Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holiday Season

The New Zealand Christmas Tree - Pohutukawa
Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season and best wishes for 2010

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Well, I hope there will be more than one as I'm so excited by this one.
I'll have to take you back to Crete again I'm afraid.  While in Chania, our first stop, we went to a market, a huge market, two or three blocks and up side streets, lots and lots a veges and fruit but right at the end several stands of ordinary things like shoes, knickers, embroidered table linen and .... fabric.

                                         A Russian lady selling Turkish fabric to a Kiwi in Crete.
This trip I travelled with a small suitcase and an empty back pack thinking I would have plenty of room in the pack for purchases.  This would have worked but as we moved from town to town the pack was used for food.  So how to choose which fabrics and restrain myself and this was the first stop of a months travel.  I loved so many of them and seeing this photo again I could have chosen many more.
Anyway, duh dah - 

I think I'll call the range "from under the bed" as a friends mother used to hoard beads and treasures under her bed and I was given a few years ago.  They still inspire creativity.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Taking it to the line - er reed

This was a very economic warp.  After two blankets you can see how close the fabric is to the reed and you can see the previous red warp through the heddles, the knots were touching shaft 8.  I tie warps on and pull through.  With 15 cm allowed for tassels there was about 5 cm waste.  And even the mohair weft had minimal waste.  That is all that's left from 350 gm.  I hand dye all these threads, the wool and mohair, so if I run out its pretty difficult to get a match.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I have been weaving

Before leaving for Crete I had started weaving this double weave scarf, the black is 100% merino and beautiful, the white is 75% merino and 25% corn silk and is awful.  It feels harsh to the touch and didn't full.  A local newspaper recently ran an article on how corn silk had been added to carpet wool making it strong and durable.  I ask you, who would put it with merino?  And in a scarf?  Duh!  And it took so loooong to weave, every stripe change was a change of dobby chains.

Number 2 scarf has been improved considerably by weaving a lovely soft grey wool over the corn silk.  Notice the barber pole fringe where I twisted a black strand with a white one whereas on the striped scarf I separated the layers and twisted black with black and white with white which I like better.

I had some warp left at the end so wondered what would happen if I turned the dobby chains around, back to front and circling backwards.  Not only did the colours reverse but the circles offset also.
As I worked on these I was inspired to use the same threading for some sculptural pieces using monofilament and shells as part of a body of work for exhibition.

On Thursday afternoon I had about 20 ladies from the Mount Maunganui Creative Fibre club visit my studio and we had a major show and tell.  A lot of fun.

I'm now back to the bread and butter of weaving blankets for Pauanesia which I love doing as the colours inspire.

Spindle whorl

I thought you might like to see this image, number 8, of a spindle whorl from a shrine, 7th Century BC taken in the museum of the Athens Agora.  No. 7 is a clay disk cut from a pot and no. 6 is a stone disk.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The last island we visited was Naxos which I enjoyed far more than Santorini, more down to earth and not existing with the sole aim of fleecing the tourist.
One day we took a bus ride to a historic village called Halki, about 20 minutes drive from Naxos town.  Wandering down a street I heard swish, bang, bang and my heart jumped and thought that can only be a loom in action.  Sure enough there was Marie beckoning to me in her shop window.

She was using 4 shafts, 80cm wide,1080 threads and the warp was 800 metre long.  She thought it would take 2 years to weave it all off.  I was surprised that there didn't seem to be any seperaters in the warp.
A bit further on I met Penelope.

She had been taught to weave by her grandmother who also was called Penelope.  Her warp was shorter at 600 metres and she used an 18 dent reed, 36 ends per inch.  She told me she loved her work made with love and taste from her hands and feet.

More Crete Textiles

While in Heraklion, our last stop in Crete, we walked past a yarn shop which was closed.  Bother!  But later in the evening while looking for a restaurant for dinner we passed it again and it was open.  Lots and lots of yarn from Italy.  I chose a couple of unusual balls of black to go with a vest I'm knitting/crocheting for myself.  Might have been tempted by more but the shop assistant was not at all obliging so left her to her missery!

Our hotel manager told us of an antique fibre collection held by the Lycium Club in a wee street nearby.  Quite a challenge finding it as it wasn't marked but ended up yelling through a grill door up the stairs of the only place it was likely to be and a lady appeared and showed us around.  Well what a collection.  Costumes from all areas of Crete, and all sorts of weaving, beautiful bobbin lace, antique bags, old weaving shuttles.

I saw such a wonderful bag at the Lycium club I decided I had to have one.  Most of the ones I saw in the market place felt like they were made with acrylic and very simplified patterns.  Until ....Pete found this one.

Wow!  Turns out it was antique with a price of Euro300 which was about NZ$650.   Needless to say I came home without a bag.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Monastery Irene, Crete

So much has happened since our return from Crete but thought I'd share this story with you.
Monastery Irene, Crete

Before we left we had read about Monastery Irene which had been reduced to almost a pile of rubble before European Union money was donated to restore it.  The nuns had also studied, restored and practised the traditional weaving techniques of their area.

We went to the local Rethynon bus station and bought return tickets then found the bus we needed.  Driver says no.  We said that man said yes.  Driver winds down window and with much shouting and arm waving conversed with man in office who leaned back in his chair and laughed!  (At us or the driver?)

We new this was the last bus of the day but we thought we would be dropped at the monastery, the bus go to the end of its run and pick us up on the way back.  But no, we suddenly realised we were turning around and heading back the way we had come.  We followed the same road for a while then turned into a side road.  The bus stopped and we were told it was Monastery Irene and we should get out.  So much for our return tickets as the bus disappears into the distance.

We had a lovely visit with a nun showing us around the Monastery, then the shop which she admitted didn't have much stock as it was the end of the season.  I did buy a wee bag in the tradional inlay technique of the area.  I found out later that this is also done by embroidery with a needle and thread.

Then I was taken to the loom room.  The loom in operation was about 60" wide and had 4 shafts but 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 were strapped together and operated as tabby.  A fly shuttle was used.  A "usually reliable man" wound the warp on the beam, all 800 metres of it and this took about 2 years to weave off.  But the nun was having trouble with threads at one end of the beam not making a proper shed and breaking every time the shuttle was thrown.  I hope she has the problem fixed now.  She used mostly linen thread from France for the fabric and DMC pearl cotton for the inlay.  Occasionally silk from northern Greece was used for the weft, particularly on table clothes.

Then she asked us how had we come.  Oooh, no one has come by local bus before, everyone comes by taxi.  We understand why.  When we said we would have to walk the 5 km to the coast and catch a bus from there she pointed us in the direction of a one lane service road and we had a lovely walk about 4 km down hill past olive groves to the coast.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pahoia Mystery Bus Trip

Tuesday last week I had 20 guests from the Pahoia Creative Fibre group (my guild) come visit my studio and have afternoon tea.  They were on a mystery bus trip taking in the Waihi Water Lily Gardens, lunch on the Waihi gold mine train, a mosaic artist and Val Tubmann, a painter, and my studio was the end of the day.
This was one of several tables displaying my weaving.  I have an upright set of rails for the blankets and several mannequins.  I had borrowed jewellery from my friend, Cornelia of Kaizen Design, and it was fun to colour co-ordinate the weaving and necklaces.  Unfortunately, it was all packed up before I thought of photos!

The ladies enjoyed the scones with whipped cream and strawberries and the zucchini and parmesan muffins and as they were running late and didn't arrive until 4 p.m. the cup of tea/coffee was most welcome.  Its always fun to catch up with my fibre friends and each time we have a get together like this I wonder why I don't go to more meetings.  So much to do, never enough time...

Saturday, November 21, 2009


A selection of the treasure I have inherited from Mum.  Bone and steel crochet hooks, steel double pointed knitting needles in wood cases, bags of lace, some hand crochet yardage as seen here and the thread to mend stockings.  Is it silk?  The back of the card says "Please Note:  for heel, toe or top use as supplied, For The Leg split thread and use singly.

And this confused bundle of silk.  I see Mum had unravelled some and started to knit a few rows.  Think I'll leave that for a day when the patience isn't stretched.  The ruler is for dress making (Mum was a trained tailoress and why didn't I get lessons from her!), the McCabe Faultless System and seems to work in proportions:  proportion blouse sleeve only, proportion coat sleeve etc.  And buckles and buttons galore, EPNS, art deco, nothing was thrown out.

There are boxes and boxes of crochet cotton (can I weave with that) embroidery threads and fabrics, and books and mags in abundance.  Mum made and dressed ceramic dolls for a while and there are bags of fabric, laces, fastenings, jewels in miniature.

It'll be fun figuring how I can use these treasures.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Molly Gray

We are back from our excellent adventure in Crete, Santorini, Naxos, Athens and Dubai. 

Unfortunately we came back to a very frail Mum and on Friday, after 98 years, she slipped peacefully from us.  I had some precious time with her and especially the Thursday when my oldest brother Roger joined us from Perth and Neville played hooky from work.  It was meant to be.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Our big adventure

I will be off line for one month, until Labour weekend while Peter and I take a break to Europe.  We'll fly to Crete with a stop in Dubai to catch some sleep.  Explore some of the islands including Santorini and Naxos before starting for home with several nights in Athens and two nights in Dubai.  We'll fly, boat, bus and walk, walk, walk (off some kilos I hope).  Along the way I'll celebrate my 60th in a town called Rethymno and have lots of weaving, embroidery and fibre-y places to explore and share on my return.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shibori scarves

Grey shibori scarf threaded and treadled in overshot.

Green shibori scarf with resists both vertical and horizontal.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rinda's tunic

I've been laid low with a spring cold bug so resorting to knitting archives.

My daughter is allergic to wool (imagine that in my house with more wool than a yarn shop) so I try to make her interesting garments from non-wool yarns.  This tunic was made of pure acrylic, not my favourite to use.  It was made as a vest but Rinda suggested the rib on the bottom to convert to tunic and as I thought it a trifle on the tight side I opened the side seams and added the band of rib right up to the neck.  It only shows on the right side seam on the front and the opposite side on the back.  Now a striking garment with the addition of the wide belt.

Gives me encouragement to try again!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Here it is!

Isn't this fun.  Took a couple of hours to felt as it isn't merino fibre but very light and lofty.  You will have to imagine the middle photo with arms poking through the long felted bits, a bit like armholes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blankets and wrap

Whew that last post was a bit down.  I am actually at peace with it all.  At present we're trying to get Mum to accept rest home care as she is not coping on her own in the villa despite all the support.

I have been weaving blankets.  Sent a red blanket and matching cushion with thrums fringing to Inspirit Gallery and have just sent off three blankets to Pauanesia in Coromandel Seascape tones of which I can't post pictures as they should be in the spring brochure of Pauanesia.  I do think they are some of the best I've made so far if I may say so!  Here's a shot of the mohair weft.

Then just for fun, and I don't know if it'll work because I didn't wind enough warp to sample (silly me), I tied a warp onto the deflected double weave but rearranged the reed so there is a big gap in the middle and I'm hoping that when this felts it will create long ropey threads.

Love your Mums

I know we've just celebrated Father's Day but its my Mum dominating my life at present.  She turned the grand age of 98 in August and until recently kept fairly good health apart from the expected broken bones, osteoporosis and arthritis.  Nearly 12 months ago she had a "turn", possibly a stroke or heart attack combined with dehydration, and has not picked up from that and now the mind is going.  It comes and goes but recent memory is very poor but back 60 or 70 years ago no problem, clear as a bell.  It was a heartbreaking shock the first time she didn't know who I was, but that was almost better than what she says when she does recognise me, lets just say not pleasant.
Anyway I just wanted to say love your Mum's with all your might cause when they get older you'll need that strength.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Katikati mini exhibition

A while back I mentioned the exhibition at Katikati.  By the time I went in to collect my things the ceramic dolls had gone so I spread my things out a little to take the photo.  There were several other paintings and another table in the area.

The thing that surprised me was I only had two woven pieces on the table, the rest are all knitted.  I shall have to work on that.

A glorious Bay of Plenty day today so think a walk on the beach is in order.

Deflected double weave

For a long time I have been fascinated by the possibility of the curved threads possible with deflected double weave.  Recently I just wanted to weave something for myself so got out every article I had been storing and started studying.  I couldn't get my head around creating my own pattern (a lot of family stuff going on at the moment to stress me) so took one from the Handwoven magazine hoping working on it would ignite the light bulb.  I changed the value of the colours from the mag and now understand how that part works and I have tasselled the ends rather than the felted circle daggy bits in the mag article.  Just love the resulting scarf and, even though its technically double weave, the New Zealand merino is so soft it'll be fun to wear next winter.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Preparing the next set of blankets

Dyeing warp threads for the next project, blankets for Pauanesia. You can see I have a very scientific take on making variegated warps. Threads tied to an old clothes drying rack picked up from the scrap metal bin at the tip. The thermometer came from a home brew supply shop and I couldn't be without it. The bundle of loom waste to match shades from a previous project and always my tea mug on hand. No, I don't use the jug to make my tea from, its solely for use with the dye. The dye pottles are Landscape brand which I rather like the shades of. I also use a lot a Jacquard acid dye.

And here are half the warps drying on the deck with the view out to Mayor (Tuhua) Island across the Pacific. The day before this was taken the ocean was a churning mess with huge waves crashing and churning wildly. The tuis love the banksia trees in the foreground, especially at this time of year when the flowers are out.

Today I'll be tying these warps on to the previous project and winding them on to the back beam.

What to do with loom waste?

"Kotare (kingfisher), Kea and Kiwi", a throw and cushion woven in double layer double two tie unit weave with ghiord knots using loom waste from a previous project. This particular weave pattern is occasionally used to weave flax kete.

Another cushion, again using loom waste to create a lovely shaggy finish.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mini exhibition

Last year the Katikati Art and Craft Trail was formed and I joined as an experiment as I live 20 kilometres away and thought it a gamble that anyone would travel so far but had a few visitors to my studio. This month we have a mini exhibition at the Katikati information centre. Each week a different group gets to put up a display and today I went in to do my bit. Forgot to take the camera, bother it! Anyway the ceramic doll lady had already set up on her table and put an extra doll on my table which, of course, left me with less space and crowded my area, but I am very concerned someone will pick up a scarf or wrap and knock the doll over so I've made it clear that I take no responsibility for any damage. The display does look very professional and even though its work from 6 artists it is co-ordinated and works as a unit.

I'm not fat

This has nothing to do with weaving but a friend sent one of those internet jokes and the catch phrase is: Now I know I'm not fat: I'm just short. I love it, it gives me license to eat chocolate without a conscience. I come from a family of tall people. My Mum was tall, my brothers are 6 feet as is my son, my daughter is tall-ish. But I missed the gene. I remember when I left home aged about 17 Mum had put 6 inch hems in all my clothes so they could be lengthened when I grew. It never happened.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mohair cloud

This is how the blankets start, 1.5 kilos of gorgeous fluffy mohair and 2 kilos of white 8 ply wool to make 2 blankets. I dye it all in the laundry often dip dying the warp for a painterly effect.
The skein winder on my Majacraft spinning wheel is the most wonderful gadget I have. Probably used more than the wheel is used for spinning.

I have been weaving ...

In the last week I have woven three scarves in shibori style but rather boring until they are pulled up and dyed. I have finished a piece of Theo Moorman on my table loom which was a
practise for a special project. And these warp threads

have now become this blanket with a mohair weft.

I weave these blankets double layer with a join on one side. I find it easier on my back to weave this way than stretching full width and besides this loom is only 40 inches wide which isn't really enough for a decent sized blanket. And, yes, I tie my warps on to the previous one and pull through the reed and heddles. I've always done this, I've done it on fine merino warps, silk wraps, everything. Never a problem with tangles or tension and the wear on the threads is miniscule compared with the strain every time a shaft is raised or the beater is moved. I put a cross of contrasting thread in front of the beater before cutting the project off, and with a cross in the new warp of contrasting thread, I take one thread at a time and tie an overhand knot. So long as the threads are kept flat in the crosses there is no problem with tangles.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shibori using thicker yarns

I like to weave with fine threads, TEX 74/2, 110/2 sett at 24 - 30 epi but because I was doing a little teaching of Woven Shibori I thought I should experiment using thicker yarns. This wrap, measuring 40 x 190 cm, has a warp of 8 ply knitting wool sett at 9 epi and a boucle mohair weft. As you can see it has taken the dye well though the weight of the fabric has caused the texture to flatten. The boucle loops reflect the light adding a different dimension. It was woven in a network drafted twill and the shibori resist lines follow the twill line.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saving shibori texture

A tip I was given at the Tauranga workshop to save the texture created in loom controlled shibori when laundering is to put the item in a stocking or pantihose and gently lower it into wash water. I have had a scarf sitting around here for some time because I didn't like the colours so I put it in pantihose and soaked it a short time then put it into a dyebath of weak red (about half a teaspoon of dye powder to 5 litres of water) and nearly boiling water and turned the heat source off. It absorbed just enough dye to blend all shades and now looks great. It might be an exhibition entry! The pantihose are now red also.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Knit Shibori Scarves

Recently I taught two one day workshops in Tauranga on shibori, one loom controlled and one I started calling knit shibori but it has grown and developed into dye techniques for any fabric. These three knitted scarves are from the left, pole wrapping, clamping and more pole wrapping with a twist. I intend rewrapping and dyeing the green scarf on the opposite diagonal to portray the nikau palm.
This image was taken from the deck railing outside my diningroom and kitchen. The dunes are an ever changing source of inspiration as is the sea view (Pacific ocean) in the murky distance. When this miserable winter passes and the sky turns blue again I'll post a shot of the view.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shibori scarves

I have been playing with woven shibori since reading a note about it in Bonnie Inouye's wonderful book Exploring Multishaft Design back in 2003. This year, in April, I was fortunate to travel to Ballarat in Victoria, Australia to attend a Textile Forum. I spent 5 days being tutored by Catherine Ellis, who wrote the book, Woven Shibori. An amazingly wonderful week which brought the information in the book to life.
I love the organic nature of this weave process. You can learn all the rules, control the weaving but once it comes out of the dye process and the resist threads are taken out you find blips in the lines, uneven dye distribution, etc. As my Mum used to say when she opened the pottery kiln, you have to learn to like what you get.

You will notice the diamond pattern on these scarves. In Maori this is called patiki or patikitiki
meaning flounder; the designs are based on the diamond shape of the flounder fish. This design acknowledges the fact that Maori women were always looking for ways to supplement their food supplies even in the dark when the flounder came, when their men were sound asleep.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Beginning

I get so much enjoyment from reading other blogs I thought it time I shared some of my adventures in the fibre world.
My main fibre occupation (read addiction), at present, is weaving. I also have two active knitting machines (several more under the bed), a spinning wheel, bundles of knitting needles, crochet hooks and a sewing machine. I weave on an 8 shaft floor loom and a 16 shaft mechanical dobby and love creating fine wraps, scarves and mohair blankets. I prefer natural fibres, mainly wool and especially our New Zealand merino which I dye myself.
I do a lot of work for a shop in Auckland so will not always be able to share with you the designs I do for Pauanesia. I also have work in Inspirit Gallery near Hamilton.