Saturday, September 23, 2023

Join Me for a 'Thread Talk' on October 5

 Above is my most recent post on Facebook, promoting a 10-minute "Thread Talk" I'll be giving during Spinning and Weaving Week.

It's a wonderful opportunity for me to talk about craft, why we humans have always been makers, and how inspiration can come to us like a bolt out of the blue -- even to the point where we don't know how it happened or where it came from.

My talk is based on a longer presentation I've given at guilds and conferences, looking at craft around the globe and throughout history.  The discussion reaches as far back as the cave paintings of Chauvet, France, discovered in 1994, which are thought to be around 33,000 years old. Drawn in charcoal on stone, these images were created at a time when Neanderthals still walked the earth.

Humans have been working with and manipulating materials as far back as we know, creating objects and images of great beauty like those above -- whether they were designed to be useful, representational, or inspirational. Or perhaps all three.

Some estimates state that the tradition of weaving began as long as 12,000 years ago -- but the practice of spinning and dyeing is much older than that.

Pictured above: the oldest dyed flax fiber found to date: a microscopic image of the fiber, at least 30,000 years old, found in a cave in the republic of Georgia. 

We'll look at Homer and his story of Penelope, who wove and unwove her father-in-law's shroud, a journey of sorts that reflects her husband's odyssey.

Sculpture of Penelope, Roman copy of a Greek original,
circa 460 B.C.E., Vatican museums

We then move far forward in history, to the quilter's of Gee's Bend, to Andrew Wyeth as he paints Christina's pink dress, and on to the crystal chandeliers at the Metropolitan Opera House -- but I won't give it all away. I'll just end with an image of my own work, hand-dyed and woven on 12 shafts in reeled silk, one of my favorite pieces to date.

For a full schedule of events, including my Thread Talk and others, click here:

The entire schedule isn't up just yet, so keep checking back for updates.

Thanks for reading! Hope you listen in.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

New Zoom Workshop Beginning October 14: 'Weaving Outside the Box: 12 Projects for Creating Dimensional Cloth'


Based on my book of the same name, this workshop is being offered for the first time online -- thanks to MAFA, the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association, which is offering Zoom workshops this fall for weavers near and far.

For three Saturdays in October, you'll weave a project of your choice from the book, on 4, 6, 8, 12, or 16 shafts. The photo above, woven on 4 shafts, is one of the projects you can choose from. 

Here's the link to register:

And here are photos of a few more of the projects you can weave at home, on your own time.

"Ruffles Scarf," 8 shaft doubleweave using differential-shrinkage

Shawl on 6 shafts, detail, deflected doubleweave and fulling techniques

Scarf from the book cover, 4 shafts, wool/stainless-steel and 20/2 cotton yarns

8-shaft scarf in 60/2 silk, pleats in turned twill

4-shaft scarf in deflected doubleweave, using Colcolastic (cotton/elastic yarn) 
to create shrinkage in center

Woven-shibori scarf on 4 shafts, differential-shrinkage techniques

Participants will learn how to optimize the effects of structure, energized yarns, and finishing techniques to achieve three-dimensional texture in their cloth. The goal is to venture off the rectilinear grid of handwoven cloth, exploiting texture to work with color and form, adding interest and tactile appeal to your woven creations. It all happens in the wash and the results are often surprising!

A summary of the focus of this workshop, taken from the back of the book:

Color and structure are key elements in weaving, of course. But we often overlook the importance of texture. Dimensional fabrics, with their pleats, puffs, and curves, take us off the grid, reflecting the organic forms of nature. We can both see and feel the tactile quality of dimensional cloth, which adds much to the beauty of handwoven fabric.

If you're interested or if you have questions, please send me an email (click on the "About Me" section on the front page of this blog, at the right, then click on "Email" underneath my photo). And yes, one enticement: Lunatic Fringe Yarns is offering participants a coupon on the special yarns that are used on several of the projects.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Here's the News from NEWS

Last week I taught at the New England Weavers Seminar -- well known as NEWS -- in Worcester, Massachusetts. Not only was it run very well (right down to the excellent IPA I had at the dinner for jurors and NEWS committee members), but I had a great time teaching my workshop, "One Warp, Many Structures: Explorations in Extended Parallel Threading." 

Everybody was enthusiastic and their samples showed it -- as you can see from the 12-shaft samples above, woven in Jin (bottom) and Shadow Weave (top) by Diana Vaughan.

Diana was one of the conference organizers (forgive me that I can't recall her specific title) and the entire volunteer team did a terrific job in planning and running this big event, which may be the largest of the regional conferences in the U.S. (I don't have any research to back this up, just hearsay and a glance at the long list of attendees.)

I figure that, since weaving is such a visual craft, the best way for me to describe the workshop is to show it in photos. Unfortunately, I took pictures only at the end of the workshop on Sunday, so Amy Somerstein had already packed up her loom and left -- leaving me with no images of her beautiful work! But I think I got images of everyone else and if I didn't, my apologies.

Debra Colo Nemetz here with her Doubleweave samples 
of the eight-shaft "Falling Stars" pattern

Jennifer Rogers also wove 
Falling Stars, shown here as Rep

Jennifer on the floor re-tying treadles. 
For those with floor looms, 
this had to happen a lot....

Fran Osten wove an eight-shaft pattern called "Fun House" on a gradient warp. 
The blue and magenta yarns each shifted from dark to light values going right to left, 
adding lots of depth and interest to her samples.

Here's the Shadow Weave version of the eight-shaft pattern "Many Rivers," 
woven by Barbara Keller

Barbara Keller herself

Sylvie Faucher of Quebec also wove "Many Rivers," shown here as Rep.
(Sylvie was camera-shy, so I didn't get a good photo of her, unfortunately.)

Danyelle Brodeur, also of Quebec, weaving the Rep version of Fun House.

A few years ago, I noticed that one of the favorite patterns in Carol Strickler's book was #728, a multiple-tabby design that allows for many colors in the warp and never ceases to grab you with its treadling rhythm. I realized that it could easily be adapted for Echo, Jin, Shadow Weave, Rep, Doubleweave -- all the designs in this workshop -- so I added it to the workshop. 

Echo and Jin variations on #728, the eight-shaft design found in Strickler,
woven by Krysten Morganti.

A few other variations by Krysten...

And here's Krysten.

Diana Vaughan ventured into 12-shaft territory 
with the pattern I call "Pink and Green."

Here are some of Diana's samples woven as Echo. 
The pattern on the bottom right is particularly striking, 
with colors ranging from navy to khaki to turquoise to yellow. 
(Her warp was turquoise and dark blue and her weft was orange!)

Mayine Yu (who goes by Lynn) of Brooklyn, NY, also wove the "Falling Stars" pattern.
Here, she's working on a Doubleweave version that uses one wool yarn 
alternating with one cotton yarn in the weft. When the sample is washed and agitated 
with soap and warm water, the wool fulls and draws in the layer of cotton, 
creating vertical pleats in the fabric. The technique is called "differential shrinkage."

Anne Graham of New Haven also wove the 12-shaft pattern called "Pink and Green."

Here's a detail of Anne's samples in Echo. Note the changes in weft color 
and how much they change the color blending in the samples.

Christina Zook's Falling Stars variations in Rep (below) and Doubleweave (above)

Christina at her loom. Note that her weft colors of bright blue and burgundy 
are the same yarns and colors as her warp for her Doubleweave sample. 
The weft colors can vary and produce interesting color blending, 
but the effect is stronger in some designs than in others.

Here's Marjorie Wheeler working on her Doubleweave design for "Falling Stars." 
(Marjorie was also a key volunteer for NEWS 
and I hope I thanked her enough for all her good work!)

Christine Ross at work on her Doubleweave sample of "Falling Stars."

Ann Guralnick also chose the eight-shaft pattern #728 in Strickler. 
At the top is a Doubleweave variation and below that, Rep Weave.

Ann at her loom

The samples were beautiful, the company was great, and the food was excellent. OK, maybe the rooms were a little cold, at least to begin with -- but what more can you ask for a good conference? 

The morning everyone was leaving, I woke at 6 a.m. to the sound of a weaver calling out to her friend, "Goodbye! Drive safely! See you soon!" I think that says a lot about the camaraderie of these gatherings.

Can't resist posting one more image: This one of Ann Guralnick's samples 
of Strickler #728, starting at the bottom with Shadow Weave

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

It's Conference Season!


I write this as I'm sitting in the airport in Grand Rapids, MI, waiting for a much-delayed flight to Detroit and then home. What better time to post about the just-finished Michigan Handweavers Conference in Holland, MI? And why not start with a classic conference photo -- that of a group of weaver-friends going out to dinner after a long day in the classroom?

Pictured above, from left to right: Cathy McCarthy, Janney Simpson, Martha Town, Susan Moran, Nancy Riele, Martina Celerin, Nadine Cloutier, and me. Everyone in the photo is either a teacher, a conference organizer, a student at the conference, or any combination of the three. You can imagine what we talked about -- for instance, the exhibits....

There are some 19 guilds in Michigan, and one exhibit featured collected works from many of these guilds -- including this beautiful series of blue vertical panels created by members of Woodland Weavers. Whether they were woven, knitted, felted, printed, quilted, or hand-dyed, these vertical panels all related to the exhibit's focus on the lakes and landscape of Michigan. Here's a closeup of one of the pieces, which included cyanotype prints and painted images of white-pine needles. (I apologize for not crediting the artist, as I did not take down the name.)

Here's an image from a rug-hooked piece by Nadine Cloutier, using hand-dyed wool strips to create a sun-soaked lake view. I love the tactile quality and the varying directions of the wool strips.

Martina Celerin was the keynote speaker, who spoke about her dimensional weavings. They all begin with a simple frame loom she builds herself for warping and weaving tapestry-like backdrops of natural scenes. She then uses a number of techniques, including felting and weaving, to extend her pieces beyond the plane of the the loom outward as much as 12 inches. It's difficult for a photo to portray the depth of her creations, but here is an image of one of her recent pieces, featuring a trail meandering through the forest. (The bright blue color in the upper righthand side of the image is from paper bags in the background, unfortunately, that you can see through the open yarns on the loom.)

You can find out more about Celerin by clicking here.

So much to see -- and touch! Speaking of touch, the workshop I taught was based on my book, Weaving Outside the Box: 12 Projects for Creating Dimensional Cloth. To my surprise and delight, people in the workshop took off with their versions of the projects in the book -- in some cases, improving upon them, in my view. 

This sample by Nancy Riele, using the ancient weave technique known as Rippenköper, had whimsical, flowing horizontal lines. It's woven in 8/2 Tencel on a warp of 60/2 silk in a turned-twill design. I consider her sample way better than the piece I wove for the book ;o)

Among the takeaways from this workshop is that textured weaves call for either specialized (energized) yarns, fulling and differential shrinkage, and/or structure -- any one of these or varied combinations of the three. Finishing is key. Below is a photo of the work of Cory Zann, showing the difference between her fabric on the loom and after washing. Again, this is a turned-twill structure on a 60/2 warp, in her case using a silk/stainless-steel yarn for the weft.

Cindy Root, president of the Michigan League of Handweavers, chose to weave a 4-shaft project on a gradient warp of 16/2 bamboo, using a weft of 18/2 Jagger Spun merino and a supplemental weft of embroidery cotton. The supplemental weft is used to draw the fabric in horizontally, compressing it so that only portions of the wool are exposed in finishing. This means that only some portions of the wool will full, creating pleats where the weft yarns have shrunk and gathered the warp yarns together densely. Here's Cindy's shibori-tightened fabric before it's washed with warm water and agitated with soap. After it's dried a bit, but still damp, she will remove the shibori ties and have a permanently pleated scarf.

Gail Pilgrim was also working on the Rippenköper structure -- but weaving it in on a 20/2 cotton warp using 8/2 cotton in the weft. She's doing research for a story planned for Heddlecraft magazine looking at hand towels in a variety of structures. In addition to working with cotton wefts, she decided to try a weft of 18/2 Jagger Spun merino, just to see whether the results were worthy of weaving a scarf somewhere down the line (or down the warp). Here's that sample, below.

As it is with many workshops, not every project is complete at the end. And since this workshop emphasized the importance of using specific finishing techniques, some weavers chose to finish their projects at home, after the workshop -- as with this 4-shaft deflected doubleweave scarf by Naomi Fletcher, woven with 10/2 cotton in the warp and weft, with a mid-section that includes Colcolastic yarn by Venne, drawing the mid-section in dramatically. I'm hoping she'll send me some photos of her results that I can then share with the group.

Some samples were finished, however (finished meaning washed with warm water and soap and then rinsed), as with this sample below by Martha Town. She wove it on a hand-painted warp of 60/2 silk with navy stripes and jewel-tone-painted stripes and a weft of 120/2 silk, using a turned-twill structure that pleats naturally. Note the subtle yellow accents in the weft every few inches, which add interest to the sample.

Thanks to MLH for a wonderful conference -- and to everyone in my workshop for an experience that I didn't want to end! And finally, thanks to you for reading.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Genius of Richard Landis

 Signal, 1976, Richard Landis

I came upon the work of Richard Landis as I was reading Loom-Controlled Double Weave: From the Notebook of a Double Weaver by the late, great Paul O'Connor.

It was one of those moments.... You see a weaving and the lightbulbs go off: "Who IS this? What exactly is happening here?" 

This was the photo I saw. Even though it was a poor reproduction and printed in black and white, it had presence.

The Passion, detail, Richard Landis, 1978

I wanted to know more. Which led to a Google Search, confirming that this was indeed the work of a celebrated weaver, one whose weavings are in the collections of MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Museum of Art (a gift of Helena Hernmarck), and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. 

Google told me he was living somewhere in Arizona. Emboldened, I searched for him on and found a landline. So -- why not -- I picked up the phone and called him. 

And he answered! Long story short, he was kind enough to grant me an interview. As it happened to be his 92nd birthday and he was going out to celebrate with friends, we set up a phone call for the following week. We followed through: I had my questions ready and his answers were every bit as interesting as his work.

First off, I asked him the basics: sett, yarn, loom, inspiration. He explained that he bought standard polyester sewing thread on cones, in hundreds of colors, that were sold in Los Angeles at the time. This fine thread and the vast number of colors allowed him to create fluid color graduations in each block, with his warp sett around 88 epi (44 epi per layer) on his 8-shaft Gilmore with a weighted beater. 

Clearly, to achieve those wonderful shifting hues and values in both warp and weft, he had to do a great deal of sketching and planning before he even wound a warp.

All his designing was done on paper, with colored sketches like this.

A sketch from 1967-68, in which he worked "to discover the position of full tones," he says. (This image is reproduced from a privately published book on Landis, Episodes.) He describes the process of sketching "somewhat tedious." 

Below is an intricate piece called "Triumph of Logic," woven in 1982 and now owned by the Cooper-Hewitt. Landis says that Jack Lenor Larsen told him it was his masterpiece.

This is art you can read and feel: the tactile quality is visible to us as weavers. It speaks volumes to me, as 20th-century art in a language I can understand. 

Landis earned an art degree from Arizona State University in the 1950s. "When I got to college I took a basic design course from a woman, a European woman who was on fire about modern art. I thought a lot of modern art was just crazy, Picasso and Braque and all these people.... but when I took her course I learned it was just amazing."

He found, however, that "painting didn't interest me much.... I just decided that woven things -- things that were made of cloth, fiber -- I just thought that was more interesting."

His training in weaving? "I only studied weaving for three days," he remembers. "I studied at Mary Pendleton's in Sedona and slept in my car because I didn't have any money. She gave me a British book on doubleweave and I went from there."

Landis asserts that "Anni Albers was my North Star. Bauhaus thought and modern art were always in my mind."

He didn't ignore the technical aspects of the work, as with any true artist. His finishing process was meticulous. "I washed them and ironed them in very specific ways. I had to wash them three times, because I wanted them to do the natural shrinking. And then I wanted the doubleweave not be flattened beyond what it needed to be."

Still, technicalities were not his focus. He never used weaving software -- even though it was available in the later years of his weaving career -- and even today he doesn't use email or a cell phone.

Landis stopped weaving in 1995. "I was pretty good at weaving but I'm very bad at salesmanship and giving a damn. After it's done in its proper form, I'm through with it." 

"In its proper form" is an understatement, in my view.

Campo di Fiori, Richard Landis, 1976, Cooper-Hewitt 

All images in this post are used with permission from Richard Landis. To watch a 2018 interview with this master colorist, visit

Thanks for reading!

Join Me for a 'Thread Talk' on October 5

 Above is my most recent post on Facebook, promoting a 10-minute "Thread Talk" I'll be giving during Spinning and Weaving Week...