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…

Slow and Steady…

I’d like to think I’m a patient person. I suppose it depends on what or whom I’m required to be patient with…

I’ve undertaken a couple of major projects in the studios, which completely thrill me, yet create stress, and challenges, and a couple of probably unrealistic deadlines. That’s my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I work best under unrealistic deadlines. Except when my body doesn’t want to cooperate…

Though my fractured shoulder is improving, little bits at a time, I’m impatient. I’ll admit it. I carry on with great fanfare, but secretly cry a little bit each time I am held back from what I want/need/have to do.

The Rainbow Double Weave Jennifer Moore Workshop sampler turned into a completely reversible jacket is nearing completion. This wasn’t so physically challenging, I just had to sit for hours hand sewing. And I mean hours. About 90% of it is sewn by hand. Including the entire interior. All that remains is the collar, and I hope to get that finished up this week. At least get it mounted on the jacket and ready for handwork.

I am just so in love with this jacket; it is how I imagined it in my head. I combined my 800 vest, with added seam allowances on the front, with the armhole and drop shoulder sleeve from the 1700 tunic, patterns from the Daryl Lancaster pattern collection. There are two layers of wool suiting to create the garment, basted together, with windows cut out, where the double weave cloth fits between the layers, and both layers are then sewn to the double weave cloth in reverse appliqué. Once the individual sections are completed, the outer garment layer is sewn together by machine, and the entire inner layer is sewn by hand at all the seams and hems. There are days I think I’m absolutely brilliant, and there are days where… I’ll leave it up to your imagination 🙂

The fabric inspired by the Magic Puzzle Company Busy Bistro Puzzle I fixed with my daughter, has proven one of my most difficult physical challenges. I use a heavy end feed shuttle, which is tough enough on my poor fractured shoulder, but the loom I’m weaving on, new to me, is a monster. 12 shafts and 54″ wide. The beater alone could kill you! Yet it is gorgeous and comfortable in the hand. Assuming the hand isn’t attached to a fractured shoulder. The most difficult part though, is lifting the shafts. Most picks required lifting 6 of the 12 shafts, and each shaft had 225 inserted eye heddles, which I didn’t remove because there was room on the sides to store them, and I spent so much time putting them on to begin with! Trying as hard as I could, I just couldn’t consistently lift 6 shafts and get a consistently clean shed every time. I’m past my mid-60’s and my joints just can’t lift what I could in my 20’s.

I’d lay awake at night, with my fractured shoulder aching, especially when bad weather approaches, and think, how am I going to weave this… If you ever watched the Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix series, you might remember how the main character, I’ve forgotten her name, could see chess moves happening across the ceiling. That’s the way I sometimes think, I can see the mechanics behind a draft, and how things need to move up or down to create what I want. And what I wanted was a clean shed opening. When that happens in any other situation, I revert to using two feet to help lift, break apart the tie-up, and figure out a logical treadling sequence that will get me what I want with a lot less physical effort. I watched the ceiling in the dark and saw how I could do it. I flew out of bed in the morning and went to the software and reconfigured the tie up and crossed my fingers. (An apology to my non-weaving readers, this all makes no sense, just know it worked.)

The original tie-up and treadling
Revised tie-up and treadling using two feet.

It was miraculous, and magical and I just wove like the wind, or maybe a slight breeze because I’m still dealing with a fractured shoulder. I use to be able to weave like the wind. Maybe someday soon. But I’ve got a deadline now, and I’m frantically trying to pace myself to get what I need to get done before April 15th. That’s the deadline to submit the five garments I’m planning to exhibit at the Convergence Fashion Show this summer, sponsored by the Handweavers Guild of America, in Knoxville, TN, as an invited artist. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to send, but I want more choices than I have, from what I’ve made in the last two years, and I’d love for this puzzle inspired fabric to be one of them.

So given my arm limitations, I’ve just resigned myself to only empty one pirn a day, with 2/12 wool, which is about what my shoulder can handle. Still, that’s about 15″ and that adds up. I looked at my warp beam, and was shocked to see the I’m on the last round of paper. This was a seven yard warp. I’m almost there…

What really surprised me, is I’ve had no tension issues at all so far, which I completely expected given the dozens of different yarns I’m combining together in a dozen different structures. It will be interesting to see what happens when the fabric is off the loom and washed…

On a completely different note, spring is here, though we are supposed to get one last frost tonight through Tuesday, but in celebration of my late husband’s 71st birthday last Tuesday, my daughter and I went to the garden center and bought a couple flats of cold weather greens, and some pansies. We got everything planted, started the spring clean up in the yard, which means bags of animal excrement, because, well, if you have dogs, you know what spring means…

The garden center was just a riot of color…

And last Tuesday I was interviewed for the Handweavers Guild of America series Textiles and Tea, which I adore; The Textiles and Tea interviews are the highlight of my week. They are live interviews, over zoom, but also simulcast over Facebook, and of course recorded. You don’t need a Facebook account to watch, it is a public site. The recording will eventually be posted on the Handweavers Guild of America YouTube channel, (it might take a couple of months) but for now, if you missed the interview, you can watch it here. Kathi’s questions were thoughtful, and fun to answer. Apparently there were 600 people watching in the webinar, and another couple hundred watching the live Facebook feed, which they said was a record. I don’t know, I just had fun answering the questions. Everything for me has a story, which is why I still have something to say after almost 14 years of blogging. I know few people blog anymore, and far fewer people read the blog than did a half dozen years ago, but that isn’t why I write it. I used to journal, but it is more fun to type what I’m thinking and be able to add cool pictures, and then be able to go back and search for what I want, because blogs have that built in feature. And it is there forever, or as long as I pay for the hosting fees…

So dear readers, spring is upon us, and that means outdoor stuff, and I have a lovely garden with ponds and fish and places to sit and weave, all coming to life, and I’ll have a garden full of salad fixin’s, and I think, each spring, that this season I’m going to spend my time outdoors and do fiber-y things, and by fall I realize that none of that happened. It is an amusing cycle, but still, I am determined each spring and we will see how the year progresses… Deadlines await…