These are my monkeys and this is my circus…

People ask me, “How was your Thanksgiving?”  I look at them with wild eyes and complete terror.  There are a few backstories here that all converged into one three ring circus and you’d better grab a cup of coffee and spike it with something good, because it is going to be a long one…

First, and this has everything to do with my out of control stress level, and nothing to do with my creativity, but everything to do with how I channel that creativity.  You may recall, especially if you follow me on facebook, that three months after my husband died, our beloved dog Bjorn died, of Pancreatic cancer.  It was such a blow to all of us, and my daughter and I handled the stress in basically the same way.  I adopted Ranger, and she attended a birth of Norwegian Elk Hound puppies, and immediately bonded with one of the puppies she helped deliver, which she swears is her beloved dog Bjorn.  Bjorn was and Ranger is a Norwegian Elk Hound, we are long time friends with the breeder and all of my dogs in the last 30 years or so have come from her, some rescues, some older females needing a home, and sometimes a male that is intact and available for breeding and continued showing once they have achieved their championship.  Please know that dog breeding and showing is not something I’m remotely interested in, but I do love the breed, I know the breed, and I’ve had some pretty spectacular dogs/friends/family pets come from her line.  Please no lectures on adopting rescues, I bring dogs in who need homes, some just happened to be champions.

Anyway, my daughter’s puppy grew to enormous size, and though she tried desperately to keep him in her apartment, he could effortlessly break through crates, gates, and doors and was making her landlady unhappy.  The dog Trygve, ended up boarded at the kennel for almost three years.  I told her when she got the dog that she could never move home.  Hahahahahah!

Not only has she moved home, with all her looms and yarns and the beginnings of a metals studio and knitting machines, and all the paraphernalia a techie/Trekkie young adult acquires, she brought the dog  home from the kennel.  So besides my lovely 13 year old Saphira, who sleeps on the couch all day, I have my brat Ranger, whom I adore, and she has her beloved Trygve.  And there is the cat.  Did I mention she brought home one of those too?  Both Ranger and Trygve are intact males, Trygve’s father is a Westminster champion Elk hound, and the breeder wants to breed both dogs.  So there is a bit of testosterone flying through the house.  The last couple of weeks have become untenable, the pissing contest between the two male dogs has become a nightmare, and I had no idea, other than freezing sperm and neutering both dogs, or giving one or both up, what to do that wouldn’t devastate someone.  And we have had enough devastation believe me…

On top of this, my son, whom I’ve mentioned, has been stationed in the middle east for the last year.  I don’t talk about the stress of that, because there isn’t anything that can be done except to carry on with grace.  Which I hope I’ve done.  He is due back this month, but for security reasons, we aren’t told when troops are being moved.

Because my family all had plans that would required extensive driving from us, and dog boarding and I’d seen everyone in the last month, my daughter and I opted to visit a long time family friend who would be alone for Thanksgiving and so nobody had to cook we went to a mountain house out in rural northwestern part of NJ, where they cooked a lovely Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings and served it family buffet style.  We took a short hike just off of the Appalachian Trail and took a couple photos of Catfish Pond.  It was beautiful, breathtaking, and a perfect way to appreciate what life has to offer and how powerful nature is.  It was a lovely lovely day. NJ at its best.


Towards the end of the meal, I got a brief message from my son that he was enroute back to the states, they had stopped in some unknown country, obviously he couldn’t say where, and the relief was palpable.  One of the best Thanksgivings, simple and meaningful.  

Then we got home…

I won’t go into the worst of the details, except that doors and gates did not keep the two males from doing what males do, and we suspect that there was a dog fight, though no one was visibly hurt, but my entire downstairs, kitchen, living room carpets, was covered, or rather painted as my daughter describes it, with, there is no other way to say it, dog shit.  Everywhere.  The half dozen or so places where the dogs peed were nothing at this point.  It took us two hours to clean everything up, about a gallon of Natures Miracle, and I have never been so depressed in my life.  My daughter had a meltdown, and I wanted to join her.  

The Thanksgiving friend in the drive to dinner, after mentioning the pissing contest between two intact males, asked why we weren’t using belly bands.  What the hell is a belly band I ask.  I look at my daughter who has a degree in animal science, and has worked in the animal field for more than 10 years and she just shrugged.  So as we sat in the living room after the complete destruction of my house, she pulled up her cell phone and looked up belly bands.  Yes, this is a thing and it is a well known option, and basically you put the dogs private parts in a sling, wrapped tight around their abdomen and they pee no more in the house.  

She drove to Pet Smart the next morning, and bought a package of disposable belly bands.  She ordered a dozen washable belly bands from Amazon.  Can I say my life has been transformed?  My dogs are model citizens, only one has tried to mark something in my house, and the band caught it and they have learned to wait patiently while I remove the bands for them to go outside, and wait patiently for them to be put on when they come back in.

And I got word that my son is in Texas.  He will be home in a couple more weeks.  Which is just the best news and has already made me stressed as I think about yet another person added to this circus!  He will be living in the guest room until he finds a place to live, and is allergic to the cat.  His stuff is in storage, there is no room here to put it, but we will figure all that out. 

So what does any of this ridiculous sordid tale or tail should I say have to do with creativity and what I do best.  First, in a completely coincidental side bar, I had an opportunity to volunteer in the costume department for the Shakespeare Theater of NJ.  I am a subscriber and found out that they are always looking for skilled volunteers, which I am, and for a few days I left my circus of a household, and brought my sewing tools, and reworked all kinds of Victorian garb for their production of A Christmas Carol which opens this week.  It was a terrific experience and so completely different from the work I do regularly.  

Completely different but related side bar… Last month at the guild meeting, members of the Lost Art Lacers came to give us a demonstration on bobbin lace.  If you have followed my blog for awhile, I was at one point an avid/active bobbin lacemaker, thanks to a mother-in-law who taught me well.  I hadn’t seen many of these women in a long time, since I reduced my supply of lace pillows and paraphernalia, in a ridiculous attempt to downside my fiber holdings.  Hahahahah!

Anyway, it had been mentioned at the meeting that between my daughter and I, we owned 36 shaft looms.  When I would want to try a new pattern in lacemaking, I’d just make a new pillow, which is why I had a ridiculous amount of them, plus all my mother-in-laws collection.  But acquiring looms was something quite different.  One of the lacemakers asked me if I had warps on all of the looms.  She recently acquired a loom but unlike her collection of lace pillows, she only had one.  It really stopped me in my tracks, many of them do have warps, but my personal favorites, that I don’t use for teaching purposes, in fact are quite naked.  And it bugs me.  

So while all this chaos of a circus is performing all around me, I became intent, no obsessed with getting a warp on my 36″ Tools of the Trade loom.  

Another sidebar, you can see how all this is coming together.  I hired my daughter to help me run my textile business, because she is really really good.  And she is.  She does everything better and faster and more creatively than even I can do it, and so I recently put her in charge of dyeing yarn.  It is winter, and that is my winter routine, wind off various skeins of white or natural yarn and run a dyepot or two every morning.  She is a scientist at heart and has taken to the chemistry of yarn dyeing like it is her job.  Which it is.  We have found a good place to dry skeins, using an old belt holder I found in my husband’s closet.  There is yarn everywhere…

All of that means, I have lots and lots of lovely colored yarn, and no place to put it.  The shelves are full, and so I have a naked loom, I’m stressed, I love designing warps when I’m stressed, and I pulled this hunk of leftover warp that’s been sitting on my shelf since the 1980’s.  It was white loop mohair, 15 ends each 8.5 yards long.  At some point I must have stuck it in a dye bath.  

I used this as a beginning point, and pulled up a towel draft I used a number of years ago for some kitchen towels, I think the original draft came from a project in Handwoven.  This has been reworked extensively, and I pulled a bunch of dyed wool and mohair skeins from the wall and started to play.  It felt so good to lose myself in designing something colorful and fresh.


I figured out how much was on each skein, by hand counting, and then sat at my desk and plugged in the colors.  They are all so pretty together.  I had my daughter wind the skeins into balls.

Problem was, the warp came out 43″ wide.  My lovely naked loom is only 36″ wide.  I redrafted the design for the 36″ width, but that left more leftover yarn than I wanted.  And I realized that for all the freakin’ equipment I own, I don’t have a 36″ wide 6 dent reed.  The sett will be 12 epi, but because this is a sticky warp, I want two in a dent, in a 6 dent reed.  

So back to the original draft.  Disappointed, the only thing to do was to clear the 45″ from this magical fabric.  The knots are over the back beam!

And I wound and wound and made three beautiful warp chains.  

Here they are bundled up and there is a small bag of what’s left.  I can’t wait to see how this looks.

And so, on top of all this drama, filled with monkeys, and cats and dogs and belly bands and troops returning home, and more yarn and textile equipment than I know what to do with (but no 36″ 6 dent reed), I have a beloved outlet for my stress, and I’ve taken extra time to enjoy what nature has to offer.  This beautiful sunrise called to me the other morning.

Which of course, red sky in the morning…  led to this…

Meanwhile Friday I decorated for Christmas, which meant pulling my little Target tree, pre-lit, no ornaments for obvious reasons, out of the box and plugged it in.  And I sit by the gas fireplace, and calmly reflect on how wonderful my life is at the moment thanks to a couple of belly bands, and a house full of yarn and bright colors, and how good my daughter is at whatever I need done, and I looked at the old hand forged fireplace set I bought in the 1980’s, which of course I no longer need, because I don’t have a wood burning stove, and thought, what a great yarn drying rack…

Unfortunately I woke up yesterday morning sick.  There is a wicked virus going around, and I think I have it.  I have to teach Saturday all day, for a local guild so I’m doing my best to lay low.  Fortunately I have lots to keep me busy when I lay low…

Stay tuned…



The other side of the tunnel…

…is gloriously full of light, beautiful vistas and stunning creativity…

That said, I made it through my months of back to back teaching, inspiring and guiding others to make some pretty cool garments from their handwoven cloth.  If you’ve followed my blog posts for the last couple months, I’m thinking at least 50 students in the last four months, have come to a class with me and taken home something wonderful.  Point is, I’m sort of jealous.  I know that sounds weird, but watching people work, seeing what they created on the loom come to life, makes me just want to dive in and play too.  I did get to a bit, in the evenings at Sievers and at the OBX retreat.  I made up some totes and utility bags from scraps and leftover fabrics.  I sold a good amount of them at the guild sale a couple weeks ago and since that event isn’t for another year, what I really wanted to do was just design something and get it on the loom.  My largest floor looms are naked, and calling to me every time I walk into the studio.  I hate naked looms.  They look so lonely and forlorn.  

Last July, in anticipation of the yardage design class I was to teach at Peters Valley, I started pulling some random stuff from my stash, my shelves, all revolving around a chained warp I acquired in a Kathrin Weber dye class.  That’s the one down there on the left.

I carried that basket of odd things, leftovers, to Peters Valley and back, but I knew the execution of this project was going to take a lot of planning and grunt work and there just wasn’t the time or the place to let that happen.

There were a couple of dyed skeins, I use skeins as dye mops after a dye project, just let them soak up whatever dye is left.  I had two I must have painted at the same time.  The Kathrin Weber warp was only 4.5 yards long, and it was thick carpet warp.  So anything I put with it had to also be 4.5 yards long.  I wanted the painted skeins to end up in Ombré fashion, and not random in their coloring, so I took a small warping board and wound the skeins in a circular fashion, lining up the colors as I went back to the beginning at the cross each time.  Then I counted how many ends I got out of it.  

I did that for a second dye mop that sort of went with the rest of the group.

Then I pulled the spools of warp leftover from a sectional warp project, back in 2008, the yardage for the Convergence fashion challenge.  I had no idea what was left, but I knew the colors lined up, so again, I wound a circular warp, lining up the colors each time I got back to the beginning.  I counted how many ends I got out of that.  

I also had some small cones of Cotlin left from Towel projects, and the colors went with the rest of the party so I calculated carefully what I thought was on the cones, and figured out what to do with them based on how many ends I thought I could get.  I wound those along with the base ground of teal Bambu 7 paired with a shimmering teal metallic.  

When all was said and done, I had almost nothing left of my original cones.  I calculated it all pretty damn close, if I say so myself!  Though I was surprised I still had some of that greyed brownish color of Bockens cotlin.  I usually calculate better than that.  

The warps looked just gorgeous together.

At this point, I have about a weeks worth of stuff to take care of at the computer, I have contracts to get out, which can’t be done until I update most of my prospectuses, which are embarrassingly old and inaccurate giving the cost of shipping, printing, and tariffs on goods coming in from China, which most of my interfacings are.  Anyway, I don’t usually ignore all that, but I was damned determined to get that project on the loom because it has been way too long, and truth be told, I have to have 5 major new pieces for the Convergence fashion show next summer, since I’m an invited artist.  There is no pressure here…    Hahahahah!  And leaving something partially threaded is suicide when you have a house full of dogs and a cat.

So I sat at my loom, ignoring the office, and the stack of emails in my inbox, while watching out of the corner of my eye for the cat, and started sleying the reed.  This was pretty challenging, but warping front to back is about the only way to integrate something like two dozen warp chains.  The fabric would come in at 43″ in the reed, so this is a wide but short warp.  In case you were wondering, those division lines in the reed keep the warps separated, when I have multiple ends in a dent.  This is an 8 dent reed, and I have 3, 4, and sometimes 5 ends per dent depending on the structure and size of warp.  

So one of the huge advantages to warping front to back is you find errors before they are beamed on the back, when they are still correctable.  Seems I miscounted that Bockens grey brown color, and missed about 20 ends.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I looked at my draft when I was winding and saw three ends when there should have been four.  OOPS!  That explained the extra, so I went back and made an additional chain of about 20 ends, and ended up with this left.  

Once everything was accounted for I went to the back of the loom and settled in for the long haul.  Can I tell you how much I love doing this kind of stuff?  It absolutely consumes you, nothing else in the world matters and my brain gets a super workout!

Beaming this was a treat, I got to see how it was all going to look together, you can’t really tell in software because the painted yarns don’t show.  The glitter yarn just shimmered under the lights as I beamed, and I got more and more excited with every turn of the crank.  I’m using a Harrisville tensioning system, they work really well for me. And it was only a 4.5 yard warp, which for me is nothing.  Note, I have a digital monograph available on my Front to Back warping process, you can find it here.

Once on the loom, I had to take a break and catch up on some paperwork, and did manage to get a number of prospectuses rewritten and signed a bunch of contracts for 2021.  I still have more work to do there, and I have one more contract which is for next November, but I had to take a more serious detour yesterday and do one of my last teaching venues for the year.  Only one remains the beginning of December, but this one was intense.

Brianna and I were invited to teach a beginning weaving class at the Lion Brand Yarn Outlet in Carlstadt NJ.  Lion Brand owns Silk City Fibers and if you’ve followed my blog at all, I’ve had a long history with them.  There were a few last minute cancellations so we ended up with 14 students, we brought the collection of Structo looms, prewound the warps using Silk City Fibers new 5/2 perle cotton colors, and left the house at a ridiculous hour yesterday morning because we were heading towards NYC during rush hour.  The trip is about 15 miles but we were lucky to make it in about 45 minutes.

The class was great.  The students were sharp, enthusiastic, asked great questions, and the staff and facility couldn’t have been more welcoming.  The lighting was great, most of the students were in computer chairs that could drop down low for threading, and they were sleyed, threaded and beamed by lunchtime. 

Silk City Fibers/Lion Brand Yarns has asked us back, so we will do this again next year, possibly in February and then hopefully next June as I peek at my 2020 calendar through very wary eyes.  Since I just finished booking 2021, squeezing in these little workshops here and there is always a challenge.

Meanwhile if you are interested in a beginning weaving one day class, we are offering it again at the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild, January 25th, 2020, click here for more information on that class.

I will say that team teaching with Brianna makes the whole process effortless.  She anticipates my every need, helps students with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back.  She can correct misthreadings and crossed threads in record time.  She packed me for the class, managed to fit in three boxes of yarn, my suitcase of samples, and 19 looms, including her folding Ashford to show them what an eight shaft full size table loom looks like, all in the back of a Ford CMAX hybrid.  She set up the looms, and arranged the samples.  She loaded the car after the class, drove us home, and picked up the animals from doggy daycare while I got us sushi for dinner.  Then she unloaded the car and put away all the looms.  I’m sort of getting spoiled.  And that was the goal, that I would eventually assist her, and she would soar with her own brand and let me fade into the background.  

So this morning, I replaced the worn out lash cord on the loom apron, tied the warp onto the front apron bar, and chose my weft.  I didn’t sample, because I only have 4.5 yards, and I knew what I wanted.  I chose a wool crepe weft, in a deep shade of mottled brown and I crawled under the loom to change the tie-up from the previous project, and I started to weave.  What a joy.  From the first pick this warp just sang.  It is magical, and I’m using that for the working title until I come up with something else, and I was a few inches in, Brianna came over and squealed in delight.  Of course my daughter who wears outrageous colors and sparkle and has rainbow hair and wears unicorn headbands would fall in love with this yardage.  You can’t appreciate the glittery warp in the photos, but it is there.  I have no idea what this will turn into but that glitter will sing under runway lights.

Stay tuned…


I can almost exhale…

The last of the 2019 retreats is finished, and I’m home, unpacked, and looking forward to the weekend where my local guild will have its annual show and sale.  I made lots of little things for the sale this year, enjoying rooting around in the attic for stuff to make stuff with.  I sat in the evening making stuff, both bags were sold before I even left the Outer Banks!

Of all the retreats I do in a year, the Outerbanks in NC (OBX) is the one with the most colorful and interesting, and of course that means the most challenging of fabrics.  I’m trying to think, I believe everyone in the group of 11 had handwoven fabric.  That’s unusual, but not for this group!  Many of the students in this retreat are supporters of, and students of Kathrin Weber, of Blazing Shuttles fame.  They either purchase her warps, or have learned to dye warps themselves through her classes.  The fabrics that come out of her warps are gorgeous, but again, with that comes a cutting challenge.  

The space we use for this retreat, is a common room in an ocean front condo/resort, The Sea Ranch with a bar across the hall.  Though it wasn’t open for much of the beginning of the  week, except for breakfast, the staff stayed on to make sure we were fed  well before they closed up at lunch time.  The convenience is wonderful.  

I brought my daughter along on this trip.  She brought her magical gifts with her, for spacial relationships and organization and is absolutely the best at figuring out a complicated layout.  We have the benefit of a huge carpeted floor to crawl around on, though the carpet can sometimes make you a bit dizzy!  That would be my daughter Brianna, with the unicorn horn and rainbow hair, right in the middle of all the action.  They even started an Alert list for her, in addition to the one for me, to help with layouts.  They all made her feel really welcome.

Every morning when I woke, I’d sit up in bed and look out the balcony window and see the most glorious sunrise.  I never tire of this view.

My retreats are getting more challenging in that I have a lot of repeat students (8 of the 11), and each student with few exceptions was making something different.  Two of the repeaters actually came in with their own designs that we were able to create from my existing patterns, giving me lots of ideas for future variations.

And this class gets along pretty well.  We of course have the thermostat wars, but the seasoned veterans know which side of the room to choose, because one end of the long classroom is 10 degrees warmer than the other.  And we did try hard to keep politics out of the discussions.  But when they happened, it was really interesting to get the perspective of people who actually know something (like a government employee or two) and aren’t just quoting what they see on facebook.  Thanks everyone for trying to keep things respectful.

And so the silhouettes are varied, as are the students!

My favorite photo of the whole week is Lisa and Margaret, both making their garments from Blazing Shuttles warps, Lisa a new student of mine, and Margaret one of my beloved seasoned veterans.  

Margaret is so seasoned, she made a second garment, which was the vest above, her first garment was this dress, a very limited narrow warp, which she framed with the leftover fabric from a baby wrap she cut up.  The dress pattern is from a download, I’ve forgotten whose, maybe from  The vest is one of my patterns.

Here is Margaret and Lisa again, but with Dornan on the left, who made a remarkable vest, with a handwoven Bedford Cord, stuffing each of the “tubes” for a very lofty and fabulous fabric.  For some unknown reason, I always miss documenting one of the students, I don’t know why, but this is the only shot I got of Dornan’s stuffed vest, though I know she had a zipper and collar on and the perimeter trim by the end of the class.

Peggy made a beautiful tencel tunic, with 8/2 tencel from the Yarn Barn.  I think the structure was an 8 shaft plaited twill from Strickler.  She still had handwork on the hems to finish.

Elizabeth made a collared vest with a zipper, from the leftover fabric from her jacket from last year.  A lovely subtle cotton, grey with random lavender stripes.  she trimmed it with a plum stretch corduroy.  The zipper and collar and perimeter trim were in by the end of class.

Cyndi and Melissa made garments from their handwoven cloth, Cyndi’s was a cotton stripe tunic, and Melissa, one of my new students, made this gorgeous colorful jacket from a Blazing Shuttles warp.

Lisa did finish her swing coat, with the shawl collar, all except the handwork of course, and I will say that Lisa gets the gold star for tenacity, she only had a brief sewing class before this, but stayed late every night, trying so hard, ripping out when things weren’t right, and the results are stunning.  She is so happy and I’m so very proud.

Thursday was Halloween, and my magical daughter did not disappoint.  She had hidden away in our completely packed car, a costume for the occasion, and I just had to smile and say, well of course, when she showed up as a rainbow unicorn.  

Mary came in with a sketch, wanting a sleeveless vest with a belt, and we were able to make that happen using my base patterns.

Gaila, who has taken a few classes with me, brought in a really really narrow warp, but we converted one of my jacket patterns to a princess seam version and she was able to add a beautiful navy wool to the narrow panels for her sleeveless shawl collared vest. The black cap sleeves are her t-shirt.

And Victoria did not disappoint either.  She has a wicked sense of humor, and she makes me laugh regularly.  She had to do a Walmart run at one point, and came back with stuff to embellish the all important sheet she used for a test garment.  She is generally not a fan of making anything first in something else, because, well then it takes twice as long.  But we needed to get the fit right for this swing dress, and after hearing me tell student after student, “It’s a sheet!”, when they would comment that something was snug or tight, (their handwoven would give much more than a sheet), Victoria decided to commemorate, or rather memorialize the occasion with this…

We did get the fit right, and she went on to make this beautiful swing dress from handwoven linen.  She even put in her very first zipper ever. She avoided a challenging Blazing Shuttles warp and just wove linen stripes thinking this would be an easy layout.  Hahahahah!  She didn’t expect to be matching stripes…  She did an outstanding job.

And Cyndi made a second garment, actually the test for a second garment, she made the same dress in a commercial plaid.  That was a match job for the record books!

And then there was hard working Beth, who sat in her corner by the door and slowly plowed through her fabric woven with Blazing Shuttles warps, and created an exquisite walking vest.  She still had lots of handwork to do, but this will be really fun to wear back in Mississippi!  Beth’s husband came along for the ride and ended up taking some really lovely photos, the best was of course the final photo of the group, which is below.

One of the nights the restaurant was closed, we got pizza delivered.  I’m starting to really look forward to pizza night at these retreats.  They gave Island Pizza night at Sievers’ some stiff competition!

And here is the OBX class of 2019, with my daughter and one of the pillows she made for the guild sale.  She took advantage of some down time and made more stuff to sell!  (And of course I’m so in love with two of the pillows she made I bought them before they even made it to the sale…  Trying to figure out how to keep the critters from eating them…)

If you are in the area, come join us at the Jockey Hollow Guild Show and Sale, this Friday and Saturday.  Click here for more information.  I’ll be there all weekend plugging in numbers, I’m the group’s treasurer…

Stay tuned.



Where do I begin…

I feel like I am still spinning around wildly on that Merry-Go-Round, and my poor painted pony is running out of breath!  But I’m getting closer to the finish line, if that’s actually a thing.  Truth be told, I seriously doubt it!  

So I went off to Sievers.  Sievers is a wonderful fiber school on Washington Island, WI, and we determined this is my 13th year there.  I’m thinking 13 is a charm?  I had an uneventful trip there, made all my connections, bags were waiting cruising around the baggage carousel when I got off the plane in Green Bay.  The Sievers Staff sends someone to pick me up, we stop at a Walmart for my week of groceries and the all important box of wine, and off we go onto the ferry and my get away home for the week.

The weather was cold, and crisp, and some days bright and sunny, and other days, raining like the end of the world was coming.  It even snowed one day.  

Sunsets were beautiful, and I actually caught the moon peeking through some gorgeous cloud formations as I crossed the road to my cottage about 10:30 pm, leaving students still working, this is one committed group!

Sievers always sponsors a “Getting to know you” breakfast with all the students from both classes at one of the local breakfast places, this time the Sunset, and the beach outside the restaurant didn’t disappoint.

My class was amazing.  8 of the 12 students, really 9 of them had worked with me before, 2 at other venues, but all jumped in pretty quickly.  The remaining three were excited and kept up easily with the rest of my Sievers’ Achievers.  The space is glorious, well lit, lots of tables, and all important cutting tables that are always in demand.

The students took advantage of all of the patterns I now offer, many of them making multiple garments over the 7 day class.

Of course there are always my jacket people, Margaret, one of my new students, but a pretty experienced garment maker did a gorgeous collared jacket with bound buttonholes from a commercial wool.  Cindy D (there were three Cindy’s in the class) made a longer jacket with a neck band for her yardage she wove from a Blazing Shuttles Handpainted Warp.  She worked hard on the layout to get everything to line up.  

I had a lot of tunics happening in this class.  Cindy M made up a tunic in a commercial fabric she had laying around just to see how it all went together.  Linda made up a lovely tunic from a commercial fabric, and Janene made two tunics, the first one, in beautiful watery blue chenille handwoven with Zephyr wool/silk she cut out last year and never got a chance to make it up, so came to class and picked up where she left off.  The second one she made in a new handwoven cloth from a superwash handpainted knitting yarn.  This one she made with a button placket.  Helen also made a tunic out of contrasting quilt fabrics.

Helen was also one of my new students, and in addition to the tunic, she made a vest from her handwoven fabric.

Gerri made a vest from handwoven fabric, this was a commercial pattern we needed to alter a bit.  I love the contrasting band, also handwoven.

In addition, Gerri started in on the pattern and then the test garment, for probably the most unusual vest I’ve ever fit on anyone, from the Sewing Workshop, the Fillmore Vest.  She had some beautiful handwoven, which apparently I didn’t get a photo of, but once we tweaked the pattern, adding bust shaping, she got everything laid out and will cut and assemble at home.  Can’t wait to see photos of that finished.

Terry also made a vest, this one we created a pattern from a drawing she brought in to show the kind of vest she wanted to really show off these two cuts of wool she bought on a trip to Scotland.  She had a car full of gorgeous fabrics and started in on a swing dress/jumper, from one of my newest patterns.  I missed getting a photo on her, but at least I got one on the table showing off what a terrific match job she did on the plaid.

Dawn for her first project also made the dress.  And that gave her enough scraps to make the same vest that Helen made.

Cindy M also made the dress from an old fabric from the stash, working hard to get those red and white checks to match.

There is a pattern that has been shared around the class, many of the students have made it up multiple times.  The pattern I’m sure is no longer in print, but turns out I have a copy in my own stash of patterns, and so it is on my list to make one of these knit blouses too.  There is an interesting twist of the two fronts right at the bustline.  Linda and Cindy S both made knit blouses from Today’s Fit Vogue 1477.  

And then we have the new jacket, which is like my zippered vest with sleeves.  Dawn had planned to make it up, but had lots of tensioning issues with her handwoven fabric and kept cutting it off the loom when her tension went astray.  There was a bit of warp left on the loom, and she hoped that she could get the last sleeve out of it after she got home and finished weaving what was left.  She couldn’t quite get the jacket finished without the sleeve, since it is lined edge to edge and then the perimeter binding and zipper are applied.  A few days ago I got a text from Dawn showing me the remaining fabric is off the loom and with not a quarter inch to spare, it exactly fits the remaining sleeve!

The collared zip vest is fast becoming my most popular pattern.  Janene made one last year from a gorgeous handwoven from a Noro knitting yarn.  She brought it back because she wanted to alter it to create a side vent.  So of course everyone wanted that.  Ginnie made one from the fabric she wove with me in my designing yardage class back in July at Peters Valley.  And she made a vent too.

Cindy M also made a gorgeous vest from her handwoven, again, really spending time to get the panels to match as best she could.

And Cindy S brought her jacket she made last year, back to class because we could not get the collar right.  She had put bound buttonholes in my jacket collar to put onto a commercial jacket pattern she had used before, and for some reason, we just couldn’t get the collar to lay right.  We ran out of time last year, so she brought it back.  Turns out, there was an oops moment, when I removed the entire collar and we laid it out on the table, and discovered that the whole collar had been put on in reverse, the shawl edge against the body.  Which complicated things because the bound buttonholes were now on the outside edge instead of the inside edge.  With some tweaking and tiny seams, I managed to reverse everything and she got it all back together and once she puts the lining back in and finishes handsewing, and gives it a good pressing, the collar now does what it is supposed to do.

She went on to make a new jacket, this one also from handwoven, and after watching a video from an old Roberta Carr tutorial, inspired by a Threads Insider Video from Louise Cutting on Spanish Snap Buttonholes, she made one for this jacket.  Turned out perfectly.  I was peripherally aware of this technique, but will now make a garment with them and possibly use them for my closures lecture.  They are perfect for a thinner weight handwoven.  

And then there was Joy.  She sat quietly in her corner of the room, making a gorgeous black duster coat, using my long shawl collared jacket pattern from a commercial wool fabric.  Her line of bound buttonholes down the front turned out perfectly.  I can’t wait to see it finished with the lining installed and all the handwork done.

Here is my Sievers Achievers Class of 2019!  And we had great fun at our newest tradition, Monday night Island Pizza night, we get take out pizzas and bring the wine (and beer, this is after all Wisconsin!)

Speaking of Threads Insider, my latest video is up, this one on making a full bust adjustment.  Threads Insider is a subscription service, about $5. a month, and that gives you access to everything Threads, including all the videos, online archive and print magazine.  There is a 14 day free trial.  You can binge watch a lot of videos in 14 days!

And so I started the trek home on Wednesday around lunch time, knowing full well that there was a wicked storm on the east coast and that most likely I would not make it home and have to spend the night in O’Hare.  The ferry crossing to Door County Wisconsin was enough of a ride!  The water was rough, surf pounding and that tiny ship got tossed around!  I got to Green Bay early and was able to hop onto an earlier flight, which was boarding as I was going through the check in process, I was the last one on the plane, pretty sure my bags wouldn’t make it on with me.  

We made it to O’Hare, where the Club lounge ticket agent also put me on standby for an earlier flight, the trick was finding my bags and hoping they would make it on the earlier flight as well.  She knew they made it to O’Hare, and asked me to describe them.  Hahahahah!  Very very big and very very heavy.  Both were soft sided, zippered, on two wheels.  None of this spinny wheel thing, I’d break those suckers right off.  Both weighed in at 70 pounds and had large straps holding them together.

I made it on the earlier flight to Newark, in spite of the hour and a half air traffic control hold for weather.  Apparently they hadn’t closed Newark airport, in spite of 60 mile an hour gusting winds, but were just spreading out the planes coming in.  We took off, and all was well until landing.  I started looking for the barf bag in the seat pocket.  Everyone was holding on tight while the plane pitched in the wind, I have to give a lot of credit those two United pilots who got that plane safely on the ground.  We sat on the tarmac awhile waiting for a ground crew of marshals to escort us in and I described the plane rocking back and forth in the wind, just sitting on the tarmac like two hippies doing it in a VW Microbus.  By now it is about 11pm, two hours earlier than I was originally scheduled to land, and to my complete surprise and extreme joy, my bags came zipping down the chute of the baggage carousel.  United, you made me very happy.

And so, I had only a couple days for the final prep for the recorder concert I’ve been working on for the last year for Montclair Early Music.  The Rembrandt concert, shows the life and artwork of Rembrandt along with music of his time.  Not having rehearsed with the group for the last month because I’ve been on the road made me a little nervous.  The concert was yesterday, and just about everything went wrong like my windshield wiper flying off the car in the middle of a torrential rain storm on the way to the concert, not having a long enough extension cord, finding the 19th century church building where the concert was held didn’t have a three prong outlet, but once all of that was worked out, with only minutes to spare before showtime, the program went off without a hitch.  I did the narration and played bass, some of the photos surfaced this morning and I’ll post them here.

Meanwhile, the Jockey Hollow Show and Sale is coming up November 9-10.  During the evenings at Sievers, I had brought a bunch of scraps from old work and created a number of small bags to sell at the guild sale.  I continued that, now that I’m back and have been making a bag a day, I’m really having fun watching YouTube tutorials and seeing all the ways that people put together zippered bags.

Final prep for the Outer Banks retreat, I leave on Saturday!  Last retreat of the year.  I’m so tired!  My daughter is going with me on this one.

Stay tuned…


The merry-go-round is going too fast…

…and all I can do is hold on to my painted pony for dear life…

The last couple of weeks have been so chocked full of drama and intensity that I’m not even sure where to begin.  My daughter and I joke that if you can’t write a great blog post about it, it isn’t worth doing…

Seems like a century ago, though it was really only a couple of weeks ago, I actually got a weekend get-away with my beloved sisters “down the shore” a strictly NJ term for heading east to the Atlantic coast.  I grew up summering at the Jersey Shore, Ocean City specifically, Mac and Manco’s pizza on the boardwalk, Kohr Bros Ice Cream, Crabs and Beer, Miniature Golf, and of course the boardwalk and the beach.  It was absolutely perfect, we had a lovely stay at the Blue Water Inn, an old sort of Victorian, close to everything, with an awesome veranda where we got take out and played board games late into the evening.  We are crossing our fingers we can do it again next September.

It was just a few short days later I was on a plane to Seattle, and then a long drive to the top of Washington State, where I gave a lecture to the Whatcom Guild on What to Do with Leftovers.  We had some time to wander the town and have a bite to eat and check out a few shops.  I did a bit of damage in the sale rack at a local boutique…

We headed down to Whidbey Island, crossing through Deception Pass, where I settled into a conference center, along with my 15 students for the week long intensive Willow Pond Garment Construction Retreat.  We all lived and worked and ate and shared together, and it was especially fun because many of the students have taken classes with me before so it was like old home week.  The space for the classroom was wonderful.

And the students dove right in.  Many had handwoven fabric.

Unfortunately, living that close and sharing everything, we seemed to all share a respiratory virus that spread like wildfire.  I held off until the trip home, but I have to give all these guys credit for hanging in there, sometimes late into the night, feeling pretty crappy.  In spite of feeling lousy, there were some amazing garments to come out of this retreat.

Toni on the left came to make another vest, but this one, she is planning to piece together her fabulous collection of fabrics and trims.  Molly made a similar vest in a previous class, and unfortunately the antique kimono silk she used for the band and much of the binding dry rotted right out of the piece.  So Molly spend some time carefully removing all of the offending silk and replaced it with more stable cloth and a new handwoven band.

We had a few ladies making tunics, that’s Linda on the left, using a fabric she had in her stash from a trip to South America.  JD is really a felter but wanted to dry run a tunic in regular cloth before digging in with some felt laminate.  And Val got her handwoven tunic finished in time to start another garment from some fabulous handwoven cloth from her stash.

Rose spent much of her time tracing patterns and reworking and finishing up a vest from a garment construction class with a different teacher.  It is always unfortunate when students don’t finish a piece, but she was thrilled to be on her way and we had the pleasure of her constant companion Hope to keep us smiling.

Sue made a gorgeous jacket from her handwoven and I’m thinking if I remember correctly handspun yarn, and Susan brought some commercial fabric because well, life got in the way of finishing her cloth.  We debated for a number of days about the neck band, she bought a beautiful grey wool to coordinate with the jacket fabric, and we loved the border printing so much she went for it and decided to put it front and center on top of the band.  Just needs sleeves.

Jodi and Cheryl both made my new zippered jacket with a collar.  They got to test my new directions.  They did really well.  At the time of the photos, they still had some finishing on the trim, but they both came out fantastic.  Both are handwoven.  In addition, Cheryl, who has worked with me before and made a swing coat a couple of years ago, shortened the pattern and left off the sleeves and made an adorable swing vest.  I can’t wait to try this myself.

Janet is making the regular zip vest, which will be completely trimmed in blue corduroy like the seam finish once the collar and zipper are in.  Maryann made a lovely collared jacket with a wow lining, and Lisa wove a spectacular fabric to make a short duster coat.

And of course Dori.  I’ve worked with Dori before, and she has been taking sewing lessons since I last saw her.  She was on her game!  Dori wove her fabric with a Kathrin Weber/Blazing Shuttles warp and there was a lot of social media buzz about this handwoven fabric before she came.  The warp wasn’t very long, so we had to do some creative cutting and piecing, but she stayed with it and we both squealed in delight when she finished.  

And here is my wonderful Willow Pond Retreat, 2019.

And then that happened…  (You thought I was done…  Nah, I’m just getting started!)

Thursday before the class ended I woke up to a frantic text from my daughter complaining of severe palpable abdominal pain, nausea, and I immediately thought, OMG, her appendix.  Sure enough, in the middle of the final prep for the Peters Valley Craft Fair, they rushed her to the hospital where she underwent emergency surgery to have her appendix removed. According to the doctor it was a very angry appendix and had been for a long time.  Credit to the staff at Peters Valley for staying with her through the surgery.

I will say that as much as I travel, there is always the fear that something will happen at home where I’m needed, and in this case, being on an island 3000 miles away, there wasn’t a damned thing I could do but try to find someone to take my place.  My beloved sisters dropped everything and raced to help, and the gratitude I have is immeasurable.  My Maryland sister drove in the dark, four hours to get to the hospital soon after my daughter woke from anesthesia, through the fog and the Delaware Water Gap, and I will be forever grateful.  My other sister relieved her on Friday so she could get home and to the theater for a show she professionally costumed. Social media is a wonderful thing, once I posted about the situation, about a dozen friends were ready to jump into action as well.  It takes a village and no man or woman is an island.  Knowing there were so many who cared was a life affirming experience for me who occasionally feels like I’m driving the bus alone since my husband’s death. 

So Friday night, a week ago, (wait, it gets better…) I hopped on a plane, the red eye, home to NJ.  I did not sleep of course, even though I was in first class, so I was able to take advantage of the one thing I adore flying home on a red eye, dawn over Manhattan as we come in for a landing.  

I pulled in in the limo at 8:30am, my sister left at 8:40am, and Brianna and I were on the road to the Peters Valley Craft Fair at 9am, because she was committed to be there and couldn’t drive of course.  I know you are all going to tell us we were both nuts.  But we are both professionals with my family’s work ethic, and if there is any way to see through a promise, we will make that happen.  Brianna has worked at the Valley all summer and would have been devastated to miss this event.  They gave her a comfy chair and she worked the cash register all day in the Peters Valley booth while I wandered around and got into a lot of trouble.  Yeah, this happened…

It is coming in December.  IP Furniture Designs.  72″ table and six chairs.  The most comfortable wooden chairs I’ve ever sat in.

I drove Brianna home Saturday evening, and returned the next morning for day 2, left her there, and by Sunday night she was able to drive herself home.

Meanwhile, I prepped for this weekend, and cursed myself for my complete stupidity in signing up for a three day workshop in some fiddly technique with my guild.  What could I have been thinking considering I’m just back from WA and getting on a plane Tuesday morning at 5:30am for a seven day Garment Construction Intensive at Sievers on Washington Island, WI.  

But again, when I commit to something I will see it through if it kills me.  Of course I’m sick from the virus I caught in WA, and I dragged myself and all the looms and equipment to the guild meeting Wednesday night, because of course both my daughter and I had signed up and she couldn’t lift anything heavier than a water jug.

The speaker was Deb Silver.  I had only recently become aware of her and her fantastic work, she had a piece in Complexity, the Complex Weavers Show in an nearby gallery during Convergence Reno in 2018.  She has a new book out on her technique called Split Shed Weaving.  I had no idea what it really entailed, except my guild was sponsoring the workshop and it sounded fiddly.

Deb was fantastic.  I can’t say enough about her work, her organization, her preparedness, and her gentle nature, her samples and handouts are generous and fabulous.  And yes, this technique, done completely on a four shaft loom, is fiddly and it turned out the be the perfect remedy for a merry-go-round that was spinning out of control.  I am above all a handweaver, and the world does truly stop when I concentrate at the loom.  It is one of the reasons why we do what we do.  I sat quietly in the corner, so as not to infect anyone with my virus, and that allowed me to concentrate on some really amazing samples…  (And by lunchtime the first day of the workshop I felt remarkably better)

The first sample was with a single shuttle, split shed work, Han Damask.  Deb provided a number of simple designs that would show off the techniques.

Then we tried a double weft in a broken twill, weaving on opposites.

The next sample was a summer winter, this one pairs, and I can’t believe I didn’t start with the pattern color in the header…  Duh…

This afternoon, I tried summer winter polychrome, combining two pattern shuttles for shading.


And of course later this afternoon my daughter unwound her samples so the class could Ohhhh and Ahhhh and take copious pictures.  

There is still one more day of class, and I have already started a lotus in split shed double weave.  The world has slowed down enough for me to actually sit properly on my painted pony and enjoy the ride…  I have a whole ‘nother 48 hours before I get on another plane…

Stay tuned…