Monday, September 3, 2012

Lessons Learned

I've been experimenting with my laser cut double slot heddles, and have learned a few things.

1. It's hard to get threads through a floss threader when you're under an overhead fan.
2. Blue floss threaders can be hard to find when they fall on blue area rugs.
3. A very short warp is not adequate for testing a heddle, and the time you saved by winding such a short warp is wasted by the fact that you have to wind another warp anyway.
4. It's not necessary, but very handy to use a cross in a warp you will thread in a heddle.
5. While holding that cross in your non-dominant hand, the phone will ring, and will not be reachable by your dominant hand.
6. Cute little heddles are not necessarily more useful.
7. Peeling paper off a newly cut acrylic heddle is as much fun as popping bubble wrap.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On a Different Note

My summer started with an excursion to New York City for Memorial Day weekend - to sing at Carnegie Hall!

This was my third year singing with La Jolla Symphony Chorus, and when I found out that this summer's trip would be to Carnegie Hall, I knew I wanted to go. I missed the previous year trip to Ireland (couldn't afford it at the time), but it was clear this would be a once in a lifetime chance, and I'm so glad I participated!

A few weeks before the trip, we performed here in San Diego - singing the same piece we would be singing in NY - Benjamin Britten's Spring Symphony. It's really a lovely piece - in several parts - each a setting of a poem by a different poet - beginning with thawing of winter chill, and ending with what I thought of as drunken arpeggios. It is at times thoughtful and at others exuberant. It sounded good, I think, in Mandeville Auditorium where we normally perform - although we were on risers behind the orchestra, and I wish they had monitors because at times it was hard to hear the soloists over the orchestra.

But my oh my - singing at Carnegie Hall was a whole different experience. We had several rehearsals in NY - one on Friday morning at the hotel - out first chance to sing with some of the alumni who were joining us there. It went well. Saturday, we were bussed to Carnegie Hall for our dress rehearsal there. It was a little chaotic - 120 singers crammed into a rather small rehearsal space - we did a few warmup vocal exercises, and then onto the stage.

Everything I've heard about the incredible acoustics at Carnegie Hall is true!  Wow! The orchestra that played with us was superb and very professional (we were stunned to learn that they received the music that Thursday!) The soloists sounded marvelous.  For me, the only challenge was my feet - we stood the whole time, and in spite of wearing very sensible shoes, my feet were killing me.

Sunday night was the concert. Thankfully, we had a larger space to line up and prepare. Everything went smoothly, and the music began. We sounded better than we have ever sounded before. It was truly stunning - the pianissimos were delicate but oh so clear and the fortissimos - in one part, I could feel my whole face vibrating. Except for the tenor soloist skipping half of the last page, the whole thing was just superb.

If you enlarge this, I'm in the back row - second woman from the right (white blouses).

And what did I think of New York? I had such a wonderful time there, and really enjoyed seeing it, which caught be by surprise. I went there for a business trip when I was in my 20's, and did NOT care for Manhattan at all - found it scary and dirty and felt like I always needed to watch my back. Either I've changed, or NY has, or both. :-)

My friend and neighbor of almost 30 years - Cinda - was my roommate. We had a great time. We walked through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We saw a show (Million Dollar Quartet, which was wonderful.) We visited the Empire State Building (the one thing I would skip on a future visit.) We walked and walked and walked!

Spring Symphony in NY made for a lovely transition to summer - a once in a lifetime experience that I'm so grateful for.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

About Convergence

Hmmmm, what did I think about Convergence?

Well, first, I must admit that I have a rather strange relationship with Convergence. I have only attended two Convergences in the past as a full registrant - the first time in Minneapolis in 1994, and the second in Atlanta in 1998. I attended Convergence in Tampa in 2008, but only got day passes, and I did the same thing in Albuquerque in 2010.

I'll describe my earlier experiences with Convergence below (for those who make it past this one. ) :-)  I'll start out by saying that I feel a little like an imposter these days - haven't touched my floor looms in quite a while, and have only done a little spinning and band weaving lately. I feel a little out of touch with the weaving world right now - still interested, but not as fully engaged as I used to be. With this one being in Long Beach, I decided it was too close by to miss.

What I Liked:
  • The venue was lovely - the Long Beach Convention Center is spacious and nicely designed.
  •  The Performing Arts Center, nearby, was right across from our hotel. They had a beautiful installation of artwork by Gabriel Dawes in the lobby. I know this isn't the greatest picture - I was standing too close, but it truly was lovely.
  • Small Expressions was held at the Long Beach Public Library - very nice exhibit. Below is the view out the back window of the library.
  • Taryl, my roommate and I stayed at the Westin - nicest hotel I can remember staying at in a while. My CIS buddies didn't make it this time, and though missing them made me feel a tiny bit bereft, Taryl was a fantastic roommate and we had a great time.
  • Since I didn't sign up for any classes or seminars, we had plenty of time to walk and drive to different galleries, really spend time perusing the exhibits, and stop and chat with friends we encountered without feeling rushed.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:
  • When I got there, they didn't have my registration, so I had to stand in the office for a while until they could get it sorted out and print my stuff.
  • The goody bags didn't really have any goodies in them, and the bag was a simple black bag with HGA in red on the side - no logo for the conference or anything.
  • With no classes, I missed the excitement you get from learning new techniques.
  • Attendance seemed really low to me - and there were many many folks that I didn't see there - I don't know if they weren't there, or I just didn't see them (many of the classes were at different hotels.) While waiting for the fashion show to begin, I looked around and thought to myself "Great turnout for a regional conference!" Oops.... it wasn't a regional conference.
  • I was very very disappointed in the fashion show - the lighting was pretty bad, and the videography amateur, so it was difficult to see much. They did have screens with names and titles, but the timing made them basically useless. Thank heaven they had the garments on exhibit the next day so you could actually see them. And although I know this will sound crabby - who ever decided that male models should be shirtless under vests/jackets/capes? And now I'll sound even crabbier - the female models wore heels so high I'd swear a few of them were lame the next day, and they wore what looked like black tights. Being a plus-size woman myself, I felt for them, but a few of them just shouldn't have appeared in public in tights. :-/
  • I was very much looking forward to the "featured talk" - since it was about technology and textiles. It was pretty early in the morning (maybe too early, based on the light attendance), and although the speaker was obviously qualified, she comes from the academic world, and well.... it just wasn't a very dynamic talk.
  • We ran into a little confusion with the organization of things, which led to a faux pas I made that I am too mortified to discuss - let's just say that better printed information at registration, better signage, and taking tickets at events, would have prevented the situation.
  • Last, but not least, one of the gallery exhibits I most wanted to see (Complex Weavers Glamour Glitter  Glitz) was only open Friday night. We had other plans that evening and we left Long Beach Saturday morning, so we missed out on that exhibit completely. I think they should have arranged to be opened during the day for at least one day of the conference.
Am I glad I went? Absolutely! Will I go again?  I suspect I may not make it to the next one - with this one being on the far left, the next will probably be on the far right side of the country. Maybe, though, by the time the 2016 conference happens, I'll be retired, it will be centrally located, and I'll be weaving again, so I'll feel like I belong. Hope springs eternal.

So what were my past experiences with Convergence?

For the first, I was in deer-in-the-headlights mode most of the time - totally awed by the entire experience, except hours on a tarmac in the next state when my plane couldn't land due to thunderstorms and then had to go elsewhere to refuel. Because of that, I missed the keynote address. But.... the goody bags really were goody bags back then, and since I was employed, I had money to spend. This was also the first time I met some of my best friends - the folks from the Crafts Forum I had met on Compuserve (CIS). Putting names with faces was confusing, but delightful. Everything was interesting, and the hardest part was keeping my energy up because there wasn't much time between seminars. It was a very well-run conference, and I have very fond memories.

For the second, I was still employed, and once again, enjoyed the reunion with my CIS buddies. Two of them were my roommates, and we had a blast! Again, it was difficult to do everything because I had seminars scheduled for almost the whole thing. The venue was nice, except for the elevators which were notoriously slow, and for which many folks spent a long time waiting. I think we were on the 11th floor, and decided to walk downstairs once - only to discover at the ground floor that the door was locked. We had to walk back up several flights to get out!  Except for that, everything was well-run and again, I had a marvelous time. I wasn't quite as much of a newbie by then, and didn't find it quite as overwhelming.

By the time Tampa rolled around, I had been unemployed for quite a few years. I'm still amazed that I was able to scrap together enough to go at all, but again, we had a CIS reunion. I had just started on some new contract work right before the conference, so I wasn't too strapped. This time, we rented a condo together - got a good deal on rent, and I got a great deal on Southwest airfare. Again, I had a marvelous time, in spite of not being able to buy much of anything in the vendor area. I liked Tampa way more than I had expected to. Since I didn't register, I didn't have any classes, so there was more time flexibility, although there were still a few people I only saw in passing that I would have loved to have chatted with.

Albuquerque was a similar situation - a few months before, I started my current job, but money was still a little tight. Our CIS group rented a house - wonderful place - our landlord even gave us a Tai Chi lesson. We got day passes  for Convergence 2 days in a row - and had some other excursions to the surrounding area, including visiting my friend Gay Sinclair and her husband at their ranch near Santa Fe.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What I Bought at Convergence

This is the small selection of items I purchased at Convergence. And I'm absolutely delighted with each lovely thing.

Bottom left - a skein of silk - color "ocean" - one of the items you could purchase with registration.

To the right of that - a neat little shuttle from John Marshall's booth. I believe it is designed for saganishiki weaving - I got it to try for brocade wefts with a regular loom. It's tiny, and very flat, with lovely shaped ends.

In the middle is an itomaki, also from John Marshall's booth. I've long been fascinated with these Japanese silk bobbins. They also sold some with a little silk on them already, but I wanted to see how it was constructed (yes, I'm going to see if I can design something and get Eldy to make some for me.)

To the right is a book on Chinese braiding, which I bought at the Braidershand booth. They make the most beautiful wooden equipment for braiding, and I was intrigued with a new attachment for the marudai to do this slightly different type of braiding. The book is wonderful - lots of great information and beautiful pictures.

On top - a basket case that should be perfect for carrying a project. (I laughed to realize I was attracted to a basketcase - like attracts like, eh?)  Last, but not least, I've coveted one of the African baskets, but this time, since we were driving, there was plenty of space to bring one home, so I bought this to keep by my spinning wheel. (Inside is a baggy of fluffy white Cormo - given to me by my friend Barbara as a reminder of a story I told her about fluffy white fleece.)

Oh, and the 2 other things - on the left is a coaster/trivet from a booth selling Mexican weaving - bought that for my boss. (She mentioned that I would be missing her birthday while I was gone. I told her I'd bring her a present. Voila) And next to that is a freebie I got at the Weavolution booth - very neat gizmo - looks like a nylon wallet, but when you open it, it becomes a nice sized tote bag. Very handy for future fiber shopping excursions.

Shopping was an interesting process this year. In past years, I've been in what I call the in breath phase - so many things I wanted to add to my stash! In recent years, due to being out of work for so long, my available funds were too paltry to purchase much. Well, now my stash is pretty full (and my available time pretty slim), and I've got the funds, so I don't feel compelled to buy much - only the things that truly delight me. That's a very good place to be.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Oh, the Irony

This heddle fascination of mine started with a tutorial on the Braids and Bands Yahoo group. Susan Foulkes posted a wonderful class on weaving Sami bands with a variety of heddles. One which she showed was a pink plastic heddle with shorter pattern slots made in Sweden.

Well... I guess I was cheap, because I thought it was a bit pricey, and didn't want to pay that much for something plastic. That started me on this project. I decided to use my old copy of Illustrator to make a design that I could get Eldy to cut for me with the laser cutter at Maker Place. As you've seen in previous posts, I ended up with some lovely heddles made of birch plywood. The last one he cut for me has been sanded, but not finished - I couldn't wait to give it a try.

But then..... he found a place where he could get scraps of acrylic, so he cut a few for me using a sheet of dark, almost black, acrylic. Voila!
 Here, you can see the small birch one warped and ready for playing. On the left are the acrylic heddles - one in the small 9 pattern thread size, and one a little larger with 13 pattern slots.
Here's a closer shot of the smaller one.
I'm thrilled with them. It was SO satisfying to peel the paper off each side to reveal the finished heddle, and to have it actually be finished - no sanding or extra finishing needed. And, of course, that's where the irony comes in - I love the acrylic heddles, and this all started with not wanting plastic.

I'm still not great at this. Started out weaving backstrap. Right now, I've got a small heddle warped on my Cricket loom, but that's not turning out very well - it's just too short to get a good shed, I think. Plus, the handy thing about backstrap weaving is the ability to shift the tension with your body position, and you lose that with a loom. Hmmm..... I bet I could add live weight tension to the back beam - which might give the same effect. Of course, then I won't want to hold the loom in my lap to weave. :-)

There's so much more experimenting to do..... to try different weights of pattern threads..... to see if I can tweak the size of the holes in the smaller heddle.... and do I want a heddle with 15 pattern slots? It is so very cool to know that I can make whatever I want!  I've also got a learning curve in front of me - I need to explore how to make designs that will work well with this technique. A few of the ones I've tried have not quite seemed right. That's the wonderful thing about weaving - you never ever run out of things to explore.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Smaller Double Slot Heddle

Yesterday was an exciting day for me - Eldy went down to Maker Place and cut some new double slot heddles for me on the laser cutter.  The original design is 5 1/4" tall x 8 1/2" wide, with 13 pattern thread slots.  The new design is for a smaller heddle that is 4 `/1" tall x 6 1/2" wide with 9 pattern thread slots.

I purchased some 1/8" birch plywood from - my coworker Wayne said this cuts better than the previous wood I used - less scorching.  This didn't eliminate all of the scorching, though. In this picture, you can see a heddle before sanding, and one that has been sanded.

With the smaller heddle, the holes are also slightly smaller. Today, I plan to play with them and do some weaving to get a feel for which size I prefer. I'll be sure to post my results. I also think I'll spray them with some Clear Wood Finish to protect the wood. I'm not sure if that is necessary, but the wood does feel pretty "soft", so I think that will strengthen them.

(These pictures were taken with my iPhone. I obviously still need some practice with focusing. Or maybe I should go back to using my point and shoot camera.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lovely Things

Gee, it's been so long since I posted that the interface for posting has changed drastically. I just started a post, only to lose it, so I guess I'll try again.

Yeah yeah.... I don't post very often. I will confess that I mostly use my blog for the bookmarks to the blogs I read, so I can quickly and easily see if there are new posts available to read. :-)  And I've been working too much lately to do much fibery stuff, so I've hesitated to post.

But I've acquired some new lovely things that I thought I'd share. I subscribe to the Braids and Bands Yahoo Group, which recently had a tutorial on weaving Sami bands. Susan, the author, showed weaving these neat bands using an inkle loom or rigid heddle, and also showed several types of rigid heddles - regular, double hole, and double slot.  I posted a while back about a beautiful double hole heddle that I purchased on Etsy. I love it, but must confess that I didn't really enjoy the weaving process. It was too fiddly, even with adding string heddles to help with pulling pattern threads down. So I was especially interested to see the double slot heddle Susan used in one of her videos. She had a reference for a Swedish company that makes neat double slot heddles, but... they are expensive, and they are made of plastic.

Ever since, though, this has been rolling around in the back of my mind. In the meantime, I found out from a coworker about Maker Place - a new company in San Diego that has every tool known to man (including laser cutters and 3D printers.) It is AWESOME, and both my son Sam and my husband Eldy are now members. I decided to use Illustrator to make a design for a double slot heddle, and got my coworker to cut it from eight inch birch plywood. Here's the result.
You can see the size - it's sitting on top of my iPad.  If you look carefully, you'll also see that I didn't count properly. :-) But still, it's pretty cool! I've made a smaller design that has 9 pattern slots instead of 13, and bought a supply of birch plywood from a seller on amazon. I can't wait til Eldy can go down to Maker Place and cut one of the smaller ones for me.  This prototype turned out well, but this plywood scorched a little bit. I've sanded and sanded and think it will be okay, but Wayne, my coworker, told me about the new stuff I bought, and apparently it doesn't scorch.

It's been a fascinating process - both figuring out how to do the design (the lines have to be very thin for the laser cutter to cut all the way through, and the tolerances are pretty tiny. So I was pretty happy that the prototype came out as good as it did. Stay tuned for further progress.

I won't wait so long for the next post - there's more to share. I've got some gorgeous tiny 4" brocade shuttles I purchased from a woodworker I found on WeaveTech. I also plan to post a few photos of this year's big project - I went to NYC with La Jolla Symphony Chorus to sing at Carnegie Hall.

What else?  I'm trying my first Craftsy class (Lace Shawl Design), which is fun fun fun, and those folks are super helpful. I'm working on a design for a table runner with butterflies in Bronson lace for a wedding gift. We've made great progress on the house - the whole downstairs has been painted and new oak flooring installed - new front doors. It's been exhausting, but oh so gratifying.

Be healthy. Be happy.