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!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Latest Tapestry

I have made some progress on the latest tapestry weaving.  Not has much as I would have liked.  My first revelation, as I shared, was putting on the treadle.  My next revelation was to take it off the table in my studio and put it in my bedroom on a stand.  Why?  The table height in my studio is off.  It's too high and the chair I was using was actually a bench and I was doing some amazingly weird things with my back and my posture.  Besides, I caught some nasty bug and have been hanging out in my bedroom with my laptop. So I thought if I put the loom in the bedroom on a stand with the treadle I might be inspired to weave more.  It worked.

I happen to have a huge bedroom, which is good, so there was ample space for all this stuff.  My only fear is that I'll run it all over in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom.  Turns out I have a habit of running into things. I thought it was just in the darkness (we have no street lights so when it's dark here, it's dark).  But yesterday (okay, I am getting to the photos . . . be patient) I was visiting the NH Institute of Art trying to get a teaching gig (which I did!) with Layna.  We are walking along headed for the copy machine (all the stuff you have to go through to teach there . . . you know name badge and parking permit, etc.) and suddenly this exhibit of student's work on the wall catches my eye.  Each student had a big filled with a drawing of a room's interior and then various samples like tile or carpet.  This one piece had as a sample a hand-hooked swatch of a rug.  Now there is nothing like that to catch the eye of a fiber addict.  So I am turning my head to the right and walking straight and the next thing you know, to Elena's horror who was closely following me, I run right into a temporary wall.  The edge of it.  Glasses smash into my face and I am thinking: Please don't let me be bleeding.

I wasn't bleeding.  I was stunned though.  However, the only person who noticed was Elena so I pretended it didn't happen although I was darn happy to get back to the car where I could assess the damage.  Glasses survived.  Bump over eye where glasses smashed.  Dizzy.  Elena drove home.  (I did a similar thing last summer involving trying to carry my incontinent dog outside in the middle of the night and in the dark.  I swung open the door and headed out but not before it has started to swing closed.  Hit the edge with my brand new glasses.  So much for those glasses.  They didn't really survive.  And so much for my nose.  Big gash where the glasses hit and lots of black and blue.)

Okay, now for the pictures.  I will avoid interviews for teaching gigs in the future if I am sick.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The tapestry project continues Using THE TREADLE

I am weaving away, finding that I am engaging the shedding device handle in one direction as the shapes get smaller and just picking the threads by hand for the other because I can't be bothered to reach up and change the shed.  I am one of those weavers who builds up small shapes at a time when I can.  Others weave all the way across the fell line.  For that second type, changing the shed doesn't happen nearly as frequently as those of us who weave up small shapes.  So finally I get it.  Claudia, maybe time to hook up the treadle?  Isn't that why you had the thing designed and manufactured in the first place?  What is the big deal girl?

So I steal the treadle off the 32 inch loom that is getting dusty on a stand and hook it onto the 22 inch which is sitting on a cluttered table.  The whole process to hook on the treadle takes about a minute.  So what the heck was I waiting for?

Suddenly, my weaving is at warp speed.  Okay, realistically, my speed is at least doubled and because the tapestry is starting to take shape, I am happy. Unfortunately, the light starts to fade and I don't have a particularly good light in that part of my studio and am too lazy to go get my ott light.  Hey, at least I got the treadle hooked up.

This is what I found this morning.  It is starting to take shape.  Below is a comparison to the previous tapestry.

Some profound Saturday morning conclusions.  I LOVE the TREADLE.  It's magic.  I had been doing so much bead weaving that I had forgotten my love for tapestry and hence my love for tools that make tapestry weaving easier, like the treadle.  It's really a great design.  It's only fallback is that the cables do wear out over time in some cases but we include an extra pair in the box and if those wear out we'll send you another pair for free.  So, really no down side.

You can either put each foot on one side of the treadle and rock it back and forth that way or you can use just one foot.  The treadle does not need a lot of pressure to work and it does pretty much stay in position so you don't have to keep a heavy foot on it.  Just a light touch will do.

Now back to weaving!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tapestry Weaving

I got about a third of a way through that ipad case and I got bored.  I guess it's because I hadn't planned the piece well.  I was randomly making stripes and then some stripes that weren't straight.  In the end, I did not like anything about it.  I don't do so well with stripes.  I love them, but better to let someone else weave them.

I was going through pictures of tapestries past (the ones that are no longer living here and especially the ones I miss that are no longer living here).  I found a copy of "fragment cloth."

I have never copied a previous tapestry.  And I am not planning to copy this one.  However, I do plan on using the theme of diamonds moving into the sky.  I will use the wool from our new tapestry wool collection so rather than the colors being deep pastels, they will be much brighter. A lot more orange and purple.

I am going to use linen warp.  Why?  Because "Fragment Cloth" was woven on a linen warp.  What makes linen different/special?  Linen is famously considered hard to use as warp for any kind of weaving.  Why?  Because, unlike cotton and wool warp, linen has no stretch.  On most looms, you tie pairs of warps or groups of warps to attach them to the bottom beam.  Trying to get the tension even is somewhat of a nightmare.  If a pair or group of threads is not under the right tension, they will be tighter or baggier than the rest.  Ugh!  That is NOT something you want.  Can you imagine some gloppy, slack threads in the middle of your tapestry?  Wool and cotton are way more forgiving.   You don't have to be quite as perfect because unlike linen they are not either tight or baggy with nothing in between.  It's the "nothing in between" characteristic of linen that can drive you to throw cones of it at the wall.

However, on the Mirrix this is NOT the case because of the continuous warp.  Linen works beautifully on the Mirrix. Yes, because of its lack of spring it is harder on your fingers.  But the final product is heavenly:  very stiff and perfect.  The piece on the loom is the same size when you take it off the loom (not so, obviously, for tapestries woven on cotton or wool warp, which shrink quite a bit when left to rest when taken off the loom).

You don't have to let your linen piece rest.  It did all its resting on the loom already.  Just cut it off and tie the tends.  You will note that with this piece I left the warps on the bottom as fringe.  I just thought they were part of the piece. I don't normally do this.  I will do this again with "Fragment Cloth Two" which I plan to start in about one minute.  Time to dust off that tube of wetspun linen warp and have a go at it.

I will be using a 22 inch loom.  Eighty warps at eight ends per inch.  If I decide I can even turn this one into an ipad case because it will be the right size.

Lesson learned:  every tapestry has to be approached as if it is your masterpiece and not as something with random stripes just to get through to a finished product for your daughter's ipad!  The whole point of weaving tapestry is to turn it into a meditation that you don't want to end, not a final product you can't wait to get through.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Our Day At Caravan Beads

Getting ready for a day of teaching at Caravan Beads:  The guy to the left is Barry. His head looks just like a camera with a big lens.  Folks are wandering around collecting their wits and their beads. I will eventually remember to take my coat off.  Oh, that's me to the right.

Who is that lovely woman above in the blue shirt?  That's one of our "social networking" winners, Christina (Good Quill Hunting). She lives in the Portland, Maine area so was able to meet us at Caravan Beads to pick up her loom. As terrific in person as she is on paper (or on computer). Check out Christina's blog:

It begins.  We're off.  Smooth sailing all the way. I barely had to teach.  Indeed, even though the Caravan staff had not woven on the Mirrix Loom before, they were able to translate all their other bead knowledge into instant success. Eventually, I just sat back and watched Elena and Barry invent a new way to put on heddles.  

Look at those smiles!!!

One of many walls of beads and other great things to buy. If you've never had the pleasure of visiting Caravan in person, maybe you should. It's worth a plane ride or a long car ride. It's just plain worth it. Plus, the staff there knows how to set up and use the Mirrix Loom.  

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weaving Tapestry on the Mirrix Loom

I am about ten inches into my tapestry using the new Mirrix Tapestry Starter Kit.  I have to admit, I haven't been weaving much tapestry in the last few years.  I've been totally stuck on beads.  Every time I would try to weave a tapestry (mainly so I could put a photo on the website) I would get a few inches done and then return to bead weaving.  I have no idea why certain mediums come in and out of favor for me.  I had stopped preparing my own yarn (getting the fleece, washing the fleece, dyeing the fleece, combing or carding the fleece and spinning the dyed fleece into color-blended tapestry yarn) and I guess I just didn't feel I could weave without using my own yarn.  The reason I had stopped the whole fiber preparation process is I ran out of time.  Between running Mirrix, my family and being a State Rep. there didn't seem to be that extra time to turn fleece into yarn.  It's such a long and meditative process.  There are so many steps and so much time involved in each step.  I do miss it.  So from my spinning glory days when a basket of my homespun yarn graced the covers of Spin-Off magazine accompanying an article I wrote about how to spin for color, I was back to using commercially prepared yarn.

Now, I am inspired.  Turning the yarn for the kits into balls allowed me time to think about the process of weaving again.  It is so different from bead weaving.  I can no longer say which one I like best.  Ten years ago I would have said tapestry.  A few months ago I would have said bead weaving.  At this moment I will say BOTH.  I love both.

What I have rediscovered:

First of all, I am not going for a great design here.  I am just playing with color.  The goal was to take the Mirrix tapestry starter kit and turn it into an iPad case.  First I had to figure out the correct measurement.  The first warp I put on the loom was not wide enough.  In fact, I had put two warps on the loom:  one for the iPad case and one for an iPod case.  Once I wove in the header I discovered that the iPad case would be about seven and a half inches wide and the iPod case would be about three inches wide.  Both pieces had drawn in.  Of course they did.  That is the nature of tapestry.  Figure roughly an inch of draw in for every foot wide of weaving.  And because you know it's going to happen eventually, you need to make it happen with the header.  What you see in the spring above in terms of width is not what you are going to see below once you've woven in your header.  So to fix this I had to add more warp.  Since I already had the heddles on and had started weaving, this wasn't that easy.  I had to sneak another eight warps onto the iPad case and another four or five to the iPod case.  I released the tension on the loom to do this and amazingly enough was able to get the same tension on the new warps.  Then I had to add new heddles.  To do this I had to remove the shedding device from the clips and kind of let it just hang there.  I also had to remove some of the heddles already on the loom and tie them with string so I could easily replace them.  All of this was slightly awkward and not a lot of fun because I wanted to start weaving already!  I did fine with the iPad case but somehow screwed up the heddles on the iPod case once the shedding device was back in place.  So everything was ready to go and I discovered that the iPod case had a heddle in the wrong place which would have meant redoing all those heddles and once again delaying weaving.  I did what anyone would have done.  I cut the iPod warp off!  Which is why the loom now just has one warp (in a previous post I said it would have two).

What I relearned/remembered:

Tapestry and bead weaving are two very different species.  Beads are tiny and sometimes hard to catch and put in place but they are hard and require only a couple of techniques to weave.  Sure, you can do get fancy and increase and decrease, but even that is pretty straight forward.  Tapestry, on the other hand, can employ dozens of techniques.  Each one needs to be mastered.  But first you have to master the technique of getting your selvedges to be straight.  Fortunately, you have an extreme advantage with the Mirrix Loom because of the tension you can ramp up on that warp.  The greater the tension, the less chance the selvedges will start to draw in.  But tension is not the only ingredient.  Understanding what's happening with that line of weft is crucial in understanding how to prevent your selvedges from drawing in.  I was nervous that I would fail at even that basic goal.  However, it did come back to me (I am getting my bicycle out tomorrow!).  Let me explain the basic concept here.  If you lay a straight line of tapestry weft into the shed the line of weft remains straight until you change the shed.  Once you change the shed the weft becomes scalloped in every place there is a warp.  If you've just laid in a straight weft, in order to produce enough weft to allow for those scallops, extra weft will be pulled from the selvedges of your tapestry.  There just isn't enough weft to go around.  So you have to compensate for that in the first place.  When using a bunch of discontinuous wefts, compensation almost happens naturally.  You've got the extra weft just because every start and ending creates a little more yarn in the joining places.  But if you are using one or just a couple of wefts (and yes, sometimes just weaving stripes is really hard!) you have to do the following:  Make sure the weft is wrapped tightly enough around the side warp to not have a baggy loop but not so tightly that it draws in at all. Lay the weft in to the warp in a curve and then take your finger and push down on that curve about every three or four inches so that the curve becomes a series of humps.  Change the shed.  Do this again.  Change the shed.  do this again. Then take your beater and beat it all together.  If you've done this correctly there will be no loops of wefts at the selvedges, the selvedges will not pull in at all, and there will not be little extra blobs of weft sticking out anywhere in the weaving.  What you will see is a smooth patch of flat weaving.  The best way to test your skill at this is to weave simple stripes for a long distance.  If you can accomplish that, you've mastered the art of straight selvedges.

Think about the two possible final products when weaving stripes.  One piece has straight selvedges and is totally flat with no visible loops around the side warps.  Another piece pulls in like a triangle, has baggy bits here and there, loops hanging off the side warps and is not flat.  Obviously, the first one would be lovely as long as your weft yarn is attractive and the colors work well together.  The second piece would be a failure no matter how gorgeous your yarn and your colors.

A trick for making sure your don't get too complacent.  You can be doing everything right but get so into the flow of things that your weaving starts to pull in slightly.  That happens even to the best tapestry weavers.  So a rule of thumb is:  measure your width every half inch or so.  Don't just eyeball it because your eye wants to see what it wants to see.  I can't tell you the number of times I've seen perfection and then found I was actually off by quite a lot.  If you find your are starting to pull in by even the slightest fraction of an inch, you can correct it by making sure the next row is wider.

Another complicating problem with tapestry that doesn't happen with beads (which are even and hard and make their own rules with or without your input) is the tendency for warps to want to not always be evenly spaced.  Why?  I don't know.  Maybe they are just mean and want to test you every step of the way.  Again, excellent tension is imperative to prevent this from happening.  However, even with excellent tension sometimes you will find that the warps on the outside of the piece are growing farther and farther apart while the inside warps are drawing closer and closer together.  It is so annoying.  You've got to fix this the second you see this happening.  Just start pushing those warps back into place with each new line of weft.  Make them listen.  Place extra weft on the sides, weaving short distances back and forth to bring those warps closer together.  You can fix it but not if you've let this go too far.  The other result of your warps becoming too spaced at the selvedges is the appearance of ridges where the warps aren't lying as flat as they should.  It's almost a curling process.  It's not pretty.  Again, it can be fixed by pulling those warp threads back into their correct alignment.

Beyond the Basics:

Thinking about it:  tension really is the key to almost all fiber or bead work.  Once you've mastered that in any given medium you can move on to the fun stuff.  It's always frustrating to have to get past that point.  I remember trying for days to figure out how you actually start crochet!  What a mystery.  Now it seems so utterly simple.  Same with knitting.  Same with bead crochet, peyote, herringbone stitch . . . . rug hooking, basket making . . . they all have that weird "how the heck do I start this and then get the tension even???

My goal with this iPad case is to get my selvedges even, keep my warps nicely lined up, make sure my rows of weft are flat and even and to stay sane with my color placement.  I just want to produce a functional and attractive piece.  If the case proves to still be a little to slim for the iPad, I plan to weave a fake inkle band on the Mirrix and sew that along the sides of the tapestry, giving a little more width to the case as well as a handle.  I also crocheted a small patch that I plan to felt and then apply as an outside pocket.

Now back to the loom!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mirrix Yarn Kit

The yarn kit is assembled and ready to be listed on the website.  I took a couple of pictures to tempt you.  I have started weaving an ipad case on the 22 inch loom.  Have only gotten a couple of inches done.  Here it is.

Congratulations to Christina and Sherri!

CONGRATULATIONS Christina Neit & Sherri Woodard Coffey, the chosen participants for our "Social Network for a Mirrix" campaign! Keep checking back to follow their Mirrix experiences! Congratulations also go out to our runners-up! Thank you to everyone who applied! We had some amazing applications and it was very difficult to choose just two people to participate.  We picked several runner-ups who will receive a 30% discount on a loom. If this whole project is successful (and we are guessing it will be) we will do it all over again in a few months.  Keep watching for notices.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Some fun pictures of the Mirrix Loom

The big white photo tent was in my studio so we decided we should take a few pictures because the sun is actually out for the first time in ages!  Thought you would enjoy seeing these.  First, the Mirrix party:

Behind everyone is the 22 inch loom.  To the right and in front of it is the 16 inch loom sporting a tapestry. To the left of that is the 8 inch loom with half of the beaded cuff pastel bracelet (tomorrow I finish it . . . well, maybe not, but I'll make a dent).  And in front is hte 16 inch loom with the ipod kit in progress.

Then we took these:

Close up of pastel bead weaving.  Gotta love those colors!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Inkle Weaving on the Mirrix: Sort of

I warped up the Mirrix with perle cotton.  I don't recall what the weight is (can't recall what the weights of perle cotton are period and don't want to take time to look them up . . . you can though!).  Wasn't very thick.  I used a 22 dent spring.  (My next experiment will leave the spring out completely just as there is no spring on an inkle loom because the warps are meant to lie next to one another and the spring creates a slight separation.)  The idea was to create an inkle band.  Actually, originally I put two sets of warps on the loom.  The second one experienced so much experimentation that it finally accidentally got cut and was removed from the loom.  Let me show you a picture of the remaining warp and explain what I ended up doing with it.

See the bands of color in the warp?  See that the piece did not turn out weft-faced they way an inkle band should be.  What happened?  Again, the spring at the top was not a great idea.  Also, I used a novelty yarn which was too thick.  However, I LOVED the result.  Let me show you another picture of it.

There are vertical stripes and horizontal stripes.  It's actually more of an even weave.  I will put the correct warp on the loom and weave with the correct weft to get a genuine inkle band, but for now I am having so much fun experimenting with the concept of both warp and weft showing.  The way you beat down the weft is by using an inkle shuttle.  This is a small shuttle with a sharp edge on one side.  As you are passing through your weft you pause first to beat down the previous weft with you shuttle.  You do this after you've changed the shed.  Then you pull your shuttle through and change the shed.  I am thinking my next experiment will be with a wider piece.  Maybe three or four inches wide.  And I am thinking that this piece could fold up beautifully into an ipod or cellphone purse and take very little time to weave but be rather gorgeous.  Final picture of piece close-up follows:

What am I going to use it for?  I had used the perle cotton to crochet a purse.  I am going to use this for the sides and the handle.  Will post final creation once it's finally created!

Just remember:  You can weave just about anything on a Mirrix!

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Tapestry Beaters

We finally got the tapestry beaters.  They are made by Schacht Spindle Company and are very nice.  One is weighted and quite wide and the other is not weighted and a little thinner.  I think you need both! Will be listing in store in a few days.

Some Things I've Made

My house is filled with things I've made on the loom over the years but for some reason I've not photographed a lot of those pieces.  I took a little walk around the house and picked out a few tapestry pieces to share with you.  It's good stuff for those just embarking on the amazing journey of tapestry since these pieces are simple in their design.  I had fun with the colors (some use hand-dyed wool) and with the concept of straight lines or geometrical shapes. Let me show you.

This was my first totally symmetrical tapestry.  In order to guarantee that it would turn out symmetrical, rather than just eye-ball it as I went along, I cut all the color yarns to be exactly the same length.  It worked.  I used rug yarn that I bought at Halcyon.

I didn't want the lines of this piece to be straight.  The yarn is rug yarn that I dyed.  I was pleased that the selvedges were so straight.  That is always the hard part but by then I finally owned a Mirrix and getting those selvedges straight was a lot easier than it had been in the past.  Also, both this piece and the one above are woven on a linen warp.  Linen gives your piece amazing body and because the warp on the Mirrix is continuous (ie., you don't have to tie pairs of threads) the linen will go on perfectly evenly.  So I suggest to those of you who have avoided linen because it is so hard to get all the pairs tied to the same tension, give it a go on your Mirrix.  It's wonderful.

Another piece woven on a linen warp. I used the same trick as with the first piece.  However, this was hand-dyed wool.  Problem was, this piece sat in sunlight for a few years and the hand-dyed wool got a little blotchy.  I still enjoy using it.

Front and back of small tapestry purse.  This was woven from a Mirrix tapestry kit from a while back.  It uses only slit tapestry and the slits are sewn with beads.  The strap is attached with beads as well.  I plan to revive a similar kit as soon as the yarn arrives.