Dreary Day Reprieve

Finally, some sun shine.  Honestly, I haven’t been home enough to even notice, since my last blog Wednesday afternooon, I have been largely out of the studio/house.

Wednesday night was the business meeting for my guild, Jockey Hollow Weavers, and the new board was “sworn in” so to speak.  So now I am officially the program chairperson, and I am off to a running start.

rosesMy daughter is a member of the guild, and they always welcome her and are so supportive of whatever she comes up with.  While we were going through the show and tell, she happily sat sculpting rose candles from the red wax left over from the Bonne Belle cheeses at the snack table.

Barbara Herbster was the speaker for the evening, and she talked first about how she uses a supplemental warp to create her beautiful scarves, some of the supplemental warp threads containing lycra to make the middle ruffle up.  barbara_scarves

Barbara has one of the best senses of color, and it was inspirational looking at her work.  Barbara was one of my most creative weavers who wove for me during the years I worked on the forecast column for Handwoven Magazine.  I could always count on her to come up with something spectacularly original, keeping with the palette, theme and inspirational photograph I’d give her.

warpedThursday morning I packed up the 8 shaft loom, and headed out to a workshop with Barbara at the guild, it was a two day workshop on supplemental warp.  Barbara pre-wound the warps, and gave them to us to beam, some were chenille, and some were bamboo.  I got one of the bamboo warps.  I struggled a bit to get it onto my loom, I had a sectional beam, which normally shouldn’t have been a problem, but there was a mis-communication about size and spacing, and it beamed incorrectly.  So I spent the day struggling through the first scarf, finally cutting it off at the end, and re-beaming the warp.  scarf1scarf_loom

Barbara wound each warp based on a photograph of some kind of flowers she took during her last vacation.  It was a great way to wind a warp, much like I used to do with the forecast column.

Friday night, after the workshop, I unpacked the loom, and the bags of stuff one carries to these kind of workshops, and headed over to the Paper Mill Playhouse, to see their current production of 1776.  May I say that was one heck of a piece of theatre.  A standing ovation, the passion of the times of the days leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the total dysfunction of the first Continental Congress, and the hilarious witty lines which could have been written about the current Congress some 200+ years later, made for a terrific evening.

This morning I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck.  Actually, I am coming down with a cold, I feel crappy, but still managed to get to my American Sewing Guild meeting, where the speaker was one of the guild members, Tomasa, who is currently attending FIT, and she demonstrated to the group how to draft a bodice pattern on a dress form.  I actually learned a few things, she was a very good teacher, and the group was really enthusiastic.  I am liking this group of women more and more, and look forward to the meetings.

I came home from the meeting, and jumped into the car with my husband and we made the hour long trek south to car_plantsRutgers, for their spring plant sale.  Plants from Rutgers University you might ask?  Who knew?  They have gorgeous gardens, spreading over acres, duh, they do have an agricultural school, and have a fabulous plant sale every spring as a fund raiser.  My husband and I always look forward to spending a weekend each spring at some nursery or garden center picking through the usual perennials, and shrubs in search of that one plant that catches our fancy.  Well, we hit the mother-lode here.  We were like two starving children in a candy shop.

We filled the car with all sorts of unusual specimens, trying to figure out where we were going to plant all these gorgeous creatures.  We have about a half acre of great gardens, ponds, perennials, all sorts of wet and dry areas, sunny and shady, and it is all pretty lush at the moment, due to all the buckets of rain that have come down in the last week or so.  So lush in fact, I was sort of shocked at how everything had grown about two feet since I last checked.

We found some really unusual things, including the small fern like tree on the left of the photo above, which is actually called Dawn Redwood, yes, that kind of redwood, it is a sequoia from China, thought to be extinct until discovered by the Japanese after WWII, grows to be more than 80 feet.  We couldn’t pass it up.  And we think we have the perfect spot for it, but will have to fell a dying birch tomorrow, before we plant it.  We have lost all of our birches in the last few years, from some birch blight, but happily that just gives us more room to plant stuff.

mahoniapulpit2pulpitThe photo on the left shows a Mahonia, an odd looking holly type of plant, with even odder flowers, which will be perfect in the shade by the bay window in the front.  After I paid for all our specimens, my husband went to get the car, and when he didn’t return, I found him back in the nursery talking to one of the volunteers, about this jack-in-the-pulpit variety, that he couldn’t resist.  So I went back to the check out table for one last plant.  Apparently this one is a male, which it is when it is suffering from transplant shock, and will eventually settle down and become a female and produce seeds once it likes its new home.  I looked at both my husband the volunteer like they had two heads each, but snatched up the plant, the story is too good to pass up.

So, tomorrow, after church and recorder practice, I’ll put on my gardening clothes, and start digging.  I’m looking forward to a mother’s day in the gardens, I promise I’ll come back with some amazing photos of our yard.  It is really gorgeous.  I just hope my cold doesn’t get in my way from spending the day outdoors.  No rain for the next few days, yippee!

Connie Crawford

What a lovely day, not only was the weather delightful, but I had the privilege of spending the day with members of various neighborhood groups of the North Jersey American Sewing Guild Chapter at their annual Spring Fling, which was held in a ballroom of a restaurant in Sussex County, NJ.  The speaker for the day was Connie Crawford, a mega sewing industry personality, who came from the fashion industry, taught Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and is a licensed designer for Butterick, published numerous textbooks, has a whole line of patterns, and is a terrific enthusiastic speaker.

The room was filled (around 50 people) with participants eager to find out how to fit their bodies, the actual title of the seminar was “After the Perky Body is Gone: Fitting Solutions”.  Now, I will say (and please don’t send me hate mail) that due to some genetic roll of the dice, I’ve been blessed with no fit issues, I can basically unfold any commercial pattern and with little tweaking, get it to fit,  even after a mastectomy.  But I teach this sort of stuff, and my students are demographically over 50 and now have bodies that they don’t quite know what to do with.  And I am always interested in how someone teaches, or approaches these issues.

Connie actually has her own pattern line, as well as the designs that are selected by Butterick.  I am a bit embarrassed to say I wasn’t really familiar with them.  Largely her lectures are designed around her line of patterns, which have their own sizing, and from first glance, halleluia, they actually fit real bodies.  To give you an idea, I am actually her smallest size, and she goes up from there, another 11 sizes, to a 6x, which has a 76″ hip.  I was truly impressed by the way the patterns fit the couple of fuller figured women she pulled from the audience, right out of the package.  She did a bit of tweaking, no more than I would do with a Vogue size 12, and these women, who clearly hadn’t been able to fit into any commercial pattern on the market, probably hadn’t even tried, had well fitting slopers or master patterns to build on for all kinds of great styles.  I give Connie a lot of credit for tackling this very forgotten demographic.

Connie was funny, and entertaining, but I will say, I was a bit uncomfortable with the way she dismissed much of the home sewing market, what’s being taught in fashion schools, what’s being written in books, others teaching in the fashion and sewing industries, and the way those of us who weren’t trained in the fashion industry, sew.  I think she is too good at what she does to resort to dismissing everyone else, and maybe she is right, but still, there are ways to present materials that are new or innovative without making everyone else seem invalid.

If you are fortunate enough to attend one of her seminars, be prepared to spend!  I think her books are good additions to my library, I have a number of pattern making and drafting and draping books, but not hers, and I actually did pick up a few tricks.  But her books are actually college textbooks from Fairchild, and are priced accordingly.  I did a quick check on Amazon during the lunch break, and her class discount was a lot better than the best price on Amazon, which for one of the books soared upwards of $125 for used copies.  I did buy her books, Patternmaking Made Easy and The Art of Fashion Draping, and am excited to go back and remember what I learned, way too many years ago in my pattern drafting classes in college. She  also sold her patterns, and pattern drafting supplies, she has 5 sewing DVD’s, and for most of the seminar, people were lined up with their credit cards while her husband played shopkeeper in the back of the room.

For me, it was fun to be surrounded by people that do what I love so much, I met some great new friends, and reconnected with someone who has come in and out of my life many times over the years.  That’s always a treat!

On another note, Thursday and Friday I am taking a two day workshop with Barbara Herbster, a great weaver from the New England area. Barbara did a lot of terrific work for me for the Color Forecast Column I use to write for Handwoven Magazine.   She is coming down to our guild, to teach a workshop in Supplemental Warp, and it is always fun to get together with my guild buddies and play.  BUT!  I just realized I have to clear the loom, with the remainder of the warp from last October’s two day class with Bonnie Inouye.  So, I think I know what I’m doing tonight!

A Great Diversion

I packed up a long list of supplies to bring to the American Sewing Guild neighborhood chapter meeting this morning.  My local chapter is called the Clifton Clippers, which meets in, obviously, Clifton, NJ.  It is a growing group, the few meetings I have attended, there are always a handful of new people.

Unlike my weaving guilds, the sewing guild programs tend to be more hands on, bring a machine and make a project.  That’s really tough to do in the parameters of an average weaving guild meeting.  So I’m not use to packing up supplies right before a meeting, and I enjoyed poking through my studio looking for stuff on the list.

renie-helen-dorothyToday’s program featured ASG member Renie, a talented sewer quilter, who lead the group step by step in turning a sweatshirt into a decorative cardigan. That’s Renie in purple on the left.  I didn’t shop ahead of time, and purchase a new sweatshirt for the occasion, I just rooted through my closet and picked the two that didn’t have anything written on the front.  Works for me.

We were suppose to bring a half yard of coordinating fabric.  In this group, it is assumed that your fabric will be a cotton quilt fabric, but I’m not a quilter, and my stash consists of a lot of odd things, and lots of handwoven scraps.  I had a half yard piece of handwoven fabric, left from my production days, (that would be the 1980’s), poorly sett, plain weave, with lots of mixed warp yarns in various textures and colors, and a variegated rayon weft.  I really wasn’t sure what we were going to be doing with it, but I packed up my machine and stuff on the list, and hit the road.

The meeting was fun.  I love the companionship of others who think like me, are creative, I love show and tell, in any of my groups.  One woman turned a daughter’s wedding gown into a Christening gown for her daughter’s baby.  It was beautiful.  What a great idea.  And of course I showed off the dress I wore in the fashion show in California.

So the program started, and Renie carefully laid everything out step by step, she had a sweatshirt/cardigan on that was lovely, and had another one in various stages of development.  She explained the process and then turned us loose.  This guild is beginning to get use to me, only having handwoven fabric to play with.

DarylCuttingDarylSewingWell, I had a blast.  Once I got the sweatshirt cut apart, and the bottom trim on, I packed up my things, to continue at home so I could use my own powerful iron, and I could concentrate.  And take pictures….  🙂

So, the first step was to remove the wrist bands and waist band.  Then after carefully measuring, I cut up the center front, instantly transforming the sweatshirt into a cardigan.  Renie showed a sweatshirt turned inside out, and I loved the feel of the inside of my favorite red sweatshirt, which I was cutting apart for this adventure, so I turned mine inside out as well.  So the outside now feels like soft cotton fleece.

sweatshirt1Then I took my handwoven and cut 1 1/4″ strips off the selvedge, these I sewed to the bottom and fronts of the wrong side of the  jacket, and brought them around to the front, top stitching the selvedge into place.  Renie used quilt fabrics, which don’t have the same kind of selvedges as handwoven fabrics, so she left extra to turn under on her strips.sweatshirt2

We were told to bring stencils if we had them, shows how much I know, I brought my fabric painting stencils, with fabric paint.  Duh… what they really meant was quilting stencils.  So I borrowed a pretty one from Renie, and traced the pattern onto the back of my materials list.  I brought it home, and expanded it to fill the space on either side of the center front.  I then finished off the edges of a wider strip of handwoven, and pinned it down on the back of one of the garment fronts, and then traced the quilting stencil pattern onto tissue paper.  The old fashion kind that tears away easily.  Renie could just draw the stencil onto the back of a quilt fabric, but that doesn’t work for a slubby multi-colored handwoven.  I placed the tissue drawing down on the top of the handwoven strip, which was cut just a bit wider than the stencil design, and pinned everything into place.

sweatshirt3I went to my trusty Janome 6600, God I love this machine, and carefully followed the stitching outline I drew on the tracing paper with a medium size stitch length.sweatshirt4

Once I finished the stitching, I tore away the tissue paper, and then from the right side of the jacket, I clipped away the sweatshirt fabric to reveal the handwoven underneath.  Obviously you have to be careful here, and it helps to have sharp scissors with really blunt tips.

sweatshirt5I worked on the second front, I was a woman possessed.  Forget any thoughts of cleaning, or cutting out my poor arctic sky jacket lining.  I wanted to finish this jacket.  It is my new favorite thing to slouch around in.  I’m calling it my studio sweater, for when I need something comfy to put around my shoulders while I’m working, my well worn sweatshirt is now a stylish jacket trimmed with handwoven.  I finished edging the sleeves, and Voilá!

I realized that this is an excellent thing to do with a surplus handwoven scarf.  The selvedges can be used for the edge trim, and the interior of the scarf can be the strip that peeks out of the cut away stencil design on the front.  I have a few extra scarves sitting around, and I’m thinking there are other sweatshirts that could use a transformation…

Of course I worked right through dinner, and that meant we had to go out, so I got to wear my new jacket to the pizza place.

So now I’m going to totally blow off the rest of the evening, and watch the episode I missed last weekend while I was away, of Desperate Housewives, on my computer.  Oh, and BTW, when I was exiting the subway Thursday night in NYC, I saw a poster on the wall advertising a new HBO series, starting on March 29, at 8pm, Alexander McCall Smith’s #1 Ladies Detective Agency Series.  So those of you who don’t watch television often like me (Desperate Housewives is the only thing I watch other than Project Runway when it is airing), and don’t get advertising for this kind of stuff, you might want to tune in, the books are terrific!

Odds and Ends

The last couple of days have been whirlwind of catching up, meeting some deadlines I put off until after my California trip, contracts, cleaning, trying to find my house again, piles of laundry, and some terrific social events.

I got an email today from Lisa Skura, my class angel in the three day jacket workshop in California, letting me know that one of the conference attendees posted all of her photos, many from the fashion show, on a Picasa website, her name is Helene Korn, and the pictures are fun.  Check it out.

I received an email notification a couple days ago, that I was finally accepted to teach at the CNCH (Conference of Northern California Handweavers), April 8-11, 2010, in Santa Clara.  This is a particularly important conference to me, and getting this acceptance means a lot.

Sidebar:  When I was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, one of the hardest things for me to face, and I know this is going to sound really odd, was writing the letters canceling four teaching commitments, three of them conferences, and it was that act, not losing a breast, not the trauma to my family, not the six months of chemo, but the canceling of commitments that nearly undid me.  When you face a life altering thing like cancer, the stress manifests itself in the oddest places.  I honestly didn’t care about the breast.  I was happy to lose it if it would save my life.  I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t finish what I had started, the conferences that I had committed to, and my work meant everything to me.

One of the conferences I had to cancel was the CNCH conference for 2002.  I was eventually invited to participate in the Asilomar Retreat held on the off years of the CNCH, but not the conference itself.  I always felt like I had something to finish and was frustrated I couldn’t make up for not being able to follow through.

So, when I returned from California, earlier this week, I had an acceptance waiting for me, to teach at the CNCH conference, and I immediately felt a huge relief that I could finally finish what I had started seven years ago.  I will eventually update my website calendar when the dust settles a bit more around here, so stay tuned…

Yesterday evening, I hopped on a bus, and headed into NYC to hear a lecture, sponsored by the Textile Study Group of NY.  The lecture was on Photographing your Work.  Yes, I know I teach this subject, I just gave the workshop to a wonderful group of people in Southern California, but when I offered my services to the Textile Study Group, I was told that they were looking for a real professional photographer.

So, I paid my $25. and hopped on a bus, and went to hear D. James Dee, a very well respected art photographer in NYC, teach a seminar on Photographing your Work.  I am glad I went, first, it was so interesting to be in a HUGE space, where lights can be placed anywhere, and backdrops can cover whole walls and tables.  Also, there are things I know, things I have been taught, but I actually didn’t understand completely why they were so. I actually got some clarification on a couple things I knew instinctively, but not why.  I also understood quickly the advantages of having someone who is an experienced teacher, and knows how break things down in an organized fashion to a varied group of students of all different levels.  I followed everything he was saying, because I do this sort of thing, but I sensed that many in the class were lost.  Mr. Dee is a terrific photographer, but I am not sure how experienced he is at teaching.

Also, since he is a professional photographer, the class wasn’t so much on photographing your work as it was on what to do with the disk of images that comes from a professional photographer.  Which I can see can be a real issue for artists that aren’t so computer literate.  If nothing else, the class made me much more confident that what I teach in my class, is really useful information in an organized fashion, that can be put to immediate use by the most average picture taker.  And, I produce a monograph in full color, that is a reproduction of the PowerPoint presentation, so students don’t have to take any notes!

Today I worked the whole day working on my sister, the architect’s website, I’m making great progress on the project pages, having a blast in Photoshop CS4, taking mediocre photos of beautiful homes she has designed, and turning them into magazine shots.  In all fairness to my sister, taking shots of a 4,500 square foot sprawling home is pretty difficult to do with a point and shoot camera, without getting keystone distortion, but Photoshop is my friend, and I corrected some amazing shots.  It is also really neat to carefully work through my sister’s body of work, I know what she does, but since she lives and works in rural northern Maryland, I don’t get to see her work first hand.  She designed the addition on my home, but that was 20 years ago.  I will say I’m really impressed.

Tonight my husband, daughter and I went to the Papermill Playhouse for one of our subscription series shows, the current production is Master Class, which was worthy of the standing ovation it received.  Barbara Walsh played opera diva Maria Callas, who retired from her singing career and taught a series of renowned master classes at Julliard in 1971.  The dialogue spoke of the passion of the arts, how important they are in our lives, and about finding the soul in your work.  I would love to get a copy of the script, there are many quotable lines in the show, and it isn’t lost on me, the perfect timing of the show, especially in this very difficult time for all of the arts with the seriousness of the downturn in the economy, and how bleak the immediate future is for many of our renowned institutions.

I am promising myself, that before the weekend is over, I will finish cutting out the pieces for the Arctic Sky Jacket.  I am longing to start sewing before the weather gets warm and I can’t wear the jacket!

Tomorrow is the monthly meeting of the American Sewing Guild neighborhood chapter I wrote about in my blog last month.  I think I’ll take my dress from the fashion show for Show and Tell…

Valentine’s Day

A Valentine wish to all of you who are reading this, you all keep me going, challenge me, support me, and my wish is that I can somehow keep you going, challenge you, and support you back.  And isn’t that what the point of a Valentine is?  A mutually beneficial relationship, a give and take, and there is nothing like the fiber community to provide that.


I had a great experience today, I broadened my fiber community by attending a meeting of the American Sewing Guild.  There is a local chapter, about 20 minutes from me, much closer than my two weaving guilds.  I had attended a meeting a little over a year ago, and it just didn’t click.  I didn’t see a place for me there, maybe it was just the day, but I’m glad I went back, because today I had an entirely different experience.

I met so many talented, warm and friendly people, from the time I got out of my car, to when the meeting started, everyone was welcoming, and enthusiastic.  There were a number of new people attending, there was a mother/daughter team, there was someone coming back to sewing after many years, there were quilters, those who did craft sewing, those who made garments, and I found another fiber community in my own backyard!

So if you didn’t have a great experience at a guild or fiber group, try again.  Don’t give up.  It was a great Valentine gift to find more fiber enthusiasts, I even found someone who was just beginning to weave, bought a 12 shaft Voyager table loom for her first loom.   I showed my coat, and she was really thrilled to find out that you could weave yardage and sew it up.  I gave her information on the weaving guilds in the area.

For the program, two of the woman presented a small project, that was a lot of fun, we all got a piece of rayon velvet ribbon, and we used  a spritz of water and a dry iron to stamp images into the velvet ribbon, using rubber stamps, then we added tassels and/or beads, fringe, whatever we wanted, and came home with a great bookmark.    I can never have enough bookmarks!  In a weaving guild, there isn’t the time to do small projects, the programs are more about techniques, or historical issues, theory, all of which I love, but it was fun to do a hands-on quick project as well.  I’m sure sewing guilds are much better suited to that  type of program.

bookmarkWhen I sat down to make the lime green tassel, from a skein of embroidery floss, a number of the members asked how I was doing it, you know when you know something, and have always known something and you find out that not everyone knows it, and of course you are happy to share the knowledge.  That’s what we do.  Back in the late 1970’s, when I graduated from college with a pretty worthless Bachelor’s in Fine Arts, I went to work teaching crafts at a mall chain store called the Craft Showcase.  I taught macrame owl plant hangers, calligraphy, stained glass making, needlework, and anything else they needed teaching.  Macrame was big.  And plant hangers were even bigger.  And all of the plant hangers had a giant tassel at the bottom.  We chatted at the meeting about those big tassels, which is where I learned to wrap the head of a tassel.

Anyway, I love my Valentine’s book mark, I came home very excited, and happy to spend the rest of the afternoon with my lovely husband, and eventually both of my teens came home from work, and we spent a  rare evening out to dinner with the whole family.  Dinner was delicious, and I really enjoyed my “day off”.