Thursday, September 26, 2013

Using the Magnetic Awl for Tapestry and Other Threads

Many people have asked about using the magnetic awl that John Moss makes for tapestry weaving. Specifically, how, why and where it can be used so I thought I would talk a bit about it today.

Here is a picture of the awl which has a magnetic end that fits into the round holder at the top. The whole thing is threaded on a sueded leather lacing which can be comfortably worn around your neck and is adjustable.

Before I had this tool I would still use an awl for weaving but I would often put it down on my table and then have to hunt for it when I was ready to use it. I often hang a pair of snips or scissors around my neck for the same reason.

With this tool I simply move it toward the holder and it snaps in place with the magnet.

When I need it, I just reach for it and there it is.

Because I use John's bobbins too it is a very comfortable and easy transition for me and I use the awl point to do all the same jobs I would do with a loaded bobbin in areas where I do not need or want to fill a bobbin.

For example, when working on my tapestry diary the daily shapes are about one inch by two inches and since I often use many different colors and blends winding a bobbin for all these small areas seems wasteful of time and weft.

In this particular shape I am doing many half passes or only one pick of a color and so I am just using fairly short lengths of weft and my awl to place the picks. I can also use the awl to begin and end threads.

the only time I use bobbins in the diary is when I am beginning a border at the start of the year or the month or ending the year.

Sometimes I leave the lengths of weft to the back as I finish a day and am able to borrow them again for another day. That cuts down on the number of starts and finishes I have to do but I still use the awl on this small scale rather than the bobbin.

Even on a larger piece like the Mango Hunters where several bobbins are always in play there are several reasons to switch to my awl during weaving so I wear it whenever I sit down at the loom.

Often I use smaller bobbins for a small area of color. For me the choice of bobbin size is not related to the size of my hands but to the area I want to weave and the thickness of the weft.

Even so I find that bobbins are frequently low on thread and getting hard to use so I unwind the thread from the bobbin and just grab my awl to finish working with the thread. The transition is very seamless because it is right there waiting for me and I can move from areas where bobbins are in play to areas where I use the awl without interruption.

I also find that sometimes if I am not sure of the color or blending in a weft bundle I can pull out a short length to try and use the awl while I am deciding if the choice is what I want.

Here I have tried out two different weft threads using my awl. If I decide I like them I may go ahead and wind a bobbin or bobbins and continue working or if I think I would like to change my mind I can easily pull it out and try something else. Also, if the area is going to be small before the next color change I will just continue with the awl.

I find it a very handy tool for the way I like to work and because it is the same point as my bobbins I find the transition from one tool to the other is very easy.

Lately, it has been hard to find the normal amount of time for weaving and blogging because of the Studio Project but progress is being made.

Here is a picture of the new Fiber Studio building being moved into its new home.

Shortly after its arrival Mack and I decide that we need a patio to connect the house with the studio. So the purchase of patio stones, bricks and navaho stone from the local hardscape ensues.

Here we are at Lowes purchasing some of the materials and enjoying some help getting them loaded up. I wished we could have taken these guys home with us.

Leveling the ground was just plain hard work but I was able to relate the stone placement to working on a very large mosaic ( about 10 feet wide by 32 feet long). Mack and I did it all ourselves. I think it will be very nice but it will probably be my last experience with laying a natural rock patio!

Here is a picture from early this morning. We are spreading the fill out to even up the surface and now it must be swept and rinsed away to reveal the pretty Navaho Stone. Whew!

The studio has electric now but lots of finishing inside still needs to be done with the outlets, fan, air conditioner/heater and the outside lights. That will be accomplished the next time our son Josh comes down from Kansas. He installed some great ceiling fixtures with clean color corrected bulbs in them. The lighting should be fantastic when it is finished and then we can go on to the insulation, floors and walls. The fun part of furnishing the inside and moving in will come along eventually. It is so exciting!

So what I have I been doing at night after a full day of patio building? Well aside from keeping up with the tapestry diary I have been getting some new jewelry projects completed. It is my goal to have all the looms dressed with new projects for the Kid n Ewe Show in November so I have been finishing up former models and putting on new projects.

Here is a leather and bead bracelet I just finished on the Lani Loom with a combination of gemstones, crystals,miyuki and silver beads. I love the way the leather molds so well to the shape and is so comfortable to wear. This has six strands of leather warp.

Here is another view showing the catch side.

Another bracelet done on the Mini Mirrix with the no warp ends kit.

I have also been experimenting with Kumihimo. Since my first little bracelet shown on the last post I have expanded to working on some necklaces. I plan to have some Kumihimo supplies at the next show also. It fits in so well with the materials I already have.

Here is a piece done with size 6 beads on a fiber braid.

Here are size 8 beads on a mixed fiber piece with a peyote stitch pendant and covered catch.

More size 8 beads with a stone pendant.

A fun pendant tassel on a braid of silk cord and ribbon with bead embellishments.

I call this one Blue Lagoon with size 8 seed beads and a gold dipped sand dollar.

Finally, here is the key to the new Fiber Studio complete with its own braided hanger!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Two Thirds of the Year in Tapestry!

Two thirds of the year in Tapestry! With the end of August the end of the second diary panel is finished. September through December will be together in the the third and final panel for the year.  Then the excitement of making decisions for 2014 will begin... Does weaving a tapestry diary make the year go faster? Does life seem richer when you reach for moments to capture in this way? These are some of the things on my mind as I consider the year so far.

We have had a fairly unusual August, cooler temps and more rain than usual and Green Country is much greener than usual. I am not complaining!

I am pretty happy with my little three day landscape interpretation of a retreat in the lovely countryside of Wellston, Oklahoma and some of the other scenes and memories in August.

Moving on to September

The building for the Fiber Studio arrives on Thursday! We have been busy getting ready to place it in its new home.

Here, my husband Mack and youngest son Josh are moving the boat to get access for the new building.

Tree trimming in progress.

The next door neighbor got involved pruning some dead wood off the Black Walnut on his side of the fence.

Cutting up all the branches to haul away took a day or so.

This is becoming a real family affair, isn't it funny how one improvement project leads to another. I decided to paint the outdoor furniture.

I not only ended up with a green thumb but feet and fingers to match. We are ready for that building and then the next set of improvements.

Amid all these outdoor jobs I managed to slip away to Wellston for a three day retreat with friends. My main job for the weekend was to catch up on the Sheep Breed Tapestry Sampler project. I know I haven't written about it for a while but work is being carried on behind the scenes and at every show we do I take it along to work on. Progress was at an impasse due to the lack of new hand spun breeds to include but over the weekend I managed to spin yarn for the next four breeds; Cormo, Falkland, Black Norweigian and Manx Laughton. On our trip to WIM, weaving supply and Alpaca farm I also managed to add a few more breed samples to spin. I will be catching up with this thread soon.

I am never sure who is more curious when greeting the Alpaca's.

The retreat was a great way to refresh a playful creative spirit. I made a little basket for my favorite pin cushion due to the tender attention of my basket weaving friend/ teacher

Thanks to my friend Donna I played with a Zoom loom for the first time. I decided to take the two squares that I wove with leftover hand spun breed samples and make a little bag. Then I collected little bits of things from everyone present, threads, needles, yarn and fibers and gave her a face. I guess the square on the back could be her salt and pepper hair.

When I returned home I gave her a salmon colored sateen lining and a cheek crystal and dubbed her the Lady Wellston Bag!

Nice effect the way the lacy quality of the face square allows the salmon color lining to show through a bit.

I decided to needle felt her curls and hair bow  after taking this photo to make them more secure.

I also became a little curious about Kumihimo over the weekend and even though my first experimental braid was not amazing,  after adding a little leather and a nice button a new bracelet was born. It makes me smile because the braid looks like a branch that the bird has just landed on.

I also spent a little time perusing my old sketchbooks looking for ideas for the next tapestry projects. I have some ideas percolating as I near the finish line on the Mango Hunters.

Soon it was back at home and back to my looms.

Look what was waiting when I returned. Elona, our gracious hostess for the class I did recently in Texas, had a pretty nasty accident. This is a tough way to get a little "me time" with her new Mirrix loom but she is having a great time with her weaving anyway.

When I return I want to share how I work with the neck awl that John Moss makes in my tapestry weaving.