A Day Off

It was great to not be in the studio the whole day today.  After my morning errands, grocery shopping for the week, I got the placemat exchange warp tied onto the front beam, and Bri crawled under the loom and redid the tie-up.  I wound bobbins and got her weaving, checking for crossed threads, (there was one) and making sure everything worked.  There were some initial issues with added heddles catching on some of the warp threads, and a couple broke.  Bri was having trouble getting everything to weave smoothly, so I sat down and got it started.  We are now ready to start weaving placemats!

convent2This afternoon, Bri and I accompanied some of the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild members to a private tour of the convent of The Community of St. John Baptist. www.csjb.org The Community was founded in Windsor, England in 1852, began work in NYC in 1874, and built the convent in Morris County, NJ around 1915.  The building is beautiful, stark, vaulted, peaceful, full of spectacular religious furnishings, iconography, and art.  I thought I was on a tour of the Cloisters in Manhattan.

vestmentsThe reason for the trip, was to have a private showing of the priceless collection of late 19th and early 20th century vestments and paraments, beautifully embroidered, with gold, silver, and silk, by the sisters of St. John Baptist.   Mary Wagner is the textile conservator of the collection, and she carefully showed us how everything is stored, and repaired, and conserved.  One of our guild members took photographs, and I’m hoping to obtain a couple and add them to this post.  Who knew this treasure was only on the other side of the county where I live.

Mary and I had a lovely time chatting about Montclair State University, where we both got our art degrees, about 10 years apart, both having studied under Carol Westfall.  It is a small world in the textile community indeed.

Critter Care and Project 3 update

When my children were young, I volunteered as a 4-H leader.  Each time my group met, we did something different, something cool, something I thought would appeal to a bunch of hyperactive 3rd grade boys, and then later, a bunch of savvy 3rd grade girls.  We explored foods, electricity, the sewing machine, floral arranging, gardening, woodworking, and of course, animals, reptiles, and rodents.  Weak mother that I am, I agreed to the hamsters after the volunteer small animal expert left me one in a spackle bucket, and yes, I admit, I agreed to keeping a snake after the reptile expert gave a presentation.  A small Rosy Boa, friendly, wouldn’t get more than 18″ long.  What she didn’t tell me, was although the hamsters die in a few years, the snake does not.  Years later, my son in college, my daughter half way through high school, the snake still lives in a tank in my den, I defrost tiny baby mice which I keep in my freezer, having them delivered from a herpetology supplier on dry-ice about every six months, and toss a couple in the tank every week or so.  Al, the snake, doesn’t require much else, except to clean out the tank once in awhile.  I can handle that.

We’ve always had dogs, but the last one, a rescue dog, died back in the fall of 2007, and as my kids get older, and my husband and I step away from the caring and feeding of the young, I am in no hurry to replace the dog.  I want to travel, I want my house to be pet hair free, and I’m sooooo not interested in caring for another pet.  But that was not to be, because around the time we had to put our last dog to sleep, a domestic rabbit showed up on our front lawn, and now it lives in our garage, and of course, guess who spent the morning cleaning out the cage, the stinky litter box, and feeding and watering the rabbit, and tossing a couple dead mice to the snake while I was at it.

On my way to the trash to dump the crud from the rabbit cage, I noticed one of the ponds in the yard, very low on water.  So I had to figure out how to unfreeze the hose, get the water flowing, trudging through the snow covered yard, and refill the pond.  The fish looked happy enough, but this wasn’t quite what I expected to do with my morning.  In all fairness, the outside ponds and critters are my husband’s project and responsibility.  But he is traveling in India.  The chore of the rabbit then defaults to my daughter, but at 16, she is as reliable as, well, a 16 year old.  She in fact was working at a dog kennel all day, watering and feeding and caring for a menagerie that includes some goats, horses, chickens, and an array of cats, and yes, a bunch of dogs.  I consider myself lucky.

coat4So the snake, the rabbit, and the fish are all happy, I’ll get to filling the bird feeders tomorrow, and happily I finally made it into the studio to sit quietly, listen to Weavecast, www.weavecast.com and Car Talk and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and sew.  So the critters and me, we are all happy today.

collarfacingI spent a lot of time on the collar piece, I did a small blanket stitch around the felt collar facing, taking advantage of the cut edge of the felt, which doesn’t ravel, which really helped reduce bulk by not having seam allowances.  I’m basically down to the hem, and the lining.  I’m hoping to finish that in the next couple days so I can set up for a photoshoot.

Project 3 Update 3

coat3coat-backbeltdetailSlowly but surely I make progress.  I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying sewing this coat, I might have said that yesterday, but I also can’t tell you how bulky this coat is getting and how much it weighs.  The fabric is a weighty fabric to begin with, a fulled thick wool/cotton combination.  And there are a lot of pieces to it, lots of seams and details.  It should be toasty warm.  I had toyed with adding a thermal interlining, but decided that since it didn’t have a separate sleeve, and you don’t ordinarily thermal line the sleeves, only the body, I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the unbroken seamline all the way across the body and down the shoulder.

I made a number of different twist ply ropes to couch instead of topstitching, which would just get lost.  I ripped them all out and just ended up using a fuzzy black novelty wool, and a couching foot, and applied it down the shoulder/sleeve.  I’ll do the same to define the tops of the cuffs, and the center front, to make it appear as if the button area were an actual placket.

I played around with the felt scraps for awhile for the belt in the back, finally settling on folding in thirds, with the natural edge of the felt meandering through the middle.  I hand tacked it down, catching in one of the twist ply ropes I’d made, which gave a hint of color, and defined the meandering natural edge of the  felt.

When I tried the coat on, the original placement of the belt was too high.  I am long waisted, and it looked better set lower.  The lining is cut out, and I have the collar, facings, windows in the facing for the bound buttonholes, and lining to still install.  The inside of the collar will be more of the felt.  Both of my children will be working all day tomorrow, and my husband is still in India, and I’m really looking forward to another uninterrupted day in the studio.  The deadline for the fashion show entries is approaching…

Project 3 Update 2

What a great two days I’ve had, alone in the studio, sewing, playing with details, this is one of my great joys of January, it is too cold to do anything outside, and there is very little on the calendar.  I did manage to bundle up and walk into town today and meet a couple girlfriends for lunch.  We shared an arugula salad, and an eggplant rollatini pizza.  I walked to the post office, did a few other errands, and walked home.  It felt so good after being hunched over the sewing machine.

coat1detail1coat2I’m making great progress on the coat. It is so colorful and textural and it is a pleasure to handle the fabric.  I tested out the layout of the buttons and made some spacing adjustments.  The original pattern called for something completely different.  But I wanted to put bound buttonholes on this coat, so once I determined the placement and machine basted a grid down the front, I used the scraps of purple Ultrasuede and made the lips for the buttonholes.  The zipper pockets were a lot of fun, easy to do, and the metal stops on either end of the zipper stood out way more than I would have liked so I used my daughter’s black nail polish to tone them down.

I love the way the color moves through the coat, and the stripes are matching up even better than I had hoped considering how little fabric I had to do all this with.

This is the kind of sewing I like best.  I love the details, and I love “making it work”.  And I think I will really love wearing this coat.


I made great progress today, and still was able to watch the entire inauguration, a brilliantly inspiring sequence of events, the invocations, the music, the speeches, and of course, listening to Obama and the hope and change he represents, and the uniting of a peoples that have been divided way too long.

layout1feltcelebration-bag-detail-72One of the joys of the computer is being able to stream an event like this, and work while it is on in the background, looking up when the scene requires.  And it made me stay put in the studio, so I really got to concentrate on the layout for Project Three.  It took me most of the day, constantly rearranging, repositioning, piecing, and fudging.  I had very little scrap left when all was said and done.  Once I had the layout to where I wanted it, I found a million excuses to keep me from actually making the first cut.

Some of my favorite parts of making a garment like this, are to poke around in the stash, and see what can work with this piece.  I really didn’t have quite the right amount of fabric, but one of the things I did find in the stash, was the leftover dark teal felt from a bag I made where I felted a Corriedale wool cross and bombyx silk.  I’m including a photo of the bag, it has an inkle woven band over Ultrasuede for the handle.  I actually had just enough felt to do the two piece belt in the back of the coat, and the inside of the collar.

I went through my huge stash of buttons, and couldn’t find five that would work together.  Black was too strong, but I had enough felt left to do covered buttons, and I think the size and color will be great.  And I found a scrap of plum Ultrasuede to make the lips of the bound buttonholes. (The scraps are left from the bag as well).

I played around with making a twist ply rope to couch some of the topstitching details.  I like the rope I came up with, but I won’t know how I’ll like the couched effect until I actually have the coat together and can try it out.  I was having so much fun stalling for time.  Finally I just grabbed the scissors, and made that first cut.  The rest went like butter.  So, now I have this huge pile of cut fabric pieces, and all the pulled embellishments.  I found a wine red sari in the stash, which might work really well for the lining, and the best, I found two decorative zippers, the perfect size, for the zipper pockets in the fronts, except that one was black, and one was gray.  The teeth were the same color, so I just grabbed a Sharpie marker, and colored in the gray one, and no one, except those reading this blog, will ever know the difference.

Bri made progress too, on the placemat exchange warp.  I helped her beam the 12 yards of 10/2 cotton, and we are all ready to tie onto the front and start weaving.  The warp went on easily, and I’m hoping it will weave easily too.