Running From the Storm…

What a week.  I’m not sure where to begin, except to say right up front I’m home safe in NJ, for now.  

I left a week ago for Atlanta, and on to John C Campbell, a folk school in the Appalachian mountains in the western corner of NC where they meet TN and GA.  We had heavy thunderstorms almost every day, but they were unrelated to what was happening in the Atlantic.  The folk school is gorgeous, magical, and I can see why it is a popular place to learn craft.  I am so grateful to add this to my resume, my students, the facility, the food, housing, staff and infrastructure were all wonderful and encouraging and promoting of creativity and inspiration.

I took a break from teaching my regular garment construction intensive, and taught a five day inkle weaving intensive.  I don’t think I am capable anymore of teaching anything but an intensive. I work my students hard.  I don’t think anyone has ever complained that they didn’t get their money’s worth in one of my classes.  And this one in particular was pretty challenging, especially if you had little or no weaving experience.  I started students off, (there were 10 of them) learning about the inkle loom, and how to set it up efficiently and how to weave a competent band.  By lunch the first day, they were all right there and doing really well.  

Then I introduced supplemental weft, which was lots of fun and very creative.

Followed by supplemental warp.  

The afternoon of the first day we tackled what at first seemed challenging, but by the time the class ended, everyone was thinking that this technique was really elementary! This is a 2:1 pick up, often called Baltic.  Most students did the designs on five thread, a couple with more experience managed 9 thread.

On Tuesday we rewarped the looms, using complementary warps, light vs. dark.  The first technique was name drafts, which again, seemed so hard at the time, but by the end, students were returning to the name draft for a bit of a break!

Then we explored pebble weave, some simple diamonds, each technique building on the previous one.

It became pretty obvious that there was some serious stuff happening in the Atlantic, and one of the students lived on the coast and decided to leave after lunch on Wednesday, to head back to retrieve her animals so she could evacuate.  I saw a lot of very nervous students, trying to decide what to do.  Meanwhile there were heavy thunderstorms throughout my stay, which resulted in some pretty awesome rainbows.

Next up was a free form technique or Runic as Ann Dixon calls it.  I explained the basics of how it was done, and students just made up their designs.  Many of the techniques are adapted from Ann Dixon’s book of Inkle loom patterns, I make up the patterns for them to use, but encourage them to buy her book for more ideas.  Most had a copy by the time the class ended.

Wednesday afternoon they were ready to tackle Paired Pebbles, which is an Andean technique, and one of my favorites.  Laverne Waddington publishes many books of patterns, usually done on the backstrap loom, but very doable on an inkle loom.  Students were all copying the links so they could order for themselves.  Laverne’s books are available as downloads from

Thursday morning we rewarped the loom, and you could see how exhausted everyone was, but I saved the best for last, and once everyone caught on, there were some really pretty designs using a three shaft technique called Turned Krokbragd. 

One of my students Margaret rewarped a companion loom to coordinate with her Krokbragd piece, so she had these beautiful small inkle looms, handmade from gorgeous woods, which she had bought on the internet.

I had a mom and daughter team, which was so wonderful and sweet to watch, sort of like watching my daughter and me in a workshop together.  Sarah, like my daughter, though she had no previous weaving experience, ran rings around everyone in the room.  To be young again with all that stamina and energy.  At one point, late one afternoon they asked if they could just warp up something simple, like shoe laces.  I had showed the link for the article my daughter wrote 10 years ago when she was just 15, for an online magazine called Weavezine.  Though the magazine is not in publication anymore, the archives are still there, and they went off and downloaded the article.  Next thing I new, they were both happily weaving off a pair of shoelaces each.

Everyday at the folk school is magical, from the well maintained wooded paths, to early morning song where local folk singers come to perform, to Tuesday yoga, demonstrations, concerts, and stuff that was hard to fit in sometimes.  I tried to keep the studio open in the evenings, so students could concentrate better with less distraction.  The last day was graduation day, and each of the dozen classes that happened during the week, from clay and woodturning, to blacksmithing, enameling, painting and photography, had a show and tell of students accomplishments for the week.  The dulcimer students gave a lovely performance singing and playing in a round.  My class set up their table with looms still in progress and a stunning array of bands, they were so proud of what they had done.  The class photo was missing a few students, some had already left to beat the storm, but the joy and pride was evident on their faces.

All of these technique are available as a download and as a bound monograph on my website in my book, Advanced Inkle Loom Techniques.

I had planned to stay on for the weekend to take a sketchbooking class.  As I followed the path of Florence, it became apparent that it was headed for the folk school and though I didn’t think the storm would directly affect operations, maybe knocking out the WIFI, I was worried that the storm would graze Atlanta and I wouldn’t get out Sunday night.  With a turn around flight Wednesday to Sievers in Wisconsin, I decided not to chance it and rebooked my flight to Friday night (thank you United for not charging me to rebook) and took off shortly after the presentation, hopped the shuttle to the airport and made it home safely and uneventfully by late Friday night.  Oddly enough, the storm is veering back toward the Atlantic, heading right over NJ, and I’m hoping the rain and wind are finished before I fly Wednesday morning.  Crossing fingers.

Stay tuned…




One down, five to go…

The fall series of classes is happening, and I have little time between to regroup, it all sounds great in theory when I book venues to teach, I’m just sure I’ll be able to do it, and then the time comes and I want to fire my booking agent.  Which is me of course.  And in reality, it all works out, really it does.

One of the great gifts of my career is being able to return year after year to the same venue.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Harrisville in the fall to teach, maybe 9 times?  I just returned from yet again, another wonderful five day class, though some opted to stay for six, and of the fourteen students who took this journey with me, I think only six were first time students.  Two or three of the students have been with me almost from the beginning.  I’ve watched their skills grow, we have become good friends, and I look forward to my week like a family reunion of sorts.  

I love the Harrisville setting, a gorgeous old mill town in rural NH, about five hours north of me.  It is always fall like and lovely, green and idyllic.  Except for this year of course where I doubt there wasn’t a single place in the world that wasn’t experiencing record weather of some kind.  They had just had record rainfall, and many of the roads had washed out, and this past week it was in the 90’s, nearing 100 one day.  So unusual for NH, no one has airconditioning.  We did have a window unit or two in the classroom, and it helped, but there will always be the airconditioning wars, some like it super cold, some like it moderate, and some absolutely hate airconditioning.  Put a group of 15 women together and no one can agree on temperature!

A week at Harrisville usually comes with a mid week tour of the spinning mill.  I’ve been there a couple of times, so I opted to stay behind to help those who were behind, but when the class who attended the tour returned, we all went down to Mill No. 6 where they have the loom building shop.  Harrisville looms have been around since the 70’s, maybe longer, and they are one of the few looms made like an Ikea kitchen, the loom comes in a couple boxes and has to be put together carefully but once you’ve done it, you know that loom intimately, and they have been competent light weight very portable folding looms that have served many many weavers well.  I’ve never seen the loom building area, and this was a lot of fun.  There is a finishing section for the yarn, where it is washed, dried and skeined. 

They have set ups to box their kits for kid looms, which come pre assembled with warps.  

And part of the area where they build and assemble stock, with a beautiful Bird’s Eye Maple custom built loom from the early days of Harrisville that recently came home to live.  

There were some lovely photos of the area in spite of the heat, and the sunsets and moon shots were beautiful.  Even with my Samsung Galaxy camera!

And my students.  I love them all, even though they had me running like crazy, I earn my money, but in the end, they all did a great job.  Of course there is always one that for some reason escapes photos, and leaves early to go off to a trip to Europe, so doesn’t even appear in the class photo, so Jan, I’m so sorry I never got a single photo of your tunic.  There were so many pins in the piece as she flew out the door the last day, she couldn’t try it on, but I was sure I had a least one photo.

My regulars Carole and Jane, both opted to make my new vest.  Carole’s was created from an old raglan sleeve handwoven mohair jacket she no longer liked or wanted so she cut it up and made the vest.  Both are handwoven.

And Amy, who weaves finer than I’ll ever attempt, wove this beautiful 60/2 silk shirt. 

Of course rarely does anyone completely finish their piece before the end of class, there is always that rush to get it to the point where just the handwork needs to be finished, and sometimes I don’t get last shots of the pieces.  So I’m always grateful when former students stop in to show off what they made in a previous class.  Beate and Judy came in to show off their jackets from a previous year, maybe 2016?  I still see what suspiciously looks like pins still in Judy’s jacket!

And Jan, though I didn’t get a photo of your tunic, I did get a shot of the vest you made last year, which you thankfully brought completed so everyone could ohhhh and ahhhhh!  Handwoven sakiori technique of using thin strips of fabric.

MJ and Pat were returning students, and MJ who is a quilter, made the fabric for a variation of the new vest, she put sleeves on the jacket.  Pat wove a lovely cotton fabric for a shirt.  She copied the shirt from a ready to wear piece she wore to class the first day.

My French sisters Sylvy and Judit were new students and an instant delight.  They came in from Quebec City, and they made a couple of beautiful garments which in the chaos at the end, I failed to get final photos.  But Sylvy made a gorgeous white wool vest with a fun lining, it has a beautiful shawl collar and armhole bands, and she is an embroiderer and plans to embroider beautiful designs on the vest.  Judit used a cotton table cloth that she wove, apparently her loom is 104″ wide, or something like that, she said it takes two people to pass the shuttle back and forth.  She was able to get this lovely swing coat, and it does have a neck band and sleeves.

Lynn was also a new student, and brought in a simple subtle plaid commercial fabric, and gets the gold star for never having her name on the Daryl Alert list.  She sat quietly and just followed the directions.  Made me smile.

Liz took my class a couple of years ago, she is a saori weaver, so makes lovely serendipitous fabric, and she didn’t disappoint!  She brought two different fabrics to combine into this commercial jacket pattern, I think it is a McCall’s.  She was down to the lining when she left Friday afternoon.

This is Anne’s fourth class with me, and this time she brought a commercial tweed from Joann’s and made my swing coat.  She had sleeves on by late Saturday afternoon, but again, I apparently failed to get a final photo.  She was so thrilled to have made a bound buttonhole.  There were lots of squeals from that corner of the room.

Emily was a new student but had mad wicked skills already, having studied handwork in Sweden, she left with a finished jacket, cut out a tunic, and drafted a pattern for a top, edited from my jacket pattern.  I only got a photo of the jacket, all though were handwoven.

And then there were my two new students Tegan and Christine.  Tegan reminded me so much of me when I was that age.  Just out of her  20’s and already an accomplished production weaver, I was well into my craft fair years when I was that age, and her fresh youthful enthusiasm made everyone in the room want to be her mom.  We all had lots of business advice to share, and her talent is exceptional.  She shared with me that she switched into weaving from an arts background after reading an article I wrote for Threads Magazine a number of years ago, on Sewing with Handwovens.  We never know who we reach from the simplest of gestures.  The shear joy when she showed me the piping she put on the band of her swing coat, a gorgeous 16 shaft wool block twill pattern, was infectious. And her adorable sense of style came shining through when she said, I think I want to close it with a tie.  So I told her how to make one and off she went.

Christine like Tegan had very minimal clothing experience.  Christine is a pretty competent weaver, and did bring some handwoven cloth, but opted to do her first jacket out of a spectacular wool gabardine she purchased from Mood.  Christine was sharp and focused, and was such a good sport.  We spent some time in the beginning making her a custom fit pattern and no one is more pleased than me at how it all turned out in the end.  There was a lot of hand holding, but Christine smiled through the whole thing, even when she found out there would be a lot of handwork which she admitted wasn’t her favorite thing, and I think she was really happy with the coat and all the possibilities she has with fit now that she knows what questions to ask.

My beautiful class of 2018, minus Jan.

I’m leaving again Sunday for JC Campbell in southwestern NC.  I’ll only have about a 48 hour turn around before I head to Sievers but I’ll do my best to report in!  Stay tuned…


Just do it…

I’m in the final prep stages for my fall teaching extravaganza, I’ll be bouncing all over the country for the next couple of months, with sometimes only 48 hours to change suitcases and head out again.  I’d like to think I’ve got this, and having an assistant has really helped me stay on task and focused.  

I’ve spent the last week redoing all of the handouts I’ll be using, increasing font size, rewording things that could be worded more clearly, I do this kind of regularly, but this revamp involves hundreds of slides and there are days I’m completely cross eyed.  Cynthia and I laugh when we do really stupid stuff and can’t remember where we were and what we were working on.  I’ll apologize in advance for any minor mistakes in the rewrites because, well, you know that’s going to happen.  No matter how many times you proof something…

I had cut out a spread in the NY Times a while ago, and pinned it to my bulletin board in the mud room, of a couple exhibits I really wanted to see.  At the time, I thought, no problem, they are in NYC and I should be able to skip in this summer.  Hahahahahah…..

I revisited that article, and to my horror, one of the exhibits I wanted to see was closing on the 3rd of September.  I’m leaving on the 25th for Harrisville, coming back Labor Day weekend, have to immediately drive to Peters Valley to pick up my piece in the faculty show on the 3rd, and then ship it out to Blue Ridge Fiber Show by the 4th.  I’m not going to get into the city to see anything if I keep on this path.  

I woke up this morning to a rainy dreary Sunday, all set to jump back into handout edits and I thought to myself, just get in the car and drive into NYC and see the damn shows already.  Just do it.  

And so I did.

In fact, I hit four museums and was home by 2pm, knocking off a number of exhibits that had been on my list.  Driving into NYC on a Sunday morning is actually pleasant, the GW Bridge is beautiful and majestic and the Henry Hudson Parkway that follows the river south is dreamy with joggers running along the river on a Sunday morning, so NYC.  I parked under the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which put me in walking distance range of three of the museums with exhibits I wanted to see.

First stop was the MET Breuer.  There was an exhibit I had read about called Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Thayer Collection.  These were mostly drawings and sketches, little known works from these artists, and rarely exhibited for a number of reasons.  But it is the 100th anniversary of the death of both Klimt, whom everyone knows, and Egon Schiele, whom almost on one knows, but is one of my most favorite artists.  And of course Picasso.  You can’t take photos of course, but I’ve gotten into the curiosity of well known artists’ sketch books, considering my own quest to draw daily (which I of course have not done, no surprise there) and it was a pleasure to look at these sketches and see the raw talent each of these artists possessed.  I actually hadn’t been to the MET Breuer, since the MET took over the building vacated by the Whitney Museum when it moved to the Meat Packing district in lower Manhattan.  I don’t know why, but more contemporary art, which it mostly houses, doesn’t appeal to me the way classic work does.   The original MET Fifth Avenue is still my favorite place in the world to spend an afternoon.  

Anyway, I walked about 10 blocks north to the Neue Galerie, Museum for German and Austrian Art.  The gallery is best known for its acquisition of Klimt’s portrait of Adele Block-Bauer I, known as the Woman in Gold.  They were also having a centenary exhibition of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele’s work, because they have a heavy collection of both artist’s work, and both artists died 100 years ago this year.  Schiele died at only 28 of the Spanish Flu.  Klimt was his mentor, and he left an impressive body of work for his short life.  His portraiture was erotic, raw, graphic and I fell in love with it the first time I heard about him.  And I even love his landscapes.  Since I’d been to that museum before I’d already seen many of the pieces and I was in and out of there pretty quickly.

I walked back to the MET 5th Avenue, and decided to pop in and give another once over, as long as I was there, to the exhibit Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.  This has to be one of the best fashion exhibits they have ever done.  And it ends October 8th.  When I went when the exhibit opened in May, it was super crowded and difficult to navigate, but the brilliance of it all was to incorporate fashion into galleries that the public doesn’t usually visit.  There were exquisite fashions placed strategically all over the medieval wing, you had to look up sometimes and and of course bump into people trying to capture everything on their tablets.  The background sound track was haunting and I did a quick cruise around before checking on a couple other exhibits that were on my list.  

One was a pretty obscure little exhibit, in a pretty obscure gallery, in the basement, called “The Secret Life of Textiles: The Milton Sonday Archive.”  So this guy Milton Sonday was a pretty big authority on the structures of handmade fabrics, particularly woven works and lace.  And I’m into weaving and lace.  Apparently he created little looms and paper weavings to illustrate basic structures, and large scale lace fragments to show the interlacement or path of the threads in bobbin lace.  I didn’t take any photos, silly me, except this one which I absolutely adored.  

Last spring I did a research piece for a recorder group I occasionally play with, on the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a Flemish painter, juxtaposed to musical works by Susato, who lived and worked at the same time as Bruegel in Antwerp.  Both lived and worked in the early part of the 17th century.  In my research I came across Bruegel’s mentor, Pieter Coecke van Aelst, a painter of considerable merit, but not one I knew.  So I was completely enchanted with this work that hung over a display case of paper woven works.

 The piece is called “Interlace after Pieter Coecke van Aelst and an anonymous lace designer, 2015.  It is woven completely of paper strips.

I went from that basement gallery to the second floor of the MET, the ultimate treasure hunt to navigate this monster of a museum, to an exhibit of drawings of Eugène Delacroix.  Again with the sketch book.  Small treasures that show skill and yet the beginnings of something wonderful with no regard to the end product.  I took a single photo here, of a lovely simple watercolor and pencil that is the kind of thing I’d like to see in my own sketch book, simple rendering of a lovely scene, captured quickly.  This piece was the size of a post card and still in the opened sketchbook.

I got back to my car, and decided that if I didn’t head up to the Cloisters and see the second part of Heavenly Bodies, I’d never get to see it, as it also closes October 8th and I’ll be traveling most of September.  The Cloisters is about 15 minutes up the parkway, only a few minutes from the GW Bridge, which I had to cross anyway to get back to Jersey.  I love the Cloisters, it is part of the MET Museum, and though I’ve been there many times, I had never seen the cloistered area gardens because I always seem to get there in the winter.  Usually for a concert or something.

So just seeing those lovely wild gardens was a treat.  Made me want to sit and paint.

And the Heavenly Bodies exhibit continued.  I have to say, this was even better than the first part at the MET 5th Avenue.  Everywhere you looked, contemporary fashion was hidden in a way that you totally believed it was there all along.  I actually did take a couple photos, since they were allowed, and this one, though not my favorite garment, looked amazing in one of my favorite galleries that houses the famed Unicorn Tapestries.  This is a Thom Browne wedding ensemble from the Spring/Summer 2018 collection in white silk organza with white mink.

I came into this chapel, and audibly gasped.  Ave Maria was playing over the sound system and I just stood there with my jaw dropped.  This wedding dress from the House of Dior from 2018 was apparently modeled after the original design from 1961.  It is also white silk organza.

And then I came upon these lovely pieces, there were about six in the collection, set up in a stone hallway that led to yet another outdoor cloistered area. 

 They were a series of ensembles from 2015 by Jun Takahasi for Undercover.  I was not familiar with his work.  But I was very familiar with the images printed on the fabrics, they are digital prints from Hieronymous Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights.  I studied Early Netherlandish painting quite extensively back in the 70’s as part of my Fine Arts Degree, and this artist was front and center.  He died shortly before Pieter Bruegel the Elder was born, and his work heavily influenced Bruegel.  Bosch was a whack job, his images were all over the place, haunting, erotic, grotesque, but the kind of imagery you can’t look away from.  As a 20 something, I found a kind of naughty pleasure in his work. This is the triptych, it starts with the Garden of Eden on the left, and a grotesque hell on the right.  A total expose on the fate of humanity, we are all doomed…

I was pretty proud of myself for achieving the Triple Play, all three MET museums in one day. 


And so I had my fill of inspiration, that should last for a number of months.  I will be packing of course my knitting and my sketchbook and pencils and watercolors, and armed with newly updated handouts, and some new patterns and samples, I start with Harrisville in NH next weekend, followed by a five day class in Inkle Weaving at John C Campbell in western NC, immediately followed by Sievers on Washington Island WI.  That’s the 48 hour turn around.  I’m going to try not to unpack after Harrisville.  I immediately head to Arkansas and the Ozarks followed by three days of video shoots for Threads Magazine and then my retreat at the Outer Banks of NC.  My guild show and sale is in November (I’m the treasurer) and I end the year in December with a trip to the Milwaukee Guild.  And then I write an article for Heddlecraft.  I do love my life, and I especially love when I can spend an unexpected day getting inspired.  I’m madly trying to finish off this Krokbragd band on the inkle loom, so I can take it as a sample to John C. Campbell, and of course my shadow has returned, now that my daughter has moved back home to take a new job in central Jersey.  

And about that daily sketching thing…

I did manage to finish up a drawing I did of the kitchen, that I started while I was at Peters Valley teaching a couple weeks ago.  

But now I’m inspired to draw people.  I know my portfolio of life drawing subjects from the 70’s is floating around the attic somewhere…

Stay tuned…



Life altering experiences…

When a student leaves my class, and hugs me and says, they had a life altering experience, I know I’ve done my job and all of the sweat and prep and worry has been worth it.  When more than one student says it, I think there has been some cosmic intervention that is way greater than me.

For those of you who know me and follow me professional, you know that I’m mostly a teacher of garment construction.  It is what I do best, I’ve perfected the art of teaching garment construction over the past 30 years, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it.  My students return year after year, and that makes me happy.  Some of them have become my best friends.  Though I’m a handweaver, I’m really a garment maker first, and I just happen to use handwoven cloth.  I almost never teach weaving, there are so many weaving teachers out there, and I’m happy to let them take the load.  

That said, Peters Valley School of Craft, happens to be in my back yard.  I live an hour from this life altering kind of place, located in northwestern NJ, tucked into property that is part of the National Park Service Delaware Recreation Area.  That would be Delaware river, not state.  The Delaware River divides NJ and PA (and ends in Delaware the state) for those of you who aren’t familiar with the geography of the northeast.  I’ve been involved with this place since I first went there on a field trip in college, not long after they became a thing, in the mid 70’s. Peters Valley is rapidly approaching their 50th year.  It is a place where I find my creative spirit renewed, no matter if I attend a fund raiser, an opening, have work in a group show, or attend a presentation.  No matter if I teach a class, take a class, or just sit and be.  The place is old, most of the properties are listed on the historic registry and since they are owned by the National Park Service, they are in constant need of repair (because the Park Service is the low man on the funding totem pole).  It is sort of like a time warp being there, when cell phones were not a thing, and life was simple in the rural rugged parts of NJ (yeah we have them still) and you could walk away from life for a week or two and breath air that is clean, and see wildlife, and trees and water, and feel renewed.   

I’ve sat on the board of directors of Peters Valley, and so has my late husband.  I’m committed to this place, and will do everything I can to keep it viable.  If you have never had a craft school experience, no matter what you study, what your skill set is, workshops at a major craft school can be life altering.  There are five craft schools in the consortium of, Arrowmont, Haystack, Penland, Pilchuck, and of course Peters Valley.  And there are plenty others not in this wonder consortium, like John C Campbell, where I’ll be next month, Harrisville, where I’ll be at the end of the month, Sievers School of Fiber Arts, where I’ll be at the end of September, and smaller private venues and knitting/weaving shops, like Red Scottie Yarns in the Ozarks in Arksansas, where I’ll be in October.  I know folks who are committed to at least one craft school experience a year, it sure beats sitting on a beach getting burned, or sitting in the rain, like this past week!  A week at Peters Valley is less than half the cost of a week at the Jersey Shore!  And it doesn’t matter if it rains.

Like I said above, I don’t as a rule teach beginning weaving, I actually don’t usually teach weaving at all, since there is only so much of me to go around and my strengths are in garment construction.  When Peters Valley asks me to teach a class, I always try to fit it into my schedule.  This year, they asked me to teach two beginning weaving classes, a 2 day and a 5 day.  They have a very well equipped studio, with eleven 8-12 shaft Macomber looms.  These little work horses, which are actually not so little, are refugees from the 1970’s and probably earlier, from a local University, and they do their job.  Until something breaks.  I’ve become something of an expert Macomber tweaker.  I can tweak brakes, and sheds, and beater positions, and sticking shafts, and I know these looms pretty well.  I wasn’t prepared to deal with this.  

This is a cast iron part for one of the front beams.  It sheared off.  Do you know how fast your brain has to work to figure out ways to keep a student working when a major Uh-oh happens?  Fortunately, since all of the looms are the same make, and many of them are equipped with second warp beams, I was able to, with the help of my intrepid and amazing assistant Jamie, and the head of operations at the Valley, Campbell, who can fix anything, we managed to retrofit one of the second beam gears onto the loom in trouble and the student was back up and running the next morning.  I understand from many responses on social media that this was a poor casting and a faulty part, and we will be in touch with Macomber for a replacement.  Stress failure in a cast iron part is pretty unusual.

We had 10 students for this class.  All but one loom got a good workover.  I had taught a two day class back in June, so I knew that 9 of the 11 were working well.  The class held here the week before moved heddles and shafts around and made for some really stressful moments in the beginning of my class because they hadn’t been moved properly (Note to all handweavers…  Heddles should all cant or face in the same direction.  You can’t just pull a bunch off, and willy nilly put them back on a different shaft in any old direction.  Really…)

My students ranged from my age and beyond, to early 20 something art students, and I adored the range and interaction of the generations.  Places like Peters Valley are great for offering scholarships to art students, who can’t afford a week like this, but desperately need these skills and opportunities to round out their art educations, especially in fibers since very few universities have fiber programs anymore.

The studio itself is in a historic house called Hilltop.  It sits on a hill and is magnificent in its paint peeling decay.  I painted this building last year in my watercolor class.

There are three rooms of looms, and they were all humming!


The goal here was to learn to weave.  I developed a draft for a pattern and color gamp, that teaches students to explore color interaction and pattern, using both straight draw and point twill threadings. They got to pick two colors of 5/2 cotton before the class began, so they worked with what made them happy.  Once they wove the sampler, they could pick a couple structures or combination of structures and weave two additional dish towels.  Here are some of the fabrics.  They were colorful and glorious.

My students were wonderful.  Patient, curious, focused, especially the young ones, head phones on, some listening to white noise, some listening to music, some listening to pod casts and at least one student was listening to lectures for her architecture degree.  

And the fabrics.  They were gorgeous.  They wove through about 3 yards of fabric, from winding the warps, sleying, threading and dressing the loom.  Not everyone liked the “fiddly bits” as one student called the warping process, and it was 90+ degrees with only one airconditioner to service this entire studio, but they kept going. 

Two of my students finished the whole project one or two days ahead, and they dove in and wove a whole second project.

Their faces were just priceless when they showed off their fabrics.

And the exit photos.  I had five in the first group of finishers, and then Rickie in the middle who had to leave before the last group had their photos.  These fabrics will be cut into 3 dishtowels, and they will remember this experience every time they do the most mindless of household tasks.  As it should be.

And now I have only a couple of weeks to prep for Harrisville, which is a garment construction class.  NO pressure!

Stay tuned…


In the perfect world…

I daydream of the perfect life, we probably all do.  The perfect balance, where everyone we love is healthy, happy and productive.  Where our lawns stay green, with the perfect amount of rain, nighttime of course, and the days are mild and gloriously sunny.  Yeah, and I weigh 125 pounds and fit into a size 6.  Since none of that is attainable, or at least I haven’t figured out how so far in my 63 years, I take each day as it comes just trying to get through without any disastrous maladies, with as much grace as I can muster, with as much joy as I can glean from the most minor of things.

In the perfect world, I do a yoga practice every day, and draw or sketch for a few minutes each day, and play music, practicing my recorder.  Sadly none of those things have become routine for me.  The goal is not to make them into a routine, but to make them into a habit.  I have taught myself to stand up out of bed each morning, and turn and make the bed before I do anything else.  It has become such a habit that I even do it in hotel rooms.  I can’t stand an unmade bed.  I’m getting much better about moving from room to room with a water bottle, staying much more hydrated, and my kidneys are thanking me for it.  I do study yoga once a week, at a venue in my town, when I’m not traveling, and though that’s better than nothing, with the internet and some fabulous courses in yoga online, many of them free, what is my problem?  I do though, spend a few minutes each day working on a puzzle.  And I do read almost every day before bed.  There are some habits I’m rather proud of, but there are some I just can’t seem to make stick, and I don’t know why.  The puzzle corner is my favorite place in my house.

I just spent the last five days at Peters Valley, one of my most favorite places on earth (the others are in my own house, like my studio).  I took a water color class with Jane Brennan, one of my favorite people, and this is the second time I took the class.  I appreciate when students take my classes over and over because each time I took the class, I defined just a bit better what I wanted to learn, and did.

Last year, I posted about the class here, I was just curious to see if I could still paint, see, draw, and participate without totally embarrassing myself.  Which is just an incredibly stupid reason to take a class.  And I’d chew out a student, and I do, who is worried about what other people think.  I should have been taking the class for shear enjoyment and learning the medium, and exploring the possibilities of two dimensional work.  I actually accomplished though, what I set out to do.  I can still paint, draw, and though it takes effort, I really did enjoy myself and actually framed a couple of the pieces I did for the walls in my home.  But it takes effort.  Because I hadn’t done it since art school in the 70’s.

Moving forward, I had grand visions of spending a few minutes a day sketching, doing a small water color, making painting a part of my routine.  Yeah.  Over the past year, I did 1 1/2 paintings.  On the same day.  I made this little pear, testing some technique I read about, and can’t remember now how I did it.

And I started this wonderful painting of tomatoes, from a layout in Real Simple Magazine, and I never finished it.

So I took this class again.  This time, I knew the routine.  

We started with just simple washes over the paper.  Then we were left to just make something out of it.  I don’t do well making stuff up.  I need to see something in front of me.  This was challenging and not what we did last year.  I struggled, but then stood back and was pretty impressed with myself.  My son loves this picture best out of everything I did.  And I just made it up in my head.  Go figure.

Next came the dreaded still life.  She had watermelon and some lemons. 

Not great, but a passable attempt.

Then she brought a huge planter of some kind of flower I couldn’t identify.  

Not my favorite of the things I’ve done, way more tedious than I like and I started to dread starting a new still life.  Which was weird.  I wanted to be able to draw/paint/sketch quickly, throwing down color and line rapidly, not belabor for hours over a painting I’m not particularly enjoying.  And that’s probably why I didn’t make this a daily habit over the past year.

I pulled out one of the photos I loved from my Cuba trip, and though I love what I painted, it was tedious and not inspiring.  I did get to finally experiment with masking fluid for the grill work.

That basically ended the first day of class, and I had four paintings to show, but what I really wanted to do was explore working in a sketch book.  Last year I brought a brand new little sketch book, something like a 6″ x 9″, because it was on the materials list to bring, and I follow those to the letter.  I didn’t put one mark in the book during the class, nor through the entire year that followed.  I wanted to start a real sketch book, so I brought it to class in the morning of the second day, even though it wasn’t actually water color paper, and I set out to attempt to sketch with something I had a small set of, and had used periodically during my tenure as features editor of Handwoven Magazine when I wrote the color forecast column, but haven’t touched since.  Water color pencils.  You draw first and add water later.  I used a small set of Prismacolors, just the basic colors.

I drew this.

I really liked this.

I went back to the original planter of flowers, still set up in the room and zoomed in and actually studied the plant.  I still don’t know what it is, but I drew it with a lot more detail.  In water color pencil.  I started to add water and then we went out on location for the afternoon.  I was sort of liking this medium, it was tedious in a different way, one where I had more control, ( and isn’t it always better when you are in control?)  And I liked that.  And threading 4000 ends on a loom is tedious, but I like that kind of tedious. I finished watering it later in the afternoon.

I wandered around Peters Valley, settling on an old red barn, but instead of drawing the whole barn, I zoomed in on just the lower corner where the wood was rotting away and the foundation slipping.  It was gorgeous in its decay.  And I’m really happy with the painting.

These little drawings are about 6 x 9, and in a spiral bound sketch book.  They are my treasures.  They make me smile.

I wandered over to the pond where everyone else was happily painting.  I painted this pond last year, and didn’t enjoy it.  I wanted to see how fast I could put something down on paper. I used my cell phone camera to zoom in and crop a manageable amount.  I worked quick, and though I’m not drawn to trees and scenery, I was happy with what I put down in a short amount of time.

It was getting really hot outside, so we gathered back in the studio, and I grabbed what I thought were some lemons and was frustrated that they just weren’t responding to all my yellows and that was because they were really clementines.  Duh…  I had found in my art cabinet at home the night before, a brand new untouched tray of 72 Derwent water color pencils.  I had six shades of yellow to choose from.  And they turned out to be orange clementines.  Still laughing.

Before I left for the day, I started on this little avocado, from a photo in a Real Simple Magazine.  Day four I finished it up.

Then I started on some cherry tomatoes, also from a photo, inspired by a botanical drawing book by Mindy Lighthipe,  (who used to be a weaver on the craft fair circuit in the 1980’s). Don’t worry, I’m not ready to give up my day job.

I wanted to see what would happen if I did a water color wash background and then used water color pencils to trace in some details.  Another picture from my imagination, but pretty limited.  I did figure out what I wanted to know.

So we left again, on location, this time to Walpack Village, where we went last year and I spent hours painting the church.  I wandered up the street and took some photos.  Again, I wanted to see how fast I could get something on paper, trying the same technique of putting in watercolor wash areas, and they quickly applying details with pencils, using them wet, another technique.  An OK effort, but I found out what I wanted to know. I particularly liked the road with the double yellow line.  That should be the name of the painting.

Back at the studio in Peters Valley, the morning of day 5, I decided to be really brave and try figure drawing.  I used to love that back in the day, but I’m really really rusty and wasn’t sure I could get something worthy.  I leafed through a couple magazines and found a photo of a woman on a beach towel poolside.  I dove in. Pun intended.  Not bad considering I haven’t done figure drawing since the 70’s.  I miss working with a live model.

Jane brought in some fresh still life combinations and I decided to just sketch with water color pencils and see where it took me.  I am so loving this medium, especially with 72 colors to pick from.

I did this.  I particularly liked the wine bottle.

Then I did this.  Those begonia leaves were a challenge, but my trusty box of 72 colors was up to it.

I came home feeling like I might be able to see myself sketching something small on a daily basis, even if from a magazine or photo. I immediately set up my easel in the corner of my bedroom, facing out the balcony. 

I will remember to pack my sketch book tomorrow, I’m heading back to the Valley to teach a five day beginning weaving class.  The class is full with 10 students.  It will be an intense five days.  I’m determined to sketch something each day.  And do a daily yoga routine, and lose 10 pounds.  And I’m bringing my knitting, and lots of computer work to do.  You’d think I’d be heading out for a week at the beach…

Stay tuned…