A Studio Tour

Some of you have asked about my studio. It’s always the last area I work on; my first focus is getting the house livable for us and Peter settled in his home office. But here are some updates on my favorite spot!

Our last two homes had immense basements and so my studios had a ridiculous amount of space. This house has a very large crawl space which is not “climate controlled”, so although we can store things there, it isn’t useable for any of my things. There is a tiny attic which probably is 150 degrees in the Summer heat. So we are back to using bedrooms for my studio and Peter’s office. The studio is in what Realtors love to call “the bonus room”; a name which annoys me no end. I always have to ask “does that mean we aren’t going to pay for it?”. It’s a silly name. But it’s a large space with full-sized ceilings. Because the second story of our house has dormers, two of the bedrooms have crazy walls and ceilings. The bonus room has proper ceilings and so my many sets of shelves fit in here well.

Here is a funny space in the studio. It’s hard to photograph as it is too bright in the morning (faces East) and too dark in the afternoon. It is like a little stage, with three stairs going up to it. It seemed the perfect spot for my office area.

Empty stage

But – I measured and my desk set didn’t fit. I have a corner piece and then a long piece and I kept measuring and it was so close. Finally one day we just hauled the pieces up the stairs and amazingly they fit, although about an inch of one leg is over the edge… I’m sure it will be fine. Hooray! With the shutters open, this is my view! Isn’t it lovely?

Office view

I do think these shutters are coming off. They don’t open well and you can see that they take up valuable desk space.  And it’s desk space that I am going to have to save for special visitors to supervise and nap!

Gizmo sleeping

Here is the main area after the move. Scary, isn’t it? You can see that there is one huge closet under the roof (with two doors) that is going to be very wonderful with a lot of space that I can use.

Studio after the move

I am making progress, though perhaps it’s not obvious! Almost all my Ikea shelves have found a spot, which is a relief. I am one of those people who need to see their supplies. If a fabric or yarn is in a box, I may as well throw it away. In this picture you can see the little “stage” where my office area is. Also, if you look carefully at the “sewing area” you will see that there is another closet behind it. I want Peter to take down the door because it takes up too much space. Then I will back up the sewing table a bit more.

Studio a

Here’s another view, standing in the office area. The blank wall between the two closet doors is going to be the design wall. I’m not sure where the standing Elfa baskets will go. They are on wheels, so perhaps they will just move around. I am very pleased that the floor is wooden, so my chair and the sewing table and the baskets can be easily pushed. And – pins won’t get imbedded in a carpet and stab bare feet!

More studio

Years and years ago, I had a bedroom studio with two looms and a desk squeezed into it and – we had to take off the door and the moldings to get the big loom in. I sewed at the diningroom table and had to clean up for dinner. Fine for a beginning quilter but not now. In this house, the Macomber has her own room! It’s a funny, window-less space but the loom fits – barely……otherwise she would have had to be in the livingroom.

Loom room

Now I have to bear down and get things unpacked and then arranged. I am so anxious to really begin to work again. It’s been forever…..

Ready to Walk On…..

As I was warping the loom for the looper rugs at the beginning of the year, I remember thinking about when the house would finally be on the market and how many months I would have to complete the rugs. In a small part of my brain, I thought “I hope I have to hurry!”.  And that is just what happened – I had to rush to get them done so I could dismantle the loom. Luckily, weaving the fat sock tips goes very quickly and they were done in no time.

Weaving loopers

Tying the fringe is exciting because it means I am about to cut the project off, but it’s tricky making sure that the rug doesn’t ravel. Deciding what edge to weave on such a thick rug is tricky and nothing looks great…..

Tying fringe

Unwinding a woven warp is pretty fun! And looking at this picture, I am so glad that I kept my Macomber loom. Because of its size and weight (maple and cast iron make for a very heavy piece of furniture) this was always the loom I thought that I should sell. Over the years of debate, Peter has always said that this was the one I should keep, and he was right. It is/was my dream loom and I can create anything I want on it. I’ve recently been inspired by Jo, who is new to weaving and full of excitement over what she’s doing. She’s been weaving overshot, which is a pattern family I used to love to weave. My Macomber has 12 harnesses and in weaving speak, that means I can create some pretty complex patterns.

Two looper rugs

Despite all that was going on, the cats did find time for a quality check. They too were surprised at how flat the old bathroom rug had become.

Quality checking

The new rugs feel so wonderful underfoot. We are looking forward to putting them on the bathroom floor very soon.

Settlement is in a week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Color Block Runners are Completed

And my Schacht Spindle loom is gone….

I can’t quite remember when I bought this loom but I bet I’ve had it for 30 years. It’s a great loom but really, I don’t need two. I always thought that I should keep the Schacht Spindle loom, because it’s smaller, but Peter always thought that I should keep the big Macomber, which you can see in the back. He’s right; the Macomber was my dream loom – it has 12 harnesses and is so heavy that I can weave anything on it. When we settle in our next house I’d like to get back to weaving complex weaves. But back to selling the Schacht Spindle; I couldn’t be happier. I listed it on a local weaver’s guild’s site and got two e-mails within a week. The first one turned out to be a young lady about to graduate from The Art Institute School and she adores weaving! She brought a friend with her whose  love is beading and stitchery and has been accepted into the graduate school there. To say that I was talking to two “of my own kind” was putting it mildly! The young lady was so excited that she said she wasn’t able to sleep the night before. Wow. Perhaps it didn’t matter who bought my loom, but I’m still smiling about the delight on her face. I remember being her….

Farewell loom!

You may remember that I put  on a long warp on for color block rag runners and luckily had been weaving a bit each day, so the warp was almost done. Before I cut them apart and washed them, I spread the runners on the studio floor to admire.

A lot of runners

I wove two runners in a check pattern, working on the color block idea. It seems like it would be quite easy to do, but it’s not. When you weave, the warp is wound very tightly on the loom, so the warp is stretched out. Then the rags take up some space. To guesstimate whether you’ve actually woven a square, you need to loosen the warp and measure and make sure that the check is actually more of a rectangle. When the runner is washed, it shrinks a bit as well. I did fairly well on this runner.

Color block runner

It’s always fun to just weave randomly without all the measuring need for checks. All in all, I’m happy with the runners. I’m not sure if they will be on display when the house is listed, but they will definitely get lots of use next Fall, wherever we may be.

Random rag runner

Color Block Woven Runners

I know it seems crazy for me to be starting a lot of projects, but there’s a method to my madness. The looms are always a bit of a problem when the house is on the market. They do collapse a bit, but they are large and are not something that we will take to the storage place. The best idea is to warp them and have something pretty to look at – they are great pieces of furniture. An then they are warped, I can pack up a lot of the weaving supplies.

This is a rag runner that I made several years ago. Sitting on it is our Dansk wedding china. Even after all these years, I still love it and am so happy to get it out every winter. I like this runner and thought I would make more runners or some placemats. I like to use runners around the house in the Fall and Winter .

Dansk china

Here are the colors I used for the last warp, in the order that I used them. They were nice, but nothing exciting. I have a box of cotton rug warp and I dug through it to see what I might have with more contrast.

Previous warp

And these are the choices. I dreamed up some interesting weaving/color plans and then on the day I started to wind the warp I thought “keep it simple”. {This should be my mantra for the forseeable future!} And honestly, there really is not much sense in threading a complicated pattern and then weaving a variety of busy fabrics through it. The pattern won’t end up showing much.

All the choices

This is called a warping reel with part of the warp on it. It’s a great tool but takes up a lot of space.

Warping reel

Here is the warp ready to put on the loom. I decided to use almost all of the possibilities in a color block sort of design. I can weave randomly, or in stripes or I can try for checks.

Color block runner warp

Ta da – – -Now that I am finished making warps, the warping reel comes apart for easy storage, moving and transport.

Collapsed warping reel

This little Schacht Spindle loom is for sale, so a rag runner warp will be a good thing for prospective buyer to test drive the loom. I’m weaving away on the runners so I won’t mind cutting the warp off at a moment’s notice.

Schacht Spindle loom warped

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?


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…

Weaving the Christmas Runners!

Late afternoon and early evening are times when I am restless and can easily get into some trouble – like noshing in the kitchen, so I have been working at the during those times. Here is the warp all ready to weave. Looks a lot tidier now, doesn’t it? This is an important step as it (hopefully) gets the threads evenly tightened. 18″ looks very wide for placemats or a runner, but there is take-up when you weave. That means that the selvedges (edges) pull in. There will be strips of fabric woven through the warp, which also takes up space. And finally – when you wash a newly handwoven item, it shrinks as well, so you have to figure all this in. I will use these as runners in the center of a table and also as a placemat/runner for the two of us. Years ago, I determined that I liked a wide mat so the plate and napkin and glass have plenty of room to sit on the mat. Don’t you hate it when your glass tips over because the mat is too small?

{And now, for those of you who are quilters or sew garments, can you see why the length of the fabric is so strong?  It is literally one length of thread. Next strongest is the width or the weft.}

I use my trusty rotary cutter to cut the rag strips. For rag rugs, I like a thick piece of fabric, but for anything I use on a table, I cut 1.5″ widths. And then comes the fun part – seeing how all these crazy fabrics I collect will look when they are all squashed up in the mats. I used to use a rag shuttle for the weaving, but now I prefer to have a basket with all the strips of cotton in it. Then I pick and choose what fabric to weave next. And these are not quilting fabrics! Rag runners use gobs of fabric and so I go to the fabric stores with the awful cotton that feels like cardboard and is printed poorly and also wait until they go on sale. These fabrics are perfect for rag runners; all I’m looking for is good color and pattern.

Ta da! Here is one runner finished and the next one begun. The space you see in between the runners is for the fringe. At the beginning and the end of  each runner I do hem stitching. Can you see the stitching that gathers the warp threads into tidy bundles? This is perhaps overkill for rag runners, I learned to do it when I was weaving linen ones, but it’s a nice edge. It also means that when I take the woven runners off of the loom, all I have to do is carefully cut across the open threads and I am done!

This photo shows you the front beam, where the fabric is rolled up on when it’s woven. It’s exciting to see it accumulate as you work away.

I keep these mats rolled up in a Chinese cupboard and pull them out for the appropriate occasion! Here is a Summer runner that I wove to match these great (old) napkins I bought at Crate and Barrel. (This runner usually means that we are having margaritas….)

And here is a blue and white one which I use a lot on the sideboard to display my Asian blue and white collection.

It’s fun to plan these runners and collect fabrics for them.