Ducks in a Row…

This has been a wild week in the studio. First, a little back story…

If you have been following this blog over the past year or so, you know that I set out on a quest to warp all of the 64 looms in the studio, many of them table looms, Structos, or inkle looms. I blogged about them all over a few blog posts.

I’ve set out on a different quest to clear those looms, and rethink my life as to what I want to really hold on to moving forward… The floor looms, at least those that are mine and not my daughter’s, are all cleared. I am a yardage weaver and like nothing better than to sit and weave like a galloping horse. 10 yards, not really a problem. Though I can’t clear off the amount of yardage in one sitting like I could in my 20’s.

So now, I have a bunch of table looms to clear. And if I were really truthful, I hate weaving on a table loom. It is slow and tedious. Especially if there is a complex structure. Like a Bateman Blend, which I set up for a sample for an article I wrote for Heddlecraft Magazine. (Issue #38)

There is nothing like a table loom to explain structure, because you have to hand manipulate each shaft (and in this one there are 8), and though you can achieve a rhythm, it isn’t the same as when your hands and feet are all working together. I found myself bored and distracted. Constantly jumping up to do anything but… At one point I even redid the shaft tie-up system, as this was a used loom, and though I have six others like it, the previous owner did something odd that I thought prevented me from getting the shed I needed. So a trip to the hardware store, and some fine tuning, I was happy with the shed and struggled to get back to weaving.

Meanwhile, at the end of my last post, I talked about this cat appliqué quilt block I inherited from my mom, and I found that I was getting quite obsessed, almost addicted. It was all I wanted to do…

I’d set timers, ok, I’ll work on this section and then weave a few repeats, and then work on the appliqué some more as a treat. It worked for a while since I now have the knots over the back beam, there is only about 6 inches more to weave.

Mostly I would just sit and let my mind wander while I was stitching, and my mind wandered to the calendar. I looked ahead at the next couple months, and there is a lot coming up, private students, some teaching remotely, garden tours and lectures, interesting things, but what made me sit up and stop stitching, was realizing that my guild show and sale is only 2 months away.

Part of my musings are around the amount of equipment and stash that exists in my life. No one is complaining, but there comes a point when is it fair to me to keep holding stuff that is 40 years old? I’m not talking about usable yarn or fabric, I’m talking about scraps in my attic from my 1980 production years. I’ve worked over the last couple of decades to reduce the 18 bankers boxes filled to capacity. But there is still a lot up there. And a lot of it is mohair. Which isn’t so easy to use up in small pieces.

I took a stroll in my attic and started opening drawers, and pulled out one that had some mohair scraps, rather large ones, in a couple color ways, and brought them down to the studio. I got the idea of creating a sweater jacket using the same pattern as my beloved Noro jacket I wove a couple years ago.

I found the pattern and started playing around with what I had on the table. At first, I thought I’d just do a vest, but it was clear I could add a couple of sleeves with some careful piecing.

A couple of small balls of mohair blend in my knitting stash would work well for the crocheted trim around the perimeter of the jacket and the pockets. I’m about half way around.

Which left me with this pile of small scraps.

I reached out to some of my weaving buddies, and asked for ideas for what to do with small scraps of mohair. One of them suggested stuffed animals. I really haven’t made any stuffed animals, I always joke that I don’t do crafts, but the idea was intriguing. I have a data base of all my patterns, including the 20 years of Burda Style Magazine. I quickly found patterns for a squirrel and a rabbit.

There weren’t large enough pieces left in this pile of mohair to do either one, but I had also pulled out some other mohair scraps, thinking I could get a vest or jacket out of those, and they ended up perfect to cut this adorable squirrel. The issue of Burda Style was May 2014.

Meanwhile, I started to think about ornaments I used to make as teacher gifts when my kids were little. I dug out the box I had in my closet, along with an article in Handwoven magazine November/December 2003 (which I wrote, duh…) and thought, wow, some of these like the little bear would be great in mohair.

So I cut out a few bears, and a couple of birds, using a pattern I found along with the box of ornaments.

And I started playing around with a stocking. I didn’t like the first iteration, the one on the right, and my daughter helped me refine the pattern to the one on the left. I thought the body of the stocking was just a little to high, so I’ve cut out probably a half dozen just a little bit shorter.

Meanwhile, I grabbed some non mohair scraps, including a bag labeled, scraps for coiled mats. Most of the work was already done. I made a coiled mat out of one of the piles.

And then made a second one, using up a ball of filler cord. I have a huge spool in the attic, so there is plenty more mats in my future.

Meanwhile, I pulled this bag of non mohair scraps, it is a color way I always loved, and there wasn’t a lot left. One of my private students told me about a base fabric she uses for bags and totes, she is from the quilting world, called In-R-Form foam from Bosal. She actually sent me a few yards to play with. It is a foam with great stability, yet more flexibility than the Peltex I have been using. So, much easier to work on. I laid out a tote.

And finished it off yesterday morning.

Meanwhile, I took the scraps left from the tote, and cut more ornaments. I can’t tell you what a mess I made of my studio, pulling ribbons and floss and Ultrasuede scraps and most important, buttons. The cat parked himself right in the middle of it all to supervise.

So here are a bunch of ducks… All in a row!

And I have little project bags for each of the couple dozen ornaments I’ve cut out. I can grab one and start assembling.

And yesterday afternoon, I made a rabbit from another colorway of mohair I had up in the attic. This one is from a Burda Style Magazine April 2014. I’m completely in love with this rabbit, and would love to keep him, but I’d have to keep him in the closet because my dog likes things with stuffing. It would be destroyed in 10 minutes. And I would be heartbroken. So it will find someone else to live with at my guild sale in November. It needs a ribbon around its neck, perhaps an inkle band, and I might redo the mouth with a full six strands of floss.

I haven’t been this intense in the studio in years. I just want to be down there, working until midnight, forgetting to eat, pissed when I have an appointment to interrupt me. It feels like falling in love all over again. That Bateman Structure on the loom, I still have about 6″ to go, and I still have to finish the last 3 letters of the name of the cat in the quilt block. (And there are 8 more cat quilt blocks in the set). They will get done, but I’m just having way too much fun thinking of things to make with this bonanza of leftovers from the 1980’s.

There is a monograph showing all of the techniques I used, available on my website as a download. And I have 3 or 4 videos on my YouTube channel, The Weaver Sews, on the piecing technique I used for the tote bag. They were some of the last ones we shot.

My favorite month since I was a little kid was September. The change in weather, fresh pencils and notebooks, the chance to learn new things; September is always a shot in the arm for me. I’d say I dove in to this month head first…

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…