Works well under pressure…

Truth be told, deadlines are my friend. I am focused, organized, and have been doing this long enough to expect roadblocks, detours, and the myriad of things life throws at you when you are planning something else.

Like a fractured shoulder the end of December.

Like another flood in my sewing room last week.

My shoulder is progressing. Chris, my PT, is confident that I will gain back most of my rotation, and he doggedly pursues a course of action that is helping slowly but surely. He knows what he is doing, that is pretty obvious, and I trust the professional. I’m about 75% there, but that obviously doesn’t stop me. I’m always a woman on a mission, and figuring out how to meet deadlines in spite of what the universe throws at me, is my specialty.

Tuesday morning I had the plumber in, because once again, I took water in the basement sewing room. It was a bad storm, on top of an already ridiculous water table in NJ, much of the town flooded, but I should not have taken water under the wall in the corner where the sump pump lives. Turns out the hose of the dehumidifier was laying on the float, probably causing it to work improperly. You can’t make this crap up. So plumber installed a completely new sump pump, because why not, I don’t want to take a chance with a unit that is probably 25 years old, now that NJ is slowly sinking into the Atlantic, and the dehumidifier hose is properly mounted so it doesn’t interfere. Meanwhile, scrubbing the concrete floors and mats with heavy duty cleaner, on my hands and knees with a fractured shoulder that is still healing wasn’t my idea of a fun and entertaining couple of days…

But I persevered…

And was hugely rewarded. I will be honest and say I’m so freakin’ proud of myself, in spite of the tears these last couple of months. I had a deadline and I had to meet it. Three years ago I was asked to be an invited artist at the Convergence Fashion Show in 2020 in Knoxville, TN. I of course agreed, and started thinking about what I would send. We all know the curve ball Covid threw into the works, not only was the conference postponed for two years, but I retired from teaching on the road, and spent those two years developing content for my YouTube channel, The Weaver Sews. I’m not planning to be at the conference.

And so, back in January with one arm in a sling, I looked at the loom with the narrowest warp, which happened to have two shuttles, and I wove slowly, 6 inches a day, with one hand. Just clearing that 4 yard warp was a feat that I still marvel that I accomplished. I had no idea what I was going to do with a 9″ wide 8/2 tencel warp, about 3 1/2 yards long, but then I saw this piece from Urban Outfitters. I have not been able to find the piece on their website.) It was part of an article on sustainability with fashion designers, trying to use what they have. (Shacket is the term for shirt/jacket, apparently)

The shacket is not my taste, but it inspired me to do this.

My jacket is constructed almost entirely by hand and is completely reversible. The most challenging part was finding a reversible separating zipper. Though the piece doesn’t fit with my regular body of work, the response to everyone who has seen photos of it has been really wonderful, Jennifer Moore, whose workshop I wove the double weave fabric in, was really hoping to see it at Convergence.

The pattern for the jacket is from my pattern collection, a combination of the #800 vest and the armholes and sleeves from the #1700 tunic.

Meanwhile, if you have been reading my past posts over the last couple of months, you know I’ve managed to design, set up, and weave off yardage, hand dyed yarns, mixed structures on 12 shafts, inspired by a puzzle we were fixing. All with a fractured shoulder. I was able to get this walking vest out of the fabric I had, and I’m so freakin’ thrilled with this.

I used scraps of a caviar leather I had to make epaulettes, since there was no way I could match the shoulders, and there is leather piping down the front and armhole bands. I finished up the handwork yesterday. The pattern is from my collection, the #600 Walking Vest. It has pockets!

And because this fabric, woven a couple of years ago, kept calling me from the shelf, (it sat on the shelf for the last couple of years because I couldn’t think of what to make with it) asking me to make a dress. For the runway. Something that celebrated the stripes. Bias… I listen carefully to my materials.

I’m not certain how the dress will ultimately perform, it fits like a dream, being bias and all, but how will it hold up on exhibit in a fashion show? Normally I would have the dress folded on the shelf. I’m still up in the air whether I should send it. But I love the look of the dress, the way it chevrons on the side. The yarns are a combination of a bunch of stuff that was on my shelf, including a hand dyed warp from Blazing Shuttles, that’s the aqua tones large stripe. Again, a combination of structures, plain weave, twills, and some supplementals. And it has pockets! I modified my #900 bias top pattern.

So I’m sitting back and smiling at myself and all of my hardwork these last couple of months, mentally, physically, and all because of a postponed deadline from two years ago. I am my happiest when I meet a personal challenge head on and win. And I won this one.

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…

Mea Culpa…

Please Forgive me dear readers, no wonder I’ve been getting letters to make sure I’m still alive… I remember well Saturday night Catholic Church confessional when I was a kid, “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been six weeks since my last blog post…”

At the beginning of the month I caught this horoscope in my newspaper. Once in awhile I’m brought up short.

I need that reminder frequently.

I’d love to say that life in retirement is blissful and easy and boring. Yeah, no. I only retired from teaching on the road. I didn’t stop my calendar from filling up. I wanted to avoid this photo below, a photo I shot before I loaded my car to teach 8 classes at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival 9 years ago. It popped up on Facebook as a reminder…

I need these constant reminders that as chaotic as my life is now, it was much much worse…

I did take on a number of private students this fall. I’m pouring a lot of money into producing the YouTube videos, and paying my daughter a salary to make them happen, and I could use the income. (No, I don’t make anything off of YouTube, I’d need a couple million subscribers.) And I wanted to see what it was like to be in my space, using my equipment and supplies to do what I love.

And I’m enjoying the experience of having students in house. Cooking for different types of diets is a bit daunting, but I’m managing that, good skills to develop. But the calendar is rather full, one group leaves, another one comes in. That should slow up in another few weeks, but I also, in my quest to learn all the things, signed up for things I didn’t really have time to fit into the schedule. They were remote right, so they should be able to just fit right in… Between the student on Saturday, and teaching in Michigan on Monday and Ontario on Tuesday… I’m finding the need to print my schedule out hourly. That’s a first.

Still, no regrets… My guild was sponsoring a workshop with Jennifer Moore, whom I adore, the expert on double weave structures. For those that aren’t weavers, double weave means you are weaving two (or more) layers of fabric simultaneously, one over the other. There are advantages to this, but our focus was on weaving blocks, where the layers could change place, side by side. And the warp was her famous Rainbow warp, I used 4 ends of 8/2 Tencel as I moved through the color wheel.

Though I did have experience with double weave, this was a fun and challenging workshop, and I finally was able to get a warp on the new to me 25″ Macomber that I rescued and rehabbed. It wove like a champ…

And while I listened to a guild presentation last week, a different guild than the one that sponsored the double weave workshop, I sat and made cordage from leeks (the green parts), which I had sliced very thin lengthwise and let dry, giving a little spritz to soften them up when I was ready to use them. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to make cordage for basketry.

And in my spare time, I’ve been mulling over a draft I got from a friend, it has been making its rounds. This one is for something called Drunken Squares. It is a wicked cool fabric, and the draft was sent to me in the form of a profile draft. If you aren’t a weaver, skip this paragraph, it won’t mean anything to you. If you are a beginning weaver, this is a profile draft, meaning it isn’t something you can weave. You have to substitute each block in the threading and treadling with an actual structure. Each block is a unit. What you put into that unit depends on what structure you want. And since this is a six block structure, I thought I could do it with my 12 shaft loom. I tried, for a month. I got it to 10 shafts, and then when I spent another week or two I realized I could actually do it on 8. Most of my friends have done the draft effortlessly with 16 shafts. I don’t have that many. I plugged the profile draft into my weaving software (Fiberworks) and went to the block substitution tool. I worked for hours. I ended up with a tied weave, on 8 shafts, but it needed 14 treadles. I have 10. So I worked for hours more… In my spare time.

I got something I thought would work, 8 shafts, 10 treadles using more than one at a time. And no, I’m not ready to share the draft. I worked too hard on it.

I wound the warp, and went to my small 25″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade floor loom, and looked at the treadles, and decided that this poor little loom, which I’ve had since probably 1982, could use a really good treadle scrubbing. I used a magic eraser, they are amazing for removing years of gunk, and gave the treadles a good polishing with my go to loom feed, Howard’s Feed and Wax. Even though my poor little loom still has its nose a bit out of joint since the acquisition of the Macomber, my treadles are very happy.

I beamed my warp. This is 10/2 perle cotton, in colors I had on the shelf. I had to drop one stripe to fit on my 25″ loom, but that’s OK.

And I got everything working and started to weave. I did it. There is such a personal triumph when you focus on something really challenging, determination keeps me going. I refused to admit defeat. And it worked. I did it. The drunken squares are really drunken rectangles, but I didn’t care.

While I was working on the loom next to it for the doubleweave class, I glanced over and thought, duh, just change the size of the blocks… ’cause that’s what we were doing in the doubleweave class. There are days I’m freakin’ brilliant, and there are days when I think, where did I leave my brain?

So I did another block of the repeat, and now I have real drunken squares. I remember years ago working on a two shuttle structure and having the shuttles constantly falling in my lap. And I designed a fix… This is a small loom with a small weaving area. So I took the second back beam (there is a second warp beam which automatically comes with a second back beam) and I slipped the cover on it I had made years ago, inserted a 5″ wide plastic ruler, and slipped the whole thing on the front to make a shuttle rest. I’m amazed I found all the parts considering the studio move.

And we are back to filming videos again for my YouTube channel The Weaver Sews, after a 6 week hiatus. Each video takes about 20-25 hours a week between my daughter and me, to produce. In my spare time… hahahahahah!

I finished filming the videos for my summer shirt. Just in time for fall, which has been delightfully summer weather… Handpainted skeins circular wound into an ombré effect warp. I sell this draft on my website… Also, the pattern is my 1000 swing dress cut into a shirt length, with the neck and in-seam button-down placket (no buttonholes to make!) from my 700 or 1700 Tunic. Those patterns are available in my eShop. Videos will soon be released on how to do the collar and armhole facings, last week’s video drop featured the in-seam buttonhole placket.

I planned this fabric from a few handdyed skeins while my husband was dying, worst week of my life. Took everything in my brain to focus on anything but what was happening to our lives. I’ve held onto this fabric for five years waiting for it to tell me what it wanted to be. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this shirt. I did add shoulder epaulettes, since I couldn’t get the shoulders to match. It is one of my favorite cheats. The contrasting fabric is a heavy weight linen. Here is a photo of the original skeins I used to create this fabric. I called the fabric Chaos. Fitting…

And so my retirement life isn’t any less chaotic. And as I vacuumed and dusted my weaving studio this afternoon, I thought about how much, as chaotic as it is, I love my life. There is always something calling to me, wanting to be designed, engineered, played with, created, or even cleaned, cooked or washed. And now as I cook I think, gee, can I use this for making a basket? Will it make cordage? And the animals always demand time. I’m never never never bored. There is a lot of life to cram into my remaining days and I want every minute I can get. Because we never know. I want to learn all the things, do all the things, and be all the things, in my spare time…

Stay tuned…