Looking Back

For several months, I’ve been more inclined to weave than to write, so the finished work has been accumulating, as have the photographs.  This post is an attempt to somewhat catch up to where I am now, so there will be lots of pictures and only a relatively minor amount of verbiage.  If you have questions about any of what you see, please comment below, and I promise to respond promptly.

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First off, a series of my designer kitchen towels, in colors unusual for the purpose.  This began as an idea for a Christmas gift for my friend Chet Sulgrove, a musician and composer, who had just bought a stunning new black guitar, and needed a unique “guitar rag” (as he calls them) that would coordinate with the new instrument.  The one pictured above is what I designed for him, liberally patterned with X’s and O’s to remind him of my fondness.  The rest of the run of nine were woven over the next month or so, repeating the same three patterns with each of three weft colors (black, medium grey, and silver grey).  I named this series Winterdawn.  Not all are pictured below.

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The photos above show all three patterns woven with black, which was the most dramatic.  The two greys are more subtle and quiet.

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The last  one above is woven with the silver grey; compare it with the one immediately above it.  Same pattern, but visibility is reduced.

Finally, I squeezed out one final somewhat skimpy towel (number 10) at the end of the warp, woven with black and a new pattern.  I think it’s spectacular.

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About half of these beauties are still available for purchase; please contact me if you’re interested.

Next up, a series of experimental pieces, all in undyed cotton, rayon, tencel, bamboo.

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No name for this crowd; they’ll go to a friend of mine for dyeing using a variety of techniques and multiple layered colors.  I’ve played off different fibers against each other, partly so we can see how the colors “take” differently on each.

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These are difficult to photograph, due to the lack of contrast in the warp and weft yarns; getting just the right angle with the light and the cloth is an exercise in patience.

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Each of these has a different weft yarn, and a different pattern.  It was a pleasure to play around with all the changes, watching how the different elements interacted without the aspect of color entering into the equation.

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This is the second group of these white-on-white pieces I’ve done in the last six months; there will likely be two more before year’s end, each substantially different from this batch and the first one.  It’s a reminder to me of how vast are the possibilities available with the simple process of threads intersecting at right angles to each other.

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The use of a very bumpy, shiny rayon thread in the warp makes this series more interesting than it might otherwise have been; that rayon will absorb the dye excellently, so the colors will be intense, accentuating the textural effect.

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After this crowd, I whipped out Terrarose, a series of three scarves on a hand-dyed bamboo warp.  As usual, I changed the weft yarn and the patterning for each one, and for two of these, aimed for quiet subtlety.  The colors are warm and soft, the patterns more complex than they appear at first glance, and the drape and flow of the finished cloth is delectable.

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You may be able to see that the pattern is asymmetrical, one of my favorite design practices.

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These three scarves are available for purchase, along with quite a few others.  My next Open Studio Day is Saturday, July 8; you can see them here at my studio, and take your favorite home with you.  I also invite you to take a self-guided garden tour (see previous blog post for enticement), which will give you an idea of where some of my inspiration arises, and where some of my design aesthetic has played out.

 

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Meandering

It has been a particularly lush Spring here on Whidbey Island, after what I’m told was a wetter-than-normal Winter, with enough cold spells to kill many nasty bugs and to energize most of the trees and shrubs.  It’s a good week for a stroll around the garden, so I thought you’d like to come along with me.

Welcome.  This is what we see as we come through the garden gate (which is crowned with masses of Dutch Honeysuckle not yet in bloom) ~

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The primary feature of this garden, which takes up most of the half-acre lot, is foliage.  Many colors, textures, shapes, and densities.  It was planned to have as much four-season interest as possible, so there’s also the feature of beautiful bark and structure on many of the trees and some of the shrubs, as well as quite a lot of bamboo (about 40 species and cultivars) which in this climate is evergreen.  At the left of the above photo is a tall green-stemmed timber bamboo called ‘Vivax’, and at the other end of the garden is a gold-stemmed one.  Both are invasive and require vigilant control.

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Now for a bit of floriferousness, at its best this time of year.  I’ll give you names where I know them, but many things long since lost their tags, and I no longer fret about not knowing.  The little rose above is one of a small collection of miniatures I’ve placed on the front steps; it’s the first to bloom, but the others are hot on its pretty heels.

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That’s a cultivar of Iris confusa, an unusual species that prefers dryish part-shade.  They’re a bit shy, and the foliage often looks rather ratty, but the flowers, though not showy, are beautifully marked and formed.

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Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’.  I think.  In the background, Baptisia ‘Twilight Prairie Blue’ almost ready to burst into bloom.

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Clematis with forgotten name growing through a shrub rose.

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It’s fragrant.  All my roses are (except the miniatures), otherwise why have them?

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This exquisite iris was a surprise when it showed up a few days ago.  I don’t know what it’s called, and I can’t remember where or when I got it.  And I love it.

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This is the first hanging tender fuchsia I’ve had in over 30 years.  Maybe more.  It’s the sweetest thing, and the hummingbirds are frequent visitors.

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The property is entirely (except for two fancy iron gates) surrounded by a six-foot fence composed of wire interwoven with bamboo poles.  It’s a perfect support for scores of climbing viney plants, chief among them a number of Clematis, both species and hybrids.

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This beauty is ‘Multi-Blue’; it blooms double like this early, and usually again late in the Summer as a single.  Rarely heavy with flowers, but oh so special.

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One of the Polish clematis hybrids. Very floriferous, very happy, with its feet in shade and its head in the sun.

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A blowzy, fragrant, unnamed yellow tree peony reaching through the fence, accompanied by Clematis ‘Kiri Te Kanawa’.

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Up close and personal with the tree peony.  Luscious creature!

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A look at the canopy in the northeast corner as we leave through the gate.  The Dogwood grove is coming into full bloom, the Vivax towers in the rear, the golden leaves of Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’ glow to the right, and in the foreground a romp of wisteria and honeysuckle cover the fence almost completely, while a few Gingko leaves nudge their way into view on the left.

Thanks for coming along.  In a few days, we’ll have a look at some of the work I’ve been doing during the Spring, while the garden has been burgeoning.

 

 

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Phoenix Rising

 

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You see above one of three summer scarves, woven in a fine Italian cotton.  Bright, almost gauzy, slightly lustrous, perfectly in keeping with the warm brilliance of Summer days and clear nights.

More about these, and plenty more, tomorrow.  Till then . . . .

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Glimpses

It’s been an unconscionably long time since I showed up here.  The second half of Summer, all of Autumn, and half of Winter have passed through and around me; finally I’m settling back into the quiet time of year when writing and thinking takes precedence over worky-worky.  It’s a relief.

I completed a record amount of work in 2016, some of which you’ve seen.  Today I’m giving you a lot of photos which show some of the rest though not all.  If you’re interested in purchasing something, contact me in a comment, and I’ll reply via email if you give me the address.  You can also find me on Facebook; look for RainShadow Textiles.

Here’s to a productive, satisfying, active year for us all.

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(It occurs to me, as I look at the above photos, that all those pieces and others in the same series, are sold.)

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The above white-on-white series are part of a collaboration I’m working on with another weaver/dyer.  They are not for sale, but if the idea of this kind of subtlety tickles your fancy, I can certainly do something like them as a special order.

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The two pieces above are part of a series of three scarves, in rayon and tencel.  Shimmering and fluid.  All available.

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The first of the above three was a custom table runner; the other two (more clearly different in reality) are scarves, a bit wider than the norm.  Rayon, tencel and hemp, with subtle texture and a lovely sheen.  Both are still available.

And to whet your appetite for the next time, there’s a new series of designer kitchen towels fresh off the loom.  Here’s a sneak preview ~

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Till soon . . . .

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Slow Slog

One of the closely-held secrets of life on Whidbey Island is that the summers are generally quite wonderful.  Meteorology Professor Cliff Mass at the University of Washington says that July 9 is the true beginning of the season here, and my own observations tend to agree.  What that means is that visitors swarm here during July and August, when the chance of rain is astonishingly low and the likelihood of sunshine on any given day is close to 100%.  (We try never to share this information.)  Tourists, families, friends, relatives, curious explorers —  we see roughly double the normal population through the weeks of these two months.

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Historically, there has been little of that impinging on my own life, but this year has so far been an exception to that pattern.  The past few weeks have been quite the mad social whirl — sister and niece for several days, then a short respite, friends from Florida for a few days, another short respite, and friends from British Columbia this past week.  And while none of them have stayed with me, still the process of juggling visiting and normal daily life has slashed away at loom time.  Nonetheless, there’s been sporadic action on the weaving front, with something to show for it.

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This run of ten designer towels is named “Good Vibrations”, for reasons which may or may not be apparent.  It began as a discussion last fall with Kathrin Weber (Blazing Shuttles dyer) about weaving her a towel that would echo the colors in her North Carolina kitchen.  Eventually, she dyed her signature ringspun cotton in those colors and sent two 200-thread warps off to me.  I was not enthusiastic about the colors, so the yarn sat for many weeks in a spot where I had to see it many times a day while I mulled over how I wanted to proceed.  Eventually the light dawned.  For accent, I added in a thick/thin mercerized cotton in a clear burgundy which is close to the color of Kathrin’s new wood stove, and at that point things finally became interesting.

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During the weeks when I was dithering, I designed a series of patterns to be used in this run of ten towels.  I call them Dancing Mountains, which actually refers to the threading sequence for the warp (lengthwise) threads.  The “line” in the draft (pattern) on the computer is similar to the jagged silhouette of a mountain range; the other half of the sequence simply turns the line upside down.  This gave me some interesting possibilities for patterns in the cloth which would “reflect” each other in reverse.  Hard to see in my photographs, since most of the weft (sideways) yarns I’m using blend with the warp.

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Those who have read these narratives for some time will remember that I’m partial to random distribution of the accent yarns I place in the warp.  For this series, I made the design decision to combine both random and carefully planned placement of the burgundy yarn.  If you look closely at the photos, you’ll see that in the center section these threads are axially symmetrical, while in the outer sections they’re random.  It was quite the exercise to work that all out.

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It was also quite the exercise to get the 10.5-yard warp consisting of three separate and significantly intertwined chains wound onto the back of the loom without breaking threads or tearing my hair.  Mission accomplished, and after the tension was adjusted and the whole thing took a nap overnight, the weaving began.

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Overall progress has been slow, accomplished in fits and starts, but the homestretch is in sight.  My original plan was to weave half of the ten with a bright red, and the other half with a bright turquoise.  After the first few, I branched out — in the end, there will be two red, three turquoise, one navy, two silver, and two black.  Makes it a lot more interesting for me on a long warp like this, and more variety for purchasers to select from.

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Contrary to my usual boredom toward the end of a series like this, I’ve stayed interested and excited as I go along.  Yesterday, I spent some time at the computer before beginning to weave, and designed two additional patterns on this threading, one of which I’ll use.  The other will be saved for another time, another application.  The combination of these strong colors, which seemed almost harsh to me at the outset, has become pleasing, thanks in great part to the areas of soft grey and warm magenta.

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The last two will be woven with black and turquoise, respectively.  I expect you can see from the photos that — as is my norm — no two pieces are the same.  If you think any of them want to hang in your kitchen, or the kitchen of a friend, please let me know in the comments section below.  Kathrin gets first dibs; after that, it’s a free-for-all, and you wouldn’t want to miss out!

 

 

 

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Sumer Is Icumen In

Here on Whidbey Island, though we had some unseasonable foretaste of summer a few weeks ago, the summer season doesn’t truly ramp up till about July 9, according to Professor Cliff Mass of the University of Washington Meteorology  Department.  The Independence Day holiday is often cool and cloudy, even rainy.  This is, after all, the Maritime Northwest, and that pattern greatly pleases many of us old hands.  But June is on its way out, temperatures and hours of sunlight are increasing slowly while hours of overcast are diminishing.  It’s coming!

One of the perennially puzzling seasonal patterns I notice is that often my weaving output slows down even as the season heats up.  I’ve never been able to understand why, but it’s quite consistent.  May this year was extremely productive; June has been far less so — though truth be told, I had lots of “daily life” matters to catch up on after the intense work last month.

Following is a look at part of what I finished up then — a series of three sinuous shimmery scarves which began with a hand-dyed yarn from Blazing Shuttles called “Midnight Treasures”.

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I added in a solid pearl cotton in a warm coral rose to lighten the overall effect; those threads were distributed randomly through the main textured tencel threads.  This first scarf is woven with a deep purple tencel, which accentuates the lighter tones of the warp threads.

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In this up-close-and-personal shot, you can see the individual threads, with an idea of how the colors interact and how the weft (crosswise) threads dance across the warp threads, creating pattern.

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The second scarf has a much more complex pattern, this time woven with a greyed  teal tencel.  It wasn’t till I was finished with this series and had taken them off the loom that I realized that, though they were woven on my traditional (mechanical) loom rather than the big computer-assisted one, I was still working with fancy long-repeat patterns.  It’s much more challenging on this loom, but that’s part of the fun for me, and the results are well worth the extra effort.

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In this detail shot, you can again see the interlacing of the threads, and get an idea of how I balanced the pattern across the width of the scarf.

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The third scarf gave me an opportunity to go lighter with the weft yarn, in this case a medium lavender tencel called “Hummingbird”.  With the very fancy patterning and the softer tones of both warp and weft, this one has a kind of baroque effect.  I love it.

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I don’t know about you, but it always fascinates me to see how the threads intersect and — even under tension while still on the loom — shift the spacings, creating tiny curves among themselves.

These scarves are much darker “in the flesh” than they appear in these well-lit photos, with a subtle radiance that plays up the patterns nicely.  I named this series “Dark Magic”; they are indeed magical.

You can see them in person at my Summer Open Studio Day on July 9, along with a considerable cadre of other recent (and older) work.  Or you can order one directly by sending me a message in the comment section below.

 

 

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Floriferous

After a very mild Winter with plenty of rain, we’ve had a Spring that’s been unusually warm (even hot at times) and dry.  These conditions have combined to good effect for the garden, which is astonishingly lush and flowery this year.  It seemed friendly to share it with you. Lots of photos to follow.

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Spirea ‘Golden Carpet’

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(The roses all have names, but I’m not going to look them up.  Just enjoy!)

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Perennial foxglove (Digitalis)

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Clematis ‘Henryi’

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Styrax japonicus ‘Carillon’

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Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’ (in full bloom)

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Trochodendron aralioides  (Japanese Wheel Tree)

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Cotinus obovatus ‘Grace’ in full bloom

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Cornus kousa, un-named Clematis, Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ (in background)

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Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ — in shade

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Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ — in sun

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Styrax japonica ‘Pink Chimes’

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Styrax japonica  (The Styrax grove this year is astonishing — heavier bloom by f ar than ever before.  Standing beneath the trees was an exercise in heady fragrance and exquisite beauty.)

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Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’ (blooming even in the shade, though it prefers sun)

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Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina Florida’

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Looking in from the entrance gate — Trochodendron, Cotinus ‘Grace’, Parrotia persica, Fagus sylvatica purpurea, and far back on the left the Styrax grove.

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Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’  (??)

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Clematis ‘Multi-Blue’

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Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’  (??)

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Clematis (I forget the name)

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Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’ — an heirloom variety, wonderfully fragrant and fluffy.

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Dracunculus vulgaris — commonly known as Voodoo Lily or Dragon Lily

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Cornus kousa ‘Beni Fuji’

Thanks for accompanying me on this garden promenade.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it as I have.  We’ll save the rest for another time.

 

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Summer Came Early

In contrast to the usual long, wet, mostly cloudy Spring weather we have here on Whidbey Island, this year there’s been substantial sunshine and a number of days with more-than-Summer temperatures.  And significantly less rain than the norm.  My garden is astonishingly lush and gorgeous (maybe a post on that soon!), so looking out the windows or wandering through one sees a study in greens and burgundies, and experiences the pleasure of seclusion and calm.

Inside as well there’s a lot happening, as I steadily move forward with work on both looms, as well as catch up on the hand hemming of a stack of recently-finished designer towels.  Today, it’s all about the big loom.

It began with two hand-dyed skeins from Blazing  Shuttles, a colorway named Green and Gold.  One was tencel, the other bamboo; they were not identical in color, texture, or thickness.  In March, I received a postcard from the desert Southwest sent by a friend; the similarity of colors to my yarns was striking.

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Once all my calculations and design processes were completed, I was able to eke out a 12-yard long warp, enough for five scarves.  The next photo gives a better idea of how the colors looked when all the threads were measured and ready to go onto the loom.

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I set up the two yarns across the warp in an A-B-A-B-A arrangement, and used a somewhat complex twill threading which would give me lots of options for patterning.

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I’m calling this series “Summer Meadow”; it’s not hard to see why.  The weaving is going smoothly and pleasurably — I completely love this warp, these colors, the luster and gleam of the yarns, and (contrary to how I often get tired of the whole thing on a long warp like this) I’m continuing to enjoy it all.  Only one more to weave now, so it’ll all be finished in a couple of days.  Here are the first four ~

#1, woven with hunter green tencel ~

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#2, woven with soft yellow tencel (called “straw”) ~

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#3, woven with yellow-green tencel (called “lemongrass”) ~

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#4, woven with sky blue tencel (called “azure”) ~

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The final one will be woven with a soft terra-cotta tencel (called “adobe”), in an as-yet-undetermined pattern.  I already know it’ll be my favorite.

The next batch of work on this loom will be another series of designer kitchen towels, in an interesting combination of bright red, turquoise, burgundy and grey.  The small loom right now has a series of three scarves in process, about which more next time.  They’re luscious!

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Ancient Elements (minus one)

In my last blog post (Vignettes), I was just beginning to weave a new series of designer kitchen towels.  Getting started on them had been a long slow process, as I was not inspired by the colors I was going to be working with.  There’s a little backstory here to explain that, since most of you probably know that ordinarily I choose the colors for virtually everything I weave.  This time was different.

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Last October, I was the organizer for a weaving retreat held here on Whidbey Island, led by Kathrin Weber (Blazing Shuttles), dyer and weaver extraordinaire.  This winter, she initiated a towel swap for the members of the group, and dyed some cotton yarns in colors that were reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest.  I selected one colorway called Mount Hood, and another called Stormy Ocean.  When I got them, they seemed drab and murky to me; I was uninspired, and did nothing for a long while.  One day, in a new shipment of miscellaneous hand-dyed yarns from The Drop Spindle, there was a fat, lustrous pearl cotton in interesting colors, some of which were similar to the ones I’d gotten from Kathrin.  Eureka!! there was the accent I needed to bring the whole venture to life. In the photo above, you can see glimmers of it.

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And in this photo, they’re even more apparent.  By this stage — winding the warp onto the loom — I was delighted with how the colors and textures were interacting.  The two main yarns were in an A-B-A-B-A distribution across the 22.5-inch width of the warp, and at no point were there similar colors adjacent to one another.  There were some very interesting combinations that emerged, and through it all the shiny thicker accent yarn kicked everything up another notch.  I loved it all!

The title — Ancient Elements — came from my impression that the yarn colors represented the land, the sea, and the sky here in this region (no fires west of the Cascade Range, and the volcanic beginnings are long in the past).  The ancients believed that the fundamental elements of the world were earth, air, fire, and water — so my towels used that nomenclature.  Here they are (photos taken during the weaving process) ~

Air #1 ~

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Water #1 ~

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Earth #1 ~

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Air #2 ~

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Water #2 ~

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Earth #2 ~

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Water #3 ~

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Two of these were sent off today to Kathrin in North Carolina for the towel exchange, another was sent to its new owner in Florida, and the rest have been purchased by Washingtonians.  Needless to say, my early reservations and hesitations were for naught.

 

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Vignettes

Ten days ago, on Saturday, I hosted my 2016 Spring Open Studio Day, for visitors to come to my home/studio and observe the weaving process, ask questions, chat with others, view and purchase finished work.  Busy day, and lots of fun for all parties though yours truly was truly fatigued at the end of the day.

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Like I say . . . . had a good time.

All the photographs in this post were taken by my friend Danette Sulgrove,  so I could have a record of the day but keep my nose to the grindstone.  Lots of pictures follow, with minimal explanation.

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Cheap toilet paper, ready to be woven in as a “header” at the beginning of the entire process ~

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Adjusting the lashing to even the warp tension across the width.

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Searching for a threading error, with kibitzer ~

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Error correction in process ~

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Weaving underway ~

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Border done, and on into the patterned portion ~

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It was, as I said, a good day.  There’ll be another — the Summer one — on Saturday, July 9.  Perhaps you’ll be able to join me.

 

 

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