Running From the Storm…

What a week.  I’m not sure where to begin, except to say right up front I’m home safe in NJ, for now.  

I left a week ago for Atlanta, and on to John C Campbell, a folk school in the Appalachian mountains in the western corner of NC where they meet TN and GA.  We had heavy thunderstorms almost every day, but they were unrelated to what was happening in the Atlantic.  The folk school is gorgeous, magical, and I can see why it is a popular place to learn craft.  I am so grateful to add this to my resume, my students, the facility, the food, housing, staff and infrastructure were all wonderful and encouraging and promoting of creativity and inspiration.

I took a break from teaching my regular garment construction intensive, and taught a five day inkle weaving intensive.  I don’t think I am capable anymore of teaching anything but an intensive. I work my students hard.  I don’t think anyone has ever complained that they didn’t get their money’s worth in one of my classes.  And this one in particular was pretty challenging, especially if you had little or no weaving experience.  I started students off, (there were 10 of them) learning about the inkle loom, and how to set it up efficiently and how to weave a competent band.  By lunch the first day, they were all right there and doing really well.  

Then I introduced supplemental weft, which was lots of fun and very creative.

Followed by supplemental warp.  

The afternoon of the first day we tackled what at first seemed challenging, but by the time the class ended, everyone was thinking that this technique was really elementary! This is a 2:1 pick up, often called Baltic.  Most students did the designs on five thread, a couple with more experience managed 9 thread.

On Tuesday we rewarped the looms, using complementary warps, light vs. dark.  The first technique was name drafts, which again, seemed so hard at the time, but by the end, students were returning to the name draft for a bit of a break!

Then we explored pebble weave, some simple diamonds, each technique building on the previous one.

It became pretty obvious that there was some serious stuff happening in the Atlantic, and one of the students lived on the coast and decided to leave after lunch on Wednesday, to head back to retrieve her animals so she could evacuate.  I saw a lot of very nervous students, trying to decide what to do.  Meanwhile there were heavy thunderstorms throughout my stay, which resulted in some pretty awesome rainbows.

Next up was a free form technique or Runic as Ann Dixon calls it.  I explained the basics of how it was done, and students just made up their designs.  Many of the techniques are adapted from Ann Dixon’s book of Inkle loom patterns, I make up the patterns for them to use, but encourage them to buy her book for more ideas.  Most had a copy by the time the class ended.

Wednesday afternoon they were ready to tackle Paired Pebbles, which is an Andean technique, and one of my favorites.  Laverne Waddington publishes many books of patterns, usually done on the backstrap loom, but very doable on an inkle loom.  Students were all copying the links so they could order for themselves.  Laverne’s books are available as downloads from

Thursday morning we rewarped the loom, and you could see how exhausted everyone was, but I saved the best for last, and once everyone caught on, there were some really pretty designs using a three shaft technique called Turned Krokbragd. 

One of my students Margaret rewarped a companion loom to coordinate with her Krokbragd piece, so she had these beautiful small inkle looms, handmade from gorgeous woods, which she had bought on the internet.

I had a mom and daughter team, which was so wonderful and sweet to watch, sort of like watching my daughter and me in a workshop together.  Sarah, like my daughter, though she had no previous weaving experience, ran rings around everyone in the room.  To be young again with all that stamina and energy.  At one point, late one afternoon they asked if they could just warp up something simple, like shoe laces.  I had showed the link for the article my daughter wrote 10 years ago when she was just 15, for an online magazine called Weavezine.  Though the magazine is not in publication anymore, the archives are still there, and they went off and downloaded the article.  Next thing I new, they were both happily weaving off a pair of shoelaces each.

Everyday at the folk school is magical, from the well maintained wooded paths, to early morning song where local folk singers come to perform, to Tuesday yoga, demonstrations, concerts, and stuff that was hard to fit in sometimes.  I tried to keep the studio open in the evenings, so students could concentrate better with less distraction.  The last day was graduation day, and each of the dozen classes that happened during the week, from clay and woodturning, to blacksmithing, enameling, painting and photography, had a show and tell of students accomplishments for the week.  The dulcimer students gave a lovely performance singing and playing in a round.  My class set up their table with looms still in progress and a stunning array of bands, they were so proud of what they had done.  The class photo was missing a few students, some had already left to beat the storm, but the joy and pride was evident on their faces.

All of these technique are available as a download and as a bound monograph on my website in my book, Advanced Inkle Loom Techniques.

I had planned to stay on for the weekend to take a sketchbooking class.  As I followed the path of Florence, it became apparent that it was headed for the folk school and though I didn’t think the storm would directly affect operations, maybe knocking out the WIFI, I was worried that the storm would graze Atlanta and I wouldn’t get out Sunday night.  With a turn around flight Wednesday to Sievers in Wisconsin, I decided not to chance it and rebooked my flight to Friday night (thank you United for not charging me to rebook) and took off shortly after the presentation, hopped the shuttle to the airport and made it home safely and uneventfully by late Friday night.  Oddly enough, the storm is veering back toward the Atlantic, heading right over NJ, and I’m hoping the rain and wind are finished before I fly Wednesday morning.  Crossing fingers.

Stay tuned…




Well best laid plans…

I’m listening to The Devil Wears Prada on my new iTouch.  I’ve seen the movie of course, but I never got around to reading the actual book.  I was looking for something light, to download from my library service for audio books.  They don’t have a lot of the type of literature I like, but this caught my eye.  If you haven’t seen the movie, rent it, a great chick flick.  New college journalism graduate lands her first job as the assistant to a wickedly sadistic boss, Miranda, the editor in chief of Runway magazine played by Meryl Streep, sort of an obvious take off on Vogue.  There is a scene, repeated quite often in the movie and the book, where the poor overworked assistant, Andrea, is sitting at her desk, and “Miranda” sweeps into the reception area, dumping her sumptuous full length fur coat on Andrea’s desk, completely covering her and sashays off into her private office, leaving Andrea to deal with the coat.

This is a great visual for how my week has been going.  I feel like the planets are having a field day dumping huge fur coats across my desk, so many I’m drowning in them.  There are some wonderful, sumptuous opportunities being thrown at me from all directions, and I am accomplishing some really fun things in the studio, but I feel like I’m drowning in too much of a good thing.  Can you imagine?  So I don’t want this blog to sound like I am complaining…

First, there is the opportunity to send proposals to the American Sewing Guild conference in Atlanta next summer, then there are a number of late fall/winter art exhibitions that I should apply to, and there is my article to write for SS&D.  Orders have been coming in, and I’ve been invited to participate in a Fiber Arts telesummit, in November, a weekend virtual event where participants listen to and interact with presenters on the phone.  The roster of speakers looks great, and I need to send bio, lecture title, write up, etc., by yesterday.  I’ll talk more about this event as I have promotional material to post.

Meanwhile, I did talk about trying to make something to sell for my guild show and sale in November, (the same weekend as the Telesummit).  And did I mention I’m leaving on Sunday to teach for a week at Sievers Fiber School in Wisconsin?  I made it to UPS today, with a huge box of handouts, monographs, and interfacings and such, since I’ll need to be prepared for whatever the returning students want to make.  And I took a quick drive to Montclair State University this morning to drop off an application for an exhibit next January.  The application was of course due today.

sweatshirtI have been somewhat successful in making a couple of things for the sale.  Here is where it gets a little difficult.  I am perfectly capable of making stuff.  The hard part is making cheap stuff.  I mean affordable stuff.  Once into a project, it twists and turns, and usually turns out wonderful, but at a price point that would be way beyond what someone would pay at a guild sale.  I purchased a yam colored pigment dyed sweatshirt from Nancy’s Notions.  Nancy has gorgeous sweatshirts, in wonderful colors, if you like sweatshirts, and I bought one to try it out, and cut it into a jacket, and trimmed it with a handwoven scarf I had laying around.  I made one of these last spring after an American Sewing Guild chapter meeting, where the seminar leader took a sweatshirt, cut it into a jacket by cutting up the center front and removing the bottom bands and sleeve cuffs, and adding quilt fabric for trim.  I took it a step further, and used a handwoven scarf.  There were two tiny scraps left when I was finished.

Next I started on a tote bag using the piecing technique I teach in my pieced vest class, called Vested Interest (which I’ll be teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School in NC in January).  I am trying to see if I can develop a one day hands on seminar, using the technique and developing a project that will appeal to everyone, and can be completed in one day.  bagWell, I was partially successful in making a very cool tote bag, (almost finished, just some handwork) but failed miserably trying to make a reasonably priced item for the guild sale and something that could be made in one day.  I’ve been working on it solid for three days, and yes, I take photos every step of the way, about 200 so far, and I am constantly ripping out and redoing as I think of a better way to accomplish something, but I’m at least moving in a direction full of possibilities.  I basically have to simplify, simplify, simplify, and sadly, I never learned the meaning of that word…

inkleI’m trying to finish up the inkle band that coordinates with it, and maybe use it as trim, though I’m liking it just the way it is, and think I may use the inkle band for something else…

And then there was the guild meeting on Monday.  The Frances Irwin Handweaving Guild is embarking on a fall study of rugs and rug structures, and we had to bring a loom warped to try sampling the September theme of Summer/Winter and Taquetté in rugweaving.  The directions called for a 10 1/2″ wide sample warp, and though my little sample loom is only 10 1/4″ wide, I went with it.  And the recommended thickness of rug yarn was heavier than anything I have laying around in the studio, so I went on an attic hunt and procured a bag of  yarn, some bright pink wool, and some brown handspun from my mother-in-law’s stash.  Even though she has been dead for three years, she still guides me to her stash when I need something, as though her spirit is still hanging in my studio and telling me, “Use this…”yarn

So I dusted off my trusty Ashford wheel, and plied the pink wool, and brown handspun, to make something closer to the required weight of rug wool.plying

I got the loom warped, and took it off to the guild meeting yesterday, and was pretty happy with the first samples off the loom.  I will say this is about as foreign as it gets for loomme in weaving, one because I’m using a table loom which is awkward and slow, I’m use to speed yardage, and the weight is really unusual for me, I think I’ve woven two rugs in my whole life, maybe not even that many.  I weave yardage for clothing, so this is a stretch.  But I love the colors.

So, I’ll continue working as hard as I can, because that’s what I do.  My daughter is also putting out fires, apparently there was a major summer assignment for her Spanish 4 class in High School, which was never given to her, and she found out about it only a week ago, the teacher graciously allowed her a week to complete the hugely labor intensive assignment, and my lovely pink haired daughter is alternating between ripping her pink hair out, and suffering complete meltdowns.  And trying to keep up with all the other work assigned, and the extra curricular activities, is killing us both!  And my wonderful adorable, lazy 19 year old son has finally made the decision to join the Army National Guard, the appointment with the recruiter is tomorrow, to finish the paperwork and make it all official.  Part of me of course is immensely proud of him, and part of me is scared to death.  And part of me is snickering, because when he acts like the lazy 19 year old he is, I think to myself, “The army will never put up with sleeping until lunch time…”  And there is his room in the basement…  🙂


Yes, I’m still alive.  Thanks to all who emailed me and saw me at the guild meeting this morning, with good wishes hoping I was feeling better.  I’m still not completely myself, still a bit queasy in the stomach, and food not appealing (but the glazed pound cake at the meeting went down really well…), but I’m alive, and sort of working on about three cylinders.

I spent the day yesterday hunkered down, with manuals in hand, and huge amounts of files, it is hard to imagine but my sister is even more organized than I am, a pleasure to work with because she knows exactly what she wants and it is my job to execute.  She is an architect in the northern Maryland area, and is in need of a website.  And I am in need of income.  It is a perfect match.  Bless her, she has given me a deposit, and I’m off and running and outlined a site for her, which she enthusiastically approved, now we are down to hours of processing photos and building pages and links, but I’m enjoying learning how to use the Dreamweaver software, and the new Photoshop CS4, along with Bridge, and it was a good day to just sit quietly by the computer.  I did manage to get out around noon to join an early music recorder group for a rehearsal, I’m playing Alto.

My daytime guild, Frances Irwin Handweavers, met this morning, I just love this group.  The talent here is amazing.  One of our members gave a presentation on Turned Tacquetté, which is like a Summer/Winter on opposites but turned so only one shuttle is needed in the weft.  And of course, I do love the show and tell.  We have a couple prolific weavers who always have a bag full of stuff.  This is the guild who very kindly last month, pointed out the beach ball in the back of my dress (see blog from about a month ago…)  They were thrilled to see the resolution, and I showed the coat which received numerous accolades.  It is a pretty cool coat, and I am really proud of it.

daydreamThe hour trip home was tiring.  I’m still not myself, and I didn’t eat lunch because it just didn’t appeal to me.  And I got stuck in horrible traffic on Interstate 80, largely because it was the perfect day for road crews to be out there filling the crater size pot holes from the brutal winter.  So by the time I got into the driveway, I was ready for a nap.  But I didn’t bother to go inside the house.  I’ve done this before, and it is such a cool thing to do, at least I think so anyway.  (And you can’t do it in the summer!).  I reclined the seat in my car, which was warm and cozy, and dozed, with the sun streaming in the car, for at least a half hour.  It felt so wonderful.  I slowly woke, and this was the view I saw out the window. (And I just figured out how to use the camera in my cellphone!) This beautiful blue sky, with black leafless tree branches, gently swaying in the breeze, the occasional ribbon of clouds lazily drifting by.  I stared at it for maybe 20 minutes.  It was so restful and restorative.  Now I am ready to go to the HS, pick up my daughter from play rehearsal, and get her to her snow make up volleyball practice, (where I’ll continue on my knitting), and then on to trombone lessons.

And in the mail today were contracts for teaching at the John C Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC in January 2010.  I’ll have more on that once I finalized the details and sign the contracts.