Uh Oh, empty looms again…

Actually, in spite of an epidemic of empty looms again, this was a fantastic week so far.  Like the planets aligned…  You know when you work on something really really hard, and finally, finally it comes to fruition?  I had a whole bunch of things finish up and birth themselves right into the stratosphere in the last 48 hours.

First off, last October I mentioned that I had shot a whole string of videos for Threads Magazine for their Insider subscription service.  Actually it is a great service, $19.95 a year for unlimited viewing of their archive of videos on sewing and fit related topics.  My group will slowly be added that archive over the next few months, but the first one was released yesterday.  I watched it today and it was really spot on.  I did a good job.  I covered everything that needed to be said about the topic and the editing was smooth and clean.  This video shows how to cut and piece bias strips.  You can subscribe to Insider and view it here.  Thank you Threads!

Also released yesterday was the latest issue of Heddlecraft Magazine.  Many of you know how hard I worked over the last few months on this 30 page article.  I felt like I had done a Master’s Thesis…  This lengthy article is on a topic near and dear to my heart, one I explored in my early days of craft fairs back in the 1980’s, called Doup Leno.  It is a way of crossing threads back and forth to create a loom controlled lace fabric.  Heddlecraft Magazine is available in digital format only.  You can subscribe here

I needed to get an image of the piece I am submitting for the summer faculty exhibit Making Matters: Fresh Perspectives in Fine Craft at Peters Valley, by the weekend.  The work doesn’t have to be finished by then, but you can’t take a photo of that which does not exist.  So my 36″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade loom is now empty and the fabric is drying…  This is a mixed warp in a combination weave with supplemental warps, some of it is hand dyed, and the yarns are mostly cotton and rayon.  The weft is 3 ply worsted wool from my stash.  

My new rule in the house, with so many looms, is that once a loom has been cleared, whoever cleared it has to oil/wax it (I use Howard’s Feed and Wax) and tighten all the bolts and screws.  My loom looks so happy and refreshed…

Also due this week is a scarf which I promised to donate to The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ for their Annual Gala silent auction.  I adore this organization and gave them one for their fundraiser last year, and I’ll be attending the gala this April and am pleased to donate another scarf.  Which meant I had to weave off all five.  Which means another loom is empty.  But it is also very happy because it has been cleaned and waxed and all the bolts and screws have been tightened.  It is looking fresh and cheery for another warp. (There are only four scarves in the photo because I made it to the post office with five minutes to spare, the fifth one is on its way to The Shakespeare Theatre.)

And last night, I sat by the fire and finished a lovely cable knit vest, I had been worried I wouldn’t have enough yarn, but I knit as fast as I could and turns out I beat the yarn fairies…  This vest is Berroco Artisan Merino and Silk.  I picked up a half dozen skeins last fall at Sievers, on sale because the yarn is discontinued.  The yarn is butter smooth and so pretty.  The vest is one I’ve made before.  It is a Drops Design, 123-10 waistcoat.  It is actually a free pattern from Garn Studio.  I started this vest last fall, sometime after I taught at Sievers, so again, it is funny that I finished it last night as well.  It is still drying on top of the washer.

And about 10 days ago, my lovely daughter went on a mission to pick up yet another loom.  They are finding us.  I don’t know why.  If you Google Tools of the Trade Looms, my name comes up.  Probably because between my daughter and I, we now own 10.  I bought my first one back in 1978.  I mention them a lot in my blogs.  They aren’t made anymore, but it is a solid versatile jack type loom that has stood the test of time, solid rock maple, unless you find one in cherry, and you can’t kill them.  I sent my daughter down to Bedminster NJ to pick up a lovely 8 shaft 25″ wide table loom, a great teaching loom and perfect for workshops.  She (the loom,  not my daughter) joins two other looms that size, one a four shaft and the other a fraternal twin in cherry.  I had to do some tweaking, restore some of the parts, and I’m about to add heddles to the back four shafts, but it looks in good working order and it seems happy with the crew.  Incidently, I have received word on two other Tools of the Trade looms that are needing homes and my daughter is all over it.  I do not know where these looms will all fit, it is clear that we are building inventory to open some kind of school or teaching venue, but that’s far down the road and I can’t even fathom that right now.  I’m happy meeting my deadlines.  FYI, between us right now we own 29 shaft looms. 15 Structos three of which are 8 shaft, two Leclerc 10″ 4 shaft looms, a 12 shaft Leclerc Dorothy, a folding Ashford Table Loom, 8 shafts, and of course, the 10 Tools of the Trade Looms. We win…

Stay tuned…

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Its Ironical…

My late husband would always get embarrassed and annoyed when he thought I used a word incorrectly or when he thought a word I used didn’t actually exist.  In my field we make up a lot of words, because there just isn’t the vocabulary in the English language.  And when I use a made up word in one of my lectures, somehow the participants know exactly what I mean.  Anyway, early on before Google and smart phones, when we relied on a dictionary for assistance, I used the word ‘ironical’ occasionally.  My husband would get annoyed with me, because he said it wasn’t a word and the word was ironic and I needed to learn that.  Of course when someone corrects you it is easy to shut down and be humiliated, especially in front of others.  I had often thought I had a decent command of the English language, went to Catholic school for 8 years, knew how to diagram sentences, was an excellent speller, and had a college degree.  It wasn’t until I started writing for Handwoven Magazine that I found out I could really write, and my confidence soared.  

Of course I stopped using the word ‘ironical’, and it wasn’t until just recently that the word popped back into my head and I just grabbed my little smart phone, went into Google and Ha!  Not only is it a word, it is a great word, used more in Britain than the US, but according to vocabulary.com, something that is ironical is wryly funny, especially because it doesn’t match up with your expectations.  

And that is the whole basis for this blog post.  Its ironical…

Back in October I recorded a podcast with the staff of Threads Magazine, episode 13, you can listen/watch it here, and the theme of the podcast among other topics is “Sewing for Competition”.  I said a lot of things in the podcast, especially about getting into exhibitions, and all that entails, and one of the things I wanted to really stress was how arbitrary judging can be, having judged many many competitions, and that not getting into a competition doesn’t really mean that your work isn’t worthy.  I gave lots of tips and suggestions, but I did say at one point that I could wall paper my living room with all the rejections I’ve received over the years, and that my acceptance to rejection ration is about 1:6.  My handwoven clothing over the years has become more predictable getting into shows, though it isn’t always a guarantee, but my fiber art work has an abysmal track record.  

There was an unusually large amount of opportunities this past few months for participation in fiber art exhibitions, and a number of platforms that got the word out.  Social media really helps.  So I dutifully sent in my money, and the requisite images and waited.  And sometimes even forgot I applied.

And then suddenly, to my complete surprise, I got in.  To all of them.  Its ironical!  And the success certainly didn’t match up with my expectations.  So now, this week I’m scrambling to prep and ship out all sorts of work including three pieces for photography for my next article for Threads Magazine, they went out this morning.

 

Peters Valley Craft Center is sponsoring this show, bridging craftsmanship and technology.  I applied at the last minute, partly because they didn’t mind older work.  One of the things I talked about in the podcast was the timeliness of the work.  Most exhibits require work that is less than two years old.  And you can’t apply to two different shows with the same work if they overlap.  It is professional suicide to get into a show and then decline because the piece got into another show that occurs at the same time.    

“Nuance: Craftsmanship, Imagination and Innovation” 2019  Peters Valley School of Craft, The Sally D. Francisco Gallery, Layton, NJ Jurors: Maegen Black, Director Canadian Crafts Federation and Sin-ying Ho, Ceramist, Assistant Professor, Queens College, City University of NY.  This show runs April 13th to May 19th.

The work that was accepted was an older piece that fit the theme of the exhibition, called Margaret.  The images of my mother in law at 20 juxtaposed to her at 90 are printed on silk and then cut into strips and rewoven into a diptych.

“Fantastic Fibers 2019” Yeiser Art Center, Paducah, KY Juror: Pauline Verbeek-Cowart, chair of the Fiber Department Kansas City Art Institute

This show runs from April 20th – June 8th.  The work that was accepted is one of my most favorite pieces of artwork I’ve done in the last few years, and no one has seen it because it has not gotten into any of the exhibits I entered with it, and it is nearing the end of its two year shelf life.  The piece is layers of hand dyed wool, wet felted, sliced and needle felted onto a felt backing, and then stitched on the machine.  It is called e·vis·cer·ate: verb, deprive of vital or essential content.

 

“Color: Classic to Contemporary” 2019 The Hudgens Center for Art and Learning, Duluth, GA sponsored by the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild  Juror: Kathrin Weber

I found out about this exhibit through social media, and sent my regular garments/yardage images.  These two works both got accepted and the show runs from May 11 – July 27th  The duster coat is called Autumn Patchwork, and the yardage is called Chaos.

“Transformation: Fiber as Medium on The Common Thread Gallery” 2019 online exhibit Common Thread Gallery https://thecommonthreadgallery.com/2019/04/05/this-is-art/  Juror: Penny Griffin Lutz is the Director of The Gallery at Penn College Williamsport, Pennsylvania

This exhibit is a digital online exhibition.   The exhibition runs April 5th – August 15th. Click on the link above to view.  

 e·vis·cer·ate: verb, deprive of vital or essential content.

 

“Excellence in Fibers IV juried exhibition in print” 2018-19 sponsored by The Fiber Art Network  Jurors: Beth Mclaughlin, Head Curator Fuller Craft Museum; Perry Price, Executive Director Houston Center for Contemporary Craft; Carol Sauvion, Creator, Exec Producer and Director of Craft in America

This exhibit is currently in print, and it was really wonderful seeing my work among some pretty outstanding works in fiber.

“New Directions in Fiber Art” 2019 New Jersey Arts Annual-Crafts, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ Jurors: Carol K. Russell and Judy Wukitsch

I talked about this exhibit already because I wasn’t able to attend the opening, I was teaching in southern California.  I finally got to actually see the exhibit a couple of weeks ago, and took a couple photos of the installation of my work.  The work they accepted out of the 8 submitted was not one of my favorites of the group, but the judge obviously saw something else and I was thrilled.  The piece is part of my Chromosome series, and it is called 44+XY.  The show runs from February 9-June 16.  

Meanwhile…  

I have been to the land where it is sunny and warm, if only for a long weekend, I flew down to Orlando about 10 days ago, and absorbed the sun, what there was of it, it mostly rained, and saw some pretty azaleas and tropical plants, some gorgeous views of Lake Yale, and taught a wonderful pre conference four hour class in Turned Krokbragd on the Inkle Loom.  I had 16 eager students and they all produced this wonderful little sample.

One of my most favorite students was standing in front of me in the lunch line.  I remember her making this the last time I taught in Florida, but I never got to see it finished.  Wow, just wow.

And then I taught my weekend class, Fabulous Fit, where students tried on my samples and had a tracing marathon.  They learned so much about fit and how handwoven fabric works, and I got lots of emails and thanks after I got home for opening their eyes to the possibilities.  I did my job!  Of course, I didn’t take a single photo because I was too busy helping participants!  Picture the image above, but instead of looms, there were patterns and pattern tracing paper everywhere!  

Back to prepping and shipping artwork, taxes on Thursday, bills due Friday, and I have to clear one of my looms by April 1 so I can photograph the yardage for the next exhibit at Peters Valley which is the faculty show.  Since I’m on the faculty there this summer, well, of course I have to put something in.  I’ve run out of yardage to display there, and so I wove something new.  Meanwhile, the big news in this house is that Brianna, my lovely creative daughter, whom I talked about in the last blog post, was accepted as the Fiber Assistant for the summer at Peters Valley, from May through October.  She will live out there and assist with all the fiber classes.  And I’ll be teaching a yardage class this summer, and I just adore when I open a magazine and there in full color and all its glory is a photo of me and my illustrious students!

Stay tuned…

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Heddle Wars…

This has been a rather tough week.  Not for me.  I’m fine.  But in a series of really sad, and horrifying events, accidents, deaths, unwanted health diagnoses, and other calamities, none of which I have any control over, it has been rather tough to carry on as if everything in the world is fine.  Sunday alone I went to two visitations at local funeral homes.  None of these events are my stories to tell, but my heart is broken for my friend with a cancer diagnosis, my other friend who lost her father, and a pretty horrific event that, if you live in my area, you know about, and if you don’t, you don’t want to know about, all of which has left me distracted and in mourning.  And there is my daughter.  I haven’t said much about her issues, again it isn’t my story to tell, but she is struggling with her own health diagnosis.  She has left her job to reevaluate her life, and is living in my basement now, safe, but lacking focus and purpose.  She will be OK, of that I’m confident.

When my husband was dying, one of the only things I could think of to keep my brain from exploding with grief, was to steal away moments in my studio and calculate the most intense fabric design, one that even I had to struggle to execute but honestly it kept me sane. It is the banner fabric across my facebook page.   If you read my last couple of posts, you know my goal was to fill all of my beautiful looms with colorful cloth because they have been naked for way too long.  My original 45″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade loom from the 70’s had been given to my daughter when she moved out a couple of years ago, which left me with glorious space and room for all of my textile-y things.  When she moved back in, she brought the loom back and a second one almost identical which she picked up for $350.  That one got shoved in the guest room. So between us we own 9 Tools of the Trade Looms, manufactured in the 70’s – 90’s.  The great thing about having 9 of the same brand loom is that all the parts are interchangeable.  Which gets to the meat of the story.

Because of my daughter’s health issues, and work schedule and general life style, she had slowly gotten away from the things in life that brought her joy.  I know how it happens, and I suspect dear readers that this kind of situation has happened to all of you at some point in your lives, and sometimes,  many times throughout your life.  I just got off the phone with a coordinator for Florida Tropical Conference which is happening in about two weeks.  I suspect that every person who has ever coordinated a conference has gotten so far away from the simple things that bring you joy, reading a book, designing a project, setting up a loom, knitting a scarf, whatever, that suddenly they, actually we, find ourselves rudderless drifting in a stormy ocean with nothing to ground us.  I would look in my daughter’s eyes and see nothing.  There were no lights on.  Rudderless…

Having left her job for a bit of a sabbatical shall we say, mostly to get her health back on track and to finish school, she woke up last weekend and I reminded her, having just updated the schedule on one of the guild websites I maintain, that the guild challenge was due in April.  She looked at me aghast.  When she signed up last year, life looked very different.  Suddenly her eyes sparked and the lights went on and she dove into her basement dwelling and came up with her laptop, weaving software and the plans she had shelved for her challenge project.  

Meanwhile, I needed to dress one more loom, my 36″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade also sat naked in my studio.  It was depressing every time I entered the room.  And so it began. I came up with a really complicated warp design, spent hours with my weaving software.  She wound her 12 yard warp using my mill (hers is packed in the attic) while I used a small 4+ yard warping board propped on  my ironing board.  I was building my cloth around a 4 1/2 yard warp I had obtained in a Kathrin Weber Dye Class.  I’m not sure if I dyed it or if Kathrin did as a demo, but there it sat and it was my trusty assistant who said, “When are you going to use that warp?”  I pulled all kinds of things from my shelf, including some cupcake dyed skeins I also did in that class.  For those who are curious, cupcake dyeing is where you wind a ball on a ball winder, and then pop it in a deli container with about an inch dye and let it absorb into the ball.  Flipping the ball over and putting in a different color makes some great effects.  I wound a total of 11 warps for a cloth about 32″ wide.  Most of the warps were rayon, and very slippery rayon, the kind that you have to really keep under tight control, and then of course, my daughter’s cat had to be in on all the fun.  I won’t bore you with cat photos, they are all on my facebook page.

She had a narrower warp, dishtowel width, so she finished before I did.  Next step before sleying the reed is to find out if you have enough heddles.  Those are the wire things with eyes on each of the shafts that the warp ends go through, which allows you to create patterns.  This is where the story has a bizarre twist. 

Sidebar:  I’ve had trouble with my smaller Tools of the Trade looms, and breaking warp beams and brakes because I load too much on them and require too much torque to get the tension I like for weaving.  My little 25″ looms weren’t probably designed for 12 yards of warp.  I had done some alterations to the brake on one of the looms and had the bolt shear off.  Some of this is because hardware from other countries is getting cheaper and thinner and not able to withstand what I need said hardware to do.  But I digress.  I have a number of sectional beams in addition to standard beams for my small 25″ looms, which are of course interchangeable.  The sectional beams have more substance but the kind of warp I’m putting on doesn’t work well on a loom with no packing. Too much variation in the warp threads.  I got the idea a number of years ago to pull the sectional pegs from one of the warp beams and use it as it if was a standard warp beam.  In the photo you can see a second warp beam still with the pegs and the upper one has had the metal pegs pulled out.  

It worked well for what I needed, except when the bolt for the ratchet sheared off, and I had to replace it with the original handle.  It is hard to tighten a beam with 12 yards of warp and paper packed on it with that little L shaped handle.  I would have much preferred a ratchet like on my large looms.  Meanwhile my daughter had moved away with my large Tools of the Trade, for more than a year and I had the room renovated and bookcases installed and a lot of detritus tossed in the process.  

I got the idea that if I could put the perimeter metal pegs back in, it would give me a better grip on the beam when I wanted to tighten it.  So I went to find the pegs.  I remember storing them in a container, a small basket I thought, and though the room had been redone, it shouldn’t have been hard to locate that container.  Gone.  I’ve been searching for two years for that stupid container of pegs.  I don’t lose things.  I’m fastidious about cleaning up after myself, putting things back in their place, and if I wasn’t, I could never do the job I do traveling around and having everything I need to pack right at my fingertips.  

Fast forward to last weekend…

My daughter was removing the shafts from the large loom to count the heddles on them.  She needed  about 700 heddles for her project.  So each shaft got pulled, and she started the count.  She had developed a counter weight system for the project she had previously been working on using suspended film canisters on the front shafts, filled with whatever, pennies, I had no idea.  She needed more weight on the front shaft for whatever she was doing, I didn’t much pay attention because the loom wasn’t with me for the last couple years.  

She started peeling off the pink duct tape wrapped around the film canisters and cried out, “OMG”!  I looked over and there, stuck to the duct tape wrapped around each of the film canisters were all of my missing sectional pegs.  All of them.  She had pulled them off the shelf a few years ago, needing additional weight and never happened to mention it because, well why?  I wasn’t sure whether to kiss the earth in celebration for the return of something I definitely needed for this new run of scarves, or to kill her.  There are no words.

So at this point, I’m beginning to count my heddles as well.  I need something like 1200.  It was pretty obvious that between us, we did not have enough.  All of our nine Tools of the Trade Looms use the same 10 1/2″ inserted eye heddles.  But all of them were warped with the exception of one of the table looms which I was keeping in reserve in case I need an emergency warp for an article I’m working on.  There were extra heddles on the other looms, but they can’t be removed once the loom is warped.  So I ran to the internet and knowing WEBS ships pretty quick, I ordered another 400.  I hadn’t gotten notification that they had shipped, and it is now Thursday and I’m getting desperate, we were battling for who got the heddles, there were enough for one of the looms but not for both.  I called them, and the order hadn’t been shipped, and wasn’t going to be shipped until the following Tuesday, so I added another 200 and spent a ridiculous amount on overnight shipping which still meant that the heddles wouldn’t arrive until Monday because unlike Amazon, UPS doesn’t deliver on weekends.  We are getting so spoiled!

Meanwhile we did what any self respecting couple of desperate fiber artists would do, we stripped the poor remaining table loom of all of its heddles.  Poor thing.  We had enough to get us going and when the heddles came in yesterday, I carefully put the table loom back together and all is well.  

So I sleyed my warp…

Then I threaded it.  

Meanwhile she was all warped and starting to weave.

Then I beamed my warp.  It is so luminous, shimmering and just plain pretty.  

And now, my 36″ loom has a pretty four yards of warp for a fabric that will one day become a garment, but first it has to travel around, I just got an email that Peters Valley needs a faculty piece from me for the summer faculty exhibit.  So I have to get cracking on the weaving…

And Brianna’s dishtowel warp which is built off a photograph my husband took at Baltimore Inner Harbor of the beautiful lights reflecting on the water in the Harbor, is on its way as well.

Stay tuned…

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California here I come…

Actually California has been and gone.  I’m back, and no rest for the weary, I hit the ground running.  Why do I think when I come home from a week away that there will be a day or two of downtime and regrouping?  Hahahahah……..

I love working with this group.  This isn’t the first time I’ve given a hands on garment workshop to the Southern California Handweavers Guild, so when I see the class in front of me it is like a small family reunion.  It is great to catch up with everyone!

The five day class was held in the San Fernando Valley Arts and Cultural Center.  I love teaching here, there is a great amount of space, plenty of light and power, important for what I teach, and there is always an art exhibit on the walls.  This time it was a water-colorist Gerald Brommer who I understand is in his 90’s.  Loved the images from all of his travels around the world, just really inspirational.

My students were really hard at work.  Though it was a five day, there were interruptions to the flow, and a guild meeting/lecture the second morning in the same space, so we had to clean everything up after the first day, which is right in the middle of cutting out fabric.  That was a nail biter for me and I hoped that no one forgot where they were when they resumed laying out and cutting their fabric, and all worked out much to my huge relief!

Mostly the class made swing coats.  They started taking shape.

Nicki weaves these marvelous bugs, widely exhibited and she wanted to feature a strip of handwoven bugs with fringe on the back of a vest.  

And Warren was just a dream to work with.  He brought his own pattern, more of a men’s shirt jacket, and used his handwoven fabric.  He was so full of questions and asked things that don’t normally come up with a group of handweavers in a basic jacket class.  It is wonderful to work with youth who are intending to make a career out of making handwoven clothing.  He has great instincts.

Some actually got their sleeves on in time for the class photo.  

And later, back at the beautiful home I stayed in, in the Bel Air canyon, my hostess Limor immediately set up her machine to finish up her duster, and Limor and her sister in law Beth, who also stayed with us, it was one giant pajama party, posed for a group shot on the staircase!  Limor incidentally is one of the best cooks I’ve ever had the privilege of staying with.  Though we ate out a lot, she filled in with some terrific dishes.  I tried fruits I’ve never had like Cherimoya.  Like eating pudding out of a fruit skin.  I can’t remember the name of the other veggie she cooked, but she roasted it along with purple Brussels sprouts and they were fantastic. 

And safely back in NJ, I of course hit the ground running.  First up in my inbox was a request for an article for Threads, due in a week, because of course, everyone knows I can write these overnight in my sleep!  So I whipped up a piece for the article, on bias facings, which I had intended to do anyway.  I have a fluid to do list, things move up and down depending on how critical things are that day.  This is a swing dress, or jumper, combining my swing coat and the neckline from my bias top.  The fabric is a Pendleton Jacquard wool I picked up years ago at an ANWG conference in Pendleton, Oregon.  One of the perks was a tour of the mill.  It was amazing.  Now I just have to write out the text in paragraph form.

Stay tuned…

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How fun is this?

I’m Episode 13!  Tune in here...

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