Letter writing 101…

I finally heard from my son, who is at Boot Camp in Fort Jackson, SC.  He called us from a pay phone late Tuesday night, and I can’t tell you how good it was to hear his voice.  He was full of grand adventures, and sounds like he is really growing up, and is benefiting in a positive way, from the whole experience.  He was disappointed that he hadn’t gotten any mail, and asked if we had gotten his letter with his address in it?  Sadly we hadn’t, though he claimed it had been mailed two weeks ago.  He said he had sent seven letters to us and his friends, but none of us have received them.  I had to think for a minute, did he even know how to address a letter?  I’m sure I taught him…   Maybe he was in 5th grade?  I know that sounds really odd, but think about it, does this generation know how to communicate in any way other than email and text?

So, armed with his address at Fort Jackson, I sat down yesterday and wrote an old fashioned letter.  With the date on top, followed by Dear Eric.  As I wrote, I thought about how lost the art of real letter writing has become.  I sent him a newsy two sided note, on flowery stationery, which has been in my drawer for about 12 years.  It is sort of sad, to think that the art of letter writing is dying, but in this day and age, it is the only way to stay in touch with a recruit in boot camp.  I wrote him another letter today.  It made me feel good to stick the letter in an envelope, put on a stamp, and leave it for the postman (woman in this case…)

I did an overview of my lengthy to do list, and now that the guild website is functioning well enough, I thought I’d take a breather and survey the next group of deadlines, while I work steadily on the yardage.

Warp_AdjustmentSpeaking of the yardage.  I am about half way through.  I’ve had to rig up a contraption on the back of the loom, to take out the slack in the springy cotton lace yarn, which is working moderately well.  And I’m sort of embarrassed, I discovered a threading error about three yards into the yardage, nothing critical, but something that I can’t believe I didn’t notice for three yards, and now I can’t see anything but…  That’s sort of the way it goes.  It was an easy fix, I just used wire cutters to clip the heddle and move it to the correct shaft.  No threads needed to be cut and spliced…

TInkle_Supplemental Warphe Small Looms Group of the South Jersey Guild of Spinners and Handweavers,  asked me to do a workshop in May on Inkle Loom Pick-up, which I agreed to do, as a half day workshop, since the idea is they would all come with warped looms.  After numerous discussions with the committee members, I realized they wanted more than just pick-up work, that the consensus was for an advanced workshop, including supplemental work, which I sort of made up and talked about in a past blog post, and I started to think of how I could have them set up their loom ahead of time with one warp that would allow all kinds of advanced techniques through the four hour class.

So I came up with a warp, that I think is pretty interesting, and they can work on whichever section they need to, encompassing three different techniques.  For really perceptual advanced weavers, they can do all three simultaneously!  🙂

The warp section on the left, will allow a 1/1 name draft, which I haven’t started yet, and the center section will allow a supplemental warp, shown here with the red X’s.  The section on the right, with little seeds, is a standard seven thread pick up.  Here it is shown with a pick up design.with_pickup It is actually a challenging warp, and I can see turning the inkle loom one day class that I teach, into a two day.  BjornBearInkleMy daughter has gotten really proficient at weaving the alphabet on the inkle loom, here is the dog collar she is weaving for her new dog Bjorn. (Norwegian for Bear).

Some of the things on my to do list are boring and nothing I’d want to blog about.  Like doing the bookkeeping for 2009, getting everything ready for the accountant.  They are so boring I don’t even want to do them.  I took my 12 year old Honda wagon to motor vehicles yesterday to get it inspected.  I wanted to cross that item off my to do list.  Sadly the car failed because one of the tires was worn unevenly.  I’m proud though of my little Honda car, that after twelve years, it can still pass inspection, it was the tires that caused the problem.  So I add to my to do list, buy two new tires.

silk_dressOne of the items on the list was to make a dress from the plaid fabric I started to blog about a month or so ago.  The fabric has been sitting in a pile on my cutting table since then.  In addition to the handwoven Irish wool plaid, I wanted to make this simple princess lined dress from a silk gown I’d made a number of years ago that I had no use for anymore.  I wanted something shorter and more fun.  The silk was a paprika color, and if I really liked the fit and style of the dress, once I remade the paprika silk, I’d go ahead and cut it from the plaid.

So I took the dress apart at the back seam, removed the zipper, and laid it out across the table, in addition to the length of yardage left from the original dress.  Truth is, I need a sewing project to work on.  I love the loom, and I love the fabric I’m weaving, but I really am most happy when I have a sewing project as well.  If you are a sewer sewist who has been reading this blog, I’m sure you are quite done with all my weaving escapades, so this one’s for you!  Stay tuned…

Busy Days plus a rant…

I beg your forgiveness right up front.  I need to rant.  I don’t normally do this, I never intended this blog for any political forum, but I wandered out to get the morning paper in the 4″ of slush and pouring rain after 3 inches of snow fell last night, and after I got back inside, dried off, settled down with my cup of tea, I opened the newspaper to see the headlines, and I nearly choked.

headlineApparently grant money promised to many of the arts groups in the state is being frozen, and the state doesn’t know when the funds will be released.  This is grant money which has been applied for, granted, spent by the arts organizations and the final installment was a month overdue.  Peters Valley Craft Center is owed $66,000.  They are devastated.  I wrote about my magical visit there in Saturday’s blog.  Tonight, my husband and I attended an amazing performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, at the NJ Shakespeare Theater, which is nearing the end of its season, and has no where else to cut.  No one can make payroll, and I fear for the very life of arts organizations already bled dry of funding and support.  This may be the final blow.

Yes, I know NJ is broke.  We are as broke as California.  I know a new governor was just elected who sent a memo to the outgoing governor, not to spend any more money.  I’m not sure how much of this is a political game, but I am sad, and angry, and appalled at the political mess, ethics, fiscal carnage and irresponsibility that surrounds my elected officials.  And I am really sad that many of the arts venues I have loved and supported for nearly 30 years, may die in a coffin nailed shut by politics.

I am grateful to the Star Ledger for making this a headline, it was higher up on the front page above the latest carnage in Iraq.  I have no words to describe my frustration, my inability to do anything to fix this mess.

Sorry, this has been weighing on me the entire day.  And it weighed in the whole while I watched an incredible performance of Twelfth Night.  I did manage to snap a quick photo of the set waiting for the production to begin.  The floor looked like it was made of glass, or water, the opening scene is of course Viola washing up on shore.  And the walls were all made of, get this, recycled shredded paper.  It was brilliant and effective, and worked for any scene necessary from Olivia’s Garden to Orsino’s chambers.12thNightI spent the day puttering in the studio, working through my vast to do list, trying to clear my cutting table.  After making up the Avoca Handweavers Plaid my husband brought back from Ireland, into a skirt a week or so ago, I’ve been looking at the other skirt length hanging on the hanger from one of my shelves, and I got to perusing the October issue of Burda Style, while I was organizing my magazines.WoolandSibonnedressI dug through my stash, and found a small length of Sibonne, which is a rayon underlining popular in the 60’s.  I found a dozen bolts of Sibonne about 15 years ago, in a fabric store in Florida on a sale table, and brought home everything I could fit on the plane.  Those were the days…  I have only a few bolts left, some odd blue colors and a purple and red bolt, but I did have this two yard length of a color that would serve well as the lining for the plaid.

I found a pattern for an interesting dress, that I thought might look really wonderful in this plaid.  It is one of those things that could really work, or really not.  Don’t know until I try.  And I wasn’t sure I could get the dress out of the fabric, so I traced off the pattern from the sheets included in the magazine.traceThen I did a quick preliminary layout.layoutI think I can fit the dress, if I shorten it a bit, which isn’t a problem because I didn’t want it to come to my knee anyway.  Meanwhile, I have a paprika silk dress I made years ago, I love the color and the fabric, but I never liked the dress and I have no use for a gown at the moment, so I got to thinking…

What would happen if I used these narrow pieces, and cut up the dress?silkdressI’ll have to do some careful ripping apart of the seams, but I think I can get it all out.  I also rooted around and found an additional yard or so of the fabric, still in my stash.  So I have my work cut out for me!

When I take breaks during the day, I jump over to my Google home page where I have RSS feeds of all my favorite blogs.  One of my top favorite blogs, is the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.  She is the funniest fiber blogger on the planet.  She is a knitter, but it doesn’t matter, everything she writes is so right on the money, so insightful, and so hilarious, that I can’t wait until she posts her next installment.  Today was the best.  If you are a handweaver reading this blog, stop right now and head over and check out Stephanie’s latest post.  It involves a loom.  Yes, that’s right.  But the best part, is the comments.  As of this writing there were about 125.  And nearly all of them were from knitters who were desperately trying not to get involved in yet another craft but had to try out this marvelous thing called a loom because surprise, Stephanie knitted a scarf from her knitting yarn in five hours…  I squealed with glee as I read each posted comment, and down along comment number 63, is one from me.

I finished up all the hot mats for my gift exchange, and all the mug mats for the guild mug mat exchange next week.  matsI loved making these, and I think they make hot/mug mats.  I think I’ll make a couple for me to use as well.

And progress is ongoing on the garage cleanup, started  Thanksgiving weekend, the goal was to uncover the woodworking equipment so my daughter could have a wood studio out there.  She wandered out there yesterday, and started playing around with some of the equipment we have, my parting words as I showed her where the safety goggles were, “please, don’t cut your fingers off…”  I’m such a mom…

Today she came in with her first project she found in an old woodworking publication.  It is a clever wood puzzle, connected with a rubber band, painted in bright colors, and she was really proud that she figured out some of the equipment, started to get use to the shop, and didn’t cut off any of her fingers…WoodPuzzle1WoodPuzzle2

And I’m sure if you’ve been following this blog, you’ve been wondering why I haven’t done anything more with all those white warps from a couple weeks ago.  Have you figured out I am procrastinating?

I did go through my dye cabinet today, and to my surprise, I had everything I needed to get started.  I thought I had a least a couple more days reprieve since I figured I needed some chemical I was almost out of.  Nope, all there.  So I have no more excuses.  Let’s see, luncheon tomorrow, drive out to a guild members house on Friday to pick up another little Structo,  ASG holiday party on Saturday and a concert at the IZOD center.  I can push this off for at least a few more days…

Thanksgiving Adventures…

My husband and I, born of an era when music and art tried to make sense out of a senseless world, have always had a special fondness for a special Thanksgiving more than 40 years ago.  You know the one, it happened at a restaurant, when a couple of well meaning dinner guests tried to help their friend Alice clean out the old church that housed the restaurant, and found to their dismay the dump was closed on Thanksgiving.  It isn’t unusual for my husband to find some rock station on Thanksgiving day, play the 18 minute Arlo Guthrie musical feast and happily listen, singing along about the 8×10 color glossies and Group W bench.  We’ve seen Arlo Guthrie perform in concert many times over the years, and even took the kids and attended the 40th anniversary tour of Alice’s Restaurant Massacre at Carnegie Hall a couple of years ago.

So it was with great fondness that we started on our own Massacre, of the debris that has accumulated in our oversized two car garage that no car has parked in for the last four years.  I remember the date well, I had to move my mother in law out of her apartment in Connecticut,  and put her into a nursing home in my town in NJ, by myself, because my husband was working in India for 4 months.  I brought her belongings by the truck load and stuck them in my garage.  I eventually worked through all of her belongings, she died in 2006, but once I gave up my parking bay, I was never able to reclaim it.

Brianna's latest wood project for school.
Brianna's latest wood project for school.

Fast forward, we have quite the woodworking equipment in the garage, under so much debris it is impossible to actually use it.   My daughter adores woodworking and is thrilled to discover a complete woodworking studio just within reach, but for a little cleaning….

So we set out to begin the messy task of cleaning out the trash and junk, and organizing the buckets of tools and bins, and of course, knowing the dump was closed on Thanksgiving, we waited until Friday.  And the dump was still closed.  So, my husband is out with the truck, dumping the worst of the recycling, and I am sitting in my studio where it is warm and happy, blogging.  I think that’s a good deal.

I haven’t felt well for the last couple days, too much discussion of swine flu and an over active imagination makes me think I’m already infected, but the symptoms are vague, and I’m probably just fighting off a cold.  I put away all the warping equipment, I’m finished winding white warps for dyeing, for now, and I’m really itching to just sit down and make something.  Something for me.  I am jealous of knitters who grab a ball of yarn and whip out something, the only equipment where I can do that easily is….

6600JanomeThe Sewing Machine…

It has sat idle too long and I needed to keep my fingers moving and just make something.  I subscribe to Burda World of Fashion Magazine, it comes monthly, (actually it is a holiday gift every year from my mom, that wonderful woman who taught me to sew), and I perused through the latest issue, and found a pattern for a simple skirt that had a bias fold over of cloth, and I looked up at the wool plaid skirt panels my husband brought me back from his trip to Ireland in 2008, and and an idea was born.

I blogged about these wool plaid panels from Avoca Handweavers, back in skirtpanelDecember of last year.  It was one of my first blog posts.

So, I traced off the pattern, basted it together, tried it on, and cut out the fabric.  By bedtime last night, I had the skirt mostly together, tried it on, needed to take it in a bit, course I’ll probably have to take it in a bit more over time, because, what was I thinking!…  Making a skirt the day after Thanksgiving is pretty lame…

But that didn’t stop me.  For insurance, I only basted the side seams together, and since this doesn’t have a zipper closing, taking it in is a breeze.

The skirt went together easily, and I remembered why of all the fiber techniques I do, I love sewing the best.  Handweaving gets you cool cloth to sew, but the machine and I are the best of friends.  I have a Janome 6600 Professional, which I absolutely adore, especially the quick basting stitch that bastes things together like hems, and pulls out in about 3 seconds.  This machine also has a dual feed foot built in so matching plaids is also a breeze.  And of course there is nothing like working with a gorgeous wool.

My trusty Kenmore short shank machine fits the old fashion Greist buttonholer.
The old fashion Greist buttonholer mounted on the back of the Kenmore.

I got to the closure, which consists of three horizontal buttonholes in the waist band, which folds over itself, and secures with a couple of well placed buttons.  I am a buttonhole snob.  I admit it, ask anyone who has ever taken a class with me on Closures.  I have this very pricey top of the line machine from Janome that I adore, but for this task, out came my dusty trusty little Kenmore, about 15 years old (coincidentally made by Janome as well), and because it is a short shank machine, my very old Greist buttonholer will fit on the shank, I drop the feed dogs, pop in the correct buttonhole cam, and watch it make gorgeous perfect buttonholes every time.

I’ve also gotten good at taking an extra step to make sure the buttonhole doesn’t look like a wound in the fabric.  I shot a sequence of making a buttonhole with the Greist buttonholer attachment, so I’ll let the photos do the talking…

Adjust the buttonhole width to very narrow.
Adjust the buttonhole width to very narrow.
Lower the presser foot securely over the area where the buttonhole goes...
Lower the presser foot securely over the area where the buttonhole goes...
After the buttonhole is stitched, before removing the fabric from the machine, use a very sharp pair of little scissors and cut the buttonhole apart.
After the buttonhole is stitched, before removing the fabric from the machine, use a very sharp pair of little scissors and cut the buttonhole apart.
Very slightly spread the buttonhole lips apart while the presser foot is still in the down position.
Very slightly spread the buttonhole lips apart while the presser foot is still in the down position.
Increase the width of the buttonhole using the lever on the back of the unit.
Increase the width of the buttonhole using the lever on the back of the unit.
Go around a second time with the slightly wider buttonhole, and it will cover the cut edge of the buttonhole.
Go around a second time with the slightly wider buttonhole, and it will cover the cut edge of the buttonhole.
And a quick modeling of the almost finished skirt, just have to do the handwork.
And a quick modeling of the almost finished skirt, just have to do the handwork.