Only for a short time, but I wanted to get this post right out. I spent last week teaching at Harrisville Designs, a quaint, historic location, pristine, full of ghosts to the active textile mill days in the 1800’s, and though I’ve never worked harder in my life, this was one of my most successful classes ever. They worked just as hard. Sometimes until 10:30pm. Some had already been working hard in the morning before I arrived half an hour before class was to start each day. I had a large class, 11 students. Four were returning, and seven first timers with me. All were successful.
I measure success in many kinds of different ways. Personally it isn’t things like winning an award at a show, or having my name across a magazine masthead. Success to me is when I solve a problem that seemed unsolvable, nail something that I’ve been sweating over for a long time. Standing back and looking at something I’ve done and being personally pleased by what I see. Simple things that make one curious and energized to tackle the next problem.
Success though, takes on a whole new meaning when I see someone look in the mirror and tell me they’ve never had a jacket fit them before, ever. Success for me comes when I watch someone’s eyes and they light up and show me that they’ve gotten it, and then can now fly. Success is when I see 11 students leaving a class with jackets and coats that fit and celebrate the cloth they brought, mostly handwoven. I think only two students brought commercial fabrics this time. There was a lot of weaving going on this year.
We did a final shot of everyone’s jackets and coats outside the Spinning and Weaving Center the morning of the final day. There was still much handwork to be done, but I’ve never been prouder of a group of women, all of whom learned so much and really pushed their skills.
I even got a couple of shots of me doing my job!
There were my repeat students…
Amy, who wove this lovely cashmere fabric, and used a gorgeous silk for the lining. Her son and daughter in law brought the silk back with them from India as a gift. So the jacket has extra special meaning. This is a Linda Kubic Elements pattern.
Carole, who wove this amazing wool, and made a coat with Vogue 1320. I had used that pattern with a commercial plaid a couple of years ago. We struggled with the fit of the sleeves going into the yoke because the fabric was so bulky. The coat will be wonderful for cold New England winters.
Rita, who makes me smile at the way she designs and spends so much time working things out in front of the mirror. Rita wove her fabric as well, and the jacket pattern is based on one she brought from Germany.
Jane, who also wove her fabric. This is mostly Zephyr wool and silk, I can’t remember if there is tencel in it, but the fabric was the softest thing you could imagine. Beautifully fulled. The pattern was Vogue 9039, one that some of my Siever’s students have used. I wished I had taken a photo of the interior, every seam was perfectly trimmed using a combination of Hong Kong and Welt seam finishes. The jacket is unlined.
Barbara was a new student but had made a jacket similar to the one I use for beginners and with her extensive garment skills already, she brought her own pattern and some amazing handwoven fabric from her own Romney sheep. She sent the fleece out for processing and spinning and wove a beautiful houndstooth with companion pieces. There was a lot of pounding happening when Barbara would pick up the steam iron! Simplicity 1320
And all the rest made my jacket pattern, fondly called the Daryl Jacket!
There was Jean with another beautiful handwoven fabric, making her jacket suitable for the office…
Sandy, handwoven fabric made into more of a sweater coat for layering… We used elastic hair ties from the general store across the street for a clever closure.
Karen, who came in from Wisconsin with a rather loosely sett rayon handwoven fabric that required some extra care, but the end result was so worth it.
Cathy came in from Texas, with a handwoven fabric that made everyone gasp, partly from how spectacular it was and partly from the loose sett. Cathy worked tirelessly to make the fabric work, and her extra effort paid off, the jacket is gorgeous and so very suitable to the warm climate in Texas.
Jan brought in a commercial upholstery fabric, and made a gorgeous jacket with a clever closure.
And dear dear Anne who was so enthusiastic, also with a commercial upholstery fabric, and I’m so disappointed I somehow did not manage to get a photo of her jacket finished with the sleeves and bands. She also did a lovely looped closure, interrupting the piping to create loops which I didn’t photograph either.
I had hoped to have students try on my new tunic/shirt pattern, so I could finalize the pattern. Many were obliging and tried it on and I loved the proportions. I will grade up one more size, but I’m completely happy with how it looked on everyone, needing only to add darts when appropriate. Like the one Jean is modeling. Just needs a little more fullness and darts.
I’m very very tired. I gave this class everything I had. The energy was high, and the creativity astounding. And what usually happens when I return from an intense class like this (it is called a five day garment intensive), I have to go to a quiet place and hide a bit to refill the cup. There is nothing left to give to anyone.
So I apologize to my poor husband, who is facing some pretty nasty stuff. His PET scan which happened while I was up in NH showed a tumor and node issues in his thyroid in addition to the known stage 3 esophageal cancer. Chemo and radiation start next Monday. His spirits are strong, but I am struggling to do much more than attack paperwork, bills, printing handouts and making kits for the ASG classes this coming weekend in Kansas City. I declined to accompany him to the Peters Valley Craft Fair today, which disappointed both of us, but I couldn’t talk to another person or look at and absorb another thing. I needed this day alone. It is hard to explain unless you travel for a living and stand up in front of a group of people and give out everything you have in your soul. I wouldn’t change any of it, it was so worth the success I saw in the eyes and on the bodies of every one of my students. We are trying to lock in next year’s dates as I write.
I think I’ll go open a beer…
I always enjoy watching the pole dance that celebrity actors do when a new film is about to release. I know that they finished up their part in the film probably a couple of years ago, and it has been in post production ever sense. Most likely they are on to filming something else, and yet, when a film is released, they are called back to promote it like it was yesterday.
I write for a lot of different magazines. Back when I wrote regularly for Handwoven magazine, I would submit my feature probably six weeks before press date, have the edits to me within a couple weeks, and everything was much more timely. Madelyn, my editor back then, knew my work and knew what I gave her needed little editing and I could just fly in at the last minute with something usable.
Publishing is different now.
Now I have short deadlines (two weeks if I’m lucky) with most of the magazines I contribute to, but the lead time is sometimes a year out. Back in January, I wrote about a jacket I made, and the problems I had with the pattern. The jacket was for an article I was writing for Sew News Magazine. Everything was shipped to them, and I was actually paid last March for the article. Each issue I’d wait, and…. no article! I wrote them and they said the article was actually for the October/November issue, and it would be out sometime in September. I’d almost forgotten about it at this point.
Unlike other publications I write for, Sew News never shows the final copy to the contributor, which is always a scary thing. They have assured me that in the future they will submit for final approval, which is good news since the minute I opened the magazine that appeared in my mailbox while I was away last weekend, I saw a couple of glaring errors in how the illustrations were done. They interpreted my photos into illustrations but I hadn’t seen the final results until the magazine was printed and sent. Frustrating…
But… Let me say that the seven page spread is beautiful. The illustrations are very clear, and there are a lot of them. The two mistakes are small and though a bit confusing, not critical to the overall understanding of the technique, how to make Triangular Bound buttonholes. They assure me that the corrected illustrations will be on the website. The jacket photographed well, and I can’t wait to get it back so I can start wearing it. I love they way they styled the model.
These buttonholes are pretty cool. They are actually easier than regular bound buttonholes. The issue should be on the newstands now, October/November 2015 Sew News
When Astrig Tanguay Facebook messaged me last year about applying to Fiber College of Maine, I had no idea what this was, where this was, and what this was about. The website looked like a lovely throwback to the 80’s craft fair days, but full of classes, lots of color, and enthusiastic participants. I applied to teach some basic classes and that was that.
Fast forward to this past weekend, I left Thursday morning just after dawn, popped in my Kindle and listened to Davina Porter reading the next installment of the Outlander series. I swear I read this book before and remembered none of it. (I’m rereading book 3, Voyager). The time flew, and after a couple of stops for gas, and a quick sandwich, I made it up to Maine from Northern Jersey in just about 8 hours.
The “College” takes place in Searsport, ME, coastal, cooler, in a secluded campground, with lots of beautiful gardens, goats, cabins, rec buildings, and a beach, though very rocky by Jersey shore standards. I’m spoiled. This is an annual event, full of food, vendors, classes, lectures, demonstrations, evening events, a dye tent, and a lot more stuff I was too busy to experience.
The flowers were gorgeous, and there was the funniest plant as we exited our studio the first day of class, which someone called Emerenth, but that didn’t net me anything in a google search, though I did find similar photos for a species of the Amaranth plant. I swear it was giving us the finger every time we walked by.
Friday I taught an all day class in color and inspiration. This particular group did some amazingly beautiful yarn wraps, not all of them were weavers, but all of them use yarn except for the quilters of course.
Saturday I taught an all day class in shaft loom weaving for beginners. I hauled 10 Structos up, and prewound their warps. They sleyed, threaded, beamed and learned to read a draft all in one day. They were exhausted but happy. I work my students hard…
Seeger Solutions Photography
Saturday night we wandered down to the beach for a lovely and warm bonfire. The local historical society provided chowder, biscuits and homemade pies.
At night I was snug in my little travel trailer with my roommate, knitter extraordinaire Mary Germain, whom I knew from the teaching staff at Sievers. She is an expert in Estonian and Latvian knitting, written a couple of monographs, and we sat together on the little couch, and chatted and knitted until late in the evenings. The wine flowed…
Sunday I taught an all day class in Inkle Loom Weaving, also beginner. I swear I thought I took more photos, especially at the end when they were doing some beautiful pick up, but this is what made it home.
There was a vendor who sharpened scissors, and I happened to have a handful of some of my less than sharp Ghingers and Fiskars. He did a great job and I was disappointed to learn he did not mail order. Next year?
I really enjoyed myself here, there were some wonderful conversations, and some lovely gatherings of creative spirits. I would come back, even though the drive is annoying. Davina Porter read to me all the way back home as well.
On to the next event, a five day class at Harrisville in NH. I leave Sunday and continue listening to Davina another five hours.
Or a snail’s pace, whichever you prefer.
The odd thing about owning the amount of looms that I have, (seven Tools of the Trade looms in the Main Studio, too many to mention in storage in other areas of the house) is you get lazy. There is no need to clear a loom when several more sit empty. When I’m not traveling, I enjoy taking workshops through a couple of guilds I belong to, for the social end of it, because I probably know and am good friends with the instructor, and because yes, I can always learn something new. It makes me a better teacher myself.
I have a couple of table looms I reserve for that purpose. Sometimes the classes are round robins, which means that you are assigned a structure or threading and you warp the loom based on that draft. Once at the class, participants rotate through all the available looms and make a small sample on each. At the end, samples are cut off and exchanged and viola! A wonderful notebook happens which is great for reference on a particular structure and a great reminder of a great time.
I’m embarrassed to say that I took a warp painting class with Sarah Saulson, my daughter as well, with the Frances Irwin Guild in June of 2012. I can’t believe I had to go back three years in my blog to find reference to it. The original post is here. We warped our looms, and then pulled the warp forward to dye with MX dyes, and let them dry overnight. Then they had to be woven off. The length of yardage put on the loom had to be done in two parts. Part one was completed at the workshop. That left another yard and a half to pull forward and dye and rebeam and weave. Well we know how that went…
My other guild, Jockey Hollow Weavers, is having another workshop this fall, with an old weaving friend Karen Donde. I’m thrilled that not only am I hosting her, but I’ll spend some time with her in class, get to participate in another round robin, and because my daughter is home from school now, she can request off from work and take it as well. We have our drafts and our engines are running.
Except both 8 shaft looms needed for the task are busy…
So in light of my past week of woe, I decided that weaving off a warp was good therapy and I knocked out the rest of the warp which had actually been dyed a year and a half ago when I had an apprentice and needed to teach her different aspects of what I do. It was just weaving off a yard and a half. Nine inches wide. You’d think…
So the fabric is now finished and washed. The two lengths don’t really match, but they coordinate. I didn’t have the same dyes, and probably we used thickener during class so the imagery was more precise on the original one on the left.
I like them both and thought they might both make great tote bags. Like the ones I made for the guild sale last year. I probably won’t sell them, I always need gifts for people who go out of their way in ordinary times, they may come in handy down the road… Considering…
And now my loom is clear and I can wind another warp and dress the loom and see how long it takes to clear this warp! The class is on differential shrinkage, and so the samples explore what happens when you mix yarns with different shrinkage potential when washed. It was great to already have the yarns on the shelf.
I’m furiously working on samples of a new pattern I’m developing. Mostly because I’ve been forced to come up with something beyond my Daryl Jacket that can be accomplished in a three day class. Note, before anyone gets excited, this silhouette is more complex and much tougher to sew and would not be an option for anyone who has never taken a class with me. I based it on the tunic I made last year, since tunics and overshirts are all the rage on the runway. I reworked the sleeve and used my standard relaxed set in sleeve from the jacket pattern. Right now I’m building the samples from old sheets to try on willing participants at my next group of classes. The directions are written, I’ve only a couple more samples to make (3) before I’m ready to debut. The goal here is to be able to allow students who have already made the jacket in another class, to still participate in a three day jacket class, giving them another option…
Off to doctors appointments with my husband…
The past year has been one of my best. And one of my favorites. Probably my most successful year professionally, lots of new venues, opportunities to write, a five part webinar series with Weaving Today. Lots of great possibilities for the future. My daughter finished college and moved home. Though she is working full time we still have wonderful weaving adventures. My son spent a long year on a military deployment, but has returned, and has grown for the experience. And I turned 60. Lots of looking at the future and what I want to do with the next phase of my life. Suddenly there is permission to say no to things I don’t really want to do. I am starting to unload and destash things that don’t hold any meaning for me anymore. And my husband and I are talking of the next steps after he retires next year. Of course, just reading my posts you dear readers know how special each of the venues I’ve had this year have been. One of my best experiences at Sievers, my all time best experience at Peters Valley, an amazing month on the west coast, and everywhere I’ve traveled, eager and enthusiastic students work hard and are really grateful for what I seem to be able to teach them.
I started this blog to celebrate a life interwoven with fiber, adventures, creativity, conundrums, and observations. When I was diagnosed with cancer 13 years ago, there was no blog. There was no Facebook. Only emails, and I gave progress reports to those who wanted to be kept informed by email. Wednesday morning I drove my husband at 5:30 in the morning for an endoscopy, following up on some random trouble swallowing, nothing more specific than that. By 10am we knew, he has a mass on his esophagus and the news was of course devastating. It is cancer but the extent wasn’t known until a follow up endoscopy on Thursday, this time with a sonogram. And the news is not good.
This isn’t my story to tell, and I promise dear readers that I won’t turn this blog into a step by step progress report of my husband’s journey through the hellish nightmare of treatment for esophageal cancer. I am a fiber artist, and a weaver, and a mother, and a wife, and I am a living breathing cancer surviving human being that takes the curve balls with grace and humility, because we all get hit with curve balls in the baseball game of life, and I am certainly not exempt. I am incredibly grateful for the past year and will cherish it as a large chocolate cake with a red wine chaser that gave me terrific memories to hold onto as I move into a darker scarier phase of life, our lives together.
I wanted to let all my supporters and students and potential students know that I do have a heavy schedule still lined up for the fall. I am going to do everything in my power to still make those venues happen and to be as professional and focused as I possibly can. Not because I’m a hero, or slighting my husband and family, because after going through cancer myself, the absolutely best thing I can do for myself is to keep as busy as possible. I have grown children now. I didn’t have that 13 years ago. I still had to be a mother to them. Now they can be a support to the two of us.
Wednesday night my daughter and I went to the first meeting of the new season of the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild. It was wonderful to just get out of the dark place life is taking us right now. And on Thursday we sat around the table at the Boonton Library, knitting. For a brief couple of hours my mind was at ease.
I went back and read the editorial piece I wrote for Handwoven magazine the morning after 9/11. So much of it still rang true for today and what my family, my husband is facing. You can read it here if you want.
The warps are wound, the handouts printed, and Thursday morning I’m still planning to get in the car, plug in the next installment of the Outlander series on Audible, and drive the 8 hours to northern coastal Maine, for Fiber College. (FYI, I’ve already read the Outlander series, but it is amazing how much I’ve forgotten.) I’m hoping for a bit of distracting serenity and to be surrounded by lots of colorful fiber. And some pretty cool people.
Lots of hugs.