I know it has been awhile…
It isn’t like I haven’t been busy.
I polished off two articles for Handwoven Magazine.
But I can’t show you. They haven’t been contracted and finalized yet.
I warped a loom for a sampler and two dishtowels for the beginning weaving class at Peters Valley the end of August.
But there really isn’t anything to show yet. Just a warp on the loom.
I am preparing proposals for a series of articles for another magazine. Nothing to show.
I am finishing up a piece on the table loom. I can’t show you because it is a gift, and most likely the recipient reads this blog.
I spent the week cleaning out the old attic, tossing a lot of trash. The kids were amazing. We had our airconditioning system replaced. I doubt you’d want to see pictures of my old attic with the replaced airconditioning. But it is nice and cool in the studio now.
While the air conditioning guys were up in the attic, I noticed a beautiful sunbeam pouring into the attic. Lovely as it was, that isn’t a good thing. I had to call a roofing guy to come in and patch the missing shingles on the ridge vent. While he was up there he noticed this, and fixed that as well without charging me extra. Yes, I know I need a new roof. It is on the list.
I weeded about 8 hours this week. You don’t want to see pictures of piles of weeds in the compost bin.
I started a new sweater, actually a knitted T-shirt. It is pretty. Pima cotton and tencel. Premiere from Classic Elite Yarns. Pattern is the Zoe Tee from C 2 Knits. But it is only just started. There really isn’t anything to show.
I played Baroque recorder on the porch today of a historic home in Montclair for a townwide music event with the Montclair Early Music Society. There are probably photos around, but I couldn’t take one of myself while I was playing.
So you’ll have to settle with the fact that I was really busy doing an assortment of things. Truth be told. The days are lazy and lovely. A much earned break from my spring from hell. In all fairness that’s probably a poor choice of words. The spring was hugely busy and fantastic and I taught a lot of people and went a lot of places and saw my daughter graduate and my son return home from a deployment. I had a fabulous 60th birthday but I’m very very tired. And wisely I didn’t book anything for June, which was a blessing since so much work had to be done around the house. And I’m really really excited because I’m going to leave next Monday the 29th for a real honest to goodness vacation. The lazy kind. The kind where you decompress, chill, read, knit, chat with friends, and just enjoy a good long rest. I’m going to an island. Really. Between Copenhagen and Landskrona, Sweden. The island is called Ven. I’m going with my sister and we are staying with my oldest friend Annika, at her family’s summer home. Annika was a Swedish Exchange student that lived with our family when I was in High School. We have stayed in touch. We have seen each other many times over the last 35 years. And I have been to Ven, in 1977, when I graduated from college. It has been on my bucket list to return. So one of my sisters is going with me, and we are flying into Copenhagen via Geneva, and we are heading to Ven by boat. I hope to come home rested and clear headed and ready to tackle the late summer and fall schedule. And getting estimates for a new roof. And cooking up all that produce from the garden…
My days are slowing down. This is a really good thing. But of course, I’ve been putting out fires for so many months I’m not sure exactly what I should be doing now. One would think that would not be a dilemma in my life. I’m not teaching for two whole months and I don’t quite know where to begin.
I’m trying to attend to my house and yard. They do need occasional attention, and with my daughter home, and all her stuff, we are choking in the detritus of life and so a bit of a clean out here and there is inevitable. Weeding and garden care are important, as are dusting and vacuuming, especially in shedding season. And if I’m not careful, I’ll lose the balance and busy myself with busy work instead of what I really want/should be doing which is enjoying my studio. Which is very hot at the moment, the airconditioning system is needing replacement, and the guys come Saturday to do the look over before they begin. I don’t envy that job in the summer.
I’m booking lunch dates with old friends. Friendships need maintenance as well, and getting together with people I love makes my spirit soar.
So attending to what has been sorely neglected these last six months, my family, my home, my gardens, my friends, my music, in no particular order are important, but so is making stuff. Keeping my hands busy and out of trouble makes the rest of me function more normally. If that makes any sense.
I have a number of piles around the studio, small unfinished objects. Yet they weren’t my unfinished objects. I have a beautiful silk chiffon scarf from my mother-in-law, sitting on top of my loom, which is at the moment storage space, and I’ve pulled a couple of bags of merino/tencel that are gorgeous with it, and I think felting it into a panel and then ultimately part of a garment sounds like a plan.
There is a handwoven dress and a pair of wool crepe pants whose colors long to be put together, and I think a summer dress, recutting the original which is a throwback from the 80’s, is definitely in order.
But the one that jumped off the pile first, was a partially knitted white cotton lace throw my mother in law started way too long ago, and there it was, unfinished in her stash when she died in 2006. I looked at it everytime I searched through the attic for something. I did drag it out a few years ago, and had a knitter friend help me figure out the lace pattern. Lots of yarn overs. I knitted a couple rows, and then pulled them out, my gauge was definitely not that of my mother-in-laws.
And there it sat in a basket in my living room for years. I shook off the dust and looked at it again. It was a generic white cotton flake, I could undo the whole thing, but I have so much light colored cotton flake on my shelves that it would be a waste of energy. I could toss it. Which just seemed wrong. I woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago with an idea. The throw was a yard wide, and she had knitted about 22″. I wrapped it around me, under my arms like a bathtowel. It just met at the side seam. Hmmmm…
And so I started to knit, just leaving out the lace pattern, and continuing the garter stitch ground, I made armholes and necklines. It didn’t take long to turn this partially finished throw into a gorgeous summer tunic, which I’m wearing as I type, on my way out to a luncheon with a couple of really old best friends. Old meaning friends for a long time, they are both younger than me.
My mother in law is smiling and I’m pretty proud of myself.
The craziness and fantastic energy and calendar overload of the past month have all begun to quiet down, which is just lovely since I’m not sure how much more wonderful stuff I could take. Life should be about balance and the goings on of the last month were cataclysmic-ally out of balance. All of it was great, all of it was a collision of wonderful events, but when that happens all at the same time, it is really hard to savor each one.
My daughter is home from college, moved in, and started her first day of work today. She has a full time job in her field, and I’ll know in a couple hours how it went.
My son has returned from his 11 month deployment in the Middle East and he has weathered the first couple weeks. I can’t imagine what that must feel like, the most I’ve been gone has been a month, but he said the other night, “Mom, the best way I can describe the feeling is that life went on while you were gone, without you, and somehow you must learn to fit back in.” He is in Boston as I write visiting one of his oldest friends.
My husband is back on the road, leaving me with the care and feeding of the gardens, I harvested a big bowl of snap peas, and added a few inches of dirt to the potatoes. He is in Dublin for a month.
Which leaves me home alone.
I returned Tuesday evening from teaching a five day class at Peters Valley, which is my second most favorite place to teach in the world, the first of course is Sievers. Peters Valley does have two advantages over Sievers Fiber School, there is a kitchen where all three meals are served (at Sievers I have to cook my own). This year the food was excellent and I came home three pounds heavier. No joke. The other advantage Peters Valley has over Sievers is the amount of classes running simultaneously, in all kinds of mediums. There was a Blacksmithing class, which my daughter took, and came to each meal looking like she rolled in the fireplace. She had a blast. She promised me one of her hand forged magic wands. There was a ceramics casting class, a wood turning class, a fine metals enameling class, and of course mine, a five day intermediate class in weaving yardage. The conversations were wonderful, especially between the other instructors. I rarely saw my daughter, she hung out with the other blacksmithing students.
I was fortunate I only had three students. It made the class much less stressful.
I started them doing yarn wraps, exploring value, complementary colors, ugly combinations, and using images as inspiration.
Then they narrowed down their choices to the yarn available, and the goal was to learn to work in repeats of 8-10 threads. I’m surprised I had no shots of their actual final yarn wraps, but they jumped into the math like it was their job.
Next came winding the warps, which was a challenge for all of them, two were experienced weavers and my dear lovely Grace, barely 20 years old, had never woven before and jumped in head first and never missed a beat. I had them learn to use a warping paddle, which allowed rapid winding of the 600+ ends in their warp. It was tricky but they all were pros by the end.
Next came sleying the reed. I’m a front to back girl and so that’s what they learned. This class was about weaving yardage, and I wanted clean tidy accurate warps with nothing to stand in their way.
Then of course, came the threading. I asked Grace when she was about half way through if she was enjoying the process. I expected her to give me an eye roll or something, she had never woven on a shaft loom before and I threw her right into the deep end, 26″ wide yardage, 20 epi, 6 yard warp. She smiled and said she was actually enjoying it. She had her tunes on, and she was just in a groove…
Robin in the photo below on the right had come to the class because she has never had a successful warp, she described every warp she has ever woven as “the warp from hell”. She started beaming her warp, and looked at the perfect warp from the back of the loom and I got the biggest hug you can imagine. She was so excited to have yarns under control.
Once they were sleyed, threaded, and beamed, they tied onto the front and then it was time to sample. I had them try a number of wefts. In the perfect world we would have cut off the samples and washed them, but time was tight and we just went with our gut instincts.
And then, with about a day and a half to weave, they wove their little hearts out. Robin and Dee were able to work in the evenings, but Grace in the third photo wove her entire five yards of fabric in one stretch on the last day of class. She was remarkable.
There were a lot of smiles when the knots came up over the warp beam. The end was in sight.
And I should give a big thank you to my assistant in the fiber studio, Caroline, who was inspired by the lectures I did and decided to wind a pretty colorful warp, not using a repeat of course, so she spent most of the last three days of class, winding. And winding, and winding some more…
Though the class ended Tuesday and everyone finished their yardage, we had a mini reunion Wednesday night at the Jockey Hollow Guild Meeting. Robin and Dee are members of the guild, and Grace it turns out lives in the next town over from me, and I picked her up, and took her to the meeting. All three had washed their samples and the results were lovely. I loaned Grace one of my surplus looms, hoping she’ll keep the momentum going… Because we do that. It is all about getting the next generation hooked!
And so I’m home for a bit. There is plenty to do, but I get a bit of a break. I have one session left of my five part webinar series on Garment Construction for Handweavers, which airs on June 15th at 1pm EDT. And at the end of August I am back at Peters Valley to teach a beginner class in weaving. Check it out here. And of course in mid August I fly to Sievers in Wisconsin for a 2 1/2 day inkle loom weaving class, which is filled, and my garment construction intensive which has a seven day option. We won’t talk about the fall just yet…
I skipped out Thursday morning for a couple hours, to visit a fibery friend, a well respected fiber artist that is one of the most productive and prolific people I know. I’m jealous of the time she is able to devote to her work. We sat over a cup of tea on her deck, enjoying the outdoors, taking time to breathe.
I knew the first six months of this year were going to be challenging. And they are. The funny thing is, everything that’s happening is wonderful, the amount of work I have, my daughter’s graduation and subsequent move back home. My son returning home from a 10 month middle east deployment. My 60th birthday. Spring planting season. The happy birds and blooming flowers and warm days for eating outside. Summer salads and bare feet. None of this is really problematic, except there is only one of me, and even though I’m a true blue Gemini, which means there are at least two of me on a good day, it isn’t enough to accomplish all I want to accomplish, and be and do all I need to be and do.
And so, I sat on my butt with my friend Diane, and she listened to me with profound patience, and nodded knowingly through it all, and she didn’t try to fix anything, since there is nothing to fix. My beloved housekeeper has lyme disease and is really struggling. So gee, I guess I have to clean my own house. How tough is that? I have constant interruptions, because, gee, my lovely wonderful and talented daughter is in the next room and doing a bang up job of reconfiguring her life. We have only had one serious meltdown so far. That’s a record.
I’m trying to finish writing my last webinar for Weaving Today. Part 4 airs on Monday. Part 5 isn’t until June, but I have to submit it in the next week, surely before I leave for Peters Valley on the 29th to teach my yardage class. So the extent of my creativity today was to make a ball button and photograph it step by step. I do really really love what I do, this is my job and I’m good at it, but there is no balance right now. And truth be told, I wouldn’t change a thing. My son returns on Monday, and I have his room sort of vacuumed and sort of dusted, and the sheets clean, and the rest will be up to him.
I’m spending a couple hours a day weeding and cleaning up the yard and the decks. I’ve filled so many cans for the compost pile at the dump, that we take a trailer load every couple days. I’m literally forced to stop and smell the flowers and decide which ones stay and which ones go. Curse you Ajuga, even if you are pretty right now. You have infiltrated every bed we have, every plant we have, and you are choking out everything else.
The winter was hard on our house. The ancient air conditioning system needs replacing, and we have a contract with a local company, but they can’t come until June. Nothing to be done but patiently wait. We need stone work. Have to call for estimates. We need a new roof. We need a lot of things. But I have what’s important. I have my family close, or almost close, just a few more days and my son returns. I have my health, and my work, and life is really really good, and the time to set all this aside so I can create again will return, but for now, everything has its season and I need to enjoy the moments life is giving me now, they won’t come round again quite like this.
Friday is my 60th birthday. I’ll be teaching second graders about fiber all day in a local school district. We are planning an open house, impromptu, the best kind, for Saturday May 23rd. If you read this and are within shouting distance of northern NJ, please come by and help us celebrate all that is good. Any time after 1pm, until…
Of course I hit the ground running when I arrived home last Tuesday. I took care of the most pressing things, still haven’t worked through all of my emails from the month I was gone, but be patient, I’ll get to you if you are still waiting for a response from me.
Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to finish something and get it into the closet, though it is now too warm to wear, I tweaked and added a zipper to this lovely sweater I finished up while I was in Washington State. The yarn was a discontinued color from Elsebeth Lavold, Silky Wool, that I picked up last summer on sale at Sievers Fiber School. I love top down sweaters because I can knit until I run out of yarn! The pattern was from Baby Cocktails, a sweater called Vodka Lemonade. My version is considerably longer in both length and sleeves. And I zipped it up.
Thursday I dove into the project for the weekend. I had volunteered to demo all day yesterday at Peters Valley‘s annual open house, which is always a great event, opening workshop season for the Valley. But I needed something to demo with. If you were following my blog last year, you know I was one of the key players in restoring the looms donated to Peters Valley from a local University, they now have 11 sturdy workhorses, 8-12 shaft Macomber looms, and since I’ll be teaching a yardage class there at the end of May, it made sense to dry run the yardage class, on one of the Macomber looms, since I don’t work on them regularly. My own looms are Tools of the Trade. Also workhorses. They really don’t make looms now like they did in the 1970’s! They are solid, and heavy and you can abuse the crap out of them and they outperform anything made today. (Not that I abuse my looms…)
So I looked through my extensive stash, groaned a little because it is pretty extensive, I don’t remember how that happened, and pulled a 1000 yard skein of Rayon RickRack yarn hand dyed from Interlacements I had won from a show. I added things from the shelf that coordinated and complimented it, and did a series of yarn wraps. I ended up with 20 ends in a repeat.
I loaded up a warping paddle with all 20 ends and zipped through a 6 yard warp, winding it in three bundles.
Saturday I headed out to Peters Valley, and spent the day visiting and schmoozing, and setting up a loom. Mostly it went smoothly until the end while I was beaming, one of the cranky odd flat steel heddles had an odd bend that kept cutting into the fine cotton flake yarn. Once we figured that out, a spinner from my weaving guild had stopped by and offered to help, all was well and by 6pm, I had sleyed, threaded and beamed 520 ends, 6 yards long. I did a quick test that all was OK and left.
Sunday my husband and I headed back out to Peters Valley, and I got there in enough time to sample a few wefts. There wasn’t time to cut off the sample and wash it, so I made an educated guess how the Shetland wool weft I chose would full when the yardage would wash and away I went.
This is what the room looked like at 11:45am.
This is what the room looked like at noon once the public started coming in and it stayed steady till about 5pm.
I paced myself, knowing I had to make the 6 yard warp last until 5pm. At 5:05, I finished the last couple of picks of weft, and cut off the fabric. I talked the whole time I wove, and had a wonderful and productive afternoon but boy am I paying for it today. Note to self. Do not sit and weave for five hours straight when you haven’t done it in awhile. I have back muscles that are screaming at me for the abuse. Must weave more often to keep those muscles in shape. So in just three days I designed and wound a warp, dressed a loom, and wove off net five yards, washed it and voila!
Fortunately the class I’m teaching in weaving yardage is actually five days, so I don’t have to punish anyone by making them sit for five hours straight! The studio is beautiful to work in, I love teaching at the Valley, and there is plenty of yarn to play with! I can’t wait to figure out what to make from my yardage. For more information on the class, click here.