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*** big announcement ***

30 Sep 2010

… drumroll …

I have a new website!

Yup, that’s it. That’s the announcement. Looks rather small there in print, but it feels big to me…

For a little while now I have been getting queries from people asking me whether I have a website they can visit to see my work. I generally direct them to this blog, but have been feeling that I would like to “smarten myself up”, “look a bit more professional” and so on. I hope you will think that the new site ticks these boxes!

However, I am also feeling quite scared about the move, even though it is a purely virtual one. I love my bloggy home here at t’katch and I am scared about moving on. I am scared that I won’t manage the technology — I’ve already melted several parts of my brain just installing wordpress and a few plugins — and that I will make a mess of it. I am scared that none of you will come and visit me and I will be all lonely. I am scared that the new platform will somehow “change” me in ways that are not under my control… No I am not having paranoid fantasies about web-bots eating my brain (they won’t, will they?) but the new environment will undoubtedly influence me at least as much as I influence it, and I don’t know where that will take me.

Anyway, rather than give in to my over-thinking tendency, I have decided to forge ahead. I have already taken the last few months’ posts over to my new place to make it feel homey, and added a few gallery items and so on. I will be keeping this site open as I doubt I can cope with migrating all the content, but from henceforth new posts will be added here.

Please stop by and say hello! The kettle is on and I have a brand new packet of chocolate biscuits.

*** big announcement ***” was posted by Cally on 30 Sept 2010 at

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does anyone know…

29 Sep 2010

…how to get a WordPress-acceptable file out of Fiberworks?

After my last post Pat asked whether I could share a picture of the rejected draft. When I started using Fiberworks I had thought I would be able to share images of my drafts fairly easily (as I had done with Excel), but alas I came unstuck early on. I edit my draft in a Fiberworks file and I have the option to export it to a wif file, but WordPress wants a jpeg, png or gif. The only way I have been able to produce them is to take a screenshot and paste it into Photoshop for editing, but it means I am very limited with regard to resolution — Ican either produce a distance-view with the detail virtually invisible or a close-up of a small fragment. I am sure I am missing a trick somewhere, so do let me know if you have the secret!

does anyone know…” was posted by Cally on 29 Sept 2010 at

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liftplan trauma

28 Sep 2010

I have to remind myself that I am still relatively new to the dobby loom and designing liftplans. I have to remind myself of this to prevent outbreaks of frustrated screaming, but I don’t always do it in time…

Yesterday I had a day off work and I thought I would spend it weaving up the first scarf on the new warp. Have I shown you the new warp by the way? It looks like this:

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I want to use Itten’s rounded triangle shape with a green weft and I set up a draft that would do this. Only when I wove it, I didn’t like it. So I set about “quickly” changing it and four hours later… Well, it is probably sufficient to say that by the time I had a liftplan I was happy to try, I no longer had any enthusiasm for trying it. While on the one hand I am grateful that I have weaving software to alleviate some of the pain of this process, on the other hand it was my day off and I spent most of it at the computer.

Fortunately, I had taken some sausages out of the freezer, so the day wasn’t completely ruined.

liftplan trauma” was posted by Cally on 28 Sept 2010 at

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wet cloth, colour and form

21 Sep 2010

I have been trying and failing to get a picture that would show you the rust weft pattern on the loom. Here is the best I could muster:

Perhaps you can see the outline of interlocking rectangles, or perhaps not. Anyway, I cut off both scarves and washed them yesterday and *bing!* the pattern sprang to life. Here is the same cloth, lifted dripping from the sink for a photo:

But why, you may be wondering, have I suddenly gone for rectangles when a minute ago I was making curves?  Well, there’s a bit of theory here, but don’t worry – I just want to put the cloth in context.

My other reading from the library is Elements of Colour by Johannes Itten. I was intrigued to come across the chapter on “Form and Colour” which matches certain attributes of the primary colours to three basic shapes: the circle, the square and the triangle. In Itten’s scheme, the square is red (for “matter”), the triangle yellow (for “thought”) and the circle blue (for “spirit in eternal motion”). Blending the shapes as well as the colours in the colour wheel gives something a bit like this:

I have some problems with this arrangement as the symbolism is at odds with some of my own responses to colour and shape: personally, I think I would have a blue square, a red triangle and a yellow circle, although I’m not absolutely wedded to the scheme. But that is all the more reason to explore Itten’s theory, which is why I decided to change the treadling for my second scarf.

For the first scarf I used a blue weft and a wavy draft. In this scheme, by the way,

The circle comprehends all shapes of flexuous, cyclic character, as the ellipse, oval, wave, parabola, and their derivatives.

So the treadling turns out to have been an appropriate choice. Since I wanted to weave the second scarf with a rust weft I thought I would try something more angular and hence came up with what S calls the “parquet floor” design. Now that I am about to wind a more red-green warp, I am playing with that rounded triangle figure. I find it rather a pleasing shape, and when you fit them together the negative space is interesting too.

wet cloth, colour and form” was posted by Cally on 21 Sept 2010 at

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colour update

18 Sep 2010
tags: ,

I know, I know, I said there’d be a weaving update, but this is very nearly almost weaving.

When I first posted about the “serious” colour scheme, I linked to this useful summary of Goethe’s colour triangle and illustrated the mixing of primary and complementary colours. Then I borrowed a couple of books on colour from the university library, including the very readable Colour by Paul Zelanski and Mary Pat Fisher. This book gives an overview of all the different aspects of colour, including physics, physiology and the practical aspects of working with colour, so they don’t go into depth on any particular theories. However, they illustrate Goethe’s triangle and comment that

Goethe offered an alternative model in which the primaries … were the corners of a triangle, the secondaries the sides, and tertiaries the mixtures of the three surrounding colours.

The three surrounding colours? I did a double take when I read this, as I had understood from the colour class — and from those notes — that the tertiary colours were made by mixing a primary and its complementary colour. Then I had a think: after all, there are only three primaries and in either case they are all represented in the mix.

Imagine that we want to colour in the triangle marked T in this picture and suppose that each secondary colour is a 50-50 mix of the two neighbouring primaries.

If we mix red and green with “the primary dominating the mixture”, as originally proposed, then we have a certain amount of red and a smaller amount of green, which is actually half that smaller amount of blue plus half the amount of yellow. I find it easier to think of these things in symbols rather than words, so I would write

T = a x Red + b x Green

and then break it down into

T = a x Red + b x 0.5 x Blue + b x 0.5 x Yellow

where a is the amount of red which allows it to dominate the mixture and b is the smaller amount of green.

The new information doesn’t tell me what proportions of the “three surrounding colours” I should use, so I shall assume that I mix them equally. This gives me

T = Red + Violet + Orange

which I can break down into primaries

T = Red + (0.5 x Red + 0.5 x Blue) + (0.5 x Red + 0.5 x Yellow)

But then I can add up all my little bits of red and I have

T = 2 x Red + 0.5 x Blue + 0.5 x Yellow

This, thank goodness, looks very similar to my mix of red and green above: I just need to substitute a = 2 and b = 1, which does indeed give dominance to the red over the green.

From this little exercise I am satisfied that the two descriptions are most likely telling me the same thing and it is safe to go back to the loom.

colour update” was posted by Cally on 18 Sept 2010 at

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the world of the Ps

18 Sep 2010

Health warning: this is not a post about textiles. It is a post about cats which, as everyone knows, is even better.

I thought I would update you on the life of the Ps (Polly and Phoebus) since they feature much less in my weaving posts than did Clio and Nala. This is mainly due to the change in my working life since I went back to full-time study in 2008. For two or three days a week, if not more, I am now working on my research from home, so the cats have developed a routine which revolves around the study. When I head off to the loom room they are not that bothered about accompanying me, although they do have one or two specialist interests in that part of the house — such as the winding of bobbins, a task which they feel needs feline intervention.

What I particularly like about these two cats is the fact that they clearly see the same world in two very different ways, so I will give them each their turn.

The World according to Phoebus

Phoebus is king. He is unquestionably the Highest Authority in all things and we are his subjects. In total there are four other key players in Phoebus’s realm:

1. Stuart is his chancellor, trusted advisor and next in line to the throne. That is, he is allowed to sit on the throne (or kitchen chair, sofa, etc) and warm it up before he moves over to give Phoebus his rightful place. Sometimes he even qualifies as throne-padding, when he doesn’t need to move over but gets sat on instead.

2 & 3. Polly and I are his slave-girls. I enjoy most-favoured slave-girl status so I get to provide his meals, open the door for him, comb the burrs out of his fur and so on. During the day I am also permitted to warm selected chairs for him. Polly is there either to be ignored or chased under the furniture according to his royal whim.

4. The cat from down the road, known to the humans of this household as “Son of Piebald” [1], is his Arch Enemy. Son of Piebald is at all costs to be thwarted in his evil plan to sit under the peonies in Phoebus’s realm. “At all costs” so far runs to nearly £400 in vet bills for uncountable injuries to eyes, ears and paws [2], while most-favoured slave-girl gets to administer antibiotics as required.

The only problem with Phoebus’s worldview is that it doesn’t work. The chancellor and slave-girls, not to mention the Arch Enemy, manifestly refuse to recognise their proper places in the order of things and this can be very upsetting to his Majesty. He knows How Things Should Be, but we are all too stupid to conform to his will. However, he is consoled by adult visitors and anyone passing by the front garden wall, with whom he flirts shamelessly: see how I am worshipped by these right-thinking people!

His only weakness is babies. He is terrified of babies. They reduce him to a petrified kitten and he is forced to hide in the wardrobe or under the bed until they have gone — even if that takes several days.

I must also acknowledge that for all his assertiveness in defending his realm, Phoebus is amazingly compliant with veterinary routine. As long as he is being cuddled, he will submit to pills, injections and all sorts of undignified things without so much as a meow of protest. He is so laid back about it that we can’t help feeling he might be missing the point. So he is possibly not the brainiest of moggies, but he is a big cuddly softie and our favourite golden boy.

The World according to Polly

Polly is an absolute darling of a cat but no-one — possibly including Polly herself — really has the faintest idea how she sees the world. She is two-and-a-half and lives to play [3].

There are special times in Polly’s day when playing is required, and she needs to have the right games at the right times. For instance, at 9 am Phoebus likes to go outside and check his peonies for intruders. This is the moment when Polly shouts “Weehee! Nobody but me and mummy in the house and we can play, play, play!!” She flies about the hall and the living room and hides herself behind items of furniture (if her feet don’t outpace her brain and take her right up the walls, which happens quite a lot). Mummy (that’s me) creeps towards her and then makes a sudden move — at which Polly jumps in the air and flies off to another hiding place. If mummy doesn’t join in as required then a little furry face appears round a corner to see where she has got to, and small indignant squeaks [4] are uttered. Mummy is also allowed to throw small objects (balls, scrunched up foil, cotton reels) down the hall and Polly will chase after them, pounce — and then dash off to hide behind nearest piece of furniture. Her pounces are spectacular and I am sorry not to be able to show you one. Polly is the duracell bunny of cats, in spite of her rotund little figure.

In the evening, however, Polly doesn’t want to play at hide-seek-and-chase, she likes to watch television. When the people have finished their dinner they sometimes choose to watch a DVD. But Polly doesn’t like “sometimes”, she likes routine. Every day after dinner, therefore, she leads the way to the living room and parks herself in front of the DVD player ready for action. The action she is waiting for is for the DVD player to come to life. First there is the moving text which cycles across the screen — this is fascinating! — and then there is the little drawer that opens and closes. It does this very quickly, but if Polly is even quicker she can pounce and sink her teeth into it. Trying to achieve this is enormous fun and some of this activity has already been documented here. Her pleasure is so evident that the people have been known to switch on the DVD player just so that Polly can enjoy the “Welcome to Toshiba” banner.

Polly is as deliciously plush as a cuddly toy and at night likes nothing better than a human armpit to snuggle into (plush notwithstanding, this is an amazingly uncomfortable way for a human to sleep). For daytime naps, however,  her current best friend is the handwoven throw which Clio used to favour. Kneading this throw sends Polly into an ecstasy of purring and she sniffs it, chews on it and paws at it for a long time before she is ready to settle down.

We’ve only observed one thing that makes Polly unhappy, and that is when Phoebus fails to observe the rules of her games — which he always does since he is following his own completely different set of rules. When she tries to draw him into a game of hide-seek-and-chase it is OK for about the first five seconds, but then he pounces on her which is so so wrong. And yet most of the time they live together quite harmoniously, sharing the same physical space and the same people-resource even though they interpret it quite differently.

Of course, the one thing that consistently unites them is the need to remind the staff to get their meals.

More weaving news soon — it has been a bit of a crazy week, with crises aplenty, but there has also been progress at the loom.

[1] You see for some years there was a black-and-white cat with rather piebald markings in the neighbourhood and we always referred to him as “Piebald”. Then he vanished and after a short while a new black-and-white cat appeared, whose markings are rather like the negative of Piebald’s. So naturally he is “Son of Piebald”.

[2] Yes, we do have insurance, but an incident requiring a single vet visit, an injection of painkiller and a course of antibiotics costs about £35 and the insurance excess is £50.

[3] This makes her very difficult to photograph: we have lots of blurry pictures and shots of just her tail as she disappears from view. On my to-do list is a proper Polly photoshoot with at least two humans involved, but my to-do list is rather long so it may take a while.

[4] Polly’s voice is the squeakiest of squeaks. She sounds like the Sandra Dickinson of the cat world and I have repeatedly warned her that this may lead to her not being taken seriously.

the world of the Ps” was posted by Cally on 18 Sept 2010 at

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exuberant trimmings

15 Sep 2010

I am sure many of you have been following Alison’s progress towards this fabulous Tudor outfit she made for a demonstration. Well, I was shamed by the lovely cord she made for her petticoat into crossing something off my to-do list: replacing the drawstrings which provide the ruching at the ankles of my Convergence trousers. I noted at the time that the ties I had were flimsy — well, they were even flimsier than I thought and completely disintegrated when I washed the trousers. So on Sunday afternoon I finally set myself up with two sets of five strands in the Convergence yarn and fingerlooped my way to these new ties.

I cut the yarn so that each length was symmetrical and I could match the colours when I folded them into loops. However, the variation over the skein means that there is a bit of movement in the transition from one colour to the next just as there is in the cloth. Close up the structure looks like this:

If you peer closely at the rust coloured section in the top left of the photo you may be able to tell that the cross-section of the cord is actually square rather than round. Apparently square cords were ideal for clothes (especially corsets!) because you can pull them up tight and they don’t slip. Somewhat oddly they are also easier to undo again, particularly when wet: if you have ever tried to loosen a wet guy rope — or struggled out of a soaked corset? Please spare us the details — then you’ll appreciate this feature. I hope it also means that these ties will turn out to be washable.

exuberant trimmings” was posted by Cally on 15 Sept 2010 at

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