Can I tell you what a joy it has been to have a few months alone in the studio, not traveling (the travel gods were watching out for me during this winter from hell) and not having to constantly pack, unpack, ship, and otherwise prepare for what is in essence my paycheck, but to have five glorious almost uninterrupted months of good quality studio time. Of course my bank balance says otherwise, but no matter, I get on a plane on Thursday and the travel season begins. (Note: there were originally predictions of another 10″ of snow… I can’t…)
There will still be a few weeks here and there in the coming few months to continue some of the things I’ve started, but a glance back over the blogs of the last few months have told me that I needed that time and I’m really really happy with what I’ve done with it.
Scattered throughout the work weeks were trips to Manhattan, like last Thursday where my fearless and intrepid travel buddy Carol Westfall and I hit the MET, the Whitney Biennial, The Modern, The American Folk Art Museum, and the Museum at FIT, in one day, I came home inspired, exhausted, and whirling with ideas. Note: the current exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan is called Folk Couture, a dozen designers were inspired by pieces in the museum’s folk art collections and had to come up with runway couture garments. Very Project Runway and really really wonderful.
So to recap and update, beyond the last blog post where I completed the felt jacket that has haunted and stressed me for the last year, I finished knitting a silk/wool sweater I started a couple of months ago, two ends of a silk/wool mill end from WEBS, based on a C2Knits pattern, done in seed stitch.
I finished weaving and hemmed the large Still Life I wanted for the workshop next weekend in Florida using the Weave a Memory technique.
I wove two of the four scarves on the smaller loom, I plan to weave another this evening.
I continued working on the hand dyed wet felt/needle felted Chromosome series, producing four more works.
I started playing around with how to display them and covered a small canvas with linen. I was horrified to discover that this lovely linen that has been sitting on my shelf for a couple years is actually dry rotted, my fingernail poked right through the fabric creating a large split. So I have to pull that off the canvas and try something else. Glad I didn’t make a skirt out of it…
I watched the Academy Awards last Sunday night and spun some of the leftover roving from the felted jacket. I have two skeins of a bulky fun two ply and expect based on my calculations to have a total of six when it is all spun.
And I finished beaming the yardage so I’ll have something on at least one of the looms when I come back from Florida and beyond.
This however proved a bit of a nail bitter.
Beaming started well enough, but I soon realized, about a yard or two into the process, that the colors from the two different hand painted warps were clumping. The reds on top of the reds, the greens on top of the greens, etc. I hadn’t dyed them that way but that’s sort of how they came out. I did a head scratch and pulled back everything I’d beamed to start over.
I went to the back beam and pulled up the ends of one of the hand painted warps, about 6 inches, to shift the colors hoping that would fix the problem.
It seemed to really help, and looked more of what I was expecting. I pulled out a long amount of warp from the front and eventually the colors do realign, but only for a couple yards and I’ll worry about that after the fabric is woven and washed.
Meanwhile, what is it about dogs and warp bundles?
So far I’m really happy with the look of the fabric after a hefty sampling.
I made a huge dent in the Unfinished Objects department, clearing many of my looms that had been languishing. I made a couple of cool garments, some dresses, jackets, and have some wonderful handwoven fabric to play with if there is any time in the coming months. I started a new body of artwork and I still managed to get out proposals, sign a stack of contracts, do a photo shoot, enter an exhibit (which I have two accepted garments packed and ready to go out tomorrow) and generally keep my house tidy and meals on the table.
That’s enough of that. Spring is coming, my husband is starting seeds as I type, the gardens are in a shambles from the brutal winter, the iron vine covered gazebo collapsed under the weight of the ice encrusted vines, and I’ll be ripping my hair out with too much on my calendar and too many things calling at me, my house will be dusty and disordered and full of dog hair because the season for that is starting, but that’s my life and I wouldn’t change a thing. I had some balance this winter, a gift to be sure, and I’m OK with going back out on the road, it is after all how I earn my living.
So if you are in the mood to learn a new technique or want to learn to weave, or learn to sew clothing, or get better at sewing clothing, check out my schedule, there are still openings in most things, along with some fresh venues, like a half day Speed Tapestry Class April 5th at Brook Falls Farm in Western NJ, and a three day/three loom class for beginners at the Rehoboth Art League in Delaware in July. And in an unusual turn of events, my sister is taking my five day intensive in Asheville and that should be one for the books. Plus Asheville in May… Enough said… Check my schedule and come and create.
Perseverance. It is a wonderful thing.
So last Wednesday I bit the bullet, mostly because I had my lovely intern Jen here and I wanted her to see me in action. I finally took the felt panels that have been pinned to my dressform for weeks, and cut them out. I have no problem cutting handwoven fabric. I’ve chopped into thousands of yards of fabric. But cutting this felt was painful.
For those just tuning in, you can read about felting the panels here.
Anyway, I wanted to take advantage of the natural edge of the felt, so no finishing of hems and I could actually overlap seams. There would still be a cut edge on the inside but I’d deal with that later. The layout was tricky.
The whole point of this felted jacket was to make a sample of my now infamous Daryl Jacket, the jacket pattern I use for all my garment construction classes. I teach a lot of five day intensives around the country, see the list here, (check out the one in Asheville, NC in May, it is gorgeous there and we have such a blast) and it is highly likely that I’ll have at least one felter in the class, and since everyone who starts garment construction classes with me gets to make a Daryl Jacket, it made sense to have a sample. (Note: Garment construction classes are open to anyone who wants to sew clothing, whether you weave, felt or just like to buy cloth from the fabric store. All levels are welcome, even beginners)
Did I enjoy making felt panels? Only the first one. Along about panel three I almost quit. I am not a felter. I don’t want to be a felter. But damn I had the best time sewing these felted panels because I could do the coolest edge and seam finishes that I couldn’t do with regular woven fabric. So I’m rethinking my dislike of felting…
I sewed the fronts and backs together, first with a machine stitch and then hand couching a handspun yarn to cover the machine thread. I spun the two ply yarn from the leftover fibers I didn’t use for the felted panels. Pretty cool.
Then came the pockets. The problem with the pockets is that I saved them for last during the felting process. And the huge ball of roving I had purchased with this lovely periwinkle blue turned out to not have any periwinkle blue down inside. So scraping together bits and scraps I was able to make two pockets but I didn’t like them at all. They were too light.
I tried to fold them down.
I tried to fold them a different way.
I tried going without pockets. Since this is a class sample and it is pretty cool to be able to just make a pocket with finished edges and attach to the jacket, I thought it was important that they be there. Plus I hate jackets without pockets. I’m like that. I also tried turning the pocket so the burgundy color was dominant.
I tried to see what would happen if I just couched the heck out of them with the handspun yarn.
I even tried a zipper with the pocket behind it.
I slept on the situation and then Friday morning I woke up and tossed both pockets in the washer and dryer on hot. They shrunk a lot more. Then I left for the weekend to visit old friends in the Berkshires. Had a fantastic time by the way. Got to visit with my daughter as well. She crocheted a sweater and didn’t do a gauge check first. It doesn’t fit her. But I could squeeze into it. Score!
Monday morning I made a decision. I put the now smaller pockets on the front of the jacket, couched them on and turned the upper outside edge down, just a bit, to help give them a little shape. Just the tip of the inside shows.
And so I carefully constructed the rest of the jacket, adding the sleeves, trying the jacket on every 45 seconds to check the fit and see if it worked.
Meanwhile I had to figure out buttonholes. Since you can just slice into felt and it doesn’t ravel, this was a no brainer, and couching around the buttonholes seemed like the logical thing to do. I love them. I could write a whole blog post on the button issue, but I’m happy with what I settled on, three abalone buttons from Tender Button in NYC.
The inside of course is this wild print silk chiffon I picked up at Thai Silks last February, while I was teaching in California. And I used Merino yarn to create a finished edge with a blanket stitch on the inside seams.
And now I not only have a Daryl Jacket in felt, I actually adore it and can’t wait for this stupid winter to be over and be able to wear a cool spring jacket. It snowed again today. I can’t…
I will never forget this date. The fact that I’m born on the 22nd (of May) and so was my husband (of March) doesn’t escape me. Numerologists would have a field day with this. 22 has always been my lucky number. It is the number my husband and I always play when we play roulette or games of chance.
February 22, 2002 was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was 12 years ago.
Obviously I lived to tell the tale.
Each year on my anniversary, (which is Saturday, so I’m posting this a couple days early since we will be away visiting old friends) I think of the change from BC to AC, before cancer to after cancer, because that’s what happens with a diagnosis like this, everything forms in your mind of how you thought and did things before you had cancer and then about how you did after cancer. Each year on my anniversary I usually acknowledge it in some way in this blog, though I will say that over the years, the fact that I had breast cancer is more and more of a short chapter in my life’s book, and not anything that really defines me. But in a way it really does.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the year of my diagnosis, remembering the details as best I can, and thinking about how they have shaped who I have become, both personally and professionally. A couple of conversations have brought that year front and center, one because a fellow weaver is going through a similar diagnosis and is using me as a sounding board for choices that aren’t what most physicians would recommend. The other conversation happened via Facebook, with another weaver, who was reading some of my early articles for Handwoven Magazine.
I started writing for Handwoven Magazine December of 2000, after meeting Madelyn van der Hoogt, the editor at Convergence Cincinnati. Within the year, she asked me to be the features editor for the magazine. She loved the way I wrote, and my huge knowledge base, and we agreed up front that I wouldn’t write projects (we called them PaaG’s/ Project at a Glance) which to this day I still avoid, but rather I’d write general focus features depending on what the theme of the issue was, and so I wrote for 35 issues straight for the magazine. I think that works out to seven years. So if you have a back issue of Handwoven Magazine, from December 2000 – around 2007, you’ll see some form of article from me. Madelyn was the most fantastic person I’ve ever worked for, giving me a long leash and positive feedback and I did some of my best writing for them. It is why this blog started, because I needed to continue the creative outlet of writing after my relationship ended. (In case you were curious, the relationship ended when the magazine was sold to a new publishing house and my elimination was purely financial).
But that isn’t what this post is about. This is about being one of the lucky ones. Not because I had cancer, and not because I lived, but because through it all I had the gift of being able to create something with my hands and that’s what got me through all those dark days of treatment, and painful memories, it isn’t about what I experienced, it is what I did with those experiences.
There are so many positive things I remember about those months of treatment, the support from friends and family was huge, and the support from the weaving community at large was even more embracing. Madelyn gave me an amazing voice within the magazine of those months right after my diagnosis, as a matter of fact, the week I came home from my mastectomy, drain still in my chest wall, she asked for a photo shoot of me for an article they were writing in the magazine about all the key players/editors/writers. It was one of the best therapies imaginable, because I had to get up, put makeup on do something with my hair, and act like a human being with a mission, I could not, for that afternoon of that photo shoot, act like I felt.
I came across the photos from that shoot earlier this year. (The stack of cling peaches is an inside joke from an End Notes Column I wrote for the Handwoven Issue September/October 2001)
I remember coming home from one of my chemo treatments, and there were many, walking into my studio and looking at my stash and thinking, horrified, what if I were to die and not actually ever weave or sew any of this stuff I’ve spent a lifetime accumulating? The best gift of that afternoon of shock and horror of thinking I might not live to see my precious stash become something, was the complete lack of fear to be able to just dive into the stacks head first because really, what was the worst that could happen? I wouldn’t produce a prize winning piece? No, the worst that would happen is I wouldn’t ever get to enjoy my treasures beyond dusting them on the shelf. Each cone of yarn and each cut of fabric would be a journey I’d never get to take. And that would be sad.
I remember pulling yarn off the shelf and looking at it in a new way. I remember rearranging the yarn, and seeing the relationships that I never saw before. And so, because I could, because it is a calming and healing thing to do when you have a gift of being able to produce something with your hands, I came home from that chemotherapy treatment and warped a loom. I created a vest, a long vest, and then Madelyn wrote and asked for me to write a feature piece on design, for the now infamous Design Issue, September/October 2002. I was still going through chemo when I wrote that article, and I occasionally hear from weaver’s that it is still their favorite article I ever wrote and would I please autograph the issue.
The article is called Designing from the Stash. One day I will recreate the article and post it in the extra’s on my website, which I can do, I just can’t use images that are property of Handwoven.
At the moment all my archives seem to be inaccessible, but I know I have back ups of back ups, and one day I’ll sit down and write out all my words of wisdom, but for now, know you can look it up on page 36-39 of Handwoven Magazine September/ October 2oo2, Issue 111 or click here.
The article centers around working from within the stash, challenging yourself to use what you have, giving you permission to buy when the time is right, adding to the stash, but figuring out what you already have and making good use of it. The end result of that article was this vest. Or more correctly, the end result of this vest was that article.
My weaving friend Ginnie and I were chatting about this vest not two weeks ago. I’ve been on a mission to move a lot of my early work out of the back of the closet/attic and into the hands of people who will appreciate it, through the guild sale, Peters Valley store, and other venues. I’ve been asked if this vest is for sale, and I’ve never once ever wanted to put a price tag on it because, though I don’t wear it anymore, this piece represents a time in my life and a place in my life I need to always remember. The lining came from yardage I silk screened in college; textile paint on polyester, the pencil registration lines are still there, and I had exactly enough to make it work for this vest. That lining fabric had been in my stash since 1977. And it was the first time I wove inkle loom trim for a garment. The fabric itself was woven from two cones of yarn I hadn’t really ever noticed on the shelf, mill ends, in an eight shaft shadow weave.
I can’t imagine how my year of treatment would have gone had I not been able to sew or weave or even knit through out the process. I brought an inkle loom with me for chemo, as well as a vest I’d been working on for a number of years, beaded, two beads at a time. I remember knocking the tray of beads off the arm rest of the chemo lounge chair and having them go all over the floor and getting down on my hands and knees, IV pole in tow, picking up all the little copper seed beads from the linoleum. I remember doing hand work on a garment while I sat in that lounge chair, every couple of weeks, as my blood cell count cooperated, and having a chemo nurse say to me, “I wish I could do something creative with my hands”. I thought about that for a long time afterward. This nurse saves people’s lives. Every day. Chemo nurses are up there with the saints. Yet this one was jealous of what I could do with my hands.
That year of treatment ended the following March (3/03/03) when I went back into surgery to remove the port implanted in my chest wall for easy access for the chemo drugs. (This allowed my hands to be free during treatment). I brought kumihimo on a disk to occupy myself while waiting for surgery. The interaction between me and the surgical nurse was hilarious and I wrote another End Notes Column for Handwoven Magazine, that you can read here. I used the kumihimo for a vest closure and took the beautiful Lillian Whipple woven image from one of the cards I received from weavers all over the country, of hands and feet and a heart, and placed it in the back neck of the vest. That’s another piece I won’t part with.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have the gift that no matter what happens to me, I can reorient myself in time and space by walking into my studio and diving into something that lets all the dark yucky stuff stay out in the hallway for however long I’m surrounded by color and yarns and cloth and tools and magazines/books/patterns full of ideas. Ginnie and I talked about how important that gift is, even during the darkest of days. Some of my best work has come from working through the tragedies of my life and having a visual voice in which to express who and what I’m about.
And so that chapter in my life was 12 years ago, but I continue to make stuff, to play with what life brings my way, both the good and the bad, and I know that there is little in life that gives me as such satisfaction as what comes out of my hands. Because unlike everything else in my life, my studio and the contents are about the only thing I’ve any control over, and the one thing in my life I can always count on.
Or maybe it is C or D, I’ve lost track.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It has been a busy snowbound week here in NJ.
I threaded the scarf warp.
I beamed the scarf warp.
I put the supplemental warps on the lower warp beam.
I started weaving the scarf warp. Can I say what a breath of fresh air all the color in this scarf brings to such gray miserable weather?
I finally just sat down one day over the weekend and wove off the mohair yardage that has been taking up valuable loom space for more than a year. It was a twelve yard warp and I’ve netted about 10 yards. I carefully brushed the warp before I advanced each section of cloth.
Within a couple of hours the knots came creeping up over the back beam.
The fabric is washed and dried and rolled and even though the photo looks fuzzy, that’s actually the fabric, it is hazy and gorgeous to touch and puffy and light and I absolutely can’t wait to sew it up. Worth the wait.
In anticipation of my trip to Florida next month for the Florida Tropical Weaver’s Conference, more because I want to think about Florida with all this raging snow up here in the northeast, I have to start prepping and planning for the workshop I’m teaching there, called Weave a Memory. Participants will bring photos and I’ll scan them into the computer, adjust in Photoshop and print on fabric, which will then be cut into strips and rewoven back together in an inlay technique. I plan to fly down with one of my little Stucto’s set up for a demo, however I needed this particular Structo for the beginning weaving class I taught last month. So I keep a spare castle threaded specifically for the Theo Moorman inlay technique I use, with warp wound onto spools, and I keep that stored for when I need the loom for a class like Weave a Memory. I pulled the old castle from the Structo, and replaced it with the one that was pre-threaded with 14/2 linen. I slipped the warped spools onto the hex beam after removing the apron I made for it, and then just had to sley the reed. I printed a photo I’ve wanted to do for awhile, a shot of my son as a baby surrounded by our three dogs. It is printed on treated cotton artist’s canvas. It was the Christmas card image for his first Christmas. So that is underway.
All the large works I’ve done in this technique have either been sold or given to family members or are in frames too large to get in my baggage to Florida. So I need to weave a large piece that can be rolled up and taken with me next month. I found this small color study I did in a college color studies class back in 1974. I’ve always loved the image, made from inlaid pieces of Color-Aid paper, and even though the professor thought it was conventional in the color usage, she said it was well balanced and handled and nicely done. I got a B.
I scanned it into the computer and spent a lot of hours a few months ago, digitally repairing the missing pieces of Color-Aid that had fallen off and disappeared. I cleaned up edges and then enlarged this little 6″ still life into a 20″ still life. I split the image into three sections and printed them on 8 1/2″ rolls of treated cotton Percale. Once it is cut into strips, you’d never know it was actually printed in three panels.
I got the table loom ready to go, I keep this one threaded as well for this technique. I started cutting the first panel into strips, one at a time. I started weaving the strips back together. This is the first time I’ve used cotton, and I’m not sure the colors are as rich as I’d like, but we will see when it is all finished.
In my quest to empty looms, (I’ve only got one of my shaft looms left to clear), I’m conscious of the naked loom syndrome, so I want at least a couple with something fun on them, something colorful, so when I’m in the mood to weave, there is actually something to weave. It isn’t good to have naked looms. I’ve got the scarf warp well underway, but there was this beautiful warp that has been artfully draped over my 36″ loom since dye day at the guild last August. I really wanted to get that yardage going.
I spent a number of hours writing a draft, a simple combination of twill and plain weave, using most of both of the warps, one a rayon slub and the other a rayon/silk from Silk City, the old Contessa. They are very different and will create different surfaces on the cloth. To make the cloth a bit wider, I decided to add an additional commercial element and this dark green rayon novelty jumped off the shelf at me. I had my trusty intern wind me a warp of 196 ends.
I got her started on sleying the reed, and this was pretty complicated. There are three ends in each dent, and she had to pay close attention to what was happening while carefully combining the three warps. I worked with her so there were no mistakes and took over when it was time to leave. I finished it up this morning and really really wanted to see it threaded.
That’s when the trouble started.
Actually threading the loom wasn’t bad, I had to pay attention but everything was going swimmingly well until I started really looking at the draft I was using. Something wasn’t right. I blew up the drawdown and studied it closely and found there were a couple of transitions that I just wasn’t happy with. I’ve circled the problem areas.
I went back to the computer and worked for another couple hours, there are two issues to work around, one is that this warp is already sleyed in the reed, and there is no way I’m taking 700+ ends from three different ten yard warps and pulling them out, and the other is I spent a lot of time working out the original draft using Fibonacci numbers. I wanted to maintain that. So the color sequence and spacing had to stay the same. Only the threading could change. Because of the Fibonacci numbers, the draft can’t technically mirror itself unless I add an additional thread in the middle of each repeat, and I don’t have any more to add, and I’m not changing the layout in the reed, so I reworked the transition of the twill and plain weave areas and ended up with a double thread in the dead center of each repeat, which could actually be kind of cool. Or not. Only one way to find out. Thread it and weave it and hope for the best.
So now I have to rethread about about 200 ends that are already threaded, but that’s only a few hours of work and I’ll tackle that tomorrow. I like the transitions better between structures, they are tighter and cleaner. And I used a broken twill transition between the larger twill areas and their dark green borders.
I of course am self employed. My “office” is my studio which is about 40 feet from my bedroom on the second floor. My morning commute consists of walking downstairs to the kitchen, making a large mug of tea, grabbing some home made granola and goat yogurt, and plodding back upstairs with the tea to begin checking emails and working on projects in the studio.
Notice I didn’t even mention getting dressed. Why bother? My jammies are really comfortable when crawling around my studio. Saves on laundry.
So today, we had yet another snow day. Sigh. Nothing horrid, just a lot of ice and yucky stuff, but on top of what we got Monday, it is getting pretty clogged out there. NJ does know how to get rid of snow, but local municipalities are starting to run out of money. No one saw this many storms when writing last year’s budget.
Anyway, all over facebook, schools are closed, offices are closed, my daughter’s college in MA was closed, my intern couldn’t make it in, roads were reportedly awful. I wouldn’t know. I never went outside. I don’t get snow days. I just wander down the hall 40 feet and I’m at work.
This could be really really wonderful or really really awful depending on your perspective. My poor husband works in the office attached to the bedroom, his commute is something like 20 feet. He spent the whole day on exhausting conference calls. I think he wished there had been a snow day for him. I did what any self respecting fiber person would do to counter the grey icy mess outside, I dug out all the small balls of leftover hand dyed yarn I’ve squirreled away from my various scarf runs on the loom.
I wanted to try a different type of scarf than I usually weave, based on the yardage I did for Convergence Long Beach yardage exhibit.
I lined up the colors I thought would work together into some kind of gradation.
I wound a pair of ten yard warps, each half the width of the 10″ scarves. They would come together in the middle at the bright pink.
I went to the loom, and sleyed the reed, adding the supplemental warps on top of everything else… It was a bright and colorful day!
I cut the Crimp Cloth I wove off the loom, finally, and began pulling all the shibori threads while watching the Super Bowl Sunday night. (I only lasted until 9pm when Downton Abbey came on…) I continued pulling all day Monday.
Monday night, I steamed the fabric while I made dinner. Thanks for all those who responded to my cry for help on Facebook when I discovered in my notes that there was no mention of how long to steam the fabric.
After letting the coil dry overnight, I carefully removed all the shibori pull threads and got a really really cool crimped cloth. There are about three yards there, and I can’t wait to figure out what to make with it. I’m on brain overload…
And finally, I uncovered my big loom, sat down and started to weave off the mohair yardage that has been on there way more than a year. It wove like fuzzy butter, (Ok that’s not a good visual) but spraying the back of the warp behind the heddles with good old fashioned spray starch kept the mohair from sticking and I just emptied one bobbin after another. I’m hoping to weave most of it tomorrow so I can get to threading the scarves and I’m getting close to thinking about actually sewing the felted panels into a jacket.
I’ll take a snow day anyday. I just keep on working… (But I do have to acknowledge here that my wonderful husband who works down the hall, and my son who lives in the basement, have been the ones to go outside and tirelessly shovel and clear snow. I’m sure I’d feel much differently if I was out there wrecking my back with all this very heavy wet stuff. )
In case you were wondering, I did manage to dodge storms yesterday and meet with my critique group. They loved the new Chromosome series of felted artworks, and really encouraged me to keep at it. I came home yesterday afternoon really really pumped.
A shout out to my wonderful son who turned 24 today. It has been a roller coaster of a ride but totally worth it. You turned out pretty well.