All in a Day’s Work…

Actually, that title should read, all in a month’s work, but whose counting?

This has been a year so far, enough said…  Obviously we are desperately seeking to return to some kind of normalcy, and to each of us, that means something different.  My girlfriend came over yesterday, never came in the house, we sat across the deck from each other and chatted.  They we played recorder.  We were working on the Brandenburg Concerto, and though I’ve been practicing, I hadn’t played it with anyone else.  And because it is such a lengthy score for something like 10 recorders, I am playing my part using Parts, which means in the music world, only your part is in front of you, not the whole score, so you don’t have a clue what anyone else is playing until you hear it.  If you lose your place, good luck finding a way back in.  But my friend and I managed to get through 1/3 of the score and it sounded pretty amazing on my little deck in my gorgeous gardens.  The birds always sing along…

My friend said to me, that when things return to normal, the first thing on her agenda is a salon appointment.  She has higher maintenance hair than I do, so I get that.  I think my first priority is to get my hearing checked.  Yes, it was on the list anyway.  I know I have a hearing issue, I’ve known since I was 18 months old and was basically deaf.  But that was fixed and my hearing is actually fine, actually a little overly sensitive. According to the people who have checked it in the past, my hearing is normal, but I have a processing disorder.  I hear what you say, I just don’t understand what you say because unless I see your face, and am basically lip reading, it all comes in as a jumbled mess, especially if there is any background noise.  I’m OK with instrumental music, but not when words are added.  I watch my son sing along to things coming out of his phone, and none of it sounds like anything I can recognize.  I’m sort of use to it and adjust.  But the other day, when I went to the post office to mail a book to Canada, I had to have a conversation with the employee in the post office.  Both of us were of course wearing masks, heavily gloved and well over 6 feet apart.  She answered my query, but of course because I couldn’t see her mouth, I had no idea what she said to me.  I explained that and asked if she could speak really slowly and separate her words carefully.  She pulled her mask down and said, “No, I can’t, I’m Hispanic and we all talk this fast.”.  We both started to laugh and it was such a lovely moment where we both acknowledged that the world is messed up and nothing is normal.

Worse though, is my eyes.  I fear I have developed cataracts, and that with use everything gets cloudy and I can’t focus and I’m really struggling between three different pairs of glasses to get the job done.  So hearing and eye appointments are top of my list.  Those are sort of essentials for me…

My days are filled with typical things, a curtain valance ripped from the wall.

The culprits.

Fortunately my handyman was able to come in with wall toggles, and a mask and gloves and replace the brackets ripped out of the wall in short order.  I sat in the dining room watching.

My gardens are lovely and I spend my meals sitting by the pond and enjoying what my late husband started and a well coordinated crew finished over the years since his death.  Being outside like that I’ve noticed more of what actually happens in nature and it isn’t always pretty.  We have a Blue Jay terrorist in the neighborhood.  I always knew they were nasty little beasts but didn’t realize they were actual carnivores.  Right in front of me, one flew in and stole a tiny baby robin from the nest.  The bereft mother robin tried to save her baby and of course the blue jay won that round.  I was just as bereft and couldn’t stop apologizing to her.  We just looked at each other with despair. There were two other birds left in the next, so she and the dad continued to feed the babies while my friend and I played recorders on the deck. This morning I went out to see why the power was out to all my outdoor fixtures and the garage.  I found blood all over the deck and a bit away on the walk, another dead baby bird.  Again, the mother robin flew up and looked at me as if to say, the world is cruel, and we just have to carry on.  My daughter cleaned up the carnage and I figured out the electrical problem.  All in a day’s work.  

My birthday was Friday.  This is an important year, I turned 65 and am now on Medicare.  Such a huge relief.  As much as I appreciated having access to the Affordable Care Act this past year once my cobra from my late husband’s policy ended, I can’t tell you how worried I was about getting sick on the road because my very expensive insurance did not cover me outside of North Jersey.  So this is a big deal.  I made it to Medicare.

My birthday was actually lovely.  My sister and my girlfriend made homemade cards, because you can’t really go and hang out in the card store and read cards.  There are about 250 birthday wishes on facebook, and I haven’t made a dent in commenting, liking or whatever.  Patience everyone.  I live with my adult children for now, and my son came in from his overnight shift Friday morning, cooked an awesome brunch skillet, we had wine and he headed off to bed. Yes, I realize I was drinking at 10am.  Don’t judge me…  My daughter made sure I had plenty of wine and had ordered sushi take out from our favorite place the night before (they sell out quickly).  So we have a gorgeous sushi platter, wine, and I never got out of my pajamas the whole day.  I had spent the day in edits for my pattern support materials and was completely cross-eyed, but we sat down to start fixing one of the puzzles I got myself for my birthday.  Three hours later, and some additional wine, and voila!  This was one of my favorites.  I want to fix it again soon.  Without my daughter so it will take longer.

And so dear readers, it has been a busy month of editing and testing, and reworking and testing some more.  Today I launched the 1700 Drop Shoulder Tunic pattern, earlier in the week I launched the 700 Set in Sleeve Tunic pattern.  What’s the difference?  My 700 tunic has a set in sleeve.  It is more feminine and creates a better shoulder line, I much prefer it personally.  It is the same sleeve I use in my jackets (patience, we are starting on them next) and it frames the upper body well. 

But there was a need for the drop shoulder version, the sleeve and armhole are more like a man’s shirt sleeve, construction is different, and for the men in my classes this is a much preferred look.  And for my younger students, or anyone wanting a more gender neutral garment it is more appropriate.  The hood variation with the drop shoulder is pretty much my daughter’s wardrobe.  View the pattern here

What I really want to point out dear readers, is the huge amount of technical information available for free on my website.  All of the directions for the patterns I’ve published at this point have been reformatted and refreshed, metric equivalents added, and they have all been heavily edited by a sewing professional editor.  They are available here for free. No need to buy the pattern to take a look.  

Those who have taken classes with me know I love using 15 denier nylon tricot as a seam finish.  I highly recommend it for the tunics.  I’ve procured a good amount, in about five colors (grey is back), and had my store tech support send me information about how to build a color choice into my supply listings.  So if you want Fusi-Knit interfacing, there is one link, just choose from the drop down menu if you want white or black.  And there is a link for 15 denier nylon tricot. Just pick the color you want.  A 1 yd by 54″ pack is only $4.  You’ll have to cut the bias strips yourself, but if you are ordering red dot tracer pattern paper and some interfacing, you can also pick up a pack or two of tricot.  I haven’t figured out what to do about shipping because it is so ridiculous.  The computer adds a shipping amount per item. Which I set.  Which is fine, unless you are ordering multiple items and then shipping gets just silly.  I have a query out to my tech support to figure out an alternative way.  If your shipping comes to $60, or some ridiculous amount, know I will absolutely refund you the difference over what it costs to ship.  I pretty much refund any amount more than about a $2.00 difference (there is the cost of the packaging to consider.)

As I build my instructions to be used by people who don’t take my classes, I understand that the next step for me will be accompanying videos.  My daughter and I have a lengthy agenda.  I fear I’ll start traveling again before I get to accomplish it all.  Meanwhile, in an unrelated conversation with my editor from Threads, when I checked the proof of the Q&A column I answered on Stay Stitching,  which will  appear in the next issue I believe, I found out that the video I made for them on Stay Stitching is available for free under their basics heading. Access it here. This is such an important step during the construction process for me, and it would have been one of the first videos I produced to go along with my written information.  But I don’t have to now, it exists already!  I did 8 other videos for them about a year and a half ago, and over the last year and a half they were slowly edited and released.  I believe the rest are all under the Threads Insider membership.  There is some terrific content there, well worth the subscription.  And I think the first two weeks are free, so as long as you are binge watching…

So dear readers, stay safe as things start to open up.  Enjoy the outdoors, though sometimes it too can be cruel.  Play with yarn, learn a new song, read a book, cook something awesome.  This is a time of exploration.  

Stay tuned…


A Sunny Day?

Wow, the sun actually came out today.  What a surprise!  Course more rain due in tomorrow, there was even a front page article in the newspaper today about how serious climate/weather pattern changes are here.  Well the plants are loving it!

shippingI’m now in wind down mode, tying up loose ends, starting the preparations for my trip next week to the Midwest Weavers Conference in Grinnell, Iowa.  I’ve never been to Iowa, so this should be a treat.  A week before I leave, I need to ship out the consummable stuff, like the handouts, raw materials, and some monographs to sell.  So yesterday, I spent the entire day printing and binding stacks of monographs, and the handouts, and burnt out my year old new binding machine.  Bummer…

The box is packed, and on its way to Grinnell, and the good news, is it contains about 50 yards of Red Dot Tracer, which I’m happy to say, is finally available, from Pellon, after months of gnashing of teeth and complaining, and moaning, I got 150 yards of it via UPS yesterday, in time to chop it up in two yard packs and ship it with the handouts.  I have been in a quandry since HTCW stopped shipping early last fall, and the product became unavailable.  Pellon bought the plates for the Red Dot Pattern Tracing Material, but they printed it on their Tru-Grid base, though improved from the original Tru-Grid base, this one is more stable than the old one, I still don’t like it because it doesn’t hold a pencil mark well.  For a number of reasons, this is really important to me.  I have multi-sized patterns I use for my classes, and the lines have to stay true and accurate.  And so do the lines the students trace.  Anyway, the Red Dot has now been printed on a different base, one closer to the original one from HTCW, and I’m hoping it will perform as well.  I’m crossing my fingers.

So, now to the next project, which is a gallery talk I have to give next Wednesday as one of the exhibiting artists at HGA’s Small Expressions Exhibit at Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery.  I wanted to finish one of the pieces on the loom that I started last spring, so I could get a shot of it and include it in my talk, since it is woven in the same technique as the pieces on exhibit there.  (If you click on “Small Expressions” under “Upcoming Events/February 24th” – which was when the show originally opened in Missouri, you will see the pieces they selected for exhibit)

loomsilkI’ve blogged about this technique, a Theo Moorman Inlay on a cotton ground, in many previous posts.  Search for “Big Sister” and you’ll find many references.  I printed the image on silk, and then cut it into quarter inch strips, and wove them back into the loom, in sequence while weaving a backing fabric at the same time.  One of my blogs has detailed shots of the process.  If I have time I’ll search for it.

wtcAnyway, the image here was shot the end of August, 2001, while vacationing a mere 20 miles away with my children.  We took them to the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, and then up to the roof of the World Trade Center.  I titled this photo “Top of the World”.  I don’t need to tell anyone what happened a mere two weeks later…

It is a chilling photo, the shaky appearance of the towering structure, from the rewoven strips, two innocent children doing what children do when posing for a photo for dad, (notice the rabbit ears my son is sneaking in behind his sister’s back),  I am haunted by this photo every time I look at it.  Reweaving it back together row by row, was somehow healing.

My daughter walked in tonight while I was photographing this for the blog, and plopped her latest adventure in boxesfront of me, a large paper box, carefully folded into a square.  She said, “Guess how many boxes are inside of this?”.  I took a wild guess at 10, and was sort of surprised when she told me I wasn’t even close.  Can you believe there were 20 little paper boxes, all just a fraction smaller than each one they nest into, and she proceeded to unwrap each origami box to unveil the next box, until she had them all lined up on my cutting table.  The smallest one was half the size of my thumbnail.

You have to love hanging around with my daughter.  She disappears into her room, and comes out with the oddest adventures, she should have been studying for her Spanish final tomorrow, but folding paper boxes was much more soothing to her soul, and she was quite proud of her accomplishment.

Ah to be 16 again…  See, that’s my problem.  I never blow anything off I’m suppose to be doing for the shear joy of creating.  I’ve gotten way too responsible in my old age…

Speaking of old age, we had a couple of great theatre adventures, last Friday we saw The Full Monty at the Papermill Playhouse, which was absolutely a terrific piece of theatre, the cast was unbelievable, one scene stealer after another, and if you live anywhere near Northern NJ or NYC, get yourself a ticket now!  The show runs until July 14th I believe.  There is a cameo appearance by stage veteran Elaine Stritch, who according to the papers is 84 years old.  I want to be able to get out there and still perform in my studio and on the road at 84.  That would mean I have another 30 years to go!

And last night, my husband and I escaped to the movie theatre to see “Up”.  Another Pixar/Disney hit, one of the most charming stories I’ve seen in a long time, well, you just have to take my word and go to the movies.  You won’t be sorry.  The star of “Up” is a very old man, who is about to be forceably taken to a retirement home, the love of his life is gone, and he gets his house to lift off into the air with a gazillion helium balloons and flies it all the way to Paradise Falls in South America.  I know it sounds like the oddest plot line imaginable, but to see it, and how the story develops, is truely amazing.  It is almost believable.  It has been a long time since I’ve been to the movies and heard an audience applaud at the end of a film.  The show was packed, and they did applaud.

Big Sister Revisited

What an odd day.  I had some very sad news this morning, after my celebration yesterday of my 7th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, one of my very best friend’s was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I’m so sad for her, this is such an epidemic, that I almost feel like it isn’t a matter of if, but when…  The good news is that it is in a pretty early stage and with careful treatment it should all be fine.  But that doesn’t help right now, you still have to go through the misery and fear of a diagnosis, not everyone responds to your news in the best most supportive way, and the road will be a thorny and uncomfortable one.  But like I told her this morning, what ever side of the spiritual fence you sit on, I firmly believe that the universe sends angels, lots of them, to guide you through this maze, and they are always there in disguise, you just have to know they are there and look for them.  The fiber community really rallied around me when I was diagnosed, I got some lovely cards, handwoven scarves, cookies in the mail from Connecticut, love and support through phone calls and emails.  Oddly enough my favorite emails came from Duchess, a lovely black Labrador who had also just had a mastectomy and we corresponded through her owner for a couple of years.  Oh, and I loved the email from some wonderful angel who said to me, “You can’t die, because I haven’t taken a workshop with you yet.”  That might sound like an odd thing to say, but it gave me a good laugh and kept me going through another couple of chemo treatments, it lifted my spirits in a way that said, I was so much more than this disease and I wasn’t done here yet.

I also had a phone call which thrilled me, the rumor from a very reliable source, is that Pellon will eventually be printing the red dot plates onto a pattern medium they already had in the archives with seems to be identical to the base fabric of the original red dot tracer from HTCW, which has sadly been discontinued.  If you haven’t followed this thread of the blog, I’ve been in hot pursuit of a suitable pattern tracing medium to replace the discontinued Red Dot Tracer, and it seems I only have to wait a bit longer.  🙂

I had to switch gears today, I wanted to send a piece to the members exhibit at the Surface Design Conference in Kansas City.  The deadline is March 1st.  I was under the assumption that they wanted an image by March 1st, but when I reread the prospectus, it calls for the actual piece, 18″ square to be sent to them by that date.  I had been planning to use the photo of the 16″ version, and if accepted would weave the 18″ version.  But alas, they need an actual piece.

release_backingSo I brought my table loom over to the cutting table , which is really convenient because I can stand and cut the strips as I weave them in.  The second or third blog I wrote back in December described the process and gave the draft, using a Theo Moorman threading. I weave about a quarter inch of ground fabric, then lay in on top a thin strip of silk, and hold it down with poly sewing thread which is warped in with the cotton ground. The strip is part of a childhood photograph I printed on 10mm silk Habotai, which comes on an 8.5″ x 10′ roll, pretreated for ink jet ink, and mounted on paper for easy transport through the printer. I got this from Dharma Trading. By running two  lengths of this silk, 8.5″ x 16″ long, I could print a much larger image, since I’m stripping it anyway, it doesn’t matter if it is in two  pieces.

table_loomIn the first photo, I found if I score the paper backing with a sharp ruler edge, I can get it started easier than fumbling with the corner.  In the second photo, I am peeling the paper backing off the silk.  In the third photo, I am remove_backingcutting the strips of silk, I cut them about 3/16″.  You can see there are two big sections that make up the image.  The last photo is of the table loom, you can see I have two strips woven in already.  I’ll describe more about the weaving process later.  I figured out a way to do a pick up of the tie down threads so only the ones I need are actually held out, the rest on the side get woven into the ground.

This will be a slightly larger version of one I sold, called Big Sister. The photo is from around 1957, of my younger sister and me, caught in an intimate moment. The photo  is the smaller version.  In the December blog, I was weaving the same piece, but 24″ wide.  My sister saw it on my blog and tearfully requested one for her, she even offered to pay me, but since she is the other child in the slice_photophotograph, it is only fair she gets this one once I have exhibited it.

Arctic Sky Update



First, let me refresh everyone’s memories on the Arctic Sky Fabric, which I had been calling Project 5.  It was based on a forecast I did for Handwoven Magazine for the January ’07 issue.  It is a twill variation, using whatever was on my shelf, novelties, Harrisville wools from the late 70’s?  I had some variegated cottons, and this very pretty bright lime green novelty rayon.

I originally set this warp up on my 8 shaft, 24″ floor loom, not because it needed to be, but when I have sticky wool warps, I find that by spreading them over eight shafts instead of four, I get less skipped sticky warp issues.

I have about 6 yards of 21″ wide fabric, not a huge amount, but enough I think for a short jacket, and I have a beautiful silk Sari from my husband’s gift stash in the perfect teal.    And I have this odd little sash/narrow scarf that I felted with a friend, in that fabulous lime green color.  I can see using the natural edge of the felt as a narrow accent down the princess seams, almost like piping.

muslinSo when last we left off, I was tracing the Burda pattern onto the tracing medium, and then of course, the next step is a muslin.  I know this doesn’t look like a muslin, but I use whatever junk is on my shelf, I have this huge hunk of decorator fabric which someone gave me, which in the picture is actually appealing, but trust me, it isn’t.  So instead of wasting perfectly good muslin, I made up the jacket in this.  The upper collar/facing was left out, you get the general idea without going to all that trouble, and I put the cuff on only one sleeve.  The sleeves are too long, I always have to shorten Burda sleeves, an easy fix, and the jacket itself, although cute, and well fitting, is way too short waisted.  By about 2 inches (see blue line in photo).  The buttons look compressed, and the torso looks squished.  The lime green edge of the felt piping would come down the princess seams, or, now that I look at the photo, maybe I could run it down the edge of the collar/front.  There will be a welt pocket in the side front, and a belt in the center back.

Once I make these changes, I’m good to start cutting.  But I wanted to give you an update on the pattern tracing medium issue.  I was waiting for a sample or bolt, which ever got to me first, from Pellon, showing me the version of Red Dot Tracer they picked up from HTCW.  Their Tru-Grid product, which was their original pattern tracing medium, is very soft like cloth, and though I like the grid, and the re-engineered product that is now stable in all directions, the pencil marks that I make that copy the pattern onto the medium tend to rub off on your hands, and slowly disappear.  Not good for long term patterns.  I really miss Red Dot Tracer, which was more paper like, though it was a polyester composite cloth, and it really held the color, and the marks.  You couldn’t get them off if you wanted to.

Well, today I got a bolt of the new Red Dot Tracer from Pellon, and oddly enough, and sadly enough, it is the same product as their Tru-Grid, except it has a 1″ grid of red dots instead of blue squares.  Bummer.  I’m not sure why they need both.  And I’m really sad that I can’t get the HTCW version of Red Dot.  All of my master patterns I use for teaching are made from Red Dot from HTCW, and they hold the color and the marks for years.  I don’t see that happening with Tru-Grid/Red Dot from Pellon.

In the total scheme of things, what with everything that’s happening in the world, this is really a minor thing.  It is just frustrating because the things I use for garment making seem to disappear since most of the sewing world is ruled by the quilters.  My complete admiration for the quilters of the world, for they have single-handedly kept the sewing industry alive, but us garment makers have to struggle to make do with what the manufacturers  provide.  There aren’t enough of us to have a voice.

We are going to the movies tonight, free at any Claridge Cinema on Tuesday nights with the Optimum Rewards Card.  That’s a perk from my cable company that also provides my phone and internet service.  Free movies once in awhile is a nice perk.

Actic Sky

Arctic Sky refers to the project, not the stratosphere in winter.  I decided it was time to refer to its proper name, instead of Project 5.  I have begun.

First, I spent most of the day, after all the housework was done, working through the Dreamweaver Manual.  I finally feel like I’m grasping the basics of CSS, like I might even be able to actually execute this web site I designed.  It is taking so long, the learning curve is huge.  What’s more confusing is the variety of browsers and devices for viewing that exist, and no two read a site the same way.  And older browsers may not even support CSS style sheets, which is the next generation of device for designing sites in an efficient way, so it makes sense to learn it, even if viewing technology hasn’t completely caught up with it.  Rather be on the cutting edge than trailing far behind…

My daughter had a volleyball tournament this afternoon, so I was all ready to knit away, for a couple hours, I’m only a few rows from the neck of the second side, but alas, we spent more than an hour sitting in horrid traffic, the utility work on the major roadways due to the damage from the high winds was causing all kinds of traffic snarls, and most of her team and her coach ended up an hour or more late, and they missed the first match.  Oh well, I just sat and knit…   The games they did play, once everyone was assembled, were actually pretty exciting, I actually stopped knitting for awhile…

So I finally got to work on the Arctic Sky (Project 5) jacket after 10:30 at night.  The first step was to double check my size, my body is changing daily, I’ve been off Tamoxifen for over a year now, and still seeing slow changes back to my old body, in shape and weight, which means that every sewing project has to be resized.  I suppose there are worse things…  Like not beating cancer… this is a minor hiccup…

tracingI’m using a Burda pattern, since I subscribe to the Burda World of Fashion Magazine, which comes in once a month, I have to open out the huge mapped sheets that contain all the patterns for each issue, and first copy the directions, which are a scant couple of columns, and then determine what lines to trace, on what pattern sheet.  Once everything is located, I grab my bolt of pattern paper, and here I digress.

The second blog I wrote, way back in December, talked about how my favorite pattern tracing medium seems to have been discontinued.  I had always used HTCW’s Red Dot Tracer, which was sturdy, stable in all directions, and held onto a pencil mark really well.  Alas, not being able to get it, I found out that Pellon had re-engineered their Tru-Grid pattern tracing product so it was now stable in all directions, which meant I could substitute this in a pinch (I never liked the old version, somehow using something that wasn’t stable made no sense for tracing patterns).  I ordered a bolt from my distributor, and have been using it for the last couple of months.  I really like the product, it is more cloth like than Red Dot, it’s great for trying on as an interim muslin, but it doesn’t hold the pencil markings, they rub off all over your hands, and by the time you’ve gotten half through the garment, they’ve faded considerably.

Imagine my gleeful surprise, when I got a call yesterday from my distributor telling me that the rumor is, Pellon is picking up the Red Dot Tracing product.  I immediately ordered a bolt, praying it is the same stuff as the old one, or reasonably close, because I really want to use that for my class in California.  And I have to ship it ahead in the next week.  So I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and I’ll let you know if it is the real thing, and if so, it will be back on my website store for sale in two yard packages!  And if Pellon is carrying the product, it will be way more easier to get in a regular fabric store, if there is such a thing anymore…

Back to the project…

tracedaddhemSo I take my bolt of Pellon’s Tru-Grid, cut off a chunk, and lay it  out on the “RED LINES” on the G Sheet.  It is important to note that there are no seam allowances or hem allowances on the pattern pieces, so I trace the lines with my colored pencil, using dotted lines, making sure all the pieces are at least 1 1/4″ away from each other to allow for the allowances.  I add the seam allowances later.  I copy all the marks and reference lines, checking the little direction sheet to make sure they are all accounted for.

Once I do that, I pack away the pattern sheet, refolding it is much easier than refolding a pattern, after 45 years of sewing, I still haven’t mastered that one.  I’m too impatient if you can believe.  Anyway, now I can add all the seam allowances and hem allowances, 5/8″ and 1 5/8″ respectively.

The next step will be to baste the pieces together to try on the pattern.  But tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading off to a meeting of the American Sewing Guild.  I’ve been a member for awhile, but only went to one meeting, well over a year ago.  So I’ve decided to try another meeting,  I’ll report in tomorrow afternoon.