Fearful Symmetry, the Tapestry?

Yes, I know, I did a version of Fearful Symmetry—The Sketch with soumak on block double weave. Still, I am/was contemplating doing a small tapestry. These days, all my tapestries are small because of the dearth of weaving light and time. True, I bought LED lights when I was in China; however, at Christmas, I returned them home to VA. So, there’s no chance of working on a tap through the night now. Kicking myself, I tell you!

Anyway, I don’t know if I want to do a full fledged tapestry of Fearful Symmetry. The design is constantly being reworked to get the shapes and such that I want. Right now, it looks like a thug wearing a hockey mask. Who wants that? I don’t. The colors are right though. It’s just a matter of adjusting the lines of the design to draw forth the desired psychological effect, add in elements that give it a touch of shimmer and flap, make the thing live up to its name. Sigh.

Meantime, another design calls to me. I’m a fickle broad, I tell you.


It’s been a while since I blogged. Part of it is being at Haywood and just plugging away at floor loom production weaving. The other is that, for several months, I had no internet except when I was at Haywood. Then, I had no time cuz the store was a priority; however, even that was a nightmare cuz the while I had internet on the iPhone, first with T-Mobile, and then with Straight Talk, there was no joy in trying to work the store via iPhone.

Last semester, we started off with plain weave; next, we did twill; then, we did blocks. The program at Haywood CC is excellent. Endless production deadlines, all the time. Deadlines for gamps/samples. Deadline for projects. We lived, ate, and slept deadlines.

This semester, we’ve got five classes—including Shibori, Dyeing, and Weaving, in which we did block double weave. We have more intense projects and less weaving studio time than last semester, so there’s more pressure. The pressure is good, though. Nothing puts you in a business production frame of mind like a deadline.

So, since there is now, temporarily, internet away from Haywood, I’ve added the Simply Warped Facebook page.

Mosey on over to The Gallery and eyeball The Two Natures, completed last December, and Fearful Symmetry—A Sketch, completed on Valentine’s Day. What a Valentine!

Who? What? Where? Huh?

I’m doing the Professional Crafts Fiber program at Haywood and loving it! It’s a very demanding program, and I’m letting it consume my life. After all, that’s what I came here to do, eh: learn to weave other things beside tapestry.

So far, we’ve woven a 12″ x 7 yard warp, on a 1-4 straight draw threading with floating selvedges, an extra yard for sewing, using plain weave, 2/2 twill with reverse, 1/3 twill, 3/1 twill, and 2 x 2 basket weave.

Well, I can tell you I know twill. After the six samples were done, we continued weaving a scarf of our own designing. I will post s picture of mine, but not today. The remainder of the warp, after the scarf was cut off, was spent on weaving for sewing.

I swear, I thought that bloody warp was multiplying and breeding baby warp when I wasn’t looking. It seemed the thing would never end! Then, it did! Frankly, the piece for cutting up and sewing looks far better than my design for the scarf when all I was doing was “running the scale” from tabby, 2/2 twill, then 3/1 twill. It looks great!

Anyway, since I have no internet access where I live (got a room in someone’s house, and I’m mostly there from 8 PM till 7:30 AM, and maybe one day of the weekend), I have to depend on what’s at weaving studio. You would think that would be enough; it’s not. The studio consumes my life. We have to develop a production mentality–design and weave quality at a rapid pace, get ‘er done, get ‘er done, get ‘er done! Very little time for email, for the web, for blogging, for my business.

Somehow, I’ve to carve time out for both. That means business and blogging on Friday and Saturday when I come to the studio. Weave in the morning, business and blog in the afternoon.


Shakespeare did say something about a tide in the lives of men that when taken at the flood leads on victory, or some such thing. If I had an internet connection I’d provide the actual quote; however, for the near future, my internet access is drastically limited.

There’s a business to run and a Professional Crafts Fiber program at which to excel, lots of new weaving techniques to discover and master, including Helena Hanmarck’s.

Life is good.

Braun Yarn Winder

When I left China, I thought I had everything to have a quickly functioning online yarn shop. Yarn. Yarn winders (really excellent ones that are danged near impossible to destroy — I speak from experience!). Yarn counter. Digital scale, toute bagaille, as the old patoisphiles in the Caribbean would say. I had everything except money because I’d plunged most of my money into buying yarn for the store.

Well, I was wrong. The yarn winder was fine for use as weave—but not in a cottage industry yarn shop—worse yet, it seems to hate to wind silk in quantities greater than two ounces. Don’t ask me why. For a cottage industry, you need a commercial cone winder, which comes at a cost of $7,000, more or less. Whoo! Wow! Whoa! Yes, there are cheaper ones—the reviews are discouraging—but I’m one of these people who doesn’t like to buy the same thing repeatedly. Buy once, buy quality, maintain well, and use for years. That’s me.

So, I decided to improvise. First, I got the kid next door to try to add a winder to an old Singer sewing machine, but it’s been a whole week and he hasn’t come back with it. So, that’s gone. Since he’s going to be a mechanical-electrical engineering double major starting in the Fall, it’s a good project for him to work on.

Then, with orders to fill, desperate, I tried winding with a drill. Doable but difficult.

Finally, I resolved upon a hand mixer. Indeed! Why not? After all, it’s made to spin, and it can handle heavy weights, plus, it has variable speeds. So, I went thrift shopping, found a Braun which runs quietly and smoothly. Next, using electrical and duct tape, I jury-rigged a bamboo shaft to one of the beaters and tried that out. It was noisy, turned in a wide circle, but proved that the Braun was a viable alternative to what’s on the market.

Heartened, I trotted to my neighbor’s with two beaters, one from the Braun and another from some other hand mixer. He cut off the beater from the Braun shaft and the extraneous part from the other. I wasted $7 at the hardware store buying KwickWeld, which did not hold the two differently sized shafts together.

Conversation with my brother-in-law led me to hand it to him so he would get the two shafts welded together on his job. He did, and the winder works like a charm. Smooth, fast, easy.

It’s put together like this: two DVD/CD discs. One rests against the base shelf of the beater and the other rest atop the yarn. In the middle, is a portion of a plastic drink straw around which the yarn is wound. The straw slides easily off of the shaft and provides a firm core for the yarn. At Ace’s hardware, I bought a small round nut that is tightened with a hex screw. This helps keep the upper disc in place and both disks provide upper and nether limits for the yarn. In all, the shaft, discs, and nut weigh 3.3 oz.

There are only two problems: stability—I must affix it to something so I don’t have to hold it. Right now, it’s fastened to the table via a clamp. That works, but I want better. Absence of a yarn guide—right now, I must manipulate the yarn so it winds evenly around the plastic-straw-covered shaft. A yarn guide, like those I’ve seen with the old Royal yarn winders, would be great to have. Absence of a weight calculating mechanism—it would be great to have some sort of mechanism to stop the device at 4 oz.

Other than that, it’s an excellent device. Variable speed, swift, more easily controlled and lighter than a drill, and, more significantly, it’s free. So, I’m building inventory in 4 oz packages, with no pain to my shoulders.

As the shop thrives, eventually, one of this $7,000 or so winders. Right now, the Braun hand mixer. I will attach the yarn counter to it, a timer, and see how it goes. Pictures to follow.


Finally! I got The Store working on the main site with a lot of help from the OrillaCart guys at WordPress.

The big problem? Slight configuration and data sequencing input problems. The OrillaCart guys sent helpful information, requested access to the backed of the site and made some more changes, and voilà! Simply Warped, the yarn store, is up and running smoothly.

You’ve just got to appreciate the beauty of OrillaCart. I’ve spent a year and more exploring software on which to run Simply Warped, and in every instance! I brought the site down! rejecting the software for one reason or another.

Then, just last week, after the limitations of Simple Cart proved too much (I lost buyers who had problems with the site), by chance I glanced at OrillaCart, found it was a free plugin, installed it, and set about configuring it. After some errors I contacted the OrillaCart team, and they solved a lot of issues.

So, the site is up, I’m inventorying all the stock by weight and count, something not possible in Simple Cart, and am rejoicing that when stuff is sold out I will know about it without having to do a manual check.

If you want to run you own store in WordPress, go for OrillaCart. It’s a free plugin, has great features, is easy if you do things right, and the designers provide fantastic support.

Still sleepless in the early AM

Traveling from the Far East, especially after you’ve been living there, one of the big obstacles to adjusting back to EST is that 12 hour difference between EST and Beijing time. The jet lag, especially for older folks, cannot be dismissed, but the time adjustment… aye, there’s the rub.

Only once have I slept through the night since I returned early last Wednesday morning. Upon rising the next morning, I felt as though I had accomplished something great and wonderful. That euphoria didn’t last too long. Since then, it’s been rise at 3 AM, 2 AM, and now 1:45 AM.

Some people, like my sister, can sleep at the drop of a hat at any time during the day and as often as they desire. She’s always been that way. She can sleep on a line in a storm, that girl. Not so me. No matter what time I come awake, I stay awake since I’m not in the habit of napping during the day. So, lately, whatever the time I come awake, it’s down to business: weaving, working on the store, inventorying yarn, or something, and it continues until the body decides enough.

How is it possible to weave at 2 AM or so in the morning? Thanks to LED lights. I brought back several of those with me when I came from China. Long flexible strips of light, bright white, and when plugged in they make the space with the tapestry loom seem like day.

Lousy sleep pattern or not, life is good!

Yarn Counter Saga

My neighbor, Wayne, is good with his hands, something that all men should strive for. Yesterday afternoon, I went to have him replenish the air supply in my bicycle tires, and he showed me what he was doing with the yarn counter.

He had a plank of wood, about 5″ across and maybe 18″ long, on which he had areas clearly demarcated for the yarn winder, the counter, the yarn spool. His plan is to put a bit of a two by four under the counter to elevate it so that, when affixed to the base, its wheel will spins unhindered.

Since the wheel came with a smooth surface, using a lathe or something, Wayne cut a channel into it so that yarn slippage off of the wheel will not be a problem. The groove will remain unpolished so that the yarn will find better traction when the wheel turns.

Furthermore, to ensure resistance-free movement of the cone from which the yarn is being wound, he plans to add some sort of bearing to the spindle. That’s a fantastic idea because sometimes the cones do not turn easily and the yarn pulls taut, with a risk of breakage. This bearing idea reduces and may even eliminate that risk.

To further facilitate the easy movement of the yarn being wound, Wayne is providing another eye for the yarn to pass through on the way to the winder. Thus, there will be two yarn eyes: one proximate to the cone and the other on the winder itself.

Then, he will sand the base and paint it white. I’m not a fan of paint on wood, but hey, he’s building it for me free of charge, and he either didn’t hear or glossed over my comment that I had varnish and polyurethane at home.

Impressed with Wayne’s design for the yarn winder with meter, I asked him if he wished to make a few for sale. Regrettably, he declined. I think Wayne’s device will be better and easier to use than any thing presently out there so much so that I’m tempted to produce a few for sale myself. The biggest impediment is the groove that must be cut in the wheel. But, who’s got the time.

Building a yarn counter

Last year, after being horrified by the cost of something as basic as a yarn yardage counter, I bought a meter counter with the thought of using it to measure yarns. A lot of people don’t want to purchase 1 kg of yarn; maybe all they want is 4 ounces. In addition to that, they may also inquire about the length of the yarn being purchased.

So, I took the meter counter to my neighbor, Wayne, a guy who is good with his hands, a practical man, no metrosexual. Wayne immediately knew how the thing could be put together. He’s going to attach the counter to a small plant of wood, add and sand a spindle (the circumference of a broomstick) on it it, and affix the yarn winder on taking care to ensure it’s set up for right hand use.

The end result is that I should have, for $20-$25 plus the cost of the yarn winder, a device that is of tremendous utility. If I find something that measures yardage rather than meterage, that should be a fine business prospect.

Anyway, enough play for the day. I’ve been up since 3 AM (the wine’s effect didn’t make it through the night) working. I’ve even got some weaving done, thanks to those bright white LED’s I bought in China, and went for a mile and a half walk with the dog around 6 AM. Lots of work still to be done.