All in a Day’s Work…

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

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

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

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

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

The culprits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned…

 

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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 bouclĂ© 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…

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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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The asymmetrical dilemma…

This started a while ago, if you’ve followed me for awhile, you know that in the winter months, I keep dye pots going and gather a large group of random dyed skeins of various weights and textures, mostly cellulose like rayons and cottons, but occasionally I’ll throw some random wool or loop mohair skeins in the crock pot while I’m at it.  By November I had amassed quite a collection of random wool and mohair skeins, each not enough to anything with, but together, they represented quite a good amount of yarn.

Back in December of 2014 I wove a series of dishtowels that I loved in cotton/linen, based on a project in the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of Handwoven Magazine, Linda Gettman’s Bright Herringbone Twill Towels.  

This is basically a color and weave project, and the color placement along with the twill makes for a very cool surface.  In the fall of 2017  I made this silk twill tunic, from hand dyed skeins of raw silk, and based the weave structure on that same draft.  It has gone through so many iterations, I probably can’t say at this point it is Linda’s draft, but I really can’t claim it is all mine either.  The frequency and random arrangement of stripes is all based on what yarn I have in front of me and how much.  There is a lot of careful calculation down to the yard of each skein, and careful winding of the warps based on the computer draft.

So last fall, I set up one of my larger looms, not thinking there was any hurry to weave it off, and actually even thought it was a little bright and very random, but would probably make a cool fabric once it was washed.

Side bar…  By this time last year I knew that I was one of two invited guest artists  for the fashion show at the HGA weaver’s conference, Convergence taking place this summer in July in Tennessee.  So for the last year, I’ve been in the back of my head thinking of work I have, that is recent (actually none) and that would represent me and the venue for a Convergence Fashion Show.  They needed five pieces.  This has been haunting me on and off for a year, because I don’t want to invest in five “runway” pieces that I have no use for later on, because really, each piece is only good for two years before it becomes too old to exhibit.  

Anyway, the fabric on the loom certainly was bright enough, and would show well on the runway, but I really wasn’t in a hurry to weave it off.

Then the idea struck me to renovate the garage and build a dye studio and new weaving studio.  Yeah, that happened.  It was an extraordinary amount of work, and physical energy, but it was ultimately all worth it.  However, the two largest looms we own couldn’t be moved without dismantling, and they couldn’t be dismantled without weaving off the warps on them.  One of them had the wool mohair stripe, and the other was a differential sett fabric my daughter was weaving for a lecture in Massachusetts that keeps getting postponed for obvious reasons.  So I sat down and wove, and I wove, I think there was something like 8 yards of warp on this baby, almost full width of my 45″ loom.  Both looms were cleared, and ultimately moved.

I pulled the fabric from the loom and washed it based on the sample, being really careful because some of the wools fulled more than others and I didn’t want a seersucker effect over 8 yards.  It was still bright and random…  I might have posted it on the blog back in February and didn’t get a whole lot of reaction to it.  It was bright and random.

But it would make for a great runway piece for Convergence…

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about ways to combine many of my patterns, into new looks, based on feedback from students.  I taught in Oregon the beginning of March and got some solid ideas there.  Most everyone was working on swing coats and I thought about pulling elements from my tunic, precisely the hood and the in-seam buttonholes down the front and of course pockets, and well, there was that bright and random yardage…

The first dilemma was that because the stripes were so random, and I needed for some symmetry in the left and right half of the garment, there was no way to get the fronts and backs to match at the shoulder.  So I went to my old shoulder fix by adding an epaulet of a wool bouclĂ©.  Hardly seen but definitely cleaned up the shoulder issue.

The construction of the in-seam buttonholes is not terribly difficult, but a large strip of fabric is cut off the center front, and then seamed back on, which is what creates the seam with the buttonholes in it.  I cut an wide extra amount down the center front when I cut out the yardage, but the way the stripes occur, the ending result was a bit of asymmetry right down the center front, looking to me like I was being too random in a very symmetrical piece, or just messed up.

It bugged me.  I asked my daughter for her opinion.  She waxed philosophical, saying she knew it bothered me more than it bothered her, but she didn’t say, “Mom, it’s fine.”  I had enough fabric leftover that I could completely take apart the front and part of the hood, cut a new strip that when seamed would reflect the left half of the garment, and redo the buttonholes.  It took a whole day, but I’m so glad I did. Four days of handwork, and lots of Zoom meetings.  The cat decided to help. 

I finally finished the swing coat with hood and in-seam buttonhole placket and I couldn’t be happier. The fit is perfect, and I’m thinking of what else I can put the hood on.  I started to set up my quickie photo shoot in the mirror, actually got out of pajamas and put some real clothes on.  And as I took the first photo, my daughter walked in holding one of the dogs and photo-bombed the picture.  It was so hilarious I had to include it.

So here is the new neckline, symmetry it is.

And here are the front and back views, I adore the back, professional photos will come later.  And yes, my hair turned silver almost overnight.  We aren’t under any stress here in NJ.

Meanwhile, by now everyone knows that Convergence of course has been postponed, my conversation with Linda who is in charge of the fashion show indicated that everything would be moved to 2022 and would I still consider being an invited artist.  What else was I going to answer but, “Of course”, though in reality, that seems like so very far away, and this piece and anything else I create will be a couple years old, which means new work, and well, I’m just not going to think about it right now.  I’ve got patterns to draft, instructions to rewrite yet again (my editor is a task master!) and I’ve a couple naked looms, actually quite a few that are calling for warps!

Stay safe everyone, stay curious, and stay busy! Stay tuned…

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Keeping Busy…

I handle stress by keeping busy.  Having a project, a mission, a purpose, a challenge, keeps me from diving into paralysis, which sadly is happening to more and more of my friends as this quarantine keeps us from doing the things we love.  I’m so very lucky to have things that can challenge me.  I have a couple of wonderful studios, lots of supplies, more than I can use in a lifetime, and some wicked cool ideas.  And time.  If nothing else, I have time.  

I decided to take a page from my mom, because I’m not sure when my housekeeper is coming back, and since I’m not traveling, I really can do this myself.  I thought, with nine rooms, I could do one a day, maybe 15-20 minutes, depending on how dirty, and cover the whole house well in the same two weeks between when my housekeeper would normally come.  I decided on the den this morning.  It is a room I rarely use, I’m not sure why, but there are other areas of the house with more purpose for me.  This was the TV room, and it was where my late husband spent most of his non working time, in his Lazyboy in front of the TV.  I rarely went in the room. I never watch TV. Lazyboy lounge chairs don’t invite cuddling up on the couch.  Well, my husband died in that chair, the kids took it out of the house within two hours of his death.  I replaced it with a gorgeous leather Chesterfield couch, replaced all of the furnishings in there, and I really do love the room, but somehow, it still isn’t mine.  There are other rooms that call to me more.  Anyway, it was time to clean it.  I enjoyed tidying up, using the Swiffer to get cobwebs and dust, polishing the wood surfaces.  I used the Swiffer to dust the fan blades in the ceiling fan, and realized that the glass dome was pretty full of dust and bugs.  I reached in with the Swiffer and proceeded to melt the fibers onto the bulbs.  Really…

I turned off the light fixture, climbed up on the coffee table and tried to scrape off the melted Swiffer fibers.  My girlfriend called, her dad died, and she is struggling with the whole idea of a virtual funeral, Shiva, and family connections that aren’t really family connections since you can’t hug anybody.  We talked for awhile.  When we were finished, I tried to turn the light back on.  It wasn’t working.  Really?  

Long story short, and half an hour later, so much for my first day of, “I’ll spend 15-20 minutes cleaning one room…”; I ended up dismantling the glass globe, replacing the burned out bulb and screwing in the ones that loosened up when I tried to scrape them clean.  I washed the globe properly and reassembled the light fixture.  There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the maintenance one can end up doing in a multi room multi floor 100 year old house.  Sigh…

Meanwhile, Brianna and I and my editor Ann Marie are furiously working on launching patterns.  I launched the 500 vest yesterday, very proud of myself, and then woke up at 2am with a panic attack.  I’m such an American.  And I mean that in not a good way.  I’m selling downloadable patterns to those who can’t take my workshops, many of whom live in parts of the world that use a different measuring system than we American’s use.  The entire rest of the world uses the metric system, and we here in the US insist on using an Imperial measuring system.  How could I be so self absorbed to not even think that my materials all need to have metric equivalents?  So I spent the morning rewriting the free directions for the bias top, to include Metric measurements, and uploaded that today.  I’ll try to tackle the rewrites on the newly launched vest directions tomorrow.  I promise I won’t abandon my worthy readers from parts other than the US.  You count too.  Pun intended.

The 500 vest is one of my oldest patterns.  I’m not going in any particular order.  Just what seems most reasonable to “tackle next”.  The swing dress directions are at the editor, and the tunic is basically ready to go, but the editor is much slower than we are. She is pretty amazing. The 500 vest is the one, for those who have studied with me, with the square armhole and armhole/neckbands.  

 

Side bar…  We all have them.  Warps on the loom from a workshop that finally get woven off years later because we need the loom.  Mostly they are samples and not really usable as a finished thing.  In a round robin type workshop with Karen Donde on Bubble Cloth/differential shrinkage, my table loom had four yards of a tencel and wool/silk warp.  It was ridiculously slow to weave.  It took a few years until I needed the loom for something else.  It was a cool piece of 8″ wide yardage, and not being a scarf person, I pulled out my 500 vest and used the sample for the bands.  This is also a great place to use Inkle bands or Card/Tablet woven bands.  

 

So the vest pattern is now up on the site, available for purchase here, and the directions as always, are free downloads, but now they will be on my regular website under Extras.  I’ll add metric measurements ASAP.  

Meanwhile…

I had an odd day between projects, and I pulled a couple things out of my closet.  A couple of years ago,  I had made a sort of zippered vest from the Crimp Cloth fabric from a Dianne Totten workshop, and honestly, never liked the way it fit or looked. 

But the fabric was pretty cool.  I pulled it out of the closet and decided to start hacking it up and eventually came up with a vest I actually like.  I took about 8 inches out of each side.  I love reworking stuff that isn’t working anymore or never really worked to begin with.  Makes you really think, and God knows, I do need to do that on occasion…

My 27 year old daughter is always on me to give my silhouettes a more youthful feel.  That isn’t my demographic, but I listen.  I’ve had enough younger students request a hood on at least one of my garments that I drafted my tunic to include this option.  I made this striped wool, commercial fabric into a prototype, and I gotta say, this is one of my go to pieces in my wardrobe.  I’m starting to get the point of a hood.  Anyway, my daughter said I needed to add a Kangaroo pouch.  I had enough scrap left, that I could at least try.

So I tested the pouch, after measuring 47 of her hoodie sweatshirts, and drafted and constructed the pocket.  The next step was to add it to the directions.  So I illustrated the construction details, and all that is waiting on my editor, who is still working on the dress.  I’m being patient.

I then got the idea to do a swing coat, not only with a hood, but to try it with the in-seam button front option from that same tunic.  That meant that the center front had to be cut on the straight of grain, but the rest could be cut like a swing coat.  I drafted it, figured out the construction sequence, and pulled a purple wool I’ve been sitting on for so many years I couldn’t tell you when or where I obtained it.  And I found a very cool rayon challis for the lining in the stash.

The purple hooded swing coat is a prototype for this yardage.  I wove this at the end of last year, in a huge hurry because I had to clear the loom in order to move it to the new studio.  All the wool and mohair in it is handdyed.  The weft is a commercial black wool.

I want to lengthen the purple coat, about 4″, and make the in-seam button placket 2″ wide instead of the 1 1/4″ from the tunic pattern.  The hood is pretty cool.  And it has pockets.  Really!  So I’ve corrected the pattern, and laid out the pattern onto the wool/mohair yardage.  I’ll cut it out tomorrow in between the tedious metric recalculation of  my vest directions.  

My daughter has had a bit of a setback.  Her computer system is pretty old, like college days old.  It just didn’t have the computing power or memory to handle a program like Adobe Illustrator and all the layers it takes to vectorize my scanned patterns.  She ordered new components from a computer store in our area, picked them up curbside last night, and spent the evening trying to build herself a faster system.  She is mostly there but stuck on something to do with Windows 10, of course, and we are trying to get in touch with my tech support, who has been great directing her from afar, but we may need a physical intervention…  She was in the middle of the tunic drafts, so hopefully she will be back up and running soon.

Tomorrow, I’ll tackle cleaning the dining room and see what trouble I can get into there…

Stay tuned…

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