Part two of my Sievers Adventure, this is a long one, so buckle your seatbelts and grab a glass of wine…
I had about a two and a half hour break from the end of the Inkle Weaving class, to the beginning of the Garment Construction Intensive. Just a couple of hours to break down a classroom, pack materials away, eat lunch, and set up the classroom for nine students who would need cutting tables, sewing tables, mirrors, and all the detritus of garment construction equipment. And by 1:30 in the afternoon, I was ready to go with the help of a very efficient Sievers’ Staff..
Sievers, unlike any of the other venues where I teach this type of class, offers a seven day optional version over the regular five day class, two whole extra days for participants to start another project, or really fine tune the one they have been building for the last week. Most chose to move on to additional projects. All but two of the participants stayed on, and one ended up staying for one additional day.
My first time participants of course made jackets. There was basket weaver Jeanette, who also teaches basket making at Sievers, who in spite of being sick for most of the week, managed two complete jackets in five days. She couldn’t decide on which jacket silhouette, so she made both.
And there was Joy and Joanne, who shared tables, both excellent in their sewing skills as well, who knocked out a couple of lovely jackets. They are on the left of the group photo. Joy stayed on the extra couple of days and started making a gorgeous wool melton chocolate brown skirt, which I have not a single photo of, but she had enough for two skirts, and I did a swap and came home with one of the prettiest pieces of wool I’ve seen in a long time.
Eloise came all the way from Texas, and she regaled us with how she came by air, by land, and then by sea, which is pretty much what I did. Sievers is the kind of place where you have to really work at it to get there. Eloise presented me with quite the challenge. She had many panels of handwoven fabric she had made over the years, mostly around 10″ wide. She also wanted to create garments that were only rectangles, since the fabric was fairly unstable, loosely woven, and she couldn’t really back it with a fusible underlining because Texas, well, it’s hot down there. That’s Eloise on the right in the group photo above. But she made some very retro looks, sort of reminded me of handwoven clothing back in my day, and once we got her a dressform to work with, she had a blast.
Linda was my fifth new student, also a fantastic sewer, and I was blessed to have a class that really had a good base foundation so they could run with the principals and concepts I gave them. Linda took her handwoven fabric, and was the first person to try my new silhouette, the fitted jacket pattern that can break away into a princess seam jacket. She did try a test garment first, and we tweaked the fit just a bit, and then she was off and running, using Welt Seams, and Hong Kong seam finishes for a beautiful interior.
Linda stayed for the full seven days and started in on a second project. Which leads me into a side story…
Probably the biggest downfall of what I do is not having the ability to run out and buy needed materials and supplies. We have to work with what’s at hand. When a student can only find quilt fabric to line a handwoven silk garment, that’s a shame. There is only so much a Joann’s can provide, and there is nowhere on Washington Island, Wisconsin to get anything else. However, I noticed that Sievers, in their lovely shop and gallery did have a large grouping of natural cottons and silks, which they keep in stock for their silk painting, felting and surface design classes. I noticed that besides the usual fine habotai and chiffon, and the filmy jacquards and organzas, there were two I hadn’t noticed before, a spun silk broadcloth, and a gorgeous 15.5mm china silk that was meatier than any habotai I’ve ever felt. China silk and habotai are the same thing. Joanne, the student, not the fabric store, had a stash of basic colors of RIT dye, primaries actually, and lived on the island so one day she brought to class what she had left over from a family reunion Tie dye adventure.
I dye yarn all the time, and paint warps, with MX fiber reactive dyes. I almost never work on protein fibers like silk and never do yardage. RIT has both fiber reactive dye and acid dye in it, so not only will it dye cellulose fibers like cotton and rayon, but it will dye silk and wool and even nylon. I have no experience with RIT, but both Joanne and Jeanette did, so we all took the plunge, found a dyepot, and a couple of students bought silks to use for linings, and that started the ball rolling. We didn’t have a whole lot of tools, the handle of the fly swatter worked to stir the pot, and towels served as emergency aprons, but we got some pretty amazing results. RIT dye is my new best friend. Within a half hour, and no fuss or mess, we had linings. While I was at it I tossed in nylon tricot and got a gorgeous navy (first photo on the left) and some of my white frogs (last photo on the right).
Back to Linda…
Linda brought a beautiful handwoven fabric that had areas of inserted rags from old cotton shirts, some plain weave areas, and some more densely woven rag sections. She combined the sections in a strategic way making use of the lengthwise and crosswise grain. She had no lining to coordinate with it, and lining was a critical part of the construction process in my vest pattern. And so, the middle photos above showed a by the seat of your pants mix of primaries that got us a lovely dark shrimp color on spun silk broadcloth that made her handwoven fabric sing. Not only that, after listening to my lecture on closures, Linda decided to break the band pattern apart and include in-seam buttonholes, and she did all the calculations herself. I was so proud and excited…
And now we come to my beloved regulars, most have taken this class at least 10 times. They all know and love each other and since many of them are built similarly, they even share patterns. Cindy started it by making this knit top from a Today’s Fit Vogue pattern. Almost everyone in the class tried it on, including our beloved Cindra, who keeps Sievers running like a well oiled machine! Check out the matching job on the back of the top, Cindy did that all by herself… She has been taught well…
Ginnie then made the dress version, and everyone tried that on as well. It is Vogue 1477 and still in print I believe.
Cindy then started in on a handwoven fabric she brought, using a pattern she had from a past class but we added a sailor collar. And she did the bound buttonhole all by herself. You can see the final jacket in the group photo below.
Ginnie brought half her stash, she is also an amazing garment maker, and jumps from one project to another, because she can finish them all up at home. Fit is the most important to her, and she uses this class to get things right from the start. In addition to the knit dress above, she made this lovely top from fabric we bought together in a NY fabric buying trip a few years ago. Then she started in on a Marcy Tilton Pattern out of a rich blue Bengaline. Marcy Tilton Vogue patterns are sort of a lesson in Origami, they are a hoot to construct, but a nightmare to alter for a full bust cup.
Terry brought the most exquisite handwoven linen, with large areas of huck lace, which proved to be challenging once the fabric was cut. Stabilizing the edges with a fusible wasn’t really an option for many reasons, but she persevered, using my tunic pattern, and came up with a beautiful fine linen overshirt. She then moved on to a piece of Harris Tweed she bought in Scotland, and we dyed a jacquard silk lining to match, but there seem to be no photos of either on my camera. She was starting in on a vest from the wool tweed, similar to the one Linda made.
And finally, Barb, who also came by air, land and sea, from NC, wove an absolutely gorgeous bamboo fabric to make a fall coat. In previous years, Barb has made heirloom Christening gowns from her handwoven linen with coordinating linen bobbin lace which I taught her how to do. This is the first time I think she has made herself a garment from her own handwoven.
The coat is beautiful, but the lining she brought was pretty much what she could find at Joann’s. She bought some of the 15.5mm china silk and we dunked it in some RIT, and the results made everyone squeal in delight.
I actually brought along something to do in the evenings, besides knitting. I had a lovely Candiss Cole handwoven silk shibori vest from many years ago, hanging in my closet. I don’t wear vests much, except for warmth in the winter, but this one was long and decorative and as much as I loved it, I found I really wasn’t wearing it. But of course, I adored the fabric. Silly me, I didn’t take a photo of the original vest but I cut it, just above the armholes, used the front yoke sections to fill in the sides like pocket details, and the back yoke into bias strips for a waist finish. I had a handful of dust left when I was done.
And here is the group photo of the 2016 class of Sievers’ Achievers. I’m wearing the skirt in the photo.
I leave Friday for central Pennsylvania, and the Susquehanna Guild. Stay tuned…
I have a handful of places in this world that make my heart sing, no matter what I’m doing when I’m there, and Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island, Wisconsin is one of them. I have to travel by air, two flights, by car, two hours, and a ferry ride to get there, but after 10 years of teaching, I still look forward to the students, the Sievers’ family, my little teacher’s cottage I share with another instructor, and the beautiful setting for this venue.
It rained a lot while I was on the island, and the weather was considerably cooler than what I left in NJ. Definitely layer weather. And I loved every minute of it, even the rain. To be snug in a well lit studio, with weavers and sewers, just made me grateful I do what I do and that I can keep on doing it.
So the first class I taught there was an improvement over the same one I taught last year, in that I had an extra day. We were able to accomplish much more in a three day version. I started at the beginning with students learning or relearning how to warp, and weave a competent band. They were doing that by dinner time the first afternoon.
Tuesday morning (now almost two weeks ago) we jumped in to the first series of techniques, supplemental warp and weft…
Followed by 2:1 pick-up, also called Baltic Pick-up in Ann Dixon’s well loved and well used pattern directory. Most students either had a copy or bought one at Sievers. They caught on very quickly to the five pattern thread pick up, especially with my special notation technique.
Wednesday morning we switched to more advanced techniques, and yes, I lost a few with the second warp. But they tried really hard. We rewarped the looms for a 1:1 pattern vs. ground repeat, and they started with the challenging name drafts. Some students found that shortening their name was definitely in order!
After lunch we jumped to something more unusual, which Ann Dixon calls Runic, I just call it freeform. Very little in weaving can you just make it up as you go, but the shapes here are random and fun.
Late afternoon had me introducing Paired Pebbles, and there were a few brave souls who got the technique and then some…
There was a lot of talk about expanding the class next year, having a two day beginner part, followed by a three day advanced, which would include warps for 3 shaft turned Krokbragd, which everyone was curious about. There is something about the simplicity of a two shaft little band loom that fits in a tote bag, and the kind of intricacy you can achieve with just some threads and a pick up stick. Sort of like going back to writing with a pencil. It isn’t about technology, it is about what you can dream and put on paper.
On a side note, the little Ashford Inklette Inkle Loom, that I absolutely adore, I have four working at all times, has been redesigned. The tensioning device has changed, and by a fluke of the universe and a couple of cancelled summer venues because of my husband’s death, I have in my possession 25 brand new still in the box Inklettes of the old style. I will do a separate post at some point once I photograph and put up on my eShop, and offer them deeply discounted, because they are perfectly wonderful little portable looms, even with the old tensioning system. I have a new redesigned one in my possession, it was waiting for me when I returned from Sievers, and I can’t wait to try it out… This is the kind of loom that more than one is perfectly acceptable…
In the meantime, here is my illustrious class, all 13 of them, Sievers Achievers…
Stay tuned for the Garment Construction Intensive…
It is a good thing really.
There is nothing about my life that isn’t in a complete upheaval, yet, it is all good. All of it. The most important change of all is to my living space. I know I’ve been advised by about 3000 people not to make any changes the first year after a loss, but for me, this one is important.
I love my home. I love what my husband and I built, the character of the space, the way it has changed and morphed to fit our needs over the 34 years we have lived here. I know every wire, every outlet, every flaw, every feature. I love that I can walk into town in 7 minutes, to restaurants, services, the biggest Shoprite with a cheese counter as wide as my house. I love the gardens, the climate, the deadend street where I live, yet the close proximity to NYC and beyond. But this house was so full of my husband’s spirit and the things that filled his life that I was slightly overwhelmed. It was important to begin to rebuild my life and my space, to better suit my needs moving forward.
I follow many of you on facebook, weavers and fiber people from all over the world, many of whom I don’t even know. I love when you post pictures of your work, pictures of your vacations to exotic places, and I love to follow when you move to a new space, especially when it involves moving a studio. I have a studio, cramped, and cluttered, but just down the hall, and it has worked for me since 1982. At the moment I have close to 100 looms, including inkle looms, frame looms, and the 15 Structo looms I have acquired for teaching beginning weaving. All of that resides in parts of my house that preclude them from being anything other than storage for my overflow.
My bedroom was quite large for a bedroom. It was built as an addition in 1989 over a two car garage. It was more than enough space for my bedroom, too much in fact, so my husband and I divided it in half with a bunch of IKEA bookcases and he made half of it his office. My husband saved everything, every paper, every document, every scrap of anything that defined his life. He was a town official, he was a techie, and he had a lot of technology, right there in that little half bedroom office. We uncovered seven monitors, we uncovered 25 years of town planning board documents, we uncovered 25 internal and external hard drives, the contents of which are still unknown. I know I complained regularly about my husband’s stuff while he was alive, but really, if it had been me that had died, I shudder to think how my husband would have dealt with my 100 looms and walls of yarn and fabric.
Technology unlike fiber equipment is obsolete after about 6 months. In fact my daughter, when moving my desk equipment commented on my archaic speakers and just popped over to Staples and for a cheap price, I got brand new state of the art blow you out of your chair USB speakers. What fun! I’m really a weaver at heart. I still have my first loom from 1978 and it is still going strong and does the job. All of my equipment still works, and works well. It never occurs to me to upgrade anything, and in the world of tools, sometimes thay don’t make them like they use to. So I can gleefully fill the dumpster at the town recycling center designated for computer detritus knowing I’m not depriving any new weaver the chance to explore the world of fiber.
A huge thank you to my daughter who spent hours helping me sort through stuff I didn’t recognize nor know what to do with. She brought in a techie friend to help, and let him carry out anything of interest to him. A huge thank you to all of you who came over, shared a bottle of wine, and spent hours pouring through papers dating back to the 1980’s. A huge thank you to the poor sanitation workers who have to pick up contractor bags full of trash every trash day, and to the recycle trucks that shake their heads whenever they pull up to my house. We aren’t done yet.
I transformed my bedroom back to the space we had originally designed, moved the bed, and the wall units, replaced my husband’s computer and equipment with my own, and even had space for a loom, my spinning wheels, and a bobbin lace pillow. The light is lovely, and the space clean and every book on the shelves has been looked at and touched and kept because they all bring me joy. (Yes, I’ve read that book.) I’ve rearranged artwork, passed on things that needed to find somewhere else to live, and began to appreciate my house all over again. I still have a few piles of files to sort through and store, but they are my files, and I have time.
So that left me with holes in my horrifically cluttered studio. Another lovely friend came over Wednesday morning and we moved all the furnishings in the studio, cutting table, looms, storage units, around until the layout made sense. And though it is still cluttered and jumbled with the debris of a creative life, there is now floor space, precious lovely floor space. I can move around and get around equipment. It will be a couple of years before I sort through all of the files and archives of my creative life, and try hard to downsize 100 looms. But again, I have time.
What is important is the house can breathe, I can breathe, and I smile when I walk into the space instead of being completely overwhelmed. There are many other areas of the house where I still can’t even… like the gardens, the first hard frost can’t come soon enough… but redefining my life and space can’t be done overnight.
Meanwhile, I’m heading off to Sievers in Wisconsin tomorrow morning, before dawn, where I will see old friends, enjoy fall on Washington Island, and teach two classes, one in inkle weaving and one in garment construction. Sievers has a seven day option for the normally five day garment construction intensive, and most of the students are staying on for that extra couple of days. I just have to finish packing, mostly everything remained untouched from the Harrisville trip a couple weeks ago.
I know a couple of you complained after my last post that subscriber notifications came out late or not at all. Forgive me while I navigate the technology that my talented husband always took care of. I don’t know if the notifications for this post will be more timely, I’ve tried to tweak a couple settings, but I can’t fix what I don’t know. I am in the process of hiring a technology person, but he would be more hardware oriented, not software oriented.
This past week was so necessary for me to finally be able to put my life back together after my husband’s death. I know I haven’t been blogging. The truth is, I don’t blog unless I have something to say, some point to what I write, and I won’t just list that I had for dinner or the stacks of paperwork I’ve gone through. My days are full, but not of anything you want to hear about Dear Readers. I spend my mornings on the phone, “Press 1 for more Options”, spend my afternoons going through the mail and the two hours of paperwork that always generates, but dear readers, I do not want to complain. All of this is necessary when you clean up after someone’s death, and I’m the executor, and it has to be done. The studio just has to wait.
The reason this week was so important was because I was finally on the road again, doing what I love to do, which is teach people to make clothing. In five days. I haven’t taught since May, when I had to leave Oregon early for my husband’s hospitalization. I cancelled everything for the summer. And here I was, at a place where I was welcomed, I was a returning instructor (is this my sixth year?), and I had a lot of repeat students. As a matter of fact, I had 15 students for a five day garment construction intensive. Talk about overload!
This week was a complete success in many more ways than I can explain. The students all seemed happy, most have just handwork left. Some of the speed demon sewers made a couple of garments, but all learned a lot, as should happen in this sort of class. We have already booked the dates for next year (same week leading up to Labor Day). I needed this class to go well, to remind me of what I love to do, and that I have a life outside of the stress of what happened to me and my family this year. And it did. It took a village, and I feel very very grateful for the patience of the students and the staff of Harrisville, and the wonderful food that kept me going from the general store across the street. I didn’t have to cook. And the wine that flowed. That made me smile…
15 students. Wow.
They made jackets of course, Lucy made hers with the band and piping, from her handwoven fabric, and Beate from a gorgeous commercial wool plaid.
And some made jackets with the new shawl collar… Judy used commercial fabric, Jane used her handwoven and made a bound buttonhole. Janet used her handwoven as well.
Anne H and her sister Mary made the swing coat version of the jacket…
As well as Nora, who use to be from my guild in NJ, and moved to Canada. It was good to reconnect with her.
Jan and Barbara L made the new tunic. Jan’s was out of carpet warp, an odd choice, but we made it work. Both fabrics are handwoven.
Barbara G made the long walking vest and when she finished that midweek, she pulled out the pattern for a pair of pants. I groaned but rolled up my sleeves and we got to it late in the evening because fitting pants takes a lot of concentration. We were both thrilled with the result. I’m not a fan nor an expert at fitting pants, I’m better with jackets, but hey, they worked!
Rita, Carole, and Amy have been with me for awhile, and they always bring challenging projects. All three are handwoven, Amy’s shirt was woven from 60’s silk. The fabric was gorgeous.
And Anne S, who brought in drapey handwoven fabric and made Simplicity 1920 into a stunning jacket.
15 students, Wow.
We even had a visit from Nick, with adorable puppies. What’s not to love…
Here is the picturesque postcard of the class of 2016, Harrisville Designs, Harrisville NH. Doesn’t get any better than this.
And now the mad scramble prep for 10 days at my other favorite place, Sievers in Wisconsin. It is a good month…
Forgive me dear readers, I have been quite remiss in blogging. This is probably the longest I have gone without a post since I started this blog in 2008. My days are not my own. And I forgive myself for that, my life is not what I expected it to be, and know that that’s OK. My husband died less than 6 weeks ago, and my days are spent doing things I sometimes I don’t enjoy, don’t want to be doing, but those things are very very necessary to put me in a really good place. And I don’t do them alone. Trust me… But I also try to have some fun…
A couple of weeks ago, my lovely weaving buddy Sally and I ventured into Manhattan. We had a list to accomplish, starting at one end of Manhattan and ending up at the other. We came, we saw, and we definitely conquered, though it was questionable on the 6 train down to lower Manhattan, packed like sardines into the subway car standing room only, where the temperature was probably close to 125 degrees.
We started with a walk across Central Park to the MET, where we saw the current masterpiece exhibit, Manus X Machina, a gorgeous tribute and comparison of work by hand vs. work by machine. It was a thoughtful and inspiring exhibit, highly recommend it, and whenever I attend a costume exhibit at the MET, I always feel reverential and that I should genuflect at every garment. Truly a breathtaking installation. I was surprised at what was being done with 3-D printing, the lace work is pretty revolutionary though not always attractive, especially when you are a lacemaker. Just saying…
We walked up to the Jewish Museum to see a lovely retrospective of Isaac Mizrahi’s work. I adore him as a designer and a TV personality, you’ll remember him as a Project Runway All-Stars judge. The show closes August 7th. Then we headed down to Tender Buttons. I had a mission. I needed buttons for the stalled plaid coat I was working on. I couldn’t progress unless I could make the bound buttonholes. To do them I needed the buttons. Though I usually have plenty of buttons to chose from in my stash, I did not have three large statement buttons with six smaller matching ones, for the sleeve vents. That combination is pretty hard to find, even at Tender Buttons, unless you go with the standard blazer button. Sally and I searched high and low, and after sort of settling on something we thought would be OK, but really was just OK, Sally pulled a box from a different area and I was enchanted. They are wrapped rayon passementerie buttons, and they made the rest of the coat sing. Well the rest of the coat was singing anyway, but I was happy.
I made two mistakes. The first was not remembering that Tender Buttons does not take credit cards. My little purchase of 9 buttons was $46. We were scraping pennies together. I happily took my little brown bag, tucked it in my purse and went on my way. When I returned home, and actually looked at the buttons on the coat under my studio lighting, I realized my second mistake. Never buy buttons at Tender Buttons without taking them outside into the light first to inspect. I had two large navy buttons, and one black one. Completely indiscernable in the light available in the long windowless store. I called them on Monday, and immediately sent the black button back, and it took until this Friday to get the replacement. Still, I am really happy with what I selected. See for yourself. And that’s an acetate jacquard lining I had on my shelf.
We ended up in lower Manhattan, at a lovely exhibit which included works by my fiber friend Diane Savona. The space was gorgeous, and it did her work justice. The Buddy Warren Gallery is down off Spring Street, and the show is on until the end of August. I have to thank my friend Sally for all the photos, I did not take a single shot. I don’t know why.
And so dear readers, my days are sometimes filled with fun adventures, like my trip to NYC, and a visit from my fiber and college friend Carol, who came earlier in the week to visit, in from California, with a couple of 16 magazines, which she found while cleaning out her father’s house. We just had the best time remembering what life was like as a teen, Davy Jones, Barnabas Collins, Bobby Sherman, the Cowsills, and of course David Cassidy. And of course the Mod Squad… My daughter was appalled. I thought she would give herself an eye spasm from rolling her eyes so much.
Those fun adventures are countered with the not so fun of paperwork hell, all of which is essential to make sure I’m financial secure moving forward, and changing over things to my name, closing accounts, and figuring out the passwords to things so emails come to me and not my late husband. Fortunately I’m organized and good that this sort of thing, I’ve run a tight organized business since 1979, but I hate paperwork with a passion. I’d rather be weaving.
And there is the clean out. We are proceeding slowly. Rest assured. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I am waiting for help to tackle any of this. But when help is offered, I take full advantage. There were three people here last Wednesday, my gardener, yes I hired a college kid to help with all that, who was hauling garbage up from the back of the property, Kevin’s close friend Artie, who was here to repair the alarm system but started to clear out part of my basement since he couldn’t get to the alarm panel. And my daughter’s HS friend, who is your basic computer geek who was there to help make sense of all the computer components around the house. This is just what was pulled from the basement in an afternoon. Then I have to sort and figure out what to do with it all, and no, I don’t have all the time in the world to do that because we are experiencing violent thunderstorms every couple of days. There isn’t room in the driveway nor the garage, which has its own issues, for the contents of a different part of the house.
Mostly I toss. My poor garbage men groan at 5am when they come by twice a week and see a dozen large and heavy trashbags at the street. I make daily runs to the dump, sometimes 2-3 a day. And on Saturday’s there is a bulk compactor where I can throw away large unwanted things I can’t put in the regular trash. Sadly I’m only limited to two trips a day for the bulk compactor. I sort out what to give to Goodwill, where I make trips every other day or so. And there is always the odd thing that someone actually wants, and I hold on to that until it can be claimed. I need very little of any of it. And I’m even starting to be ruthless in my studio. I open a drawer, and realize that I haven’t looked at the contents in 15 years. I don’t need it. It is cathartic, freeing, and the house feels lighter and easier, the air more breathable.
And then there is the harvest. My husband had started seeds for all the vegetables he wanted to grow this year, back in the spring before he went into the hospital. I felt an obligation to see his vegetable gardens through this season though I doubt very much I’ll continue the practice. Harvesting enough produce to feed a family of four for weeks, isn’t my idea of fun. I know there is nothing like home grown produce, but farmers markets are everywhere, this is the Garden State, and I don’t need to be making zucchini bread or refrigerator pickles when I’d rather be sewing. This is what I did this morning…
Which leaves me little time to do what I love, and I’m on a race to finish this coat and move on to reworking my vest patterns before the fall travel starts, which is in a mere three weeks. I have a busy fall, and am looking forward to my classes, seeing my fiber friends and family, and reconnecting with what defines me and makes me happy. It has been a long and difficult year and I know you are all waiting for me on the other end of it. So here is the handwoven tartan trench, almost ready to ship down to the Blue Ridge Fiber Show in Asheville, I just have to finish the sleeve linings, sew on the buttons, now that I have three navy ones, and remove all the tailor’s tacks and basting.