Talking Threads Interview

Back in October, I blogged about my trip to the TCTV television station to see independent producer Kathleen Jantz-Koprivnik at work on her show, Talking Threads.  Since then, her weaving-related specials have aired on TCTV, and now, several episodes are available on

Kate’s a one-woman show.  She started with no video experience—just a passion for weaving and a dream of creating a television show for weavers. I’m impressed at how fast she’s learned video production and how far she’s come.

I was honored to be the second guest on what I hope will be a long-running series.  With Kate’s permission, here’s an embed of Talking Threads, Episode 2: Meet Syne Mitchell (30 minutes.)

Other Talking Threads episodes include a behind-the-scenes of the Western Washington State Fair and an interview with Madelyn van der Hoogt, the editor of Handwoven magazine.

I’ve worked with Kate on a couple of video projects (the episode above and the Wash Cloth demo for YouTube) and learned tons.  In a phone conversation last week, we talked about working together on future video projects. I’m looking forward to it.  (Though next time—I swear—I’m gonna brush my hair!)

Beaded Snowflakes

Today was a warm and cozy family day.  We stayed home, watched Incredibles on DVD and made gifts.  Kai and I worked on beaded snowflake ornaments, and Eric worked on a super-secret project for his dad’s upcoming birthday.

Making snowflakes

The idea for beaded snowflake ornaments came when my mother was in town.  Mom reads my blog, and had seen the post about my pilgrimage to Shipwreck Beads.  Mom loves beads, especially round stone beads that I hand-knot into necklaces for her, so a special side-trip was in order.

I saw a packet of these wire things on the wall.

wire forms

You turn them into snowflakes by sliding beads on the wires and creating loops on the end.  I thought this would be simple and easy enough that Kai and I could make them together and end up with something pretty.

makirg the ornaments

I sprung for nice beads.  I had toyed with the idea of using cheap plastic rainbow beads because this was a kid’s project, but (a) beads are inexpensive at Shipwreck and (b) I wanted the end results to be classy, not cheesy.

I limited the palette to two colors to keep the ornaments classy and traditional, and because I know from several WeaveCast interviews that imposing design limits on a project forces you to be more creative.  I chose a rich dark blue and a clear crystal.

I didn’t have any idea how many beads would fit on a snowflake, so I bought 400 of each color, and two packets of the wires.  I figured that if I ran out, I could use beads from around the house, and if I had too many beads…well, extra beads!

The project was a lot of fun.  Kai did the stringing and I did the wire loops at the end.  I used my favorite tool for making the loops.  It’s not round-nose pliers, it’s this thing.

magic tool

I’ve forgotten the technical term.  (It’s been many years since my 20’s slacker job working the retail counter in a bead store.) Whatever its name, it makes creating pretty end loops easy.

Kai and I had fun making up new patterns for the snowflakes.  Having only two colors let us focus on the pattern, not color choices, and thus spurred innovation.  We came up with several variations, and could have come up with a whole lot more…but we ran out of wires.  These are a few of our designs. (Click the thumbnails to enlarge.)


The limited color pallete also meant that they all look good together.


The only snowflake I wasn’t thrilled with was the one where I tried interleaving two different patterns.  I think I like the hexagonal symmetry of using the same pattern on each wire better.  It’s more like a real snowflake.  This one just looks…wrong, somehow.

bad snowflake

Overall, a fun day and a sucessful project, 16 snowflakes made for gifts and to decorate our tree!

And to make the day even more perfect…mother nature made  snowflakes too!  The first snow of the season happened while we were working!

real snowflakes

After the project was done, the whole family went outside for a walk and to inaugurate winter with a snowball fight.


Project Details (So I won’t have to guess next year)

Beads: 5×7 mm czech glass oval with facets and an irridescent coating in dark blue and clear (item #s 34FC576 & 34FC512 at Shipwreck)

Beads per Snowflake: 30 of the 5x7mm oval beads fit perfectly on a snowflake

Snowflake Wire: 3.75″ wide Snowflake Ornament Wire Form from BeadSmith. (item # MS515), 8 wires per pack.

Habu Stainless/Wool Yarn Adventures

Once upon a time, I was a science geek.  I earned a graduate degree in physics, and spent my youth colliding neutrons, cooking high-temperature superconductors, and other geekery.

Now that I’ve move on to the world of fiber, my adventures are softer and more colorful, but traces of the geek still remain.

Such as my absolute fascination with Habu’s stainless steel/wool yarn. (1/17.6: 75% wool, 25% stainless) This stuff has a bit of shine, holds its shape when you bend it, and dudes: stainless steel!

I’ve seen knitting kits for this stuff, where you strand it along with another yarn and knit on big needles to create an openwork fabric.  And I had to wonder: Could the same thing be done with weaving?

There hasn’t been a lot published on this yarn in the weaving world.  So I couldn’t look up the recommended sett.  So what do do?  Start playing…

I knew I wanted an open fabric, but also one that wasn’t sleazy.  Based on my experiences with linen (another stiff fiber), and a tip from Judith MacKenzie McCuin, I decided to experiment with sleying the stainless/wool much looser than the thread size would normally warrant.

I took an entire cone (273 yards) and wound a warp of 144 ends, 2 yards long (apparently there was actually 288 yards on the cone, I just kept winding until I ran out of yarn.)

The weft I chose was also from Habu, a 1/14 spiral slub that is 51% wool, 20% polyester, and 29% nylon.  The skinny part was about the same thickness as the stainless/wool, and I thought the slub would add interest.

The first sett I tried was 10, sleyed 1/dent in a 10-dent reed.  I beat to square, which meant that I was gently squeezing the weft into place.  The stopping place for the beater had no resistance, so I really had to pay attention to the spacing.

On the loom, the cloth was really sleazy.  You could easily slide the weft out of place with your fingernail.

Sleazy Fabric

Off the loom. it created a truly gauzy fabric.  The sleaziness was not as bad once the fabric was off tension, but it still was too fragile to wear.  It might be nice as a curtain fabric or as a panel in a room divider.

Gauzy Fabric

So the next sett I tried was 15 epi.(*)  I was still having to press the weft into place, but this time I felt a little “snap” of resistance when I pressed the weft into square in the fell line.  It felt like the cloth was telling me: “This is the right sett, see, I’ll help you place the weft.”


I had planned to also try 12 epi, but had so much fun with the 15 epi, and liked the cloth so much, I wove off the rest of the warp in 15 epi.

The 15-dent just felt like real fabric, in a way that the 10-dent didn’t.  Here’s a close-up of the two fabrics that really shows off the difference.

Side-by-Side Detail

I am loving this fabric!  The metal gives it body that a fabric this gossamer normally wouldn’t have.  Plus the metal in the fabric makes it cool to touch.  You can see sparkles of the stainless against the matte color of the wool.

And you can “mold” the fabric a bit.  The following photo shows the ripples I created by scrunching the fabric.  It’s really fun stuff!


I’m definitely going to play with this fiber some more!

I had dedicated this cone to sampling, learning about the fiber, without any thought of getting something usable out of the yarn.  But in a happy happenstance, the 15-dent sample was just long enough, with a little pleating, to make a funky hair band.  A special little holiday treat for all my hard investigative work!


P.S. Rigid-heddle weavers, you could weave this warp if you used two 8-dent or two 7.5-dent heddles.  See Jane Patrick’s Summer Breeze Scarf project for how to warp two heddles.


(*) How do you try multiple setts on one warp?  You cut the warp behind the reed, switch out reeds and re-sley the warp in the new reed.  As long as the change in sett isn’t too great (and thus the width in the reed change isn’t too great) you shouldn’t have to re-beam.  Ideally the width in the reed should be the same as the width of the warp on the back beam, but in weaving you can often fudge this a little.  For this project I changed the width from 14.4″ in the reed to 9.6″ and was just fine.