Purchased gifts. Done.
12 yards of Dishtowels, woven, cut apart, hemmed. Done.
Annual Christmas missive, written, printed, stuffed, stamped and mailed. (Thanks Brianna!) All 150 letters… Done (if you are curious, click here…)
Tree decorated. Dog happy.
Gifts wrapped. Thank you Brianna.
Baby gate installed after dogs unwrapped gifts and ate some of them. Sigh…
Warps wound for 1 Day Beginning Weaving class through Jockey Hollow Weavers, Jan 10th (which incidentally is now full, starting a waiting list.) There is another beginning weaving class forming in the Princeton area in February, click here for details.
Brianna wound my warps for the class, and came up with a great idea when winding alternate colors of yarn using a mill. She clamped a small piece of wood to one of the inside struts drilled out to hold a fat dowel. The second cone of yarn sits inside the mill when not in use. They are easily swapped out when the next color is needed. All this education I’m paying for and really, she just needs to come work for me…
Knitted Alpaca Hoody Vest done. (C2Knits Pattern, handspun alpaca from Woodsedge Wools in NJ)
Pattern selected for mohair yardage. I ended up using the McCall’s with modifications.
Fabric laid across the floor of my studio to “get a plan”.
Garment sewn together.
And now I have the endless job of finishing off all the seams with a blanket stitch and the perimeter of the coat with a crab stitch in Crochet.
It has been a satisfying couple of weeks…
Oh, and hired back my old housekeeper. Done…
The knots have crossed up over the back beam.
Let me explain…
I love to weave. I mean, just sitting at the loom, working the loom, throwing the shuttle in a rhythm, back and forth from hand to hand, completely synchronized with my feet pushing on the treadles in a simple sequence, and the rocking motion that comes from beating the yarn into place. It is a well timed dance. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
When I turned 30, I was getting to the end of my tenure as a production weaver. I was tired. I had done craft fairs for almost 8 years, and I was looking for something else to entertain me and I crossed one of those “what now” moments in life. I had always wanted to ride a horse, and the opportunity presented itself in the form of an adult school class and I decided to try. As with first approaching a loom, approaching riding a horse is just as awkward and painful and yet, I kept at it, eventually finding myself a private teacher on a local farm. We would often ride bareback into one of the Morris County parks. It was a great feeling once I learned to understand the horses movements, anticipate what the horse was seeing and feeling, and my body learned to work with the horse, not fight it. The horse I rode regularly was temperamental and a bit clumsy and I learned to sense when the horse was about to trip and be able to use the reins to gently raise the horse’s head so it could recover from the near stumble easily. Since I had no saddle, I could only hold on with my legs, which is what should have been happening anyway.
Sadly I had to give up my new passion within a couple of years as I found myself pregnant at 34 with my son. The doctor wouldn’t let me ride, and that was fine. But the experience of riding, actually racing up the steep incline into the county park, with just the muscles of the horse under me, there was no way to actually describe it except to say, it is a lot like what I feel when I weave.
I usually weave yardage. I make garments after all, and it doesn’t make sense to me to weave anything else. As a matter of fact, it was only in a blog post a couple of years ago I admitted that I had never woven a dishtowel. I have since discovered the joy of giving hand made dishtowels, and actually my family rather expects them as gifts during the holidays, but really, the way I design them, they are just narrow cotton/linen yardage. Single shuttle, simple treadling sequence. I can fly like the wind.
Hence the problem…
I enjoy the design process, the prep work for starting a new piece of yardage. I almost never weave less than ten yards. Doesn’t make sense to me. Twelve yards for me is a pretty standard warp length. I can do a lot with that amount of fabric. Sleying, threading, beaming, all the steps of dressing a loom are very zen for me, and I do enjoy each of the processes, but they aren’t physical and I’m not using my entire body, “running” with the loom. That comes once the set up is complete.
And then I run, no actually I gallop. The one thing I miss about my production years, was the speed I could maintain weaving off 30 yards of 45″ wide fabric. Yes, it was only 12 picks/inch, but I could and did sectionally beam, thread, and weave off 30 yards of mixed warp in a single day. I was young then. I could do a lot of things in my 20’s I wouldn’t even consider today. Yet, as I near my 60th birthday (next May) I still remember the feeling of riding bareback on a horse when I sit down at the loom and just weave.
Weaving yardage is not as simple as it sounds. The rhythm is the most important thing here, and of course accuracy. But mistakes can be cut around, and repaired later if necessary, having a consistent rhythm is critical to having consistent yardage. And when you are in it for 12 yards or more, there is no room for dealing with broken threads hanging off the back with weights ( I just knot and keep going), temples, and anything else that can be fussy and cause a break in the momentum.
I use a continuous paper roll as packing that rewinds itself as I weave.
I use a heavy AVL end feed shuttle, which effortlessly flies across the shuttle race on the loom, and comes out the other side to be caught by my opposite hand. It is all in the wrist motion. Very subtle. Easy on the joints. My back is straight, I’m pushing away with my extended legs, like riding a bike, and my mind is wildly free to run amok, thinking about all sort of things, EXCEPT, I am acutely aware of everything the loom is doing underneath me and I can sense a broken thread, a skipped thread, a malfunction in a treadle or the loom tensioning system (occasionally my side braces slip on this old loom). That kind of sensitivity is only learned by practice, much like riding a horse.
The sturdier the loom, the more successful I am at this, the more I am working with the loom and not against it. The loom I wove the towels on is the same one I bought from Tools of the Trade back in 1978. (The photo below left is from around 1980). I had forgotten how much I love to just weave on it. Nothing has changed on it in 36 years. It still does it’s job. (And yes, I’m weaving in my pajamas in the second photo which I took a couple hours ago).
It does it’s job so well that with little effort, the knots are coming up over the back beam signalling the end to a 12 yard warp and now the loom will sit idle until I have a need to warp it up again.
And so, it is with regret that I have come to the end of this lovely warp, which wove like butter. I will soon cut off the towels, wash them, and cut them up, hem them and then gift wrap for my family and friends. The towels were inspired by a project in the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of Handwoven. It was a great way to use up all my leftover discontinued Cotlin from Webs. I only had to buy weft.
I should mention here, that I will be teaching a five day weaving yardage class at Peters Valley next summer, along with a five day beginning weaving class. The 2015 brochure should be up online within the month!
I suppose it all comes down to personality.
I was taught never to quit.
And in reality, I wouldn’t let a student quit under my watch.
It wasn’t really about having a dress to wear, it is always about what I can learn from the experience. And I’d learn nothing if I tossed the whole dress.
One of the things that helped to build my skills in garment construction very on in my childhood, was learning to alter ready to wear. In fact, I had a small alterations business when I was 15 years old. My mom was there to supervise, but I learned to take apart ready to wear and make it work on my client’s body, and that was a huge gift.
It is a lot harder to do this though, on your own body. There is a lot of pinching of fabric, and guessing, and some real gut instincts.
I spent all day yesterday and this morning, reworking the dress. Because I wanted to learn from it. And I did. I know now that very stretchy mesh knits really need to be completely sewn with a serger. Fortunately I have a couple of them and I just had them serviced.
And as it turns out, I have a pretty cute dress that feels like I’m wearing nothing.
Even though it is finished and Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I could technically wear it, I won’t. Because…
This is definitely hats and boots and hand knit socks and sweaters weather. If all goes well and the NJ turnpike is clear, we will head to south Jersey to be with family. My baby girl is home for a couple of days, and I am going to enjoy her company.
So to all of you loyal and supportive readers, a Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Be grateful for the little things. They can blossom and become big things, along with great opportunities to learn. And really, isn’t that the whole point?
There is always a first time for everything…
I remember Madelyn van der Hoogt, then editor of Handwoven Magazine, asking me to write an End Note’s column on one of my failures and how I dealt with it. Without meaning to be flip, I wrote back and said, “Madelyn, I don’t have failures”. In reality, my best challenges are to make things work. That’s when I have the most fun, and really get to be creative. I’m always able to pull a concept out and make it work. It helps that I have a lot of experience in what’s possible, so my vision is usually dependable.
There is always a first time for everything…
I saw this dress in the May 2012 issue of Burda Magazine.
I loved it. And my previous experience with a similar dress turned out so well, I thought I’d try another one. I’m very true to size for Burda Patterns, usually minor tweaking if I have to do anything, and I can’t ever remember not having a sewing success. Especially with these patterns.
I ignored the tip they offered, we all know I’m NOT voluptuous, as a matter of fact, if you’ve ever heard me lecture about fit, I can pretty much fit into any commercially graded B cup pattern because I had breast cancer and can use a prosthetic to help me fit the pattern rather than alter the pattern to fit me. Small perk, but there you have it.
But I wear knits well, and they are fun and comfortable. I picked up a lovely knit at Mood I thought would work, but failed to note how much fabric was required. So I couldn’t even get half a dress out of it. Apparently the way this dress is constructed, all 16 pieces of it, is there is a gathering panel over each of the garment sections, the two are mounted together and so the dress is technically underlined with itself. I needed something like 3 1/2 yards of fabric.
So my friend and sewing buddy extraordinaire Ginnie sent me a link to a stretchy mesh knit she got on sale through Marcy Tilton. I liked the colors, and it was pretty sheer and I thought it would work well for this dress, since it would be two layers. The truth is, I’m not experienced in knits, I know wovens better than anyone, but knits I’m still an amateur. Mesh knit is much stretchier than a jersey or interlock knit. The pattern called for a stretch jersey. Still, I knew it had to be fairly snug, and the last dress I made with a stretch knit was almost too snug, I had to release the seams and got it to work. The ease on a Burda pattern is pretty predictable.
It took a couple of days to cut out this pattern. I blogged about it in my last post before I got sidetracked for the guild sale, (which by the way was fantastic, I sold almost everything I made for it.)
I finally sat down to start to construct it, thinking it would be perfect for Thanksgiving with my family. I can usually sew something like this in an evening or two. Yeah… No…
The problem with knits, is the inability to make a test garment first. Every knit reacts and stretches differently, and unless I used the same fabric, I wouldn’t be able to really test the fit. So I plowed into this blindly, and from previous experience, didn’t think it would be an issue.
There were red flags.
Because I wear a breast prosthesis, I of course have to wear a bra. The upper fronts on this dress are really wide apart. I suppose that was because they assumed tall girls have voluptuous boobs? I carried on and as I added the lower panels and put it on the dress form, it was becoming clear that this knit was way too stretchy and the fit was probably not going to work.
I went ahead and put together the back. Then I basted the fronts and backs together.
This is an epic fail. Of the greatest proportions. It is almost comical.
And yes, the side upper fronts are way too wide apart for anyone to actually wear a bra.
And so my dilemma is what to do now. The dress won’t be wearable for Thanksgiving. No matter, I have tons of things to wear. Plus we are suppose to get 10″ of snow, so I may just stay in my pajamas and not head to south Jersey and then it will all be a moot point.
I can probably remake the entire dress, section by section, redesigning with what I’ve got. I’m not sure it is worth it. The problem besides the fit, is the stretchiness of the knit, it should fit like an ace bandage to work, and I’m not sure I can get it that tight and stay true to the original engineered/design. The stripe is odd, it couldn’t be matched, because it is like a watercolor wash, it isn’t consistent down the length of the yardage. And though the stripes are cut on grain, because of the gathering angles of the dress, it looks drunk. I dont’ think there is a fix for that.
Part of me wants the challenge of seeing if I can pull this out, I could use the experience, and I never throw anything away that could be salvaged. But I don’t know if it is worth the time I’d need to give to it. This is suppose to be my creative time in the studio, and to spend the next week or so reworking something that is questionable even if I get it to work, is not the best way to use my time…
And so I will continue to mull, while puttering around with other things, like the next installment of my family album. For those of you new to the blog, I started almost four years ago, trying to make sense of our volumes and boxes of family photographs and slides, dating back to the 1970’s. I scanned in the most important images for each event or vacation, and put together PowerPoint albums for each year. It has been a huge labor of love. It is one of the best gifts I can leave my children. The problems began when we reached the 2000’s. That’s when we got a digital camera, and well, you know digital images are essentially free. So our trips and events that use to have a couple hundred shots to cull through, turned into a couple thousand. The album for 2003 was larger than all of the 1980’s combined. So I’m chugging away on 2004, and am starting to make a dent but it is slow going. It was therefore really disappointing to take a break and think I’d just whip up a dress and have such an epic fail.
There is always a first time for everything…
Part of what I love about what I do for a living is there is always something that pops up and commands my attention away from what I really want to do.
Part of what I hate about what I do for a living is there is always something that pops up and commands my attention away from what I really want to do.
Yeah, life is like that…
I wove a bit on my Christmas towels, cut out a knit dress, with my new Kai Serrated 8″ scissors (J’adore). The dress had something like 16 pieces and took all afternoon to cut out.
Then I headed up to the attic to get a cut of discard fabric I could use for a skirt muslin.
That’s when I got derailed…
I have tried to look the other way this year concerning my weaving guild show and sale. I know, that’s not in the best interest of a team spirit, but I knocked myself out last year, pulling scraps and oddiments from the attic and reworking and sorting and bagging and making all sorts of new old work to sell off, and I did, and what was left I took to Peters Valley where it has mostly sold throughout the last year. All of the garments eventually sold, and most of the smaller items, leaving a few scarves and mats that I picked up last weekend and brought home. Frankly I just wasn’t in the mood after the intense fall teaching schedule I had to even think about the guild sale. Until I went to the guild meeting the 5th of November.
I was of course reminded that this is a team effort, that occurs once a year, and it is a prime opportunity to once again pull together a bunch of things taking space in the house, that I can rework and offer for sale and bring the joy of handweaving, etc, into someone else’s life.
And so, while I was in the attic getting a cut of discard commercial fabric for a test skirt, I wandered over to the drawers where my daughter and I reworked the handwoven scrap stash last summer and pulled out stuff that we had located on yet another clean out. I think really that it all breeds whilst I sleep. I hurled it all down the attic steps.
I brought armfuls of stuff I thought workable into the studio and piled it on the cutting table.
I told myself that I’d just do a few pieces to make another dent in my seemingly endless stash of stuff from my craft fair days. Most of the garments left up there are either just unusable, or are usable but too small for anyone currently existing on this planet. And there are still nice size chunks of handwoven fabric suitable for tote bags.
I grabbed a stack of the grey mohair scraps and a length of Fusible Tricot Interfacing…
I started to assemble the scraps in a gridded way.
I added a linen trim to cover the butt joints after fusing the scraps onto the backing.
I assembled a vest. This one is a large.
Then another. This one use to be a top and skirt that though cute, wouldn’t get around a 13 year old. The vest is a size medium.
Then I reworked a dress, again, very cute but would fit no one, into this jacket. It helped that there was a matching scarf to go with it that I used for front trim.
I made five tote bags. The red one use to be a skirt.
And I took a couple of silk scarves that were less than attractive in their dye jobs, and tossed them in a pan with Spectra Art Tissue. A vinegar spray wetted everything down, and I let it sit awhile.
After drying and heat setting and then rinsing and drying again, I have some really pretty scarves that should round out my offerings for the guild sale.
And I found a dress from circa 1984 that I hadn’t known was up there and though it is very wrinkled from being stuffed in a drawer, and needs some tweaking and restyling, it is quite adorable and fits me well and I will keep that one for myself in my never ending quest for a handwoven or hand knitted dress I can wear while traveling in the summer.
And so I’ve inventoried everything, printed some 95 computerized hangtags, pressed, hung, and labeled everything and I’m ready to pack. The sale is really lovely, and if you live in the north Jersey area, come on down (or up, depending on your orientation), to the Jockey Hollow Weavers 21st Annual Exhibit and Sale. Saturday November 15 10-5, and Sunday November 16th 10-4 at the Brookside Community Club (1 East Main St., Brookside, NJ). Click here for more information.
See you there!