stash, but that's not the same as hauling some dusty tube out with a color you used ten years ago for some long-forgotten project for a bead workshop you would also like to forget.  I am talking about climbing into your stash and unearthing something different.

I found a lovely transparent green by doing just that.  I probably used all of twenty beads, but it fit.  It fit perfectly.  Now that I know about that green I might very well pull it out again, but it did take a lot of bravery to make the first plunge.

What Colors Live Inside Your Brain?

For those of you starting off on the quest for a reasonable bead stash you need to spend a lot of time thinking about what you really love.  Sure, you can study color theory and you can play with all those color wheels and you can read the latest bead color forecasts, but all that does not add up to what lives inside your soul.  Maybe that sounds dramatic, but let's face it:  you are creating these pieces so these pieces should be your colors.  That's what makes them yours in a large part.

So how do you find your colors?  If you subscribe to my theory that they live inside your and you just need to turn your eyes inward to see what your brain already has stored, then you need to engage a little fantasy time.  My method is to lie in bed in the darkness, figuratively turn my eyes inward toward my brain and turn on the color slide show.  If you give yourself permission to do this, in time the colors will start to flow.  And if you are lucky, you might pick up some patterns too.  And as those colors flow you will find yourself attaching emotion to them.

Let's face it:  color is emotional.  I don't know why.  I don't know why music is emotional.  Or why touch and smell are emotional.  But they all are.  We aren't taught this.  Color sits on a color wheel and we are meant to learn the rules of the color wheel and then mathmatically apply it to our art.  That's absurd.  If we applied that kind of math to music (even though music once created can be seen as mathamatical) we would create music that sounds like math.  Imagine that?  So I propose that you apply the "color rules" after you've created the color if you must apply the rules at all.

The color rules were invented by humans to try to explain what lives inside us already, to explain something that already is just as math explains what is there.  Math does not invent it.  Color lives in our world, in our brains, in our spirits, in our thoughts, in just about everything we see.  We have all the information we need to fold it into our art work.  We just have to trust ourselves.

Open your eyes.  Look around you.  What color combinations in that world do you love?  And why do you love them?  I recall buying a towel once that had color combinations I never would have put together but they were perfect.  And for months I used that information to weave (I was just a tapestry weaver then).  I didn't actually copy those colors, but I used the same sense of surprise I found there to surprise myself with the colors I was choosing.  It opened something up to me that I had not understood. I was able to break away from preconceptions about color that were holding me back.  That was the beginning.

Bead Finishes

Beads are unique in that they have "finishes."  They are not made of opaque color that lies flat on a page.  They embody properties that are different from, let's say, yarn or paint.  Hold a piece of beadwork up to the light, and half of the beads will loose their beauty.  They are not stained glass even though they are made of glass.  They are not meant to have light shine through them and yet they are made to have light shine on them.  I can think of no other material like that.

A Box of Pastels

I once wrote in a poem:  "I am living inside a box of pastels."  How could I know then how true that line would eventually become.  At the time I think was just living inside teenager angst.  I didn't understand then how connected I was to color and how it would form my life in beautiful and unexpected ways, how it would emerge to engulf me and point me solidly to a world in which I now live every day.  There is not a day that goes by in which color is absent.  I am now unusual in this.  I just acknowledge that fact.  I don't think you can be an artist without this daily fascination with color and how it intersects our visual field constantly.

I will be adding to this post (photos and more thoughts) as the week progresses.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bead Woven Bracelet

I just finished this bracelet.  The band is loom woven.  The triangle is a combination of peyote and herringbone stitch.  The clasp is peyote stitch.  The triangle took almost as long to make as the band, which worked up really quickly.  I woven two pieces simultaneously on the loom and learned quite a lot.

Let me show you a shot of the two pieces as they came off the loom.

The piece on the right became the finished bracelet.  The piece on the left is still awaiting its fate.  The left piece is twelve beads wide whereas the right piece is eleven beads wide.  I discovered that I love odd count bead rows.  It lends itself better to spontaneous design.  On an even bead row, diamonds have a two bead point.   You can't center anything including which is fine, but on a thin piece like this I like being able to center the designs.  The even count rows would serve better abstract design, color blocks, Greek keys, etc.

I did not use my usual technique of weaving a fiber edge and folding it over thereby concealing the knotted warp threads because of two reasons:  I knew that the double-sided triangle clasp would buy one end of the band.  And I had decided that I would try a new technique on the other end which was to continue the end of the piece with four rows of square stitch and then fold those four rows onto the back of the piece and sew it down, again burying the knotted warp threads. I liked the outcome because it was clean and neat and no thread showed.   It might have been a little more time consuming than weaving a fiber edge, but I think it was worth and I do plan to experiment more with this technique.

Here's a not so great photo of the extended square stitch. (I took it in bad light last night).  Once I folded it back onto the woven section those threads were buried.  I did apply some glue just to make sure the warp thread knots didn't come undone.

I discovered something else and I am kind of hitting my head wondering why I couldn't have figured this out a thousand years ago.  I've been having a lot of trouble missing beads when using the traditional technique of bead weaving which I do tend to use for thin pieces.  I couldn't figure it out until I randomly used a long thin needle on these two pieces.  Normally I use the softouch needles meant for softouch wire.  Why?  Because they are very sturdy and easy to use.  BUT they don't like passing through the front of a bead when on the loom.  The longer and thinner needles don't mind doing it at all.  So with this new needle I made NO mistakes.  And you all probably already new this!  I was so happy with the  quality of the piece.  So perfect and flat and I didn't have to sew through beads that hadn't quite got connected to the warp.  WOW, major breakthrough I should have had along time ago.  Hope you haven't lost all faith in me!

Picture of finished bracelet on my wrist!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Alex Zonis weaving beads on a Mirrix Loom

Alex Zonis, March 2006   

photograph by Michael Mitz

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Studio

Miirix Loom Home Page

New Woven Work on the Mirrix

The best thing about this job . . . running Mirrix . . . is the opportunity to weave new pieces on the Mirrix.  Hard sometimes to stop and actually answer the phone (p.s. the best way to get in touch with me is through email: because at least one computer/blackberry is turned on or with me) when I am in the "flow" state.  It's been flowing a lot lately. Maybe it's the inspiring colors of autumn or maybe it's just my time to fall into that state where all I can think about (until life knocks on my brains door) is color and shape and how those beads can replicate what I see in my mind.

I am trying to combine loom work with off loom work and have come up with the following piece:

The strap is loom woven.  I've used quite a few gold plated and rhodium plated beads with a sprinkling of some great subtle greens and dark reds.  The triangles are not yet attached.  They were formed from peyote stitch/herringbone.  I am not yet sure how I will attach them or what I will do with the black fringe.  I do know that I will place either semi-precious stones or crystals inside the triangles.  I do know that the points will face down.  I might actually string beads onto some of the fringe and weave the rest back into the piece.  But until that image finds its way into my brain, this piece will have to rest.

The next piece was intended to be a belt but my impatience forced me to take it off the loom.  I also realized that it would make a great necklace.  This piece has, besides the loom woven strap, an off-loom created triangle.  It's two-sided and buries all those tied off loom warps!

The beads are 11/0 Delicas.  I made up a bunch of symbols.  I am fascinated with symbols and geometric shapes.  Have gotten away from weaving such shapes until recently and suddenly remembered how much I love them.

I wove both these pieces on a 16 inch with loom extenders.   I love the loom extenders both because they give me the length I need to weave a very long strip and because I can see much of the piece while weaving it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Two Bead pieces on a loom with Extenders

The piece on the left is going to be a belt and the piece on the right is going to be a necklace.  Lots of 24 kt gold, platinum, rhodium beads.  I don't want to finish them because I like the way they look on the loom!

Franc is Weaving

Franc the rescue cat is learning how to weave.

Franc was eight weeks when we adopted (rescued him).  The Vet thought he looked four weeks old because he was so tiny, so malnourished and, of course, infested with fleas and mites.  I don't exactly know why I brought him home.  I doubted my intentions when I worried that I might be infecting my other cats with who knows what.  Notice how skillfully he maneuvers those razor sharp claws to get each weft thread in place!

Below photo is right after Franc's first or second bath.  

So welcome Franc, our Maine Coon Rescue who someday will surpass a pound and probably weigh more like twenty-five.  Enjoy that basket while you still can!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tapestry Came into My Life

Pregnant with my first child and still living in San Francisco (with my first husband) I suddenly got this urge to weave again.  I had been producing a fair amount of needlepoint, and even though I could finally afford the materials I needed (although I was still in cheap mode and never splurged on anything . . . that would come later, thank goodness, because splurging on art/craft supplies is imperative!) I wasn't satisfied.

Oh, but I must digress here.  I have to tell you the needlepoint shop story.  If you've ever been in a needlepoint shop you know how they work:  usually quite small with lots of beautiful yarn in gorgeous colors handing from the wall along with an enormous assortment of painted patterns in kit form.  And one person behind a counter watching your every move if you happen to look about seventeen (I was at the time 28) and have a nice big motorcycle helmet under your arm.  I was most likely also wearing a black motorcycle jacket.  My 180cc Vespa was parked outside.  I was standing in front of that stunning wall of yarn trying to pick out six colors for a piece I was making.  I would grab a hank of yarn and then another, compare them, put one back.  I was deep in color mode and not at all aware that this poor woman at the counter was certain I was there for evil purposes.  She kept coming around, watching me, circling me, asking me if I needed help.  All I wanted was for her to leave me alone so I could pick out my colors.  But I looked terribly young and why in heaven's name would someone that young be in that store for any good reason?  I finally bought some yarn and left in quite a hurry because I couldn't get that woman's stare out from between my shoulder blades.  Now back to my real story . . .

I discover a tapestry weaving class and Fort Mason in S.F.  I had seen and fell in love with the Unicorn Tapestries years before.  I was also enthralled with Navajo weaving.  I had a vague idea of the concept of weft-faced weaving.

The class had two parts:  dyeing and weaving.  The first class, we used onion skins to dye white wool.  There was a pot in front of the classroom boiling away with the skins and, I believe, pennies used as a mordant.  And although I knew this was called "natural dyeing" I also had this nagging sense that the mordants, although also "natural", might not be the best thing for what was growing inside me.  The instructor said it would be just fine, but I was neurotic enough to not really believe her.  So I stayed clear of the dyeing pot and sat as far back in the room as I could.

The first class for me was not the first class for many of the students since they would just keep retaking this workshop.  So many arrived with looms sporting almost finished tapestries.  There seemed to be only one other student who was new at this game.  We sat together and with minimal instruction (we were given a rigid heddle loom and told how to measure the warp, and off we went to warp the loom).  Now we all know how much fun it is to warp a loom for the first time and those of you who have used rigid heddle looms know how much fun it is to get even warp tension that will work for tapestry on a rigid heddle loom.  I believe I spent the first class trying to achieve that elusive goal.

Next class I started weaving.  I have no memory of what.  Again, the instruction was minimal because this was really a tea party (and yes, it was very inexpensive) for tapestry weavers to gather and weave on their inappropriate looms.  After the third class I decided to buy a rigid heddle loom and then I failed to return.  Something about the new heavy metals they were using as mordants kind of scared the heck out of me and I wasn't exactly fitting in and learning much of anything.  I have to admit, I am not the workshop going type.  I much prefer to teach them!

My then husband and I traveled to a store outside of S.F. which still exists, but whose name I am not going to remember until I post this blog.  They had Beka rigid heddle looms.  I bought one (I still own it although I haven't used it in years) along with a bunch of alpaca yarn. Apparently, I had decided to leave tapestry for a while and weave scarves, which I then did. Lots of them.  Everyone I knew received one of those scarves and people I barely knew made requests for them.  They were deadly boring to weave.  I mean deadly.  But I wasn't in creative mode.  Everything creative was happening in my belly and on the outside I just needed to make something, anything, and get that baby born.

When Layna turned one we moved back East, eventually ending up in Northern New Hampshire where my husband was marketing director for a paper mill.  When Lay was about two, I dusted off the loom, ordered some rug yarn and taught myself how to weave tapestry. Since I had no book, no teacher, just a vague memory of those three classes I attended, the learning curve was slow and hard.  I made very mistake in the book.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to not pull in the sides of the weaving.  I couldn't understand how to layer colors so that they would be in the right shed.  Heck, I didn't even understand what the right shed was. But tapestry is intuitive and eventually I figured a lot of it out on my own.  I bought a larger rigid heddle loom that stood on a stand.  I started making purses and even sold some of them to give me an excuse to make more of them.  It wasn't until my second child, Zach, was born five years later that I finally bought a real tapestry loom.  By then I had mastered many of the tapestry techniques and even though I was using totally inappropriate weaving equipment I was able to get straight edges, somehow!

My new second hand loom was a Leclerc Tissart.  It was big and beautiful and it had great tension.  My first piece on that loom was so easy to weave.  I had gotten so good at weaving on the wrong loom that when I finally used a loom suitable for tapestry weaving it was magical. Straight edges just happened.  The warp never showed because the tension was so fabulous.

I got myself juried into the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and began selling my tapestries and purses in their stores.  I was on a roll.  At the same time I discovered that the general market was not going to provide the colors of yarn I needed.  I bought a bunch of natural colored rug yarn, some acid dyes, some big pots and taught myself how to dye wool.  I have a memory of the wooden drying rack in my kitchen laden with skeins of dyed wool.  Kind of blotchy, some of it, but again I was on the low end of the learning curve.

Next blog:  another move, another loom, a visit to Convergence, The American Tapestry Alliance, and a spinning wheel!

Mirrix Loom Homepage

Friday, August 28, 2009

How weaving came into my life

There are certain moments in your life you can never forget. One of mine is the first time I encountered a weaving loom. I was about nine years old and we were in, of all places, Macy's. I can't for the life of me remember exactly what department we were in. I am trying to call up an exact image of the shelf where I found the loom. I suppose it was a craft department of sorts, but no such thing currently exists at Macy's. I can't imagine what was on those shelves besides the one thing that caught my attention and dug its claws into me. It was a rigid heddle loom in a rectangular box. I was hooked. I wanted it. Christmas was just around the corner and I found my present.

That loom did find its way underneath the Christmas tree. I remember how I felt when I opened that box. After the initial thrill I realized that I didn't have a clue how to set it up. At that point in my life I had not yet developed my love of setting up new things. But my brother could put together anything (and he would prove it constantly by taking things apart and then, eventually, putting them back together.) So with his help - I have a feeling I watched more than I helped - we warped that loom with the red, white and blue wool yarn I had requested also be under the tree. We set it up for a checkerboard. It became a scarf. Not half bad actually. I loved weaving it.

I don't think I actually ever wove much on that loom mostly because of lack of materials. I don't think my parents got it that I required the tools to ignite my imagination focused on fiber. I do remember making a needlepoint piece (I had been designing and making needlepoint pieces since I was seven when my parents brought back needlepoint from France for all three kids. I turned mine upside down and used the yarn to make my own design. An Aunt of mine then gave a bunch of needlepoint supplies to my sister, who although a great artist, had no interest in needlepoint, so I inherited it) and then using the yarn from the needlepoint to weave a backing for a pillow on that loom. Like everything I made, I gave that piece away, but I can still recall the deep reds and greens and blues and yellows that made up that pillow.
I did much more needlepoint than weaving. But in my senior year in college my brother discovered a four harness table loom in San Francsico and mailed to me in Ottawa Canada. I used whatever spare pennies I had to buy yarn and wove something, I believe a tote, although I do not have it. Most likely, I gave it away! At the time my boyfriend and I owned one piece of electronic equipment: a transistor radio. While I wove I listened to the BBC. My favorite show was "As It Happens." Our apartment was dark and cold and one of the windows was badly cracked. It was miserable. I am sure the weaving was suitably dark and moody.

I moved to San Francisco that summer and had the loom mailed to me later. I remember setting it up in my apartment. I think I did that once. I believe I had realized that although I loved weaving, I wanted to make pictures and I didn't actually like weaving cloth. But I didn't know that I could weave tapestry. I had seen tapestries, but I didn't quite understand how they happened.

Years later, pregnant with my first child, I took a tapestry class.

Stay tuned for next blog where I will share the journey that eventually became Mirrix.

Mirrix Loom Homepage

Friday, August 21, 2009


"Creating art is a human's attempt to order the universe in order to possess, if only briefly, a part of it. The process of creating art gives one a chance to dance with one's maker." Claudia Chase

Ordering the universe with beads or yarn makes sense to me. I was sitting at a picnic table at the foot of Mt. Cardigan in NH, slightly annoyed that people were coming and going and I just didn't feel like nodding or saying hi or even noticing them. So I bent my head down into the tray of beads and I started ordering them. That's what we do when we attach these little gorgeous things together whether we use a loom or just needle and thread.

I live in what some would consider the middle of nowhere. In fact, it isn't at all that but compared to where most folks live, I guess it is. A "real" grocery store is at least 16 miles away in any direction (we have a general store circa mid-1800 which we use too much because who wants to drive 16 miles for a gallon of milk . . . besides, the eggs there are all local grown and it is one of the few businesses in Francestown.) So the reality is that the foot of a mountain folks like to hike is going to be way busier than the hill I live on where you just don't see folks very much and can easily escape people noises. We do have the insistent rumbling of house appliances and the slight buzz of electricity and, of course, the computer sounds and the ringing phones. But I can hole myself up in my studio and avoid strangers at all times. I can even avoid family members and friends if I want.

So there I am: Claudia, her beads and a bunch of strangers looking to climb a mountain or swim in New Foundland Lake (one of our more over-populated lakes but it does house a large State Park). I have two hours before Rick and I head off on our next canoe adventure. I am frantically bringing order to my universe by attaching those beads together, certain beads, in a certain manor that is mine. It is my universe and I am in control. I am not inside my body. My body only exists as a tool to make this thing in my mind happen. And I am happy, perfectly happy, perfectly content.

Have you ever noticed that when you are in the throes of creation you are actually in a state that can be considered, if not blissful or happy, content? Yes, there are those rushes of adrenalin when you solve a problem, but mostly it's the repetition of moves that sooth. You make changes: what you are working on grows and mutates as your eyes observe the changes. Nothing outside of that tiny world exists. It is just you and your hands and the materials you are rearranging.

How simple. What a simple way to feel content. And yet, it's not all that. What about the storms that rage when you are trying to solve an idea and find yourself failing again and again? What about those moments when nothing you are working on is working? When there is nothing to turn to with your hands that you can continue, change, develop? Not so good, those times. And then the moment comes when the idea you suddenly woke up with stuck inside your head begins to transform itself, begins to take shape, seems possible, seems entirely yours or at least somewhat yours because every little step we advance is based on a step someone else already took.

Anyway, there it is: you are shaping a little universe with your hands and it is all your are for the time you spend there.

I find eventually I do want to leave. Yes, I have spent many hours at a stretch working on one thing. But my usual level of attention on any one thing for any one stretch of time is two to three hours. Sometimes I am burnt out for the day. Sometimes I need to turn to some other medium or just some other project. It depends. And then of course there is the constant pull to run Mirrix!

I don't know if I could exist without making art. It has become such a central theme for my life. I don't know how to live differently. A few years ago I was visiting my parents in Corsica with my two children. I brought a lot of toys to play with. I dabbled very briefly with my toys. In the end, I made bead patterns on my computer and never so much as made an actual item out of anything. I was so proud of myself for essentially doing nothing for five weeks, for creating nothing physical for five weeks and just hanging out with my family. I needed to do that. They weren't strangers at a campground from whom I needed to escape. I also needed to know I could live without my addiction for a period of time. When I returned home I was back to it instantly, but the break from my usual compulsive need to create was a good thing.

Where did it begin? Can you answer that question? What was the first hint that you were destined to make things? I can. But I'll save it for another blog.

Mirrix Home

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Mirrix ipod purse video part One

At long last, I bought a new video camera and have created the first of the series of instructional Mirrix videos to show you just how easy it is to use this loom. Go back to home page and click on the video tab under instructions.

Mirrix Homepage

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Two nights and one day in Vermont

We got two days off (well, really one and a half).  We spent two nights in Stowe Vermont.  Nice camp ground, sweet little shelter, no bugs.  This is all good.  And I had my beadwork with me.  So I said to Rick (husband, on right) let's not hike Mansfield because something a little smaller would be better.  Okay, he says. So, we hiked Spruce Mountain instead.  Five and a half hours later we were done.  I mean done.  Mansfield would have taken five hours.  It's steeper but a lot shorter.  But I should know my husband by now.  I should know that there is no such thing as a short hike.  Oh, and then he wanted to take a little paddle in the canoe (that would have been an hour long paddle full speed). Gotta leave some wake behind. But the sky had the good sense to fall in rain drops, so we nixed the canoe moment and headed home.  I did make an off-loom piece which I will post if I get the inspiration.  I left mr Mirrix home.  Sometimes you just have to leave even your Mirrix behind.

Mirrix Looms

Monday, June 1, 2009

Beaded Purse

Back to weaving something big on the Mirrix

For a variety of reasons, including the fact that I have not woven something large with beads on the Mirrix for quite some time, yesterday I decided to weave our "ipod" kit. I love this piece. I've woven two already, but gave them both away. I decided that my blackberry needs a new, beautiful house (this purse fits most cellphnes, ipods, you name it). Also, I needed to warp the loom for a larger piece, remind myself that I love this loom and why so I can communicate this information to my customers. So I am going to take you on this journey, which had some snags in the beginning, which I will share. In fact, I will share all the good and all the bad (mostly it will be good).

The kit itself comes with a multiple page version of this pattern. The piece itself is ten inches long and about three inches wide. It gets folded to have a flap. A rope made from rayon is included with kit but you can also bead your own strap since there are extra beads added for this purpose.

I warped the loom. I am good at this having had a bit of practice! Put the heddles on with no problem. Put in the first row of beads, which was really, really easy because I was using the bottom spring kit. Started using the shedding device. Wove about five rows. Everything was working great and I was patting myself on the back for not having made an error attaching the heddles. Went over to a friend's house for dinner. Returned for some more beading fun. And then I realized that I had forgotten to put heddles on one set of warps.

Spent the next twenty minutes trying to fix this problem. Fortunately, the mistake was only about eight warps in. Still, I had to unweave what I had woven, remove all heddles in the way to get on new ones, replace all those heddles. After that, I stopped for the evening because the light was lousy and I was in one heck of an annoyed mood.

But this is good because I was feeling exactly what one of our customers feel when things don't just go swimmingly well. When everything is set up right, it does go swimmingly well and we forget all our troubles in bead land. But when we make a mistake and have to fix it suddenly all those thin threads seem like the enemy and the loom could easily be converted into a weapon or a football.

Woke up this morning with a new attitude and before I even had my morning espresso I wove a few rows. No mistakes in heddle placement. Everything was right in bead weaving land. A not so great close up below but you can see the progress. Those rows took maybe ten minutes to weave and they just fell in place. What I love about the shedding device when weaving wider pieces is there is really only one mistake to make: forgetting to rotate the shedding device. You can tell you've done that when you get some funky side warps. They aren't caught by weft thread. You see it pretty quickly. I did that once this morning but it was the last row I was weaving so it took only a moment to fix. The great thing is that you don't have to remove beads to fix it. Just pull them back through the shed (that's the space between the raised and lower threads). And even though when on the loom it looks like there are slight gaps between the rows, once removed from the loom the warp will shrink back to size and pull everything in nicely. There will be no gaps.

I am going to keep taking photos and keep you updated on my progress with this piece. Will take photos of every aspect including finishing (my least favorite part).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beaded bracelet instructions: Square bead checkerboard bracelet kit

You will be able to but the kit for this bracelet in a day or two. I've made all the kits, just need to get it into our shopping cart. But meanwhile, I am uploading the pattern to this blog for those of you who would like to put together your own kit.

Instructions for Making a Checkerboard Square Bead Bracelet using the Mirrix Loom

Materials Included for making one bracelet:
Matte Patina Iris
Matte Metallic Khaki Iris
Metallic Gold Iris
Two swarovski pearlized crystals
Six grams of Japanese seed beads: Matte Metallic Kahaki Iris
One bobbin of C-lon beading thread
Hand-dyed silk yarn for finishing

Necessary tools not included in the kit:

A Mirrix Loom with or without a shedding device
A piece of cloth for holding beads; a beading needle, a blunt edge needle

Warping your Mirrix Loom:

Warp Coil size: 18 dents (a 14 or 16 dent coil will also work)
Number of warps: 13
Number of rows for 6 ¾ inch bracelet: 99

You can use any of the Mirrix Looms to create this lovely bracelet. This piece can be woven with or without the shedding device. It’s your choice. Try Both!

These instructions are for a bracelet 6 ¼ inches in diameter when on your wrist. Increase or decrease by three rows to add or subtract a quarter inch from the size of your bracelet. Make sure that there are sixrows after the button hole.

You will want to reduce your loom’s height to minimize the amount of warp you will use. If you have a larger Mirrix Loom, this can be accomplished by using the extra warping bar. Use the 18 dent coil for this project if possible. The 14 or 16 dent coils will also be adequate. You will need to have 13 warp threads.

We have included a bead pattern to demonstrate the placement of colors. This pattern does not reflect the actual colors included in this kit. Do follow the placement of color in the pattern.

To Begin Weaving:

Place three piles of the different colored cylinder beads on a cloth in front of your loom.

Cut a length of C-lon thread about a yard long. Tie the end of this thread to the bottom of the left threaded rod on your loom using a slip knot so that you can easily release it and weave it back into your piece later. Beginning with the first row, pick up three blue/green beads, three gold beads, three blue/green beads and three gold beads. Weave these beads. Repeat this pattern for two more rows. The next row will comprise three green beads, three gold beads, three green beads and three gold beads. Repeat for two rows. The next row will comprise three gold beads, three blue/green beads, three gold beads, three blue/green beads. Continue this pattern of for 93 rows for a 6 ¾ inch bracelet. As I mentioned before, add or subtract three bead rows to add or subtract a quarter of an inch to your bracelet. Some adjustment can be accomplished by the placement of your peyote button.

For the next section, keep the new color and replace the old color for nine rows. At row 94, you will need to create a button hole. Continue weaving with your current thread, but only go to column six (please see white line in enclosed pattern). Weave this section of only six columns for six rows. Start a new thread to weave the five columns on the other side of the bracelet. Weave that side for six rows. End one of the threads and continue weaving a straight row of checkerboard for six rows.

Next you need to weave in a header and a footer with the silk thread. Cut the thread in half. Thread a blunt nose tapestry needle. You will be weaving a half inch of this silk on either end of the bracelet. Using the needle, go under and over every other thread (or pairs of threads, if you have used the shedding device), then reverse direction and go under the threads you went over and over the threads you went under. After you have woven a half inch, sew both ends of the silk thread into the woven part so it does not ravel. When you’ve finished weaving your header and footer, loosen the tension on your loom and slip out the warping bar. Lay your piece flat and trim the ends so that you have at least four inches left to work with. Tie overhand knots with warp pairs. When you’ve tied all the knots, trim the warp as close as you can without allowing the knots to be undone. Fold the header (or footer) at the seam where the header and beads meet. Turn the knots under so that they are buried. Carefully sew this header down so that you knots are buried and it looks neat. Do the same with the footer. This will be the back of your bracelet. You want to make this hem as sturdy and neat as possible. Make sure that you avoid covering the button hole.

In order to add a picot edge to the sides of the bracelet, string a workable length of C-lon (a yard) and sew it through the beads at one end of the bracelet in order to firmly attach it. You will pass your needle through the last bead at the edge of the bracelet, pick up three 11/0 seed beads and then pass back through the next edge bead. Pass your needle through the next bead so that you are once again working on the edge of the bracelet. String three more seed bead and pass back through next bead. Continue this way until you have come to the end of the bracelet. If you have left over C-lon, work your way back to the other side of the bracelet and repeat this procedure until you’ve reached the far end. If you have only a short length of C-lon, string a new piece and firmly attach to bracelet. This edging is very attractive as well as reinforcing your bracelet and disguising the warp threads on the side of the bracelet.

The “button” will be created using peyote stitch:

Using cylinder bead color of your choice to make a flat peyote piece that you will sew into a cylinder. Firmly attach the pearls to either end of the tube.

String ten 11/0 seed beads. Make the piece 8 rows wide. Zip the first and last rows together to form a tube. Sew the tail back into the bead work. Use the left over thread to sew to the sixth bead in one of the rows. You will be sewing this button onto the bracelet at a point that creates the best fit for you. String up three 11/0 seed beads, sew onto bracelet, thread three cylinder beads, sew back through button.

Wear and enjoy!

Or, if this is a gift: put it in the included gift bag and give it away!

Mirrix Loom Homepage

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Looking Back

Looking Back

I haven't woven (or should I say, finished) a tapestry in a very long time. Inspired by a customer who just ordered the 38 inch weave to embark on tapestry (and bead weaving) after having in her past woven fabric, I decided I needed to look at some of my past tapestry images. So I picked ones that are nolonger with me. You don't think you are going to miss these pieces when you sell them. You think: wow someone gave me money for that and it's going to hang on their wall. Isn't that great! But I miss them.

The one to the right is called "Fragments.

 It was woven on a linen warp which was wonderful. The piece came off so rich and stiff and complete. loom it was like drinking a really expensive wine after only drinking cheap stuff for years. Tapestry weaving became magical and not nearly as difficult (this experience must have greatly contributed to creating the Mirrix so that others would have that great tapestry weaving experience without having to buy a huge and expensive floor loom).

These pieces are not shown in order of their creation. This piece was also not woven on the Mirirx.

It lives in a home in Wisconsin. Sold from a show I did there. Interestingly enough, the folks who bought it had me turn it sideways for them to hang (I had to change the bar on the back that I use to hang my tapestries . . . something for a future discussion). I wove a series of tapestries in this style. The diamond pattern was fun to weave and allowed for some surprising progressions.

The tapestry below ended up in the office of the Church that also bought the set of tapestries below.

Light of the World:  These two hang side by side in a Church in Wisconsin.  My first serious commission.  The big challenge was to make sure the image flowed from one  tapestry to the other.

Our pond in Wisconsin (where I lived for four years and where I founded Mirrix.) This was done on a Mirrix Loom. I gave this to my loom company partner at the time right before we headed back to New Hampshire to live. He is no longer my loom company partner but I suspect he still owns this tapestry.

Acorns in a tree to the right.  I don't know who owns it because it sold through a gallery.  This was a rare realistic piece.  It was based on a tiny photograph I found in a Nature Conservancy magazine.

The tapestry below is called "They worshiped the sun God."  It came out exactly as I envisioned it.  I use a lot of weft bundles with strands of wool and rayon.

The below tapestry is called Window, I believe.  Again, it sold through a gallery so I don't know where it now lives.

Night Vision, below, lives a corporate headquarters somewhere in Boston.  I forget the name!

Color Impressions

Color Impressions (originally published in Spin-Off Magazine)

I began weaving tapestry with commercially dyed and spun yarn. In order to make the yarns ”sing” I combined various weights and types of yarns together using the method known to tapestry weavers as weft blending. Eventually, I learned how to dye these yarns, giving me even more control over the final product. Still, a certain inner glow was missing from my tapestries.
I wasn’t able to define what was absent until a student showed up to my class with a tapestry woven from her own color-blended, handspun yarns. I was astounded by the muted, watercolor-like glow that emanated from her first tapestry. I had always said I would never learn to spin. In that moment I knew the choice was not mine to make.
The next day I was the owner of a spinning wheel and a couple of pounds of Merino roving from a friend’s sheep. In the first week I learned two things: how to spin a yarn that was acceptable and why all fleeces are not the same. I knew I wasn’t spinning the right fleece for tapestry weaving but I had no idea what type of fleece was right. I asked a lot of questions before I understood which fleeces are appropriate for tapestry, how those fleeces should be prepared, and how to blend the dyed fibers for spinning. Since becoming a bonafied spinner I have discovered that the journey from fleece to yarn is as integral to the tapestries as the weaving itself.

I have decided that certain long wools work best for my tapestries. I prefer Cotswold, but also enjoy Wendslydale and Lincoln. I usually blend these wools with mohair and sometimes little bits of Angelina fiber, which is a totally synthetic fiber that comes in a variety of colors and reflects light in a great imitation of nature. I both comb and drum card my fiber, depending on how well I want to blend the colors since there is a minimum of two colors of fleece in every yarn I spin. I use combs when I want each fiber color to be equally blended throughout the yarn creating a more uniform color appearance and the illusion of a solid color. The drum carder is useful when one wants a more uneven distribution of color and a more variegated looking yarn.

The best method for becoming comfortable with color blending is to practice with small amounts of colored fleece just using hand combs or cards or even you fingers. Start with closely related colors and then throw in a color from the other side of the color wheel. Because the fiber colors do not bleed together like paint, your chances of coming out with mud are non-existent. Gradually add colors, being mindful simply of whether or not the results look good. You can often correct a bad color choice by adding a neutralizing color from the other side of the color wheel. Break out of your familiar color traps by combining three colors that you think will look hideous together. You will find that often the results are better than anything you could have planned. The goal is to experiment with tiny quantities of fiber until you have created a bunch of sample blends. Spin it all up and see what worked and what did not. The final test is weaving this yarn because even an apparently ugly yarn can work beautifully in small quantities in a tapestry. The gift is that as a spinner you can mix your own paints, exerting complete control over the colors in your weaving.

Tricks are great for becoming comfortable working with color, but learning how to see the colors that exist all around us is imperative. Nature is the single best source for this knowledge. Not only does nature provide a perfect assortment of color combinations, but she also showers these colors with an ever changing light show. Matisse used to paint the same scene again and again as the light changed. The colors in each of the paintings from a series are radically different from one another. The experiment is easy to do. Find a patch of nature that appeals to you and watch it for an extended period of time and at different times. Randomly choose to really look at color combinations in nature. Why does that bright red flower look great against the kelly green spring grass? I was always told that yellow greens and blue greens don’t go well together and yet nature is a riot of such green combinations.

I recently received feedback from a student during the last class of a tapestry and bead weaving workshop. She had just returned from a trip to the Bahamas. She was determined to look at the colors of nature while on this trip to inspire the final project for the class. She choose the moment of sunset to watch the colors change above and across the water. She watched it intently every day for a week. When she showed me her final weaving I was stunned. The little flecks of orange and red and yellow and green exploding in a literal sea of blue shading into a lighter blue brought me right to that beach at sunset. There was no sun in her piece. There was just the magic of color that the sun shakes off into the sky and water right before it leaves. It’s a magic all of us are capable of both seeing and recreating.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bead Looms

I was just playing around here and at other bead sites (the guests are all gone, the kitchen floor scrubbed . . . on hands and knees and boy is that wooden floor a whole lot of shades lighter now that I've removed the ground-in dirt!, the dreaded tax stuff sitting in a threatening pile, the sun bright and waiting for me to take my daily walk to make sure the mountain is still standing properly, etc.) looking at looms. It was mentioned on the Bead Creator blog that there are "lots and lots of manufactured looms out there", which is indeed true, so I wanted to get a sense for what the looms are, what makes each one different, pricing of looms, etc. What I found: there is a standard model for many bead looms and most are made of wood of varying degrees of strength, beauty, value and a few are made of light metal like the ones most of us had when we were kids. Those looms: 1) allow you to put on one plane of warp or have roller beams so that you can advance the warp; 2) have the warp attached at either end to a single nail or more; 3) provide a spring at either end through which the warp is spread out evenly. Additional features may include: 1) the ability to adjust the size of the loom to accommodate different length weavings; 2) a stand as part of the loom or an additional stand to put the loom in an upright position. And then there are the plastic looms which are more like forms about which you can wrap your warp. There are also "heddle looms" but I can't find any that still exist. These operate like actual weaving cloth weaving looms and were originally used by Native Americans.And then there is the Mirrix Loom (okay, so you knew I was going land at exactly this spot): The Mirrix Loom is NOT a bead loom (well, it wasn't at first but it is now). It is a tapestry loom. Its closest relative would be the "heddle looms". It functions in a similar, but not identical, fashion. (Let me digress slightly here. I want to mention that all those cool beaded purses from the 30s and 40s were in fact made on regular cloth weaving looms. If you look at t hose purses closely you will see a line of thread between every line of beads. That provided stability because two beads lay between every warp thread. The Mirrix was designed to avoid the two bead/one warp/two bead method so that there could be a bead/warp/bead/warp hence eliminating the need for that extra thread between rows of beads.) The only difference between weaving tapestry on a Mirrix and weaving beads is that when you weave beads you put two warps in every dent (the space in the spring) so that when you raise one set of those threads in order to literally weave your beads (Place them between the raised and lowered sets of warps) you end up with a warp/bead/warp/bead, etc. Otherwise, if you just had one warp thread in each dent, you would end up with a warp/bead/bead/warp. Hard to visualize unless you are sitting in front of a Mirrix. So, having designed this lovely tapestry loom to suit all MY tapestry needs (and that is exactly why I invented the Mirrix, not originally to sell it) and finally gone into business with it, it was pointed out to me by some bead folks, namely Ms. Jane from Jane's Fiber and Beads, that this would make a fabulous bead loom. It would be overkill, of course, because the requirements of tapestry (strength of loom) far out way the requirements of bead weaving. But overkill is good because overkill means the equipment will not fail you and will last forever. (Note here that wooden looms of lower quality wood or particle board will degrade over time but metal will most likely not.) I learned how to weave beads. I didn't particularly want to, mind you. I was perfectly happy with fiber and dyeing and spinning and all that very cool stuff. Who needed beads? Plus, I couldn't dye them and I didn't think there could possibly be enough colors to suit my needs. Wrong, but who knew that then.We discovered that you can simply use the Mirrix to weave beads in the standard way: putting a row of beads on thread and placing those beads behind and in between the warps that are on the loom and then sewing through the tops of the beads to attach them to the warp OR you could use the shedding device and actually weave the beads.So what makes the Mirrix different from other looms: 1) it's amazingly strong and will stand up to any beading moment you want to throw at it; 2) it's very adjustable and accommodates two planes of warp (versus looms that only allow you to weave on the front or looms with roller beams which aren't so great because as you release and roll up the warp you often mess up the tension); 3) it is vertical ; 4) it provides two methods for weaving beads (except for the two smallest ones, which do not include the shedding device); 5) it does not use the nail method for warping which in fact I find very difficult to accomplish; rather it uses a continuous warp which provides consistent tension; 6) it has available lots of spring options for use with any size bead; 7) it's made of some really serious metal.The Mirrix Loom is a serious bead (or tapestry) loom which is nothing like the other many, many bead looms out there. But it also can be for a beginner. It's just a great loom. And since I am its Mom, I think I am bragging! HAVE A GREAT NEW YEAR! Claudia