Fiber & Cats

When looking through my digitized slides and photographs the other day, I came across a bunch of silly cat pictures… If you have cat/s, you know that they love fiber and must be in the center of it all, supervising or testing. For you cat lovers, here are some of our kitties over the years including a bit of history of my life creating textiles…

These are the kittens we called Big Boy, Little Boy and Caraway. We brought their mother, who was hugely pregnant, in from our apartment complex parking lot and she had these 3 before we’d even decided what to do! (Kept Caraway, and gave away the other three.) This is vintage 1970’s fiber, showing a latch hooked rug of my own design as well as a wool coiled basket. The basket was appropriated by Sassafrass (below) and never was completed.

Three kittens

And here is the very naughty Sassafrass, who was the first kitten we adopted who survived, sleeping on some wool shawls that were just off the loom. She was the Queen Bee for 19 years! She took it upon herself to nip every kitten we got after her in the ear – a sort of a I-guess-I’ll-let-you-stay marking.

Sassafrass on a shawl

We’ve had many cats who like to sit on the loom on whatever piece is in progress. This is Caraway on my first set of looper rugs. She was always a tiny girl because her mother was so malnourished.

Caraway & looper rug

Basil was one of our dearest cats. He was a stray who wandered to our back door one cold November night and was one of the most affectionate cuddlers we’ve ever had. He is napping on a Peter Collingswood double corduroy rug in progress. Yow – whatever was I thinking??? It was a gorgeous rug but how was I planning to keep it clean with four cats? I made it to replace the latch hooked rug and it only lasted a few years until it was just too catty. (That dragging the rug on new fallen snow business didn’t work for cleaning this rug.)

Basil on double corduroy rug

Widget is sitting on the diningroom table in Shanghai, China (a poor scan of a poor photo!). On the wall behind her is one of my entirely hand-made quilts. The pattern is called nosegay and is a favorite of mine. The plain colors were dyed to match the printed fabrics, which you cannot see. The shiny bits are buttons. Widget was a wonderful cat and was good company for me (along with Schminky) when we lived in Asia. She lived in three counties and three states and spent 17 years with us.

Widget

Jasmine just likes to be in the middle of whatever project I am working on.

Jasmine quilting

Gizmo is  more of an equipment and procedure guy. He likes to get in things and sleep in them. This is a rug hooking frame!

Gizmo framed!

He also likes to make sure that I get my dyeing recipes done correctly and clean up well after I’m done.

Gizmo dyeing

This last picture has nothing to do with fiber, but I had to include it. This is Kascha, our only dog, sleeping with Schminky, her best friend. Schminky grew up with Kascha and we were fairly sure that she thought she was a dog. Kascha would run after the frisbee and Schminky would run after her and they would end up in a flying heap as Kascha tripped over her. Most nights they slept together. It was a sad day for Schminky and Peter and I when we had to give Kascha up before we moved to Asia. Schminky was never quite the same.

Kascha

I know many of you have animal helpers and couldn’t manage without their aid. I hope you’ll add a comment or link to your post of animals and fiber in your life.

Weaving a Looper Rug

I know it seems crazy for me to be starting a lot of projects, but there’s a method to my madness. First of all, the looms need to be warped so they look attractive. I find that people are always drawn to something being handwoven, and then the realtors don’t hound me to move them. Since I “work” at home, I need projects to keep me busy when waiting for the house to sell. And then when the looms are warped, I can pack up the weaving supplies. First warp is going on my big Macomber loom.

I can’t remember when I might have discovered loopers, but I have had a big box of them for years. Can you guess what they are?

Loopers

Sock ends!!! Take off your tube socks, turn them inside out and look at the toes. Imagine that end being sewn together and then for a neat edge, a machine or a person cuts off the excess – and there’s the loop. When you were a child at camp, you used smaller, probably nylon ones to weave on the potholder looms. Mine are cotton so that I can dye them. Here is the looper rug which we use by the shower. I’m thinking I wove it before we moved to Asia, which would have been about 1992. You can see it’s quite faded, and flattened, but it still feels nice underfoot.

Old looper rug

I did a little research and it turns out that you can still buy loopers! I have no idea where mine might have come from, but here are two sources. Great Northern Weaving has loopers and is an actual B&M store in Kalamazoo MI, that looks quite interesting. Cotton Clouds carries loopers too. They have been in business for many years and I used to buy lots of fibers from them. They are a great resource for cotton and I was interested to see that they have loopers. Should you want a completed rug, there are also weavers on Etsy who sell woven rugs in very pretty designs.

I dug around in a box of carpet warp looking for colors for the rugs. Here are some choices certainly influenced by the dark and dreary weather we’ve been having.

Warp choices

Surprise – {not if you read my blog a lot} – I decided to use all of those colors. Does this warp look too bright? I’ll let you decide as I show you the progress. I wound a warp for two 24″x 36″ rugs, I hope. There is a lot of take up when you weave with loopers. What that means is that the loopers are fat and fuzzy and very irregular sizes, so they take up a lot of room as you weave them.

Looper warp

Another reason for the large amount of take up is the way that the loopers are joined. If you look at the wound ball as well as the woven section below, you can see that I join the loops by knotting them together. This creates a large bump, which takes up a lot of room going under the warp. {The bumps feel really nice on your bare feet!} The knots and irregular sizes of the loopers also make it difficult to get a nice selvedge, or edge. Looper rugs are always look handmade and a bit rough and shaggy, but that’s their charm. It will be great to have a new one in the bathroom.

New looper rug

When I get the other loom warped, fabrics dyed and quilting projects re-started, then I can seriously pack up and thin the overwhelming studio. Pictures of all this to follow…