Change is inevitable…

I swore I would not go to bed tonight until I put up a long overdue blog post.  I’ve been through a lot of drama, trauma, challenges and difficulties in my life.  And I’ve survived them all, mostly.  As a matter of fact today is the 18th anniversary, 2/22/2002, of my breast cancer diagnosis.  18 years of huge changes, my children grew up, for better or for worse.  My son became a soldier.  My daughter survived a wicked illness, went into the sciences and now she is in the arts.  My beloved husband passed away almost 4 years ago.  I was widowed at 61.  

After my husband died, I thought I’d give myself 5 years to clean out the house, make all the extensive and necessary repairs needed, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  So many things happened to so many people I love, and they all played a huge role in where I am now. So almost four years in, I made some huge decisions that have brought me to where I am right at this moment.  

Back in the late fall, I became increasingly aware, that it would make sense to hire my daughter and try to slowly back away from the only life I’ve ever known, that of being a fiber artist in whatever form that took, whether it was craft fairs in the 80’s, or learning to teach in the 90’s while trying to deal with toddlers, conferences, exhibition work, and of course writing and publishing, though it all, I had the support of my husband while I raised our kids and though there were lean years, there were also years where I was a complete crazy person with so much work I had no idea where to begin.  

The problem was, the studio which I’d known and loved since we built it in the mid 1980’s was too small to accommodate both my daughter and my equipment, and yarn and looms and other fiber related paraphernalia kept appearing almost on our doorstep.  We have something like 37 looms between us.  And that’s just the shaft looms.  It was getting harder and harder to work,  and I was getting more and more cranky and frustrated and early one morning around the end of October, I woke up to a voice in my head saying, “Just renovate the garage”.  Was it my late husband?  I can’t say for sure, but I mulled it over in my head, was it even possible?  And of course if that’s the studio, what happens to the existing studio?  And the basement where my daughter is living?  This is a hundred plus year old house.  The basement is really a cellar with a poured concrete floor.  What about all the crap in the garage, and the woodworking equipment, and Brianna also wants a fine metals bench, and all her craft supplies…

It was suggested that we rent a space off site.  I immediately dismissed that idea, I’ve never “gone” to work in the last 40 years, unless it involved getting on a plane to teach a workshop.  I have always had the luxury of being able to juggle office tasks, household tasks, errands, creative work, meal prep, laundry, and social time with people I care about without having to do a 9-5 thing.  Sometimes I work well into the night.  Sometimes I put in 16 hour days.  Sometimes I don’t work at all.  Sometimes my butt doesn’t get out of the chair at the computer desk, like today.  I talked to my handyman.  I talked to my sister the architect.  I talked to my plumber guys.  I talked to garage door people.  I talked to friends on facebook.  I talked to anyone who would listen.  

And so it began.  The garage, which needed to remain a garage, for tax purposes, and I kind of like the warehouse sort of look anyway, needed to be cleaned out, and cleaned up.  I needed lighting, heat, air conditioning and the decision was eventually made to install a dye utility sink with cabinets and counters so I wasn’t mixing dyepots anymore in the guest bathroom.  

Meanwhile my beloved studio became a trash heap.  

Slowly things began to shift, this couldn’t move there until that was clear, that couldn’t be installed until this was painted.  This had to shift to get that moved to over there.  Brianna called it a parking lot, I called it a giant game of tetris.  We have been playing this for two months.  And all this time I’ve not really been able to work.  Though I had a handyman who hung lights, painted concrete and installed cabinets and counters, it was Brianna who assembled probably $3,000 worth of IKEA storage units.  I couldn’t have done any of this without either of them.  We hauled 72″ wall units down the balcony stairs in the snow, into the back door of the garage.  We packed yarn, we moved yarn, we reset yarn on shelves.  I spent evenings rolling fabrics and tying them in bundles.  We moved looms, we moved cabinets and storage units, and slowly we saw it all come to life.

My old studio became a proper bedroom for Brianna.  She built a huge floor to ceiling PAX closet system from IKEA with glass doors, and except for falling off a stool she was standing on and nearly breaking her ankle, we survived.  We compared bruises, cuts, aches and pains.

The trash men and recycling DPW guys hate us.  

The basement would ultimately become my sewing room, we realized pretty quickly that no matter how big a space you think you have, it isn’t enough.  So the garage would be the weaving studio and the basement would be the sewing studio.  ULINE mats tetris’d all over the concrete floors in both the garage and basement.  There is still so much crap in the garage, looms are on top of looms and the shed out back will eventually be a small wood shop once I repair the electric line that no longer works.  

Meanwhile, the two largest looms couldn’t move to the new space until the fabric on them was woven off, because the looms had to be dismantled to get them down the back stairs and through the doorways.  So this happened.  8 yards washed.  All of the mohair and wool warps are hand dyed.  By me.  In the old guest bathroom.  The other loom is waiting for Brianna.

Meanwhile, life happened.  I had a family funeral last week in Maryland.  My mom’s sister passed, and though it is really  hard to say goodbye to the generation ahead of us, it was glorious to reunite with cousins I haven’t seen in years, and meet their grown children, the next generation.  Bri and I were asked the Tuesday before Valentine’s day if we would be witnesses at an impromptu wedding at Luna Parc on Valentine’s Day.  Ricky Boscarino would officiate, and it would just be Brianna and me and the bride and groom.  The bride was Beth Schwartz whom I’ve grown to love like a fiber sister, she is in charge of among other things, the weaving/fiber studios at Peters Valley.  It seemed fitting that Brianna, who worked for her at the Valley all last summer, and I would be there to see her get hitched to her guy David.  And as a thank you, she gave me the most perfect lovely leaded glass panel to hang in the new weaving studio.  

And still, we carried on.  I built and gave a guild lecture on my trip to Morocco in January, and we taught a Learn to Weave class for the Jockey Hollow Guild at the end of that month.  16 new weavers!

I built and gave a lecture on Doup Leno, a lace weaving technique I wrote about in Heddlecraft Magazine, to a different guild in February, and Brianna built and gave a lecture to the first guild that same month, on Krokbragd, a Norwegian rug weaving technique.  Last week we gave another Learn to Weave class for Silk City Fibers at the Lion Brand Yarn outlet in Carlstadt.  18 new weavers!  Those little Structo’s are getting a workout.

I also had to have an emergency root canal last week, apparently a previous root canal started to abscess, and it turned out that there was a rare hidden third root in the molar and by the time I had the emergency procedure, my face was in such pain it was hard to accomplish anything.  I appreciate gifted medical people.

And still we carried on.  Last Wednesday my first private student in the new sewing space arrived in an UBER, this had been booked for awhile, five days of private sewing lessons.  Meg was a joy to work with, I feel really lucky that we finished the sewing studio in the basement in time, and that the space really really worked.  Meg is making a basic jacket from a gorgeous wool she picked up at Mood Fabrics in NYC.  She will be back Monday and Tuesday to finish.  I had my son pick up a door mirror today from Target, you can’t have a sewing studio without a full length mirror.  Duh…

Wednesday my new carriage style garage doors will be installed.  They will be a better R value and have little windows across the upper section.  Somewhere in there I’m hoping to have the split ductless HVAC system installed as well.  Of course all of the looms will have to move out of the bays for the garage door installation, I’m hoping it isn’t raining on Wednesday.  Thursday I drive to Lancaster PA to give another guild lecture, home Friday.  The following week I leave for 10 days of teaching in Oregon.  Boxes are being filled as I write with the materials and handouts I need to ship ahead.

And Brianna stopped at some point assisting in the move, to create work to take to the Baltimore Craft Market, happening this weekend.  She is one of the emerging artist exhibitors under the banner of Peters Valley who has a display at the Craft Market.  She has become quite proficient on the knitting machine, and since all of the looms except the Structo’s have been out of commission, she focused on creating the most amazing dragon shawls and cowls to display.  Of course all last week, every horizontal surface big enough in the house had dragon shawls with a two yard wing span, drying and blocking on cutting boards all over the house.  Here is one of the prototypes.  A couple of photos showed up on Facebook of the Peters Valley booth at the craft market, and I caught a glimpse of her work and of Brianna wearing one of her shawls, in bright blue wool crepe.

This is where the weaving studio/dye area stands at this point, I can’t wait to have the garage doors installed and some heat in there, we have done all of this with a couple inadequate space heaters, in our down coats, and thankfully this has been one of the milder winters I’ve ever witnessed. Behind the white cabinets with all the books, is a hidden hallway for all the yarn.  

 

Some of the take aways here, 

I am never ever moving from this house.  I will die first.

A good puzzle and a glass of wine will get you through just about anything.

We have an enormous amount of textile equipment and will be able to teach most everything and anything you could possibly want to learn.

The two double hung windows in the garage completely frame my husband’s beloved ponds, so I get to see the waterfalls and the fish while gazing out the windows while I weave.

My daughter is a rock star.

My late husband had a hand in this whole affair, I’m sure.

Skilled craftsmen are priceless.

Obviously I’m not retiring anytime soon, I have a couple of big beautiful studios and lots of fiber to play with.

And I’m never ever moving out of this house.  Did I mention that?

Stay tuned…

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‘Tis the season…

I know, I know, it has been dreadfully long since I’ve posted a blog, probably the longest stretch since I started this thing back in 2008.  I promise there will be lots to talk about with this most challenging of projects, the huge move of the studios (yes that’s plural, one for weaving and one for sewing…).  I will have pictures, and maybe a video if I can figure out how to attach that.  It is coming along swimmingly well, but I’m still knee deep in hauling my entire life up and down three flights of stairs about 300 times a day.  Be patient dear readers…

In the meantime, it is the season, for signing up for workshops.  Because we all need some inspiration in life.  And I need students to fill my workshops, and you dear readers need to make some wonderful clothing from your handwoven cloth.  There are four opportunities to take garment construction classes with me at fiber venues, and all of them now have their sign ups available online.  I heard that within five minutes of the opening bell, Sievers already had four students sign up for my class in September.

The Yadkin Valley Fiber Center in Historic Elkin, NC will hold a three day class with me on making a jacket.  If you’ve made a jacket with me already, you are welcome to make any of the other silhouettes, or come and trace patterns, or start a couple of projects, just keep in mind the three day time limit.  I taught here about a year and a half ago and just loved it and the owner Leslie.

Jumpstart Jacket with Daryl Lancaster

June 6 – 8, 2020

Registration Deadline May 15,2020

https://yadkinvalleyfiberroom.com

 

If you live in the central part of the country, I fell in love with Red Scottie Fibers in the Ozarks of Arkansas.  And I fell in love with Eureka Springs, where Red Scottie Fibers is located.  Debbie, the owner expanded my three day class to the full five day Garment Construction Extravaganza,  she just wrote me to say that the class is more than half full, there are only a few spots remaining.  

Daryl Lancaster 5 Day Intensive Garment Construction

May 11, 2020 – May 15, 2020

https://www.redscottiefibers.com/module/class.htm?classId=336905

 

If you live in the New England area, or really anywhere since there is an airport in Manchester, I’ll be back at Harrisville Designs in NH the end of August for my regular 6 day Garment Construction class.  I have lost track of how many years I’ve been teaching there.  This class usually fills quickly, and online sign ups are now live.

Wearable Extravaganza with Daryl Lancaster

August 31 – September 5, 2020

Wearable Extravaganza with Daryl Lancaster (8/31-9/5)

 

And of course, there is always Sievers.  I love this place too, on  beautiful Washington Island, off the coast of Door County Wisconsin, I think I’ve been teaching at Sievers the longest of anyone excluding Peters Valley.  I’ll be back there in 2021.  But Sievers has a 7 day option, and most of the class stays on, we really get a lot of work done!

Garment Construction Intensive 5 day

Sept. 24-29 (2 pm Thu – 11 am Tue)

 https://sieversschool.com/class/garment-construction-intensive/

 

Garment Construction Intensive Extended 7 day

Sept. 24 – Oct. 1 (2 pm Thu – 11 am Thu)

https://sieversschool.com/class/33b-garment-construction-intensive-extended/

 

For those in the Pacific Northwest, I’m on the calendar for spring of 2021 at Eugene Textile Center.  In the meantime, all of the above venues have airports within a reasonable distance, which make them accessible from anywhere!

 

Stay tuned for the studio move extravaganza, I can hardly believe the changes.  In the meantime, I hope to see you in one of my classes, we have such fun!

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A new year, a wolf full moon, and total chaos…

This has probably been the longest I’ve gone without blogging.  It isn’t dear readers because I’m lounging somewhere warm by the poolside.  Even when I had a pool, I never did that.  The last blog post, right after Thanksgiving, left me breathless writing it.  Hahahahah!  That was nothing…

I’m going to blow through the highlights, because you’d be reading this until next week.

My son came home.  You cannot know what this means.  Especially now.

The holiday season is full of chances to be with friends, and I had a real girlfriend sleepover with two of my favorites.  All musicians, we played around with recorders, the harp, guitars, the melodica, and an adorable Charlie Brown piano, that was in pretty good tune.  I banged out cords while Misa played the harp and Deb played the melodica.

We did the Christmas thing.  At my sister’s house in Maryland.  I have such a small family.  My two sisters, my two children, their two cousins (that’s it) and my mom and her husband who are still alive at 88.  I cherish every moment to be with them.  Life is short and there may not be another chance.  We packed up and boarded the animals, and went to Maryland for a few days.  It was chaos and I wouldn’t have wanted it any differently.  My son got to visit with the small family he has.  My mom cried.  We decorated Gingerbread Houses.  And we ate like the apocalypse was coming…  My lovely wonderful sister, hostess with the mostess made a complete Thanksgiving meal for my son, who of course missed Thanksgiving, on Christmas Eve.  Then made Christmas brunch for 16 people the next day.  Cooking with my sister is just one of those comfort things I’ll never get enough of.

The Sunday after Christmas my new dining room table and custom made sideboard were delivered.  I’m so in love with this furniture.  Made by IP Designs.  They had a booth at the Peters Valley Craft Fair back in September.

I went to bed at 9:30pm New Year’s Eve.  Getting too old to party!

Drove to NY State New Year’s Day to pick up another loom.  A friend/scout let me know about a Tools of the Trade loom on Craig’s List.  It was a very fair price, and one I can add to the collection.  I think this makes loom number 37, and 13 of them are Tools of the Trade.  There is a point to this crazy collection of looms.  One day I’ll let you know what it is.  The owner of the loom told me how she bought this used, and then had an opportunity to buy a Louet, but it needed a lot of parts, which she got, and got it working.  She didn’t see why she needed a second loom so decided to sell this one.  There are no words as I drove home loom number 37…

I finished up the yardage on the 45″ loom.

I managed to thread and beam the new loop mohair and wool warp from all my hand dyed yarns.  Crockpot dyeing with Cushing dyes.  

I started to weave.  Washed a sample.  I’m going to love this…

I wrote my presentation on my trip to Morocco for the Frances Irwin Guild.  Presentation is next Monday.

I wrote my presentation on Doup Leno for the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild, I’m the February speaker.  And I found an old top and skirt in the attic from doup leno rayon fabric I wove back in the early 80’s.  I made this bias top.  Too bad it is winter…  I wore it for show and tell last night at the guild meeting and froze my butt off…

I assessed my handwoven yardage collection.  I have to produce another four garments for the fashion show this summer at Convergence.  I’m not attending Convergence, I’m just not doing conferences anymore, but as an invited artist for the fashion show, I still have to produce new runway worthy pieces…  Getting lots of ideas…

I drafted facings for my swing dress pattern, this was a top priority.  I made a sample, from some commercial fabric, and created the first draft of the swing dress directions, with about a dozen new illustrations.  Lots of proofing…  The updated directions will be available on my website as a free download hopefully within the week.  If you “bought” the directions, you should be able to just click on the original link and get the updated version once I post it..  Just give me a week-ish…

The dogs are behaving in the most outstanding way.  Belly bands are a thing and they have made my life with animals bearable.  I talked about belly bands in my last blog post, and they continue to amaze me, how they catch a dog in the act who is marking his territory, I just toss them in the washer, and put on a new one.  Here they are asleep in the window like they are best of friends…

And this…  This is the thing that is making my life the most chaotic.  Anyone who has ever built a studio, moved to a new location, done any kind of packing and unpacking can completely relate.  So my daughter moved home.  She works for me.  That in itself is challenging enough.  She has a wicked case of ADHD…  Squirrel…….

Anyway, with 37 looms in our possession, it has become very clear that we need to do some major refocus of the layout of the house and its function, and the garage made the most sense.  Who needs to park two cars and have a bunch of junk when you can put 37 looms and a dye sink in there…  At least it will be convenient when I have to haul 16 looms for a class I’m teaching, just open the garage doors instead of dragging them all down from the second floor…  It isn’t just renovating the garage.  The few gardening tools I’m keeping are moving to the greenhouse.  I mostly have people for that anyway.  The woodworking equipment will move to the back shed where the garden tools use to live.  I’ll have electric re-run in the spring so we can have a mini woodshop.  The garage will become the weaving studio, complete with dye sink.  I won’t have to do anymore dyeing in the guest bathroom.  I’ve taken car loads of crap out of the garage already and haven’t appeared to have made a dent.  

The old studio will become Brianna’s bedroom, and the basement, which she now occupies will become the sewing space.  And all of this has to be finished before I leave the beginning of March for three months of marathon travel.  All the Convergence pieces need to be completed, and I’m just a complete nut case… And I agreed to volunteer one day a week at the Shakespeare Theater of NJ in their Costume Shop.  It is my one day of no chaos, I just sit and sew.  I do what I’m told.  It is my one day of sanity…

Happy New Year…

Stay tuned…

 

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These are my monkeys and this is my circus…

People ask me, “How was your Thanksgiving?”  I look at them with wild eyes and complete terror.  There are a few backstories here that all converged into one three ring circus and you’d better grab a cup of coffee and spike it with something good, because it is going to be a long one…

First, and this has everything to do with my out of control stress level, and nothing to do with my creativity, but everything to do with how I channel that creativity.  You may recall, especially if you follow me on facebook, that three months after my husband died, our beloved dog Bjorn died, of Pancreatic cancer.  It was such a blow to all of us, and my daughter and I handled the stress in basically the same way.  I adopted Ranger, and she attended a birth of Norwegian Elk Hound puppies, and immediately bonded with one of the puppies she helped deliver, which she swears is her beloved dog Bjorn.  Bjorn was and Ranger is a Norwegian Elk Hound, we are long time friends with the breeder and all of my dogs in the last 30 years or so have come from her, some rescues, some older females needing a home, and sometimes a male that is intact and available for breeding and continued showing once they have achieved their championship.  Please know that dog breeding and showing is not something I’m remotely interested in, but I do love the breed, I know the breed, and I’ve had some pretty spectacular dogs/friends/family pets come from her line.  Please no lectures on adopting rescues, I bring dogs in who need homes, some just happened to be champions.

Anyway, my daughter’s puppy grew to enormous size, and though she tried desperately to keep him in her apartment, he could effortlessly break through crates, gates, and doors and was making her landlady unhappy.  The dog Trygve, ended up boarded at the kennel for almost three years.  I told her when she got the dog that she could never move home.  Hahahahahah!

Not only has she moved home, with all her looms and yarns and the beginnings of a metals studio and knitting machines, and all the paraphernalia a techie/Trekkie young adult acquires, she brought the dog  home from the kennel.  So besides my lovely 13 year old Saphira, who sleeps on the couch all day, I have my brat Ranger, whom I adore, and she has her beloved Trygve.  And there is the cat.  Did I mention she brought home one of those too?  Both Ranger and Trygve are intact males, Trygve’s father is a Westminster champion Elk hound, and the breeder wants to breed both dogs.  So there is a bit of testosterone flying through the house.  The last couple of weeks have become untenable, the pissing contest between the two male dogs has become a nightmare, and I had no idea, other than freezing sperm and neutering both dogs, or giving one or both up, what to do that wouldn’t devastate someone.  And we have had enough devastation believe me…

On top of this, my son, whom I’ve mentioned, has been stationed in the middle east for the last year.  I don’t talk about the stress of that, because there isn’t anything that can be done except to carry on with grace.  Which I hope I’ve done.  He is due back this month, but for security reasons, we aren’t told when troops are being moved.

Because my family all had plans that would required extensive driving from us, and dog boarding and I’d seen everyone in the last month, my daughter and I opted to visit a long time family friend who would be alone for Thanksgiving and so nobody had to cook we went to a mountain house out in rural northwestern part of NJ, where they cooked a lovely Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings and served it family buffet style.  We took a short hike just off of the Appalachian Trail and took a couple photos of Catfish Pond.  It was beautiful, breathtaking, and a perfect way to appreciate what life has to offer and how powerful nature is.  It was a lovely lovely day. NJ at its best.

 

Towards the end of the meal, I got a brief message from my son that he was enroute back to the states, they had stopped in some unknown country, obviously he couldn’t say where, and the relief was palpable.  One of the best Thanksgivings, simple and meaningful.  

Then we got home…

I won’t go into the worst of the details, except that doors and gates did not keep the two males from doing what males do, and we suspect that there was a dog fight, though no one was visibly hurt, but my entire downstairs, kitchen, living room carpets, was covered, or rather painted as my daughter describes it, with, there is no other way to say it, dog shit.  Everywhere.  The half dozen or so places where the dogs peed were nothing at this point.  It took us two hours to clean everything up, about a gallon of Natures Miracle, and I have never been so depressed in my life.  My daughter had a meltdown, and I wanted to join her.  

The Thanksgiving friend in the drive to dinner, after mentioning the pissing contest between two intact males, asked why we weren’t using belly bands.  What the hell is a belly band I ask.  I look at my daughter who has a degree in animal science, and has worked in the animal field for more than 10 years and she just shrugged.  So as we sat in the living room after the complete destruction of my house, she pulled up her cell phone and looked up belly bands.  Yes, this is a thing and it is a well known option, and basically you put the dogs private parts in a sling, wrapped tight around their abdomen and they pee no more in the house.  

She drove to Pet Smart the next morning, and bought a package of disposable belly bands.  She ordered a dozen washable belly bands from Amazon.  Can I say my life has been transformed?  My dogs are model citizens, only one has tried to mark something in my house, and the band caught it and they have learned to wait patiently while I remove the bands for them to go outside, and wait patiently for them to be put on when they come back in.

And I got word that my son is in Texas.  He will be home in a couple more weeks.  Which is just the best news and has already made me stressed as I think about yet another person added to this circus!  He will be living in the guest room until he finds a place to live, and is allergic to the cat.  His stuff is in storage, there is no room here to put it, but we will figure all that out. 

So what does any of this ridiculous sordid tale or tail should I say have to do with creativity and what I do best.  First, in a completely coincidental side bar, I had an opportunity to volunteer in the costume department for the Shakespeare Theater of NJ.  I am a subscriber and found out that they are always looking for skilled volunteers, which I am, and for a few days I left my circus of a household, and brought my sewing tools, and reworked all kinds of Victorian garb for their production of A Christmas Carol which opens this week.  It was a terrific experience and so completely different from the work I do regularly.  

Completely different but related side bar… Last month at the guild meeting, members of the Lost Art Lacers came to give us a demonstration on bobbin lace.  If you have followed my blog for awhile, I was at one point an avid/active bobbin lacemaker, thanks to a mother-in-law who taught me well.  I hadn’t seen many of these women in a long time, since I reduced my supply of lace pillows and paraphernalia, in a ridiculous attempt to downside my fiber holdings.  Hahahahah!

Anyway, it had been mentioned at the meeting that between my daughter and I, we owned 36 shaft looms.  When I would want to try a new pattern in lacemaking, I’d just make a new pillow, which is why I had a ridiculous amount of them, plus all my mother-in-laws collection.  But acquiring looms was something quite different.  One of the lacemakers asked me if I had warps on all of the looms.  She recently acquired a loom but unlike her collection of lace pillows, she only had one.  It really stopped me in my tracks, many of them do have warps, but my personal favorites, that I don’t use for teaching purposes, in fact are quite naked.  And it bugs me.  

So while all this chaos of a circus is performing all around me, I became intent, no obsessed with getting a warp on my 36″ Tools of the Trade loom.  

Another sidebar, you can see how all this is coming together.  I hired my daughter to help me run my textile business, because she is really really good.  And she is.  She does everything better and faster and more creatively than even I can do it, and so I recently put her in charge of dyeing yarn.  It is winter, and that is my winter routine, wind off various skeins of white or natural yarn and run a dyepot or two every morning.  She is a scientist at heart and has taken to the chemistry of yarn dyeing like it is her job.  Which it is.  We have found a good place to dry skeins, using an old belt holder I found in my husband’s closet.  There is yarn everywhere…

All of that means, I have lots and lots of lovely colored yarn, and no place to put it.  The shelves are full, and so I have a naked loom, I’m stressed, I love designing warps when I’m stressed, and I pulled this hunk of leftover warp that’s been sitting on my shelf since the 1980’s.  It was white loop mohair, 15 ends each 8.5 yards long.  At some point I must have stuck it in a dye bath.  

I used this as a beginning point, and pulled up a towel draft I used a number of years ago for some kitchen towels, I think the original draft came from a project in Handwoven.  This has been reworked extensively, and I pulled a bunch of dyed wool and mohair skeins from the wall and started to play.  It felt so good to lose myself in designing something colorful and fresh.

 

I figured out how much was on each skein, by hand counting, and then sat at my desk and plugged in the colors.  They are all so pretty together.  I had my daughter wind the skeins into balls.

Problem was, the warp came out 43″ wide.  My lovely naked loom is only 36″ wide.  I redrafted the design for the 36″ width, but that left more leftover yarn than I wanted.  And I realized that for all the freakin’ equipment I own, I don’t have a 36″ wide 6 dent reed.  The sett will be 12 epi, but because this is a sticky warp, I want two in a dent, in a 6 dent reed.  

So back to the original draft.  Disappointed, the only thing to do was to clear the 45″ from this magical fabric.  The knots are over the back beam!

And I wound and wound and made three beautiful warp chains.  

Here they are bundled up and there is a small bag of what’s left.  I can’t wait to see how this looks.

And so, on top of all this drama, filled with monkeys, and cats and dogs and belly bands and troops returning home, and more yarn and textile equipment than I know what to do with (but no 36″ 6 dent reed), I have a beloved outlet for my stress, and I’ve taken extra time to enjoy what nature has to offer.  This beautiful sunrise called to me the other morning.

Which of course, red sky in the morning…  led to this…

Meanwhile Friday I decorated for Christmas, which meant pulling my little Target tree, pre-lit, no ornaments for obvious reasons, out of the box and plugged it in.  And I sit by the gas fireplace, and calmly reflect on how wonderful my life is at the moment thanks to a couple of belly bands, and a house full of yarn and bright colors, and how good my daughter is at whatever I need done, and I looked at the old hand forged fireplace set I bought in the 1980’s, which of course I no longer need, because I don’t have a wood burning stove, and thought, what a great yarn drying rack…

Unfortunately I woke up yesterday morning sick.  There is a wicked virus going around, and I think I have it.  I have to teach Saturday all day, for a local guild so I’m doing my best to lay low.  Fortunately I have lots to keep me busy when I lay low…

Stay tuned…

 

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The other side of the tunnel…

…is gloriously full of light, beautiful vistas and stunning creativity…

That said, I made it through my months of back to back teaching, inspiring and guiding others to make some pretty cool garments from their handwoven cloth.  If you’ve followed my blog posts for the last couple months, I’m thinking at least 50 students in the last four months, have come to a class with me and taken home something wonderful.  Point is, I’m sort of jealous.  I know that sounds weird, but watching people work, seeing what they created on the loom come to life, makes me just want to dive in and play too.  I did get to a bit, in the evenings at Sievers and at the OBX retreat.  I made up some totes and utility bags from scraps and leftover fabrics.  I sold a good amount of them at the guild sale a couple weeks ago and since that event isn’t for another year, what I really wanted to do was just design something and get it on the loom.  My largest floor looms are naked, and calling to me every time I walk into the studio.  I hate naked looms.  They look so lonely and forlorn.  

Last July, in anticipation of the yardage design class I was to teach at Peters Valley, I started pulling some random stuff from my stash, my shelves, all revolving around a chained warp I acquired in a Kathrin Weber dye class.  That’s the one down there on the left.

I carried that basket of odd things, leftovers, to Peters Valley and back, but I knew the execution of this project was going to take a lot of planning and grunt work and there just wasn’t the time or the place to let that happen.

There were a couple of dyed skeins, I use skeins as dye mops after a dye project, just let them soak up whatever dye is left.  I had two I must have painted at the same time.  The Kathrin Weber warp was only 4.5 yards long, and it was thick carpet warp.  So anything I put with it had to also be 4.5 yards long.  I wanted the painted skeins to end up in Ombré fashion, and not random in their coloring, so I took a small warping board and wound the skeins in a circular fashion, lining up the colors as I went back to the beginning at the cross each time.  Then I counted how many ends I got out of it.  

I did that for a second dye mop that sort of went with the rest of the group.

Then I pulled the spools of warp leftover from a sectional warp project, back in 2008, the yardage for the Convergence fashion challenge.  I had no idea what was left, but I knew the colors lined up, so again, I wound a circular warp, lining up the colors each time I got back to the beginning.  I counted how many ends I got out of that.  

I also had some small cones of Cotlin left from Towel projects, and the colors went with the rest of the party so I calculated carefully what I thought was on the cones, and figured out what to do with them based on how many ends I thought I could get.  I wound those along with the base ground of teal Bambu 7 paired with a shimmering teal metallic.  

When all was said and done, I had almost nothing left of my original cones.  I calculated it all pretty damn close, if I say so myself!  Though I was surprised I still had some of that greyed brownish color of Bockens cotlin.  I usually calculate better than that.  

The warps looked just gorgeous together.

At this point, I have about a weeks worth of stuff to take care of at the computer, I have contracts to get out, which can’t be done until I update most of my prospectuses, which are embarrassingly old and inaccurate giving the cost of shipping, printing, and tariffs on goods coming in from China, which most of my interfacings are.  Anyway, I don’t usually ignore all that, but I was damned determined to get that project on the loom because it has been way too long, and truth be told, I have to have 5 major new pieces for the Convergence fashion show next summer, since I’m an invited artist.  There is no pressure here…    Hahahahah!  And leaving something partially threaded is suicide when you have a house full of dogs and a cat.

So I sat at my loom, ignoring the office, and the stack of emails in my inbox, while watching out of the corner of my eye for the cat, and started sleying the reed.  This was pretty challenging, but warping front to back is about the only way to integrate something like two dozen warp chains.  The fabric would come in at 43″ in the reed, so this is a wide but short warp.  In case you were wondering, those division lines in the reed keep the warps separated, when I have multiple ends in a dent.  This is an 8 dent reed, and I have 3, 4, and sometimes 5 ends per dent depending on the structure and size of warp.  

So one of the huge advantages to warping front to back is you find errors before they are beamed on the back, when they are still correctable.  Seems I miscounted that Bockens grey brown color, and missed about 20 ends.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I looked at my draft when I was winding and saw three ends when there should have been four.  OOPS!  That explained the extra, so I went back and made an additional chain of about 20 ends, and ended up with this left.  

Once everything was accounted for I went to the back of the loom and settled in for the long haul.  Can I tell you how much I love doing this kind of stuff?  It absolutely consumes you, nothing else in the world matters and my brain gets a super workout!

Beaming this was a treat, I got to see how it was all going to look together, you can’t really tell in software because the painted yarns don’t show.  The glitter yarn just shimmered under the lights as I beamed, and I got more and more excited with every turn of the crank.  I’m using a Harrisville tensioning system, they work really well for me. And it was only a 4.5 yard warp, which for me is nothing.  Note, I have a digital monograph available on my Front to Back warping process, you can find it here.

Once on the loom, I had to take a break and catch up on some paperwork, and did manage to get a number of prospectuses rewritten and signed a bunch of contracts for 2021.  I still have more work to do there, and I have one more contract which is for next November, but I had to take a more serious detour yesterday and do one of my last teaching venues for the year.  Only one remains the beginning of December, but this one was intense.

Brianna and I were invited to teach a beginning weaving class at the Lion Brand Yarn Outlet in Carlstadt NJ.  Lion Brand owns Silk City Fibers and if you’ve followed my blog at all, I’ve had a long history with them.  There were a few last minute cancellations so we ended up with 14 students, we brought the collection of Structo looms, prewound the warps using Silk City Fibers new 5/2 perle cotton colors, and left the house at a ridiculous hour yesterday morning because we were heading towards NYC during rush hour.  The trip is about 15 miles but we were lucky to make it in about 45 minutes.

The class was great.  The students were sharp, enthusiastic, asked great questions, and the staff and facility couldn’t have been more welcoming.  The lighting was great, most of the students were in computer chairs that could drop down low for threading, and they were sleyed, threaded and beamed by lunchtime. 

Silk City Fibers/Lion Brand Yarns has asked us back, so we will do this again next year, possibly in February and then hopefully next June as I peek at my 2020 calendar through very wary eyes.  Since I just finished booking 2021, squeezing in these little workshops here and there is always a challenge.

Meanwhile if you are interested in a beginning weaving one day class, we are offering it again at the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild, January 25th, 2020, click here for more information on that class.

I will say that team teaching with Brianna makes the whole process effortless.  She anticipates my every need, helps students with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back.  She can correct misthreadings and crossed threads in record time.  She packed me for the class, managed to fit in three boxes of yarn, my suitcase of samples, and 19 looms, including her folding Ashford to show them what an eight shaft full size table loom looks like, all in the back of a Ford CMAX hybrid.  She set up the looms, and arranged the samples.  She loaded the car after the class, drove us home, and picked up the animals from doggy daycare while I got us sushi for dinner.  Then she unloaded the car and put away all the looms.  I’m sort of getting spoiled.  And that was the goal, that I would eventually assist her, and she would soar with her own brand and let me fade into the background.  

So this morning, I replaced the worn out lash cord on the loom apron, tied the warp onto the front apron bar, and chose my weft.  I didn’t sample, because I only have 4.5 yards, and I knew what I wanted.  I chose a wool crepe weft, in a deep shade of mottled brown and I crawled under the loom to change the tie-up from the previous project, and I started to weave.  What a joy.  From the first pick this warp just sang.  It is magical, and I’m using that for the working title until I come up with something else, and I was a few inches in, Brianna came over and squealed in delight.  Of course my daughter who wears outrageous colors and sparkle and has rainbow hair and wears unicorn headbands would fall in love with this yardage.  You can’t appreciate the glittery warp in the photos, but it is there.  I have no idea what this will turn into but that glitter will sing under runway lights.

Stay tuned…

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