"An intricate, delicate, or fanciful ornamentation."
(The Free Dictionary)

"Whoever loves and understands a garden will find contentment."
          --Chinese Proverb

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Thursday, April 23, 2009


It's about time I got back to blogging, and a lot of other things that have been in deep hibernation these past few months. Lots of seedlings have been sprouting here, and I'm not just talking about young plants. Ideas have also been growing in the back of my mind. Some idea-seeds have fallen on fertile soil and are taking root, while others never broke out of their protective shells to find nourishment and grow. Alas, such is the precarious life of a seed. Here's a quick look at what is sprouting at the moment.

"Hello, I hope to be a grown-up tomato plant some day."

At this time of year, the subtle caresses of spring sunshine and the melodious songs of mating-hopeful birds awaken the gardener in many of us. I finally stopped hitting the snooze button on this seasonal alarm clock and started some vegetable and flower seeds in flats indoors under fluorescent lights. In an effort to pare down my starts to manageable levels this year, I limited my indoor veggie plantings to tomato, pepper, broccoli, basil and celery seeds. The rest of the seeds will be going into outdoor beds very shortly (weather permitting). In previous years I started too many seeds indoors and then struggled to pot them up into larger containers and keep them under the lights until it was time to transplant into the garden. Inevitably I had to give away lots of plants...not a bad thing, but I felt the need to be less overwhelmed this year.

My husband has been able to arrange my indoor plant lighting so that it is powered (mostly) by energy collected from two small solar panels stationed in the yard, next to the greenhouse.

On the crafting front, I have been weaving! It's only taken me, 16 years, to really pursue my interest in creating textiles via a loom. I may be slow, but I get to almost everything eventually! Thanks to a wonderful "weaving buddy" and teacher from the Weaver's Guild of Boston, my Leclerc Nilus floor loom is now "dressed" (yarns put on and threaded) and ready for action. Looking back at my previous post on the loom's arrival, I realized that it had been almost a year since the loom came into my life. I was feeling a little guilty every time I passed it, sitting alone and untouched, in the corner of the bedroom. But in March of this year, a switch in my inner workings finally flipped on and I found myself calling the Guild for help in learning to weave. A teacher came to my home and spent six hours showing me how to plan a project, measure out the yarns, get them onto the loom, thread the heddles which are attached to the harnesses, "sley" or thread the reed which also is used to beat the weave in place, and finally, to tie the yarns onto the loom where weaving takes place. Oh yes, and then there is the weaving process itself to learn. Making textiles is a complicated process!

While I began to work at home on my own f
loor loom, I decided I needed to repeat the "dressing" process again so that it would be clearer in my mind, which was reeling from the input of too many details in too short a time. So I jumped into a weaving class at the Guild which was taught by the same wonderful mentor that had come to my home. Taking the class really helped to imprint the weaving process a little further onto my brain cells. I also encountered a problem or two which served to teach me even more about what not to do; our mistakes often teach us much more than our successes do. At the end of three weeks, all that leaning over a borrowed Louet table loom and determined concentration resulted in my being the proud owner of my first handmade textile: a yellow, green and white, plaid, cotton dish cloth/table runner. (It started out as a dishcloth but I can't bear to use my first woven child to wipe up anything messy! So it has graduated to a table decoration.)

Both warp and weft are 5/2 perle cotton

I was fairly pleased with this first completed weaving project. Of course, the selvages are a little uneven, but I was told that it might take years of practice to get these right, and even then, they might not be perfect. One can always stitch the sides rather than leave them exposed; sewn hems cover a multitude of errors!

The pattern is a plaid, but I learned that there is much more to a pleasing plaid than meets the eye. Apparently there is a certain mathematical set of proportions required to create a balanced plaid or stripe pattern. My teacher explained that Italian mathematician Leonardo Pisano, better known as Fibonacci, and his sequence of Fibonacci Numbers provided us with a simple way to plot out stripes and plaids in a way that mimicked balanced patterns found in nature, thus making them pleasing to view. I admit, my eyes grew wide and a feeling of panic washed over me as she jotted down lots of numbers and looked at me for some glimmer of understanding. In the end, I got the general gist of the concept but I will rely on others to fully explain how these number patterns are calculated and used. A couple of useful sites about this topic are:

My current project, still in process, is to make fabric yardage for a handbag or two (my current plan, always subject to change) using my new rigid heddle Ashford knitter's loom, a lucky, discounted find that I had purchased on eBay earlier this year. There are so many types of looms and I would love to try them all at some point. The rigid heddle loom is different than the floor and table looms that I have been using in that it does not have multiple harnesses that move the heddles up and down to create a complex pattern. The rigid heddle has one reed which keeps the yarns separate, acts as a beater, and is moved up and down to create an opening called a "shed" through which a shuttle is passed, drawing the weft yarns to cross the warp yarns, thus creating a plain over-under weave. On a harnessed loom, the harnesses are moved up and down to create the shed while the reed is used more as a beater. (For more about weaving and looms, visit,, and

Four feet made so far. Only five more to go!

The Ashford Knitter's Loom has several great features such as portability, a wide range of reeds including one with large eyes that accepts handspun or bulky yarns, and the ability to fold down into its custom carry bag. It was easy to take to class, where I put on yarn, then closed it with yarns in place to take home for further weaving. My loom came with a matching floor stand which is useful for holding the loom when no table is available against which to lean the loom while working.

What I am weaving:
Plain weave
Warp is an older cone of Maysville 8/4 cotton carpet warp in natural.
Weft is Schachenmayr Nomotta Safari; 35% cotton, 20% viscose, 15% flax, 15% acrylic, 15% polyester - a blue-gray and natural toned boucle made in Italy and received from a generous Freecycler (thank you!)

My Ashford is a 20" wide loom but my actual weaving width measures about 18".

This combination of yarns is making an interesting texture. I wonder how it will look and feel when washed?

At the last weaving class, my teacher showed me how to use an inkle loom and she put the notion in my head that, if I had one, I could make matching straps for bags made from my handmade fabric. Hmmm...dangerously interesting idea! When the Guild holds its silent auction next month I might be lucky enough to get a bargain inkle.

Lest you think I have abandoned jewelry-making, I am still slowly making a few new pieces here and there, trying to catch up on the backlog of designs I started and have strewn about my work table. I am hoping to achieve some sort of balance between jewelry creation, weaving and gardening in the coming months. I find it incredibly easy to come up with project ideas for all these pursuits but very difficult to follow through on those ideas in any organized way. If anyone has found a solution to this problem I would love to hear it!

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