A New Year…

January was slowly becoming my favorite month.  It use to be September, fresh start of the school year, both my own and when my kids were young.  Fresh pencils, notebooks, and great expectations.  With the school years finished, September is just a slow slog to get through because most of my teaching occurs between August and November.  I love what I do, but the pace is killer.

January is cold.  (And this year was positively painful).  That means no working outdoors unless it snows. (Which it is supposed to today).  And there is supposed to be little on the calendar.  The holidays are finished.  The month is long.  Perfect time to reset the pace of the year and play catch up.

Yeah, that didn’t go so well.  Right now I’m frantically trying to finish up a couple dozen step out samples for making bound buttonholes for an article due the end of the week for Threads Magazine.  I tailored the jacket, and now have to do all those little samples.  Good thing I can make bound buttonholes with my eyes closed.

And Sunday is a music performance with my recorder consort, with a program I’ve been working for for about a month.  It is actually quite fun, I put together a PowerPoint slide presentation, (we all know I can do that in my sleep) of Pieter Bruegel the Elder paintings, and the consort will play sets of dances by composer Tielman Susato.  Both artists lived and worked in Antwerp in the 1550’s.  It is said they knew each other.  Sunday’s performance is at the Van Vleck House in Montclair NJ at 2pm if anyone local needs an afternoon out.  Point is I’ve been working on the slides, the presentation and the commentary, not to mention the practice for what is supposed to be my down time.  And I can’t do this with my eyes closed.

This past Saturday was my annual Learn To Weave Class I put together for my local weaving guild.  Since January is a down month, the only thing I have to worry about is weather.  It is always a nail biter.  And this year, illness played a factor.  I had two cancellations at the last minute, one three hours before the class, but was able to fill the spots with very happy people from the waiting list.  I own 15 Structo and two 10″ Leclerc four shaft looms. I hold one out in case a loom breaks and  I’ve spent years collecting them.  I refurbish them with aprons, new heddles if necessary, a 15 dent reed if it came with something other than 15 dent, and try to make the experience close to what it would feel like threading, beaming and weaving on a shaft loom.  I created a draft that gives them a gamp with a couple threadings and multiple treadlings for a lovely sampler of what a shaft loom can do.   I do prewind the warp, colorful rug warp, so that saves a bit of time. It is a 6 hour class and students leave knowing if this is a skill they want to pursue.

Usually I get two different responses at the end…  First is, thanks, I’m glad I got to try it but I can’t see me pursuing this, I’ve got so many other things I love to do, or don’t have the space, or the money, or whatever.  But the best response is the second, thanks so much, I am completely hooked, where can I get a loom and how do I keep studying…  In a class of 16 new weavers, we have generated quite a few new and enthusiastic guild members.

So, though January is stressing me out for reasons that are completely my fault because I said yes to too many things, this is a month of bright new beginnings for a new group of weavers.  Check out the photos!  A great way to spend a Saturday in January!  And a huge thanks to my daughter, who team taught with me, my studio assistant who came along because I made her, and the members of the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild who helped keep everyone on track.


A year of change…

I love that Facebook frequently pops up memories, some from many years ago, it is sort of bittersweet when they involved my husband, but when they involve the process of old work, or fun time with friends and family, they make me smile.  I don’t always share them back on Facebook, but one “memory” popped up a few days ago, and it made me really smile.

First, let me back up and say that in my last post, there were a lot of very generous and lovely comments about where I am at this point in my challenging but entertaining life.  The support from all of you has been a jewel shining in a sometimes dark and frustrating couple of years.  Know that I read and cherish all the comments, especially now that I know about them, because my amazing guru of a tech guy found the issues that have been plaguing my blog for a couple of years.  If someone asks a specific question, I will usually respond to them personally, though I suspect other readers would enjoy the response.

Judy from South East Queensland Australia wrote a rather lengthy comment with all kinds of questions, because she is building a studio and wanted input as to what makes mine happy and efficient.  

“…Also with the high expectation of having a Studio built this year, can you write a post (and pics please)on how your studio functions, what other (than weaving) equipment do you find useful, What is the best way of storing your stash, equipment etc. Do you do your sewing in your weaving studio? What couldn’t you live without? What size is your studio? How many looms, wheels etc do you have,and are they all in your studio, I’m not being nosy I’m just trying to visualize how things will fit in my studio?”

Judy started her comment with a question about the tensioning device she noticed on the back of my new warp as I was beaming.  It is from Harrisville Designs, probably easy to make yourself if you are handy, but I picked one up while I was teaching there a couple of years ago, and have never regretted it.  I had dowels cut to the exact length of each of my looms, and when my daughter moved out and took half of my studio, and I had half to give her, that was the one piece of equipment I couldn’t part with.  She won an award at a fiber show, a gift certificate from Harrisville, and guess what she bought!

Anyway, back to Judy’s comment.  The memory that popped up on Facebook was the series of photos I took when my daughter, who was home from college and I ended up redoing my studio layout to accommodate more equipment and stash than any sane person could use in a lifetime.  I blogged about it December 30, 2012.  You can read the post here.  The end result was a studio where everything fit, but was pretty difficult to navigate around, especially during the warping process of one of the four floor looms, because beams have to drop to the floor, and there wasn’t a lot of floor to drop to.  Here is a sample…

This past year has been one of change for me personally, for obvious reasons, but also change for my house.  I am struggling to hold onto my home, not financially, the house is paid off, but physically, it is a large house for one person, who needs a large studio, with a half acre of ponds and walkways, and gazebos and beautiful decks, all of which were not so beautiful this time last year.  Things were falling apart, the house is a hundred years old, and renovations my husband and I did in 1982 when we bought this old house, all needed to be redone, and it cost a lot of money and a lot of competent people to get it up to code and safe.  

I hired a painter, a family friend actually, who has become my general handyman, and I always have a list.  Trust me.  He has replaced outlets with units that also have USB ports in them, replaced lighting fixtures with state of the art LED lighting, painted almost every room in the house, and finished off areas that were never completed in the original renovations.  He is careful and competent.  The problem is that when you paint a room, the surrounding rooms look dismal and cluttered and cry out for their chance at a redo.  So I redid.

The back half of my studio, as seen from the archway in the photo above, was an add-on we did in the mid 1980’s to give me sufficient room to run a business.  The first floor had a den added on to the back of the house which pre-dated us, and we took advantage of the footprint, knocked off the roof and added an additional 15 feet of space to an existing 10 x 10 bedroom.  It is safe from floods, heated in the winter and airconditioned in the summer.  Can’t ask for more.  Over the years, lighting changed, but not much else.  The room needed major painting, but there was no way I was moving any of that crap out of the back half of my studio until I move from the house or die.  But the front half, viewed from the newly painted hallway was cluttered, dismal and depressing.  You can’t see in the photo that the walls were in really bad shape.

While I was at Siever’s last year, I had my contractor and my assistant work together to move out the stuff in the front half of my studio, and when I walked in the door I nearly cried.  It was beautiful, calm and organized, and inviting.  I look forward to many years of creativity.  More on that in a minute…

Sidebar… The biggest change was that when my daughter moved out last January, she took my largest loom with her.  That cleared a huge amount of floor space.  I also moved one of the smaller looms and my entire office area to my bedroom, which was oversized and had contained not only our sleeping area but my husband’s large and cluttered office.  All of that has been cleaned out and dismantled and my simple office and bookcases for my artbooks, one small floor loom, one of my two spinning wheels, and a round table in the corner for doing water color painting, lacemaking, designing, or just doodling, took a lovely spot in the house, brightly lit, opening onto the balcony, and made it into my own.  It is probably the only room in the house my painter didn’t paint  because I’m attached to the lace border my sister’s stenciled for me back in 2002, the weekend before I had a mastectomy.  We did find matching paint, thank you Benjamin Moore, so any touch ups can keep the walls fresh and clean.

Back to the newly renovated studio.

From the hallway when you walk into the studio, it is bright and uncluttered.  High wall cabinets were replaced with IKEA Hemnes units, which are wider and deeper than the Billie units in the bedroom photos above.  Glass keeps everything dust free, and all my technical books, Burda pattern magazines, and all 15 Structo looms now have a place that is tidy and organized.  I use floor standing OTT lites over the looms, because, well you can’t get any better true daylighting than focused OTT  lites.  All of my table looms are sitting on a surface that allows me to actually weave on them should I actually have a warp on to weave!  I keep a small adjustable table, or a plant stand by the loom for my tea, and oft used tools that I don’t want to keep in the loom bench.

The back half remained unchanged but less cluttered.  The cutting table moved back to the original position pre December 2012, it is a lovely height, with old kitchen cabinets built into the base, and I have a 2 yard rotary cutting mat on the top.  There is always a project on the surface, it is the one place I’m pretty diligent about keeping clear, because a two yard cutting table is no good if you can’t get to it.  There is also my ironing system, a gravity feed professional iron at the back of the studio on the window wall.  Sadly I have to always keep the shades drawn because it is an east facing exposure and the morning sun can do a number on yarns and fabrics, fading is not an option.  But if I’m doing a lot of ironing…

The stash on the left wall uses very old particle board shelving I first bought back in the mid 80’s, and the best thing besides the adjust-ability of the shelves is that the shelves are 16″ deep.  Plenty of room to stuff yarn cones and fabrics, swatch binders and notions.  At some point this year my assistant and I will cull through all the debris on the top of the units, eliminating much of what’s there, and I am looking forward to that.

The right side of the back half of my studio has a large worktable, which is  really a large desk, with a table loom and the serger, and in the corner my lovely wonderful Janome 6600, which I’ve had since 2006 and will go with me to the grave.  I know the corner looks dark, but trust me, one of the last things my husband did for me before he got sick was to install copious amounts of under the cabinet LED lighting that I can engage when I want to actually see what I’m doing.  And there is an OTT lite there too.  The back corner of that wall has my stash of hand dyed skeins, and buried in the corner is the proverbial barrel that every weaver needs to hold sticks and assorted tall slender things that well, every weaver needs.  And in the middle of the work table is a Himalayan salt lamp, because, well, you can’t have enough serenity.  Does it work?  I have no idea, but my husband would pick them up with Groupons and I have them all over the house.  The warm orange glow is a respite from the constant barrage of blue light devices, and there is a calmness about my house that is centering and welcoming.  

And so, what a transformation in the last year, and what a transformation from 5 years ago.  Judy I hope this answered some of your questions.  If I were building a studio, I’d make sure electric outlets were at counter top height.  Mine are not in convenient locations requiring snakes of power strips all around.  Lighting is critical, and a place for everything.  If it doesn’t fit, you don’t need it.  Really.  That’s my New Year’s resolution.  I’m sticking to it.  Check back this time next year to see how I did…

Stay tuned…



Endings and beginnings…

2017 is on its way out, and though it wasn’t as traumatic as 2016, it represented its own challenges.  I thought about why this holiday season was tougher than last year, my husband had only been gone about 6 months before we gathered with family for Christmas, but last year, I was numb, in denial, my husband who traveled extensively for work was going to walk in the door at any moment, wasn’t he?  Family and friends kept me surrounded and safe, but this year was the beginning of taking charge of my life, by myself, with the help of paid contractors and technical support, and recognizing that my husband wasn’t ever going to come back and I had to figure it out alone.  The numbness is gone, replaced by a new energy and to be truly honest, a complete exhaustion.

Everything in my life has to be reevaluated.  And that includes my business.  I don’t have to be on the road constantly, and that proved out by all the crap that happened to my house while I was on the road, in spite of having it crawling with contractors, like the hot water heater exploding while I was in California.  Fortunately a contractor and my son caught the malfunction before any damage happened, but I am solely responsible for this piece of property my husband and I built together and it is tiring.  I keep feeling like at some point, it should run like a well oiled machine, but so far… NOT!

What to keep and what to toss is a huge issue.  My husband was a bit of a hoarder and I will take responsibility for the hoards of textile raw materials and equipment stored in my studio and attic, my excuse at the moment for not even wanting to go up in the attic is that it is 15 degrees outside.  

What to apply to and what to let go has been a huge decision.  Requests for proposals for 2019 conferences are rolling in and I just can’t.  The thought of starting the application process and actually attending yet another conference is too much for me to even think about right now.  I am so done.  The travel, the packing, the prep, the hours, the grueling pace, the 150 pounds of luggage, I’m done. I’ve been doing this since the mid 80’s.  I would ultimately like to just go out on the road a couple times a year, do my 5 day garment construction retreats, and then hibernate.  I have so much to keep me busy and absolutely no time to enjoy the things I love.  Even this, my down time, is filled with stuff to prep and rework before this horrifically busy teaching/workshop season starts in the spring.  I think if I can get through this year, I’ll have won the right to sit back and play.  We all know I’m being delusional, but let me have my vision of the future for just this brief moment.

Most of the house has been repainted and reorganized for my needs, and I adore it.  If there has been one outstanding gift this year, it is that my home is now my safe space.  It is calming and uncluttered (except the parts I can’t see like the attic) and for that I’m very very grateful.  Thank you to all the contractors that made this happen.  

My holidays were simple, the kids and I went to relatives.  First time ever I wasn’t home Christmas day.  It felt good.  The food was wonderful, my sister an awesome hostess and I passed through a difficult holiday largely intact.  Everyone around me is sick, so I expect I’m next, but usually one recovers and I have things to entertain me. And a six pack of Puffs tissues laced with Vicks.  The best. 

One evening at my sister’s, we all sat around the table decorating gingerbread houses.  It was a blast. May all your gingerbread houses start out with a classic weave structure.  In this case a basket weave or log cabin.  

The week before Christmas I headed up the 2 hour drive over the river and up the parkway to Newtown CT, home of the Taunton Press, and the Threads Magazine holiday party.  It was fun to play with all the editors and other contributors that I only know through emails.  I have another six page article due January 20th, this one on bound buttonholes, and all the step out samples and finished garment are due before I head off on an adventure with Peters Valley to Cuba the end of the month.  No pressure.

My annual Christmas towels came off the loom the week before Christmas.  I know relatives and friends are probably getting tired of getting dishtowels from me, but too bad.  Re-gift them.  It is what you are getting.  The draft came from Handwoven Magazine Sept/Oct 2017.

And I actually managed to put a warp on my empty loom, once I pulled the towel warp off, and this one was a challenge.  But I’m happy with it, and it will be fun to weave off, colors changing with every advance of the cloth.  The warp is 10 yards long, mixed fibers, all cellulose, and the weft is a rayon linen combination.  I have no idea what it will be because I never think that far ahead. I started out with two handpainted warps, (painted by me of course) two handpainted skeins (also painted by me) that were wound circularly on a warping board into 10 yard warps with the colors lining up, a hand dyed cotton tape, and a solid commercial rayon bouclé.  

Enjoy the photos.  Especially the one where the dog decided she would be helpful.


Have a great new year dear readers, filled with lots of fibery things, and for those of you who don’t weave or knit or spin or sew or work with any kind of fiber, maybe this is the year!

Stay tuned…


Let it snow let it snow

So we are getting snow and we are still testing our site, I appreciate all your help and hope to have all these technical issue resolved soon, again thanks.


just checking

Sorry this is the tech department and we just wanted to verify that all is well.   If you get this not thru RSS but as a notification of post please comment that you did receive it.

Meanwhile the site crashed as I was uploading the new blog post and apparently an incorrect link was attached.  The correct link for the new blog post is