Castle Notes

A couple of blog posts ago I mentioned I was embarking on one of those tedious, slow cloth kind of projects, that would use up almost three dozen various handdyed mixed skeins of wools, mohairs, and other mystery protein fibers. I did some furious mad calculations, a job that oddly appeals to me, and figured out how much was in each skein, and divided that into a 55%/45% split. I calculated I would use the larger amount for the warp, since there is loom waste, and the lesser amount for weft.

I did a similar project a few years ago, and really really enjoyed weaving it, even though I would be changing wefts something like every other pick. That coat from that plaid I wove will be in the next issue of Handwoven Magazine. Look for it…

Meanwhile, I realized that my original calculations were for a 36″ wide fabric, and the two larger 45″ looms were busy (my daughter commandeered them…). I have a 36″ wide Tools of the Trade, with 8 shafts, so I could spread the warp out over 8 shafts, even though it is a simple twill structure, to keep the warps from sticking to each other.

I calculated 12 ends per inch for the warp, but wanted to put two ends in a 6 dent reed, also to prevent sticking. I didn’t have a 6 dent reed for my 36″ loom. Sigh…

So I ordered a bunch of used reeds missing from my collection from my favorite place to purchase used weaving equipment. Oddly enough I’m a fan of older carbon steel reeds because the steel gauge is pretty substantial. Some of the new stainless steel reeds have a gauge that is too thin in my humble opinion… But I digress…

My favorite place to purchase used weaving equipment is Eugene Textile Center, in Oregon. I’m in NJ, so I knew I’d have to wait patiently for anything I ordered to cross the country. It came by pony express. Just kidding. The package of reeds, (I got a 5 dent while I was at it because you never know, plus some for a 32″ loom that I had acquired a couple years ago), was shipped FedEx Ground on April 19th. Watching the tracking was pretty hilarious. They went from Eugene, to Portland, to Seattle, to Montana, to North Dakota, to Illinois, to Ohio where they sat for a few days, to three stops in Pennsylvania, where they were delayed by some sort of mysterious weather, and then finally on to NJ where they arrived Thursday.

I wasted no time in sleying that 6 dent reed.

I threaded in record time, I mean 12 epi is nothing.

I beamed while teaching a remote three day workshop, I could watch the class on my laptop, and while they were busy working, I could quietly beam.

And then I tied on. I started weaving with some scrap wools I had just to check threading and sett, and I was definitely not happy. My immediate instinct is, “It should have been sett denser”, which is my main motto in life. The next size reed I had was an 8, which would put the sett at 16, and I didn’t want to go that dense. But by the stroke of luck, I had purchased a 5 dent, and three per dent works out to be 15 ends per inch.

So I resleyed the reed, and now my fabric, which used to be 36″ wide, is now about 29″ wide. That’s actually better because I plan to hand feed balls of weft across, I don’t want to juggle about 36 shuttles, and it is easier to reach with 29″ than 36″.

I started weaving and OMG it is perfect. It is exactly what I envisioned and I just absolutely love when that happens. The twill lines are at a 45 degree angle.

So the next step is to carefully plan out the treadling and the reverses and what yarn goes in what pick. There are almost 36 different wefts. And most are only used 1 or 2 times in the weft before changing. This will be very slow cloth.

I printed out the treadling (I’m splitting the shafts between two treadles for each pick so both halves of my body get equal exercise and to further enable the wools to separate easily while weaving.) Next to each treadle pick is a color that codes to a yarn, but some are so close in color I didn’t want to get confused, so I put small bits of the yarn with double faced tape with each weft pick.

I have little treadle notes taped all across the castle (that’s a loom part for you non weavers).

And I have two basket trays of balls, carefully placed in sequence order, so I can just draw the next one, glance at how many picks I need of it, and double check that I’m on the correct treadles. This will be really entertaining to weave. And slow. But I’m not in a hurry.

Meanwhile…

Because nothing in my life is ever boring…

I got a call last week, that a beloved friend, who had acquired a loom in very poor condition, decided that after a number of years, would never really be able to put in the time to get the loom up and running. I was with him when he acquired it, it is a lovely loom, a full size Macomber with 8 shafts, double warp beam, but only 24″ wide. It had originally been stored and nearly ruined in a screened in patio through a number of very wet and cold winters. It was missing a lot of the beam hardware, and was very very rusty and dirty. He sadly had not been able to do anything with the loom in all the years he stored it. So I adopted this loom.

Yeah, I know… This is number 36…

Though I’ve woven on Macomber looms since the 70’s, I never actually owned one. I rehabbed all the looms that we moved from William Paterson University to Peters Valley probably back in 2014, I know this loom well. And Macomber is still making looms, way up there in Maine, and they are really knowledgeable about the history of every loom they sell. This one apparently was part of a large order from 1970, built for Philadelphia College of Textiles. It has not fared well through the years.

So I put in an order for all the replacement parts I needed, and 800 new inserted eye heddles and a bench while I was at it, and $1000 later, hopefully it won’t take as long to tour the country as my poor reeds from Oregon.

Sunday a week ago, I got a bucket of Murphy’s Oil Soap, and scrubbed this poor child down, changing the blackened water after wiping down every beam. A very generous coat of Howard’s Feed and Wax was applied once it was dry.

I’ll tackle the shafts when I get the new heddles. There is a lot of rust, but I’m confident I can bring this loom back to its original glory. Can’t wait to get a warp on it.

So that’s my week, more to tell, but I’ll save it for another time. I wake up each morning ticking off an agenda of cool things to accomplish, including spending some time weeding the yard, something I’ve never been able to do on a regular basis with all the travel.

Carry on dear friends, I’ve got fabric to weave, looms to rehab, gardens to tend, and videos to produce. My life is full!

Stay tuned…

Complex Wanderings…

…Or the fabric that keeps on giving…

This is a very long and convoluted story, so grab a cup of coffee and know that even I can take years to complete something…

I started this blog in December of 2008. I really didn’t know much of what to talk about in a blog, and here, more than 12 years later, I’m guessing I figured that out. I remember outlining a handful of projects that I thought I’d like to work on, and I thought I’d document how I made them, the decisions I’d make, and if nothing else, it would make a great record of my process for me to look back on.

Side bar… (My life is full of them…)

I’m going to be teaching a three day workshop, remotely, in Indianapolis at the end of the month. The topic is creating a pieced vest, using my creative piecing technique and appliquéd bias tubes. Participants will be making my 500 Vest, and I’ve already sent them the pattern, the interfacing, the tracing medium and a press bar. I’ve rewritten the 500 Vest directions to include some of my YouTube videos, The Weaver Sews, and I’ve actually created a couple of videos to help with the final vest construction; techniques that might not be intuitive. The first one aired last Friday and the second one should air this Friday. Indianapolis has agreed to be a sort of test for this type of workshop, and it helps that they plan to meet together, so they can help each other and take photos of each other to help me assess fit. So far so good.

The issue is, as I started pulling together the presentation on the piecing technique, as it relates to creating a garment, different than the one I’ve updated and am using to create a pieced mat, like the one I’m teaching for the MAFA conference (wait list only) this summer, I realized that the images in the presentation I’ve used for more than 15 years, are ones I shot for my first article for Handwoven magazine, using a film camera, which debuted in the November/December issue of 2000. Yeah, 21 years ago. Film camera. Yeah…

So I needed some fresh process shots, step by step, using the actual garment pattern they would be using. Though all of my teaching content existed digitally, going into the pandemic, the need to constantly update presentations is still there, and even more so.

Back to my blog of 2008. One of the projects I outlined back then, called Project Four, very original name, came from what to do with the generous leftovers of this coat I created called Complex Wanderings.

Here is the original post, from 2008, because I can’t explain the journey this fabric has been through any better.

“The components for this project have filtered in and out of my life over the last 12 years. It started with a complex 8 shaft point twill fabric, of which I put way too much on my little 8 shaft loom many years ago. I was doing a sectional warping demo, so obviously a long warp was in order. I wove about 5 yards of the laborious two shuttle fabric back in 1995, and it was exhibited in the Portland Convergence 1996 yardage exhibit. The rest sat on my loom. For years. (Note: the fabric is an 8 shaft 2-block Point Twill by Sue Beevers from Carol Strickler’s 8 Shaft Patterns, #165)
Fast forward 2002, I am diagnosed with breast cancer, and one of the odd things that came to me as I wandered through my studio, looking at the stash I’d accumulated, at the unfinished projects, at the yardage still stuck on the loom (I had something like 6 more yards to go), and thought to myself, “What if I died from this cancer thing and never actually used any of this stash?” Somehow that silly thought was just what I needed to move into high gear, and dive into my stash and weave/sew with abandon. I had nothing to lose and suddenly, the idea that we are immortal and will always be there to play with our stash was blown away by that one diagnosis, and I thought, how sad if I never got to see where something takes me, to use some of the precious things I’d acquired, and what was I saving it all for?
Getting that remaining 6 yards off the loom became a priority. Besides, I really liked my little 25″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade Loom and wanted to use it for something else. It had been out of commission for 8 years by then.
I did manage to get the fabric off the loom, and obviously, I lived to write this story, and I did make a lovely coat from the fabric, shown above, titled Complex Wanderings, which is an appropriate title given my state of mind at the time. The piece was exhibited at Convergence 2004 Denver.
In 2006, I had an opportunity to take a five day workshop in Florida with Diane Ericson, sponsored by the Surface Design Guild in Tampa. I adore this group, and hopped a plane in February of ’06, and played in the sunshine with Diane and the rest of the terrifically talented women in the group. It was up there with my top fiber experiences. I can’t recommend Diane enough as a teacher and as a mentor.
I had to bring stuff to work with. Scraps of things, we would be working on many projects over the 5 days, mostly wearables and accessories. To get the most from the workshop I chose to start many projects, and finish them later at home. Some of the scraps I chose, came from the leftovers of Complex Wanderings, the 8 shaft fabric, and scraps of the light blue leather piece. And I searched my stash for other elements that would coordinate. A silk ottoman, a brocade, a raw silk yardage from my mother in law’s stash.

There wasn’t enough of any one thing, but together the palette was beautiful. Using one of Diane’s patterns, I started a jacket, just feeling my way along, letting the elements take me by the hand, and seeing what direction they went. While I was in the workshop, I loved what I was working on, and after I came home and put it on the dressform, the momentum was lost.

Life got in the way, and I never returned to it until a year later. I just couldn’t recapture the direction I was going with it, and put it away for another year. So we are coming on Feb 2009, could that poor half finished jacket be almost three years old? I always tell my students that a piece will tell you what it wants to be, but you have to listen carefully. And it is pretty clear that this piece does not want to go in the direction I had taken it. So, my goal here is to listen carefully, and take this piece to completion, I love the elements, I love the textures and the palette, and I’d like to see something that celebrates all of it, in a playful way, that I will wear and remember a 12 year adventure.

Yeah… That was 2008. As a matter of fact, I recently came across a set of images my late husband shot of my daughter Brianna and me in my studio, from 2007. Yes, that’s Brianna, about age 15. And there I am trying to appear interested in what’s on the dressform. And yeah, that studio is appalling…

The piece eventually got removed from the dressform, and stuffed in a zippered bag, along with all the fabrics and leftovers I had pulled for the original trip to Tampa. It stayed in my attic until just this past year, when I rebuilt the studios and started pulling bags of stuff from the attic, just to see what was there. I have a cabinet under the stairs now of scraps from old pieces and occasionally make stuff and put it up in my eShop.

So now, April of 2021, my kids are grown, that fabric that I first wove back in 1995, when Brianna was just a toddler, has once again appeared on my cutting table.

I’ve taken out the lining, what was I thinking, and completely taken apart the jacket so it is back down to just a pile of raw materials.

I’ve reworked the pile into what I think is a more pleasing group of fabrics, and found a lovely handpainted silk lining, probably from a long ago trip to Thai Silks in northern California.

So now, the next step is to create a new vest, using my piecing technique, and documenting the process so I can update the tutorial/presentation for my class in two weeks.

Can I tell you how much fun I’m having?

And this afternoon, I finished up all the pieces, cut the bands and the lining, and I think I have all the photos I need to update the tutorial. Once I do that, I’ll actually construct the vest…

Yes, it took me 26 years to get to this point. There are no words…

Meanwhile, part two of my podcast with the Professional Weaver Society dropped on Sunday. It was hilarious. The three of us went off onto a few tangents, like getting a hobby, that were downright funny. So if reading this post isn’t enough Daryl Time, you might want to check out Part 2 of my podcast with Tegan and Eric. This is episode 43. Episode 42, or Part 1 is here.

Stay tuned…

Clap on 1, on 2, on 3…

I’m slowly learning a new language for podcasts, videos, recordings, and one of them, that absolutely delights me is when the cameras and audio are rolling for our Friday shoot for the YouTube channel, The Weaver Sews, and my daughter says, “Clap on 1, on 2, on 3” and then I try to clap as loud as I can. We snicker when I do a pathetic clap, and cheer when I do a loud crisp clap, that is perfect for aligning the audio and video tracks. It’s the little things that we hold on to for entertainment in these trying times…

I talked about the design inspiration and how I got to decide what components to use for the vest I videoed the last couple of Fridays in my last blog post. This is my 500 vest pattern, and I used handwoven fabric I wove for this vest, called Shadow Tapestry, which I developed for Silk City Fibers since they comped me the yarn, to see what I could do with it. The draft is free and available here.

I finished up the vest this weekend, and I’m more than happy. For the closure, I ended up making a twist ply rope for a button loop, and using an industrial epoxy to glue a flat button on the back of a piece of Polyform clay that use to be a pin, purchased sometime in the 80’s or 90’s, when Fimo was a thing, and it has been sitting in my box of oddities for many many years. I like my oddities box.

This morning I woke up to an Instagram message that a podcast I recorded a few weeks ago had dropped, and we had such a good time and we talked for such a long time, they made it into a 2 part podcast. Part two airs next Sunday. The podcast was from a group called The Professional Weaver Society, and I’m episode 42. I started looking over the Professional Weavers who have recorded interviews with Tegan and Eric, the brains behind the podcasts and I was stunned. There are some amazing interviews on this podcast, and I have a lot of listening to do. Tegan took a workshop with me at Harrisville Designs a couple years ago, and she was such a delight, grilling me with questions on marketing, selling, and general questions about doing this whole weaving thing for a living. She so reminded me of myself at that age. She is an amazing powerhouse of talent and energy, and her guy Eric is a huge support.

Meanwhile, I listened to my episode today while I finished up the vest. It was a cold rainy day here in NJ, and the flowers and lettuces were loving it. Even though I know how the story turns out, obviously, it was still hilarious listening to myself talk about how I got to be who I am.

And while I mull over the topic for next week’s shoot, I started on a massive project for the loom. This is one of the more ambitious things I’ve done, and it all started with this odd pile of hand dyed wools, mohairs, and odd protein fibers, some of which I can’t completely identify, but they took an acid dye well (Cushings) and I’m including all of it.

I love giving myself really tight parameters. Toss some yarn on the table and see what I can do with it. I’ve got empty looms, and lots of yarn. I spent the better part of this past week doing careful calculations on what’s in each skein, how much, and how far it will go.

I calculated a 55/45% split, and decided, even though I love single shuttle weave structures, that I wanted to do another plaid, like this one, which will be featured in an article in the next Handwoven Magazine.

So I sat down tonight on my computer and carefully plugged in a plaid, using all the yarns from the pile on the table, and got this. When I told the software to “Weave as Drawn In” and selected the Colors and the Draft, I squealed in delight as this popped up on my screen.

Only problem is, I need to put this on my 36″ loom, because my daughter is hogging the two 45″ looms we have, and I don’t have a 6 dent reed for the 36″ loom. Which means I have to buy a new reed. Which means this project will be delayed, but I can still wind the warp and get it ready. The sett will be 12 epi, and I’ll sley two ends per dent. (If you aren’t a weaver you have no idea what I just wrote. I’m sorry…)

I know I’ll probably regret picking a project where I have to change the weft every two picks or so, but I like challenges, and it is such fun to use up stuff that is just sitting in a basket calling to me every time I go out in the studio…

I also mentioned in the last blog post that I had donated a handdyed and handwoven scarf to the Shakespeare Theater of NJ for their spring virtual auction, which is happening now. I promised to let you know when it was available for bidding. I love this theater company, and right before the pandemic hit I was volunteering in their fabulous costume shop, and loving every minute of the experience. I’m doing everything I can to support them and my other favorite arts organization Peters Valley.

I get my second vaccine on Wednesday, and hopefully that will keep me safe, especially since I have my last two in-person workshops scheduled at Peters Valley this summer. They are both weaving workshops and I believe both are filled!

The trees and bulbs are spectacular this year, I’d like to think the superior air quality and lack of pollution from last year contributed to this glorious spring, I don’t really know since I’m not a scientist, but they are spectacular for whatever reason.

Enjoy spring, wherever you live, there is light at the end of this long endless tunnel. Stay tuned…

Inspiration and some help…

I’ve been giving a lot of remote lectures the last couple of months. And I’ve done another podcast, which hasn’t aired yet. And there are the questions that come in connected to my YouTube Videos, The Weaver Sews. Lots of opportunities for Q&A. I would say that the one question that I get asked over and over, (other than, how do you cut into your handwoven fabric, now I can happily say there is a video for that…) is, where do I get my inspiration. I think people really care about this issue, they want so badly to produce great work, and original work, and really want to know how others interpret what’s around them into something awesome.

Some of it, actually a large amount of it is confidence. And confidence comes from doing. Confidence means that even though you are in uncharted territory, and you have no idea how this is going to work, or if it will be great, or awesome or really stupid, confidence means no fear. So what if it doesn’t work, it is cloth. So what if it isn’t great or even stupid, you never know if you didn’t try. And whether it is great or stupid, something is always learned, something tangible, that will serve you on the next grand adventure.

So I just started a new project and went through all the steps to come up with something I think is going to be great, but maybe won’t be, but I don’t care because it will serve my purposes. I thought I’d go through my thought processes the last couple of days so you see how I think, and that it isn’t so special or brilliant or inspired, it just is a series of steps that lead me on an adventure. I sometimes can’t decide, so I’ll send a photo to my weaver friends, we message daily, or I’ll ask my daughter, and sometimes she actually gets me to make a decision by allowing me to talk through what I’m thinking and why. And a good portion of the time I don’t take anyone’s kind advice. I just go with my gut.

First, and I’ve said this over and over in my talks and podcasts and videos, I weave when I’m in the mood to weave, when I have an idea and something sparks my curiosity. I never have a plan as to what I’m going to do with it. This just happened with the last warp I did, which I pulled off a couple days ago, tossed in the washer and off it went onto the shelf. There was no plan for what it will be. I weave to weave, and I make fun cloth. What I do with it down the road (probably clothing) remains a mystery. I was determined to finish this off this past weekend. I had lots of help.

I had done a similar cloth for Silk City Fibers, the draft is available here for free. I called the fabric Confetti, and I liked the idea that you could take a fatter yarn and float it over and under two weft picks having a stable ground underneath. I rooted through my hand dyed yarns and found a whole bunch of skeins of some natural colored silk I probably bought from a friend a number of years ago. A fat silk.

So I sat with a draft, and figured out how to make all these skeins work in yardage, and I have no idea what I’m going to make with it. It will sit there and age like fine wine until the mood strikes. Here it is washed and finished. I definitely want to play with the stripes and have them intersect on the diagonal. That would be fun…

Meanwhile, I wove this fabric last year, another one using Silk City Fiber Yarns, the draft is available here for free… It is called Shadow Tapestry and uses their old standby variegated chenille, with their newer yarn, a Cotton/Bamboo combination with a lot of loft, soft and spongy. I combined the two in a Shadow Weave Structure. Apparently my beat was less than perfect and the end result was that each repeat was just slightly off from the previous repeat, which is why I encourage people not to do weft repeats when weaving yardage.

But there is always a way…

So we have finished up the video series making a couple of my 200 jackets, showing step by step how to do some pretty complicated things. The last installment of that series should drop Friday. We have one more in the can, the one for the “Ask Me Anything” segment that should air the following week and then I need a new theme. I figured that the 500 vest and 600 walking vest, were pretty close to the construction of the jacket, with a couple of differences in how the armhole and lining are treated, and I could probably knock them out in a video. And I’m scheduled to teach a three day remote class using this vest as a background for my piecing technique, so it would be helpful to have a video to direct students to areas of construction they might not understand in the printed directions. I should make a vest next.

So what should I use to make this vest…

I looked through the handwoven fabrics I had on the shelf, and a couple of commercial fabrics I could justify using (sort of like a handwoven), and the Shadow Tapestry fabric jumped out at me. So I rolled it out. I’m not even sure at this point if there is enough, but that never stopped me.

I tried on the samples for my 500 vest and yeah, quarantine has been tough, food plentiful, and exercise non existent. Yes, I’m now walking 4 miles every morning and starting to work in the yard, but that doesn’t help me with the 10 pounds I gained last year. So definitely cut a larger size in the lower half…

Once I have a pattern I can play around with the fabric. There is definitely not enough to do the bands. So I’ll have to come up with a plan B for that… And the layout is tough, I’ll have to have a center back seam, and that means that matching these mismatched shadow weave blocks will be a challenge. I actually measured each repeat to see if I could find like areas. Cutting a yoke would help, the lower part could be cut from one area, and a full yoke across the back would fit across the fabric, EXACTLY. Complete luck.

Which means piping between the lower body and upper yokes.

Last month in a disgusted clean out of all of my skirts and pants that no longer fit, there were some treasures that I hated to toss, so I thought of them as new raw material. Surely that skirt had enough fabric for the trim on something. And my beloved leather pants. I didn’t wear them last year, because I never got out of my pajamas, but I couldn’t get them on. So I lovingly carried them to the studio and put them on the shelf. They would find their purpose one day.

I thought I found their purpose, because they went beautifully with this handwoven Shadow Tapestry. I would cut them into bands and piping and it would be gorgeous. I started to remove the lining in the pants, and realized that years ago, leather of course gives and they had gotten too large for me and I had taken them in substantially in the center back. So I let them out. And they fit. And I’m over-joyed. I loved these pants. I could do a whole blog about the history behind them. But largely this meant that I couldn’t use them for my vest.

Plan B…

Back in 2007 I made a vest out of a very small warp someone gifted me, I wove off the warp and turned it into this lovely vest, which I adored, but sold in a guild sale to one of my guild mates. It was called Native Woods.

I lined it with a woven alpaca pile fabric, the kind from a vintage zip out lining in a men’s trench coat. The pile fabric was gifted to me by someone, the card exists in my design journal from 13 years ago, but I always loved that bit of pile fabric trimming the exterior edges of the vest. I sort of missed that vest after I sold it.

I have the scraps. And I think it is enough for a neck band and pair of armhole bands. And the color is good. But that means I have to come up with something else for the piping. In the middle of the night, I woke up with a voice telling me to check if there was any leather left from the Harris Tweed jacket I just made.

In the morning I checked, and I had enough in the scrap bag for piping for the two front yokes and the back yoke.

Which left the lining…

I rooted around in my stash, and pulled out a couple of contenders, one of which is here. A lovely silk print, maybe from the old Waechter’s Silk Shop in Asheville. I mourned when it went out of business. I use to raid their remnant bin whenever I would visit.

And then I spied this silk blouse I had just added to my stash. Back in January, armed with a dozen masks, I drove to Maryland to help my 89 year old mom move to a smaller apartment in the senior complex where she lives, after her husband, my step dad passed in December. It was a busy week, and as we moved her clothing, she culled some of the pieces she didn’t think she would ever wear again. My mother and I are not even close to the same size and shape. But she had in the “to be given away” bag this lovely silk shirt, not anything I would fit into or wear, not my style, but it was silk. And silk is silk. So I took it and added it to my fabric stash.

And so I pulled it out and put it next to the Shadow Tapestry fabric and my eyes lit up. It was unexpected and fun and though my daughter didn’t like it, she liked the first choice, I just thought it was perfectly timed and meant to be…

So now everything is cut out, and I spent the day assembling the parts. Tomorrow I will write the script and Friday we will shoot the complex parts of the construction. I don’t know if the fur bands will be successful or not, but I won’t ever know unless I try. I can always take them off and replace them if I change my mind. Then I can shoot a video on how to rip out handwoven fabric…

And of course I had help, this morning when I came down to start constructing this is what was waiting for me, letting me know that he kept the pile warm and it was all ready to sew. This cat makes me laugh… He is sitting in my lap as I type…

Anyway, this is pretty typical of how I go through the process of deciding what to make. The fabric came about because Silk City developed a new yarn and asked me to test it and see what I could do with it. I asked for a cone of it along with a variegated chenille. I don’t know why when I looked at them I thought Shadow weave. I hate weaving anything with two shuttles. But I did, and so far it is working out. I’ve got so many threads of ideas, like seeds that germinate, and it is a process getting that little seed planted and see what sprouts from it.

Stay tuned…

Hope…

Today is a bittersweet day, my late husband would have turned 70. My daughter and I were talking about all of the things that have happened in this world since he died almost 5 years ago, and how much we would love just to sit with him one more time and hear his thoughts on the bigger picture. He was always good at that.

So we started the day with my late husband’s most favorite thing, a NJ classic, Taylor Ham, egg and cheese on an Everything Bagel. The shop on Main Street makes the best. Actually I started the day with a 4 mile walk through town, to a ball field, around the track and back, but my daughter would never get up that early!

And spring arrived this weekend. Along with glorious sunshine and temps in the 60’s. So to celebrate that, and my late husband’s garden legacy that my daughter painstakingly rebuilt last fall, we went to the local garden center and bought cold weather crops, lettuces, salad mixes, kale and collards. They will get planted next weekend. And pansies. We planted pansies. They are the most colorful wonderful sign of hope, rebirth, spring. My late husband is smiling.

This past weekend was the Florida Tropical Weavers Conference, and I was a presenter, actually I was the first to present last Friday. I’ve done this conference before in person, and it is always a treat to head to Florida in March when NJ cold just won’t seem to end. This year it was virtual, and though I know this is not a replacement for an in person conference, this team did an outstanding job of bringing the entire conference to the membership remotely. As a presenter, I got to tune in whenever I wanted, and they even had a fashion show slide presentation! I skipped the Saturday evening Pajama Party, there is such a thing as too much screen time. I loved the lectures, and was particularly inspired, which means I needed to finish off some things so I can get new stuff on the looms.

And so I did. First up was my taxes. This is probably the job I hate the most in my life. Yes, I turn everything over to an accountant, but with a business and payroll, there are just so many things to pull together and I’m terrible at using Quickbooks. Really. We are not friends. So I resort to doing things mostly by hand. My accountant promised after tax season last year to teach me some basics, but of course with Covid, that never happened. So taxes are now done and delivered to the accountant.

I finished a sweater I started a couple months ago. It still needs blocking, but I think I’m just going to put it on and let my body heat do the job, before it gets too warm to wear it. Pattern is C2Knits Jemma, and the yarn is Rowan Alpaca Colour in Topaz. I had help of course.

I finished weaving a run of six scarves, because one of my favorite arts venues, The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ, struggling to hold on valiantly through Covid, is having another online auction fundraiser. I wanted to donate one of my scarves and they were still on the loom. So I wove off the last one, washed and dried, tagged and delivered the scarf today. I’ll let you know when the online auction starts which will be in a couple weeks, but if you just periodically go to the site, you’ll see when the auction preview is up. Bid early and often! This one is called Autumn Harvest, which I know isn’t really spring like, but I started it going into last Autumn. Weaving is a slow thing… (Actually, I think this is one of my all time favorite color combos I’ve ever done…) Mostly hand dyed yarns, rayon, cotton, Tencel, silk. 8 Shaft combination plain weave, twill, with supplemental ribbons. You can purchase and download the draft here

And my Harris Tweed Jacket… I’ve been working on this step by step in my YouTube video series The Weaver Sews. I sat outside today in the glorious sunshine and finished up sewing on the buttons and removing all the tailor’s tacks. I adore this jacket. I can’t wait to make this my new go to jacket to grab and go. The trim is caviar leather and the pattern is my 200 jacket with the welt pocket variation. And of course I had help with this as well…

And so I started another sweater, this one from Harrisville Silk and Wool I bought when I was teaching up there a couple years ago, they had a mis-dye, and the skeins were pretty cheap, but I loved the color, I don’t have anything like it in my wardrobe so this should be fun. The pattern is from Harrisville Designs, Mattock by Amy Herzog. I should have this done in time for fall.

And in the paper the other day, I came across my horoscope, I’m always entertained by them, I don’t really know why, but once in awhile, one makes me sit up and think.

And yes, the things I do are familiar, and that is so very comforting. And I forget that others don’t have the kind of experience I’ve been gifted over the years, and sharing is important. I’ve now turned down pretty much all of my future travel opportunities, and I sort of think of myself as retired, but yet I’m busier than I’ve ever been, but with stuff that makes me really happy, converting my vast knowledge base into a digital legacy, through the YouTube channel, and some of my writings and instructions. And the patterns. I get up every morning, take care of the animals and then walk. I just walk. I get to breathe, think, get inspired, and I’m not a completely crazy person trying to do it all. I actually have time to go to the garden center and by pansies and put them in a pot. Or three.

My daughter qualified for her first dose of the Covid vaccine. I’m still waiting for a call, but I’m hopeful that I’ll have it soon. Meanwhile, I’m patient, I’m a weaver. We can be very patient. And I’m exploding with ideas of fabric I want to weave (my daughter and I are arguing over who gets to play with a stash of Harrisville yarns we have… ).

Stay tuned, enjoy the sun, it brings hope and flowers and birds and signs of spring.