Not only did the weather cooperate, but the unseasonably warm temperatures made last week’s record breaking snowfall nearly disappear. Saturday morning’s Learn To Weave class sponsored by the Jockey Hollow Weavers went off without a hitch.
I had 14 new weavers, though some had a bit of experience on rigid heddle or inkle looms. And it showed. What a fantastic group! Not only did they move through the warping of the little Structos with record speed, there were almost no mistakes in the threading. Just a couple of crossed threads. Pretty impressive. That gave them more time to weave, and they made amazing little samplers.
I love teaching this class. I love sharing one of my favorite things in life with a group of young and enthusiastic weaver wannabe’s! And we had a couple of mother/daughter teams, and a pair of co-workers, and everyone played well with each other. Should all of life be like that. They asked wonderful questions and seemed to really enjoy themselves.
I’ll be teaching this one day beginning weaving class again in June, on the 25th at the famed Luna Parc in Sussex County, NJ. If you have never heard of Luna Parc, this should be on your bucket list if you are anywhere within three hundred miles. Ricky only opens Luna Parc twice a year to the public, so this is a way of getting a sneak peak and actually taking a workshop in this fabulous work of art. Click here for more information.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
Last May, I spent the day demonstrating weaving at Peters Valley during their open house. I set up one of the large Macomber’s in their weaving studio and wove off the five yards of fabric while talking with the public. The fabric was inspired by a hand dyed rayon bouclé I won from Interlacements, for one of my garments on exhibit in Colorado a couple of years ago. I originally blogged about designing and weaving the fabric here. To refresh your memory, here are a couple of images from last May.
The yardage sat rolled up on top of one of my looms, and kept moving from one to another and then to the cutting table and back, until I got sick of moving it and decided it should be a jacket. And not just any jacket. I had been toying around with offering a shawl collar version of my workshop jacket pattern, though I’m not convinced it can be done in a three day class, it would be more suited to the five – seven day garment construction intensives.
Anyway, as I usually do, I poke around my stash for what would work with it, and I pulled out the most gorgeous lining I’ve ever seen that looks like it was custom dyed to match this fabric. I’m pretty sure I bought it at Thai Silks on a trip to the Bay Area of California a couple of years ago. It is a silk charmeuse. I also found a cool button, that was a bit larger than I wanted, but made me smile to add it to the mix. I wanted to do the deluxe version of the shawl collar jacket which includes a full lining and bound buttonhole. I’ll try faster versions without the frills on commercial fabric, but for now, I dove in. I had very little lining to work with, and it was some creative juggling to have enough. But I did it.
I’m basically happy with the jacket. It is a little short waisted for me personally, but I had to go with what I did because of the small amount of yardage I had on the lining. And I had to laugh when I had everything cut out and remembered as I started to sew, that the collar sections are a cut four, not a cut two like in the traditional jacket with the band. Fortunately I had just enough length left in the handwoven to cut an additional two collars.
The jacket is pretty, I’ll wear it tomorrow night to the guild meeting. It was a great use of the rayon rick-rack bouclé from Interlacements.
And I got through a 12 page contract that has been sitting on my desk for way too long. It is due on Thursday, so Priority Mail is my friend today. I’ll be teaching this summer in Indianapolis at the American Sewing Guild conference. I love this conference, and was disappointed to have missed it last year because it overlapped the MAFA conference. If you are in the mid-west, and you love to sew, this is a wonderful experience, more garment oriented then the quilt expos, with some wonderful instructors and seminars.
I should have been prepping for the beginning weaving class I was suppose to teach on Saturday. I really should have been. I should have been filling out contracts for conferences, working on my 2015 books, writing proposals for conferences to come. But I looked longingly at my looms and said, nah… all that other stuff can wait. Which I gotta say is pretty unusual for me. I mean there was this class looming (pun intended) and I had to wind fourteen warps, print handouts, and generally pull a lot of materials and 14 looms together for what is now an annual learn to weave program I give for my local guild. The class filled by Thanksgiving, and it was suppose to happen Saturday.
Meanwhile, I just couldn’t. The thought of winding those warps, all the while staring at the tartan on my loom, and my cutting table which was filled with all the little thrums and a bazillion shuttles I was using to carry those thrums across the warp (I eventually ditched the shuttles and just passed the balls/bobbins through the warp, it was easier), well I just couldn’t. And forget the paperwork. I just couldn’t either.
So I sat down and decided to weave. A lot. And as knitters know, with some of the thrums getting down to seriously not having enough to finish, I started to weave faster, hoping to outrun the yarn. I did run out of a few yarns, and I would like to blame my miscalculations on the fact that I used what the label said for the yardage and of course it turned out not to be the case. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
I have a pretty vast expanse of yarns and small bits of things tucked in corners and bags in the studio. I found additional tiny quantities of a couple of the yarns in thrum bags, and substitutes for others. And I had a backup yarn that if push came to shove I could just use as a solid weft and weave off what was left of this seven yard warp.
In case you have no idea what all this is about, you should probably reread the blog post from four days before Christmas. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
So I took all this yarn, small skeins of this, leftover skeins of that, gifted skeins of handspun, all things that related that I had no other use for and decided after considerable calculations, that I should turn it all into some sort of cloth. In that blog post I recall, I thought that this would be one of those warps that took five years to weave off.
Well I got into it. I can’t believe that I, queen of the one shuttle, used 12 different yarns, some of them only one shot across the weft, and made a tartan that ended up a full 6 yards before washing. And did it in exactly one month. And had fun doing it. Really. Before I knew it I saw this…
And the pile of yarns on the table was reduced to this. By the time I cut the yardage off the loom, I had a handful of thrums, and was pretty freakin’ proud of myself.
I took a quick shot of the yardage before I headed off to the washing machine.
Warm water, gentle cycle. My eyes nearly popped when I pulled it out of the washer. It was sooo soft and beautiful. So I tossed it into the dryer. About 10 minutes on medium. I pulled it out and put it back in for another 10 minutes on high. What I got was so cool.
It is soft and cozy and I can’t stop petting it.
I posted it on facebook and got the immediate responses of, “What’s it going to be?” Well I don’t actually know, because I never plan that far in advance. My handwoven cloth is like fine wine. It must age to fully appreciate it. I’ll find the right pattern down the road, maybe next winter. But for now, I just pet it when I walk by, and smile to myself that I did well. And I look surreptitiously at areas of my shelves, to see what yarns lurk where I might try this technique again. I do have a bag of sock yarn thrums…
Oh, and that class that was suppose to happen on Saturday? If you live anywhere on the east coast of the US, you most likely know why it didn’t happen. See we had this snow incident. More than 30″. It was a lot of snow. But really pretty. I won’t bore you with photos of that because I didn’t take any. Just scroll through facebook. There are more photos of snow than I really want to see right now. It was a lot of snow and I shoveled a lot of it for hours. I’m a little sore. But I did manage today to finish winding all those warps, and print all the handouts, so I’m ready for the class next weekend. My son came in and asked if I had heard about another storm potentially hitting next weekend. I just can’t right now… And there is all that paperwork…
…And a pair of pants.
Those who have been following my epistles for a long time know that I had a stash of leftover handwoven fabrics that would smother a horse, stashed in my attic since my craft fair days in the 1980’s. I’ve done a reasonably good job making much of that leftover stash disappear, at one point I bagged up pound groupings of similar values and sold them through my website and at the local guild show and sale. I’ve either sold off or remade much of the old work that remained of my craft fair days.
Back in late 2014 I uncovered this dress, which I wrote about in my blog from that period. I liked the fabric in the dress, it was one of the few that I actually had fond memories of. The color combination (there were about two dozen different yarns in this mixed warp) was unusual, and I think I remember using a frightfully expensive dyed boucle silk from Cheryl Kollander as the basis for the colorway. The colors have probably faded a bit, but if I had to hold onto one thought from that period of weaving it was this one.
The dress was a 1980’s nothing. Folded in half yardage with a bit of shoulder shaping, hole in the neck, and stitching up the sides. The seams were French, too bulky for handwoven, which of course I know now. But back in the 1980’s I hadn’t started to teach yet, and so never had the benefit of my classes to set me straight. The reason why I’m so good at sewing Handwoven clothing is precisely that period of time, where I wove 30-90 yards of fabric a week, cut it up, made a bunch of garments and sold them in craft fairs from 1979-1989. I made a lot of garments.
The fabric itself was way too loosely sett. Most yarns were in the 1500 yards per pound range and I sett the yarns at 12 epi. It threaded and wove quickly, but the resulting fabric was pure sleeze.
I had the dress sitting on my dress form for probably a year and a half. I kept staring at it and thinking that I should either wear it, dump it, cut it into scrap and sell it off, or make something else with it. I found a pair of wool crepe pants in a beautiful plum color in the back of one of my closets. I don’t think I ever wore the pants, and I’m not sure how they got to my closet, but they had no side seams and an elastic waist, and would yield two long uncut lengths of fabric once I took the pants apart.
While cruising through the patterns on Sewingpatterns.com, noticing they had a sale on their downloads, I found a lovely dress with small pieces, color blocking if you will, NeueMode 25010 and downloaded the pattern. There are a ton of pages to tape together, and the directions are so brief and vague you’d want to laugh, but the fit is lovely and I don’t need no stinkin’ directions anyway.
So I looked at this dress on my dressform every time I entered the studio, and I’m there a lot now with all my looms full and lots of stuff to draw me in. I traced off the pattern back in the fall, but never got around to doing a test garment and figuring out if it would even work. So I dove in a couple days ago, tried a test garment, did some tweaking, with the help of my daughter, it is so hard to do this by yourself. Which is why people take my classes over and over. Sure helps to have a fitting buddy.
Anyway, long story short, I made the dress. Just a bit more handwork. Really lovely. I’m so pleased. I fused a knit tricot underlining onto the back of the handwoven panels for stability, and the fabric is performing perfectly. The purple is a bit graphic, but the combination works and though this is not by any stretch of the imagination the most beautiful fabric I’ve ever woven, it means something to me, and I’m glad I was able to preserve it and will be thrilled to wear something more contemporary this summer, instead of the sleezy 80’s dress I resurrected from the attic. I think secretly my fear was that if I wore the dress in its original state, someone would ask if I had made it and then I’d be pretty embarrassed. There is a time in every artists’ life that old work, really old work should be laid to rest…
Many of my fiber friends have posted social media posts and photos of New Year’s Resolutions, where the goal is to finish up projects long overdue. It is a valiant and great way to start in on the New Year, but I actually have a slightly different take on stuff. Most of the stuff I make takes lots and lots of time. Sometimes months. Sometimes I get distracted by other more important things like deadlines, travel, articles I have to write, family events, and really, if I were truly honest, sometimes it is boredom. I figured out what it is going to look like, I’m happy with it, and I get bored and anxious to start something else. I have seven working looms in my studio and having looms with nothing on them depresses me, and looms full of projects energizes me.
It is winter, the celebrations are over, it is dark, and it is cold (finally). And January is the most wonderful month because there is little on the calendar, rarely any travel, and I usually have lots of uninterrupted studio time. This year will be a bit different because sadly my husband had some bad news at the oncologist. The latest scan showed his esophageal cancer is not gone in spite of the brutal chemo/radiation he endured October and November, and that in fact there is now a spot on his liver. So Monday he starts another round of chemo, and more trips to Hackensack University Medical Center.
And so rather than finish up things, I felt like the best antidote to all of the above was to start stuff or restart stuff. Having stuff waiting for me, calling me to come and play in spite of the dark cold winter, especially stuff with lots of color and texture would keep me distracted and occupied and involved, and focused on things that I do have some control over.
And I even took advantage of a short visit by my sister and her husband and redid a small powder room on the first floor. The wallpaper was old and peeling and dated. It didn’t take much to remove it, and with many helping hands, we were back up and functioning in just a couple days. The room is bright and cheery and welcoming for a bathroom…
Inspired by this, when I took the Christmas tree down, I decided on reworking another area of the house, to better suit a long winter of nesting. My daughter and I love to fix puzzles. We don’t always have a convenient place to build them, so when the tree came down, I used the space to set up a card table, for puzzles and games, took down the sheers to let in the south facing light, added a couple of prisms, and I love to sit and watch the colors dance across the walls. Healing and light, and a social gathering place for the family.
So this is what’s on my looms. I’ll have recently blogged about the 18″ wide tartan. I haven’t made anymore progress because I got distracted by other stuff. But I’ll get back to it…
This loom has been sitting for more than a year and a half with about a half yard woven on a 24″ wide 10 yard hand dyed warp. I know because I checked my blog to figure out when I actually warped this loom. Yeah. I know. So after a few fits and starts, I got the loom up and running again, they definitely don’t like to be left idle for a year and a half. The cloth is weaving like butter and everytime I advance I have a new combination in front of me. Like weaving magic.
This loom has a ridiculous amount of warp on it, 4-5 yards I think, 9″ wide, which I did for a workshop I took back in October. I have it re-tied and have started in again on the slow slog of weaving a bubble cloth from merino and tencel on a table loom. It is pretty, but 4-5 yards? Painful. But I will persevere, mostly because there will pop up a time when I need this loom for a travel demo and I don’t want to have to try to weave this thing off in a couple of days. The second photo is the washed sample from the class. I know the colors are off, work with me here… They are more correct in the second photo.
And I needed to get another scarf warp on the loom. I make these mostly hand dyed scarves, combination plain weave and twill on six shafts with an additional two shaft supplemental warp. Most of you have seen me bring them to classes where I teach, and many of you have bought them. I have none left. The warp is twelve yards which will do five scarves. I wound it in two batches, and carefully beamed the warp chains under tension.
I added the supplemental warps on a separate warp beam.
And I started weaving.
The thing is, I realized I was out of 8/2 tencel in Shale, my favorite weft, neutral enough to blend with all the colors. I had one remaining bobbin. So I could start the warp, check for errors and issues, and now I have to wait until WEBS gets Shale 8/2 back in stock. Of course that would be the color that is backordered.
But no matter. My studio is bright and colorful. There are things calling to me, and I can work on whatever I want, whatever catches my interest. I expect a long winter and I have a lot of looms that need clearing and lots of sewing projects to tackle. I have an article due shortly, another essentials technique article for Threads. And I have 14 warps to wind for a beginning weaving class I’ll be teaching in a couple weeks for my local guild. I wish I could say come join me but the class is quite filled, with a waiting list. I’ll be doing another one in June at Luna Parc out in Sussex County NJ, check out the link if you are interested.
Happy January, may you have lots of things colorful and bright to call to you to come and play…
I really don’t feel that old! But this is the season of holiday cards, and we get a ton. Each day the mail brings close to a dozen, and I love reading and looking at all of them. My favorites of course have long newsy letters, and often I don’t know who all the players are, but I enjoy them just the same. And I love the ones with family photos. How did my husband’s cousin’s daughter get to be in 4th grade? The part that amazes me, is looking at this next generation of photos, how much I see the parents at that age. So I’ve lived long enough to remember what a generation behind me looked like and see those same eyes, same expressions in their kids. Kinda scary and kinda amazing.
Anyway, the mail also brought the latest issue of Threads Magazine. I’m working on a series of articles for Threads on essential sewing techniques. The plan is to have an article from me in every issue in 2016. The first of the series is on the subject of underlining, and there it was, pages 76-79 in the March 2016 issue. (Wait, isn’t this still December?) I’m currently writing the fourth article in the series which is due in a couple weeks. I love publishing. You get to write stuff that won’t appear for another year. So, there you have it, what I know about underlining. They did a nice job on the article. Threads always does. Check it out.
And in the mail today was a box from Eugene Textile Center. I know they are in Oregon, but they are my go to place when I need something weavery, old or new.
Last year at the Gathering at Sievers I came across a bunch of old Shuttlecraft Monographs for some ridiculously low price and brought them home with me. I adore old publications especially on topics of handweaving, so much history and there is a lot of common sense in those monographs. Good reading material. A monograph if you aren’t familiar with the term, is a large leaflet of sorts, or small publication on a particular topic. I write monographs on all sorts of topics, garment construction, inkle weaving etc. But the Shuttlecraft Monographs from Harriet Tidball, published in the 1960’s covered a huge range of topics from Tartans, Mexican Motifs, Doup Leno, Doubleweave, and more. There are gems in there. I believe there is something like 40 in the series, and I had a few, thanks to my find at Sievers last year, but I thought it would be great to collect them all. As a writer, especially for magazines, the ability to go back into the archives of both weaving and sewing is pretty critical to gathering perspective. (There is a list from Camilla Valley Farms of all of the monographs and titles if you scroll down.)
I contacted Eugene Textile Center, and they put a staff member on it, (thanks Vicki), and they pulled from their archives some of the ones they had, both new and used copies and this is what arrived today from them. By the way, it was diligent work from their staff that finished my collection of Handwoven Magazine. They have even found old loom parts for me, and I’ll be teaching there again this May, this time a couple of days on inkle loom weaving.
I did a quick once over of the titles and was grabbed immediately by the one titled Contemporary Costume: Strictly Handwoven. It is the lime green one in the lower right hand corner of the photo. It is Monograph Twenty-Four, 1968. I nearly spit my tea all over the pages. I know the late 60’s was a time of letting one’s hair down and dressing in lots of loose unstructured clothing, especially with fringe. Each page was a new delight. In fact, since I started making handwoven clothing in the 1970’s, some of my looks are a bit reminiscent of the garments in this book. Take a look. Directions for the layout for each garment are included in the monograph.
That’s the Peter Pan dress on the right. One of my guild mates and I were recently discussing putting together a retrospective of contemporary handwoven clothing for a guild lecture. This monograph goes right to the top of the list.