Archive for June, 2011


My Bag for All Seasons is done!!!

As you may tell from the profligate use of exclamation marks, I am pleased – with both the bag and that it’s done 🙂

Parts of it have been seen before on the blog. The feature fabric in the centre is “freestyle rosepath”, blogged here. It was initially intended as a very simple bag, similar to one I’ve done before (here). There was a certain amount of languishing and distraction, then I decided to use it in a class.

This meant more fabric was required and it was a fun and fast (for me) weave – read its story here.

The bag class with Helen MacRitchie was a very pleasant weekend. I posted about it here, and you can see some of Helen’s lovely work such as her award-winning bag pictured here and at the moment some in her etsy shop (including one with nunofelted silk georgette in a spiral fabric which I rather covet…).

At this point the bag could pose with others from the class and looked fairly complete – except for the vital detail of handles, plus how was I going to attach the tab closure artfully balanced for the photo shoot? The photo on the right shows some of the sampling done to answer those questions.

None of the commercial handles available worked with the bag so I decided to try braiding some, using the same cottolin that was the warp for both the fabrics used. The first attempt was the flat braid on the left, but it was too flimsy and stretchy. I decided to try a round braid with a commercial cord at the core to provide some extra strength.

This photo shows the setup. I used the warping wheel to wind the warps for the braid, and it also provided a very convenient way to hold the core cord while I was braiding. I wanted mixed colours – version one was too green, but I was happy with version two. (An aside – my original improvised tama seen here used plastic embroidery thread bobbins attached to metal washers. They weren’t really comfortable in the hand, so now I’m trying some door stops with more metal washers inside. A definite improvement).

The next issue was how to attach the braid handle to the bag. First idea was some kind of tab on the bag creating a channel – the braid goes through and is finished with a knot and tassel. Lots of problems with that.  On my bookshelf I found a copy of Stuart Gainger’s Creative ropecraft. In the photo above of samples you might be able to see the Turk’s Head knots on the practice braids. The idea was to sew the braid directly to the bag, working around the knots which would hide the join. I actually started on the bag doing this, but it was harder to do than I expected plus I worried that the weight of the bag on the small sewn area would tear out.

On the right of the sample photo is the final idea – a Prolong Knot, which Mr Grainger informs us is “a method of extending a flat three lead four bight Turk’s Head into a rectangular form”. The “rope” used is three strands of cottolin, twisted together very tightly (using an electric drill with a cuphook instead of a drillbit to hold the threads) then folded in half to form a two ply cord. At the bottom right of the photo is the knot, still loose. Above that is the same knot, with the lead doubled and everything tightened up. I have to admit it took me quite a few attempts to get the hang of this. It was only when I used my “weaver’s eye” to follow the developing interlacement that I got it. At the top of the photo is a version that has been extended by a lengthening/repeating process, which was no trouble at all (really – no sarcasm. By then I knew it followed our familiar over-under).

Here is a closeup of the result. I sewed on the braid, over a wider area than was possible with the earlier attempt. I used a tacky glue to attach the knots, reinforced by sewing around the edges (using more of the cottolin plus thread heaven). I’m hoping the combination of all this will distribute weight in use well enough. As you can see the knots also solved my closure attachment problem. I just kept extending the knot until it was long enough, then used the sew-on/glue-on/sew-on technique.

At one point I was going to wind some more cottolin cord over the central areas of the handles, as extra reinforcement where it will be held and to camouflage dirty/sweaty handmarks. But it didn’t look good, to be honest I’m a bit over the whole thing, and I can always add it later if necessary.

Here’s a final shot of the inside of the bag. Have I mentioned the attention to detail of Helen’s bags? Fully lined of course. A couple of pockets, zippered, open, and nice&tight for a pen. A neat casing to hold a snap-open frame. The tab and magnetic catch closure. And you can’t really see it, but a firm bottom supported by cute little feet.

This has always been intended as a gift – fortunately to someone close so I feel comfortable saying “it’s my first – give it back for me to fix if something doesn’t work out”.  I’m already thinking of a few changes for mine – but there’s quite a queue of things beforehand.

P2P2 Round 2

Post edited to add a warning! This is a rambling post with poor grammar and (I suspect) a poorer grasp of what is weaveable / worth weaving. The Del key has been hovered over, but I thought this may be of passing interest in the context of the P2P2 challenge. Besides, I like to post on a Sunday evening as a weekly review and I haven’t got anything else!

Off and on over the past couple of weeks my thoughts turned to Cally’s photo taken “the day the Bern bear mascot goes into hibernation. There was a very Swiss atmosphere of deliberate and dutiful jollity.” (see the rest of her comment here and more photos here). I already found the photo fascinating, and strangely enough I too have had an encounter with a crowd in Bern, back in ’82 when Geoff and I were freshly married and exploring the world together. The town centre was full of football fanatics, packing the trams and roaming the streets, chanting (Geoff, who has a phenomenal memory, supplies “Basel ist besser” and “Allez Sion”). A few followed us down the street, heckling – which only got worse when I made the mistake of speaking in english. Then last weekend a friend happened to talk about making parades and making costumes when she was living in Switzerland – and again there was a bit of an edge to her stories.

Using the above, my first impressions of the photo and general stereotypes of the Swiss, I have: pops of colour; exuberance; texture; dissonance; good quality; methodical.

First idea: inlay of blocks of colour. base of solid quality – linen in neutrals/undyed? rosepath inlay (since I like it). Which reminds me of Susan at Avalanche Looms – say here. Very close. Too close.

Next idea: go shopping. A yarn store near work had a sale and I just happened to pop in – you know how it goes. Either of these could provide nice pops of colour and texture. I’m thinking wriggly lines of supplementary warp, with something grey/plain/regular as base. Maybe bits of glitz warp (thin metallic) describing boundaries for the wriggle – freedom within limits.

A vague something in my head, I started leafing through books. Honeycomb? thick outline weft. But I don’t want solid bands, and I need to use the yarn in the warp to take advantage of colour changes. I could turn the draft?

After going round in circles for a while (inlay honeycomb in blocks, with blocks of glitz overlay, sometimes overlapping, with basketweave in places to assist tension … ouch!) I’ll spare you the gory details – no need for everyone to get a headache or unsettled stomach 🙂

Final (coherent?) thought is spider weave (my reference is Sharon Alderman Mastering Weave Structures, pages 118 – 122). I got out all my old class samples while wondering about the base cloth. Current fav 20/2 silk might be a bit light to carry the supplementary warps. Bendigo 2 ply wool is much heftier and would give a nice contrast of wool base to the sheen of the Noro (Silk Garden Lite – 45% silk, 45% mohair, 10% wool). Ixchel cashmerino – the strong shrinkage might emphasise the supplementary squiggle. Has the solid quality effect.

At this point I quite liked the idea, so the next step would be to put on a sample warp.

Which hasn’t happened.

Because I have a couple of things in progress that are  progressing and I want to finish but aren’t finished and won’t be finished if I get too sidetracked. They’re also not bloggable because they are so nearly finished and would be much more interesting to read about and see photos of if they were finished.

Which they’re not.


A Bag for all Seasons

I’ve just spent a great weekend doing Helen MacRitchie’s class, run by ATASDA. That’s Helen in the photo, together with some of the results (Kathy G wasn’t able to come the second day, and Jennifer was still madly stitching.)

Helen is an excellent teacher. She provided us with clear notes including lots of photos, so we could focus on watching her demonstrations and just jot down a few extra personal reminders. Helen makes very well engineered bags. We used a a range of interfacings, wadding, various bits of handbag hardware and a wide variety of fabrics. More important were all the techniques and options that Helen taught – for example at least five different methods to make pockets and a huge number of those small details which make all the difference in a final product that is beautiful, functional and hard wearing.

Kathy W's bag

With 2 days of focused work most people finished their bags. We all used Helen’s basic pattern but there was lots of variety in the results – with and without a frame, additional depth, the fabrics of course and all the details of handles, closures etc. I was busy and only took a couple of photos. Kathy used some lovely handwork on her bag front.

Pamela's bag

No details of mine yet. It’s the “hydrangea” coloured one on the left in the back and used the fabric I posted about here. I’ll write more about it once it is finished – I think I was the only one who left today with significant work still to be done (closure and handles). In my own defence, cutting and pieceing together the handwovens took a fair chunk of time yesterday (part of it breathing deeply before engaging the scissors!)

P2P2 round 1

This week I chose one image to explore a bit more. I played around with it using gimp, my preferred image manipulation software. Click on any of the images for a closer look.

smooth palette

Colour and line were the things that struck me in the photo. I used Colors/Info/Smooth Palette to get a first impression of stripe possibilities.


Next a few different views to highlight structure – first desaturated (ie grey scale), then a series of operations (blur, edge detect, colour level…) to get an outline effect.


alien map

Then some general play. Colors/Map/Alien Map gave an interesting alternative set of colours! I find it makes it easier to pick up the nesting shapes.


Filter/Map/Make Seamless created a jumble. It was the most helpful of the many distortions I tried.

Finally I’ve taken a modified palette, with the light values removed, and layered it with the outline.

At this stage I’m thinking of diversified plain weave. That’s given the strongest, large scale geometrics in my weaving to date. I’ve dragged out my old class notes, plus Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns edited by Carol Strickler which has a chapter on diversified plain weave and The Best of Weaver’s Thick’n Thin edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt which has lots including a modified draft which gives more blocks from the same number of shafts and simplified treadling (although the look is slightly different and the structure is so different I’m struggling with using the same name!).

Current thoughts are green and red thick warp threads, and the thin weft a neutral of similar value. The geometric patterning would be given by a light thick weft thread. The pattern would be big zig-zags and triangles, ignoring stripe boundaries. The sample/scarf I wove previously was in bendigo 2 ply, with 4 threads bundled together for the thick. This time round I could experiment with 20/2 silk, also bundled for the thick. This gives lots of colour play potential. If I sample this, I’d like to try quickly spinning the threads in the bundle together (maybe even a 2 x 2 cable, which would give 4 threads but no additional twist) – extra steps and time, but maybe it would give a more stable result than just warping the threads side by side. Another possibility is the silk chenille I used in my woven shibori experiment.

On a totally different track, possibly more weaverly and less literal than overall patterning, would be one or more stripes of geometric something set in a plain background. I’m thinking of the lace and twill scarves by Coreen Hartig on the cover of the latest Handwoven, or this striped rayon scarf by Margaret (Peg) Cherre. Peg has some interesting results with colour mixing, which could be useful when trying to manage the orange and green without generating mud.

Where does all this rambling leave me? If I want to go any of these directions, next step would be some concrete designing in Fiberworks and putting on a sample warp. Very tempting, but I think I should probably take a look at some of the other images first.


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June 2011

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