Sunday, March 25, 2012

Computer Problems

I am unable to upload any of my recent images nor am I able to print anything from my computer. I will do both of these things as soon as I am able. It may well be that a new computer is in order.

Meanwhile, I am braiding fringe on my chenille shawl---a 16 hour process. Pictures to follow eventually.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chenille, The Pet You Don't Have to Feed

Actually, this blanket was a commissioned piece entitled THE RESULTS OF HAVING FALLEN INTO A PIT OF CHENILLE

Each square is the sample end of a chenille scarf I wove during a five year period leading up to the millennium.

What I know about weaving with chenille I learned during my scarf making madness. I also wove many Color Horoscope Weaving Shawls. In fact that is how I fell into the pit of chenille. I had stayed away from chenille for years hearing so many terrible stories of the dreaded "worming". Plus I really didn't think chenille would wear very well.

I was teaching a Color Horoscope Weaving Workshop at a yarn store sometime in the last century and they happened to stock a great palette of chenille yarn. The owner suggested I try it out. She said I could wind the warp (12 colors) and then weigh the warp and pay me for the total weight (came out to be about $80). Normally the yarn comes on 1 1/2 lb cones; and since I need 12 colors---well, that's mighty pricey which was probably another reason I had never tried it before. To make a long story short, the shawl came out beautifully except for a few little structural glitches which caused to yarn to worm. (worming is a nightmarish un-weaving caused by:
1. not weaving tightly enough
2. not snugging your edges
3. having floats
4. having more than one warp end through a heddle

The trick seems to be that when you take the piece off the loom, it feels stiff and has a lousy drape.

I wish I knew exactly how this yarn is manufactured. I do know that there is tons of sizing in the yarn, and it is only after the finished piece is laundered that it morphs into a cloth that people can't resist petting as you pass them on the street.

I know I haven't yet answered ANY of the questions you asked, but 2 things have happened. It has gotten late, for one. And two, my USB port does not seem to be working and I can't get the images from my camera into the computer.

But looking back over those chenille years, I can really only remember one time when I had a warp end break while I was weaving. The 2 warp ends that broke in the piece I am weaving now broke close enough to the beginning of the piece that I was able to lay in a replacement thread and tie it onto the front bar.

So I guess the trick is to wind short warps. Mine are mostly 4 yds long. (just long enough for 1 scarf and a nice sized sample piece) Watch your yarn closely while winding the warp, keeping a sharp eye out for frayed or weak sections of yarn.

But here is the good news, that first shawl I re-wove (about 15 years ago), looks like I just wove it! Believe me when I tell you that I road tested that shawl thoroughly. I can't believe it still looks as fresh and new as the day I wove it.

When I first started using chenille, I was very careful about laundering, and I never put it in the dryer. Then I ran into a woman who was banging out chenille scarves by the dozens. She tossed them in the wash with nary a care, AND she tossed them into the dryer as well (with 3 tennis balls), so now I do too. If you were washing the pieces often, it might not be a great idea.

Once I get to the fringes on this new piece, I will show you how I do mine. I always braid chenille fringe. It takes forever, but it really makes the shawl. And I have a special little non-knot, that is elegant beyond compare.

The ikat scarf on the wall will have to wait, but I won't forget.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Meanwhile Back in the Studio

Yes, it's true! I still weave!

I can hardly believe this is the first piece I have woven this year. I had forgotten what it was like to weave chenille--the perfect blend of heaven and hell.

When I mentioned to a weaving friend that I was weaving chenille, she said "Oh, don't the threads break a lot." I replied, "Not that I recall". and then 2 threads broke instantly. If anyone comments they want to see how I fixed it, I will show you. Otherwise, take my word that I found a elegant method for fixing the threads, but continue to keep my fingers crossed that I will complete the weaving with no additional breaks.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Teaching Schedule

Color Horoscope Weaving threads all counted out and ready to go on the loom

I don’t know why I am not a bit more proactive in letting folks know about my teaching schedule. Perhaps it is because last year I didn’t have one. I had been trying out an experiment---accepting invitations to teach rather than sending out applications. I am happy to report this year I have received some invitations which I will somewhat belatedly share with you at this time. Below is an overview

DATE: May 22-25 (Pre-Conference workshop)



DATE: May 25, 26 and 27



DATE: June 8-9


TOPIC: WOVEN WORDS (one day workshop) class is full!

ALMOST IKAT (one day workshop)

DATE: September 16-22



To register:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Milestones and Reflections

Today I celebrated my 70th birthday! Tomorrow clustermaps flips over marking 5 years of blogging. (give or take a couple of weeks). I plan to celebrate all year! There will be more on this in the coming weeks.

I recently wrote a piece for the Missoula Weavers Guild newsletter for their "meet the members" column. I decided to reprint it here as it tells a good story.


As long as I can remember, I liked playing with string and was always “good in art”. When the time came for college, I was accepted at Rhode Island School of Design and dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. I had never really considered weaving. I don’t know where I thought cloth came from, although I used to watch my mother knit, embroider, and braid rugs.

On my way to meet a fellow student for lunch, I took a wrong turn and ended up in the Textile Design Department. I confronted a jaw-dropping spectacle: a room full of 10-foot high dobby sample looms left over from the industrial revolution.

I turned on my heels, went directly to the admissions office and changed my major to Textile Design without ever having picked up a shuttle. To this day, I can’t explain the feeling that overtook me on that fateful day. Sometimes the littlest things can mark a major fork in life’s journey.

I have encountered untold bumps and pitfalls. Although the list is much too long to recount, I do have two blips I would like share. Both of these happened early in my weaving journey.

One of the assignments we had during my junior year at RISD was to design an original overshot pattern and weave a coverlet. I had completed all three panels of my coverlet and decided to sew them together during the winter holiday break. I packed the coverlet in a suitcase with my clothes and shipped it from Rhode Island to Baltimore by bus. The suitcase never arrived.

My weaving instructor felt so bad for me that she gave me an A. I had already put over 100 hours into the piece and there wasn’t time (even if I'd had the heart) to remake the coverlet.

Above: One of the samples from the lost coverlet project. “I can’t recall exactly what the sett was, but I know the warp was cotton, the tabby was a very fine silk and the dark blue was a wool of some sort, very soft. When I came to weaving the actual blanket I used beige wool (believe it or not) with a fine gold silk tabby, so the coverlet was a subtle beige-on-beige (so not like me) and the pattern showed more as texture."

Although it was many years before I made a blanket again, now they are my favorite thing to weave. And since then I have never had to worry about what I would do if one of my weavings got lost in shipping.

The next blip concerns my first loom, a 4-harness counterbalance Hammett. I had shipped the loom to Montana in 1966 when I first came to Missoula. After my then-husband completed graduate school, we moved back to the East Coast. The shipping costs turned out to be greater than expected and we were unable to reclaim it. My first loom ended up as firewood. The list goes on, but I don’t want you crying into your computer.

Above: At the loom in 1971, during my 9-month stay at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, setting up the first and last weaving studio there. "I remember the studio was in an unheated garage, and when winter came, I left."

It truly is a mixed blessing to know at age 19 what you want to do with your life. Whereas there is great satisfaction in knowing, earning a living as a studio weaver is not a “get rich quick” scheme. I was told once that the definition of success is not becoming discouraged in between failures. So I can say, without a doubt, I am successful.

I moved back to Missoula in 1970 and opened the first weaving shop in Missoula called Cat’s Cradle. Although the idea was sound, the timing was not, plus I was not cut out for shop ownership. I would hide under my desk when people came into the shop which was a clue I could not ignore. Although I would probably do a better job now, I closed the doors after one year. If I am not a weaving shop owner, then what am I?

I struggled with the concept of commitment and identity. “Am I really a weaver?” “Am I committed to my craft?” “Do I want to be known as a weaver?” I was caught up in years of birth and death, joy and sorrow, pain and healing, success and failure, woven into miles of cloth over decades as I sought to develop a unique weaving product.

Weaving dates back to the dawn of civilization, and when we weave, we connect by a thread to all the weavers who came before. Traveling along the weaving path (no matter where or when we begin the journey), eventually we experience faint echoes of those weavers. My first echo happened in 1979 after I had been weaving for almost 20 years: Color Horoscope Weaving. I can’t really say exactly how it happened, but suddenly this idea was there in my mind. It was like I had discovered the place where weaving and astrology meet.

I moved to Seattle in 1980 and spent the next 30 years developing and perfecting Color Horoscope Weaving along withTurned Weft Ikat and Woven Words. Somewhere along the way, weaving became my spiritual practice—almost like meditation and prayer. Weaving in creative service became my motto.

In the spring of 2010 an old Montana friend told me about a Peace Garden being built in Arlee, Montana and that the Dalai Lama was going to come to Arlee to consecrate the garden when it was completed. Totally captivated by this vision, I asked myself the question, “What would happen if I celebrated 50 years of weaving by going to the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas and weaving the Dalai Lama’s horoscope as a gift of peace?”

The answer was that I moved back to Missoula in the fall of 2010.

Since then, my work has veered off in a new direction. Weavers who use computer-assisted looms use the computer as a generator of patterns to then be woven. I wondered what would happen if I put my years of woven designs into the computer and then printed out completed art prints. Although still in the experimental stage, the result, so far, is the 40"x 108" wall installation you see here, photographed by Bente Winston. Just as the thread of weaving reaches back in time, it also stretches forward into the future. It is with gratitude I weave on.

THREADS OF TIME—Conceived, designed, and printed by Bonnie Tarses in celebration of more than 50 years of weaving and her return to Montana

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Saori Santa Cruz

"Consider the difference between a person and a machine"

Saori Weaving and the Saori loom is the polar opposite of the Jaquard loom. My visit to Saori Santa Cruz truly rounded out my total weaving experience.

I am sorry I didn't take any pictures of the exterior of this other-worldly studio tucked away in Felton, CA. Even so, we found it, and it looks like lots of other people have as well. Jill Nickolene Sanders, artist/teacher extraordinaire, gave me my first Saori weaving lesson. I am totally hooked and ready to trade my 8 harness, 48" Fireside for a Saori loom. Just look at the uniquely wonderful garments Jill has created on 2 harnesses and 18". And talk about portable! Check out the array of looms, tools, and yarn.

Here is Denise my new friend, student, and valiant driver modeling another Saori fashion.

Must dash.... off to my first ever trip to Las Vegas to see the "O" show