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My Outside Loom

loom2I built it!  And it works!

I started with the idea of a backstrap loom like the Mapuche people of Chile use, as do many Latin and South Americans, as well as Asians.  I was fighting it too much; clearly I need lessons here.  So I moved on to Navajo looms.

Use this to decipher terms that follow.

What a gift the internet is.  Read much; saw a lot of pictures, watched some videos.  Saw looms made of copper pipe, floor looms made of PVC pipe, lots of DIY directions and blogs, and some commercially made looms that didn’t interest me at all.  Just Google  “handmade looms” and select images.  [My favorite way to Google now.]

Thought about what I wanted—not to clutter house with big loom, just plain weave to make some rag rugs, the fun of solving the problems of construction.

Voila!  My loom.loom1

Sent DH to the store to buy some rods for the top and bottom beams—the man who uses a 50 pound picture hanger to hang a 3 oz photo came home with 2.5 inch PVC pipe.  Two 10-foot pieces.  I think I could hang a car from it.  But it isn’t warping from the tension.

The arbor has been there many years.  I just hung the top beam from the arbor crosspiece with nylon braided rope.  This is the tensioning agent so it will be loosened and tightened often.  I used the same knot the Navajo weavers use on their outdoor looms.  <g>

The bottom beam is wedged under the bottom of the arbor.

I wound the warp differently.  Actually for this first sample piece, I just cut lengths and attached them to the loom bar.  Then I manually added the shed rods.  It was only 40 strings, not the hundreds needed for a big rug.  Then I tied them to the loom bar as I would if I were warping a floor loom.

Hardest of all was making string heddles.

They need to be the same length to have good tension.  After much adjustment I had something workable if not good.  Then I had to figure out how this whole business of picking up the right threads and getting the right sheds worked.  It is so simple, it has been done this way for many centuries; it only took me hours to figure it out.  [Duh!  I could have had a V-8.]

Still had spacing problems—no reed to hold the threads evenly spaced.  Back to the books to discover using a twined thread and realizing why the Navajo do not cut the bottom warp ends.  [Ah, learning by discovery.  No, I do not read instruction manuals.  Instruction manuals are for when you have messed it up so badly that you are desperate.]

Finally, days later, I tore up an old sheet and began to weave.  It worked pretty well.  I still need to figure out the best sett [threads per inch in the warp] and the best width for the strips to make a serviceable and dog proof rug.

Then the monsoon hit.  Days of big rain.  The loom was drenched—frequently.  But once dried, it maintained the tension pretty well.  I am going to move it further in under the arbor roof, but it is good to know that the apparatus is indeed weatherproof.  The Navajo don’t use a roof for their looms.  But it never rains in New Mexico.

Can’t think of everything, and learning anything is fun.

More later–

Meniscus, maybe?

Good news!

Good news!

Keep your inner child

Zachary, age 11, sent me a picture of his art project.

I am so proud of his art, and I am thrilled he wants to share it with me. He told me about doing all the pencil work which I really find hard. We discussed how hard it is to draw hands. He said he didn’t get the hand right; it comes out of the chest. I said he should look at Picasso. Besides, I can make a great case for the theme of your hand being controlled by your heart.

Evan, aged 7, won’t draw with me anymore. He says he doesn’t know how. I suspect an adult told him that. But he will build a fairy house. Grace, age 6, lives down the street. She is a budding architect who also builds fairy houses.

Combine Evan’s California modern with Grace’s romance and you get a whole town. The large structure in front is a collaborative effort. Surely you can tell it is a shopping mall.

When children begin to draw, they have no inner critic. We need to hang on to that. So often we just assume we can’t do something. Think about it.

My knee is still out. I am using crutches to rest it. Seems it isn’t possible for me to merely sit still. Taking Ibuprofen and icing it. When better, I will start some weight therapy. No, no doctor consulted. Years of bad joints have taught me that they will say one of two things: Take Ibuprofen, ice and rest it, OR cut it out. Too early to see a surgeon.

But I have been working on things.





Sewing for my dogs

I’m also harvesting ivy from the front yard to make baskets and I am actually knitting socks. Pictures of those later.

What are you playing with?

If you live in Charlotte and like to draw, consider this.

20130501-132529.jpg Great people who are encouraging and kind.

More later–

Teaching at Arrowmont


We spent the weekend in Gatlinburg, TN, where I taught a three day class on fitting your body. The event was the Southeastern Fiber Forum Biennial Conference, and it was wonderful. The facility is perfect for an ultra-casual, get your hands on fiber playdate with your tribe.



Dyeing, spinning, weaving (even a bench), and this year—a knitter. (People kept saying to me, “oh, you’re the knitter.)” I think I’m a trendsetter. I wish I had pictures from other classrooms for you, but they kept me so busy I just didn’t get them. Well, you’ll just have to go in 2015.

I have my friend Jan Smiley who created of the Carolina Fiber Frolic for this invitation to teach. As with the Frolic, I met fantastic, interesting people. All skill levels were there learning from instructors and each other. I know my students taught me some cool things about sewn garments.

Steve went along and had three days to wander on his own which he likes. He found an 18th century ish cabin that showed signs of rehab and an old miniature golf course that didn’t. Both entertained him. The kitschy tourist town of Gatlinburg overwhelmed him. Not at all his cup of tea. He kept talking about how many candy stores there were on one street. But check out this evening sky.

But Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is a different world. It is right in the center of town, but once you turn into the drive, all other words fall away. Very natural, earthy, handmade. I mean the crafts are handmade.


My classroom was the pottery studio. The high shelves around three walls were a feast for the eye. I saw the tiles surrounding the entry doors and knew exactly what I wanted around my front door.






I also watched a video that included bits from a basketry class which used cotton rag paper painted with acrylics and cut into strips. The book store had a suitable paper and that is a future project.

One of the weaving instructors, Susan Levielle, used potholder looms to weave samples of different patterns. Easy to warp, fast to produce. Must try it. Mug rugs? Blanket squares? Bath cloths? Kid project? Clever, I thought.

The very best thing about a fiber conference is the inspiration, both in ideas and in motivation.
Wish you all had been there with me.

More later–

New work and catching up

I feel a bit like a groundhog just emerging from her hole. I haven’t any profound thoughts to share. I’ve spent the winter making stuff, drawing, painting, holding dogs, and laughing with grandsons. Edna is so much better and loves her new apartment. Steve is well and eagerly awaiting warm weather so he can ride his bike outside instead of in the basement. I have a bum knee, but I am ignoring it.

I’m getting ready for a weekend workshop that I am teaching at the Southeastern Fiber Forum which will hold their biennial meeting at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN. This will be my first visit to Arrowmont. I can’t wait to see the galleries and facilities. I hope to see some of my spinning and knitting friends from the Carolina Fiber Frolic.


This is my current knitting project. It is half of my swing knit ruana. Renate taught a few of us the basics of swing knitting at our Weds, morning knit group at Charlotte Yarn. Now I am playing to see what I can do. I’m using Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool, several colors of my all time favorite Debbie Bliss Cathay, and some random bits of sock yarn and ribbon. I’m not knitting a lot, but I am enjoying it when I do.

Thanks to a friend who entertains more than I do–doesn’t everyone?–I have a big bag of wine corks. This is my first cork creation. It is a memo board, about 40 inches, to hand on a long skinny wall. I just hot glued the corks on a one inch strip of wood, trying to get a sort of wavy effect.

This is my tenth in a series of 20 owls I plan to paint. Each one is a bit better than the last usually. By number twenty, I expect the bird to fly off the paper and feed on my backyard chipmunks. This one seems to be awaiting a thunderstorm, but I felt quite cheery working on him this morning.

Some other recent work is below. I do hope you are healthy, happy, and making stuff.

More later–




Old age advice and a little art


Busy, busy, gloriously busy! This quote so describes my brain.

Steve’s mom took a serious fall, but she is better than ever now. It was during a power outage and the Merrywood staff on duty that night went from apartment to apartment just to check on everyone. They called for an ambulance, could not reach us (some kind of phone snafu), and took her to CMC where she got great care.

Next morning we were called and Steve went immediately. He met her doctor and the doctor’s team of residents. Guess who? My knitting/spinning buddy Samantha!! She took care of Edna and was able to teach us a bunch about needs we had not been aware of. Edna doesn’t want to be a burden. That makes it hard for us to know what she needs. She won’t ask!!!

When I get older, I am going to be a bit of a burden. I am going to share problems and needs with my kids. Believe me, that will be a lesser burden in the long run. It won’t involve them feeling guilty. Do consider this!!

Edna has moved into an apartment in the assisted living area. She still has her independence, her privacy, and her personal belongings around her. She has help when she needs it, and they pamper her while making sure she gets plenty of opportunity to play. Meghan and I have started some redecorating for her and we edited her closet. Pitched a bunch of clothes that were too big or too worn or just didn’t flatter her. Now we are taking her shopping for new stuff.

I am visiting more often and taking the dogs who are a hit with everyone there.

Edna is happier than she has been in years. She is such a sweet person and deserves a good life. She is 94, but that is young in her family. Her mom made 102.

Thank you Dr. Dreyer and thank your wonderful team for putting us on this path.

Now, some pics of my recent work. I’m learning more and more which keeps me happy, healthy, and feeling young.

From my series of owl drawings


From my Watercolor and Sketching-Journal Style class with Jane Lafazio



I hope you are making something that keeps you happy, too.

More later–

Wingspan, Deux

Felicia's front
Finally, a knitting project finished. This took a long time because I chose the yarn three times. It had to be perfect. It was for a very special person.

Felicia is my doctor’s secretary. She is always cheerful, even when you ask her to send mega documents to your insurance provider who isn’t sure you need all your medications—every year! My 94 year old mother-in-law is also a patient. If she talks to my mother-in-law and doesn’t think she sounds right, Felicia tracks us down so we can check on her. When we go away on vacation, Felicia calls Steve’s mom just to check on her. Where do you find that kind of caring in this world of corporate medicine?

When you do find it, you cherish it.

Here’s the back of the shawl.Felicia's back

She loved it.

More later

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