Archive for the 'Handweavers and Spinners NSW' Category

Preserving crafts

I’ve been working on this post a while now and it’s still not finished. I’ve been thinking about the future of craftsmanship and particularly handcrafts, the relationships between design and craft and designers and craftspeople, what authenticity means… .

Recently I posted here about a lecture given by Amanda Talbot at the Powerhouse Museum. Titled “Preserving the Past to Make Our Future Happen”, the blurb on the website  points to the need to learn from the past, rediscover lost skills and secure the knowledge of “the final generation with specialist craft skills”. To me a lot of what she said was about opportunities for designers – to find and use crafts and craftspeople, to engage with consumers. This was as advertised, but not what I was looking for – which was more about craftspeople preserving skills and knowledge, and the challenges of making a living through their craft if that’s what they choose to do.

drop spindle in the foreground, technology in the background

A couple of weeks ago at the Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild of NSW we had our first simulcast meeting, reaching out to members many kilometres from Sydney.

I love this photo – our President, Ann Beatty, in the foreground busy spindling while listening to committee member Ann Jackson (techo and spindle queen) introducing the new facilities.

This for me is the essence of preserving handcrafts – individuals building and passing on skills, learning and sharing, bringing in new ideas and materials but also valuing the traditional. People working with their own hands, creating, is the core. The object created is important. Good design is important. Building understanding and appreciation among consumers of handcrafted goods enriches the lives of those buying and those selling. Projects to provide opportunities and a market, to empower people or communities through trade  – very worthy. Globalisation of production – I concede some points but there are issues.

Back to the Guild simulcast. It was very impressive. The smooth running is a testament to the effort and preparation of the organisers, who had tested connections, found alternatives, rehearsed presentations, addressed issues of privacy and copyright… The focus is on members who can’t get to meetings and potential members around the state – but for me an immediate benefit for the “locals” was having the detail of a demonstration displayed up on the screen. The main presentation was about Ravelry. While I’m a member I’ve explored very little of it, and it was really interesting to see some of the possibilities. I hope the distance participants found it a satisfying experience and that this venture continues.

A demo of Facebook was also planned, but didn’t go ahead partly on time but also with the comment – “there’s no point after looking at Ravelry. That is the future of social networking – linking people with shared interests.” Which brings me back on topic – if craftmanship is about people and my concerns about preserving and sharing skills – how fabulous is the internet? As well as Ravelry there’s weavolution and blogs and ventures like P2P2 and of course YouTube… Incredible rich resources.

I’m beginning to collect quite a few bits of discussion on developments in handcrafts and consumer perceptions and values. I haven’t done any conscious research yet, but suspect this will be an ongoing area of interest for me (and maybe others), so below am listing some of what I’ve found so far. There’s rather a lot and undigested – no conclusions – so you are warned!

Continue reading ‘Preserving crafts’

Weaving content!!!

None of it my work – it’s been a happy week of weaving vicariously.

Amanda's Project Report

First a lovely surprise in the mail – Amanda sent me a copy of her P2P2 Project Report, including a sample of the actual fabric. You can read all about her work on her blog here. I really enjoy the blog, but it was amazing to see in person. For a start I’m impressed by the page itself and the detailed, valuable information Amanda has recorded. What an incredible resource to create! Plus I fully support her comments on the feel of the fabric – beautifully soft, and beautifully woven. Thank you so much Amanda – I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

Susan's runner

Also this week was a get-together of Liz Calnan’s weaving group at the Guild. We’ve all studied with Liz in the past, and while formal lessons are finished it’s always great to get together, hear about what everyone’s been doing, learn a bit more from Liz and generally have a good, weaverly time. I managed to get a few photos between chatting. Susan brough in the table runner she made for the recent Guild Open Day Challenge. The photo doesn’t give an idea of the scale, but the floats are long but very stable due to the careful level of fulling/felting she got in wet finishing. The runner is a really happy mix of colours, and I like the short-cut bobbly non-fringe – again good and stable due to the finishing.

Liz's silk scarves

Liz showed us some of her recent work. Liz is a very skillful dyer as well as weaver, and her multi-coloured warps are always gorgeous. She is able to manage warp colour variations, weft colour and drafts to create a lot of variety.

Liz's mixed yarn shawl

Liz has a Serious Stash of yarn – lots of silk and wools, and also lots of novelty yarns. She has a gift in combining them – thick, thin, textured, multiple colours – all together in one warp. Somehow she puts it all together into a single, cohesive whole that drapes beautifully and is full of visual interest. Liz has explained her process and makes it sound easy (well, not incredibly hard) – but I think the key is her skill and eye for colour.
Liz also brought some of her double weave, another of her specialities, but unfortunately my photos were particularly ordinary so I won’t include them.
No weaving for me at the moment – I’m having somewhat unexpected fun, stitching. A subject for another post.

Not a lot to show…

… given how much I’ve been doing.

A couple of photos – but given this is a kind of diary for me I’m staying mostly chronological.

Last weekend I attended a Collaboration in Experimental Design Research Symposium at COFA (College of Fine Arts). It only touched on weaving obliquely – for example while focusing on collaboration, Dr June Ngo Siok Kheng’s talk “Improving lives through Songket Weaving” discussed the work at the Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah had some slides of beautiful work. She also talked about her experimentation combining batik and weaving, using batik techniques (ie wax resist) to dye the yarns. If I thought my little experiments in ikat were tricky, imagine handling and beaming a warp dyed like that! Anyway, although thoroughly out of my comfort zone I found a lot of interest.

Wednesday evening was a talk by Amanda Talbot at the Powerhouse Museum – “Preserving the Past to Make Our Future Happen“. To my taste her focus seemed to be a bit much on the value to designers (finding a source of ideas, interest and commercial difference) than the craftsmanship and preservation side. However I liked the parts about fine craftsmanship as an alternative to the homogenized mass produced articles. Amanda was very strong on the importance of provenance and narrative, and the overtones of integrity, sustainable, ethical – all in the interests of making the consumer feel good and giving the designer a point of difference.

Thursday was more fun – out to the Weavers and Spinners to work on planning for our 65th anniversary next year. (An aside – the weaving-equipment-available-for-loan area was unusually empty – apparently a dozen or so table looms had been borrowed by COFA for their students. Which makes me think (a) it’s great they are giving their students this experience; and (b) what, don’t they maintain this facility themselves?? Must ask Liz Williamson, Head of the School of Design Studies there and an amazing weaver herself, next time I see her).

Friday was a visit to the Art Gallery NSW. For the last few years my birthday-cum-christmas gift to mum has been a joint membership, and we always have a great time there. Friday was a bumper visit – not only our usual gossip (lunch and afternoon tea required), but our first view of the new contemporary galleries. Not mum’s standard cup of tea, nor mine necessarily, but work by Simryn Gill – a series of photographs of where she’d shredded books and the strips of text looked like part of the natural environment – was really interesting and broke down our reservations. Add in the tribute to Margaret Olley (a very well known Australian artist) and exhibitions of works by Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo (previously unknown to me, but obviously very influential in the Sydney art scene in the first half of the last century) and David Aspden (also new to me, and I hope it’s not demeaning to his work to say quite a few looked like they could become wonderful textile designs), and mum and I left exhausted, happy and telling each other how lucky we are to have this institution in our city.

Friday was also – major drumroll here – the day I formally enrolled in the Open College of the Arts, in particular Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach. I don’t really know what this will mean or how far I’ll go (seems like a realistic minimum of 7 years to achieve the BA Hons Textiles, but then it took me around 8 years part-time to get my BSc in computer science) – I guess as long as I’m interested, learning and enjoying it. It does help explain some of the flurry of activity above. Studying at a distance, I think it will be important to meet and listen to people, see things directly, extend myself beyond the core course material (I’m sure OCA encourage/require this). Plus studying through a UK-based institution and faculty, I think it is very important for me personally to keep being Australian and living in Sydney front and centre. Beyond this, it will take a couple of weeks for the course material to arrive and I don’t know what it all means – including to this blog, since they recommend using a blog as a learning log.

For anyone strong enough to get this far, at last a small amount of textile viewing. This weekend I went to an ATASDA workshop with Claire Brach – “Get Funky – Paper Casting and Stitching”. I jumped to enroll in this class. In fact I would take pretty much any class with Claire – very talented, just brimming with ideas, constantly experimenting with tools and techniques, heaps of fun and (a recent addition to her many attractions!) the friend who discovered the OCA course and who enrolled just minutes (well, hours) before me.

I wasn’t disappointed. A weekend of fun and experimentation with a great group of women and an inspiring teacher. A strange indicator of a good weekend – we all stood around in the car park this afternoon, chatting about this and that, just so incredibly reluctant to let it all end.

Saturday was our messy fun day. We took handmade paper (some supplied by Claire, some from our efforts at Primrose Park) and did things to it – dyed, wet embossed, dry embossed, rusting and verdigris effects, inktense pencils, metallic waxes… I was thinking of the theme for ATASDA’s next travelling suitcase exhibition: Marrakesh. With zero research, it makes me think of oranges, turquoise and scrollwork. Maybe some of this will turn into a component in a piece, and if not at least it gave me a vague end goal in my experimentation. I find it incredibly difficult to simply mess around!

Sunday was stitching day and the photo shows my entire output for one day – not much at all!! Actually I did do a little more. The idea was to use the calico as a ground for some of the paper and to stitch through that. I made a start, but found it impossible to think about design and lines and the extra complexity of working on paper at the same time as learning the stitches – especially since stitch isn’t close to my comfort zone. All the paper and stitches from the first session were pulled out – just too visually distracting.

Talking of comfort zones, all weekend I was looking for things to combine in some sensible way with weaving. This afternoon I may have found something. A number of the stitches have elements that don’t go through the cloth. Raised chain band stitch is one – in my photo the light pink and the green sections are examples. What if instead of stitching the base of foundation parallel lines I wove a set of floats? I could then stitch the top section to create a slightly raised feature element. Hmm…

Imagery in Woven Fabric – Kay Faulkner

What a fabulous week at the Textile Fibre Forum in Orange! I’m finding it hard to write without excited, incoherent and somewhat embarrassing burbling.  I enjoyed Kay Faulkner’s teaching – she encouraged, led and supported, but made us think for ourselves – and the interaction with the other 9 students was great. The actual material covered… at one moment on Thursday morning (I think) I felt like a doorway had opened in my mind and there was a dazzling blaze of light and possibilities ahead that will take a long, long time to explore. Since then there’s been a series of flashbulbs going off in my head as I begin integrating the new information with the solid foundation of theory and structure that I’ve gained from the weekly guild classes with Liz Calnan. (an aside – hearing the experience of others in the Forum class who work and learn in isolation, I have a new appreciation of how lucky I am to have easy access to the Guild, Liz’s teaching and the camaraderie of my weaving class.) (second aside – yes, I am jotting down notes in the hope of coming back to some of these ideas in the future).

Each morning Kay presented us with some theory and design exercises. Afternoons were spent weaving, using a variety of weave structures and pick up techniques to produce images in cloth. We worked on the elements of design (point, line, shape, space, texture and colour), design development and refinement, design principles (unity, balance, rhythm, emphasis, proportion and scale), design units, building blocks and working to a theme. We wove on a straight or “universal” threading, and also looked at how to blend drafts to combine two independent weave structures.

Since getting home I’ve wet-finished my 14 samples and put together pages in my workbook. Here’s a selection of pages.

This page shows the progression of the first design exercise. Kay asked us to use our initial(s) to as a starting point in a design. Constraints were that it should result in a 4 inch /10 cm, not too complex design.

We were asked to work quickly, building and developing from one possibility to the next. That photo on the top right was actually an A3 page.

The end result was transferred to graph paper at the required dimensions, then transferred onto woven interfacing. The interfacing was pinned under the warp as we wove samples, acting as a template. The various lines help keep distortion under control.

This sample used the structure of summer and winter to render the design. (You can click on the photos to see a larger version). As I mentioned above we used a “universal” straight threading that could produce a range of weave structures. This post on waffle weave gives the idea.

In summer and winter you weave tabby pick, then pattern pick, tabby then pattern. Two threads in each repeat of threading are used to tie down the pattern weft.

In the summer and winter towels I wove last year (blogged here) the areas of pattern were controlled by the loom, with multiple blocks threaded – and the effect was, indeed, very blocky. Kay taught us to select the areas to show pattern using a pickup stick. Once you get into the rhythm it goes fairly easily, and it certainly opens up all sorts of possibilities for producing imagery without wanting more and more shafts. I think I’m right in saying this design and much more complicated could be produced on 3 shafts, if you were prepared to invest the time.

Unfortunately the weaving in this sample is ordinary at best, but I found the idea behind this amazing. It’s Tejido Holandes – dutch inlay – and is a combination of plain weave and twill. Click on the photo, and hopefully you’ll be able to read the description of how it’s done.

The sequence of samples Kay gave us was so helpful in seeing structural connections. Summer and winter uses two tie down threads and a tabby. Taquete uses two tie downs, no tabby and a kind of weaving on opposites. Half satin uses three tie down threads and a tabby. Samitum uses three tie down threads, no tabby and weaving on opposites. Quigley uses four tie down threads… How logical is that? (apart from the naming, which seems pretty random!)

A final selection. We were asked to develop a pattern that would repeat with smooth joins horizontally and vertically. We made then made a stencil and tried it out in various combinations. We took one print from the stencil and used it for a lift plan. The possibilities went on and on. It was really interesting to see the different results everyone in the class got as they worked through the exercise.

There was lots more – 5 days of class and months to come completing and re-doing exercises, experimenting with the structures… I’ve got some wild ideas about combining Theo Morman and double weave, which may or may not see the light of day.

Many, many thanks to Kay and everyone in the class. Forum is always a stimulating week, but this went way beyond. I wish everyone could have such an experience! (I’m pretty sure Kay could be persuaded to travel… 😉 )


These beautiful, wriggly, squishy waffles are around 1.75 cm or 0.6 inches across. The cloth is just as thick!

When the first row was woven, on the loom and under tension, you could see the 3D starting to happen. After machine washing and tumble dry – amazing, beautiful, totally impractical. One day I will find the right yarn and the right purpose to make this work.

So, this is my week 2 report for virtual weaving class. I wrote about planning the waffle weave sampler last week. Obviously the first section has been woven, cut off and wet finished.

As I described earlier, having a straight threading on 24 shafts gave me lots of options. This first section has waffles on the equivalents of 4, 5, 7, 9 and 13 shaft pointed threadings. Hopefully you can see the increasing texture, increasing cloth thickness and decreasing cloth width as the waffles get larger.

In the end I didn’t do much colour play with the weft. A lot of my attention was on the loom itself. I’ve had trouble in the past with incorrect lifts or shafts dropping, so it was a calculated risk to use all 24 shafts. As it turned out, some sections of design were really helpful in showing the pattern of problems. I found a number of ways to do finetuning and I think it’s just about there. By the end I was very happy with the loom’s performance.

Another big waffle photo 🙂

This has a plastic bobbin for scale (maybe the 1 inch grid on the cutting mat is more helpful). At the top is a “fancier” waffle. It’s the top section from this draft I showed last week. It’s an effective 13 shaft pointed threading, the same as the deep waffles below it. The addition of areas of plain weave  make a huge difference.

Here’s another mixture combining plain and waffle weave. This was inspired by weave #519 in A Weaver’s book of 8-shaft patterns edited by Carol Strickler. I wasn’t able to map the threading directly, so had some fun playing in the software to get a result along the same lines. My final version is the 3rd from the top in the section of draft above. I’m pretty chuffed with the result.

The front and back can look quite different. This is the bottom section in the draft shown above. I started using the same colour weft, but quickly changed to a contrast colour to allow the pattern to show. I’m not sure about this pattern. The top/front has a strong horizontal element which doesn’t appeal the me. The bottom/back I like better, but probably not enough to use any time soon.

A final photo, this time of a section I think does have potential.

In our last class meeting we speculated about the use of bands of waffle and plain weave, especially given the different amounts of dimensional change when the cloth is finished. I like the scalloped edges, perhaps at the ends of a scarf. Verticle stripes of waffle with plain or basket weave could also work. (right at the top of the sample is a bit of basket weave).

I won’t have a virtual class posting next week – I’ll be in a week-long class at a Tafta ForumImagery in Cloth with Kay Faulkner!

Virtual class

Term 1 of weaving class at the Guild has finished and we have a few weeks holiday. We decided to keep in touch with a weekly “virtual class” in the hopes we’ll all be weaving at least a little throughout. Classmate Martin has already blogged about his waffle weave plans here (I don’t think any of the others keep blogs).

My holiday project is a “super sampler” which I can use to play with waffle, oatmeal and dice weaves. I’m using 22/2 Cottolin, 26 epi, straight threading on 24 shafts so I’ll also get practise with design and shaft substitution. The right hand side is stripes that I’m hoping will work well with at least some sizes of waffle. On the left the colours are pretty much random, and the centre is plain. You can see progress is limited to date – I managed to injure my ankle slightly somehow over the weekend and am waiting for the swelling to subside.

This has the benefit of more design time. Our teacher, Liz Calnan, often highlights ways to improve efficiency – one tip being that if you have a loom with lots of shafts you can reduce time and errors getting a warp on and maximise flexibility  by tieing on to a straight threading. By chance yesterday Fern posted here about the benefits of going the other way!

For example, on a straight 24 threading I can weave a design for a 5 shaft pointed threading. A down side is more (heavier) lifting. If the tieup/lift includes shaft 1, I need to lift all the shafts in columns with a 1 – so 1, 9, 17. If it includes shaft 2, I need to lift 2, 8, 10, 16, 18, 24. You can see why I’m waiting for my ankle to heal!

The plus side is that a single threading allows weaving designs on straight threadings for 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 24 shafts, plus pointed threadings on 4, 5, 7 and 24 shafts. If something doesn’t fit neatly I can play around and try to get the “flavour” of it, or combine 2 designs or…

The 23 thread float in the “basic” 24 shaft waffle may be a little impractical at 26 epi – but it’s one of the possibilities and I may give it a go just for a sense of completeness.

I’ve got quite a bit more prepared – some from Liz’s notes and various weaving books, some from sitting and playing in the software. I sure hope I can spend time at the loom over the long weekend.


I blinked and time has passed! I’m afraid this post will be a rough-and-ready mix, catching up.

The major focus has been finding appropriate residential care for my mother-in-law. She had a rotten year with several long hospital stays – returning to her own home was not an option. She’s now close by getting the care she needs, and while not happy she is making an effort to accept what became inevitable. I feel lucky to live in Australia where aged care is heavily government regulated – complex and hard to navigate, but available (eventually), good quality and affordable.

There was also a weekend trip to Canberra with my mother to see the
MASTERPIECES from PARIS – wonderful artworks which transcended the crowds and queueing. The season has been extended to 18 April, but make sure you pre-purchase tickets and be prepared to be patient. If you have children, there is a wonderful room of activities available inside the exhibition as well as a child-friendly audio tour.

The March ATASDA NSW meeting was fun. The Maharajah’s Garden pieces were all there, though difficult to see in the crush of people. I bought these “weaving sticks” from another member. The warp yarn is threaded through the base of the sticks (see insert top left of the photo), the sticks provide a rigid form to wind the weft around, and as the sticks are covered you push the weft down over the warp.

There has been other weaving. (Sorry for the bad photos – time is crunching!)

This is one of the warps I dyed in Linda Coffill’s class in January. It’s 20/2 silk sett at 40 epi. Weft is 60/2 silk. Plain weave, with warp dominant but weft still visible. The result has a lovely drape, hand and shine. I’m really happy with it.

One interesting thing is the impact of the weft colour. It was dyed coral, the same as parts of the warp. The little dots of the weft showing intensify the colour where the warp is also coral. They dull the blue areas, and particularly the lighter greenish-blue. Overall the balance of colour is not what I planned. I don’t mind the result, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind in the future.

Another spin-off from Linda’s class was the formation of a new colour study group within the Guild. We’ve started meeting once a month in the Guild rooms – other members are welcome (we’re not meeting in April due Easter and holidays). At our first meeting we had lots of show and tell and talked about what we want to do. At our second, we brought dyed fibres, a couple of people brought their drum carders, and we played with colour blending. I experimented with blending the same colours (not necessarily the same proportions), creating rolags using hand carders and a layered bat in the drum carder.

I spun the results without plying, but was very rough when finishing the yarn so that it would felt up and not cause too many shrinkage problems when weaving. It became weft in part of my latest weaving class sampler – crackle.

The section above the dividing line was the drum carded part – texturally more evenly mixed and the brown dominant (it was the outside layers of the sandwich).

The lower part was the handcarded rolags. Lots of variation and interest. I really like that section.

I’m not going to attempt an explanation of crackle here. There’s lots of information available – Peg has a huge amount in her blog, and there are heaps of articles on

This is another section of the same sampler. The right third of the warp was plain brown, threaded to show each of the 4 blocks. The left side was a fairly random mix of 6 colours in the warp, and the threading jumped around between blocks. I did quite a bit of playing with different pattern and tabby wefts. Lots of potential to return to another day.

For today, sorry about the jumbled rush but at least that brings me almost up to date. It’s progress 🙂

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April 2020

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