“You say that to all your classes”…
There are times in life where the planets align, and everything falls into place to provide the perfect alignment of people, places and things. This past week was one of them. I’ve been to Asheville NC before, to teach at Sutherland Handweaving Studio, and had a wonderful time. They invited me back and I had an extraordinary time.
Back to back with my long weekend teaching in Oakland California at CNCH made for a bit of a hairy week between, sort of a blur, but I got everything shipped out and was able to get on a plane and have a delightful hour and a half uneventful flight direct from Newark to Asheville, NC. Should all commuting be that effortless. I happily knit away on yet another pair of socks, and enjoyed the ride. When I arrived, the weather was beastly hot, but within a day or two after a couple of severe thunderstorms, the front moved out and that chilly breezy mountain air took over and it was glorious.
I taught my most favorite class, the Wearable Extravaganza. I am teaching it again at the end of this month at Sievers, (I’m actually doing an optional extended seven day there) going on my 6th year I think, and there are many reasons why this is my most favorite class, first and foremost because I get to spend enough time with students to really get to know them, and their work. I take a grand adventure with each and everyone, and can spend the time to give personalized attention, remember their names, and find out what makes them smile in fiber.
This class was one of the best I’ve ever worked with. There was so much talent and energy in the room, one coming to the class all the way from Florida. Each brought their own fabric and agenda, most of the students were first timers with me, so they all made my standard jacket which gets them up to speed on garment construction basics and fit. There were two returning students, Terry, who has taken the class a number of times at Sievers, and will follow me there at the end of the month, who spent the week just making muslins of all her favorite patterns. She got to a point where she could jump right in and do a bust cup alteration as fast as I could and we nailed down the patterns for some great looking garments that she will then make up while up at Sievers. Kathy from Florida took a jacket class with me down there a few years ago, and since she is really a felter, she brought nuno felt panels and a commercial pattern and we reworked the pattern for her body, and then she jumped in head first to create the most stunning coat!
The rest of the class presented a variety of creative souls, each one was enthusiastic and energetic and brought their own personality into their garment. Becky and Andra (this was Andra’s first yardage ever) brought their handwoven fabrics and made a couple of great looking jackets, (Andra was so thrilled to have sleeves that were long enough!) Both ladies were so much fun to work with!
Karen Donde is co owner of the Sutherland Handweaving studio and a frequent contributor to Handwoven Magazine and Weaving Today. She is fabulous weaver. She dug out some older yardage that had been hanging on the shelf, waiting for just the right silhouette, and this was apparently it, the waffle structure presented her with two sides of the cloth, and when that initial dilemma as to which side to use comes up, why not use both. Her jacket is exquisite.
And then there was Kathie Roig. We have been facebook friends with each other for awhile, she is another extremely talented handweaver, who sells her work, mostly created on the draw loom. She didn’t have a lot of experience in garments, and jumped right in head first. It was great to follow on facebook, the lead in to this class as she struggled with how to wash and full the wool and silk fabric she wove from Zephyr. Even after she came to the class, after my first lecture, she hesitantly went back home and rewashed and fulled the fabric a bit more aggressively and it came out incredible. You have to feel this fabric to appreciate how amazing it is.
Jennifer is a weaver, as is JoAnn, but they brought commercial fabric for their first jacket venture and had a blast. Jennifer bought some gorgeous Asian prints and batiks from Waechters Silk Shop, more about them later, and really got into the details adding piping and turned tubes for the closure.
JoAnn gave me my most enthusiastic response to a piece of fabric I’ve ever experienced and I am so annoyed that I didn’t grab a photo of it. JoAnn, among other things is a dyer. Though she brought a simple gray fabric to make her jacket, focusing more on fit, she brought a stack of fat quarters and lengths of cotton that she had dyed, one created with the hot new technique of the moment, or actually cold new technique of the moment, ice cube dyeing. I can’t wait to try this at home. The technique is featured in the current issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, which I hadn’t subscribed to on purpose, but it came anyway because Fiber Arts Magazine was discontinued. And that’s what they substituted. So I have the current issue right on my desk. Soak fabric in dye activator, scrunch up and put on a rack in a tray with sides, cover with ice cubes, and sprinkle fiber reactive dye all over it and let it sit for 24 hours. How cool is that? I can’t wait…
Anyway, both women were absolutely delightful to work with, and Jennifer started the war of the threads, albeit innocently, when she went to the fabric store to pick up polyester sewing thread, and they told her not to use poly but cotton for sewing garments. In the golden age of couture, silk was of course the thread of choice for garment making, its tensile strength was unsurpassed and because of its difficulty to find and expense, long staple length polyester became the standard. It has a great tensile strength, and will keep seems from popping and I can’t imagine sewing garments with anything else. Apparently there are others in the industry that think differently. I had a great discussion with the owner of Waechters Silk Shop (we came away agreeing to disagree…), and am hoping to do further research on why polyester is falling out of vogue for garment making, because for the life of me, I can’t see how cotton, a short staple fiber by nature, can hold up in garments. It popped as we sewed bias piping for Jennifer’s jacket. So stay tuned for the update on this battle of the threads…
And yes, that’s me with JoAnn wearing my blouse made from my 1970′s prom dress…
And that leaves dear Susan, a fantastic weaver and dyer, who brought a pile of beautifully dyed colorful silk lengths, none enough to do a complete jacket, so she carefully figured out how to make the pile into one wicked jacket, and as she came skidding in with the second sleeve the last hour of the last day, we all clapped and cheered. She has lots of pressing and handwork left, but the jacket is like a Phoenix that rose from the ashes of a pile of lovely unrelated hand dyed silks.
My hostess for the week, was the other co-owner of Sutherland Studios, Barb Butler, who has become one of my really good friends, and whose house is probably the most fun place I’ve ever stayed. I wrote about my experience there about a year and a half ago, they have a brick wood fired pizza oven in the back foundation of the house, and there is nothing like the Butler pizza night. Each person gets their own slab of pizza dough and there are about 20 toppings laid out and each personal pizza gets fired in the oven for about three minutes and then everyone shares.
The studio itself is part of the River Arts District in Asheville, a revitalized complex of artist’s studios, open to the public, just a hot bed of creativity.
The restaurants in Asheville are amazing, we ate at a number of them, including one where the entire back of the property was a garden the size of a mini farm that supplied all the fresh ingredients for the meals they prepared. Did I get a card and remember the name? Duh… All I remember was the handmade lamb sausage wrapped in pretzel dough with local cheddar and Lusty Monk Mustard. And pickled vegetables from the garden. And an awesome beer.
It turns out that there are more and more of my friends moving to that area, Loretta Phipps who was my partner on the 2008 Convergence Challenge, recently moved there from Texas and is setting up an ASG chapter. She stopped by Saturday morning and checked out the jacket I just remade from the dress from our challenge project. She brought along her friend Toni Carroll, of Bernina Fashion Show fame.
The only glitch in the entire wonderful week was pulling a muscle in my back the morning of day three, which rendered me nearly paralyzed and in constant pain as I worked through the lectures in the morning. Copious amounts of Advil got me through the day, but while we were on a class trip to Waechters Silk Shop, where I did serious damage to my credit card in the remnant bins, which should arrive today since there was too much to bring home on the plane, my esteemed hostess Barb called for an appointment at Sensibilities Day Spa in downtown Asheville, and had Tress Shadel work on my back muscles for an hour giving me the best deep tissue massage I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot, and making my little glitch one of the bright spots of the week.
So yes, I say that to all the classes, but this particular combination of personalities, talent, creativity, location, accommodations and energy, not to mention restaurants and friendship, made for one of the truly best teaching experiences I’ve ever had, and I can’t wait to go back. Even the plane ride home was another easy uneventful hour and a half where I knitted my sock and chatted with the woman next to me, who was also knitting and had stopped by the River Arts District that Friday poking around and had unbeknownst to me visited my workshop. Small world. I’ll run into her again at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in October.
So I left Barb working on her project, she didn’t take the class, but stood by as proprietress of the studio making sure I had what I needed, doggedly working on bobbin lace, I had sent the pillow, prickings and supplies down ahead, her goal is to make the bobbin lace for a Christening gown, from the same linen she used to weave the yardage which she will make when she follows me to Sievers in a couple weeks. She took to it immediately, and though she struggled with losing her place with all the distractions of a class, she stuck with it and last I heard was happily lacing away on pattern #2, and of course, I only have her photo of the first pattern to show.