Entertaining at home…

I spent a glorious weekend with my sisters “down the shore”, and if you are friends with me on facebook you will have seen all of those very cool photos of us having a Jersey shore experience.  This morning when I woke up I had a bunch of pictures in my inbox from Ann Marie Soto, extraordinary member of ASG, or the American Sewing Guild, editor of the former Notions Magazine, and luckily for us in the area, member of the North Jersey Chapter of the guild.  

A week ago Saturday, one of the ASG neighborhood groups, the Sewphisticates, who are primarily focused on clothing, chose a studio visit and trunk show with me for their September meeting.  A half dozen members crowded into my studio to have a look at what I do and where I work, and a peak into my “closet” of handwoven clothing.  We stood around the table, and I got rare photos of me actually talking and explaining and telling stories, and this morning Ann Marie sent them along.  They are colorful and fun and though I took not a single image the whole day, she captured some lovely ones.

 

We started in the studio, gathered around the couple of looms with stuff actually on them.  Few had any real weaving experience, so understanding how cloth was woven is an important piece of information if you sew.

We looked at yarn, the beginning of ideas for how my designs are planned.  These are all hand dyed wools and mohairs.  I’m itching to figure out something that will celebrate these colors.

I showed them some yardage, and of course, Chaos, draft available here, designed from some random skeins I had used as dye mops (soaking up leftover dye from another job) and included a warp chain made from a similar dyed “dye mop” skein ready for the next yardage on the loom.

I showed the Autumn Patchwork duster, along with Chaos, which had just returned from an exhibit in Tennessee.  The colors are pretty impressive when I look at them in this kind of photo.  When I’m working on something, I get too close to it, and don’t realize the bigger picture.

We all headed to my office, where I had another loom, with yardage using Noro Taiyo Lace as the weft, and I unrolled it for them to see the beautiful color gradations.  

Then we headed down to the dining room, where I had set up a half dozen Structo’s and gave them the basics of how thread interlacement works, plain weave vs. twill, and they were soon weaving away.  

We had lunch on the decks and by the pond, and then I showed a number of my garments so they could see construction and finishing techniques.  We had a wonderful time.  I was so thrilled for the opportunity to show off what I do all day, to have an excuse to actually get out of my pajamas and entertain.  The animals were adorable if a bit obnoxious, Ranger just didn’t know what to do with himself with all these ladies around!  Very large frozen marrow bones helped keep them outside for a good chunk of time…

Anyway, I’m appreciative of the lovely photos Ann Marie sent, and that I was actually around to be able to host a neighborhood group of the ASG.  They do some lovely field trips, and I was glad I could be one of them!

Heading to the Pacific Northwest at the end of the week!  

Stay tuned…

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Shopping In The Attic…

A long time ago, seems like another lifetime, I gave up ten years of craft fairs and production work, because 1) I was so burned out I didn’t want to weave anymore and 2) I was pregnant in my mid 30’s with my first child.  He turns 30 in February.  It was a long time ago.  Talk about an abrupt life style change…  As much as I can’t imagine my life without my children, especially since my husband is gone, those early years were tough.  I had my daughter just about three years after my son.  So most of my 30’s was about raising kids and desperately trying to recreate myself creatively, incredibly challenging.  For many years the looms stayed fallow.  It was just too hard to set up a loom, be uninterrupted without paying someone to watch my kid/kids while puttered away designing and threading.  And without the source of craft fair income, it was had to justify yarn purchases.  

But I had scrap.  Boy did I have scrap.  Handwoven yardage that is.  I was able to recreate myself and make use of lots of those scraps in the years my children were young because it is easier to be interrupted at the sewing machine than at the loom.  I’ve talked about this before, because a few years ago I started looking at all that scrap in the attic and downsized a bit, especially the early fabrics by making one pound packages and selling them off.  Those are all gone, but there is still a lot up there, and more recent work has netted me some pretty fantastic colorful scraps that I can do some pretty fantastic stuff with…

Sidebar…

I’m heading to Whidbey Island next Friday with a stop off in Bellingham, WA to give a lecture to the Whatcom Guild.  They chose to have my lecture on what to do with Leftovers.  I haven’t given that one in a year or two, and it was really lovely to go through and pull all the ingredients for the lecture, because when I teach someplace where I have to fly, I have to ship a lot of stuff ahead.  The “ingredients” or samples and examples for the Leftovers lecture won’t fit in the suitcases I need for the five day garment construction retreat on Whidbey Island so they all have to be shipped head as well.  And because this is the Pacific Northwest, and I live in the Northeast, I have to give lots of lead time for stuff to get there.  Which means a lot of preplanning and prepping.  So earlier this week, I focused on cutting and printing and binding and packing everything I need for both the retreat and the Leftovers lecture, which made me go through the content of the Leftovers lecture and remind me why this topic is so much fun.  Everything has been shipped out and I have some time to kill…

The fun part for me is that I already have all the “ingredients” for a lifetime of playing with handwoven pieces that are really just trash.  The garment they came from is finished and somewhere in my closet or sold.  I only have one venue a year where I can sell things I make from scraps, and there isn’t a whole lot of money to be made, once the guild takes its percentage, but still, my Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild show and sale in November is a pretty strong venue if I take the time to actually make stuff.

So I have a week or so before I fly out to Seattle, and the prep work for the workshop is done, and I pulled a large pile of miscellaneous stuff from my attic, and set out to see what I could come up with.

I’m seeing a lot of images of bags and items on social media that use my long ago developed technique for piecing.  All you have to do is show a person or two the technique, in a class or lecture and social media spreads it like wild fire…  I’ve already made two bags and sold them immediately at the guild sale last year, and this last one used the remaining bits.  The technique uses a tricot backing, scraps are fused to the backing with cut edges butting together, and the joins are covered by bias tubes using a duct tie as a press bar.  I’ve documented the process along with the rest of the technique suggestions in my “What to Do with Leftovers” monograph. 

I also found a very large hunk of a woven piece I did years ago featured in a Handwoven Magazine article, using a Theo Moorman inlay technique with Pendleton Woolen Mill “worms” or blanket selvedges (I shipped home a couple of bales from the mill during a tour after the Pendleton Oregon ANWG conference back in 2005 I think).  I wove them in using tie down threads on a wool background using up stuff on my shelves.  This made for a great two sided fabric and it was a perfect candidate and just the right size to squeak out a vest from my collared vest pattern.  No need for a yoke since the “worms” changed color midway up the scrap. Here is the link to the original coat, long ago sold to my favorite customer.

And I made another padded zipper pouch last night, with a leftover piece from last year’s dishtowel run.  The piece wasn’t enough for a full dishtowel, and not really the right size for a napkin. I showed the first one I made a couple blog posts ago I think.  There are a boat load of YouTube videos from quilters on making zippered pouches, though I’m having issues with my serger, this still came out quite lovely.  (Note to self: figure out what’s wrong with the serger, changing needles didn’t help…)

And I got the idea of making greeting cards out of the smaller scraps, from some I got from a guild or conference tote or something.  I ordered a bunch of Strathmore blanks with envelopes and cello sleeves  and my daughter immediately stole all of them and made them into cards so she could sell them at the sale.  Her scraps are infinitely more interesting than mine, but I’ll have competition at the guild this year for greeting cards.  Hoping people still send snail mail greetings…

And of course there is nothing like a deadline.  

Additional sidebar…

I am a huge fan of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, their productions are incredible, and I always try to attend their annual gala fundraisers whenever I’m actually in town.  This October they are hosting another fund raiser, with requisite tricky tray, called “A Bard’s Barbeque“.  I’ve donated my handwoven scarves to their tricky tray in the past, but the BBQ theme needed something different.  I spoke with one of their development directors about donating a couple of handwoven dishtowels, you know, the Lady Macbeth “Out damned spot” kind of thing.  They loved it but it means I have to clear the loom of the 14 dishtowels to get two for them before I leave for WA next Friday.  No pressure. 

I think I just finished number nine…

And while I had my morning tea, I leafed through the new Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot that has been sitting on the table for a week now.  It has the conference registration for next year’s Convergence in Knoxville, TN, and I’m not on the roster by choice.  I didn’t apply to the conference because, well if you have been following my blog you know that I’m not interested in doing conferences anymore.  That said, I was surprised as I leafed through the magazine, to find myself on page 25, or rather my coat, which I had forgotten had won the coveted HGA award back in 2018 and was featured in a spread in the magazine that featured all the HGA award winners from last year.

I read on, and was surprised again to see me, like a picture of me, on page 7 of the conference registration book, because I’m one of the invited fashion show artists.  There are three of us invited, I was the juror for the fashion show in Reno in 2018, and now, I’ll be sending five pieces of work, so my work will be there, just not me.  Talk about a serious deadline…

And then I really was surprised when I turned to page 44, almost at the end, and saw a lovely ad featuring my dress, it was an HGA ad for Professional Membership.  I have this vague recollection of the editor asking permission to use my piece in something…  The ad is beautiful.  And of course I’m a professional member…

Nice to be featured prominently in a magazine without actually having to write anything!

Stay tuned…

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One down, three to go…

I am teaching four garment construction retreats this fall, the first is finished, I just returned from a six day class in Harrisville, NH, home of Harrisville Designs.  I love teaching there, I had a particularly delightful class, they all got along well, helped each other, were supportive of each other, and all pledged to come back next year.  And they really really worked hard.  One of the advantages to places like this and like Sievers in Wisconsin (trip number 3) is that students can work well in to the night.  Some of my students are early morning risers, and they can start at 6am, and many of them don’t get cranking until after dinner.  It wasn’t unusual for me to stay and cheer them on until 11pm at night.  

Anyway, I had 12 students, four of them were repeaters, so they kind of worked on their own agenda.  Carole and Jane made garments from my patterns…  Both from handwovens…  Jane tried the new button down placket version of my tunic, with in seam buttonholes.

Amy and Rita brought their own patterns and Amy’s 1st jacket and both of Rita’s jackets were from handwoven.  

Tracey is a felter, and brought some felt laminate (wool felted onto silk) panels she made, and created a swing coat using the “living” edge of the felt as hems and borders.  I always called it the organic natural edge of the felt, but I like her term better.  She also had time to create my new swing dress/jumper from a commercial raw silk she brought along as plan B.

Sally and Polly made swing coats.  Both are handwoven, and Polly was a little further behind because she brought a plaid.  A handwoven plaid, and of course in a handwoven plaid, nothing matches up even though it was woven thread perfect.  She spent a lot of hours at the cutting table.  I cannot wait to see this one finished.

Leslie and Roberta made regular jackets, Leslie of course spent many extra hours cutting out her commercial plaid, she did a wonderful job, but ran out of time for things like bands and sleeves!  Roberta worked well into the evenings and was able to mostly finish hers. Roberta’s fabric is a gorgeous handwoven from Tencel.

And I had so much fun with Dee-Dee.  She wove a gorgeous mock leno wool fabric from combining Harrisville Shetland and Highland yarns.  There were a few challenging moments, and she added a very cool design to the pocket, but her tenacity showed and she got most of the jacket completed by the sixth day.

Betty turns out, worked for me many years ago, in the 1980’s when I did craft fairs, it was good to reconnect with her.  She brought commercial wool and made a terrific version of my collared zip vest, with a little assistance in the evenings!

And Peggy, I’ve known for many years, she regularly exhibits her work at conferences and is a pretty terrific garment maker and a heck of a weaver.  She brought a whole box full of things to work on, from tweaking the fit on garments she had already made, to creating one of my collared zip vests.  It was a joy to work with her as well.

And so  here is the class of Fall 2019 at Harrisville, taken a day early because a couple only stayed for the five days and didn’t need to take advantage of the extra sixth day.  The friendships that developed really showed, and I was very proud of this class.  

Peggy took a fun shot of me teaching during one of the lectures, I almost never have photos of me!

And for those that are interested, my five Handwoven Magazine webinars on Garment construction have found their new home through Long Thread Media.  Links to each of the five webinars can be found on my schedule page.  

And my latest video is up on Threads Magazine.  This one is included in their free essentials video series, it is all about stay stitching, something every weaver should memorize and anyone who sews garments should be aware of and be proficient at…

Trip number two of four is coming up fast, this one to the opposite corner of the US, Whidbey Island.

Stay tuned…

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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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