Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…

During the interview last month on the HGA’s Textiles and Tea, the host Kathi asked me the proverbial question, “What’s next for you?”

I really didn’t have a definitive answer, because I really didn’t know. What I do know, is that I have a studio full of looms and yarn and books and cloth, and I never tire of exploring, creating, and seeing what happens if…

I had hoped once retired from teaching, that I could indeed turn this business of 45 years into a hobby. A real hobby. Where I have no deadlines, or immediate goals, other than getting a loom set up for a coming workshop, like the one next week on Huck Blocks with Rosalie Neilson. Done and check…

Soon, I hope, the weather will be glorious in my gardens with ponds. They are beautiful now, but the weather is still very windy and chilly, and not enticing to sit outside with a simple loom, and just breathe. Every year I have this goal, this vision of life in the back yard, listening to the birds, the quiet drone of small planes overhead, and watching the fish in the pond while I weave. Sounds lovely, but I can assure you it never happens. Because I am always too busy, and more importantly, I get easily distracted and depressed by all those weeds and deeds that need attention in said poetic back yard.

Our vegetable garden is already producing. My daughter took over the gardening of the vegetable plot, and I’ve managed a salad at lunch and dinner all this week.

So what that means, is I need little looms to easily carry outdoors, and just weave. I have plenty of inkle looms. And many have projects on them. But I have a large collection of 18 little Structo looms, the 8″ wide metal kind, four of them are 8 shafts, and I have a couple of adorable 4 shaft Leclerc 10″ wide looms of about the same vintage. I had visions of setting them all up with different weave structures to explore, and one of the perfect ways to do that is with what’s called a Gamp, which is a sort of sampler with blocks of design across, so whatever you ‘treadle’, affects all the different threadings across. It is like creating a library of little designs.

There is no purpose to these for me, other than an opportunity to learn. Not everything has to yield an end product. Learning is a really good reason to do anything. And I’m in a position that I can invite in a student or friend to just come and try out a structure they might be curious about, because a loom is already set up…

So over the last few weeks, as my broken shoulder starts to heal, I’ve been really busy just playing in the studio. I’m making progress on the overshot placemats I agreed to do for a friend (this is a really good friend), and I’m actually half way done. I’ve completed three mats and only have three more to go. And I’m really enjoying the scale, working with 20/2 cotton for the ground, and 10/2 for the pattern. I thought I’d hate it, but I can weave half a mat in an hour, and I’m getting really smooth at handling two shuttles. (The pattern is from Handwoven Magazine Nov/Dec 2010 in an article by Mary Berent, pg 38).

I had a guild friend come and help me set up one of the baby Leclerc’s, with a doubleweave sampler, from Jennifer Moore’s book called Doubleweave. This is a pretty complex and lengthy sampler, and just drafting it out in weaving software is time consuming. It doesn’t look like much at the moment, but I’m actually weaving two layers of cloth simultaneously. One layer is light, and the other dark, and then they switch.

On the other baby Leclerc, I used the spools that came with it, when my late mother in law gave me the loom years and years ago. The spools had linen on them, and I managed to get them threaded and I started a linen huck sampler. I’m using the “Stuck on Huck” sampler in Best of Weaver’s, Huck Lace pg 6, by Lynn Tedder.

And on one of my 8 shaft Structo’s, I found a beautiful Shadow Weave sampler from a draft from Webs Valley Yarns #199, Shadow Weave Sampler Scarf in 8/2 tencel. I wound four spools with the color sequence using yarn I had in colors I already had, and the effect is charming. Can’t wait to sit in the garden and weave on this.

And on one of my 4 shaft Structo’s, I had my guild helper help me wind four spools in 16/2 cotton (I wind the spools using my AVL warping wheel) (this was a couple months ago when my left arm wasn’t strong enough to wind on the AVL, I’m good now). And I threaded a twill gamp I found in Handwoven Magazine, Nov/Dec 2008 in an article by Robyn Spady, pg 40.

I have three more drafts planned out for another group of 8″ Structos, an 8 shaft Quigley from Tom Knisely’s handwoven table linens, a deflected double weave gamp from Marion Stubinetsky’s Double Twist pg 204, and another Robyn Spady gamp, in overshot on 4 shafts from Handwoven Magazine May/June 2014.

Did I mention how much fun I’m having?

And yes, there is still life to contend with. I managed to film two more episodes on Monday of The Weaver Sews, one launched last night, part one. I had so many people ask about how I made the doubleweave sampler jacket I featured in my last blog post, I decided to just do a couple videos.

And yes, there is always stuff to update, and organize, and work to be done for places I volunteer for, like my guild, where I am the treasurer. I spent the whole morning on the phone with the state of NJ trying to get the Division of Revenue and the Division of Taxation to talk to each other over the official guild address. Occasionally there are really helpful people in our government, with a sense of humor, who can actually get something done. Still, it took the whole morning…

I spent a couple days updating my design journals, both tangible and digital because I realized that I hadn’t done that since before the pandemic, and I’ve created a lot of new work and there are no records of what I did in permanent places. Just lots of scraps of paper… Now what weft did I use for that fabric?…

And on a personal note. Today would have been my 44 wedding anniversary. I miss my husband, I would just love to have 10 minutes with him to hear what he has to say about the mess in the world right now. I’d probably need more than 10 minutes. We were married in the spring of 1978 in a little chapel in southern NJ. The Kwanzan Cherry tree outside the chapel was in full bloom.

When we bought the home where I’m currently living, in the early 80’s, the first thing we did was plant a Kwanzan Cherry in the front yard. It has bloomed every year for our anniversary. Never fails. Recently I had to call in a tree expert to save the tree from some fungal infection, which really brought the tree back to life, so much so that the top became too heavy and it was in danger of splitting right down the middle of the trunk. So the tree experts came back, and for a considerable sum of money, I had them bolt through the trunk, and top the tree, by about half. And sure enough, on my anniversary today, this beloved tree hasn’t let me down. What we do for love…

Stay tuned dear readers, there is lots more adventures awaiting in my studio as I plan to head outdoors for the summer, which we all know probably won’t happen, but it is still fun to plan and dream. ‘Course weaving on a small loom in the comfort of an airconditioned house works too…

True Confessions

Bound03I have a confession to make.  This is hard for me to admit, but I suffer from Blank Canvas Disorder, a common yet debilitating disorder that makes one’s brain cells completely shut down when faced with a blank canvas, paper, or anything requiring the brain to invent content for that blank canvas.

So that’s exactly why I agreed to participate again in this year’s “Blank Canvas Benefit: For Art’s Sake” at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey in Summit.  Participants are given a blank canvas, and have to create something on it, and donate it for a pricey fundraiser/auction which will happen in mid December.  Those of us who donate get a lovely reception where we get to preview the work, but alas, we don’t get to attend the auction so we have no idea how much our pieces sell for, and they won’t tell us.

I have to deliver the finished piece by Friday.  Do you think I’ve procrastinated long enough?

Knowing I have this Blank Canvas Disorder, I try to compensate by not actually trying to think of what I’m going to do with the canvas.  This is a perfect place for not thinking.  I can over think myself right into a paralyzing lather, and instead, I need to just enjoy the medium, play, and see where life takes me.  In my cleaning up of my studio, in the aftermath of the photo shoot and the guild sale, I came across the now minuscule baggie of scraps left from my Sandstone jacket and tote bag I created earlier this year.  I really had no idea what I wanted to do with this canvas, and I wasn’t even sure what medium I wanted for it.

Almost all of the other participants are painters, collage artists, photographers, etc, those who are accustom to working in two dimensional media.  I’m the lone fiber person.  Last year I mounted a version of Big Sister onto the canvas, it was an actual real canvas, the one we were given this year was a 2″ deep cradled “Claybord”.  I read the label on the board or “bord” as the label explains, and the surface will take paint,  ink, gouache, egg tempera, acrylics, airbrush, encaustics, collage, photo transfers, pencil, casein, and it can be used for mounting papers, prints and fabrics…   🙂

That last word got me to thinking, and the little bag of Sandstone scraps started me to rooting around in my stash.  I came up with a few things that I liked including a scrap of ikat cotton from a bag of scraps I bought many years ago from Mekong River Textiles at a conference.  I also found a scrap of silk where I had tested some stencils with fabric paint.

So, without any idea of where I wanted to go with this, I just played.  🙂

Bound04Bound05Bound06Bound07Bound08Bound09Bound10Bound11Bound13Bound14Bound18

I played with the fabrics, and liked what happened when I took the long ikat scrap and put it together creating a “schism” between, and then taking the long selvedge of the Sandstone fabric, I began to play with the idea of binding the schism back together.  There is a lot of political content here, and I liked where the piece was headed, and loved the play of the fabrics.  I played around with yarn, making it look like brain waves, and then found my little “happy” basket of Habu yarns, I’m talking a small basket here, and found a course green cotton novelty yarn that I just started wrapping around the bundle.  I liked the effect and the purpose the binding yarn gave to the piece.

So now my next step was to actually construct the piece.  I thought about just gluing the whole thing together, even using gel medium to paint and stick everything into place, but I decided to actually sew it all together, maintaining the tactile quality of the actual fiber.  Sort of like a bound package…

Bound19Bound20Bound21To give the piece some support, I cut out two layers of a thermal fleece, the kind I use in clothing, and I also decided, as pretty as the sides of the “Claybord” were, I wanted the fabric to come all the way around the sides as well, so I could ultimately just tied the binding cords around the entire box.

Then I found an 8×10 mat I had laying around, and used it to check on the actual design that would appear on the front of the board.  I had no idea what I was doing here, just feeling my way along and having way too good of a time…

Bound22Bound24Bound25Bound26Bound27I used the sewing machine to baste the layers of fabric together, and then quilted the ikat fabric to the padding, using a metallic variegated thread in a pattern that played off the ikat.  I hand sewed the Sandstone strips in place, and then basically upholstered the box.  After making the four box corners, I covered the messy back with a piece of the stenciled silk.  I listened to the end of my Elizabeth Berg book on tape while I hand sewed the silk onto the back.

Bound29Finally, I wrapped the Habu yarn around the box, and I’ll hand sew it in place in key spots so it doesn’t shift tomorrow.

I can’t tell you how much fun I had doing this piece.  Is it good?  Will it sell at the auction?  Does it really matter?  I had one of the quietest and best days I’ve had in a long time, no stress, and I just played.  Like a kid in a sandbox.  It was good for my soul and my spirit, and I am happy with what I have sitting in front of me on my desk.  I called the piece “Ties that Bind”.  I think a trip to the art supply store for more of these “Claybords” is in order…

I can’t tell all of you how much all of your comments have meant to me in yesterday’s post about selling your work.  I’ve been emailed some comments privately, and I’m waiting until more come in, and then I’ll jot down my thoughts.  All of you have such valid perspective, and there is clearly no right or wrong answer here.  And I was sort of glad to hear this isn’t just an issue in the United States, there was a comment from New Zealand, and the discussion is pretty much the same, half way round the world.

One final note, I received the 6 1/8″ Texsolv heddles for the Structo loom I talked about last week. StructoTexsolv The one my husband magically fixed, finding all the right parts in his vast stash of hardware.  I paid my son to put the 400 heddles on the shafts, and I really think they will work fine.  They aren’t real tight on the heddle bars, so they should slide OK, and I’ll have to eventually cut the bridge cords between each of the heddles, they come all attached, because I think the hooks that raise and lower the shafts will get caught on the bridge cords.  I just have to make a trip to the hardware store for some apron rods, and I have another Structo loom in working condition. 🙂

Countdown…

It’s been years since I got ready for a show.  I did craft fairs for ten years, that was a long time ago, and I’ve blogged ad nauseum about how I never wanted to sell my work again, and how I’m trying to overcome my need to hold on to everything I make, and how I might need it as a teaching tool, and well I could waste the whole blog on all my woes about my years of selling and how burned out I got.

So fast forward…  I have too much stuff I’ve made, and no where to put it.  The airlines are restricting my luggage so badly, that I have to basically travel with nothing when I teach, and all these wonderful teaching pieces are now in photos and in PowerPoint presentations.  I don’t wear most of what I make, or I wear it once for a fashion show, and exhibit it a few times, and that’s it.  The pieces sit in cleaner bags in my closet, taking up valuable space.  (I actually don’t have the lifestyle to wear and use all of what I make…)

So, with a critical eye, I’ve started to gather pieces that I think I might actually want to part with if someone really wanted to buy them.  I’m not convinced that will ever happen, someone wanting to buy something I made isn’t something I’ve come to grips with, largely because a) I’m not in production anymore, I’m not buying in bulk and raw materials are expensive, b)I’m not interesting in making things in an inexpensive way, if I want to spend two days carefully edging the binding on a tote bag with couched yarn, well I’m gonna do that.  Too bad if the tote is $300. c) I’m personally too cheap to buy anything that isn’t on sale for 50% off the lowest sale price or I have a 30% coupon at Kohl’s.  I wouldn’t buy my work (because it is too expensive) so it is odd to me that anyone else might…

But I digress.  This isn’t about selling my work, it is about making the commitment to tag and bring my work to the guild sale. In order to do that, I have to properly photograph everything I’ve done recently that hasn’t already been properly photographed.  Blog shots don’t count.  Because if I actually did manage to find someone who wanted one of my pieces badly enough to pay good money for it, I’d never see it again, and if I don’t have a proper photo of it, I can’t even use it for a teaching tool.  In my “Photographing Your Work” Monograph, I believe the first slide in the presentation says,

RULE # 2: NEVER SEND OUT WORK THAT HASN’T BEEN
DOCUMENTED IN SOME WAY.
I’ve gotten into trouble before not following my own advice…   🙂
The_MessToday is photographing day, which means I try to take my tiny weaving studio and turn it into a tiny photography studio, and since I’m doing small things, I need the table top set up, which means there is shit stuff all over the place.  🙂  It is really hard for me to work in this chaos, which is why I am blogging at the moment and not photographing like I should be, because I needed to just look at a computer screen for 45 minutes and not my studio.photographing
I’ve turned my cutting table into a photo area, and I climb up and over and under and around to get the shot I need, crawling around lights, cords, shit stuff on the floor.  I can’t get out of my own way.  But I’m slowly working through the pile.  And the images are coming out well.  I have a list of 33 items, and I took all of yesterday to figure out how to work the computerized forms that the guild set up, which will generate inventory/price tags for each item on the inventory sheet.  It’s a mail merge thing done between Excel and Word, and I’ve never done anything like that before, so there was a lot of tweaking and hair ripping.
labelingOnce I’ve gotten a good photo of the piece, I carefully tag it with my own labels, and the inventory tag, and then bag it into one of those very large, no, jumbo, Ziploc see- thru bags with handles, that every fiber enthusiast on the planet has purchased by the industrial case!  bagging
At the moment I am working on inventory item #7, and there are 33 items on the sheet.  Many of the items, especially the garments, are already photographed so I’m hoping they go a lot quicker.  I only have tonight and tomorrow…
Meanwhile…
I have received a few comments about the Structo Loom I’m working with, there are apparently others who are looking to repair old Structo’s or add heddles, and I did another Internet search yesterday and found that Texsolv heddles do indeed come in 6 1/8″ length’s and they should fit on the heddle bars which would be a perfect solution to the non available heddles that plague Structo owners.  I called Halcyon Yarn, and spoke with Susan yesterday morning, and had her StructoCollapsedmeasure the heddles in the warehouse, and it looks like they might work.  So I ordered 400.  They were shipped today and I should be able to play with them next week.  However, the remaining partsparts I have from the two Structo looms I started with are not enough to make a second loom.  Specifically I’m missing the rods that hold the beater assembly together.  They are small rods, with threads at the ends to hold a wing nut or a bolt at each end.
With 400 heddles coming, I want to be able to get the loom to actually work next week, and my husband is flying to Israel on Saturday to do some consulting work for Palestine Telephone.  So I asked him about the threaded rods.  Which prompted the following discussion when he wandered into my studio…
Kevin: “What’s this for?” (As he is fingering the small Allen wrench in a baggie on my loom bench)
Me: “Actually it is for the tension adjuster for my small AVL end-feed shuttle (you don’t have to know what this is to appreciate this story…), but I’m so mad I could spit.”
Kevin: “Why?” (He is a man of little words…)
AVL_shuttleMe: “I tried using my 20 year old shuttle with 10/2 tencel which is too fine for the tension the way it is set, and I found the original allen wrench that came with the shuttle, (be impressed, it has been in storage for 20 years and I put my finger on it in 45 seconds) and alas, the shuttle is actually defective.  The whole thread carrying mechanism wasn’t installed right, because the set screw for the allen wrench is off just enough that the allen wrench doesn’t engage when you stick it in the little hole.  I can’t return a shuttle that is 20 years old and this is the first I’ve noticed the problem…”
AVL_shuttle2He takes the shuttle and looks in the light and verifies what I’m talking about.  I felt sort of smug that he couldn’t fix it either. Then he turns the shuttle over to the back side and sticks the allen wrench in the rear hole, which I failed to notice was there, having owned the shuttle for 20 years, and he adjusts the tension.
So now I know where my daughter gets her amazing ability to just waltz by my studio, assess the situation in 30 seconds and throw out the solution on her way down the hall.  I hate when my whole family is smarter than me.
KevinBack to the Structo.  So, now my husband looks at the rod I need for the Structo repair, and says, oh, you can get a rod that is threaded the entire length and then you can just cut it to the length you need.  And he disappears.
He reappears with the threaded rods I need.  ?!?!?!?
Me: “Where the hell heck did you find them?”
Kevin: “I saved the threaded rods from the attic stairs when we pulled them out to replace them.  Thought they might come in handy…”  beater repaired
OK, now I’m rolling my eyes and taking back all the crummy things I’ve said/written/complained about my husband and his champion pack rat status.  We replaced those stairs a couple of years ago.  And he knew exactly where in our junk hole of a garage the rods were stored.  A size 6 rod, 32 threads to the inch, 12″ long will fit through the drilled holes on the beater assembly.  He continued to tinker around, and within about 10 minutes he had the beater back together.  All I have to do now is add the heddles when they come in next week, and make an apron for the back hex beam.  And I’ll have another working  4 shaft sample loom.
I love my husband… (But I still can’t stand all the piles of shit stuff all over the house…)



Tying Loose Ends…

I am in the middle of entirely too many projects, and that just makes me want to smile.  My ADD self just loves to flit from one thing to another, and it makes me want to jump out of bed early in the morning to get cracking…

vestSo here is a run down…

First, I needed to finish the remaining handwork on the vest I made a couple of weeks ago from an alpaca throw I wove, circa 1980?  I love how the triangular buttonholes came out, and I know I’ll enjoy wearing this vest.  Plus I needed the sample for the workshop this weekend.

I finished the upholstery on the chair last night, I just have to bang in all the tacks and trim the fabric.  rockerI am so loving the way this rocker looks.  Meanwhile,  I ended up sampling the braid I started weaving on the inkle loom, trying different weight wefts, to see if I could get a bit sturdier braid.sampler

The original weft for the braid was a 5/2 perle cotton, and the braid was a little bit too flexible for use in upholstery.  I tried using three strands of rayon, and then I tried dark brown handspun, and finally I tried two strands of 3/2 perle cotton.  I played around with how they looked on the chair, after I wove off the whole two yard warp.

Oddly enough, I ended up liking the original braid best, but decided to actually weave the next two yards with a single strand of 3/2 perle cotton and I’m thinking that this braid will be perfect.  And it is weaving up really quickly.inkle_braidbraid I like the spacing of the little diamonds better in the latest version which is on the loom on the left.  The “seeds” are a bit plumper…

So here is one of the original samples of the braid on the actual chair, I am really happy, and I can’t believe it is the same chair I upholstered 30+ years ago. This has been really fun, and I can hear my mother in law cheering me on…

loomMeanwhile, remember the Structo I was rewarping last week?  I got about half of it threaded and then got side tracked by the trip to Atlantic City, and then the rocker and then, well, I needed to finish threading that puppy, and find out if my hard work would produce a cloth weight that would work for the postcards I weave.postcard_in_progress

I’ve now finished threading the loom, and I started to weave on it, using a very slim stick shuttle, I’m surprised at what a good shed there is for such a little loom.  My damask boat shuttle is tied up on the other table loom. The fabric is really fine and tight, and I’m happy with the linen so far.  I had started a couple of postcards on the remaining warp on my 25″ table loom, on a gray 10/2 cotton, as a demo when I went to Albany the beginning of October.  So you can see what the strips look like in progress.  I’m hoping I can weave lots of little postcards,  and with 15 yards of warp, I can really experiment with this medium…

Here is a shot of the actual linen cloth, it is pretty fine, the linen is about the weight of a 20/2, and sleyed two per dent, I have 30 ends per inch, not counting the tie down threads.cloth

While I was threading, I couldn’t help myself, my brain wanders to the stash which is right in front of my eyeballs…

And draped over one of my looms is a fabric I wove that is gorgeous, from a warp I dyed in a class with Irene Munroe back in 2008 at the Tampa Bay Convergence.  I sett it too dense for a scarf, and there is so little fabric that I’m not sure I want to make it work for a garment, but it would make a great tote bag!new_project (Click on Tote Bag and scroll to the bottom of that blog to see the latest tote I made…)

I always have to have something colorful to look at on my cutting table and I’m always adding and subtracting to a pile before I actually jump into it head first.

So the vest is finished, and the loom warped, and another project is lighting up my cutting table, and now I have to finish weaving two more scarves on the loom (Photo below)  so I can have them for the guild sale.  And I just have to weave about 8 yards of trim for the rocker.scarves

candy_wrapper_toteAnd speaking of tote bags, I did promise a photo of my daughter’s tote bag she made from candy wrappers and duct tape.  She gets these brainstorms as school, probably when she gets bored in calculus or physics (I should have that kind of brain…) and texts me to ask if I have this or that material for her next brilliant idea!

Even her pens are covered in duct tape!  Note the white rose sticking out of the tote!