Helping out an old friend…

Many of you know that today is the third anniversary of my husband’s death.  All of us deal with anniversaries, both sad ones and happy ones in different ways.  My children each have their own way of dealing with the death of their father, but my way is always to stay as busy as I can, acknowledge the passing of a major event, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  A series of coincidences led me to today’s adventure, I told my daughter that my new philosophy is, “It isn’t worth doing if you can’t make an adventure out of it…”.  

I’d like to crack a joke here and say that what would any self respecting fiber enthusiast do during the anniversary of a very sad event, and the answer of course would be, “Go yarn shopping.”  I don’t know if that is really an appropriate joke, given the gravity of what today stood for, but in my own way, knowing this was coming, I planned to do just that.  To keep busy and do something I haven’t done before, (of course I’ve bought yarn many times) but not in these circumstances.

Let me explain…

Back in the early 1980’s, when I was new to the craft fair circuit, I have this clear recollection of this couple, Maureen and David, who would come down the aisle at every craft fair in the northeast, showing all the handweavers their line of yarn.  They were new to the business, though David dealt in mill end yarns, Maureen and David decided to put together a regular reproducible line of yarns, ones that no other weaver was working with or could find.  Rayon, and rayon silk yarns were just starting to become accessible to the handweaving market and they were the ones who ushered in a new era of wonderful, high end yarns in gorgeous colors and innovative fibers.  They called their yarn company Silk City Fibers.  

Many of the weavers from that era, including myself, and my friend Candiss Cole all used their yarns.  It was easy to set up a wholesale account, you just needed a tax number, which was easy to obtain, still is.  During the prime of my craft fair career, I probably spent $8,000 a year on yarn, which back in the 80’s was a lot of money.  Silk City Fibers got its name because it was located in Paterson NJ, which was considered for many years in the 1800’s the Silk Capital of the Northeast.  Paterson NJ was 15 minutes from my house.  Silk City Fibers was housed in an old warehouse, a kind of slum of a place, cold and dark and dank but they had yarns.  A number of years ago, they opened the warehouse one Saturday a month, and you could find all kinds of bargains, discontinued colors and styles, at very reasonable prices.  I tried to avoid going there because 1, I didn’t need anymore yarn, and 2, I always came home with yarn I didn’t need.  Because who could resist.  Mostly I was usually traveling when the warehouse was open, so that was always a good thing.

In the early years I would visit Silk City, sometimes to pick out yarn for a project for Handwoven magazine, or sometimes to consult with David or Maureen.  Sometimes they even had me consult on colors.  I remember many many years ago picking out furnishings with Maureen for a NYC showroom they were opening.  That was a long time ago.

Since I’m no longer a production weaver, I don’t really need to buy yarn in quantity and sadly there are a number of, too many really, opportunities to restock the stash when a beloved weaver in the guild dies.  Many of the older members had large stashes of Silk City Fibers.  I remember one recent studio sale from a weaver who passed who was sitting on huge multiple pound cones of white Silk City Contessa, a rayon and silk yarn that had been discontinued a long time ago and is still my most favorite yarn I’ve ever used.  I bought all of for dyeing.  And when my friend Candiss had one of her weavers return yarn from many years ago when the weaver was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Candiss passed all of it on to me for a price I couldn’t refuse.  All of it gorgeous Silk City Fibers.

Last year I got word that Silk City Fibers was sold.  David retired and the whole enterprise was purchased by Lion Brand Yarn.  Huge knitting yarn manufacturer.  Available everywhere.  The word was that they wanted to expand into the weaving market.  I don’t know how true that is, but that dank dark basement warehouse moved, with everything in it, to Lion Brand’s gorgeous spacious facility in Carlstadt, which is only about 30 minutes from me.  Silk City has only been in their new digs about 4 months.

Alice who the Silk City Fiber yarn development director, and an old friend, lives in my town.  We ran into each other at Shoprite a couple of weeks ago.  She caught me up to date on everything and talked about how to get the word out about Silk City Fibers to a new generation of weavers.  We talked about conferences, we talked about social media.  We talked about getting a flier into the conference bags at the Mid Atlantic Association Weavers Conference which is in about 10 days.  I’ll be teaching there.  Here is the flier they came up with…

So I decided that today, I needed an adventure, one that would take me out of the house and away from the memories of what today is, and I got in my car and drove to Carlstadt.  The GPS struggled to find the facility and I ended up lost in a town full of warehouses, but I called them and they talked me back to the correct location.  Wow, just wow.

The outlet store, filled from one end to the other of Lion Brand Knitting yarn is open 6 days a week, every day but Saturday.  So on a Sunday afternoon, when everyone is watching football this fall, drive yourself down there all of my peeps in North Jersey.  Wow, just wow.  There is a lovely classroom set up along the side wall, and in there are racks and bins of labeled coned Silk City Yarns, not nearly the selection that the old warehouse held, but in my discussions with the women who worked in the outlet, there are thousands more cones still to be labeled and put out.  And there are bargains. 

The outlet is opened to the public and for anyone living in NJ or NY, it is a great destination for an afternoon of serious yarn shopping. Of course I ended up with two carts full of yarn I didn’t need, but still had to come home with me. Much of the yarn was between $1, $3, and $5 a cone.

Silk City Fibers is actually a wholesale enterprise.  You need a resale/tax number in order to be able to order from them online.  That isn’t a difficult thing to obtain.  But they have no minimums.  As long as you have a tax number, you can order cottons, rayons, wools, their famous Bambu line, and all sorts of fabulous stuff, one cone at a time.  Alice is hoping to expand their 5/2 perle cotton colors, and no one has better rayons than Silk City Fibers.  Skinny Majesty, Avanti, Linen, rayon Chenille, they are all still there, in gorgeous colors and available wholesale.   For those of you who don’t have a resale number, many yarn suppliers like Cotton Clouds are still great retailers who can get anything you want from them, or order online directly from their retail site.

And so, I’m going to go down to my car and unpack six large shopping bags and fondle my goods.  It got me through today.  I’m grateful for coincidences that led me to today’s adventures.  I will be fine…

Stay tuned…

 

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The dust has finally settled…

What a week.  From absolutely brilliantly successful to completely terrifying and everything in between…  And yes, this is my life.  I suppose if I were really really honest, in spite of my complaining, I really do love what I do.  I just wish at times it didn’t have to be so intense…

I flew uneventfully to Helena MT via Denver on June 7th.  My lovely new friend Dawn picked me up and drove me the four miles to the college campus where I was to give two solid days of lectures to almost 60 weavers across Montana.  I will say up front that not only is it really really tough to be entertaining and articulate for two solid days, it is harder I’m guessing to listen to lectures for two solid days.  But they did.  I had just the best most interested group of women (there might have been a guy in there somewhere, I didn’t look really carefully, I just know there were a lot of people out there in that audience…)  They asked questions, they were eager, they were excited and inspired, and when it was all done, I got a standing ovation.  That hasn’t happened in awhile.  It reminded me of why I love what I do.  Someone even ran out at one point and bought me a box of lidocaine patches for my sciatica which for the most part continued to heal, as long as I don’t sit for hours at a time…  Hahahahah!

The committee for the Montana Association of Weavers and Spinners Conference for next June, 2020 sat me down and tried to bribe me to come.  I tried to explain that I’m done with conferences, but they weren’t having it.  Made me smile, and actually consider coming back…

Sunday night I packed up, loaded everything into Dawn’s car and we were to her house in McAllister, MT within a couple of hours.  We had wine on the deck while her accommodating husband made steaks on the grill.  This was the view from her deck.  

Dawn had her husband drive me down to the lake, just down the road, in this…

And this is the “lake”.  This is so far from anything I’ve every seen in my small but diverse and pretty state of NJ.  He gave me a geographical rundown of their lake and its tributaries and where they eventually feed, which would be the Missouri, maybe I’d heard of it…

Dawn and I set off the next morning for the 7 hour drive to Boise Idaho.  There was a lot of flat land, scrub, mountains in the distance, with a town about every hour where we stopped and refueled and grabbed a bite to eat.  Mostly what struck me were the road signs.  This one says “Bear Aware, Food Storage Required”  The paw print is that of a grisly.  I’m definitely not in NJ.

So we were driving through the Targhee National Forest, home of the Targhee sheep, developed by the USDA, a dual-purpose breed, with heavy, medium quality wool and good meat production characteristics.  I’ll be damned…

And this sign.  I have this vague recollection of the Continental Divide, from my early grammar school geography classes (I wish I paid better attention) and yeah, this is a thing.  With signs and everything.  The feeling was kind of like standing on the Prime Meridian in Greenwich England.  

And of course, this made me smile.  Leaving Montana, welcome to Idaho.  I can drive through four states in a couple hours where I live, going north or south, but this….  Yeah, these are pretty big states and I didn’t scratch the surface…

And then it was on to Boise, ID.  The city itself is gorgeous, clean, modern, diverse, thriving and we ate at a couple of great restaurants. The classroom, in a church all purpose room, was bright and roomy and we had plenty of space.  I love that they were able to put the ironing boards in out of the way places to space out the electrical needs.

The Handweavers Guild of Boise Valley was a great fun and enthusiastic group, all were weavers, some brought commercial fabric but most brought their handwoven fabrics.  Most everyone made a jacket, some with shawl collars, and one student made a vest.  Her fabric was handwoven, probably from India with a decorator fabric trim for the bands.  And Jenni, second from the right, who has taken my jacket class before, is making the tunic.  What you can’t see is the gorgeous placket down the front, with in-seam buttonholes, no machine made buttonholes on this baby!  She just needed sleeves and buttons.

Keep in mind that this was a three day class, they all still have a lot of handwork to do, along with tons of tailor’s tacks to remove, my rule is they can’t remove any until I’m safely back in NJ.  Scroll down for that debacle…  Dawn is on the right in the middle photo.  She forgot her fabric, left the box sitting at the door, a gorgeous wool made with Zephyr wool and silk, and so after a quick run to a nearby Joann’s she compromised with a chenille upholstery fabric.  

And here is the class of 2019, Guild of Boise Valley, plus my hostess and transport from MT who got to take the class as compensation for the drive across the Continental Divide…

Friday morning I took my time getting to the airport.  When I’m heading to a destination, I always take the first flight out, planes are serviced, crews are fresh, and in the summer the air hasn’t become too volatile, and I rarely have delays or travel issues.  When going home however, it is hard to ask my hostess to get up at 4am to get me to the airport.  So I arrived at 11, for a 1pm flight to Denver, we took off on time,  but as we approached Denver, we started circling.  Turns out a thunderstorm materialized out of nowhere, and though they thought circling for a bit would allow the storm to clear, it wasn’t and we would run out of gas…

So we were diverted to a very small airport in Western Colorado, called Grand Junction.  And I mean small.  We were supposed to stay on the plane while they refueled and wait for clearance to head back to Denver.  Then they discovered something wrong with the plane.  Apparently not repairable while we were in Grand Junction.  They requested a replacement plane.  The only one they could get was from Newark, and they were in a ground hold back home.  So they let us out of the plane, we walked across the tarmac, taking all our carry on belongings with us.  The terminal was tiny. There was one small food vendor where you could get some grill food and snacks, six gates, and a couple restrooms.  170 people instantly got in line at the food vendor.  Actually 169.  I did not.  United, to their credit, brought in something like 75 pizzas to feed us all, apparently when I inquired, they have an account with Domino’s.  Apparently this happens a lot…  I should have taken a picture of two tables with 75 pizzas right by the gate area.  You can’t make this up.  And the pizza was pretty good.  They had plain and pepperoni…

We stayed at Grand Junction, not allowed to leave the sterile area, because we didn’t have tickets to get us back through TSA.  We stayed 7 hours.  I read a great book, called The Gown by Jennifer Robson.  It was about the embroiderers who worked for Norman Hartnell and embroidered then Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown for her marriage to Lord Mountbatten.  It was a great way to be entertained for 7 hours.  And a huge thank you to all my friends in the area who volunteered to whisk me out of the airport for a proper night’s lodging, except I couldn’t take anyone up on that because we were’t allowed to leave the “sterile” area.  

I managed to get a seat on the last flight out of Denver, leaving around Midnight, arriving in Newark at 5am.  By the time we reboarded in Grand Junction and all the luggage was transferred, I made it to the Denver/Newark flight with 10 minutes to spare.

Red- eyes can be pretty interesting if you have a window seat and are actually awake when the sun starts to come up.  I was completely mesmerized, there was a thick cloud cover as we began to make our descent, which allowed a slim sliver of daybreak to shine through.  The last photo, if you look really carefully, you can see the silhouette of Manhattan along the horizon.  Not bad photos with a cell phone on a plane.  

And so, exhausted, with little sleep on the plane, it was only a 3 1/2 hour trip, I arrived on Saturday morning at 5am.  With no bags.  Sadly my two 70 pound monsters that hold my entire life’s work, did not follow me home.  I made a claim and then jumped in a cab, since I’d had to cancel my limo service and they had no available cars at 5am with such short notice. (When I contacted them at midnight Denver time, it was 2am in NJ, so I really can’t argue…)  It was oddly freeing to jump in a cab with a couple carry ons, missing 140 pounds of luggage.  Oddly freeing and terrifying.  

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of that day, except to say that though my bags did eventually make it to Newark, they experienced all sorts of delays including an accident from the driver who was heading to work to pick up the bags from the airport, pushing the delivery pick up time into the next shift.  I was assured they would be to me by midnight, I’d already been up 36 hours straight, and when they didn’t show by 2am, I had to come to terms with what would happen if I did not get them back.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say my garment construction teaching career would be over, because I don’t have it in me to spend the next couple of years recreating all the samples.  I laid awake until 2am thinking about where my life would take me should that happen, this has been an issue for most of my teaching career.  I’ve been very very lucky.  

What I did decide though, was the need to at least scan and digitize each of my patterns.  It is my goal to eventually make them available for sale, but it will be a couple of years process, one I’m not ready to undertake at the moment, but if the patterns were safe digitally, at least I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel.  I’ve made arrangements with my sister, who is an architect and lives in Maryland to stop there on the way home from the Outer Banks Retreat the beginning of November, and spend a couple of days doing sister bonding and scanning patterns.  She has a very large format printer/scanner/plotter.  

And at 7am Sunday morning, a small red beat up car pulled in my driveway, and I watched a guy hoist two 70 suitcases intact out of the hatch back and bring them to my front door.  All is well.  I gave him a good tip.  

And so, Sunday night, I finally began to catch up on my sleep.  I got my dogs, and the cat, and I began the lengthy process of unpacking and sorting through all the lengthy emails that came in while I was gone.  I really don’t mind when students and guilds contact me about all sorts of stuff, it is just when they all come in at once, each one a couple pages long, while I’m on the road, that makes me cranky and weary.  I still have a couple to answer, be patient, but mostly I’m caught up and prepping for the MAFA conference in PA in a couple of weeks.  I am driving to that.  Which is a whole ‘nother set of possibilities for things to go wrong.  But mostly I just sit back, do my job as best I can, and hope the Universe is on my side for today.

Stay tuned…

 

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Morocco, land of pattern and light.

I’m starting to get letters.  Everyone wants to know why I’ve been home almost a week from a fabulous 10 day vacation in Morocco and haven’t posted a blog or single photo about my trip.  Well…

  1. I took 1400 photos.  Where to begin…
  2. I had about 50 emails waiting for me including two articles to proof and contracts and all the crap that happens when you run a business and put people off for 10 days.
  3. Half way through processing said 1400 photos my keyboard died.
  4. Replacement keyboard from Amazon turned out to be faulty.  I picked up a replacement for the replacement at Best Buy this morning.
  5. My birthday was Wednesday and my sister surprised me with a glorious two day visit, which I wouldn’t have traded for the world.
  6. I found out that the class I thought I was teaching in Montana next weekend wasn’t the class I thought and I have 52 students and each one needed a 35 page bound handout, which will be followed by a three day jacket class in Idaho.  I spent more than $1200 on ink in the last 48 hours.

So this is why you haven’t heard from me.  Just this morning I spent two hours driving all over creation trying to figure out how to get a box, ground shipping, to Montana before next weekend.  So there is a holiday in there, which screws up everything.  And unless I FEDEXed it three day for more than $120, it wasn’t happening.  So I came home, repacked everything in 4 more priority boxes and they are on their way.  Good old post office…

And so now, the blog post everyone is waiting for…

Traveling outside your knowledge and comfort zone is truly a gift, not everyone has the resources or time to do a trip like this, so I’m super grateful that the opportunity presented itself, through Peters Valley, with a really respected tour facilitator Distant Horizons, and off I went with 17 other people to Morocco for 10 days.  I didn’t know when I booked this that it would be Ramadan, which probably meant much less crowds, especially in tourist heavy areas, but it was inspiring to see the dedication of our guides who fasted from sun up to sun down, not even a drink of water, in 107 degree heat.  An unusual heat wave descended upon Morocco, and bringing only “modest” clothing as instructed, it was pretty freaking hot.  But we stayed hydrated and didn’t miss a single planned event or tour.

I’m not even sure where to begin, except when asked last night at a rehearsal to name the thing that stood out the most, I immediately said, the patterns.  Everywhere you looked, there were patterns.  The stairwells (I think I took probably 100 photos alone of stairwells) the tiled floors and walls, the carved wooden ceilings and carved plaster lintels and door frames.  I was so very inspired.

 

We ate amazing meals, the Moroccan’s loved to show off their cooking and every meal was four course.  Good thing we walked a lot.  I ate lots of creative desserts and had my share of Tagine, the famous ceramic cooking vessel containing the famous Moroccan stew.  Most of the meals were plein air or Al Fresco, we dined outdoors, mostly in the shade as umbrellas provided.  The evenings provided some fantastic Moroccan wines.  They have really good wineries.  And those are chocolate buttons topping that decadent chocolate dessert.

Because we were part of a craft school, we had many tours of craftsmen, traditional crafts, women’s cooperatives, and even some hand’s on experiences.

We visited weavers and rug makers.  We smiled at the woman with orange hands from the dyepots.

One of the last cooperatives we visited took us down a hillside, across the river on a wooden bridge, and back up the other side.

We saw embroiderers, those who did the beautiful stitching and handworked buttons on the traditional dress of Morocco, the djellaba. 

We saw potters.

We saw tile makers and had a great hands on experience.  I assumed that the exquisite tiles we were looking at were inlaid like mosaic, but in fact, craftsmen sat all day long with very sharp chisels, knocking the sides off the little tiles to create a pyramid shape on the back so the tiles could be laid in upside down.  We all got to make a little tile with plaster on the back so it would set quickly.

We visited a tannery, walls and walls of leather goods.  We smiled as our guide told us that they used natural dyes for the leather goods.  Poppies for red, saffron for yellow.  Yeah, no…  

We had a fantastic lecture in Islamic Geometry, build off the Golden mean Sacred Geometry, with nothing but a compass and a ruler.  I seriously wanted to go back to 9th grade geometry and pay better attention.   Our instructor Hamza El Fasiki, a professor, who founded Craft Draft, and will actually be teaching a week in August at the craft school Haystack  in Maine, assuming his Visa comes through because, well that’s a complicated thing in this current political climate.  He is a brass worker but the geometry of the 12 point motif was found in every craft we saw.

We visited some gorgeous gardens, the verdant valleys and Mediterranean growing conditions made for some beautiful spaces and wonderful fresh foods.  The cactus was blooming and the fig trees heavy with fruit.  There were fields of poppies and olive trees, wheat and barley. 

We visited the Marjorelle, a garden restored by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre BergĂ©.  And we toured the Yves Saint Laurent museum (No pictures allowed).  We also visited Anima, a sculpture garden designed by AndrĂ© Heller.  

We saw some remarkable historic sites, including Volubilis, the ruins of a Roman City, 2000 years old, with an aqueduct and sewer system modern for its time, and 2000 year old mosaics from real colored stone, like Onyx and Cobalt.  No wonder they lasted.  

We wandered the medinas of Fes and Marrakech.  A medina is a walled city, where place of worship, schools, shops, places of business, and homes were all safely contained.  The medina in Fes was the largest in the world, 9,000 streets and alleyways creating a labyrinth that you would never find your way out of without a guide, or a GPS app on your phone.  We went with a guide.  There were craftsmen, food vendors, stalls of everything imaginable, along with mosques and homes.  Wandering the alleyways and streets while thinking that all this was built in 800 AD, and that the lifestyle hadn’t changed much since then was beyond anything I could comprehend.  There were no cars of course, streets weren’t wide enough, but freight was transported by donkey or motorbike.  Or a strong back.

  

Our hotels were 5 star and very accommodating, all had outdoor dining and a central tiled courtyard.  The courtyard was a central architectural style of the Riad, an upper middle class home. 

And the approach to our last hotel, the Bab Ourika, high in the Atlas Mountains was quite the trip, narrow roads around hills and mountains with no guard rails, the final approach one car lane wide, with only a couple spindly trees keeping us from slipping off the mountain.

We also had many lectures and discussions on the geography and political history of Morocco.  I was blown away to discover that the Appalachian mountains that run north south through Pennsylvania close to me, were connected to the Atlas Mountain range where we ended our trip.  Back when the continents were connected, Africa to the United States, the two mountain ranges were side by side.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.  About every hundred years or so some warring tribe or faction came in and there was a dynasty change, a common occurrence in that region.  There is a lot of respect for the current king who holds them all together, and keeps all the different tribes and factions working together in peace.  We talked a lot about the tradition of crafts in Fes, and that there is a decline in skilled craftsmen because of a 1997 UNICEF convention on child rights.  Overnight all the apprentices were removed from their places of work and sent to school.  Now craftsmen don’t start their training until their late teens.  Many of the skilled craftsmen are dying out with no one to replace them.  It is a complex situation.

And the sheep were everywhere…  And goats and camels…

I’ve come home rested, inspired, eager to paint, draw, explore, and of course, I hit the ground running and life smacked me between the eyes as soon as I touched the ground at JFK.  I am reevaluating my life of course, and reassessing what I want from it.  It is something we all do as we near retirement age.  Except artists don’t retire, they just shift their focus to other areas and explore new venues.  So I’m finishing up prep for my next trip, and the conference that follows two weeks later.  Both articles have been proofed and contracts signed.  I’m almost finished knitting a summer top, I’m hoping to tie in the ends tonight.  I’ll take a picture…

Stay tuned…

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Springtime in New Hampshire…

Kind of like going back in time, even if just for a month.  Changing zones gives you for a brief time, a chance to rewatch everything bloom again that is finishing up in your own back yard.  Only about a 4-5 hour drive north from NJ, Harrisville, NH is the home of Harrisville Designs and the last remaining intact mill town in New England.  It looks like a postcard when you approach from the west.  They finally have steady and decent WIFI, so that is a huge leap into the 21st century, though my Verizon service is still non existent!  The weather was chilly and damp and gloomy, it rained a lot, but that was just fine because we were snug inside sewing away.

I headed up last Sunday a week ago, to teach a five day garment construction intensive.  I’m still scheduled to teach my regular week the end of August, but this was a special addition for a group of ladies from Ontario Canada, since I’m refusing to travel there, it is too complicated and risky with my 170 pounds of luggage and supplies, which of course I can’t sell there. (Makes it tough if they want extra pattern paper or handouts or interfacing).  And it isn’t so much the Canadian customs, though I’ve had issues in the past, but returning back across the border, too many horror stories from friends and too much of a hassle with American customs.  So eight brave ladies crossed the border to come to me.  And I am grateful.  And two Americans joined in, from Maine, so we had quite the northern group, and it was pointed out that Maine was further north than my Canadian friends.

All but two of the students were using handwoven fabric, and the two who didn’t will be.  Many of the fabrics used hand dyed or painted warps, there is a lot of that happening in my classes, and the results are gorgeous if not challenging to cut out.  Esther’s fabric took four tables to lay out and find the repeatable areas for her walking vest.  The week was full of challenges, the kind that keep me on my toes, but with the extensive variety in my patterns now, and so many gorgeous fabrics, the individual results were so exciting.  

Janis wove her fabric, with a simple but stunning stripe, all wool.  She made an extra long swing coat.

Esther of course cut her fabric oh so carefully and is finishing up a long walking vest.

Marion used a commercial woven check that Marjie was all over to figure out the draft.  Once Marion was happy with the resulting fit, she then proceeded to cut out the same jacket from her handwoven.  I think she cut the handwoven jacket an inch shorter.

Sonia had a beautiful subtle handwoven fabric, with a Zephyr Wool and Silk weft.  The fabric was buttery soft and so pretty on her.

Elizabeth kept us all laughing, she was so much fun in class, and made a gorgeous jacket from her hand dyed and handwoven fabric.

Ann just needed confidence, she already had the necessary skills, to cut and assemble this spectacular hand dyed and hand woven silk fabric.

And Marjie, whom most weavers will recognize, did a two for one, of course, with a zippered vest, my newest design from her handwoven fabric, and then a jacket from a length of nuno felt she made in a felting workshop.  She used the organic natural edge of the felt as her finishing on the jacket and band edges.  

Sharon, who organized the whole thing for the Canadians made a gorgeous jacket from her handwoven fabric.  

And then my two special ladies who plodded along, and got the bodies finished but not the sleeves, have assured me they will keep working and send pictures.  Eleanor’s handwoven fabric, which I think was woven a few years ago, is the most gorgeous wool I’ve ever felt.  Once it is finished, it will be wonderful.  She trimmed the seams in silk.  And Joyce couldn’t get her fabric finished in time because, well shoulder surgery can definitely crimp a weaver’s plans.  But she brought this beautiful Irish tweed, that she and her mom picked up years ago on a trip to Ireland.  I love when students bring things from the archives that have wanted to be made into something.  The jacket will be beautiful.

So here is the rest of the group, with jackets almost finished except for hours of handwork and of course they aren’t allowed to remove tailor’s tacks until I’m safely back in NJ.

And here is the spring class of 2019 Garment construction intensive at Harrisville.  If you are interested, I understand there are still a couple spaces left for August. Click here for the link.

And now, I’m frantically tossing things into a suitcase to head out on a real vacation, 10 days in Morocco, I always feel like it isn’t worth it, the effort to go through to get ready for any trip, and the aftermath when I return, (I only had to call three contractor/repairmen when I returned on Friday from Harrisville).  I’ll come back and only be home about 10 days before I head to Montana.  I’m already taking bets on how many things will go wrong while I’m gone.  But there are people here to watch out for my home and gardens and ponds and look for orders and carry on in my absence, I need to just walk away for these 10 days and let go.  It will be a lovely blog post to write when I return.

Stay tuned…

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I’ve been to technology hell and it is hot down there…

At some point, my sister said to me, you’ve replaced everything in the house and nothing more should go wrong…   Hahahahah!

There are days when I think my house is haunted and the technology or computer gods really  hate me, and there may be some truth to that because more than one person has told me that my late husband roams the house taking care of us.  I have a bone to pick with him.  He was probably the best tech guy I’ve ever met, the downside of that was two fold, this was a pretty advanced house technologically (especially since it is more than 100 years old) and I was as a result pretty lazy learning and staying on top of technology and how the house ran because he took care of everything.  In the three years since my husband died, I have still not figured out how to work the downstairs TV.  Which wasn’t really an issue because I rarely watch TV.  I record my beloved Project Runway on TIVO, upstairs in the bedroom, which I did figure out how to use thanks to my current tech guy and that’s all I know.

My current tech guy is really good.  And he tells me that my husband talks to him and tells him when he isn’t on the right path to figuring some things out.  But there have been issues in this house that neither my tech guy, or my late husband whispering to him have been able to solve without some incredible amount of angst.  And one of them has made me crazy these last few weeks.  My internet had become really unstable, going in and out randomly, causing everything hooked to the internet to fail, like my buddy Alexa (there are three throughout the house), leaving me bereft and silent.

The cable guys weren’t helpful, because I don’t use their router, they dismiss everything as the fault of whatever isn’t their equipment.  They did run a new line to the street, claiming it had some water issues.  No surprise there…  That solved the problem for a couple of hours.  Sigh.

My tech guy came and looked at every possibility.  Could it be the router.  It checked out, seemed to be doing its job and he found some malware lurking in the system.  That solved the problem for a couple of hours.  Sigh.

After another week or two of intermittent internet, I asked beloved tech guy if I should just buy a new state of the art router so I could call cable guy and say, look, it really can’t be a router issue.  He told me what to buy, I ordered it on Amazon and had it in a couple of days.

Side note.  Do not buy technology from Amazon unless you really make sure in the fine print that it isn’t refurbished.  Sigh.

After waiting almost two weeks for tech guy to come and install it, because if it could go wrong with our schedules it did, I gave up, and my beloved office assistant Cynthia said, I installed a router once, how hard can it be?  Hahahahahah!  This is technology hell house.

She got the box open, and all the parts seemed to be there, on what was obviously a refurbished item from Amazon, but I swear I didn’t know that at the time.  And she doggedly went step by step trying to install the unit.  We got as far as registering the serial number, remember that without a router, nothing works in my house.  Unfortunately previous owner of my refurbished router had already registered the unit to themselves, and it would take a couple of days to prove that I had legitimately purchased it and, oh come on….

Cynthia drove to Best Buy and bought me a brand new router, and started over.  The refurbished one got shipped back to Amazon this morning.  To her credit and her unbelievable determination, she did it, she got it installed but if you know anything about technology, everything in my house runs off the WIFI and now everything had to be reprogrammed to work with the new network.  Four hours later, and at least a half hour of that was on the phone with TIVO trying to figure out how to program both TV’s (the positive side of this I guess is that I now know how to work the downstairs TV.  At least to get TIVO and my recorded shows).  We were mostly successful, I have a couple of WIFI boosters that I haven’t figured out yet how to reprogram, but I thought we did an outstanding job.  Until I came home from my knitting group last night, and there was no heat in the house.  ACKKKKK!  I forgot the thermostats hook into the WIFI.  So I spent another 40 minutes trying to figure out how to reprogram them.

So for the last 36 hours, the internet has been blissfully stable, and hopefully internet hell is well behind me.  I would not even have attempted this were it not for Cynthia, who is older than I am, but it isn’t like I could ask my son, he is deployed to the middle east (though he would have loved this router), and I learned a lot about perseverance in technology.  Most companies do have tech support for dummies, but I struggle to understand what they are talking about.  Cynthia just plowed ahead.  

Meanwhile, my daughter drove to Massachusetts to pick up Tools of the Trade loom number 11.  I know at this point my friends and family think I’ve gone over the deep edge with all these looms.  But they find me.  And maybe one day my daughter and/or I may have our own weaving school.  We certainly have enough looms.  The loom is lovely, it is a rare small frame floor loom, 32″ wide and stained a beautiful cherry color.  I thought it was originally cherry but there were hints that it was really rock maple in disguise. Rock maple is sturdier.  No matter, as I scrubbed and cleaned this lovely thing, it came to life and begged to go live in my den.  Where I can watch TV and weave rugs.  Because there was a lovely rag rug shuttle in the bench.  And I now know how to watch TV in the den.  The loom knows…

And while Cynthia was playing superwoman I finished beaming and started sampling a new warp on the 36″ 8 shaft TOTT loom, because it kept me from drinking heavily (though I succumbed later in the afternoon and fortunately ran out of wine before I did too much damage).  

I’m teaching a five day yardage class at Peters Valley in July.  I’ve taught this class before there, and though it isn’t a beginner class, I encourage those with a minimum amount of experience to take the class, especially if all you’ve woven is towels and scarves.  I started by pulling yarns from the shelf I wanted to use, small bits of things that went together, and did some very exact calculations so I knew within a few yards, what I had of each yarn.

I did a yarn wrap to see what I could get, I like to work in repeats in this type of warp, and I’ll be encouraging and teaching that in the yardage class.

I decided the most efficient way to warp this was to do it in sections, there were four parts to each repeat, which I wound together using a warping paddle. (side note, the warping paddle I’m using, the white one on the table was printed on a 3-D printer by a weaving friend’s son)

Then I sleyed the four bundles, through the reed, pulling the repeats as needed and combining them.

Then I threaded.

Then I beamed the 6 yards.  I like the Harrisville tensioning system, it works well for me.

So while Cynthia was saving my butt, I was sampling.

I ended up choosing the green cotton flake, the first yarn I tried, because it looked like faded worn denim and I loved the look.  This draft has plain weave areas and twill sections.

And so another loom is dressed and happy.  

And then this happened…

I got a call from Suzie at Eugene Textile Center in Oregon.  She had another TOTT table loom 4 shaft, and did I want it.  Duh…  So I had her ship it across the country, along with some other used equipment that was on my list, Suzie buys weaving estates and is one of the best resources for used looms and parts.  And old issues of weaving magazines.  I got two beautiful original AVL front end feed shuttles with the Honex tensioner.  These are my favorite shuttles and they are really expensive and hard to find.  She had one of each size.

So I have loom number 12, all TOTT looms.  And there are the 2 Leclerc 10″ baby looms, I call them Structo Wannabees, and use them along with the 16 Structo 4-8 shaft 8″ looms I use for teaching.  Brianna also has a folding 8 shaft Ashford Table loom, and a 12 shaft Dorothy.  There isn’t quite a loom in every room, but close. We are up to 32 shaft looms.  That ties Madelyn van der Hoogt. (Though she has three draw looms and I think all the rest are 8 shaft Schacht floor looms and a Glimakra, and a Louet and an AVL computerized, so she wins).   Keeping them warped is of course a full time job.  Which I’m failing miserably at… But it makes me happy and some people collect cats, and I like TOTT looms.  No litter boxes or vet bills, they are work horses and have kept me sane through a lot of crap in my life, along with my beloved sewing machine and at the moment, life is calm and functioning.  I can’t ask for more.

Though I did start another knitting project too .  This is a recycled silk, cotton and rayon yarn from Rowan I bought last summer at Harrisville.  The tank was prettier on the dressform than in the photo.  The pattern is from Harrisville, Riddle.

Stay tuned…

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