Simple days, complex world…

The days pass quickly in a routine that is pretty pleasant truth be told.  I’m not missing traveling, not missing even leaving the house.  I see friends and family enough via zoom, and with all the remote lectures I’m giving, I feel as though I’ve just attended the world’s largest weaving conference.  Each day I bounce around to some part of the country, and each lecture there are old friends and familiar faces in those tiny boxes on the screen.  I’ve been corresponding with someone in MO, who was supposed to take a workshop with me in August in Kansas, but appeared in a lecture in western MA.  We weavers get around…

Having my daughter here, working with her, developing new content, shooting a new video every Friday for my YouTube site The Weaver Sews.  It has kept us busy.  The biggest challenges are keeping the animals quiet, and hoping the landscape people don’t come through in the middle of filming the way they did last Wednesday in the middle of a class I was teaching remotely.  Those leaf blowers right outside the garage doors were pretty noisy.

So the election in the US is Tuesday.  I don’t hold hope that things will be resolved by Tuesday night.  I don’t hold hope that things will be resolved for a very long time, no matter who is declared the winner.  I’m sad for the polarization, I’m sad for the divisive language used by both sides, I wish we could all get along and move forward.  We are in the middle of a couple of international crises and I’m a firm supporter of science (having a daughter with a science degree means I can’t even cook without a science perspective thrown into the recipe), and no matter the results, I hope moving forward that we as a nation can come together to solve some of these major issues.  I’ve just heard of another weaver who lost their entire studio to one of the fires in Oregon.  She took a workshop with me just in March of this year, my last stint before the world shut down.  I sent her digital files of everything we could piece together that she lost from my workshop, but that doesn’t replace yarn, samples, looms, weaving equipment, spinning wheels, and a life time of knowledge in physical form.  My friends in California, Oregon, Washington, as well as Louisiana have taken the brunt of this year’s climate disasters.  I wish the world had a plan moving forward.  For me, I voted within 24 hours of receiving my mail in ballot (only mail-in voting in NJ this year because of the pandemic), so on Tuesday night, I’ll be teaching remotely for a guild in Toronto.  I can only do my best to keep moving forward, being kind, paying attention to the science, fighting for equality for all, and embracing my countrymen no matter what and who they are passionate about.

Since  Tuesday night’s lecture is on Doup Leno, a technique I wrote about a couple years ago for Heddlecraft Magazine, (January/February 2019), I needed to have something set up for a live demo.  The warp that I had been using was mostly used up.  So I rewarped this week, with a couple of handdyed skeins of cashmere I had sitting around, one a dark and the other a variegated turquoise.  The goal is a couple of scarves, the leno structure will keep them lacy, but the structure will hold together.

That said, I’ve been rather busy with my simple days.  Simple means I can fill my days up with juggling 40 things at once, because I can’t imagine a day when 40 things aren’t happening simultaneously!  

I’ve been working for the last couple of weeks on a new project.  The last two vests I made both had welt pockets.  It has been on my to do eventually list for a couple of years.  I finally sat down, designed a diagonal entry welt pocket and then once I did a few of them, drew illustrations and wrote up the 12 page directions.

Now you can actually purchase the Welt Pocket Variation as a download.  The download contains the 12 page heavily illustrated directions, the two pattern pieces full size for the welt and pocket, and replacement pages for the 100 jacket, 200 jacket and 800 vest.  By substituting the pages in the pattern digital files, you’ll see where the pocket goes.  So if you’ve purchased the 100, 200 or 800 vest, you might enjoy this variation.  Of course it will work for any jacket or vest you make from anyone’s patterns, you’ll just have to figure out where to position it.

The second vest I finished is the one I’ve been using for demonstrations during my last few YouTube videos.  The fabric was a remnant I bought somewhere, can’t remember, but it was a gorgeous sleezy Chanel type tweed, really challenging to work with, like your worst case handwoven.  My handwoven fabrics aren’t nearly as challenging!  I made up the 200 jacket but left off the sleeves, bringing the lining to the edge of the armhole.  With the shawl collar and welt pockets, it is a much different look than my other vests.  

I realized of course that I haven’t updated my gallery on the website with the last couple of pieces I’ve made, the Summer Rain Top, and of course the leopard trimmed and lined Confetti vest shown above.  It is much more important to be timely in those updates because my daughter references those details and images when she creates the show notes for each video I do.  We took one of our guest rooms, since we aren’t getting a lot of guests (none actually) and turned it into a temporary photo studio.  So I popped the Summer Rain top onto the dressform, and perched it on top of the table to take a quick shot of the top.  The free draft for the fabric for this top, using Silk City Fibers is available here.  The pattern is a combination of my 1000 Swing Dress, very modified to take out the “swing”, and the armhole and sleeve from my 200 Jacket.

Meanwhile, now that all my looms are full, I filled them up for the HGA remote studio tour the beginning of October, I need to start clearing looms because I’m getting more ideas of stuff I want to weave.  So I cleared one of the table looms first.  This one had a test for Silk City Fibers, their Supermerino yarn, sett in an 8 dent reed, plain weave, to simulate what one would experience with a rigid heddle loom set up.  One was a single end in an 8 dent reed, single weft, spaced a little far apart for my taste, but that was the point of the test.  I gave that one to Silk City and kept this one, which is two ends together in an 8 dent reed with a doubled weft (I used a double boat shuttle for that scarf).  Supermerino is a superwash yarn.  It doesn’t say that in the description, but it doesn’t full at all when washed.  The result is actually quite soft and lovely, and I’m glad they let me keep one of the scarves.  I suspect I’ll be venturing outside a bit this winter, if only to walk the property and pick up dog debris, and I think this will be quite warm.

I did a round robin sort of day earlier in the week, I wove a yard of two on each of the other floor looms, just to get them moving forward.  I can probably just sit and weave and finish off a couple of them in a day or two.  To have time to just sit and weave is such a gift.  And that means I’ll have yardage to sew.  And empty looms to rewarp…

There is this one, which has been on the loom for way too long.  The yarn is Noro Taiyo Lace, a pain to work with but really beautiful in its gradient effect as the weft.  4 shaft, warp is vintage Harrisville singles Shetland wool and vintage Maypole Nehalem worsted.  I’ve probably got less than two yards to go…

This is another test for Silk City Fibers, their new Cotton Bambu yarn mixed with their Chenille Tapestry yarn.  I modified an 8 shaft shadow weave draft, it is a bit slow to weave because of the two shuttle complicated repeat but it is moving along nicely.  

And this one is also using Silk City Fibers, their new Nile cotton tape mixed with Skinny Majesty variegated.  The weft is their Wool Crepe.  I can’t wait to weave off this fabric, it is weaving like butter and I want to make swing dress out of it. Over a black turtleneck, this could be fun for winter, something new to wear, even though I don’t go anywhere and only dress for the upper third of my body for remote Zoom meetings.  And for the videos, I get to dress up, put on makeup and look remotely professional, but everything has to be 2-piece to support the remote microphone pack clipped into my waistband.

Days are cooler now, we have finally had frost in NJ.  I cuddle up with the gas stove in the living room, and a 1000 piece puzzle and some wine in the evenings, or watch late night political satire on the TV with my daughter.  We need to keep laughing, we need to surround ourselves with art, humor and good food and drink.  And of course animals, there is a cat asleep on my lap as I type, with one paw draped over my typing hand.  And yarn and good books.  I have all of that, and new flannel sheets coming this week from LLBean.  My daughter stole my other set.  Life is OK for now in my small neck of the world.  I quietly keep making up new stuff, and keep an eye out for important things to know about.  

See you all on the other side of this election, stay safe, wear a mask, and don’t forget to vote…

Uh Oh, empty looms again…

Actually, in spite of an epidemic of empty looms again, this was a fantastic week so far.  Like the planets aligned…  You know when you work on something really really hard, and finally, finally it comes to fruition?  I had a whole bunch of things finish up and birth themselves right into the stratosphere in the last 48 hours.

First off, last October I mentioned that I had shot a whole string of videos for Threads Magazine for their Insider subscription service.  Actually it is a great service, $19.95 a year for unlimited viewing of their archive of videos on sewing and fit related topics.  My group will slowly be added that archive over the next few months, but the first one was released yesterday.  I watched it today and it was really spot on.  I did a good job.  I covered everything that needed to be said about the topic and the editing was smooth and clean.  This video shows how to cut and piece bias strips.  You can subscribe to Insider and view it here.  Thank you Threads!

Also released yesterday was the latest issue of Heddlecraft Magazine.  Many of you know how hard I worked over the last few months on this 30 page article.  I felt like I had done a Master’s Thesis…  This lengthy article is on a topic near and dear to my heart, one I explored in my early days of craft fairs back in the 1980’s, called Doup Leno.  It is a way of crossing threads back and forth to create a loom controlled lace fabric.  Heddlecraft Magazine is available in digital format only.  You can subscribe here

I needed to get an image of the piece I am submitting for the summer faculty exhibit Making Matters: Fresh Perspectives in Fine Craft at Peters Valley, by the weekend.  The work doesn’t have to be finished by then, but you can’t take a photo of that which does not exist.  So my 36″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade loom is now empty and the fabric is drying…  This is a mixed warp in a combination weave with supplemental warps, some of it is hand dyed, and the yarns are mostly cotton and rayon.  The weft is 3 ply worsted wool from my stash.  

My new rule in the house, with so many looms, is that once a loom has been cleared, whoever cleared it has to oil/wax it (I use Howard’s Feed and Wax) and tighten all the bolts and screws.  My loom looks so happy and refreshed…

Also due this week is a scarf which I promised to donate to The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ for their Annual Gala silent auction.  I adore this organization and gave them one for their fundraiser last year, and I’ll be attending the gala this April and am pleased to donate another scarf.  Which meant I had to weave off all five.  Which means another loom is empty.  But it is also very happy because it has been cleaned and waxed and all the bolts and screws have been tightened.  It is looking fresh and cheery for another warp. (There are only four scarves in the photo because I made it to the post office with five minutes to spare, the fifth one is on its way to The Shakespeare Theatre.)

And last night, I sat by the fire and finished a lovely cable knit vest, I had been worried I wouldn’t have enough yarn, but I knit as fast as I could and turns out I beat the yarn fairies…  This vest is Berroco Artisan Merino and Silk.  I picked up a half dozen skeins last fall at Sievers, on sale because the yarn is discontinued.  The yarn is butter smooth and so pretty.  The vest is one I’ve made before.  It is a Drops Design, 123-10 waistcoat.  It is actually a free pattern from Garn Studio.  I started this vest last fall, sometime after I taught at Sievers, so again, it is funny that I finished it last night as well.  It is still drying on top of the washer.

And about 10 days ago, my lovely daughter went on a mission to pick up yet another loom.  They are finding us.  I don’t know why.  If you Google Tools of the Trade Looms, my name comes up.  Probably because between my daughter and I, we now own 10.  I bought my first one back in 1978.  I mention them a lot in my blogs.  They aren’t made anymore, but it is a solid versatile jack type loom that has stood the test of time, solid rock maple, unless you find one in cherry, and you can’t kill them.  I sent my daughter down to Bedminster NJ to pick up a lovely 8 shaft 25″ wide table loom, a great teaching loom and perfect for workshops.  She (the loom,  not my daughter) joins two other looms that size, one a four shaft and the other a fraternal twin in cherry.  I had to do some tweaking, restore some of the parts, and I’m about to add heddles to the back four shafts, but it looks in good working order and it seems happy with the crew.  Incidently, I have received word on two other Tools of the Trade looms that are needing homes and my daughter is all over it.  I do not know where these looms will all fit, it is clear that we are building inventory to open some kind of school or teaching venue, but that’s far down the road and I can’t even fathom that right now.  I’m happy meeting my deadlines.  FYI, between us right now we own 29 shaft looms. 15 Structos three of which are 8 shaft, two Leclerc 10″ 4 shaft looms, a 12 shaft Leclerc Dorothy, a folding Ashford Table Loom, 8 shafts, and of course, the 10 Tools of the Trade Looms. We win…

Stay tuned…

Quiet rainy day…

I knew this summer was going to be tough, since all my teaching this year was condensed into about three months.  I was having stress attacks last spring just thinking about it.  Now that I am in the middle of it, I’m kind of enjoying the fact that I didn’t really plan anything else, just to do what I had to do between trips, and go easy on myself.  I am not trying to keep up with the yard or the house, I clean when it gets really bad, which isn’t ideal, but my sanity is more important at the moment.

So, I went on a lunch date yesterday.  You may recall I have a standing lunch date on Thursdays, during the school year, with a group of women whom I adore, all teachers from the middle and elementary schools in my town.  Years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the things I encouraged friends to do, since everyone wanted to philosophy-clubhelp in some way, was to have lunch with me.  It got me out of the house, and focusing on something other than my health issues.  Some seven years later,  we still meet during the school year, on Thursdays, even though 2 of the 5 teachers are now retired.  We call ourselves the Thursday Philosophy Club, and we talk about all kinds of global issues, literary choices, our kids, grandkids (though I’ve nothing to contribute to those conversations yet…) and anything else that comes up in a luncheon with 6 interesting women.  (These are art, music, and gifted program teachers!)

So, we all got together yesterday,  for a summer luncheon, great food, and a dip in the pool.  What a great treat, and what great friends!

I’m making progress on the book sort, today I tackled the Bobbin lace_booksLace books.  This is a tough section, because it is disproportionately huge, many of the books were my mother-in-law’s, since she was a master bobbin lace maker.  I did bobbin lace for many years, because it was her specialty, and I enjoyed that bond with her.  I have more lace pillows than I know what to do with, and I have a large shelf of Bobbin Lace books, many of them in Swedish, since she spoke that language.  I can’t part with them.  Though I know I’m moving away from lace making, it will take many years before I can even think of reducing that group of books.

One area I do need to address, is my slides.  I have binders full of my images from when I did craft fairs, in the 1980’s, and had to have 10-15 sets of duplicate slides.  I need to cull down the copies, one slide is enough, especially since there is a digital version saved in about 15 places.  But that’s for another time.  I cleared three slide carousels off the shelves, putting the slides in archival slide sheets, and I’ll dump the carousels.  No crock1need for those anymore.  (Please don’t tell me that there is an installation artist making sculptures from old slide carousels!)  🙂

I got the crock pot going again this morning.  And I found more fleece to dye in a bag in another cabinet I cleaned out.  This time I am using an olive green.

And, I started to tackle a project I’ve needed to work on for some time.  notebookMy sketch book/record book/project notebook for all the woven pieces I’ve done in the last 9 years, is in a small journal that is bulging at the seams, falling apart, and losing all the contents every time I pick it up.  I try to travel with it, because I’m always asked for drafts and details of the work I show, and I need to rely on my little journal because I can’t keep it all in my head.  When someone asks what sett I used, I can look it up!

The whole book needs to be taken apart, and carefully recreated in a larger format, with a spiral bound notebook.  And I want to be able to add the photos of what the fabric turned out to be.

white_paramentSo, I tackled the first two pages, which were for a set of paraments I did for a couple churches in the area.  The first page was for the white set where I used a doup leno technique with a gold thread.  I found the photos of the minister from one of the churches, wearing the stole, with the pulpit banner and communion table runner.  So I glued that into the new book with the fabric, draft, and notes.

The second page was for the red set of paraments, an altar cloth for one church, two stoles, and a pulpit banner and communion table runner for the other church.  These were done in plain weave 5/2 red_paramentcotton with black crosses inlaid in a Theo Moorman technique.

I am feeling encouraged by all the comments and support as I sort through, weed out, make decisions to toss stuff that doesn’t need to be in my life anymore.  And though I’m happiest when I am learning new things, I’m even happier when I’m organizing.  There is something very satisfying when I stand back and see something organized and tidy, and I can view with fresh eyes.  And I get inspired by finding stuff I didn’t know I had.  ( I’ve been looking for a copy of Anita Mayer’s I Don’t Do Guilt, and guess what I just found on my shelf?)  I’m really looking forward to some down time in the fall to just sit in my studio and make stuff, and enjoy my newly organized library!

Weekend Update

Wow, what an amazing weekend, on many counts.  First, let me just explain my family dynamics.  In a nut shell, I am the eldest of three sisters.  We are from youngest to eldest only 5 years apart.  My mom is still living, and owns a house at the Jersey shore.  She remarried a couple of years ago, to her high school sweetheart, after meeting up at a 60th High School reunion!  She lives in Maryland now with her new husband, a delightful man, who calls himself our “bonus dad”.

To celebrate my middle sister’s 50th birthday a couple years ago, the three of us took a trip to San Francisco together where we had the most wonderful 5 days.  We vowed to do it again, and after trying unsuccessfully to get to Charleston, SC this spring (work schedules, surgeries, dramas, families), we settled on meeting up at our mother’s home at the Jersey Shore.

Coincidentally, my mom has decided to sell the shore house, I gotta agree that maintaining two three bedroom ranch homes when you are pushing 80 is really tough.  So the day before we all arrived, that would be last Thursday, my mom signed the contract listing the house.  So it was with a bittersweet acknowledgement that this was the end of another era in our lives, that we arrived at the house on Friday.  My mom and bonus dad were there to greet us, and we all settled in for a lovely visit.

trolleyMy sisters and I spent some time in Cape May (exit zero for those who only know the geography of NJ by the parkway exit number), touring gardens, architecture, and even an evening ghost trolley tour (apparently there are a number of sites in Cape May which are quite haunted!), not unlike our trip to San Francisco where there are numerous old Victorian Mansions remaining, with amazing architecture and gorgeous gardens.  (My middle sister you may remember is an architect with a fantastic knowledge of historic preservation, and my youngest sister is the CEO of a southern NJ rehabilitation hospital by day, and an award winning  floral designer and exquisite gardener during the weekends.) So traveling around with these two is just too much fun!  And both have opinions they aren’t afraid to share.  I of course handle all the textiles we come across, and the fashion.  As you can imagine, we laugh a lot! ( My youngest sister is in the middle and will be mortified to know I used the picture with her draped in my Pendleton Wool blanket she stole from my car because we were seriously underdressed, it was sooooooo cold!)

So, while we were having quality sister time, my mom was starting to de-acquisition her belongings, though I swore I wasn’t bringing anything home to my already too cluttered home, I was unprepared for the amount of my VERY early work she had in storage in this home.  This isn’t the home I grew up in, and not even the only shore home they owned.  She’s only been in this house about 10 years, so I didn’t think there was that much accumulated.  Silly me…

potsFirst there were the pots.  OK, I know these look like pots from  ceramics class 101.  Especially the little white one in front.  In fact, the little white one in front was one I threw in 1970, at 15, in a high school craft class.  I can NOT believe she still had it on the shelf!  The other three I did in college.  The one in the back, with the black glaze dripping from it had a lid which had broken, but she still kept the rest of it.  God bless my mother…   So now I have to figure out what to do with this motley collection of bad pots….bellpull

Then there was the bell-pull.  I’m thinking I did this little “hanging” sometime around 1979.  It was before I started craft fairs, but after I bought my “Tools of the Trade” Loom, it is made out of the most awful rug wool, because that’s what I had access to, the edges are very odd, I’m sure I never heard of a floating selvedge, but there it was, on the wall, and now it is in my collection of archived work.  I’ll bring it to my next guild meeting for a good laugh.  Honestly, it is great to see really early work like this, for it lets me know how far I’ve come.  I remember being quite proud of it when I had finished it and presented it to my mom…

leno_topsleno_detailThen there was the collection of doup leno tops.  These represented the first “clothing” I sold when I started doing craft fairs around 1980.  They had evolved from a shawl I had made from curtain panels I had done, and someone suggested I cut a hole in the center and make a garment out of it.  leno_topSo that began my career of selling handwoven clothing for 10 years, in craft fairs all over the north east.  What I didn’t remember, is how many my mom bought in those early years.  The weave structure was quite complex for my relative inexperience on the loom.  This was a six or seven shaft, doup leno, where false heddles are placed on the second harness and passed through the eyes of the heddles on the first harness.  If I have a chance, I’ll do a blog someday on this technique, but those of you who have a good weaving library or are members of a guild with a good library, look for the Shuttle Craft Guild Monograph #32.  It is on Doup Leno.  It was published in 1980, so when I started leno_setdoing this technique around 1981-2, it was the latest thing!  I used that technique a lot in the beginning years of my craft fair life.  My mom also had this set on the left, which I think I made custom for her, I don’t remember ever selling this piece in my booth.  I did scarves like this, and I have a vague recollection of her asking me to make a whole outfit like it.  The warp was a spaced 20/2 rayon, mohair_setand the weft a very rick-racky rayon decorative yarn which I have a vague recollection of being from Scott’s Woolen Mill.  I found the scarf that matches it in my mother in laws belongings after she died.  My old work is finding its way back home.

Also uncovered in my mom’s stash of my early work, was this mohair bias vest and skirt.  The warp was something like 24 different yarns from my stash, and the weft was a beige mohair, which I brushed on the loom.  This little vest is all trimmed in Ultrasuede.  I know I sold a few tops and vests like this in my booth, but had no idea my mom had bought one, and kept it all these years.

dads_tapestryThe best find though, was a tapestry I had done for my dad when I graduated from art school in 1977.  My dad was the credit manager for Scott Paper Company in Philadelphia, and his office was done in the popular decorating scheme at the time, orange and grey.  He asked me to do a tapestry for his office wall.  I remember being really scared at the time, this was my first real commission (he wasn’t of course going to pay me, he just finished paying me for my bachelor’s degree) but never-the-less, I was feeling a bit over my head.  But I did it, and I think my dad liked it, and it hung in his office until he retired many years later, and then it moved to the various homes they owned after they sold the house I grew up in.  The tapestry is around four feet across, and it isn’t bad technically. I wince a little now, but I was young, and inexperienced, and destined to make a career in clothing, not in tapestries.   Thank goodness!