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.

Making Candy

Today isn’t really a studio day, it is Sunday, and there are larger more important things in life, like watching my 16 year old, dressed like a donkey, crawl on her hands and knees up the aisle in church, carrying Mary on her back for the Sunday School Christmas pageant. The HS kids are usually exempt from the Nativity scene, but my daughter, the largest kid in the Sunday School, always cheerfully accepts the invitation to play the donkey, she is the only one large enough to pull it off. Afterwards there is grocery shopping, errands, and my wonderful husband stayed behind to remove another three inches of snow from the cars and driveway. My 18 year old son is deliriously happy, the semester is over, and he is on the mountain teaching skiing in the fresh snow, to little kids who aren’t afraid yet of falling and getting hurt or looking stupid.
My daughter discovered a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living laying on the dining room table with all the collecting mail and holiday cards, and found the section on holiday baking. Her eyes got bigger and bigger and when she found the recipe for peppermint sticks, real peppermint sticks, not the candy canes you buy in the store (she didn’t know there was any other kind), she begged to get the ingredients to try them out, along with chocolate bark and choco dipped caramallows. So last Sunday, we did our Shoprite run, and she happily cooked all day, making candy, melting chocolate, and completely trashing my kitchen. I don’t know how the chocolate bark turned out, since she whisked it away and will give it to me for Christmas. The caramallows were a disaster, but the peppermint sticks intriqued her enough to want to make 10 more batches to give to all her friends and teachers for Christmas.
So today, we bought more corn syrup, more sugar, and all the different extracts that we could find at Shoprite. I skipped the rum, but maybe that would have been fun as well. I disappeared into my studio, to finish the Big Sister piece, only five little strips left to insert, and my daughter started on her afternoon adventure. I wisely stayed away…
It is a joy to watch a 16 year old, iTunes blasting in the kitchen, making candy from scratch, like she has discovered a part of the world that was hidden from her generation and is celebrating it with the raw enthusiasm of youth. It is a lot like weaving, a craft that dates back to the beginning of time, yet new generations keep discovering it.
Periodically she would come running to find me with the latest colorful batch, to taste test. They are really delicious, these little hard candies, nothing like the artificial candy canes you buy in the stores. She has the whole routine down to a science, knowing how to handle the hot taffy, and how long to pull before she has to start cutting it into little bite size pillows, how to keep them from sticking to the pan, to her, to each other.
My kitchen is totally trashed. But I’ll get it clean again, and she will eventually settle down and study for her big Chemistry exam tomorrow. The holiday spirit is high in our house, a blanket of snow covers the outside, and hot sticky candy covers the inside and though Martha Stewart she is not, my daughter has discovered that what comes from the hands is far better than anything you can buy.

Winter Solstice

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A lovely end to a beautiful winter day. I just returned from a celebration of the Winter Solstice, at a neighbor/friend’s house. We played music, (did I mention I play recorder?), read passages, poems, and stories, burned that which we wished to let go of, in a beautiful fire, nestled in the new fallen snow, shared wine, good food, good friendship, and an hope for a better world for tomorrow. I wish you all peace and joy in the simple things, as the days begin to grow longer and the sun shines just a little more each day.