Meanwhile…

Meanwhile there is a tropical storm moving in tonight.  Finally, a typical summer…  At least we need the rain desperately…

Meanwhile, I launched another pattern for download.  And I’m beginning to add Lookbooks for some of the patterns.  I’ve had a number of requests from potential buyers to see what people are doing with the patterns.  I know this is a thing on Ravelry, and it does help to see what people do with the pattern, and how it fits all different body types.  This is one more thing on my never ending to do list, but I’ve managed to post three of them, one for the vest below, and one for the 700/1700 tunics and the 100 jacket.  I don’t know if it helps, and obviously the patterns are too new for purchasers to show what they’ve done with them, but I’ve been using these patterns for years, especially the jackets, and I have a collection of mostly in progress, not completely finished versions from all of my workshops.

What’s important here is that if I used a photo of you in your garment, I cropped all body parts, so you wouldn’t be recognized.  Still, if you object to my using your garment, please let me know.  And if you have a photo of a garment you made in one of my classes and/or from one of my patterns, especially a finished version, please let me know at theweaver@weaversew.com

The 800 Zippered Vest is fully lined to the edge and has bias bound edges.  The vest has a stand-up collar with front separating zipper. View 2 uses the lining as a seam finish on the side, shoulder and neckline/collar seams.  Optional yoke on both views.  This pattern does not contain directions for sewing.  The directions, which contain metric equivalents are available for free from my website https://www.daryllancaster.com/Webfiles/800ZipperedVestDirections.pdf 

In addition, a lookbook of garments made from the 800 Zippered Vest is available here https://weaversew.com/wordblog/800-zippered-vest-lookbook/

I’ve only got one more pattern to go in the current collection, which will give me a total of 12!  The pattern for the 1800 jacket is done, it is a combination of the  800 zippered vest above and the 400 jacket with waist darts. The directions are rewritten, I’m waiting for the final edits from someone I hired to make sure what I wrote makes sense.  The conversations between us are hilarious.  Usually she writes that something doesn’t make any sense, and I respond that it would have it they were in class because there would have been an entire class lecture on the fine points of that technique earlier in the morning, and then she responds that people who buy the patterns won’t have been privy to that lecture, so I have to spell it all out.  So I’ve added so much to each of the directions for each of the patterns.  I keep them separate because whenever something is unclear, I can edit easily and post on a page of my website, without generating an entire new pattern download.  The directions are always free, so if you already traced a pattern from one of my classes and need the updated directions, please find them here.  As always, if something isn’t clear, please let me know, I’ll try to fix it.  And there is the goal to have a YouTube channel to explain many of the techniques I feature in my patterns.

Meanwhile I’m already thinking of how to combine the patterns and what silhouette I want to work on next.  A scoop neck top with sleeves…

Meanwhile, I met with a consultant about video equipment and improving the image of my online teaching via Zoom or whatever platform works for the guild hiring me.  And they are hiring me.  My October Calendar is really filling up with remote guild lectures and a few short workshops.  I’m beginning to get cancellations from next year, and I’m really good with that because I don’t see us returning to a normal any time soon.  I don’t see me hopping on a plane, dragging 170 pounds of luggage, staying with people, and teaching a 5-7 day class working intimately with students, and returning safely to NJ.  Right now there is a list in NJ of 31 states that you have to quarantine from after traveling to…  So I’ve edited some of my lectures to list what can be done remotely.  I will start on the half day seminars shortly.

So I now have a couple of Canon SLR’s that actually were designed to also work as webcams, in addition to 4K video.  I have an AC battery adapter so the camera battery doesn’t die in the middle of a zoom meeting.  I have my tech guy coming this week to run an ethernet cable to the garage weaving studio so I don’t have to rely on WIFI.  I have the cable company coming to upgrade my modem so I can get 1GB of internet speed.  And I purchased a sound system and video lights for recording videos, all that of course contingent on my daughter, who works for me now, learning how to use them.  Right now she is creating a logo.

Meanwhile, I’ve mentioned my long time association with Silk City Fibers, which is now a division of Lion Brand Yarns.  Alice, who is the director of that division is an old friend and coincidently lives in my town.  We are in regular contact about what’s new there and my opinion of the market, the type of yarn, the marketing, and anything else that comes to mind.  Last week I was asked if I wanted to be a “weaving influencer”.  I suppose I am an influencer.  A few thousand friends on facebook, been teaching this stuff since the early 80’s and using their yarn since then as well.  I’ve been blogging for more than 10 years, have about a thousand subscribers, and earlier posts have been viewed thousands of times.  And of course I always have an opinion.  I’m not always right, but my opinion always comes with a thought process that shows how I got there.  I met with the powers that be at Lion Brand, via remote conferencing, and largely I said, if you want to toss me yarn, I’ll make yardage out of it, document what I do and what it does, and make clothing out of it to sell my patterns.  

And so, at the end of last week, Alice dropped off a small bag of assorted cones, two of them yarns I’d not worked with before.  Left to right is Nile, a cotton tape yarn, Cotton Bambu, a heavier parallel plied yarn, great for supplemental work, Linen 14, a fine linen yarn I’ve had experience with before, and Bambu 7, bamboo yarn, pretty much a SSF staple.  There was about a half pound of each, which doesn’t seem like a lot to work with, especially if the goal is yardage.  But that never stopped me.  

I thought about the yarn, and then looked through my stash to see what I could add that was part of their current line.  Not much, since my shelves are full of older discontinued styles and colors of Silk City Yarns, all wonderful, but I thought I’d try to stay current.  I was able to add these. Clockwise from upper left, Saphira, Skinny Majesty Variegated, and a possible weft, Bambu 7

 

First I had to figure out exactly what I had.  I use a McMorran Yarn Balance and a scale and I can come within a few yards of knowing what’s on the cone.  

I played with yarn wraps…

…and adapted the draft from Chaos, which you can purchase from my website here

…and came up with something that reminded me of summer rain.  Think Tropical Storm Isaias.

Meanwhile, I haven’t actually wound a warp or set up a loom since the huge studio move last winter, which seems at this point like a lifetime ago.  When I returned from Oregon the beginning of March, the heat had just been installed, but the entire world shut down, and I dug in and made a bunch of new garments, in the basement sewing room, still thinking I had to submit five new works for the Convergence Fashion Show as a guest artist (of course that conference was postponed until 2022). And I started on what seemed like an impossible task at the time, creating downloadable patterns from the ones I developed for classes.  I was sitting on a lot of handwoven yardage I had stockpiled, and now my stash is depleted.

So I did what I do best.  Create with a small pile in front of me, and see where it takes me…

First up was winding the warp.  There are many ways to wind warps, but I wanted to see the colors unfold, so I chose to just do a straight wind off of the draft, as opposed to winding individual chains of each color.  The winding was slow, but the sleying would be much faster.  The first thing I discovered was the Nile tape lace had to be unwound from the cone like a toilet paper roll, instead of off the top, like typical coned weaving yarns.  When exiting from the top, the tape seriously twisted and I knew would never lay moderately flat in the woven surface.  So I put the cone on a spool rack, with the rack facing away from me at about a 30 degree angle.  The cone unwound easily in that position.

Next hurdle was of course the dreaded slippery rayon, and Silk City Fibers has lots of these.  I’ve used them for years.  This was one called Saphira, a pretty shimmery yarn with slubs.  The color I had has actually been discontinued, but a similar one is available with a black core instead of a white one.  Winding a warp with a yarn like this is problematic because any break in movement, like the turn around at the top of the warping mill, causes the yarn to pool around the base, getting caught as the movement resumes.  I usually use a nylon stocking around the cone as a drag, which works really really well, except in the move, they are hiding and I can’t figure out where they went.  So I used the mesh covering from an Asian Pear, which when tucked around the base, stopped the pooling and the warping could continue.

I loved the way the colors built on one another.

By dinner time yesterday I had the loom’s beater sleyed.  Each of these steps was sort of like reinventing the wheel.  The chair I usually used for sleying was now in the basement in my sewing studio.  So I had to come up with new tools and devices, figure out where my regular tools were now living, figure out where to plug in the magnifying light (in the ceiling as it turned out), and how to adjust the split HVAC system that was spilling copious amounts of frigid air right on me.  I figured that out and the room was really comfortable.  The new studio worked well.  I’m happy and can’t wait to actually spend most of my days out there even when I’m Zooming…  

I started threading after dinner.

Meanwhile, my beloved brat of a dog Ranger got his manhood clipped last Monday.  He was very depressed and had to wear the “innertube of misfortune”.  And of course, that meant he couldn’t wear a bellyband, so my fear all week was that he would pee on everything in my house.  We were good until late last night.  He saddled up to a shelving tower of handdyed yarn skeins and lifted his leg.  So I got to use the new dye sink in the studio and wash all of the offended skeins as I cleaned up the mess.  The dye sink worked really well.  And incision or no incision, he is now wearing a belly band.  The relationship between the two males dogs is slowing changing, it will be interesting to see where this goes.  The week for the most part wasn’t nearly has challenging as I thought it would be.  I got a lot accomplished locking myself and the dog in my office for hours at a time while he healed.  He liked the constant companionship.

Meanwhile, did I mention we are getting hit with a tropical storm tonight?  Note to self, pull in anything that isn’t nailed down, like umbrellas, etc.  Better yet, send Brianna out to do it…

Stay tuned…

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Slow, hot, summer…

And here it is July.  And no end in sight to the world’s catastrophic situation.  I’m really sad, because NJ and NY were hit really really hard by the virus back in March-May, and no one listened.  I saw friends post things on social media that made it seem as if we were overreacting.  They turned it into a political stunt.  I almost never ever comment on anything political or otherwise, I’m a moderate, centrist, and each side has a point.  The truth is somewhere in the middle.  Yet on the spread of Coronavirus, NJ has close to 16,000 dead. And yet the internet is full of people that think this is all a game, a political stunt that will all miraculously disappear in November.  There is nothing I can do but stay home, stay masked, and try to do something constructive with my life.  At this point, I believe that all of my teaching work for the year has been cancelled.  I’m scheduled to start traveling again in January/February with two trips to the West Coast.  I have no idea if the world will be safe.  I can’t even think past this month.  This is a true test of living in the moment.

The good news is we are rapidly perfecting the art of remote learning.  I’ve been approached about teaching online, including online guild lectures, trying to wrap my head around what’s possible with the equipment I have, because purchasing equipment for streaming is problematic, it just isn’t available. I’ve edited my website offerings to indicate which lectures would work perfectly for remote learning.  

Peters Valley has been one of the mainstays of my creative life.  A School of Craft in northwest NJ, I’ve been closely associated with them since the 70’s.  This year was to be their 50th celebration.  That’s on hold, but they are hard at work trying to keep the craft community together.  Traditionally, each week of instruction at the Valley would be spearheaded by an evening lecture featuring all of the instructors teaching that week, brief presentations in an old church down the road.  That has continued, remotely, even though the entire season of workshops has been cancelled.  Every Friday night I get to tune in for free and watch 5 fine craft professionals share their work/studios/philosophies/inspiration wherever in the world they are, and they are all over the world, and I get inspired.  The series runs through the summer and they are archiving the past Friday night lectures on their You Tube Channel.  

Peters Valley, in partnership with the Pike County Library in northeastern PA is also featuring a lecture series, and they actually managed to get a grant to continue that series, which is a more in depth look at an individual craftsman, held every two weeks on a Wednesday night.  I was the featured lecturer July 1.

I will say, though I’ve given this particular lecture many times, and as recently as March for the Portland guild, stood up in front of hundreds of people during a keynote address, I was terrified.  I was terrified because this technology scares the heck out of me.  Stuff goes wrong.  All the time.  A typical summer late afternoon thunderstorm can cause the power or the internet to go out and you are screwed.  Even a drain on bandwidth can cause the sound and/or video to lag and become unintelligible.  And when something goes wrong, I’m so untrained to fix it.  

So at the appointed time, even after a rehearsal, I logged in and I have to give credit to my late husband who must have been watching from above, because the thunderstorm headed straight for us split and moved just round my town, all went perfectly, and you can view the archived lecture here.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I are finding our groove so to speak.  She is becoming more aware and more involved in running the household.  We have a routine with the animals, she monitors the vegetable garden and the ponds, picks up dog poop in the yard, and is happy to do Home Depot, Shoprite, Post Office runs wearing a mask, and grabbing what we need to stay comfortable.  We are changing up our routine for eating, she is becoming more involved in meal selection, we cook together, and make enough for multiple meals of leftovers, which is convenient for lunches.  My son moved out, found a place of his own, and we are constantly finding things to put in the “give to Eric” box by the door.  Last Saturday after being really annoyed by how often she had to rebuild one of the ponds because her four legged child kept chasing frogs right into the pond and completely destroying the plants and the rock wall borders, she went to Home Depot and bought garden fencing and out we went and within a couple of hours we solved the problem.  There is nothing like motivation.

And we continue on the current major task of digitizing all of my patterns I use for my classes.  The swing coats 300  and 400 were launched a couple weeks ago, and we are finalizing the 600 walking vest as I write.  Just waiting on the final edits on the directions.  Once the 600 walking vest is released, we only have two more to do, the 800 zippered vest and the 1200 zippered jacket, variations on one another, and I can move on to making support videos.  This gift of time has allowed me to do a task that 6 months ago I didn’t think would ever be possible.  As always, the directions for all of my patterns are available for free here.

The days are quiet and easy (well maybe not so quiet, we have lots of dogs…) and I’m hunkered down and for now I’m safe.  I have a beautiful studio, one for weaving, one for sewing, an office with solid equipment (except a working webcam for my desktop, there isn’t a Logitech webcam available in this country except for a ridiculous price, I’m looking at you Walmart…) but we are resourceful my daughter and I.  We also have a woodworking studio, a metals bench/craftroom, and my daughter has all her knitting machines in her bedroom.  We have a craft school right here on the property.  All to ourselves.  And still, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the creative things that make me sing.  Oh yeah, and there is music too.  A couple of friends, one on recorder and one on cello are coming tonight to sit on the deck, amongst the fairy lights and play a Brandenburg Concerto we have been working on diligently.  I’m the other recorder.  We keep our distance, drink wine, and play our hearts out.  My daughter added fairy lights to the gazebo down the path.  My property is magical and this is the first summer since forever I’ve been able to really enjoy it. 

 

And we always have an ongoing puzzle to make. 

 

Instead of telling my friends and kids when they leave, “Drive safe”, I tell them now, “Wear a mask!”.  It seems more fitting.  

Wear a mask, stay tuned…

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Quarantine recap…

I’ve talked to so many people who secretly admit to loving the simplicity of being at home and enjoying what little treasures life has to give.  It is no secret that though financially it is tough having all of my work cancelled, I’ve been able to make use of the time, creating new work, and developing digital product.  There are enough Zoom meetings a week, to keep me connected with knitting, weaving, and critique groups, and now a free artist lecture series at Peters Valley every Friday night, that I feel like I’m still part of a bigger whole.  I’ve had friends come and sit on the deck and play recorders, and we have enjoyed the gardens, the weather, and just the simplicity of being together.  I have not been out of the house except for a couple of runs to the post office, and the eye doctor and the dentist since March 15.  I’m not complaining…

I’ve always done my own photography, I sort of have a degree in it, I’m not a novice around a camera, and early on in my career, I invested in a set of used strobe lighting and decent equipment, which after all these years, I’m grateful is still going strong.  It has been on my “list” to do a photo shoot, long overdue, of all the work I’ve done recently, along with my daughter’s work, all of her knitted dragon shawls and cowls.  She has those photos, so I won’t include them here, but suffice it to say we worked from about 10 am until about midnight, and shot more than 600 photos between the two of us.  This is the first time using my office as the photo studio;  prior to that I always spent a couple hours cleaning out the front end of my weaving studio, and then a couple hours putting everything back.  You need a pretty sufficient amount of floor space to do an indoor photo shoot of garments using strobe lights.

Of course the major issue we had was the four animals, three large dogs and a cat, who insisted they had to be exactly where we were working.  No matter how much we separated them, gave them marrow bones to chew, threw them outdoors, then kept coming back to be right under where we were working. (Yes, he is wearing a diaper.  I have two intact champion males who enjoy pissing contests in the house.  Belly bands made my life bearable again!)

The shoot went really well.  I got everything photographed I had on the list, and so did my daughter.  It was a really long day.  But I felt really good about how well I used my time since I returned from Oregon in mid March and the entire world came crashing to a halt.  It was really great to document what I’ve done.  Of course at this point I’ve launched 7 patterns, and we are close to launching the swing coats.  If you are interested, my digital patterns are available here.  

I did photograph the princess seam jacket and the swing dress, though they aren’t made from handwoven, formal photographs were needed for use in the pattern directions, and promotional materials.  Shooting stuff on me in the mirror isn’t the best advertisement for my patterns!

I also shot this vest, which I made last fall, for the guild sale.  It didn’t sell, and I made it in a much larger size than I am, and I love it so much in the photograph, that I’m tempted to take it apart and cut it down to fit.  The Pendleton Woolen Mill Worms are woven into a Theo Moorman inlay.  All of the details can be seen on my website, the link to the gallery is here.

And so I was quite amazed at all the pieces I’ve done since I got back in March.  One of the first things I tackled was a remake of a vest I made a few years ago, from the fabric I made in a Dianne Totten Crimp Cloth Workshop.  I never liked the way it turned out, and it sat in the back of my closet for a couple of years.  I finally dug it out and re-draped it and cut a lot out of the sides…  Now I love it!

Then I worked on creating a swing skirt from my swing dress pattern.  The fabric was woven a year or so ago, called Vertical Barriers.

I followed that by working with the Driftwood fabric.  I created this dress with a semi attached leather yoke with sleeves.  And I couched an embroidered design on the yokes, both front and back, and added beads.

The leftover Driftwood fabric and leather, went into making this motorcycle vest.  Leather is pretty tough to photograph, there is no way around the glare of the lights.  Even using diffused lighting with umbrellas.  Leather shows everything.  But I’m pretty happy with the photos.

I went from there  to the swing coat from the handdyed wool/mohair yardage I wove at the end of last year.  This one was a challenge, it is a combination of my 400 swing coat, which should be released shortly, and the hood and in-seam buttonholes from my 7001700 tunic.    One day I’ll write up a PDF of how I actually did this.  It is on the list.  The list is very long…  I need more quarantine time…

And then I dove into a loom that has been sitting idle for years.  It had about 30″ left of a Theo Moorman threading, poly sewing thread tie-down warps on a linen ground.  I played with novelty yarns and stripped recycled fur.  I had so much fun with this, I’m waiting to set up a loom specifically dedicated to this technique so I can play and create in a spontaneous way, which is so not what a weaver usually does…

The end result is this walking vest, it is a combination of my 600 walking vest pattern and the 800 zippered vest pattern with collar.  Both are on the table for creating digital downloads, but it may be another couple of months.  

It is amazing to look back over how productive you’ve been when the world is falling apart.  I admit that it is sort of unusual to be so productive when everything looks so bleak.  My daughter just rolls her eyes at me.  I can assure you she is responding to all of this in a much different way.  I’ve always thrived when the chips are down, by losing myself in my work.  There is something about designing and executing something really difficult to take you away from current reality.  It has always worked for me, through my own bout with cancer, through my husband’s cancer and subsequent death, through the raising of two young adults, to my son’s military deployments in the middle east.  Keeping busy has always gotten me through.  

And now come the tedious part, where I process the photos, update all of my social media, website, even the new patterns, because I have new images for the 1000 Swing Dress and the 200 Jacket with Princess Seam variation.  

It is very satisfying to cross off a large project on the to-do list.  Now I can move onto the next major hurdle, but I know that the new photo space in the office is quick to set up so I won’t have to wait a couple years between shoots!

Stay tuned…

 

1,103 views

There are no words…

I’ve put off this post long enough.  I’ve been writing this blog for more than 10 years.  It was meant to be a link to my creativity and my life, to document how they play against each other becoming at times diametrically opposed, and at other times indistinguishable from each other.  That is the life of an artist.  We never retire, we just keep reinventing ourselves. 

This year has been a huge challenge in and of itself, all of the work that I had booked this year, including my trip to Japan has of course been cancelled.  Anyone in the arts, who makes their living gig by gig, knows this, that without those venues, we have no income.  Don’t cry for me, I’m fine, my late husband saw to that.  But there are others who aren’t fine. 

And now, life isn’t just about being quarantined to stay safe from a nasty unknown virus that no one seems to know much about.  Social media is full of all sorts of people who think they know, or knows someone who knows, but the bottom line is, at least here in NJ, that nothing will ever be the same as we knew it for a long long time. 

And on top of that, there is this thing that I find really difficult to talk about.  I am after all, a privileged white woman.  We fought about shit like this in the 50’s, equal rights for women, for persons of color.  Nothing has changed.  Nothing has changed in 50 years.  Nothing has changed in 400 years.  And I really struggled with this post because there is absolutely nothing I can contribute to this conversation because I am a privileged white woman living in a suburban community and I need to keep my mouth shut and let those who are on the front lines speak.  I need to listen. 

All of the organizations I’m associated with or support, particularly in the arts, have been sending me emails to state their position on where they stand on racial equality.  I can’t help but feeling it is all so bandwagon -y.  I said as much to my daughter, who very bluntly said to me, “Mom, it isn’t enough to not be racist.  It is now more than ever important to be anti-racist.  Silence is acceptance of the status quo.”  I’m still mulling that over, I know she is right, but I have no idea what that actually means and how I can help, or if I just need to get out of the way. 

And so I sit in my basement, proofing patterns, creating new works, doing what I do best, but listening to NPR around the clock, listening to experts, listening to the voices that can make a difference.  My public radio station is WNYC, so all the local news comes out of New York City.  I’m learning a lot. 

I’ve had a number of very meaningful discussions with my son, a sergeant in the Army National Guard in NJ.  I listen to him tell me about the rules of engagement, the Geneva Convention, how he is trained foremost in conflict resolution and de-escalation of a situation.  He has 10 years experience and two middle east deployments.  I listen because there is nothing I can contribute to this.  I have to listen to those who know more, have experienced more, and have something to say.

I have been wildly productive in these last three months,  and it is a tough thing to just come here and say, “Oh look at my latest project, isn’t it lovely!”  Because that seems so clueless and out of touch with what’s actually happening in the world.  But it is what I know and what I’m good at.  I’m working towards building a digital legacy of everything I’ve worked for for the last 50 years.  In my own small world, it counts.  I’d like to think I’ve made a difference in my students lives, and that I can continue to do that, until I can’t any more.  I’m not sure how moving forward I’ll be able to teach safely, that students will be safe.  I’ve had countless discussions with conference planners, arts venues, guilds and other venues that just don’t know where all this will end up. 

My original goals were to slowly back away from teaching so I could focus on leaving behind a digital legacy.  I never planned for the world to stop spinning the day I returned from teaching for 10 days in Oregon.  But it has.  And I’m so very grateful for a pension check, and for my children who both happen to be living here at the moment.  And for my house full of animals.  We have all we need, and we keep each other going, we laugh and we get pissed and we keep putting one foot in front of the other.  This is a tough week for us as a family, four years ago probably to the day, we brought my husband home to die.  He passed on the 17th of June.  Father’s Day weekend.  I can’t see a Father’s Day ad without choking up.  It is really hard on my children.

And so, I will post what I finished up last week, because it is good.  And it is what I do.  And I refuse to try to give it some contextual artsy title that speaks of hidden meaning.  I cut up old fur, wove it back together with some fun yarns that were laying around, finishing off a warp that has been languishing for too many years.  I’m leaving it untitled. And it has pockets.

And yes, we have launched another pattern my daughter and I.  This one is especially important to me because this is the pattern I started with, the beloved Daryl Jacket.  I sold variations of this jacket for years in craft fairs, and then when I started teaching, I used this pattern, polished the fit model and launched my career creating a garment construction with handwoven fabric legacy. 

There are of course a dozen patterns in my portfolio at this point.  We have launched six.  The 200 jacket is ready to go, that’s the one with all the darts that is more of a trim fit.  Just waiting on the final edits for the instructions.  My editor is very thorough.

So here is where you can access all the patterns I’ve launched to date.  I’ve never worked so hard, and the days fly by, it is bedtime already.  Again… 

https://www.weaversew.com/shop/sewing-patterns.html

And as always, the directions for all of my patterns are available for free on my website.  One of my friends on Facebook commented, “There’s an entire course in couture construction in your free directions.  I am in awe of your attention to detail.”  Thanks Marie.  Makes it all worth it.

https://www.daryllancaster.com/SewingPatternDirections.html

Stay safe, stay strong, and listen…

Stay tuned…

1,118 views

All in a Day’s Work…

Actually, that title should read, all in a month’s work, but whose counting?

This has been a year so far, enough said…  Obviously we are desperately seeking to return to some kind of normalcy, and to each of us, that means something different.  My girlfriend came over yesterday, never came in the house, we sat across the deck from each other and chatted.  They we played recorder.  We were working on the Brandenburg Concerto, and though I’ve been practicing, I hadn’t played it with anyone else.  And because it is such a lengthy score for something like 10 recorders, I am playing my part using Parts, which means in the music world, only your part is in front of you, not the whole score, so you don’t have a clue what anyone else is playing until you hear it.  If you lose your place, good luck finding a way back in.  But my friend and I managed to get through 1/3 of the score and it sounded pretty amazing on my little deck in my gorgeous gardens.  The birds always sing along…

My friend said to me, that when things return to normal, the first thing on her agenda is a salon appointment.  She has higher maintenance hair than I do, so I get that.  I think my first priority is to get my hearing checked.  Yes, it was on the list anyway.  I know I have a hearing issue, I’ve known since I was 18 months old and was basically deaf.  But that was fixed and my hearing is actually fine, actually a little overly sensitive. According to the people who have checked it in the past, my hearing is normal, but I have a processing disorder.  I hear what you say, I just don’t understand what you say because unless I see your face, and am basically lip reading, it all comes in as a jumbled mess, especially if there is any background noise.  I’m OK with instrumental music, but not when words are added.  I watch my son sing along to things coming out of his phone, and none of it sounds like anything I can recognize.  I’m sort of use to it and adjust.  But the other day, when I went to the post office to mail a book to Canada, I had to have a conversation with the employee in the post office.  Both of us were of course wearing masks, heavily gloved and well over 6 feet apart.  She answered my query, but of course because I couldn’t see her mouth, I had no idea what she said to me.  I explained that and asked if she could speak really slowly and separate her words carefully.  She pulled her mask down and said, “No, I can’t, I’m Hispanic and we all talk this fast.”.  We both started to laugh and it was such a lovely moment where we both acknowledged that the world is messed up and nothing is normal.

Worse though, is my eyes.  I fear I have developed cataracts, and that with use everything gets cloudy and I can’t focus and I’m really struggling between three different pairs of glasses to get the job done.  So hearing and eye appointments are top of my list.  Those are sort of essentials for me…

My days are filled with typical things, a curtain valance ripped from the wall.

The culprits.

Fortunately my handyman was able to come in with wall toggles, and a mask and gloves and replace the brackets ripped out of the wall in short order.  I sat in the dining room watching.

My gardens are lovely and I spend my meals sitting by the pond and enjoying what my late husband started and a well coordinated crew finished over the years since his death.  Being outside like that I’ve noticed more of what actually happens in nature and it isn’t always pretty.  We have a Blue Jay terrorist in the neighborhood.  I always knew they were nasty little beasts but didn’t realize they were actual carnivores.  Right in front of me, one flew in and stole a tiny baby robin from the nest.  The bereft mother robin tried to save her baby and of course the blue jay won that round.  I was just as bereft and couldn’t stop apologizing to her.  We just looked at each other with despair. There were two other birds left in the next, so she and the dad continued to feed the babies while my friend and I played recorders on the deck. This morning I went out to see why the power was out to all my outdoor fixtures and the garage.  I found blood all over the deck and a bit away on the walk, another dead baby bird.  Again, the mother robin flew up and looked at me as if to say, the world is cruel, and we just have to carry on.  My daughter cleaned up the carnage and I figured out the electrical problem.  All in a day’s work.  

My birthday was Friday.  This is an important year, I turned 65 and am now on Medicare.  Such a huge relief.  As much as I appreciated having access to the Affordable Care Act this past year once my cobra from my late husband’s policy ended, I can’t tell you how worried I was about getting sick on the road because my very expensive insurance did not cover me outside of North Jersey.  So this is a big deal.  I made it to Medicare.

My birthday was actually lovely.  My sister and my girlfriend made homemade cards, because you can’t really go and hang out in the card store and read cards.  There are about 250 birthday wishes on facebook, and I haven’t made a dent in commenting, liking or whatever.  Patience everyone.  I live with my adult children for now, and my son came in from his overnight shift Friday morning, cooked an awesome brunch skillet, we had wine and he headed off to bed. Yes, I realize I was drinking at 10am.  Don’t judge me…  My daughter made sure I had plenty of wine and had ordered sushi take out from our favorite place the night before (they sell out quickly).  So we have a gorgeous sushi platter, wine, and I never got out of my pajamas the whole day.  I had spent the day in edits for my pattern support materials and was completely cross-eyed, but we sat down to start fixing one of the puzzles I got myself for my birthday.  Three hours later, and some additional wine, and voila!  This was one of my favorites.  I want to fix it again soon.  Without my daughter so it will take longer.

And so dear readers, it has been a busy month of editing and testing, and reworking and testing some more.  Today I launched the 1700 Drop Shoulder Tunic pattern, earlier in the week I launched the 700 Set in Sleeve Tunic pattern.  What’s the difference?  My 700 tunic has a set in sleeve.  It is more feminine and creates a better shoulder line, I much prefer it personally.  It is the same sleeve I use in my jackets (patience, we are starting on them next) and it frames the upper body well. 

But there was a need for the drop shoulder version, the sleeve and armhole are more like a man’s shirt sleeve, construction is different, and for the men in my classes this is a much preferred look.  And for my younger students, or anyone wanting a more gender neutral garment it is more appropriate.  The hood variation with the drop shoulder is pretty much my daughter’s wardrobe.  View the pattern here

What I really want to point out dear readers, is the huge amount of technical information available for free on my website.  All of the directions for the patterns I’ve published at this point have been reformatted and refreshed, metric equivalents added, and they have all been heavily edited by a sewing professional editor.  They are available here for free. No need to buy the pattern to take a look.  

Those who have taken classes with me know I love using 15 denier nylon tricot as a seam finish.  I highly recommend it for the tunics.  I’ve procured a good amount, in about five colors (grey is back), and had my store tech support send me information about how to build a color choice into my supply listings.  So if you want Fusi-Knit interfacing, there is one link, just choose from the drop down menu if you want white or black.  And there is a link for 15 denier nylon tricot. Just pick the color you want.  A 1 yd by 54″ pack is only $4.  You’ll have to cut the bias strips yourself, but if you are ordering red dot tracer pattern paper and some interfacing, you can also pick up a pack or two of tricot.  I haven’t figured out what to do about shipping because it is so ridiculous.  The computer adds a shipping amount per item. Which I set.  Which is fine, unless you are ordering multiple items and then shipping gets just silly.  I have a query out to my tech support to figure out an alternative way.  If your shipping comes to $60, or some ridiculous amount, know I will absolutely refund you the difference over what it costs to ship.  I pretty much refund any amount more than about a $2.00 difference (there is the cost of the packaging to consider.)

As I build my instructions to be used by people who don’t take my classes, I understand that the next step for me will be accompanying videos.  My daughter and I have a lengthy agenda.  I fear I’ll start traveling again before I get to accomplish it all.  Meanwhile, in an unrelated conversation with my editor from Threads, when I checked the proof of the Q&A column I answered on Stay Stitching,  which will  appear in the next issue I believe, I found out that the video I made for them on Stay Stitching is available for free under their basics heading. Access it here. This is such an important step during the construction process for me, and it would have been one of the first videos I produced to go along with my written information.  But I don’t have to now, it exists already!  I did 8 other videos for them about a year and a half ago, and over the last year and a half they were slowly edited and released.  I believe the rest are all under the Threads Insider membership.  There is some terrific content there, well worth the subscription.  And I think the first two weeks are free, so as long as you are binge watching…

So dear readers, stay safe as things start to open up.  Enjoy the outdoors, though sometimes it too can be cruel.  Play with yarn, learn a new song, read a book, cook something awesome.  This is a time of exploration.  

Stay tuned…

 

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