I’ve been trying to write this blog post all week, in my head, but there is just too much to say and too much I can’t say, and this has been a really tough month.
Many many years ago, when my children were small, and I was in a difficult and dark time in my life, a wise friend suggested I start a gratitude journal. Every night before bed I’d write about 3 or 4 things that I was thankful for. Some nights it was tough. But I learned to see promise and hope and gentleness in the smallest of things. It became sort of habit that stayed with me for a few years. It got me past the darkness.
And so, though I know it is sort of cheesy, I will post instead a gratitude list. Because above all, I’m so freakin’ happy that this month, actually this year, is almost over.
I’m grateful that my work takes me to places where I can step away from my life at home. I get to eat different food, experience different weather, see other weavers’ studios, see glorious landscapes so different than my own. When I flew to California the beginning of the month, I took three days of steady rain with me. They were really really grateful. And when the rain finally stopped, and we stepped outside, I got to see for the first time the really Golden Hills of Northern California.
I’m grateful for all of my students. I love them all. They challenge me, they support me, they are my family, we share a common language. I had a dozen students in Northern California for five days, and they all worked on their own agendas, so there isn’t a fabulous class photo at the end of all they accomplished, in fact many of them just made a pile of test garments and will now go home and sew some pretty cool clothing.
There were of course a couple of actual garments from my own patterns, my lovely hostess made a jacket from commercial wool.
And there were a couple of vests, one still in process from a gorgeous handwoven, and a reversible long one made from an old quilted textile.
And there was a tunic, which though not finished at the close of the workshop, I received a photo of the finished garment just today. I’m grateful for students who finish their garments and send me pictures!
I’m grateful for gentle non-eventful flights home, and that I actually slept on a red eye.
I’m grateful I have things to knit to keep me entertained when I have to sit for hours.
I’m so grateful for my family. They know how to step up to the plate.
Three days after my California trip, I finished up in the kitchen, tidied up as best I could and finished packing to leave yet again, this time for Florida. My dishwasher exploded. Most of you know my husband is not his usual self, this illness has really taken its toll on him, he looks so defeated. The thought of dealing with a malfunctioning dishwasher the night before I left on a trip was probably enough to put him over the edge. My children tried to help figure out what was wrong and just seeing the three of them put their heads together gave me such pride and gratitude.
Unfortunately my wonderful husband tried to go out himself to Home Depot the next day to buy me a new dishwasher since I’d need it for Thanksgiving. He collapsed, mostly a blood pressure thing related to dehydration, but I got the call as I was ready to board the plane for Florida. My daughter raced over to the hospital and I found out that he was stable and my kids were there with him, when I turned my phone back on as I touched down in Orlando. I tried to tell my husband that the dishwasher didn’t matter.
After a night in the hospital, with some really supportive medical people, it became clear that someone had to step in. My kids both have full time jobs, and we needed help. I have never been so grateful for anyone in my entire life as I was when I found out that my sister sent her husband from Maryland to spend the weekend at my house, helping my husband develop meals he could eat, and just provide companionship as only two guys can do. They got into all sorts of mischief. And I got a new dishwasher. (The magnet of the dog butt in the middle of the dishwasher is the indicator that what’s inside is dirty. We also have the dog’s head to indicate that what’s inside is clean.)
I’m grateful for a husband that no matter now bad he feels, and how devastating cancer treatment can be, he had a mission and by God he was going to accomplish it.
I’m grateful for yet another group of students from the Orlando Weavers Guild who were amazing, and fearless, and exhausted but tenacious, and in three days, produced some pretty amazing garments. This was a jacket class, so the idea was they would all make my jacket pattern, unless they had previously made the jacket in another class, in which case I was debuting the tunic pattern I’ve spent the year working on. (Sorry Sister Carmelina, I know I’m not suppose to end a sentence with a preposition… Mea Culpa)
There were some gorgeous jackets…
…and a couple of tunics (this one from a Kathryn Weber Blazing Shuttles hand dyed warp…
…and a gorgeous class photo of some great looking women wearing some great looking garments. And as soon as the photo was shot they all ripped them off, since this was Orlando, where it never gets cold enough to wear outerwear! (Yes, the person on the left made two jackets in three days!)
I’m grateful for all those who made my trips possible, and provided some pretty outstanding meals. I’m grateful for fresh pomegranates right off the tree tucked into my suitcase straight from California. I’m grateful for all the recipes shared. I’m grateful for all the dinner parties and social gatherings and lots and lots of wine…
And I’m grateful when a garment from a long past workshop shows up at a guild meeting and I get to see it completely finished and the pride in the maker’s eyes. These three vests were made at an Orlando Weavers Guild workshop with me many years ago, and they still look amazing.
And two years ago, I taught a Weave a Memory class for the Florida Tropical Weavers Guild Conference, where participants brought family photos and we scanned them, printed them on silk and cut them into strips, reweaving them in a Theo Moorman technique. My hostess Bev was in that class, and her walls were full of these handwoven treasures, it was so great to see them finished and hanging.
This is a pretty important Thanksgiving for me. Last year, my son was deployed to the middle east. We gathered around a computer to Skype with him for a time. This year, he is home safe, and my daughter has finished college and is back home as well. We are all there to support my husband through this difficult journey. And so tomorrow, my sisters and their families are making the trek to my house to be with my husband who couldn’t have traveled to them like we usually do. They are bringing turkey and all the trimmings. They are amazing and I’m so grateful they are in my life.
And you dear readers. I am grateful for all of you who tell me how much this blog means to you, and for those who post comments, and support my writing. This is blog post 688. I started it nearly seven years ago. It means a lot that you still hang in there and follow my journey.
And most important, I am truly grateful for all of you who have sent wishes and prayers and cards and support as we navigate this journey of cancer. Know that I love each and everyone of you and that we are a family and no one has to ever walk a journey like this alone. In Thanksgiving…
I finished my cabled vest. I was worried it was a bit too small. Fits like a glove. (DROPS waistcoat, Berroco Peruvia Wool)
Honestly I didn’t expect to get this finished until about February when I started traveling again, since I mostly knit when I’m traveling on planes. But then I found myself sitting endlessly at radiation, at chemotherapy, at doctor’s appointments. Waiting… Waiting… Waiting…
Knitting is good. It is portable. It doesn’t attract attention the way an inkle loom would, or kumihimo or something that isn’t readily recognizable. I’ve had some lovely conversations with others in those waiting rooms, about knitting, or crocheting, or wanting to knit, or failing to be able to knit as a child, or about relatives’ who knit. And there were a couple of woodworkers too who jumped into the conversation. Anything to talk or think about something positive and fruitful that comes from the hands, and not the reason we are all gathered waiting, in the first place.
There was a woman across the room from me yesterday in the infusion center, as I sat knitting my little vest. She was knitting something grey, sitting next to her husband, not looking at what she was knitting, while the two of them watched the little personal TV they give you. My husband full of sleep inducing drugs, slept through most of the hours we were there. At one point, the woman across the way came over and asked me in the lowest of non disturbing voices what I was knitting. There was a knowing nod between us. I showed her the small picture of what the vest would look like from my crumpled and well marked up internet directions. She smiled and said it was pretty. I asked her what she was making. I couldn’t tell much from way across the room. She said she was knitting a hat, she does that in between projects, hats for the chemo patients at the cancer center. Hmmmm…..
OK, I’ll admit I’m horribly selfish when it comes to what comes off my loom or off my needles or whatever. I’m known as a pretty generous instructor, I’ll tell you anything, probably more than you want to know, I’ll readily share drafts of things that are mine to share (obviously not copyrighted stuff). Crap, I’ll even help you make it. But I don’t give away what I make, I enjoy it myself and I suppose that works for me. The truth is, this is one of the few things I do for myself. I make things that make me happy and proud when I wear them. I bow to those who tirelessly knit for charity, weave for a cause, give away all the socks they knit (see the Yarn Harlot’s latest blog post about her sock drawer). Truth is I’ve knitted 12 pairs of socks. They are all in my drawer and I wear all of them.
I have started weaving dishtowels, and giving them as holiday gifts to really close friends and family, and the occasional wedding present or two, but I’m still selfish with them.
Even my daughter, faced with a bag of 30 skeins of sea foam acrylic yarn taking space in her closet, set up my loom, enough to weave five baby blankets, to use up what she had. My daughter is not pregnant nor is she planning to be in the near future since there is no significant other on the horizon with which to share this milestone. But her peers are starting to have babies, and she thought it might be an idea to get started weaving gifts.
Last March, I was teaching in Colorado and one of the participants in my class approached me at the end and showed me a knitted breast prosthetic she was working on. She had learned during the class that I had undergone treatment for breast cancer many years ago and had not had reconstruction. She asked if I had seen these knitted prosthesis and I had heard of them, someone from my knitting group had told me about them, but not having issues with my silicone one, except for the ridiculous expense since insurance barely covers them anymore, I hadn’t pursued it. She asked for my size and reached into her bag and pulled one out. She apparently knits them for www.knittedknockers.org. She makes them and then gives them away. Another service knitter.
Eventually I got around to trying this cute little “knitted knocker” and can I say my life was transformed? Really that isn’t an exaggeration. You can’t know how comfortable this little puppy is, just perched inside my bra, comfortable, absorbent, and weightless. I immediately went to the website, and downloaded the directions. (Note that she had already given me a copy, but I was standing in WEBS and thought I should pick up a couple of skeins of Pima Cotton and didn’t have the directions with me). I can get three boobs from one skein. The skeins were on sale.
The point of the above rambling is I want to knit more of them for me. In fun colors. The website will send cancer patients these knitted and donated knockers for free apparently, but I can knit my own. I just don’t want to knit and give them away. I know. Selfish. I wouldn’t have ever known about them or tried them if a student hadn’t been generous and given the one in her bag away.
To all of you who do service work, your efforts are appreciated. A lot. And there is a place for you in the great yarn store in the sky when all is said and done. I’m hoping you’ll let me visit once in awhile, and that my generous contributions during my classes will be enough to let me drop in for tea now and then.
I’ve already planned my next sweater project, and of course it is for me.
I know I’m overdue for a blog post, but life here, as you might imagine is a bit scattered and busy.
I flew to Kansas City what is it now two weekends ago? I was giving a series of lectures to the Missouri/Kansas American Sewing Guild Chapter, staying in Kansas City MO, and teaching in Overland Park, Kansas. Confusing? Probably not much more than living in North Jersey and having all of our sports teams and even the Statue of Liberty claimed by New York. A mere river separates us.
I loved this group. And I loved working with people who sew. Regularly. So different from most of my other classes where fiber enthusiasts who make cool cloth, need help with their long dormant sewing skills. It was most obvious when I came to the powerpoint slide, in the Hong Kong seam finish sequence, that explains where you have to “stitch in the ditch”. I said those four little words and turned to look at the audience expecting my usual array of blank stares and they all looked at me expectantly waiting for the next step. I asked if everyone understood the term Stitch in the Ditch and they all looked at me like I had two heads as if to say, “Why wouldn’t we?” I’m sure you had to have been there and also in the classes where there are a handful that don’t get this term and watch me try to explain this simple garment construction technique. It is actually hilarious and I felt this time like I’ve found my tribe.
So thanks ladies, for a great weekend. Oddly enough I fell in love with Overland Park, Kansas, and even with Kansas City and all it’s areas, Friday night we ate at a fabulous German restaurant and participated in a First Friday Gallery walk. I’m not exactly even sure which state I was in, but it was fun. And I have no photos. None. I can’t say why. Probably because I gave mostly lectures.
Saturday night we stopped in a Barnes and Noble. I haven’t been in a Barnes and Noble in years. I’m sorry, I admit, I buy my books on the Kindle. How did I miss the four aisles of adult coloring books? Wow, when a new craze hits, it is intense! The American Capitalistic way! I had picked up a book on Zentangles while I was at Sievers, and the fine pens, but I had no idea that the rest of the country was either busy coloring or busy designing coloring books. Even though it was my favorite thing to do as a child, before I learned to sew, I can’t imagine sitting for hours right now coloring in detailed pages. I barely have time to write this blog. I bought an additional Zentangle book from the Barnes and Noble bargain table.
I flew home last Monday, was picked up at Newark Airport by a friend of ours, since my husband was already in Hackensack at the chemo infusion center. I got home, grabbed leftovers to eat, and jumped in the car to head to Hackensack to take over for my daughter who was sitting with my husband for the hours of chemo. We finished up the Chemotherapy and then drove over to the radiation center. It was a long day, but gentle, and kind.
Tuesday morning, very grateful for the hurricane named Joaquin, who ceremoniously missed the east coast, I drove to Flemington to pick up the guild speaker Karen Donde, in a hand off from another guild. Karen is an old friend whom I adore and had agreed to host during her workshop with our guild, way before I learned of my husband’s illness. There were offers to put Karen in another location, but having people I love surround me, makes the days seem short and wonderfully distracting. And distracting they were. Tuesday afternoon, after getting Karen settled, I raced back to Hackensack for another radiation treatment for my husband, same on Wednesday, and then we headed down to the Jockey Hollow Guild meeting. Life in the fast lane. Except the fast lane on Rt 287 towards Morristown was pretty congested. Typical for NJ at rush hour.
Thursday and Friday Brianna, (my daughter), Karen (the speaker) and I drove to the meeting location for a two day workshop on Bubble Cloth. Karen had lots of samples, and we had two looms in the car, and we spent two days weaving samples in a round robin (moving around the room working on all the different looms, 11 total) that would eventually be vigorously washed creating bubbly fabric. The yarns were selected because they shrank at different rates when exposed to hot water and agitation. Cotton or tencel vs. Merino Wool. I have to say that there were surfaces that I loved after all was said and done, but I really struggled when instructed to beat very loosely to achieve a square block, way too loose for my taste, since I’m the queen of a firm fabric when making garments. If the beat was too dense, it was hard to get even merino to felt.
I took Karen to the airport early Saturday morning, and then spent the day with another very old weaver friend in from the west coast for her father’s funeral. Carol and I went to college together, and have remained close friends. I was sad Carol lost her father, but the day was so warm and peaceful, and there was something quite profound and restful being close to someone I love and standing by a grave site in the warm sunshine, with the leaves turning, listening to prayers and saying goodbye to someone who lived a full and adventurous life.
Sunday I spent the day threading a loom, for an all day demo I’m doing at the Newark Museum next Saturday. I put nine yards on the loom, of cotton dishtowel cloth, in the same colors and threading I used for the Learn to Weave class I taught last month at Peters Valley.
And now, the week begins again, my days are back and forth to Hackensack, sitting with my husband through his treatment.
I’m finding a gentle peace in just sitting, with my knitting needles going, working through a cabled vest. Mostly he sleeps, the benedryl pre-meds put him instantly to sleep, but I haven’t spent this much time just being in the moment, and with my husband in many many years. Oddly enough there is a plus side to this. The stress is gone, because, really, when you look cancer in the face, what is there to be stressed about? Nothing is really all that important. We sat yesterday on the rooftop parking garage, after radiation, just watching for planes landing at Newark or Teterboro airports. Just being. And that is a gift.
Friendship is the most important gift of all. I have been blessed with friends who have stopped by, like Jerri last night, bearing anchovy and mushroom pizza. (Which I adore!) She came to weave off her sample from my daughter’s loom, but it was good to have company in the studio. And Diane, who came by this afternoon bearing wine, soup for the freezer, and a large bakery box of everything they had that was chocolate. Diane made me laugh when she pulled out and put on her latest adventure in fiber art, a gorgeous collage of all things fibrous and some found objects, medals, and kitsch that you can actually wear.
If you are in the area next Saturday, please come to the Newark Museum for a rare series of events, surrounding a couple of wonderful exhibits, especially featuring Gabriel Dawe. I saw an exhibit of his work when I was in Savannah a couple of years ago. String art on steroids. A must see. I’ll be demonstrating weaving from noon to 4:30. Here is the link for next Saturday’s events. And here is a photo I took of me in the gallery at Savannah College of Art and Design at the Gabriel Dawe exhibit.
Only for a short time, but I wanted to get this post right out. I spent last week teaching at Harrisville Designs, a quaint, historic location, pristine, full of ghosts to the active textile mill days in the 1800’s, and though I’ve never worked harder in my life, this was one of my most successful classes ever. They worked just as hard. Sometimes until 10:30pm. Some had already been working hard in the morning before I arrived half an hour before class was to start each day. I had a large class, 11 students. Four were returning, and seven first timers with me. All were successful.
I measure success in many kinds of different ways. Personally it isn’t things like winning an award at a show, or having my name across a magazine masthead. Success to me is when I solve a problem that seemed unsolvable, nail something that I’ve been sweating over for a long time. Standing back and looking at something I’ve done and being personally pleased by what I see. Simple things that make one curious and energized to tackle the next problem.
Success though, takes on a whole new meaning when I see someone look in the mirror and tell me they’ve never had a jacket fit them before, ever. Success for me comes when I watch someone’s eyes and they light up and show me that they’ve gotten it, and then can now fly. Success is when I see 11 students leaving a class with jackets and coats that fit and celebrate the cloth they brought, mostly handwoven. I think only two students brought commercial fabrics this time. There was a lot of weaving going on this year.
We did a final shot of everyone’s jackets and coats outside the Spinning and Weaving Center the morning of the final day. There was still much handwork to be done, but I’ve never been prouder of a group of women, all of whom learned so much and really pushed their skills.
I even got a couple of shots of me doing my job!
There were my repeat students…
Amy, who wove this lovely cashmere fabric, and used a gorgeous silk for the lining. Her son and daughter in law brought the silk back with them from India as a gift. So the jacket has extra special meaning. This is a Linda Kubic Elements pattern.
Carole, who wove this amazing wool, and made a coat with Vogue 1320. I had used that pattern with a commercial plaid a couple of years ago. We struggled with the fit of the sleeves going into the yoke because the fabric was so bulky. The coat will be wonderful for cold New England winters.
Rita, who makes me smile at the way she designs and spends so much time working things out in front of the mirror. Rita wove her fabric as well, and the jacket pattern is based on one she brought from Germany.
Jane, who also wove her fabric. This is mostly Zephyr wool and silk, I can’t remember if there is tencel in it, but the fabric was the softest thing you could imagine. Beautifully fulled. The pattern was Vogue 9039, one that some of my Siever’s students have used. I wished I had taken a photo of the interior, every seam was perfectly trimmed using a combination of Hong Kong and Welt seam finishes. The jacket is unlined.
Barbara was a new student but had made a jacket similar to the one I use for beginners and with her extensive garment skills already, she brought her own pattern and some amazing handwoven fabric from her own Romney sheep. She sent the fleece out for processing and spinning and wove a beautiful houndstooth with companion pieces. There was a lot of pounding happening when Barbara would pick up the steam iron! Simplicity 1320
And all the rest made my jacket pattern, fondly called the Daryl Jacket!
There was Jean with another beautiful handwoven fabric, making her jacket suitable for the office…
Sandy, handwoven fabric made into more of a sweater coat for layering… We used elastic hair ties from the general store across the street for a clever closure.
Karen, who came in from Wisconsin with a rather loosely sett rayon handwoven fabric that required some extra care, but the end result was so worth it.
Cathy came in from Texas, with a handwoven fabric that made everyone gasp, partly from how spectacular it was and partly from the loose sett. Cathy worked tirelessly to make the fabric work, and her extra effort paid off, the jacket is gorgeous and so very suitable to the warm climate in Texas.
Jan brought in a commercial upholstery fabric, and made a gorgeous jacket with a clever closure.
And dear dear Anne who was so enthusiastic, also with a commercial upholstery fabric, and I’m so disappointed I somehow did not manage to get a photo of her jacket finished with the sleeves and bands. She also did a lovely looped closure, interrupting the piping to create loops which I didn’t photograph either.
I had hoped to have students try on my new tunic/shirt pattern, so I could finalize the pattern. Many were obliging and tried it on and I loved the proportions. I will grade up one more size, but I’m completely happy with how it looked on everyone, needing only to add darts when appropriate. Like the one Jean is modeling. Just needs a little more fullness and darts.
I’m very very tired. I gave this class everything I had. The energy was high, and the creativity astounding. And what usually happens when I return from an intense class like this (it is called a five day garment intensive), I have to go to a quiet place and hide a bit to refill the cup. There is nothing left to give to anyone.
So I apologize to my poor husband, who is facing some pretty nasty stuff. His PET scan which happened while I was up in NH showed a tumor and node issues in his thyroid in addition to the known stage 3 esophageal cancer. Chemo and radiation start next Monday. His spirits are strong, but I am struggling to do much more than attack paperwork, bills, printing handouts and making kits for the ASG classes this coming weekend in Kansas City. I declined to accompany him to the Peters Valley Craft Fair today, which disappointed both of us, but I couldn’t talk to another person or look at and absorb another thing. I needed this day alone. It is hard to explain unless you travel for a living and stand up in front of a group of people and give out everything you have in your soul. I wouldn’t change any of it, it was so worth the success I saw in the eyes and on the bodies of every one of my students. We are trying to lock in next year’s dates as I write.
I think I’ll go open a beer…
I always enjoy watching the pole dance that celebrity actors do when a new film is about to release. I know that they finished up their part in the film probably a couple of years ago, and it has been in post production ever sense. Most likely they are on to filming something else, and yet, when a film is released, they are called back to promote it like it was yesterday.
I write for a lot of different magazines. Back when I wrote regularly for Handwoven magazine, I would submit my feature probably six weeks before press date, have the edits to me within a couple weeks, and everything was much more timely. Madelyn, my editor back then, knew my work and knew what I gave her needed little editing and I could just fly in at the last minute with something usable.
Publishing is different now.
Now I have short deadlines (two weeks if I’m lucky) with most of the magazines I contribute to, but the lead time is sometimes a year out. Back in January, I wrote about a jacket I made, and the problems I had with the pattern. The jacket was for an article I was writing for Sew News Magazine. Everything was shipped to them, and I was actually paid last March for the article. Each issue I’d wait, and…. no article! I wrote them and they said the article was actually for the October/November issue, and it would be out sometime in September. I’d almost forgotten about it at this point.
Unlike other publications I write for, Sew News never shows the final copy to the contributor, which is always a scary thing. They have assured me that in the future they will submit for final approval, which is good news since the minute I opened the magazine that appeared in my mailbox while I was away last weekend, I saw a couple of glaring errors in how the illustrations were done. They interpreted my photos into illustrations but I hadn’t seen the final results until the magazine was printed and sent. Frustrating…
But… Let me say that the seven page spread is beautiful. The illustrations are very clear, and there are a lot of them. The two mistakes are small and though a bit confusing, not critical to the overall understanding of the technique, how to make Triangular Bound buttonholes. They assure me that the corrected illustrations will be on the website. The jacket photographed well, and I can’t wait to get it back so I can start wearing it. I love they way they styled the model.
These buttonholes are pretty cool. They are actually easier than regular bound buttonholes. The issue should be on the newstands now, October/November 2015 Sew News