We are all going to hate that word, other than the Q, all the rest of the letters are only worth one point in Scrabble, except for maybe the D, that might be worth 2 points.  Now if it were to sit on a triple score…

No, I’m not sewing masks.  I’m not ruling it out, but kind friends keep texting me assuming I’m making hundreds of masks and honestly I’m not.  There are a number of reasons, but mostly I don’t have supplies, all of the fabric we could have used, was used a couple months ago to make Joey Pouches for the marsupials in Australia. I’d have to go out and purchase supplies, which I understand are hard to come by, or cut up existing clothing.   I’m not leaving my house, so I don’t need a mask, and for the brief run to the post office to drop off a prepaid box, I reused an n-95 mask I have in the dye studio.  I’m feeling guilty to not be part of the “war” effort, but I sort of feel like the best thing I can do is not become another statistic and clog up the already overwhelmed health care facilities around the state.  NJ is hurting and I’m trying to stay out of everyone’s way.  My son, who works as an exec at Target, their highest volume store in the region, comes home glazed and exhausted.  It just doesn’t end.  He is military trained to do his job, carry on in extreme conditions and he wouldn’t think of doing anything less than 300%.  I’m very proud.  

And so I sit in my new basement studio, far away from the noise and constant barrage of bad news.  I check my phone for emails, but stay away from “breaking news” and facebook.  I know fear, anyone who has survived cancer does, and next to worry, it is probably the most unproductive of all emotions, especially when you become paralyzed.    And so I take the news in very small doses, NJ has the second largest amount of Covid 19 cases, and of course more than 600 deaths, which rises hourly.  And I hide in the basement and sew.

This is the fabric I wanted to sew.  Handwoven, one of my favorites to date.  I have three gorgeous caviar leather skins I bought in NYC a number of years ago, and thought of a leather yoke and sleeves, also wanting to test my swing dress pattern with drafted sleeves.  I realized that the leather has to be detachable, because well duh, you can’t wash it…

So I started with a test garment or prototype.  This is a lovely piece of wool suiting and I had enough Ultrasuede to simulate what my idea was in my head.  I had hoped to use the natural edge of the leather skins, and looking at the prototype, I needed to show more yoke because there was no way to capture the lower shape and have that contour match the skins I had.  

Anyway, my daughter took one look and said, wow, that looks frumpy, cut the sleeves shorter.  So I did, and I finished the dress and I tried it on and I actually think it is cute!

So I started in on the real dress.  I laid out the front with the cut out leather yoke keeping the natural edge, and I’m not sure what I think… yes the dress has pockets…

So I plowed ahead…

The dress needs a ton of handwork and the yoke isn’t completely resolved, there needs to be a back closure and the neck isn’t finished, still mulling over how I want to handle that, and I still don’t know what I think.  Part of me loves the contrast of the two mediums, unfinished leather and handwoven fabric, and part of me hates it because I’m such a finisher.  I’ll finish the handwork on the dress and then try it on and see, often it looks much different on the body.

The good news is, I have enough left over of both the handwoven and the leather to create another one of these, my favorite vest, copied from a ready to wear chambray vest I bought off a sale rack a huge amount of years ago.  The leather was originally purchased to make one of these, and the vest shown was the prototype for the leather vest, and I loved it so much I never went further and made up the leather.  I realize that once I make it, it is hard to clean, I’d have to send it out, but a leather vest usually needs less cleaning than a dress worn next to the skin.  And so far I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned this vest.

Meanwhile, I finally finished the Harrisville Designs Rhodora sweater, and tried it on and I love it. The yarn is Harrisville’s Silk and Wool.  Exactly what I wanted, another lovely summer top, but with short sleeves.  Most of my knitted summer tops are shells and I only have one or two other short sleeve knitted tops.  

Meanwhile, and a huge Meanwhile, Brianna finished her online class in learning Adobe Illustrator (through Udemy, if you are bored, they have all sorts of classes that are really inexpensive) and took my files of scanned patterns we did last fall at my sister’s house, and we decided to have her start with the bias top.  There are only two pattern pieces, a front and back, three if you count that there are two different fronts, one with a dart and one without.  We printed, trimmed and studied, and made notes, and decided on layouts and colors and line quality because though I have always used color to describe my sizes, not everyone can print in color and so line quality will help when printed in grey scale.  She has finished the bias top, so now I have to create the lead pages that explain how to cut out and piece together and the difference in the two fronts and how to only print the pages you need, etc, etc, etc…  

This is something I dreamed of doing way down in the future, once I stopped traveling.  Except the universe had other plans.  With my traveling curtailed for months, and my daughter working for me,  we decided that this was the time to at least explore.  In my wildest dreams I never expected that I’d have a workable plan the beginning of 2020, though in my wildest dreams I never thought I’d see the world in the current crisis, no one did, so we carry on and make use of the gift of time and try desperately to stay healthy.  

She started in on the 500 vest next, fortunately she is loving this process and project.  Her skills with Illustrator are improving hourly.  and I just approved this latest piece, this is the upper right corner of the 500 vest back.  

And in other news, I finally, finally sat in my new weaving studio and wove.  Looms get cranky when you don’t weave on them or when you move them with a warp on them, and it takes a bit to get everything moving smoothly again.  I had just put this scarf warp on last fall.

Other than the 47 interruptions from my children or the animals, like the cat sitting on the scarf as I tried to hem stitch, it was a joy to be weaving in my new studio and I want to go out and weave another one tonight…

Meanwhile, the email just came in accepting my proposal for my daughter and me to team teach a class on designing yardage at MAFA next summer (no loom required).  That seems like a world away and I have to wonder if the world will ever be the same, will we be able to meet safely and gather in large groups, will campuses even survive, will all the things and people we know and love survive this, I feel like we will be in a very different place when all of this is over.  Hopefully someone will come up with a miracle drug/and /or vaccine, and this will go by the way of smallpox or typhoid, or polio, until the next pandemic, and then hopefully we will all be prepared.  Meanwhile NY and northern NJ are ground zero once again, and we all have to stick together (6 feet apart) and face this like the warriors we are.

Stay safe and stay home everyone.  And weave, or spin, or sew, or garden, or read, or fix puzzles, or paint or draw, or do whatever it is that makes you happy.  Apparently there are no supplies in the grocery stores for bread making.  No yeast, no vegetable oil, no flour, and it makes me smile.  Who knew that baking bread could be a lifeline for so many…  (And apparently there are no puzzles to be had either…  I’ve got a huge stash if anyone is desperate, willing to share…)

Stay tuned…

Hunkered Down…

This is a scary, unprecedented time we are living in, no one has a playbook for all that we are experiencing as a nation.  There are lots of opinions, lots of fur flying, lots of accusations, and lots of personal stories.  I use social media to some extent, I have more than 2200 friends on Facebook, many I don’t know, but most are either local friends, family or friends from the global fiber community, which makes me feel connected to a wonderful creative and thoughtful group of people. 

I pay attention to the news.  Peripherally.  I read the morning paper, I listen to NPR on the hour while listening to a public radio classical station.  I glance at news feeds from the AP and Reuters, and have subscriptions to the Washington Post and NY Times.  But mostly I just read the local NJ paper in the morning and get on with my day.  

Of course, NJ now has the second highest Covid-19 cases in the US, and the numbers double every other day.  It isn’t a question of if we will all get it, it is when and can the local hospitals handle the volume of really sick people.  So far it isn’t looking so good.  

That said, I turn to Facebook to see what my fiber friends are doing, to laugh, to find out what’s happening in their lives.  I love seeing photos of sunsets, snowy landscapes, spring blooming, handspun yarn, the latest tapestry or yardage or dishtowel on your loom, inspiration, cat and dog photos, grandchildren photos, wickedly funny cartoons, and for a brief half hour, I feel connected.  What I despise is seeing every other post an angry share of what the government is or is not doing depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on.  And I have dear friends who sit on both sides of that fence.  I’ve started hiding posts that have been shared from any news source.  That doesn’t seem to be helping.  Next effort is to start unfollowing friends who continue to rage at the news.  I get the news.  I get it from sources I trust to be truthful and informative.  Please share with me what you are working on, what happens in your personal lives, and breathe a little.  There is nothing much any of us can do but vote in November.

And so I will share what’s happening with me since this time of self quarantining.  To be perfectly honest here, and I’m a little embarrassed to even write this,  I have never been happier.  My entire calendar has been cancelled into June, and I’m waiting to see what happens with those workshops.  As much as I love my life, the travel, the students, the one thing I find myself desperately trying to find, is time.  Time to smell the proverbial roses.  Time to do some of the fun things I want to do.  Time to work in my studio, time to play an instrument or read or garden or just hang out.  And look at Facebook.  There is some gorgeous inspirational stuff out there if you can weed through the angry reposts.  

We continue to revamp the studio spaces, this morning the electricians came to repair the line to the shed, which will be a lovely woodshop, because well, you can’t have enough play places in the house. My electricians were desperate for work, and they would mostly be outside and in the crawl space, and I could communicate with them from the deck.  And Brianna and I last weekend, drove over to the storage unit, which is where all of my son’s belongings are held, to retrieve her couch.  Her beloved 400 pound monster of a couch, that belonged to her grandmother, that she won’t part with.  My friend with a truck, keeping his distance, brought over my trailer, and met us at the storage unit.  Brianna and I wheeled the sofa out of the unit on a couple of dollies.  The sofa sat in the trailer on the side of the house.  I had arranged for help getting it up to the second floor, but that help fell through.  So I looked at my daughter, and said, well, we are two strong and inventive women, (she is much stronger than I, but we are use to moving looms) and with a little bit of physics, and some brute strength on her part, we hauled that baby across the back yard, up the deck stairs, up the balcony stairs, turned it on its end to get it into my bedroom, rotated it in a contorted way, down the hall, up more stairs, and by removing a couple of doors, we managed to get it into her new bedroom, my old studio.  We hurt, we were exhausted, but we felt really accomplished.  Give two women no choice and see what they can do…

My days are simple, I get up, tend to the dogs, have my morning tea and look at the paper, and then I get to work.  I get to play in my lovely new studios, I have stuff to play with, and I stop for meals when I’m hungry. I run the vacuum occasionally, because I have three dogs and a cat and a fiber studio and my housekeeper is working from home, she sent instructions! (I stole that from Facebook).  My daughter is here, learning Illustrator, so we can begin to explore digitizing my patterns and making them available for download.  We are a long way away from that actually happening, but I have time now.  

There is always the fear that of course I or my children, who both live with me will get sick.  My son works 15 hour days at a high volume Target.  He is exposed to all kinds of craziness.  But I don’t live in fear.  I take each day as a gift.  I’ve been through a lot of drama and trauma in my life.  This too shall eventually pass.  For now, I had time to plant pansies and my garden is full of cold weather greens.  And the winter was so mild that my rosemary wintered over.

I have time to practice my recorder.  I’m trying to learn to play the Brandenburg Concerto #3, on Alto recorder, for a potential concert in December.  Challenging, but I have time to practice.  

I have time to read in the evenings.  I’ve read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Both excellent reads.  I’m currently reading a southern ghost story, quite the beach read, called Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor (It was a $1.99 download).  An entertaining escape.  And we always have a 1000 piece puzzle going in the corner of the living room.

I have time to knit, I finished a summer shell I’ve been working on for too long, Harrisville silk and wool and their Rhodora pattern.  Just needs blocking and then the handwork and edge finishes.  

Started a new sweater, using Cascade Yarns Venezia Sport, Merino and Silk.  The pattern is from C2Knits, Greta.  I’ve wanted to make this one for a long time.  

And I took this handwoven yardage from last year and made a skirt.  The yardage is called Vertical Barriers.  It has multiple warps, mostly rayons, some hand dyed.  I used up a lot of stuff that was hiding out on the shelves.  The weft is some very old Maypole Nehalem Worsted 3 ply wool.  So the fabric fulled quite nicely.  There were only about 3 yards by the time I was finished, but there was some width to work with.  24epi.

Meanwhile, I wanted to create a swing skirt from  my swing dress pattern.  As I’m almost 65 years old, I do not have a waist, and skirts with waistbands are stupid at my age.  I much prefer a shaped waist facing, way more comfortable and easy to customize.  This was the original dress, and the resulting test skirt.  

I got to wear the skirt for our in house St. Patrick’s Day celebration, we had corned beef, cabbage, Irish Soda Bread and lots of Guinness.  

I wanted the reverse shaped waist facing to be more proportionate, but it couldn’t sit any lower, because there are pockets of course.  So I funneled the waist, shortened the darts a bit, and dove into the Vertical Barriers Yardage.  It was a challenge to cut out, because things had to match.  And there is a drop lining.  I had an old piece of rust colored Ultrasuede in the stash, which made for a lovely reverse waist facing.  The fit is so very comfortable.  And yes, I knit the sweater, from a silk wool mill end, doubled, in seed stitch, using a C2Knits pattern for the fit.

And now I’m off to explore a test garment, for the swing dress with sleeves.  Each new piece I do gives me about 20 new ideas.  Which is how life should be.  No matter how much I’m quarantined, there will never be enough hours for all the stuff that runs through my head.

Stay tuned…