Weaving for Zoo-Islander 2020

My second year of contributing to the Zoo-Islander Fashion show was inspired by the four elements- earth, fire, air, and water. I was drawn to create dresses, but I also ended up making shawls, capes, pants, a halter top, skirt, jacket, and a tunic style top- most of which were modified designs as I went along. My formula for designing the outfits was to start with a basic sense of the element, and gradually shift into a mixing up of elements into a more choatic creation, representing an evolution of the elements as they mix and mingle. The last outfit of each element is a transition into the next element.

Earth- starting with the simplest of design in earth tones, I felt these pants and shawl had a very hobbit-ish style. “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, small acts of kindness and love.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.

Earth Goddess Cloak~ “Nature lives within her, entwined in divine beauty with all of nature. She is the seed that can grow into a beautiful forest, and every breath she takes is a new season of wonder.” – Lourdes Alexander

Rooted Dress~ “If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Starlight Tunic~ “Thus, when the lamp that lighted the traveller at first goes out, He feels awhile benighted, And looks around in fear and doubt. But soon, the prospect clearing, By cloudless starlight on he treads, And thinks no lamp so cheering As that light which heaven sheds.” – Charles Lamb

Fire- The first two shawls I regret that I didn’t capture the actual model in them! I began with the Candlelight Shawl~ the basic beginnings of fire captured as candles provide a light of sacred vigilance, of wakefulness in difficult times, drawing us closer to the divine balance of light and dark, drawing protection and courage while sitting in peace and commemoration.

Hearth fire~ Traditionally, the hearth was the heart of the home, where, in the time before electricity, winter was kept at bay and families gathered in the early darkening of the days to share stories and food. The Hearth was the center of the winter dormancy, blazing with hope for the returning of spring.

Embers~ “The burning embers within me burst into flame / My body becomes a fire lit torch. / Ho someone! Send for the mid-wife.” -Amrita Pritam

Fire Dance Dress~ “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” – Martha Graham

I was not able to find the appropriate quote for the transition fire/air outfit. For the Zoo-Islander fashion show, it had the lengthy title of “Quickly Melting Orange and Raspberry Gelato on a Hot Summer Day at the Beach”. It was in the fire portion of the collection, representing the heat and energy of the sun. Yesterday in my garden, I was so in love with the ripening peaches next to the towering pink tones of the hollyhocks, and I thought the title could also be “Peaches and Hollyhocks Ripening in the Garden Under a Bright Sun on a Beautiful Summer Day”. Celebrating the energy of the sun as it pumps life into our plants and bodies- fruit, food, and flowers… and yes gelato.

Beginning with the Breath Dress~ “Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wind Shawl~ “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.” -Khalil Gibran

Moth Wings~

There is a kind of white moth, I don’t know
what kind, that glimmers
by mid-May
in the forest, just
as the pink moccasin flowers
are rising.

If you notice anything,
it leads you to notice
more
and more.

From The Moths, by Mary Oliver

Waterfall Tunic (just as much air as water)~ “To trace the history of a river or a raindrop is also to trace the history of the soul, the history of the mind descending and arising in the body. In both, we constantly seek and stumble upon divinity, which like feeding the lake, and the spring becoming the waterfall, feeds, spills, falls, and feeds itself all over again.” – Gretel Ehrlich

River Dress~ “Across the wall of the world, /A river sings a beautiful song, /Come rest here by my side.”
-Maya Angelou , from On The Pulse Of Morning

Ocean Horizon Jacket~ “The deep roar of the ocean. The break of waves on farther shores that thought can find. The silent thunders of the deep. And among it, voices calling, and yet not voices, humming trillings, wordlings, and half articulated songs of thought.” -Douglas Adams

Sea Sparkle Dress~ “I felt the full breadth and depth of the ocean around the sphere of the Earth, back billions of years to the beginning of life, across all the passing lives and deaths, the endless waves of swimming joy and quiet losses of exquisite creatures with fins and fronds, tentacles and wings, colourful and transparent, tiny and huge, coming and going. There is nothing the ocean has not seen.” -Sally Andrew

Zoo-Islander 2020 took place Feb 29th, and I think it was our last major community event that took place before Covid came into our world. I am so grateful for these kinds of celebrations that we have created as a community, that have become precious memories of collective creative efforts that shape and define our lives… now that I have lived a whole year without these events, I am even more deeply moved by the priviledge of involvement. Zoo-Islander 2021 will be an online event happening at Easter. I am looking forwards to the next amazing gathering in the name of island fashion!

Zoo-Islander Fashion Show 2019

Generally speaking, the Southern Gulf Islands are full of enterprising creative people, who are always keen to have an excuse to get together and stage uniquely islandish events thought up from quirky impulses that often spin into tradition. (Disclaimer for the other half of the Islanders who live here to hide away in introverted solitude and bliss!)

One such event birthed in 2017- Penders’ Zoo-Islander Fashion show. The original concept was inspired by the treasures of our small isle’s thrift store, the Nu-Tu-Yu, and the notion of abundant creative local fashion that need not come through the chains of factories and pollutant textile industry practices, but by that which exists already within reach of our rural setting. The idea was to invite members of the community to participate either by presenting a whole runway collection of outfits, volunteering to model for a designer, or merely to put together a single outfit and join in with a collective runway. Age, size, shape, material, theme, music, and application was not confined in anyway- and what we witnessed and created was a uproarous fury of chaos, surprise, and wonder, as familiar faces paraded by clothed in plastic bags, braziers, foam sculpture, space suits, leather warrior vests, garlands of salal, glow in the dark boots and gloves, wetsuits, and a wild carousel of wigged cabaret corsets.

The second year I found myself a model on 6 runways, stripping between them from steam punk to fortune teller, bio-luminescence to golden street attitude. The third year I hesitantly decided to attempt to weave a “few” outfits for a runway collection of my own. I ended up fitting 16 of my friends and family into variously constructed experiments of woven creative impulses and choreographing their display to 12 minutes of music scoured over for the perfect thematic fit.

The theme I was working with was Dusk to Dawn. The outfits followed the nightly timeline starting with the sunset, through era, style, and concept, right into the rise of the next morning.

  1. Sunset Gaze… inspired by the colours of sunset and the intention of heading out to watch the shifting play between the sky elements. Along the way this dress took on a bit of a 60’s mod feel.
  2. Boho Poetry- a vest I made a few years ago, but it didn’t fit me very well so I put it aside and didn’t know if it was wearable. I added beads to the long fringe and it turned into a bohemian outfit perfect for your Soho evening cafe poetry reading.
  3. Night Lights On Water… you can interpret that as a harbour in the city or a lake or ocean under the moon… we decided that she was on her way to a jazz club.
  4. Victorian Business- Stepping out of his carriage in his wool overcoat, he tips his hat to his driver as he heads across the cobblestone road to the dimly lit restaurant where he hopes his business partner has secured a table.
  5. Rave. I was interested in bringing in a sense of the big city and all the neon lights and reflective windows, and I ended up with this capelet and leg warmers. Worked fantastically with the black light, too!
  6. Moving from the world of human activity up into the night heavens with this Moon Goddess. Lots of raw silk and shifting hues. She also has a small satellite of her own, so it was a kind of planetary representation as well.
  7. Planetary Satellite, like if the moon had a moon, and maybe somewhere in the galaxy there is a moon with a moon, because really the possibilities are endless.
  8. Staying with the night sky, we had the Aurora Borealis float by in shimmering purples and greens. I made this last year with the aurora in mind, so it was an easy pick for the fashion show!
  9. Naturally at night we go to bed, so I made an outfit that represented a Pillow & Blanket. Often in the winter I will wrap a small wool blanket around myself in the evening, and so I made a small blanket in which to use for this outfit, and I made a little shrug with angora, linen and cotton, attempting to make it a little pillow like.
  10. Cosmic Cloak- I am always inspired by stars, galaxies, nebulas, black holes, and all that beautiful chaos that makes up our universe. Hidden by day, yet always present.
  11. Shifting into the dream realm, we have Rainbow Warrior… basically I wanted to make a kind of dress with rainbow yarn and white yarn meeting in the middle, but it reminded me of a knight’s tunic when I put it together, but it was for Geneva so I thought of Joan of Arc, and then I made rainbow gauntlets to go with it. Classic example of the weaving finding it’s own way with my ideas.
  12. Midnight Mantle- originally inspired by folklore images of a woman pulling a blanket of night across the sky, tucking us in for the night, this cloak took on a mystical and timeless realm. Made from recycled silk and cotton dresses ripped into strips.
  13. Hunter- what can I say, he wanted to wear a cloak and carry a bow. I am grateful that my 13 year old son was so keen on being in my runway. This cloak was the perfect use for a whole bunch of hand spun wool that I made and then tucked away a few years ago.
  14. Early Morning Traveller Walking Through A Misty Birch Forest. I was glad to have some more male representation. Variety is everything.
  15. Early dawn begins with the songs of all the Morning Songbirds… and so I represented chickadees, wrens, towhees, robins, and juncos in a jumble of multi-songbird colours.
  16. New Day ☀️ Because each night finally ends… and sometimes when I wake up there is a moment when the details of the day have not yet come to me, and I grasp the last threads of sleep with an awareness of the new days’ clear beginning. An uncluttered presence. This dress was woven using a white cotton fitted bedsheet torn into strips, with the elastic cut from the edge creating the wrapped belt.

Many of these pieces have been sold, deconstructed and reconstructed, or remain as strange concoctions packed down in the depths of storage. I am super grateful for the Zoo-Islander team who put all the details together so I could, along with a line-up of designers, let my imagination loose upon the residents of Pender Island.

Here is a video clip of my runway from Zoo-Islander 2019.

Weaving for a Collaborative Art Show

The local winery here on Pender Island offers their large tasting room to local artists each weekend of the summer for art shows, and this summer I was invited to add my weaving to a group of four artists- painter (and my mother!) Margaret Alpen, photographers Eve Pollard and Derek Applegarth, and glass jeweller Nancy Westall.  The room at Sea Star Vineyards is open and bright, with lots of wall space and a large, plank style table in the centre.  It was wonderful to have so much room in which to display scarves and ponchos, rather than trying to fit everything in on a market table!  I also really enjoyed seeing my designs blend with the work of the other artists.  The colours of Nancy’s jewelry really matched beautifully, and Eve had a photograph that she took of my and Rosie.  Also my mother’s west coast arbutus trees and forest paintings created a wonderful sense of place.

I was inspired to focus mainly on pieces in which I had incorporated my hand spun angora fibre from my angora rabbit, Rosie.  I have been spinning it in a blend with other fibres, mostly merino and alpaca, and the pure white result is refreshing to weave with.  Having a few display mannequins really helped to show the shape of the ponchos, which were the pieces that sold the best!  This was my first art show, and it was lovely to chat with the folks that came by, and show them my Saori loom which I brought along to set up.

Another nice touch is the Winery’s request for the artists to donate to a local non-profit organization in lieu of rent for the space.

Winter Collection~ Blending Angora

drum carderIn the past few months, I have been blending my collected angora fibre with a variety of other fibres.  After changing out the cloth on my old drum carder to one that has a higher tpi (tooth per inch), which is better for finer fibres such as angora, I started with alpaca roving, which is very soft and also white, the same as my angora.  It carded and spun up beautifully!  I moved on to using a heavier merino wool that was hand painted in shades of light blue and purple, which became more diffused when I added the angora, but which held a lovely softness.  I also tried out some long staple llama locks in auburn, which produced a heavier weighted blend.  Lastly, I have blended the angora with a black merino wool, which gave a very tweed-ish grey, and was still very soft.  Here are some photos of replacing the carding cloth on my drum carder.  I took the whole thing apart, and pried off the old cloth.  The new cloth was cut to the correct length and stapled back onto the large drum, as well as the small one.  It was important to notice the tooth direction when putting the cloth on!  (Teeth at the top of the drum need to bend away from the loading tray).  Everything got a good cleaning before putting it all back together.

Making a blend on the drum carder-  I didn’t do any specific ratio measurements, as I am still getting a feel for how much angora I need to include at a minimum to still have a predominant angora feel.  I have been estimating a half and half ratio to start.

Generally, I loaded the tray and carded it through, doing about three loads before I pulled the batt off the large drum.  Then I carded the whole batt through once again very slowly, letting it spread out while it was pulled in to get a smooth, overall mix of the two fibres.  I didn’t take any photos while I was spinning it!  Here are some scarves I wove with the yarn from that combination, and a skein of angora/alpaca in which I spun little coloured bits.

I am very excited about exploring more options with the angora I am getting from my rabbits.  The neutral colours of the angora are flexible with colour combinations, and the added softness and warmth are simply divine!  These and other creations are for sale on my etsy store~ Silver Circle Weaving.  I also look forward to having all my weaving for sale at the Christmas Craft Fair at the community hall on Pender Island this weekend!

Silver Circle Weaving on Etsy

silvercircleweavingI finally decided to test out the services of Etsy to sell my weaving online.  So far, I have been offering my creations at the local farmers’ market during the summer, and I have often received inquiries from visitors about how they can see my work online.  I have really only used this blog to post photos, but never really had a purchasing format.  I am hopeful that Etsy will help connect my hand woven creations with those around the globe seeking to support small home businesses focusing on hand made items.

Visit my shop:  Silver Circle Weaving

I also realized that I needed a name… so I did some research on spinning and weaving and the symbolic associations with Celtic mythology, which I have always been interested in.  This is what I found:

83117db14f606e3e121892b219b44076Arianrhod, Celtic Welsh Star Goddess of Reincarnation, is known as “Silver Wheel”, “Silver Circle”, “High Fruitful Mother”, “Star Goddess”, and Sky Goddess. She is considered by many to be a Moon Goddess.  She is a primal figure of feminine power, a Celestial Mother Goddess who through her role as Goddess of Reincarnation, rules fertility and childbirth.  Arianrhod also rules arts, magic, and manifestation. As the Goddess of the Silver Wheel she is associated with spinning and weaving.  With Her wheel she magically weaves the tapestry of life.

Things sacred to Arianrhod are the owl, wolf and the birch tree.  The owl has long been associated with death whereas the birch tree is the tree of new beginnings.  To the Celts, the wolf was associated with the power of the moon.  Thus, Arianrhod’s wheel circles the continuum from birth to death and to birth once again, and creating the journeys therein.

Her palace was found in the far north on the magical, rotating island of Caer Sidi, which probably means “Revolving Castle”. She lived there with her female attendants. The ancients believed that her domain and her castle, Caer Arianrhod, were in the Corona Borealis, the constellation of stars moving around the apparently motionless North Star.  Legend tells us that poets and astrologers learned the wisdom of the stars at Caer Sidi.

As “Silver Wheel”, Arianrhod was responsible for the souls of warriors who fell in battle. She gathered them aboard her ship, the Oar Wheel. and transported them to Emania, also know as Moonland.  In the Northern sky, whirling around the enduring stability of the north star, Arianrhod presided over the fates of departed souls, nurturing their journeys between lives.

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I like the simple image of a silver circle, and I hope to also create a little design to go with it.  I also hope to be offering more items with my hand spun angora fibre that I have been harvesting from my own french angora rabbits.  I am still in the process of learning the skills of blending and spinning the very soft and silky fibres so that I may integrate it within the weaving.

Angora Scarves

I have finally woven up two scarves using the skein of angora fibre that I spun from our chocolate french angora rabbit, Gustav.  I mixed it with some hand spun, hand painted merino from a Pender Island fibre artist, I Heart Ewe (iheartewe.etsy.com) that my daughter gave to me for christmas.  The two scarves are for each of us.

Truly, the softest fibre I have ever touched.  I look forwards to experimenting with more!

January Weaving

The (slightly) quieter schedule that engulfs us after the holiday swirl offers a perfect time to focus attention back at my loom.  After a recent trip to Knotty By Nature in Victoria for a new array of warp thread, including some shiny bamboo, I have been continually inspired to explore and play with many ideas and colours.

Moss & Arbutus- My first attempt to weave from an idea of composition that I originally drew.  Warp threads are bamboo, weft consists of merino, and baby llama/mulberry silk blend.  The white accents are hand spun angora collected from my own rabbits.  158cm long (63in.) x 27cm (10.5in.)  

Fire- woven on the same bamboo warp as Moss & Arbutus, I used green baby llama/mulberry silk blend with Noro wool featuring long colour changes.  I played with the effect of clasp weaving using two yarns of differing thickness.  130cm (51in.) x 27cm (10.5in.)  

Forest Windows was inspired by seeing small squares woven separately in a cloak somewhere online, creating little “windows” that opened on the sides.  Same bamboo warp as the above pieces, I used similar merino with the baby llama/mulberry silk blend, with moments of white alpaca.  145 cm (57in.) x 27cm (10.5in.)

Pond is a tiny little neck warmer in the same hues as Ocean.  It is only 105cm (41in.) x 13cm (5in), and was woven on the same warp as Ocean, except that I split the warp and wove two separate pieces at the same time.  

Ocean is a long expanse of blues, purples, and white with flecks of cream and deep green.  I used alpaca, merino, wool, and some locally spun and dyed merino on cotton warp.   Randomly placed spaces in the warp add some visual texture in the length.  This piece measures 195cm (78in.) x 32cm (12.5in.), and may one day become a piece of clothing.

Angora Heaven

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Locally harvested!  100% French Angora, Gustav, the fibre machine. 

It has taken a bit of time, almost 6 months in fact, to finally catch the chance to spin some of the super soft angora fibre that I have been collecting from the three rabbits, Gustav, Rosey and Peter.  In the time that I have been learning to care for them, I have witnessed their own unique bunny personalities, as well as individual fibre qualities and shedding times.  Gustav has proved to be the manufacturing machine, with a grow back and release time of about 2 months.  I have collected a large amount of his lovely grey tinted fibre.  Rosey loves to hold on to her wedding gown cascade of pure white fibre, and resists many of my attempts to pull it out until just the right time, which is closer to 3 or 4 months.  Peter is a satin x french angora, and has very fine fibre that doesn’t seem to ever grow too long, and doesn’t produce the quantity that I get from Gustav, as he sheds somewhere in the middle of the other two.  Peter has a lovely orange brown to his coat.

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My long term goal is to blend the angora with some other fibre, which means experimenting with carders to pre-blend the fibres together before spinning.  Since my time has been short, I have not been able to gather tools to test out before buying, so I decided last month to go ahead and try spinning some fibre 100% and without any carding.  Teasing out handfuls of lofty bunny hair which had been harvested straight from my rabbit, I gave it a light spray with water that had a few drops of jojoba oil and lavender oil in it, as was suggested by my most referred to book, The Nervous New Owners Guide To Angora Rabbits, by Suzie Sugrue.  That kept it from flying all around the room!  It was not too hard to spin, and I was inspired to keep the harvested fibre more orderly for next time.  The pieces that were nicely aligned spun up more evenly than the chunks that were tangled from the brush, or from being scrunched in the bag.

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I made one large skein of 2-ply, 100% angora, and then a made another small quantity that was 2-ply, one of the ply’s being 100% alpaca.  The two fibres mixed wonderfully, and I think that once I get a handle on pre-blending, then the possibilities for creative mixing will become another source of heaven in my hands.

Angora Additions to the Family

For many years, I have had the idea to eventually raise angora rabbits as part of our family and farm.  I imagined that I would wait until all our building projects were done, when I might have more space in my time to learn and manage another project.  However, it seemed evident that our home schooling journey needed more long term and interactive projects, and I realized that the things I wanted to do were also things that my kids were interested in, and besides, home schooling for us is all about living, creating, and doing- just learning through life.  So I promptly gave my twelve year old daughter the task of taking on some research to find out what we need to know and do, and where to acquire some rabbits.  In her process, she herself fell in love with the possibilities of these cozy cute creatures, and began to be a major motivation to our moving forwards.

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Rosey- Sable French Angora, 1 year old

We decided to find some French Angora rabbits, since that seemed to be the breed that was an easier level of management for first time bunny owners.  They have a clear face, free of long hair, and a thick coat of soft hair that doesn’t tangle as quickly as some other breeds.  We weren’t too keen on the rabbits that had a face hidden behind so much hair!  Their fibre can be gently pulled off their bodies every 3 months, when the new undercoat grows in, so no shearing required.  We looked at a space to give them, the food they needed, the protection they needed, and the management of their poop.  We also found that they are hypo-allergenic, which was just what we needed, since my mother with whom we live is seriously allergic to cats.  French angora’s seemed to be a lovely pet, (they generally have a good temperament and are playful and clean), they can live outside, (great for our small space), they produce beautiful fibre for all my weaving and spinning projects, and we obtain a constant supply of rich rabbit manure that can be applied fresh right to the garden.

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Peter- Chocolate Agouti French Satin x, 3 years old

We didn’t find any breeders in our area, or even distant area, but we did find an owner who was no longer able to look after her two french angora’s, and one french/satin x.  The two french’s, one male and one female, both young, are a breeding pair so we can grow our numbers if we like.  The other is an older male who has a beautiful, finer coat, and was the last one she was left with.  We decided to take them all.  They are all pedigree.

There was a lot of different types of housing offered for rabbits.  We were given a double long wooden hutch, so we started with that for Gustav, the young french angora male.

Gustav- Chocolate French Angora, 1 year old

Gustav- Chocolate French Angora, 1 year old

We built a 6 foot square enclosure for him to run around in when we are out in the yard with him.  I haven’t seen any signs that he might want to dig his way out.  It is shaded and covered from over head predators.  We added two enclosures underneath the wooden one, on the deck of our old trailer, which both open to two separate 4 foot square runs, with wire floors and a roof to keep the area dry and shaded.  We supplied a litter tray with a drop pan underneath, which they seem to be using after we placed them in the corners that the bunnies had decided were their bathroom areas.  Gustav’s hutch came with slatted floors and drop pans, which are so easy to empty and keep clean.

We have already collected quite a bit of fibre from them.  It has taken a few times of grooming to get them used to us, but mostly they have all been very patient while we brush and pluck and generally pick through their fibre, checking for any bugs, tangles, cuts or signs of needed care.  The previous owner of these rabbits generously supplied me with many books to read through, and I read that observation and time with the bunnies is the best way to know what they need.  (The Nervous New Owner’s Guide To Angora Rabbits, by Suzie Sugrue was the best!)  Between myself, my husband, my mother, and my two kids, we are constantly looking to see how they are doing and if they are happy.  My daughter goes to feed them as soon as she gets up in the morning, and we brush each of them in rotation every few days, and clean out their living areas thoroughly once a week, with daily litter pan emptying.  We feed them some greens and vegetables everyday, with a constant supply of timothy hay that is locally grown on the Saanich Peninsula.  They eat pellets, and a small amount of dried papaya to help their stomachs digest any of the long hair they swallow while grooming themselves.

All of this doesn’t take too long, but it certainly is a reminder of the commitment to have small creatures in our care.  It has been wonderful to witness the connections that the kids have made with the rabbits, and the level of responsibility that they have shown to keeping them healthy and loved.  My daughter put together a presentation for our home schooling group on angora rabbits.

I have yet to spin any of the fibre, but as I have collected it, I have been dreaming of the the super soft and warm scarves, hats, or shawls it could become.  Rabbits love greens!Every thing happens in it’s own time, and eventually I will understand the inticacies of the art of using the fibre, just as I am beginning to understand the procedures of care for our new family fluff balls!

More Saori Weaving

first market tableThe cool days of winter reflected in weaving… Here are a few photos of some of the things that have come off the loom in the last few months.  I had my first table at the Easter weekend farmers’ market- it was pretty fun to see all the colours out in the spring air and to connect with other islanders’ in sharing creations.  It was the first time I have really had a collection out in the public eye, and I was quite excited by all the supportive responses!

Here are a few scarves… lots of play with bright tones, mixing them randomly or with a preconceived design.  A few fibers in these include alpaca, merino, silk, and bamboo.  I love the saori philosophy that allows mistakes to be elements of design.  Eliminating the negative idea of a mistake opens the possibilities for unplanned creation.

I have also been experimenting with small vests, made in two ways- either cut in half and sewn up the back and sides, or a single length folded in a V in the back and sewn to the front under the arms.  The second way makes for a slightly more fitting cropped kind of vest, as seen in the yellow/blue vest.  The unfolded length of it can be seen in the photo above- I did some planning to make the yellow portion of the vest fall around the shoulders and the blue portion lie at the bottom, once it is folded.  The blue vest is made primarily with hand dyed merino and kid fiber from Fleece Artist in Nova Scotia.  It is cut in half and sewn up the back for a wider fit.

I often catch myself judging whether or not I like what I am doing.  As I work, the weaving gets rolled up to advance the warp strings, and my visual of the progress remains in the immediate ten inches or so.  It is not until I roll the whole thing off that I get a full look of what I have done, (unless I unroll it and peek, but that still has some visual limitations).  It is a chance to remember to work in the present, and trust that a complete picture of the creation will be revealed later… whether it is based on a preconceived idea I have attempted to follow, or a creation of random patterning, it is always a surprise to pull something off the loom and see it in it’s full form.

 

Weaving for Autumn

peach scarf buttonsA few more weaving projects have left my loom over the past few months and are ready to be worn in the cooler weather of autumn.  Scarves, of course, are easy to weave and require nothing more than to drape them over oneself.

I made one piece of wide weaving into a tunic as a birthday gift for a friend of mine.  After cutting the weaving in half, I sewed the two pieces together up the back.  I found 6 hand made clay buttons and sewed two on each side and two in the front, with loops through which they close.  The warp threads are silk/nylon, and the various weft yarns are angora, merino, wool, and recycled sari silk.  Happy Birthday Nia!

Other scarves that have begun to pile up vary in width, length, heaviness, fibre content, colour and pattern.  I get drawn to follow a simple design, attempting to create a certain pattern, and then I am inspired to follow nothing at all but my spontaneous reach for colour and texture.  Scarves are great for not having to be committed to an idea for very long, especially with my collection of very random fibres.

 

Weaving for Art In The Orchard

saori spring wrap

A saori spring wrap

This past weekend, I was very pleased to be involved in the annual Art In The Orchard here on Pender, an island where artists and orchards abound.  Twenty some artists working in diverse mediums displayed their work throughout one of North Penders oldest orchard and heritage farm house, Corbett House B&B, dating back to 1902.  Paintings, print making, pottery, sculpture, wood working, jewelry, photography, stained glass, and fibre arts were all beautifully tucked under apple trees and framed with zig zag fencing while goats and sheep grazed on the other side.

Last year I had only a small collection of woven fabric that I hung up on the clothesline.  At that time, my journey into the art of saori weaving had just begun, and my available time was limited as we had many building projects on the go at our property.  This year, I found that the pile of weaving has indeed stacked up, and shows a pathway of explored techniques as I tried out new tings and made observations about texture and fibre qualities.  I was honoured to hang up my creations among so many other amazing Pender artists.

 

Winter Weaving

saori autumn weaveThis winter, I finally got the chance to try making some warm winter wearables from a few pieces of weavings I have been producing.  Mostly I have been making scarves, but I really wanted to make a more substantial wrap or jacket.  The widest piece I can make on my Saori loom is 42cm (16.5inches), so I made a warp that was the widest possible and the longest possible from my supplies so that I would not run short.

The simplest plans for a poncho seemed to be two strips sewn side by side with an opening in the center for the neck hole.  I had lots of sturdy cotton green warp, and plenty of 100% wool in two shades of blue that came from the local second hand store.  I mixed it up with a multi-coloured merino in blues and greens and yellows, and I occasionally placed a line of light green roving for texture.  Using only these yarns, I experimented with all that can be done with three choices.  It was a new practice for me, especially with such a large piece to fill.  Usually I can’t help adding more and more variety.  Off the loom, I cut the fabric in half and sewed one half of it together down the sides.  I decided to leave the other half open, like a vest poncho.  I may add large buttons on the sides under the arms to keep it more securely closed all around, and who knows, I may decide to sew up the front, too.  I have passed it over to my mother to wear, so it is an open ended project depending on her comfort!

With the second piece, I was looking to make something more with more drape.  I picked up a single, large skein of a fine, almost lace weight merino and wool blend that had long, autumn toned colour changes.  In my buckets, I found two skeins of lace weight alpaca in two shades of green that I hoped would be enough for another wide, long warp.  Without interrupting the weft too much, I added accents and highlights whenever the bobbin and shuttle ran out and there was a slight break in the colour changes.  I had a ball of recycled silk sari yarn, two toned green alpaca, light green roving, blue roving, and some leftover bits of green and orange peace fleece wool from a knitted sweater project.  (Weaving satisfies my need to use up all the little bits of yarn from knitting.  They just can’t be used very easily otherwise!)  I was so happy with the feel and drape that I didn’t want to cut into it at all, and I wanted it to lie flat and simple as a garment  So I folded it once on an angle at the back, letting each side come down straight in the front.  I wove up another section using mostly black linen on the same warp, and added the same accents as in the rest of the piece, and used it across the back, sewing it to the sides and across the back fold of the other piece.  By adding a simple fastener at the front, it can be held together or left open.  For being so light weight, it is so warm!  Thanks to my daughter who took all the modelling photos.  A new role for both of us.

Summer Weaving

rainbow warpSummer doesn’t always seem to be the most intuitive season for weaving, but we have found that during the heat of the day and amidst all the outside energetics of exploration and adventure, weaving has provided moments of quiet and focus.  Colour choices reflect the joy of the sun and the lightness of blue skies and beaches.  Last month, Taeven was inspired to put a rainbow warp on the loom, so she helped with the math to determine the number of warp strings for each colour to get an overall width, and we used the warping frame to lay it out.   It was interesting to have the opportunity to experiment with weaving across a very specific (and bright) set of colours.  taevens rainbowTaeven chose to use mostly white, with flashes of rainbow roving tucked into the weave as she went.  Cedar decided to do the same thing but with black wool.  We made each of their weaving long enough to fold in half and stitch the sides up into a little pillow stuffed with wool.  I experimented with using other colours and patterns over the rainbow warp, which was challenging- with so much colour going on in the warp strings, the look of the simple solid colours or white was sometimes all that was needed.  Once we used up the rainbow warp, I headed straight to an all white warp!rainbow pillow

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to show a small collection of weaving in an outdoor art show called “Art In The Orchard”.  Over 30 artists from the island set up their diverse forms of art under the old apple trees of Corbett House, a  beautiful heritage house and bed and breakfast in the Corbett Valley.  From noon until five, the art show saw 250 people come through to see the art, talk to the artists, and relax in the orchard listening to music and watching the goats.  I hung my pieces over the clothes line and let the summer sun play with the colours.  Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the day, but I was happy to provide a bit of visual interest hanging in the air for those enjoying the display of abundant creativity.

Back to the Spinning Wheel

spinningWhen I first arrived on this small island nine years ago, I was instantly aware of the thriving community of fibre artists- avid spinners, keen knitters, committed weavers, and exultant felters.  Already being the knitter that I was, I yearned to explore the fabulous world of yarn creation amidst fields of abundant sheep.  With my two year old in tow, I joined the weekly gathering of spinning ladies in the Community Hall lounge as they spun a variety of yarns and poured afternoon tea.  All of them were excited to have me stop in and try out my hand at their wheels, and soon I was bringing along my own wheel on loan from one of the ladies.  Not long after that I found a used Ashford wheel for myself.  I was eager to try processing local wool, and found that many sheep keepers do nothing with the fibre from their sheep as they are focusing on raising lamb.  At first I was happy about finding a use for this waste, but soon learned about qualities of fibre.

Alpaca fibre from Salt Spring Island

Alpaca fibre from Salt Spring Island

Most sheep breeds here do not have spinning quality wool- it is short and rough and difficult to get lined up well enough to spin yarn that could be comfortable.  Since I had already amassed a few garbage bags worth of this wool, I decided to send it to the Gulf Islands’ Spinning Mill Co-op on Salt Spring Island and have it processed into batts of wool.  I spent $175, and in return, I had enough natural wool batts to make a king size duvet, a queen size duvet, and a few pillows.  But I digress.

Aurelia's Merino colour blends spun in long colour changes

Aurelia’s Merino colour blends spun in long colour changes

Back to the spinning wheel!  Fast forward and the spinning wheel had been put into storage at my mothers house while we moved into a small trailer to build our house.  Fast forward again, and four years later we are moved in and the wheel is finally being dusted off and my bin of roving cracked open.  Since my first encounter with the local sheep’s wool, I learned to decipher the qualities needed for different processes and applications and had managed to collect quite an array of colours and textures.  I was directed to a west coast Canadian company, aureliawool.com, specializing in importing beautiful New Zealand rovings of Merino and Corriedale with luscious colour combinations to play with.  I also learned that cleaning and carding vast quantities of wool can be rather tedious and quite impossible in a trailer, so I sent many bags of local wool with higher qualities of fibre for spinning with, to the Spinning Mill to be made into roving ready for me to spin.   (Really, the spinning part, as well as the knitting or weaving, is the best part anyways.)

the beginning of a sweater

the beginning of a sweater

I have decided that my first project on the wheel, (just to give me lots and lots of reconnecting time with the treadle and the bobbin), is to spin through a huge bag of local brown roving and hopefully have enough to then knit a sweater for my husband.  I am not sure how long this process might take, but I am feeling inspired to take on something long term and very hand made.  Spending time spinning is one of the most relaxing and meditative activities for me… as I watch the soft fibre slide through my fingers and become strong yarn, the rhythm of the treadle calms my busy brain and connects me to a timeless moment of creation.  Knitting and weaving have the same balancing effect.  There is always so much more to learn of these ancient arts, and I am excited to continue the exploration of colour, style, and warmth.

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