Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gifts from Afar

It's amazing, this year my "gifts" all came from "afar," from western WI, Oregon, and as far away as Australia.

Four days or so before Christmas, I found a slip in my mailbox telling me I had a package to pick up at the post office. I went over that afternoon, and found it was from Jill Lynch in Australia. Jill is a member of the Complex Weavers Double Harness Study Group that I chair. I stood in the post office wondering why? What was I forgetting?

Well what could I do, since there were no other customers, but open it up right there! Inside I found a beautiful card, thanking me for sending her a copy of "Damast," a book I had bought when I purchased a portion of weaver Nastche Milan's weaving library. I already had a copy of that booklet, but added it to my purchase knowing someday someone would come along to pass it along to. (Nastche, your copy is now with Jill in Australia!)

There were two "packages" in the box, and opening the first, I found a "Weavers Interest Group Calendar," with a page for each month and each page has two color photos of beautiful woven pieces by members of the group. By the way, Jill Lynch is on the cover, front row, far left. It's a wonderful idea for private weaving groups or guilds.

Opening the second "package" I found a beautiful handspun, handwoven twill scarf, woven by Barbara Sanders (in the group). It's a really lovely piece, and following instructions of the local postmaster (woman), I put it on and wore it for the rest of my afternoon out. It was a cold, cold day, and I don't think I really noticed, just felt wonderful wearing this beautiful gift from weavers in Australia. Thank you, Jill (and Barbara), I'll be thinking of you both everytime I wear it.

Earlier in December, LaVonne Stucky, who I know from the Tasha Tudor Yahoo group "Take Peace," wrote on Facebook that she was making needle-felted angels. I asked her if she would make a couple for me, and a few days later they were in my mailbox! Upon opening the package, they immediately were hung from the fireplace mantle in my weaving studio where I can admire them each time I'm working there.

The last day of the Fall Northwoods Art Tour, Mary Nysted stopped by. She had seen in my brochure that I have Glimakra looms, and wanted to inquire if I was interested in purchasing a small Toika loom she had from her former weaving business, which she closed in 1992, the year I moved up here. Oh yes, I was interested. We arranged that she would bring it when she would be in the area at Christmas.

On Tuesday, Dec. 29th, the loom arrived. It's a 27" Toika "Laila," has 6 shafts and 6 treadles, and is countermarche. Mary only used it a few times, and it's been in storage for the past 17 years or so, which accounts for the "new" look of the wood.

Since the loom had been in her car for a few days (out in the icy cold), and was moved into a dry house with a woodburner, I'm giving it a few days for the wood to acclimate. I can, however, straighten out the string heddles, tighten wing nuts, and in another four days or so, use a wood hammer to tighten up the pegs for more stability. I can also plan a first project and warp for this loom.

I think it will be a wonderful loom for sampling and for smaller projects. It's a nice addition to my weaving studio, and I just need to do a little rearranging tomorrow to make a place for it.

My other "Gift" this year was family, my children, all here at Christmas. This meant a lot to me as it may be the last time for awhile. Next year both daughters will be in college, and my son is talking about joining a branch of the military after graduation next June. They all mean so much to me, and are now growing up and going out into the world. I'm so proud of each of them, and the time is coming for them to make their own lives away from home. Letting go is difficult, but the goal was always for each of them to be independent, and to lead good lives.

But, I can't look back too often, I must look forward and begin to create a new life for myself. What do I want, where do I want to live, what other responsibilities do I have, where do I want to go with my weaving? All questions to quietly ponder on this New Year's Eve. Happy New Year, and may 2010 be all you hope it will be.

The Blur Called December

It's late afternoon, snow is falling, New Year's Eve is a few hours away, and I sit here wondering how December went by so quickly. Yet when looking back at photos, I can see where it sent.

I worked a couple days at Artistree Gallery, which had been dressed Northwoods Style for the holidays. Lots of wonderful art including fiber arts. I sat, Christmas music on, knitting a scarf and watching a number of cars go up the street with a Christmas tree tied to the roof, a most pleasant, homey sight.

On December 5th, Emilie and Anna were over to learn about wet-felting wool. They wanted to make some felted items to give as Christmas gifts. I sent them home with bags dyed wool and my drum carder to continue felting at home.

I did a lot of sock-cranking in December, right up until a couple days before Christmas as quite a number of people ordered socks to give as Christmas gifts.

I still have four pairs of socks to crank, socks not needed by Christmas. Now, with the New Year, it's time to restock Artistree Gallery with socks and weaving, and begin cranking again for next summer's art shows.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Long Ago Weaver

A couple weeks before Thanksgiving, a post came in from the Weaving Sales Ads list. An old temple was for sale, and it had a name and date engraved on the underside, "A. Halvorsdatter, 1850." My fingers flew across the keyboard to get a reply sent off, yes, I was interested in purchasing it.

On my way to our monthly weaving guild meeting, I stopped at our mailbox and found a long package, the temple! It was about an hour's drive to get to Marcia's home, and I managed to wait until I got there to open the package.

There it was, 25 inches in length, with most of the original brads, though slightly bent. The pin, to push through the holes at desired size, was attached with green yarn. The temple will open to 41 inches, though to use it, the pin needs straightening.

My paternal grandparents came here from Norway, around 1918. My grandmother's name was Severina Simonsdatter. Hence my interest in a piece of weaving equipment that may have been owned/used by a young woman of Norwegian or Swedish descent. In Norwegian, "datter" means daughter.

How I would love to know who A. Halvorsdatter was. Where did she live, both here and very likely in the "old country?" What did she weave? Was she born in Norway or Sweden and brought this temple with her? You never know what weaving gift will appear in your mailbox, or your life. A small piece of A. Halvorsdatter now lives on in another weaver's home studio.

(Note: When I took the photo, I had neglected to turn one piece over so the pointed brads on each end were facing down; that has been corrected.)

I was away for several days, enjoying time with family members. Now? Back home in my weaving studio, enjoying the beginning of winter.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time Out to Give Thanks...

These days, I am giving thanks over and over for friends and area church members willing to help their neighbors. The wood delivered here for this winter turned out to be freshly cut maple, not dry, and delivered right before school started. A couple art shows and the Fall Art Tour on my calendar along with problems with the log splitter delayed working on the wood to the point of keeping me awake nights wondering how we would get it done.

A good friend, Nancy, called to tell me her church has a crew that enjoys helping people out, and they were more than willing to come here and take care of our wood. This past Saturday at 8:30 AM, ten members of the St. Germain and Conover Evangelical Free Churches arrived here, and in six hours, using chain saws and two log splitters, had cut, split, and stacked 5 loggers cords of wood.

The job was finished at 2:30 PM, and a few minutes taken for photos (four adults had had to leave earlier) before loading up the log splitter and chain saws they had brought.

Also helping were my daughter, Linnea, and Nancy's daughters, Anna and Emilie. They worked hard all day and kept up with the men. Keesha kept everyone company and was always up for some petting. I also spent some time at our log splitter (now with a new motor put on a few days ago). Nancy had arrived early Saturday AM with chili, homemade cinnamon-apple sweet rolls, and a big coffee pot, and I made two pans of cornbread and served the food. The weather was perfect on Saturday, sunny, around 60 and a light breeze.

I still have half of the left half of the woodshed with dry wood from last winter, now being burned on colder evenings. On warmer non-burning days/nights the thermostat is kept at 64 or 65 degrees. The new wood will need time to dry and likely can't be burned until at least January (maple dries faster than oak). For now, on nice days, the wood is uncovered so sun and wind can help the drying along. When rain (or snow) is expected, tarps cover the tops of the woodpiles.

So, my continuing thanks to everyone who gave up several hours of their Saturday to help a northwoods neighbor. You are, and remain, in my thoughts and prayers.

I have had a couple weeks of dealing with home, family, and recently making the decision to move back to southern WI, hopefully next summer. I love our home here in the northwoods, and very thankful for 17 years up here, 13 years in this house. However, with my husband gone five years now and my last two children leaving home in less than a year, I've reached the conclusion that this house is too big and too much maintenance for me alone. The time has come for to move on and start a new life. I've been making lists of what to keep, give, toss, and take to thrift stores. Now, the work of moving begins.

Today I am working in the studio sewing strips for rag rugs. Another shuttle is filled and waiting at the loom, and several more sheets are waiting to be cut into strips and sewn together. While working, I am wondering how I will get everything done and still be able to do MY studio work. Somehow, I will make it all happen. A new adventure begins.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Loom Maintenance

It's a clear, sunny day in the northwoods, a fair amount of light coming into my (log) studio space, making it a good day for some loom maintenance.

I sat down to weave on the rug late yesterday afternoon and could not get a clear tabby shed with my left tabby treadle. I finally discovered some Texsolv heddles had fallen off the bottoms of some shafts, and when that happens they often catch on moving neighboring shafts, causing problems. I recalled having to move heddles from one shaft to another, and now noticed I had not replaced the long strings going around the bottom shaft bars.

This morning, I sat down, put all the heddles back on each shaft, making sure none were twisted. Then, one shaft at a time, replaced those strings, going around the bottom of each shaft bar, outside of the heddles, and making sure I had not included the long Texsolv cords from jacks to lamms.

As you can see in the photo, the Texsolv cords on the top shafts bars keep heddles from working their way off the ends. Adding a string around the bottom shafts bars keeps heddles from dropping off and causing problems while weaving. I highly recommend this, and based on my experience today, can tell you it is much easier to do before your loom is warped, beater is on, and weaving is in progress. I learned this tip long ago from Ken Colwell.

As long as I'm doing loom maintenance, I'm also checking the wedges that hold the loom together and tightening up any that can be pulled out or feel loose. With the woodburner being used daily, the air in here is getting dry. When that happens, beating can cause damage when loom parts are not tight. This is something I check throughout the winter months. Reminder to self: add a huge pot of water to the top of the woodburner for the rest of the winter.

I've checked the tabby sheds and they are clear. Now I just need to move my loom back into place, and sit down to weave. Life is good.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Drawloom Issues

Loom mechanics are something I am paying attention to at the moment. The drawloom warp was tied on, pins pulled out of upper jacks, warp tension increased slightly, and...

when I depressed treadle #1, one shaft went up, one went down, six stayed neutral, all as should be happening. The first shed was okay, I took my foot off the treadle, and nothing changed, the treadle stayed down, shafts did not move, counterweights (above) are not pulling shafts back to "rest" position. It's a mystery.

So, I have spent a day or two trying to sort this out, checking the loom over from back to front, top to bottom, and still have no idea what is wrong, so back to checking every detail again.

I've written to weavers in the Complex Weavers Double Harness Study Group, posted photos in an album, and asked for ideas, suggestions, and/or experiences with this, and replies are starting to come in.

Meanwhile, in-between getting ready for weaving guild members meeting here tonight, I'll be going over the loom again, trying to discover the problem and how to fix it. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Studio Days and Inspiration

Today and tomorrow are studio days, for working on and at looms and sock machine. My time to work here has been so broken up the last couple weeks, that I have not getting much done. Too many interruptions lately, demands on my time, errands, appointments, and I've called a halt.

This morning the drawcord warp was trimmed where each cord is tied to a pattern heddle. There were approximately 3"+ tails left on each when they were tied awhile back, and pulling the cords was causing those ends to wrap around themselves and their neighbors (above).

All I could see to do was cut those ends off, so they were trimmed to 1". So far there has been no further problem. The old drawcord warp was a thicker linen with a slightly waxy finish on it, and the knots were tight and held. With the seine twine, I have not been able to tie good tight knots, so hoping they will hold.

The next task today, when I'm done here, is lashing the tie-on rod onto the apron, so large-eye needle, string, and pliers are standing by. When I'm done with that, I'll tie the 20/2 cotton warp on, then be able to pull the pins out of the upper jacks and check to see if I have a shed and how much adjusting needs to be done (next post).

I have always enjoyed visiting artists studios, seeing how and where they work. It was something I did each summer when going to The Looms. Now, living where I do, these opportunities are rare, so I turn to books like...

those of Rice Freeman-Zacher, author of "Living the Creative Life, Ideas and Inspiration from Working Artists" and her new book, "Creative Time and Space, Making Room for Making Art."

I also enjoy publications like American Artist's "Studios" magazine (left), for fine artists, and "Studios" (right) by Cloth.Paper.Scissors, for artists working in paper/collage/fibers/art quilts.

WI weaver Dawn MacFall is featured in this issue. Fun and interesting reads that give ideas for my studio that may work for me here or in the future.

While ordering "Creative Time and Space" on Amazon, I suddenly remembered an article that had been in an issue of Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot (Winter 2008/2009), "Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota." This book and the work of Itchiku Kubota is incredibly beautiful. Pure inspiration! A treasure!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Every Day is an Adventure

Yesterday I was UNtangling pattern heddles under the drawloom. Here you can see the pattern heddles and lingos are now hanging straight, not the tangled mess shown in the previous post.

Half of the tangled heddles on the other side of the loom were also straightened out last night, and now have only 50 or so to finish up today.

This silk weaver in Cambodia has an interesting double harness loom, with the ground shafts in back and 16 pattern shafts in front. I would love to know more about this loom as well as see the weaving she does on it. I found her last night on, and made another microloan. I am SO enjoying this!

Like elsewhere across the country, WI is having unusual weather for this time of year. Last night the weatherman said it is usually Nov. 24th when we have a couple inches of snow. Well, we have the couple inches of snow on Oct. 12 and as I wrote this it is only 32 outside at 10:15 AM.

Bringing wood in this morning, from the wood rack on the porch to the woodbox in the kitchen, I noticed the icicles on the remains of a hanging plant on the porch, with a backdrop of birch leaves that have not yet fallen.

Postscript: The above photos were taken about 9:15 AM; by 11:30 the snow was melting and it is now looking more like our usual fall. I'm on dial-up, loading photos to Blogger takes TIME, and circumstances change!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wool Socks & First Snow

I'm busy working on socks orders, seven orders to do yet for a total of seventeen pairs of socks, plus Artistree Gallery, and the on-line shop. Whew!

Jewel tones had been requested for one order, shown here. I noticed these three colors sitting together on a loom bench and thought "why not?" They worked up very well though at the time I wondered what possessed me. Take chances!

I'd put "The View" on one morning and what struck me was the stage set, blue, green, and white or silver. SOCKS popped into my head, so I sat down and made them up. Inspiration comes from all kinds of places!

During the fall art tour, a friend was here and requested socks. Being busy with several people I suggested she go to the shelves and pull out three colors. She did, and I made them up. Not being entirely certain she would like them. I made up a second pair, substituting a lighter gray for the dark gray she had chosen. This is the lighter pair. She really liked both and had a hard time deciding. In the end she took the darker pair for winter wear. I didn't get a photo so will need to make them up again.

I need to work on sock names again as I've been coming up with more new color combinations. When you have over a hundred names on your list, you tend to start running out of ideas!

I woke up to our first snow this morning, it was snowing and blowing! I went out later and snapped a couple photos including snow on the pumpkins. By afternoon the sun was out, the snow had melted, but it is still quite windy tonight. We usually don't have snow until near the end of October, so I'm hopeful we'll still have a week or two of our normal fall weather before it gets cold and stays cold. Because of the wind, though, I did start a fire in the woodburner this AM, our first this fall, and oh, how that wood heat warms you through.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Give Me Patience...

The pattern heddles on the outside, both sides, of the drawloom are a terrible tangled mess! Do you remember Kylie, our dog who had to be put down the second day of the Summer Art Tour? She had the canine version of dimentia, standing and staring into corners or at walls. Unhappily, she also would often get under one of my looms, and was unable to figure out how to get back out. I took to parking chairs and stools in front of any openings along the sides and ends of the drawloom I thought she could get through, and still she would get in there. The tangled heddles are the result.

You can see, on the right, a few I managed to untangle this morning. Over two hours working on it and I still have a ways to go. The larger tangled group was much, much worse when I started. The other side of the loom is nearly as bad. I have my work cut out for me!

Do I need them untangled to weave? No, I'll just be a much happier weaver when this is done!

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Artists of the North" ~ A New Social Network

A new social network was created on, "Artists of the North," started by photographer Jim Dummer of Tomahawk, WI. It is to be a place of "communication within the artists community of northern WI," and a place to share ideas and insights. It is also for people interested in the arts and artists. I just joined, and am looking forward to the sharing and discussions that will take place.

So far today, I have been resting from the past three days of the art tour. Now, though, I think a walk outdoors would be good, even though it is cold and breezy. Then it is my usual, socks to make, toes to close, and weaving to do, and that is all good. There will be a good sense of accomplishment tonight.

One more thing I did today, a second microloan on KIVA,, and I'm sitting here smiling and thinking of a woman in Mongolia working to improve and increase her business. Time for my walk, so I can get back to tending Shuttle Works Studio.

Paying it Forward

A few days ago I'd turned on Oprah and the program was about helping others. Heifer Intl., KIVA, Women for Women International, and Global Giving were among those featured. The program that "spoke" to me was KIVA. I have children adopted from China from listening to that inner voice, so I knew I should listen again.

KIVA is about microloans, "loans" by individuals to help other individuals or small groups, around the world.

During the Fall Art Tour, that organization kept coming back to me. It's about women (and men) from around the world trying to start or grow a business. Between visitors I was thinking how I'm trying to do that with Shuttle Works Studio, and though I am far better off than all of the people requesting these loans, I could share in my blessings by helping others.

The art tour ended, and earlier tonight I registered with KIVA, spent time learning about the organization, then chose a woman in Samoa, and finished the requested loan amount. I know there will be others. It's my way to show thankfulness for my blessings, for friends and opportunities that have come my way, and to pay it forward. I tell you, it feels good! You can learn about KIVA by visiting

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall Art Tour is Over

Today was the last day of the Fall Northwoods Art Tour. Over three days I had perhaps a few less visitors than during summer, but those who came were wonderful to chat with, curious and interested in both looms/weaving and sock machine, and there was quite a bit of laughter. Four of my visitors were weavers.

Because of cranking socks for Art in the Yard and the Art Tour, as well as working on winter wood, the countermarche loom still had the warp on for rag rugs, barely begun. The sock machine is always ready to use.

I managed to get four pairs of socks cranked while demo'ing sock-cranking,... as well as discussing differences in loom types, and explaining the drawloom.

Every pair of socks I had available were sold, the last pair today. I've already received three special orders for socks, and I'm working on them now, as well as socks for Artistree Gallery. Eighteen sock brochures went out the door, and four weaving brochures, so hopefully there will be more orders.

The drawloom was also found to be fascinating, and now that these two weekend events are over, I'll finally be able to lash the tie-on rod to the apron, get the warp tied on, see what kind of shed I have, and hopefully be able to start weaving on it soon. The area weaving guild members are coming here on Oct. 26th and things are almost ready for them.

Later this afternoon, a very nice couple were here, and after listening about looms and watching the sock machine, were admiring the handwoven towels. The woman reached for one that was display only (above), and aksed if I would accept an order to weave that particular twill pattern as a table runner for their daughter for Christmas, but to be done in blue and natural. It's a towel woven many, many years ago, but a weave structure I've been wanting to weave again. There is nothing like needing a loom empty to provide motivation to get weaving! Rag rugs just moved up the priority list as there is another great twill to weave up!

I had already been looking forward to being on the art tour next year but made the decision not to apply as I may be moving and don't want people driving distances only to possibly find my weaving studio gone. Instead, I'm planning to apply to two or three art shows next summer as well as Art in the Yard and Artistree Gallery.

The Art Tour was a wonderful experience, I would do it again in a heartbeat as I loved meeting everyone and sharing what I do as well as meeting other weavers. Hopefully an experience like this will come along again for me, whether in the Northwoods or at another locale.

And now? I've got work to do in the studio! There are rugs, table runners, towels, and more to be woven, a drawloom to get weaving on, socks to crank, fleece to spin, felting to do, and of course, the learning never ends.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Art Gypsies

The Art Gypsies again celebrated the Autumn Equinox with "Art in the (New) Yard," held on Saturday, Sept. 26th. It was cool in the morning as tents were set up, artwork unpacked and displayed. About mid-morning the temperature dropped noticeably, and you could see your breath in the air. Then the misty rain/light drizzle started, which didn't seem to deter anyone from visiting. We had a steady stream of visitors all day. Later, the sun came peaking through again and it warmed back up a bit.

Here I am, cranking socks, answering questions, and selling socks. When there were men, women, and children watching and I wasn't able to talk right then, I provided a little humor,... "I'm not being anti-social, I'm counting rows so two socks come out the same size!" One of my favorite pieces of weaving sold, too, a huck runner, which now gives me a good reason to warp up for that weave structure again.

The day before, socks are ready to pack up for Art in the Yard.

Six more pairs of socks are waiting to be "finished" and packed up.

Toni Burgeon, of Green Bay and Minocqua, creates beautiful art quilts. She had emailed me a few days ago asking if I would like to share her tent with her, so it was nice for both of us to have someone to chat with in those moments when no one was in our booth.

Louise Engelbrecht, Eagle River, is an award-winning watercolor and oils artist. She also weaves, felts, and enjoys making handmade paper. Louise was weaving on a table loom.

Debra Ketchum-Jircik, Eagle River, creates wonderful clay figurines and birdhouses, and is also a handmade paper artist.

Kathleen Kimball, Arbor Vitae, makes the most wonderful soaps; she is also a collage artist and maker of handmade books.

Amy Higgason, Lake Tomahawk, is a talented potter who makes beautiful, detailed pottery.

Wendy Powalisz (left), Land O'Lakes, makes wonderful jewelry and also does watercolor paintings. Carol Miller (right), also of Land O'Lakes, is a photographer, with an emphasis on capturing the Old Northwoods before it is completely gone. Coffee and homemade goodies were available to visitors.

Toni Burgeon, Wendy Powalisz, Carol Miller, Amy Higgason, and I have our work in Artistree Gallery in Land O'Lakes.

By the time we were ready to leave, there was already discussion of not only Autumn 2010 Art in the Yard, but also of celebrating the Summer Solstice in June 2010. We have a lot to prepare for, and look forward to!

Our thanks to the owners of Fir Tree Cottage in Land O'Lakes who graciously allowed the Art Gypsies to set up next to their shop.