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…

Paperwork: Love it or hate it?

I am choking in paperwork.  There seems to be an inordinate amount of show applications due by October 1, along with the proposals for the American Sewing Guild conference.  My inbox is overflowing and all the bills are due on Thursday.  I had all the banking to do from my trip last week, and my work from the summer shows is starting to return, one of the pieces from the Small Expressions exhibition sold, and I had to ship that out this morning.

I spent the afternoon, trying to decide what images to send to a major exhibit here in NJ.  It is a show I’ve never gotten into, sponsored by the NJ State Council on the Arts, but in reality, I may have only applied a couple times in my whole career.  For the first time in my life as an artist, not just a clothing designer/handweaver, I feel like I have a strong body of work to actually use for the application.  Except I’ve already applied to two shows last week, for the same time frame, and apparently it is a big no no to use the same work for more than one application, because if the worst happens, and both shows accept the same piece, you can’t write them and say, sorry, I’m sending it to someone else.  There is gallery exhibition etiquette here, and I’m new at this game.  So I spent about 3 hours on the application, trying to figure out how to navigate this one, after driving to Bergen County with my husband for a field trip.

I got one of my pieces accepted to the Art Center of Northern NJ’s 18th National Juried Show.  I posted the show, which runs October 11-November 2, in my events calendar, in the widget on the right. The drop off for the work was today, and I invited my husband to come along for the ride.  He was born and raised in Bergen County, and I thought it would be fun to drive around the area and see what’s changed.  Change is an understatement.  I enjoyed his stories, of shooting troubles as a lineman for the phone company, where there were serious breaks in the phone lines, one on Christmas eve, where he stopped at a tree seller, and threw a Christmas tree in the back of the phone company truck on the way home to his mom’s, and hanging over a stream trying to repair a line hit by a backhoe, as a thunderstorm hit.  Funny the things we remember, vividly.  It was a lovely afternoon.

I ran into Nisha Drinkard at the Panera where we stopped for lunch, former fiber department head at William Paterson University.  We chatted for awhile.  And having just gone to the Peters Valley 38th annual craft fair yesterday, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to other fiber artists, and how they are fairing in this poor economy.  I’m always amazed at how upbeat artist’s are, and how resourceful they can be, and how they aren’t afraid to reinvent themselves.

So, back to the paperwork.  I haven’t decided if I really hate paperwork, or I am challenged by it and am really good at it.  It is a love/hate relationship, but the bottom line is, I can’t teach if I don’t write proposals, and I can’t get my work into shows if I don’t fill out entry forms and applications, and I can’t stay in my house if I don’t pay my mortgage and utility bills, all of which are due within the week.  So, whether I love it or hate it, it all still has to be done.

Which is why I took a break for what my weaving buddy Sally calls, a weaving snack.  While I was at Sievers last week, I stayed in the teacher’s cottage, which is full of lovely things that other instructors have done and donated to decorate the house.  (Note to self: I really need to make something to send to them for the house…)  On one of the end tables was a beautiful mat made from inkle loom strips,  five in each direction, plaited together and stitched around the edges.  Simple enough.  I don’t know who made the one on the table at Sievers, but I thought it was a great thing to do in about 15 minutes with a finished inkle band.  God knows I have enough of them.

So I pulled a 1″ wide inkle band out of the bin, and I chopped it into 10 6″ sections.  Then I went hunting for my macramé board, the one I’ve had around the studio since 1977.Craft_Showcase

Sidebar:  After I graduated with a degree in fine arts, in 1977, I went to work for a retail chain of mall stores, called the Craft Showcase, owned by Cole National Corp.  It was the only experience I’ve ever had working in corporate America.  And that was quite enough.  The stupidity of some of the mandates from corporate headquarters, like change every price tag in the store to read .99, instead of .00.  We had to drop one cent on the price of every item in the store, thousands of items, and when we finally finished the job, headquarters decided we had to change them all back.  I still remember stupid stuff like that.

I did enjoy the job, I taught classes in calligraphy, stained glass, macramé (which you will recall was the technique du jour in the 70’s), along with needlework, fine art techniques, and anything else that came along where we had to promote the products and teach students how to make stuff.  I was responsible for making sure the ceramic owl eyes were always in stock, making a macramé owl plant hanger was the most popular class.  And I did all the window and wall displays.  I learned a lot from that job, and I picked up a lot of things while I worked there, which still exist in my studio and come in handy.  Like my macramé board. With the $2. price tag on it.

Of course I had to go looking in my daughter’s room.  When things are missing from my studio, I can usually find them there.

cut_pinSo I plaited the 10 1″ strips of inkle weaving together, and pinned them carefully.

stitch_matI went to the sewing machine, and stitched around the perimeter, with a shallow zig-zag.

trim_matThen I trimmed the raw edges to 3/8″.  With a long pin, I carefully pulled the weft threads up to the stitching line, creating even fringe all around the edge of the mat.

And here is the final mat!


OK, so I should be working on the proposals.  But this was fun, and I got a much needed break!BjornLR

And here is a great shot of the new dog, Bjorn, that my husband took the day they brought the dog home.  He has the sweetest face.

Can Shakes, Birthdays and other milestones…

I’m here, I know I didn’t post over the weekend, but it sort of got away from me.  It was a busy weekend, lots of little appointments on the calendar, but was able to get into the garden on Saturday and start the process of cleaning up the place.  I started with one length of the vegetable garden, and got all that brush and debris cleared away, pulled the new weeds, and generally had fun getting really dirty.  The sun was warm, and it felt good to be outside.

I picked up my husband and son, late Saturday night from the airport.  They had an excellent adventure in Utah, and other than some wicked sunburns on their faces (resulting in raccoon eyes from the protective ski goggles) they were in decent shape.  My son of course regaled me with stories of his dangerous escapades, involving things like jumps and cliffs, way more information than I want to know…  And yes, he wears a helmet when he skis, they both do.  Not that it’s going to help when you fall off a cliff…

My husband’s birthday was Sunday.  My daughter had wrapped all his gifts from my shopping expedition on Friday, she used recycled newspaper, it is cheap and goes right back in the recycle bin when the gifts are unwrapped, so my husband got to open his gifts, and then I headed down to Morristown to my Baroque recorder consort rehearsal.  I’ve always wanted to play in an ensemble of sorts, never got to as a child.  I attended a parochial school and we didn’t have things like middle school concert band.  I took piano lessons, but that isn’t the same as being part of a group.  No one person stands out, it is about being a team.  There is a lot to learn from that experience, and I’m glad I’m finally getting my chance.  The music is beautiful, we are playing French love songs from the 1600’s.

Sunday afternoon, I sat for two hours on a bench outside the A&P in the town where my daughter attends HS.  I sat with an inkle loom in my lap, weaving away on the Key Fobs for the Frances Irwin Guild donation for the MAFA conference tote bags.  My daughter stood with a can, asking each customer as they exited the supermarket, if they would please support the music programs at Boonton High School.

Now, I know there are a lot of people out there who completely disapprove of this practice.  They say it teaches kids to beg for money.  I actually don’t completely agree.  I have spent many, many hours sitting outside of supermarkets and grocery stores, even Walmart, with my kids, (an adult always has to be present), during their years in scouts and school clubs and programs.  I’ve watched my kids develop into  confident, well spoken almost adults, who have learned to look someone in the eye, and ask for what they want, and be gracious when a donation is made, and even more gracious when the answer is ‘no’.  My daughter has a speech issue, and it is hard for her to stand there for two hours repeating a phrase with lots of “s” sounds, and keep her diction clean and understandable.  Yet she did it.  She didn’t complain, she did her job, and she represented the school well.  All these seemingly minor events in a kid’s life all add up to make them who they become as adults.  There are lots of people out there, exciting from a supermarket somewhere in America who have fond memories of their years in band or chorus and many of them will strike up a conversation with my daughter, asking about what instrument she plays and how the money is being spent.  She can hold a conversation well with a perfect stranger, (which is why there is a parent always lurking in the background) and I’m proud of her confidence and poise.

Anyway, back to me, sitting in the background on the bench weaving on an inkle loom.  Some of the supermarket workers, who didn’t speak English, and were obviously from a country where weaving is an important part of the culture, seemed thrilled to stand and watch me weave, it was probably the first time they saw a woman sitting outside a marketplace weaving, since they left their countries.  There was an unspoken bond there that was pretty recognizable.

keyfobs1keyfobs2So I finished my Key Fobs, and this morning, I cut them off the loom stitched across the top and bottom of each band, and sewed them to the key rings.

The Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association is working hard updating their website to be useful to its members, and they now have a resource page, where you can find projects and techniques.  The directions for these key fobs will eventually make their way there, but you can find the directions for the conference project from two years ago, a tissue pack holder for your purse from handwoven fabric in the projects page.


placematsThe rest of the weekend was spent trying to catch up on some things, and my daughter started weaving her first of eight placemats, she did a really good job for a new weaver, her edges were straight with no draw-in, but she did have a few difficulties with broken threads, the 10/2 warp is a bit finer than her first couple projects and she is a bit aggressive when throwing the shuttle.  She isn’t having any problem following an overshot sequence, as I suspected, and the great news is the friction brake seems to be holding and there is no slippage of the beam as she beats.

And my next big project to tackle, besides finally getting the lining and interfacing cut out for the Arctic Sky jacket, is redesigning my website.  I spent a lot of hours this weekend, working on a logo, and what I wanted the home page to look like.  I also decided I wanted a Spry drop-down menu under the header, and never having done one before, I spent a lot of nail biting, hair ripping moments trying to get it work.  And of course my lovely husband comes in so I could proudly display my accomplishment, getting this puppy to work properly, and formatted properly, and he takes one look at it and says, “You forgot a tab for the blog…”  So more hours were spent trying to figure out how to edit my now gorgeous drop-down menu to add a tab…   Dreamweaver for web design, is a powerful program and the learning curve is huge, and it isn’t very intuitive, but then again, I’m not hugely computer literate either…  Stay tuned.

Pick-up Updates

single_diamond_graphsingle_diamondI teach a class on Inkle weaving, I love Inkle bands, first the loom is very portable, and second, the bands are so great on garments.  I used a complex inkle band with double rows of a 7 thread pick-up in the garment photographed for the blog.  Anyway, I’ll be teaching the class at the Southern California conference in the beginning of March, (see upcoming events on the right) and I’ve had on my to-do list to update the color  Inkle Weaving Monograph I sell to include a page of basic 5 thread pick-up designs for beginners to end the section on Pick-up.  So I photographed a band I’ve birds_eyebirds_eye_graphbeen working on, and created the 5 thread drafts for the designs, which took me most of the morning, updated the presentation, and created a PDF file as an addendum which can be accessed through my website .  So if you bought the monograph and would like the added page, or are just curious, click on PickUp, and you should access the page.

The rest of the day was spent working on the Dreamweaver Manual, I have a design for the website I’m working on, but not exactly sure how to execute it in Dreamweaver which is soooooo much information, which I’m following, but don’t have a clue how to do this yet.  But I’m only on chapter 4.  I’m learning CSS style sheets.  I long for the simplicity of HTML, even though it is very limiting.  I hit the bed exhausted last night, too late to blog, but my head swimming with all the exciting ideas and fun things that await, if only there were another 24 hours in one day…