Lessons from a housewife…

My 88 year old mom (I think she will be 89 on the 2nd) lives in an upscale senior living community in a Maryland suburb of Baltimore with her husband of 13 years.  A few years after my dad died, mom went to a high school reunion and reconnected with someone she dated in HS, and within the year they were married.  A fairytale in her mid 70’s.  No one thought that they’d both still be alive 13 years later.  I know my mom gets frustrated, her eyes aren’t what they use to be, she barely quilts anymore, and her arthritis in her hands keeps her from doing many of the crafts she loved, but she is safe in her little apartment with her husband, and they go up to the center a couple times a day for companionship and fabulous meals.  ( I can attest to the quality of the food, better than most restaurants I eat in…)

Anyway, mom usually calls me Saturday mornings.  Oddly I didn’t hear from her and I worried.  I know they are on severe lock down in her facility, no one is allowed to leave their apartment except for medical issues, physical therapy, doctors appointments, etc.  They get meals delivered, and can supplement with groceries, which my beloved sister, who lives about 45 minutes away from them delivers whenever mom asks.  My sister can no longer even bring them to her door, she must leave them with the staff at the center and the staff delivers them to my mom.  

Anyway, last evening around dinner time, I called my mom to see how she was doing under lock down.  It was the brightest and most confident voice that greeted me on the other end, I almost didn’t recognize her voice.  She was cheery and chipper and when I asked how things were going, expecting to hear sad tales of how hard it is to be quarantined, she was all over the situation, taking charge and doing what she has done best for most of her adult life.  

Mom was married at 19, in an era when the goal for most women was to marry, raise a family and care for that husband and family with everything you had.  It was her job, it was her only job, and she did it exceptionally well, I never heard a complaint from her, she was a master at keeping a spotless house, keeping three nourishing meals on the table within a tight budget, making all of our clothes until we could make our own, and even sewing all of the drapes and slipcovers when necessary.  My dad wanted for nothing.

My mom now lives in a center where meals are provided, housekeeping services and laundry in their apartment are provided, and none of the things that defined her for most of her life are needed anymore.  I never really thought about that, sort of like really retiring and having all those things available to you, must be, I don’t know, the ultimate reward?  Maybe not…

So imagine my shock when mom was telling me with all of the enthusiasm of a 60 year old, not an 88 year old, that meals are now delivered, she makes sure they always include the soup, which she then stores for the next day, and with half a sandwich each, she can make lunch for both of them.  She now has to clean her own apartment, because sending in housekeeping is too risky.  She was all over that, “I clean one room a day, very manageable.”  She told me that they deliver the bed linens now, but they can’t come in and make the bed, but that’s not a problem.  She certainly knows how to make a bed.  I have this vision of my mom saying, “Hold my beer, I’ve got this…”

I’m really proud of my mom, she has amazing life skills, and even at 88, she knows how to be organized and work with what she has.  I have been haunted by her enthusiasm and her ability to take charge of a situation and have replayed her upbeat and confident conversation many times in my head.  I want to be her when I grow up.

As long as I stay away from the news and social media, I actually can function as if life is moving forward.  I’ve always been the kind of person who does best with intense pressure.  Probably my most creative award winning fabric was designed the week my husband was dying, because I was so desperate to do anything to distract me from the tragedy that had befallen my family, I grabbed yarn off the shelf and turned on the computer and designed like my life depended on it.  In a way it did.  (You can buy the draft on my website, click here.)  The piece is called Chaos.

I’ve said in the last couple of blogs, that in all of this chaos right now, death toll in NJ is up to 4,200, that I’m very very grateful for the gift of time and the ability to stay hidden in my lovely studios and 1) Make stuff, and 2) Work feverishly on digitizing as many patterns as I can before the quarantine ends, travel starts again, or I actually succumb to this virus.  The bias top is up on the site, the vest with armhole bands is almost ready to launch.  Just waiting on final edits on the directions.  I hired a friend, who has written sewing manuals and edited a sewing magazine, to proof all of my documentation.  She is thorough and sharp.  I feel like I have a great team on this, and my daughter is just miraculous, even though she gets really cranky when I tell her stuff still isn’t perfect.

We started this weekend on the dress.  The directions are into the third rounds of edits before they go out to the proofer, and we just did the second round of edits on the pattern.  

And I took all the leftovers from the dress I talked about in my last blog post, and cut out a motorcycle vest.  The leather was a bit challenging, and I made a major mistake this morning, connecting the wrong edge of the armhole bands together.  With leather there are no mistakes.  Fortunately I had enough leather left to re-cut the right armbands.  I was annoyed with myself.  I told a friend that I’m use to making stupid silly mistakes that can easily be fixed, but I rarely if ever make mistakes that cost me fabric, especially leather.  I was dwelling too much on my conversation with  mom?

Anyway, I finished the vest this evening, except for anchoring the leather facings inside, so they don’t move around, that has to be done by hand.  And it is wonderful.  I tried on the original again, as I was starting to sew this one together and realized that I’ve put on a few pounds, oops, and so I tweaked some of the seams to give me a squish more.

Though I’m hiding in the basement, I’m still able to connect with people, there is this blog of course, I cherish all of your comments.  The board of directors for my guild was able to meet, virtually (I’m the treasurer so on the board as well), we used Zoom and I gotta say, I really liked the format.  We had a preprinted agenda, we followed it, I didn’t have to drive 45 minutes to the president’s house, and sit and look at delicious baked goods and dips and cheese and crackers for the 3 hour meeting and try to show some self restraint.  I sat looking at the computer with my tea, might have had a little wine, and we accomplished what we needed to do.  

I also had a Zoom date with my 81 year old musician friend, we set up our phones near our music  stands and played recorder music together.  It wasn’t the same as in person, but it was great to play with another person.  And last night, we ordered chicken bacon ranch pizza from the local restaurant in town, they are doing pick up and delivery only, and the driver came, left it on the porch, and it was the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, I enjoyed that so very much, and the margaritas we made helped a lot!

I’m sure my house isn’t as clean as my mom’s, and I really have to get outside and pick up all the dog poop, it is getting bad out there.  But I vacuumed my bedroom this morning, and cleaned my toilet and sink.  And I keep the kitchen clean as I go.  The kids, well, their standard of cleanliness and order is very different from mine.  They are much more their dad, so sometimes it is a battle, but I feel like I was trained by the best, and I’m embracing this, because of course my housekeeper can’t come and clean, but I’ve got this…

Stay tuned…

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Working Really Hard…

First, a huge thank you to all of my sewing friends who have stopped their lives to make masks.  I feel hugely guilty I’m not participating, because, as I explained in the last post, I don’t have any materials, my daughter used them all a couple months ago for Australian Marsupial pouches for all of the injured critters in the fires.  I’d have to go out to the store to procure supplies and that would really defeat the point of hiding at home.  My daughter was able to find a small pack of elastic in the bottom of a craft bin, and used some scraps to make masks for us.  She has a fine metal’s bench and rolled floral wire for the nose piece.

And so I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked, or so it seems.  The big news is I actually managed to, after running a test by a bunch of trusted sewing friends, launch a pattern today.  I started with the simplest one I have, to see how this all works.  I edited the directions and the intro to the pattern about 19 times.  To the point where I just didn’t care anymore, which is a dangerous place to be, I can assure you.  So for better or for worse, you can purchase the PDF download of my bias top.  More patterns to follow.

The pattern is available for purchase here, and the directions, which will continue to be free, are now on my website.  It is easier there to keep updated.  And while I was there, I redid my Extra’s page, because the amount of stuff on it was becoming untenable.  Found some fun stuff I had forgotten about, like this essay I did on making paperdolls as a kid.  

I’m always open to opinions and edits.  Obviously the pattern will work for commercial fabrics, but I have always been a handweaver who works with the handwoven community, so yardage requirements are specifically for handweavers.  We are working on the 500 vest now, as I write,  that’s the one with the armhole band. We are into the fourth round of edits.

Meanwhile, we are fixing puzzles like crazy, I always have one up in the living room.  The latest one, a lovely gift from my sister, is really challenging, I’m sorry to say not my favorite.  It is all shades of grey. Dalmatian puppies.   Except for a couple little areas with pink feet.  I much prefer color.  Lots of it.

I finished my dress.  This was a challenge as well.  Just about everything in my life right now is a challenge, but we weavers are made of stern stuff, and we know how to pick up a shuttle and carry on…

I want to say it takes a village, and after my last blog post, and how I wasn’t sure how I felt about the leather, one of my long time friends, Sheila O’Hara, extraordinary weaver who wrote the book on weaving contemporary Jacquard, before digital Jacquard looms became available, casually commented, “Why don’t you embroider on the leather?”  Yeah, no.  Embroidering on leather would be really really challenging, because you can’t sew into leather easily, usually it involves pliers.  BUT…  I could couch yarns, like the kind I wove with…  This was a nail biter, I did samples and tests, but small ones, I didn’t want to waste the precious leather, and once I started in, there was no going back, you can’t rip stitches out of leather because the holes will show.  This was quite the nail biter…

I’m so happy with how this turned out.  And the closure on the back worked out brilliantly.  One of the couched threads as it came off the back neck, I was able to crochet into a loop, and couch it back on to cross the upper back again and end up back at the neckline.  Oh, and the dress has pockets!

The dress fits like a glove.  It actually isn’t supposed to, but I’m packing on a little weight here, because all I’m doing is eating and sewing and sitting on my butt by the computer rewriting directions and intros and cover pages.  I really have to go back to online yoga, since my local yoga studio is shut down for the quarantine.  And stop eating cookies and drinking wine…

And so I was able to cut out the many pieces to make this motorcycle vest in the leftover fabric from the dress and the leftover leather.

I still have almost a full skin and a half to do something fun with.

I’m having fun sitting and sewing, and the 16″ metal separating zipper arrived today from WAWAK.com.  

And so dear readers, I hope you stay safe, more than 2300 people have died in NJ, many of them first responders, EMT’s, hospital staff, store employees, police officers.  I hope where you live it all seems overblown.  I can assure you, it isn’t here.  We are a dense state, and are suffering for it.

Play with yarn, do whatever it takes to be as distracted and productive as you can.  I’ve actually started to pick salads from the garden.  There is something renewing about that.  Stay off never ending news, it is really really painful.  For those of you making masks, I bow down with respect.  

Stay tuned…

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Quarantined…

We are all going to hate that word, other than the Q, all the rest of the letters are only worth one point in Scrabble, except for maybe the D, that might be worth 2 points.  Now if it were to sit on a triple score…

No, I’m not sewing masks.  I’m not ruling it out, but kind friends keep texting me assuming I’m making hundreds of masks and honestly I’m not.  There are a number of reasons, but mostly I don’t have supplies, all of the fabric we could have used, was used a couple months ago to make Joey Pouches for the marsupials in Australia. I’d have to go out and purchase supplies, which I understand are hard to come by, or cut up existing clothing.   I’m not leaving my house, so I don’t need a mask, and for the brief run to the post office to drop off a prepaid box, I reused an n-95 mask I have in the dye studio.  I’m feeling guilty to not be part of the “war” effort, but I sort of feel like the best thing I can do is not become another statistic and clog up the already overwhelmed health care facilities around the state.  NJ is hurting and I’m trying to stay out of everyone’s way.  My son, who works as an exec at Target, their highest volume store in the region, comes home glazed and exhausted.  It just doesn’t end.  He is military trained to do his job, carry on in extreme conditions and he wouldn’t think of doing anything less than 300%.  I’m very proud.  

And so I sit in my new basement studio, far away from the noise and constant barrage of bad news.  I check my phone for emails, but stay away from “breaking news” and facebook.  I know fear, anyone who has survived cancer does, and next to worry, it is probably the most unproductive of all emotions, especially when you become paralyzed.    And so I take the news in very small doses, NJ has the second largest amount of Covid 19 cases, and of course more than 600 deaths, which rises hourly.  And I hide in the basement and sew.

This is the fabric I wanted to sew.  Handwoven, one of my favorites to date.  I have three gorgeous caviar leather skins I bought in NYC a number of years ago, and thought of a leather yoke and sleeves, also wanting to test my swing dress pattern with drafted sleeves.  I realized that the leather has to be detachable, because well duh, you can’t wash it…

So I started with a test garment or prototype.  This is a lovely piece of wool suiting and I had enough Ultrasuede to simulate what my idea was in my head.  I had hoped to use the natural edge of the leather skins, and looking at the prototype, I needed to show more yoke because there was no way to capture the lower shape and have that contour match the skins I had.  

Anyway, my daughter took one look and said, wow, that looks frumpy, cut the sleeves shorter.  So I did, and I finished the dress and I tried it on and I actually think it is cute!

So I started in on the real dress.  I laid out the front with the cut out leather yoke keeping the natural edge, and I’m not sure what I think… yes the dress has pockets…

So I plowed ahead…

The dress needs a ton of handwork and the yoke isn’t completely resolved, there needs to be a back closure and the neck isn’t finished, still mulling over how I want to handle that, and I still don’t know what I think.  Part of me loves the contrast of the two mediums, unfinished leather and handwoven fabric, and part of me hates it because I’m such a finisher.  I’ll finish the handwork on the dress and then try it on and see, often it looks much different on the body.

The good news is, I have enough left over of both the handwoven and the leather to create another one of these, my favorite vest, copied from a ready to wear chambray vest I bought off a sale rack a huge amount of years ago.  The leather was originally purchased to make one of these, and the vest shown was the prototype for the leather vest, and I loved it so much I never went further and made up the leather.  I realize that once I make it, it is hard to clean, I’d have to send it out, but a leather vest usually needs less cleaning than a dress worn next to the skin.  And so far I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned this vest.

Meanwhile, I finally finished the Harrisville Designs Rhodora sweater, and tried it on and I love it. The yarn is Harrisville’s Silk and Wool.  Exactly what I wanted, another lovely summer top, but with short sleeves.  Most of my knitted summer tops are shells and I only have one or two other short sleeve knitted tops.  

Meanwhile, and a huge Meanwhile, Brianna finished her online class in learning Adobe Illustrator (through Udemy, if you are bored, they have all sorts of classes that are really inexpensive) and took my files of scanned patterns we did last fall at my sister’s house, and we decided to have her start with the bias top.  There are only two pattern pieces, a front and back, three if you count that there are two different fronts, one with a dart and one without.  We printed, trimmed and studied, and made notes, and decided on layouts and colors and line quality because though I have always used color to describe my sizes, not everyone can print in color and so line quality will help when printed in grey scale.  She has finished the bias top, so now I have to create the lead pages that explain how to cut out and piece together and the difference in the two fronts and how to only print the pages you need, etc, etc, etc…  

This is something I dreamed of doing way down in the future, once I stopped traveling.  Except the universe had other plans.  With my traveling curtailed for months, and my daughter working for me,  we decided that this was the time to at least explore.  In my wildest dreams I never expected that I’d have a workable plan the beginning of 2020, though in my wildest dreams I never thought I’d see the world in the current crisis, no one did, so we carry on and make use of the gift of time and try desperately to stay healthy.  

She started in on the 500 vest next, fortunately she is loving this process and project.  Her skills with Illustrator are improving hourly.  and I just approved this latest piece, this is the upper right corner of the 500 vest back.  

And in other news, I finally, finally sat in my new weaving studio and wove.  Looms get cranky when you don’t weave on them or when you move them with a warp on them, and it takes a bit to get everything moving smoothly again.  I had just put this scarf warp on last fall.

Other than the 47 interruptions from my children or the animals, like the cat sitting on the scarf as I tried to hem stitch, it was a joy to be weaving in my new studio and I want to go out and weave another one tonight…

Meanwhile, the email just came in accepting my proposal for my daughter and me to team teach a class on designing yardage at MAFA next summer (no loom required).  That seems like a world away and I have to wonder if the world will ever be the same, will we be able to meet safely and gather in large groups, will campuses even survive, will all the things and people we know and love survive this, I feel like we will be in a very different place when all of this is over.  Hopefully someone will come up with a miracle drug/and /or vaccine, and this will go by the way of smallpox or typhoid, or polio, until the next pandemic, and then hopefully we will all be prepared.  Meanwhile NY and northern NJ are ground zero once again, and we all have to stick together (6 feet apart) and face this like the warriors we are.

Stay safe and stay home everyone.  And weave, or spin, or sew, or garden, or read, or fix puzzles, or paint or draw, or do whatever it is that makes you happy.  Apparently there are no supplies in the grocery stores for bread making.  No yeast, no vegetable oil, no flour, and it makes me smile.  Who knew that baking bread could be a lifeline for so many…  (And apparently there are no puzzles to be had either…  I’ve got a huge stash if anyone is desperate, willing to share…)

Stay tuned…

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Hunkered Down…

This is a scary, unprecedented time we are living in, no one has a playbook for all that we are experiencing as a nation.  There are lots of opinions, lots of fur flying, lots of accusations, and lots of personal stories.  I use social media to some extent, I have more than 2200 friends on Facebook, many I don’t know, but most are either local friends, family or friends from the global fiber community, which makes me feel connected to a wonderful creative and thoughtful group of people. 

I pay attention to the news.  Peripherally.  I read the morning paper, I listen to NPR on the hour while listening to a public radio classical station.  I glance at news feeds from the AP and Reuters, and have subscriptions to the Washington Post and NY Times.  But mostly I just read the local NJ paper in the morning and get on with my day.  

Of course, NJ now has the second highest Covid-19 cases in the US, and the numbers double every other day.  It isn’t a question of if we will all get it, it is when and can the local hospitals handle the volume of really sick people.  So far it isn’t looking so good.  

That said, I turn to Facebook to see what my fiber friends are doing, to laugh, to find out what’s happening in their lives.  I love seeing photos of sunsets, snowy landscapes, spring blooming, handspun yarn, the latest tapestry or yardage or dishtowel on your loom, inspiration, cat and dog photos, grandchildren photos, wickedly funny cartoons, and for a brief half hour, I feel connected.  What I despise is seeing every other post an angry share of what the government is or is not doing depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on.  And I have dear friends who sit on both sides of that fence.  I’ve started hiding posts that have been shared from any news source.  That doesn’t seem to be helping.  Next effort is to start unfollowing friends who continue to rage at the news.  I get the news.  I get it from sources I trust to be truthful and informative.  Please share with me what you are working on, what happens in your personal lives, and breathe a little.  There is nothing much any of us can do but vote in November.

And so I will share what’s happening with me since this time of self quarantining.  To be perfectly honest here, and I’m a little embarrassed to even write this,  I have never been happier.  My entire calendar has been cancelled into June, and I’m waiting to see what happens with those workshops.  As much as I love my life, the travel, the students, the one thing I find myself desperately trying to find, is time.  Time to smell the proverbial roses.  Time to do some of the fun things I want to do.  Time to work in my studio, time to play an instrument or read or garden or just hang out.  And look at Facebook.  There is some gorgeous inspirational stuff out there if you can weed through the angry reposts.  

We continue to revamp the studio spaces, this morning the electricians came to repair the line to the shed, which will be a lovely woodshop, because well, you can’t have enough play places in the house. My electricians were desperate for work, and they would mostly be outside and in the crawl space, and I could communicate with them from the deck.  And Brianna and I last weekend, drove over to the storage unit, which is where all of my son’s belongings are held, to retrieve her couch.  Her beloved 400 pound monster of a couch, that belonged to her grandmother, that she won’t part with.  My friend with a truck, keeping his distance, brought over my trailer, and met us at the storage unit.  Brianna and I wheeled the sofa out of the unit on a couple of dollies.  The sofa sat in the trailer on the side of the house.  I had arranged for help getting it up to the second floor, but that help fell through.  So I looked at my daughter, and said, well, we are two strong and inventive women, (she is much stronger than I, but we are use to moving looms) and with a little bit of physics, and some brute strength on her part, we hauled that baby across the back yard, up the deck stairs, up the balcony stairs, turned it on its end to get it into my bedroom, rotated it in a contorted way, down the hall, up more stairs, and by removing a couple of doors, we managed to get it into her new bedroom, my old studio.  We hurt, we were exhausted, but we felt really accomplished.  Give two women no choice and see what they can do…

My days are simple, I get up, tend to the dogs, have my morning tea and look at the paper, and then I get to work.  I get to play in my lovely new studios, I have stuff to play with, and I stop for meals when I’m hungry. I run the vacuum occasionally, because I have three dogs and a cat and a fiber studio and my housekeeper is working from home, she sent instructions! (I stole that from Facebook).  My daughter is here, learning Illustrator, so we can begin to explore digitizing my patterns and making them available for download.  We are a long way away from that actually happening, but I have time now.  

There is always the fear that of course I or my children, who both live with me will get sick.  My son works 15 hour days at a high volume Target.  He is exposed to all kinds of craziness.  But I don’t live in fear.  I take each day as a gift.  I’ve been through a lot of drama and trauma in my life.  This too shall eventually pass.  For now, I had time to plant pansies and my garden is full of cold weather greens.  And the winter was so mild that my rosemary wintered over.

I have time to practice my recorder.  I’m trying to learn to play the Brandenburg Concerto #3, on Alto recorder, for a potential concert in December.  Challenging, but I have time to practice.  

I have time to read in the evenings.  I’ve read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Both excellent reads.  I’m currently reading a southern ghost story, quite the beach read, called Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor (It was a $1.99 download).  An entertaining escape.  And we always have a 1000 piece puzzle going in the corner of the living room.

I have time to knit, I finished a summer shell I’ve been working on for too long, Harrisville silk and wool and their Rhodora pattern.  Just needs blocking and then the handwork and edge finishes.  

Started a new sweater, using Cascade Yarns Venezia Sport, Merino and Silk.  The pattern is from C2Knits, Greta.  I’ve wanted to make this one for a long time.  

And I took this handwoven yardage from last year and made a skirt.  The yardage is called Vertical Barriers.  It has multiple warps, mostly rayons, some hand dyed.  I used up a lot of stuff that was hiding out on the shelves.  The weft is some very old Maypole Nehalem Worsted 3 ply wool.  So the fabric fulled quite nicely.  There were only about 3 yards by the time I was finished, but there was some width to work with.  24epi.

Meanwhile, I wanted to create a swing skirt from  my swing dress pattern.  As I’m almost 65 years old, I do not have a waist, and skirts with waistbands are stupid at my age.  I much prefer a shaped waist facing, way more comfortable and easy to customize.  This was the original dress, and the resulting test skirt.  

I got to wear the skirt for our in house St. Patrick’s Day celebration, we had corned beef, cabbage, Irish Soda Bread and lots of Guinness.  

I wanted the reverse shaped waist facing to be more proportionate, but it couldn’t sit any lower, because there are pockets of course.  So I funneled the waist, shortened the darts a bit, and dove into the Vertical Barriers Yardage.  It was a challenge to cut out, because things had to match.  And there is a drop lining.  I had an old piece of rust colored Ultrasuede in the stash, which made for a lovely reverse waist facing.  The fit is so very comfortable.  And yes, I knit the sweater, from a silk wool mill end, doubled, in seed stitch, using a C2Knits pattern for the fit.

And now I’m off to explore a test garment, for the swing dress with sleeves.  Each new piece I do gives me about 20 new ideas.  Which is how life should be.  No matter how much I’m quarantined, there will never be enough hours for all the stuff that runs through my head.

Stay tuned…

 

 

1,078 views

Coming Home to a Vastly Different World…

I’m not even sure where to begin.  So much has changed since I flew away March 4th.  No one is immune.  I’m almost embarrassed to write this blog post because it is about a time when things were normal, a mere two weeks ago.  None of us has much control over events that are happening right now, except in how we view/deal/or otherwise contemplate current global events.  While the Northern part of NJ cleared out supermarkets and big box stores of everything that wasn’t nailed down, I was blissfully in Portland Oregon, waking to a lovely snow, off to teach yet another workshop and sort of wondering how the toilet paper supply was at home.  Not something I thought to check before I left.  My children eventually responded that indeed we had a 12 pack, certainly enough for a few weeks, but I came home to no paper towels which took a few trips to procure a 4 pack.  

Anyway, I left NJ on the 4th, to Medford Oregon via San Francisco airport.  There were a couple of people wearing masks but nothing that screamed, “Panic!”  I flew in a day earlier than necessary, because I do that in the late winter, snow storms crop up unexpectedly and I wanted time to be able to make it out to the Pacific Northwest should one materialize…  Hahahahah!  Yeah, snow was not even on the radar here this winter in NJ.

The first morning there, I got in a glorious walk along the Rogue River.  Spring was just blossoming there, a few weeks ahead of here in NJ, and the river was clean and fresh and rejuvenating.

I had just the most lovely and talented group of participants in my five day intensive.  We met in a hall, which was dimly lit, but with only seven in the class, the huge brightly lit kitchen was more than adequate.  We all gathered together and I could perch and observe my students, all of whom had mad sewing skills, and slowly they built some pretty amazing pieces. 

About half the fabrics were handwoven, the rest pieces from the Pendleton Woolen Mill outlet, because well, this is Oregon.  Gorgeous fabrics.  Four of the seven participants made swing coats, the three on the left are handwoven…

Two made traditional jackets.  The one on the left is handwoven from Webs Merino and Tencel.

And Deb made a zippered vest, from a gorgeous Pendleton fabric that had a boarder, which she strategically used in the yokes and center fronts.

This is a great class photo, the backs are even better.  Some seriously wicked matching going on here.

I left Medford on the 11th, and headed north to connect with a new driver that would take me on to Portland.  We stopped halfway in Eugene to see the new home of Eugene Textile Center.  All I can say is wow.  Just wow.  Just an FYI, Suzie buys weaving estates, so there are always used looms and equipment to be had, and her daughter is the Glimakra rep for the US, so there is room for that as well.  The dye kitchen is to die for, pun intended, and classroom space is huge and well lit.  There is even a small gallery.  I hope that the current global mess doesn’t destroy small businesses, especially the ones just opening up, consider calling Eugene Textile Center if you are looking for a used part or piece of equipment or used weaving book, Suzie probably has it.  She ships anywhere.

A couple hours later we arrived in Portland, made the baggage transfer yet again, and I settled into my new home for the next few days.  I took almost no photos, I gave two keynote lectures to the Portland Guild on Thursday. Friday and Saturday was a two day garment construction class, mostly lecture and sampling, they didn’t make a garment, and Sunday was a one day beginning Inkle Weaving Class.  I will say that by the time I got to Friday, there was a lot of angst as to whether or not to proceed, possibly cancelling the workshops and putting me on a plane to go home, and though a few people decided it wasn’t worth the risk, most of the participants had waited for me for more than a year and they weren’t letting me go without a fight.  It was a huge dilemma, and only time will tell if it was the correct decision.  

Meanwhile, left and right fiber conferences and gatherings were cancelled, Florida Tropical, CNCH, both of which I’ve taught at in previous years, but thankfully wasn’t booked for this year, because vendors were left with a huge amount of inventory they have no where to sell and instructors were left with no income and airplane tickets that mostly aren’t refundable. I’m protected because my late husband left me with a pension, but there are many in my line of work with no work for the foreseeable future.

And so Sunday night, I boarded a plane in a mostly deserted Portland Airport.  There was no one in line at TSA preCheck.  I had a lovely conversation with the TSA agent, her daughter was getting married this weekend.  Now that is a dilemma that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  I wandered to the United Club Lounge, right across from my gate, and I happily sat and drank wine and knitted for three hours.  I was the only one in the entire place.  The bar staff kept my glass full, changed the channel on the TV for me (I finally asked them to turn it off, I just wanted to knit), and provided me with all kinds of buffet foods, hot soup, cheese and crackers, etc.  The regular food buffet in the club lounge was eliminated for obvious reasons, but all the food was accessible, prepackaged, and available from the bar staff.  My heart bled for all of them.  Unemployment insurance does nothing for Underemployment situations.  I tipped more than usual, but it wouldn’t make a dent towards paying their rent.

I flew home on a mostly empty plane, had the first row in first class all to myself, business class was empty, and economy about half full.  I had a lovely light dinner, and wine and then fitfully dozed until sunrise.  This lifestyle is challenging, but I always thrill at sunrise over NYC when I fly east on a red-eye.

And so I’m back.  NJ is basically shut down.  Stores are struggling with the demand from hoarders.  I saw a post on my town facebook forum someone posted that my local Shoprite instituted a policy of no returns.  People went wild, apparently hoarding everything they could possibly need, and then planned to return what they didn’t use when the crisis passes.  I’m sort of sick with disgust at the hooray for my side and screw everyone else attitude.  I am desperate to find the few who rally together to help each other, because I know we/they are out there.  

And so I’m hunkered down at home.  My daughter is here helping organize the new studios, find a place for everything, label EVERYTHING, and the last of the looms are moved in.  Even without work in the foreseeable future, we have plenty to do.  There are looms waiting for warps, there are workshops/lectures to design, there is fabric to sew, new patterns and directions to design.  Truth be told, this is like a giant snow day where everything is cancelled, except indefinitely.  I’m giddy with the possibilities, I just have to stay healthy to enjoy the time.  My son is an exec at Target.  Right now they have him at the highest volume store in the region.  He describes his 12 hours days as Black Friday every day with first quarter staffing.  He comes home completely spent, unloading 4000 piece trucks hourly.  Retail is trying really really hard to get the essentials out to those who need it.  Please don’t hoard.

One of the greatest perks of my job especially in the years since my husband passed, is that most of the people I stay with on these trips are just slightly older than I am and have walked this path.  They patiently listen to me as I sort out my goals and my future.  I gave myself five years after my husband passed, to clean out the house, downsize the contents, repair and update the house so I could sell it if I wanted to, and figure out what to do with the rest of my life.  We are coming up on four years since his death. Kathy, my first hostess in Medford listened patiently and said, “Make sure you make the time to do the things you want to do, life is short and age is not always your friend.”  Those weren’t her exact words, but that’s what I heard.  Right now, my schedule is booked well in 2022.  At that point I’ll be 67 years old.  Each trip I take gets harder and harder, shipping boxes ahead, preparing and hauling 150 pounds of luggage.  Though I consider myself still strong and healthy, we all know we are one diagnosis away from not strong and healthy.  Both my husband I had cancer, I lived, he did not.  Is this what I want to be doing at 67 or 70?

So I’ve decided to finish out what I agreed to, but not book any additional workshops.  Places like Sievers and Harrisville, and Eugene Textile Center where I’ll be teaching next spring, they don’t decide on the next year’s schedule until the previous year finishes.  I can always tack on a workshop if I’m still up to it.  What I’d rather do, while I still have my daughter in my employ, is begin the long process of digitizing my patterns for downloads, recording videos of sewing/weaving techniques, and maybe even write the most comprehensive book on sewing with handwoven fabrics.  I can’t do any of that while I’m hauling luggage and sitting in airports.  I have two beautiful new studios, and I can’t even work in them because I have to spend the next three days doing my taxes.  They are getting more and more complicated.

Mostly though, I want to invite students to study privately with me.  I live near Newark Airport in a quiet dead end street in a walkable community, in a house with gardens and ponds.  I have a guest room or two and if you want to learn, come to me.  I have everything you need except fabric, and I’m a half hour by bus from NYC and Mood Fabrics.  The week before I left for Oregon, I had a private student for 5 days, she stayed here, we cooked together, we sewed together, we became best friends (I had worked with her last summer at a class I taught at Peters Valley).  My student had never touched a sewing machine and she wanted to learn to sew.  By the end of five days, she had a jacket.  We were both very very proud.

And so dear readers, do what you do best, knit, sew, weave, garden, sing, play an instrument, learn a language, take a virtual museum tour, read a book or two or six.  This is a time of hunkering down, staying as safe as possible, and contemplating what is really important in life.  I hope everyone survives financially, especially the self employed and those who work in the gig economy and those whose hours have been sliced to nothing.  Keep calm and carry yarn…

Stay tuned…

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