Tuesday, January 17, 2017

AIR 2017 prep in progress

As soon as I agree to a project, currently the four week residency for AIR 2017, Artists' Books, I initially plan to think about it later. It's not till April, plenty of time, I say to myself. Need to get on with weaving and spinning right now.

Then I start getting ideas and need to do something before they get away.  So I start like this:



 and that unleashes a whole lot of other ideas, some for teaching, some for exhibiting, some for my own need to Do Something with the huge portfolio of drawings and paintings under my worktable.

Organizing them into artists' books serves several purposes, so that's part of the process.  And since there will be four sessions, I have a bunch of empty folders for collecting said ideas.  And then I need a crate so I don't go wild searching for the materials when the time comes.  



The participants will see the crate and a selection of reference books and materials when they show up, but probably have little thought of the chaos that preceded the organization.

Then I go back to the original thought I had, and had made a few examples for participants to reverse engineer.




This book idea's a folder for installing separate pages or photos or other items.  And I realized, since I'd changed the original idea I got it from, I should do some diagrams to remind myself show participants how to proceed.  So far so good.  This is just the first draft of instructions, and I need to organize them ready to copy off.


This little foldy thing is fun to make, once you get the directions working. I did it from written instructions and quickly decided I'd better whip up some drawings otherwise it would be at least difficult if not hopeless, to convey this to speakers of other languages. For a lot of people stopping by at this sort of event, English is their third or even fourth language, fluent in everyday use but not necessarily up on the mildly technical terms needed in art. Diagrams and demo work best.

In the course of the search I also unearthed a couple of huge portfolios I'd made for other purposes, so I'll upcycle them and use them to show how to make a portfolio for even quite big watercolors and drawings. That big one in the foreground of the top pic is one, monotypes and stamping and other things going on.

The danger of pulling out old stuff like this is that the trip down memory lane can get a bit lengthy, with all kinds of new ideas flying out at you and demanding attention, while you beat them off like a cloud of gnats, trying to keep to one point at a time.

If anyone wants to try her hand at the foldy book thing above, take a shot.  I searched but did not come up with anything in video on this design, but if you do, let us all know.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Pussyhat Project interrupts our weaving odyssey briefly

If you want to be part of the Million Woman March on Washington the day after the Inauguration, you don't have to march to be in it. There are marches in many cities, as a women's solidarity action, to show our numbers and strength and encourage each other to keep up the good fight for our continued rights.

If you want to see how I'm taking part, right in my living room, go here 

I'm knitting a PussyHat, or maybe two, if there's time, I found out about this a bit late, to be sent to organizers of the project who will distribute to marchers to wear on the day and keep as a symbol of support.  But go to the Field and Fen link above, and you'll see more.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Current Weaving, the b side

Here's the other side of the cardboard loom, with the second weaving in progress, what you might call the b side if you remember vinyl.



The blue section at the top is, I think, silk, anyway, it drafted and spun like buttah, just lovely to handle;  there will be other blue and purplish shades for the sky area of this landscape. The red and white, which will suggest wildflowers, I spun then plied just enough for this section.  And for the section with a bit of sparkle, wheat shining in a breeze, I plied a gold embroidery thread with a Coopworth homespun I'd spun and dyed. I fact, come to think of it, I plied the first four sections, starting at the bottom and working up.

I just thought you'd like to see that it is possible to use both sides of your loom at once, with the one warping. I did this on the sawblade, if you remember, worked a treat.  No need to get all organized and warping a second time when the stuff's already there waiting.  Unless you really love warping, and I don't know of anyone who really does. I'm being pretty careful to maintain the same width as on the first weaving, to make it a companion piece.

So my new year in art will be about more spinning, and maybe building a couple of spindles.  I still need a few little hooks for the top of the ones I made, before I find out if they're working well.

And if you are thinking about new adventures in art, maybe for the first time, go for it!  nothing to lose, a lot of fun to gain.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Weaving and spinning and the thoughts they trigger

I've finished the weaving on this small piece, and changed my original plan to continue over the back of the warp, since I just measured and found it's a perfect Fibonacci rectangle as it is, so better leave it that way.  It's 12 x 7.5 inches.  Needle still in place, but only for the moment so as not to lose it.  I really like the mackerel sky in this piece, just what I was hoping for when I plied that blue and fluffy white you saw earlier.



I was in the midst of this when a friend dropped in, bringing an out of town friend she'd promised a tour of my house, i.e. art, to!  I heard the friend asking shouldn't we have called first? can we just walk in, like this? to be reassured that G. and I have an arrangement.  She shows up, I can tell her, no hard feelings, if it's not a good time.  She's a close neighbor, so there's no travel to consider.  Anyway, the friend had a lovely time exclaiming and asking and generally enjoying, and I think the kitchen backsplash was her favorite feature.  This keeps an artist humble, when her diy is the center of attention!

Back to the loom: I'm thinking of turning the loom over, leaving the current piece in place for now, and making a related piece, on the back of the warp, which I had run right over the back of the loom. Another Fibonacci rectangle, is the idea.  And there will be enough ends to tie off both pieces and do the finishing process.

And, aside from the original art aspect, they will be great material for photographing and printing on silk as part of the transparency series.  Just sayin.

What I've found in the course of using parts of the magic bag of roving ends is that I now have a huge array of colors and textures of roving at hand, low cost, great for experimenting and finding out more about the fiber and about me as a spinner.

Art is all about coming face to face with yourself, which is why it's a challenge.  And spinning this fiber has shown me that the difficulty I run into with drafting is not always me, after all. Some fibers are difficult and resistant, some just want to draft and spin with little help. So the fiber preparation is also a factor, which I hadn't considered.  

The other great insight is that I can use the bag of mixed fibers like a palette, and I've been spinning up just what I want to use next in my design, rather than wanting everything in place ahead of time ready to use.  This way there's much more spontaneity, and I think the weaving is better for it.  It's a more painterly way of working, rather than the plan-and-execute style of traditional weaving. This is a high falutin, artspeak way of saying it's more fun this way. I find I'm more interested in color since I've been working in textiles.  Up to then art was mainly about shapes, relationships and texture, for me, but now color is getting in there, too.

I'm also looking at the kick spindle, which is a kind of intermediary between the drop spindle and a wheel, but simple and very appealing, minimal mechanics.  I can and do handle machinery and tools, but when it comes to making art, I'd rather not.  

The kick spindle enables you to spin the spindle with your foot, leaving both hands free to draft, which might be just the ticket for me. Not that a new toy will improve the skill, only experience can do that, but it would be sort of fun.

The only drawback is that when you go to investigate kick spindles, you find yourself in the world of automotive engineering.  Evidently there's an auto part of the same name.  This is baffling when you're in search of something to spin with, but hilariously funny when a search comes up with a hectic mixture of both worlds.

I also kept back some petals from the birthday bouquet, which lasted ages, and have put them in the freezer for future dyeing capers.  




The stripy tulips made it, and the red carnations.

So the upcoming New Year is full of planned adventures, including the artist book making which will be the Spring residency, library keen to have me come back and giving me a free hand as to what to do.  I will be putting in some winter time into creating new books I never tried before, great opportunity for that.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Presents, becoming art even as we speak..

Christmas Eve, and to my great joy, a gift to me from me, ends of combed top and roving, angora goat, arrived today, on a Sunday, several days ahead of schedule. Cheerful postie wearing a Santa hat, too.

So a lot of squeeing and playing and excited tweeting ensued. It's two small bags of ends,  plenty for me, and each bag totally different colorways.  Unbelievable softness, and there's sparkle, and dark, and variegated carded colors, just a wonderful deal. From Goats Magosh, and I like these people now! See the handwritten note on the invoice.


 
Then, another gift arrived early, including some lovely glass beads, a crystal string now on the tree, where it catches rainbows every morning, and will stay up after seasonal items come down.



and some now in the current weaving in progress.  In fact, there are a few more inches done since I did this pic yesterday.



This is yarn I spun and dyed, and plied, even, and you've seen it at various stages.  The loom is cardboard, and I warped up the back, too so I can continue working over the top and round, making a longer piece than you see here.  Very crafty stuff, this.

All very much well on the art side of life right now.  And many more plans in mind, as always.

Merry Holidays to us all! and if Sunday is just a nice December Sunday, enjoy that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dyed and Plied and thoughts of weaving creeping in

Since my spinning is more about making raw material for weaving, the attention I've been paying to better consistency and fineness of yarn is about artisanship more than about immediate use.

But the plying, or playing, adventure has continued and now I think a weaving needs to be made.  I plied together two yellows, one from turmeric, very strong color, with a subtler one, from I think yellow onionskin.  I also used up the rest of that fluff I showed you yesterday, and plied it, correctly this time, with the fluffy blue, which is why there are two balls of that in the pix.

And, since readers do like a bit of insight into the creative (!) process, I thought you'd like to see what's up on the future weaving scene.  I was thinking about the landscape possibilities of the colors of yarn I've woven and dyed in the last few weeks, and have some ideas here. 

But, rather than force them on you, would you like to take a look and see what the colors and their placement and relationship seem to say to you, about subject matter? as you see, I moved them a bit from one pic to the other, looking for balance.




You'll notice that the red and white variegated yarn is about the same sort of thickness as the yellow variegated one.  This is funny, because the red and white are what's left of spinning I did ages ago as a beginner, after dyeing the roving with KoolAid, and that was the best I could do for singles.  Quite ropy!  then the yellow one is now two of my singles plied together.  So it's a quick visual of how I improved my single spinning.  And I'd welcome any reactions to this very raw beginning of an idea.

Plying goes incredibly fast compared to spinning, and I keep on being left behind by it, needing to wind on before I realize it. And I found that though I can ply with my left hand, to get the z twist I was supposed to do yesterday and forgot, I have a lot of trouble winding on with my left. I'll keep doing it, though, to get the skill up.  

And then I found I can in fact spin either s or z with my right hand, now that I come to try it, yay.  This is very useful. So I ended up spinning z with my right hand.  All this is handy for many purposes in life, aside from spinning.  Always good to keep up dexterity if you can. And to avoid over using one part of your body and having to compensate for it.

Anyway, I was upstairs poking around the studio looking for looms (in my case this means cardboard bits with notches cut in them, for small works, picture frames for bigger ones).  Simple rules. I found that my favorite has some weaving on it, in gold foil thread, so I left it alone, and it might be incorporated into what I'm going to do, we'll see.  Anyway, I found the cardboard backing of a large drawing-paper book, opened up all the notches and now have a new loom ready for action.  I'll warp it with cotton crochet thread, strong and easy to handle.  Before I warp it, I will just see if I can manage a Fibonacci ratio in this work, always good for results. That's where one side is in a ratio of 1:1.6 to the other side. As in a 5x8 or 3x5 index card, nice immediate balance.  This is more likely to be 8x13, though.

I usually like to weave tapestry, which is where the warp threads, the vertical ones, are completely covered by the weft threads, the horizontal ones.  The other sort of weaving, where both are equally important, is fine for functional items, such as most of our clothes, but doesn't appeal to me for art purposes.  I've made purses and belts with the regular tabby weaving, but to make more visually interesting work I don't think you can beat tapestry.

And I usually create it the way I do all art: alla prima, meaning just plunge in, no calculating or presorting or sketching or any of that.  Not my style at all. It's surprising what images emerge from weaving done this way, where you just let things happen and go with what seems interesting.

I might look at my transparencies, too and see what suggests itself from there.  So this is my Solstice thinking!  Happy Solstice, everyone, and the nights will creep back a little from now on.  Except for friends in the antipodes, where summer will start to retreat before too long. Always hard to imagine you steaming hot when we're whining about ice!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How I Overcame my Fear of Plying and Lived to Tell the Tale

Years ago, when I was first trying my hand at spindle spinning, someone asked me if I'd plied any yarn yet.  I was so far from even creating yarn at that point that I just gave a hollow laugh.

But now, slightly better at spinning, and now that the Coopworth is finished, and I have merino left I was wondering what to do next.  The merino has sort of lost its loft, so I carded a bit, and made a fluffy mass to spin with, and while I was at it, thought hm, why not make a fun yarn, for knitting or tapestry or anything really.

And, since I had a ball of fluffy fun yarn someone gave me, very soft, seemed compatible with the merino, I took the last ball of merino I'd spun, and figured that I could ply on the spindle by attaching the two yarns together to the spindle and going from there.

It worked amazingly well, considering I'd been thinking plying was very technical and needed all kinds of gizmos and wheelie things and boxes with little doors on them (don't ask, seen all these thing in action on YouTube).  

I now realize that spinning, like gardening and cooking, can be done very simply or can require all kinds of toys to make it work, but that's strictly the choice of the maker. 

I just let the balls of yarn bob about at will while I plied, not worrying too much about exact distribution of twist, it's meant to be a fun yarn, and liking this a lot.  I can ply my own different colored yarns, too, now that my singles are not so hefty.

It would have worked even better if I had remembered two things: to ply in the opposite direction from the spinning, and to observe what the twist on the blue yarn was, s or z.  I spin s, so should have plied z, if I'd remembered.  Fortunately, the fun yarn is forgiving also fluffy enough to hang onto my own yarn if it tried to unwind itself.



The picture shows you the carded fluff I had made the yarn from, but I had no yarn left to show you, so I'm just showing the raw material, along with the blue fuzzy yarn.  I imagine you can spin and ply at the same time if one of your plies is already complete, but not in the hands of this spinner.  Unless you wanted a very chunky art yarn in the ply, really roving plied as if yarn,I guess.  Well, that's for another day.

Currently in the dyebath: the rest of the spun Coopworth, same color as the last lot, and my fingerless gloves knitted from same, just to see if they will look good.  I might need to felt them slightly to reduce the size, since they came out rather generous even for my big mitts, being really a man's pattern.  Or maybe they'll shrink at little overnight in the dyebath.  We'll see tomorrow when they emerge.

All kinds of weaving ideas are coming at me as I spin, not really being a spinning to knit sort of person. And the new plying adventure looks very much like a sparkling sea or maybe dappled sky...stay tuned.  And three plies of some of the green and gold and maybe I'll dye some yarn with black walnut, for shrubbery or foresty sort of effects..more ideas coming at me than I can do at once, how unusual for me(!)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Yarn results, wet and dry

Here's the results of the yarn experiment, Coopworth dyed, as yarn, in approximately equal mix of yellow onionskin and beet/red cabbage dyed.  Here it is rinsed and still wet, and you see the golden color predominating.



And here it is dry, with a lovely green tinge appearing, making it look a bit like old gold.  About 50 yards here.  



I kept all the dye, and will use it for the last of the Coopworth which I plan to spin later today.  Amazing how fast I got through that, considering the Spanish merino has been around in my life for about six years and still some to go. But I have improved my skills a bit.

You can re use natural dyes until they are exhausted, or until you are, whichever comes first.  I like the idea of using two at once to see what comes of the blend, and plan to go on with this idea.

I was asked recently, thank you, Cynthia, for making me realize I had neglected to say anything about this, about dye fastness and does it apply here.

The natural dyes I've used, with or without mordant, but with proper prep of the fabric or dye, have been pretty fast, but being natural, they will fade somewhat in time and with washing.  

Some seem to be indestructible, such as black walnut.  And some fade only a little after many washings, such as turmeric.  And the spinach dye I used for tshirts is still a nice delicate pale green. The yellow onionskin likewise, still holds a tint, but a bit faded. This is after many washings. The red onionskin and red maple artwork faded quite a bit, but still looks good to my eye.

This fastness issue is the reason modern, aniline based and other, dyes came into popular use, but some of us still like the natural subtlety.  If you doubt fastness before washing, good to use a saltwater bath, by the way.  That often fixes the stray dye that has not been thoroughly rinsed out.  And it doesn't hurt anyway.

Fastness isn't usually a major concern of mine, since I'm often creating yarn for making artworks that will never be washed anyway.  All art needs to be protected from direct sunlight, as you know, and particularly fiber arts using natural dyes. So in case you own any, mine or other artists' please protect them, when you choose a wall for hanging them.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Coopworth roving spinning and dyeing with two colors

Today was spinning again, very calming on a day when I went out to the car to do an errand or two, one being a second trip to the libe to get the DVD unlocked, which the circ lady had omitted to do, can't open it, before the bitter wind gets up again, and found, scream, a totally flat tire.  I mean sprawled over the ground. 

Called AAA, which was not easy, since they seem to have been overtaken by that dialing fraud which connects you with items not related at all to the real people.  Ended up ditching my rapid dial and doing it the old fashioned way, and got through to the real site.

They were not too long in coming, about 45 minutes, pretty speedy in weather like this, and the nice man said oh this is no problem, let's put the spare on, nice looking spare, brand new, huh? Oh-oh, pity it's flat.  Second scream.  So he inflates it said it's okay for now, but the other one's a goner, need to replace it.  Which I will do tomorrow, the tire people not being able to fit me in today, if the promised snow and ice don't materialize too much.

The good news is that it was at my own house, and I was waiting in the warm.  And that I had spinning planned.

The Coopworth, on the medium sized spindle, is working nicely now, my yarn definitely improving in consistency and fineness. I think the fistful of fluff method is best for me, at least it's working okay for now.

So I figured why not break out some natural dyes from the freezer and see how they go.  Wound the full spindle onto the niddy noddy (sometimes you need a glossary for the spinning world) and washed it the usual way.  

Except that the end of the nn suddenly shot off in my hands, and the hank of yarn skidded after it.  Which was when I noticed I'd forgotten to put ties around it to keep it organized in such an event. Third scream.  Now two wet handfuls of yarn snarl.

Nothing daunted, I did beat it on the floor the usual way anyway, you do this to set the twist, then figured it would be better to cut judiciously in a couple of places and wind it in loose open hanks, so as to get it unsnarled in my lifetime.  It can be spliced later, so it's just annoying, not a disaster.




Which is why you see the setup, yarn patiently waiting,  in four bits instead of one posh hank, for the addition of a jar of yellow onionskin dye and the rest of the beet and red cabbage.  Putting them together just to see if they make a nice combo or just mud.



Here it is with the beet and red cabbage



and here with the addition of the yellow onionskin dye. You can see a golden area there, among the purplish color.

I like this pic -- sneaky view of the underside of the oven hood, a nice inadvertent composition in fact.  This image might do well printed on silk to add to my transparency group.  But where was I...

You can't tell when the dyes are liquid, whether they're happy together, so I have to do the dyeing to find out what happens.  Remembering the green yarn I got from the last batch of beet and red cabbage, it may be that I get a green and gold sort of shade.  We'll see.   

Brought it to the boil, then turned off the heat. Leaving it overnight, and tomorrow we'll see what's what.  This is about 50 yards. 

Spinning is getting to be, as promised, more meditative, with fewer medieval curses, as I improve.  So this is good.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Artist in Residence 2017 planning now

To find out more, go here

This is the second time in two days I've posted an entire post to the wrong blog...hence the link to actually get you to what I promised.  Duh. Chance are that a lot of readers don't notice, but my honest little inner artist insists on putting things right.  Next I'll be finding quarters on the street and taking them to the police station to restore to their owners...

Monday, December 12, 2016

EGA Holiday Party 2016

A great turnout for our annual Holiday Party, catered by Windrows, and with all the stops pulled out for festive decoration and great food



and the group partied!

Before the serious partying got under way, the new Board, names all supplied in the recent newsletter, was presented by Liz A., outgoing co-President, to the assembled membership, and was elected by acclamation!  Liz thanked very much the incoming new Board members and the continuing officers, without whose generosity of time and expertise our chapter simply couldn't operate.

Co Founders Helen H and Jane S were there, too, so here's an official picture of them.



There was the usual array of great stitching projects









and Ginny and Marilyn conducted a show and tell to give makers a chance to talk about their creations and pass them around to admire.







As always, there was a lot of present exchange, with members trotting about delivering goodies to one another. 



This is one of those events where you arrive loaded with your artworks, and food donations for the food pantry, and leave with artworks and presents and cards from other members.  


The offerings to the food pantry of Plainsboro were extensive enough to need a cart and assistance to get them out to Liz's car for delivery.

And members longtime and recent had a great time. 

 Ruth L was in great form


And the two Florences


 Cynthia came back to visit, bringing husband Michael, while in the background two members seriously consider the dessert table

  
And here are Amy and Indu, Indu studying the woven stars Liz distributed, to reverse engineer!  The stars are Woven Stars for Peace, a project Liz is taking part in.


And here are Jane and Marilyn

 and Florence K posing for her holiday portrait.

A vintage party!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dyed yarn drying on niddy noddy

So the yarn, squeezed and wrapped onto a niddy noddy is now drying, and since the nn is 18 inches wide, counting the wraps tells me I have approximately 60 yards of dyed yarn.  It's a soft sort of redwood shade, and is variegated enough that I think it will knit up looking a bit heathery.  This is Spanish merino.  


 You can see the color here, against the green wall and the white freezer, to get the depth of color.  I started from natural, that is warm white, yarn, no presoaking except when it was spun, and it seems to have taken up color as well as presoaked might have.

So I'd say that experiment worked out pretty well. Do try this at home.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Spinning, dyeing, and the learning curve

Today there was more work with the distaff, and the discovery that I can draft okay with it, but I can't yet coordinate the spinning speed and the drafting, so I am getting some wildly arty yarn. But I also found that, since I opened up the roving to dress the distaff,  and made it much fluffier and airfilled, I was able to take a handful, and spin out of my hand, as seen on the best videos. 

And it made some of the best, fine, consistent yarn to date. And it suits me physically better than all the other experiments in spinning.  One of the real advantages of spindle spinning is that it's one of the few arts where you can literally see your learning curve, for better or worse.  The light and the contrast with the background magnified the size of the yarn a bit, so it's all a bit finer than you see.



I thought I'd show you today's output, to explain this.  See the fat yarn underneath there?  clumsy work with the spindle, and lack of timing.  Nice for art, hopeless for knitting. Then you see how it gets a bit better, which was when I held the spindle in my hand. Then, once I just take a fistful of fluff and spin from that, see the greatly improved yarn on the top layer?  If I can do that at will, I will have come a long way.  

By the time I'd done this much, I was actually a bit fatigued. I had finished up some knitting for myself, slippers now on feet, and done some dyeing, and various other things involving going out and running about, so the spinning was only a part of the day. That and watching numerous  videos of various little old ladies across the world spinning like dervishes.   But these three stages illustrate how you can see the results of different approaches, all on the same spindle.




About the dyeing: this is an experiment I'm trying.  Natural dyes I had in the freezer from last year, mixture of red maple and red onionskins, and I put in ready wound balls of yarn, merino.  This is to see what sort of effect it will have, with any luck a gently variegated color.  I brought dye and yarn to the boil then let it simmer an hour, then turned off the heat, and I'll take a look tomorrow and see what happened.  Meanwhile there's a lovely smell of sheep in the kitchen.  When I rinse and get the balls of yarn dried, I will find out what the effect is of plunging them in without unrolling them.  I checked a few minutes ago and see that the pigment is going out of the dye liquid, so this is a good sign that it's being absorbed into the yarn.

All this time I had Sarah Vowell's "Wordy Shipmates" going on audio, having given up on reading it in the very small print of the paper book, but she's too good not to read.  Very good researcher and historian and very funny writer, very able to spot parallels to politics today. 

This one is about the Massachusetts Bay Colony founding and all the writing, endless amounts they did, and the impassioned debates, on the vexed subjects of religion, the King, God, and who was boss between them, etc.  All the while close to starving and being pretty uncomfortable in savage winter weather, but insisting God was good to them, all the same. 

Very good American history.  She never fails.  And her audio -- her own voice mainly, but with actors playing the dialog for Winthrop, Roger Williams, etc --is a really good accompaniment to historical spinning, come to think of it.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

On the distaff side

You know the distaff, that long thing that women have going when they spin with a spindle.  With a wheel too, I guess, but the spindle is what comes to mind.  It's like a ribbon wrapped wodge of fluff on a stick, and I used to wonder idly what the point of it was. You see it in old engravings and paintings of medieval ladies in pointy hats with veils attached, waving the distaff about.

Well, I did find out eventually that it's your immediate supply for spinning, but it's more, too. I learned, from YouTube, naturally, that it's also a tension device that enables you to draft better, more evenly, and with more hands available for drafting and spinning.  Also it looks terribly impressive, as if you knew what you were doing. So today I tried it all out.

So here's today's adventure in spinning.  I found that it's nothing special, any stick would do, so I thought I'd try a long dowel, for a standing up distaff, with a short one in reserve in case the long one didn't suit.  The one in the pix, too long to show it all, is about 36 inches.



I watched various old parties in ancient garb demonstrating how to dress it, meaning how to get the fluff on it, with a background of the really irritating perky music that seems to accompany all videos about spinning, why, why,  where was I, oh yes. And a really nice Italian man who simply couldn't get to the point, but his tangents were interesting, except  I was mad with impatience to get to the dressing part.  And then how to actually work with it.

I had the rest of my Spanish merino wool roving, and noticed that distaffers tend to refer to batting when they're dressing the thing, so I thought ah, maybe I should sort of spread out the roving to be flatter and more sheetlike.  




Which I did, then rolled it on as per instructions, and tied it nicely with a ribbon. The distaff top is at the bottom of this pic.



And found that it only drafted briefly before being impossible to draw out, arrrghghgh.  So that meant, I thought, that I needed to make the roving more battlike.  

 
Unwrapped and unribboned the roving, and pulled out my hand carders, which I bought from a blessed person on Ravelry who sold them to me cheaply.  And I thought well, here goes nothing, and I proceeded to card the roving to make a batt.  

That was very good fun, lovely to handle this suddenly cobwebby stuff full of air, just what I wanted. Just laid the carded pieces down, fibers in same direction, in several layers.



See, a sort of batt?  Carding is normally done at a much earlier stage of the proceedings, but never mind, the carding police have the day off.  I rolled and unrolled the bat and twisted it a bit, as per nice Italian man's instructions.


Rewrapped it, and see how much fluffier and more amenable it looks?  Here you see the spindle stuck in it at rest, just the way medieval ladies did when they had to go off and dance a few galliards, with some new yarn on it, to show I did accomplish something.

I did have quite a time trying to figure out how to navigate the distaff and the spindle,couldn't get the distaff organized to stand, and when I tried to grip it between my knees, couldn't get the spindle to keep spinning. Some people stick it in their belt, but I thought that wouldn't end well.  

I ended up holding the distaff in left hand, spindle in right, and that went much better.  I think the dowel was too long for sitting, too short for standing.  But it was a first try, and the only long dowel I had to hand.

The drafting triangle, no pix of this, sorry, needed a third hand, was just like in the videos, yay.  And mostly it drafted, that means pulled out in a nice little triangle that you let the twist move up into to make yarn, very well indeed.  I can see much better yarn coming from this.  Tomorrow I'll do more, but I'm already, after a couple of sessions today, doing better and getting the hang of it.  

So  today was productive.  Now I have to rest my shoulders. It's not the work so much as the tension that sends them up high while I'm concentrating on spinning.  Not yet at the point of meditative work, I'd say. But that joy when it drafted right, that was great.  

However, I will bet any money that the medieval ladies in pointy hats delegated their distaff dressing to a handy waiting lady.  At least if their language was anything like mine, it would have been good. Zounds, and sblood, this scurvy distaff and its cursed fluff, and ye damn'ed yarn breaketh all ye time. But she would pose nicely for the portrait painter, wanting to symbolize womanhood and her grace and purity of mind. And her ability to make miles of yarn to weave into fabric, makes you tired just thinking of it.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Art reception at Plainsboro Library. Liz Aubrey's "Soul Scapes"

This afternoon, painter Liz Aubrey gave an artchat at the reception for her solo show currently at Plainsboro Library Gallery, to a keen crowd.  Very high level art, and if you're local, make a point of getting there.  All the hours the library is open, the gallery is, too. The exhibit stays up till January 4, 2017.

She's a local person, and the landscape and surroundings of New Jersey, from farmland to turnpike, are part of her mental raw material, not in a literal, but in a metaphorical way.

She brought with her notebooks full of preparatory drawings and thumbnails, always created with the goal of  composition in mind. 



She's a true painter -- it's not the narrative that matters, it's the success of the overall composition which gives it meaning and illustrates the intent.  And she's generous, sharing all the material she brought so as to illustrate the points she was making.




You see certain colors recurring, blue and orange, and the wintry colors of landscape when the trees are bare, part of her visual vocabulary.  Very satisfying to see and study and let the art unfold as you observe it. 




Not many pix, a lot of people milling about, but I secured a few examples, and Liz posed for us in front of one of her works. She let me choose which one, which I thought very courteous and friendly.

Among the artists and civilians (!) attending was Mel Leipzig, prominent artist and longtime teacher, who has followed her work since its inception and was very warm in his praises.  Mel has long since retired from teaching, but is still a working artist, and supporter of the arts in the region, as well as a much-loved figure in the art world.

A number of Creative Collective artists came, too, and we had a mini reunion.  All in all, this was a five star Sunday afternoon.