Under the Arch…

I just returned from yet another amazing weekend.  I’m always surprised at how I can experience something and think that I’ve hit nirvana, and then the next experience is even better.  I’m really lucky that way.  I work hard, and don’t always get awarded for that, no one is on a regular basis, but now and then, the planets align, and I know that I’ve done well and that I’m happy with where life is taking me.

StLouisArchI just returned from the American Sewing Guild Conference, this year it was held in St. Louis.  My hotel room window had a great view of the arch.  The conference moves around the country, and is an annual event, unlike weaving conferences.  There were somewhere between 600-700 people, I wasn’t sure of the exact count, and we all dine together in the hotel for breakfast and lunch, with main events like the fashion show and the keynote address happening during the lunch session.  Actually class workshops and seminars happen throughout the day, some are 1 1/2 – 2 or 3 hours, and there are half day and full day workshops as well.  Even though I taught four seminars/workshops, I still got to take four classes as well.  I always learn something, and burn a little plastic in the vendor hall.  There is always a new sewing tool I need to have…

I worked really hard on one of my presentations, harder and longer than I’ve ever worked on one.  I talked about it all throughout this year, and I thought it was tight and thorough.  I had a couple of trusted friends proof it, and other than spelling Michael Kor’s name wrong, (as the designer of a jacket of mine that had a bagged lining), (I spelled it like the ice cream establishment at the Jersey shore, Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard), I felt pretty confident.

My first class was a Master class in making bound buttonholes.  The class filled, I had 18 students making rectangular and triangular buttonholes and the window for the back facing.  They had little kits, thanks to my efficient daughter, and they all worked step by step for four hours.  Honestly, though I adore the process, I wasn’t sure how many others would share my passion for couture precision, but I heard at the end comments like, “That was the best class I’ve ever taken”, and “I had so much fun!”  I heard further comments later on in the weekend from those who were rooming with people from the class and who had dinner with them, watching their enthusiasm passing around their samples.  And the senior editor for Sew News Magazine sat in on the class as well and we talked about a possible article as a follow up.  Pretty heady stuff.


My next class was of course, my old standby, “Weave your Own Trim”.  I shipped 20 inkle looms to St. Louis, and all the kits.  I taught the 20 students, another full class, how to set up the inkle loom for a simple trim, and then use supplemental weft for effects to make trim for things like a Chanel Jacket.  My article in Threads Magazine is coming out in the next issue. They all did amazing work, and 15 looms were sold, an additional two went out later in the day, so there are 17 new inkle loom weavers out there with looms!  I’m proud.  I did  not take a single photo, too busy running around trouble shooting, but the ASG photographer kindly let me have one of their photos, of me curled up on the floor trying to demonstrate how to get good selvedges on one of the student’s looms.


I managed to take a few classes, with Louise Cutting, on Insider Designer Techniques, Ann St. Clair on sewing without a muslin, Sandy Miller on techniques for the white shirt, and an absolutely fantastic class by Sarah Veblen on Understanding Knits.  We got a stack of 23 different types of knits and she explained knit construction in an amazingly thorough way, and I can now tell the difference between an interlock and a jersey, and I can assure you there is a difference!

I taught a somewhat risky class on Saturday, called What Went Wrong.  It was risky because I had no idea what the participants would bring in terms of problems and questions.  But I had suitcase full of examples and garments that explained different techniques, my extensive repertoire of PowerPoint presentations, and a handful of my monographs, and I was able to talk for the three hour class covering things they hadn’t even known to ask.  One of the Threads Magazine editors sat in on that class.  One of the things I had to get use to at ASG conferences, this is my 5th, was that sewing magazine editors scout around for article ideas, from many of the classes taught.  My Threads and Sew News articles have come as a direct result of teaching at this conference.

Saturday night I had dinner with Sarah McFarland, the Editor of Threads Magazine, and an assistant Editor Dana Finkle, the one who sat in on my class, and it was wonderful to talk about future contributions I might make to the magazine, and I shared my Behind the Front Lines handout with them, even though I hadn’t yet given the class.  There was a lot of great conversation, and about three quarters of the way through the meal, we all found ourselves glued to the large window where we sat, overlooking the main drag in downtown St. Louis, as some 350 naked bike riders came peddling down the street.  Apparently as the waiter explained, this is an annual event in St. Louis, growing larger ever year, and Bike Naked St. Louis featured all ages, men and women, all shapes and sizes, happily biking down the streets of St. Louis  completely naked.  It was a sight to behold…

Sunday morning I gave my final presentation, Behind the Front Lines, the class I’ve worked on for months.  I covered Underlinings, Interlinings, Linings, Interfacings, and Facings.  We covered a lot in two hours.  I raced to get it all in at the end, and I really wished for another hour, but again, I had great response to the class, and I was really proud of the job I’d done.

There were of course some real highlights to the weekend, the keynote speaker was Nancy Zieman, for those who don’t sew, Nancy has been a television personality for more years than I can count, with her show on PBS, Sewing with Nancy.  And many of you may know her as the Nancy in Nancy’s Notions.  She has an autobiography out, Seams Unlikely and I was actually about 20% through reading it on my Kindle when I got to hear her tell her story, with some hilarious photos, and it was one of those top ten moments in my sewing career.

The Weaver’s Guild of St. Louis actually had a large booth in the vendor hall, first time I’ve seen a weaving group participate like this.  They had many items for sale, and constant demonstrations of weaving, spinning and tapestry.  And of course this is a hot bed for Card Weaving!  Yes, I had dinner with John Mullarkey Wednesday night when I flew in.  We talked bands…


And my roommate, whom I’ve only known through the vendor hall, was the rep for Sulky Threads, and what an amazing wealth of knowledge she is.  Suzy and I never stopped talking, and we felt so similarly in our passion for fine sewing, she is the expert in threads and needles. In our conference tote bag, there was a sample of Sulky’s 12 weight cotton thread, a beautiful thread designed for surface work but perfect for fine inkle loom bands.  A 50 yard spool costs about a dollar and a half, and the cotton comes in 66 colors and 14 blendables.  Unlike a variegated, blendables are engineered to not repeat themselves so colors don’t pool.  Who knew?  Well what could I do?  There was a terrific show price on the box of all 80 spools, so I had to order one.  I’m dying to try a band on the inkle loom from Sulky’s 12 weight cotton, I already have a Paired Pebble example on one of my looms out of Wonderfil 12 weight cotton and I love working with it.


I also finally bought, two pair of Kai shears.  They’ve been on my bucket list forever, and I had the opportunity to actually feel them in my hands, and see how they cut, and they just had to come home with me.  One of the pairs was serrated, which keeps slinky knits from jumping away as you cut.

And on the flight home Sunday night, I had this view to look at for most of the trip.  It was hard to capture on a cell phone, but the rainbow band of vivid color as the sun set and the night sky enfolded the ribbon in darkness, was breathtaking.


I’m of course playing catch up this week, bills and paperwork, trouble shooting emails, and prepping for the next adventure, I leave next Sunday night to return to Peters Valley to teach fibers to high school students for four days.  My daughter has been prepping 14 frame looms, 14 inkle looms, and 14 shaft looms. And we won’t discuss the produce that was waiting for me on the counter when I arrived.  I’ve managed to make large bowls of cole slaw, Taboulleh, 8 more jars of refrigerator pickles, beet salad, and pickled cucumbers. I’m tired but very very happy…

Stay tuned…



Passing the Torch…

I’m back from a whirlwind tour of mind blowing fiber experiences in just a couple of days, all tied into HGA’s Convergence Providence.

First though, let me give a bit of background, which will clarify some of the questions/rumors flying around.

I taught at HGA’s Convergence for the last 12 years.  That would be seven Convergence’s starting in 2000.  In Convergence Albuquerque 2010 alone I taught 7 classes.  There might be a record somewhere in there of how many I’ve taught at in a row, but as with all things in life, there is a time and a place and nothing is permanent.  I was also the features editor for Handwoven Magazine for seven years, writing for 35 issues straight. And when new publishers came in and took the magazine in new directions, I did not follow.

But markets are changing and there are new faces with fresh ideas and lots of new weavers to draw from all that inspiration.  It is tough to walk away from something that was a critical part of who I am as an educator but it was apparent to me after the last Convergence that I needed to move onto other venues.  No conference has the same teachers over and over again.  I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did.  Mostly because I’ve worked so hard to diversify as an educator, not only do I specialize in garment construction for handweavers, but I also teach weaving techniques, warping techniques, color studies, photography, and a slew of other topics.  And I’ve taught pretty near all of them for Convergence.  So when it came time to apply for the 2014 Convergence, and the location still wasn’t announced, (it could have been in Canada for all I knew), I opted not to apply.

I hoped that Convergence would thrive, go on successfully without me, and when I found out it was going to be in Providence, I really wrestled with whether to attend, Providence is only about four hours away, depending on traffic.

As it turned out, with my daughter home from college and my dear friend Carol Westfall begging me to accompany her to see all the exhibits, it made sense to squeeze in a couple days and actually participate in parts of Convergence I was never before able to because of time constraints when teaching, and not having my own transportation when I would fly.

Carol, Brianna and I left Thursday morning and headed up to Lowell, MA.  We hit almost no traffic, and were able to get through the American Textile History Museum, and Fiber International 2013 by lunch.  The exhibit was interesting and though provoking and it was great to discuss the works, most of which had some sort of cultural or political commentary built in, with my daughter.  We went through the exhibit side by side.  She has a great ability to look beyond the obvious and see things most people miss.


We had a quick delicious lunch at the cafe in the museum, and jumped back in the car for the drive to Brockton, MA and the Fuller Craft Museum.

I will say that the Game Changer’s exhibit was probably the highlight of the trip for me.  The exhibit pulled together fiber works from “Masters and Innovators”, those who created the genre of fiber art, artists I studied back in the 70′s and though some are now gone from us, there are many like Lia Cook and Cynthia Schira who are still pushing the boundaries of the medium.  The works were amazing and the space inspiring.


Small Expressions, HGA’s miniature exhibit, was also at the Fuller, along with a couple other exhibits that had a fibery feel.  It was a great day of absorbing inspiration and possibilities, and outside of the Fuller, we enjoyed a walk through a stone installation and view of the river.


Thursday night we pulled into Providence, checked into the hotel, and took off for the URI Providence campus for the opening of three fiber exhibits, a small tapestry exhibit called Untitled/Unjuried from the American Tapestry Alliance and one called Twine 2014 (Tapestry Weavers in New England).  There was a lot of work to see in such a small space, and again, Brianna stuck right beside me, exploring the world of Tapestry which I’ve not really done since the pieces I did in the 70′s.  She is as I write, developing a cartoon for a tapestry she would like to work on, and I can’t be more excited for her.


We got up early Friday morning and hit the Brown University Granoff Center where Complexity, the exhibit of work from the Complex Weaver’s conference last month in Washington State, first appeared.  Another fantastic exhibit, full of textiles and ideas that are not in my area of expertise, but my daughter was fascinated, and curious, and energized and it was so wonderful to see her grasp so many ideas out of what she is regularly exposed to in my own studio.


I did grab a couple of images of the first and second place winners, Best in Show was a fantastic coat from Leslie Willcock, and second place was a very large digital Jacquard tapestry from Cathryn Amidei, called Begetter.  Most of the exhibits do not allow photos so I can only tell about my experiences with words.


While waiting for the vendor hall to open in the Rhode Island Convention Center, we got a chance to look up at the yardage exhibit.  The last few Convergences have featured yardage hanging from rotunda’s and balconies, and it is a pretty fantastic use of textiles in a commercial space.


The highlight of the actual trip though, was watching my daughter, like a kid in a candy shop, bounce from booth to booth, petting anything fuzzy and purple, like the wool roving here from Red Fish Dyeworks, and poking through lampwork beads from Diane Tarullo.  Now that we own a Charka, (Which is a small spinning wheel used to spin cotton that breaks apart and folds up to the size of a book and sits on a book shelf )which is a long separate story, Eileen Hallman from New World Textiles was gracious enough to show Brianna how to set up and use one just like the one we acquired at the Pioneer Valley Weavers silent auction of weaving related items back in June.  We of course bought the video.


Jason Collingwood was really gracious taking time to explain how Shaft Switching works, a pretty complicated way of getting more value from your shafts, which Brianna got instantly, and turned to me and said, “I want this”.  I watched them both with their heads together concentrating on what was going on inside the castle of the Harrisville Rug Loom, from a design from Jason’s late father Peter, one of the textile greats, and I thought, this is yet another generation picking up the torch.


Even at the Janome booth, there was a woman using the sewing machine with a ruffler foot, to make clever fascinators and she and Brianna ran off and explored stuff with the sewing machine that never even occurred to me to want to do.  Of course the ruffler foot will be shipped to us next week.  I got one that would fit her machine so she can take it back to school with her.


And in the HGA booth, Brianna found socks.  They are so her personality, and with money she earned from me this summer, she bought herself a few pairs.


I was worried that I’d know so many people, and that I would have a hard time moving through the vendor hall like I always do, but I was able to stay largely under the radar, (expecially since I don’t dye my hair anymore) and was completely amused whenever someone could approach us because it was my daughter they actually approached, she is a member of a New England weavers guild, that meets at WEBS and she was recognized by many of her guild mates, with great greetings like, “There’s Brianna and her mom!”.

We made it home Friday night late, and I’m so glad I did this.  I rarely get to participate in a conference, the way others do, and I never get to see peripheral exhibits in neighboring towns and museums when there is a Convergence.  This time, I got to experience all of that, and a long leisurely exploration of the vendor hall, spending time with Macomber, who has been amazing in their assistance getting the Peters Valley looms up and running, Silk City Fibers, who have never had a booth at a Convergence, whom I’m worked with since the early 80′s (They are about 15 minutes from where I live in NJ), and Jim Gowdy from Gowdy reed company who has not been to a Convergence before, I believe.  There were plenty of looms to try, though I’m not in the market, and tons of cool yarns and fiber,  and it looked like business was brisk at most of the booths.  Eileen Hallman was as always a delight in her explanations of the Charka,  and the people at Janome were wonderful.

I told my daughter that I’ve never been so proud, of her ability to articulate what she sees and thinks, of her ability to walk into a booth and engage and ask questions, of her ability to stand on her own as a fiber enthusiast, and not live in my shadow.  So for those of you who have sent me messages that have wondered where I am, that I am conspicuously absent from Convergence, I’m not really, I’m just enjoying basking in the glow of a torch passed to a new generation.

Stay tuned…


I like puzzles…

After much grinding and gnashing of teeth and numerous distractions, the jacket is complete.  And as a teaching tool it is pretty great.  There are a lot of techniques illustrated in this jacket that I don’t have in others.  And the more techniques I can pack into a little garment the easier it is for packing purposes.  So the jacket turns out was a complete success.


The style isn’t really me, I prefer my garments a lot more fitted, but a boxy Chanel jacket isn’t suppose to be really fitted, it is just that, boxy.  But I finally put in a “bagged” lining, that was the whole point of this exercise, and documented it and finished up my extensive presentation on the whole facings/interfacing/lining/underlining/interlining thing for the ASG conference next week in St. Louis, and managed to ship everything out on Tuesday.

Can I say how much I have needed/used my daughter’s help these last few weeks?  She is right on a task, figures out how to do it, and glares at me if I try to get involved.  And she usually does it perfectly, more often better than I would have.  Which is saying a lot.

Can I also say that as much aversion as I’ve had to the “machine” way of doing things, to avoid handwork, because I love handwork and think it is ultimately the best way to do anything in sewing, I actually enjoyed “bagging” the lining.  For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, and didn’t read my previous blog post, “bagging” a lining is an industry technique for applying a lining almost entirely by machine.  Trained by a tailor, I do things mostly by hand, better accuracy and control, and in some cases I think faster, but I’m good after doing this for 50 years.  There is, as I said in my last post, an element of spacial acuity, and some alligator wrestling involved trying to pull the garment through the opening in the lining in one sleeve and it was a b**** to document in photos, but the whole experience was sort of like a complex puzzle, and I like puzzles.  I actually got some grand satisfaction for having figured it out and the end result was pretty perfect.  If I say so myself.

Meanwhile, I got the proofs for my next article in the October/November issue of Threads Magazine, “Weave Custom Trims”.  The article is on weaving trim for garments like a Chanel Jacket, and as I was doing the final drafts, I knew I needed another example of hand woven trim in use in a jacket, it wouldn’t make this article, but for future lectures, it was definitely on the list.

So this little jacket, besides a bagged lining, features handwoven trim.  I documented the sampling for that trim in the last post, just scroll down, but had to weave like crazy to get enough for the pockets, since they had to go on first, before the lining, and I had a deadline for that.  Then I set up the loom, and wove the maximum length on the little Inklette, which was about two yards.  I did a quick calculation and it should have been enough to go down both fronts and around the neckline in one piece.


And when it came off the loom, a quick check showed it  did.  With an inch or two to spare.  Except I needed to pre-shrink the trim.


When it dried, I was horrified to find out it shrunk so much the trim was about four inches short.  Which really surprised me since the main yarns I used, were hand dyed raw silk, and they were rinsed like crazy when I first dyed the skeins.


So yesterday I had to rewarp the little loom once more, and weave another 28″ or so, I wasn’t taking a chance on it shrinking too much again, and actually it was probably a good thing, because I could shape the trim into a neckline shape, as it was drying, which made applying it (by hand) a cinch.



And I wanted to show how to cover a snap, using snaps as closures is pretty common right now, the closure du jour as it were, and I needed a sample of that as well.  Plus using the edging of a sari when used for a lining.  I covered it all in this little piece.


Meanwhile, my garden is overflowing, the first little tomato was ripe enough to pick this afternoon, there are probably 40,000 out there, I don’t know what my husband was thinking when he put in all those cherry tomato plants, but the cucumbers are coming in by the dozen.  He planted three types, but the most prolific are the Kirby’s, great for pickling, but all my canning gear was turned over to the dye studio a long time ago, and so refrigerator pickles it is.  Simple, but I’ve done two batches like this in the last few days…  Between the wine and beer in the downstairs refrigerator, there isn’t much room now.


And I got a call from Peters Valley about teaching fibers to a High School class the beginning of August, not much time to prepare, since I’ll be in St. Louis next week, but I’ve got my competent daughter on it, and she has been polishing my stash of full size inkle looms, (all the Inklettes were shipped to St. Louis and will be available for purchase) so I need to employ my stash of regular inkle looms for the fibers class, along with prepping frame looms for tapestry and winding warps for the shaft looms.  We are a busy little factory here it seems.  Pickles and Inkles…  Sounds like an 80′s rock group…


Tomorrow morning we are off to see some great fiber exhibits, starting with Fiber International up in Lowell, MA at the Textile Museum, followed by the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA, and then gallerys and museum exhibit in Providence RI, final stop Convergence.  I’m so looking forward to taking my daughter around the vendor hall and the exhibits at a fiber conference.  It will be tough, since I know so many people, and we only have one day, so if I cut conversations short, don’t take it personally, I’ll have my daughter and my dear friend Carol Westfall with me and we will be nose deep in fibers…

Stay tuned…


Something about a couple of birds and a stone…

Although politically incorrect in this day and age, there is something to be said for the killing off of a couple of birds with only one stone, especially if they are crows and they eat all your birdseed…

NixonI’m actually a huge fan of one task doing double duty, it is really the most creative way to get things done.  Even back in High School, I remember studying plaster casting in art class and I asked if I could make a plaster bust of our then president Richard Nixon.  I got approval and then entered it into the History Fair at the end of the year, for a history class final, getting an A on the project twice, one for each class and receiving an award as well.  The subject matter?  Well there are no words…  (I think it might still be in the attic…)

While still in High School, I thought it very efficient and profitable to do the hand work from my dressmaking business, while I was babysitting, after the kids would go to bed, getting paid twice so to speak for one job.

And so now, I’m in a position where I need to show a technique for a presentation I’m building and I might as well make double duty out of it.

First the background…

I was trained to make clothes by my mother, who was a fantastic tailor, and did almost everything by hand.  Our sewing machine was simple, back and forth, could sew through anything, and there was a control and simplicity to how we did things.  All of my linings were put in by hand.  No exception.  I like the control, the ability to shape, and fit one shell into another taking into account the inward curve of a garment in the round.

I’m building a very complex lecture for the American Sewing Guild conference in St. Louis the end of the month. The lecture is called “Behind the Front Lines”  and is all about Underlinings, Interlinings, Linings, Interfacings, and Facings.  The lecture itself is mostly finished.  Just basic proofing.  BUT…  There is one technique that I haven’t explained, and I really really need to even though it goes against everything I’ve every been taught or enjoy.

Bagging a lining.  Yep, that’s it.  Kicking and screaming, I need to illustrate how to bag a lining even though I’d never actually want to do this technique, ever…

Let me explain since most of you are scratching your heads…

Bagging a lining is an industry technique that allows a lining to be installed completely by machine.  It takes a bit of spacial acuity, and some good old fashioned alligator wrestling, but it is possible to put in a lining completely by machine with almost no handwork left.  I have to show how to do it if I’m giving a lecture on the techniques of putting in linings.  And it is killing me…

In addition to that lecture, I’m also doing my popular “Weave your own trim” on an inkle loom, for the same conference.  For most in the class, I think it is almost full at 19, this is their first try at any kind of weaving and with the little Inkle Loom, they have instant success and can make cool trims for their jackets and home dec projects.  I have an article coming out in the fall in Threads Magazine on just this topic.  Threads actually has all my samples and garments at the moment from the photo shoot.  I should have them back in time for the conference, but I digress…

I need another jacket with trim I’ve woven, especially one that looks like a Chanel Garment.

So off to my huge stash of patterns and pattern magazines… ( I go back to 1995 with the Burda Fashion magazines, now called Burda Style, all of the patterns for each of the 12 issues per year are contained within.  We are starting the monumental task of cataloging what they contain…)

I found this simple jacket in December 2013.  There are no words for the petersham/grosgrain trim…



I also found this lovely fabric that looks handwoven but is definitely not, I think I bought it a couple years ago on a trip to Osgood’s in Mass.  I washed it up and gave it a good pressing.


And I pulled yarns from my stash and set my daughter up to sampling trim on the inkle loom.


Our first attempt was just OK.  Nothing spectacular.  Mostly Bamboo.  Flat and unappealing…


The next attempt was better for the color.  The middle pick up diamond popped a bit, and we thought with some tweaking it would probably be fine.


I set out to trace off the pattern from the magazine, fit it, and then cut out the fabric, lining, and fusible interfacing.


After dinner I went back to the inkle loom and started messing around with supplemental weft, in fact it is the same technique I’m teaching in the Weave Your Own Trim class.  I really liked what was happening and with a little more tweaking, re-warped the loom and I’m on my way.


Everything is cut out and ready to assemble so I can start photographing the process of how to bag a lining…  This should be completely entertaining and who knows, maybe there will be a convert among us…


Stay tuned… (and yes, I know almost every sentence ended with an ellipsis, I write like that…)



Getting back on track…

This has probably been the longest stretch between postings that I can remember.  Partly because there has been a lot happening, and I’ve not been in the studio much, so not on my main computer to actually process photos and post a blog, but I think this is more about processing the events in my life of the last couple weeks, and not knowing quite what to say.

I touched down in Newark a couple of weeks ago, coming from Oregon where I taught for a week (see previous blog) as my son was deploying with his unit to the Middle East.  Or rather my husband drove him and one of his Sergeants to the armory so he could begin the process.  It is tough booking jobs a year or sometimes two in advance and not knowing what kinds of family events will crop up in direct conflict.  Fortunately there was a family celebration send off at Fort Dix, in NJ two days later and we all were able to attend as a family.  The day was hot, probably a lot cooler than where my son is headed, but there were news teams everywhere and I posted a bunch of photos as they were happening on Facebook, good for immediate events with little words.

I was fine until the very end, when we actually had to say goodbye.  I completely lost it.  I sobbed most of the way home.  I held onto my knitting in the car like my life depended on it.  And it sort of did.  I was not completely functioning on all four cylinders for the next couple days.  I felt like I lost a part of me, which I sort of did metaphorically, and wasn’t sure how to move forward.  By the weekend though, I had processed through everything and knew instinctively how important it was to keep busy, even if it was just sorting through 40 years of magazines in the studio with my daughter.  I was truly grateful she was home working for me this summer, it helped a lot.

My son is doing what he needs to do.  He will be stationed at our Air Force base in Qatar.  It is not a combat assignment, rather a security detail, he volunteered for this.  It will be hard not to see him at all for probably a year, but I know he is doing what he wants and he will come home a little bit more grown up and a little bit more in charge of his life.  At least that’s what I hope for him.  I wish him God Speed…


I immediately went into my next teaching stint, which was local actually, at my favorite place in the world, where I have spent countless hours this spring rehabbing the weaving studio, at Peters Valley, in northwestern NJ.  Part of the charm of PV is the buildings, very old, mostly historic properties, each with issues of course, but I live in a house that is more than a hundred years old, and there is an energy and spirit, or sometimes actual spirits that you don’t find in newer or commercial buildings.  The history of the building surrounds you, for better or for worse, and I’ve always found the students, staff and fellow instructors and the location and buildings to be a huge source of creative ideas and inspiration.

The Friday night instructor’s slide show in an historic old church in constant stages of restoration,  is something I really look forward to when I teach at Peters Valley. There were seven instructors that Friday night, and all were amazingly talented and showed tremendous bodies of work.  Of course, anyone who has ever tried to take a photo of me while I’m lecturing knows it is like nailing Jello to a tree, there is no way to get a shot of me without a wacky expression on my face…


The space where the workshop was held was an old Greek Revival Building, built into the side of a hill, and the two glorious rooms, were bright and breezy, and we had lots of room to spread out, and it was a real pleasure, especially when it was mealtime and we only had to walk across the lawn to the dining hall.


I had a very small class actually, only four, and two things stood out for me.  They were all young, two in their thirties and two still in college, one undergraduate and one graduate student, roughly my daughter’s age. They all wanted to fill in their missing education in garment construction, none of them had Home-Ec in grade school, or if they did, it certainly didn’t include the fine art of making clothes.

KrystineThe other contrast was only one of the students had a significant background in textiles, no one had handwoven fabric or any kind of fabric other than commercial.  Krystine was finishing up her Fine Arts degree, with a concentration in Textiles, but not much information about weaving for clothing or clothing construction.  She was adorable to work with, so eager and picked a quilt fabric for her jacket.  She learned so much in such a short time, and I spent a lot of time with her personally going through my design book studying drafts and complex structures for handwoven cloth, and it will be interesting to see where she takes all this.

KelleyMy other college age student, Kelley is finishing up her graduate degree in Fine Metals.  We almost had her convinced she needs to buy a loom and learn to weave… :-) She is very tall and reluctantly, only at the very end, finally hemmed her sleeves, she was so excited to finally have a garment that fit her arm length!  Her fabric it was discovered, was from JoAnn’s, and is part of their fall “Plaiditudes” collection.  She hadn’t thought about having to match a plaid when she bought it…  Fine Metal workers don’t usually have that issue… :-)

RachelRachel, who was the fibers assistant last year, had a vintage pattern from the 70′s and some vintage polyester doubleknit she got from a local shop last year, and though I remember making that actual pattern in the 1970′s, there was lots of exclamations of, “That’s so cool!” from the 20 somethings.  I just smiled…

JenJen is expecting a baby and it was interesting predicting how her body will turn out once she returns to a pre-pregnancy state!  The jacket, from a boiled wool, will be very serviceable this winter.  She was so much fun to work with, we ripped out a lot, but I think she truly learned the most!  And we had lots of discussions on rearing kids…  A fun thing to do with a group of 20 somethings…

Both Kelley and Krystine had time at the end to do some samples of closures.  I’d say they came out pretty well for first attempts…



And there was Jesse, the fibers assistant, also in art school, who sat in on all my lectures, and cheerfully continued work on sorting and reorienting more than 10,000 heddles for the loom restoration at the weaving studio.


Yesterday I took my daughter back up to the Valley to help install the rest of the aprons on the looms in the weaving studio, I had precut and hemmed the rest while I was there teaching the week before, and she and Jesse the fibers assistant made a great team going along behind me installing rods.


And now, nursing a wrenched back, which I got turning wrong at the grocery store this morning, I will go to the kitchen and start figuring out what to do with all the produce coming in from the gardens.  Refrigerator pickles, more Taboulleh, and some cabbage slaw sound like the order of the day…

Stay tuned…