I know I’m not posting as regularly as I usually do, there are all kinds of wonderful things happening, and the days slip by and I realize that I haven’t connected with you dear readers, and so I promised myself I wouldn’t go to bed tonight until I blogged.
This is a post inspired by many of the things that have happened to me in the last week or so, starting with another fantastic day in NYC with my beloved Textile Professor from Montclair State, Carol Westfall. (I graduated in 1977) We tore through NYC, starting in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Museum, and hit six museums and galleries, finally heading home late in the evening. I could spend three blog posts on all I saw, and I should really, because that’s how I remember everything, but I won’t, because there are too many other things to say.
I will though say that anyone who lives within a couple hundred miles of Brooklyn absolutely has to see the Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective at the Museum. It is the best fashion installation I’ve ever seen. There are no photos allowed and none on the Brooklyn Museum website, and photos can’t do justice to the amazing work, fantastic curatorial job, and original installation. Many of the mannequins have projected faces, that move their eyes and mouths and talk and sing and appear to be looking at you. It is haunting as is Gaultier’s work. The exhibit is there until February. I stole this photo off the internet, again, it doesn’t begin to do justice but it gives you an idea of the projected faces.
Anyway, it was wonderful to spend a day with my old college professor, we talked about my work, and about art and about vision and so many things I could take back with me and mull over. It was like being back in college in a very good way.
Brianna came home for Thanksgiving. Always a bright spot when she walks in the door, I never quite know what to expect, and she showed up in this really fun “collegiate” vest. I first thought she whacked the arms off a sweatshirt, but actually, she explained she cut up a pair of sweatpants. OMG!
She has been getting into upcycling, taking old unwearable garments and cutting them into something else. She has a lot of old unwearable garments, especially in her closet in her room. Brianna has lost 60 pounds since she went away to college, or rather since we got her ADHD under control, loss of appetite is sort of a side effect, and she just squealed in delight at all the things she found to cut up.
Brianna has an older Uniquely You Dress Form, and of course, it no longer represented her body in any recognizable way, and she looked at it with those sad eyes and said how much easier redesigning clothing would be if she had a form to work on…
Meanwhile, it was Thanksgiving Day…
I cooked all day.
Brianna and I shared Margaritas which she can do now that she is 21…
I always serve meals to my family buffet style, it is less effort, less pots, less clean up, and one eats a lot less if it isn’t sitting there on the table in front of you…
It was wonderful to have my kids both home at the same time. This time last year my son was deployed because of Hurricane Sandy. He missed Thanksgiving completely. This year, he could join us for dinner but it had to be an early one since he is a Team Lead at Target and had to be at the store by 6pm. Retail…
I asked Brianna if she wanted to tackle reworking her dress form Thanksgiving night. She looked at me with such excitement how could I not? The foam form was definitely too large for the cover once it was refit, so I started carving away, which was sort of ironic since I served a pre-cut spiral ham for dinner, there was no turkey to carve…
We got the form/cover pretty close to her shape and her measurements, and she immediately started redesigning a shirt from something in her closet and some lace from my stash.
She sliced up old t-shirts and started braiding a belt.
And then I left…
Coincidentally my 40th High School Reunion was Saturday night, in southern NJ, where I grew up. I haven’t missed a reunion yet, and it meant a lot to be able to go to this one as well. But it was really tough to leave my daughter. I wouldn’t be back by the time she had to return to school.
But the reunion was a chance to go way back in time, some 40 years, and revisit people I cared about, people who shaped who I became, for better or for worse, and I spent the last month or so, updating a lengthy PowerPoint presentation on our years in HS. See, I had a horde of memorabilia stashed in the attic, that I hauled out 10 years ago, when I first made the original presentation. I scanned stuff that you wouldn’t have believed someone could save. I have now discarded or passed on all of that memorabilia, digital archives take up so much less space…
Off I went, in my jersey dress, with my hair cut in layers and curled, and I had a blast. The presentation ran all night on my projection equipment, and all seemed to appreciate the ability to look back and remember. We stayed in a local Marriott and had a wonderful breakfast with another old old friend whom I haven’t seen in many years.
So now, I’m getting down to the wire.
I have only two major goals in the next few weeks, one is to finish the towel warp on the loom, since that will be a number of Christmas presents, and to continue working on “The Family Album”. It has already been established that I am the PowerPoint queen. A few years ago, in a desperate attempt to stem the flow of gifts for Birthday and Christmas, we have too much and I don’t need anything else to dust or care for, I decided that organizing our vast archives of photos from all of our adventures, all the way back to 1974 when I first met my husband, would be a way of giving to the family something irreplaceable. I’ve slowly worked on this album over the last couple of years, scanning in images from important events, and some that weren’t that important but still told the story, and from our many many trips. I’ve loaded all of them into multiple PowerPoint presentations, which can be stored in the cloud and distributed to my kids. I’ve finished the 70′s, and the 80′s and for my husband’s birthday last March, I finished the 90′s. In 2000, my husband got his first digital camera. That changes everything. It means I don’t have to spend hours scanning photos, but since digital film is free, there are about 100 times more photos for every event. And with the kids at the perfect age for family trips, we took a lot of them.
Tonight I did the pages for our August 2001 vacation. We spent a couple days taking the kids around NYC. We took them on top of the World Trade Center. Those pages were really tough for me to do. Three weeks later was 9/11. Each photo I placed in the digital album sort of gave me that punched in the stomach feeling, knowing that within a couple of weeks, everything would be gone.
And of course, there are the towels. I am trying to weave a yard a day, looking ahead to see how little time I’m going to have in the next couple of weeks. I think I have woven more than six yards, I’ve sort of lost count, but it doesn’t matter because I’m just weaving yardage and will cut it into towels later. Which is one of the reasons I am happy with using the grey weft and don’t plan to take the suggestions from you dear readers of doing a couple of towels with dark weft even though they would be lovely. The other reason is I don’t have any dark Cotlin and really don’t want to spend the money on additional yarn. They will be fine. And with my newly re-engineered warp beam, this warp is weaving like butter, easiest weaving I’ve ever done on this loom. I can’t tell you how happy I am…
And so, Thursday night I’ll be leaving on a jet plane for Munich Germany, where my husband and I will be spending a long weekend, just getting away. Thanks for all your suggestions, I’ve printed them all out and we will try to get to as many as we can in the couple of days we have there. When I return, my lovely oldest and dearest friend Candiss Cole and her husband will be arriving for a nice visit before she does the Morristown Craft Market. It is turning out to be a whirlwind month and I only wish there were more hours in the day and more days in the month to fit it all in!
Now I can go to bed. Stay tuned…
When I was a freshman in college, I befriended a nun who worked on campus. We all called her Sister Fran. She had an old station wagon. She use to drive students around to wherever they needed to go off campus, and we’d pile into the back of the wagon and head off into the town. When Sister Fran would come to a rather busy intersection, especially one without a light, she would barrel on through shouting , “Fran, no guts no glory!” I learned a lot about life through that mantra, and learned a lot about driving in NJ.
So here is the situation. (Apologies in advance for those who follow my blog and aren’t weavers, this is sort of technical…)
I’ve been brooding over this dilemma for awhile. I have twin 25″ Tools of the Trade looms, one has four shafts and the other has eight. The four shaft loom is pretty lightweight, and when I bought it, (at the time for my mother in law) I had the wisdom to order a regular back beam, and a sectional one, having options for this loom. The beams on this loom both have wood brake drums, and in fact, I have sheared off the brake drum in my attempt to weave 15 yards of placemats on this loom, we were able to repair it, but the loom wasn’t really built for that. I’ve always maintained that any warp could be put onto a loom that has a sectional beam, even chained warps. Just place guides on either side of the warp to keep it between a set of pegs and all should be fine. The sectional beam is stronger, because of the cross brace construction, but as I constantly explore new weave structures and new combination of fibers and weights, there are times that I really need a standard warp beam, not a sectional one. But on this loom, at least I had options.
My 25″ 8 shaft loom, I wasn’t as smart. This loom has dual mounted warp beams, I wanted a miniature of my large TOTT 45″, 8 shaft with two sectional warps beams AND a standard warp beam that could be interchanged. Since at the time, I hadn’t really ever put the standard warp beam on, I didn’t see a need to buy one for the smaller loom. Sad because Tools of the Trade looms are no longer made and replacement beams are not available.
The warp beams on my 25″ 8 shaft have metal brake drums. This loom all around is pretty strong for a little guy. But I really really wish I could have a standard warp beam for it, though the standard beam is only about 6 ” in circumference and packing on 12-15 yards kind of builds up. It is one of the reasons I sheared off the brake drum on the 4 shaft loom.
So I’ve been brooding. Last week when I went to teach in Delaware, my lovely hostess Sandy and I chatted in her adorable studio, an outbuilding on her gorgeous property (WANT) and she mentioned that she had converted her sectional beam to a standard one by pulling out the pegs. It wasn’t a Tools of the Trade, I’ve forgotten what brand it was, but a lightbulb went off in my head and I sort of couldn’t wait to get home from Delaware to see if it was possible to pull the pegs from my sectional beam. I have four beams between two looms and three of them are sectional and I felt like I could afford to risk mutilating one.
I grabbed a pair of pliers and a piece of a gripper pad and started wiggling.
Pretty soon I’d wiggled out a whole row.
Pretty soon I had the beam clear of pegs, (and yes, my wrist was killing me but it was totally worth it) and now the circumference of this “standard” warp beam was 12″ and I should be in a good position to fill it, including the paper packing.
The real test of this beam will be my scarves. They are the ones I do with the supplemental ribbons, all hand dyed, and truth be told, I’ve always felt the tensioning could be better because some of the yarns are so thin, they cut right into the sectional bundles on the sectional beam and make me crazy. Packing 15 yards on a small frame loom, gives a lot of depth for those sectional bouts, and no matter what I tried, I wasn’t completely satisfied. But I’m not in a position to wind a scarf warp at the moment. I don’t have the right colors of yarn dyed, and it is the holiday season and I really need to get a towel warp on any loom available.
So I grabbed all the Cotlin I had, that would be yarn that is cotton and linen, from WEBS, and I leafed through some downloads I have on towels. I spied one that would work in Interweave Press’ Winning Towels, eight shafts, single shuttle, (really important to me, I hate changing shuttles) and I could use all the lovely colors I have of Cotlin, AND I probably had enough yarn including weft to weave about 10 towels. Perfect test for this beam. I would have had issues with this warp in fact, on a sectional beam, because the black cotton/linen was considerably finer than the other colors, it was a mill end. I know it will weave fine, and be fine when washed, but beaming 12 yards with no packing because of the sectional pegs, would mean that those little half inch stripes of black would pack thinner than the rest and I was once again going to have tension issues.
I wound three bundles of warp.
I sleyed through the reed (two per dent in a 12 dent reed), and then threaded the heddles.
I tied the bundles onto the original cords from the sectional beam, I can always add an apron or a rod or both later, but I thought it would work without. I set up my tensioning device from Harrisville, and that 12 yard warp practically warped itself. The only thing that held me up was constantly adding sheets of packing paper.
This is threaded and woven in a 3/1, 1/3 twill, with a light grey weft. I made some adjustments to the original towel, in scale and color relationships. As the loom settles in, the blocks are weaving perfectly square. So far everything seems to be working well and I may have just solved my dilemma. Which is always a wonderful thing. I love when my months of brooding pay off…
There are times when I feel like I’m living in a Disney Theme Park, whirlwind, crazy, exciting, and exhausting. I’ve had a few months of studio work, mostly having fun with scraps, leftovers, old work and the archives. The fruits of all that labor have payed off and I’m free of four suitcases of work that have found good homes at least for now.
But I want to begin with an adventure I had back at the beginning of the month, with my old friend Carol Westfall, who was also my college textile professor. I’ve mentioned her before and we remain close. We will head into the city on Friday as a matter of fact for another round of museum/gallery hopping. There is a retrospective exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum on Gaultier which is on my short term bucket list… But I digress…
Carol invited me to tag along with her to the Nineteenth Annual NJ Book Arts Symposium and Exhibition at Rutgers University. We spent the day, they served both Breakfast and Lunch and can I say what a fantastic time I had? See, I have a degree in Fine Arts, from the mid 70′s, when textiles were considered a new art form. There is a language in the arts, an important language, spoken when referencing artwork, that I rarely hear and I hadn’t realized how much I missed hearing that language and just being among “my people”. It is like traveling back to your roots, to a time when your life took on a different focus, a good one, but not one that could be sustained through a life of craft fairs, and production work, and subsequent teaching through non fine art venues. Words like referential, narrative, content, and juxtaposition, all sound like a comfortable old shoe I dug out of the back of my closet and it was good to find them again and use them as part of my common language. I met so many people I hadn’t seen nor crossed paths with in years. It was sort of like a class reunion. And Carol was with me through it all.
We listened to lectures all day long by prominent Book Artists, that would be those whose work in some way referenced the book, either constructed or deconstructed, inspired by, or influenced from; sequential units that created a narrative. Some were textiles, some were sheet metal. There was a small exhibit to accompany this symposium. But the best part, was a short workshop, given by Washington Cucurto and Maria Gomez of Editorial Eloisa Cartonera, from Buenos Aires. The Background for this organization is really amazing, an initiative begun when a financial crisis hit Argentina in 2001, artists took to the streets encouraging the publishing of books by hand from waste cardboard, with the purpose of making literature available to everyone.
We brought cardboard and were given glue, colored paper, and markers, the simplest tools, to create a book cover. Can I say what a freeing exercise this was, without the support of my vast studio, full of expensive equipment and huge inventory of yarns and fabrics, this was just pure creativity, and I love what I created. I will fill it with paper for a very personal sketchbook.
The next couple of weeks were spent surrounded by the contents of my attic, archives that go back to the early 1980′s followed by the Jockey Hollow Guild Show and Sale. It was a whirlwind weekend adventure, I brought 152 items, and worked my butt off standing on the selling floor working with customers, helping them find the perfect garment or perfect gift, and promoting weaving and the guild. I sold about 1/3 of what I brought which made me really really happy. I’m sure there are photos floating around of the sale, but I didn’t take any, I was too busy selling.
I immediately turned around and headed down to Delaware for my last workshop of the season. I had begun to unpack the remains from the guild sale and decided to just bring the suitcases along, in case anyone from the Delaware guild might be interested. I adore this group, I know many of the weavers there, and have given numerous lectures and workshops to this guild, in reality it is only 2 1/2 hours south of me. (NJ is a small state, we are near everything…)
First, they generously bought a number of the things I brought from the guild sale, probably sold another third of the items. That made me really really happy as well. But more importantly, the workshop, a new one for me, went extremely well. I know they worked hard, and I threw a lot at them, but I think everyone came out with usable patterns and renewed confidence in fitting themselves.
This workshop was called Pin Fit to Perfection. It should be a two day, but with their guild meeting in the morning of the first day, I gave the initial lecture to the entire guild and then after lunch we were on our way. Participants got to bring patterns they wanted to use, and I helped them compare their body measurements to the fit model used by the pattern companies, and they traced and altered and added or increased darts and lowered waists, and in some cases raised waists and generally customized patterns. Once that was completed, participants pinned together the main pattern body parts, and I set out to “pin fit” those tracings. It was such an education for them to watch me work, because the goal here is for them to begin to help each other as a guild, since I can’t be there each time someone tries a new pattern. And there is only so much I can do remotely via Facebook messaging and email. Ultimately my five day garment construction intensives are a great place to do this kind of work, but for a guild to sponsor a short two day class, and then be able to learn what to do on their own, is a great opportunity.
I returned late Friday night, and spent Saturday catching up, unpacking, running errands, shipping orders and hitting the bank. Sunday morning I headed down to the county seat, Morristown, where I belong to a recorder consort and we played for a church service. The churches on the Morristown Green are grand, gorgeous 1800 structures with pipe organs and huge vaulted ceilings. The sound is pure and clean and it is such a pleasure to play recorders in a space like that. We went from the performance into rehearsals for the next event, and then I hopped in my car, grabbed lunch, and headed northwest to Peters Valley with the two remaining containers of work left from the guild sale.
I’ve written about Peters Valley many many times, it is a place that is also part of my past, and I hope part of my future. I’ve supported Peters Valley for many years, and participated in the Valley in just about every way imaginable, including a stint in the mid 90′s on their Board of Directors. They have a gorgeous gallery/store, that sits in the middle of nowhere, on National Park Service Property, (yes, they were shut down for two weeks as well, when the government had its temper tantrum back in October…).
I have my scarves there already, but Brienne, the store manager invited me to bring whatever was left from the guild sale, and park it there until the end of the year, and hopefully sell more. It was wonderful to be at the store, I always get a boost of creativity whenever I just breathe the air at Peters Valley, and another fiber artist arrived with some of her knitwear to drop off as inventory, and we had some lovely dialogue. Then Sally Orgren from my Jockey Hollow Guild walked in, a total surprise, and we all spent the next hour looking at work, talking about fibery things, and just feeling the inspiration.
I woke up this morning, feeling a bit like “the morning after” but completely happy with the
events adventures of the last few weeks. And there is more to come, including a trip into NY on Friday and a long weekend in Munich, Germany the beginning of December (any suggestions as to what to see while I’m there?)
I sewed like the wind over the weekend, finishing up the brown wool crepe skirt. Someone asked in one of the comments about my experience with this pattern, Vogue 1324, and I found it a bit of a challenge but not too difficult. It certainly has more seams than a basic two dart pencil skirt, but the end result is pretty cool, and looks great on. I had to do a lot of fit changes the first time I made this skirt; I have a fuller waist and upper hip then the pattern calls for, no surprise there, and with all the pieces, it was tricky adding to that area, but I enjoyed putting it together, and found that the lining gave the wool crepe enough body, I don’t think I’ll miss the underlining.
I began plowing through my pile of things cut from the leftovers of my handwoven coat.
I made another tote bag for the guild sale.
And I started on the vest. You may recall I bought a denim vest a couple years ago at a Cache Outlet in Atlantic City. I always intended to copy it and last summer, when I was teaching in Asheville, NC, I pulled it out one afternoon when no one needed me for a bit, and started tracing. I copied each piece, added match points and seam allowances, and then put it away for a few months.
This seemed like a good test of the pattern, some of the prettier areas of the coat leftovers. So I cut them out, (see previous blog post) and fused tricot strips on the perimeter edges to prevent any distortion or unraveling. This vest was not lined, and I didn’t want to fuss too much, it was the dry run before I cut into my precious lambskin from Leather Impact in NYC. The original vest just had serged interior seam finishes, so I duplicated that in this vest. There are a lot of seams and an asymmetrical zipper. And this is a bulky fabric. I trimmed and faced everything with silk noil, which I picked up at one of my trips to Waechter’s Fabric Shop in Asheville. It was a small remnant and just enough for the task. FYI, I bought the 16″ separating zipper from www.zippershipper.com, a place I found out about at the American Sewing Guild conference in DC last August. I wish they had the antique bronze finish in colors, but alas, only the bright gold zippers come in cool colors in a 16″.
Can I say how much I’m thrilled with how this vest turned out? It fits, is really comfortable, and I’m so excited by the shape and can’t wait to sew it in leather, but that exercise has to wait.
I made a second tote bag from the leftovers from the coat fabric.
I made another hot mat from strips of leftovers. I have tons of these to make.
I’ll continue to sew like the wind tomorrow, Friday night is the set up for my guild sale and I have a lot to finish up, inventory and tag before then. I will have bags of leftovers, lots of the light combinations and a few of the mid-values left. My daughter called yesterday, she is planning to send a box down from Massachusetts with about three dozen items she whipped up out of inkle bands and things she crocheted. I have a lot of tagging to do. Though there is a lot of gratitude as well, this time last year, we were still in the dark from power outages from Hurricane Sandy, and I was hunting with a flashlight in the attic for things to sell …
If you live anywhere in NJ/PA, consider coming to the Jockey Hollow Show and Sale, in Mendham NJ. For information and directions, click here.
verb gerund or present participle: mulling
think about (a fact, proposal, or request) deeply and at length. Synonyms: Ponder, consider, think over/about, reflect on, contemplate, turn over in one’s mind, chew over, cogitate on, give some thought to.
The great gift of these few months where I’m not on the road has turned out to be the ability to mull. I’m sure like exercising, I don’t do nearly enough to make me a totally healthy person both physically and creatively. And actually mulling while walking is the ultimate meditation when you are just thinking creative thoughts and not actually worrying about something. Which is what I do when I am on the road, all my lone thoughts are focused on the job/class/plane flight/packing/shipping etc.
But now I have this really special luxury of having time in my day to mull. It sounds like a cooking term, like “put all the ingredients in a pot and mull around and season to taste”.
I spent the day yesterday in NYC, with my dearest friend and old college professor Carol Westfall. We combed the Metropolitan Museum of Art for new exhibits, Japanese Brushwork, 18th century pastel portraiture, 19th century photos from British Portraiture Artist Julia Margaret Cameron, John Forbes Watson’s Indian Textile Collection, paintings and provocations from Balthus, an early 20th century French painter, and some feathered hangings from Ancient Peru (circa 600-1000). And of course, we saw the exhibit Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800. This is an important exhibit and it was interesting to see textiles grouped by region and theme and date. Much of the exhibit was from the MET’s own vast textile collection but it was good to see works from other museums. Mostly the textiles were created for trade, sort of production textiles if you will, and much of the exhibit featured embroidered cloth or printed textiles destined for foreign markets. I didn’t take the time to read through all the exhibit notes, and completely understand the trade routes and the political environment that created or stood in the way of much of the exporting of cloth through the ages. The show is huge and there is a lot to see.
But here is the thing. I wasn’t really awestruck, or hugely inspired. I’ve been mulling over my response to this show, and I’m sort of jaded in that I see textiles like these all the time. I live 30 miles from the MET, the museum at FIT and I go to a lot of museums when I’m on the road. Most of the textiles with a few exceptions were created to be traded or sold (sometimes traded for slaves, now there is a story) and though told a story, they weren’t exceptional pieces of cloth to me. There were beautiful motifs, and images embroidered or printed on the textiles, mostly faded from their original glory, but I’m always impressed with how a cochineal red can hold up from the 1700′s. You can actually read all the exhibit notes online and work through the slides of the complete works in the installation here.
I always come home from a day of museum exploration exhausted both physically and mentally, but I think about or mull over what I’ve seen and I can’t help but think that any exposure to art/textiles/nature/politics/food/shopping/fashion bloggers etc. alters the way I view the world and ultimately my work. Last night, I sat down and swatched something I’ve been wanting to knit, something I’ve been mulling over in my head for a couple weeks, while I finished up the sweater from my mother-in-law’s handspun from 1976. I like separates that work with things I already have in my wardrobe and I have two large cones of silk/wool from WEBS from a couple years ago. I combined the two different shades and used a seed stitch for texture and I want a simple top down round neck pullover to wear over a shirt and layer. I washed it up this morning and I nailed it. Mulling it for a couple of weeks narrowed down what I wanted and now I’m on my way with the next project. At least in knitting.
Meanwhile, I am sewing the skirt I cut out from the brown wool crepe, which was from the trim fabric from the coat I just finished. (see previous blog post) I’ve made this skirt before but this time did not underline it to reduce bulk at all the converging seamlines near the waist. I may regret that decision, wool crepe should always be underlined. We will see.
I kept mulling over the pile of leftover scraps from the coat I just finished and a different pile of pattern pieces from a motorcycle vest I copied last summer when I was teaching in Asheville. I bought this vest on a sale rack, and have always loved it and had it in my head that I’d one day copy it. I’m half toying with , or mulling if you will, making it up in the leather I bought during my fabric buying trip to NYC last April. But I want to make it first in something else, and this leftover handwoven fabric kept calling to me.
I found a length of burgundy silk noil in the stash, perfect for trimming and facings. I spent the weekend cutting out those pieces. And I cut out two more tote bags from some of the remaining larger hunks of leftover handwoven. All this sewing gives my brain a rest for more mulling. Mindlessly following pattern directions and sewing a skirt gives me time to think about “what if”.
And I keep wandering over to the board I have where I wake up each morning and move the felted strips around the board to see where they take me. This is a fun exercise and I’m getting a series of cool photos, which may in themselves turn into something. I switched to smaller pin heads to have less in the way in the photos. The little balls are easy to photoshop out.
Later in the week, Carol and I are heading down to Rutgers University for a one day symposium on Book Arts, which should get me thinking about more stuff, more mulling, and hopefully more inspiration.
Stay tuned and happy mulling…