Monday, October 24, 2011

Summer of weaving

In July, I made a few trips into the next county to Hillman’s Brush Creek Mill, and with help from guild-mate Marion, we got a very dirty 1950's Lillstina loom cleaned, warped and weaving with some towels showing Michigan tartan borders. A group of Mill museum volunteers are signed up to learn how to demonstrate weaving for the many school children who visit the working water-wheel mill. Maybe some will catch the weaving bug and even learn how to warp it up.

 For an Alcona Animal Shelter benefit at the County Fair,our guild obtained a Romney fleece from Big Hand Farm’s spring shearing across the ‘tip of the mitten’ in Charlevoix County. We washed the fleece, then dyed it into the 5 colors of the Michigan tartan. Five of our guild spun up yarn, with one spinner plying it selectively for the best evenness. We warped up a loom for two large scarves, wove one off to raffle while demonstrating spinning and weaving of the second scarf. Considering how small the fair crowd was, we were grateful to raise over $300.00 for the for the Alcona Animal Shelter. We may do this next year for the Alpena County shelter. Here is the happy winner of the scarf.

I scrambled to assemble entries for the Besser Museum juried exhibit. The red and black leno linen top shown in an earlier blog was accepted, as was an installation called ...”Oh Thereby Hangs a ....Tartan” , a rack displaying seven pieces with various interpretations of the Michigan tartan. Another entry simply called “In Process” with a Michigan Tartan scarf in Zephyr just begun.  The juror gave all awards to 2-dimensional work, but I was honored to to have my weaving included.
A teaching trip to the Ann Arbor Fiber Arts Guild in early September introduced me to some of the most talented, experienced, yet eager-to-learn weavers ever. One quite new weaver, Tammy, showed me how she had improvised a Trapeze to warp her loom. Here is her Shaker-chair version.  Her linen workshop weaving came out beautifully.

My hostess, Mary Underwood, introduced me to the beauty of ‘old’ Ann Arbor, within walking distance of Zingermans, the Farmer’s Market and other big-city wonders. Her new studio in the back yard is a view from another world. She spins ‘air yarn’ on the balcony, and teaches as well.

A dozen folks from the Association of Lifelong Learners came out for a studio visit in early September and I learned from one, of her childhood memories, helping her mother weave rugs on a giant rigid heddle loom. A question to WeaveTech list revealed other examples of this rare technique, from Slovak immigrants in Pennsylvania. The rewards of volunteering!

In early October my little Purrington loom made a trip to the Renaissance Center in Detroit where Clan Gregor gathered, as guests of our friends Kathy and Henry Stone, to learn about the new Michigan tartan and other things Scottish and Michiganian. John gave the address to the haggis in handwoven tartan, and we discovered Greek Town a refreshing walk away, so there was nothing for it but flaming cheese and baklava for breakfast.

Then last week our tiny guild, with help from the Michigan League of Handweavers, brought Julie Hurd and Linda VanAndel to Alpena to lead an evening program for fiber folks and gardeners on Colors from Nature. The following day we had one amazing daylong workshop producing large skeins of sixteen different colors for each of us! What an exciting new direction for my handspun projects. Do I see all the colors in the Michigan tartan here?
Until I'm back from Rome......  Kati

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Midwest Weavers Conference at Finlandia Univ. Hancock, MI II

A report on Midwest Weavers Conference, Finlandia is long overdue. For the first time in my memory Midwest was on Michigan soil and it was because a couple of folks said "We Can Do This - small as we are" Jean Lind and Mary Brownell did a truly amazing job of organizing and carrying it off. The setting at Finlandia University International School of Art and Design in the Copper Country of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) has Lake Superior on three sides. From the dormitory we walked into the dining hall and then two floors down exited onto the street. The well- stocked vendor hall, in the Physical Fittness Building made one fit, just getting up the two flights of stairs. If one were not so fit, there was a constantly circulating bus to handle the climbing and the distances. You should be able to find more pictures and reports of conference activity at  The beautiful loom pictured is in the museum at the Finnish American Heritage Center at Finlandia U.  The brake is made from a Model T crank. I was very impressed with the curating and display of the museum collections.

The weather for the pre-conference workshops was lovely, but mid-week when regular conference began, so did the very 'Scottish' weather with wind and rain. We had a lot of fun, learned much, made new friends, saw great exhibits including very exciting rag rugs. The Scandinavian sense of design is alive and well in the UP. There were rugs in the juried exhibit, in the gallery exhibits, in the guild exhibits with The Weavers Guild of Minnesota Rag Rug Study Group putting up a stunning and educational display. Especially pleasing to me was learning that they documented the use of the Trapeze method for a very successful rug warp. (Thanks weavers for this endorsement. I love hearing of new applications for this ancient and fundamentally simple aid to good weaving). There was a great gathering for Rag Rugs and their weavers and collectors led by Janet Meany. Your can visit to learn more.  The rug here is Moonlight, by Jessica Speer.

My class of tartan weavers were very brave with all of them (eventually) trying and liking) live- weight tensioning! A couple of them are now planning to design and weave a guild tartan.

There were many "V.I.Ws." (very important weavers) in attendance including Wendy Morris from London, UK for the annual meeting of Complex Weavers. She arrived sleepless, foodless, lugage-less and flightless due to Chicago's bad weather, but cheerfully conducted a well-attended meeting for a number of us existing and new members of CW. What a trooper!

The fashion show was excellent with prizes awarded to a couple of my favorite weavers. Peggy Bowman’s jacket/homage to her cat was modeled by teacher/musician Nadine Sanders .
Another favorite winner was the handspun sweater dyed with mushroom colors by Julie Hurd from Lake Charlevoix Area WG. Here she is modeling her Michigan Tartan Triangle shawl. Her sweater can be seen on the Midwest site. 

Sheila O'Hara was our exciting keynote speaker, instructor and exhibitor with some new work, woven images from antique photos of native Americans, including a mind-bending jacquard-woven interpretation of a NA rug weaver. Go to .

When I wasn't teaching I was able to take a class called "Twist and Stretch", with Marcia Kosmerchock, and think I may just need to try some texture with tartans. 

 We enjoyed Trenary Toast and shopping at Merimekko - yes, that Merimekko, of Finnland whose designer cows decorate the dining hall wall at Finlandia U.  I grew up with cows and like them a lot.  These are special.

My ‘teenager’ and I drove west and north to visit Thunder Bay, a HUGE Canadian city on the western end of Lake Superior with many ethnic areas, and then east along the northern shore of Superior where the lupines blew me away with their beauty. We lunched in elegance at Red Rock Inn and overnighted in WaWa, Ontario before coming home to our cat family. 

Now my focus is on a fleece-to-shawl demonstration our Northeast Michigan WG is planning for the Alcona County Fair mid-August. We hope to generate a good donation to the Alcona Animal Shelter from raffling off a hand dyed/hand spun/hand woven Michigan tartan shawl. [We’ll take donations for tickets by mail.]

Treadle with Joy, Kati

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Focus on Tartan

Spring keeps trying to happen up here on the 45th and some days I can't bear to stay inside, but fiber is keeping my attention between the fits of digging in the dirt, pruning and bicycling.  The bike rides are to look for mushrooms - none found to date - pick up cans, spot wild flowers,  and when we make the full 6 miles into town, we usually find some icecream.  Well, at least the fresh air and exercise parts are good for us.  The crop of Dwarf Lake Iris is lush this year.  These rare beauties are about four inches tall.

Our guild offered to demonstrate fleece to Michigan tartan shawl at the Alcona County Fair on August 25th. We began with a fleece from Big Hand Farm near Boyne City.  IBL (Itty Bitty Lamb) is a clean, well-crimped Romney fleece with a four-inch plus staple.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy International Tartan Day

Tartan is one of simplest, most exciting, colorful, and creative forms of weaving I do. I have even woven tartan with draw-loom work with supplemental weft over it. To learn more about tartan history go to

A picture from my competition days - 15+ years ago. Kilt is Angus District Dress - handwoven and hand tailored my KM.  The hose are knit Argyll to imitate the kilt's pattern.

Tartan Day is not known as a drinking holiday, so will never be as popular as St. Patrick's Day, but celebrate! I'm going to thread up a 2/8 Heather yarn version of the Michigan Tartan. It will be for a vest and moggins, as well as a test of my new 7-dent reed for upholstery-weight tartan Happy Tartan Day

Kati Reeder Meek 4-6-11

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Michigan Tartan: New-yarn Sett-samples

Quite a range of quality from one yarn! 8 epi to (almost) 30epi.

The Lake Charlevoix Area Weavers Guild asked me to give a program on Weaving Michigan Tartan. The group project is for each member to use the pattern in a defferent way, with different yarns.

When trying a new yarn for any tartan, I first want to learn what sett range works for the yarn. First I count the wraps for an inch. For plain weave, we usually take half that count. For a sett sample, I want to test an even more open weave - thinking lace.

     With JaggerSpun 8/2 Heather, 20 WPI suggested 10 epi. To push the boundries, I began with 8 epi and wound 136 ends in about 3/4ths of a full Michigan Tartan pattern, making the warp 3 yards long. Then I wove this in 2/2 twill - pushing it even further. The 45 Degree paper guided the gentle placing the wefts - very tricky to keep it open! With one square of the pattern completed and both ends hemstitched, a few picks of PW in smooth yarn made my first sample ready to cut down - leaving the smooth yarn on the loom, in front of the reed.

     Then I re-sleyed to 10 epi and wove another sample. The samples continued. For 12 epi I used my 6-dent reed, for 16 epi, the 8-dent reed, for 18 epi the 9-dent. At this sett, the weaving was becomming much easier. It actually required a bit of a 'press' on the beater. The samples continued with 20 epi in a 10 dent, then 24 epi with a 12. The 24 epi sample was quite dense, but still weavable 'to square' i.e. 24 picks per inch with a double beat.

     Every yarn has an upper limit for how densly it will weave into a balanced cloth. Sometimes, even with a weighted beater and resounding second beat on the next shed, it simply won't pack in 'to square' or to that magical 45 Deg. twill line. The 8/2 Heather met its limit at 30 epi! Though worsted-spun yarn is traditional for tartan kilts and other smooth and durable applications, this short fiber, carded yarn has potential for lofty blankets and throws.

     The J-S Heather, being like a woolen-spun yarn, fulls beautifully. The first test of the samples with 5 minutes gentle agitation and line-drying was so-so. A re-wash with 4 more minutes agitation plus 10 minutes in the dryer produced dramatic results. I went back to the loom and re-sleyed one more time - back to 24 epi to weave off the rest of the warp. I'm thinking coating and upholstery. (Hello, Queen Victoria and Balmoral Castle).

My 5 1/4-inch wide warp-end provided enough to upholster my tea mug. I think I like this yarn!

Treadle with Joy, Kati

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Trapeze Demo in New Jersey

Margriet Carrico recently gave her NJ Jockey Hollow Guild a demo of how she uses the Trapeze. I thought their comments and the photos Sally Ogren took might be of interest, especially to Trapeze skeptics. Here are some pictures from the event. The warp is 20/2.

Clamping the Trapeze to the Baby Wolf [This is easily done alone, but a helping hand is hard to refuse]

Spanking the tensioned warp to even out tension

Picking out a snarl. [More tension and more spanking, or just 'strumming' near the lease sticks, usually solves such. I would have moved the lease sticks up where I could reach them without bending over. km]

Warp going onto the beam smoothly
"The Demo of the trapeze was last night and everyone had a few moments where the lights went on. As you can tell from Sally's comments the comfort of the height seemed to impress most of the members... I needed to do samples for the Cross Country Weavers so...I killed 2 birds with one stone... all in all it went well and I told the members that I have not put on a warp without (the Trapeze) in 5 years. I hope they will use this method because itmakes weaving so much more pleasurable
Sally says: "By bringing the trapeze in and letting us "play" with it, I was struck byhow nice it was NOT to be stooped over the warp all the time. You reallydon't get that from reading a book, you have to experience it. [the message throughout the book is good body mechanics. 30 years of arthritis has taught me a lot. km] "Most of the process is at a very comfortable height. The last photo particularly reminded me of that. Even on a fiddly warp, it wasn't so bad to separate the groups at the lease sticks because they were at a comfortable height. Can you image what a pain that would have been to mess with those fine strings if they were at standard loom height?"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Joyous New Year

Wonderful to have holidays and family and parties. Even more wonderful to return to some semblance of routine.

Tomorrow is St. Distaff Day or Roc Day to celebrate returning to the spindle after the Christmas season. We're having a spinning/dying party.

Half of one of my napkins that now need place mats. This draft from Alice Schlein's article in Weavers #36 was so interesting that I beamed a linen warp to see if waffle weave in fine linen was possible. It worked so well I beamed another even finer, each new warp was tied on to the previous warp thrums. Then I ended up weaving "waffle dots" on a plain ground. The story is slated for the February issue of the Complex Weavers Journal.

In the meantime, I'm working on the design for repp place mats to go with the waffle napkins our group exchanged last year. A narrow warp on the inkle loom with wee pick-up bits has me excited. The tiny squares of pattern echo the waffle squares without being busy. Then watching the snow drift down and pile up, I sketched out how I think I want to weave them. (see tiny sketch with the inkle band). Doesn't it look like snow, dense at the bottom, sparce at the top? The Next step is graph paper. Then design the threading. I Think I have three blocks which should work on 4 shafts.