Rhythms…

There is a beautiful rhythm to my days now, I hate to even say it because so many don’t find this whole quarantine thing manageable or doable or remotely inspiring.  And that’s OK.  I’m so very very lucky to have latched onto this gift of time.  I never get to really have a routine, I plan one, and then, as I’m just getting on a roll, it is time to get on a plane and fly someplace to teach.  There is the prep before, and the follow up after, and then I’m on to the next venue.  This quarantine has put a huge halt in my lifestyle, and though I miss my students, I have not missed a beat.  Time is such a precious thing, and we never know how much time we have, so I’m using every minute to the best of my ability.  It also helps that three large dogs and a cat start to try to get me out of bed around 6am.  The cat is the worst.  In the still dark room, stuff starts flying off my desk, nightstand, printer stand, and anything else he can move to get my attention.  When I throw on the light to see what the hell that noise was, the dogs take that as a sign that it might be feeding time and create a ruckus that would wake families three doors down.  (Locking the animals out of my room isn’t an option, they break down doors…)

So I eventually get up and start my day.  I know a lot of my friends are having a tough time living with others in the family 24/7.  It came up as a discussion in one of my Zoom knitting meetings.  I have to say, living with two adult children has kept me from being so alone, and of course the animals… but for us, I think it all works because, I’m not the mom, they fend for themselves, and we are all on very different schedules.  I’m up around 7  if I can push it, my daughter is up at noon, and my son is up around 5pm because he works the night shift at Target in charge of overnight operations, unloading trucks and pushing merchandise through the night.  He comes home just as I’m waking up and heads off to bed.  We get to chat for about 10 minutes.  

I’ve attempted a routine, feeding the animals, letting them out, cleaning the cat litter, watering outdoor plants (such a gift when it rains…), taking out the recycling, grabbing the morning paper, making breakfast and then curling up with my breakfast and my tea and reading the morning paper.  This morning was glorious, and I was able to eat outside by one of the ponds.

Once I’m finished with the paper and breakfast, I clean up the dishes, unload the dishwasher, and clean one room of the house.  I’m lucky I suppose, if you could put it that way, that when my husband died, I went through every room in the house over the last few years and cleaned out, repainted, reorganized, repurposed, and of course there was that glorious studio move.  One of the discussions in one of my Zoom knitting groups was about how impossible it was to clean a room without getting caught up in what’s in it.  I know what’s in every room because I’ve touched it and organized it in some way over the last couple of years, I own it.  So the cleaning has become a pleasant routine, and I marvel at how one room can fill the Dyson canister with so much dog/cat hair.  There is something very satisfying about dumping the Dyson.

The ease of the routine allows me thinking time.  I stopped posting my calendar four months out on the refrigerator.  Other than the occasional Zoom meeting for my critique group, knitting groups, guild meetings or committee meetings, there really isn’t anything on my calendar.  I love this.  The time to think has allowed for some wonderful creativity.  That fur fabric I wove and talked about in the last blog post?  I was able to wash it.  Pressing was a bit challenging; the heat of the iron, even through the linen, wasn’t great on the fur strips, but the effect is still gorgeous, even more so.  I thought over the weekend as to what I wanted to make with it.  I think there is enough for two good size yokes, front and back, and I found a beautiful boiled black wool bouclĂ© knit that I’m hoping is enough for the lower parts.  I’m thinking of my zippered vest, combined with the walking vest.  The goal here, once I get my patterns all up for download, (please be patient, more about that in a bit), is to be able to think of ways to combine them and then offer a tutorial on how to do that.  PDF and/or video.  Unlimited combinations.  I’m just brimming with ideas!  So here is the sketch for the woven fur fabric.  That’s the lining in the upper right corner.

Meanwhile, my daughter’s computer is home.  It is fast, it is healthy, and after two weeks in intensive care at the tech hospital, we are moving at lightning speed.  She has spent the better part of the last 7 hours working on the tunic pattern, and I’m hoping it will be good to launch in the next couple of days.  It will be followed shortly by a drop shoulder version of the tunic, which is a more gender neutral silhouette, better for the guys!  The editor has the final version for a final proof of the instructions.  

I just sent off the first draft of the 100 jacket to the editor; this is the original Daryl Jacket that about 4 million people have made in all my years of teaching workshops.  I can’t believe how much I edited the instructions on something I’ve been teaching with for the last 30 years.  So look for that one, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.  We are on a roll…  Note:  All of my instructions will be available as free PDF downloads here, and the patterns will be available as PDF downloads for a fee, here.)

Meanwhile, renowned weaver Stacey Harvey-Brown, who hails from the UK, but is living at the moment in France, asked if I would contribute to her blog, she is doing a series of “How I got into weaving…”  So that was an easy assignment, I sent her the post and some pictures and it went live today.  It is a lovely brief synopsis of my early life, in case you never heard me tell the story in one of my lectures or keynotes.  https://www.theloomroom.co.uk/how-i-got-into-weaving-daryl-lancaster 

And today, I spent exploring the idea of adding sleeves to my 1000 Swing Dress.  I also wanted to try an A-line version.  I did make the dress with sleeves last month, but the sleeves were attached to the external yoke/facing, and the whole thing was actually detachable.  Sort of. 

So I drafted a new pattern, thinking in the back of my head that I would like to potentially use this fabric.  This is one of the most favorite things I’ve ever woven, because it represents probably the darkest week of my life, I designed it the week my husband was dying, and the exuberance of color and dizzying pattern called Chaos, gives me the confidence that anything is possible even in the darkest of times.  I smile every time I look at it.  You can buy the draft for this fabric here.

So I made up my dress today, in a beautiful rayon batik I pulled from the stash.  Still needs handwork, but I actually love the little dress, it is so 70’s, but a little fresher.  I can see a wardrobe of these, easy summer, better than wearing pajamas all day (like I’m in now…).  

Honestly though, I’m not sure I’m in love with this dress enough to use my precious Chaos fabric.  The fabric isn’t wide enough, so I would need to add side panels. I can’t decide which fabric I have is better, the redder wool crepe on the upper right, or more muted silk twill in the lower left…

The sleeves would be the handwoven, but I’m just not sure this is the best use of this wonderful fabric.  I’m going to think some more on this one…  And so far, I have lots of time to do that.  While I’m cleaning the upstairs bathroom tomorrow…

Stay tuned…

2,231 views

Before I was me…

Yes, there was a time, when I was just starting my professional weaving career, when I worked for others, when thoughts of my own ‘line’ of handwoven items was just that,  thoughts.  Back in 1978, having graduated with a pretty useless art degree, newly married, and looking for something to do with my life, I turned back to academia, which was all I’d known for the last few years.  I took another textile class, probably another independent study.  It cost a fortune, because I was paying graduate rates, but I immediately discounted the idea of going on for my master’s.  I was completely discouraged from pursuing it where I got my undergraduate degree, because back then, I was told it looked really bad to do a bachelor’s and master’s from the same institution, like you were inbred or something, didn’t expand your horizons.  Whatever.  I had no money for a graduate degree, and couldn’t really see the point. And there was no place else near enough to me to be practical.  So I took one class at my old alma mater, and spent it studying a technique, written in a book, published just a couple years before (1975), by Theo Moorman, called Weaving As An Art Form.  You can picked up used copies on Amazon for about $5.  I loved this little book.  I found I was torn between the practicality of weaving and the rigid academic training I received in art.  I’ve always felt conflicted with that.  Obviously tapestry is an exception, but I found I had to justify to panels of academic critics why I wove a tapestry and didn’t just paint the image I wanted to convey, wouldn’t it have been easier?  I did a number of tapestries the year before, I’ve blogged about them probably, will look for the link, but I was looking for a new direction. Here is a link, scroll down.  Here is another link, scroll down.

I worked through the exercises, I won’t bore you with all of them, and I’d have to spend awhile looking for them anyway if they still exist, but one of the first ones I did, required weaving additional wefts that floated over the background, held in place with little tie-down threads and spanned the width of the weaving.  The premise of Theo Moorman, which is technically a transparency technique, used in the way she described, is that you weave a plain weave background, and fine threads would raise up and hold a pattern weft in place on the surface so the imagery would float on top, and where there was no imagery, there would be a plain weave ground cloth.  

And because I did end up looking up some of my early Theo Moorman tapestries…

I’ve used this technique for years, mostly in my Weave a Memory pieces, and classes.  I used thin strips of silk habotai, ink jet printed with an image from the printer, and wove them back together using this technique.  I kept a four shaft table loom set up with linen for the ground cloth, and poly serger thread for the fine tie down threads. I wove all of these pieces on this set up.  The warp was quite a few yards long and 25″ wide.  

There was probably less than a yard left on this loom, and it bugged me.  The problem was, I couldn’t just weave one more piece, because the printer I used to print banner lengths long ago died.  You specifically need a printer with user adjustable settings for the size of the paper it takes.  Only Epson had that feature.  And the 8 1/2″ wide rolls I used all got wet when I had an iron water bottle, suspended from the ceiling,  spill all down a cabinet where they lived.  Because of the size of these pieces, I actually printed horizontal strips of 8 1/2″ wide and 20+” long and pieced them together and was able to do really large works.

Because work has temporarily stopped on my pattern development, because my daughter’s computer system is on life support at the tech hospital and a whole series of unfortunate tech events have ended up costing us a couple weeks on the project, I’ve been poking around my studios looking for something to do that wouldn’t become overwhelming should her system become usable again and we can get back to work.  (Which I’m hoping is imminent).  I started weaving again on this loom.  Noro weft with a vintage Harrisville singles warped mixed with Maypole Worsted.  I got into a nice rhythm…

And I kept staring at the 4 shaft table loom across the way, with what I figured was less than a yard to go.  I didn’t need the loom for anything else, I have 35 shaft looms in my studio, but I felt like it was forgotten.  Looms don’t like to be naked or forgotten…  And when I cut off the last piece, I hadn’t tied the threads securely in the reed, and the cat pranced through the back of the warp and pulled out a bunch of the threads.  So repairs had to be made.  Which I did.  Yeah, this cat, which surveys the space I work in and thinks about what it can get into…

Meanwhile, in the huge studio move there were lots of archives that were rediscovered, things that came together in logical places now that I had room.  I have exhaustive swatch libraries of early work of mine, production work, and some stuff I have no idea nor records of what it actually is, but I sort of remember weaving it.  I did though, keep pretty good records back then.  Not like I do now of course where I can grab my phone and take a photo and have weaving software to record drafts and create online archives.  

Sidebar: Way back, when I first left college, I started to weave professionally by answering an ad looking for a production weaver, a couple of women making up small design firm that specialized in mohair yardage sold to designers in NY.  The job was wonderful.  I learned how to weave efficiently, to get 30 yards of mohair yardage on and off the loom in just a couple days.  I learned how to sectionally warp, and I actually made a modest income back in the day.  Eventually I developed my own line of handwoven items to sell at craft fairs, but the point here, is that nothing I ever did when I became my own brand, related to the spontaneity of some of the work I did for that design team.  I’d be shipped a huge box of mohair, and told roughly what it should look like, but mostly, I had to make it up as I went along.  The mohair warp was sett 6 epi, but the wefts were doubled, 4 picks per inch, so I could pair randomly wefts of mohair into the bobbins  for different effects, and I happily had a system where I just “saw” what came next.  I came across some of the few samples I managed to hold on to recently in the move of swatch books.  Before the cloth was advanced, the top surface would be heavily brushed with a sweater slicker while the warp was still under tension.

While I wove for that mohair design team, I had another production job that I have vague memories of, I was actually subcontracted by another weaver who was overwhelmed by the job as she tried to develop her own work.  I remember the yardage sort of looked like tapestry, with thin strips of stripped fur laid in periodically, so from one direction, it looked like a fur coat, but from the other, there was glowing beautiful brocade tapestry peaking out. It was the kind of random weft that you made up as you went along.   Of course I have no photos or draft records, but there, in my swatch book, next to the mohair swatches, was a pair of swatches that I swear were from that assignment.  They don’t have any fur in them, but that would have made sense, since I couldn’t really use someone else’s materials for my own personal notebook.  I’m even thinking these swatches, if they are what I think they are, were the samples of what they were looking for, with the fur strips woven in.  It has always bugged me that I couldn’t exactly recall and had no record of what the fabric looked like,  because it was really cool.

Anyway, there is a point where these two stories converge.  As I sat working on the Noro fabric, I thought, what if I used the last bit of that linen Theo Moorman warp and tried to do a mock tapestry in an inlay, edge to edge, and added some fur.  I have lots of fur laying around.  Before anyone gets bent out of shape, people give me fur collars, cuffs, coats, and other pieces of fur that they can’t throw away, but have no use for.  Most of it is a bit dry rotted, but there it hangs like raw materials waiting for something or someone to give it a second life (and no, I’m not looking for more).  

So over I went to the loom, and started to play.  I found a huge basket of oddities on top of the wall units in my office, I had forgotten in the move that there were baskets of things I used for tapestry classes, and supplemental weft in inkle weaving.  I finally found our collection of rattail and mousetail rayon cord in one of those baskets.  So I dug through one of the baskets and assembled this.

I started weaving, just making it up as I went along, and pretty soon I had something I actually liked.

I kept going.  At this point, I’m thinking ahead that there isn’t much warp on here, too bad because I’m loving weaving this and what do I have on the shelf that I can reset up the loom and be able to weave randomly like this any time I want?  I could imagine all kinds of things to do with cloth like this.  I don’t want to call it Saori, because though that’s kind of random too, it comes with a whole philosophy of weaving, on special Saori looms, which I don’t and won’t have, but this technique is pretty cool for laying in a yarn on top of the ground cloth, and having it tie-downed with fine threads.  The warp/ground cloth doesn’t really have a voice in the piece.

The end result is about 30″ in length, about 25″ wide.  I have to experiment if I can wash it, the fur was pretty brittle and I’m not sure what water will do to it, but that’s for another day.  I revisited something from my past, and I satisfied my curiosity to find out what would happen if….  And now that little loom is clear.  And naked.  And calling for another warp…

Stay tuned… 

1,174 views

The asymmetrical dilemma…

This started a while ago, if you’ve followed me for awhile, you know that in the winter months, I keep dye pots going and gather a large group of random dyed skeins of various weights and textures, mostly cellulose like rayons and cottons, but occasionally I’ll throw some random wool or loop mohair skeins in the crock pot while I’m at it.  By November I had amassed quite a collection of random wool and mohair skeins, each not enough to anything with, but together, they represented quite a good amount of yarn.

Back in December of 2014 I wove a series of dishtowels that I loved in cotton/linen, based on a project in the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of Handwoven Magazine, Linda Gettman’s Bright Herringbone Twill Towels.  

This is basically a color and weave project, and the color placement along with the twill makes for a very cool surface.  In the fall of 2017  I made this silk twill tunic, from hand dyed skeins of raw silk, and based the weave structure on that same draft.  It has gone through so many iterations, I probably can’t say at this point it is Linda’s draft, but I really can’t claim it is all mine either.  The frequency and random arrangement of stripes is all based on what yarn I have in front of me and how much.  There is a lot of careful calculation down to the yard of each skein, and careful winding of the warps based on the computer draft.

So last fall, I set up one of my larger looms, not thinking there was any hurry to weave it off, and actually even thought it was a little bright and very random, but would probably make a cool fabric once it was washed.

Side bar…  By this time last year I knew that I was one of two invited guest artists  for the fashion show at the HGA weaver’s conference, Convergence taking place this summer in July in Tennessee.  So for the last year, I’ve been in the back of my head thinking of work I have, that is recent (actually none) and that would represent me and the venue for a Convergence Fashion Show.  They needed five pieces.  This has been haunting me on and off for a year, because I don’t want to invest in five “runway” pieces that I have no use for later on, because really, each piece is only good for two years before it becomes too old to exhibit.  

Anyway, the fabric on the loom certainly was bright enough, and would show well on the runway, but I really wasn’t in a hurry to weave it off.

Then the idea struck me to renovate the garage and build a dye studio and new weaving studio.  Yeah, that happened.  It was an extraordinary amount of work, and physical energy, but it was ultimately all worth it.  However, the two largest looms we own couldn’t be moved without dismantling, and they couldn’t be dismantled without weaving off the warps on them.  One of them had the wool mohair stripe, and the other was a differential sett fabric my daughter was weaving for a lecture in Massachusetts that keeps getting postponed for obvious reasons.  So I sat down and wove, and I wove, I think there was something like 8 yards of warp on this baby, almost full width of my 45″ loom.  Both looms were cleared, and ultimately moved.

I pulled the fabric from the loom and washed it based on the sample, being really careful because some of the wools fulled more than others and I didn’t want a seersucker effect over 8 yards.  It was still bright and random…  I might have posted it on the blog back in February and didn’t get a whole lot of reaction to it.  It was bright and random.

But it would make for a great runway piece for Convergence…

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about ways to combine many of my patterns, into new looks, based on feedback from students.  I taught in Oregon the beginning of March and got some solid ideas there.  Most everyone was working on swing coats and I thought about pulling elements from my tunic, precisely the hood and the in-seam buttonholes down the front and of course pockets, and well, there was that bright and random yardage…

The first dilemma was that because the stripes were so random, and I needed for some symmetry in the left and right half of the garment, there was no way to get the fronts and backs to match at the shoulder.  So I went to my old shoulder fix by adding an epaulet of a wool bouclĂ©.  Hardly seen but definitely cleaned up the shoulder issue.

The construction of the in-seam buttonholes is not terribly difficult, but a large strip of fabric is cut off the center front, and then seamed back on, which is what creates the seam with the buttonholes in it.  I cut an wide extra amount down the center front when I cut out the yardage, but the way the stripes occur, the ending result was a bit of asymmetry right down the center front, looking to me like I was being too random in a very symmetrical piece, or just messed up.

It bugged me.  I asked my daughter for her opinion.  She waxed philosophical, saying she knew it bothered me more than it bothered her, but she didn’t say, “Mom, it’s fine.”  I had enough fabric leftover that I could completely take apart the front and part of the hood, cut a new strip that when seamed would reflect the left half of the garment, and redo the buttonholes.  It took a whole day, but I’m so glad I did. Four days of handwork, and lots of Zoom meetings.  The cat decided to help. 

I finally finished the swing coat with hood and in-seam buttonhole placket and I couldn’t be happier. The fit is perfect, and I’m thinking of what else I can put the hood on.  I started to set up my quickie photo shoot in the mirror, actually got out of pajamas and put some real clothes on.  And as I took the first photo, my daughter walked in holding one of the dogs and photo-bombed the picture.  It was so hilarious I had to include it.

So here is the new neckline, symmetry it is.

And here are the front and back views, I adore the back, professional photos will come later.  And yes, my hair turned silver almost overnight.  We aren’t under any stress here in NJ.

Meanwhile, by now everyone knows that Convergence of course has been postponed, my conversation with Linda who is in charge of the fashion show indicated that everything would be moved to 2022 and would I still consider being an invited artist.  What else was I going to answer but, “Of course”, though in reality, that seems like so very far away, and this piece and anything else I create will be a couple years old, which means new work, and well, I’m just not going to think about it right now.  I’ve got patterns to draft, instructions to rewrite yet again (my editor is a task master!) and I’ve a couple naked looms, actually quite a few that are calling for warps!

Stay safe everyone, stay curious, and stay busy! Stay tuned…

1,147 views

Keeping Busy…

I handle stress by keeping busy.  Having a project, a mission, a purpose, a challenge, keeps me from diving into paralysis, which sadly is happening to more and more of my friends as this quarantine keeps us from doing the things we love.  I’m so very lucky to have things that can challenge me.  I have a couple of wonderful studios, lots of supplies, more than I can use in a lifetime, and some wicked cool ideas.  And time.  If nothing else, I have time.  

I decided to take a page from my mom, because I’m not sure when my housekeeper is coming back, and since I’m not traveling, I really can do this myself.  I thought, with nine rooms, I could do one a day, maybe 15-20 minutes, depending on how dirty, and cover the whole house well in the same two weeks between when my housekeeper would normally come.  I decided on the den this morning.  It is a room I rarely use, I’m not sure why, but there are other areas of the house with more purpose for me.  This was the TV room, and it was where my late husband spent most of his non working time, in his Lazyboy in front of the TV.  I rarely went in the room. I never watch TV. Lazyboy lounge chairs don’t invite cuddling up on the couch.  Well, my husband died in that chair, the kids took it out of the house within two hours of his death.  I replaced it with a gorgeous leather Chesterfield couch, replaced all of the furnishings in there, and I really do love the room, but somehow, it still isn’t mine.  There are other rooms that call to me more.  Anyway, it was time to clean it.  I enjoyed tidying up, using the Swiffer to get cobwebs and dust, polishing the wood surfaces.  I used the Swiffer to dust the fan blades in the ceiling fan, and realized that the glass dome was pretty full of dust and bugs.  I reached in with the Swiffer and proceeded to melt the fibers onto the bulbs.  Really…

I turned off the light fixture, climbed up on the coffee table and tried to scrape off the melted Swiffer fibers.  My girlfriend called, her dad died, and she is struggling with the whole idea of a virtual funeral, Shiva, and family connections that aren’t really family connections since you can’t hug anybody.  We talked for awhile.  When we were finished, I tried to turn the light back on.  It wasn’t working.  Really?  

Long story short, and half an hour later, so much for my first day of, “I’ll spend 15-20 minutes cleaning one room…”; I ended up dismantling the glass globe, replacing the burned out bulb and screwing in the ones that loosened up when I tried to scrape them clean.  I washed the globe properly and reassembled the light fixture.  There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the maintenance one can end up doing in a multi room multi floor 100 year old house.  Sigh…

Meanwhile, Brianna and I and my editor Ann Marie are furiously working on launching patterns.  I launched the 500 vest yesterday, very proud of myself, and then woke up at 2am with a panic attack.  I’m such an American.  And I mean that in not a good way.  I’m selling downloadable patterns to those who can’t take my workshops, many of whom live in parts of the world that use a different measuring system than we American’s use.  The entire rest of the world uses the metric system, and we here in the US insist on using an Imperial measuring system.  How could I be so self absorbed to not even think that my materials all need to have metric equivalents?  So I spent the morning rewriting the free directions for the bias top, to include Metric measurements, and uploaded that today.  I’ll try to tackle the rewrites on the newly launched vest directions tomorrow.  I promise I won’t abandon my worthy readers from parts other than the US.  You count too.  Pun intended.

The 500 vest is one of my oldest patterns.  I’m not going in any particular order.  Just what seems most reasonable to “tackle next”.  The swing dress directions are at the editor, and the tunic is basically ready to go, but the editor is much slower than we are. She is pretty amazing. The 500 vest is the one, for those who have studied with me, with the square armhole and armhole/neckbands.  

 

Side bar…  We all have them.  Warps on the loom from a workshop that finally get woven off years later because we need the loom.  Mostly they are samples and not really usable as a finished thing.  In a round robin type workshop with Karen Donde on Bubble Cloth/differential shrinkage, my table loom had four yards of a tencel and wool/silk warp.  It was ridiculously slow to weave.  It took a few years until I needed the loom for something else.  It was a cool piece of 8″ wide yardage, and not being a scarf person, I pulled out my 500 vest and used the sample for the bands.  This is also a great place to use Inkle bands or Card/Tablet woven bands.  

 

So the vest pattern is now up on the site, available for purchase here, and the directions as always, are free downloads, but now they will be on my regular website under Extras.  I’ll add metric measurements ASAP.  

Meanwhile…

I had an odd day between projects, and I pulled a couple things out of my closet.  A couple of years ago,  I had made a sort of zippered vest from the Crimp Cloth fabric from a Dianne Totten workshop, and honestly, never liked the way it fit or looked. 

But the fabric was pretty cool.  I pulled it out of the closet and decided to start hacking it up and eventually came up with a vest I actually like.  I took about 8 inches out of each side.  I love reworking stuff that isn’t working anymore or never really worked to begin with.  Makes you really think, and God knows, I do need to do that on occasion…

My 27 year old daughter is always on me to give my silhouettes a more youthful feel.  That isn’t my demographic, but I listen.  I’ve had enough younger students request a hood on at least one of my garments that I drafted my tunic to include this option.  I made this striped wool, commercial fabric into a prototype, and I gotta say, this is one of my go to pieces in my wardrobe.  I’m starting to get the point of a hood.  Anyway, my daughter said I needed to add a Kangaroo pouch.  I had enough scrap left, that I could at least try.

So I tested the pouch, after measuring 47 of her hoodie sweatshirts, and drafted and constructed the pocket.  The next step was to add it to the directions.  So I illustrated the construction details, and all that is waiting on my editor, who is still working on the dress.  I’m being patient.

I then got the idea to do a swing coat, not only with a hood, but to try it with the in-seam button front option from that same tunic.  That meant that the center front had to be cut on the straight of grain, but the rest could be cut like a swing coat.  I drafted it, figured out the construction sequence, and pulled a purple wool I’ve been sitting on for so many years I couldn’t tell you when or where I obtained it.  And I found a very cool rayon challis for the lining in the stash.

The purple hooded swing coat is a prototype for this yardage.  I wove this at the end of last year, in a huge hurry because I had to clear the loom in order to move it to the new studio.  All the wool and mohair in it is handdyed.  The weft is a commercial black wool.

I want to lengthen the purple coat, about 4″, and make the in-seam button placket 2″ wide instead of the 1 1/4″ from the tunic pattern.  The hood is pretty cool.  And it has pockets.  Really!  So I’ve corrected the pattern, and laid out the pattern onto the wool/mohair yardage.  I’ll cut it out tomorrow in between the tedious metric recalculation of  my vest directions.  

My daughter has had a bit of a setback.  Her computer system is pretty old, like college days old.  It just didn’t have the computing power or memory to handle a program like Adobe Illustrator and all the layers it takes to vectorize my scanned patterns.  She ordered new components from a computer store in our area, picked them up curbside last night, and spent the evening trying to build herself a faster system.  She is mostly there but stuck on something to do with Windows 10, of course, and we are trying to get in touch with my tech support, who has been great directing her from afar, but we may need a physical intervention…  She was in the middle of the tunic drafts, so hopefully she will be back up and running soon.

Tomorrow, I’ll tackle cleaning the dining room and see what trouble I can get into there…

Stay tuned…

1,185 views

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…

1,315 views