Sunday, November 6, 2022

Color us Blue!

Mary and Polly holding up Polly's grand piece that was resisted around a piece of pipe.

 Every so often, Reno Fiber Guild has a dyeing day.  This year the program committee decided on a resist day, in which interested members learned how to resist the items they wanted to dye and the follow up day in which we had four indigo vats at our disposal so that the indigo could work its magic for us.  

Jen generously offered her garage for the event.  She and Suzanne made two 1-2-3 vats using fructose as the reducing sugar, Karen made a banana vat with the pulp of bananas as the reducing sugar and Beryl stirred together a pre-reduced indigo with a couple of chemicals for the "easy" solution!

The weather wasn't too cold so that made the indigo vats happy and also the dyers.    Karen and Beryl took photos of some of the amazing items that emerged  from vats like butterflies from cocoons.  It was simply a wonderful day.  Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Maryln with one of her scarves.  This was wrapped on a piece of PVC pipe.

Paulie holding up her prize after removing the resist bands

Suzanne hanging out at a 1-2-3 vat

Tanya brought handwoven shibori scarves.  The photo below shows the results after the resist threads were pulled out and she rinsed the scarves.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Wide Variety of Fabrics from the loom

Anni B. is interested in weaving for clothing.  Recently she put on a long warp and wove it off in a variety of  different fabrics, all in the same colorways, so that she could combine them in garments.  The yardage in the photo to the left might be a top or skirt.  Anni hasn't decided yet.

The photo below shows off the different sides of another piece of yardage.  This could be a lovely way to have a jacket with one side of the fabric showing and make the lapels with the reverse side showing.  Hopefully, Anni will have something sewn soon so we can feature her garments in another post.


A brand new member, Zoi, joined us for her first Sage Weavers meeting and brought som stunning pieces for our show and tell.  The photo below is a baby blanket woven from instructions in a book by Tom Knisely.  Zoi hand dyed the yarns for this piece and you can see how the colors change across the piece.  She gave one similar blanket to her grandson - what a lovely give for him to keep and treasure.

Zoi also brought this overshot scarf that she wove.  I believe that the white patterning is done with wool and it fulled gently when she wet finished it.  A lovely piece which will be a joy to wear on a winter morning.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Deflected Double Weave from an Online Class

 In February or March, Reno Fiber Guild had Denise Kovnat lead a class in Deflected Double Weave for Collapse Fabrics.    This was an online class that was spread over more than a week.  The participants had ample time to work on many different samples using a large variety of different kinds of threads.  It was a blast, expecially when we wet finished our pieces and could see how the weave structure deflected and distorted the surface of the fabric.  Work from that class is still being presented at Sage Weavers and we had two lovely pieces at our last meeting.  

Nancy S. brought this intriguing four shaft sample.  In the class, Denise had given us instructions on how to weave two separate layers and explained how this might be used in a scarf - a gap in the fabric so that one end could be inserted through the scarf.  Nancy didn't have enough warp left for a full scarf, but she did weave the layers and finished the sample with a twisted fringe.  The colors are glorious and this would make a scarf that would be noticed!

Susan M. wove a sampler that turned into a full length scarf.  She used wool in some of her wefts so that it would partially felt during the wet finishing.  She also added an exciting button  and kumihimo loop to fasten the edges of the scarf when worn.  

Susan (photo to the right) wore a top that she wove and Jill A. sewed for her.  Not sure if this is deflected double weave or not, but it certainly is striking.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

We Love Overshot!

  Kathy R. brought this lovely towel /mat to Sage Weavers.  She used two painted warps (Easter eggs and Blue opal) purchased from Kathrin Weber and used an overshot pattern from a recent Handwoven magazine. These towels must have been fun to weave with all the color changes in the warp - and will be especially fun to use.

The photo below is a napkin, also woven by Kathy R.  She used a gradient in the warp and a fine cotton warp and weft for an elegant piece.  The technique was learned in a class with Tien Chiu.

The next towels were woven by Michelle L., also in overshot.  The pattern comes from Carol Strickler's book #416. Beautiful work, Michelle.


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Jill Altmann Design


In this post we move through the "Show and Tell" portions of the last Sage Weavers meeting.  This photo above is an example of the kind of art that is created by Jill A. in her weaving and dyeing studio. Jill has used natural dyes in  her work for a long time, but recently her emphasis is in using natural dyes that she grows in her own gardens.  

The handwoven top has many layers of complexity.  Jill wove the cloth  using a technique known as "woven shibori".  As the cloth is woven, there are  added threads which are pulled to create resists in the fabric when it is dyed. Sometimes these threads are in the warp and sometimes they are woven as weft pics.  Jill used a variety of dyes including coreopsis flowers and more.  The silk scarf was also dyed using resists which accent and go with  the top so beautifully.  The rust coloring in the scarf comes from Madder roots.  

Jill is  a great fan of indigo dyeing.  She attempted to grow her own plants a year ago, but air conditions and falling ash due to forest fires, weren't conducive to growing dye plants.  She hopes to attempt this again in the future. Jill is an expert in  indigo dye vats,  and has used some advanced techniques that include the addition of henna.  The photo to the left shows some of her indigo dyed cloths and yarns.  

The photo at the bottom of this post illustrates some of the details in color and weave structure that go into Jill's garments.

You can visit Jill's website for more eye candy from this talented weaver, dyer and seamstress.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Summer Sage Weavers Meeting

Weaving can be a solitary endeavor, but weavers are always eager to join with other like-minded artisans to share what they have been doing and talk about their passion.  It has been so good to get back in the social swing of things for members of Reno Fiber Guild.  We met at the South Valleys Library this past weekend for a couple of hours of show and tell and exchanges of ideas and information.  Since there were so many great handwovens shared at our meeting, the blog posts have been divided into smaller bites.  Watch for the next post in a few days.

Jochen D. shared this throw that was woven on his new AVL K Series loom.  The profile draft that Jochen used is from the book "Keep Me Warm One Night"  Should you be so lucky and own this book, it is Profile #419.  

Jochen also wove a whole series of mohair scarves on his four shaft counter-balance loom.  These are plain weave, using an off white loopy mohair for the warp and different colors and fibers in the weft.   

Would you like to weave some of your own?  Jochen shared his details with us. The threading is a straight draw on four shafts.  The sett is 8 epi. and sleyed in an 8 dent reed.  Sley two in the first dent, then 1 per dent for 16 dents.  Skip 10 dents and repeat ending again with 2 ends in the last dent.  His scarves were a total of 80 ends and he wove them at 6 to 8 ppi.  To finish the scarves, wash by hand in warm water or put in the hand wash cycle of your washing machine.  Put in the dryer for 10 minutes (I would check frequently to see what is happening).  After that, let them dry completely on a rod.

Jochen's warp was 25 yards long and since he wove with many different colored wefts, he has a large variety to choose from.  See Jochen's ad on the main blog page (right side).  Jochen gives weaving lessons and starts his students weaving with mohair.  He also sells his handwovens.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Hemp by Hand: a 2 day workshop to explore processing fresh and dried hemp for fiber


Hemp Facts

Hemp, like flax, is a bast fiber plant, characterized by strong, cellulosic fiber found in the outer layer of the plant. The woody interior is called the hurd. Decortication is the process of separating the bast from the hurd, which is an arduous task; the stalks are tough and the plant is held together by pectins or glues. A mechanized decorticator uses grinders, rollers, blades, and other such tools to shatter or break the hurd into small bits, separating it from the fiber. Hurds can be utilized to make ceiling panels, bedding materials, hempcrete, and other industrial products while bast is used to make clothing, textiles, ropes, home furnishings, and shoes, to name a few.

Retting is the process of breaking down the pectins, either through field retting (drying in the field), water retting (soaking), or chemical retting. Modern decorticators can bypass the retting phase and process freshly harvested stalks. 

Day One...How Do We Get Spinnable Fiber From The Hemp Plant? 

In the HEMP BY HAND workshop, we did not have the benefit of a decorticator, and experimented with freshly harvested stalks that were placed into a steamer to release some of the pectins (traditionally accomplished by retting), allowing us to extract fibers from the fresh stalks. There is a historical precedent for steaming the stalks, as researched revealed for Stephenie Gaustad, our workshop leader.

This process of harvesting fiber from fresh stalks is time-consuming with a learning curve, but not impossible. Certainly, for industrial use, such a cottage approach would not be practical; however, for small artisan projects, it is feasible. The HEMP BY HAND workshop experimented with several methods:

  • peeling the outer cortical layer from the stalk and then separating the    fibers from the resulting ‘ribbon’;
  • scraping the outer cortical layer to extract individual fibers;
  • using stalks dried over night to break the hurd from the cortical ‘ribbons’ and then separate fibers.   

Industrial stalks are 4-6 feet in length and marked with nodes, the parts in a plant that connect new stem offshoots with older growth, such as a branch, a leaf, or even a bud. This was a spot where the fibers were likely to break, resulting in a shorter staple length, certainly a disadvantage of hand processing. Online videos show commercial fibers the full length of the stalk, one of the great benefits of hemp as a fiber for spinning.Nonetheless, when we examined the commercial sliver, the length of the fiber matched the length between nodes on the industrial plant and produced an easily spinnable length (4-6 inches)

The fibers we harvested from the workshop would need more processing to produce spinnable fiber: traditionally, once the fibers have been separated from the stalk, scutching is required, which involves beating the fiber bundles to further separate raw materials from other particles (outside skin, bits of hurd, etc). This is followed by “hackling,” which combs shorter or broken fibers out of the bundles and aligns them into a continuous sliver for spinning. We experimented with combing and found it immediately produced a softer fiber, although more work would be required to get the fiber ready to spin. Because of time constraints, we used commercially produced sliver. It produced a lovely yarn, lustrous and strong. The more hemp yarn/fabric is washed, the softer it becomes, similar to linen. There was discussion about the ease of using hemp as a botanical dye, as well as how well hemp takes commercial or other botanical dyes. Some of the participants took plant material home to experiment with it as a dye, and Stephenie indicated hemp takes dye as well as any bast fiber.

Day Two...How Do We Use Hemp for Basketry?

On the second day of the workshop, we focused on producing fibers for basket-making and rope-making. We had the benefit of both freshly steamed stalks and yesterday’s steamed stalks (the effect of which allowed the dried hurd to be more easily removed). The basket-makers found the fresh fibers a very workable source for cordage; some experimentation with dried fibers indicated the complexities of retting: too dry and the fibers were brittle or broken down

In general, the basket-makers were accustomed to acquiring and processing raw plant material, so they jumped into the process quickly and experimented with how damp or dry the material should be to work most efficiently. For smooth “green” cordage, they found the steamed stalks produced fiber that twisted smoothly and easily into cordage. Cordage from the dried plants (from last year’s harvest and thus “brown” in color) produced a rougher ply, and would probably benefit from hackling to remove the harsher bits still attached to the fibers. Both produced very strong cordage. 

The consensus among the basket-makers was that hemp was strong, attractive, and flexible, being less prone to breakage than other fibers. Working with hemp was new and thus cumbersome, but as many pointed out, all plants require their own learning curve to successfully process. Industrial hemp was compared with Apocynum (dogbane or “Indian hemp”), which does not have a woody interior and thus was much easier to process. The biggest limitation to working with hemp was its availability for the small scale artisan.  

The dried CBD plant (versus the industrial stalk) produced a surprising result; the short, bushy plant was from last year’s harvest and thus was quite dry and not amenable to ease of extraction of fiber. Stephenie Gaustad (workshop leader) placed several stalks in a black plastic bag, set it out in the sun for a few hours, and long, flexible wet fibers were easily extracted. That was a big surprise to all of us, but occurred at the end of the day and would require further exploration. 

We also discussed the possibility of using the stalk for basketry, but the dried stalk was fairly brittle and most believed it would not be useful for traditional basketry formsperhaps some non-traditional basketry might use the stalks for low-stress frames. The participants identified that the industrial stalk was hardest at its base, while more flexible at the top. The best fibers (stronger, longer) seemed to be found at the bottom of the plant, while the fibers got increasingly
thin and more difficult to extract toward the top of the plant. 

Take Home Thoughts

In closing, all agreed that the workshop was informative, educational, and ‘food for thought.’ Many wanted to pursue hemp as a fiber, while others felt it was too labor intensive. Several participants took plants/fiber home with them to experiment with more processing.

In terms of overall goals, we believe the workshop was ‘ground-breaking’ and successful:

1.The workshop successfully introduced the hemp fiber plant to local spinners, weavers, knitters, and basket-makers. For many, hemp is an unknown plant, cloaked in anecdotal beliefs about its origins and uses. Our workshop showed that hemp is a viable fiber plant and a legitimate and
worthwhile endeavor.

2. The workshop opened the door to further exploration of hemp. We successfully established a working relationship with an industrial hemp grower, and we plan to continue to build that relationship to create viable hemp fiber for our region.

3. The workshop is a strong example of ‘nothing beats experience’. We can read about processing hemp all we want, but until we get our hands on it, it is only an abstraction. This workshop sets the stage for more hemp education and experience, be it dying the yarn, refining the fiber, or creating local Fibershed products.