Happy Spring…

This past week was full of highs and lows, I sort of felt like a pinball. Monday was the first day of spring, and here in the northeast, we have been hitting temps of about 60 when it is sunny, with steady spring rain in between. I walk into town, and everything has the smallest of buds, ready to just burst apart in some kind of chorus of life. I can’t wait for some color. Even my daffodils are just straining to bloom, tall stalks of yellow confined in their green outer skin.

On Tuesday, I had the wonderful opportunity to moderate an episode of the weekly Handweaver’s Guild of America Textiles and Tea. I prepared hard for this, did my research, collaborated with questions, and was thrilled that it all seemed to go extremely well. The person I interviewed, a knotter from Colorado, Al Canner, was really interesting, extremely talented, and made the most gorgeous work from the lowly macramé knot, the double half hitch, a throwback from the 70’s and the jute plant hangers with the ceramic owl eyes. I still can’t wrap my head around the work he does now, with one foot in the past. My first job out of college was teaching in a mall craft shop in Paramus, NJ, macramé, specifically owl plant hangers. Check out his work, there is nothing like it that I’ve seen in the fiber world. And the interview is on the HGA Facebook page, and will eventually make its way to their YouTube channel.

On Wednesday, my late husband’s birthday, I found out that two people who I really really respected and who had tremendous influence in my life, passed away. One was a weaver in the Pacific northwest, who died suddenly in a house fire from what I understand, and I’m still saddened and stunned that such a spark of life could be so snuffed out in a heartbeat. She was probably the most enthusiastic student I ever had in a class, just a joy to teach, and she will be truly missed. Rest easy Dori.

The other loss was a close friend, here in North Jersey. Ed and I shared a lot of good times creating music together, working on huge projects for Montclair Early Music, and a lot of sushi lunches from my favorite sushi place. I will miss his gentle spirit and musical talent. Too many losses.

So on Wednesday, with news of both deaths, and yet wanting to celebrate my late husband on his day, my daughter and I headed out to the garden center for our annual early spring trek, for pansies and lettuces and I was really really disappointed to find out that no one had any in stock. Which shocked me. Everyone had pansies this time last year, and the year before that. It hasn’t been that cold. I’ve since learned of a couple of places, but the point was, to do something to commemorate my late husband’s birthday. On his birthday. So instead, my daughter and I dressed all the beds after an intense clean out, fertilized, topped off the soil, and planted whatever seeds were in the back of the refrigerator that could go in the ground now. Of course, the hoses aren’t turned on yet, so watering will have to be done by dragging buckets from the house. Not something I look forward to. As if my husband smiled on us, it rained the next day, and then yesterday, and it is supposed to rain tomorrow. It’s like he said, “I’ve got this…”

Which allowed me some lovely studio time. One of my guild mates who lives nearby, came over to work on one of the Structos. I have so many set up with interesting structures. She picked the one with 8 Shaft Honeycomb variants on it, from Malin Selander’s Weave a Weave, specifically the Isolde version. (They are named after operas,) She worked on it for a couple of hours, and I finished it off a few days later. That’s a flat surface, but the deflection in the honeycomb around the gold threads creates the illusion of a wavy fabric.

And of course, my last blog post left everyone hanging with the threading of 8/2 Tencel in an Echo parallel threading on my 12-shaft Voyager Table Loom. It is gorgeous. (The draft is from Denise Kovnat, from her collection of WIF files for Echo Weave available on her website. This is a variation) I feel like there are so many cool things to weave in my studio; I’m a bit addicted to setting up looms, but at some point, I really need to weave what’s on them!

While showing my guild mate all the options with my Structos, I realized that one of them, though threaded for a Theo Moorman technique, hadn’t actually been woven on. I had cut off the piece that was on it, re-tied onto the front, and just left it. So I found a cool photo of the pansies from this time last year, what should have been in my flower pots by now, printed it on silk Crepe de Chine, and started cutting it into strips to weave in an inlay technique. The ground is linen, and the tie-down threads are serger thread. Barely visible. The technique is documented in my monograph called Weave a Memory. It is available digitally.

Those needlework threads I talked about last time, that I purchased from the Lace Day event? They have been calling me. I sat down after calculating the repeat in the handpainted threads, and figured out how many ends, five yards long, I could get with what I purchased in a specific color grouping. Something like 153 ends. So I sat with my weaving software and did a few versions until I liked what I had.

I wound the warp carefully, starting and tying together each end in a loop by the cross, since I would be using a loom I haven’t actually used before, my Gilmore Wave Mini. We named him Quark, (from Deep Space 9, I think). I’m a front to back warper, but the design of this loom requires warping back to front. Normally I would have wound each color separately, and incorporated the chains in the reed, following my draft. In this loom, as in inkle looms, there is no reed, so I had to wind the entire sequence of 153 threads, and try hard to get the handpainted colors to match up. I couldn’t exhale until I had wound the entire warp, because I was so afraid of running short. My calculations held, and I ended up having enough, but that would have been pretty depressing to have had to go to Plan B…

The directions for setting up this loom are strange. The Lease Sticks, two fat knitting needles that slip into the cross, and mount on the back of the loom, work fine for winding, but they have you add metal supports to the warp beam to channel the warp into something like a sectional warp. It doesn’t work. I needed precision winding, to keep the colors from shifting. After winding on 5 yards, I ended up pulling the entire thing back off and winding my own way, which has never failed me; a couple of fat zip ties on the back support, and stiff interfacing for packing material.

Threading from the lease sticks which are suspended a good five inches from the eyes of the Texsolv heddles, which are very densely packed together because this will be a warp face band, proved ridiculous. I ended up pulling the lease sticks and replacing them with a cross tie, like I always use, and just holding the cross in my hand and threading the heddles like I do when I thread the reed. Worked like a charm.

There is always a learning curve with every new piece of equipment I use. Weaving is weaving, but each loom has a personality, quirks, and oddities that make it unique. It is a team effort. So now I’m happily weaving away on this incredible loom, now that it is set up. It does weave like a dream. I’ve never seen such a small loom have the ability to tighten a warp so tight you can bounce on it. And the colors are lining up perfectly.

Life throws you curve balls, and people come into your life and leave. I am a better person for having known Dori and Ed, and I wish them peace on their new journey. And for those of us left behind, I wish for the will to keep on planting, and designing, and playing music, and welcoming the budding trees and bulbs in a joyous celebration of life.

Stay tuned…

Write What You Know…

Back in the day, it was discovered quite by accident that I could actually write. A Catholic Elementary School graduate, I could diagram a sentence with the best of them. But writing assignments in school were tedious and not something I jumped into with relish. When Madelyn van der Hoogt, then editor of Handwoven Magazine, heard the things I said at my now infamous technical critique of the fashion show at Cincinnati Convergence in 2000, she contacted me about writing for Handwoven Magazine. Writing articles is very different than 7th grade term papers. But actually, not really… There is research, and hopefully you get to write about something that interests you. But the spelling, grammar, checking your work thing, that was drilled into me by a bunch of Italian speaking nuns. Go figure…

Madelyn called after my first submission, thrilled with the way I apparently wrote, and kept me on, for 35 issues straight. I only left that job as features editor when the magazine was sold and cost cutting procedures cut me right out of the mast head. But over the years, I’ve been asked to occasionally contribute to various magazines, Shuttle Spindle and Dyepot, Heddlecraft, Threads Magazine, Sew News, and one in Canada after a keynote I gave at a conference there. I genuinely enjoy writing, I like some of the research I have to do, and writing what you know is much easier than some obscure writing assignment in middle school.

I spent a good portion of last year researching, weaving samples, and writing Heddlecraft Magazine issue #38 on Combining Warp Structures. It was the second time I wrote an issue of Heddlecraft. That issue came out last fall, and it is something I’m really proud of.

Writing assignments have been quiet the last few months, which is just fine. I liked the break after an intense year. Oddly enough, at the end of February, I started to get inquiries, “Do you think you could write a short article on…”, or “I have this idea, do you think you could…” or, “Would you be able to do this by next week…” So suddenly, I went from a quiet winter, to six articles or written content I should say, all due within three weeks.

A friend said to me, when I outwardly groaned to her in a phone call, “Why don’t you say no?” That’s not really how it works. I wanted to do all the assignments. They were all interesting and for the most part, things I knew about. Could I write about my experiences using Mohair, could I write about my experiences volunteering for the Shakespeare Theatre, could I write the exhibition brochure for an upcoming exhibition, and could I be the guest host for Textiles and Tea, since the regular host would be away? Well dang… Six in all. I won’t give specifics until things are actually published. But I just spent the last three weeks at my computer searching for images from the 80’s, interviewing an artist as he installed his exhibition (opening this Sunday), and research and rehearsals for my stint as Host on Textiles and Tea, this Tuesday, March 21st. It was a year ago that I was interviewed for this weekly chat sponsored by the Handweavers Guild of America. I thought it would be a lot of fun to sit on the other side of the desk so to speak, as the interviewer.

In the meantime, I have become obsessed with warping all the looms. And I think, if you count the Gilmore Wave, which is a two shaft for warp face band weaves, there are 50 shaft looms in the studio. All but the Gilmore have Star Trek names, or names related to where or who they came from, or something on that nature. I’ll have to get out the labeler… I refurbished another Tools of the Trade table loom I’ve been sitting on (named Torres); this one too was a heddle disaster. I’m always shocked at how the heddles in a used loom are every which way, making it really inefficient to thread. There were a few hundred, and they all had to come off and be carefully reoriented. But I wanted a 4-shaft table loom that could take a long warp, where I could use my Zanshi balls I make tying together all the thrums or leftovers from my looms. Zanshi is the Japanese art of wasting nothing. I wove fabric like this already, I wrote about it here (scroll all the way down). But I ran out of warp, and the basket of thrums is overflowing. A friend mentioned she had woven Zanshi in a rib weave, with a dense fine warp. I got a couple cones of Black UKI 20/2 cotton from a friend who was downsizing, doubled them, and put on a nice tidy warp.

I experimented a bit with structure, starting with plain weave, then twill, and finally the rib weave. Which I love. So I’ll keep weaving the rib, and keep tying those thrums together.

I have a 12-shaft Voyager from Leclerc (called Janeway) I bought a few years ago, from one of my weaving guild buddies. It is 16″ wide. It had a white warp on it when I got it, and I did a quick yarn test for Silk City Fibers for a yarn they were considering by tying into that warp, but I’ve never actually warped it from scratch. Mostly because I haven’t been able to find a 12 shaft draft or structure that interested me enough.

A friend told me about Denise Kovnat’s blog, she is a fantastic weaver, and offers all kinds of classes and drafts for sale on her website. I bought a group of Echo drafts, which included some for 12 shafts, because that was one structure I didn’t have on my looms in the studio. I’ve woven it, but until now, it wasn’t hugely appealing enough to tie up one of my other looms. I worked on one of the 12-shaft drafts from Denise’s collection for a couple of weeks, until I came up with what I thought would be fun to weave.

I wound four yards of alternating lime green and teal 8/2 Tencel, at 36epi, which at 16″ wide, is 574 ends. Which is a lot. In a small space. I’m threading it now, and actually loving this little loom. The back beam unscrews easily, and the warp beam pops off by unscrewing the crank, just like on my Structos and I have a lovely clear shot of the twelve shafts, and the reed where the ends are sleyed in order. Threading an echo parallel threading is challenging, and not for the faint of heart. And truth be told, weaving 4 yards of Echo weave in Tencel on a 12 shaft table loom will take a very long time. I half expect, with all the other looms, that I won’t live long enough to actually finish it. But I no longer care about finishing stuff anymore. It is about the process; it has always been about the process for me. Curiosity and learning something new are my driving force now in my life. As long as my eyes hold out; I was just told by the eye doctor today that I’ll probably need cataract surgery 12-18 months from now. Sigh…

And my yarn stash grows. I’ve gotten a bit addicted to getting the newsletter from Peter Patchis each month, with the latest yarn specials. I usually order one of everything, because I have no idea what I’m doing to do with any of it. This was the latest haul that came in last week.

On Saturday, in spite of some nasty weather, I headed out to Sussex County to a Lace Day, sponsored by the Lost Art Lacers, lacemaking group. I used to belong to them, many lifetimes ago, when I actively made bobbin lace. I still have many of my pillows, but there are only so many hours in a day, and filling looms has become my latest passion. But, in my years of teaching warp face weaving on an inkle loom, I always talked about how appropriate needlework yarns, which are put up in small quantities, are for working on an inkle loom. I was curious to see what was out there. And I especially wanted to see my old friend Holly van Sciver, who is a fantastic lacemaker and teacher, and sells just about every type of thread for lacemaking and needlework in general, and has every book ever written on lacemaking. I wasn’t disappointed…

My small haul was pretty costly, compared to what I had just gotten from Peter Patchis, but I’m looking to set up a couple of inkle looms as well, especially the Gilmore Wave which I bought many years ago, and my daughter immediately stole. It is sitting idle now and calling to me from under the counter.

I was especially impressed with the handpainted cotton skeins from Karey Solomon of Graceful Arts Handpaint. I got a few skeins of 20/2 hand painted cordonnet with some Lizbeth size 20 Egyptian cotton to coordinate. I picked up some Bokens linen, Gutermann Silk, and Idrija cotton in 30 weight from Holly van Sciver.

Dearest readers, as spring is just around the corner, I hope as the small bulbs poke their heads out of the ground that life is awakening and there are gardens to plant, looms to dress, garments to sew, textile techniques to explore, and there are ideas all crashing around in your head. I can never be bored.

Stay tuned…

Slow and Steady…

I’d like to think I’m a patient person. I suppose it depends on what or whom I’m required to be patient with…

I’ve undertaken a couple of major projects in the studios, which completely thrill me, yet create stress, and challenges, and a couple of probably unrealistic deadlines. That’s my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I work best under unrealistic deadlines. Except when my body doesn’t want to cooperate…

Though my fractured shoulder is improving, little bits at a time, I’m impatient. I’ll admit it. I carry on with great fanfare, but secretly cry a little bit each time I am held back from what I want/need/have to do.

The Rainbow Double Weave Jennifer Moore Workshop sampler turned into a completely reversible jacket is nearing completion. This wasn’t so physically challenging, I just had to sit for hours hand sewing. And I mean hours. About 90% of it is sewn by hand. Including the entire interior. All that remains is the collar, and I hope to get that finished up this week. At least get it mounted on the jacket and ready for handwork.

I am just so in love with this jacket; it is how I imagined it in my head. I combined my 800 vest, with added seam allowances on the front, with the armhole and drop shoulder sleeve from the 1700 tunic, patterns from the Daryl Lancaster pattern collection. There are two layers of wool suiting to create the garment, basted together, with windows cut out, where the double weave cloth fits between the layers, and both layers are then sewn to the double weave cloth in reverse appliqué. Once the individual sections are completed, the outer garment layer is sewn together by machine, and the entire inner layer is sewn by hand at all the seams and hems. There are days I think I’m absolutely brilliant, and there are days where… I’ll leave it up to your imagination 🙂

The fabric inspired by the Magic Puzzle Company Busy Bistro Puzzle I fixed with my daughter, has proven one of my most difficult physical challenges. I use a heavy end feed shuttle, which is tough enough on my poor fractured shoulder, but the loom I’m weaving on, new to me, is a monster. 12 shafts and 54″ wide. The beater alone could kill you! Yet it is gorgeous and comfortable in the hand. Assuming the hand isn’t attached to a fractured shoulder. The most difficult part though, is lifting the shafts. Most picks required lifting 6 of the 12 shafts, and each shaft had 225 inserted eye heddles, which I didn’t remove because there was room on the sides to store them, and I spent so much time putting them on to begin with! Trying as hard as I could, I just couldn’t consistently lift 6 shafts and get a consistently clean shed every time. I’m past my mid-60’s and my joints just can’t lift what I could in my 20’s.

I’d lay awake at night, with my fractured shoulder aching, especially when bad weather approaches, and think, how am I going to weave this… If you ever watched the Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix series, you might remember how the main character, I’ve forgotten her name, could see chess moves happening across the ceiling. That’s the way I sometimes think, I can see the mechanics behind a draft, and how things need to move up or down to create what I want. And what I wanted was a clean shed opening. When that happens in any other situation, I revert to using two feet to help lift, break apart the tie-up, and figure out a logical treadling sequence that will get me what I want with a lot less physical effort. I watched the ceiling in the dark and saw how I could do it. I flew out of bed in the morning and went to the software and reconfigured the tie up and crossed my fingers. (An apology to my non-weaving readers, this all makes no sense, just know it worked.)

The original tie-up and treadling
Revised tie-up and treadling using two feet.

It was miraculous, and magical and I just wove like the wind, or maybe a slight breeze because I’m still dealing with a fractured shoulder. I use to be able to weave like the wind. Maybe someday soon. But I’ve got a deadline now, and I’m frantically trying to pace myself to get what I need to get done before April 15th. That’s the deadline to submit the five garments I’m planning to exhibit at the Convergence Fashion Show this summer, sponsored by the Handweavers Guild of America, in Knoxville, TN, as an invited artist. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to send, but I want more choices than I have, from what I’ve made in the last two years, and I’d love for this puzzle inspired fabric to be one of them.

So given my arm limitations, I’ve just resigned myself to only empty one pirn a day, with 2/12 wool, which is about what my shoulder can handle. Still, that’s about 15″ and that adds up. I looked at my warp beam, and was shocked to see the I’m on the last round of paper. This was a seven yard warp. I’m almost there…

What really surprised me, is I’ve had no tension issues at all so far, which I completely expected given the dozens of different yarns I’m combining together in a dozen different structures. It will be interesting to see what happens when the fabric is off the loom and washed…

On a completely different note, spring is here, though we are supposed to get one last frost tonight through Tuesday, but in celebration of my late husband’s 71st birthday last Tuesday, my daughter and I went to the garden center and bought a couple flats of cold weather greens, and some pansies. We got everything planted, started the spring clean up in the yard, which means bags of animal excrement, because, well, if you have dogs, you know what spring means…

The garden center was just a riot of color…

And last Tuesday I was interviewed for the Handweavers Guild of America series Textiles and Tea, which I adore; The Textiles and Tea interviews are the highlight of my week. They are live interviews, over zoom, but also simulcast over Facebook, and of course recorded. You don’t need a Facebook account to watch, it is a public site. The recording will eventually be posted on the Handweavers Guild of America YouTube channel, (it might take a couple of months) but for now, if you missed the interview, you can watch it here. Kathi’s questions were thoughtful, and fun to answer. Apparently there were 600 people watching in the webinar, and another couple hundred watching the live Facebook feed, which they said was a record. I don’t know, I just had fun answering the questions. Everything for me has a story, which is why I still have something to say after almost 14 years of blogging. I know few people blog anymore, and far fewer people read the blog than did a half dozen years ago, but that isn’t why I write it. I used to journal, but it is more fun to type what I’m thinking and be able to add cool pictures, and then be able to go back and search for what I want, because blogs have that built in feature. And it is there forever, or as long as I pay for the hosting fees…

So dear readers, spring is upon us, and that means outdoor stuff, and I have a lovely garden with ponds and fish and places to sit and weave, all coming to life, and I’ll have a garden full of salad fixin’s, and I think, each spring, that this season I’m going to spend my time outdoors and do fiber-y things, and by fall I realize that none of that happened. It is an amusing cycle, but still, I am determined each spring and we will see how the year progresses… Deadlines await…

Arctic Sky Completed

Yippee!  I finished the jacket.  I am so happy with it.  As a matter of fact, today was a pretty good day, I accomplished a lot.  And this is actually my second blog today.  First the previous blog, with the spinning wheel caper.  While I was in the middle of that, I actually started sorting through all the magazines my textiley friend send the other day, largely because I have a guild meeting on Monday and want to unload all the duplicates, my shelves are starting to bend from the weight!  There weren’t too many, and I did get to put away a whole stack of my own recent acquisitions.  I hadn’t done that in awhile.

jacketclosedSo, I got the lining in.  And it is beautiful.  I love using these sari’s as linings, a gift from my husband’s last couple of trips to India.  I blogged about it in early February.  I sat chatting with a girlfriend yesterday while I started the hours of handwork, a really good friend who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  It felt good to just sit and sew and chat, she lives on the west coast, and in this day of 160 character bytes of information, texts, emails, and twitters, an old fashioned hour and a half chat while I sewed in my lining was just the best treat for both of us.

I spent the afternoon (after organizing my magazines and fixing the cracked hub on my spinning wheel) writing an article for Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot.  Sandra Bowles asked me to do a series of articles for the next three issues of SS&D, publication of the Handweavers Guild of America, on the Challenge Project I’ve been talking about in recent blogs.  So I did a synopsis of Loretta’s and my experience as collaborators and team members, and wrote the article today.  I just have to proof and upload all the images.  Future articles will be about the other two teams.

So after dinner, I chatted simultaneously with my husband in New Hampshire via instant message on my computer, and my girlfriend Dawn via text message on my cell phone, and continued the hand sewing on the jacket.  I will say that was a bit of a juggling act.  I kept having to put the thimble down and answer the two sets of messages, and eventually just gave up in favor of the old fashion chat via speaker phone.  I finished the lining, took some quick photos, and voilá!


The Planets have Aligned!

For a day that started out poorly, it ended most spectacularly!  I didn’t sleep well last night.  I had too much partying, more alcohol than I usually consume (which is almost nothing, hence the problem) and rich food, and too much of it, and I laid awake most of the night, trying to sleep, but finally giving up and reading. (Joan Dideon’s Year of Magical Thinking).  Which meant I was a wreck in the morning.  And my daughter called from school to have me make a doctors appointment to have her checked for strep.  So by the time I finally got up, made the appointment, drove to the HS to get her, took her to the doctor (she did not have strep, only a virus, and the doctor sent her back to school) and drove back home, it was lunch time.  My plans of all I was going to accomplish were rapidly sifting through my fingers.  And on top of that, a miserable cold rain made everything soggy and frigid.  One of those bone chilling days where you just can’t get warm.

But I decided to try to make some headway on the new website.  I only had four pages to go, and one of them was pretty critical.  My schedule.  I hadn’t updated the old site in awhile, and a lot needed to be entered.  Once I decided on a format, I just had to look through all my files and emails to plug in as much information as I had, all the dates and contacts, and the topics I was teaching.  Then to simplify the site, I linked PDF files for the prospectuses instead of all the lengthy descriptions like I had on the old site.

So I plodded along, got my son to take my daughter back to the HS tonight for jazz band, and sent him out for a Chinese Food run.  And I continued to plod…

The upshot is, I FINISHED THE SITE!  I can’t believe it.  I’m done.  I’m so proud of what I’ve done.  And I put a temporary home page on the old site to direct to the new site, eventually when I’m sure everything is correct, and my husband returns from New Hampshire, I’ll wipe out the old site, and park it with the new one, so whether you go to www.weaversew.com or www.daryllancaster.com, you will end up in the same place.

Just as the last file uploaded, an email came in from Sandra Bowles, executive director of the Handweavers Guild of front-lrAmerica, Inc. telling me that they have approved my presentation for the Challenge Project I did last year for them, and I’m OK to market the presentation on a CD, to any guild that would like to show it for a guild meeting or program. I have to say that Sandy went out of her way, doing way more than I asked, by carefully working through all 81 slides, and proofing, editing, and watching for copyright issues, in a very professional and thorough manner.  I am very grateful Sandy.  So, give me a few days and I’ll have the CD up on my eShop.  I think I’ll offer it as both a PowerPoint and a PDF file on the same disk.  If you are a member of a guild, weaving, sewing, whatever, or just plain curious, this CD presentation is intended to stand alone, without me, as an inexpensive hour and a half program, following the year long challenge presentation, where I was paired with a designer I had never met, given yarn I’d have never picked to work with, in colors that don’t appeal to me, and we had a year to come up with a runway ensemble to debut at the Convergence 2008 Tampa Bay Fashion Show.  The 81 slide presentation starts with the design process, which was completely done with emails, and then the step by step sampling for the woven fabric, the design and pattern making , the cutting out and construction of the coat and dress, and the final embellishments, hand felting and beading that kept my partner Lorretta Dian Phipps up too many nights in a row.  There are some great production photos, and I’m really proud of the finished ensemble and the presentation as well.

And I even got an hour off to watch the latest installment of the new HBO series, #1 Ladies Detective Agency, starring Jill Scott.  (I had recorded it from Sunday night since I was driving to the airport while it was airing). It is as delightful as the series by Alexander McCall Smith, and I have to almost say, I like it even more.  The gentle life in Botswana, the interesting cases that fall into the lap of Precious Ramotswe, the endearing characters, and the spectacular scenery all keep me captivated and yearning for more.

Dare I hope to get the lining done on the coat tomorrow?