All I Want For Christmas…

Is some data management. Really. You have no idea.

So it is Christmas Eve. The oddest Christmas Eve I’ve ever spent. There are about a hundred projects I can be doing, but nothing urgent or pressing. I know we usually shoot a new video on Friday’s, and drop the next one onto YouTube, but we opted to skip tomorrow, since it is, well it is Christmas, and truth be told, my daughter has exactly 7 days left to finish her third semester of her vet tech course. Parasites. Something like that. Canine, Feline, Avian, she is spouting nematodes, protozoans, and odd things that sound yucky, but totally fascinate her. The only tradition we have done so far today is our Christmas Eve Sushi Dinner. Of course it had to be take out this year. We did it for lunch.

I decorated. Minimally. We have animals. They get into mischief. My daughter added the Swedish touches, since she is half Swedish or at least Scandinavian.

We got our first snow. The dogs watched carefully and then leaped for joy when we let them outside. They don’t want to come in. Sadly it is supposed to rain 2″ tomorrow, which means all the snow will be gone. 60 degrees, flood everything and then drop to 27 degrees overnight so everything turns to a sheet of ice. Fortunately I don’t have anywhere to go.

So it is just Bri and me for Christmas. We will Zoom with my son and open gifts in the morning. We will Zoom with my family tomorrow afternoon. With the passing of my step dad two weeks ago, my mom is now with my Maryland sister for the holidays so I’ll get to spend time with her virtually, which I didn’t get to do when we drove to the burial, 3 hours, stood in the pouring rain well away from the family, with a mask, and then got in the car and drove home. By then it was rush hour on the Garden State Parkway, so the trip home was longer coming home. This whole year has been so odd, so sad, and yet, I’m an optimist at heart, and I constantly look for the silver linings in everything. It is how I get through life.

I almost never make new year resolutions, because largely my life is what it is, busy, crazy, creative, fun, and there isn’t much I’d change. But this year, though it is all of the above, however, I never go out. I never get to move around, exercise, and I’m really feeling it. On encouragement from a group of weaving friends scattered all over the country, we meet via zoom every Wednesday, there was all kinds of heavy duty suggestions to just get out and walk. So I did. I got up at a decent hour, dealt with the animals, and then went out and walked, some 6000 steps. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’m out of shape. I hurt all over. But it was beautiful. And quiet, and peaceful, and perfect. I went out and walked this morning as well.

I did finally finish my run of dishtowels, though they are a bit larger than I usually make, and one of the recipients enthusiastically said they were more like hand towels and should be in the bathroom. Sure, they work fine as hand towels too…

I of course had lots of help.

But with dogged determination, the knots came up the back of the loom and 15 yards of 8/2 cotton got cut off the loom, washed, dried, hemmed, and either shipped or driven around and dropped at front doors. This is Strickler 728 if you are a weaver and have Strickler’s book of 8 shaft patterns.

And so what’s up with the data? I’m actually drowning in it. I’m trying to work with my tech support to get a back up plug in for my blog, which has more than 12 years, and 800 plus posts in it. With all the hacking going on around the world, if Word Press gets hacked, I’m sort of screwed. So that’s sort of an ongoing thing we are trying to work out, but there are other data issues.

I am generally organized, but 6000 emails in my inbox, no matter now much I try to file and stay on top of things, is overwhelming. I have to try harder to spend the time working through the backlog. Truth is, I don’t want to organize 6000 emails, I want to be in my studio designing or inventing stuff. It is what I do best.

And all the pattern directions need to be updated, because now I have all these cool YouTube videos that tell you with each step, to watch this particular video for more information. And we have to add the logo to everything.

And the worst job of all, is my images. So I have a decent system for storing images, and they are backed up regularly to the cloud. But the folder with all of my images, dating back to 2008 (before that images are all stored on CD’s which is a whole ‘nother issue), is 121 GB, 916 sub folders with 43,000 files, presumably that means 43,000 images. The problem is, when I’m trying to write an article, a blog post, develop a tutorial, a PowerPoint seminar, or even just help illustrate a technique, I have to have a rapid way of searching through that data base of 43,000 images to find what I need. And I actually do. I use an image organizing file, Adobe Bridge, which I love, and it allows me to add keywords to each image so a quick sort will bring up all the images say, on bound buttonholes, or my tartan plaid fabric (which I recently had to do for an article coming out in Handwoven Magazine.) The only problem with this system is adding the keywords in a timely manner. Like as soon as I import them from my phone or camera.

And therein lies the problem. It is sort of hit or miss. So I spend hours looking through 916 folders to find what I know is there. My goal or resolution for the new year, if you will, is to get the keywords under control, or at least assigned. I started this morning. There were a number of subfolders where I did already add them. But there were just as many without. So I sit with my screen, folder by folder, working from a data base I created of key words, and assign.

I’ve found images I didn’t know I had. I’ve found images that are tough to look at, of my late husband in his last months. I’m working backwards and am mid way through 2016. That’s the year he died. But this is a good exercise. And I have the time. It is winter. And Covid. And this is the first Christmas it will be just me and my daughter. And the animals. Usually they are boarded because we go spend time with loved ones.

As the year draws to a close, this has been the most bizarre year I’ve ever experienced, but not the worst. Having my son away, deployed overseas for a couple of years, having watched my husband die of cancer, those were really bad years. So far I’ve been healthy, and busy and I have lots to keep me occupied in the studio. I have more ideas than you can imagine, more yarn than God, I started up the dyepots yesterday morning, and so there will be color this winter. I have garments to make, cloth to sew. I have videos to shoot, and stories to tell. And lots of remote teaching in the new year. And lots and lots of data to be corralled and organized. Sigh…

To all of my readers, please be safe, we have all come so far. Please help me hope for light, peace and grace, civility, kindness, and health for the new year. I wish all of you lots of opportunities to be creative, to be with those you love, even if it means an old fashioned phone call, or an old fashioned letter in the mail. My daughter sends out about a dozen cards and letters every couple of days. There is something gentle and safe about communicating with a card or note, with lots of fun stickers, and receiving one in the mail. And zooming with friends means you stop and spend an hour just being with each other. Wine helps.

I wish you all good cheer, good health, and great stories to tell.

Stay tuned…

Everyday feels like a year…

This is the weirdest year I’ve ever experienced, and there have been a lot of them.  You’d think by 65, especially having lived through the 60’s and 70’s that you’ve seen it all.  Hahahah!

I’m not going to comment on any of the current world situation.  You don’t need one more voice in the cacophony of voices and events and situations screaming at you for attention.  Because you all know or should know that the world is imploding like some sci-fi novel and that we just all have to buckle our proverbial seatbelts and hold on for the ride.  A bottle of wine or something more powerful would help for fuel.

That said, my last couple of weeks have been wild and crazy, and that has nothing to do with all the drama and sturm und drang happening in the world.  

In case you missed it, I did finish my Confetti vest, lined with a vintage leopard coat.  It makes me smile in so many ways when I look at it.  I’m ready for winter, this will be warm as s**t!  

So this week is Spinning and Weaving week.  It is a big deal in the fiber community, usually full of events, and gatherings and all sorts of fibery happenings.  The Handweavers Guild of America is giving it the valiant try of doing a bunch of fiber related events virtually.  While not ideal, in essence it allows participation by anyone, anywhere, in the comfort of your own home.  I know our homes are getting too comfortable and we are looking to get out and go anywhere, but inspiration comes in odd packages, and basically all this is free and all you have to do is register for a specific event.( I think it helps if you are a member, because everything is free, but there are modest fees if you aren’t a member.)  All this coming week, the HGA is sponsoring studio tours of various fiber artists they have selected, whose studios they think might be of interest to the fiber community at large.

And guess who is featured Thursday at 4pm EDT.  Yeah, so there is that hanging over me.  In preparation for a virtual studio tour, I mistakenly said, when they inquired if I would be willing to be a part of this, that sure, I’ll even have something on every loom that I can talk about and explain, and fill up space for an hour.  I need to learn restraint!

So, in anticipation of Thursday’s live virtual studio tour, filmed by my daughter who will be tethered to the laptop, camera and sound system, we will walk through my wonderful new garage space, and then on to the basement where I have my cozy sewing room.  But all the looms had to be warped…

So, my 8 shaft 36″ loom was unwarped and very lonely.  I still had a couple of cones of Silk City Fibers yarns to test out, one was a Cotton Bambu, in Silver, and the other was a Chenille Tapestry variegated called Japanese Red Maple.  I envisioned a light dark shadow weave, something sett well enough to keep the chenille from doing silly things like worming out of the structure.  Some day I’ll recount my early experiences with chenille, but with a lot of experience behind me, I thought I’d give it another go.

I used the Powell book for inspiration, but since I’m aiming to publish the draft and specs for this fabric, I needed something that was mine.  I started out with this 8 shaft version, and wasn’t completely happy.  (Actually I started out with 24 epi, alternating the CottonBambu and the Chenille.  Resleyed to 20 epi, and then resleyed again to 16epi.  Don’t ever be afraid of changing course mid stream.)

The change might not be obvious, but I redesigned it to reverse in a more pronounced way, and to better square up with the sett.  I’m pretty happy with this.  Now I just have to weave it off, but not before Thursday…

And my big loom, the 45″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade, my first loom and first love, still with me after all these years, purchased in 1977, delivered in 1978 was also naked and really not happy.  Since every fall I put on a run of dishtowels for holiday gifts, I decided that that would be an appropriate thing to put on the loom, and then at the end of October into November, I could weave it off and have my holiday gifts.

Social media can be really challenging and full of untruths and misinformation and a lot of passionate people on both sides of the fence no matter what the subject.  But the social media sites dedicated to fiber and specifically weaving has some very dedicated moderators and some very talented contributors and every morning when I wake up I feel like I have just been to a fantastic inspirational gallery opening.  

The Facebook site Strickler in Color has been a tremendous source of inspiration.  Carol Strickler wrote a lovely book, now considered essential for every weaver with 8 shafts on their loom, full of patterns, all black and white, and you could spend a lifetime with this book and not make a dent.  So this Facebook site has talented contributors who post what they’ve woven, but in color, with a nod to the draft.  Strickler 728 keeps coming up, and if you looked at it in the book, you would have just turned the page.  It really is rather boring and not very inspiring.  But I’ve seen so many people use this draft in eye catching ways that it was on my list to try.

In keeping with the need to stash bust, because I’ve acquired a lot of 8/2 cotton in the last year or two, I pulled a length from all of my cones and sat with weaving software until I was happy.  I decided to put 15 yards on the loom because turns out, I can never have enough dishtowels.  I’m always needing one as a gift, and I’m tired of running out in July. (I still have two left from last year because I haven’t been anywhere since March, but hey…)

My table top warping mill technically holds 10 yards.  I’ve successfully pushed it to 14, but I decided that my AVL warping mill, now 20 years old, would probably serve for this purpose.  I rigged up way to make a cross, and I wound 15 yard bundles in 2.5″ widths.

I threaded the loom.  My ott-lite magnifier has changed my life!  

I beamed the 15 yards.

And I started weaving.  I am completely in love.  This is why we do this.  I am so thrilled to have been forced to fill up my looms, because now, after Thursday, I can walk in my studio and just weave.  A lot.  I have a whole fall’s worth of looms to clear.  Which will mean, except for the dishtowels, a lot of sewing this winter.  I can’t wait when we reemerge from this protective cocoon to wear half the stuff I’ve made this year.

Speaking of…

In addition to studio tours and virtual vendor halls, the Handweavers Guild of America is also sponsoring a virtual fashion show next Sunday.  Not the same as sitting in an auditorium at a conference and watching cool handwoven garments strut across the stage, but they are trying to put together a virtual fashion show.  That would be next Sunday at 2pm EDT.  Of course I’ll have a piece in the show, but I hear they could use more participants.  WHERE ARE ALL MY STUDENTS, AND WHY ARE THEY NOT SHOWING OFF THEIR WONDERFUL GARMENTS!  This isn’t like where you have to be juried.  Just sign up!  You need the ability to Zoom, log in and they will tell you what to do.  The rehearsal was today, but I think they still want more participants!  Come on guys, you have some great work!  The link to enter is here.  I know the deadline has passed, but I believe they are still looking for participants.  The link to view the virtual fashion show next Sunday is here

And finally, there is my new Youtube site.  We now have four episodes of The Weaver Sews.  Every Friday we film a new episode on something related to sewing handwoven fabric.  Four are launched with Closed Captioning, which my daughter writes, so it is accurate and synced.  Two more are shot and I’m planning the topic for next Friday as I write.  I will create a script, which makes it easier for my daughter to write the Closed Captioning, and then I work all week on creating the samples and supplies I need for the video shoot.  We are having fun with this and I hope it is helpful and informative.  Sales of my patterns are certainly picking up!

So my head is spinning with all that is on my plate.  I’m old enough to remember The Ed Sullivan Show, and the guy from some Baltic country that did plate spinning.  He would keep 10 or 20 plates spinning all at the same time.  I remember watching with fascination and thinking, “How does he keep them all going at once?”  Well now I know.  Somehow that skill managed to rub off on me and I’m doing that every day.  And I wouldn’t wish for anything different.  My days are full, I have plenty to keep me busy.  I am lecturing virtually almost every other day, somewhere in the country.  It is so great to log in and see familiar faces.  I can do this… (though sometimes I wish I could redesign the plates).

Stay tuned…

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile there is a tropical storm moving in tonight.  Finally, a typical summer…  At least we need the rain desperately…

Meanwhile, I launched another pattern for download.  And I’m beginning to add Lookbooks for some of the patterns.  I’ve had a number of requests from potential buyers to see what people are doing with the patterns.  I know this is a thing on Ravelry, and it does help to see what people do with the pattern, and how it fits all different body types.  This is one more thing on my never ending to do list, but I’ve managed to post three of them, one for the vest below, and one for the 700/1700 tunics and the 100 jacket.  I don’t know if it helps, and obviously the patterns are too new for purchasers to show what they’ve done with them, but I’ve been using these patterns for years, especially the jackets, and I have a collection of mostly in progress, not completely finished versions from all of my workshops.

What’s important here is that if I used a photo of you in your garment, I cropped all body parts, so you wouldn’t be recognized.  Still, if you object to my using your garment, please let me know.  And if you have a photo of a garment you made in one of my classes and/or from one of my patterns, especially a finished version, please let me know at theweaver@weaversew.com

The 800 Zippered Vest is fully lined to the edge and has bias bound edges.  The vest has a stand-up collar with front separating zipper. View 2 uses the lining as a seam finish on the side, shoulder and neckline/collar seams.  Optional yoke on both views.  This pattern does not contain directions for sewing.  The directions, which contain metric equivalents are available for free from my website https://www.daryllancaster.com/Webfiles/800ZipperedVestDirections.pdf 

In addition, a lookbook of garments made from the 800 Zippered Vest is available here https://weaversew.com/wordblog/800-zippered-vest-lookbook/

I’ve only got one more pattern to go in the current collection, which will give me a total of 12!  The pattern for the 1800 jacket is done, it is a combination of the  800 zippered vest above and the 400 jacket with waist darts. The directions are rewritten, I’m waiting for the final edits from someone I hired to make sure what I wrote makes sense.  The conversations between us are hilarious.  Usually she writes that something doesn’t make any sense, and I respond that it would have it they were in class because there would have been an entire class lecture on the fine points of that technique earlier in the morning, and then she responds that people who buy the patterns won’t have been privy to that lecture, so I have to spell it all out.  So I’ve added so much to each of the directions for each of the patterns.  I keep them separate because whenever something is unclear, I can edit easily and post on a page of my website, without generating an entire new pattern download.  The directions are always free, so if you already traced a pattern from one of my classes and need the updated directions, please find them here.  As always, if something isn’t clear, please let me know, I’ll try to fix it.  And there is the goal to have a YouTube channel to explain many of the techniques I feature in my patterns.

Meanwhile I’m already thinking of how to combine the patterns and what silhouette I want to work on next.  A scoop neck top with sleeves…

Meanwhile, I met with a consultant about video equipment and improving the image of my online teaching via Zoom or whatever platform works for the guild hiring me.  And they are hiring me.  My October Calendar is really filling up with remote guild lectures and a few short workshops.  I’m beginning to get cancellations from next year, and I’m really good with that because I don’t see us returning to a normal any time soon.  I don’t see me hopping on a plane, dragging 170 pounds of luggage, staying with people, and teaching a 5-7 day class working intimately with students, and returning safely to NJ.  Right now there is a list in NJ of 31 states that you have to quarantine from after traveling to…  So I’ve edited some of my lectures to list what can be done remotely.  I will start on the half day seminars shortly.

So I now have a couple of Canon SLR’s that actually were designed to also work as webcams, in addition to 4K video.  I have an AC battery adapter so the camera battery doesn’t die in the middle of a zoom meeting.  I have my tech guy coming this week to run an ethernet cable to the garage weaving studio so I don’t have to rely on WIFI.  I have the cable company coming to upgrade my modem so I can get 1GB of internet speed.  And I purchased a sound system and video lights for recording videos, all that of course contingent on my daughter, who works for me now, learning how to use them.  Right now she is creating a logo.

Meanwhile, I’ve mentioned my long time association with Silk City Fibers, which is now a division of Lion Brand Yarns.  Alice, who is the director of that division is an old friend and coincidently lives in my town.  We are in regular contact about what’s new there and my opinion of the market, the type of yarn, the marketing, and anything else that comes to mind.  Last week I was asked if I wanted to be a “weaving influencer”.  I suppose I am an influencer.  A few thousand friends on facebook, been teaching this stuff since the early 80’s and using their yarn since then as well.  I’ve been blogging for more than 10 years, have about a thousand subscribers, and earlier posts have been viewed thousands of times.  And of course I always have an opinion.  I’m not always right, but my opinion always comes with a thought process that shows how I got there.  I met with the powers that be at Lion Brand, via remote conferencing, and largely I said, if you want to toss me yarn, I’ll make yardage out of it, document what I do and what it does, and make clothing out of it to sell my patterns.  

And so, at the end of last week, Alice dropped off a small bag of assorted cones, two of them yarns I’d not worked with before.  Left to right is Nile, a cotton tape yarn, Cotton Bambu, a heavier parallel plied yarn, great for supplemental work, Linen 14, a fine linen yarn I’ve had experience with before, and Bambu 7, bamboo yarn, pretty much a SSF staple.  There was about a half pound of each, which doesn’t seem like a lot to work with, especially if the goal is yardage.  But that never stopped me.  

I thought about the yarn, and then looked through my stash to see what I could add that was part of their current line.  Not much, since my shelves are full of older discontinued styles and colors of Silk City Yarns, all wonderful, but I thought I’d try to stay current.  I was able to add these. Clockwise from upper left, Saphira, Skinny Majesty Variegated, and a possible weft, Bambu 7

 

First I had to figure out exactly what I had.  I use a McMorran Yarn Balance and a scale and I can come within a few yards of knowing what’s on the cone.  

I played with yarn wraps…

…and adapted the draft from Chaos, which you can purchase from my website here

…and came up with something that reminded me of summer rain.  Think Tropical Storm Isaias.

Meanwhile, I haven’t actually wound a warp or set up a loom since the huge studio move last winter, which seems at this point like a lifetime ago.  When I returned from Oregon the beginning of March, the heat had just been installed, but the entire world shut down, and I dug in and made a bunch of new garments, in the basement sewing room, still thinking I had to submit five new works for the Convergence Fashion Show as a guest artist (of course that conference was postponed until 2022). And I started on what seemed like an impossible task at the time, creating downloadable patterns from the ones I developed for classes.  I was sitting on a lot of handwoven yardage I had stockpiled, and now my stash is depleted.

So I did what I do best.  Create with a small pile in front of me, and see where it takes me…

First up was winding the warp.  There are many ways to wind warps, but I wanted to see the colors unfold, so I chose to just do a straight wind off of the draft, as opposed to winding individual chains of each color.  The winding was slow, but the sleying would be much faster.  The first thing I discovered was the Nile tape lace had to be unwound from the cone like a toilet paper roll, instead of off the top, like typical coned weaving yarns.  When exiting from the top, the tape seriously twisted and I knew would never lay moderately flat in the woven surface.  So I put the cone on a spool rack, with the rack facing away from me at about a 30 degree angle.  The cone unwound easily in that position.

Next hurdle was of course the dreaded slippery rayon, and Silk City Fibers has lots of these.  I’ve used them for years.  This was one called Saphira, a pretty shimmery yarn with slubs.  The color I had has actually been discontinued, but a similar one is available with a black core instead of a white one.  Winding a warp with a yarn like this is problematic because any break in movement, like the turn around at the top of the warping mill, causes the yarn to pool around the base, getting caught as the movement resumes.  I usually use a nylon stocking around the cone as a drag, which works really really well, except in the move, they are hiding and I can’t figure out where they went.  So I used the mesh covering from an Asian Pear, which when tucked around the base, stopped the pooling and the warping could continue.

I loved the way the colors built on one another.

By dinner time yesterday I had the loom’s beater sleyed.  Each of these steps was sort of like reinventing the wheel.  The chair I usually used for sleying was now in the basement in my sewing studio.  So I had to come up with new tools and devices, figure out where my regular tools were now living, figure out where to plug in the magnifying light (in the ceiling as it turned out), and how to adjust the split HVAC system that was spilling copious amounts of frigid air right on me.  I figured that out and the room was really comfortable.  The new studio worked well.  I’m happy and can’t wait to actually spend most of my days out there even when I’m Zooming…  

I started threading after dinner.

Meanwhile, my beloved brat of a dog Ranger got his manhood clipped last Monday.  He was very depressed and had to wear the “innertube of misfortune”.  And of course, that meant he couldn’t wear a bellyband, so my fear all week was that he would pee on everything in my house.  We were good until late last night.  He saddled up to a shelving tower of handdyed yarn skeins and lifted his leg.  So I got to use the new dye sink in the studio and wash all of the offended skeins as I cleaned up the mess.  The dye sink worked really well.  And incision or no incision, he is now wearing a belly band.  The relationship between the two males dogs is slowing changing, it will be interesting to see where this goes.  The week for the most part wasn’t nearly has challenging as I thought it would be.  I got a lot accomplished locking myself and the dog in my office for hours at a time while he healed.  He liked the constant companionship.

Meanwhile, did I mention we are getting hit with a tropical storm tonight?  Note to self, pull in anything that isn’t nailed down, like umbrellas, etc.  Better yet, send Brianna out to do it…

Stay tuned…