Rag Rug Festival 2013

Here is Sandy Voss of Cabin Textiles at her loom at the Festival.

Here is Sandy Voss of Cabin Textiles at her loom at the Festival.

This was my first year assisting my mom, Sandy Voss of Cabin Textiles, with Rag Rug Festival held by the New Mexico Women’s Foundation in Santa Fe, NM August 9th, 10th, & 11th. This year the Rag Rug Festival was held at the International Folk Art Museum on Museum Hill, instead of the Udall Building as in years past. The artists, somewhere between 30-40 (my guess), had most of Friday to set up prior to a special ticket preview night that went to 8PM. There was light food and a small bar and a full array of fashions on display by artists and patrons alike. I live an hour and a half north of this shin dig and I was beat by the time I got home. I was quite surprised by the variety of arts on display as I had assumed the bulk of the wares would be some sort of woven art. While there were perhaps 6 rag rug weavers on display, there was also felting, gourd art, silk painted clothing, jewelry, hats, bags, scarves, quilting, and a number of other things.

Some Enchanted Weavings brought her stripper and sewing machine to demo.

Some Enchanted Weavings brought her stripper and sewing machine to demo.

Both Saturday and Sunday the Rag Rug Festival, sprawled over three rooms, was open to the public 10-4 and the museum from 10-5 for free. My mom brought one of her looms to demonstrate making a rug. All artists were asked to bring something to demo, so I saw a spinning wheel, some henna art, sewing, and a stripper (not as exciting as some of you are thinking – it’s actually a wheeled blade for cutting fabric into strips). I brought some sock loops to show customers the basics of creating long strands of sock loops for weaving. I also had some left over warp that I made into braided plant hangers. But, really, folks were way more interested in watching me untangle Pendleton shag (the selvedge edge of the blanket that usually goes to the landfill if not put to use by artists) for my mom to weave. By far, the loom was a draw. I let little kids climb on it as I know how tough rag rug looms are. Several adults wanted to give weaving a try too.

Here is an UpCycled Fashion felt owl.

Here is an UpCycled Fashion felt owl.

Saturday had more sales for Cabin Textiles, but less traffic. There were lulls where either one of us could go walking for an hour or so and see the other artists. This is where I walked around taking pictures for this blog. Most folks were quite happy to let me take pictures. Some wanted to know why and I told them because my grandma reads this blog and most found that quite amusing, even sweet. If anyone still had doubts as to my innocent silliness, I told them who I was and that I was helping my mom for the weekend and once folks heard my mom’s name, everyone was cool with me taking pictures. Someone was kind enough to explain to me afterwards that sometimes nefarious types take pictures of folk art with the intent of reproducing that type or style and selling their items as original ideas. If I find such nefarious folks, I will personally tweak their noses. Anyway, this points to just how much I have to learn about shows.

The ladies of the NaNeelzhiin Women's' Craft Circle put on a beautiful display.

The ladies of the NaNeelzhiin Women’s’ Craft Circle put on a beautiful display.

Sunday had more traffic, and plenty of it chatty, but less sales. We heard the same from more than one vendor. In some ways, we were busier because we had more folks wanting to try the loom or talk about local weaving classes (like at the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center). I had another bag of shag to untangle. I also brought some chocolate candies to share with artists and patrons alike, though I think we and our neighboring vendors ate more chocolate than the wandering customers. I got to do plenty of people watching over the weekend, a favorite past time. It was very interesting to see the huge variety of people who came through the doors. Some were just visiting the museum and happened upon the Rag Rug Festival, while others are repeat customers year after year. Some folks spend much of their year in other countries and make a point of visiting Rag Rug Festival when they are in NM. I did manage to break away for about an hour Sunday to see the rest of the museum. They have a very eclectic doll and figurine collection in a very, very large room. Also there was a Japanese kite show on display that was quite something.

Quilt work by The Common Thread.

Quilt work by The Common Thread.

The museum provided large dollys for bringing items in and hauling them out. However, the museum guys were not allowed to load, unload, or handle the items in anyway. They did make an exception for my mom’s loom. After all, it is unlikely the museum staff would be blamed if the loom went missing later, which I think was the concern for all of the smaller items. They did have a nice big freight elevator we got to ride in with our items. As you can imagine, the artists had to dress not only to impress but to also be able to haul their own wares about. Many vendors said that attendance was way down from years past, though the museum said their average weekend attendance was up (remember, this is the first year having the Festival in the museum). Also, there was very little advertising. I don’t know the reason for this, but even an internet search turned up very little information. I also overheard a few patrons expressing their frustration at the limited number of rag rug vendors (6?) on display compared to the rather eclectic variety of arts on display.

Gourd antler mask by Eye of the Beholder. Stunning!

Gourd antler mask by Eye of the Beholder. Stunning!

This being my first time helping out with this Festival, I had a great time. I had intended to simply give my mom support during the core hours of the day (like from 11 or 12 to 2) so that she could take a break if she wanted. But all 3 days I found myself staying until closing because I was enjoying the camaraderie of the show, chatting with the customers, letting kids use the loom as a jungle gym, and exploring the museum. One of my knitting friends was able to make it by and it was so great to catch up with her (thanks P.H.!). Taking pictures was also fun as it gave me a great excuse to talk with the other artists and ask them about their work.

Colorful bags by Subedi Enterprises.

Colorful bags by Subedi Enterprises.

So, who all did I harass for pictures? Let me say two things first: I am a bit shy in social situations, so if the artist was busy with customers, I didn’t approach to snap away pictures; second, I always made sure to ask if I could take pictures and a few folks were a little suspicious at first, which only increased my shyness. So, this is only a few of the many wonderful artists that were present at this show.

I thank each of these artists for indulging my latent reporter skills and letting me take pictures.

Necklace & earrings by Shamana Jewelry.

Necklace & earrings by Shamana Jewelry.

Eye of the Beholder, Fine Art Gourds, Joanna Bradley (lovely lady, my mom and I gave her some shag and left over warp for decorations, so much fun to joke around with). Contact info: swdirect@comcast.net, 575-522-3479

Shamana Jewelry, Rebecca Swallows (she shared an innocent thong, as in flipflop, joke with me, haha!). Contact info: rebzoe@hotmail.com, 575-921-5502, 575-585-9420, 204 St. Francis Dr., Tularosa, NM 88352

The Common Thread, Southwest Women’s Fiber Arts Collective (Granma D. – the picture of the mice is just for you). Contact info: http://www.fiberartscollective.org, 575-538-5733, 107 W. Broadway, PO Box 636, Silver City, NM 88062

These little Badgersong 'donuts' were quite the eyecatcher.

These little Badgersong ‘donuts’ were quite the eyecatcher.

Badgersong Art, Andy Hunter (I think the two of us laughed so loud the other room could hear us!). Contact info: hunteralh@yahoo.com

NaNeelzhiin Women’s Craft Circle (these ladies were right across the aisle from us and were often entertained by the kids playing on the loom). Unfortunately, they were out of business cards and I could not find any contact info on the internet for them.

Rag rugs by Some Enchanted Weavings.

Rag rugs by Some Enchanted Weavings.

Some Enchanted Weavings, Ann Lumaghi (her booth was right next to us & she let me take plenty of pics – thank you!). Contact info: annlumaghi@newmexico.com, 505-685-4503,

Subedi Enterprises, Duka Subedi (her son, husband, and mother were there with her and it was great to see the family effort). Contact info: duka_aarpan@yahoo.com, 505-948-6638, 8409 Gutierrez Rd, NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111

UpCycled Fashion, Anita Marie Moss & Jean Nichols (they let me chatter away about the farm & goats, because they are cool like that). Contact info: UpCycledFashion.com, jean@upcycledfashion.com, anitamarie@upcycledfashion.com, 575-587-0202, 575-587-2200, PO Box 237, Penasco, NM 87553

TDLT Fiber Artisans, Lise Poulsen (the felted vases were quite the eye catcher!). Contact info: lise.poulsen@mindspring.com, Tejedoras de Las Trampas, 575-758-1730, http://www.gauchoblue.com/TDLT.html, TDLT@GauchoBlue.com, PO Box 114, Penasco, NM 87553

Artist Renee Brainard Gentz showed off some fabulous pieces made from silk.

Artist Renee Brainard Gentz showed off some fabulous pieces made from silk.

Fiber artist Renee Brainard Gentz (such lovely silk pieces). Contact info: http://www.rbgentz.com, rbgentz@gmail.com, 505-242-5703

These felt 'vases' by UpCycled Fashion are great.

These felt ‘vases’ by TDLT Fiber Artisans are great.

The Common Thread mice were well behaved and too cute.

The Common Thread mice were well behaved and too cute.

Felt goats (I do so love goats) and felt baby boots by UpCycled Fashion.

Felt goats (I do so love goats) and felt baby boots by UpCycled Fashion.

Another cool bag from Subedi Enterprises.

Another cool bag from Subedi Enterprises.

Shawls & scarves by Some Enchanted Weavings.

Shawls & scarves by Some Enchanted Weavings.

Another beautiful piece from Shamana Jewelry.

Another beautiful piece from Shamana Jewelry.

Potholders & scarves by Some Enchanted Weavings.

Potholders & scarves by Some Enchanted Weavings.

This gourd was cut open and decorated inside & outside by Eye of the Beholder.

This gourd was cut open and decorated inside & outside by Eye of the Beholder.

Here is the backside of that same hollowed out gourd, by Eye of the Beholder.

Here is the backside of that same hollowed out gourd, by Eye of the Beholder.

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Tying on the Warp: Mistakes & All

Each thread must be tied onto the correct thread from the previous warp.

Each thread must be tied onto the correct thread from the previous warp.

Once you have warped your loom, there is the next chore of tying on. If you read Warping the Loom, then you know we have a Union floor loom for rag rugs. This loom came to us with about 10 rugs worth of black warp on it, set at 32 inches wide. The new warp is much brighter and set at 28 inches wide. Here in this post I will reveal to you all the mistakes we made; experienced weavers may snort laugh a little. That’s fine; we do. First off, the threads should be tied on in the same pattern you had them on the spool rack. It’s best to keep this pattern for each section, though a few mistakes won’t kill your warp.

Each individual thread from the new warp needs to be tied onto the correct one from the old warp. We had left the old warp threaded through the two harnesses and the reed. In retrospect, I wish I had not cut them as short as I did as leaving the old warp about 16 inches long caused for a lot of pulling and inadvertently pulling the warp completely out in a few places. The alternative is to pull the old warp out completely and just re-thread everything. If you have a sley hook (aka threading, heddle, or reed hook), this might not be too bad. I do not have a sley hook. This is also what you would do if you have warped your loom for the first time and don’t have old warp to tie on to.

Our loom is a 2 harness loom. So, the threads must alternate. It doesn’t matter if you start with the back harness or the front harness; just keep the threads alternating. You do not want two threads side by side in the same harness as this can lead to a visible line the length of your rug. Typically, you just follow the pattern set by the previous warp, correcting any mistakes as you go, trying not to introduce new ones…..like some blogger you may know ;). In tying on, use an overhand knot, not a square knot. Square knots come undone under tension and you will be cussing mightily as one after another pops loose. The overhand knot will only get tighter under tension. This is really more important for when repairing a broken thread. The knots you tie here for tying on the new warp will most likely not be under any tension, but I try to get myself in the habit of using the overhand knot instead of the square knot.

At 20 threads per section, 14 sections, that's a lot of knots!

At 20 threads per section, 14 sections, that’s a lot of knots!

So, I was going from a wider warp than the new one I had just put on. This meant that I had to drop a section of the old warp on either side. The problem was that the old warp was mostly black and I could not tell where the section ended with ease. In retrospect, I could have simply counted off 20 threads, as I know that is what is in each section. Alas, I had left the wee tiny OCD bit of my brain locked in the canned vegetable cupboard to do some organizing. I really should have invited it to the tying on party. So, that was mistake number one. I was off by a number of threads and this became noticeable towards the end. Thankfully, with this model loom, there was an easy fix that my mom clued me in to: the reed has a little bit of wiggle room and simply by loosing the bolts on the reed bar and sliding the reed down ~8 threads, this problem was solved.

My second mistake was really a beginner’s mistake. In fact, I was a bit embarrassed over this one and didn’t even tell my mom. Now, she hasn’t discovered this little website of mine yet, not being particularly computer savvy. I’m sure I can trust you all to keep it on the hush-hush, right? OK, I tied on 3 sections, 60 threads, straight to the old warp without taking the threads over the back beam. Yes, round of applause. Did I grow up with a weaver for a mom or not? I was quite exasperated with myself when I figured it out. True, I was paying attention to an audiobook, but …..Yeah, invite that OCD part of yourself to the tying on party. Now, there was an easy fix to this one too. Yes, it involved a wrench. Bill simply unbolted one corner of the back beam and swung it in enough to wrap the warp around it as it should be, then rebolted the beam. Took like 2 minutes.

Here, we have puled the new warp through. My dog Tanuki is supervising.

Here, we have puled the new warp through. My dog Tanuki is supervising.

While tying on to the old warp, I found a few mistakes that had to be corrected. The first one was that two threads were going through the same harness eyelet. Oops! Mistakes get introduced to a warp through the course of weaving. Typically, a thread breaks for one reason or another, and it can pop all the way to the back beam if under tight enough tension. So, mistakes happen while re-threading that broken string back through when you tie it back in. I’m sure I will be introducing mistakes to my current warp and when I re-warp in a few weeks, I will be finding and fixing those mistakes too. For this double threaded eyelet mistake, I continued to just tie on and when I finished tying on the entirety of the new warp, that was when I fixed it. There may be more mistakes exactly like this. To fix it, keep tract of how many doubles you have, then simply move your warp thread by thread out towards the edge that many number of eyelets and dents. (Dents are the spaces in the reed that the threads go through. Yeah, I didn’t know that either until I was doing this tie on by myself and calling my mom every 2 hours with questions.) In my case, I had only 1 double, and it was located in the first section I tied on, so I only had to move a few threads over 1. When you do this, you need to make sure you keep the threads alternating front and back harness. If you have a 4 harness loom, same principle, you just need to pay extra attention.

The next mistake I found was that three eyelets were completely empty. Ooops. This was all me. I must have accidentally pulled the old warp out. So, I had to take the appropriate 3 threads of the new warp and unwind those three from the back beam enough to make it all the way through eyelets and dents. Once I got those three all the through, I went ahead and tied them together in front of the reed so they wouldn’t be tempted to pop back through to be with their friends.

Success! Ready to cut off the remaining old warp & tie on new warp.

Success! Ready to cut off the remaining old warp & tie on new warp.

The next was an odd one: I found a thread going through a back harness eyelet, an empty front harness eyelet, and then the next thread going through a back harness eyelet. Yet, there was not a blank space in the dents. If there had been an empty space in the dents, I would have done the same thing as in the previous mistake, just with a single thread. In this case, I pulled one of the back harness threads (old warp) out of it’s eyelet and put it through the front harness eyelet, making sure to preserve my alternating. Then I continued to tie on the new warp as I had been doing. Yes, this left an empty eyelet in the middle of the warp, but it won’t cause a fuss.

Now that I had my warp tied on (14 sections at 20 threads a piece), all 280 threads, I was ready to pull the new warp through. The front of the loom still shows the old warp (black threads), so I grabbed those in perhaps 40-60 thread bundles and gently pulled. To get all those knots through the eyelets and dents, some wiggling, jostling, and even cajoling of the threads must be done. You don’t want to break any of them; you just spent how many hours hunched over the back beam, squinting and counting and redoing your work? So, go with the cajoling, even a few epithets if you feel strongly about it, but do not break your threads at this point. There will be plenty of time for that later.

The new warp is tied onto the apron, ready for weaving.

The new warp is tied onto the apron, ready for weaving.

Once the new warp was pulled through, I pulled a few extra inches through the give myself some thread to work with. I cut off the old warp and all my knots. Yes, hours spent putting those knots in only to cut them off later. Perhaps I can find some arts & crafts class that can use such silly bits of thread? Anyway, now I had my new warp ready the be tied on. For the apron on my loom, I have tie on slots for each section on the back beam. So, I grabbed the first 20 threads (first section) at one end and tied it on. Then I went to the opposite end and did the same thing. I bounce back and forth while tying on and once all sections are tied on, I tighten down each section by hand. Once satisfied that my tension is even, I usually tighten it up a bit with ratchet. Now I am ready to start weaving.

There's some minor wear & tear to this apron.

There’s some minor wear & tear to this apron.

I took a picture of one edge of the apron to show how it is wearing. My mom made this apron for this loom and when she makes an apron, she gives it enough material to wrap around the front beam 3-4 times. This means that once I have too much wear on that edge (like it is messing up the tension on one side of the warp), I can simply cut off the damaged section, sew a new loop for the rebar, and put in new slots for each section to tie on to. If you have a factory or store bought apron, you may not have enough excess material to do this and will have to replace the whole thing. If you can sew straight lines on your sewing machine, you can make yourself an apron out of heavy canvas material and save yourself some trouble down the line.

This is the new warp as seen on the back beam when under tension.

This is the new warp as seen on the back beam when under tension.