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…

 

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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…

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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…

 

1,142 views

Rhythms…

There is a beautiful rhythm to my days now, I hate to even say it because so many don’t find this whole quarantine thing manageable or doable or remotely inspiring.  And that’s OK.  I’m so very very lucky to have latched onto this gift of time.  I never get to really have a routine, I plan one, and then, as I’m just getting on a roll, it is time to get on a plane and fly someplace to teach.  There is the prep before, and the follow up after, and then I’m on to the next venue.  This quarantine has put a huge halt in my lifestyle, and though I miss my students, I have not missed a beat.  Time is such a precious thing, and we never know how much time we have, so I’m using every minute to the best of my ability.  It also helps that three large dogs and a cat start to try to get me out of bed around 6am.  The cat is the worst.  In the still dark room, stuff starts flying off my desk, nightstand, printer stand, and anything else he can move to get my attention.  When I throw on the light to see what the hell that noise was, the dogs take that as a sign that it might be feeding time and create a ruckus that would wake families three doors down.  (Locking the animals out of my room isn’t an option, they break down doors…)

So I eventually get up and start my day.  I know a lot of my friends are having a tough time living with others in the family 24/7.  It came up as a discussion in one of my Zoom knitting meetings.  I have to say, living with two adult children has kept me from being so alone, and of course the animals… but for us, I think it all works because, I’m not the mom, they fend for themselves, and we are all on very different schedules.  I’m up around 7  if I can push it, my daughter is up at noon, and my son is up around 5pm because he works the night shift at Target in charge of overnight operations, unloading trucks and pushing merchandise through the night.  He comes home just as I’m waking up and heads off to bed.  We get to chat for about 10 minutes.  

I’ve attempted a routine, feeding the animals, letting them out, cleaning the cat litter, watering outdoor plants (such a gift when it rains…), taking out the recycling, grabbing the morning paper, making breakfast and then curling up with my breakfast and my tea and reading the morning paper.  This morning was glorious, and I was able to eat outside by one of the ponds.

Once I’m finished with the paper and breakfast, I clean up the dishes, unload the dishwasher, and clean one room of the house.  I’m lucky I suppose, if you could put it that way, that when my husband died, I went through every room in the house over the last few years and cleaned out, repainted, reorganized, repurposed, and of course there was that glorious studio move.  One of the discussions in one of my Zoom knitting groups was about how impossible it was to clean a room without getting caught up in what’s in it.  I know what’s in every room because I’ve touched it and organized it in some way over the last couple of years, I own it.  So the cleaning has become a pleasant routine, and I marvel at how one room can fill the Dyson canister with so much dog/cat hair.  There is something very satisfying about dumping the Dyson.

The ease of the routine allows me thinking time.  I stopped posting my calendar four months out on the refrigerator.  Other than the occasional Zoom meeting for my critique group, knitting groups, guild meetings or committee meetings, there really isn’t anything on my calendar.  I love this.  The time to think has allowed for some wonderful creativity.  That fur fabric I wove and talked about in the last blog post?  I was able to wash it.  Pressing was a bit challenging; the heat of the iron, even through the linen, wasn’t great on the fur strips, but the effect is still gorgeous, even more so.  I thought over the weekend as to what I wanted to make with it.  I think there is enough for two good size yokes, front and back, and I found a beautiful boiled black wool bouclé knit that I’m hoping is enough for the lower parts.  I’m thinking of my zippered vest, combined with the walking vest.  The goal here, once I get my patterns all up for download, (please be patient, more about that in a bit), is to be able to think of ways to combine them and then offer a tutorial on how to do that.  PDF and/or video.  Unlimited combinations.  I’m just brimming with ideas!  So here is the sketch for the woven fur fabric.  That’s the lining in the upper right corner.

Meanwhile, my daughter’s computer is home.  It is fast, it is healthy, and after two weeks in intensive care at the tech hospital, we are moving at lightning speed.  She has spent the better part of the last 7 hours working on the tunic pattern, and I’m hoping it will be good to launch in the next couple of days.  It will be followed shortly by a drop shoulder version of the tunic, which is a more gender neutral silhouette, better for the guys!  The editor has the final version for a final proof of the instructions.  

I just sent off the first draft of the 100 jacket to the editor; this is the original Daryl Jacket that about 4 million people have made in all my years of teaching workshops.  I can’t believe how much I edited the instructions on something I’ve been teaching with for the last 30 years.  So look for that one, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.  We are on a roll…  Note:  All of my instructions will be available as free PDF downloads here, and the patterns will be available as PDF downloads for a fee, here.)

Meanwhile, renowned weaver Stacey Harvey-Brown, who hails from the UK, but is living at the moment in France, asked if I would contribute to her blog, she is doing a series of “How I got into weaving…”  So that was an easy assignment, I sent her the post and some pictures and it went live today.  It is a lovely brief synopsis of my early life, in case you never heard me tell the story in one of my lectures or keynotes.  https://www.theloomroom.co.uk/how-i-got-into-weaving-daryl-lancaster 

And today, I spent exploring the idea of adding sleeves to my 1000 Swing Dress.  I also wanted to try an A-line version.  I did make the dress with sleeves last month, but the sleeves were attached to the external yoke/facing, and the whole thing was actually detachable.  Sort of. 

So I drafted a new pattern, thinking in the back of my head that I would like to potentially use this fabric.  This is one of the most favorite things I’ve ever woven, because it represents probably the darkest week of my life, I designed it the week my husband was dying, and the exuberance of color and dizzying pattern called Chaos, gives me the confidence that anything is possible even in the darkest of times.  I smile every time I look at it.  You can buy the draft for this fabric here.

So I made up my dress today, in a beautiful rayon batik I pulled from the stash.  Still needs handwork, but I actually love the little dress, it is so 70’s, but a little fresher.  I can see a wardrobe of these, easy summer, better than wearing pajamas all day (like I’m in now…).  

Honestly though, I’m not sure I’m in love with this dress enough to use my precious Chaos fabric.  The fabric isn’t wide enough, so I would need to add side panels. I can’t decide which fabric I have is better, the redder wool crepe on the upper right, or more muted silk twill in the lower left…

The sleeves would be the handwoven, but I’m just not sure this is the best use of this wonderful fabric.  I’m going to think some more on this one…  And so far, I have lots of time to do that.  While I’m cleaning the upstairs bathroom tomorrow…

Stay tuned…

1,423 views

Before I was me…

Yes, there was a time, when I was just starting my professional weaving career, when I worked for others, when thoughts of my own ‘line’ of handwoven items was just that,  thoughts.  Back in 1978, having graduated with a pretty useless art degree, newly married, and looking for something to do with my life, I turned back to academia, which was all I’d known for the last few years.  I took another textile class, probably another independent study.  It cost a fortune, because I was paying graduate rates, but I immediately discounted the idea of going on for my master’s.  I was completely discouraged from pursuing it where I got my undergraduate degree, because back then, I was told it looked really bad to do a bachelor’s and master’s from the same institution, like you were inbred or something, didn’t expand your horizons.  Whatever.  I had no money for a graduate degree, and couldn’t really see the point. And there was no place else near enough to me to be practical.  So I took one class at my old alma mater, and spent it studying a technique, written in a book, published just a couple years before (1975), by Theo Moorman, called Weaving As An Art Form.  You can picked up used copies on Amazon for about $5.  I loved this little book.  I found I was torn between the practicality of weaving and the rigid academic training I received in art.  I’ve always felt conflicted with that.  Obviously tapestry is an exception, but I found I had to justify to panels of academic critics why I wove a tapestry and didn’t just paint the image I wanted to convey, wouldn’t it have been easier?  I did a number of tapestries the year before, I’ve blogged about them probably, will look for the link, but I was looking for a new direction. Here is a link, scroll down.  Here is another link, scroll down.

I worked through the exercises, I won’t bore you with all of them, and I’d have to spend awhile looking for them anyway if they still exist, but one of the first ones I did, required weaving additional wefts that floated over the background, held in place with little tie-down threads and spanned the width of the weaving.  The premise of Theo Moorman, which is technically a transparency technique, used in the way she described, is that you weave a plain weave background, and fine threads would raise up and hold a pattern weft in place on the surface so the imagery would float on top, and where there was no imagery, there would be a plain weave ground cloth.  

And because I did end up looking up some of my early Theo Moorman tapestries…

I’ve used this technique for years, mostly in my Weave a Memory pieces, and classes.  I used thin strips of silk habotai, ink jet printed with an image from the printer, and wove them back together using this technique.  I kept a four shaft table loom set up with linen for the ground cloth, and poly serger thread for the fine tie down threads. I wove all of these pieces on this set up.  The warp was quite a few yards long and 25″ wide.  

There was probably less than a yard left on this loom, and it bugged me.  The problem was, I couldn’t just weave one more piece, because the printer I used to print banner lengths long ago died.  You specifically need a printer with user adjustable settings for the size of the paper it takes.  Only Epson had that feature.  And the 8 1/2″ wide rolls I used all got wet when I had an iron water bottle, suspended from the ceiling,  spill all down a cabinet where they lived.  Because of the size of these pieces, I actually printed horizontal strips of 8 1/2″ wide and 20+” long and pieced them together and was able to do really large works.

Because work has temporarily stopped on my pattern development, because my daughter’s computer system is on life support at the tech hospital and a whole series of unfortunate tech events have ended up costing us a couple weeks on the project, I’ve been poking around my studios looking for something to do that wouldn’t become overwhelming should her system become usable again and we can get back to work.  (Which I’m hoping is imminent).  I started weaving again on this loom.  Noro weft with a vintage Harrisville singles warped mixed with Maypole Worsted.  I got into a nice rhythm…

And I kept staring at the 4 shaft table loom across the way, with what I figured was less than a yard to go.  I didn’t need the loom for anything else, I have 35 shaft looms in my studio, but I felt like it was forgotten.  Looms don’t like to be naked or forgotten…  And when I cut off the last piece, I hadn’t tied the threads securely in the reed, and the cat pranced through the back of the warp and pulled out a bunch of the threads.  So repairs had to be made.  Which I did.  Yeah, this cat, which surveys the space I work in and thinks about what it can get into…

Meanwhile, in the huge studio move there were lots of archives that were rediscovered, things that came together in logical places now that I had room.  I have exhaustive swatch libraries of early work of mine, production work, and some stuff I have no idea nor records of what it actually is, but I sort of remember weaving it.  I did though, keep pretty good records back then.  Not like I do now of course where I can grab my phone and take a photo and have weaving software to record drafts and create online archives.  

Sidebar: Way back, when I first left college, I started to weave professionally by answering an ad looking for a production weaver, a couple of women making up small design firm that specialized in mohair yardage sold to designers in NY.  The job was wonderful.  I learned how to weave efficiently, to get 30 yards of mohair yardage on and off the loom in just a couple days.  I learned how to sectionally warp, and I actually made a modest income back in the day.  Eventually I developed my own line of handwoven items to sell at craft fairs, but the point here, is that nothing I ever did when I became my own brand, related to the spontaneity of some of the work I did for that design team.  I’d be shipped a huge box of mohair, and told roughly what it should look like, but mostly, I had to make it up as I went along.  The mohair warp was sett 6 epi, but the wefts were doubled, 4 picks per inch, so I could pair randomly wefts of mohair into the bobbins  for different effects, and I happily had a system where I just “saw” what came next.  I came across some of the few samples I managed to hold on to recently in the move of swatch books.  Before the cloth was advanced, the top surface would be heavily brushed with a sweater slicker while the warp was still under tension.

While I wove for that mohair design team, I had another production job that I have vague memories of, I was actually subcontracted by another weaver who was overwhelmed by the job as she tried to develop her own work.  I remember the yardage sort of looked like tapestry, with thin strips of stripped fur laid in periodically, so from one direction, it looked like a fur coat, but from the other, there was glowing beautiful brocade tapestry peaking out. It was the kind of random weft that you made up as you went along.   Of course I have no photos or draft records, but there, in my swatch book, next to the mohair swatches, was a pair of swatches that I swear were from that assignment.  They don’t have any fur in them, but that would have made sense, since I couldn’t really use someone else’s materials for my own personal notebook.  I’m even thinking these swatches, if they are what I think they are, were the samples of what they were looking for, with the fur strips woven in.  It has always bugged me that I couldn’t exactly recall and had no record of what the fabric looked like,  because it was really cool.

Anyway, there is a point where these two stories converge.  As I sat working on the Noro fabric, I thought, what if I used the last bit of that linen Theo Moorman warp and tried to do a mock tapestry in an inlay, edge to edge, and added some fur.  I have lots of fur laying around.  Before anyone gets bent out of shape, people give me fur collars, cuffs, coats, and other pieces of fur that they can’t throw away, but have no use for.  Most of it is a bit dry rotted, but there it hangs like raw materials waiting for something or someone to give it a second life (and no, I’m not looking for more).  

So over I went to the loom, and started to play.  I found a huge basket of oddities on top of the wall units in my office, I had forgotten in the move that there were baskets of things I used for tapestry classes, and supplemental weft in inkle weaving.  I finally found our collection of rattail and mousetail rayon cord in one of those baskets.  So I dug through one of the baskets and assembled this.

I started weaving, just making it up as I went along, and pretty soon I had something I actually liked.

I kept going.  At this point, I’m thinking ahead that there isn’t much warp on here, too bad because I’m loving weaving this and what do I have on the shelf that I can reset up the loom and be able to weave randomly like this any time I want?  I could imagine all kinds of things to do with cloth like this.  I don’t want to call it Saori, because though that’s kind of random too, it comes with a whole philosophy of weaving, on special Saori looms, which I don’t and won’t have, but this technique is pretty cool for laying in a yarn on top of the ground cloth, and having it tie-downed with fine threads.  The warp/ground cloth doesn’t really have a voice in the piece.

The end result is about 30″ in length, about 25″ wide.  I have to experiment if I can wash it, the fur was pretty brittle and I’m not sure what water will do to it, but that’s for another day.  I revisited something from my past, and I satisfied my curiosity to find out what would happen if….  And now that little loom is clear.  And naked.  And calling for another warp…

Stay tuned… 

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