One down, three to go…

I am teaching four garment construction retreats this fall, the first is finished, I just returned from a six day class in Harrisville, NH, home of Harrisville Designs.  I love teaching there, I had a particularly delightful class, they all got along well, helped each other, were supportive of each other, and all pledged to come back next year.  And they really really worked hard.  One of the advantages to places like this and like Sievers in Wisconsin (trip number 3) is that students can work well in to the night.  Some of my students are early morning risers, and they can start at 6am, and many of them don’t get cranking until after dinner.  It wasn’t unusual for me to stay and cheer them on until 11pm at night.  

Anyway, I had 12 students, four of them were repeaters, so they kind of worked on their own agenda.  Carole and Jane made garments from my patterns…  Both from handwovens…  Jane tried the new button down placket version of my tunic, with in seam buttonholes.

Amy and Rita brought their own patterns and Amy’s 1st jacket and both of Rita’s jackets were from handwoven.  

Tracey is a felter, and brought some felt laminate (wool felted onto silk) panels she made, and created a swing coat using the “living” edge of the felt as hems and borders.  I always called it the organic natural edge of the felt, but I like her term better.  She also had time to create my new swing dress/jumper from a commercial raw silk she brought along as plan B.

Sally and Polly made swing coats.  Both are handwoven, and Polly was a little further behind because she brought a plaid.  A handwoven plaid, and of course in a handwoven plaid, nothing matches up even though it was woven thread perfect.  She spent a lot of hours at the cutting table.  I cannot wait to see this one finished.

Leslie and Roberta made regular jackets, Leslie of course spent many extra hours cutting out her commercial plaid, she did a wonderful job, but ran out of time for things like bands and sleeves!  Roberta worked well into the evenings and was able to mostly finish hers. Roberta’s fabric is a gorgeous handwoven from Tencel.

And I had so much fun with Dee-Dee.  She wove a gorgeous mock leno wool fabric from combining Harrisville Shetland and Highland yarns.  There were a few challenging moments, and she added a very cool design to the pocket, but her tenacity showed and she got most of the jacket completed by the sixth day.

Betty turns out, worked for me many years ago, in the 1980’s when I did craft fairs, it was good to reconnect with her.  She brought commercial wool and made a terrific version of my collared zip vest, with a little assistance in the evenings!

And Peggy, I’ve known for many years, she regularly exhibits her work at conferences and is a pretty terrific garment maker and a heck of a weaver.  She brought a whole box full of things to work on, from tweaking the fit on garments she had already made, to creating one of my collared zip vests.  It was a joy to work with her as well.

And so  here is the class of Fall 2019 at Harrisville, taken a day early because a couple only stayed for the five days and didn’t need to take advantage of the extra sixth day.  The friendships that developed really showed, and I was very proud of this class.  

Peggy took a fun shot of me teaching during one of the lectures, I almost never have photos of me!

And for those that are interested, my five Handwoven Magazine webinars on Garment construction have found their new home through Long Thread Media.  Links to each of the five webinars can be found on my schedule page.  

And my latest video is up on Threads Magazine.  This one is included in their free essentials video series, it is all about stay stitching, something every weaver should memorize and anyone who sews garments should be aware of and be proficient at…

Trip number two of four is coming up fast, this one to the opposite corner of the US, Whidbey Island.

Stay tuned…

Weaving Yardage…

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how much I love Peters Valley School of Craft.  It is part of the Craft School consortium in the US, with Penland, Haystack, Arrowmont, Philchuck, etc.  It is within an hour from my house, located in National Park Service property, and I support them in many different ways.  Taking a workshop at any of these places can be life altering.  I try to take a workshop every year at Peters Valley, but I also get to teach there occasionally, this year I did a Designing and Weaving Handwoven Yardage class.  5 Day.

First let me say that this class is intense over only a 5 day period.  It is hard to make anyone, no matter how old, sit at a loom, sleying, threading, beaming, weaving for 5 days straight.  As a matter of fact, in my early days of writing for Handwoven Magazine, I wrote an article back in 2002 called “Lose Weight and Reduce Stress” after I taught a similar class back in the summer of 2001 at Peters Valley.  I remember then editor Madelyn van der Hoogt asking me on the phone if I had any ideas on how to boost readership, and I snarkily responded, “Just put something about weight loss on the cover!”  So she said, “Great, write it.”  (Jan/Feb 2002)

Designing, winding the warp, and all that handwoven yardage entails is tough work for anyone.  But the studio and condition of the looms was fantastic, best I’ve ever worked with.  The move to the newly renovated weaving studio, adjacent to the surface design studio at Peters Valley’s Thunder Mountain campus was the best thing they could have done for the students and for the looms.  It was bright, the best air conditioned place on the campus, which was really important since we had a 100+ degree heat wave in the mountains along with monsoon rains every evening.  The light was fantastic, and my daughter, as the fiber assistant was really instrumental in getting all the looms in perfect working order.  I took advantage of the space and tables in the adjacent surface design studio to put out all my yarns, show slides, and give students a space to do preliminary design with color exercises and yarn wraps.

Once they had the yarn wraps finalized, they started winding warps.

Once the warps were wound, they started sleying the reed, in levels.  

On to threading…

And then beaming…  I brought a couple of Harrisville Tensioners from my own studio.

And then ultimately weaving four yards of yardage once they tested wefts.

Everyone was thrilled as the knots came up over the back of the loom, most of the fabrics were combinations of plain weave, twill, and supplemental warps.  Since all of Peters Valley’s Macomber looms are at least 8 shafts, this is easy to accomplish. And Dee’s fabric really showed the influence of the photo she used for inspiration.

A very happy class!

One of the students, Ginnie, had flown in from Michigan, we have become really close friends as she is one of my regular students at Sievers School of Fiber Arts, I think she has taken my garment construction intensive class at least a dozen times.  I’ll be teaching that class at Sievers in October.  Anyway, she asked me in a conversation if I ever thought about teaching weaving, since she was mostly a self taught recipe weaver.  I mentioned the Peters Valley class and she signed up immediately.  She stayed over an extra day before flying home, and I took her into NYC to see the Camp: Notes on Fashion exhibit at the MET.  It was worth the traffic and drive into the city as exhausted as we were.  What a fabulous exhibition.  

And so I now play catch up, balancing house stuff, (yes I had to call in two repair/handyman/contractors when I returned home because well stuff breaks while I’m gone), bill paying and bookkeeping, and projects with fast approaching deadlines.  And starting prep for the fall marathon…  I did manage though, to continue working on the stuff in my basket, finding out how many 4.5 yard ends I could get from these two skeins if I circular wound on a warping board into an ombré effect.  The answer was 76.  

And I leave you with two funny pet pictures, because I missed my furry creatures while I was gone, and they do keep me laughing…  They seem to have an appliance fetish, the cat’s favorite perch is the coffee pot, so he can see out the back door when I’m dining by the pond, and he and one of my dogs lay in wait for the Roomba to start.  They haven’t figured out yet how to start it on purpose…  I just think it would be so cool to say to any of my animals, “There is dog and cat hair all over the place, please run the Roomba…”

Stay tuned…

It lives…

Most of the handweaving community by now is aware of the F & W Media debacle over the past few months, F & W Media owned just about every craft, art, farming, woodworking, and a slew of other publications in the country, with the exception of Taunton Press, still valiantly publishing up there in CT (They publish Threads Magazine).  F & W had been on an acquisition frenzy over the past few years, and had acquired Interweave Press, publisher of Handwoven Magazine, among other important fiber publications in knitting and spinning.  F & W declared bankruptcy early this past spring.  All of use who were owed royalties will never see them paid.  More importantly, the fear in the fiber community of our print institutions’ survival was a complete unknown.

In June, a “fire sale” as the legal rep I talked to handling the whole affair called it, (I was of course one of the people who will never get paid royalties due from last spring) was held, I think somewhere in Delaware.  I sat glued to my Google search engine for a week to find out what happened.  The F & W Craft Division, was successfully bid on by a company…

Macanta Investments, a private-investment partnership for Terence O’Toole and his family, put up $2.85 million for F+W’s crafts group that includes a network of 10 knitting, sewing and needlework magazines, along with nine quilting titles.

O’Toole is a managing partner of Tinicum Inc., an investment firm that bought a majority interest of F+W in 2014.

This mediapost article has a few more details, but F & W Craft Division including Interweave’s Handwoven Magazine will live on assuming the goal of this acquisition was to keep publishing.  The book division was sold just prior to the auction to Penquin Books, so hopefully it is in good hands.  A quick perusal of the Interweave Press website shows all the books gone, but digital content is still available for sale and is being heavily promoted.  These would include my five webinar series on Sewing with Handwovens.  

There is a lot of buzz on social media that makes me sort of sad.  Full disclosure, I was the Features Editor for Handwoven Magazine from about 2002 to around 2007, writing in every issue for 35 issues straight.  Madelyn van der Hoogt was my editor and I enjoyed every minute I spent under her careful and watchful eye.  I’d like to say she was responsible for my career as a journalist, as I’ve now written more than 100 articles in various publications and have even branched into video.  

But it all started at Handwoven Magazine.  The buzz on social media complains that the  magazine isn’t what it used to be, that the projects are mostly for rigid heddle weavers, that there isn’t a lot of content, that it is very thin, and a discussion ensues about cancelling subscriptions in protest, or stopping advertising, because, well no one reads the magazine anymore.  In fact I stopped writing for them because of the reduced rate of author compensation.  That said, Handwoven Magazine has been around for 40 years.  How do I know this?  An advance copy of the September/October issue is sitting on my desk because I have an article in it.  

There has been no other weaving publication that has hung in for so long and provided so much content as Handwoven Magazine.  I have every issue on my shelf and it is an incredible wealth of knowledge.  Many of the issues are available digitally, so they don’t take up shelf space, but I’m a paper kind of gal.  My art and weaving library is huge, because I’m a writer and a researcher and a creative person and well, there is nothing like a spread of a half dozen reference materials across my floor or cutting table as I compare content for an article.  I did a quick perusal of this issue, their 40th anniversary, Issue XXXX number 4.  (Yeah I know that the Roman Numeral for 40 is XL which is also a size, and XXXX reads better!)

The issue is thin.  Publishing print isn’t what it use to be.  My favorite current weaving magazine is of course Heddlecraft, published by Robyn Spady, but that publication is digital only with no advertising.  It is theme specific, provides extensive drafts, and has some lovely features columns.  But I doggedly continue to subscribe to Handwoven because it still provides inspiration, articles, and advertising, so I’m on top of what’s new, who is selling what, who’s who and who is writing what, and I will often use one of their dishtowel drafts for my annual dishtowel warp.  This issue is about remembering.  It has a look back over the six editors of Handwoven Magazine, and comments from them.  It has projects that reference many of those editors.  It has a sweet article from Sherrie Miller, whom I adore, about the Weaving Hall of Fame, a look back over those who have contributed most to the craft.  I get a mention at the end, which I totally did not expect.  I have an article on Weaving a Memory.  It is a technique I’ve taught in the past, and have a full monograph available for more content. (The link is for the digital version, there is also a bound paper version available.)

And there are projects, one rigid heddle, one for a pin loom, and plenty for four shaft looms and one for an eight shaft.  The ads are colorful and remind us of who is still out there selling supplies to handweavers.  There is a great look back over the 50 year career of Schacht Looms.  And a wonderful side bar about the decision to start offering projects at Handwoven Magazine, and why.  I never knew that part of the story. And Tom Knisely has a great article on weaving borders.  So here’s the thing.  There aren’t many print publications left.  Heddlecraft is digital only, and Weavers Craft will publish their last issue, #32 this year.  They also had no advertising.  You can still get back issues of Weavers Magazine (44 in total, have them all) and Prairie Wool Companion (16 in total, have many of them, still looking)  and the Weavers Journal (I’m still collecting them as well).  There is VAV magazine, a Swedish publication, really wonderful, which has been translated into English since 2006.  You can get back copies of that magazine from The Loom Room.  And so we have Handwoven Magazine.  It is important for the handweaving community to rally around and support what we have left, because even though you can find anything you want to know on youtube, there is something to still be revered and respected about holding the latest issue of anything.  I get very few magazines anymore.  I get this one. And of course, Threads.

And since I have every issue, I still use them for reference.  Especially my own articles.  Especially the Color Forecast.  I have almost all of the original content that was photographed for the magazine, the color chip cards and the yarn wraps.  I use them all the time for instant color and inspiration.  I just leafed through my binder and randomly picked the palette for Jan/Feb 2004 issue, called Retro, part of the Fall 2004-5 forecast.

And I gathered all of the yarns I had on all of my shelves, leftover bits in bins, hand dyed skeins, and wound a scarf warp in four parts…  The last part was the supplemental ribbons.

I spent yesterday threading this baby, and this afternoon I’m going to get it beamed, mostly because I don’t want 14 yards of warp chains lying around the floor to tempt my animals.  Hahahahah!

I often thought that it would be fun for Interweave Press to put together a digital collection of all of the forecasts I wrote, there are some pretty inspiring palettes.  I would know since I researched and wrote them!

I’m heading off to renew the Handwoven Subscription for our weaving guild.  I’m the treasurer so I get to write the checks.  Keep those issues coming…

Stay tuned…

I’ve seen the future and it’s looking bright…

I’m writing this on the plane, flying home to Newark from an amazing four days in Northern California at the CNCH Conference.  That would be the Conference of Northern California Handweavers for those not in the know…  First, I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to be asked to teach at this particular conference.  Eight years ago, I was scheduled to teach at CNCH 2002, and six weeks before the conference, with sold out classes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I had to cancel a number of teaching commitments that spring, and CNCH was one of them.  Eight years went by without another invitation, and I always felt bad that I never had the opportunity to make up for having to cancel.

I taught four classes at the conference this past weekend, Friday morning I had a large group for my Photographing your Work seminar, followed by a class called Warp Fast, a seminar on warping techniques that involve methods using multiple threads, paddle warping, sectional warping, and using an AVL warping mill.  I had a very large class for that seminar, and I got a lot of very positive feedback after both classes, which always makes me feel good, that I’ve inspired and encouraged others with new information and sometimes a new perspective.  Friday night was of course, the fashion show.  Always a conference favorite, I had a front row seat, which I appreciated, since I would be giving the technical critique of the garments on Sunday morning.  I had spent Thursday afternoon previewing the garments as they came in, so I had a chance to look up inside, check construction details and techniques.

I had already sensed that there was something different about this conference, a different energy and enthusiasm I haven’t felt at a fiber conference in a very long time.  The conference committee was doing an exceptional job, the facility, the Santa Clara Conference Center, attached to our hotel, the Hyatt, so we never had to leave the building, was first class, my classroom perfect for my needs, all my classes in one room, and the food at the Hyatt restaurants, outstanding and very reasonable.

So my weaving buddy, great friend and roommate Robyn Spady and I sat up front for the fashion show, and what a treat.  I found the garments to be largely in one of two groups.  There were a number of lovely jackets, beautifully tailored, made from exquisite handwoven, sometimes handspun and handdyed fabrics, and the makers of the garments, or their friends modeled them on stage.  They were so proud of what they had done, and celebrated the moment.  The show opened with the wedding ensemble, the year long undertaking of relatively new handweaver Tien Chiu, who has painstakingly documented every thread woven and every stitch taken on her  blog.

Then came the rectangles.  A large percentage of the garments were quite the throw back to the 60’s and 70’s when handwoven clothing was a series of pieced together rectangles.  Yet, there wasn’t a single bog jacket, that Bronze Age shape made from a couple of strategically place rectangles, based on the garments found in highly acidic boggy ground water.  When I started making handwoven clothing in the late 1970’s the yarns available for the average handweaver were nothing like the yarns available today.  Colors were classic, understated, and dyed more for rug weaving and tapestry than clothing.  As a matter of fact, my art school,  where I first learned to weave, had bins of rug yarn, and carpet warp for our use, and not much else.  The first garment I ever wove was from a coarse wool, and it was actually a modified bog jacket.

Note:  this photo, of a garment I did in 1976 represents how NOT to take a photo of your work!

Fast forward some thirty years and the yarns available to the average handweaver would blow your mind.  We have the knitters to thank for that, and the brave spinners out there who have taken handspinning to a new level, spinning with the most amazing fibers that didn’t exist in the 1970’s, (like bamboo mixed with Angelina and soy silk) and the rectangles that are coming out of small simple looms are anything but classic.  I’ve known that the knitting community has found handweaving and is embracing it with an excitement and an enthusiasm never before seen, but I hadn’t actually seen this phenomenon in action.  Armed with the Knitter’s loom from Ashford, or the Rigid Heddle loom from Schacht, and some incredible yarn, in unbelievable color combinations, these new weavers  are  single handedly resurrecting the craft of handweaving, and taking it to levels I could have never imagined.  And by young women half my age with pink hair wearing lime green hand knit socks they very competently knit themselves.

I don’t know if there is a Project Runway influence here as well, but the rectangular shapes of the garments that came parading across the runway were not the shapes of yore…  I’m going under the assumption that since home ec is not part of the current curriculum in most schools in the US, that these amazingly talented young women are learning fashion skills somewhere else.  The influence is pretty clear, since the rectangular clothing up on that stage was thoughtfully draped over someone’s body (a dressform?) and folded and tucked and seamed, stitched and embellished into some extremely creative clothing.

Alas, I have no pictures.  I’m hoping the CNCH website will eventually provide some shots of the fashion show, but trust me to say that I was SOOOOO excited by what was in front of me.  And in many of my classes, including the Saturday workshop on making a jacket pattern, there were numerous new weavers, first time conference attendees, and some amazing enthusiasm.  The torch has been passed. And to my complete delight, the aging handweaving community seems to have opened its arms and embraced the new blood and the new creativity that has blown in like a fresh breath of air.

Keep in mind that this is California.  In my travels, every new trend seems to originate here.  It will probably take some time to make it across the country, but even in my discussions with the  HGA Convergence Albuquerque committee, an international weaving conference happening in July of 2010, registrations have gone beyond all expectations.  I have seen the future for handweaving and it is very very bright indeed.

Saturday night’s keynote address was given by Syne Mitchell.  I first met Syne probably five years ago, a  30 something former Microsoft programmer with a very young son, she took my class in making a pieced vest in Seattle.  Syne was a new weaver, coming from the knitting world with a huge background in technology.  It didn’t take her long to find a need, and Syne jumped right in there to fill it.  In a few short years, she has united the global handweaving community, connected them to the knitting community, and turned the fiber world upside down with her podcasts called Weavecast, (I’m episode 26) and her online weaving magazine Weavezine. ( I have agreed to  write a monthly column on handwoven garments for Weavezine, stay tuned for that.)  Weavecast has been listened to on six of the seven continents, still waiting for Antarctica to come on board.  Syne gave a keynote that brought the global sources of handweaving found on the internet into the laps of everyone in the room.  She showed the conference attendees what could be found with just a few keystrokes and a couple of URL’s.  Online weaving publications, like Handwoven Weaving Weekly from Interweave Press; handweaving.net, developed by software engineer Kris Bruland with over 60,000 weaving drafts; Weavolution, an online global community of handweavers, blogs, and resources and information have revolutionized how we think, create, and interact with each other.  Syne ended her keynote with some weaving karaoke that you had to be there to see, and she had the audience laughing with her through the entire address.

Keep in mind that this conference is right in the middle of Silicon Valley, and it isn’t just the 20 something pink haired knitters turned weavers armed with a drop spindle that are revolutionizing the handweaving community.  Sunday night, after the conference was over, I went out to dinner with Syne and Tien Chiu, of wedding dress fame, and Tien’s significant other.  I’ve always been one of the youngest of the handweaving community, having been trained in college and shortly after making a career of handweaving, but now, in my mid 50’s, I sat back listening to the discussions at the dinner table over Pad Thai and Ginger Chicken, about solenoids and dobby’s and software and 24 shaft looms, by two technologically savy women and a non weaving soon to be spouse of a weaver, and saw that the technologically trained programmers and software and web developers have not only found handweaving, but are running forward with the available technology at a speed that has left me in the dust.  Tien is a web developer so it isn’t a surprise that she began her journey into handweaving finding a medium that would challenge and satisfy her amazing brain and blog about the journey so that others around the globe have followed the creation of the wedding dress, every intimate detail of it.  Syne, Tien, and others like them are taking handweaving to places I never thought possible.  It is all so very exciting, and I feel oddly enough like I’ve simultaneously gone back to my roots while feeling like I’m peering in the window of something truly wonderful and I want to come in and play too.

I do know how to spin, quite well actually, and I had a real desire to dust off my spinning wheel and find my drop spindle, and try some of that wonderful colorful stuff available at the conference.  I only had an hour or so to wander through the vast displays in the vendor hall, but I did manage to pick up some beautiful silk/mohair roving to spin, hand dyed in gorgeous purple and orange shades by Red Fish Dye Works, and in the back corner of the vendor hall, at the booth next to the pen with three alpacas, I bought the first fleece from Montana, a baby Alpaca, and I’m going to start spinning some yarn.    It was hard not to get caught up in the new enthusiasm of the future of handweaving, and to my great delight, in addition to all of the wonderful things to spin and weave and knit available at the conference, there was a Janome sewing machine dealer who was doing quite the brisk business selling sewing machines.  I heard more than one person telling me about retiring that old Singer from 1940 and moving on to something that would inspire creativity and get them sewing again.  Along with the rebirth of handweaving is the potential for a rebirth in the sewing world as well.  Which makes my heart sing, since I keep a foot in both worlds.  I weave cloth, to sew into clothing, and suddenly the possibilities have exploded and I couldn’t be happier.  I have seen the future and it is indeed bright.

This morning, I had breakfast with Nancy Weber, one of the key organizers of the conference, and she showed me the “conference scarf”, woven by a committee of weavers, as a gift for all the organizers.  It was based on my weaving buddy and guild mate Sally Orgren’s article in Handwoven Magazine, Nov/Dec 2008,  on eight shaft and four shaft dimity.  Can I say they were exquisite?  The colors were hand dyed, and can I say I coveted one?  I have a loom, I have tencel, and I have that issue of Handwoven Magazine.  In addition, the table runner across the breakfast table in Nancy’s home was woven from self patterning sock yarn.  Who knew?  The beautiful ikat effects were just yarn that was engineered to pattern a pair of socks.  My head is spinning with possibilities.  These are perfect projects to put on all my baby Structo looms.  Can you tell it was a mind blowing weekend?  So now I’m heading back to NJ, on my last leg of the trip, sitting in first class, with my wine, and thinking that life is really good.  And the future is very bright indeed…

Almost home…

I am writing this on the plane, winging my way back to the east coast, after an exhausting but remarkable 7 guild tour in four states in just over four weeks.  It seems like just a dream that this time last month I was just finishing up in Southern California, on my way to Arizona, and this last stop in Missouri, in the middle of America’s heartland, brought a very special closure to a very special trip.

I love what I do, I fly to all sorts of places in the United States, and occasionally Canada, and I meet so many different people, all devoted to creating something with their hands, and I meet the people who love them, daughters, sons, husbands, and occasionally wives.  I meet many folks who are retired from one part of their lives, who have recreated themselves again in another.  I get the privilege of staying with some of these wonderful people, who open their homes and their kitchens and their bottles of wine to me, and we share a little bit of each other’s stories, and I can’t imagine my life being nearly as full if I didn’t have this opportunity to travel.

This trip ended with an address to the Columbia Weavers and Spinners, and to my delight, they let me pick the topic.  So I chose my standard keynote address, which is my story, as it parallels the work from my hands, and from my loom; the two intertwine, warp meeting weft.  I love telling this story, because when I am finished, I am flooded by audience members who come up to me and tell me small pieces of their stories, that have unfolded as I told mine.  We all have a story, and I always feel privileged when I am able to tell mine, and have someone listen, and then share theirs.

AtWorkcolumbiaGuildVestsOn Sunday, the guild members worked feverishly to finish up their vests in the two day vest class, sewing machines were chugging along, and I ran from student to student trouble shooting where I could, and helping to make each vest turn into a personal statement for each of them.  It was great that eight of the eleven students came wearing their vests at the Tuesday night guild meeting, even though there were still quite a few pins, and unfinished handwork.  BonnieFeltedVestAnd I took a photo of Bonnie’s vest, since she was the lone felter in the group, and I am always thrilled when I have a felter in a group of handweavers because the end result is so organic and freeform.  Bonnie’s vest, coupled with the silky teal shirt, looked like she was swimming in a coral reef.

My hostess Mary Jane endured a lot having me stay with her, because I arrived last Friday evening, with the beginnings of a cold.  She provided many boxes of tissues and many bowls of hot soup, fresh bread, and a comfortable room where I could disappear and recover.  I hate when I am on the road and I get sick.  But I was lucky to have some down time on this trip, and I was able to curl up with my laptop, or a good book, and take some time to recover.  I did go to Facebook as often as I could, since the news from home was grim, a weekend storm caused severe flooding in my town, we lost one of our maple trees in the back yard, which took out the chain link fence on the side of the back yard, preventing the dog from using the yard until my husband got out there with the chain saw.  I saw photos of homes surrounded by water, landmarks I recognized from home with parking lots filled with water, and my son’s friend and another friend’s father, canoeing down the road using brooms for paddles.  I am sad for the devastation and for those still evacuated from their homes and their lives.  I was safe in the middle of the country, but my heart was heavy for those who couldn’t escape.

The highlight of my trip, was a dinner with Amy D. Preckshot, who is a member of the Columbia Weavers and Spinners Guild.  Amy is a special person and a testament to the spirit of the handweaver.  Amy is in her mid 90’s, and has a 24 shaft Toika loom visible from the parking lot in her apartment in a retirement facility.  I want to grow old and be just like Amy.  Most handweavers will recognize Amy’s work, if you have seen an ad for Webs Yarn Store, recently, you’ve seen Amy’s work.  The inside cover of the current issue of Handwoven Magazine features two of Amy’s giraffes in the Webs ad.  Amy is known for her clever handwoven stuff animals, and has written a book called, “Weaving a Zoo”, describing the animals and how to make them, and they are the first thing to sell at the annual guild sale.  My hostess Mary Jane had a collection that spanned years.  Amy graciously let me take some pictures of her whimsical animals.  She was planning the next one, I hear she is working on a red fox. Amy told me that I praised her garment in the fashion show when I did the technical critique at Convergence in Grand Rapids in 2006, and that she never forgot that experience. She hadn’t identified herself in the audience, so I never knew Amy was connected to the work I was critiquing.  She is an accomplished tailor, years of training behind her, and I was privileged to reconnect with her, and meet however briefly on the crossroads of our journeys.  I hope our paths cross again.

AmysAnimals5AmysAnimals4AmysAnimals3AmysAnimals2AmysAnimals1

So I am winging my way home, only to turn around in Newark airport and meet up with the rest of my family and head south to the Carolina’s for my son Eric’s graduation from boot camp Friday.  More than likely I’ll need another box of tissues to get me through graduation, I know I’ll not be able to get through that ceremony without shedding a few tears.  Stay tuned…