My new favorite place…

I blogged a lot about the major studio changes last winter, HVAC was installed as I was walking out the door to teach in Oregon the beginning of March.  I returned from Oregon just as the world was beginning to shut down and so embarked on a five month effort to convert all my patterns to digital downloads.  So though I had this brandy spanking new shiny place for all my looms and fiber equipment, with the basement as the new sewing room, I never really got a chance to use it.  It kept calling me.  I felt really guilty.  I kept thinking about all those gorgeous magazine worthy studios in houses where I stayed, and their owners admitted that they didn’t actually do much in them.  I hoped that wasn’t the case with mine.  Most of my days since the quarantine began have been sitting right here at my computer in my office generating some kind of content.  Sigh…  Creative in a way, but not what I really want to do.  

Enter an email from Silk City Fibers.  I’ve had a very long relationship with them, and I’ve blogged about recent encounters with them, but this time they wanted me to consider being a “weaving influencer”.  My discussions with the head of Lion Brand Yarn marketing turned into, send me yarn and I’ll see what I can do with it.  And blog about it, or write about it, or give them usable content, or whatever.

What a shot on the arm that was, and in one of my last posts I blogged about the fabric Summer Rain that I got on and off the loom in record time.  It was the first time I had set up a loom since I built the new studio.  I ran into a lot of, gee, where did I put that tool…  but ultimately the studio did its job and created a brightly lit, comfortable and easy place to do what I do best.  So as I wrote in my last post, the Summer Rain fabric is finished and sitting on the cutting table in the basement waiting to be cut and sewn into something fun.  The draft is available in my store, and any of the drafts/fabrics that result from the relationship with Silk City Yarns, especially if they are giving me the yarn, will be available for free.  Add it to your cart, and there won’t be any charge at checkout.  You’ll get a link in your inbox and you are ready to go!  Find the PDF notes and draft here.

Meanwhile, having discovered the joy of my new studio, and having finished the scarves that were on the 8 shaft small floor loom, I decided to wind a new warp, this one called Autumn Harvest, based on a forecast from my Handwoven Column back in 2004.  It is on the loom, and it just glows!  The draft is available here.

I got more yarn from Silk City Fibers.  A lot of it.  I think of nothing else…  I gave them a general idea of what I’d like to work with based on what they want to promote, mostly their newest yarns, and I gave suggestions of color combinations, but I get what I get.  Which is just wonderful fun.  I work best designing with what’s immediately in front of me.  

Right out of the box I grabbed this orange Cotton Bambu, (one of their new yarns) which is a little heavier than I like to work with for garment yardage, but I successfully used it in the Summer Rain fabric in a 4 shaft mock supplemental, and I thought I’d like to expand on that for a full yardage.  So I added Saphira, a viscose and polyamide variegated with very cool slubs, and a gorgeous copper metallic called Radiance.  The weft is a beautiful cotton yarn called Nomad, which I actually prefer to Bambu 7, it has way more body and the same 2100 yds/lb yield.  Under the studio lights the fabric just glows, but it doesn’t really show in the photo.  Trust me it is head turning when you see it in real life.  It is a 4 shaft structure, and I’ll eventually post the details as a PDF download like above.  I’m calling it Confetti.

Meanwhile Silk City wanted to know if their SuperMerino yarn would work in a Rigid Heddle loom with an 8 dent reed.  I don’t do Rigid Heddle weaving, but I have a table loom with an 8 dent reed, and I can set up a two shaft plain weave.  There is enough for two scarves, the first one we doubled the yarn (Brianna did the grunt set up here).  She has a heavy hand with the beater, so I’ve taken over and using a double weft, the effect is quite lovely.  I believe their SuperMerino is superwash, but I’ll let you know once the scarves are off the loom.

Meanwhile in the bag of yarn from Silk City were these two, Nile cotton tape in Onyx, and Skinny Majesty variegated in a color called Antique Jewelry.  I wound the 6 yard warp alternating one of each, and after it was wound, I changed my mind.  Nothing like redesigning after the warp is wound.  I used every inch of both cones, which is always fun, to have no leftovers!  And if you are wondering about the contraption on the back beam, I use the Harrisville tensioning device for perfectly tensioned warps every time.  (I’m a front to back warper).  Problem is, this is the new to me 32″ Tools of the Trade loom, one of his really old ones, and I have tensioning rods made for the 45″, the 36″ and the 25″ looms.  Not the 32″ loom.  So using the second back beam from the 36″ loom to support the set up of the tensioning device with the 36″ rods, and a number of C Clamps, we got the job done.  (I confess it was all Brianna’s idea).  

So I threaded the updated design, beamed and then began to test a number of wefts they offer that have a wool/protein content.  I’m a big fan of putting something in the weft that will give a modest amount of fulling to really keep slippery rayon fabrics under control.  I have used Zephyr merino/silk from Jaggerspun, and Webs Colrain Lace Merino/Tencel, but wanted to try out some of the Silk City Fiber offerings.  Left to right is Nature’s Way Merino doubled, Eco Cashwool, SupraMerino doubled (which I believe is a superwash), Baby Alpaca doubled, and Wool Crepe Deluxe (80% Wool and 20% Viscose Rayon).

I kept the first sample right off the loom (top), the middle sample shows some hand washing in warm water, and the last sample was thrown in the washer and dryer with a load of towels.  I love knowing what a yarn can do.  I’m ultimately going to use the black Wool Crepe for this particular fabric, but the Nature’s Way Merino (far left in navy) is awesome.  The Baby Alpaca (the ivory one) didn’t shrink or full, but it is fluffier than an angora rabbit’s butt.  I’m not a fan of superwash, so I probably wouldn’t use the SupraMerino (the middle one) unless the goal was a washable baby blanket, it is really lovely for that kind of purpose.  And I liked the Eco Cashwool as well.  This was a test I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.  

And of course, this loom still has fabric on it that I really should weave off, but there is something about full looms that make me smile.  My babies have been naked for far too long.  This is a wool warp with Noro Taiyo Lace weft.  January of 2019 to be specific. I’ve blogged about it here.

Assuming the internet gods are cooperating on Tuesday September 1st, I’ll be the featured guest on the Shi Show, which airs live at noon daily on the Lion Brand Yarn Facebook page.  I’ll post the link when it shows up on Youtube or you can tune in at noon EDT.  I say if the internet gods are cooperating because three times in the last week, there was an area outage, and though I still have some unresolved internet issues, Like I can’t get my printers to connect, the tech guy came yesterday morning and the whole system went down as he started to work, area wide I was told, and so he could accomplish nothing.  He is supposed to come back today.  He texted me that he is having issues at his house, different carrier, but his power and internet are failing.  And there are no storms, nothing that should cause these constant outages, but there are seriously weakened trees and limbs just randomly fall and take out the grid for whatever period of time you need it.  We were successful last weekend in running new lines in the walls, upgrading switches and network cards so all the important rooms and devices are hard wired for ethernet at 1GB of speed.  Brianna ran the last line herself much to her complete amazement and satisfaction.  She is her father.  

And so, I’m looking in corners of the studio to see where I can pitch a sleeping bag.  This is my new escape, a place that the world stops spinning out of control, actually the only place in the whole world where I have some control, and nothing in there needs electronics or power to actually operate.  Maybe the bobbin winder, but I do have hand cranks for that…

Stay safe, wear a mask and stay tuned…



Helping out an old friend…

Many of you know that today is the third anniversary of my husband’s death.  All of us deal with anniversaries, both sad ones and happy ones in different ways.  My children each have their own way of dealing with the death of their father, but my way is always to stay as busy as I can, acknowledge the passing of a major event, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  A series of coincidences led me to today’s adventure, I told my daughter that my new philosophy is, “It isn’t worth doing if you can’t make an adventure out of it…”.  

I’d like to crack a joke here and say that what would any self respecting fiber enthusiast do during the anniversary of a very sad event, and the answer of course would be, “Go yarn shopping.”  I don’t know if that is really an appropriate joke, given the gravity of what today stood for, but in my own way, knowing this was coming, I planned to do just that.  To keep busy and do something I haven’t done before, (of course I’ve bought yarn many times) but not in these circumstances.

Let me explain…

Back in the early 1980’s, when I was new to the craft fair circuit, I have this clear recollection of this couple, Maureen and David, who would come down the aisle at every craft fair in the northeast, showing all the handweavers their line of yarn.  They were new to the business, though David dealt in mill end yarns, Maureen and David decided to put together a regular reproducible line of yarns, ones that no other weaver was working with or could find.  Rayon, and rayon silk yarns were just starting to become accessible to the handweaving market and they were the ones who ushered in a new era of wonderful, high end yarns in gorgeous colors and innovative fibers.  They called their yarn company Silk City Fibers.  

Many of the weavers from that era, including myself, and my friend Candiss Cole all used their yarns.  It was easy to set up a wholesale account, you just needed a tax number, which was easy to obtain, still is.  During the prime of my craft fair career, I probably spent $8,000 a year on yarn, which back in the 80’s was a lot of money.  Silk City Fibers got its name because it was located in Paterson NJ, which was considered for many years in the 1800’s the Silk Capital of the Northeast.  Paterson NJ was 15 minutes from my house.  Silk City Fibers was housed in an old warehouse, a kind of slum of a place, cold and dark and dank but they had yarns.  A number of years ago, they opened the warehouse one Saturday a month, and you could find all kinds of bargains, discontinued colors and styles, at very reasonable prices.  I tried to avoid going there because 1, I didn’t need anymore yarn, and 2, I always came home with yarn I didn’t need.  Because who could resist.  Mostly I was usually traveling when the warehouse was open, so that was always a good thing.

In the early years I would visit Silk City, sometimes to pick out yarn for a project for Handwoven magazine, or sometimes to consult with David or Maureen.  Sometimes they even had me consult on colors.  I remember many many years ago picking out furnishings with Maureen for a NYC showroom they were opening.  That was a long time ago.

Since I’m no longer a production weaver, I don’t really need to buy yarn in quantity and sadly there are a number of, too many really, opportunities to restock the stash when a beloved weaver in the guild dies.  Many of the older members had large stashes of Silk City Fibers.  I remember one recent studio sale from a weaver who passed who was sitting on huge multiple pound cones of white Silk City Contessa, a rayon and silk yarn that had been discontinued a long time ago and is still my most favorite yarn I’ve ever used.  I bought all of for dyeing.  And when my friend Candiss had one of her weavers return yarn from many years ago when the weaver was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Candiss passed all of it on to me for a price I couldn’t refuse.  All of it gorgeous Silk City Fibers.

Last year I got word that Silk City Fibers was sold.  David retired and the whole enterprise was purchased by Lion Brand Yarn.  Huge knitting yarn manufacturer.  Available everywhere.  The word was that they wanted to expand into the weaving market.  I don’t know how true that is, but that dank dark basement warehouse moved, with everything in it, to Lion Brand’s gorgeous spacious facility in Carlstadt, which is only about 30 minutes from me.  Silk City has only been in their new digs about 4 months.

Alice who the Silk City Fiber yarn development director, and an old friend, lives in my town.  We ran into each other at Shoprite a couple of weeks ago.  She caught me up to date on everything and talked about how to get the word out about Silk City Fibers to a new generation of weavers.  We talked about conferences, we talked about social media.  We talked about getting a flier into the conference bags at the Mid Atlantic Association Weavers Conference which is in about 10 days.  I’ll be teaching there.  Here is the flier they came up with…

So I decided that today, I needed an adventure, one that would take me out of the house and away from the memories of what today is, and I got in my car and drove to Carlstadt.  The GPS struggled to find the facility and I ended up lost in a town full of warehouses, but I called them and they talked me back to the correct location.  Wow, just wow.

The outlet store, filled from one end to the other of Lion Brand Knitting yarn is open 6 days a week, every day but Saturday.  So on a Sunday afternoon, when everyone is watching football this fall, drive yourself down there all of my peeps in North Jersey.  Wow, just wow.  There is a lovely classroom set up along the side wall, and in there are racks and bins of labeled coned Silk City Yarns, not nearly the selection that the old warehouse held, but in my discussions with the women who worked in the outlet, there are thousands more cones still to be labeled and put out.  And there are bargains. 

The outlet is opened to the public and for anyone living in NJ or NY, it is a great destination for an afternoon of serious yarn shopping. Of course I ended up with two carts full of yarn I didn’t need, but still had to come home with me. Much of the yarn was between $1, $3, and $5 a cone.

Silk City Fibers is actually a wholesale enterprise.  You need a resale/tax number in order to be able to order from them online.  That isn’t a difficult thing to obtain.  But they have no minimums.  As long as you have a tax number, you can order cottons, rayons, wools, their famous Bambu line, and all sorts of fabulous stuff, one cone at a time.  Alice is hoping to expand their 5/2 perle cotton colors, and no one has better rayons than Silk City Fibers.  Skinny Majesty, Avanti, Linen, rayon Chenille, they are all still there, in gorgeous colors and available wholesale.   For those of you who don’t have a resale number, many yarn suppliers like Cotton Clouds are still great retailers who can get anything you want from them, or order online directly from their retail site.

And so, I’m going to go down to my car and unpack six large shopping bags and fondle my goods.  It got me through today.  I’m grateful for coincidences that led me to today’s adventures.  I will be fine…

Stay tuned…