All posts by Penny Peters

Finding the Courage

I have talked about learning to sew for several years and I kept putting it off.  It would be an investment in time, money, and I would have to find yet another space for another craft.  Our CA bungalow only stretches so far!  I had some very good excuses.

My friend Bettes came through Berkeley not too long ago and stopped for a day to visit, a total delight.  She wanted to make a pilgrimage to the local fabric store and I went with her.  I dunno, I was there, I wanted to do it, I finally signed up for classes.

After starting the first project, thinking that this vest was going to cost in the neighborhood of way too much, I began to have second thoughts.  I am too old to learn a new craft.  It takes a good ten years to become proficient, blah blah, blah.

Then I came across this article in the New York Times Magazine.  Scroll down and you see a picture of an elderly woman  intent on a canvas.   Hmmmm, she started selling her paintings at the age of 89.   But I read too fast and thought she started painting at the age of 89.  No matter.  She started something.  If she could start at 89, well, surely I can start at 70.  It was inspiring.

First vest is almost done.  I even think it will fit.

Trial and Error

I thought I was putting on 4 yards for potholders.  I mean, how many does any person need?  After winding on a few sections and winding and winding, I finally looked at the warping wheel.  oh.  I failed to move the arms to a different position so the warp became a 6 yard warp.   Well, the purpose of the project was to use some excess 8/2 cottton.

Trying to visualize the drawdown in a computer program was near impossible.  The color rotation was annoying to create, and because the fabric is sooooo warp faced, I could not see if treadling would produce the pattern I wanted.  Too many little white areas.  Just didn’t work.

First attempt


OK, first attempt at treadling what I thought would work, um, no.

Second Attempt

Better, but not what I had in mind.

Hmm, maybe I should actually look at what the threads are doing on the loom instead of random guessing.  This is the one time I wish I were working on a loom with treadles instead of the computer driven loom, just a bit easier (read lazy) to improvise treadling sequences.

Final pattern

Ah, that was the key! Looking to see what threads were actually being lifted on any given pick.

Several wefts were tried, several ways of beating it in were also tried.  I finally ended by using two shuttle of mop cotton and beating once both were inserted into the shed,  I was very concerned while weaving these that they would not be thick enough to be useful potholders but that was not the case, they work fine.

With a 6 yard warp I thought I would have somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 potholders.  Another oh.  I forgot about take up.  That thick weft took the number down to about 18.

I have some happy friends but I don’t want to weave these again.  If you want one, buy it from Erica Pfister, she does a great job on them.

Weaving with Friends

This is a post about organizing regional gatherings for weavers, specifically, members of Complex Weavers.

It must have been sometime in August when I learned that Bhakti Ziek would be coming to the San Francisco area in January.  I started a conversation with Bhakti immediately about subject matter, target audience, etc.  We decided on a two pronged approach, one for experienced Photoshop users and one for those who are curious about the process.   I then needed to alert and lure as many as possible to take these workshops to cover the cost of the venue, the teacher and travel.  I provided housing for Bhakti, one of the best advantages of organizing!  I had the membership list from CW, access to the Yahoo list for Northern CA, the CW website and newsletter, and our guild newsletter.

Finding a venue in this area is not for the faint of heart, especially at the prices we want to pay, but I did find one, 5 minutes from home for the 2 day advanced class.  That venue needed to be close to a hotel, restaurants, transportation.  The one day event took place at our regular guild venue in San Francisco, no special requirements. All that is left to do is set the price based on a simple budget, and then follow up with details..

The reward?  A great class, learned a lot, brought a wonderful group together who mentioned the possibility of the “first annual…”.



The one day group was in fact two groups, AM a larger number who were introduced to Bhakti’s work, the PM group, a subset of people who wanted to see how Photoshop works for weavers.  They were too busy to get a photo!

One more reward, woven by Bhakti.

Bhakti's weaving



Several months ago I decided that I wanted to know if it was practical to use the structure Beiderwand for my fine thread warps.  It is not a commonly used block structure and does not appear on every block substitution list in weaving programs.   I knew it was a compound weave, used extensively for bed curtains in Germany centuries ago.

Rummaging through my own books I found a number of definitions of Beiderwand (which is why I am not attempting to define it here), but not that little clue that I wanted.  The answer! Complex Weavers Library.  Of course!   It is an amazing resource for members.   The librarian, Tim Flint (yet another incredible Complex Weaver volunteer!), sent me a marvelous box, 2 sets of samples and a monograph I would not have found elsewhere.


Now, who could not be fascinated with what is beyond a cover like that?  And the samples were equally as interesting.

I have not decided on if or when I will use this structure.  I am busy procrastinating on threading the darn potholder warp.



Maybe by Next Christmas?


Really?  some people don’t like the internet? or at least the technology that it entails.  Ah, but what a joy this last month.  I have heard from several people since I wrote about these potholders, including the lovely Gretchen Mueller whose potholder was the impetus for this whole project.

There was a lot of thinking through to be done. What yarn?  Erica did not say anything about size when I posted to her. I thought 5/2 was used and believed I had some, but no,  on inspection, it was 10/2.  But I did have a stash of varying amounts of 8/2.  Maybe a double strand would work.  In fact Gretchen used a 8/4 carpet warp.  Sett,  go with experience, so I adapted the numbers Erica gave me.   Now how to get it on the beam.  No way was I going to put the draft from Photoshop into a weave draft.  I printed out the PS design and marked it in 7 card sequences for each inch for beaming with my warping wheel, back to front.  If you think I came to this as quickly as I wrote it… how I wish!

See previous post for what it looks like today, still a lot of progress to me made before I start thinking about all the problems I should have already solved!

A Day in the Life of Looms 2015

Only one loom, I don’t know how other people keep track of more than one!  I had a treadle loom once upon a time, but when I started weaving with the electronic lift I found I could not go back and forth from loom to loom, kept losing that  kinesthetic memory.

What will it be?  Good question.  I hope those potholders I mentioned earlier.  Been a slog to get this on the loom.  A new respect for Gretchen Muller and Erica Pfister!

Happy New Year from ever sunny California, may your looms sing/zing/ all year.



Experimenting, not my thing

Many years ago, (20?) I bought some potholders from Gretchen Muller.  I have had no contact with her since that purchase.


Grody! Of course!  I have used this for all those years, happily.

Then, for some reason never to be remembered, as I surfed the web, I found these:



Really?  Can’t be just happenstance.   And in fact, Gretchen taught Erica Pfister how to weave these. and she has them for sale.  Go buy!

I was enchanted, I want to weave them myself.  So I emailed Erica. She has graciously given me some hints and i have done a little research.  The patterns came from Mary Meigs Atwater, Byway in Handweaving, and I have found them also in Le Tissage aux Cardons.  The translation is available here from Barbara Shapiro, an incredible San Francisco artist.

So the problem is how to move them from a four hole card weaving draft to a shaft loom draft.  There are hints.  Erica gave me a few, as did an article in Handwoven.  Nov/Dec 1999  First Dinner Party, Cardweaving Patterns for Placemats by Triinu Kartus.

You can see that color is the key.  Another use for Photoshop! Who knew?  So I have designed, or rather emulated a design, from the masters and came up with this.

ankh in 90 cards reduced



Now I have to translate this diagram to a weaving draft, figure the sett, very very close, and see if the loom will lift the shafts.  Now, did these wonderful weavers worry about the direction of the threading, 1-2-3-4 vs 4-3-2-1 or not?  and the warping will be a royal annoyance with all the color changes.  Hmmm.

Stay tuned.  It could take awhile.


For Luddites

Complex Weavers library is a great source of information.  I know nothing about Beiderwand and most of the folks I know don’t have a clue either but!  CW has a treasure trove of samples and even a pamphlet devoted to that structure.  I have had the materials for more time than I should have, but the time has allowed me to absorb the information (I think, I have not woven it yet),  There are two sets of samples, one from 1980 and another from 2010.   So what has happened in the interim?  Computers!  Computer weaving programs, computer driven looms.  No more point paper.  No more dobby bars.  Freedom, well relatively speaking.  I tried copying just a small part of one of the sample pages.  Really.  It was painful and this little piece took me about 15 minutes.  Remember I was copying, no original thought.

photo (2)

I left a lot of the little erasure marks for your edification (and mine).  There is no threading here, no plan to show how is is made into Beiderwand.  It must have taken hours to prepare drafts.  I can appreciate profile designs on a new level now, so much easier to just fill in a profile and define the blocks. etc etc etc.

Redone in a computer program it looks like this

computer profile

and it didn’t take as much time by half.  Plus!  now all I have to do is ask the program to put it into Beiderwand.  What’s not to like?  It looks neat to boot.

But that does not mean I don’t see a need for pen and pencil.  My friend Carla Gladstone spends hours doodling to come up with wonderful designs with just lines.


In Between, or what to do next

The warp is off the loom, 2 scarves, and 1 piece that will become a small bag, are washed, pressed, waiting for finishing.   I was trying to recapture a piece woven in 2006. It was a fluke that it was ever woven.  Really, would you try this?  Looked totally ugly and I only had a small amount of warp left.  What could I lose in just trying it?  It’s the background in the header above.  Loved it.

Mult tabby draft

Not that I keep records but I was pretty sure the 60/2 silk was sett at 48 epi, so I just launched into weaving, testing colors.  Settling on a 60/2 slate blue (the reds just were soooo dominant) I slogged through ten inches and thought, my, this is taking a long time.  Details.  The 60/2 was weaving at 70 picks per inch (dominant reds, duh.).  Yea, that takes awhile.  Determined, I did finish that one scarf.  Did I want to resley?  No.  I just used a fatter yarn, this time a cashmere in black, and I changed the treadling.  Then, for the last stretch of the warp I chose a 10/2 cotton, knowing it would be a much less drapable fabric.  There was just enough warp to make a small bag.  Did it turn out as I pictured? No, because there was not enough warp that Nancy Roberts had dyed for me  a black silk was used as every other warp thread.  That really toned down the warp colors.

Black cotton weft
Black cotton weft

Cashmere weft
Cashmere weft

Slate blue weft
Slate blue weft

Should I finish the bag?   That means getting into inkle weaving and I am a pure novice.  Black hole of time.  How about ignoring the finishing for now and instead turning to kumihimo and make a braid for the lovely ornament I bought on Sunday–the yarn is from my beloved stash.


Or…. I could work on the ??? projects that are sitting on the work table waiting for idle hands, the lampas pillows, or the silk cardweaving, or the cotton top in 4 color double weave……

I think I’ll eat lunch.

It Looks Frustrating

The warp was on the beam for a week before I had the stamina to sit down and tackle threading and sleying.  Still new at blogging, I forgot to take a pic of the warp behind the heddles.  It was gloriously chaotic, those pesky ends from the knitted blank love to curl and tangle.   I did manage to get a shot once the warp was threaded to give you a sense of the task.


Yes, I use the “threading via treadling”  threading method ala Ingrid Boesel and I did have a one by one cross.  As the threads hang on the lease sticks at the back,  waiting for their turn to slip into the correct heddle, they rather like to “talk” to each other.  Then once through the heddles, they can easily curl back, wind around the adjacent heddle or thread, all kinds of mischief.  That means that sleying has to be done slowly and carefully, making sure the order is maintained.  Peggy Osterkamp says “The only thread that cannot tangle is one under tension”.  I am not sure if that is original to her, may have been a Jim Ahrens maxim, but I heard it from Peggy.   I think of it every time I work with one of Nancy Roberts’ knitted blanks.

Slow and steady, eventually conquering the warp, feels empowering.  (OK a bit of an exaggeration but not my much!)