Shutting down the rumor mill…

Word gets out fast, and it isn’t always accurate.

So first, let me say that I’m not giving up teaching.  I like to teach, I adore my students and I’m looking forward to developing new patterns and new techniques for them.

What I don’t want to do anymore are conferences. And not because I can’t deal with another conference tote bag, I probably have about 100…

Let me explain.

This was the Pearls Before Swine comic in yesterday’s paper when I sat down to have my breakfast yesterday morning.  It really explains where my head is at…

I just returned from the Mid Atlantic Fiber Association Conference in Millersville, PA.  Typically regional conferences are held at college campuses, mostly for cost reasons.  And typically they work well for a venue like this.  The MAFA conference was a large success from what I’ve seen, and the feedback I heard, and the posts on social media I’ve seen.  It came on the heels of Midwest, which was held in Iowa, and ANWG which was held the week before that in Prince George, BC.  There were instructors who taught at all three.  And I understand that NEWS, the regional conference in NE is right around the corner.  I have done all of these conferences, though this year, I only applied and was accepted to teach at MAFA.  Thank God.

As I was sitting in traffic for the long three plus hour drive there, (actually it was short compared to what many of the participants had to endure) I thought hard about what I was feeling and why.  30 years ago this coming December I remember feeling extreme burnout, my attitude about everything was in the toilet, I was cranky and tired and I was also 8 months pregnant.  I struggled to get through my last craft fair.  After an amazing ten year run, in 1989 I had decided I’d had enough, and I stopped applying to craft fairs.  Actually I had made this decision in 1988, but when you book a year or two in advance, once you make the decision not to apply anymore, you have to see through everything you’ve already promised to do.  Because that’s how I work.  I made the commitment and I only ever had to cancel twice in my life, once when I went in to have a mastectomy, and the second time when my husband died.  I’ve taught through the flu, chemo, my husband in intensive care, I’ve taught through a ruptured ovarian cyst, and back pain issues.  I’ve had fevers, I’ve had missing bags and stomach viruses, but the show must go on.  

Guild work, or small venues like Harrisville or Sievers allows more personal attention to the instructor.  I know I sound like a diva, and maybe at this point in my life I’ve earned that right, but I left craft fairs 30 years ago, and though I missed the camaraderie of the other artists, I never once regretted the decision.  My attitude had gotten so bad I no longer wanted to weave.  I don’t want that to happen again, but see the writing on the wall.  I am in demand more than ever, and looking at my in box and all the request for guild venues while I was at the MAFA conference, starting in 2021 just made me scared.

Conferences themselves are hard on the instructors.  Yes, the participants are often dragging looms, and disabled attendees have to navigate buildings that are accessible but often require traveling around campus in very convoluted routes to find ramps and elevators.  There is always a lot of walking, to the dorms, to the dining hall, to the classroom and back.  MAFA was one of the easier conferences to navigate, it wasn’t very hilly.  But walk and haul I did.  I carry a lot of baggage, and it is quite different backing up to a building where you are teaching and having the staff help you unload, when you are the only teacher vs 400 conference participants and 50 – 75 instructors.  Everyone needs help.  The volunteers who help with loading in and loading out are saints.  And of course there is also the vendor hall.  And the installation of exhibits.  Conference coordinators have a reserved place in heaven, it is a thankless job, they are pushed beyond limits and there is always someone who isn’t happy.  I remember attending Convergence Rhode Island a few years ago with my daughter in tow.  I wasn’t teaching.  I drove around the state looking at all the fibery exhibits and got a one day pass to the conference.  It was amazing and non stressful and inspiring but I was so grateful I wasn’t participating.  

All of my teacher friends’ social media sites are lighting up with the news that they have been accepted to teach at the next Convergence in Knoxville.  There are new faces just breaking into the scene, and many seasoned veterans.  I never applied.  I looked at all their enthusiasm and was so pleased for all of them but so grateful I didn’t apply.  I was hugely relieved.

Saturday night, towards the end of the conference, I woke up on my plastic covered dorm mattress and felt that dreaded twinge, my sciatic was acting up again.  I had a restless night and it went downhill from there.  That’s twice in the last month and a half.  It is hard to stand upright and hard to haul stuff.  It is hard to sit in a car for three plus hours home, and hard to sit at the computer answering all the email requests for future work.  And I also came home to more than $500 worth of orders for books and interfacings from my eShop.  So I painfully sat at the computer all day yesterday printing and binding and packing.  Typically my wonderful office assistant would do this, but she closed on her home yesterday and has moved away.  I am alone. And missing her terribly.   But I carried on…

I only have two weeks before the next venue, a five day yardage class at Peters Valley.  I love the Valley and am looking forward to teaching in the new weaving studio, but I need the full two weeks of prep.  Right now I work an hour, rest an hour and work another hour.  The animals never leave my side.

So the bottom line is I’m done with conferences.  I recognize burn out, I’ve been down this road before.  I will really miss sitting on a plastic dorm mattress with my fellow instructors talking about the things that are important to us, plastic water bottles full of wine, just like I really missed getting together with the other exhibiting artists in craft fairs after I stopped.  I have made some life long friends in this business, but my life has changed drastically since my husband’s death three years ago, and I’m now responsible for all of it.  I want to weave and paint and play music and write articles and teach on my terms.

My beloved suitcase didn’t survive the trip, actually it didn’t survive the Boise debacle, which I think I talked about a couple of posts ago, and so, as I was packing to go, I researched replacement suitcases and what I needed just isn’t made anymore. I refuse to use suitcases with spinney wheels.  The best I could do was a 29″ Pullman from REI.  It is narrower than the one it is replacing, but well made and guaranteed.  I’m hoping I can still fit 70 pounds of clothing into it.

I only took one photo while I was on the road.  I took a quick snapshot of the class, there were sixteen of them, and they were all wonderfully incredible and enthusiastic.  The class was called Custom Fit and Fabulous.  They learned how to fit their bodies and particular fit issues, while trying on my loaded suitcase full of samples in all sizes.  They traced patterns until they were cross eyed.  With an aching back, I lectured for a couple hours on Sunday morning and there were really wonderful responses from what they learned.  It is a terrific class for a 2 1/2 day format, typical of a conference.  

On of the conference attendees walked around the studio walk through Saturday night where all the instructors in their classrooms talked about what they were teaching, she got this shot of me selling my little heart out! Thanks Alison!

And I debuted my new silhouette, the swing dress, which is now out in the latest Threads Magazine, I believe issue 204, mine was waiting at the post office when I went in today to get my mail.  I drafted the dress in all sizes, wrote the handout, and crossed my fingers.  Everyone who tried it on seemed to love the fit, minor tweaks for some, but I’m so happy I nailed it.

I know I keep getting letters as to why I don’t offer my patterns for sale.  And I keep trying to explain that it isn’t that simple.  The venue for me to offer digital downloadable patterns doesn’t yet exist for me.  It will take me a couple of years to scan everything, and convert to vector drawings and then convert to a downloadable size PDF.  That is a huge goal, but not possible while I’m on the road all the time.  And I’d love to have a video archive.  I had so much fun shooting videos for Threads Insider last fall, I’d love to have a group of my own, short videos on weaving and sewing techniques for weavers.  But I can’t do that while I’m on the road teaching all the time.

And so, yes, I’ll continue to teach, to go where I’m asked, but no, I’m not doing conferences anymore and yes, I’m in talks with Montana about their short gathering next summer, because it is still easy to twist my arm…  

Stay tuned…

You win some, you lose some…

Actually, forget the winning part, I’m just happy when I’m accepted.  All the notifications are out for Convergence exhibits.  I received a couple of acceptance emails a couple of weeks ago, but was asked not to “announce” the decision until everyone had their written confirmation or rejection letters.

You may remember back in January, that I spent a feverish few days entering shows and applying to conferences, and I’ve heard back from all but one exhibit.  So the count stands at Acceptances 4 :-), Non-Acceptances 7 🙁  That’s actually a 36% acceptance rate, and I’m pretty OK with that.  None of my artwork was accepted this go round, but my garments, and yardage did well along with a couple of accessories.

I already mentioned in a previous blog that my yardage from last December, called “Some Enchanted Evening”, was accepted to the Convergence yardage exhibit, and two of my pieces, the Frosted Florals Dress, and the felted  Celebration Bag were accepted to Fiber Celebration 2010 in Greeley, CO.

I got the results from the Convergence fashion show, and two of my garments will be included, as well as a scarf I wove in the Eye Dazzlers Exhibit, which covers just about every thing else except yardage, fashion, and Small Expressions (which I did not get into…)

In addition, this year I was accepted to teach at all of the conferences that I applied to, including one I hadn’t yet applied to because it conflicted with the ANWG conference.  So I’ll be teaching at Midwest, MAFA, and ANWG, and I look forward to another busy inspiring summer in 2011.  My schedule is as always, available on my website,  There may be some confusion about my web domains, I seem to vacillate between and  I’ve had the weaversew domain for so many years now, I hate to give it up, but the information is the same in both, as one domain is parked within the other one.  Either works, and both will get you to the same place.

I added in this blog post this afternoon, two in one day is a bit much I know, but I was curious to see if something I did earlier this morning might help or heaven forbid, correct the fatal error messages.  I actually went back to the original post where we started noticing the errors, and deleted all the revisions.  There happened to be 10 that day.  I had had trouble getting the photos to all line up the way I wanted them to with the text.  So far, this is the first post in about a month, where I didn’t get the fatal error message about six times during the writing process.  Could it have been that simple?

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.

More Loom Adventures

Well, my boxes have arrived safely in California, and I shipped my Big Sister piece to Kansas City.  I always feel when my work is out traveling, that it is sort of like sending your children out into the world, they get to go places and see things without you.  I have two pieces in Mississippi, one on the way to Missouri, and some inkle looms and lots of samples sitting in someone’s house in Southern California.  Little bits of my self scattered like dandelion seeds…

Speaking of Inkle Looms…

inkle_warpI kept one of my baby Inklettes (by Ashford) behind, (which you can get from any dealer who sells Ashford Looms), because the warp on it was used up, and I needed to re-warp for the conference.  I decided to kill two birds with one stone, (actually that is a terrible analogy, why would I want to kill any birds?) and put on the warp to make key fobs for my guild.

Sidebar: It is very common for a guild to get together and make small tokens of their talent, advertising the guild, for the “goody” bags you receive at the conferences.  My guild chose this year, to send off to the MAFA conference (which I won’t be attending because I’ll be at the conference in Durango) small pieces woven on an inkle loom and made into keyrings.  I volunteered to make 7, which is how many including fringe, you can make on one fully loaded baby Inklette.  I adore this loom.  It’s profile is so small it can fit in the bottom of that same conference tote, or even on the little fold down table on the plane.  (I haven’t actually tried this, since I am too overloaded with computer and projector and all my clothes for a week, when I travel to teach, but my weaving buddy Sally, who travels all the time for work, usually has a bag full of little bands whenever she returns from a trip).  I had given a workshop to my guild, Frances Irwin Handweavers, in inkle loom weaving, and everyone had such a blast, they are all now prolific ‘Inklers’, and always have a new pattern or some interesting pick-up design to share at every show and tell.

inkle_loomSo here I am all warped up.  I had some diversions today, like my Thursday Philosophy Club lunch, there were six of us in attendance, and lots of catching up to do.  I also ran around buying more stuff for props, and of course a trip to my favorite shipper to package my piece for Kansas City.

Tonight I had a real treat.  In preparation for the HS Musical, which is the first weekend in March, while I’m in California of course, the Boonton High School drama club held an open mike talent night.  OMG!  Who knew a bunch of high school kids could have so much talent, so much poise on the stage, and so much presence?  I’m trying to remember back when I was in HS, the most talented kids in the school couldn’t compare to what I saw tonight on the stage.  Even the teachers performed, there were dance numbers, a martial arts presetation, rap, rock, soul, Broadway tunes, and because the school is so culturally diverse, there were some beautiful songs in other languages, duets, and even a classically trained pianist.  I was blown away.  For a small town HS, this was one class A production.

If you want to learn about inkle weaving, it is a simple loom to learn to use, without much fuss.  I sell a monograph on Inkle Weaving, but if you want a little free tutorial, go to Weavezine, the fall 2008 issue, and read the article my daughter wrote on weaving shoelaces on the inkle loom.