Mea Culpa…

Please Forgive me dear readers, no wonder I’ve been getting letters to make sure I’m still alive… I remember well Saturday night Catholic Church confessional when I was a kid, “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been six weeks since my last blog post…”

At the beginning of the month I caught this horoscope in my newspaper. Once in awhile I’m brought up short.

I need that reminder frequently.

I’d love to say that life in retirement is blissful and easy and boring. Yeah, no. I only retired from teaching on the road. I didn’t stop my calendar from filling up. I wanted to avoid this photo below, a photo I shot before I loaded my car to teach 8 classes at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival 9 years ago. It popped up on Facebook as a reminder…

I need these constant reminders that as chaotic as my life is now, it was much much worse…

I did take on a number of private students this fall. I’m pouring a lot of money into producing the YouTube videos, and paying my daughter a salary to make them happen, and I could use the income. (No, I don’t make anything off of YouTube, I’d need a couple million subscribers.) And I wanted to see what it was like to be in my space, using my equipment and supplies to do what I love.

And I’m enjoying the experience of having students in house. Cooking for different types of diets is a bit daunting, but I’m managing that, good skills to develop. But the calendar is rather full, one group leaves, another one comes in. That should slow up in another few weeks, but I also, in my quest to learn all the things, signed up for things I didn’t really have time to fit into the schedule. They were remote right, so they should be able to just fit right in… Between the student on Saturday, and teaching in Michigan on Monday and Ontario on Tuesday… I’m finding the need to print my schedule out hourly. That’s a first.

Still, no regrets… My guild was sponsoring a workshop with Jennifer Moore, whom I adore, the expert on double weave structures. For those that aren’t weavers, double weave means you are weaving two (or more) layers of fabric simultaneously, one over the other. There are advantages to this, but our focus was on weaving blocks, where the layers could change place, side by side. And the warp was her famous Rainbow warp, I used 4 ends of 8/2 Tencel as I moved through the color wheel.

Though I did have experience with double weave, this was a fun and challenging workshop, and I finally was able to get a warp on the new to me 25″ Macomber that I rescued and rehabbed. It wove like a champ…

And while I listened to a guild presentation last week, a different guild than the one that sponsored the double weave workshop, I sat and made cordage from leeks (the green parts), which I had sliced very thin lengthwise and let dry, giving a little spritz to soften them up when I was ready to use them. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to make cordage for basketry.

And in my spare time, I’ve been mulling over a draft I got from a friend, it has been making its rounds. This one is for something called Drunken Squares. It is a wicked cool fabric, and the draft was sent to me in the form of a profile draft. If you aren’t a weaver, skip this paragraph, it won’t mean anything to you. If you are a beginning weaver, this is a profile draft, meaning it isn’t something you can weave. You have to substitute each block in the threading and treadling with an actual structure. Each block is a unit. What you put into that unit depends on what structure you want. And since this is a six block structure, I thought I could do it with my 12 shaft loom. I tried, for a month. I got it to 10 shafts, and then when I spent another week or two I realized I could actually do it on 8. Most of my friends have done the draft effortlessly with 16 shafts. I don’t have that many. I plugged the profile draft into my weaving software (Fiberworks) and went to the block substitution tool. I worked for hours. I ended up with a tied weave, on 8 shafts, but it needed 14 treadles. I have 10. So I worked for hours more… In my spare time.

I got something I thought would work, 8 shafts, 10 treadles using more than one at a time. And no, I’m not ready to share the draft. I worked too hard on it.

I wound the warp, and went to my small 25″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade floor loom, and looked at the treadles, and decided that this poor little loom, which I’ve had since probably 1982, could use a really good treadle scrubbing. I used a magic eraser, they are amazing for removing years of gunk, and gave the treadles a good polishing with my go to loom feed, Howard’s Feed and Wax. Even though my poor little loom still has its nose a bit out of joint since the acquisition of the Macomber, my treadles are very happy.

I beamed my warp. This is 10/2 perle cotton, in colors I had on the shelf. I had to drop one stripe to fit on my 25″ loom, but that’s OK.

And I got everything working and started to weave. I did it. There is such a personal triumph when you focus on something really challenging, determination keeps me going. I refused to admit defeat. And it worked. I did it. The drunken squares are really drunken rectangles, but I didn’t care.

While I was working on the loom next to it for the doubleweave class, I glanced over and thought, duh, just change the size of the blocks… ’cause that’s what we were doing in the doubleweave class. There are days I’m freakin’ brilliant, and there are days when I think, where did I leave my brain?

So I did another block of the repeat, and now I have real drunken squares. I remember years ago working on a two shuttle structure and having the shuttles constantly falling in my lap. And I designed a fix… This is a small loom with a small weaving area. So I took the second back beam (there is a second warp beam which automatically comes with a second back beam) and I slipped the cover on it I had made years ago, inserted a 5″ wide plastic ruler, and slipped the whole thing on the front to make a shuttle rest. I’m amazed I found all the parts considering the studio move.

And we are back to filming videos again for my YouTube channel The Weaver Sews, after a 6 week hiatus. Each video takes about 20-25 hours a week between my daughter and me, to produce. In my spare time… hahahahahah!

I finished filming the videos for my summer shirt. Just in time for fall, which has been delightfully summer weather… Handpainted skeins circular wound into an ombré effect warp. I sell this draft on my website… Also, the pattern is my 1000 swing dress cut into a shirt length, with the neck and in-seam button-down placket (no buttonholes to make!) from my 700 or 1700 Tunic. Those patterns are available in my eShop. Videos will soon be released on how to do the collar and armhole facings, last week’s video drop featured the in-seam buttonhole placket.

I planned this fabric from a few handdyed skeins while my husband was dying, worst week of my life. Took everything in my brain to focus on anything but what was happening to our lives. I’ve held onto this fabric for five years waiting for it to tell me what it wanted to be. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this shirt. I did add shoulder epaulettes, since I couldn’t get the shoulders to match. It is one of my favorite cheats. The contrasting fabric is a heavy weight linen. Here is a photo of the original skeins I used to create this fabric. I called the fabric Chaos. Fitting…

And so my retirement life isn’t any less chaotic. And as I vacuumed and dusted my weaving studio this afternoon, I thought about how much, as chaotic as it is, I love my life. There is always something calling to me, wanting to be designed, engineered, played with, created, or even cleaned, cooked or washed. And now as I cook I think, gee, can I use this for making a basket? Will it make cordage? And the animals always demand time. I’m never never never bored. There is a lot of life to cram into my remaining days and I want every minute I can get. Because we never know. I want to learn all the things, do all the things, and be all the things, in my spare time…

Stay tuned…

Hurricanes and Vines…

Grab a cup of tea, or your liquid of choice (go for the wine) and grab a seat, it is going to be a long one.

So much for retirement! If these last couple weeks have been any indication, I’m toast! Almost all of the events of the last couple weeks have been ones I chose, ones I intentionally put on the calendar, and I don’t have a single regret. But I’ve worked hard…

At the end of August, shifted by a few days for a scheduling conflict with one of the students, I had a couple of, I really can’t call them students as they are at this point old friends, come for a five day retreat to sew their pile of patterns, and garments from their handwoven cloth. These are friends who have studied with me for years at one of my regular venues. They immediately found the part of my property where they loved to sit and rock and have wine at 5 o’clock. Friends help me find new ways to enjoy what I have, in the studio, in my yard, and in my house.

They came with an agenda, and I’m happy to report that they accomplished everything they had on the list, and then some.

One of the students brought pieces from a handwoven coat, she had made years ago and never liked, and using my 1800 zippered jacket pattern, created this variation. I’m always thrilled when I or one of my students repurposes.

This student brought a dress from commercial fabric she made on her own, but didn’t like the way it fit. We were able to take up the whole dress from the shoulders creating a more attractive neck. The pattern is from Merchant and Mills, the Dress Shirt

She also tackled a piece of loosely woven handwoven fabric, which we saved by using a fusible underlining to create the start of a dress, The Augusta Dress from Grainline Studio. She is experienced enough at this point to finish the dress on her own. It was a complicated asymmetrical neckline, but she pulled it off.

The other student started with a handwoven fabric from her stash of Zephyr Wool and Silk from Jaggerspun. She created my 200 Jacket with a shawl collar, and used this wickedly cool silk lining she had in her stash. And she spent the first day learning to insert a perfectly matched welt pocket.

She also fitted and sewed up a really cute summer cotton top from a crinkle fabric she had in her stash. The pattern is from Simplicity D0676.

And then she copied my 1000 swing dress, with the A-line variation, something I cover in my YouTube Videos, The Weaver Sews. I think it was the episode on Combining patterns. She had a length of handwoven fabric she had woven a few years ago, and decided that everyone needs a brightly striped dress for the summer!

So mid week, we had another visitor named Ida. This visitor wasn’t part of the agreement and was definitely not welcomed. My sewing studio is in the basement, and through the years I/we took steps to mitigate water issues, new gutters, a sump pump, and a replaced retaining wall under the front stoop, keeping water running off the street in an exceptional situation from entering the foundation. This is a 100 + year old house with poured concrete over a dirt cellar floor. There are cracks and in the boiler room where we ripped out the old oil, converted from coal furnace back in the 80’s, there are even holes going down to the dirt. The floor is porous, but I rarely have issues. I did design the studio just in case, to accommodate a bit of water, just in case.

So Wednesday night Ida came to visit, wrecking havoc in NJ and NY, and of course all the states in its path. When we moved here in the 80’s we knew that more than half the town was in the flood plain, but we were up on the hill, so we knew we wouldn’t be flooded at least by the river. We have watched our neighbors in the flood areas of town lose everything many times over the years since we have been here. It is always devastating to see. The flooding here was catastrophic. Because I am higher up, river flooding isn’t an issue, but 10″ of rain in four hours is too much for the storm drains coming off the hill, and if it hadn’t been a hurricane and dark outside, I would have loved to have stood in the street and watched rivers of water come cascading down my street, jump the asphalt curb and run right into the front wall of the foundation.

I would have been teaching up at Harrisville this week had I not chosen to retire. And had I not had students, I wouldn’t have been in the studio late to turn things off and move a few pieces of sensitive equipment like sewing machines off the floor, just in case. The sump pump was happily humming along, so I was pretty confident I’d be OK. I turned to walk down the little hallway in front of the boiler room, which is walled off, to head upstairs and I was horrified to step on a mat with water squishing out everywhere. I yelled for my daughter, and thus began our evening, finding every towel in the house, because, yeah, we had a mess. We opened the door to the boiler room and were appalled to see water just pouring in the front wall of the foundation and actually seeping up through the floor. I stood looking at the water and said to my daughter, what did we have in the house that could suck up water, because I had given away my shop vacs, as I didn’t need them and needed the garage storage space for my 39 shaft looms. She looked at me, without batting an eye and said, “A Turkey Baster”.

For the next four hours, I sat on a stool, after channeling the water into the holes in the floor, sucking up quarts of water into yogurt containers, and Pyrex glass ware from my dye studio, while she hauled wet towels to the upstairs laundry and dumped the containers of water. All the dry concrete in front of me had been covered in water, so this was no easy feat. I’m glad I’m a textile artist with a lot of bath and beach towels.

We won. I’ve never been so tired in my life. When the rain stopped at 2:30 in the morning, the water stopped entering the basement, and I took a load of newly washed and dried towels and covered the area and went to bed. Class started again in a few hours and teachers gotta do what they gotta do… My students slept not knowing what was happening two floors below. I’m grateful I was home, I’m grateful my daughter was here, I’m grateful for a lot of towels, I’m grateful we never lost power, and I want to bronze that turkey baster and frame it as a reminder that sometimes the simplest thing can save the day. I will though, buy a new one for the kitchen, should I ever need to baste a turkey.

My students left on Friday night, and early Saturday morning I headed out to Peters Valley School of Craft for a five day basket making class using foraged materials. Because Peters Valley sits in a National Park Recreation Area, we weren’t allowed to forage for the actual materials, but the teacher Steven Carty, brought a van load of materials, bark, vines, tools, and everything we needed to create baskets from stuff found in the wild. (Note: they have closed the physical shop, but maintain a Facebook presence and have mail order basketry supplies available.)

My purpose in taking the class was to begin to identify what I had in my yard, what could be a basket making material, how to harvest it, store it and actually use it. I found out pretty quickly that almost everything out there is usable. I have to have a talk with my yard guy since I mostly pay him to rip out invasives, but now I need to harvest them and I have a lifetime of materials right out my door.

I discovered I had vines that I never planted, Bittersweet, and Akebia, and this one that has just the coolest leaf structure called Crossvine.

Anyway, we started with a simple garlic basket from rattan so we could learn to twine, and then he showed us how to make cordage. Which is something I always wanted to learn. I made a lot of cordage stripping the bark off wisteria runners.

Day 2, I made a basket with Arborvitae bark staves and wisteria runners, the bottom tier had the bark stripped which I twisted into cordage. The top tier has the vine with the bark intact. The rim is cedar bark and the lashing wisteria bark from the runners.

Day 3 we learned how to create a bark basket, scoring the bark so it folds into a container shape. This is pretty cool, but I don’t see myself traipsing around the woods looking to fell young hickory or tulip poplar trees. I don’t want to work that hard in my old age. We scraped the bark from cedar strips and used it for the lashing.

I spent the morning of Day 4 researching what was in my yard. I brought a few samples of the vines from my yard, and used his reference books and a couple of phone apps and Google to help identify what I had. So I started this basket, using more of the tulip poplar strips as staves, and started twining my vines, still green, so a bit fragile, because I wanted to see how they worked and how they dried. I started with the bittersweet at the very bottom, used trumpet vine, which was pretty fragile at the joints, and ended with the Akebia 5 leaf, also called Chocolate vine. That was great to work with green. I added a cedar rim, and that night I challenged my daughter to figure out how to end the staves, and she slit them lengthwise and braided them into an interesting top rim. The afternoon of Day 5 I made a few yards of fine cordage from Dog Bane, also called Indian Hemp, which I then used to lash everything together.

My daughter had assisted this instructor back in 2019 for a basket making class when she was the fibers assistant at Peters Valley. She loved making baskets and was really jealous that I took his class, and pumped me for information each evening when I came home. I saved some of the lashing work to do at home and I had lots of help from the cat. He happily stirred the soaking water for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that wasn’t necessary.

The morning of the 5th day, the class when on a nature hike through areas of Peters Valley, protected of course because it is federal property, and Steve showed us all kinds of flora and fauna, edibles, plants for dye stuff, vines, invasives, and I thought he would have a heart attack when he found a lone hemlock tree. Gave a new meaning to the word Tree-Hugger. Our goal was to reach a rock formation I did not know existed, dating back centuries, hidden in a part of the Valley off the road to the Thunder Mountain studios. It is called Bevans Rock Shelter, and there are even traces of early ochre paintings.

We took a class photo with our baskets.

When I got home last night, Brianna had already begun to harvest stuff from the yard. We rigged up a storage system in the garage studio, for some of the wisteria and English Ivy vine I brought home from class. I long ago committed chemical warfare on the wisteria that had invaded our property in the 80’s. This morning she went out and harvested more bittersweet and some really out of control rose runners that I swear grow 6 feet overnight. She can’t wait to tackle the gazebo.

The first morning of class, when I stopped to check in at the office, Jen the person who keeps the Valley humming along, excitedly pulled a handful of magazines out of a box that had just come in, a free publication for the tri-state area (NJ, NY, PA) called the Journal. It had just been delivered the day before, and there I was, or rather my daughter, wearing one of my handwoven coats from a number of years ago. My daughter modeled for me when she was something like 11 or 12. She is now 28. The publisher of the journal had reached out to me a month or so ago, and asked for a piece on creativity, tied into Peters Valley, and what it was like to be a fiber artist, and for lots of pictures of my work. I was hesitant at first, I live in a different county, and I’m no longer teaching on the road or selling my work, but she insisted that I had a story to tell, and they wanted to publish it. The issue is full of images of my most colorful work over the years, and my daughter is beside herself that she made a cover, even though she was only 12 at the time. You can read the early Fall issue of The Journal here.

And so, I actually get to take a mini vacation, I’m heading down the shore Saturday morning with my sisters for a three-day getaway, which I sorely need, and Brianna will hold down the fort and be with the animals. All seems to be quiet in the Atlantic, let’s hope it stays that way.

Stay tuned…

Technically Tedious…

My lovely daughter is off on a holiday, taking a jewelry soldering and finishing class at Peters Valley. She sent me a photo of a lovely ring she made, and when I asked her what was the stone, she said it was a micro chip from a RAM card… Yes, that would be my daughter…

We raced to get the video for my YouTube Channel The Weaver Sews that was to drop on Friday edited and rendered and uploaded before she left on Thursday. We thought all was well, it looked good when we proofed it, but when it dropped at Midnight Friday morning, the first comment was, “What happened to the rest? Will there be more?”

??????????

So I sat down to watch it and to my shock and dismay, the last couple minutes were not there. I stopped talking in mid sentence and then nothing…

So my daughter drove the hour back from Peters Valley Friday night, and spent a couple annoying and expletive laced hours trying to figure out what was wrong. After a forum search, she discovered that her hard drive was full and so the video couldn’t completely render. Or something like that. I’m a bit clueless as to how all this happens, I just write the script, make the samples, and act in front of the camera.

And so there is now a properly rendered video, on creating a neck and armhole facing for the 1000 Swing Dress and how to install it.

That finishes up the dress videos and now I’m on to the 800 Vest and tutorials for the challenging parts of that vest construction. I’m creating two vests at once, both with welt pockets, one dark and one light, each with slightly different options, and after last Wednesday’s shoot on layout and using the lining as a seam finish, I need to get both vests to the next step to create a video for the collar application. So I spent the last couple days in the sewing room sewing my little heart out, while her sad and stressed dog clung close to me, because, well his mommy wasn’t there…

My last blog post I mentioned that I had set up an inkle loom with a draft from a new book from Annie MacHale, on 3 Color Baltic Pick-Up.

I’m fascinated with the technique, I already am pretty proficient at Baltic Pick-Up (I actually sell a monograph on advanced Inkle Weaving techniques) and have developed my own notation for what has to move within the pick-up area. The red boxes mean I need to pick up a pattern thread, and the X’s mean I have to drop the pattern thread. It made a 19 thread pick up like this a breeze and I had it off the loom in no time.

But 3 Color Baltic Pick-up is different. Pattern threads rotate between the three colors and there is only Pick-up, no dropping of the pattern threads. That seemed pretty straightforward, but I really struggled with the draft, since it wasn’t easily translated into my standard notation.

My apologies for the non weavers among you, hang on, because the point here is that I was determined to achieve something technically and I’ve been thinking about it for days. With my daughter gone, and a heartsick dog following me around, I finally sat down and tried to figure out what I needed the 3 Color Draft to do.

My drafts show what threads move. So all I needed to do was take the draft from the 3 Color book (there is an online link where you can customize the colors of any draft in the book) and indicate what threads are picked up, everything else is static.

I found a Silver Sharpie in my magic box of Sharpies, and that worked on the red and black yarns, so by adding a little dot of silver, I could glance across the row and quickly identify only the threads that had to be picked up. And in addition, I vaguely remembered my mom giving me a line magnifier when I helped her move in January, she used it for Counted Cross Stitch which she didn’t think she’d be doing anymore at 90. She has more fun quilting.

I had tossed it in a drawer, and I was so proud of myself for quickly finding it, and discovered it was magnetic and would easily line through the next row of pick-up, holding my place brilliantly. The draft is on top of one of those metal sheets you use for knitting patterns. So the magnets keep it secure. And I actually found it is still for sale on Amazon. Of course…

And so what took me a tedious hour to do a few rows just starting out, I’m down to half an hour for one black triangular motif. Yippee! And the yarns here are all hand-dyed silk.

A number of readers/viewers/followers on my YouTube channel, have expressed frustration at knowing they watched something on one of my videos and have no idea where it was, or how far into a video it was. Yeah, I get it. I’m getting confused as well. I have 51 videos as of this morning’s launch. Or re-launch as it were…

And so, I may regret this, and I put a self imposed deadline of September 11, which is the anniversary of my first video launch, to create an index of everything in my videos with the time codes. Yeah, I know.

To achieve this, I’m limiting myself to one video a day, starting at the beginning, checking for Closed Captioning typos, and there are a few, and watching and re-watching and pausing and jotting time codes and putting it all into an Excel Spreadsheet. So dear readers, I’m trying… Be patient.

The good news, I’m pretty proud of those early videos, obviously my daughter and I have improved tremendously, and now use a teleprompter, so I’m not glancing at papers all across the cutting board and losing my place. But the content is good, and I covered what I intended, and it seems clear and I can’t ask for more than that.

I’m using my few days without my daughter to focus on this tedious kind of stuff, getting in a morning walk, and cooking from the garden. The days go quickly, and I’m constantly busy. Which is good for me. I bought new sheets from Target made from Hemp, after hearing a lecture on the attributes of hemp as a fiber at the MAFA conference last month from Joan Ruane. Can’t wait for bed to try my new sheets…

I can’t believe summer is half over. Stay safe everyone, stay creative, and stay in the moment… And stay tuned…

Instant Gratification

It is no surprise that weavers have incredible patience, we by nature have to be the kind of person to whom process, no matter how slow, is the whole point. I will sit patiently threading 1000 ends, or painstakingly plod along following a complex treadling sequence, or methodically develop a new weaving draft. In garment making I relish the joy of a series of perfect bound buttonholes, a seam well sewn, a zipper perfectly installed. I’m not a stranger to ripping out, unweaving, or starting over.

I started this 3 color Baltic Pick up based on a new book I got from Annie MacHale. It is soooo slow. But with patience, I’ll get faster and really be able to follow the pick up sequence. I might edit the graph to be more in the way I like to follow pick up. Another few hours of work. No problem.

I just finished the third virtual conference in a month. I taught at the first one, the MAFA conference, but also took some classes, and I attended the second and third, the ASG conference with the American Sewing Guild, and yesterday and today, NEWS, that’s the New England Weavers Seminar. The second two were a series of lectures open to all those who signed up. I’m pretty cross eyed from all the Zoom meetings but the wealth of information and inspiration I’ve immersed myself in this past month has felt like I earned a 2 year college degree. So many techniques to explore and think about and appreciate.

When I come across something that makes my heart sing that took no effort at all, I almost feel like I’m cheating. It can’t be that easy…

I’d listened to ice dyeing programs and lectures before and was really curious about the spontaneity. There is nothing spontaneous about anything I do in the studio. Can you achieve anything decent from just tossing cellulosic fibers into a basin, tossing on ice and then some fiber reactive dye and get something that doesn’t look like you did the craft project du jour?

I listened to Jessica Kaufman in a two hour class I signed up for at the MAFA conference. This past week was the first chance I’d had to actually try this. I thought you needed a lot more equipment, set up, whatever. I thought as everything in fiber turns out to be, it would be way more complicated. Jessica is with Waxon studio, and she is obviously a pro at this technique and teaching it, and teaching it online.

I watched the replay mid week before the replays expired, and decided to gather up some yarn, fabric, scarves and an old vintage cotton napkin that I can’t imagine why was in my stash. The yarns were probably cotton, the scarves rayon, and the fabric a couple yards of rayon challis.

All I needed was some buckets, and some ice. Yes, I presoaked overnight, all the fibers in Soda Ash. I keep that in the studio because I regularly dye yarn with Fiber Reactive Dyes. Then I just scrunched stuff up, secured with rubber bands, and laid gently in hospital tubs. I acquired a huge amount of them during my husband’s long illness. The only thing positive about an extended hospital stay is the great tubs they give you.

I picked up a bag of ice at the grocery store, sprinkled some on, and then sprinkled on some fiber reactive dyes from Dharma Trading. And I let everything sit for 24 hours, as Jessica warned, 24 hours after the ice melts. Jessica also said to Trust the Muck. Meaning it is OK if the ice melts and all the dye pools around the cloth. Trust the Muck.

Well, everything was ready to rinse about 1am going into Friday morning. And yes, I couldn’t wait, so I stayed up and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and then couldn’t sleep all night because I was so freaking excited by what came out.

Here are a few skeins of yarn…

Here are a couple rayon challis scarves…

Here is my new favorite thing in the whole world, my vintage table napkin that I now use with every meal.

And here is the most gorgeous rayon challis fabric, I’m just gobsmacked looking at this across my cutting table, I can’t wait to figure out how to use this, almost too gorgeous to hide inside a garment as a lining, (which was the whole point in trying this technique, ways to get interesting linings…)

And while I listened to lecture after lecture over the last couple weeks, I came across this drop spindle I had tucked in a bag, with an alpaca silk blend fiber that I had started to spin eons ago. The fiber was from Gale Evans at www.galesart.com and I was sad to read that Gale closed the shop in May of this year, to move on to another medium, giving up fibers and dyeing all together. I know how Gale feels…

And I actually finished a garment in the studio. I’ve been slowly working on handwoven garments, bits at a time while I write script and demo the techniques for my YouTube videos. We just finished shooting the last techniques for this dress, installing an invisible zipper which just dropped Friday, and one for next week on installing a neck/armhole facing. So the dress, which is made from the handwoven Antique Jewels Fabric I wove last year, the draft is a free download available here, is finished and I can’t wait to wear this. The fabric was perfect, it held its shape and was a joy to sew. The pattern is my 1000 swing dress. That’s available as a download (not free) here. It has pockets!

And so dear readers, my life is starting to fill up again, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, but the opportunities are just too much fun, and there are too many fun things to do out there. I managed to get into NYC for the day last week, to the MET, and the Jewish Museum, and to meet up with a dear friend and have sushi down near 28th street. Except for when I was actively eating I wore a mask the entire day, and had no problem doing so, even though I’ve been vaccinated for months. Scary times, covid cases are on the rise, and I’ll continue to wear a mask wherever I go.

Stay safe out there, and learn all the things!

Simple days, complex world…

The days pass quickly in a routine that is pretty pleasant truth be told.  I’m not missing traveling, not missing even leaving the house.  I see friends and family enough via zoom, and with all the remote lectures I’m giving, I feel as though I’ve just attended the world’s largest weaving conference.  Each day I bounce around to some part of the country, and each lecture there are old friends and familiar faces in those tiny boxes on the screen.  I’ve been corresponding with someone in MO, who was supposed to take a workshop with me in August in Kansas, but appeared in a lecture in western MA.  We weavers get around…

Having my daughter here, working with her, developing new content, shooting a new video every Friday for my YouTube site The Weaver Sews.  It has kept us busy.  The biggest challenges are keeping the animals quiet, and hoping the landscape people don’t come through in the middle of filming the way they did last Wednesday in the middle of a class I was teaching remotely.  Those leaf blowers right outside the garage doors were pretty noisy.

So the election in the US is Tuesday.  I don’t hold hope that things will be resolved by Tuesday night.  I don’t hold hope that things will be resolved for a very long time, no matter who is declared the winner.  I’m sad for the polarization, I’m sad for the divisive language used by both sides, I wish we could all get along and move forward.  We are in the middle of a couple of international crises and I’m a firm supporter of science (having a daughter with a science degree means I can’t even cook without a science perspective thrown into the recipe), and no matter the results, I hope moving forward that we as a nation can come together to solve some of these major issues.  I’ve just heard of another weaver who lost their entire studio to one of the fires in Oregon.  She took a workshop with me just in March of this year, my last stint before the world shut down.  I sent her digital files of everything we could piece together that she lost from my workshop, but that doesn’t replace yarn, samples, looms, weaving equipment, spinning wheels, and a life time of knowledge in physical form.  My friends in California, Oregon, Washington, as well as Louisiana have taken the brunt of this year’s climate disasters.  I wish the world had a plan moving forward.  For me, I voted within 24 hours of receiving my mail in ballot (only mail-in voting in NJ this year because of the pandemic), so on Tuesday night, I’ll be teaching remotely for a guild in Toronto.  I can only do my best to keep moving forward, being kind, paying attention to the science, fighting for equality for all, and embracing my countrymen no matter what and who they are passionate about.

Since  Tuesday night’s lecture is on Doup Leno, a technique I wrote about a couple years ago for Heddlecraft Magazine, (January/February 2019), I needed to have something set up for a live demo.  The warp that I had been using was mostly used up.  So I rewarped this week, with a couple of handdyed skeins of cashmere I had sitting around, one a dark and the other a variegated turquoise.  The goal is a couple of scarves, the leno structure will keep them lacy, but the structure will hold together.

That said, I’ve been rather busy with my simple days.  Simple means I can fill my days up with juggling 40 things at once, because I can’t imagine a day when 40 things aren’t happening simultaneously!  

I’ve been working for the last couple of weeks on a new project.  The last two vests I made both had welt pockets.  It has been on my to do eventually list for a couple of years.  I finally sat down, designed a diagonal entry welt pocket and then once I did a few of them, drew illustrations and wrote up the 12 page directions.

Now you can actually purchase the Welt Pocket Variation as a download.  The download contains the 12 page heavily illustrated directions, the two pattern pieces full size for the welt and pocket, and replacement pages for the 100 jacket, 200 jacket and 800 vest.  By substituting the pages in the pattern digital files, you’ll see where the pocket goes.  So if you’ve purchased the 100, 200 or 800 vest, you might enjoy this variation.  Of course it will work for any jacket or vest you make from anyone’s patterns, you’ll just have to figure out where to position it.

The second vest I finished is the one I’ve been using for demonstrations during my last few YouTube videos.  The fabric was a remnant I bought somewhere, can’t remember, but it was a gorgeous sleezy Chanel type tweed, really challenging to work with, like your worst case handwoven.  My handwoven fabrics aren’t nearly as challenging!  I made up the 200 jacket but left off the sleeves, bringing the lining to the edge of the armhole.  With the shawl collar and welt pockets, it is a much different look than my other vests.  

I realized of course that I haven’t updated my gallery on the website with the last couple of pieces I’ve made, the Summer Rain Top, and of course the leopard trimmed and lined Confetti vest shown above.  It is much more important to be timely in those updates because my daughter references those details and images when she creates the show notes for each video I do.  We took one of our guest rooms, since we aren’t getting a lot of guests (none actually) and turned it into a temporary photo studio.  So I popped the Summer Rain top onto the dressform, and perched it on top of the table to take a quick shot of the top.  The free draft for the fabric for this top, using Silk City Fibers is available here.  The pattern is a combination of my 1000 Swing Dress, very modified to take out the “swing”, and the armhole and sleeve from my 200 Jacket.

Meanwhile, now that all my looms are full, I filled them up for the HGA remote studio tour the beginning of October, I need to start clearing looms because I’m getting more ideas of stuff I want to weave.  So I cleared one of the table looms first.  This one had a test for Silk City Fibers, their Supermerino yarn, sett in an 8 dent reed, plain weave, to simulate what one would experience with a rigid heddle loom set up.  One was a single end in an 8 dent reed, single weft, spaced a little far apart for my taste, but that was the point of the test.  I gave that one to Silk City and kept this one, which is two ends together in an 8 dent reed with a doubled weft (I used a double boat shuttle for that scarf).  Supermerino is a superwash yarn.  It doesn’t say that in the description, but it doesn’t full at all when washed.  The result is actually quite soft and lovely, and I’m glad they let me keep one of the scarves.  I suspect I’ll be venturing outside a bit this winter, if only to walk the property and pick up dog debris, and I think this will be quite warm.

I did a round robin sort of day earlier in the week, I wove a yard of two on each of the other floor looms, just to get them moving forward.  I can probably just sit and weave and finish off a couple of them in a day or two.  To have time to just sit and weave is such a gift.  And that means I’ll have yardage to sew.  And empty looms to rewarp…

There is this one, which has been on the loom for way too long.  The yarn is Noro Taiyo Lace, a pain to work with but really beautiful in its gradient effect as the weft.  4 shaft, warp is vintage Harrisville singles Shetland wool and vintage Maypole Nehalem worsted.  I’ve probably got less than two yards to go…

This is another test for Silk City Fibers, their new Cotton Bambu yarn mixed with their Chenille Tapestry yarn.  I modified an 8 shaft shadow weave draft, it is a bit slow to weave because of the two shuttle complicated repeat but it is moving along nicely.  

And this one is also using Silk City Fibers, their new Nile cotton tape mixed with Skinny Majesty variegated.  The weft is their Wool Crepe.  I can’t wait to weave off this fabric, it is weaving like butter and I want to make swing dress out of it. Over a black turtleneck, this could be fun for winter, something new to wear, even though I don’t go anywhere and only dress for the upper third of my body for remote Zoom meetings.  And for the videos, I get to dress up, put on makeup and look remotely professional, but everything has to be 2-piece to support the remote microphone pack clipped into my waistband.

Days are cooler now, we have finally had frost in NJ.  I cuddle up with the gas stove in the living room, and a 1000 piece puzzle and some wine in the evenings, or watch late night political satire on the TV with my daughter.  We need to keep laughing, we need to surround ourselves with art, humor and good food and drink.  And of course animals, there is a cat asleep on my lap as I type, with one paw draped over my typing hand.  And yarn and good books.  I have all of that, and new flannel sheets coming this week from LLBean.  My daughter stole my other set.  Life is OK for now in my small neck of the world.  I quietly keep making up new stuff, and keep an eye out for important things to know about.  

See you all on the other side of this election, stay safe, wear a mask, and don’t forget to vote…