On the road again…

Very reluctantly…

Back in March, after a 10 day teaching stint in Oregon at a couple of different venues, I had a really heavy teaching calendar ahead of me, clear into 2022 and beyond. I was so very tired and not in the daily way, like I can’t wait to crawl into bed tired, but in the bigger picture, wrestling with myself about when does this end? How far in advance should I keep booking, is this what I see myself doing when I’m 70?

Yeah, life is funny sometimes. I arrived home from that trip, barely, I believe I blogged that I was almost the only one on that red-eye flight returning home, and the world of course immediately shut down. NJ was one of the hardest hit early on, and it continues to be vulnerable, we are a dense state and people continue to be stupid about wearing masks and social distancing. We have crossed 20,000 dead.

So lots of things changed over the course of the last 10 months or so, about how I see myself moving forward. I’ve talked to a number of creative people in all types of mediums, and if nothing else, creative people are resourceful. In fact this past year has been one of the most creative of my career.

With my daughter’s help, I’ve completely changed the way I offer information, and if the quarantine taught me nothing else, it taught me what I don’t want to do moving forward. I’m done traveling for business. And even if I wanted to travel and continue my garment construction retreats, I’d have to completely redo the way I teach, since so much of the content I offered is now available digitally, and I don’t tend to teach in areas with really strong access to the internet.

My life is full dreaming up content and work to support the YouTube channel, The Weaver Sews, with more than 800 subscribers (please subscribe!) and I think something like 17 video installments at this point. We have a lot of content shot, which still needs to be edited, with closed captioning so it is accurate, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this whole process. I feel like I can say all I need to say on the subject and never have to say it again. It gives me great pleasure when someone emails me who is just beginning and wants to know how to deal with cutting into Handwoven fabrics, I can just send them on to the YouTube channel and know they will get all the information I can give with visuals, which I really can’t do in an email response.

That said, I’ll continue to give remote lectures, as long as guilds take advantage of this format. I’ve gotten into a good rhythm with those, clicking into the link, giving my talk and then getting on with my day. I may try to develop some more content, but that’s hard while I try to keep coming up with content for the YouTube channel. At the moment, I’m building two jackets simultaneously, to illustrate techniques, we just shot a sequence on piping. The one on the left is a commercial Harris Tweed with leather trim, and the one on the right is handwoven of course. There is so much content to share, so I’ll be at this for awhile.

So why did I title my post today, “On the road again…” Last month I lost my beloved step father. I probably mentioned that in the last post. My mom lives in Maryland in an upscale senior living facility, and with the death of my step-dad, it is of course necessary to move her to a smaller unit. She is 89 years old, and this is not something she can do on her own. My sister has taken on most of the task of assisting my mom with things she cannot do on her own, my step dad was computer savvy, my mom is not and will never be.

So I’m packing to go on the road again. I pulled the suitcases out of the closet where they were kind of buried because I haven’t used them since last March. I’m heading to Maryland in the morning, reluctantly, because I’ve really come to love my little bubble here, we eat well, I love my animals, I take morning walks now around town, fully masked, through the Greenway Canal path, and I’m looking forward to the little shoots that are just starting to pop up from the soil.

I’m making lists, but this time they aren’t on the computer like when I travel for business. Obviously my kindle (make sure it is charged), knitting, (make sure all the skeins are wound into balls), my laptop (there is a Zoom meeting with her attorney while I’m there, and she has no internet capability, so I have to provide that). I’ve pulled out all the boxes, packing materials, packing tape, and bubble wrap I have, and all of that’s now in the car. I have my suitcase on the floor with my yoga mat in it, want to continue my afternoon classes, and I’m packing comfy clothing that will allow me to pack her belongings, especially the kitchen, get her in the new unit by Friday and unpack everything. I’ve stayed quarantined, had my covid test, and am ready, but very reluctant. This has convinced me that traveling for business moving forward is out of the question.

And so I’m leaving my lovely competent daughter here, to fill orders, take care of all the animals, edit the next video for launch next Friday (I think it is on sewing seams…) and generally hold the fort. I’ve given her lists of what I want accomplished. The shelves of products like interfacings and tracing medium are getting low, and more has to be cut, labeled and bagged.

And then there is this super project, I know she can’t wait to dig her teeth into… A few weeks ago, my dearest fiber friend Candiss Cole, who lives out in the southwest, shipped me unannounced, a gigantic box of vintage patterns. Her whole collection from various relatives was not being used in a way she thought they should be, and she figured I’d love them. She was right. Though truth be told, I immediately thought, holy crap, where am I going to put all of these patterns!

Of course Brianna, organizer supreme, immediately ordered pattern boxes from the only remaining place we could find that carried them, Anniescatalog.com. She took all the boxes of patterns I already owned, and spent a long weekend sorting and combining by style, brand, number, and trying to date some of the earlier patterns. There were patterns by a company called Advance, which I understand stopped printing by the 70’s. I think I read they were exclusive for JC Penny. That’s where I went to buy the fabric for my first project.

There were patterns from the 40’s and 50’s as best we could determine. There were some real jaw droppers, and some real eye rollers. She was like a kid in a candy store. I looked at some of the patterns from the 60’s and 70’s and said, wow, I remember making that. I felt very old.

And so now they are all in boxes on the bed in the guest room, because we don’t have any guests coming, and each box will be carefully scanned into the data base I have, with keywords assigned to each pattern, which is a huge task, which I know once she gets into a rhythm, she will blow through. Half the data base already exists, she just has to add all the new entries, and re-catalog where they will live.

I’ll be back when my mom is settled. I’m looking forward to quality time with her. It has been a long time. I’m not looking forward to packing my clothes and essentials, and the long trip down. I’m really becoming a homebody. I’ll still have email access hopefully, there is supposed to be WIFI in the apartments. And Brianna will be here to carry on.

Meanwhile, stay safe everyone, continue to wear a mask, I don’t expect to get a vaccine until the summer, there just isn’t the supply. Subscribe to my YouTube channel, and enjoy the content. Stay tuned…


Covid Casualty…

Happy New Year everyone! I’m really hoping things get better in the world, but I’m a realist. Change may happen, but it is going to be slow…

Meanwhile… I got on the scale a week or so ago, and I sort of freaked out. I won’t mention the number, because many of you will say, wow, I’d love to be that weight, but the number isn’t what’s important. I’ve put on a decent amount of weight since I stopped going anywhere some nine months ago. I have done a lot of wonderful things in the studio since the quarantine began, no complaints there, and I’ve done remarkably well staying home, having my daughter here, and accomplishing a lot that I’m proud of. But I haven’t left the house. Except for a couple weeks ago, when my daughter and I got in the car, drove 3 hours to Maryland to a funeral home, didn’t get out of the car, but pulled in behind the hearse, and followed it to the cemetery. We stood well away from everyone by the gravesite. Watched as they buried my beloved step dad, waved to my mom from afar and drove back to NJ. That’s the extent of my outdoor activity in almost 10 months.

I’m eating well, sleeping well, creating well, and my body is starting to rebel. Because I’m not taking care of it. I’m not active and not moving. I don’t get out of my pajamas all day, I’m wearing really comfy clothing, and I saw this headline in the paper this morning.

Yeah, this is a thing, and I’ve got it.

So again, the number on the scale isn’t what’s important. And the fact that I can’t fit in half the gorgeous clothing in my closet that I’ve made over the last number of years, isn’t what’s so important. Though it is really pissing me off. I love my clothes, especially the handwoven ones.

The most important thing is the way I feel, and I feel like I’m bloated and out of shape and very very old. Which is ridiculous. I am home all the time. There is no reason I can’t take an hour or two a day and do some kind of thing to get me moving. I have never been one to exercise formally. Any routine I develop gets altered quickly because I’m always on the road. But I’m not now, and don’t plan to be for a long time.

My beloved friends encouraged me to just get out and walk. So I did. I mentioned that in my last post. And I’ve kept walking Every morning I’m forced to get out of my pajamas and put on real clothing, and I go outside. I look at the light, the trees, the birds, (geese are already flying north, huh…). I look at the new restaurant in town opening Monday, Dim Sum meets Cajun. The menu is entertaining if nothing else. Take out only. This morning I ran into a very very old friend and we had a lovely chat from opposite sides of the street. I got to breathe fresh air, and get the joints working. I’ve started walking over the viaduct, which gets my heart pumping.

When I woke up this morning, there was a new video from someone I subscribe to on YouTube, Yoga with Adriene. Apparently she is starting a 30 day series, today was day 1, after her short intro yesterday. I stopped doing yoga when the yoga studio in town closed in March and never reopened. One of the first Covid Casualties. I realized I am seriously out of shape.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fit into my clothes again, but I can make new ones, and alter some of the ones that are alterable. And some of them will get cut up into other things. I finally finished this sweater, which I started probably early last year. I’ve always loved this pattern, and finally found the perfect yarn for it. The pattern is by C2Knits, Greta, and the yarn is 70% Merino and 30% Mulberry Silk, Cascade Yarns Venezia Sport, color 197 (which I’m sure was discontinued because I bought these skeins on clearance).

But I’m starting to feel remotely like a human being again, not feeling so old and creaky. And winter air is crisp and cold and delicious. I’m still not going out anywhere, but I’m moving my body, and venturing out past my street, staying well away from anyone I meet on the path, but it is beginning to make a difference.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I took the holidays off from filming/editing my YouTube videos. We have three in the can, waiting for edits and closed captioning, and will resume posting next Friday. There is a two parter on darts coming up next. So I took the hiatus to get my dye pots going, I have a lot of yarn that needs dyeing and creating color in winter is so rewarding.

I have a nice little system going, when I get back from my morning walk. First I take the dried yarns that were hanging overnight and skein them.

Then I put the dyed yarns that were sitting in the dyebath over night in the sink for the first rinse. They will get rinsed three times in total, the last rinse will have Synthrapol to restore the PH balance.

I start the next dyebath. The yarns will sit overnight in a large Visions Corning glass pot on a heating pad. The yarns are all cellulose, with an occasional silk thrown in, and I’m using Fiber Reactive Dyes, mostly from Pro Chemical.

Meanwhile I put the yarns I skeined up the day before in to soak in dye activator, they will sit in that bucket overnight.

And I wind new skeins for the following day. The whole process takes less than two hours, depending on how many interruptions there are. Like the morning I discovered the pond had emptied when lovingly gazing out at the waterfall while winding skeins. What a two day ordeal, finally had to get the pond guy to come and do a temporary rebuild of my waterfall, just to get me through until spring.

And finally I take the rinsed skeins and hang them to dry, so they can drip into the sink. They will be dry by morning.

And finally, I’ve started on a task, which I mentioned in my last post I think, which is 12 years overdue. I have been writing this blog now for over 12 years, more than 800 posts, and though I’ve instituted some plug-in back ups, I’ve been reading too much about hacked sites, major sites, to trust that my content will always be available. I think when I read that the McCall’s pattern printing service in Kansas, the only one of its kind in the US, was hacked a few months ago and can no longer access its data base to print patterns, I was sort of appalled. Independents who use their printing facilities are out of luck.

So post by post, working backwards, I’ve copied and pasted into word docs which get backed up each night into the cloud. I couldn’t restore a site from that but the content is mine and safe. I’ve been working feverishly on this, and have managed to work backwards to the middle of 2010.

What I didn’t expect is how haunting those posts would be. A lot happened in the world and in my life over the last 12 years. My kids grew up, my daughter did four years in college in Massachusetts. My son did boot camp and two deployments to the middle east. Hurricane Irene hit and devastated my town, and a year later Hurricane Sandy hit and devastated NJ. My husband was diagnosed with inoperable esophageal cancer and died nine months later.

All of it is documented there. Along with the design and execution of probably more than a hundred handwoven garments, scarves, garments from commercial fabrics, Knitted sweaters and socks, accessories, art works, watercolor painting, felted works, my entire creative life paralleling my personal life is all there. Some of the posts are hilarious, and some have made me cry into my wine. I haven’t read them all, I’m too busy copying and pasting them, but there are a few that caught my eye and I’m a bit overwhelmed.

There are a few take aways…

I will probably never again wear many of those garments I created and photographed on myself. There are a lot of them.

My life was entirely too crazy and bizarre. I seemed chronically tired and stressed and just moving on autopilot from one gig to the next. For 12 years. And that’s after I swore I’d never be in that place again after I went through my own bout with cancer 20 years ago.

And I can’t spell for shit. I’m noticing that the new version of Word Press has spell check. I don’t remember that. Because when I cut and paste each post into a Word Docx, Spellcheck just pops right up with all the errors I’ve made. Oops…

And I made some incredible amazing work, and am very very proud of all that I accomplished.

My daughter is planning to learn Adobe InDesign and reformat all of my written monographs into proper book form, still PDF’s but updating them into something that does justice to my brand, as she says. She is so funny. I’d like her to start with creating PDF’s of my blog posts, maybe a year at a time, so I can read them sequentially, laid out in a consistent format, and really curl up and read about my adventures. It will be the perfect thing to practice on.

When I started this blog, it was more of an exercise to see if I could, I already journaled almost nightly, but the blog gave me a way to add images and links and remember things I couldn’t in a regular journal. It has done that and more.

And so as I start this new year, I’ve spent the better part of last week looking back, really far back, and I’m pretty OK with what I see, and determined to treat myself more kindly in the future, to take care of me first, and if I never get on a plane again, except to travel somewhere exotic on a vacation, that will be OK too. I have my studio, my YouTube channel The Weaver Sews, I can still teach and reach students, and one day maybe have private students come to me. But getting out and walking every day, doing some yoga every day, and putting me first is kind of looking like a nice start to this new year.

Stay tuned everyone, I love you, stay safe, and look ahead to the future.


All I Want For Christmas…

Is some data management. Really. You have no idea.

So it is Christmas Eve. The oddest Christmas Eve I’ve ever spent. There are about a hundred projects I can be doing, but nothing urgent or pressing. I know we usually shoot a new video on Friday’s, and drop the next one onto YouTube, but we opted to skip tomorrow, since it is, well it is Christmas, and truth be told, my daughter has exactly 7 days left to finish her third semester of her vet tech course. Parasites. Something like that. Canine, Feline, Avian, she is spouting nematodes, protozoans, and odd things that sound yucky, but totally fascinate her. The only tradition we have done so far today is our Christmas Eve Sushi Dinner. Of course it had to be take out this year. We did it for lunch.

I decorated. Minimally. We have animals. They get into mischief. My daughter added the Swedish touches, since she is half Swedish or at least Scandinavian.

We got our first snow. The dogs watched carefully and then leaped for joy when we let them outside. They don’t want to come in. Sadly it is supposed to rain 2″ tomorrow, which means all the snow will be gone. 60 degrees, flood everything and then drop to 27 degrees overnight so everything turns to a sheet of ice. Fortunately I don’t have anywhere to go.

So it is just Bri and me for Christmas. We will Zoom with my son and open gifts in the morning. We will Zoom with my family tomorrow afternoon. With the passing of my step dad two weeks ago, my mom is now with my Maryland sister for the holidays so I’ll get to spend time with her virtually, which I didn’t get to do when we drove to the burial, 3 hours, stood in the pouring rain well away from the family, with a mask, and then got in the car and drove home. By then it was rush hour on the Garden State Parkway, so the trip home was longer coming home. This whole year has been so odd, so sad, and yet, I’m an optimist at heart, and I constantly look for the silver linings in everything. It is how I get through life.

I almost never make new year resolutions, because largely my life is what it is, busy, crazy, creative, fun, and there isn’t much I’d change. But this year, though it is all of the above, however, I never go out. I never get to move around, exercise, and I’m really feeling it. On encouragement from a group of weaving friends scattered all over the country, we meet via zoom every Wednesday, there was all kinds of heavy duty suggestions to just get out and walk. So I did. I got up at a decent hour, dealt with the animals, and then went out and walked, some 6000 steps. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’m out of shape. I hurt all over. But it was beautiful. And quiet, and peaceful, and perfect. I went out and walked this morning as well.

I did finally finish my run of dishtowels, though they are a bit larger than I usually make, and one of the recipients enthusiastically said they were more like hand towels and should be in the bathroom. Sure, they work fine as hand towels too…

I of course had lots of help.

But with dogged determination, the knots came up the back of the loom and 15 yards of 8/2 cotton got cut off the loom, washed, dried, hemmed, and either shipped or driven around and dropped at front doors. This is Strickler 728 if you are a weaver and have Strickler’s book of 8 shaft patterns.

And so what’s up with the data? I’m actually drowning in it. I’m trying to work with my tech support to get a back up plug in for my blog, which has more than 12 years, and 800 plus posts in it. With all the hacking going on around the world, if Word Press gets hacked, I’m sort of screwed. So that’s sort of an ongoing thing we are trying to work out, but there are other data issues.

I am generally organized, but 6000 emails in my inbox, no matter now much I try to file and stay on top of things, is overwhelming. I have to try harder to spend the time working through the backlog. Truth is, I don’t want to organize 6000 emails, I want to be in my studio designing or inventing stuff. It is what I do best.

And all the pattern directions need to be updated, because now I have all these cool YouTube videos that tell you with each step, to watch this particular video for more information. And we have to add the logo to everything.

And the worst job of all, is my images. So I have a decent system for storing images, and they are backed up regularly to the cloud. But the folder with all of my images, dating back to 2008 (before that images are all stored on CD’s which is a whole ‘nother issue), is 121 GB, 916 sub folders with 43,000 files, presumably that means 43,000 images. The problem is, when I’m trying to write an article, a blog post, develop a tutorial, a PowerPoint seminar, or even just help illustrate a technique, I have to have a rapid way of searching through that data base of 43,000 images to find what I need. And I actually do. I use an image organizing file, Adobe Bridge, which I love, and it allows me to add keywords to each image so a quick sort will bring up all the images say, on bound buttonholes, or my tartan plaid fabric (which I recently had to do for an article coming out in Handwoven Magazine.) The only problem with this system is adding the keywords in a timely manner. Like as soon as I import them from my phone or camera.

And therein lies the problem. It is sort of hit or miss. So I spend hours looking through 916 folders to find what I know is there. My goal or resolution for the new year, if you will, is to get the keywords under control, or at least assigned. I started this morning. There were a number of subfolders where I did already add them. But there were just as many without. So I sit with my screen, folder by folder, working from a data base I created of key words, and assign.

I’ve found images I didn’t know I had. I’ve found images that are tough to look at, of my late husband in his last months. I’m working backwards and am mid way through 2016. That’s the year he died. But this is a good exercise. And I have the time. It is winter. And Covid. And this is the first Christmas it will be just me and my daughter. And the animals. Usually they are boarded because we go spend time with loved ones.

As the year draws to a close, this has been the most bizarre year I’ve ever experienced, but not the worst. Having my son away, deployed overseas for a couple of years, having watched my husband die of cancer, those were really bad years. So far I’ve been healthy, and busy and I have lots to keep me occupied in the studio. I have more ideas than you can imagine, more yarn than God, I started up the dyepots yesterday morning, and so there will be color this winter. I have garments to make, cloth to sew. I have videos to shoot, and stories to tell. And lots of remote teaching in the new year. And lots and lots of data to be corralled and organized. Sigh…

To all of my readers, please be safe, we have all come so far. Please help me hope for light, peace and grace, civility, kindness, and health for the new year. I wish all of you lots of opportunities to be creative, to be with those you love, even if it means an old fashioned phone call, or an old fashioned letter in the mail. My daughter sends out about a dozen cards and letters every couple of days. There is something gentle and safe about communicating with a card or note, with lots of fun stickers, and receiving one in the mail. And zooming with friends means you stop and spend an hour just being with each other. Wine helps.

I wish you all good cheer, good health, and great stories to tell.

Stay tuned…


Nothing stays the same…

This is the season of light, but it has been some of the darkest times this generation has experienced. The promise of a new year, a new administration, a new vaccine, and in 13 days, daylight will begin to build again, all give a sense of hope and possibilities.

After more than 800 blog posts, I’ve had a bit of a glitch, that started humorously and then turned wicked serious as I blew up the hosting company server with one of my posts. The post was called, That’s not why I did it… I wrote it after lots of sturm und drang, summarizing the post with the peace and serenity of making order out of chaos. I thought it was a rather clever post, and then moved on.

Within a week, I got an email from my hosting company, shutting down my blog site, for nefarious activity, and hogging more than 55% of the shared server my site is on, slowing everyone else down. I panicked, called them, had a lovely person talk me through a few things, what I could do on my end, transferred me to their security team, and in the background they updated my site to the newest and latest version of WordPress.

Turns out, a relative, who is a software designer/developer liked the post so much, he posted it on a forum specifically for software designer/developers, and the post went viral. If it wasn’t so devastating, it would be hilarious. This relative forwarded me the string of comments posted by the developers, and truth be told, I almost fell out of my office chair laughing.

There was a bit of weaving language in that post, assuming that it would be read by the weaving community, but the gist of the post could be understood by everyone. The developers’ comments included things like “I googled Differential Sett and came up with nothing. (That’s because my daughter made up the term for her lecture for the Pioneer Valley Guild remote lecture she was working on). There were comments like, “Gee, is this what we sound like to non computer people?” And then following the comments as they tried to take apart the technical jargon I used, so they could more clearly understand the nuances of the post. As of today, there are more than 42,000 views. And you can read some of the comments here. It is enlightening…

The downside of all this once my hosting company updated everything and gave me a list of what my own tech support needs to do to add plugins, etc. is that I opened WordPress to type in this blog, and everything, I mean everything has changed. I am not even sure how to add a picture. (Though I eventually figured that out, I don’t see where to add keywords.) There are all kinds of updates I need to do to plugins that completely confound me, and nothing looks like it did for the last 12 years. This is not my strength, and I don’t want to spend the time to make it my strength.

My strengths lie in my creativity, my hands, and my mad sewing/weaving skills. They have taken a lifetime to perfect, I’m still learning, making mistakes, and I will continue to learn and make mistakes until I can’t do this anymore, my body quits or I die. The future is never guaranteed. Though it looks like 2021 is promising, we are still in a pandemic, we are still in a divided country politically, and winter is just starting. A beloved relative is in the final days of life. I cannot be there beside him. We cannot gather as a family, and that just sucks. Once he passes, we can’t hold a funeral, we can’t hold each other, and all I can do is make the best use of each day I’m given.

The new Youtube channel The Weaver Sews is consuming a lot of welcomed focus. I start thinking about what I want to film the next Friday as we finish filming the previous installment. I keep thinking that future videos should be getting shorter, less theory, more “this is how you do it”, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. I think of more and more things to say. I feel as though I’m taking my half century of knowledge and documenting it so that it can live on even if I don’t or can’t. My daughter, who is my editor, director, producer, videographer, and caption writer, is getting better and better at this, and we have even come up with a way to make my Surface Go act as a teleprompter. I think the dialogue is cleaner if I actually use a script.

Since some of the next content I want to cover, is actually construction techniques, I decided to cut out two jackets, from my 200 Jacket Pattern, one from handwoven (the leftover from my wool/mohair swing coat) and one from a Harris Tweed, given to me by the husband of one of my guild members, deciding he wasn’t going to ever have a jacket made from it. I think he would appreciate that it is being used for educational purposes as well as making a stunning jacket. And it will read better in a video.

And yes, that’s a caviar leather skin in the photo above, I’ll use it for the upper collar, the welt pockets, bound buttonholes and maybe even elbow patches.

The lining for the handwoven jacket is a kimono, which I purchased in pieces from a lovely shop on Whidbey Island, the Jan McGregor Studio. Jan carries all kinds of Japanese items, vintage Japanese textiles and furniture, and it is the most delightful shop I’ve ever been in. I hope it survives the pandemic. The kimono was taken apart carefully, and placed in a bag, which I purchased, and so I was able to use the cloth as a lining. I’ve since ditched the rust which I wanted to use for piping.

In the meantime, looking for hand dyed skeins in my studio for a particular project, I came across a number of skeins of the same very fat silk, all of which I had dyed in different colors at different times, that I thought might be fun in the Confetti draft I developed for using some Silk City Fibers yarns. The draft is free in my eShop.

I did a lot of planning and calculations, and used weaving software to figure out a layout, that would be stripey, but minimally. I’m hoping to eventually play with miters in upcoming garments, so this can help mess around with that option. I spent the weekend winding all the warps…

…sleying, threading and ultimately beaming the warp, and testing out a couple of different wefts.

Meanwhile (Everytime I write that word, I can’t escape Steven Colbert’s segment called “Quarantinewhile” he features on A Late Show.) I’m progressing nicely on the 15 yard warp of towels, which will be my holiday gifts. And then of course, I hit a snag. Something that almost never happens

I had a couple of new cones of Webs 8/2 cotton in black, which I used for the weft, and probably didn’t have enough, but didn’t take the time to actually do the calculations, because there was another unmarked mill end cone of 8/2 in black behind it. And after pulling that cone from the shelf, and doing a quick test, I decided it was probably dry rotted and not a good idea to use, black yarns can be problematic anyway, black dye is so harsh, so I have an order out to WEBS for more 8/2, but it may take a week or two to get it. So the towels will just have to wait. I’m guessing I have about 4 yards to go…

I’m carrying on, texts are flying regularly updating me on family situations, and all I can do is keep busy. Just a couple more weeks and we will pass the shortest day of the year, and we will start moving towards the light.

Stay tuned, stay safe, and stay busy…


Zoom Jacket

Dearest readers and followers on facebook…

You make me laugh.  Oh the uproar when I posted my near completed jacket and mentioned that I wanted to wear it around the house over my pajamas.  Best laugh I’ve had in a week.  Like handwoven anything can only be used for special occasions.  So here’s the thing…

  1. We are trapped at home in quarantine and I have no plans to leave the house for any reason for the remainder of this year, and probably well into the next.
  2. I have a bulging wardrobe of handwoven stuff to wear for special occasions.  Even culling the early stuff, there are 30 years of gorgeous handwoven garments in there, that I have no place to wear.  (And some of them are not fitting me too well either, given that the last nine months has padded my lower half just a bit more than I’d like…)
  3. Being trapped at home spending my days either working in my office at the computer, like I am now, or in the weaving studio, or the sewing room, or the kitchen, means that comfy flannel pajamas, now that the weather is cold (I keep my house at 64 degrees) are my wardrobe of choice.  
  4. I only dress for Zoom meetings, and trust me there are about 50 options for what to wear.  
  5. My beloved go-to knockaround commercially purchased jacket that I throw on when I get out of bed in the morning, and take off at night, hanging it on the coat tree in my room, is getting worn, old, boring, and it needs to move on.
  6. I want something cuddly, roomy, with large pockets, and can also hang on the coat rack every night without getting the center back neck bump from the hook.

Enter this fabric which recently came off the loom.

I blogged about it in the last post, and there is a link in the last post to the details, what I used as a draft, the warp and the weft, in the last post from when I first put this fabric on the loom almost two years ago.  I love the colors, and this fabric I knew would be challenging to lay out.  The coloring was formed from the engineered gradient in the Noro Taiyo Lace skeins I was using.  Though they were engineered to repeat themselves, when a dreaded knot in the skein would appear, or I had to change skeins, the sequence was thrown off.  So I did the best I could…

I had lots of unwanted assistance, trying to lay this out, stretched all across the sewing room floor which is in the basement, and all the way into the utility closet.  The cat was very amused…

It took two days of moving pieces around to get what I wanted.  The fabric wasn’t really wide enough, but fortunately last Friday’s YouTube video shoot was on that very topic, What to do When You Don’t have Enough Fabric.  So I shared some of the tips I did in this garment to try to make the most out of what I have.  That video should drop next Friday.  It is still in edits.  (Who am I kidding, she hasn’t started editing yet, she waits until the day before…)

Anyway, I wanted something unfussy, and perhaps crocheted around the perimeter, so I wouldn’t have to fuss with hems, or facings, or bands, whatever.  And I wanted big pockets.  I pulled my 100 Jacket, chose a larger size than I would normally take, so I’d have roomier sleeves to fit over whatever I was wearing, overlayed the neck from the 800 vest pattern, and extended the fronts 3 inches so they would fall back into a mock collar, but still could overlap to keep my chest warm when I really wanted to snuggle. (It is on my list of topics for my YouTube channel The Weaver Sews, to illustrate how to combine patterns, putting a sleeve on the swing dress, combining patterns for different necklines, etc.)

I got exactly what I wanted, and posted it on facebook last night.

Hahahahahah!  The responses were wonderful.  I love you all.  The outrage that I’d wear this over my pajamas was truly hilarious.  Of course it is a beautiful jacket.  Of course it should be seen out in the world.  But that isn’t realistic right now.  I’m not going anywhere.  I need to keep safe, healthy and not burden the hospital system because I was stupid.  It is worrisome enough that my son, who is an interim general manager at a local Target is exposed every day, so far has tested negative, but is going into the retail season from hell.  He is not allowed near the house.  NJ lived through hell last April, and we are there again, I’ve lost count of how many have died, almost 17,000 in our state alone.  It is as if my whole town got wiped off the map, and half of the next one as well.

And so, I will wrap myself up in a lovely comfy handwoven sweatery coat, and go about my day in comfort.  And smile dreaming of a time when I can go out and about and show it off.

So here are some of the observations and details.  Because you really don’t know how comfy and snuggly something is until you wear it.

First, since the fabric wasn’t wide enough, I moved the side seams towards the back so I could get a full back from the fabric, and used a crocheted seam finish, overlapping the seam with the fronts.  I cover this in the video that will drop next week.

You can clearly see in the photos above where I’m wearing the jacket that the collar points and lower front edges tend to curl inward.  There isn’t a facing for support, so I’d expect that.  I kept thinking about my late husband’s dress shirts and the little collar stays that would keep points crisp, and I remembered I have a drawer full of zip ties, and there are some really tiny ones in there.  I’ve used zip ties as boning in garments that call for that, so why not as collar stays.  I slipped a few behind the crocheted edges and I’ll let you know how well they work.  Already there is an improvement, time will tell if they hold.

And I dug through my box of inkle bands, and found this lovely narrow black band I wove to help support the sloppy neckline in a sweater I knit.  There was enough left to make a loop at the back neck for hanging my jacket at night on the coat tree.  That’s the sad very well worn jacket it is replacing on the left of the coat tree.

There are a couple of negatives that I really can’t do much about, one is that the wool (Harrisville Shetland singles from the 80’s) in the warp isn’t the softest.  That yarn typically isn’t meant for next to skin.  So the jacket is a bit scratchy, but I have a good tolerance for scratchy wool.  The good news is it should wash and dry pretty easily, I tossed the original fabric in the washer and dryer twice to get it to full up.  That will be important wearing it every day.

And the other negative of course is that I have a bunch of animals, that insist on curling up when ever I sit down, right in my lap, even the ones that weigh 60 pounds.  Animal hair sticks to it.  It was challenging crocheting around the edges and constantly pulling cat hair out of the yarn as I pulled up loops.  And I do vacuum often I can assure you.  But the good news is that unlike a fleece jacket, the hair comes off easily with a lint roller, it doesn’t seem to embed itself into the structure.  So I’m hopeful my new comfy jacket will prove to be my best friend in the coming months.  I want to wear this so much I wear it out!  

And speaking of Zoom…  I’ve spent many hours on Zoom meetings over the last number of months, and found that knitting wasn’t really for me a great idea, I was making mistakes on the sweater I was knitting in the decorative patterned border.  I don’t multi task well.  Really.  

So instead, I started pulling out my bags and baskets of thrums from past warps, most of which were hand dyed yarns, maybe 18-24″ lengths, and started tying them together. I keep the large basket of thrums now under the table where I Zoom.  Years ago, one of our beloved guild members, who has since passed, came to a September meeting fresh from a MAFA conference.  She had taken a workshop with Tom Knisely, a beloved weaver and teacher who has written a number of books, and one of the techniques she learned was something called Zanshi.  It is a Japanese technique for using leftover thrums and yarns so nothing goes to waste.  Tom talks about it in his book about Table Linens.

Anyway, the guild member showed her sample from the workshop and I was intrigued.  Thrums were tied together with overhand knots and the tails just got woven in.  Plain weave, couldn’t be simpler.  So I started tying my thrums together.  Mindless but productive while I sat through endless meetings.  I had a beautiful rayon/cotton discontinued yarn from Silk City Fibers called Marbella, in a greyed brown color called Bison for the warp.  I kept the warp narrow so I’d have a bit of color building from the short thrums.  I’m loving this.  And no, I have no idea what I’m going to do with this fabric.  I just like to weave…

Stay safe everyone, celebrate this season with whatever silver linings you can find.  Life is getting curiouser and curiouser, feeling more like Alice in Wonderland every day, there is some whacky crap in that story, worth a reread!

Stay tuned…