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September Blog Weaver Spotlight!

We are so happy to share some of the beautiful work of our Online Guild members.

It is truly amazing to see where they have taken the online lessons, how they have adapted them to suit themselves and their technique. When members have the courage to change my drafts, change the colour, change anything they want… it fills my heart to overflowing.  When I see these posts on the Forum and Ravelry I know why I love my job so much and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop teaching.

So…..it is with great pleasure that I share some of the beautiful work from one or our Online Guild members.  This month we bring you Clare!

My name is Clare Cunningham (diveblue on Ravelry) and I have been a member of the guild since the first season when a friend suggested I have a look. I had started weaving a year or two before and had a couple of floor loom classes under my belt. From the beginning, I loved the pace of learning with the videos. It was also nice to get a fresh viewpoint in that first season on the mechanics of weaving. Jane’s aesthetic appealed to me from the get-go. I am a graphic designer and her clean, graphic sensibility and fearless use of color were very appealing to me.

I came to weaving by way of being an avid knitter. I loved the idea of using up my stash which had tipped the scales to the “more yarn than one can knit up in a lifetime” side. I also found the processes to be very similar. There is a catharsis to all that counting, threading, and sleying. I was once told that knitters have to be somewhat OCD and that is probably also true of weavers! I love all stages of the process, including the design work, and rarely follow a commercial draft.

I wanted to remain true to the workshop drafts and follow them to the letter, but I’ve made a few tweaks along the way, mainly for ease in winding and warping. I like to hold two threads in my hand which I find easier to keep straight in the cross when peeling threads off the lease sticks and I also like to begin and end at the same point on the board so I always hold a minimum of two threads in my hand and keep the numbers in the draft to multiples of four. I therefore have to round up or down any odd number instructions in the draft. Not very Fibonacci-esque at times but I try to keep the proportions the same. 

In the first project, the Asymmetry draft, I swapped out the red for a deep pink which was readily available in my stash, a color I knew would work well with the greys. In planning the subsequent pieces for this project I tried to make my weaving “deliberate” and have a finished piece in mind. In the past I have tended to weave to a firm plan as far as the warp and structure goes, and would then get bored, changing up the weft as I went along. I’m finding that the more intentional a project is the more I like it. I make an effort now to dial back on the randomness. This towel is woven as written: 8/2 in warp and weft and a sett of 18. 

The second piece was inspired by Swedish weaving that I had been looking at. I made use of repetitive sequences, something I keep in mind regularly these days. I find the pieces that have an asymmetry and appear to be random hold together much better with some repetition— either in the pattern of the weft or in a color turning up again later, if only briefly. It is the 8/2 cotton warp with 8/4 Maysville cotton rug warp as weft. The sett was opened up to 15 and it makes for a very thirsty bath towel. 

Below is the preliminary sketch that I “poured the detail” into. It is a division of space in 5s.

In the last piece I opened the sett up to 12 with the 8/2 cotton as both warp and weft. It is very gossamer and light as air. I tried some sampling at this sett and had great success with Zephyr Jaggerspun.

The Color and Weave sample colors were chosen from a distant memory — a woman’s outfit I saw on the street as a child. I have loved them since. Chartreuse, to my mind, is a neutral and goes with anything.

I greatly admired Jane’s shawl with the beautiful drape from the first season and I was trying to come close to its fluidity. The piece is sett at 15. The warp and the crepey green stripes in the weft are in 8/2 cotton. The rest of the weft is 5/2 bamboo. The cotton stripes shrank differently to the bamboo and look like seersucker. The bamboo was a success in achieving the drape I was after. 

I used the full draft and have to confess that I struggled with holding multiple warp threads in my hand. I had wound off a number of balls and they didn’t play well with one another! The final outcome was worth the warping struggles. The patterns are magical as they appear.

I had a great deal of fun with Parrot and loved the color play. I was missing one of the pinks and swapped it out for another blue. As I started to weave it was the colors created by the weft on top of the warp that really caught my interest. The layers of transparency added depth and the more complex and murkier the color the better. In this piece I especially like the brown, earthy tones created by those overlapping colors. 

I thought about Fibonacci numbers with all the divisions of space in the weft. This piece reminds me of the spaces on a Parcheesi board!

I had a Piet Mondrian grid in mind when I started this piece. I focused on “making squares” and planned for a pure color square of each of the warp colors as I approached from either side by using the clasped weft technique. The only color that could not be reached was the red square in the center so in this instance I used the inlay technique described by Jane in the episode. 

My favorite piece from this series is an overlay of the asymmetry sample from lesson one. There is so much saturated color in this warp that a white “zinger” seemed like the best choice. 

I find that my biggest successes are the pieces in which I’ve pushed myself to go outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes I get an idea and immediately dismiss it as being a little too “out there.” I challenge myself to follow through with these because these are the pieces that often end up being the most successful, and if not, give me the most satisfaction by way of the effort. Jane has given me the courage to take that leap!

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Weavers of Sabahar Part 4 – Heddle Fundraiser, Please Help :)

Welcome back to the last of 4 posts about the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers of Sabahar in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

If you have been following this story in previous posts, you are no doubt amazed at the cloth that comes from the looms at Sabahar. So much love and labour goes into every inch of fabric and I feel so blessed to be able to work with these artisans and help in any possible way.

The bulk of Sabahar’s business comes from international buyers outside of Ethiopia who support members of the World Fair Trade Organization of which Sabahar is a member. Kathy has a small marketing team who go to WFTO trade shows to exhibit Sabahar’s fabrics and get orders.  

While planning for my March visit Kathy asked me to help her set up a Research and Development Team with 3 of her weavers. The goal was to develop some criteria around the design process that would encourage new ideas, develop creativity and solve problems with the resources at hand.  

For someone like me who loves to sample and loves the question “what if”….. it was the perfect job. 

Our first job was to define what a R&D department does.  I explained that is pushes limits, looks for new ideas, it assumes very little and tries everything it can think of.

We started by sampling with their staple warp yarn, 40/2 cotton grown and spun in Ethiopia. My question was …”what can we do with one yarn, plain weave and a reed”.  Colour was not a problem because of those wonderful dyers you’ve met in previous posts.

Beliefs around what can be done with one single yarn are the same in Ethiopia as they are in other parts of the world.
A yarn is sett at such and such ends per inch or cm and with small variations and there they live. It was time to challenge those assumptions.

I arrived in Ethiopia armed with samples. We put our first test warp on the Jane Loom that Louet had provided to them a few years back on my first trip. We wove, resleyed, wove some more and resleyed. We used different wefts and combinations of wefts, cotton with some recently acquired wool and linen, cotton with handspun cotton and handspun silk weft, singles, doubles, triples, changed the sett again, tried clasped weft and….we learned a lot.

We washed everything, played with water temperature, gentle swish, big squoosh, hard wash, and we learned a lot.

And at the end of this first warp we had 14 different samples and everyone, including myself, learned a lot.

Kathy had a request from a buyer for linen fabric. Linen is not grown in Ethiopia but she was able to obtain several weights from a mill in India. The weavers were having a lot of difficulty working with this new yarn. It was sticky, abrading in the heddles (remember those heddles do not have an eye) and it took so long to weave. Thanks goodness there are tricks that can be learned about weaving linen and good warping techniques that are vital for its success.

The first thing we did was change the way the warp was made using only 2 ends at a time. You can see the linen cones on the steps, they travel up to a reed hung from a tree and down to the warper. No cones tipping over with this method 🙂

Degu chaining a very long and perfectly wound linen warp.

The next thing we did was open up the sett of the linen so the warp wasn’t so dense coming through eyeless heddles! The abrasion was greatly reduced and this meant that we had one very happy weaver who wove the entire warp off in two days. Fewer ends per inch, fewer picks per inch, no sticking, less abrasion…happy happy.

Our next challenge was trying to create a heavy fabric with that 40/2 cotton. We couldn’t make the cotton fatter no matter how much we fed it…so we used multiple ends as one. Another way to get a thicker fabric is to use a weave structure with a longer float. We decided to have a crack at twill.

There are always challenges, like how to turn a traditional 2 harness loom into a 4 harness loom. Kathy had asked me to bring some texsolv heddles from Canada so that is where we started. Texsolv heddles have eyes….yes….wonderful, easy to thread eyes!

We finally got everything on and the warp threaded but, we were having a heck of time getting everything balanced.

Then creativity shone its face upon us! Someone came up with the idea of using wide elastic, like the kind that hold up your undies. These elastic bands were all the same length, had the same stretch, and worked like a hot damn managing our harnesses.
So funny 🙂

Oh yeah baby, we did it 🙂

We treated 8 ends of 40/2 cotton as one end, threaded it to an alternating extended point twill (Goose Eye) then played and played. I know how to count to 4 in Amharic so I sat beside Ermais and counted out 1 und, 2 ulet, 3 zost, 4 aret for the threading and when he treadled, it became, und/ulet, ulet/zost, zost/aret, und/aret. Going backwards was a little harder but they were so patient with me and we laughed a lot when I blew it.

After we played with twill, I suggested we try other techniques on this warp. Heck, why not try denting and clasped weft..we had tried that on our first warp and it was pretty cool.

On our last day together, Ermais, Anteneh and Ayele presented our sampling to the greater body of weavers at Sabahar. They were so empowered as they shared what they had learned with their fellow weavers. These weavers will then share with the outside weavers and the learning will continue to seep beyond.

Below is Kathy Marshall, the founder and owner of Sabahar with Degu, the Weaving Production Manager.

Kathy started all of this 16 years ago in her kitchen with a basket of Eri silk worms and a dream. A dream filled with hope to make a difference in Ethiopia. She now employs over 100 artisans working at Sabahar 1 & 2 with weavers, spinners, dyers and finishers in addition to over 100 families working outside of Sabahar raising Eri silk worms, weaving and spinning. When I think of all she does every single day, I am truly overwhelmed.

The Texsolv heddles I brought made such a difference to the weavers who had them installed on their looms…however, there was only enough for 3 looms.  

It would be GREAT if all the weavers at Sabahar and the outside weavers could have texsolv heddles and guess what… We can help with that! JST has created a category on our website where you can purchase HEDDLES FOR SABAHAR. 100% of your purchase will be sent to Texsolv in Sweden so that they can supply the weavers at Sabahar with new heddles. Small gestures of many create great feats!

I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts. If life goes as planned, I will return to Sabahar again next year and share more stories with you 🙂

Love Jane

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August 2019 Newsletter

Happy August Kids!

We are enjoying such a gentle summer here on Salt Spring…not too hot, we’ve even had some rain and we are surrounded by flowers. This summer I set myself a goal to practice my photography skills and my focus is flowers. Some gals might like flowers and wine but I like flowers and silk. I gave myself a flower budget and started visiting all the different farms on the island that grow great flowers. Gaia has always been my greatest source of inspiration and she has had me jumping with joy the past few weeks. Sweet Peas and Buddleia with Old Man’s Beard, Natural, Princess Pamuk and Margaretta Violetta 🙂

Tide Pool Silk Colour Way

Flowers are not the only thing I’ve been looking at. Tide Pool is a limited colour way that found its way out of our dye pots last month for the ANWG Conference in Prince George. We have 2 sets left in 30/2 silk. It was so beautiful that we have recreated it in Tussah with 3 colours….oh my, oh my, oh my….we have 5 sets of the 20/2 Tussah and we’ve called it Low Tide.

Bolero Boucle Blanket Kits

This is it! The last bit of inventory in our soft & cuddly Bolero Blanket Kits, never to be made again! These really are the most amazing blankies I have ever made but our bolero yarn has been discontinued by our supplier 🙁

Limited stock of Yarns to Dye For!

Last year I thought about adding these exquisite yarns to our hand dyed silks and our fine linen line but we can barely keep up with our regular dying so I got Grant to wind the big cones down into 100 gram cones so I could share them with a few of you. If you really like them we will make them part of our regular inventory in natural.

A Little House Cleaning

We accidentally ordered 20 cones of 16/2 Venne organic cotton in the colour Anemoon. We currently do not stock this yarn so if anyone out there is looking for a exquisite fine organic cotton here you go. Someday we will stock all these yarns but we have to make room.  You know how it is 🙂

JST Master Sett Chart

Jane’s Master Sett Chart has been revised. We’ve added a few more yarns and more options. It encompasses more than 40 years of weaving experience, trial & error and extensive sampling with many of our yarns. This chart is an invaluable treasure trove of weaving advice. You can download your free copy right here!

It’s The Little Things

Egads I have a knot in my warp! No worries, we’ll show you how you can fix it on the loom! You can also use this technique for a weft skip.

We love to hear from you!

Like what you bought from us? We’d love to hear about it and you can do so by leaving us a review right below the item!

You may have noticed that all of our products, newsletters & blogs can now be shared through Social Media or sent via email. Simply click on your favourite way of sharing and pass it on!

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July 2019 Newsletter

Summer is definitely here on Salt Spring. We are starting to harvest a bit of the garden. I say a ‘bit’ because we have been sharing the biggest part of it with the deer. These deer have been training for the Olympic high jump. I was able to grab this beautiful cabbage before they got it and they apparently don’t like zucchini. The tomatoes and basil are on the front deck and they can only access that through the dining room….ha ha…we’ll have lots of tomatoes and basil. Mind you, we better not leave the back door open. 🙂

50 Best Summer Songs of All Time That You Should Listen To – Time Out

Travelling Looms!

We have 2 Louet Erica 30 just waiting to be taken on a trip this Summer. We’ve reduced the price hoping they can travel along with you! Erica is a sweet little loom with a large shed of 4.5 cm (1 ¾”), built in raddle, comes with a 10 dent stainless steel reed and weighs 7.7lb (3.5 kg) at 2 shafts. She’s super compact and easy to use!

Planning on sampling this Summer? Check out our lovely wee Purl & Loop looms that are perfect for using up some of your stash. They won’t take up much space in your luggage!

Minute Weaver is for the absolute beginner! A teeny micro mini loom that is designed to self teach the very basics of weaving in 30 minutes or less. It is teeny tiny and super quick. The results are micro 2” squares that can be stitched together for a larger project. Might be considered a shot glass or demitasse coaster. 

Wee Weaver is designed to demonstrate the basics of weaving in less than two hours when using a dk, worsted or bulky weight yarn. Each loom comes with a colour photo instruction pamphlet, a wooden tapestry needle, small metal tapestry needle, a wooden comb and a pick up stick that all store in a little reusable cotton carrying bag. How great is that!

Stash Blaster 8 EPI is the next step up from the Wee Weaver. It is very similar to the original loom except there are 8 slots per inch for the warp. This lightweight loom is made of 1/8″ birch wood. The loom measures approximately 6″ x 7 1/2″ with a work area of 5″ x 6 1/4″. 

Stash Blaster Placemat The largest of all Purl & Loops looms is the Placemat loom. The grooves are cut at 4 EPI so you can make thick absorbent placemats with this puppy. With this open sett, you could weave mini rag rug placemats or use it for tapestry technique. The loom itself is 18 x 13 and will give you a finished project approx. 16 x 12. 

Swatch Maker 3 in 1 The most versatile of all the little Purl & Loop looms is the 3-in-1. It offers 3 different ends per inch 8, 10 and 12 all from one single portable loom. It has a handy little ruler along one side and comes with a wooden tapestry needle, metal tapestry needle and a threading needle that all store in a reusable cotton carrying bag. 

Huckleberry Waffle Kit has been restocked!

We’ve replenish the Huckleberry Waffle Kits with our favourite GOTS certified organic cotton from Venne in Holland with our 2 colour ways, Spring & Fall. Each kit comes with 8 cones of organic cotton to weave 9 towels! It also includes Jane’s design process and all the tie-ups and treadling sequences to create some pretty wonderful patterning.

Summertime Weaving Projects

JST Cotton Boucle Tea Towel Kits are a fun and quick weaving project to put on the loom with these summer colours Summer Sea & Delphinium. Each kit inclues 5 cones of cotton boucle to weave 6 beautiful & absorbent towels in Plain Weave. Pattern included!

It’s The Little Things

This month’s installment of ‘It’s The Little Things‘ Jane demonstrates how to count your warp threads at the cross. Easy peasy!

We love to hear from you!

Like what you bought from us? We’d love to hear about it and you can do so by leaving us a review right below the item!

You may have noticed that all of our products, newsletters & blogs can now be shared through Social Media or sent via email. Simply click on your favourite way of sharing and pass it on!

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Sabahar Part 3: The Weavers

Whenever I get home from India or Ethiopia I struggle to stay in the other place for as long as I can. I want to savour every minute of my time away but alas I get sucked back into my other world with all its demands and all my good intentions get put on the back burner. One of the wonderful things about working with Sabahar is that even when I’m not there, I stay in touch with Kathy weekly and that makes me think I’m still there 🙂

So here we go with the 3rd of 4 posts about the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers of Sabahar.  

Sabahar now has 2 weaving studios where 30 weavers work 5 days a week along with another 65  weavers who weave from their homes close by.  

Sabahar 1 is a bright busy studio that hums with the sounds of shuttles and beaters and produces 100’s of metres of handwoven cloth each week.

These are a modern version of a traditional Ethiopian style loom. The 2 harnesses are suspended from a metal frame
And the warps sit on the floor in their bundles.
Several yards of the warp are released from the big warp bundle where it travels around a post at the end of the loom approximately 7 feet away from where the harnesses and reed hang.
After it turns the post it is attached to the previous warp behind the heddles.
There is no tension device other than a hole in the end of the cloth beam and final tensioning is done by tightening the warp around a post.
The weavers weave as far as they can possibly reach by pushing the harnesses back on the frame above. The treadles are attached from the harnesses and they can be kicked back as well. It really helps to be tall working at these looms.
The warps are tied on to existing warps behind the heddles and pulled through. Well…they actually aren’t tied, they are plied.
This leaves a join rather than a knot.
This is the easiest way to thread the looms because they do not have heddle eyes like we do

The harnesses are purchased from the heddle maker who makes the harnesses for all the weavers in the area. When you think about how fine all the warp threads are…nothing heavier than 20/2 cotton…it really is awe inspiring to watch.

The other style of loom looks much more like our looms. A traditional frame with back beam and tensioning device. There are 4 of them fitted with makeshift flying shuttles. These looms are saved for all the wider fabrics like blankets and table cloths.

Some of the weavers work from home. Just like us, they give up space within their homes 🙂 Their looms are constructed with spare timber and are extremely simple.

The fabrics that are woven on these looms are extraordinary!

The pride of the weavers is so evident. I can’t find the words necessary to express my admiration and respect for all their achieve.

In this studio, warps criss cross through each other with a jumble of cords hanging from the ceiling. All very orderly 🙂

In another small home the looms are part of the furniture.

Sabahar 2 was created in an effort to provide some of these weavers with another option. Kathy has rented a house in a newer area that is close to the existing weavers. Here they can come to work in a bright, clean and spacious working environment with running water. This space eliminates some of the stress for the weavers working and living in such small quarters.

They have new looms and lots of bright light. A few of the looms are 4 shafts and they have more treadles 🙂

Both the weavers and winders are so happy.

I hope to finish my final post in a few weeks. It will be a summary of my time at Sabahar this past March and goals for the future.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers,
Jane

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June 2019 Newsletter

Huckleberry Waffle

Have you ever made a warp that seems to get the better of you? It seems like an awesome idea when it is an idea, but then it makes its way to the loom and you stand there saying….what was I thinking?

It all started with The Harvest Splendour Tea Towel Kit from last fall. It is a 3 stripe design with 2 side sections threaded with alternating curry and brass from our organic 8/2 cotton collection with a centre of lovely stripes in reds, plum and burnt orange. While I wove those towels I got so excited about the colour and weave patterns that popped out in the side sections. My next warp was an entire warp of alternating brass and curry from selvedge to selvedge….wow….what a lot of brass and curry! I tried to love it but it was too much.

After a couple of weeks of doing nothing I added a few zinger stripes of plum, but it still seemed wrong. Around the same time my friend Sharon was weaving waffle weave. She had woven an entire yardage for a bathrobe. It looked great so I went home and rethreaded my loom to a waffle threading and started to play with all kinds of sequences and different treadlings and tie-ups, it was just what this warp needed…some texture to go along with the colour.

Three towels later I noticed that I was running out of warp….how that happened is beyond me….I never make short warps. I was just getting in the zone and it was over….so I made it again playing with different colours and another 8 yards later I had 9 new towels…each one different, using repetitive sequences in Waffle, Plain Weave, Twill and Huck all on one threading.

I have written the pattern describing the design process and it includes all the tie-ups and treadling sequences to create some pretty wonderful patterning. They are all woven in organic 8/2 cotton which was so fitting as I wove them over the Easter weekend and it was Earth Day.

We love Venne’s GOTS Organic yarns, here’s more kits!

It’s The Little Things

We’ve had weavers ask us how to read a draft so we’ve made a little video explaining the basics and the different types of drafts you might come across.

ANWG Conference 2019 – Prince George, B.C.

JST is coming to ANWG with armfuls of silks! We’ll have a booth in the Market Hall, come by and say hello. Market Hall will be open from Thursday June 13th to Saturday June 15th. 

JST Online Guild members’ meet-up is on Saturday the 15th at 12:30pm. We’ll meet at the Prince George Civic Centre’s outdoor Plaza. Grab a lunch and come meet Jane and fellow guild members. Everyone is welcome!

We love to hear from you!

Like what you bought from us? We’d love to hear about it and you can do so by leaving us a review right below the item!

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May 2019 Newsletter

Two custom colour ways in silk

I do believe Spring is here to stay. In honour of her return and because we’ve had so many requests for this colourway… we’ve done another small run Playing with Pastels and Cheryl, our wonderful hand dyer, has created a very small run of West Coast Wonder inspired by the water that surrounds and nourishes us.

New 16/2 Linen from Venne

Last month I dropped in on René and Mischa van der Venne in the Netherlands and spent a wonderful couple of days hanging out with two marvellous people AND exploring a warehouse of organic yarn. We are committed to expanding our line of organic yarn. This month we have added 16/2 GOTS certified organic linen in 21 colours. GOTS stands for the Global Organic Textile Standard. The aim of the standard is to define world-wide recognized requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.

The process of making our sample cards

Why do we charge $5 for our sample cards? We thought we’d better explain why and the reasoning behind it. All sample yarn is cut by hand. All the sample cards are punched by hand. The length of the yarn is such that you can compare, side-by-side, any thread with any other thread. We don’t use sticky tape to adhere our yarn to the sample card – tape stiffens and becomes brittle over time – we thread the yarn into the sample card. Two Salt Spring gals are responsible for constructing our sample cards; let’s here it for Christine and Susan! 🙂

The JST Helpline is dead, long live the JST Knowledge Base!

If you’ve not used the JST Helpline before, it’s a compendium of as much knowledge about weaving as we could squeeze onto the interwebs. But it hasn’t been used as often as we thought it could be. So we’ve relaunched/revamped the JST Helpline. It is now called – cue drumroll – the JST Knowledge Base.

We want to make it the first place to go when weavers encounter a problem. Having a problem with your Jane loom? Check the Jane loom section of the JST Knowledge Base. Maybe you’re asking yourself can I wind two threads at a time? Or perhaps you’ve pondered the question, how do I tie-up a sinking shed loom? 

Or try searching the knowledge base. You should see suggestions appear and become refined as you type.

If you find the article useful, give it a thumbs up. If you felt like the article didn’t hit the spot, click thumbs down. Either way, leave some feedback and we’ll be able to refine the article for other weavers.

Linen spring cleaning

Spring is a great time to have a linen sale. The following are all 10% off, whilst stocks last…

16/2 Wet Spun Line – Bleached
16/2 Wet Spun Line – Natural
30/3 Wet Spun Line – Natural
33/3 Wet Spun Line – Bleached
40/2 Wet Spun Line – Bleached

And, we have some large cones of 5/2 warp twist cotton that need to find a new home. These are 10% off too 🙂 There is a lot of yardage on these puppies, it is a fabulous yarn but unfortunately we have to buy it on these huge cones and that seems to put weavers off… so if you’re interested in any type of production work that requires a lovely natural cotton at 2100 yds. per lb… this yarn is for you.

Warp Faced Weaving is up next on the Online Guild

You don’t want to miss the next episode which airs May 23rd. Warp Faced Kits are available on our website!

How heavy is cone?

It depends.

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Sabahar Part 2: The Dyers and Warpers

In my last post you caught a glimpse of the amazing work and skill that goes in to producing the yarns used in the cloth woven at Sabahar. Now it’s time to visit the dyers and the warpers… two more steps necessary to bring these amazing Ethiopian textiles to life.

Last year Kathy was able to construct two new buildings. One was for the dyers and finishers and the other was a beautiful modern shop where all these beautiful textiles are displayed for the appreciative customers of Sabahar.

The dying studio is fabulous. It has big washing spaces outside where the water is treated and recycled for watering the gardens. They have a fancy dye machine that is used for skeins of mill spun 40/2 cotton warp that is used as a base warp for many of the fabrics. All of the handspun cotton and silk are dyed in pots just like we do… but they just do so much of it.

Just taking my skeins for a walk… all scoured and ready to dye…

The new dye and finishing building

Sabahar’s new dye and finishing building, check out the great sinks out front…

They have one large mechanical dye machine… and several smaller dye machines…

All dye water is treated in a simple treatment system and the water is used in the gardens…

Everyday the lines are hung with different colours. These are skeins of handspun cotton and silk

The Warpers

After the yarns are dyed warping is next. I always say that there are a dozen ways to do something, well now I believe there are 13 :)! Before I went to Ethiopia the first time in 2016 I could never have imagined this type of warping. Or that it was possible to make such long warps with such simple equipment and with so many threads used in a single bout. Imagine warping with 30 threads at a time!

Thirty cones of 40:2 cotton

Thirty cones of 40/2 cotton are being used in this warp…

There are several warping stations… all pretty much the same. Nails along rough wood. That’s it!

Once the warp is made it is wound into something that resembles a giant cocoon… rather fitting really as they are surrounded by cocooning silk worms.  It starts just like we start a ball of yarn by hand they just don’t make it round. And the cross is at the end.
The 40/2 cotton is pretty darn fine but the 40/1 cotton is so fine I could barely see it and it is… yes a single strand. This only comes from the mill in skeins. They load up the skeins onto a wagumba which is a giant swift.  Thirty skeins are loaded on, thirty individual ends are found and then the warper carries the wagumba up and down the warping board while he is making his warp.
Another view of the giant swift
A 70 yard warp

This is what a 70 yard warp looks like on it’s way to the loom where it will be transformed into 40 towels.

The metal warping mill

And then they have one trusty metal warping mill which I felt right at home with. Ermias and Aiyelle made a new warp for us to use in the Research and Development Department.

Next blog post

Part three: The Weavers of Sabahar and their brand spanking new R&D dept.

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The Silk Producers, Spinners, Dyers and Weavers of Sabahar in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Part 1: of a story about my recent trip to Ethiopia where I worked with the weavers, spinners and dyers of Sabahar in Addis Ababa. I did several posts about this trip on Facebook but I know there are a lot of you out there that don’t hang out on Facebook or other social media and you are important to me too… so here goes.

This story all begins with one amazing woman named Kathy Marshall from Beaver Lodge Alberta. Kathy has lived in Africa since 1994 working in the area of agriculture and development. Kathy’s desire to create a business that specialized and celebrated the rich textile traditions in Ethiopia began in 2004 with one weaver and several spinners working out of her home.

Fast forward 15 years and Sabahar now employs over 200 artisans. Weavers, spinners, dyers, silk farmers and finishers. It is an amazing success story that sits on top of a mountain of determination, dedication and above all, love.

There are so many parts to this story but it really should start with these lovely little critters… eri silk moths. By the way, Saba is the Amharic word for queen and Hari is the Amharic word for silk… a perfect name for Sabahar.

Sabahar is the pioneer of silk production in Ethiopia. Kathy brought her silk cocoons from Assam India where Eri silk originates. The name eri comes from the Assamese word “era”, meaning castor and that is exactly what these caterpillars eat. Ethiopia has an abundant supply of Castor trees which made it a perfect silk match for the country.

It takes five days for the eggs to hatch… they moult four times during their lifespan of approximately 45 days depending upon the temperature… this little guy on the left is almost full grown, the pair on the right are fully grown… when they get to this size and become pale in colour you hold them to your ear, rub their backs and if they sound hollow, they’re ready to spin… two caterpillars are placed in a paper cone, trays of cones sealed up ready to spin… it takes two days to spin and another seven days for the metamorphosis to occur…

A cup of caterpillars

I put two caterpillars in this glass mug and weighed down a piece of paper with my cell phone. It was amazing to watch them spin their cocoon. Their little heads circled round and round while they extruded the silk into the unique shape that Eri silk is spun into. They will fill any shape they are put into… the cocoons that come out of the paper cones are cone shaped. If they are put into a square container, the cocoon will be square… truly amazing.

Spinning

Cotton spinning on drop spindles has a strong tradition in Ethiopia and Eri silk has similarities to cotton. The caterpillar spins a staple silk unlike other silk worms which spin a filament silk, like Bombyx and Tussah. Eri silk cannot be reeled making it the perfect fibre to give to traditional cotton spinners. The cocoons are first boiled and the spinners spin directly from these cocoon masses.  Along with spinning Eri Silk, Sabahar employs dozens of cotton spinners who spin in their homes.  Everyday spun cotton is collected and delivered to Sabahar for sorting and quality control.

Cocoons are boiled and spun directly from these cocoon masses… the silk is spun on wheels, while the cotton is spun on drop spindles… every day deliveries of cotton arrive and are sorted into different grades… the cobs are turned into skeins ready for dyeing.

Spinning outside

Next blog post

The next blog post is about the dyers and the warpers of Sabahar.

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March 2019 Newsletter

The Great Snow Storm of 2019 follows on the heels of The Great Wind Storm of 2018

I know that so many of our readers put up with snow four or five months of the year but we don’t get too much of it and when we do it is a lovely treat… for a couple of days 🙂 After a couple of days it becomes quite apparent that we are wimps out here on the west coast of Canada – a snow conversation around here starts like this… “Hey Honey, where’s the snow shovel?” “Oh, I think it’s down in the orchard under all the snow.” We got 18 inches worth of white stuff and we never did find the shovel. But all the whining aside it was peaceful and beautiful, until it wasn’t anymore.

The Producers!

We’ve had multiple requests lately on making a repair heddle and how to read a reed substitution chart. The easiest way to do this was in a little video, so here you go…

How to make your own repair heddle.
Do you only have one weaving reed? Don’t let that get you down! Here’s how to use the handy dandy Reed Substitution Chart. It will help you access the many possible ends per inch with only one reed!

Fibres West 2019

A lot of people are asking if we’re going to Fibres West this year. Alas, we are not. Jane has the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia and work with the weavers of Sabahar once again. It was a chance that was too good to pass up. The JST crew refused to go to the show without her! Boo yah! We hope Brenda and all the vendors at Fibres West have a fabulous show so please go support them.

Spring cleaning!

We’ve given our website a facelift! We’re always trying to make things more user friendly and cleaner looking. We’ve updated a lot of our photos, the next thing we’re going to tackle is the Online Guild forum and make it easier to use.

Next Online Guild episode

The next Online Guild episode airs on March 14. Come and learn all about log cabin.

The Coneheads are coming!

We have a brand spanking new cone winding machine. Grant has read the manual and is ready to rock and roll. This should mean we’ll have fewer gaps in our inventory.