Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Learn To Weave Classes this Summer

 Reno Fiber Guild is excited to announce that the yearly "Learn to Weave" classes are back after a two year hiatus due to COVID.

This is a four day class that takes you through all the basics of warping and weaving on a loom  including materials and an instructional booklet. The classes take place at the South Valleys Library in Reno. 

For full details and the cost for this class, please click here to access the flyer.

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.



Monday, October 11, 2021

First in person meetings since March 2020

 It's been a very long time since Reno Fiber Guild members could get together in person.  This is our first in person meeting since March 2020 and we held it in the Yarn Refuge store in Reno.  Masks were required, but it was great to reconnect with friends after such a long time.

 Diane S. shared this lovely piece of double weave that she wove during an online class with Jennifer Moore.  Many colors from about  6 different yarns.  

Igor shared this "jin" scarf he wove on 12 shafts.  The scarf is half blue tones and half purple and orange tones.

Shelley brought a sample she wove during the Denise Kovnat "Echo and Jin" zoom class from last year.

The weekend before our meeting, Great Basin Fibershed (of which RFG is an affiliate member) held a hemp processing workshop at Western States Hemp Farm outside of Fallon.  The farm had a few fiber plants that we used to experiment stripping off the bast fibers for spinning.  Stephenie Gaustad and her son Jan were our instructors.  The workshop was arranged by Darla GS through a grant from Fibershed.

Toward the end of the first day, those attendees who had spinning wheels with them, tried their hands at spinning prepared hemp sliver.  The second day of the workshop was for the basket makers who used the inner stalk of the plants called the hurd.  Rope making was also part of the fun.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Echo and Jin Revisited

Shelley N. took the "Zoom" Echo and Jin workshop with Denise Kovnat last year and has found a great way make her sample a usable piece.  Here is what she says about her process.

 "I took my sampler that had varying sized spaces between colors and Echo or Jin efforts and threaded a nubby viscose thread in this spaces and the hemmed and tied on fringe for a table runner! Finally a use for a sampler!"


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Huck Lace Workshop with Rosalie Neilson Part II

Because there are many projects yet to be posted, Part II seemed to be a good idea.  Don't forget to scroll down to  Part I to see all of the huck lace weavings from the workshop.

Virginia's Towels - woven on a four shaft loom
None of these have been washed or hemmed.  I had fun playing with other colors, and for the last one I alternated sections of plain weave with the huck - just to see how it looked - and because plain weave is faster to weave.
Virginia G.

Suzanne's towels - woven on an 8 shaft loom


I really enjoyed learning Rosalie’s system - use of her grids and transparent overlay for designing blocks of huck lace.  It was also interesting, and sometimes disappointing to see that not all designs wove up as nicely as they looked on the graph paper!  I’ll definitely get back to weaving more block huck lace designs after I experiment with Turned Twill designs using Rosalie’s Exaltation of Blocks grids and overlays Suzanne W.

Diane's Towels - woven on 24 shafts in Natural Colored Cottons

Loved the weaving and designing.  Thanks again, Rosalie, for a fun workshop.                  Diane S.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Huck Lace Workshop with Rosalie Neilson

Reno Fiber Guild has not been meeting in person because of the Covid virus for a year now, but we haven't been away from our looms during that time.  A week ago we started a virtual class about Huck Lace with Rosalie Neilson via Zoom.  Because we can all use our home looms, this has been an adventure in which we chose our own yarns for the projects and designed them ourselves with the help of Rosalie.  What follows are projects woven on 4, 8, 24 and 32 shafts.  Each different with the special touches that come from the individual weavers.

 From Anni's loom

After weaving two towels with sections in ten different colors and a different pattern in each row, I decided to try weaving the patterns with the same color as the stripe in the warp.  I also took an idea from Suzanne and did the separating stripes in the two other colors.  I rather like this one.  I think it's my favorite.

I also did a set woven completely with a natural off-white color and designs that were only comprised of weft floats.  It kind of looks like there is a warp float were the floats hold the threads in, but there isn't.  The reverse shows all warp floats.  -  Anni B.

Shelley's Projects

Shelley used a slightly different red for weft to create contrast in the red block on this towel.

These are the designs for Shelley's towels, using the overlays from Rosalie's book.

 "I learned so much.  I now have a much better understanding of blocks, and how to design - so cool!  I may be tying on to this warp and trying two 4 shaft designs on the same row!.  Big jump for me!  Thanks Rosalie and Suzanne for organizing!"     Shelly N.  

Cathie C.'s Napkins  woven on 32 shafts

 There can be a bit of a disconnect between the drawdown image and the way the actual fabric looks. I think I have a better handle on that now with huck after designing so many blocks.    Cathie

 Beryl's Table Runner woven on 36 shafts.












I quite enjoyed this class and learned a lot about designing huck.  Rosalie was there for all of us, making sure that we understood her directions and giving assistance when needed.    I designed a whole lot of blocks and was fortunate that I could use my multishaft loom to weave my projects.  Love Zoom workshops! - Beryl M.

Susan M's Towels 

4 towels of cottolin.  When I was warping back to front, I found 100 threads short by one yard. I tied on these 100 threads so I would not waste so much warp. It worked!! Enough for 4 huck towels and not much shrinkage with cottolin.  Now will add on a  towel kit I found of natural dyed cotton  and use Huck instead
Susan M.

Nancy B. Towels

I really enjoyed Rosalie’s workshop.  Besides feeling like I was finally beginning to grasp the concept of weaving with blocks, I also gained some great general weaving tips.  I will look forward to the next workshop!! Nancy B.


 Darla's huck project

 This Zoom workshop was great for me. The second day of the workshop a multitude of conflicts appeared suddenly on my schedule, but I knew I would have access to the recorded videos so I was able to alleviate a lot of stress.

My warp was inspired by images of 18th century Indian calico or chintz. I used my bright red and greens, but softened it with a pale buttery yellow and sky blue.

All in all, I’m enjoying this weaving project--despite the puppy literally running away with my warp while winding on, pull-in (solved with a temple), and unattractive scalloped edges (also solved with a temple)  Darla G.