I’m off to California tomorrow for the CNCH 2014 Fiber Conference in Oakland, a bit worse for the wear. But really really happy with what we, actually that should read, what WE accomplished late last week.
Thursday the moving company arrived at William Paterson University and these amazing guys hauled a bunch of Macomber and a couple of Leclerc looms, ten in all, down from the second floor, into a moving van, and I only had to dismantle one of the Leclerc’s that wouldn’t fit through the door of the textile studio. Those Macombers were sort of like small pianos. And with all the peripheral equipment and a spinning wheel thrown in for good measure, (which I put in the back of my car for safety) we all took off for western NJ and Peters Valley. They were loaded in an hour and a half, and were at the Valley by noon.
My lovely wonderful textile buddy Carol was there to help oversee and by the afternoon, we had everything reasonably in place and mostly unpacked. I headed back out to the Valley on Friday where the most amazing crew from the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild met me with rubber gloves, buckets, and a gallon of Murphy’s Oil Soap.
Meanwhile, Gary, a huge supporter of Peters Valley, and an amazing woodworker, showed up with his truck of magic tools and took seven of the worst of the Leclerc benches out onto the lawn, and proceeded to do some major surgery. I understand all the sides that were cracked in half were biscuit joined and glued and then years of gunk and dye and detritus were sanded off.
Inside the studio we scrubbed, and polished, thanks Jenny, Sally and Betty (though I seem to not have a photo you).
And another marvelous member of the weaving guild, Bill, became my trusty brake man…
It seems that there was a box, unknown to anyone, way in the back of a closet at the textile studio at the Valley, that had a large amount of Macomber metal parts, enough to repair and/or replace all the hardware that these looms seem to be missing. It is one of those mystical coincidences that all the missing parts of looms that were 60 miles away, seem to be hiding at the place where they were destined to end up. There are no words.
On Saturday I picked up Elisa and we headed back out to the Valley and did more scrubbing and waxing, Howard’s Feed and Wax is an amazing product. Between Howard’s and Murphy’s Oil soap, the studio has never smelled so good.
And so, still needing some minor tweaking, and all new aprons, which I’ll start on next week, I’m flying off to California with some very happy looms, in a very happy place.
Please come out and see how wonderful these three rooms of looms look at Peters Valley’s annual open house, Sunday May 4th! All of the yarn should be unpacked and up onto the shelves. It will truly look like a weaving studio. I’ll be there demonstrating and playing the role of proud mom! I feel like I gave birth!
The days are going so fast I can’t believe I just filed my first quarter sales tax report for 2014. We are into spring, though you couldn’t tell by the weather today, it has dropped down 30 degrees in just a few hours and it is damp and cold and frightful. The poor daffodils are regretting opening up into bloom not 24 hours ago.
But the last couple of weekends I’ve been able to enjoy more spring like temps and had some great adventures as well.
First was the speed tapestry class at Brook Falls Farm, a gorgeous setting, cozy space, and eager students. We talked about tapestry and how it is usually worked in reverse…
Photo Deb D’Anne
Then they all took small frame looms and filled the warp quickly with roving.
That allowed them to go back “into” the piece and create design areas as time allowed. It was great watching students with no fiber experience just play with yarn and chat, and listen to background music, and enjoy the afternoon. Thanks Deb D’Anne for a wonderful opportunity!
This past weekend I dressed up in my 1800′s costume (Folkwear Gibson Girl Blouse and Walking Skirt). I know I was about 125 years off the mark, but hey, it’s what I have available. I joined other weavers, spinners and lacemakers from local guilds and demonstrated the fiber arts at a local historic site, used by George Washington and Alexander Hamilton in their travels through NJ during the Revolutionary War. NJ is full of places where “George Washington Slept Here”. The Henry Doremus House in Montville is about a mile down the road from me.
Saturday I demonstrated bobbin lace. I reconnected with a couple other lace makers, which was too coincidental considering I’ve just dug out the old lace pillows to teach my intern.
Sunday I demonstrated spinning. If you’ve never demoed at a historic site, it is lots of fun, and I remember working at the Dey Mansion in Totowa way back when I was in college, showing the public spinning. I should make an effort to do this more often. (I know the space dyed roving isn’t quite period, but the public loved it.)
And I did manage to sit down Sunday night and finish up my blouse, Vogue 1260. Can’t wait until it is short sleeve blouse weather…
I knew that my wonderful five months of uninterrupted studio time would eventually end. I knew it would be time to go back on the road, and it would be time to re-enter life. I knew that spring would eventually come and there would be monumental work to be done outdoors, taking me away from my studio. I knew it and yet, I am not going softly in the night…
If you read my last couple blog posts, you’d know that I’m a bit preoccupied with things that require a lot of energy, which I’m willing to give, but the down side of all of these extra curriculars, is of course, no more opportunity to make stuff in the studio. Still, I’m not going without a fight…
When I started this lengthy winter, I had hopes of finally clearing all of my Tools of the Trade looms, all seven of them, and I not only cleared six, but set up two again, and cleared one of those. There was however one remaining hold out. That was my adorable little 8 shaft 15″ wide Tools of the Trade Table Loom, my most recently acquired of the bunch, and yet, it languished with a warp from a workshop I took with Sarah Saulson at the Frances Irwin Handweavers guild the summer before my daughter returned to college for her sophomore year. She is finishing up her junior year. I’m embarrassed. Though in my defense, the warp was a bit complicated, since it was white. The idea was a length of warp would be pulled out, dyed, dried, and then rolled back on to the warp beam, woven off, and rinsed later. I did one two yard length at the workshop. There remained another couple of yards on the loom. It was bugging me and I couldn’t bring myself to just cut it off. Trouble was, I had no idea what dyes I used, and how I actually woven the fabric. There seem to be pages of notes missing. Or maybe I thought I’d remember…
So last Wednesday, Jen and I rolled out the yardage and I was determined to just get the stupid thing painted already and maybe if I had an hour here or there I could actually work on weaving it off.
We mixed dyes as best we could from looking at the finished first cut of cloth. It took us about a half hour to mix the dyes, and about 10 minutes to paint it. It dried overnight. Carol came the next day and before we headed back over to William Paterson University for more loom packing, she helped me beam it back on.
I looked at the sample and figured out the shaft sequence, and I’m on my way. I think I’m going to use the loom for a demo when I volunteer at Peters Valley’s Open House on May 4th.
Meanwhile, I was desperate to sew something. Anything. I was so desperate I even decided to skip the step of making a muslin and just jump in head first. I picked this rayon batik on the shelf, and grabbed Vogue 1260 from the pile.
The layout was actually tricky. I didn’t want the big bunches of batik branches to just hit any old place. And the collar and front bands are on the bias which eats fabric. After some careful placement and frequent rearrangement, I got a layout I was happy with, and managed to get the blouse cut out. Then of course life got in the way.
I taught a class over the weekend, more on that in a later post, and spent all day Sunday, planting and scrubbing and planting some more. The yard and gardens are a frightful mess and I’d planned to spend today cleaning as well, but I woke up to a chilly 43 degrees with rain on the way. I’m not stupid. The deck cleaning can wait another couple days.
I’m also in the middle of writing a six page article for Threads magazine, which is requiring me to visit my inkle loom collection, and the desire to just clear another loom, any loom completely consumed me so last night and all day today, instead of cleaning the deck like I was suppose to, I wove off the band on this little loom that has been on there so long I sneezed from the dust every time I changed the shed. It is complicated and takes some real focus.
I found a way to make the thread manipulation easier, charting out exactly what needed to happen in each row between the 7 thread pick up, supplemental warp, and the name draft. I was determined not to go to bed tonight without finishing it.
I actually finished up by dinnertime. Another loom empty!
So my son and I made dinner tonight, opened a bottle of wine, and watched the second episode of season one of Game of Thrones. He swore to me that I’d love it, but I won’t watch the new fourth season until I’ve seen the first three seasons. So I just watched episode two and I’m hooked. Which is time I can’t really afford out of the studio, but I’m trying to find a little balance in my life and while my husband is away golfing, this is great bonding time with my son. It is important.
And I did manage to sew for about an hour tonight. The blouse is starting to come together…
I’m one of those fibery people who believe that their equipment has a soul, or at least a personality of its own. Looms are something that have a voice, and a strong relationship with their owners and are things that need regular attention and feeding and care. I always feel my heart skip a couple beats when someone “scores” a loom on eBay and writes to one of the Yahoo Weaving Groups about how they have painstakingly restored their found treasure and now need to learn to weave. Almost every loom can be brought back to life, and when that happens, I can hear a collective cheer from the loom gods.
In fact, not every loom works for every person. Case in point. I have, as many of my long time readers know, seven Tools of the Trade looms, various sizes and shaft configurations, and both table and floor models. One of my recent acquisitions was a 36″ model, eight shafts that I bought from a weaver acquaintance who told me honestly that she had bought the loom used, and never quite felt the “marriage”. They never really hit it off, and knowing these looms the way I do, I decided to purchase it from her. Turns out that our personalities (the loom and me) were a perfect match, we bonded instantly and truth be told, it is my favorite loom in the studio. Looms are like that…
I got involved in an email string about a month ago, brought in because of my long association with Peters Valley Craft Center, and close proximity to William Paterson University. It would seem that the University has decided that the remaining 10 full size looms in their possession were just taking up space and not serving the needs of the direction of the textile department. They had the wisdom to not throw the looms out, but seek out Peters Valley to see if they wanted a pretty substantial donation.
Substantial is an understatement.
There are 2 Nilus Leclerc four shaft looms, and 8 full size Macombers, ranging from 8-10 shaft. If you aren’t a weaver and have no idea what this means, let’s just say that Macombers have been around for a long time and are pretty much the work horse of the old fashioned production weaver. They are solid heavy looms, with a lot of metal parts, and are pretty indestructible. They can weave fine threads, rugs and everything in between. And if cared for , they can last a number of lifetimes.
Sigh. Those are the magic words. In a setting in academia, getting little attention and use over the last number of years, they have sadly begun their decline. So I’ve spent the better part of this week, back and forth between Peters Valley prepping the studio there, and William Paterson, disassembling and packing some pretty dirty and declining looms for a mid-month move by a professional moving company, to Peters Valley. I had the most amazing help from my former college textile professor Carol Westfall. She hauled and packed and shifted and moved and disassembled right along with me, trying to put heddles back on shafts, which we eventually gave up on because I quickly realized that the heddles were not all facing the same direction and each of the 70 some shafts over these 8-10 looms would have to be taken out of the looms at some point and re-heddled because every weaver knows what a pain in the butt it is to thread heddles that don’t face the same direction.
Still, as we worked, I felt the sleeping spirits in each of these looms slowly wake up in anticipation of moving out of that dirty neglected environment anticipating a move that could bring them back to life. I’m cheering them on and feeling a bit overwhelmed at the same time. Meanwhile, the weaving community is pretty amazing at stepping up to the plate when it comes to saving a loom or two, and I was so encouraged when 10 members of the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild immediately signed up to help in any way they could with the rescue. It will be a long process to restore all these magnificent looms, but I’ve agreed to take on the challenge and I’ve got another strong Peters Valley supporter, one of the wood workers associated with the Valley, standing by to help with any of the actual hardware and wood restoration needs.
There are even a dozen benches to go with the donation.
When all of this is finished, Peters Valley weaving studio, affectionately known as Hilltop, will have 11 working 42-48″ Macombers, all eight or ten shaft, (they already own three) capable of supporting any class they might offer, and that would put them as the most well equipped weaving studio in probably a couple hundred mile radius. But we have a long road to go…
Just sorting through the bins of mixed up tangled heddles is a bit daunting. Carol and I sat on the deck for the first time this spring and chatted and sorted the flat heddles from the wire ones.
If anyone of my readers lives in the northern NJ, northeastern PA area, and would like to assist in any way with this huge undertaking, toss me an email, and I’ll include you in the string. No obligation, I’ll let you know when I’ll be out there and if you are available, wear old clothes, bring rubber gloves, and be prepared to get dirty and at the same time bring a bunch of amazing looms back to life.
A huge thank you to the head of the art department at WPU for believing that these looms needed a place to thrive and not taking the easy way out by calling in a dumpster. The loom gods are smiling…
PS, I’ll be teaching a garment construction intensive at Peters Valley the last week of June. Click here for more information. And come celebrate with Peters Valley at the annual Spring Open House, May 4th from 12-5.
I’m not going to go so far and say my house is haunted. It has a good energy for a house that is more than a hundred years old, and I’m comfortable with that.
Many of you who’ve known me for a long time know that my mother in law was one of my staunchest supporters and one of my great fiber mentors. There is a great story about our relationship that I wrote when she died back in 2006 at 99. You can read it here if you want the back story.
My mother in law’s ashes are in my studio, weird maybe, but comforting for me. As are all of her bobbin lace pillows and supplies. All of them. Many of you know that I do know a lot about bobbin lace, it was one of the things my mother in law taught me back in the 1970′s and for many years I kept up with it, only to eventually put the lacemaking aside for other fiber venues and the rest is history. It always bugged me that my mother in law, who had no daughters, expected me to keep the lacemaking tradition alive, not because she expected me to, but because I failed to really thrive as a lacemaker, I’m really a garment maker and a weaver, and an artist and a writer, and reluctant felter, a spinner and an educator and knitter, and I play Baroque Recorders with a consort, and I garden and well, you get the picture. Although both of my children have tried bobbin lace, neither has expressed any interest in carrying on the tradition.
Enter my intern from the local community college. I haven’t talked much about her, because well, that wouldn’t be prudent, this is a blog about my adventures and I try not to delve too personally into lives that aren’t mine to delve into. I will say it has been a tremendous experience for me, and she is nothing short of fantastic. I want to adopt her. That said, over the course of the last 12 weeks, she has helped me around the studio with all sorts of tasks while learning shaft loom weaving, tapestry weaving, inkle weaving, plaiting, kumihimo, spinning, dyeing, and of course felting, and in the course of one of our many conversations about life and textiles, and in a reference to structure and being able to see it, the topic of bobbin lace came up. I assumed she wouldn’t know what bobbin lace was. To my complete surprise, my adorable intern Jen looked at me with the biggest eyes and said, “Oh, bobbin lace, I’ve always wanted to learn it. I saw it once at a historic home I visited with my mom and it looked so interesting.” Or something like that. She had no idea of my history…
I looked up at my mother in law’s ashes and said to my self, “No way could you be orchestrating this!”
Jen was eager to learn bobbin lace, so I pulled out the pillow with pattern number one. The only person I’ve ever seen “get” or understand the structure of bobbin lace that fast was me. She is a quick study in everything she has tried, and doesn’t need more than a half sentence to understand something, very much like my daughter. So she quickly zipped through pattern one, and the following week I introduced pattern two. That one took a couple of tries, there is a tricky part that I remember caused me more than one tear out, but she stayed with it and moved onto pattern three, which in Torchon lace involves spiders. They are fun to do. At least I think so.
The bobbins that are set up for pattern three were running low on linen thread. I figured I had to have bobbins somewhere with extra thread on them, so I went on a hunt through my closets and cabinets to see what I could find. There was a baggy way back in an upper cabinet that had similar bobbins, that I know were my mother in law’s, and I pulled them out. Except that they seem to be attached to a small piece of lace, barely started, and they were with a pricking, the cardboard pattern with holes, that said, “Spider Doily”. I remember working the Spider Doily, and as a matter of fact, it was sitting in a frame on the table in the hall outside the studio.
I eventually found what I was looking for and refilled some of the low bobbins on pattern three, and showed Jen the pricking and finished lace for the Spider Doily. Jen returned the next week with pattern three under her belt, and then I gave her instruction in speedy tapestry weaving and she helped me prep looms for a class I’m teaching this weekend. We had about an hour left in the day, and I asked her if there was anything in particular she wanted to do with that last hour and she said, “Well, how about that spider doily?”. I look up at my mother in law’s ashes…
The only problem was the doily had to be done on a flat cookie pillow. I remembered having made one years ago, but hadn’t seen it in a very long time. I assumed it was still around but who knew where? Most probably it would be in the attic, because it was too big to overlook in my studio which I clean regularly. I told Jen to follow me to the attic to see what we could find.
We climb up to the main area where I keep all of my scraps and surplus fibery things. I flipped on the far light at the end of the stacked rows, and a voice came into my head, I kid you not, that said, “Look in the second box down on the left.” I have no recollection of putting a lace pillow in a box, but sure enough, there was the pillow, safe, and empty, and waiting for the spider doily.
I looked at that wad of bobbins sort of panicked, I had no idea how long it would take to sort out, but we started in on it, and in less than 15 minutes, we had it mounted and were moving forward on it. Something wasn’t quite right, so I told Jen I’d keep it over the week and see if I could really get it to a point where I could successfully turn it over to her. It has been about 35 years since I did mine. I eventually figured out that in the initial set up, presumably by my mother in law, though she never made these kinds of mistakes, that there was an error, but I’ve worked around this and the doily is underway. I don’t know if she had set it up for a student and then pulled it from a pillow. They are clearly her favorite bobbins. I know because they have little blue and yellow beads around them, she was Swedish and proud of it. It should be noted that Jen is Swedish too.
So Jen left today with the cookie pillow and the spider doily. And my mother in law is smiling. I just know it.