I’m home. Grab a cup of coffee, it’s going to be a long one!
I had a glorious week in Asheville, NC. Everytime I go there, I think, this is a place where I could live, the arts community is huge, and the fiber community is even bigger. Contemporary fiber in the United States sort of got its start in Black Mountain, after the Bauhaus dispersed and Annie Albers came here and became part of a huge weaving community. That was a long time ago, and the mountains of Western NC are rich in fiber heritage.
I always have a great time when I stay with Barb Butler and her husband Bill. They have a magnificent house, and they cook like there is no tomorrow. The first night in I got to wear my new dress and we had the famous Butler pizza party, Bill cooks the individual pizzas in the Wood fired oven in the back of the house.
We ate out one night, at a lovely restaurant called Isis, in Asheville, and just reading the menu was like poetry. I had a Watermelon, feta, and arugula salad with white balsamic vinaigrette and a chilled lavender infused duck confit over mango quinoa garnished with orange blossom honey essence. For dessert I had the Black Bottom Butterscotch Pot de Creme with Cinnamon Sugar Churros. OMG!
And the class. I loved this class. I know I always say that each one is my favorite, and this one was no exception. It was gratefully a small one, because they kept me going for seven days. Most stayed for only the five, but one brave soul Susan stuck with me for seven straight days and Kathie, who had taken the class last year, came in for the last two.
There was my host Barb, who had a specific agenda, she needed a Gatsby style dress for a pre wedding party. She found a pattern and some lovely silver grey linen and we worked hard to get it to fit. This dress had NO shape. None. Barb has a lovely shape. They weren’t working together. So with a few darts and a bit of a redesign, we nailed it. And we found her the perfect shoes at Zappos.com. All part of the service!
There was her partner at Sutherland Weaving Studio, where the workshop was held, Karen Donde, who is quite an accomplished weaver, writer and teacher herself (she contributes regularly for Handwoven Magazine). Karen, like some of the other students, had an agenda of fitting muslins, or test garments. She wanted a group of interesting garments that actually fit, that she could develop into some great handwoven garments. I can’t wait to see what she does with them. (Many of the fittings were done in my office which doubled as the restroom. I’ve spent many classes teaching in the toilet… This restroom actually had a chair…)
There was Walker (Terry) who has followed me all over the planet, she has taken this class with me many times, and drove down from Wisconsin, and will be continuing the adventure next month when I teach this same class at Sievers. Walker brought all the things she hadn’t finished. Most needed a week’s worth of handwork. She was a trouper! The jacket is handwoven, and needed a closure. Everything is still pinned, but it turned out well.
Walker brought her niece Nora. I taught Nora how to weave on the inkle loom one evening. Nora made a new headband for her dreadlocks.
Pam is a relatively new weaver. She brought gorgeous handwoven yardage to make a jacket. Then she brought a pretty wild lining, and we told her to go for it!
Alice is not a weaver, but a very experienced sewer. Alice was looking for someone to help her fit. She came with a stack of patterns, and I mean a stack, and she blew through pattern tracings and test garments completing one every couple of hours. The pile under her sewing machine grew pretty large by the end of the week.
At one point I tried to clone myself. It didn’t work.
And of course there was Susan, who has taken classes with me before, and had an unfinished pieced vest from a class a couple years ago at the Fiber Forum, and Susan wanted her own “Daryl Jacket”. She wove the yokes in a rag fashion from quilt fabric. The jacket still needed sleeves, but she dove into her suitcase and pulled out at least 20 garments or muslins that needed restyling, resizing, or just needed to be fit. At 5:30pm the last day of the seven day class, her machine was still humming along. But she has lots to keep her busy in the sewing department this next year.
Kathie Roig, a very experienced handweaver from the area, took my class here last year, and was able to pop in and join us for the last two days, since she wanted to restyle a jacket she wove a number of years ago, and had paid a dressmaker to sew it, based on a pattern and style that was popular at the time. Now it just looked oversized and dated. She no longer wore it, so we talked about what to do, and how to preserve what was good about it, the length, the front finishing, and of course the fabric. We restyled the sleeve and reworked the side, and added a zipper up the front for the closure. Kathie is really happy.
I’m home, and I have a week to pull myself and my house together, and give my family some quality time before I leave again next Monday for the ANWG conference. My doggies were very spiteful because I left them. They managed to open the door to the guest room, and get into the closet there where I keep my spinning fleeces. They pulled one out, tossed it all over the room, and then ceremoniously peed all over it. They made their point. I was missed. Sigh.
I’m hoping to return to Asheville next year, I love having students come back and bring new challenges, and this group broke the record for the number of garments I fit in seven days.
Oh, and of course I made a trip one afternoon to Waechter’s Silk Shop, and used my very best restraint while diving into the two large remnant baskets. I came home with only a half dozen pieces, left to right, a rayon challis batik, a silk noil, a cotton knit, an Italian cotton shirting, an Italian linen, a bamboo dobby, a rayon/Poly/Lycra Double knit, and on the right a gorgeous navy blue camel hair. OK, it was eight…
I will be teaching this class again this summer, at Sievers in WI, Harrisville in NH, and Peters Valley in NJ.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Anne Field, another of the weaving greats of our time, another shuttle is silenced, and her loss will be felt throughout the weaving world. By now all of the handweavers who follow my blog have probably heard that Anne, who has authored a number of wonderful weaving books, passed away after a long illness. Anne was from New Zealand, and we were keynote speakers together at The Ontario Provincial Conference in spring of 2011. As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog post about my experiences at the conference and particularly about the grace and gentleness of Anne Field, in spite of the fact that two months before the conference a devastating earthquake destroyed her entire studio. You can read that post here. (It is towards the end.)
I’ve been thinking about Anne all week, as each weaving great leaves the rest of us behind to pass on to a new generation what it means to make something with their hands.
Today I did my annual trek over to a nearby school district, where I spent the day giving a fiber presentation to all of the second grade classes. I talk about my role as an artist, a weaver, a teacher and a writer. I spend time on each of those roles, and I love to begin with a conversation about what tools one needs as an artist. I get the typical answers, paper, pencils and paint brushes, and of course paints, and water for the water colors, and someone invariably throws in that an eraser is necessary. This morning though, I had lovely dark haired girl who sat over on the side look up from her position on the floor and say, “To be an artist, one needs ideas.”
Remember, these are second graders. They were all trying to say things they thought would get approval, they knew they weren’t coming up with what I was looking for, and I expect that. As a matter of course, I ask if words can be used as tools in art. They aren’t sure how to answer that. How about movement, like dance? What about sound, like music? And then of course I begin to add in craft materials like clay and iron. By now, everyone is just saying yes to anything I throw out there, because they now understand that the medium isn’t important. It’s the ideas. I could have hugged that little second grader for her amazing answer, because, that’s really all we need. We just need ideas. The rest comes.
Later on in the presentation, I talk a bit about the history of some of the fibers, I show silk worm cocoons, and the dead chrysalis inside, and I show a flax plant and some linen and of course wool. I also show a cotton boll and talk about the invention of the cotton gin, and how Eli Whitney with his invention started the whole industrial revolution. They are all too young to have studied the industrial revolution, but one studious looking little boy raised his hand and said quite matter of factly, that he had been reading all about the industrial revolution and his book said something different. I was afraid to start a discussion about what his book actually said, since you don’t start a one on one discussion with 40 second graders sitting on the floor in front of you, you’ll loose them to chaos in a heart beat. That a second grader in this day and age was actually reading sort of shocked me, especially since it was a non fiction historical book.
Much later on, when we took a break, the same studious second grader came up to me and said, in his most intellectual voice, “In Minecraft, we dye our wool with minerals, do you dye your wool with minerals?” I was completely floored. I’m guessing that more than half my readers don’t even know what Minecraft is. I’ve watched my kids, it is a pretty intense and amazing video game, sort of like building cities from nothing, and I was stunned that second graders play this game regularly.
I get that this newest generation just entering the school system has a completely different world at their feet than we had. The tools for learning have all changed. Computers can do almost anything. When one of the little girls asked me at the end if I liked to make clothes in my spare time, I turned it into a conversation about what they liked to do in their spare time. There were a lot who answered sports. This is that kind of town. But mostly, I got answers of TV, or computer games. No one, absolutely no child said they liked to read in their spare time. Even the studious boy who plays Minecraft.
I watched these kids, and their intense curiosity about how the drop spindle worked (especially since it was made from two CD’s. I watched how they got under and explored the spinning wheel, I had to do it in really slow motion so they could understand how it functioned. And I had a small four shaft Structo there and they loved that! They started to see the twill structure in their jeans. We talked about knits vs. wovens, and I showed them my knitted socks. They made felted vessels for their teachers.
It was important to my generation to retain some of the knowledge of how to do many of the things that machines now do, how to still create something by hand, even though I can buy yarn, or cloth, or lace, or finished clothing, or knitted socks. There is some wonderful sense of control when we labor over a process and see the fruits of what we have done.
This next generation must not lose the ability to think, even though computers do all their thinking for them. No wonder the education system is failing, kids are too influenced by things that are bigger grander and more far reaching than anything they find in a typical second grade classroom. And yet, we talked about how important it is to not lose the skill of working with the mind or working with the hands. They seemed to really get this and I was so encouraged that maybe the generation that comes along to replace us, won’t do things the way we did them, but won’t toss out what we’ve done either. They will find their own ways, they will dye their wool with minerals, and they will approach art first with ideas.
I think the world will be OK after all…
In spite of the dreary cold rainy weather, I’m having fun. So much fun it should be illegal. I feel like I’m doing something illicit, making this new wardrobe and having a blast. I’ll soon be traveling again, but I’ve had such a good time sewing I don’t want it to stop.
Meanwhile, I owe my dear readers some follow-up. First let me say how much I enjoy when you comment. I read every one, and almost always follow up when there is a question. Almost always. Like I said, I’m having way too much fun…
A couple of blog posts ago, a number of you asked for lining shots of the plaid coat I just finished. I didn’t show the lining because it was rather boring for my standards. Just a plain red silk sari. So, for those who asked. Here is the coat with the buttons all facing the same direction, and the lining.
And a reader asked where to subscribe to Burda Style. I thought I had included the link, but here it is again. To subscribe to Burda Style in English click here. For other languages, click here and scroll down.
I wove a scarf this morning. Because I need to get these woven and finished by Saturday.
Then I decided to sew a little.
Next thing I knew I had this… (truth be told it was actually a little too form fitting. I let it out about an inch and I LOVE the way it fits, most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn. I’m going to look for more rayon jersey in my travels, after I see how this holds up to repeated washings…
And I’m not talking about the weather. That’s been rather dreary, freezing cold, windy, and rain for three days. All my gorgeous flowers are mush.
So I burrowed into my now chilly studio, which is so much better to work in (it is suppose to reach 90 degrees in the next two days), and I hunkered down and made some super progress on a number of fronts. I printed handouts and cut interfacings, and shipped everything to Asheville, remembering at the last minute that Monday is a holiday and there is no UPS pick up… And I looked ahead to the next venue, which will have to be all packaged and ready to ship while I’m still in Asheville, since the ANWG conference in Bellingham Washington comes right on the heels of my seven day class in North Carolina.
But no matter…
I really needed to get another run of scarves onto the loom, partly because Peters Valley wants a sampling of five different colors of my scarves, which I do not actually have, to sell in their gallery this summer, and because I really like to do them. I’m running low on some of the good colors, the plums and browns, and raspberries, so I’ll just make do with what I have on the shelf. Fall will be a great time to get the dyepots cranking up and replenishing my color stash.
I wound a warp for the next run of scarves, sleyed and threaded.
I used my Harrisville Tensioning Device to beam the chained warps onto my sectional beam, adding additional drag on the 12 yard warp in the front with the dog’s bed. Thank goodness the dog decided to lay on the wood floor instead of her bed.
I added the supplemental warps onto the second beam.
And I decided to keep to my “always having a sewing project at the ready” mission.
I washed two fabrics, and found two patterns in a couple of my Burda Style Magazines. I subscribe to Burda Style, and all the patterns for each issue are actually in the issue, but I will say, these are somewhat a challenge, I don’t recommend them for the faint of heart. But I love Burda, the fit and the engineering, in spite of the scanty instructions, and I probably use them as much if not more than Vogue.
The first pattern was a simple pants pattern (April 2013 Burda Style) but sized for stretch gabardine. And I wanted to cut my snakeskin patterned stretch gabardine from Marcorp in the worst way. These will probably only be in style this year, and if I put it off, they will sit indefinitely. And I’ve never sewn with stretch gabardine.
I’m really happy with the results. I tweaked the fit a bit, and they weren’t hemmed in the first two photos. My only frustration was the way the pattern connected in the front. I spent the better part of two hours trying to get everything to match up, the pieces had to be cut singly, and though the sides match perfectly, the center fronts do not, and even though I followed grainlines meticulously, I fear the snakeskin pattern wasn’t printed straight. Which sort of makes sense when you print on something stretchy. Anyway, I debated for a long time how to lay out the pattern and where the lines needed to be down my legs and around my butt. I think they work. And they are super comfortable. They give really well when I sit. I probably could make a size down if I want super body hugging, but I have jeans like that with spandex and they look great, but these feel wonderful.
And I found this pattern in the June 2013 issue, sized for fine stretch jersey. I’m really taking a chance here, because I can’t make a muslin first. I don’t have anything that remotely relates to the stretch of this fabric, one I got at Elliot Berman on my NYC trip in April. The fabric is a viscose Jersey and super stretchy. I love the pattern but have no idea how this goes together, and directions in Burda are scanty. But I love a challenge. I’ll let you know if it fits and how it turns out…
Yesterday was my birthday. I spent it doing things I wanted to do. I really really enjoyed it.
I sat curled up in the air conditioning (yes, we finally relented and turned it on) and hand sewed the lining into my coat. I listened to Pink Martini Radio on Pandora.com and sung along in French whenever Edith Piaf played (the lyrics are given). I drank tea and then later switched to margaritas. I watched as more than 100 friends sent facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday.
It was one of those afternoons where for the moment, all is right with the world.
We went out to dinner and then an evening showing of The Great Gatsby 3D. I did actually enjoy it, though personally I think the 3D was gimmicky and dizzying. I loved the story, and I loved the ending, and I thought it was a gorgeous and dark film, and I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen. I know Baz Lurhmann films are over the top, and this was typical but it worked for me.
I opened a few presents from my wonderful husband who is starting to understand that I don’t need or want presents (too much stuff in the house already). But he did oblige my one request. I wanted the second sheep for my “flock”, which we found at Plow and Hearth. There is also a baby lamb on back order which was my request for Mother’s Day.
That of course prompted a walk around the garden. Everything seemed to have popped into bloom, I’m going to believe it was for my birthday.
There were the peonies. New plants for us this year.
And there was the clematis, also a new plant.
And there were the rhododendrons, which are very old plants for us and I think this is the first time they’ve bloomed in about 15 years.
There were my irises, and my favorites, the blue ones and the coffee colored ones, had just exploded. I hadn’t noticed until yesterday.
And finally, I looked in the pond and there, just for me was a beautiful water lily.
Oh, and of course, I finished my coat.
(note, my husband takes great photos, but doesn’t have OCD. Since I do, the first thing I noticed when I looked at the buttons was that they were all twisted and not facing the same direction. I can assure you that they were all correctly sewn, but alas, it takes a discerning eye to notice that things like buttons are twisted when looking through a camera lens, and I was on the wrong side of the camera.)
Although I can’t wait until fall to wear my coat, I’m not in a hurry to see the glorious growing season end…