Jealously is not usually part of my nature. Really. I’m normally contented, grateful for what I have and what I’ve built, really thankful that for the last nearly 35 years that I have had a home based business that allowed me flexibility to raise kids, tend a house, be available for travel with my husband, and generally juggle all of life in the best way possible. It helps that I’m organized and that the studio is a room unto itself, and not spread all over the house.
Enter the green monster. I said to my son last night, he who works for Target, that I was actually jealous of my two children, both in low paying jobs, at the bottom of their fields. He had no idea where I was going with this, poor kid, but I’m jealous that right now, they get to leave the house for a defined job for a defined time frame, and have something called “days off”. I don’t know what that term means and I haven’t had a “day off” in well, ever? Unless we were vacationing, but that sort of doesn’t count because there is still an agenda. Maybe my trip to Ven last summer, an island off the coast of Sweden. We had no agenda, except to talk, sip wine, go for walks, cook dinner. Maybe that’s what a day off is.
As much as I have loved having a home based studio, right now it is fraught with tension and conflict because I can’t escape the volume of paperwork facing me both because my husband is deceased and because he saved every paper that ever came into the house, and we have been here since 1982. I can’t escape the areas in the house that are unusable, because my husband had the equivalent of what is my studio, but throughout the rest of the house, in the form of electronics, tools, magazines, newspapers… And then there is the garden. I walk outside and have an anxiety attack. I clearly need a gardener. I can choose to spend my time out there, which is fun every so often for an hour, but really requires a full time commitment, or I can do what I love the most, what feeds my soul, and what really defines me. Which means being in my studio. Full time. Like get up in the morning, get dressed, go to the studio, and break only for lunch or tea, or mail, or a trip to the post office to ship an order, or whatever makes me want to take a break. The definitions have blurred and I’m struggling to find a new normal.
So I did what any self respecting fiber enthusiast would do in the face of extreme adversity, I got some yarn off the shelf and started playing. It soothed and saved my soul. I posted a photo of the yarn at the end of the previous blog post, but I’ll save you the trouble and re-post it below. Actually there is more to the story. A few years ago, I attended a dye day with my weaving guild. I brought in a couple of 10 yard warps, in cotton and/or rayon combinations. I handpainted them and the resulting fabric was woven, sewed, exhibited, and worn. But the story here is what to do with leftover dye. And there was a lot of it that day. I had a number of silk scarf blanks, which I did use as dye mops, and I probably sold them off at a guild sale. But I also brought some skeins I wound and used them to mop up excess dye, essentially painting the skeins as well.
I never liked the combination of colors and they sat on my shelf for a number of years. At the next dye day I attended, I brought the skeins back and overdyed the color areas that didn’t make me happy. Cause it is all about making me happy.
So that result is what I pulled off the shelf the other night, to see if I could focus enough to plan and figure out the specs for a fabric made from these skeins plus whatever else was on the shelf that could extend them. I sat with a scale and calculator and actually counted the amount of actual ends in the skein since they were originally two yards, less about 10 percent for shrinkage from the dye process. My brain was exploding and that was a really good thing under the circumstances.
I had skeins that were very different sizes and yields. There was the 10/2 bamboo, I had about 900 yards of that, next to the cotton lace, with only about 250 yards, but the cotton lace was really fat and bumpy. I also had some cotton slub and a smoother cotton, but none really related in size, and I had to be creative in my sett and how I sleyed the yarn in the reed and with the actual structures I chose to combine.
I based the draft on something I designed back in 2012, with leftover warp threads from another dyed project.
I tweaked the draft many times, to use as much of the warp I would be winding, and then, when I finally committed to winding the individual skeins into a warp, I found I had a few extra warp threads than my conservative calculations had allowed, and so I tweaked the draft yet again. So here is a portion because I know I’ll get lots of questions in the comments. It is 8 shaft…
To get the colors to line up when winding warps with a hand painted skein of yarn, as long as it is engineered in a usable repeat, and not just random, I used a warping board and wound in the round. There is no shifting with a warping board, unlike a warping mill (sorry for those of you reading this who are not weavers. Stay tuned, there will be pretty pictures…)
As a result, I had eight different warps, which I combined in the reed, warping of course front to back. It was challenging and distracting and I loved every minute of it.
Once I was sleyed, I threaded the heddles and then started the beaming process. I squealed everytime a new combination of colors came through the loom.
Then I sampled wefts. I ended up with some blue mill end, probably a rayon/linen combination, but it was neutral enough not to interfere with the structure and yarn variegation. It is the last one on top.
And now I’m happily weaving my fabric, which is about 18″ wide, narrow yardage, and there is probably 5.5 yards on the loom but with sampling and loom waste I’m hoping to get four yards once it is washed. Then it will sit and age like fine wine, and I’ll make some kind of garment from it, because well, that’s what I do.
So I’m trying hard to stay in the studio, to not want everything done yesterday, because it will really really take me probably years to get this house cleaned out to where I want it to be. I’m still waiting to hear back from the benefits department at my husband’s company, I’m on the 7-10 day plan, “in 7-10 days you will hear from us outlining benefits you are entitled to…” Meanwhile, my very efficient county government, if you can believe it, probated my husband’s will in only 48 hours, including mailing time back to me. Efficient government? Well, everything in my life is upside down, why not an efficient government office?
I’m looking at some of that aged fabric I’m sitting on and wondering what sort of trouble I can get into with the sewing machine…
Thank you for your patience dear readers, it has been a difficult few weeks, as you can imagine. Most of you who follow me on facebook know about the outcome, but this blog is not about what happens to me in life, it is what I do with it. That of course will unfold with time.
My husband passed away last Friday, after a nine month battle with esophageal carcinoma. He was only 65. He was planning to retire this year. He was planning to run with his newly acquired million mile status. Life got in the way. I feel sad for him, happy that he is in peace now, but sad that he had no more tomorrows to do all the things he loved. He left me miraculous gardens, unmanageable really, but in the last weeks of his life, dozens of people came with gloves and buckets and tools and helped me weed, prune, muck out ponds, fix broken lines and leaking waterfalls, and lay 55 bags of mulch. Friends hauled debris off to the dump, and on Father’s Day, after he had passed, I bought more fish for one of the ponds. It seemed fitting. I don’t know how I will manage this legacy moving forward, obviously I’ll have to simplify, but there is such peace on my hands and knees, pulling weeds from the dirt, making new pathways from overgrown detritus.
I am starting the process of paperwork. Many of you have kindly let me know to expect this to go on for a year. Health insurance of course ended two days after he died, and it takes a few weeks to move into Cobra. There is all the tidying up of a life well lived.
The viewing was surreal, many of you who have stood in that kind of receiving line know that it is a blur but it is a reminder of the impact we have on others, no matter how insignificant it may seem. And in that long line (I heard there was an hour and a half wait to see me, my husband was a town official, much loved by many) about every 6th person was a knitter or a weaver. It was as if the universe reminded me of who I am and what really defines me and that all of you would be waiting for me. And the president of my weaving guild met one of the knitters from the library, and showed up Thursday night to join that group. We are all connected, new relationships are formed.
I gave the eulogy at the funeral. My husband did not want a religious service, but something that would memorialize him, a chance for those who loved him to laugh, to tease, to celebrate, to remember. I talked about my husband’s life, apparently for half an hour, I didn’t time it. For me it was like the keynote address of my life, I looked out at that audience and though I used a script, I spoke from my heart. I was in my normal keynote at a conference address mode, and I held it together with poise and grace, I’d like to think, until I made the grave mistake of looking at my children. Once I recovered, I was able to carry on and finish and then allow others to speak from their heart. We ended with my son, in full military dress, singing ‘a cappella’, Amazing Grace. There was not a dry eye in the place. I don’t know how he got through it, but he is a soldier, and he is his father’s son. He told me later he knew his father was beside him urging him on.
Many of you know my daughter Brianna, she spoke with elegance, with grace, with dignity, and with humor. My children are my strength, and so are all of you my friends in the fiber community.
Last night, I began to untangle the mess of my studio, not being in it for a month, it became a dumping ground, I still had stuff to unpack from the Oregon trip. Conference paperwork, guild teaching requests, orders for books, life continues, and so I must…
Sadly I did cancel my commitments for June. We brought my husband home from he hospital and arranged for hospice, and I had no idea how long the final process of death would take. It was important for me to let those affected know as soon as possible I wouldn’t be able to participate. I start to travel again the end of August, starting with my five day garment construction intensive at Harrisville Designs in NH, followed by Fiber College of Maine. And then Sievers. This is my 10th year at Sievers. I have my fiber family there.
I have seen over these last few months the absolute best of humanity. World events, politics, the presidential campaign that never ends, all of that just grazed by while real people, who care, who hold you up in the worst of times, who love, who share, who are really what this world is about; they all surrounded me and my children, and each other to help lay to rest a truly great man. I love you all and could not have traveled this road without you.
Last night, I sat in my studio, my goals accomplished and work done for the day. I picked up some skeins of yarn that were sitting on my cutting table under a pile of papers and other debris. I have no looms with warps on them. And so I sat, and started to plan. Just me and the yarn and a calculator, and a pad of paper and a pencil. There was such peace and gentleness around me. All is well…
If you read my last post I should have been sailing down the coast of Alaska right about now, posting lovely photos of moose, whales, glaciers, and breathtaking scenery. Sadly that didn’t turn out to be the case.
I left about 10 days ago for a multi venue trip, and was to then fly from Oregon to meet up with my husband for an Alaska cruise. I packed heavily for Alaska, and shipped all my workshop and classroom supplies and samples, so they could be returned shipped.
I arrived uneventfully in Oregon and we headed down to a remote forest in Oregon, for an annual event, my first time there, called Fiber in the Forest. Part of me loved the remoteness of the venue, the enthusiasm of the students, the energy of a weekend retreat, but part of me thinks I’m way too old to put on boots and coat in the middle of the night to wander down to the concrete latrine.
There are two things that will set a teacher who travels like this over the edge. One is lost luggage and not being able to have samples and supplies for teaching (thank God in 35 years it has only happened to me once), and the other is getting sick. Which I did. Fortunately one of the other instructors who was also sick had a stash of pharmaceuticals that kept me functioning. I have to say that it is really really hard to teach all day when you have a fever and want to curl up and die. But I did it and the resulting vests from my three day Pieced Vest workshop were lovely.
They chose their materials and got right to work…
The venue was comfortable and brightly lit despite the constant rain.
The vests began to take shape.
Not bad by lunchtime on the last day. Most still needed armhole and neck bands and a lot of handwork, and there were still a number of hours to go…
Somewhere in there I had a birthday. Things were going south fast and that was the last of my worries, but it was sweet when they put a candle in a scone and sang happy birthday during lunch in the dining hall.
The other instructors couldn’t have been more supportive or more fun to be around, than you Sara, Sarah, and John. I love you all.
So the other thing no instructor wants to hear while they are away teaching is that there is an issue at home and that I needed to come home. I have been blessed in my career that there have always been others who could take over for me, my husband mainly, and I could keep doing what I needed to do.
I finished up Fiber in the Forest, checking my messages and updates as often as I could.
Despite being sick, I managed to give the presentation to the Eugene Weaving Guild on Monday, along with John Mullarkey, as we did a reprise of our battle of the bands. I thought it went well, though it was quite different since the setting was more intimate, and we encouraged lots of questions. We were less on display and more interactive.
By Monday afternoon I knew I had to go home. I cancelled the remaining classes I was booked to teach, which tore my heart out, that is so not my work ethic and book the next flight out I could get, that would get me from Eugene to San Francisco and home to NJ on the red eye.
I have said little about my husband’s cancer and how it is progressing. It isn’t my story to tell. He was having trouble eating again, and was booked to have an esophageal stent put in while I was in the air traveling to Oregon. All should have gone well and he was expecting to fly to Anchorage to meet me on Thursday for the cruise. Of course life is what happens when you are making other plans.
Briefly, the cancer is spreading. He ended up in the hospital the next day, where he is still, with drains in his chest wall where they removed 10 liters of fluid, the fluid does contain cancer cells, and they installed a feeding tube. There is an additional tumor in his stomach and it is virtually shutting down stomach function. The lung drains have since been removed but they need to put in a Pleurx Catheter. My daughter was there alone dealing with all this and my blessed sister came up from Maryland to assist her. Although my daughter is incredibly competent, she is 23 and was scared and my sister, who was holding together another family crisis, came flying up in the middle of the night to help. The gratitude I have for the support that surrounds us is beyond measure. So instead of sitting on a deck knitting watching whales and vistas, I’m sitting in a hospital room, supporting my husband as best I can under really really sad and stressful circumstances. I’m terribly disappointed for him that he was not able to go on the trip of his dreams, it was so close, but then I’m also grateful that we weren’t in some remote village in Alaska when all this went down.
I did finish a sweater. I’m wearing it today. C2Knits Daphne, from Shibui heichi silk.
I will be uncommunicative for a bit, there are facebook updates when there is something to update, but for now, I will probably be quiet on the blog.
I love you all dear readers, keep weaving/sewing/whatever gets you through the day…
This week I felt like the Little Engine that Could.
I got off the plane Friday a week ago, and promptly cried. Seems as though it rained the whole time I was gone. Which meant that all the flowers and all the bushes were lush and glorious and so were the weeds. Mutant I tell you…
There was nothing to be done but roll up my sleeves, or rather keep them rolled down on account of mosquitoes are just emerging, don some gardening gloves and have at it. I spent every day since I’ve been home in the garden for a couple of hours and what a difference a couple hours a day makes. The gardens are looking kept and pruned and fresh and just plain pretty. And I feel like I made a contribution to my home, and I actually enjoyed it. There is still much to do in the garden, really it is a job for the whole summer, maintenance is sort of big in this department, but I can sit outside and smell the clean air, watch the birds, and not have an anxiety attack, or weed attack, same thing…
Meanwhile, I had some prepping to do for my next venue, everything had to get shipped ahead on account of the fact that I’m going from Oregon, Fiber in the Forest and Eugene Textile Center back to back, directly to Anchorage Alaska where I’ll meet up with my husband for a cruise. He booked this cruise a year ago before his cancer diagnosis and it is really important for both of us that we go. Alaska is one of the few places in the US we have never been.
So, once I got everything in order in the studio, there was a longing to just weave something, we did have a couple rainy afternoons where gardening was cut short. But alas, the plight of a weaver, seven looms and only one had anything on it and I wasn’t in a mood to weave off the bubble cloth from a workshop I took months ago.
But… back in 2012, yeah it was that long ago, I checked (stupid blog, it is there in the archives reminding me of my failure to complete some things… ) Back in 2012 I started a very complex 19 thread pickup pattern on one of my inkle looms, I won’t say how many of those I have, probably two dozen, I’m an educator. John Mullarkey, arch rival and fantastic tablet weaver, was coming to stay with me for a couple days and I had to impress him with something…
So I started this… Back in 2012. Where it promptly sat collecting dust in the corner of my studio…
I really loved this piece, but 19 threads? What was I thinking… (for those who are in the dark and don’t get the 19 thread part, the center section with the pretty design is created with 19 pattern threads that are hand manipulated row by row according to the chart. It takes a lot of time.)
Anyway, I’m going to be teaching at Fiber in the Forest in Oregon next weekend, along with my arch rival John Mullarkey. I’m teaching a garment thing, and presumably he is teaching some tablet weaving thing, but I’m sure meals will be full of snarky comments about whose bands are better, tablet woven vs. inkle woven (mine are of course…)
Last April, 2015, John and I both taught at the CNCH retreat at Asilomar, CA and we performed what looked to be the first annual battle of the bands. It was great fun, we raced to set up our looms and weave off a small band, all the while sending barbed smack talk back and forth, much to the delight of the audience.
As it turns out, John and I are hosting the Battle of the Bands redux for the weaving guild that meets at the Eugene Textile Center after Fiber in the Forest. Then I follow with two days of inkle weaving classes for the Eugene Textile Center, first a beginning class where we do discuss pick up, followed by a more advanced techniques class.
So… I looked at that loom. I calculated how long one repeat would take, just under four inches, 40 minutes if nothing went wrong… I figured out how many days until I left, (I get on a plane at 6:30am Wednesday morning) and figured I could realistically weave three repeats a day, and still have time for workshop prep and gardening.
The whole while I kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can…”
I even took the loom outside one afternoon when it was warm and sunny…
And this morning, right on schedule, I pulled this baby off the loom, all three yards of it, and I am just so freakin’ proud of myself. I thought I could… And I did.
So there John Mullarkey, top that… (he probably will)
Another ferry ride, and I’m on Whidbey Island, beautiful special Whidbey Island, where I taught before many many years ago. Where eagles soar, water is visible from most of the island, and there are some really really talented weavers, surface designers, and a felter too.
I taught a five day Garment Construction Intensive, the same one I teach at Sievers and at Harrisville, and the fun thing when I do this for a guild, is that most of the people in the class already have a history together, they know each other and each other’s work, and there is usually a lot more helping each other out than relying on me for feedback. They know they still have each other when the class is over.
That said, I worked my little tail off…
This venue was a huge test for me, of the months I have spent reworking my jacket patterns, handouts and samples. Other than a few minor errors in the handout, which I fixed in 15 minutes once I got back to my main computer, everything went swimmingly well. The fit on the reworked jacket samples was spot on, and the collar addition worked perfectly. There was a lot of excitement for making the long walking vest, and the swing coat version of the jacket as well. It made me really happy to hear at the end, “…next time I’m making the swing version of the jacket, or the one with the collar, or the walking vest, etc.” It is always good when a guild starts talking about when are you coming back…
That said, the space was bright and cheery. We had the workshop at the Art Center in Coupeville.
The students worked their little tails off…
They squealed in delight when Jan installed her placket on the tunic perfectly.
They squealed in delight when Jodi made her collar perfectly.
They squealed in delight at the seam finish…
They squealed in delight when they realized that a dated plain cotton fabric, handwoven years ago, could be mitered into an adorable summer top.
They really squealed in delight when they didn’t think they had enough fabric and I showed them how to make it work.
“Can I add sleeves to this vest pattern?” Answer: “Of course, just overlay your jacket pattern and use the armhole and sleeve from that”.
We had some jackets that still have to be finished, sleeves and such…
We had a tunic…
We had a swing coat (still without sleeves)…
We had a jacket with a shawl collar…
And we had the classic Daryl Jacket, all beautifully done.
We had a couple of walking vests and don’t you just hate it when you go through the photos of the class and realize that somehow you didn’t get a single photo of either of them! But they are in the class photo below. I missed one of the jackets as well.
We had some commercial patterns too. Marnie’s handwoven fabric is gorgeous in this Butterick 5822. She is doing a beautiful job.
And then there was Janet. Janet is a felter and she used my template to create panels in felt, some with eco-dying, printing with plant material. Janet used her dressform and lots of feedback from both me and the class, and created this unbelievable masterpiece. The base was my jacket pattern. She presented it almost finished at the guild meeting when the class was over. I think it still needed some buttonholes and some additional hand sewing, but pretty impressive for five days work. Her top in the first photo is also felted.
And here is my group of wonderful talented ladies, there are a couple of long walking vests in various stages in the front along with one additional jacket that somehow I failed to photograph. Which is too bad because the handwoven fabric is gorgeous. First row, second in from the right.
And now I’m home, prepping for Fiber in the Forest, which is in just a mere week, I can’t believe I’m on a plane back out to the west coast next Wednesday. I follow that with a two days of inkle weaving classes at Eugene Textile Center, I believe there is still room in all classes…