I had the most amazing day yesterday. In NYC. It all started with tickets my husband won at a charity auction for Broadway tickets of our choice. Since I have season tickets to two different Jersey venues, I rarely get into NYC to see Broadway shows, and if a show is currently on Broadway, the local venues can’t use the property. Anyway, I’ve wanted to see Book of Mormon since it won the Tony back in 2011 I think. So my husband chose that show. First row Mezzanine. Unbelievable performances and pretty powerful content. But that wasn’t quite the highlight of the day for me!
I was cruising through facebook, which I’ll do once in awhile, because I have so many fiber friends, many I don’t actually personally know, who post amazing work, and relevant topics in the arts, and one finds out all sorts of things. I came across an exhibition, currently mounted at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC, a mere 10 blocks from The Eugene O’Neill theater where Book of Mormon was playing. I don’t know how I missed this show but luckily it is still there until September 30.
First let me say I was introduced to textiles as an art form in the 70’s, when I studied art, and fiber was beginning to be considered a viable and important medium in the art world. We studied all the greats, all the women who contributed to 20th century textiles, innovators like Dorothy Liebes, Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, Ruth Asawa, and of course Anni Albers. I bow down in their presence. And they were all here. There is even a piece from Olga de Amaral, a Columbian Textile artist, whose work I first became familiar with when I took a train from Lausanne Switzerland in 1977 to a remote town some distance away, to see an exhibit of Olga’s textile work.
The exhibition focused on women in art, craft and design, midcentury and today. Many of them worked in textiles and fiber, and there were also the greats in ceramics, Karen Karnes, and Toshiko Takaezu. I have studied and admired their work for decades. I felt like I was in church looking at statues of the saints. These are women who forged ahead, alone and underrepresented, and contributed a lasting impact on how we view craft today. Especially in fiber. I wish there were more images from this exhibition available on line, but there was a fantastic piece on Huffington post which you can read here. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/25/pathmakers-museum-of-arts-and-design_n_7622938.html
Here is the link to the MAD museum exhibition, if you live anywhere near NYC, make sure you get to see the early works in this exhibit. http://www.madmuseum.org/exhibition/pathmakers#
I pulled a couple of images from those on the website, that have extra meaning for me. I have been a fan of Dorothy Liebes since I first became familiar with her work, she made huge contributions to how we view household textiles today. Whenever you see woven blinds with slats and chenille and other cool fibers, Dorothy was the one who first thought of it.
Dorothy Liebes Prototype Theatre Curtain for DuPont Pavillion, New York World’s Fair, 1964, 1964; DuPont Orlon, Fairtex metallic yarn; Gift of Dorothy Liebes Design, through the American Craft Council, 1973; Photo by Eva Heyd
Lenore Tawney was one of my textile greats, and besides a couple of her pieces, there is this wonderful photo sitting behind the loom with warp threads coming from spools as she beamed a sectional warp.
Lenore Tawney in her Coenties Slip studio, New York, 1958. Courtesy of Lenore G. Tawney Foundation; Photo by David Attie
And though I actually wasn’t familiar with Poly Apfelbaum’s work, I sure am now. There was an entire room in the gallery for this piece alone, images on silk, inspired by every weaver’s bible, Davison’s Handweaver’s Pattern Book. Yeah, the green one. It’s on your shelf if you are a handweaver.
Polly Apfelbaum Handweavers Pattern Book installation, 2014 30 textiles: marker on rayon silk velvet 10 ceramic beads on embroidery thread Courtesy of the artist and Clifton Benevento Photo by Andres Ramirez
And so I’m still floating from the day yesterday. I’m so glad I saw the post and my husband was a good sport about going with me to the exhibit on the way to the theater. We had a lovely dinner in the city, and were home by 10pm, catching the bus as soon as we entered the gate at Port Authority. That doesn’t happen often. A magical night!
My garment construction class at Sievers is unique in many ways, primarily because they offer a seven day option. And believe me, several of the students who opted for the full seven days used every waking minute of it. Starting at 9am, they would stop for lunch and dinner but work until 10-11pm most nights. And still have handwork to do at the end. The other wonderful thing I love about this venue in particular is the amount of students that return year after year. My class at Harrisville NH also has returning students, but none have come as many years as this group. Which means that we have developed friendships beyond just the classroom, and I’ve watched their sewing skills grow, and their wardrobes increase, and their joy of the process blossom into what could almost be described as a passion. Not necessarily to sew as to acquire garments that fit well and are created from a cone of yarn, handwoven into fabric, and tailored into a one of a kind jacket or coat. And of course the only way to do that is to sew. One garment at a time.
We had to ask Sievers to provide a second garment rack for the students who return each year and bring all the garments they have made during my classes. The rack has some remarkable garments on it.
So I’ll just go through each student, starting with Stephanie, who was my only new student this year. All the rest were returning. Stephanie had garment construction skills coming into the class, but like many students I come across, they have not sewn for themselves in years, and though an experienced knitter, Stephanie has discovered the rigid heddle loom and the interlacement of cloth and there is no stopping her. She brought commercial fabric from her old stash for the class, and she made my classic Daryl Jacket shape. First though, she made a muslin since we tweaked the fit quite a bit. That’s the first photo. I did encourage her to use the colorful selvedge of the cloth as an accent on the band.
This is Lorraine’s second class with me, and she was so enthusiastic. She downloaded a Burda pattern and pieced it all together from the 27 printed pages. The directions were on her tablet. We had to do a full bust adjustment on the pattern first. The jacket, of a poly jacquard, was designed to be backed with fleece, sort of a more padded look, so she had lots of new skills to explore. Though the jacket called for commercial fold over braid, she took my advice and used bias strips of the reverse side of the cloth for her edge finish. She has a lot of handwork still to do.
And there was Wally. I think this is Wally’s fourth class with me, and I adore this woman. Without disclosing her age, Wally has almost 20 years on me, and she has more energy than someone ten years my junior. She comes to Washington Island with her paddle board and paddles around Lake Michigan. She is a tiny thing, and wears clothes with such enthusiasm you can’t help but smile. Last year Wally made a fabulous pieced jacket and we follow the jacket on Facebook, Where’s Wally’s Jacket. In class last year, we all commented on a pair of knit pants she wore, in black, and she asked if this year, she could copy the pants and make more of this delightful and unusual garment. The first photo she is wearing the gray version of the original pants, apparently she bought the pants in many colors. The next three photos are the three pairs she made during the 5 day class after she copied the pattern from the original and figured out the engineering. The grey pair in the fourth photo is a knit with quite a bit of metallic that doesn’t show in the photo. The last photo is of Wally heading out the door one night after class, with her jacket from last year and her newest pair of whatever these pants are called. I want to be Wally when I grow up.
My seven day Sievers Students are like I said above, good friends. Ginnie, Cindy and Terry have been coming for so many years, no one quite remembers how many, probably 8-10. But I’ll start with Barb, who is best friends with Terry and came up all the way from NC. I’ve actually taught this same class at Barb’s studio in Asheville a couple of times. Barb is a fantastic weaver, and loves weaving fine linen. Her dish towels are heirlooms. I have one. This is the second heirloom Christening gown she has made, this one with hand embroidered white work on the front, as a result of a class she takes in NC. I’ve been teaching her bobbin lace over the last couple of years, and she made 66″ of lace, from the same linen she used to weave the cloth for the gown, to trim the bottom of the skirt. There is also a cotton batiste slip Barb made to go under the gown. Working this small is cranky and sometimes difficult. Often it is just easier to attach pieces by hand rather than by machine. Barb loves handwork so that wasn’t an issue. Obviously the gown needs a serious pressing, it is linen, but since there is still so much embroidery to do, it didn’t make sense to spend time getting the gown looking perfect for the pictures. When Barb was all finished, she started on another lace pattern I’d brought along.
Ginnie came to my house a few years ago for a NYC Buying trip with Peggy Sagers. And I’ve been to her house/studio on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We have helped each other clean out our fabric stashes. Ginnie sews all the time and does some pretty wonderful stuff. She made a couple of muslins for some bias tops and even though I took about a hundred photos, somehow I missed the striped bias linen one. Sorry Ginnie. Ginnie spent most of her time on a knit dress. We hand basted panels carefully because the proportions were going to be so critical on her body which is not like the one on the front of the pattern envelope. She was a good sport and spent hours working out the lines and layout of this pretty complex piece. We all squealed in delight when Ginnie slipped it on towards the end of the class, and I must order the pattern and try one myself. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there are no hems in this garment.
Cindy has followed me the longest, way back to 2005 when I taught and gave the keynote at the Sheboygan, WI Midwest Weaving Conference. Cindy weaves beautiful cloth, and this year’s project was handwoven deflected doubleweave from a class with Madelyn van der Hoogt, woven with Alpaca from a friend’s animals. We all couldn’t help pet the fabric every time we walked by. Cindy now effortlessly puts bound buttonholes on her jackets, and can alter a bust cup like nobody’s business. She actually reused a pattern from a previous year, making a jacket that looked completely different from the original. She reversed the fabric for the facings to show how cool the back of the fabric is in a deflected double weave. Note that the buttons were coconut from Walmart.
And last but not least, Terry. Terry could barely sew when she first came to me. She wanted to turn her handwoven cloth into something fun to wear and has returned year after year to make some wonderful things. Terry and Cindy are close to the same size and Cindy let Terry use the pattern from the jacket she made last year. We had a bit of tweaking but the fit was spot on. Terry wove the center panels in a dye class with Heather Winslow, and then wove companion fabric to match knowing she wouldn’t have enough to make a jacket. The two coordinated beautifully. She wanted to try the patch and loop closure that I talk about in my closures lecture, and the scale was perfect. This is her best effort yet, and we got a photo at the end of Terry in her new jacket with Cindy in her’s from last year. In case you are interested, both were made from Vogue 9039.
One of the fun things we get to do during the classes at Sievers is to visit the other studio to see what students are making in the other class that usually runs at the same time. I met Jo Campbell-Amsler who taught natural fibers basketry, and fell in love with the idea of making cordage from harvested Siberian Iris leaves. And I think we have a Russian willow in the back yard that needs frequent pruning. Jo and I are trying to figure out a way to do back to back classes at Sievers next year so we can take each other’s classes.
Once again, the ferry ride away from Washington Island signals the end of another year of Sievers.
I came home at 2am Monday morning to find a present waiting for me from my own garden…
Sievers School of Fiber Arts, my shining venue in my otherwise crazy year! I do love this magical place. It all starts with the ferry ride.
Actually it starts with an early morning flight from Newark to O’Hare, where anything can go wrong and usually does, but this was a smooth trip. Then on to Green Bay, WI where I’m met by someone from the Sievers Staff. We drive through Door County, cherry country, to the tip to hop the ferry. Then the fun begins.
This trip I actually taught two different classes. This was my ninth trip to teach at Sievers, and the first Inkle Weaving class I taught there. I had all different levels so I did a variation on the workshop I did in Asilomar in the spring, but included information for beginning inkle loom weavers. In fact one student had never woven anything at all, when I said it was time to make heddles, she said, “What’s a heddle?” I smiled and of course explained. She had actually bought the loom at the Sievers’ Gathering last fall after watching me demo inkle weaving. She was one of the most eager and fun students!
We started with basic plain weave, learning how to weave a competent band.
We then played around with supplemental weft, a technique I use often when weaving trim for things like a Chanel Jacket
They switched to supplemental warp and played around with that.
Then they learned how to do a 2:1 pick up with the 5 pattern threads in the middle.
Some brave souls kept the supplemental warp going while attempting the pick up techniques.
By lunch time we were finishing up the first warp and ready to start warping a different set up, one that would have the center section alternating light and dark. At this point they were a little bleary eyed but hung in there and learned to do a 1:1 name draft.
They worked well into the evening, and some began to work on what Ann Dixon calls in her pattern book, Runic. It is basically a free form patterning done on a 1:1 pattern ground. The results were beautiful.
I showed them how to do paired pebbles on the same warp, but we literally ran out of time. It was an intense class, but they were good sports and really focused and learned a lot. If I teach this next year, definitely want more time!
Three of the students stayed on for my next class in garment construction. Apparently 10 days of classes with me isn’t too much! (or maybe it was!)
Stay tuned for part two of my Sievers’ Experience…
Really I haven’t abandoned you dear readers. It is summer. There are places to go, people to see, produce to enjoy. My days are full and there isn’t much to write about as far as goings on in the studio. I look at my stash, my looms, my machine, and I haven’t accomplished a thing, because, well, it is summer, and there are places to go, people to see, and produce to enjoy.
Sunday we took a drive to the Jersey Shore. Long Beach Island to be specific. And old college friend visits every year, a fiber buddy from the west coast. I’m usually on the road but the stars aligned and my husband and I headed down. If you have never been to the Jersey Shore, there is nothing quite like it. Just smelling the air, hearing the gulls, feeling my toes in the hot sand, brought back every childhood memory I had of summers down the shore. Made me smile. A lot.
We had a visit last week. A large and unexpected visitor. If you have ever seen my lovely 1/2 acre, fenced in property and know my gardens and ponds, you will know how shocked we were when the neighbor called to tell us about this…
Yep, and when he was finished with bird feeder #1, he wandered over towards the other side of the yard.
He demolished the feeder #2. The town’s police force were all there watching. Nothing much they could do.
He was beautiful, majestic, and it was sad that this bear was wandering around densely populated suburbia because all of his habitat is disappearing. He finally wandered towards the front of the house, safely alongside the greenhouse, not touching one plant in the garden, and broke the fence down and wandered off to the neighboring property.
It is produce season. This is the afternoon haul. I make trays of oven dried tomatoes, quarts of tomato sauce, zucchini fritters and zucchini bread, taboulleh, gazpacho, pickles, and pickled cucumbers. Not a lot of time for much of anything else.
And so my summer fun is just about over. I hop on a plane to Chicago tomorrow morning at 7am, then on to Green Bay. Someone from the staff at Sievers School of Fiber Arts picks me up and we drive to the northeastern tip of Wisconsin, Door County. We hop on a ferry. And for the next ten days, I get to be on an island again, with my favorite group of students, for my ninth year teaching at this little place I call fiber heaven. I’m all packed, including my next knitting projects.
And so the fall season of classes is about to begin. There is still space in my five day beginner weaving class at Peters Valley, and a few spots in my classes left for Fiber College in Maine the beginning of September. And of course my annual trek to Harrisville for another Wearable Extravaganza. My other group of favorite students. I love this particular workshop when I can repeat it in a location on a yearly basis. I have lots of repeat students and I have really learned their bodies, their styles, the kinds of things they like to wear, and enjoy the new and challenging projects they bring me. We all grow. Check out my schedule with links for the next couple of months here…
And I’m finalizing plans for next February with Kathrin Weber of Blazing Shuttles for a team retreat, weaving fabric with Kathrin and then garment construction with me, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I am sooo excited about this and Kathrin and I are busy creating cloth and garment samples, so stay tuned for more about that as we get closer into the fall.
Meanwhile, it has been a great summer, one of my favorites in recent memory. I got a couple real vacations and some down time with my family. We have all settled into a routine, cohabiting fairly well. The dogs still get into trouble now and then, but fortunately they were inside and missed the bear incident.
One of the biggest parts of my job as an educator and a writer (’cause those are the parts where I actually get paid) is the development of new courses and content and samples. The same goes with writing articles. To articulate what I know in my head, mostly from personal experience is a great exercise in solidifying that knowledge, not because someone said so, but because testing and trial and error make it so.
During the handwoven yardage class I taught last May at Peters Valley Craft School, I spent the evenings while students worked, prepping the design and samples that I wanted to use for the Beginning Weaving workshop which I’ll also teach at Peters Valley the end of August. It is always a nail biter to get the content to match the skill level of students, in this case they have none, and be able to accomplish the goals within the time frame set by the workshop. In this case, it is five days. The goal is to have students become familiar with setting up a multi shaft floor loom, learn to read a draft and understand structure, and go home with a finished product. And of course, want more…
I already teach a beginning class, a one day exploration of the loom using my little collection of Structos (I have 14), and I took that content and expanded it to five days and a much bigger project. The threading of the loom involves a straight draw, with both solid warp and stripes, and a center section of Traditional Bird’s Eye, 1,2,3,4,3,2,repeat. (I apologize to the non weavers who have no idea what I just said. Take the class!) I expanded that to become a handtowel width, about 18″, about 350 ends in 5/2 cotton sett at 20epi, because I think that’s about as much as a brand new weaver can tolerate for a first project.
The idea is to create an environment for exploring treadlings on those threadings, and then select from that sampler the best or most effective and weave a couple of actual towels.
And so, I set up the loom well before I left for vacation.
Right before I left I managed to create the sampler, it is pretty cool. I tried different treadlings and different wefts, all 5/2 cotton.
Then I looked at the finished sampler, still on the loom and decided to weave two towels, one with a complementary weft, rust against the blue, in a twill treadling, and the other with a darker weft, actually brown, in a bird’s eye twill. The photos are reversed.
The towels are finished, washed and dried, and hemmed. I’m smiling. I think this will work.