A Story…

Because life isn’t nearly as much fun if you can’t make a good story out of it…

There is a wonderful fiber school called Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island Wisconsin. I taught there for probably a dozen years before Covid put an end to my travels and I chose not to reschedule after Covid ended.

Sievers has a willow patch, that they tend and harvest every fall, and they have always offered a class in making a willow chair. Many of my regular students talked lovingly of coming in the fall, with their spouses and making a willow chair, and would show me photos of the pair of chairs on their porches, decks, verandas, whatever. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to come with my husband over the years and do this class with him, so we would have a pair of willow chairs on our deck that we made together.

It would have meant that my husband and I would have had to drive from NJ to Wisconsin and back, with two large chairs in tow, and somehow, that class was never at a time when both of us were available and could make the trek.

When my husband died, of course that dream came to an end, and since I no longer teach on the road (though I do miss Sievers), traveling out there by myself to bring back a chair didn’t make sense.

But I live an hour away from another craft school, Peters Valley School of Craft. When I looked at the course offerings back in January, I couldn’t believe they were offering a willow chair class. My husband was gone, but I could still do the class myself and not have to drive back from Wisconsin.

I signed up, though this one was a five day class, not a three day class. I didn’t care. It was actually one of eight classes I signed up for at the Valley this spring/summer. I want to learn.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was the actual dates of the class coincided with the 8th anniversary of my husband’s death. Which was Monday.

Working with willow is challenging for someone used to manipulating fibers, soft things, that though they have a mind of their own, will work with me, or rather I learned to work with them to achieve my goal. I’m still learning to understand live wood. Freshly picked. Shipped in from Montana, since Peters Valley is in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area , part of the National Park System. You can’t pick anything in a national park. So no willow patches.

There were only three of us in the class, which was great as I usually needed a second set of hands to help hold the bent willow in place. The teacher Walter Shaw, of Wapiti Willow Studio, was generous with his time. And he created a chair as a demo, staying one step ahead. Right next to where I was building mine.

This voice in my head kept encouraging me to ask Walter what he planned to do with the chair he was building. He said he wasn’t sure, his wife (who was teaching a ceramics class at the Valley the same week) was encouraging him to make furniture for her new ceramics studio. I asked if he would sell me the chair…

He agreed, and on Monday, like I said, the 8th anniversary of my husband’s death, I wrote a check for Walter’s demo chair, which matched mine perfectly, same willow, same maple base.

Since I was commuting, I brought home one of the chairs Monday night, and the second chair Tuesday night. I felt my husband there the entire time, and understood that he wanted me to have a pair of chairs too. And so, now I do, sitting proudly on my deck, under the gazebo cover.

We had time at the end of the class to make a willow tray. This was a challenge. This isn’t basketry willow, these are willow branches and they were very hard to weave in and out of the supports. But the tray is lovely.

This is the second class I’ve taken at Peters Valley since I wrote my last post. The previous one, at the end of May, wasn’t the best class I’ve ever taken. The instructor was overly enthusiastic with all of the techniques she wanted to try with us to explore Eco Printing, within a three day period. Since the current trend is to Eco Print, or print with botanicals on cloth, by dyeing the cloth first with natural dyes, much of the class was focused on natural dyeing and the use of modifiers. We made lots of small samples for a notebook. We learned to make print paste as well, and experimented with block printing, flower pounding, making our own soy milk for a mordant and print paste base. It was a lot in 3 days, and though I took a notebook full of notes, I’m no longer sure which sample goes with which technique. We even tossed a cotton tote back into a “dirty pot” on the last day.

We did print two silk scarves, one dyed with madder, and the other with logwood, using an iron blanket, but I will honestly say, I wasn’t happy with anything I did there. But I have a lot of things to explore, and I’m already starting to save leaves, since I have a yard full of very printable botanicals. Winter will be fun this year.

A couple of weeks ago, I came home from wherever I was, and discovered the mother lode of magazines in my mail box. I’m a member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and get their bulletin a couple times a year, and they are always interesting and informative. In the mailbox was also the latest issue of Shuttle, Spindle, and Dyepot, from the Handweavers Guild of America. And there was the much anticipated Journal of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers, a gorgeous publication from the UK.

This issue was much anticipated because I wrote an article on sewing with handwoven fabric, some many months ago. I finally got to see it in print. It really is a lovely article, and it is fun to look at my heavily edited manuscript written in British English, British spelling, metric equivalents, etc. The article is available as a PDF download from their website.

And of course, through it all, I’m out there daily tending the garden. The planting is complete, for now, and my job is to keep everything alive. It is lovely to watch the changes each day. Something is always blooming. Though I do watch the weather app in my phone hoping to see some rain in the forecast so I get a break once in a while!

Lots of bluestone walkways. The landscape designer built a stream bed for heavy rain runoff, that meanders down along the “ridge”, under the shed steps, and through a trough out the back of the property. Those are Clethra bushes, Itea, and a couple of American Hornbeam trees.

One of the pond complexes…

The rebuilt gazebo

This is my view every morning when I eat my breakfast. There are baby koi along with the Shubunkins goldfish. They are quite hilarious to watch. Spunky little critters!

I’m getting to take lots of pretty flower pictures, all of these already existed on my property. The perennials the landscape designer planted are still very small. Next year they should start filling the spaces, so there won’t be dirt to weed and they shouldn’t need watering. Each day there is something new to appreciate. These aren’t native hydrangeas, but the landscape designer did plant a few native ones. I think they are white, but still early to tell.

I have lots of volunteer Fleabane peaking out around my property. I love the little white daisy flowers.

After we ripped off all the invasive Akebia vine from the gazebo, we were left with a structure in desperate need of support. We shored it up, and discovered we had a crossvine that was barely surviving, and this year the trumpet flowers from it were glorious. There is a large white willow that frames the gazebo.

My clematis survived, which I wasn’t sure about since it was tangled in a mess of oriental bittersweet.

And of course peonies are gorgeous for about 4 hours, and then the rains always come as soon as they open up, which makes them not so gorgeous. But for a day, I had beautiful peonies.

My landscape designer planted two southern Magnolia trees. The flower blooms are gorgeous.

And of course, I have roses.

Though the irises are gone now, they were the most spectacular I have ever seen them this past spring.

One very rainy day, I hunkered down in the basement and got the body of my pieced jacket together. It is quite fun. Only needs a lining and perimeter bias trim. Waiting for another rainy day, but the forecast is calling for hot and dry. In the mid to upper 90’s. Sigh…

And when I can, after dark, I sit curled up and continue working on the appliqué cat quilt, a project of my mom’s that she asked me to do for her, since this kind of work at age 93, is challenging. The kit is one from the 90’s from Maggie Walker. This is block number 5. I still have to finish embroidering the whiskers and stitch the name along the side, Abyssinian.

I’ve already started #6, which will be challenging, because it overlaps #9, and I have to wait to finish much of #6, until I build #9. This is the coolest puzzle I’ve ever assembled.

My retrospective at County College of Morris is still up, running through August 22. It isn’t open on the weekend but the new summer hours have been posted.

Wednesday, May 8 – Tuesday, June 25 Mon-Fri, 8:30am-4:00pm. Sat-Sun, CLOSED

Wednesday, June 26 – Thursday, August 1 Mon-Thu, 8:30am-8:00pm. Fri, 8:30am-4:00pm. Sat-Sun, CLOSED

Friday, August 2 – Thursday, August 28 Mon-Fri, 8:30am-4:00pm. Sat-Sun, CLOSED

And finally, my exhibit is up on their website.

All this means that I’m frequently asked to meet groups of weavers and sewers and friends, and relatives at the exhibit, (when I’m available), give them a tour, and go out to lunch, or dinner, or in the case of my sister from Maryland, have a glorious weekend of family, including the sister from NY. We saw my exhibit, and then my studio and gardens, and then headed to NY to see the NY sister’s new home and gardens. We even got to walk across the Hudson River on the NY Rail Trail bridge over the Hudson. Something I’ve never done. Somebody has a photo of the three of us on the bridge, I forget who!

And I did manage to squeeze in a visit last Tuesday to the MET museum last week to catch the final days of the Weaving Abstraction in Ancient and Modern Art, and the new costume exhibit Sleeping Beauties. My head was full, all of my senses on fire, and I was home by lunch time.

It was really important for me to stay busy this year. My son is still deployed in the middle east, and I worry about him daily. Keeping busy has always been my antidote for stress. I still play with Montclair Early Music, and volunteer weekly at the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ as a stitcher in their costume shop. My life is exhausting, but I couldn’t be happier, because all of these things I chose to do.

Stay cool dear readers, it is summer out there and record heat doesn’t bode well for the future. Enjoy your gardens, or volunteer in one, and get your hands dirty. And when gardening season ends, there will always be fiber to play with…

Stay tuned…

Moving Forward but Looking Back…

I almost missed today. It has been 21 years, and I almost forgot. I saw references in this morning’s paper to 9/11 and I picked up my phone and looked at the date and realized that I almost forgot. There is so much happening in the world, that we aren’t remembering the really important stuff, the stuff that keeps life in perspective.

I looked back over my blog posts of the last 14 years. I referenced this day a few times, but the one I’d like to re-share was from 2009, less than a year into my new blog, where I talked about a letter I wrote to the editor of Handwoven magazine, actually the editor requested that I write it, on September 12th, 2001. She had offered me the position of features editor and I said, though I was honored, I lived 20 miles from ground zero and we weren’t even sure yet who in the town had died. Could I get back to her? She encouraged me to write how I felt, and what it meant to be an artist in uncertain times. September 11th was supposed to be my first day of the new semester where I was a substitute adjunct at Montclair State University in their Fiber Department. So here is the link to that long ago blog post with the letter I wrote for Handwoven Magazine. Thank you Madelyn van der Hoogt for the privilege of being able to write about grief, the unknown, and the pain of living through that time.

Moving forward I have spent an exhausting last couple of weeks doing the impossible. I cleared four looms and am working through a fifth. Turns out I don’t have to report for jury duty the next three days, I call again Wednesday evening, so I get an extra three days, but still, I needed to tie up loose ends and have things ready in case I am put on a case.

So, the first one I cleared was the last of the 7 mohair throws on 18 yards, I wove from all the mohair I had accumulated over the years. That loom is empty and waiting…

The next loom I cleared was the run of towels I had done to specifically explore a structure for an article I was writing. Those towels are washed and just waiting to be cut apart and hemmed.

Then I cleared the warp from hell, actually the warp was fine, the way I threaded it, with the plain weave all on two shafts made each shaft stick and I had to manually push each shaft down for every row. 30 picks per inch. It was painful. But the fabric is beautiful. Simple, elegant, and washed. With a couple of unexpected free days, I’m hoping to maybe make up a summer top so I can wear it before the season comes to an end? This is a turned overshot on 8 shafts with a 20/2 cotton ground.

And then I went to the Macomber I had set up early in the year, with the broken shoulder. Brianna helped me with that one, beaming 15 yards with a broken shoulder was challenging. I only had two scarves left to weave, so I hunkered down and polished off that warp. They still need to be washed. I called this run A Winter’s Tale (with apologies to Shakespeare), because really, this past winter was quite the tale…

And now, I’m happily weaving off the ten yards of a rayon ice dyed warp woven in a crackle structure. It is really pretty, and with a 5/2 cotton weft, it weaves so much faster than the turned overshot!

I continue to chip away at entering books into LibraryThing.com. I’m working on the sewing books, finding all sorts of treasures and vintage textbooks. I just hit 1,126 and still have lots more to enter. I opened this vintage sewing manual to check on copyright date and publisher info, most of those have to be entered manually and I got the biggest surprise of the year. There, across a two page spread and into the next page, were beautiful sentiments from my students from my first or second class at Sievers School of Fiber Arts, September 2007. This was a year before I started my blog. I have no recollection of being given this book, but what I really don’t think I ever saw, were the beautiful sentiments carefully written inside. I read through them all and because I’m still good friends, after teaching there for 12 years, with many of my former students, I immediately sent them the photo, and we all had a good sharing of memories.

Last weekend, while I was happily weaving away clearing one of the looms, I took a break and came into the living room to find that the cushion in the window seat was, well, a picture is worth a thousand words.

One of the dogs, there is no way to know who, somehow got his nose in the zipper and found the foam stuffing and well, I had a time cleaning the foam out of everything. One of the dogs (probably mine) had already chewed up the cushion and I had repaired it twice. I gave up, drove to Joann’s for new foam and a new zipper, and with some fabric from one of my recent weaver estate sales, I remade the cushion.

It didn’t take them long to adjust to the new cushion.

Crossing my fingers it lasts for at least a few months. It is their favorite place to hang out, letting me know about whoever dares to walk down the street. There are actually dogs who when the walk by my house, stop and sit at the curb to watch the show of these two maniacs barking their fool heads off because they are elk hounds and they are bred to find an elk and hold it at bay by barking annoyingly for up to 8 hours until the hunter can come and claim his prey. Sadly they’ve never seen an elk, so they think that everything that walks by, including baby strollers is potential game and I should be duly informed.

It is raining all day and will into tomorrow I hope. We are having a severe drought, after flooding rains all spring. I welcome the gentle rain. There is lots to do inside. I vacuumed my house and put to bed a 36 page issue I wrote for Heddlecraft magazine. I’ve been working on that for a number of months. I wanted it finalized before I am potentially placed on a jury.

One of the structures I wove to potentially be used in the article was one from Dr. Bateman, mentioned in a number of publications. This is draft 110 and I was able to weave two versions, get it washed and photographed, and get the loom reset. A couple of repeats a day, should get me through what remains of the three yard warp in no time. I have a lot of practice clearing looms, one repeat at a time…

Stay tuned dear readers, hopefully lots more to come… And more looms to clear… And get warped again… Winter is coming…

‘Tis the season…

I know, I know, it has been dreadfully long since I’ve posted a blog, probably the longest stretch since I started this thing back in 2008.  I promise there will be lots to talk about with this most challenging of projects, the huge move of the studios (yes that’s plural, one for weaving and one for sewing…).  I will have pictures, and maybe a video if I can figure out how to attach that.  It is coming along swimmingly well, but I’m still knee deep in hauling my entire life up and down three flights of stairs about 300 times a day.  Be patient dear readers…

In the meantime, it is the season, for signing up for workshops.  Because we all need some inspiration in life.  And I need students to fill my workshops, and you dear readers need to make some wonderful clothing from your handwoven cloth.  There are four opportunities to take garment construction classes with me at fiber venues, and all of them now have their sign ups available online.  I heard that within five minutes of the opening bell, Sievers already had four students sign up for my class in September.

The Yadkin Valley Fiber Center in Historic Elkin, NC will hold a three day class with me on making a jacket.  If you’ve made a jacket with me already, you are welcome to make any of the other silhouettes, or come and trace patterns, or start a couple of projects, just keep in mind the three day time limit.  I taught here about a year and a half ago and just loved it and the owner Leslie.

Jumpstart Jacket with Daryl Lancaster

June 6 – 8, 2020

Registration Deadline May 15,2020



If you live in the central part of the country, I fell in love with Red Scottie Fibers in the Ozarks of Arkansas.  And I fell in love with Eureka Springs, where Red Scottie Fibers is located.  Debbie, the owner expanded my three day class to the full five day Garment Construction Extravaganza,  she just wrote me to say that the class is more than half full, there are only a few spots remaining.  

Daryl Lancaster 5 Day Intensive Garment Construction

May 11, 2020 – May 15, 2020



If you live in the New England area, or really anywhere since there is an airport in Manchester, I’ll be back at Harrisville Designs in NH the end of August for my regular 6 day Garment Construction class.  I have lost track of how many years I’ve been teaching there.  This class usually fills quickly, and online sign ups are now live.

Wearable Extravaganza with Daryl Lancaster

August 31 – September 5, 2020



And of course, there is always Sievers.  I love this place too, on  beautiful Washington Island, off the coast of Door County Wisconsin, I think I’ve been teaching at Sievers the longest of anyone excluding Peters Valley.  I’ll be back there in 2021.  But Sievers has a 7 day option, and most of the class stays on, we really get a lot of work done!

Garment Construction Intensive 5 day

Sept. 24-29 (2 pm Thu – 11 am Tue)



Garment Construction Intensive Extended 7 day

Sept. 24 – Oct. 1 (2 pm Thu – 11 am Thu)



For those in the Pacific Northwest, I’m on the calendar for spring of 2021 at Eugene Textile Center.  In the meantime, all of the above venues have airports within a reasonable distance, which make them accessible from anywhere!


Stay tuned for the studio move extravaganza, I can hardly believe the changes.  In the meantime, I hope to see you in one of my classes, we have such fun!