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, February 28, 2011

2011 Association of NW Weavers' Guilds Conference

After a wee bit of a mix up (our application was sent to the past president whose address is on the application but who does not necessarily forward the mail she receives to the current president) we have now bought ourselves a booth at the Northwest Weavers' Guild event from May 30 until June 5.  We will be there Friday and Saturday (3rd and 4th).  We means Elena and Claudia and the Mirrix family of looms.  We might not have all sizes, but if we don't have what you want we will ship within the contiguous U.S. for free if you order at the Conference.  We will have looms set up for a variety of weavings from tapestry to bead to tapestry/bead combined to warp-faced.  We will happily answer any of your Mirrix questions as well as demonstrate how to warp and weave on the loom.  It's the first of many shows Claudia and Elena will be doing together.  So come join us.  If you are not attending the event, come anyway because it's free to get into the Vendor hall.  Oh, and you might want to know where it is!  Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.  I think that's about an hour from Portland.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Inkle cuff bracelet on the Mirrix Loom

 All sorts of poses from the two inkle weave bracelets I got from the strip I wove.  The last part of the strip could probably be turned into a bracelet, but it was a little wider than the first part of it (or last part of it . . . I don't know which end is which).  My next attempt will be to put a 20 or 22 dent spring on the loom so that the warps don't have any space in between on the sides making this a genuine inkle band.  I will once again use the railroad novelty yarn as weft because I love the way the little squares of color pop up here and there.  If the warps are correctly spaced the little color squares won't show as much.  That's the tradeoff, I guess.  Now to warp!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Inkle weave cuff on the Mirrix Loom

The loom loomed on my table for weeks and I hadn't finished the piece that was on it.  I had warped the loom with hand-dyed silk.  My concept was to create a warp-faced weaving to make into a cuff, which I've done before.  However, the past attempt used perle cotton as warp and I wanted to translate that into the gorgeous hand-dyed silk we use for our tapestry/bead cuff kits.  I wasn't thinking so I just threw the warp on the loom using the spring that was on it, a 14 dent spring..  I should have used either a 20 or 22 dent spring.  I thought I could just fake it by pulling the warps closer together while weaving.  My loom had another opinion.  The sides of the weaving were spreading out while the center was as it should be.  This makes sense for variety of reasons . . . the side warps would drift while the center warps are sandwiched in the middle and kept closer together.  Thinking this whole project was going to be a complete flop, I left it on the loom.  And left it on the loom.  And left it on the loom . . . until yesterday.

This has been the week of finishing things.  Last week was the week of looking at things I should finish and feeling guilty about not doing so (especially the ones begun with a blog and never completed).  The week before that was the week of beginning things I planned to finish last week.  Well, you get the picture.  I have a hard time moving forward with projects when others are waiting for completion.  So I either have to destroy them or finish them, but they just can't sit on my table and stare at me from across the room.  Okay, I know they are not alive, but they sure all seem to have eyes.

So yesterday I took the loom with the silk mess on it, put it on a wicker coffee table in my office, stoked up a netflix movie on the big iMac, turned it so I could actually see it and began to finish this weaving.  I wove really quickly because I figured I wouldn't use or keep the final result.  Half an hour later (yeah, this is fast to weave) I had another foot and a half woven and it was time to take it off the loom.  Shockingly, even though the sides were looser than the middle, it didn't seem to matter.  After all, the plan was to sew those edges to the ultra-suede with the brass cuff sandwiched in between and it could very possibly be disguised with beads.

Hate to make this a cliff hanger by showing you only the on-loom and off-loom photos but not the one of the cuff.  Yesterday, my studio was filled with sun and taking pictures was easy.  Today, it is snowing and grey and no matter how hard I try I can't get good pictures.  The cuff itself is almost done and I love it.  I need to sew on some more beads along the edge, but I would say I have about five minutes left before completion.  I have a second piece glued to the cuff ready to sew on.  So by tomorrow I should have both completed and if there is sun I will photograph them and show them to you.  Meanwhile, this is the back story in pictures:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spinning and Knitting

Last night, after I finally finished the previous project and my eyes were simply exhausted trying to fix those nasty little weft floats, I dragged my Jensen spinning wheel over to my computer, stoked up a movie on netflix and sat down with a basket of alpaca, silk and mohair roving.  I kind of mushed it all together with my hands before heading over to the drum carder (couldn't watch netflix at this point, however) and carding it all a couple of times, not very neatly.  I then sat down a spun a ball of this stuff.  I have to admit I was getting a little bored spinning white fiber and I really could not wait to finish because I wanted to see how it would knit up.  What I really wanted was a warm scarf.  I seem to make a lot of pretty scarves out of hand-dyed, hand-spun silk but I've never made one out of alpaca.  The whole process took quite a while because it was about two o'clock when my husband emerged in my doorway wondering why the heck I hadn't gone to bed four hours ago, at my bedtime (I don't stay late).  But I was just so taken with spinning and the idea of knitting what I had spun that I could not stop spinning until this ball of yarn was done.  I like that feeling.  In fact I am dreaming up a post about feeling blocked and feeling open when it comes to creativity.  For me, it's often the difference between a good day and a bad day.  Sure, other things can factor in, but if I am feeling dead creatively I have a hard time making it through the day with a bounce in my steps.  Later on that.  Now look at that beautiful spinning wheel below.

That's my beautiful Jensen, my only wheel.

My ball of yarn and some knitting.
Just the knitting . . . I love the lace feeling of it.

Swarovski Crystal and gold delica bracelet, take four

My final task was to finish this bracelet along the edges with beads in a picot pattern in order to cover up any out of control stitching, etc.  This is the final piece:

Now for what I did wrong.  Other than the fact that I started this piece three times before I could get my act together enough to usher in the final product, I made a mistake I've made before.  Rather than take the extra ten minutes to warp a Mirrix with a shedding device, I took the short cut route and at first used the LoreliLoom (which I really just badly wanted to use), then the LaniLoom once I realized my sizing was off on the LoreliLoom and then the LaniLoom again once that one imploded.  All along the way a little voice should have been screaming:  this is all leading you to use a loom with a shedding device.  But like many little voices I didn't listen.

Now was not using the shedding device with this particular piece a problem?  Quite simply, it's the difference in shape between the Swarovski crystals and the Delica beads that causes the issue.  When sewing through one to the other the needle really needs to change angles in order to capture both kinds of beads.  In many cases when a Delica followed a crystal, the warp thread between them ended up floating on top of the weft thread.  Actually this happened in both directions.  Lots of floaters in this piece that had to be manually fixed when I added the edging piece.  That was a pain.  I almost marched off to the eye doctor to get me a new set of glasses because I could barely see what I was doing.

My conclusion is this:  Use the shedding device when you are weaving beads of different shapes always.  You can skip the shedding device if you like when using just one bead size and especially for thinner pieces. For me though I might just be better off always using the shedding device because I seem to harbor no talent for being able to sew through the top of the beads without those annoying weft floats all over the place.  I know others can do this way better than I can.

The beautiful little girl Maia shows up for work!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Next Mirrix Free Bead Pattern

This is my ode to spring, which must be right around some corner.  I designed directly with the bead software.  At first I tried to draw the pattern on paper, photograph it and then open it in the software.  I hated the results.  The black lines got blurred and the colors were muddy.  So I put my six hour drawing aside and went right to the software with the help of my Bamboo tablet and pen.  Turns out I could quite a lot of control drawing in the grid and was able to pick exactly the bead colors I wanted versus the bead colors the software wanted.   This is the result that will be posted as a download to our website next Tuesday:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Swarovski crystal and gold delica bracelet, take three

It's finally finished.  Of course I incorrectly calculated the number of rows I would need, but fortunately I erred on too many.  I thought I would need 99, based on the number of rows I've needed in the past for a bracelet made just from Delicas.  Apparently, the Swarovski crystals added more width, so I only needed 89.  I was able to remove the excess rows without damaging the piece.  The next step will be to add beads around the piece to cover up any sewing that might show and to give it a more finished look.

Piece off the loom with ends tied and trimmed

Close-up of three parts of the piece

Bead weaving attached to brass cuff

Inside shot of finished piece

The twenty-two inch Mirrix loom models for you

Seems I cannot take a picture of anything around here without a cat showing up.  Today I put up the photo tent and of course Butter decided it would be a perfect place to play. I kicked him out no less than ten times. Granted, a Mirrix Loom is made even more beautiful by an adorable cat (although that is not always the case when I am trying to weave while also playing tug of rope with my weft yarn and a cat) . . . just not all the time.

I've sent these off to Elena to be cropped, lightened or darkened.  Her photoshop skills and patience way exceeds mine.  Now back to the weaving.

Butter clearly has weaving in his future

Close-up of bottom spring kit

Profile, just the loom

Close up of heddles in place

The LaniLoom just had to get into the picture with the ZachLoom . . . oh this family of mine!

Yup, that's the handle!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Mirrix Family of Looms

A sneak preview of the photography session yesterday.  We decided to take a picture of the entire family so you can really see how they compare in size.

Photo credit:  Jon Webb

In order of appearance:  Loreli, Lani, Little Guy, Big Sister, Zach, Joni and Zeus.

They all behaved very well while they posed although we had to lock the cats in the bedroom because they didn't understand why they could not get in the picture too.  Although that would have been kind of cute.

I spent today drawing a picture for our next free bead pattern.  When I scanned it into the bead pattern program . . . well, I hated it.  The colors didn't translate and the detail completely disappeared.  So after an hour or two of despairing over my failure I decided to use my wacom pen and design directly on the computer in the bead software.  A lot more fun because I actually knew what I was getting.  It's a spring abstract.  But you are going to have to wait until next Tuesday to see and download it.  Now onto the next one.  Hmmmmmm . . . I think I have an idea.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Today is the Day

I know you thought I meant the day I finish the bracelet.  Yeah, it's almost done.  But Jon, the photographer, is here right now taking the family Mirrix photos and boy is Elena going to be happy.  She's been complaining about our photographs for months now.  So we hired a friend of Elena's who happens to be a fantastic photographer.  And he's here right now!  The loom are all behaving themselves, waiting patiently for their turn.  I made a mess of everything taking them out of their boxes.  You see manufacturing does this perfect job of packing them and I've just destroyed their perfect packing job.

That's the Joni Loom getting her picture taken

Mirrix Family Members sitting around the living room waiting for their turn with the old grandma Tissart Leclerc in the background glaring at everyone!

That's the Zeus loom thinking he's going to get warm by the woodstove, but doesn't have a fire in it!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Swarovski crystal and gold delica bracelet, take two

I have five and half inches woven on this third (and last!) piece.  Estimated completion date:  tomorrow, I promise!  If only life and Mirrix wouldn't keep getting in the way.

This is a photo of my progress:

five and a half inches with one and a half to go

The kittens always on hand to help me!

Swarovski crystal and gold delica bracelet

This is a story of failure, failure and soon to be success.  I will post the success story once it is completed, but I thought I would share with you the  journey thus far in the hopes that it will make you feel better about your weaving journey when it doesn't always go as planned.

I ordered five bags of 2 mm Swarovski crystals with the idea that I would create a beaded cuff on the Mirrix loom integrating the crystals with glass beads.  Once I received those tiny tiny tiny crystals I realized that I would have to use them with size 11/0 Delicas.  I was really surprised at how tiny these crystals were.  In the past I've tried to integrate size 3 mm Swarovski crystals with size 10/0 Delicas, but the crystals were too large.  I had imagined the size 2 mm crystals would work with the size 10/0 Delicas but that was not the case.

I set up a mini-Mirrix to weave this cuff.  I had calculated that I would need to string up 17 warps in order for the piece to fit on a 3/4 inch cuff.  I happily wove for a couple of hours, using the crystals to create diamond patterns among the Delicas.  I was very happy with the results until I compared the size of the weaving to the cuff.  My weaving was too wide for the cuff!

I cut the piece off the loom.  I decided at that point to put the warp on the LaniLoom.  I happened to have a piece almost completed on that loom but there was room on the left to add another warp for the new weaving.  I put on 15 warps, which was the correct amount and happily began weaving.

At some point I decided to move the loom to a different table and as I did so the loom fell apart! Apparently, the loom had been extended as far as it could be extended before I put on the new warp.  By cranking up the tension a couple of turns, I went past the point of no return and by moving the loom the copper bar disengaged from the threaded rod.  What I had was a loom in two pieces with both weavings turned into a tangled mess.  There was no way to save either.  To do so I would have had to somehow remove the pieces from the LaniLoom and mount them on a larger loom.  It didn't seem possible without creating even more of a mess.  Below is the incomplete weaving.

As you can see, I used a combination of gold-plated and rhodium-plated Delicas.  Although the crystals are slightly larger than the Delicas, they worked well together as long as I didn't use too many crystals in one row.  I was loving the piece.  Too bad  it had to be cut up.

Without pause, I rewarped the LaniLoom with the correct number of warps and began once again, the third time in one day.  I was able to weave three and a half inches before the sun betrayed me!  I plan to finish the piece today and will show you the results either later on today or tomorrow.

One thing I am good at is failure.  I am not a particularly patient person and don't understand why I can channel patients when it comes to creating art.  Maybe because for me it is all about the journey and not so much about the end result.  Yes, I love end results when they are as wonderful as my fantasy, but often that is not the case.  Rather than beat myself up when I fail, I doggedly start over again.  Removing the offending piece is always a great relief because it gives me an opportunity to begin fresh.  Well, in this case I really had no choice.  The tangled mess on my loom was going to cause more stress than starting again.

I am loving the piece that is now on the loom.  With luck and good math, I will make it the right length.  Experience has told me that to fit the brass cuffs I use, I will need to weaving 99 rows.  This does not factor in the fact that the crystals are slightly larger than the Delicas, but I don't think that will change the math by more than a fraction of a bead.

What I won't know until I've finished weaving the piece and attached it to the cuff is how exactly the crystals will integrate with the Delicas.  In other words, will it have been worth it?  Will the crystals add the intended interest to the piece?  That is important because the crystals are not cheap.  I figure that if the piece were entirely crystals, the retail cost of those crystals would be $180.  I am trying to keep the number of crystals down to 300, which would cost $40 retail, a much more reasonable amount.  The Delica beads, all of which are the most expensive one can buy, will cost about $20.  $60 is not unreasonable if this piece is really stunning.  I also don't like too much glitz and feel that the crystals really do need to be balanced with the Delicas.  Factor in the fact that the Delicas are in their own right just as beautiful as the crystals (I am especially in love with the pink gold Delicas!).  I think the final product will justify all my failures.

Check back tomorrow for the final results!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sometimes you just have to listen to your friends

I was visiting my friend Joni and her family the other day and I made the mistake of mentioning to Joni that I was sort of thinking of maybe some time in the future moving part of my office upstairs.  Well, I should have known that the simple mention of such a thing would launch Joni into a verbal essay of why this just must happen.  "Divide your creative space from your business space," Joni told me.  "It's perfect."

Let me explain the set up here.  There are two bedrooms upstairs and a large landing that looks out over the living room.  The landing is almost as big as the two bedrooms combined.  Both bedrooms are empty.  At one point when my son and stepson were teenagers that space, despite the brand new bathroom, had been turned into the forbidden land of teenagers. I had lost control of that precious space.

The last boy moved out and my daughter and son-in-law moved in for a bit.  Out came the sandpaper, the paint brushes and ladders and before I knew it that forbidden space had been transformed into a space I actually liked.  One room is still my son's for when he comes home for school break.  It's actually not bad.  The other bedroom is now a guest room.  It kind of reminds me of an attic bedroom in your grandmother's home.  I love it.  The space outside of these two rooms has, like the rest of the house, oak floors and large windows.

Joni apparently has always coveted that space.  I had no idea.  And I like that space because . . . well, have to describe the other space first.

The other space, the space that has been the Mirrix space for fifteen years.  I happily took over an entire large dining room and most of the living room.  This is a very odd house.  Those two spaces are connected but have a wall in between where there is a huge fireplace.  I have spread my Mirrix stuff throughout this thousand foot space.  Happily.  But it's too much in the middle of the flow of the house because there is a door to kitchen and when there are people in the house they have no problem with just marching through my space, talking to me even when I am obviously working and generally not getting that there is a virtual closed door and they can't just randomly walk through it.  Also, the way the space was set up before, if I had the door to the kitchen open I could see right into it.  Huge problem.  So someone walks into the kitchen, makes a mess and then dares to leave.  No.  No.  No.  The witch is watching.  "So where you think you are going with the kitchen looking like that when just moment ago it was clean?"  But that kind of constant vigil is exhausting.  

Let's put this all together.  What did I do exactly?  First of all I leaped from bed at seven and with one cup of coffee under my belt worked non stop until six.  I hauled three bookcases upstairs, a thousand pounds of magazines and books, a ton of paperwork, office supplies while also throwing away about three garbage pails full of stuff.  That space upstairs, which isn't even half full yet, has become my "Office" with a big O.  The downstairs space, which I cleaned, is now my studio space with some work thrown in.  I have left the big iMac downstairs because it is also my only source of entertainment, movies and such and there is a nice little purple couch from which to view it.  But everything is now about design and creation.  I also opened things up so that the flow is right.  I love it.  My husband even loves it (he noticed  . . . that was huge).

So thank you Joni!

Want to see it?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guest Blogging: A Trip to Whidbey

Guest by Elena Zuyok, Mirrix's Marketing Director

Today, on a rainy Saturday morning in Seattle, my husband and I went to visit a Mirrix customer and one of our newest Mirrix retailers, Windwalker Taibi (our current featured artist on the Mirrix site) and his partner Mary Jo. Windwalker and Mary Jo own Raven Rock Gallery on Whidbey Island in Washington.

At Raven Rock Gallery with some of Windwalker's purses (made on a Mirrix).

The gallery is beautiful and the art and atmosphere make it a place you really don't want to leave. It is located at Greenbank Farm with two other galleries, a wine store and a cafe (if you like mussels, jump on a plane, ferry or get in your car right now and go there). 

I can't think of a better day-trip destination, Seattleites. 

Some of Windwalkers purses (these are made with his handspun yarn).

I love the way they display their art. 

Is that a Mirrix he's weaving on?

What a great way to show people what tapestry is all about! 

A beautiful beach-themed tapestry.

Love this!

We were looking at another camera, but that's (from left to right) Elena (me), Mary Jo and Windwalker.

It was a lovely trip and we hope many collaborations are on the horizon. 

Please take some time to visit the Raven Rock Studio website: