& How My Weavings Developed:
Why And How My Weavings Developed
Networks, & Webs" or,
men sit for a break on a park bench. One is computer salesman , one
is, well,… a farmer. "How much ram you got?" asks the first. "About
200 lbs." "Hard drive?" "Harder than most." My ram is big and white
and with no horns, thank goodness, but he can still pack a punch when
he "rams" something. Feed bins, small trees, volley balls, li'l lambs,
and myself have been the recipient of his punch on occasion.
Studio Story: My studio is my home, just
one room, a loft, and a great wraparound porch. Before I built it I
collected salvage materials - large picture windows, antique tile (&
seashells), handmade cabinetry, hand-stenciled wall borders, & my own
leaded glass lamps. My vision was big, but the lot was small, wooded,
and steeply graded. When the foundation was raised, I'd sometimes sleep
there, like camping on a large wooden stage under the stars. After that,
I insisted on skylights in the loft. The studio is now crammed with
the loom, spinning wheel, racks of fiber, color, textured walls and
muraled ceilings. The vision is real! In the A.M. when the sheep are
loose, as they sometimes are in late summer, the 4 of them come to the
front step, turn their heads in unison toward the porch door and BAAAAH
loudly for their breakfast. It seems munching on sky-high weeds and
pruning 40 roses to the nub is not enough for them. They have a point.
Good wool requires good nutrition. In the pm, when I'm working high
in the loft, my "quality-checking" cat climbs to the roof, circles 'round
to the high window and with one paw on the screen, loudly reminds me
of the quality of the supper schedule. She has a point. Intense work
and creativity requires refueling. The "PR" dogs are more patient, extending
(tangling) the yarns midst their play. Such is the interaction of the
animals with my art.
(Note: terms in quotes, "quality-checking" and "PR", refer to the titles I've given them as my crew.)
Studio Story: Over the years I've made
many wonderful trades of my fiberart for the art or service of someone
else. One of my best trades was to a woman who wanted two shawls. She
traded me her husband, who would help me build a sheep cote.
The farmette is on a hillside that slopes down to the woods. The first shelter I built for my first two lambs was just inside the edge of the woods to keep it shaded and cool. With the aid of my traded helper, John, an old carpenter friend, we put together a structure based on the plan of a geodesic dome. It was made of 2x4's bolted into 5 triangles and braced together with a peeked roof. The plan said "two hours" to build the frame; a "nice little pavillion finished in one afternoon". Baah! Just drilling all the holes took two hours.
The first night, after the base frame was up, I camped out there under the open sky. Just to test it, y'know. See if the lambs would go for it. Or for me, in their private space. Usually at night, they pick an open spot not far from the shed and rest or graze through the night. They like to keep within close range of each other. I wondered if I'd be included in the group.
The night envelopes the setting sun so early this time of year. It was brisk and clear and I spread out my sleeping bag and a rug for my dog, right in the center of the shed frame. Overhead the stars swirled over the edge of the woods. The sheep did include me in their way. Sorta. They were curious about this strange custom and came a little closer. Then they wandered off again. I read a little by flashlight, then flicked it off and quietly listened to the sounds of the woods. In the distance I could hear the lambs munching their way through the leaves. We were in the area I call the "south 40", which is considerably smaller than 40 acres. Like only two. But it's below the "north 40" (also only two), and includes many different plants from the tree-hugging vines, to wild groundcovers, to the grasses in the open parts. Under the trees it is very dark and I wondered how they find their way around. I picked up the flashlight and got out of my bedroll and following the faint starlight on the edge of the woods, I made my way toward the munching. There they are, just ahead about 50 feet. I flick on the flashlight. They quickly look up, like deer caught in headlights. There eyes glow blue. Not like a dog's amber, or a cat's emerald, but brilliant, cobalt blue. I would find myself coming out many times more in the future, in the dark, to find them with the light, just to enjoy that beauteous blue.
In the morning when John arrived I'd already gone in for coffee. He eyed my bedroll and the dog's rug, then started unloading tools from his truck. When I came out I said, "When the roof goes up it's going to be dark under there, John. I gotta have light." "Light? What for?" he grunted. "It's a sheep fold." But John was fascinated with the plan and said he spent his evenings cutting out paper triangles and forming them into unique building structures. Five days later I had my new sheep "cote". This five-sided shed has a wonderful open-air feeling and even a skylite. back to TOP
the original fiberart, originated with early human necesities: shelter, clothes, carrying satchels, and I believe was inspired by watching the birds, the bees and the animals. Raw wool caught on tree bark
from passing sheep is gathered by birds and twisted/spun and woven
or pressed into linings for their nests. Some nests woven as a pocket of grasses, much like a basket hanging from tree branches. There are
cocoons spun from hairlike fibers, and matted into a natural paper.
A silkworm spins round and round lengthening a single fiber into a
cocoon. Humans picked up the process and added colors, textured yarns, machinery, and a wealth of creative design. Some terms here are linked
to a glossary. (in process)
usually refers to a demonstration of the entire progression of processing wool (at museums, festivals, etc.) Shearers shear the sheep with electric or manual clippers, the fleece is "skirted" (trimed of waste) and rolled out into large balls and distributed for processing. A small ewe's fleece may weight about 4 lbs. and be about the size of beachball. A large ram's fleece may weigh about 15 lbs. and fill a large trashbag. Spinners spin the raw fibers, fresh with lanolin, into yarns. Fibers may be spun together into various textures: boucle (loopy), flake or slub (thick/thin), nub (periodic nodules), or smooth worsted. Spinners may also ply or mix in varigated colors, natural sheep colors or dyed. When enough yarns are ready, they are measured and sleyed onto the loom and woven into fabric.
come from many sources: plants, minerals, shellfish, insects, or
synthetics. Most pigments need simmered with an acidic base for
wools and protein fibers, or with an alkaline base for cottons and
plant fibers. Natural dyes give a wide range of hues from brick
red to sunny yellow to indigo blues. None clash together as they
are all from the earth. Blues come from the indigo plant by dipping
yarns into a yellow dye, then lifting it from the pot to oxidize
in sunlight and turn into a medium blue right before your eyes.
The blue of denim jeans is indigo (altho most are synthetic) and
is a unique American fabric. Only the weft yarns are dyed, woven
through a white warp in a twill pattern. Look closely at the fabric
- you'll see a diagonal weave, with white threads sticking out in the fringes.
4. Natural fibers are native to the earth - plant or animal, and not synthetically created by man. Plants: cotton (usually white, but maybe also be colored greens or pinks), linen (tought fibers beaten from a flax plant and spun while wet), ramie (similar to cotton.). Animals: many breeds of wooly animals, such as goats, rabbits, camel, alpaca, and sheep. Sheep come in many different sizes, breeds, grades and lengths of wool, and colors from white to grey or black and varigated shades inbetween. The softest, finest fibers (Merino, Ramboullet,etc.) are soft enough for baby clothes. The longer, coaser grades (Lincoln, Coltswold) are used for rugs. Some wool is felted into bats (sheets) used for hats, or even houses (the tent-like yurts of the Far East). Some wool is the finest, downiest fiber (Shetland) and is comparable to cashmir. Some wool comes from rabbits (angora), or goats (mohair), and others -llamas, camel, or alpaca. When sheared, wool falls off the animal in a cohesive sheet of fiber. The ragged and dirty ends are scrapped and the neck of the fleece is twisted lightly and then rolled until the entire fleece is contained in a ball, the outside fibers tucked in and the inside showing out for better inspection of its color, grade and texture. Often an orange film is visible on the ends, the lanolin. This rich natural grease is made into skin lotions and in its raw form, keeps the shearer's hands soft. The sheep may not like getting sheared, but they feel great after losing their hot coats before summer, and about 5 - 15 lbs. of weight. Wool is then processed as above, spun into yarn, woven, etc., and used in just about every fabric item you can find in your houses or closets since the beginning of human's relationship with sheep. It also was a great insulation for walls and a valuable mulch in the garden.