They gave me a party…

Back in March of 2020, I spent time with my hostess, while I was teaching at my last venue in Oregon, part of a 10 day tour, or something like that, and I asked her how you make a decision to stop doing something you’ve been doing for 35 years. I so remember going through this when I was burned out of doing craft fairs in the 1980’s. Both craft fair bookings and teaching on the road bookings are often booked 1-2 years in advance. Fast approaching my mid 60’s, all my other peers, who are not artists, were retiring from their lengthy careers, moving to warm climates, and sitting on a beach. That’s not my style, but I was getting tired. Not of teaching, I love that, but tired of being away, hauling crap around the country, missing my animals and my studio and my routine, and yet, at the time I was booked well in 2022.

My hostess listened kindly and said encouraging words, and assured me that the time would make itself known. Back in 1989, when I decided I just couldn’t do another craft fair, I miraculously found myself pregnant in my mid 30’s, and had a glorious excuse for never setting foot again in a craft booth except as a buyer. I do remember a huge fight with my husband, who didn’t understand how I could just walk away from a career, he didn’t have that option. Fair point.

But artists don’t retire. They just reinvent the way they express themselves creatively. I’ve reinvented myself so many times over my 66 years, and always because the universe threw me a curve ball and I caught it and ran with it.

I returned from Oregon in March of 2020, and of course, the universe had other ideas, and all of my teaching on the road was basically cancelled. This was not lost on me, definitely not a coincidence, and I will tell you that one by one, as the cancellations came in, I smiled. Requests to rebook were put on hold. I was able to accommodate some of the lectures and workshops remotely, which was pretty cool. The best of both worlds, but really, as the pandemic wore on, I did not miss the travel and thought to myself, this is the first time in a gazillion years I am really hunkered down and enjoying the creativity of just being alone in my studio and making stuff.

I did have a contract with Peters Valley School of Craft, for a couple of in person classes, but that was way in the future and so by summer of 2021, I’d probably feel differently. Yeah. No…

But professional that I am, I would never cancel the two classes, and the beginner workshop in June of 2021 was only three days, and I team taught it with my daughter. I actually commuted, so I could sleep in my own bed at night. Brianna stayed to help the students in the evening.

Last week was the second workshop I was scheduled to teach with Peters Valley. It was a more challenging class, my five day yardage class, mask restrictions were back in place, and because of a couple of reasons, Peters Valley was no longer offering its dining options like it has done for the last 50 years. So I’d have to fend for myself for dinners. And I was solo teaching. So I precooked all my meals, and stayed on campus keeping the studio open in the evenings for the students until 10 or 11 at night. It was tiring, but that’s what I do.

I ended up with seven students. One had to cancel last minute from Covid exposure. I was more confident back in June about the direction the virus was going, now, not so much. I was living in a house with four other faculty members from different states, working closely with students, even though I was masked. I ate with students and others from the Valley, so I couldn’t wear a mask while eating. I was nervous about being exposed to Covid even though I’ve been vaccinated for many months.

And I thought, how ironic that my very last venue, before I retire from teaching on the road would possibly expose me to Covid after being isolated for the last 18 months.

But weavers valiantly carry on, and my students did as well. I started them with color exercises and yarn wraps, which as they began to narrow down the possibilities, I had to figure out how to get images of the wraps into my computer since there was no WIFI. My assistant Carl pointed out that my little Microsoft Go computer had a camera in it. Good to know.

So I took pictures of the wraps with my laptop, brought them into PowerPoint, which is my favorite way of manipulating the wraps, it is easy to copy and paste and rotate and scale and flip and create what looks like a wide warp, with only a small 2″ card.

Students could see what happened if I repeated, or flipped on center, and one student even added an additional element and after seeing it repeated on the screen, decided to stay with her original design. It was really fun to see their eyes light up.

Having Fiberworks weaving software on my computer, I could then match colors and quickly put in the draft, adding twills in some areas, supplemental warps because, well, it looks cool.

Then we had to figure out how to get a copy of the draft since I had no printer and no wifi, and the office wouldn’t recognize a .dtx or .wif file anyway. Cell phones. And Verizon. For the win. We took “screen shots” with the cell phone and emailed them to the office and they came back printed and everyone jumped in to work.

This is a five day class. To design and warp a loom with five yards of fabric, test wefts and weave off four yards is pretty challenging especially when you aren’t physically conditioned for it. To get 7 people to do it is even more challenging. But we did. They did. It was pretty awesome. I’m proud of all of them. Around 4pm the last day, knots started coming over the back beam and if you are a weaver, you know what that means.

So here is a look at what they produced…

And this one just made me smile. I adored this student, she had a cotton warp with some texture, which you might think, oh, dishtowels, but she ended up on an amazingly inspired choice weaving with lavender alpaca. I can’t wait to see what this fabric looks like washed.

So the morning of the last day, I got a huge reminder that the Thunder Mountain studios of Peters Valley School of Craft, where the weaving studio lives, is within a National Park Service recreation area. It is remote and the wilderness and wildlife will encroach on your space effortlessly, because really, you are residing in their space.

I pulled into the lot beside the weaving studio about 45 minutes before class, figuring there would be early risers that wanted to get to work. I saw this through my windshield.

I smiled. This big old black bear, looked at me and then climbed up that little tree, all 1000 pounds of him, ripped a big old branch out of the tree, climbed down and proceeded to strip the berries out of the branch, sitting on his butt, having his morning snack. It was glorious to see. He eventually sauntered off, down past the wood studio, and I went on in to open things up.

At lunch time the last day, Peters Valley has an auction, things donated by the assistants, instructors, friends of the Valley, and money made goes directly to help the studios which provided the items. I of course donated one of my handwoven scarves. Just before the auction started, the director Kristin got up to make an announcement. And she called me over. Uh-oh…

Yeah, so one of my students, whom I’ve known for a very long time, arranged for the biggest sheet cake I’ve ever seen, to celebrate my retirement. Really. I never in a million years thought I’ve get such a send off, because each place I taught at over the last 35 years was just a brief stopping point in my journey. Except Peters Valley. My career and that Valley have paralleled and became such an important part of my journey it wasn’t lost on me that my journey would end there.

Of course artists don’t retire. In fact I’ve never worked harder in my life. My YouTube channel The Weaver Sews consumes much of my week, writing script, creating samples or garments, rehearsing, and of course the actual production. I think we are up to 53 videos. In between I have stacks of drafts I want to put on my 39 looms (#39 is waiting for us in MA, my daughter will head up there to pick it up in the next couple weeks. A small 4 shaft Structo in perfect condition, found by a former college roommate of hers in a thrift shop for $50. Yeah, I know…)

I’m having so much fun, and working so hard, and for the first time really enjoying my home, gardens, studio and space, because they are mine and they suit me and I’m very very grateful.

I have a number of students who are flying in to take private and semi private classes with me throughout the fall. I’m looking forward to that, because I do like to teach. But I don’t have to load another suitcase ever again. And that makes me really smile.

The first night of the workshops, Peters Valley traditionally has the instructors for the week give 10 minute presentations about their work, and now they are simultaneously streaming them over Zoom, and posting the recordings on their YouTube channel. So here is my farewell speech about my work, it is 10 minutes starting at time code 10:17.

And so, I guess I’m officially retired, considering I had a party and all. But there is no beach or yacht or even a row boat in my future. Just lots of looms and yarn and fabric, and things to explore, classes to take. Actually I’m returning to the Valley the beginning of September to take a five day basketry class. That makes me smile… much more fun to make baskets than sit on a beach… though I could get into making baskets with a margarita…

Stay tuned…

Technically Tedious…

My lovely daughter is off on a holiday, taking a jewelry soldering and finishing class at Peters Valley. She sent me a photo of a lovely ring she made, and when I asked her what was the stone, she said it was a micro chip from a RAM card… Yes, that would be my daughter…

We raced to get the video for my YouTube Channel The Weaver Sews that was to drop on Friday edited and rendered and uploaded before she left on Thursday. We thought all was well, it looked good when we proofed it, but when it dropped at Midnight Friday morning, the first comment was, “What happened to the rest? Will there be more?”

??????????

So I sat down to watch it and to my shock and dismay, the last couple minutes were not there. I stopped talking in mid sentence and then nothing…

So my daughter drove the hour back from Peters Valley Friday night, and spent a couple annoying and expletive laced hours trying to figure out what was wrong. After a forum search, she discovered that her hard drive was full and so the video couldn’t completely render. Or something like that. I’m a bit clueless as to how all this happens, I just write the script, make the samples, and act in front of the camera.

And so there is now a properly rendered video, on creating a neck and armhole facing for the 1000 Swing Dress and how to install it.

That finishes up the dress videos and now I’m on to the 800 Vest and tutorials for the challenging parts of that vest construction. I’m creating two vests at once, both with welt pockets, one dark and one light, each with slightly different options, and after last Wednesday’s shoot on layout and using the lining as a seam finish, I need to get both vests to the next step to create a video for the collar application. So I spent the last couple days in the sewing room sewing my little heart out, while her sad and stressed dog clung close to me, because, well his mommy wasn’t there…

My last blog post I mentioned that I had set up an inkle loom with a draft from a new book from Annie MacHale, on 3 Color Baltic Pick-Up.

I’m fascinated with the technique, I already am pretty proficient at Baltic Pick-Up (I actually sell a monograph on advanced Inkle Weaving techniques) and have developed my own notation for what has to move within the pick-up area. The red boxes mean I need to pick up a pattern thread, and the X’s mean I have to drop the pattern thread. It made a 19 thread pick up like this a breeze and I had it off the loom in no time.

But 3 Color Baltic Pick-up is different. Pattern threads rotate between the three colors and there is only Pick-up, no dropping of the pattern threads. That seemed pretty straightforward, but I really struggled with the draft, since it wasn’t easily translated into my standard notation.

My apologies for the non weavers among you, hang on, because the point here is that I was determined to achieve something technically and I’ve been thinking about it for days. With my daughter gone, and a heartsick dog following me around, I finally sat down and tried to figure out what I needed the 3 Color Draft to do.

My drafts show what threads move. So all I needed to do was take the draft from the 3 Color book (there is an online link where you can customize the colors of any draft in the book) and indicate what threads are picked up, everything else is static.

I found a Silver Sharpie in my magic box of Sharpies, and that worked on the red and black yarns, so by adding a little dot of silver, I could glance across the row and quickly identify only the threads that had to be picked up. And in addition, I vaguely remembered my mom giving me a line magnifier when I helped her move in January, she used it for Counted Cross Stitch which she didn’t think she’d be doing anymore at 90. She has more fun quilting.

I had tossed it in a drawer, and I was so proud of myself for quickly finding it, and discovered it was magnetic and would easily line through the next row of pick-up, holding my place brilliantly. The draft is on top of one of those metal sheets you use for knitting patterns. So the magnets keep it secure. And I actually found it is still for sale on Amazon. Of course…

And so what took me a tedious hour to do a few rows just starting out, I’m down to half an hour for one black triangular motif. Yippee! And the yarns here are all hand-dyed silk.

A number of readers/viewers/followers on my YouTube channel, have expressed frustration at knowing they watched something on one of my videos and have no idea where it was, or how far into a video it was. Yeah, I get it. I’m getting confused as well. I have 51 videos as of this morning’s launch. Or re-launch as it were…

And so, I may regret this, and I put a self imposed deadline of September 11, which is the anniversary of my first video launch, to create an index of everything in my videos with the time codes. Yeah, I know.

To achieve this, I’m limiting myself to one video a day, starting at the beginning, checking for Closed Captioning typos, and there are a few, and watching and re-watching and pausing and jotting time codes and putting it all into an Excel Spreadsheet. So dear readers, I’m trying… Be patient.

The good news, I’m pretty proud of those early videos, obviously my daughter and I have improved tremendously, and now use a teleprompter, so I’m not glancing at papers all across the cutting board and losing my place. But the content is good, and I covered what I intended, and it seems clear and I can’t ask for more than that.

I’m using my few days without my daughter to focus on this tedious kind of stuff, getting in a morning walk, and cooking from the garden. The days go quickly, and I’m constantly busy. Which is good for me. I bought new sheets from Target made from Hemp, after hearing a lecture on the attributes of hemp as a fiber at the MAFA conference last month from Joan Ruane. Can’t wait for bed to try my new sheets…

I can’t believe summer is half over. Stay safe everyone, stay creative, and stay in the moment… And stay tuned…

Instant Gratification

It is no surprise that weavers have incredible patience, we by nature have to be the kind of person to whom process, no matter how slow, is the whole point. I will sit patiently threading 1000 ends, or painstakingly plod along following a complex treadling sequence, or methodically develop a new weaving draft. In garment making I relish the joy of a series of perfect bound buttonholes, a seam well sewn, a zipper perfectly installed. I’m not a stranger to ripping out, unweaving, or starting over.

I started this 3 color Baltic Pick up based on a new book I got from Annie MacHale. It is soooo slow. But with patience, I’ll get faster and really be able to follow the pick up sequence. I might edit the graph to be more in the way I like to follow pick up. Another few hours of work. No problem.

I just finished the third virtual conference in a month. I taught at the first one, the MAFA conference, but also took some classes, and I attended the second and third, the ASG conference with the American Sewing Guild, and yesterday and today, NEWS, that’s the New England Weavers Seminar. The second two were a series of lectures open to all those who signed up. I’m pretty cross eyed from all the Zoom meetings but the wealth of information and inspiration I’ve immersed myself in this past month has felt like I earned a 2 year college degree. So many techniques to explore and think about and appreciate.

When I come across something that makes my heart sing that took no effort at all, I almost feel like I’m cheating. It can’t be that easy…

I’d listened to ice dyeing programs and lectures before and was really curious about the spontaneity. There is nothing spontaneous about anything I do in the studio. Can you achieve anything decent from just tossing cellulosic fibers into a basin, tossing on ice and then some fiber reactive dye and get something that doesn’t look like you did the craft project du jour?

I listened to Jessica Kaufman in a two hour class I signed up for at the MAFA conference. This past week was the first chance I’d had to actually try this. I thought you needed a lot more equipment, set up, whatever. I thought as everything in fiber turns out to be, it would be way more complicated. Jessica is with Waxon studio, and she is obviously a pro at this technique and teaching it, and teaching it online.

I watched the replay mid week before the replays expired, and decided to gather up some yarn, fabric, scarves and an old vintage cotton napkin that I can’t imagine why was in my stash. The yarns were probably cotton, the scarves rayon, and the fabric a couple yards of rayon challis.

All I needed was some buckets, and some ice. Yes, I presoaked overnight, all the fibers in Soda Ash. I keep that in the studio because I regularly dye yarn with Fiber Reactive Dyes. Then I just scrunched stuff up, secured with rubber bands, and laid gently in hospital tubs. I acquired a huge amount of them during my husband’s long illness. The only thing positive about an extended hospital stay is the great tubs they give you.

I picked up a bag of ice at the grocery store, sprinkled some on, and then sprinkled on some fiber reactive dyes from Dharma Trading. And I let everything sit for 24 hours, as Jessica warned, 24 hours after the ice melts. Jessica also said to Trust the Muck. Meaning it is OK if the ice melts and all the dye pools around the cloth. Trust the Muck.

Well, everything was ready to rinse about 1am going into Friday morning. And yes, I couldn’t wait, so I stayed up and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and then couldn’t sleep all night because I was so freaking excited by what came out.

Here are a few skeins of yarn…

Here are a couple rayon challis scarves…

Here is my new favorite thing in the whole world, my vintage table napkin that I now use with every meal.

And here is the most gorgeous rayon challis fabric, I’m just gobsmacked looking at this across my cutting table, I can’t wait to figure out how to use this, almost too gorgeous to hide inside a garment as a lining, (which was the whole point in trying this technique, ways to get interesting linings…)

And while I listened to lecture after lecture over the last couple weeks, I came across this drop spindle I had tucked in a bag, with an alpaca silk blend fiber that I had started to spin eons ago. The fiber was from Gale Evans at www.galesart.com and I was sad to read that Gale closed the shop in May of this year, to move on to another medium, giving up fibers and dyeing all together. I know how Gale feels…

And I actually finished a garment in the studio. I’ve been slowly working on handwoven garments, bits at a time while I write script and demo the techniques for my YouTube videos. We just finished shooting the last techniques for this dress, installing an invisible zipper which just dropped Friday, and one for next week on installing a neck/armhole facing. So the dress, which is made from the handwoven Antique Jewels Fabric I wove last year, the draft is a free download available here, is finished and I can’t wait to wear this. The fabric was perfect, it held its shape and was a joy to sew. The pattern is my 1000 swing dress. That’s available as a download (not free) here. It has pockets!

And so dear readers, my life is starting to fill up again, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, but the opportunities are just too much fun, and there are too many fun things to do out there. I managed to get into NYC for the day last week, to the MET, and the Jewish Museum, and to meet up with a dear friend and have sushi down near 28th street. Except for when I was actively eating I wore a mask the entire day, and had no problem doing so, even though I’ve been vaccinated for months. Scary times, covid cases are on the rise, and I’ll continue to wear a mask wherever I go.

Stay safe out there, and learn all the things!

I’ve seen the future…

This past month was pretty intense considering I really haven’t left the house in 16 months. I was reminded how crazy my life was before the pandemic and I kind of didn’t like what I saw. I had a couple of rapid heart beat panic attacks, trying to keep everything straight, and yeah, I don’t want to go back.

I was contracted to teach two in person classes at Peters Valley School of Craft this summer, one the beginning of June, and one the beginning of August (don’t bother to check that class is full!) The June class was beginning weaving, and when I had originally submitted the proposal, quite awhile ago, the world was normal and I planned to team teach with my daughter.

And so after having to shut down for 15 months, the Valley was able to reopen, and kudos to the fiber fellow and her assistant for a Herculean job of cleaning out a weaving studio that had been sealed up for that length of time, up in the mountains of rural Northwest NJ, in the National Park Recreation area. You don’t want to know what took up residence…

The Macomber looms mostly survived, I had a part in replacing all the heddles of all the looms with inserted wire eye, back in 2019, and that process did get completed. Each time I work with those looms, I find more things that can be tweaked and replaced. And I’m happy to do that for the Valley. Keeping looms in top condition is always important to me as a handweaver. I have another huge order into Macomber to upgrade some of the parts for the Peters Valley looms.

Meanwhile, the class happened, we all wore masks, and there were some changes and challenges to the way we use to do things, but nothing that couldn’t be worked out. The class seemed to have a wonderful time, learned a lot and produced some pretty great samplers/towels for their first time at the loom. There were a couple of weavers with some experience, but they were happy to actually learn some basics that they never got since they were self taught.

And of course Peters Valley has an extensive textile library, and in my quest to own all the books, any break I had I left Brianna in charge and sat in the corner checking out what I don’t own and placing a hefty order through Amazon, Biblio, Thriftbooks, and whoever had what I wanted at a price under $900! Seriously, some of these prices for used books is positively hilarious. It would appear that my book collection is worth way more than my 37 looms…

Anyway, I got through that weekend, first time away teaching in a long time, and realized how much I’m not going to miss in person workshops. I have one more to teach and then I’m retiring from traveling. I want to learn all the things. I want to be the one to take workshops, explore new things and play with all my 37 looms and my ever growing yarn stash and textile library. There is some pretty cool stuff out there to try…

Mid month I started a four week online class in Botanical Printing with Kathy Hays. I’ve always loved her work, and she has a self guided class, actually a number of different level classes available online. Always thinking of ways I can alter the surface of cloth for things like linings, and having an extensive property with gardens and ponds and a little paradise here, I wanted to see what was readily available right here just outside the door.

And so the first batch of homework netted some pretty lovely results. The second batch of homework is in the pot simmering as I write…

And then there was the conference…

Did you ever feel as though you are in the middle of experiencing something or some event that will eventually be life and history altering and make the world a better place as a result? This past weekend was the Mid Atlantic Fiber Association Conference, MAFA for short. Every couple years, the regions in the US hold regional fiber conferences, I’ve probably taught at them all, many times, given keynotes at many of them, and I had been originally contracted to team teach a workshop with my daughter for the 2021 MAFA conference, traditionally held at a University in PA.

Obviously that never happened. But most regional conferences either chose to not have a conference this year, or simplify it to just a couple of speakers over a couple of days over a Zoom format. Which is all fine. And I signed up for a couple of them, because why not?

Except MAFA had a very enthusiastic board of directors and a cracker jack team, headed by one of my favorite people, whom I have had the pleasure of working with in a number of classes over the years, decided to attempt what many people thought impossible. They hosted a full on full scale fiber conference, with 840 registrants, over 80 classes, all virtual. There was a virtual towel exchange, a virtual fiber exhibit, and fashion show, there was a virtual vendor hall, speakers, classes, hands on classes, morning coffee, a keynote, evening gatherings and social time, and even chair yoga twice a day. With barely 15 minutes between events, though everything was recorded for viewing later, I barely had time to pee, let the dogs out and back in, and grab food or tea or whatever else I needed before the next event. We started at 8am, and I finally logged off about 9 at night, for four days straight.

Yes, it was exhausting, but not in the way I feel when I do an in person conference. I loved this. I loved everything about it. I wish all conferences could be remote (I know that isn’t a universal opinion, cut me some slack, I’ve done more conferences in my 40 years on the road than you’ll ever do) but I got so much out of this because I could participate in everything. Yes, I taught four classes, two lectures and a two session hands on class in what to do with scraps of handwoven or other fabrics, and students created mats. I got images of many who finished.

I also got to take three lectures, one on botanical printing which was great since I got to see a different focus than the class I’m currently enrolled in, one on ice dyeing which I can’t wait to try, and one on selecting and harvesting basket making materials from your own back yard. I discovered that yes, my yard is full of stuff I can harvest, process, and store for making all kinds of baskets, but that it is all way more work than I probably want to do at this time.

The lectures between the sessions were all fascinating and eye opening, who knew that hemp was the main crop of the early United States, and that Sprang was the textile technique of choice throughout the world prior to the industrial revolution. And Jane Dunnewold’s Keynote address was hands down the best keynote I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve witnessed a lot.

I’m only just now tapping into all the recorded sessions with the vendors from the virtual vendor hall. There are a lot of new products out there that are catching my interest. And books, yeah, that Amazon truck is showing up daily…

And the fashion show made me smile. All the entrants, including myself, prerecorded a video, submitted it, added images of the process, and gave a lengthy backstory for each submission. It was all put together into an amazing presentation that sets the bar very high for any future in person fashion show.

Yes, there were technical glitches that occasionally happened, but the team did an unbelievable job keeping everything moving forward and I was truly grateful to have witnessed the future of how we can as a community do things bringing people together for a common goal. The technology can only get better.

And so dear readers I’ve seen what we can do as a community, and what technology allows us to share. A year ago I could never have imagined I’d have a YouTube channel with a ton of videos and a lot of followers. A year ago I couldn’t imagine my creative life and one that didn’t involve me going on the road. A year ago I had just moved into my new studio spaces in the house and just started discovering all they had to offer. And the emails are coming in fast with those who want to come and stay for a five day private class in weaving or sewing, airline tickets are booked, and yes, that requires a trip for me to Newark Airport, but I get to then drive home with the student and teach in my own studio, sleep in my own bed, and be in my own creative space and give each student some one on one, personal time. As one person said to me recently on a Zoom gathering, “You mean, no more Daryl Alert?” (You won’t get the reference if you haven’t taken a workshop with me…)

So I’m slowly rewriting my workshop offerings, cutting out those that require me to be somewhere other than here, and though I’m still happy to do the occasional remote lecture for a guild, and possibly a one or two day remote workshop, I want to be here and creative and curious and stress free… I earned it…

What was my problem…

My dearest friend Ginnie says that things you put off get bigger than they really are. I completely identify with this…

Back in October of 2019, in a particularly hellious month of stuff happening, I warped a loom and gathered stuff and headed off to my weaving guild for a three day workshop with Deb Silver, who exploded onto the scene with a very cool technique called Split Shed Weaving.

I actually loved the workshop, and thought the technique was brilliant, and her interpretation of it and what she did with it and how she conducted the workshop were all absolutely brilliant. I actually talked all about the works in a blog post back in October of 2019, you can read about it here, but you’ll have to scroll pretty far down because that month was so full of stuff I’m thinking the blog went on for pages… (I actually cringe when I read some of my past blogs and realize how out of my control my life was most of the time.)

I was in the middle of what I thought was a pretty cool sample when the workshop ended, no problem, I’ll just pick it up when I get home…

Hahahahahah!

I think I left the next day for parts unknown, and when I got back, we started the plans for the possible studio rennovation. The looms got packed, yarn and books and shuttles and tools all got packed up and moved, shelving units were relocated, and the rest is history.

The loom was nicely set up in the new studio on an adjustable workbench from Home Depot, alongside my daughter’s version, she took the workshop with me as well.

And there it sat. In March of 2020 I hit the road yet again for Oregon, and of course, the rest is history. I have been home since then, reinventing myself and how I work, not sitting still for one minute, but every time I walk over to that loom, to dust or get a reed, which is in a rack right behind that loom, I look at it and feel guilty. It isn’t like I needed the loom for anything. I have 35 looms, or did at the time, now I have 37. Yeah, I know…

The problem is, I can’t remember what I was doing. There must have been 50 pages in the handout. Everything was tied together, there were four shuttles involved in this specific sample. Five if you count the one with the warp color on it. I even sat down one afternoon and tried to make sense of it. I quickly gave up.

My daughter of course wandered over after some very obvious vocal frustration on my end and looked and said, “Oh, you are doing polychrome Taqueté.” Really? I hate when she does that… And yet, there are times when I think I’d be lost without her.

And then I remember, I’m pretty good at what I do. I’m pretty good at figuring things out when I put my mind to something. I’m spatial and good with sequences and have good deductive reasoning. There is no earthly reason why this should vex me so.

I actually had a free weekend last weekend, with nothing technically on the calendar and I think it rained all weekend so there was really nothing to do outside or in the garden or going for my daily long walk. There was nothing to do but prep for upcoming classes, plan warps, update handouts, update databases, all stuff that forever sits on my to do list but really, I just kept looking at that loom and said, this will be what I do today if it kills me.

And so I unpacked the shuttles, started to study what shed they came out of, and the sequence they came out in, and looked at the information for split shed weaving, and the cheat sheet for Polychrome Taqueté. Just an FYI, this really complex looking thing is done on a straight draw in carpet warp on four shafts. Really. This is not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination.

Seriously, what was my problem…

Within 15 minutes, the lights went on in my head and I suddenly realized that there were only two possible sheds, and that this was a simple structure that was pretty easy to execute. I’m sort of embarrassed.

So I began. It felt good. Really really good. After almost two years, I figured it out. But of course, I had help.

Mulder the shop cat has to be into everything I’m doing.

He finally settles down and curls up on what I’m weaving. Sigh…

Once I encouraged him to move along, I just kept going. I watched the rain from the windows and kept weaving.

I got into a nice rhythm with four stick shuttles on a table loom. Once in awhile I’d realize I made a mistake, and I was proud of myself for being able to go back a row or two.

And by that evening, I was finished the sample and could cut off the warp.

I wet the samples, and a few days later stitched them across and cut them apart.

It doesn’t look like much, but I’m really really proud of myself for figuring it out and finishing. This whole experience has made me realize that there are so many fun things out there to try that I just don’t have enough hours in the day to ‘learn all the things’. This is becoming a goal of mine, to retire from teaching, hence the brain dump of everything I know about creating handwoven clothing into my YouTube channel, The Weaver Sews, and then being able to play, to create, to try all the things. My textile library is ginormous, and my resources and raw materials grow exponentially without much effort on my part. I do not know why…

And in case you were wondering about the progress on restoring the rescued Macomber, parts are starting to roll in from them, and as I get a package, I install the parts. New aprons, a new friction brake on the upper warp beam, 200 inserted eye heddles on each shaft. Lots of other little pieces replaced or repaired. A lamm depressor installed. Just waiting for the bench, and the most critical piece, the dog and spring for the sectional beam ratchet. Somehow that didn’t make it in the original shipment of parts. She is starting to look whole again.

And so dear readers, I made something that was no big deal into something that was overwhelming to me, until I realized it wasn’t and then I was pretty annoyed with myself for letting this thing get bigger than it really was. I wonder if I do that in any other areas of my life…

Stay tuned…