A learning experience for everyone…
I fear this will be a very long post, since it was a very long week, and there is lots to report… You may want to grab some coffee…
I just returned from another very magical and very productive week at Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island, WI. This is my sixth summer teaching at Sievers and honestly, really truly, this is my favorite place in the world to teach. The staff makes everything run efficiently, you want for nothing, and while the rest of the world was suffering from severe storms and 100 plus temps, we were blissfully enjoying the island breezes (OK it did get into the upper 80′s during the day) night time temps in the 50-60′s and lovely sunshine every day.
What I love most about teaching at Sievers is the ability to do an extended intensive, unlike the two and three day classes I offer to guilds, where I’m just learning names and it is time to go home. I get to spend five really intensive days with a group of students and the best part is many of them are repeats. I had some this week who’ve taken this class 4-5 times already. At that point, I really have followed the growth of each student, some of them have developed garment making skills that are on par with mine, yet they continue to come for fitting advice and companionship and as one student put it during one Sunday night social a couple of years back, “It isn’t summer if it isn’t Sievers”. There is a hugely committed following for this fiber community and Sievers is closer to a family than any other venue where I teach. This year we tried something new, an optional seven day intensive, and five of my eight students opted for the extension.
For first time students with me, I have them make my infamous “Daryl Jacket” a simple jacket pattern I’ve used for decades, that looks good on any body type and can easily be constructed in a few days. One of the things I love about this type of class, is that students are already for the most part experienced in making some kind of cloth, weaving, quilting, surface design, the occasional felter, and of course silk painters. Their goal is to fine tune their garment construction techniques to create gorgeous one of a kind garments from their fabrics.
I had four first timers in this class, a pair of sisters Ann and Lynne, vacationing with their entire family, workshop during the day and quality family time in the evenings, and I’m sure it was difficult for them to walk away at five o’clock when the rest of the group was just getting warmed up for the evening marathon. Then there was Pamela who is a wicked dyer, the fabric she brought for her jacket had fifteen layers of carefully applied dye and the effect was beautiful. The other first timer with me was a particularly skilled handweaver and fiber artist Judith Yamamoto, who actually lives on Washington Island along with her paleontologist husband David Raup, and we were privileged to see their joint exhibition of their artworks (David is a photographer and graphic artist, extremely skilled in Photoshop and occasionally uses Judie’s weavings to create some wonderful illusions.) Their work is on display at the Art and Nature Center on the Island. I actually purchased one of David’s digitally manipulated photographs, one that captured much of my Siever’s Island experience and the best of image and cloth blended into a story. It will be shipped to me when the show is over.
Anne’s jacket is a lovely fine linen, she works in an office and needed air-conditioning protection. Lynne is a surface designer back in Hawaii, and instead of bringing fabric that had already been painted/dyed/embellished in some way, she chose to make her jacket from a very plain light colored raw silk, and she will go back in later and do her surface design thing within the context of the shape of the finished jacket. I can’t wait to see the photos of what she actually does with the jacket. (Note: there are tons of pins still in these garments, none of the handwork is finished, and all had to move carefully for the photos so they wouldn’t get stuck.)
And of course, if you ask each of these lovely ladies to “show you their jacket” they will immediately open it up to show off all the hand painted and lovely contrast Hong Kong seam finishes inside.
Pamela stayed on for the seven day intensive and brought a stack of samples of some of her dyed fabrics. I was a bit jealous when she described a two week dyeing intensive she took, I think it would be amazing to have students for two whole weeks. After finishing her jacket, she began a pieced mat celebrating some of her energetic dyed cottons and linen rayon fabrics, and I swear I took photos of the mat with all the lead lines, but somehow it just isn’t in my camera. I swear I also took a number of photos of Pamela in her jacket with the fifteen layers of dye, and none of them appear to be in my camera either. I’m thinking everytime she put the jacket on and I went to find the camera, I got distracted by some question or other, but Sievers, bless them, put up images from both the Beyond Beginning weaving class, happening simultaneously in the second studio across the road, and from my class. There was a gorgeous picture of Pamela’s jacket back.
Marty has taken my class before, but Marty lost a lot of weight in the two years in-between, and since she was able to hand weave seven yards of 5/2 Perle Cotton she wanted to start over again and make a jacket this time with her new shape and her handwoven fabric. Marty is such a sport and her stamina is amazing and she was sometimes the last out of the studio in the evening.
Barb Butler has only taken this class once before, but you may remember in one of my most recent posts, I went to Asheville, NC and taught this same class in her studio, Sutherland Handweaving Studio, where I got her set up and ready to go learning bobbin lace. Her goal was to make a family heirloom Christening Gown from Linen huck lace yardage she wove many years ago, one of the first linen yardage she ever wove, and she wanted to make bobbin lace from the same cone of fine linen she used to weave the gown fabric. Barb also stayed for the full seven days and had to opportunity to work on a tunic from commercial fine linen as well. She is now working on pattern number three of the beginner series of Torchon Bobbin lace, and she took the couple yards of lace she made in the couple of weeks between classes from pattern number two and is creating a lace edged hankie from a leftover square of the Christening gown fabric.
Her sidekick and best friend Terry took my class in Asheville where we worked mostly on making muslins for vests and tops she wanted to create in the class at Sievers. Terry is also a terrific weaver, and a lot of fun, and she gets the award for the most classes with me within a one month period. I think this is Terry’s fifth intensive with me, and to think that when she first started with me, she barely knew anything about sewing. As a matter of fact, the vest she spent most of the week working had a couple of creative challenges, we used the Chanel technique of attaching the lining to the back of the 5/2 cotton handwoven fabric for support, and Terry made her first button hole ever, a bound buttonhole. She did a damn fine job of it to be sure. She still has about fifty hours of hand sewing ahead of her, and she seemed completely undaunted by that prospect. She also cut out and began constructing a cotton tunic, we spent a lot of time fitting this and she was pretty pleased with the results.
And that leaves my friend and rescuer Ginnie, who has taken this class probably five times as well, and who not only rescued me after my Midwest Conference debacle, up on the Upper Peninsula, where she whisked me to her home for some R&R after my sordid travel experiences, she also picked me up at Green Bay airport Sunday night and whisked me off to Whitefish Bay Farm to spend the night, when missed connections, a cancellation and delays prevented me from arriving at the island in time for the Sunday night gathering. She had me on the first ferry Monday morning to the island and I arrived in time to start my class at 9am.
Ginnie has become passionate about garment construction. Her body type doesn’t fit the standard right out of the pattern envelope and she is determined none the less, to make some amazing garments not only from commercial fabric of which she has a hoarded stash that exceeds mine, but of her handwoven fabrics as well.
Ginnie brought a huge stack of stuff to work on, but her main focus was this very complex Claire Shaeffer pattern from Vogue, with “27 pieces” and 84 steps. I will admit even I was challenged trying to fit this very complex jacket on her body. But we both persevered and when she “went to muslin”, she brought this plain lovely piece of denim and we all loved it so much that after tweaking the fit some more, we encouraged her to go ahead and make the jacket up completely from the denim before embarking on her gorgeous tencel and Zephyr wool/silk handwoven fabric. It was probably the best way to approach this particular pattern because there was nothing ordinary about the way it was engineered.
I’ve never been so proud of a group of students who burned the midnight oil, figuratively and literally, and pushed through complete exhaustion and still managed to keep those machines purring along. The last night, no one wanted to even stop for dinner, so Marty volunteered to pick up pizza so we could keep working, and I finished up the last of my bottle of wine, since I couldn’t bring anything like that home on the plane. We worked until midnight.
And so I began the slow trek home yesterday morning, after some teary goodbyes, first the ferry, and then the two hour trip to Green Bay, spending some additional time with Pamela, who volunteered to take me to the airport on her way back to Madison. We stopped along the way, and all looked promising when she dropped me in front of the terminal, and then everything went downhill from there. The gist of the whole sordid affair, was once again, my flight was delayed, which meant I missed my connection in Chicago, and it was so delayed from weather, no fuel truck, no gate available in Chicago, no ramp personnel, and a myriad of other issues that I missed all connections to Newark last night, had to spend the night in the Hilton in O’Hare, (at least I got a voucher for a substantial discount though pints of beer at the bar were $9.) and since I had to get up at 4am to head back over to go back through security for a 6am flight, I was pretty resentful when a small child in the room next door to me in the hotel woke up at 3am screaming and was still screaming when I left at 4. I felt really bad for her parents. Must of been hell.
I learned a few things about travel in this day and age of the United/Continental merger. United is NOT Continental… I recently broke down and applied for the United Mileage Plus Chase Club card, for $400 a year and on these two trips alone every bit of that $400 kept me sane and calm and comfortable. Membership has its privileges, and being able to wait out extensive delays (eight hours in Cleveland last Sunday night) in a United Club lounge with snacks and drinks and electrical outlets, free baggage, priority boarding and premier access security lanes (I bypassed about 600 people in line this morning at security) and ultimately a first class upgrade this morning, I will never travel without it. And I will also never travel without first photographing my luggage before I check it for a trip, because this is the third time I’ve been separated from my precious cargo (my entire teaching samples, jackets, patterns, and tools) and the woman at the baggage office was overjoyed when I pulled out my cell phone and showed her what my bags looked like. She found them in the holding area in about thirty seconds.
Now to deal with about 100 emails and get ready for my trip to Convergence and California…