Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Weaving resolutions

Hello, friends. It is hard to believe that 2013 is almost at an end. While working at the loom this week, I found myself thinking ahead to next year and pondering some of the things I'd like to learn and to do.

But first, here's a photo. I'm working on some bespoke table napkins this week. There is a huck lace border on each end and a lot of tabby weaving (hence the pondering mentioned above):

Mercerized cotton table napkins (10/2 cotton) with huck lace borders

Have any of my weaving friends completed the Handweaver's Guild of America "Certificate of Excellence" program? I'm really thinking about attempting this in 2014. I think that I could learn a lot by having a "weaving syllabus" and would be interested in having my work evaluated. From what I have read so far, it is not a casual undertaking. I became a member of HGA this week (step 1) and will order the course materials soon (step 2). Then we will see. I'll keep ya' posted.

As far as what I'd like to learn how to do in 2014 -- independent of the HGA certification process -- I'm itching to try needle felting and to learn diversified plain weave. I like the idea of adding color and design to my handwoven fabric and learning how to needle felt seems like a fun way to accomplish this. And the diversified plain weave bug has bitten me after reading an old issue of "Handwoven" magazine that featured a few projects using this technique. It looks very interesting.

So these are some "weaving resolutions" for 2014. Of course, it would be lovely to train for another half-marathon and to build a cold frame for the garden and to grow fingerling potatoes and to read a few more Dickens novels. I think I'll concentrate on the needle felting and the potatoes - just for starters.

What are your plans for 2014? Weaving or otherwise? Do tell!
Be well,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Indoor vs. Outdoor Exhibiting

Hello, friends. This past Sunday marked the last of my exhibits for 2013. I am quite new to exhibiting my work "live" (I've sold online for over 5 years), but I've learned a few things this year and thought I would share a few thoughts today.

Indoors vs. Outdoors
I've sold my work in a variety of places. In general, my work has drawn the most attention & has sold well when it is displayed outside. Why has this been? Well, first, I have a big canopy tent when I exhibit outside; my booth space is clearly delineated. Also, I have a big sign/banner that is hung in my tent identifying my business name and tag line, "Handwoven Textiles, Londonderry, New Hampshire."

Me, exhibiting outdoors in August at the Morrison Museum. See the apple trees?

Exhibiting outdoors has some disadvantages: you have to have a sturdy tent and all of the stuff needed to secure it, including tools, and then there is the weather. Wind gusts are terrifying. However, I still like exhibiting outdoors despite these things and believe the benefits & outright fun of it all outweigh the negatives. Plus, I'm sort of an outdoorsy kind of girl and enjoy being outside. I guess I am most "at home" outside vs. a strange, indoor space.

There are several things that I've found to be difficult about exhibiting indoors, but for me the big issues are space and lighting. Space: at most of the indoor events that I've participated in this year, I did not have the amount of space available to me that I paid for (and neither did anyone else, for that matter). A 10' space was an approximation at best. I don't have "indoor walls" to delineate my booth space at this point, so this might be something to consider. I don't have a "Nutfield Weaver" sign that works well for an indoor space. Another something to consider. Lighting is somewhat controllable, provided you have the money to purchase the necessary lights for your display, have a way to utilize them, have access to electricity, and have the means to pay for the electricity fee on top of your entrance fee. And one last thing: just because you exhibit indoors do not assume that you will be comfortable. I exhibited in two different indoors venues this fall and both were extremely cold. Bring enough layers to stay warm. Fingerless gloves were an absolute necessity for me on these occasions.

For 2014, I would like to add a visual aid to my display. A friend of mine, who is a seasoned and successful fiber arts exhibitor, suggested that a short video of the weaving process would be helpful, and I believe that she is absolutely right. A lot of people are new to the idea of handwoven cloth. "No, this is not crochet." "No, this is not knitted." "No, this is not fabric from a store that I hemmed." My loom is housebound; it is an 8 harness Nilus II Leclerc with 10 treadles; it is not feasible to disassemble and take to an event. I'd like to be able to show people how cloth is made, and this might be a practical way to do so.

Do any of my friendly blog readers exhibit their wares? What are your experiences and what lessons have you learned? If you'd like to share one of your pearls of wisdom, please do so in the comments section below!
Be well,
Kate K.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Scarves for gentlemen with Valley Yarns alpaca/silk

Hello, friends. I am getting ready for my last exhibit of this calendar year at LaBelle Winery on Sunday, December 8th. In addition to the usual table runners and fiber jewelry to display at the show, I've included a few new handwoven scarves for gentlemen.

I wanted to use a fiber that was soft, warm, and lightweight. Valley Yarns alpaca/silk blend (80% alpaca and 20% silk) worked out really nicely for my purposes. I sleyed the reed at 20 ends per inch and wove at approximately 24 picks per inch. Shrinkage in the width was minimal. Shrinkage in the length was not much - about 10-12%. I tend to have a very light beat, so if you choose to work with yarn, your results might be different.

Here is a photo of the "really red" alpaca/silk on the loom:

I also wove two tartan scarves using the Barclay Hunting traditional design:

The red is the "really red" used in my first scarf. The blue is Valley Yarn's "navy" and the green is "olive." I really like the contrast of the green with the red in the scarf. 

I was a little bit nervous about how well the yarn would hold up under tension but I was pleased that I did not have one broken warp thread while working on any of the scarves. Hooray! Finishing the cloth was pretty simple - I handwashed in gentle detergent in cool water. It took several rinses to for the excess dyes to be removed but this is a small price to pay when considering how fabulous the colors are! I hung the scarves to dry and ran the iron over them on the "blend" setting (a medium heat). The resulting cloth is soft, smooth and has a very nice drape. Valley Yarns alpaca/silk became a fast favorite. 

Here are some photos of the finished gentleman's scarves:

One final thing: I LOVE weaving tartan. I suspect that there will be more tartan weaving adventures in the near future! I think that the "Keith" and "MacDonald, Lord of the Isles" tartans will be next. So fun. And so interesting to learn a bit of history.

Be well,
Kate K.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Migrating from Etsy, Part 3

Hello, friends. Happy December! I hope that my friends here in the States had a lovely Thanksgiving and that you had safe travels; weather here in the Northeast was less than ideal around the holiday.

My new website, NutfieldWeaver, powered by IndieMade, is just about two months old now. New visitors find the site every day. Here are a few statistics via Google Analytics that might be of interest:

Between October 1st and November 30th:

281 unique visitors
3,466 page views
6.21 pages per visit
4:21 minutes was the length of the average site visit
18 countries are noted in the /location dashboard (US, Canada, UK, Brazil, and Denmark are the top 5).

Here's another interesting thing: if people visited the site as a result of a social media site, 73% of the visitors came via my blog and the rest came via my Facebook page. Thank you very much, blog readers and FB page fans! This might help me to discern how to best use social media to help to continue to spread the word about my new site, and I've been mulling over what the numbers mean.

The "Galleries" feature on the site has helped to keep people browsing. The top two galleries (I have 6 right now) that people visited were "Inspiration" and "Photographs from Clients." I really like the "Galleries" feature that is part of the IndieMade platform. It is interesting that people who visit the site seem to have an interest in a) what turns my creativity crank and b) how people really use or wear handwovens.

I have had several sales and also have received commissions via the "Contact" form on my site; this is encouraging.

All-in-all, I am still quite pleased with the decision to switch from Etsy as my primary selling platform to a stand-alone site. I am not making money hand over fist but this cannot be my main objective at this early stage.

Did you receive the Etsy seller feedback survey yesterday? I did. I filled it out and sent it in. There was a question about why, if you did not plan to continue selling on the site in the future, you made the decision. (I can't recall the exact wording of the question.) Originally I had a big, wordy paragraph typed up in which I voiced my numerous concerns about the direction that Etsy is taking in terms of allowing outsourcing of production of "handmade" items. But I deleted it and typed in something more concise: "I do not believe that Etsy is the right selling platform for me, as an independent artisan, since I have no interest in or the financial means to outsource production of my designs."

So, I will keep plugging away at the new site and, more importantly, will continue to weave, weave, weave. (I'm really excited about some new projects that I'd like to take a stab at in 2014). Next week, on December 8th, I will finish up my exhibit schedule for 2013. I'll be a LaBelle Winery, Amherst, NH from 11-4pm along with other New Hampshire artisans. The "Events" portion of my website has more information. How fun will that be?

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below! I learn so much from all of you and enjoy our friendly exchanges.

Be well,