Full Days and Future Possibilities…

Once again, I’m prepping for my next trip, if it is fall, I’m probably somewhere.  This fall I’ll be bouncing from NH to WA to WI to NC and points in between.  To say I feel like a bit of a yo-yo would be putting it mildly.  I have so loved having these last four weeks to myself, to be busy and productive and unencumbered by house stuff and contractors and children.  My only issue if you will, is that my beloved Ranger is mad at me because I’m holed up in the studio most days and he has taken to lifting his leg around the house and marking his displeasure.  I know he needs to be neutered, but the breeder wants to breed him once more and she owns those rights.  So I have to put up with a dog who is pissed at me and give him as much me time as I can.  And I have discovered what a black light can uncover…

Meanwhile, I have been working fast and furiously on updating a couple of my class patterns with details that have been requested and were sort of at the bottom of my very lengthy to-do list.  I took advantage of some uninterrupted time and really dove in.  Drafting a small detail like a hood on my tunic pattern is more complicated than it seems.  Drafting the hood was nothing.  I did that in about 15 minutes.  Then comes drafting all the sizes.  And while I was at it, I’ve had requests for more of a drop shoulder, common on men’s shirts, so I redrafted the tunic body as well with that option.  Then I had to test it.  I did it in a sheet first, and made it to fit my daughter, who is quite a different body than me, and a lot younger, apparently having a hood on everything is popular among millennials.  She loved it.

Then I tested it on a version to fit me, with the drop shoulder, in a lovely wool I had in my stash, and I have to admit, I would wear that…

Once I know it is correct, then comes the fun part, not only do I have to copy all the patterns multiple times, but I have to design cover sheets for the pattern and redraw the handout.  That meant another dozen or so illustrations, and then once the handout is reworked, converting the whole thing to  PDF and uploading to my shop so students who want the directions for the pattern they have traced, can always have the latest version. If you have already bought a version of one of my pattern directions, you should be able to click on the link you were sent and download the latest version.  It is free, and available here, but of course, you have to take my class to get the pattern.  Please don’t write me nasty letters about me not offering the patterns for sale.  Know that I want to, and that I haven’t had the time or expertise to do that conversion, but it is in the works.  I just need to hire someone…  More about that later…

And while I was on a roll, I went ahead and drafted the pattern for the combined jacket and collared vest.  I had made this jacket a couple years ago, by combining two of my class patterns and a number of students jumped on it, but I had to physically help them do the conversion and there were of course no directions.  So on my list was “draft Noro jacket pattern and write directions.”  Here is the original jacket, woven with Noro Toiyo Lace in the weft.

I managed that last week, making copies of the patterns on Monday and writing directions, which I will say I do enjoy, and I love making those little illustrations, but my eyes were bleary and my brain was fogged by the time I got the proofed version.  And there is no telling that I got it 100%.  Just today I got a lovely note from one of my students who had downloaded my directions for the bias top she had traced in a class.  I had added a swing dress to the pattern, and built a handout.  I apparently left out a couple of critical steps, oops, she figured it out, but wrote to tell me.  So this afternoon, I edited that, reprinted all the incorrect pages for the handouts I prepared for Harrisville next week, and updated the store file here

Here is the test version of the collared jacket with zipper.  This is a lovely woven wool that I bought from Mood fabrics many years ago.  It worked out perfectly for this jacket.  The directions are here.

I snuck away this weekend back to Peters Valley to take a class, something I promised myself I would do every summer.  Sharron Parker is a wonderful feltmaker, and I had the privilege of rooming with her when I traveled to Cuba back in 2018.  When I saw she was teaching at the Valley, I jumped on it.  It was terrific fun.  I have done a fair amount of felting in my day, but I’d rather thread 1400 ends on a loom than do the physical effort it takes to roll felted fabric.  So I assumed I’d be quite sore by the end of the three day class.  

Sharon actually had a lovely plan for helping get from point A to point B, the class was mixed levels and everyone had fun playing along.  First we made geodes and cut them apart.  

By slicing them further, and laying them on stacked batts, and further felting them into the batts, we made some lovely designs.  The geodes did all the work.  Later Saturday night I used my sewing machine back in the studio to outline parts and my needle felting machine to make certain areas more secure and flatter.  I can still go back and do more work, something to look forward to…

She gave us each a page from a Wolf Kahn calendar, and told us to try to replicate the colors by blending, either with a drum carder or hand cards.  I really worked at this to see how closely I could replicate it.  I’m pretty happy with how close I came…

And then with another half dozen ideas for directions to go, I  spent all of Sunday playing with wool and hot soapy water.  I made a small stacked batt piece, and instead of slicing linear like I usually do, I cut into it horizontally and vertically, and loved the effect.  I made a second batt, this one much thicker and more colorful, but I’m so in love with the surface I’m not ready to cut into it yet.

The scraps from cutting out the piece above got felted into a lovely work, because with wool, you don’t have to waste anything…

Meanwhile, I watched my daughter in action as the fibers assistant for the class.  She didn’t disappoint. Felted unicorn horn and matching ears…

She has been up at Peters Valley all summer as the fibers assistant, and has been exposed to so much, but when I taught my yardage class up there three weeks ago, she had signed up to take a metals class working with tin cans way back in January so was unavailable to help me.  Let me just say that I completely get it when she says after each class that the teacher wants to adopt her.  And lucky me, I get first dibs and have made the decision over the last couple of weeks that I do need help taking my own business where I want it to go, especially after losing my beloved Cynthia who moved to southern NJ.  My daughter is really really good.  Of course if you have followed my blog regularly over the last ten years, you’d know that.  There is a lot for us to work out, especially with the financial arrangements, and the thought that I’m taking on the responsibility for an employee and that she is related to me.  Like today, when I was training her (she is between classes at the Valley and came home to help with the final prep for Harrisville), on how to create the composite handouts and upload to the eShop, she kept rolling her eyes and saying, MUTH-ER…  I’m a millennial and I know my way around a computer…  

One of the jobs I gave her today besides binding all the handouts, was to relabel all the Texturized Weft interfacing I sell, because when I bought another 400 yards, I got caught in the trade war with China and had to pay an additional 30% tariff on the two rolls.  I knew the company who designed it was French, but the fabric actually is made now in China.  Sigh…  Anyway, I needed her to cut more of the Fusi Knit, and package and label, and handling 200 yard rolls x 60″ wide interfacing is brutal.  Those things must weight 70 pounds.  She did about two packages and said, I have an idea and she disappeared…

She returned with a bunch of poles and connections from my old craft fair booth, which we keep in old ski bags in the garage because well, you never know what fun things you can do with poles and connectors.  She rigged up this…

 

And then after cutting another package, she disappeared again and came back with more poles, because she wanted an underneath support, so came up with version 2.0…

This is why I need to hire my millennial daughter, who is as bright as her late father, and needs to be in a position to grow her own brand and develop her own life as an artist and develop her own workshops and seminars and I wouldn’t be who I am today without the support of my late husband, and I feel like I owe that to her, she is talented and really really good.  And I’ve already downloaded the classes for her to learn Adobe Illustrator which will allow her to convert my patterns, once scanned into vector drawings…  Stay tuned for that…

And I’m even managed to do some weaving.  The towels are progressing, and I love this pattern, from Webs, their Kaleidoscope towels, because you can change the weft and get all sorts of different effects.  I think I’ve completed seven so far, on a 14 yard warp.

And I finally got the Retro Palette scarves up and running.  I love the subtle coloring of this one, and I got to play with my new toy.  Peters Valley had one of these and I immediately ordered it.  It is a large lit magnifying glass that really helps for tasks like threading and in this case hemstitching on the loom.  I want one in every room…

And because I desperately wanted to squeeze in one more thing, I made a padded bag from the leftovers from a towel run I did a few years ago.  The last bit wasn’t big enough for a full towel, and the guild show and sale is coming in a couple months, and I have a lot of scrap to get creative with…

Stay tuned…

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Weaving Yardage…

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how much I love Peters Valley School of Craft.  It is part of the Craft School consortium in the US, with Penland, Haystack, Arrowmont, Philchuck, etc.  It is within an hour from my house, located in National Park Service property, and I support them in many different ways.  Taking a workshop at any of these places can be life altering.  I try to take a workshop every year at Peters Valley, but I also get to teach there occasionally, this year I did a Designing and Weaving Handwoven Yardage class.  5 Day.

First let me say that this class is intense over only a 5 day period.  It is hard to make anyone, no matter how old, sit at a loom, sleying, threading, beaming, weaving for 5 days straight.  As a matter of fact, in my early days of writing for Handwoven Magazine, I wrote an article back in 2002 called “Lose Weight and Reduce Stress” after I taught a similar class back in the summer of 2001 at Peters Valley.  I remember then editor Madelyn van der Hoogt asking me on the phone if I had any ideas on how to boost readership, and I snarkily responded, “Just put something about weight loss on the cover!”  So she said, “Great, write it.”  (Jan/Feb 2002)

Designing, winding the warp, and all that handwoven yardage entails is tough work for anyone.  But the studio and condition of the looms was fantastic, best I’ve ever worked with.  The move to the newly renovated weaving studio, adjacent to the surface design studio at Peters Valley’s Thunder Mountain campus was the best thing they could have done for the students and for the looms.  It was bright, the best air conditioned place on the campus, which was really important since we had a 100+ degree heat wave in the mountains along with monsoon rains every evening.  The light was fantastic, and my daughter, as the fiber assistant was really instrumental in getting all the looms in perfect working order.  I took advantage of the space and tables in the adjacent surface design studio to put out all my yarns, show slides, and give students a space to do preliminary design with color exercises and yarn wraps.

Once they had the yarn wraps finalized, they started winding warps.

Once the warps were wound, they started sleying the reed, in levels.  

On to threading…

And then beaming…  I brought a couple of Harrisville Tensioners from my own studio.

And then ultimately weaving four yards of yardage once they tested wefts.

Everyone was thrilled as the knots came up over the back of the loom, most of the fabrics were combinations of plain weave, twill, and supplemental warps.  Since all of Peters Valley’s Macomber looms are at least 8 shafts, this is easy to accomplish. And Dee’s fabric really showed the influence of the photo she used for inspiration.

A very happy class!

One of the students, Ginnie, had flown in from Michigan, we have become really close friends as she is one of my regular students at Sievers School of Fiber Arts, I think she has taken my garment construction intensive class at least a dozen times.  I’ll be teaching that class at Sievers in October.  Anyway, she asked me in a conversation if I ever thought about teaching weaving, since she was mostly a self taught recipe weaver.  I mentioned the Peters Valley class and she signed up immediately.  She stayed over an extra day before flying home, and I took her into NYC to see the Camp: Notes on Fashion exhibit at the MET.  It was worth the traffic and drive into the city as exhausted as we were.  What a fabulous exhibition.  

And so I now play catch up, balancing house stuff, (yes I had to call in two repair/handyman/contractors when I returned home because well stuff breaks while I’m gone), bill paying and bookkeeping, and projects with fast approaching deadlines.  And starting prep for the fall marathon…  I did manage though, to continue working on the stuff in my basket, finding out how many 4.5 yard ends I could get from these two skeins if I circular wound on a warping board into an ombré effect.  The answer was 76.  

And I leave you with two funny pet pictures, because I missed my furry creatures while I was gone, and they do keep me laughing…  They seem to have an appliance fetish, the cat’s favorite perch is the coffee pot, so he can see out the back door when I’m dining by the pond, and he and one of my dogs lay in wait for the Roomba to start.  They haven’t figured out yet how to start it on purpose…  I just think it would be so cool to say to any of my animals, “There is dog and cat hair all over the place, please run the Roomba…”

Stay tuned…

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It lives…

Most of the handweaving community by now is aware of the F & W Media debacle over the past few months, F & W Media owned just about every craft, art, farming, woodworking, and a slew of other publications in the country, with the exception of Taunton Press, still valiantly publishing up there in CT (They publish Threads Magazine).  F & W had been on an acquisition frenzy over the past few years, and had acquired Interweave Press, publisher of Handwoven Magazine, among other important fiber publications in knitting and spinning.  F & W declared bankruptcy early this past spring.  All of use who were owed royalties will never see them paid.  More importantly, the fear in the fiber community of our print institutions’ survival was a complete unknown.

In June, a “fire sale” as the legal rep I talked to handling the whole affair called it, (I was of course one of the people who will never get paid royalties due from last spring) was held, I think somewhere in Delaware.  I sat glued to my Google search engine for a week to find out what happened.  The F & W Craft Division, was successfully bid on by a company…

Macanta Investments, a private-investment partnership for Terence O’Toole and his family, put up $2.85 million for F+W’s crafts group that includes a network of 10 knitting, sewing and needlework magazines, along with nine quilting titles.

O’Toole is a managing partner of Tinicum Inc., an investment firm that bought a majority interest of F+W in 2014.

This mediapost article has a few more details, but F & W Craft Division including Interweave’s Handwoven Magazine will live on assuming the goal of this acquisition was to keep publishing.  The book division was sold just prior to the auction to Penquin Books, so hopefully it is in good hands.  A quick perusal of the Interweave Press website shows all the books gone, but digital content is still available for sale and is being heavily promoted.  These would include my five webinar series on Sewing with Handwovens.  

There is a lot of buzz on social media that makes me sort of sad.  Full disclosure, I was the Features Editor for Handwoven Magazine from about 2002 to around 2007, writing in every issue for 35 issues straight.  Madelyn van der Hoogt was my editor and I enjoyed every minute I spent under her careful and watchful eye.  I’d like to say she was responsible for my career as a journalist, as I’ve now written more than 100 articles in various publications and have even branched into video.  

But it all started at Handwoven Magazine.  The buzz on social media complains that the  magazine isn’t what it used to be, that the projects are mostly for rigid heddle weavers, that there isn’t a lot of content, that it is very thin, and a discussion ensues about cancelling subscriptions in protest, or stopping advertising, because, well no one reads the magazine anymore.  In fact I stopped writing for them because of the reduced rate of author compensation.  That said, Handwoven Magazine has been around for 40 years.  How do I know this?  An advance copy of the September/October issue is sitting on my desk because I have an article in it.  

There has been no other weaving publication that has hung in for so long and provided so much content as Handwoven Magazine.  I have every issue on my shelf and it is an incredible wealth of knowledge.  Many of the issues are available digitally, so they don’t take up shelf space, but I’m a paper kind of gal.  My art and weaving library is huge, because I’m a writer and a researcher and a creative person and well, there is nothing like a spread of a half dozen reference materials across my floor or cutting table as I compare content for an article.  I did a quick perusal of this issue, their 40th anniversary, Issue XXXX number 4.  (Yeah I know that the Roman Numeral for 40 is XL which is also a size, and XXXX reads better!)

The issue is thin.  Publishing print isn’t what it use to be.  My favorite current weaving magazine is of course Heddlecraft, published by Robyn Spady, but that publication is digital only with no advertising.  It is theme specific, provides extensive drafts, and has some lovely features columns.  But I doggedly continue to subscribe to Handwoven because it still provides inspiration, articles, and advertising, so I’m on top of what’s new, who is selling what, who’s who and who is writing what, and I will often use one of their dishtowel drafts for my annual dishtowel warp.  This issue is about remembering.  It has a look back over the six editors of Handwoven Magazine, and comments from them.  It has projects that reference many of those editors.  It has a sweet article from Sherrie Miller, whom I adore, about the Weaving Hall of Fame, a look back over those who have contributed most to the craft.  I get a mention at the end, which I totally did not expect.  I have an article on Weaving a Memory.  It is a technique I’ve taught in the past, and have a full monograph available for more content. (The link is for the digital version, there is also a bound paper version available.)

And there are projects, one rigid heddle, one for a pin loom, and plenty for four shaft looms and one for an eight shaft.  The ads are colorful and remind us of who is still out there selling supplies to handweavers.  There is a great look back over the 50 year career of Schacht Looms.  And a wonderful side bar about the decision to start offering projects at Handwoven Magazine, and why.  I never knew that part of the story. And Tom Knisely has a great article on weaving borders.  So here’s the thing.  There aren’t many print publications left.  Heddlecraft is digital only, and Weavers Craft will publish their last issue, #32 this year.  They also had no advertising.  You can still get back issues of Weavers Magazine (44 in total, have them all) and Prairie Wool Companion (16 in total, have many of them, still looking)  and the Weavers Journal (I’m still collecting them as well).  There is VAV magazine, a Swedish publication, really wonderful, which has been translated into English since 2006.  You can get back copies of that magazine from The Loom Room.  And so we have Handwoven Magazine.  It is important for the handweaving community to rally around and support what we have left, because even though you can find anything you want to know on youtube, there is something to still be revered and respected about holding the latest issue of anything.  I get very few magazines anymore.  I get this one. And of course, Threads.

And since I have every issue, I still use them for reference.  Especially my own articles.  Especially the Color Forecast.  I have almost all of the original content that was photographed for the magazine, the color chip cards and the yarn wraps.  I use them all the time for instant color and inspiration.  I just leafed through my binder and randomly picked the palette for Jan/Feb 2004 issue, called Retro, part of the Fall 2004-5 forecast.

And I gathered all of the yarns I had on all of my shelves, leftover bits in bins, hand dyed skeins, and wound a scarf warp in four parts…  The last part was the supplemental ribbons.

I spent yesterday threading this baby, and this afternoon I’m going to get it beamed, mostly because I don’t want 14 yards of warp chains lying around the floor to tempt my animals.  Hahahahah!

I often thought that it would be fun for Interweave Press to put together a digital collection of all of the forecasts I wrote, there are some pretty inspiring palettes.  I would know since I researched and wrote them!

I’m heading off to renew the Handwoven Subscription for our weaving guild.  I’m the treasurer so I get to write the checks.  Keep those issues coming…

Stay tuned…

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All over the place…

I’ve been back from my last conference about a week and a half.  I leave next week for another venue, this time a five day class up at Peters Valley.  This isn’t one of my regular offerings, this one I do as a favor to Peters Valley, since they have a great facility, with all the equipment, looms, some yarn, and since I can drive there, I can bring some of my own stash for students to use.  The class is Designing and Weaving Handwoven Yardage.  I’ve refined this class a lot since I started teaching this there in the mid 1980’s.  Since it isn’t something I do regularly, and I’m always coming up with new ways to teach things, I have more than the regular prep, so I was grateful for some downtime in between.

I’ve actually had fun this last week and a half, moving from one project to another, catching up on things, weeding the vegetable garden, you don’t want to know, doing some minor household repairs, though I still have to change the fridge water filter.  That warning light annoys me every time I open the fridge.  I’ve had the opportunity to do a couple of social things, a luncheon with old friends, a couple theater experiences, all which constitutes a balanced life, which is the thing I strive for most and the thing that alludes me the most.

I’ve taken care of bookkeeping, filing quarterly sales tax returns,  applying to various events, and the regular stuff that businesses are made of.  

More importantly I’ve been able to play.  First up was to clear a loom that had yardage on it, because well, I could use the sample, fresh off the loom, and since I’m going to be teaching a yardage class…  I was thrilled when the knots came up over the back beam.  The cat was watching…

The yardage turned out beautifully, all washed and rolled up.  This is mostly rayons and rayon cotton combinations, an odd assortment of things on my shelf I combined in a repeated pattern.  It is my most favorite way to work.  This was just a combination of plain weave and twill, on eight shafts, one of the things I’ll be discussing in the workshop next week.  I think I’ll call it driftwood…

Meanwhile, I’ve had a number of requests from younger students, who tell me that they only want to make and wear things with hoods.  I’m laughing, not a silhouette I ever considered adding to my vast offerings, but when the 5th or 6th person asked, I thought to myself, self, you could easily add a hood to the tunic pattern.  And I’ve also had enough guys in my classes that offering more of a men’s shirt sleeve in the tunic, essentially a drop shoulder, could easily be an option, so I thought I’d draft both onto my existing fit model.  The current tunic has a set in sleeve, the same one I use in my jacket patterns. 

The newer version ends up looking more like a man’s tunic.  Though I realize the line between gender specific silhouettes is blurring so much it is often indistinguishable, offering two different types of sleeves is not a big deal.  As a matter of fact, the original tunic I made had this sleeve.

I spent a few days drafting and testing the new version of the tunic.  And of course the cat couldn’t have been more helpful.

I made up the sample, in a bed sheet, in a fuller size so my daughter could try it on, because she is of the generation that prefers hoods on stuff, I’m not a good judge.  She loved it.  And she declared that the hood size was perfect.  She likes them big so she can cocoon or nest in them…  Whatever…

The patterns are drafted, notes taken for how to alter the direction sheet, adding probably another half dozen pages to the handout.  I’m still working out a few of the finishing options, I’ll probably make a sample to fit me out of real fabric, but the main part of the work is done and I have it drafted in all sizes.

Of course there is still the button down version with inseam buttonholes…

Meanwhile, as I was hanging out at the cutting table, I was also thinking about the sequence of what I’m teaching next week, because I needed to create an extensive handout, and design slides would be important.  I thought about some of the demos I’d do and that led me to look at my shelf and start designing the next yardage to go on the loom.  You know, since I have a now empty loom and all…

I gathered up things I thought might work in this new yardage, small bits of this and that, handdyed skeins I could demo with.  I found a half dozen spools with the remnants of a handpainted rayon from a challenge project I did back in 2007.  The spools were dusty but very usable.  Time to clear them.  I prewound a circular warp to show the students how to line up variegated yarn for an ombré effect.

My daughter came home the other night with a new basket she had made, as the fiber assistant at Peters Valley this summer, she gets to sit in on all the classes and the one this past weekend was a basket making class.  I immediately claimed it for my own.  Well the cat did first…

Meanwhile, I finally sat down to start weaving on the dishtowel warp I put on last month.  Too many empty looms lying around not doing their job, and so I got a head start on the dish towel run for the year.  The draft is an alternate colorway from a draft from Webs, the Kaleidoscope towels.  Loving this.  I’ll do a few with a black weft and then change to something else.  I usually design my own structures and warps, but once in awhile, it is just a peaceful and gentle choice to buy a draft and weave someone else’s work. Sometimes it is lovely not to have to think so much…

Meanwhile I’m steadily working on a 165 slide program for an early music group I belong to, Montclair Early Music.  This one involves works of Rembrandt and music from the 17th century.  It is a huge project, one I reluctantly agreed to, but now that I’m in the middle of it and most of it is in place, just the timings and the commentary and the captions on the slides to finalize and polish, I remember why I agreed to do it.  I’m really good at this sort of thing.  I like researching stuff, and have plenty of references in my vast library of art books, and I’m learning a ton.  I’m not a huge fan of 17th century Dutch masters, but the geo political situation, fresh off the Spanish Inquisition, is just too interesting.  Imagine no more commissions by the church or the aristocracy, where artists had to rely on common people for commissions and revenue.  Sort of like things are today…  Makes you think…

Meanwhile, the latest of my videos on Threads Insider is available, this one on covering and installing shoulder pads.  It is weird watching yourself on TV so to speak, but I’m really happy with what they’ve done, and what I said, and what I showed, and I can’t wait until they put up the rest.  Threads Insider is a subscription service, if you already get Threads magazine, it is something like $12 additional for the year, but well worth it, the videos are wonderful, short about specific techniques, and there are lots of ideas there which I know have influenced some of my work.  

Stay tuned…

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Shutting down the rumor mill…

Word gets out fast, and it isn’t always accurate.

So first, let me say that I’m not giving up teaching.  I like to teach, I adore my students and I’m looking forward to developing new patterns and new techniques for them.

What I don’t want to do anymore are conferences. And not because I can’t deal with another conference tote bag, I probably have about 100…

Let me explain.

This was the Pearls Before Swine comic in yesterday’s paper when I sat down to have my breakfast yesterday morning.  It really explains where my head is at…

I just returned from the Mid Atlantic Fiber Association Conference in Millersville, PA.  Typically regional conferences are held at college campuses, mostly for cost reasons.  And typically they work well for a venue like this.  The MAFA conference was a large success from what I’ve seen, and the feedback I heard, and the posts on social media I’ve seen.  It came on the heels of Midwest, which was held in Iowa, and ANWG which was held the week before that in Prince George, BC.  There were instructors who taught at all three.  And I understand that NEWS, the regional conference in NE is right around the corner.  I have done all of these conferences, though this year, I only applied and was accepted to teach at MAFA.  Thank God.

As I was sitting in traffic for the long three plus hour drive there, (actually it was short compared to what many of the participants had to endure) I thought hard about what I was feeling and why.  30 years ago this coming December I remember feeling extreme burnout, my attitude about everything was in the toilet, I was cranky and tired and I was also 8 months pregnant.  I struggled to get through my last craft fair.  After an amazing ten year run, in 1989 I had decided I’d had enough, and I stopped applying to craft fairs.  Actually I had made this decision in 1988, but when you book a year or two in advance, once you make the decision not to apply anymore, you have to see through everything you’ve already promised to do.  Because that’s how I work.  I made the commitment and I only ever had to cancel twice in my life, once when I went in to have a mastectomy, and the second time when my husband died.  I’ve taught through the flu, chemo, my husband in intensive care, I’ve taught through a ruptured ovarian cyst, and back pain issues.  I’ve had fevers, I’ve had missing bags and stomach viruses, but the show must go on.  

Guild work, or small venues like Harrisville or Sievers allows more personal attention to the instructor.  I know I sound like a diva, and maybe at this point in my life I’ve earned that right, but I left craft fairs 30 years ago, and though I missed the camaraderie of the other artists, I never once regretted the decision.  My attitude had gotten so bad I no longer wanted to weave.  I don’t want that to happen again, but see the writing on the wall.  I am in demand more than ever, and looking at my in box and all the request for guild venues while I was at the MAFA conference, starting in 2021 just made me scared.

Conferences themselves are hard on the instructors.  Yes, the participants are often dragging looms, and disabled attendees have to navigate buildings that are accessible but often require traveling around campus in very convoluted routes to find ramps and elevators.  There is always a lot of walking, to the dorms, to the dining hall, to the classroom and back.  MAFA was one of the easier conferences to navigate, it wasn’t very hilly.  But walk and haul I did.  I carry a lot of baggage, and it is quite different backing up to a building where you are teaching and having the staff help you unload, when you are the only teacher vs 400 conference participants and 50 – 75 instructors.  Everyone needs help.  The volunteers who help with loading in and loading out are saints.  And of course there is also the vendor hall.  And the installation of exhibits.  Conference coordinators have a reserved place in heaven, it is a thankless job, they are pushed beyond limits and there is always someone who isn’t happy.  I remember attending Convergence Rhode Island a few years ago with my daughter in tow.  I wasn’t teaching.  I drove around the state looking at all the fibery exhibits and got a one day pass to the conference.  It was amazing and non stressful and inspiring but I was so grateful I wasn’t participating.  

All of my teacher friends’ social media sites are lighting up with the news that they have been accepted to teach at the next Convergence in Knoxville.  There are new faces just breaking into the scene, and many seasoned veterans.  I never applied.  I looked at all their enthusiasm and was so pleased for all of them but so grateful I didn’t apply.  I was hugely relieved.

Saturday night, towards the end of the conference, I woke up on my plastic covered dorm mattress and felt that dreaded twinge, my sciatic was acting up again.  I had a restless night and it went downhill from there.  That’s twice in the last month and a half.  It is hard to stand upright and hard to haul stuff.  It is hard to sit in a car for three plus hours home, and hard to sit at the computer answering all the email requests for future work.  And I also came home to more than $500 worth of orders for books and interfacings from my eShop.  So I painfully sat at the computer all day yesterday printing and binding and packing.  Typically my wonderful office assistant would do this, but she closed on her home yesterday and has moved away.  I am alone. And missing her terribly.   But I carried on…

I only have two weeks before the next venue, a five day yardage class at Peters Valley.  I love the Valley and am looking forward to teaching in the new weaving studio, but I need the full two weeks of prep.  Right now I work an hour, rest an hour and work another hour.  The animals never leave my side.

So the bottom line is I’m done with conferences.  I recognize burn out, I’ve been down this road before.  I will really miss sitting on a plastic dorm mattress with my fellow instructors talking about the things that are important to us, plastic water bottles full of wine, just like I really missed getting together with the other exhibiting artists in craft fairs after I stopped.  I have made some life long friends in this business, but my life has changed drastically since my husband’s death three years ago, and I’m now responsible for all of it.  I want to weave and paint and play music and write articles and teach on my terms.

My beloved suitcase didn’t survive the trip, actually it didn’t survive the Boise debacle, which I think I talked about a couple of posts ago, and so, as I was packing to go, I researched replacement suitcases and what I needed just isn’t made anymore. I refuse to use suitcases with spinney wheels.  The best I could do was a 29″ Pullman from REI.  It is narrower than the one it is replacing, but well made and guaranteed.  I’m hoping I can still fit 70 pounds of clothing into it.

I only took one photo while I was on the road.  I took a quick snapshot of the class, there were sixteen of them, and they were all wonderfully incredible and enthusiastic.  The class was called Custom Fit and Fabulous.  They learned how to fit their bodies and particular fit issues, while trying on my loaded suitcase full of samples in all sizes.  They traced patterns until they were cross eyed.  With an aching back, I lectured for a couple hours on Sunday morning and there were really wonderful responses from what they learned.  It is a terrific class for a 2 1/2 day format, typical of a conference.  

On of the conference attendees walked around the studio walk through Saturday night where all the instructors in their classrooms talked about what they were teaching, she got this shot of me selling my little heart out! Thanks Alison!

And I debuted my new silhouette, the swing dress, which is now out in the latest Threads Magazine, I believe issue 204, mine was waiting at the post office when I went in today to get my mail.  I drafted the dress in all sizes, wrote the handout, and crossed my fingers.  Everyone who tried it on seemed to love the fit, minor tweaks for some, but I’m so happy I nailed it.

I know I keep getting letters as to why I don’t offer my patterns for sale.  And I keep trying to explain that it isn’t that simple.  The venue for me to offer digital downloadable patterns doesn’t yet exist for me.  It will take me a couple of years to scan everything, and convert to vector drawings and then convert to a downloadable size PDF.  That is a huge goal, but not possible while I’m on the road all the time.  And I’d love to have a video archive.  I had so much fun shooting videos for Threads Insider last fall, I’d love to have a group of my own, short videos on weaving and sewing techniques for weavers.  But I can’t do that while I’m on the road teaching all the time.

And so, yes, I’ll continue to teach, to go where I’m asked, but no, I’m not doing conferences anymore and yes, I’m in talks with Montana about their short gathering next summer, because it is still easy to twist my arm…  

Stay tuned…

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