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!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Free Bead Patterns

We are starting a new program at Mirrix.  We will be giving away one bead pattern on our site for a six week period before that pattern is put into our store for sale.  The first pattern we will upload within next couple of days is, of course, a heart.  Below is the original drawing.  The blog will not let me upload the pattern so you are just going to have to wait to see that when we put it on the site.  Meanwhile, I am literally going back to the drawing board to plan the next pattern.

Oh and also to set up my loom with a silk multi-colored warp closely set so that the warp threads show.  Haven't figured out what I will use for weft.  Plan to turn this weaving into a series of cuff bracelets that will be decidedly not tapestry.  I will take pictures as I go and post tomorrow.

Original Drawing

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Golden Beaded Cuff

dThe price of gold keeps climbing up.  A gold bracelet . . . even a scrawny one . .  will set you back a hug chunk of, well, gold.  Which makes these gorgeous beads with their gold-plated finishes seem like a real bargain.  Those beads can go a long way and mixed with other beads with gold hues or those fabulous permanent galvanized finishes can go even further to realize your golden dreams.

These delightful beaded cuffs will satisfy any need you might have to drench your wrists in gold.  And because these loom woven pieces are attached to a brass cuff, finishing the warp ends is simple and fast.  Just tie pairs of warp threads in over-hand knots and tuck them to the back of your piece before attaching to the brass cuff.

I am doing some counting and figuring to come up with the correct bead formula for our next kit:  the Golden Beaded Cuff in Delicas size 10 and Seed beads in size 8.  Look for it in a couple of weeks in our store.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Zendoodle and colored pencil land

Spent the morning in zendoodle land and finished one I had been working on for a few days:

Close up of same zendoodle:

Now back to the loom where I am designing our latest bead bracelet kit.  This one will be made of gold finish beads in size ten delicas and size 8/0 seed beads in a mixture of gold finish beads permanent galvanized beads.  It will be a bead cuff.  Trying to figure out the correct proportions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Inside and Out Inspiration for Weavings

Winter has descended.  Elena is still in shock.  A week in New Hampshire will not acclimate her to two things:  cold and sunshine.  I think she will not miss the cold but might miss the sunshine just a little.

We decided it would be a perfect day to take pictures of patterns/nature from both inside and outside of the house.  Who knows, there could be a bead or tapestry pattern sitting in Elena's iphone when we are done.

First we started with the peppers Zach grew that are hanging in the window.

Photo taken through window.

Bark . . . I love this one.

Bark . . . I love this one even more.  I see a weaving in both of these.

Branch tangles.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How to Give Your Mirrix a Bath

Unvarnished copper tarnishes. Eventually the copper on your Mirrix Loom will start to look like an old penny. You can either live with this, or do something about it. We at Mirrix use eco-friendly means to polish our looms, both for the environment and for our bodies. We experimented with two formulas made from pantry staples. Our first experiment consisted of baking soda and vinegar.

It didn't work very well and made a complete mess with little white baking soda flakes all over the studio in seconds flat. So, we decided to add to this formula another formula we had read about: lemon juice and salt. The addition of these didn't seem to improve upon our original formula. 

We started again. This time we used fine table salt and lemon juice. It was like magic, and smelled good too. 

The left bar was cleaned. Compare it to the right bar. 

See the shine in the middle! 

How do you clean the shedding device? You remove the brass pieces by unscrewing them. The two brass pieces are female with a male insert. 

Polish your shedding device and reinsert the pieces when you're done. Good as new! You will be the envy of Mirrix owners everywhere and your hands will smell good too. Isn't it nice to know that you've safely cleaned your loom with bare hands? 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tapestry Yarn

I often am asked what yarn to use for tapestry?  The simple answer is:  anything that is beautiful.  Your tapestry is only going to be as beautiful as the yarns you use to make it.  Ugly acrylic yarn from your discount store is going to look just as ugly in the skein as it is in a tapestry.  So let's start off with the don't:  don't use ugly yarn.  DO use yarn that is rich in color, has an inner glow and makes you happy.

You don't have to use just wool.  You can use anything you want and combine these yarns any way you want.  Wool is the easiest to weave with because it is so elastic.  Silk, cotton and linen will make your life a little more difficult because they don't have any give.  Problems with pulled in selvedges will happen more frequently with these yarns.

Don't forget the concept of weft blending:  taking two or more yarns that can either be of the same fiber or different fibers and using them bundled together.  This can product lovely shading effects.  For example:  using a strand of silk or rayon combined with wool.  The silk or rayon reflects light and the wool absorbs it making for an interesting effect.

But let's get technical for a moment and I will explain what really makes a great tapestry yarn.  The answer is long, glowing fibers from certain breeds of sheep that have been combed (not carded) in preparation for spinning.  Combing fibers aligns them whereas carding fibers gets them more tangled up. Yarns made from combed fibers served two purposes:  they were used as warp because of their strength and they were used for outerwear, blankets, saddle blankets, rugs, etc because of their durability.  Carded fibers are loftier and are used for sweaters, socks and other wearables that would be closer to your skin.  For example, merino, which is a very fine, short fiber is great for sweaters but would be lousy for tapestry.

Who are these sheep that provide great fleeces for spinning tapestry yarn?  Here are some of my favorities:

 Cotswold: ancient breed of sheep wearing along, coarse fleece with lots of gorgeous curls.  Was called "the poor man's mohair" because it is like mohair but cheaper.  My neighbor bred these guys and I acquired quite a stash of Cotswold fleece I am still trying to wade through.

When you think of Navajo Churro you think of Navajo blankets  because that's what you'll find their fleece in.  Churros have two layers of fleece.  The outer fibers are used for weaving tapestry. 

 Ahhhhh!  Bluefaced Leicester produce long wool and are called bluefaced because that simply means white hair on black skin.  Hey, you learned something!  

Leicester Longwool.  I know, you want to take them home.  But don't.  Raising sheep will take up all the time you should be spending weaving tapestry.  It's a lot cheaper just to buy the fleece.  The fleece from these sheep find their way into a lot of Australian and New Zealand yarn.

I love this stuff.  I have never actually spun it, but at one point I bought a lot of it from a store in England.  It's all white and very fine.  Soaks up dye almost as if it's silk.  Love the stuff.  I still have quite a stash left.  Maybe I'll dye a bunch of it up and turn it into kits for you.

Romney fleeces are long, lustrous and really great to spin.  It would take me about a year to spin the above fleece!

Now for the problem:  In the US it's really hard to find yarn made from these fleeces.  We tend to make blended yarns that come from random sheep.  The rare time you hear about the sheep that went into a yarn is, you guessed it . . . drum roll . . . merino.  That's the big thing these days.  Anyone sick of the term smartwool yet?  Sure, it's great stuff, but I've known for years that wool is better than plastic bottles for keeping you warm.  I digress.  Suffice it to say, it's really hard to find yarn in this country that is made from any of the above.  That is why I took up spinning. Check out some of my hand spun tapestry yarns:

But if you aren't planning to do that, I have found a few sources for yarn made from specific fleeces that you can use for tapestry.  It's not easy to find such yarns and they are mostly made in countries such as Norway, Sweden, New Zealand.  Go figure!  You can also use yarn intended for needlepoint.  I'll let you do the research on where to find that.

The following is a compilation of tapestry yarn sources.  I am stealing most descriptions directly from websites where these yarns are available.

From Fine Fiber Press:

ALV (Elf) Tapestry Yarn

This Norwegian tapestry yarn is a 2-ply worsted yarn made from 100% combed long fiber wool.  It works beautifully for woven tapestry.  Kathe uses four strands together, with a sett of 10 warps per inch. There are 700 meters in 100 grams (Approx. 765 yards / 3.5 ounces or 218.5 yards per ounce).  NOTE: We sell it only in units of one or more ounces!!

The cost $4.00 per ounce plus cone price of 25 cents. If you provide the paper cone, we will take off the 25 cents. Inquire about cone size. Our winding machine will only use a larger style cone such as those used for standard weaving yarns, not the smaller ones that usually came with the Australian tapestry yarns.

Here is a view of the colors.  However, computer monitors vary greatly so we suggest that you order a yarn card and base your color choices on that card instead of your monitor. The color card costs $3.00.  NOTE: The color card is actually made from this company's 3-ply yarn which is a larger size than the 2-ply one we sell.  The colors are the same however. They include a sample of the 2-ply yarn in the lower right hand corner of the color card.  The title of the sample says: ALV Kval. prove which means ELF sample.

These are the colors!

From Weaving Southwest:

Hand-dyed Tapestry Yarn

100% virgin wool
4 oz. skeins
approx. 162 yards.

We have designed this custom spun yarn to be similar to some of the Scandinavian 2-ply yarns. We have chosen 22 colors for this tapestry yarn and dyed 5 shades of each color, each available in up to 4 pound dyelots. Its luster gives a nice sheen to the finished weaving. We use this with our 3-ply worsted warp at 6 ends per inch (excellent for rugs also) or can be used with a much finer warp at 8 epi.
Sample cards are available with 5 shades each of 20 colors.
We just finished dyeing a whole new run of Tapestry Yarn. These colors slightly are different than what they use to be. We have sample cards available of the colors we currently have. We will have all our new colors, plus a few new colors available within about six months. Call us if you have any questions.  $13.00 a skein.

Brown Sheep Yarn Lamb's Pride and Top of the Lamb:  available in lots of places and is used in our ipod kits

Although intended for knitting, this yarn comes in  a lot of gorgeous colors and works very well for tapestry.  It's available in pure wool (Top of the Lamb) and in a 85% wool/15% mohair blend (Lamb's pride).  It comes in solid colors and painted colors.  Below is an example of a few of their colors.  Who knows what fleece goes into this yarn.  What is "wool.?"

Borgs Yarn from Sweden:

Claudia's notes:  I first discovered this yarn at The Handweaver's Guild of America's Convergence.  There was a sale bin full of it.  I bought enough to fill my suitcase.  I was in heaven.  It used to be available at Unicorn Books and Crafts, but no longer. This is a worsted weight yarn you would use at a 6, 7 or 8 warp sett. My research found the above link.

Mattgarn wool yarn ($ per 100 gram skein)
manufacturersizedyedcolor card
Borgs25/19.50[view colors]
25/1 Mattgarn yarn from Borgs is a heavy single-ply wool yarn for weft-faced rugs. It comes in 100 g skeins of 125 meters (3.5 oz / 135 yards).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Zentangle and colored pencil

I took a zentangle class at a month or so ago.  It was the first class I've taken since college!  I loved the class but experienced a bunch of fits and starts when I tried to zentangle on my own.  First my hand was all crampy and did not enjoy holding a pen for that long.  Then I had to do a search for the paper I wanted to use.  In the class we used little squares, which is a common practice for zentangle.  I wasn't comfortable with the small format size.  I think I was looking for a long-term piece, something I could return to again and again and not have to start with a new little square each time.  In zentangle, one normally uses just a black pen of the marker variety (fine point and archival ink) and a pencil.  The pencil is used to initially draw some boundaries (they call them strings because you create a squarish shape and then divide it up with these strings or lines) and ultimately used for shading.  This shading can contribute to some very fine three-D effects.

I snuck out to an art store and bought myself a large high quality pad of tag board.  It is smooth enough to take the ink lines without bleeding.  I then unburied my "art pen" which is a fountain pen designed for drawing.  I am a big fan of fountain pens in general.  I own about three really good ones that I use regularly.  So it made sense that I would want to draw with real ink and pen if possible.  Turns out this pen is great for these doodles and it works great on the tag board.  Success!  I also bought a set of colored pencils.  I had bought a set of fine-tipped color markers before I took the actual zentangle class but found no success in using them (although I now plan to revisit that option now that I have gathered more information having to do with my personal relationship to zentangle).  Back to the colored pencils:  I tried a zentangle on the tag board and started putting down some color BUT it wasn't working.  It wasn't singing.  I let it sit for a day and then threw it out.  That's my way of dealing with failure:  get rid of it!

And then this weekend THE BREAKTHROUGH.  I got all warm and cozy in bed with NPR, my ipad and a little zentangle book I had bought that fills in the alphabet with zentangle designs.  It's a good reference book to use on the fly.  I decided that my format would be a series of squares and rectangles.  It's good to establish such a framework.  At first I was thinking I wanted to fill in fish shapes or turtles, but the squares and rectangles created an easier starting point.  I started doodling.  Then I bravely took out my set of 24 colored pencils and I started filling in the doodles.  But more importantly, I started shading the doodles with the colors versus applying just solid colors.  It worked!  I couldn't stop.  My hand only got tired after about three hours.  My sister had advised me to not grip the drawing instrument so hard.  When you are having fun that is easier to do.  When you are tense and frustrated, that pen gets gripped like a weapon.

This is the result:


Colors in real life are much brighter
 Next I want to experiment with gilding, paint, markers . . . anything that brings color to this very fun art form.  And then, of course, I am going to turn them into bead patterns.

Hope your New Year has begun on a creative foot too!