Placemat Exchange

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It is the last day of 2008. A quick note as I fly out the door to yet another holiday celebration. The fruit salad is made, the house tidy, the wood stove warm and inviting, the blustery wind howls and swirls the new six inches of snow, and for today, all is right with the world. At least here in my corner of NJ.
I spent the afternoon setting up the draft for an overshot placemat exchange that my daughter and I are doing with the Jockey Hollow Guild. 10/2 natural Perle Cotton warp, and a 5/2 Perle weft, my daughter and I are both participating, each one part of a group of eight. So we will be weaving a total of 16 placemats, I want to get her winding the 12 yard warp we need, so she can get the threading started while still on vacation. She is a new weaver, at 16, and as a member of Jockey Hollow, she participated in her first sample exchange last June. She did an 8 shaft huck sample, nothing like starting out with eight shafts for your first project! She did a great job, and at one point, looked up from behind the loom and said, “Mom, I’m really enjoying threading these heddle things, I’ve figured out the pattern and this is like a logic game.”

The placemats are overshot, I picked a simple overshot pattern, called Dog Tracks, I had done in a class of 18th Century structures I took at the Cincinnati Convergence in 2000. (see above sample in red). I liked it because it was simple, and because my daughter works on Saturdays at a dog kennel.

This was going to be her adventure, but as luck would have it, the placemat exchange had more volunteers than it needed and not enough for two groups of eight. So I agreed to be part of a second team, and thought I’d streamline the process by piggybacking onto my daughter’s warp. This is probably a huge mistake, but I didn’t want to tie-up two looms all spring.

So my daughter picked purple for her weft, and instructed me to pick something that would work with her purple, as she was confident that when I died, she would get my set of mats and then have 16 total. I love the way teenagers think… So I picked a celadon green, it sort of goes with my dishes, but I know my daughter will want to put them away for her future.
Oddly enough, I’ve never woven a dish towel. I do yardage, I’ve always done yardage, and I’m not so much into functional textiles. At least ones that I weave. She is on her way, and I have a suspicion that she will weave her first dish towel long before I do…

More Celebrations…

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The end of the year holiday season is a mixture of endless social opportunities, fabulous food, upset stomachs from too much fabulous food, family drama, unproductive days, and general disruption of any semblance of a routine or schedule. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My contribution in the studio today was the annoying task of paperwork, and end of the month bill paying, but alas, those tasks are important, and must be accomplished before any of the play time!
After a lovely holiday dinner party last night, with a group of women friends I’ve had for almost 20 years, and then a quick trip into NYC this afternoon with my husband to see an entertaining holiday musical called ‘Striking 12‘, an original musical by an amazing jazz ensemble called Groove Lily I’m ready for the holidays to be over and get back to some serious work. I loved ‘Striking 12′, the title has to do with the strike of midnight on the last day of the year, overlaid with a modern day recreation of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Match Girl’. My favorite song of the musical was of course, the original “Screwed-Up People Make Great Art“. It was a reference to Hans Christian Andersen’s miserable childhood and dysfunctional life and how he produced such timeless stories that have fed generations. It reminded me of one of my favorite NPR quotes, which I’ve said to myself on more than one occasion in my life, “Nothing bad ever happens to artists, it is all fuel for their work!“.
Anyway, after the matinee at the Zipper Factory, which is an old zipper factory turned intimate theater, in the heart of the garment district, (who knew?), my husband and I walked up to Times Square for the most amazing show of the city of NY preparing for the onslaught of the New Year’s Eve Celebration tomorrow night. Living in NJ, oddly enough, I’ve never experienced New Year’s in Times Square, only on TV. But seeing the Times Square preparation was an amazing thing, the 2009 was already lit up on top of the tower where the ball drops, and the vendors were out in full force. The police barricades were being installed, and the flood lights in prep for all the Television crews were so bright, you didn’t realize it was actually dark outside. We slipped into a Starbucks before heading back to the garage for the car.
The stash is calling, but so is life, and there are still opportunities to do once in a life time things, see old friends, celebrate friendships and family, and end a year that has been filled with drama, both good and difficult, a turning point in the world, with the hope that the new year will bring better times. Stay tuned…

Christmas Gifts

Monday, December 29, 2008

My husband is a systems analyst for a telecommunications company, and travels internationally. A couple years ago, he spent a number of months in Hyderabad, India, and on his return, brought me a suitcase full of silk Saris. I’ve used them in many garments, as linings and trims, and because of their very long length, and interesting borders, they make a terrific addition to my stash.
My husband made 10 trips to Dublin, Ireland this year, and on one of them, he made a trip into County Wicklow, where he found Avoca Handweavers. According to Wikipedia, it is the oldest surviving woolen mill in Ireland.
My husband knows me well. He skipped all the clothing products, blankets, scarves, and went right to the pre-cut lengths of yardage, gorgeous wool tweeds, and picked out two different plaids to give me for a Christmas present. So, in addition to the six projects I’ve been outlining (don’t worry, I haven’t talked about project 5 and 6 yet) I have another mission, to sew something fabulous from the two lengths of handwoven wool tweed from Ireland.
I subscribe to Burda World of Fashion, which comes in monthly. The January issue just arrived in the mail yesterday, and there are a number of great ideas for using these two plaid fabrics. Oddly enough, there is a whole section devoted to the new plaids! I love the design of Burda, and especially love the fact that all the patterns for all the garments featured in each issue, are included in the center section. I now have more than 10 years worth. If I can think it, I have a pattern for it.

Holiday Dash

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

lifeisThe last minute scramble is on, as I write I’m still thinking of last minute gifts to wrap, hand-made soap to put out for the postal carrier, (did you know they aren’t allowed to accept money for a tip?), (Oh, and don’t be impressed, I didn’t make the soap, my friend is a bee keeper and makes fabulous soap, check it out on I did work in the studio today, making and finishing up last minute gifts, trashing the studio, working on a collage to celebrate a milestone birthday for one of my friends. I’m finishing up one of the muslins for project one, the frosted florals dress. Pictures will eventually come, but I’m going to take the next few days away from the computer, the blog, the studio, and spend time with relatives, family, friends, and the spirit of the season.
Remember to take time for yourself, time to create, time to celebrate that, for today, you are alive and the stash is calling!

Project Four

Monday, December 22, 2008

This is a tough one. 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. 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.
I’ve included the draft, you have to weave a fine tabby in the warp along with the pattern weft, and it is from Carol Strickler’s Book of 8 shaft weaves.