Shopping In The Attic…

A long time ago, seems like another lifetime, I gave up ten years of craft fairs and production work, because 1) I was so burned out I didn’t want to weave anymore and 2) I was pregnant in my mid 30’s with my first child.  He turns 30 in February.  It was a long time ago.  Talk about an abrupt life style change…  As much as I can’t imagine my life without my children, especially since my husband is gone, those early years were tough.  I had my daughter just about three years after my son.  So most of my 30’s was about raising kids and desperately trying to recreate myself creatively, incredibly challenging.  For many years the looms stayed fallow.  It was just too hard to set up a loom, be uninterrupted without paying someone to watch my kid/kids while puttered away designing and threading.  And without the source of craft fair income, it was had to justify yarn purchases.  

But I had scrap.  Boy did I have scrap.  Handwoven yardage that is.  I was able to recreate myself and make use of lots of those scraps in the years my children were young because it is easier to be interrupted at the sewing machine than at the loom.  I’ve talked about this before, because a few years ago I started looking at all that scrap in the attic and downsized a bit, especially the early fabrics by making one pound packages and selling them off.  Those are all gone, but there is still a lot up there, and more recent work has netted me some pretty fantastic colorful scraps that I can do some pretty fantastic stuff with…

Sidebar…

I’m heading to Whidbey Island next Friday with a stop off in Bellingham, WA to give a lecture to the Whatcom Guild.  They chose to have my lecture on what to do with Leftovers.  I haven’t given that one in a year or two, and it was really lovely to go through and pull all the ingredients for the lecture, because when I teach someplace where I have to fly, I have to ship a lot of stuff ahead.  The “ingredients” or samples and examples for the Leftovers lecture won’t fit in the suitcases I need for the five day garment construction retreat on Whidbey Island so they all have to be shipped head as well.  And because this is the Pacific Northwest, and I live in the Northeast, I have to give lots of lead time for stuff to get there.  Which means a lot of preplanning and prepping.  So earlier this week, I focused on cutting and printing and binding and packing everything I need for both the retreat and the Leftovers lecture, which made me go through the content of the Leftovers lecture and remind me why this topic is so much fun.  Everything has been shipped out and I have some time to kill…

The fun part for me is that I already have all the “ingredients” for a lifetime of playing with handwoven pieces that are really just trash.  The garment they came from is finished and somewhere in my closet or sold.  I only have one venue a year where I can sell things I make from scraps, and there isn’t a whole lot of money to be made, once the guild takes its percentage, but still, my Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild show and sale in November is a pretty strong venue if I take the time to actually make stuff.

So I have a week or so before I fly out to Seattle, and the prep work for the workshop is done, and I pulled a large pile of miscellaneous stuff from my attic, and set out to see what I could come up with.

I’m seeing a lot of images of bags and items on social media that use my long ago developed technique for piecing.  All you have to do is show a person or two the technique, in a class or lecture and social media spreads it like wild fire…  I’ve already made two bags and sold them immediately at the guild sale last year, and this last one used the remaining bits.  The technique uses a tricot backing, scraps are fused to the backing with cut edges butting together, and the joins are covered by bias tubes using a duct tie as a press bar.  I’ve documented the process along with the rest of the technique suggestions in my “What to Do with Leftovers” monograph. 

I also found a very large hunk of a woven piece I did years ago featured in a Handwoven Magazine article, using a Theo Moorman inlay technique with Pendleton Woolen Mill “worms” or blanket selvedges (I shipped home a couple of bales from the mill during a tour after the Pendleton Oregon ANWG conference back in 2005 I think).  I wove them in using tie down threads on a wool background using up stuff on my shelves.  This made for a great two sided fabric and it was a perfect candidate and just the right size to squeak out a vest from my collared vest pattern.  No need for a yoke since the “worms” changed color midway up the scrap. Here is the link to the original coat, long ago sold to my favorite customer.

And I made another padded zipper pouch last night, with a leftover piece from last year’s dishtowel run.  The piece wasn’t enough for a full dishtowel, and not really the right size for a napkin. I showed the first one I made a couple blog posts ago I think.  There are a boat load of YouTube videos from quilters on making zippered pouches, though I’m having issues with my serger, this still came out quite lovely.  (Note to self: figure out what’s wrong with the serger, changing needles didn’t help…)

And I got the idea of making greeting cards out of the smaller scraps, from some I got from a guild or conference tote or something.  I ordered a bunch of Strathmore blanks with envelopes and cello sleeves  and my daughter immediately stole all of them and made them into cards so she could sell them at the sale.  Her scraps are infinitely more interesting than mine, but I’ll have competition at the guild this year for greeting cards.  Hoping people still send snail mail greetings…

And of course there is nothing like a deadline.  

Additional sidebar…

I am a huge fan of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, their productions are incredible, and I always try to attend their annual gala fundraisers whenever I’m actually in town.  This October they are hosting another fund raiser, with requisite tricky tray, called “A Bard’s Barbeque“.  I’ve donated my handwoven scarves to their tricky tray in the past, but the BBQ theme needed something different.  I spoke with one of their development directors about donating a couple of handwoven dishtowels, you know, the Lady Macbeth “Out damned spot” kind of thing.  They loved it but it means I have to clear the loom of the 14 dishtowels to get two for them before I leave for WA next Friday.  No pressure. 

I think I just finished number nine…

And while I had my morning tea, I leafed through the new Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot that has been sitting on the table for a week now.  It has the conference registration for next year’s Convergence in Knoxville, TN, and I’m not on the roster by choice.  I didn’t apply to the conference because, well if you have been following my blog you know that I’m not interested in doing conferences anymore.  That said, I was surprised as I leafed through the magazine, to find myself on page 25, or rather my coat, which I had forgotten had won the coveted HGA award back in 2018 and was featured in a spread in the magazine that featured all the HGA award winners from last year.

I read on, and was surprised again to see me, like a picture of me, on page 7 of the conference registration book, because I’m one of the invited fashion show artists.  There are three of us invited, I was the juror for the fashion show in Reno in 2018, and now, I’ll be sending five pieces of work, so my work will be there, just not me.  Talk about a serious deadline…

And then I really was surprised when I turned to page 44, almost at the end, and saw a lovely ad featuring my dress, it was an HGA ad for Professional Membership.  I have this vague recollection of the editor asking permission to use my piece in something…  The ad is beautiful.  And of course I’m a professional member…

Nice to be featured prominently in a magazine without actually having to write anything!

Stay tuned…

I did it!

This has been a long haul, I’ve been mostly on the road non-stop since August.  There is one more brief venue I need to fly to in December, but my marathon is done.  I still have buckets of stuff on my plate, including the guild show and sale this weekend, and though I probably won’t have any work to show, I’m the treasurer, and will need to spend the three days locked in the kitchen of the facility processing lots and lots of sales.  And then the follow up.

But for now, as I drove up the Eastern Shore of Virginia into Maryland and then Delaware, over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, finally heading up the length of the NJ Turnpike, the leaves were at their peak, and the traffic minimal on a Saturday morning, and I listened to NPR Now on Sirius XM and all was well with the world.  I arrived home much earlier than I thought I would, in time to get my doggies from the Kennel, stop at a Trader Joe’s for my favorite yogurt, and completely unpack and put everything away, getting ready for my heavy calendar on Sunday.  I had a recorder performance in the morning followed by a rehearsal, and then theater tickets at my beloved Shakespeare Theater of NJ.  My daughter and I saw Charlie’s Aunt, and if you are in the area and want a raucous time, laughing until your sides hurt, this is a welcome diversion on all things political.  The perfect British farce.  

That said, I’ll say it now, OBX wins.  For those not in the know, OBX is an abbreviation for the Outer Banks region of North Carolina, coastal, Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk and the Wright Bros memorial and museum.  This is my third year teaching at this lovely five day retreat.  It is organized by Linda Ihle of Island Fiberworks, and she did a bang up job with this one, held at a beachfront resort called Sea Ranch. 

We stayed in condos, I got a beach view and every morning I woke up to this…

And went to bed looking out my balcony to this…

The view is lovely, but mostly I was in the classroom, from 7:30 when I went down to breakfast to well after 10pm each night.  So I didn’t spend my time sitting on my balcony listening to the surf drinking wine.  Actually I spent no time at all.  Sad.

The reason OBX wins is the participants, or rather their fabrics.  I have never seen such a combination of handwoven fabrics, the Blazing Shuttle influence is definitely here, but not everyone used hand dyed or hand painted warps.  I believe everyone but one student used handwoven fabrics.  And the one who didn’t has taken this class with me before, a couple of times, and used gorgeous handwoven fabric, but this time, she was interested in fitting a pile of test garments from patterns she brought, or ready to wear she wanted to copy, to presumably use eventually on handwoven fabrics later.

The gauntlet was thrown down and the first night I arrived after a long drive from north of Baltimore, I was greeted with a lovely spread of food and of course wine!  It flowed regularly and often (after happy hour of course!)

Participants spent the first couple of days with challenging layouts.  This is one of the toughest parts of working with fabrics that combine hand painted warps, finding common areas for matching across the fronts and backs of a garment.  I spent a number of hours the first night of the workshop with one student alone trying to find the best layout.

Because there were wonderful photographers in the group who hardly missed a shot, I didn’t take as many photos as I usually do, and so many of these came from Leigh and Natalie and some of the other students, I swiped them off of Facebook. Mea Culpa dear ladies, I hope it was OK.  There were some really fun pictures of me in action, I rarely ever get into the shot!

Margaret was the participant who brought her own patterns, and she cut out a number of them, including this lovely paneled dress, after I showed her how to copy a beloved piece of ready to wear.  She thought up the pocket treatment herself.  She used a Guatemalan babywrap for the fabric.  Then she made a purple linen bathrobe that will eventually have a belt.  She modified my swing coat pattern, creating more of a duster.

Elizabeth, Dornan, and Cyndi all made Daryl Jackets with the Shawl Collar and Gaila made the same, except without sleeves.  

The rest of the class dove right into my new collared vest pattern that zips up the front.  Natalie led the pack with fabric she wove using Blazing Shuttle Warps and a modification of my Chaos draft, available here. She was hilarious with her camera taking all sorts of documentary selfies.  She made me smile.

Linda, Peggy and Leigh also wove gorgeous versions of my vest, all with fabrics they wove.  

Mary combined my jacket pattern with the collared vest pattern and made this gorgeous jacket.

And Victoria, who has also taken my class a couple of times before, experimented with working on some of her vast collection of smaller cuts of fabrics, thinking of pillows and bags, and then at the end of the class, brought out the walking vest she made two years ago, to finish it up.  It is one of my favorites of all the fabrics, as a matter of fact, I got some of her scraps and am having another pair of clogs made from them.  I wish I had gotten better photos, it looked really lovely on her.

Kathrin Weber came in a few hours before the end of the class, to begin the transition to her class which followed mine starting this morning actually.  As I was packing she was laying out all of her dyed warps for her students to purchase.  I got a great shot of us, she is wearing the collared vest I made, using fabric I wove from a class I took with her last year.  Or was that the year before…  Time flies when you are having fun surrounded by glorious color.

I’ll be back next year, last week in October, all of you who are booked for 2019 in other classes in the country, this one will be a hard act to follow!  

If you are in the area, the Jockey Hollow Weavers Guild annual show and sale will be held at Grace Lutheran Church in Mendham NJ, Saturday and Sunday, the 10 and 11, 2018.  I’ll be in the back all weekend doing the numbers!

Stay tuned!

The Morning After…

I woke up, and that’s about the extent of my morning efforts.  If I didn’t have to get out of bed, and get my daughter off to school, I’d have slept indefinitely…

But since I was up, I decided to look at my day as one of reentry, do only the essentials, which consisted of unpacking, doing my laundry, blogging, and beginning the process of tidying up my house.  And I need to process about 30 images from the guild meeting last Monday to send to the newsletter editor.  Somehow I got to be the designated picture taker for the guild…  I’m not sure how that happened.  But I did talk my son into doing that arduous task, he owes me some money, so I put him to work.

Anyway, I returned from my guild sale, tired and full of observations.  For all of my efforts, I sold roughly $600. worth of stuff, mostly books, of which I will give the guild 20%.  I was hoping I’d sell more, but I didn’t have any small inexpensive gift items, and this is the small inexpensive gift item season, and I refuse to make small inexpensive gift items, I’m small inexpensive gift items challenged if you must know…

NativeWoodsFrontLGRibbonScarfDetailI was hoping for more of a response to some of my clothing, I value the feedback from trying things on different bodies, and I haven’t done that with anything other than my jacket pattern in workshops, in many years.  If there were any interested customers, I didn’t see them, almost no one sold garments over $95. that I knew about. (One of the guild members did buy one of my vests, which was more than $200. and I was eternally grateful, it was beautiful on her and another one of the guild members bought one of my new scarves for more than $100, and again, I am eternally grateful.)  The final numbers and a wonderful statistical analysis will eventually come from the guild treasurer, but for now, the guild show and sale, seems to be about selling small inexpensive gift items, which, did I mention, I don’t do?

I will share that I was sort of surprised at how most of the members priced their work.  Almost everything in the exhibit was either handwoven or handknitted, there were a few baskets, and some inexpensive polar fleece hats and scarves and some jewelry.  I’d say about 90% of the handwoven scarves on exhibit, and there were a lot of them, were priced between $45-55.  I sort of feel like I wouldn’t set up my loom for that, especially since the guild takes 20% of that amount.

When I did craft fairs in the 1980’s, the discussion then, was about pricing your work.  Craft fairs have an overhead, obviously, and just having a studio, paying for equipment, rent/or mortgage if you own the home, electricity, internet, whatever, all of that goes towards the price of an item.  Sadly many of the guild members are just happy to sell anything, since it isn’t their real source of income, and it just allows them to make more stuff.  And that reasoning just undervalues everyone’s work.  I actually bought two pairs of hand knit socks.  I paid $30. a pair.  I’ve made socks, once.  I won’t do it again.  I totally respect anyone that can pick up a pair of needles and whip out a sock, and then do it again for the other foot.  A pair of hand knit socks is priceless.  But $30.?  I can’t even go out with my husband to the local pizza place for $30. For a dinner.  A set of four handwoven placemats cost $40.  I sold placemats, handwoven, lots of them.  That was one of my first production items.  I sold them for $40. for a set of 4 back in 1980.  I just looked at four woven placemats in Vermont Country Store Catalog for about that much.  This is 30 years later, and we don’t live in China.  We are American craftswomen/men and we have a minimum wage here.

So this brings us to the larger discussion, how do you price your work, how do you value your handwork, what kind of prices do others set at guild shows?  Those who have guild sales events, do you sell scarves, handwoven or otherwise for more than $100. a scarf?  Have you tried?

I spent a lot of floor time, talking to customers, about what we do as a guild, what goes into the work we do, the fact that rayon is not a petroleum based yarn, and in some cases, the discussion came around to pricing and I was surprised to hear from more than one customer that a lot of people shop at the guild show and sale because it is well known that you can get really cheap handmade items there.

As program chair for the guild, I’d love to do an evening program, panel discussion on the whole issue of selling your work.  And one of the members told me that it really is all about a fund raiser for the guild, so most should look at this as a guild donation of sorts.  Volume sales are important for the guild to make money for programs.

I use to give seminars on marketing your work, back in the 1980’s, and of course pricing was one of the subjects we talked about.  I was, and am still amazed at how many think that if they sell an item for $40. that’s what they actually make.  And if it doesn’t sell, then it must be too expensive.  I’d love to open this up to anyone reading this blog, to feel free to comment, share, give me some perspective here, and some of the logic behind $30 hand knit socks and $45 handwoven scarves.

Off to move  the next load of laundry to the dryer…

Plans gone awry…

First, I have to say Happy Birthday to my now 17 year old daughter who has her driver’s license and can’t wait to find places to drive.  She decided she has to drive to the High School tomorrow because her rather large woodworking project is ready to be brought home.  Timing…  Good job Brianna!

I sat down at the computer this morning, after getting her off with the driving instructor who would take her for her test, and my plan was to catch up on some contracts and proposals that needed some attention, and start preparation for tagging and photographing items for the guild sale this weekend.  Silly me, what was I thinking…

It all started when I happened to look ahead on my Google Calendar, all the way to tomorrow.  I noticed that I was suppose to deliver my piece for the Visual Art Center Blank Canvas auction, and I completely panicked.  The piece isn’t even made yet.  Then I looked at the original sheet with the dates, and the piece isn’t due until November 20th.  Big relief!  🙂

Then I found an ad for an exhibit in Texas, an international juried art competition, but the application had to be sent out today.  🙁  So I started looking through the artwork I have committed to specific exhibits to see what pieces would be available for submission.  I came upon the outstanding entry form for the New Jersey Focus for the Art Center of Northern New Jersey exhibit, and looked at the dates and nearly had a heart attack when I read that all accepted work was due today.  🙁  I never heard from them, so my assumption was they didn’t get my application?  I called them.  In fact my work had been accepted, and it was due today, and by the way, I never picked up my piece last week from the International Juried Show…   Hmmm…..  Well, I did apparently screw up there.  I failed to mark on my trusty calendar that I had to actually pick the work up when the show was over, you may recall, that was the piece where I won the Merit award.  (In my defense, I rarely exhibit in a show that doesn’t involve shipping a piece and prepaying the return shipping, so it isn’t something I pay attention to, the piece just shows up on my doorstep. ) OK, so I just had to gather the work that had to be brought to the Art Center for the next show, and pick up my poor orphaned piece I had left behind.  I don’t usually make mistakes like that.

I went to my files to see what pieces had in fact been accepted.  🙂 And I nearly had another heart attack when I realized that one of the pieces had been woven, but it had never been mounted on a frame. 🙁  I didn’t even have the frame.  It was a big piece, 28 x 24″  and I just stood frozen in my studio for a good couple of minutes.  Then I sprung into action.  First I searched my stick barrel in the studio, every weaver has one.  Lease Sticks, Temples, wood slats for warping, dowels, yardsticks, all things long and wood-like reside in the barrel in the corner.  And there, like a gift from heaven, were two 28″ stretcher bars, and two 24″ ones.  🙂  This is my lucky day!

Big SisterBig Sister DetailI put them together, and built a padded cover, and then covered that with silk.  I mounted the artwork, a piece I wove a few months ago, a larger version of the original Big Sister, and carefully pinned it stretched on the frame.  Then I hand sewed it to the silk, all the way around.  The whole process took about 4 hours, and I was finally able to head out to the art center around 2:30.  This was not what I was planning to do today.  And I found out the artist’s reception is Sunday when the show opens, right in the middle of the guild sale, and no where near the guild sale.  I hate calendar collisions.

I managed to get back from Bergen County around 4pm, which left me about 40 minutes to process images, burn a CD, fill out the paperwork, make out the check, place everything in an envelope and get it to the post office before it closed today for the exhibit at University of Texas at Tyler, which is what started this whole escapade today.  I did make it to the post office with five minutes to spare.

So nothing I had planned to do today got done, except putting in the proposals for Siever’s for next year.  But that’s life in the fast lane, we all went out tonight for all you can eat Sushi for my daughter’s birthday.  I am going to finish up this blog tonight and curl up in bed and read.  I’m in the middle of two good reads, one on my iPod, and the other on my night stand.  One is an Elizabeth Berg novel, about a woman who contracted polio in the 1950’s and was pregnant, and managed to give birth to her daughter while in an iron lung. She went on to raise her daughter by herself, in spite of being completely paralyzed.  Like I said, it is a good read.  The other book is by Brett Lott, called Jewel, about a family from Mississippi whose last child has what we now call Down’s syndrome, but back then, the term was Mongolian idiot.  Both books are from the same time period, and both take place in Mississippi, and I am always appalled reading about how we treated each other and how racism and prejudice were everyday occurrences.  We have come so far and yet, not far enough…

I finally got hold of some of the images my husband shot at the musical Once on this Island, performed last weekend at County College of Morris.  The show takes place in the French Antilles, in the 1950’s.  The story is a folk tale, of an orphan after a horrific storm, who was kept alive by the gods, and how she grew up among the peasants and the indigenous peoples of the island, but falls in love with one of the French Grande Hommes, after she rescues him from a car crash.

OnceOTIsland4OnceOTIsland2OnceOTIsland1I wanted to share the photos, because I helped with the costumes, providing some of the actual garments from my vast stash of amazing clothing.  The god of water, Agwé, wore my peacock vest, actually all four of the gods wore capes of some sort, so my peacock vest was perfect to give the illusion of sparkling waves as he turned and moved around the stage.  In one scene, he covers the orphan Ti Moune, who has been taken by the god of death, (on Agwé’s right in the first two photos), with a wave of water.

I copied a dress with some handpainted silk fabric from Thailand for Erzulie the goddess of love.  OnceOTIsland5The costumer added a cape, and the actress looked like a pink froth of love!  She moved and swirled, and it was all quite effective.  On her right was the goddess of the earth, Asaka, and I put one of my sari skirts on her, and reworked the cape from a costume from another venue.

OnceOTIsland3And of course, there was my son, who played the grandfather of all the french inhabitants of the island, Armand, who came in the time of Napoleon, and in spite of having a lovely wife, to his right, he slept with all the peasants.  My son loved the role…  I designed the look for Armand, and I provided the white lace dress for his “wife”, and the peasant to his left, has on one of my silk broomstick skirts.

After the show, we carried out a carload of garments and fabric, and I’m still cleaning everything.  I was glad to have had the opportunity to help with the costumes, I actually enjoy it, and the challenge of making up something from nothing, and it only has to look good from the audience, and not up close, and it only has to make it through a weekend of shows!  The complete opposite of how I actually work!

I’m going to try again tomorrow to work off some of my to do list.  Wish me luck…