The house is quiet.  It is morning.  My husband has gone off to work, my daughter is off to her second day of Junior year of HS, and my 19 year old son is asleep in the basement, no surprise there. There is nothing major on the calendar calling me to actually leave the studio.  For today, life seems almost normal.  Big exhale…

I have one more big push of a workshop to teach, I leave on the 20th to teach at Sievers Fiber School on Washington Island in Wisconsin.  I have to start printing handouts, and getting interfacing and pattern paper cut, and shipped ahead, but not today.  I have a lecture to give to the American Sewing Guild local chapter on Saturday, but not today.  Today, I’m going to try a repeat of my routine yesterday, which was simple, healing, and mind clearing.  I did some housework in the morning, 20 minutes of yoga, took care of business stuff, paperwork, emails, got in my blog, and then spent the day in the studio creating something.

Sidebar:  In November, the 14th and 15th to be exact, my guild, The Jockey Hollow Weavers, has its annual show and sale.  Timed to take advantage of the upcoming holiday season, it has been a hugely popular event, and the members of the guild spend all year producing items to sell, handwoven, knitted, crocheted, felted, whatever their specialty, it can be found at the sale.  And there are demos, and things to eat, it is a great weekend.  I have never put a single thing in the sale.

Bigger Sidebar: I sold my work in craft fairs for 10 years.  When I quit doing craft fairs, in 1989, I swore I’d never sell my work again.  That was 20 years ago.  I’ve raised two kids since then (my son was born in 1990, six weeks after my last craft fair), and lots has changed in my life.  But I have held steadfast to my rule.  That all changed last month when I was contacted by a woman who saw one of my pieces in the Small Expressions Exhibit in Grinnell Iowa, and wanted to buy the piece titled Survivor.  Since the gallery was not authorized to act as a selling agent for the work, she contacted me directly.  She bought my small postcard size work, the show ended this weekend, the work should be making its way home to me shortly, and I will forward the piece on to her as soon as I get it back.  This experience has made me realize that 1) I am hoarding my work and running out of room to store it and 2) others might want to share a bit of me and own something I do.

Since I mostly make complex garments from my handwoven cloth, and they are made to fit me, it makes it really hard, and very expensive to sell my garments which are largely one of a kind.  I’ve had pressure from teaching venues to develop smaller project like workshops and seminars, and I can see where all this is leading.

So here is a no pressure/no cost to me opportunity to put some of my work out there for sale, the absolute worst that can happen is I sell nothing.  But I will have forced myself to experiment with techniques, on a smaller scale, and potentially make seminars out of them, which is what I do best.  Think of the samples I’d have.  At the moment, I could root around in the archives and come up with a few things to put into the show, but I have some time in the studio, during the next six weeks, minus the trip to Wisconsin, to actually come up with some concrete ideas and small salable pieces.

Of course this means applying a deadline and pressure to myself.  I know the previous paragraph started with “So here is a no pressure opportunity…”, but pressure and deadlines are what I do best.  If there isn’t any pressure, then it goes to the bottom of the very substantial to-do list.  Since I work for myself, there is no boss plopping something on my desk telling me he or she needs it “yesterday”.  I do that very nicely to myself thank you very much.  I’m always asked how I get things done.  I set impossible deadlines and expectations, and kill myself trying to meet them.  The best part for me is when I actually accomplish what I’ve set out to do, and I get the most enormous sense of pride, in having met my impossible goals, that I’m spurred on for the next big impossible task I set for myself.

In January of 2008, I decided to enter all eight of the Convergence 2008 Tampa Bay exhibits.  There were categories I don’t usually play in, like basketry and functional textiles for the home, but I entered them anyway.  And I got work accepted to 6 of the eight shows.  But it wasn’t about the acceptance, it was about applying.  And this guild show and sale for me is not about actually selling work, though that would be nice, it is about having a couple dozen items to put into the show.

loomscarfSo, I’ve embarked on yet another impossible deadline, to create as close as I can, to one item to sell per day during any day I don’t have a major calendar event.  Yesterday was one of those kind of days.  So I put in my headphones, listened to the first few chapters of The Devil Wears Prada on my new iTouch, and I wove one scarf.  It helped that the loom was already set up, there are two more scarves to go on this warp.  But it is a start.  I love the warp here, it is inspired by a class I took with Barbara Herbster at the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild last May.  The class was in Supplemental Warp, and after I finished the two scarves from the class, I rewarped the loom with whatever I had in the studio, and just had fun.

Today is another non calendar event day, though I do have to warp a small portable loom for an ongoing project for my other guild, Frances Irwin Handweavers.  We are suppose to set up the loom and bring it with us to the meetings to try a series of rug techniques at each meeting during the fall.  That should only take an hour or two, it is a small 4 shaft table loom, and the rest of the day, I get to create.  Stay tuned…

And for Something Completely Different…

Well, I accomplished a lot today, none of the things I was actually suppose to do,  I got distracted…

I did get the scholarship applications judged, that was a tough one, all the students were equally qualified.  I’m glad I wasn’t the only judge.  And I did spent a few hours getting all the work caught up for my guild programs for next year.  But that was yesterday.  You see, last Friday night, my church had a service auction, and I donated one of the scarves I made in Barbara Herbster’s class the week before,scarves and to my great surprise, there was some furious bidding, and the scarf actually sold for $135.  I talked to the woman who bought it afterward and she told me she was prepared to go to $200.  So thanks Barbara, for a beautiful warp, but it really got me thinking…  And thinking…. And thinking…

Sidebar:  I did craft fairs from 1979 – 1989.  I’ve been there, and done that.  I have such a distaste for the whole affair, total burn out.  I enjoyed the people, and the lifestyle, for awhile, but making stuff, lots of stuff, to sell, putting a price tag on creativity, trying to figure out the market, spending every weekend of your life sitting in your booth selling your soul, well, let’s just say that I swore, no matter what happened in the future, I’d never, ever do a craft fair again….  And I also said, I’d never, ever, ever sell my work again, put a price tag on it, and some of that is sort of understandable because what I do best is clothing, and once I make a garment now, I’m largely done with it, and it is nearly impossible to reproduce what I make, even if someone where to pay me handsomely for it.  Making handwoven clothing in production is no picnic, which is what I did for 10 years, I bought huge amounts of yarn wholesale, put on no less than 30 yards at a time, (weaving  it off in one day),  spent huge amounts of money on booth fees, spent ridiculous hours making stuff to sell, filling orders, running a business, and everything else that goes along with that lifestyle.  I had no life.

However, I was so enchanted with the scarves I made in Barbara’s class, mostly because she opened up a new way to look at color and blending, and using small amounts of whatever is on  the shelf to make it work, which Barbara really does do best, and I got to thinking, really thinking…

sandstone_cutoutSo I basically got the jacket cut out, because it was laying across my floor and I couldn’t walk in my studio until I got it cut out and off the floor.  I got all the tailor’s tacks in, and played around with interfacing.  I also experimented with seam finishes and couchingtopstitching.  I tried couching with a novelty warp yarn, and it really does define the seams.  And I’m hoping it is pretty flexible.

But the whole time, I’m thinking, thinking…

So, I finally gave up, and started poking around the studio, pulling yarns and skeins, and cones, and bits of stuff, because you really don’t need much here, to put on a warp for another round of scarves.yarn Oh boy was this fun…

So I stared at the pile for awhile, and played around with a draft, and wrapped a card to see if I could get a clue how this would look.  Barbara just grabs yarn and starts winding.  I’m not nearly that confident, but I can see how after awhile, this would be a great way to warp, and I can see doing this for yardage…

I had a number of variegated yarns, and some novelties, but the wrapone thing I didn’t have was any of the flat tape yarns that Barbara used for the supplemental warp.  I didn’t want to duplicate the scarf I did in Barbara’s class, after all, that was her design, but I liked the idea of having supplemental warps in some key places, and I actually found a small swatch of a knitted tape, which I carefully unknitted tapeand washed, and then painstakingly pressed to get it to return to its flattened state.  I had about 14 yards, which would work for this warp.

I’m also intrigued by the possibility of combining doup leno with this technique, to provide even more surface texture, but I’ll experiment with that down the road…  At this point, it is about getting something on the loom…

So, I grabbed my AVL warping wheel, I figured this would be a avl_wheelperfect use for it, because I’d be unloading it onto a sectional beam.  So I could wind the warps as I had them on the card, and then every two inches, dump the warp under tension right onto the warp beam.  I love this tool, it is a shame it is so expensive.  I bought mine at a long ago Convergence when AVL first introduced it, at about half the price it is now.  I remember waiting 9 months for it to come…

beamingOnce I finished winding two inches, I carried the wheel over to the loom, and slipped the end of the 9 yard warp over the back beam and hitched it to the cord for the section I  wanted to wind on the warp beam.beaming_2

I love this tool!

So, I have 2″ beamed in my 6″ scarf warp, and this will ultimately give me four scarves, and if I like them I can

  1. give them away
  2. add all four of them to my wardrobe
  3. sew all four together into a bigger cloth and make a garment out of them
  4. have a big ‘show and tell’ at my guild
  5. give them away
  6. donate them all to my church
  7. I’m running out of ideas
  8. OK, I could actually sell them.

My guild, the Jockey Hollow Weavers,  has a fabulous sale in November.  So far I haven’t participated because, gee, I refuse to sell my work.  So, depending on how these turn out, I just might actually have something to sell this placemats1year.  Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, the placemat exchange is coming down to the wire…

Score:  Mom 7, Bri 6

Bri came into the studio tonight, and sat down and did another mat.  The front beam is groaning under the weight of the 13 mats, it is a pretty small loom, and this is the one where the warp beam cracked, so I’m crossing my finger that the front beam holds as well.  After Bri finished her mat, she had about a half hour to kill while she was waiting to leave for the High School, the spring band/choral concert was tonight.  So she grabbed my camera, and shot some pictures of her latest obsession, finger braiding.  She is making all kinds of bracelets from floss, which she keeps in a box and whenever she gets bored, the box comes out and the braiding begins.  I had to share some of the patterns she has done, these adorn her wrists at the moment, and she had to photograph them on her wrists since she can’t get them off.

bri-fingerweavingbri-fingerweaving2So there you have it, a productive day for the two of us, and one of the best High School concerts I’ve ever attended.  I didn’t work on anything I was suppose to, but you know what?  I had fun…

One more note:

I did spend a couple hours this morning alpha testing the new Weavolution site.  It isn’t up for viewing yet, but this should be an awesome web connection for handweavers of all levels and disciplines, Tien Chiu is one of the principal designers for it, and coincidently her blog is one of my favorite must reads.  She talks about the site on her blog today, and the team was mentioned in the last Weavecast Podcast.  One of the features I’m playing with on this new site, is the ability to post a project, and the draft and all the specs.  I got to thinking how I should be doing that with the pieces I’ve designed and executed since I started this blog.  I’ve been thinking about that anyway, extracting all the entries for a particular piece into one document, with the draft and yarn sources, and providing it as a PDF in the extras section of my website.  But for now, I spent some time playing with the Weavolution site, some of the early bugs are getting fixed, as we find them, but it is yet another opportunity to spend your days reading about weaving and getting inspired to get something on that loom, or if you haven’t joined the ranks of handweavers in this country, this will surely inspire you.  I’ll keep you posted when Weavolution is finally launched…

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!