Sunday Weaver’s Journal: The Belii Shawl

My beloved street-rescue cat Belii died last year after a prolonged battle with kidney failure.  I decided to weave something in his memory, inspired by him and his place in my life.  It feels a little silly to admit that out loud, that my artistic inspiration is my cat, (Am I becoming a Cat Lady?), but we shared a household for 16 years.  If you have pets, you’ll understand.  If you don’t have pets and aren’t a “pet person,” it won’t make sense – and I feel just a little sorry for you.

From the time he was a kitten, Belii was the most affectionate cat I’ve ever known.  His favorite spot was on your chest – whether he knew you well or not.  I used to hand guests a wash cloth to put on their shirt so that he wouldn’t kneed their skin.  That’s the other thing he did all his life – kneed with his claws.  I think it was a holdover from living on the street.  I’ve read that it’s a way for cats to get the milk to come when they’re nursing, and that makes sense.  But he took it one step further – he would actually curl his paw around your finger and hold on.  If he couldn’t sit on you, he’d sit next to you, as in the picture above.

His name, Belii, is the Russian word for “white.”  When he first adopted me, he was white – all white.  I took him in, got him healthy (he had a slew of stuff that the vet needed to take care of; he was the most expensive “free” cat I’ve ever gotten), and fed him.

He turned orange.

As you can see in the photograph above, his ears are the darkest part.  I looked it up; he’s got some Siamese in him and there’s a rare colorway called “peach point” that I’ve decided is Belii.  It sounds cool, doesn’t it?  I have a Peach-Point Siamese.  La-tee-da.  Folks don’t need to know he was homeless in Las Vegas when I found him, eh?

The design challenge is how to represent his colors in fabric.  I suspect this won’t be the first project where I attempt it, since I have some yarn in my stash that I bought with the idea of knitting something.  But for now, my focus is weaving and creating, in cloth, a piece of art inspired by my orange white cat.

Oh, why didn’t I change his name?  The Russian word for “orange” is оранжевый, or oranzhevyy in transliteration.  Not nearly as pretty-sounding to my American ear as Belii.

I love the pattern I made for the kimono and I talk about using that warp to thread the new warp, in a Sunday Weaver’s Journal earlier this year.  I’ve been working on the project and have pictures but not had time, because of our move, to post anything.  Today, I’m here to remedy that.  So, without further ado, here’s some photos:

My pattern is called “Twill Complication,” from A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite P. Davison, page 46 (Marguerite P. Davison, Publisher, Swarthmore, PA, 1994).  I took the treadling pattern and put it in an excel spreadsheet so I could mark off where I am on the pattern.  The wrap is nine feet long in total, so that’s a lot of pattern repeats!

We realized that there were a couple boo-boos in the threading once I started weaving.  In between the time I finished the kimono and started the wrap, one of the assistant instructors thought I was done with the loom and started taking the old warp off.  When she realized I was intending on tying the new warp to it, she re-threaded everything.  We’re not sure if the boo-boo happened then or when I originally threaded it, so her suggestion was to do one entire pattern repeat in a highly-contrasting thread so we could evaluate what to do.

The options:  keep going anyway, even with the mistake, (if it wasn’t too visible); cut the warp thread(s) that could be safely eliminated without changing the design; or take the treading out and start over – which I did not, frankly, want to do.

Here’s an example of the entire repeat.  There were three problem spots, which aren’t greatly visible here, but are visible enough that they would cause a problem in the finished design.

After conferring with Natalie Boyett, we decided to just cut three of the warp threads and let the rest go – primarily because I didn’t want to rethread everything.

I am working on a Glimakra loom from Sweden.  It’s taken a while to get used to, because the shed (the part where you run the shuttle back and forth) is a lot narrower than on American looms.  It does, however, make for much neater edges, which is something I struggle with.

After using the loom for the last almost nine months now, I’m really liking it.  We’ve had some challenges, most notably when the twin holding the heddles in place snapped, but Natalie was able to fix it and it works smoothly now.  The most important part, how the weaving looks, is something I’m really happy with.

Here is a the first repeat of the actual pattern.  I decided to use alternating peach and ivory repeats of the pattern, because I loved how the contrasting yarn looked in the header.

Here is a detail of the pattern.  I love the way it looks beaded.  You can see a comparison with the kimono fabric in the Weaver’s Journal post here.

This is a view of the loom in its entirety except for the castle.  It’s a nice width for me and I love how the fabric is turning out.

Oh, contrary to popular belief, the Russian word for “scarf” isn’t “babushka,” it’s шарф, or “sharf” in transliteration.  A “babushka” is a grandmother.

Stay tuned for more Weaver’s Journals coming soon.

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