Everyday feels like a year…

This is the weirdest year I’ve ever experienced, and there have been a lot of them.  You’d think by 65, especially having lived through the 60’s and 70’s that you’ve seen it all.  Hahahah!

I’m not going to comment on any of the current world situation.  You don’t need one more voice in the cacophony of voices and events and situations screaming at you for attention.  Because you all know or should know that the world is imploding like some sci-fi novel and that we just all have to buckle our proverbial seatbelts and hold on for the ride.  A bottle of wine or something more powerful would help for fuel.

That said, my last couple of weeks have been wild and crazy, and that has nothing to do with all the drama and sturm und drang happening in the world.  

In case you missed it, I did finish my Confetti vest, lined with a vintage leopard coat.  It makes me smile in so many ways when I look at it.  I’m ready for winter, this will be warm as s**t!  

So this week is Spinning and Weaving week.  It is a big deal in the fiber community, usually full of events, and gatherings and all sorts of fibery happenings.  The Handweavers Guild of America is giving it the valiant try of doing a bunch of fiber related events virtually.  While not ideal, in essence it allows participation by anyone, anywhere, in the comfort of your own home.  I know our homes are getting too comfortable and we are looking to get out and go anywhere, but inspiration comes in odd packages, and basically all this is free and all you have to do is register for a specific event.( I think it helps if you are a member, because everything is free, but there are modest fees if you aren’t a member.)  All this coming week, the HGA is sponsoring studio tours of various fiber artists they have selected, whose studios they think might be of interest to the fiber community at large.

And guess who is featured Thursday at 4pm EDT.  Yeah, so there is that hanging over me.  In preparation for a virtual studio tour, I mistakenly said, when they inquired if I would be willing to be a part of this, that sure, I’ll even have something on every loom that I can talk about and explain, and fill up space for an hour.  I need to learn restraint!

So, in anticipation of Thursday’s live virtual studio tour, filmed by my daughter who will be tethered to the laptop, camera and sound system, we will walk through my wonderful new garage space, and then on to the basement where I have my cozy sewing room.  But all the looms had to be warped…

So, my 8 shaft 36″ loom was unwarped and very lonely.  I still had a couple of cones of Silk City Fibers yarns to test out, one was a Cotton Bambu, in Silver, and the other was a Chenille Tapestry variegated called Japanese Red Maple.  I envisioned a light dark shadow weave, something sett well enough to keep the chenille from doing silly things like worming out of the structure.  Some day I’ll recount my early experiences with chenille, but with a lot of experience behind me, I thought I’d give it another go.

I used the Powell book for inspiration, but since I’m aiming to publish the draft and specs for this fabric, I needed something that was mine.  I started out with this 8 shaft version, and wasn’t completely happy.  (Actually I started out with 24 epi, alternating the CottonBambu and the Chenille.  Resleyed to 20 epi, and then resleyed again to 16epi.  Don’t ever be afraid of changing course mid stream.)

The change might not be obvious, but I redesigned it to reverse in a more pronounced way, and to better square up with the sett.  I’m pretty happy with this.  Now I just have to weave it off, but not before Thursday…

And my big loom, the 45″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade, my first loom and first love, still with me after all these years, purchased in 1977, delivered in 1978 was also naked and really not happy.  Since every fall I put on a run of dishtowels for holiday gifts, I decided that that would be an appropriate thing to put on the loom, and then at the end of October into November, I could weave it off and have my holiday gifts.

Social media can be really challenging and full of untruths and misinformation and a lot of passionate people on both sides of the fence no matter what the subject.  But the social media sites dedicated to fiber and specifically weaving has some very dedicated moderators and some very talented contributors and every morning when I wake up I feel like I have just been to a fantastic inspirational gallery opening.  

The Facebook site Strickler in Color has been a tremendous source of inspiration.  Carol Strickler wrote a lovely book, now considered essential for every weaver with 8 shafts on their loom, full of patterns, all black and white, and you could spend a lifetime with this book and not make a dent.  So this Facebook site has talented contributors who post what they’ve woven, but in color, with a nod to the draft.  Strickler 728 keeps coming up, and if you looked at it in the book, you would have just turned the page.  It really is rather boring and not very inspiring.  But I’ve seen so many people use this draft in eye catching ways that it was on my list to try.

In keeping with the need to stash bust, because I’ve acquired a lot of 8/2 cotton in the last year or two, I pulled a length from all of my cones and sat with weaving software until I was happy.  I decided to put 15 yards on the loom because turns out, I can never have enough dishtowels.  I’m always needing one as a gift, and I’m tired of running out in July. (I still have two left from last year because I haven’t been anywhere since March, but hey…)

My table top warping mill technically holds 10 yards.  I’ve successfully pushed it to 14, but I decided that my AVL warping mill, now 20 years old, would probably serve for this purpose.  I rigged up way to make a cross, and I wound 15 yard bundles in 2.5″ widths.

I threaded the loom.  My ott-lite magnifier has changed my life!  

I beamed the 15 yards.

And I started weaving.  I am completely in love.  This is why we do this.  I am so thrilled to have been forced to fill up my looms, because now, after Thursday, I can walk in my studio and just weave.  A lot.  I have a whole fall’s worth of looms to clear.  Which will mean, except for the dishtowels, a lot of sewing this winter.  I can’t wait when we reemerge from this protective cocoon to wear half the stuff I’ve made this year.

Speaking of…

In addition to studio tours and virtual vendor halls, the Handweavers Guild of America is also sponsoring a virtual fashion show next Sunday.  Not the same as sitting in an auditorium at a conference and watching cool handwoven garments strut across the stage, but they are trying to put together a virtual fashion show.  That would be next Sunday at 2pm EDT.  Of course I’ll have a piece in the show, but I hear they could use more participants.  WHERE ARE ALL MY STUDENTS, AND WHY ARE THEY NOT SHOWING OFF THEIR WONDERFUL GARMENTS!  This isn’t like where you have to be juried.  Just sign up!  You need the ability to Zoom, log in and they will tell you what to do.  The rehearsal was today, but I think they still want more participants!  Come on guys, you have some great work!  The link to enter is here.  I know the deadline has passed, but I believe they are still looking for participants.  The link to view the virtual fashion show next Sunday is here

And finally, there is my new Youtube site.  We now have four episodes of The Weaver Sews.  Every Friday we film a new episode on something related to sewing handwoven fabric.  Four are launched with Closed Captioning, which my daughter writes, so it is accurate and synced.  Two more are shot and I’m planning the topic for next Friday as I write.  I will create a script, which makes it easier for my daughter to write the Closed Captioning, and then I work all week on creating the samples and supplies I need for the video shoot.  We are having fun with this and I hope it is helpful and informative.  Sales of my patterns are certainly picking up!

So my head is spinning with all that is on my plate.  I’m old enough to remember The Ed Sullivan Show, and the guy from some Baltic country that did plate spinning.  He would keep 10 or 20 plates spinning all at the same time.  I remember watching with fascination and thinking, “How does he keep them all going at once?”  Well now I know.  Somehow that skill managed to rub off on me and I’m doing that every day.  And I wouldn’t wish for anything different.  My days are full, I have plenty to keep me busy.  I am lecturing virtually almost every other day, somewhere in the country.  It is so great to log in and see familiar faces.  I can do this… (though sometimes I wish I could redesign the plates).

Stay tuned…

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…

 

 

Balloons and Fireworks…

I should be celebrating, this is five months of hard work, and it is finally completed.  But I’m already onto the next adventure, so much to cram into this quarantine that doesn’t seem to be going away.  Oddly enough there are deadlines looming, pun intended, more about that later.

So we launched the last of the 12 patterns I use for my classes.  At this point, you can purchase my  patterns, all of them, on my website.  This has been a huge deal, we have never worked so hard.  It took a team, I created the content, my daughter created the layered files that actually created the patterns, and I hired a tech editor for the instructions.  The instructions are, as always available for free on my website.  There is a lot of great information in there about sewing with handwovens, but I’m really looking forward to creating YouTube videos on specific areas of support.  Like how to actually print and create the full size patterns.  

Because so many have written me and asked, and many in the handweaving community haven’t ever purchased a downloadable pattern before, I want to do a video explaining how to basically print and tape together all the sheets into a full size pattern.  Yes, you have to print them yourself.  Yes, you can have a place like Staples print the file for you.  Yes, you have to tape all the pages together.  And no, I don’t sell the printed pattern.  Only the download.  I’m even wanting to get away from printing and shipping the monographs which at the moment are available digitally and in print form.  Printing and shipping costs are ridiculous, and with the delays in the post office, I’m wanting to get away from shipping altogether.  

Anyway, huge celebration.  The last of the patterns is up.  This is the 1800 jacket which is like the 800 vest only with sleeves and waist darts.  There is a look book available here.  There aren’t a lot of images in it because the pattern is only a couple years old.  But you’ll get the general idea.  You can purchase the pattern here.

Meanwhile, my relationship with Silk City Fibers continues to grow.  I’ve always adored their yarn, and I’m getting to really play with styles I normally wouldn’t have looked at.  And really loving the possibilities.  I wrote in my last post about the yarns that they sent me, new yarns to the collection for me to explore.  So refer to the last post about what I actually used.  The fabric came out fantastic.  I called this Summer Rain, because I was weaving it during tropical storm Isaias, and lucky for me I was one of the few that never lost power. So I kept weaving.  The fabric is exactly what I envisioned.  It has been washed and dried, and is a gorgeous drapey but stable rayon, cotton, linen, and bamboo fabric that will make a great summer top.  I’m thinking I want to combine my 1000 Swing Dress with the 200 Jacket for the armholes and sleeves and make a basic top with short sleeves.  At this point, I’m having fun seeing what my patterns can produce by combining them.  

Silk City has promised me more yarn.  Oh, goodie!

Meanwhile, I finally cleared a loom that has had a bunch of my handdyed scarves on it for more than a year.  I was able to move the loom to the new studio with the warp intact, so there it sat.  I ended up netting six 2 yard scarves from a 14 yard warp.  I love these soft retro looking scarves.  They are mostly all handdyed rayons and cottons.  The weft is tencel.  Actually three of the scarves have a tencel weft, three have a bamboo weft.  It is hard to tell the difference. 

Normally these scarves would be donated to arts organizations for fundraisers and tricky trays, and whatever makes me feel like donating a scarf worth a couple hundred dollars.  I’m really careful whom I donate to.  But sadly all of the arts organizations I support have had to cancel major fundraising events this year for obvious reasons.  And even my lovely guild show and sale in November has had to move online.  So I’ll be populating my eShop with whatever scarves I have, and things like totebags from scraps, that’s my project for the next couple of weeks.  We are setting up a lightbox and photography area in one of the guest rooms.  Since I can’t have any students or guests, one of the rooms can easily become a photo area.

With that loom cleared, and more yarn from Silk City Fibers coming in the next couple of days, I’m wanting to get another warp on the loom I specifically use for these scarves.  It has to have a second beam for the 14 yards of supplemental warps.  So I looked through my huge binder of all the color forecasts I developed for Handwoven Magazine, back in the early 2000’s and picked one that appealed to me.  Mostly it appealed to me because it was called Autumn Harvest and fall is coming.  And I can’t wait.  Normally fall means I live on planes and travel and I’m not doing any of that this year.  I’m doing different things.  I have a huge amount of bookings for guild remote lectures, and some remote workshops and I’ve had to rewrite most of my prospectuses to indicate what can be done remotely.  Actually most of them so far.  You can look at what I have to offer for remote learning here.  I just have to figure out how to do some of my garment classes remotely, especially now that you can buy the patterns… 🙂 

So anyway, here is the Autumn Harvest palette drawn from a 2004 column in Handwoven Magazine, and I pulled some yarns to see if I had the right combinations. 

I just couldn’t come up with enough of the right muted dusty purple.  Everything was too blue, and I needed something softer that leaned warmer.  So I dug out the dyepots and for the first time used my new dye sink/area in the new weaving studio.  Lots of firsts here.  I did have to ask my daughter where we put stuff, but this worked remarkably well.  The sink was built high enough so I didn’t have to lean in.  It is stainless so I don’t have to worry about stains.  And I can hang skeins to dry right over the sink.  I think this color will work, if not, I’ll dye another batch.  I’ve got plenty of white yarn…  And you can purchase the 8 shaft draft I use for all my scarves here.

And the push is on because I’m booked to be the guest on the Shi Show, if you aren’t familiar with this, it is a half hour daily live show on Lion Brand Yarn’s Facebook page.  Shira is a descendent of a long line of family that owns Lion Brand Yarns.  She is young, and savvy and enthusiastic and represents the next generation of makers.  I’ll be the guest host on the September 1st episode that airs 12 noon EDT, I’ll let you know when we get closer, but I need my YouTube channel up and functioning, and the page in my eShop as well, with my lovely scarves and other items that I would have sold at the guild show and sale.  This year has been about reinventing myself in fast forward timing.  I’m doing my best.  

And speaking of my best, my daughter and I came up with a new logo for the videos I want to produce.  I’m pretty proud of this.  I designed the concept and my daughter turned the whole thing into a vector drawing in layers in Illustrator.  Everything is falling into place.

Stay tuned for more adventures of “The Weaver Sews…”

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile there is a tropical storm moving in tonight.  Finally, a typical summer…  At least we need the rain desperately…

Meanwhile, I launched another pattern for download.  And I’m beginning to add Lookbooks for some of the patterns.  I’ve had a number of requests from potential buyers to see what people are doing with the patterns.  I know this is a thing on Ravelry, and it does help to see what people do with the pattern, and how it fits all different body types.  This is one more thing on my never ending to do list, but I’ve managed to post three of them, one for the vest below, and one for the 700/1700 tunics and the 100 jacket.  I don’t know if it helps, and obviously the patterns are too new for purchasers to show what they’ve done with them, but I’ve been using these patterns for years, especially the jackets, and I have a collection of mostly in progress, not completely finished versions from all of my workshops.

What’s important here is that if I used a photo of you in your garment, I cropped all body parts, so you wouldn’t be recognized.  Still, if you object to my using your garment, please let me know.  And if you have a photo of a garment you made in one of my classes and/or from one of my patterns, especially a finished version, please let me know at theweaver@weaversew.com

The 800 Zippered Vest is fully lined to the edge and has bias bound edges.  The vest has a stand-up collar with front separating zipper. View 2 uses the lining as a seam finish on the side, shoulder and neckline/collar seams.  Optional yoke on both views.  This pattern does not contain directions for sewing.  The directions, which contain metric equivalents are available for free from my website https://www.daryllancaster.com/Webfiles/800ZipperedVestDirections.pdf 

In addition, a lookbook of garments made from the 800 Zippered Vest is available here https://weaversew.com/wordblog/800-zippered-vest-lookbook/

I’ve only got one more pattern to go in the current collection, which will give me a total of 12!  The pattern for the 1800 jacket is done, it is a combination of the  800 zippered vest above and the 400 jacket with waist darts. The directions are rewritten, I’m waiting for the final edits from someone I hired to make sure what I wrote makes sense.  The conversations between us are hilarious.  Usually she writes that something doesn’t make any sense, and I respond that it would have it they were in class because there would have been an entire class lecture on the fine points of that technique earlier in the morning, and then she responds that people who buy the patterns won’t have been privy to that lecture, so I have to spell it all out.  So I’ve added so much to each of the directions for each of the patterns.  I keep them separate because whenever something is unclear, I can edit easily and post on a page of my website, without generating an entire new pattern download.  The directions are always free, so if you already traced a pattern from one of my classes and need the updated directions, please find them here.  As always, if something isn’t clear, please let me know, I’ll try to fix it.  And there is the goal to have a YouTube channel to explain many of the techniques I feature in my patterns.

Meanwhile I’m already thinking of how to combine the patterns and what silhouette I want to work on next.  A scoop neck top with sleeves…

Meanwhile, I met with a consultant about video equipment and improving the image of my online teaching via Zoom or whatever platform works for the guild hiring me.  And they are hiring me.  My October Calendar is really filling up with remote guild lectures and a few short workshops.  I’m beginning to get cancellations from next year, and I’m really good with that because I don’t see us returning to a normal any time soon.  I don’t see me hopping on a plane, dragging 170 pounds of luggage, staying with people, and teaching a 5-7 day class working intimately with students, and returning safely to NJ.  Right now there is a list in NJ of 31 states that you have to quarantine from after traveling to…  So I’ve edited some of my lectures to list what can be done remotely.  I will start on the half day seminars shortly.

So I now have a couple of Canon SLR’s that actually were designed to also work as webcams, in addition to 4K video.  I have an AC battery adapter so the camera battery doesn’t die in the middle of a zoom meeting.  I have my tech guy coming this week to run an ethernet cable to the garage weaving studio so I don’t have to rely on WIFI.  I have the cable company coming to upgrade my modem so I can get 1GB of internet speed.  And I purchased a sound system and video lights for recording videos, all that of course contingent on my daughter, who works for me now, learning how to use them.  Right now she is creating a logo.

Meanwhile, I’ve mentioned my long time association with Silk City Fibers, which is now a division of Lion Brand Yarns.  Alice, who is the director of that division is an old friend and coincidently lives in my town.  We are in regular contact about what’s new there and my opinion of the market, the type of yarn, the marketing, and anything else that comes to mind.  Last week I was asked if I wanted to be a “weaving influencer”.  I suppose I am an influencer.  A few thousand friends on facebook, been teaching this stuff since the early 80’s and using their yarn since then as well.  I’ve been blogging for more than 10 years, have about a thousand subscribers, and earlier posts have been viewed thousands of times.  And of course I always have an opinion.  I’m not always right, but my opinion always comes with a thought process that shows how I got there.  I met with the powers that be at Lion Brand, via remote conferencing, and largely I said, if you want to toss me yarn, I’ll make yardage out of it, document what I do and what it does, and make clothing out of it to sell my patterns.  

And so, at the end of last week, Alice dropped off a small bag of assorted cones, two of them yarns I’d not worked with before.  Left to right is Nile, a cotton tape yarn, Cotton Bambu, a heavier parallel plied yarn, great for supplemental work, Linen 14, a fine linen yarn I’ve had experience with before, and Bambu 7, bamboo yarn, pretty much a SSF staple.  There was about a half pound of each, which doesn’t seem like a lot to work with, especially if the goal is yardage.  But that never stopped me.  

I thought about the yarn, and then looked through my stash to see what I could add that was part of their current line.  Not much, since my shelves are full of older discontinued styles and colors of Silk City Yarns, all wonderful, but I thought I’d try to stay current.  I was able to add these. Clockwise from upper left, Saphira, Skinny Majesty Variegated, and a possible weft, Bambu 7

 

First I had to figure out exactly what I had.  I use a McMorran Yarn Balance and a scale and I can come within a few yards of knowing what’s on the cone.  

I played with yarn wraps…

…and adapted the draft from Chaos, which you can purchase from my website here

…and came up with something that reminded me of summer rain.  Think Tropical Storm Isaias.

Meanwhile, I haven’t actually wound a warp or set up a loom since the huge studio move last winter, which seems at this point like a lifetime ago.  When I returned from Oregon the beginning of March, the heat had just been installed, but the entire world shut down, and I dug in and made a bunch of new garments, in the basement sewing room, still thinking I had to submit five new works for the Convergence Fashion Show as a guest artist (of course that conference was postponed until 2022). And I started on what seemed like an impossible task at the time, creating downloadable patterns from the ones I developed for classes.  I was sitting on a lot of handwoven yardage I had stockpiled, and now my stash is depleted.

So I did what I do best.  Create with a small pile in front of me, and see where it takes me…

First up was winding the warp.  There are many ways to wind warps, but I wanted to see the colors unfold, so I chose to just do a straight wind off of the draft, as opposed to winding individual chains of each color.  The winding was slow, but the sleying would be much faster.  The first thing I discovered was the Nile tape lace had to be unwound from the cone like a toilet paper roll, instead of off the top, like typical coned weaving yarns.  When exiting from the top, the tape seriously twisted and I knew would never lay moderately flat in the woven surface.  So I put the cone on a spool rack, with the rack facing away from me at about a 30 degree angle.  The cone unwound easily in that position.

Next hurdle was of course the dreaded slippery rayon, and Silk City Fibers has lots of these.  I’ve used them for years.  This was one called Saphira, a pretty shimmery yarn with slubs.  The color I had has actually been discontinued, but a similar one is available with a black core instead of a white one.  Winding a warp with a yarn like this is problematic because any break in movement, like the turn around at the top of the warping mill, causes the yarn to pool around the base, getting caught as the movement resumes.  I usually use a nylon stocking around the cone as a drag, which works really really well, except in the move, they are hiding and I can’t figure out where they went.  So I used the mesh covering from an Asian Pear, which when tucked around the base, stopped the pooling and the warping could continue.

I loved the way the colors built on one another.

By dinner time yesterday I had the loom’s beater sleyed.  Each of these steps was sort of like reinventing the wheel.  The chair I usually used for sleying was now in the basement in my sewing studio.  So I had to come up with new tools and devices, figure out where my regular tools were now living, figure out where to plug in the magnifying light (in the ceiling as it turned out), and how to adjust the split HVAC system that was spilling copious amounts of frigid air right on me.  I figured that out and the room was really comfortable.  The new studio worked well.  I’m happy and can’t wait to actually spend most of my days out there even when I’m Zooming…  

I started threading after dinner.

Meanwhile, my beloved brat of a dog Ranger got his manhood clipped last Monday.  He was very depressed and had to wear the “innertube of misfortune”.  And of course, that meant he couldn’t wear a bellyband, so my fear all week was that he would pee on everything in my house.  We were good until late last night.  He saddled up to a shelving tower of handdyed yarn skeins and lifted his leg.  So I got to use the new dye sink in the studio and wash all of the offended skeins as I cleaned up the mess.  The dye sink worked really well.  And incision or no incision, he is now wearing a belly band.  The relationship between the two males dogs is slowing changing, it will be interesting to see where this goes.  The week for the most part wasn’t nearly has challenging as I thought it would be.  I got a lot accomplished locking myself and the dog in my office for hours at a time while he healed.  He liked the constant companionship.

Meanwhile, did I mention we are getting hit with a tropical storm tonight?  Note to self, pull in anything that isn’t nailed down, like umbrellas, etc.  Better yet, send Brianna out to do it…

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…